The new sheriff - By Mizeta Moon

Greasewood Flats had been a safe haven for crooks for years, but that changed drastically after John Three Crows came to town. His pistol packing skills were legendary throughout the Sidewinder Hills and not only did criminals fear him, women constantly vied for his attention. When he wasn’t busy running thugs out of town, he could be found at someone’s dinner table or serenading them with a voice that could coax birds from the trees. Sometimes he thought about hanging up his six shooter and pursuing a career in opera but didn’t want to live with the excess weight opera singers notoriously carried around. He liked being a lean, mean, fighting machine and collecting bounties to bank for his retirement years.

At the moment, he was sitting on a shaded bench at the train depot waiting for a payroll delivery for the miners at Cactus Copper. He was hoping no one felt like dying that day while attempting to hijack the cash but the stupidity and desperation of criminals could never be underestimated. He’d normally have a deputy with him but Oliver Redhawk had been bucked off his horse the day before and was laid up with a broken leg. That meant he had an extra pistol tucked in his belt and a rifle leaning against the wall beside him. He didn’t see a dust cloud on the horizon that meant the Langston gang was riding into town, so he breathed a small sigh of relief. Taking all of them out would be difficult alone.

When the train pulled in with the sounds of screeching brakes and hissing steam, he picked up his rifle and sauntered over to the baggage car door. Ken Gladstar, the paymaster for Cactus Copper was waiting there with two muscular miners who’d help load a mule cart with bags of money. Three Crows planned to ride along while they wound their way through the hills to the mine office, then head toward Margy Hunter’s spread for a steak dinner. Margy was a great cook and he always looked forward to one of her meals. Later, he’d stop for a drink at Mabel’s Saloon and Mercantile before heading for his cot at the jailhouse. The cells were empty for a change and he was glad to be freed from the care and feeding of unwelcome company. Any savings from his yearly budget helped his bank account grow.

After delivering the payroll to the mine and striking out for Margy’s, his plans for the evening suddenly changed. He came around a bend in the trail and heard the sound of splashing water and female giggles, so he went to investigate. Janet, Heather, and Suzi, three dancehall girls from the next town over were sitting on the creekbank wiggling their toes in the water. A picnic basket sat on a red blanket near to hand and all the ladies held glasses of wine. Having such a great opportunity to sing for his supper couldn’t be allowed to slip away, so he dismounted, ambled into the clearing, tipped his hat, and said howdy.

The moon rose full that evening, causing coyotes to howl like they were accompanying his lilting songs. The girls hadn’t brought extra wine so he’d pulled a pint of whiskey from his saddlebag and sipped it slowly while nibbling delicious treats from the basket between tunes. It was almost midnight when he hitched his horse in front of the jail, unsaddled him and took care of its needs. The sounds of a piano playing at Mabel’s echoed in the still night but unless a fight broke out his presence wasn’t required. It felt good to take off his boots and settle in for the night in a town whose safety he’d secured. The longer it stayed that way the better he’d feel. It would be even better if the Langston gang signed up to ride with Pancho Villa and fell by the wayside in Mexico. Everyone he had to bury took another bite out of his budget and supporting the undertaker wasn’t a priority for him. Maybe he could lower the death rate so severely that the undertaker moved away. It was doubtful, considering human nature, but something to ponder while drifting off to sleep.   

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