Robbin' Peaceful Valley's Bank ain't easy.
|Lefty led the palomino mare from her stall and tied her to the post outside the barn. The horse leaned into the brush as he rubbed the bristles over her hair until her body shone. He grunted as he lifted the leather saddle and settled it on her back. Glancing up at the sun, Lefty wiped a dribble of sweat from his brow and lifted the mare's back leg to clean out a hoof.
"Looks like the boys are late, Shirley," he grumbled. The horse turned her long neck to gaze at him with soulful brown eyes.
"Not to worry, gal, we'll be off fer our ride soon," Lefty promised, dropping her leg and shifting to the next. Shirley had to be in good condition for this outing. It wouldn't do to have her go lame from something as simple as a rock in her hoof after the robbery.
A cloud of dust caught Lefty's eye. Tilting back his Stetson, he squinted down the dirt road. Three horses pounded a trail to the front of Lefty's cabin. Their riders whooped and hollered as their mounts skid to a stop. Lefty spat a string of tobacco that splattered on Martin's right boot as he slid from his horse.
"Took you boys long enough," Lefty drawled, "I was startin' to wonder if y'all was too skeered to ride with me."
Martin patted his horse's neck, "I shore am sorry we're late, boss. Tommy, here, had to finish up his chores afore his 'Ol Man would let him loose."
Lefty turned a piercing gaze on the teen still sitting in his saddle. The horse shifted as the kid's face flushed under the intense perusal.
"Blazes, you're between hay and the grass, ain't you boy?"
"I ain't no kid," Tommy lifted a stubborn chin. The faint line of fuzz spread across the youth's face promised to one day be a fine beard. "I turned sixteen just last week. I'm a man now and I aim to prove it by helpin' y'all rob Peaceful Valley's bank."
Lefty threw his head back and laughed. The men chuckled with him while Tommy ducked his head in embarrassment. With one swift movement, Lefty swung into his saddle.
"Blame, boy, ya shore can pop the corn. Ya almost jabber on as much as a piece 'o calico at a Sunday meetin'," he grinned and turned Shirley's head toward the road. Martin hefted himself back into the saddle as Lefty lifted a hand and pointed toward the west.
"Time for the good ol' Barkers Bank to post the pony. Let's ride, boys!"
The men hooted as they spurred their mounts into a gallop. The dust whirled around them as they pounded into town. The men followed Lefty's lead in pulling colorful handkerchief's over their mouths before stomping up the wooden steps to the bank. Lefty winked at Tommy, pulled out his six-shooter, and kicked open the ornate door.
"This here is a stick-up!" Lefty yelled, startling the cashier into dropping a handful of gold pieces. Lefty nodded at Johnny, who bent to pluck up the rolling coins with his grubby fingers. Lefty gestured with his gun at Tommy and the kid jumped forward with a burlap sack.
"Let's fill'er to the top," Lefty demanded. A niggle of worry crept at the back of his mind as the cashier's eyes flickered to a spot over his shoulder. Before he could turn, he felt cold metal pressed against the back of his head.
"Now I don't think you're such a goney to risk bitin' the ground over a sack of chink, are ya son?"
Lefty closed his eyes and blew out a frustrated breath as he recognized the voice. He carefully lowered his gun and tucked it back in its holster before raising his arms in surrender.
"Sheriff Clayton," Lefty drawled, "We heard you was off to fetch the doc fer yer sister. Ain't she supposed to be havin' her young'un today?"
"He was born early," the Sheriff growled. "Now tell your boys to lower their weapons or my posse will be buryin' them in the bone orchard come morn."
Lefty nodded at Tommy and Martin. The thud of guns hitting the wood floor startled the cashier again. Another handful of coin tumbled out of his hands. The pieces rolled across the floor and stopped at Lefty's feet.
"Now we're gonna take a walk, nice and easy, outside of this fine establishment," the Sheriff ordered.
Lefty hesitated, his eyes fixed on the gold glittering at his boots.
"Are ya deef, son? I said move!" Clayton kicked at the back of Lefty's leg, sending him stumbling forward. Lefty slowly turned and the Sheriff yanked the handkerchief off his face. His mouth twisted into a snarl as he fixed the law with a cold stare.
"Don't you look at me like that, boy," Clayton frowned, "If anyone should have their back up, it should be me. To think I have a nibbler for a son. Why, yer father would have tanned yer hide fer such a stunt if he were still alive!"
Lefty pressed his lips together. He'd learned long ago not to sass back at his mother. Not only could she lick him with a willow from the nearest tree, but as the Sheriff of Peaceful Valley, she could lock him up for as long as she saw fit. Once again he found himself torn between embarrassment that his mother, a woman for gosh darn sakes, was the law; and relief that her love for him would keep the noose off his neck.
"Now let's get y'all over to the hoosegow. I rustled up some hot rocks and belly wash," Clayton brushed back an unruly piece of hair from Lefty's brow as Tommy bit back a chuckle.
"I also perked the cells up a bit, son. Got us a bunch of purdy candles to light the place up. Yes, siree! Sixteen candles make a lovely light."