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Rated: E · Fiction · Western · #2217036
The future of a small town is at risk in the old west.
Written for a Writer's Cramp challenge to write a story that includes the words in bold.

Sheriff,” Jacob Smathers hollered from the dusty street.

“Huh?” A ragged hobo who'd been sleeping against the building woke and shook his head to clear the whiskey fog.

“Is the sheriff in there?”

“Don't rightly know.”

Jacob leapt up the step to the creaky old boardwalk that ran the length of the sheriff's office, barber shop, post office, and three saloons. “Sheriff Marshall,” he yelled as he barged through the door. Inside he found Deputy Johnson sitting in a cell with prisoner Hardy Wilson. Both were oblivious to everything but their game of checkers, which Hardy appeared to be winning at the moment. “Wilbur,” Jacob shouted. “Where's the sheriff?”

“Probably over at the saloon,” the deputy told him.

“Which one?”

“Don't know. What's the problem?”

“Somebody saw Young Billy Young just outside town.”

“Young Billy's back?” Hardy Wilson snorted, and then he cackled. “Well, I'll be. Young Billy Young. Ain't seen him in a coon's age.

“He's most likely Middle-aged Billy Young by now,” said Deputy Johnson. “But whatever. What's it matter that he's back?”

Jacob shook his head in disbelief. “Are sayin' you don't remember Billy's promise just before they sent him to jail in Overton?”

“Oh, yeah.” Deputy Johnson nodded, scratched his head, and rose from his chair. “Hafta put the game on hold,” he told Hardy Wilson. “I've gotta get on out to Mary Jane Dascomb's place.”

“What for?” Hardy wanted to know.

“They were plannin' to get married,” said Jacob. “Billy and Mary Jane.”

“But,” said Deputy Johnson, “Mary Jane changed her mind at the last minute, and married Billy's cousin. Can't rightly remember his name, but I guess it don't matter. I guess all that happened while you was up in Boise.”

“I think his name was Sam,” said Hardy. “Or maybe Dan. But I heard he get shot last year outside the Cactus Flower.”

Deputy Johnson huffed. “What a stupid name that is for a saloon. But yeah, he did get shot there. Died right on the spot.”

Hardy shook his head. “Don't tell me that Billy blamed Mary Jane for marryin' his cousin. I always thought that two-bit snake started courtin' Mary Jane just to spite Billy, and she fell for Dan … yeah, I'm pretty sure it was Dan. Mary Jane fell for Dan just because he wore more expensive boots, and his hat was always cleaner than Billy's.”

“He was better lookin' than Billy, too,” Deputy Johnson added. “But … don't go tellin' anyone I said that.”

“So,” said Hardy, “you think Billy's aimin' to do harm to Mary Jane?”

“No.” Deputy Johnson grabbed his hat and plopped it onto his balding head. “He'll probably kidnap her and ride off to Tulsa, or some other place a million miles from here.”

“And this town can't afford to lose her,” Jacob added. “She's the only schoolmarm we got. And not only that, but she's the town bookkeeper.”

“And,” said Deputy Johnson, “Nobody else in this crummy town is qualified to do either of those things.” He shot a glance at the checkerboard. “Don't even think about moving any of those,” he warned Hardy. “In fact, come on outta there. I don't trust you one bit.”

Hardy rose and left his cell, which Deputy Johnson promptly locked. Tossing Hardy a six-gun, he told him, “I can't deputize you 'cause officially you're still a prisoner. But I can make you a member of the posse.”

Jacob laughed. “A two-man posse?”

“Four,” said Deputy Johnson. “Grab your horse, and I'll round up the sheriff.”

And moments later, dust billowed over the main street as the posse rode off to save Mary Jane Dascomb and the future of Little Bend, Montana.

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