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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Western · #2248673
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The only thing that hurt worse than Cade’s head was his fist.

He imagined Taylor Locke was feeling even worse. The sound of keys jangling from the front of the jail said he was about to find out.

“That was some sort of display you put on at the Stumbling Swan last night, Peters.”

Sheriff Tate Locke stood in front of the cell rocking back and forth on his boots. The morning sun blasted around his head like a halo, and cast his face in shadows.

“I’m real sorry about that, Sheriff,” Cade said.

“Uh-huh.” Locke keyed open the cell and stepped inside.

Cade braced himself against the roughhewn back wall.

“Well, sorry won’t fix up Paul Fong’s saloon,” the lawman said, “or make Taylor’s face heal any faster.”

“Look, Sheriff,” Cade started, but Locke held up a hand.

“We don’t want no trouble in this town,” the sheriff said, “but seems we just can’t keep it at bay.”

“I didn’t know Taylor was your brother, Sheriff.”

“And it always comes back to one man,” Locke went on, ignoring Cade’s plea.

“Look, Sheriff,” Cade said again. “I don’t like this place none, and you have my word — let me out, and I’ll be gone before the morning’s done.”

Locke took a step forward and moved his fingers across his chest.

“Yessir,” he said. “Trouble seems to follow my brother all around this county, and there’s only ever been one man to stand up to him.”

The sheriff held something out toward Cade. It gleamed in a sunbeam.

“No,” Locke went on. “Seems the only way out of this pickle for you is to follow through on what you started.”

Locke took a final step forward and pinned the badge on Cade’s chest.

“Welcome to Thorn Creek, Sheriff Peters.”
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