Shep raised the shovel, a mad grin on his lips and tears in his eyes, when something hard slammed into the back of his skull. He tumbled to the ground and landed across Hank, their prostrate bodies forming a lower-case “t”.
Lucas McMasters, sheriff of the frontier town of Purgatory, returned his six-shooter to its holster and shook his head. “Here we go again.”
* * * * *
Sheriff McMasters’ mind was in three places at once, two of which were familiar territory but the third not so much. Not yet, anyway.
Part of him was thinking about the Chinnacook princess Comes the Dawn. There was nothing unusual about a white man lusting after a pretty squaw, but it was another “L” word that came to mind when thoughts of the princess danced at the edge of the sheriff’s consciousness. Fate was a harsh mistress. No, scratch that. Fate was a bitch. Miss Fortune, whose playground is all that was or will ever be, could have placed their brief mortal lives worlds and eons apart. Why, then, did she throw them together only to cast him in the role of burly white man and her the redskin who made his heart ache? And even if Sheriff McMasters found the courage to act on his feelings and even if for some crazy reason she consented to be his bride… chances are ridicule would be the least of the prices each of them would pay at the hands of their respective cultures. It was a tragedy of almost Shakespearean proportions.
Another part of the sheriff was thinking about food, a subject he found much less problematic. Doc Milburn had once told him the body was like a chemical engine and food the fuel on which it ran, a concept the sheriff found somewhat appealing. When he ate he wasn’t indulging his appetite; he was simply refueling the engine. And such a large engine required copious amounts of fuel.
It was the third thing on the sheriff’s mind that troubled him the most. Rage, and the violence that often accompanied it, were certainly no strangers to the frontier. But rage was an emotion, not a disease. It wasn’t supposed to spread like a plague.
The sound of boot-steps snapped McMasters out of his reverie. He looked up as a narrow shadow fell across the wanted posters scattered across his desk, blinked, and flashed a wide, tobacco-stained grin. “William Whateley. Well I’ll be damned.”