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Cougar Jones

“We don’t like troublemakers around these parts, Jones.” Sheriff Hilton Lipstache leaned against the split-rail fence and glared at the young man in front of him.

Craig Jones had seen the sheriff’s type before — a blowhard, bullying his way through life, taking whatever he wanted. Still, Sparrow Gulch seemed a nice enough town, and Craig needed to find a place to settle in.

“I’m not looking for trouble, Sheriff,” Craig said.

“Way I hear it, trouble seems to follow you around, son.” Lipstache placed a hand on his sidearm.

Shadows grew long across the run-down farm as the sun slid behind the tops of the trees to the west.

“I just want to hunker down, build my homestead, Sheriff.”

Lipstache stood up straight, set his feet wide. “Way I hear it, dead men pile up in your wake.”

Craig shook his head. “No sir. I never laid a hand on anybody.”

“So I hear.” Lipstache turned and walked toward his horse. “And yet, folks end up all torn up wherever you go.”

“Like I said, sir,” Craig replied in an even voice, “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Well, I don’t believe in coincidences, son,” Lipstache said as he mounted his horse. He trotted the mare in a circle and stopped in front of Craig, blocking out the fading sun.

“Crevasse County is no lawless backwoods, boy,” the sheriff said with a glower. “Just remember — wherever you go, whatever you do — you are being watched.”

Craig followed Lipstache with his eyes as the lawman rode off toward town, and the dying sun splashed a single ray into the dark recesses of a rocky overhang along the trail.

Two yellow flashes glinted from the blackness as the horse passed by, and Craig felt the air rumble.

“So are you, Sheriff.”

Published inFlash Fiction

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