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It was going to be the last run for the Parker gang.

Heck, the last run for the actual gang had come more than five years before, when Hank took a slug in the back. Since then, the other members had been dying off or running off, until all that remained were Stan and Ted, who was Hank’s boy.

With just the two of them, they knew they’d need a lot of luck to escape unscathed, but knocking over the Hazelton bank would set them up for life, and then they could just disappear into the New Mexico night.

And then, into Mexico.

It all went according to plan for a good, long while — they left their horses on the canyon ridge on a moonless night, slipped into town, cut a hole in the bank wall, went inside and filled their bags with gold … all without raising so much as an eyebrow.

Stan poked his head through the opening at the back of the bank first, and then when he was sure all was clear, he motioned for Ted to come out. The men sidestepped their way to the edge of town, back-to-back, pistols drawn.

When they reached the edge of the rock face, Stan sent Ted on ahead and waited, facing the village, listening. After several minutes, an owl hooted from the ridge, and Stan knew that was Ted’s signal to join him up above.

Stan turned and ran up the incline, but he didn’t get ten paces before a gruff voice called out behind him.

“Stop! You’re under arrest.”

A bullet whistled past Stan’s ear and heavy footsteps pounded behind him, closing fast. Just when he was sure the lawman was going to nab him, an awful rumble sounded in the darkness, and a dust cloud swallowed up Stan and filled his lungs.

He coughed and staggered backward, then fell on his behind. There in the dim starlight, two men tussled on the ground, rolling this way and that. Stan struggled back to his feet just in time to catch a glimpse of one of their faces — his dead brother smiled back at him, then disappeared into the melee.

“Hank,” Stan whispered into the night. His mouth hung slack for a moment, then he started back up the slope.

He was about halfway up when he heard groaning behind him, and curiosity got the better of him. He turned to squint into the night.

There, at the bottom of the incline, the sheriff of Hazelton was handcuffed to a towering cactus.

He was all alone.

Published inFlash Fiction

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