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Rotting Roots

“You can’t shake your roots, boy.” Jack Hampton clapped a hand on his son’s shoulder and leveled a steely gaze at the young man. “And why would you want to? This business is lucrative as ever!”

Randy watched his father’s eyes, replaying a lifetime’s worth of adventure and crime. They were the eyes that could make the boy tremble with just a squint, the same eyes that danced with fire whenever Randy’s mama walked in the room.

For twenty years, Jack had taught Randy the family business — scheming their way into the good graces of honest folks, farmers and businessmen and blacksmiths, only to rob them blind. As Jack said, it was a lucrative game.

But that was before the war, before Randy found out what it meant to fight for a cause. Before he’d made another commitment.

“I know you’re nervous, son,” Jack went on. He pointed toward the far end of Rock Blossom, where the Boltons’ modest mercantile stood. “They already got the wagon loaded up for us, ready to take supplies out to the miners in Pyrite Canyon.”

Randy knew the place didn’t exist, and that the Boltons would never see their money.

“They don’t suspect anything,” Jack said. He smiled and tugged on his son’s shoulder. “What say we go make a killing, huh?”

Randy gave a curt nod. “Right behind you, Dad.”

Jack laughed and pivoted on the heels of his boots. He walked out of the shadowy stand of pines and kicked up a trail of dust.

As the old man took his paces, Randy fingered the badge in his pocket and drew his six-shooter. He aimed to shake his roots, after all.

Published inFlash Fiction

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