It started as a slight tug, a little tickle about half an inch down from the corner of Gabe’s mouth.
“You hold it right there, Malcolm.” Gabe glared at the scruffy cowpoke tiptoeing toward the front door of Mabel Lambert’s tiny cottage.
Malcolm stopped in his tracks, shot his hands in the air. They trembled.
“Don’t shoot, Sheriff.”
“I ain’t gonna shoot you, Malcolm.”
The spot under his lip tugged again, and Gabe thought about flicking it with his tongue, but then … the voice.
“What’s going on here?”
It was Mabel, stepping in through the back door. Always tending that garden of hers.
Malcolm and Gabe both turned to face her, and Malcolm hung his head.
“Why, Malcolm Gates!” she exclaimed. “Is that my pearl necklace in your hand?”
The young man’s face flushed. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mabel pursed her lips. “Going to give it to that girl of yours, I suppose?”
She started to wag a finger at him, but her eyes darted to the oak table under the front window.
The itch was gnawing at Gabe’s chin like a fly on fresh meat.
“And I suppose you ate my strawberry pie, too?” Mabel leveled her finger at the empty tin.
Gabe cleared his throat. “Caught him red-handed, Mabel.”
Malcolm flashed his eyes to Gabe. “You’re lying!”
“If you want a piece of pie, young man,” Mabel started in, “all you have to do is ask. Didn’t your momma teach you any manners?”
Malcolm glared at Gabe, and his eyes slid to the spot on his mouth. The young man smirked.
“Say, Sheriff … what were you doing here at Mabel’s house, anyway?”
Mabel frowned and arched her eyebrows. She cocked her head toward Gabe, questioning.
The glop of strawberry weighed like a boulder on Gabe’s chin.