'Bender Hungerford was tired. Exhausted, really. He'd ridden east a hundred miles from Weber Station in the last couple weeks and had trimmed so buggering many horse's hooves he'd started dreaming about them in his sleep. At this point, Green River Station, with it's stone buildings, it's proper kitchen, and it's warm beds seemed to him as a Promised Land, as some fabled El Dorado. He couldn't bloody wait. He just wanted to eat something a woman had cooked, lay down on something that didn't have ants or lizards crawling all over it, and take a good long nap.
So when he saw the Indian pony with it's Russell, Majors, and Waddell brand tethered outside the Sheriff's office in Green River town, he did a double take. A sinking feeling started in the pit of his stomach. He stopped, rubbing his hand tiredly over his stubbly face.
"Ah, bugger me with a broomstick." He muttered to no one, focusing again on the distinctive mare. "This ain't good." He trotted Swagman up besides the spotted company horse, tethered him beside her, and headed for the door.
"Holt?" he pushed the door open, looking around as his eyes adjusted to the dim light inside. The room reeked of old coffee, sweat, and the acrid bite of pain and fear. The hair prickled on his arms."Blackie?"
Sheriff Holt, sitting at his desk, looked up. "Well. Hellbender Hungerford." He nodded, his light blue eyes burning into 'Bender's with a predatory smirk. "Back in Green River, eh? What can I do for you?"
Bender's eyes warily flitted around the room. "I just got in and I'm wondering why one of our horses is... what in the bloody blue hell is going on in here?" He covered the steps to the just-noticed cell behind the sitting lawman in two furious strides and grabbed the bars. "What happened? Open it!"
Lights the Storm Peltier lay across the bunk, slouched against the wall inside the locked cell. He stared at Bender with bloodshot and bruised eyes that swam in his ashen face. "Thank God, 'Bender." he rasped in relief, his voice weak. His hair was partially unbraided and stiff with dried blood, hanging over his face in filthy rattails. He looked like hell. Dried blood spattered the floor and stained the filthy army blanket on the bunk. This is not good...
"Someone caught this red with one of your mail horses." Sheriff Holt casually shrugged. "I assumed he was stealing it."
© 2008 Regina Shelley