“I would like,” said Beesen, “to declare my intent to pursue the bounty on one Major Isaac J. Milton, wanted by agents of the United States Government for the crime of resisting arrest and impeding federal marshals in the performance of their duty.”

The deputy sheriff’s lips twitched under his waxed mustache. “You wouldn’t be the only one,” he said. “But what do I care? It’s a federal bounty and federal money, none of my business.”

“I’ve been advised to leave a paper trail wherever I go,” Beesen added drily, “for the purposes of my own safety.”

“Hmph,” grunted the deputy. “Well, you can leave your paper trail elsewhere. Maybe the Sears catalog in the privy would be more appropriate.” He spat a bitter mouthful of tobacco into the spittoon.

“I am detecting a note of hostility,” Beesen said.

“You’re damn right you are. People around here are apt to give that man his space and his privacy. Major Milton is a bit of a folk hero to people around here for what he did at the Battle of Silt River.”

“It wasn’t a battle,” Beesen said. “It was a massacre.”

“Whatever you want to call it, the man mucked the savages out of the territory and opened it up for settlement,” the deputy sheriff said. “That may not carry much weight back east, but out here it makes him a goddamn hero.”

“Let me tell you a little bit about that hero,” growled Beeson. “When he ordered his troops to open fire on unarmed women and children at Silt River, my friend and commanding officer Justin Davies refused. Instead, he promised to testify against Milton at the inquiry, and for that he was murdered in cold blood. I mean to see justice done upon him.”

“So it’s a personal matter, is it?” The deputy sheriff leaned forward in his seat. “That’s a bit different. Not that the distinction’ll mean much to many around here. I’ll write your name in the book and give you a piece of advice if you promise never to darken that door again, Mr. Beesen.”

“What’s that?”

“You’d best hurry. Milton may be a popular man around these parts, but that bounty has some mercenary takers. A group of calvarymen came through day before yesterday looking for him as well, and word has it that the Cheyenne have a group of Dog Soldiers after Milton as well. It’s a dirty stench of greed and revenge clinging to that man wherever he goes, and much as I think he was in the right, I won’t be sorry to see the whole thing over and done with.”

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