The local watering hole, the Lucky Maggot was back to back with Miss Scarlet’s Boudoir and they shared an upstairs. People who were easily scandalized tended to keep to the bottom-most floor of the Lucky Maggot and convinced themselves that the Bourdoir was in fact a “hotel and gentleman’s club” as its sign indicated. The Lucky Maggot, by contrast, had as its sign a worm curled into the shape of a horseshoe with a beer in one hand and a clover in the other.

The place was booming, with a huge amount of noise from the treasure hunters and people who’d been stranded by the train. As the deputy sheriff, though, and a representative of one of the best customers the Lucky Maggot had ever had in Sheriff Dallas, Missy always had a table reserved. She and Vyrim got a small bottle of cheap stuff at the bar and walked over to fill their glasses.

“Looks like that electricologist actually hired Feris,” Missy said, nodding at a nearby table.

Dr. Eggebrecht was there, one table over with a pile of open books, lecturing Feris on something or other as the young woman listened raptly, head proped up by her palms. “Now, the thing to keep in mind about dragons like Highclaw is that dragons are creatures of pure magic, and therefore the lizardine form they are famous for is almost wholly a matter of convenience…”

“I’ve never seen her that engaged in anything,” Missy added. “Good for him.”

“But what about you, Missy?” Vyrim said. “You still trying to carry the weight of this wretched town on your back?”

“If my back’ll bear it,” Missy said. “Now more than ever, someone’s gotta keep things together.”

“That’s the sheriff’s job,” Vyrim said. “You’re doing twice the work for half the pay.”

“He gets to do as he pleases and so do I, but what needs to get done needs to get done.” Missy punctuated her remark with a stiff belt of her drink. “These treasure hunter’s’ll eat us alive otherwise.”

“What a thing that is,” Vyrim said, kicking back his own drink. “Do you think it’s real?”

“I know that De Blij stumbled in here with a piece of dragon-gold and a wild story of a hoard,” said Missy. “And I know Highclaw was real because what’s left of him is a regular tourist attraction these days, with people somehow thinking that his carcass holds the secret to the whole damn thing. Other than that…is it all right to say that I really don’t care?”

“Don’t care?” Vyrim said. “Seems that you care a great deal.”

“I care about Smokewood not going up in smoke, since I’ve planted my stake here for good and all,” Missy said. “That’s it.”

“Have you ever thought about just…walking away from it all?” Vyrim said with a sad little smile. “We could go back up to the Old Mission, just for a few days, like we did way back when. Get lost for a bit.”

Missy looked at his outstretched hand and turned away. “I can’t do that,” she said. “There are too many people counting on me. And you know what’ll happen if the rumors start back up again. You could lose your job, I could lose mine, angry letters about racial purity in the paper, and suddenly there’s no good conductors left on the Eastern and Wilds and no good deputy sheriffs left in Smokewood.”

“It’s not right,” Vyrim said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong,” Missy said. “It’s the law.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!