Tizeech returned not long after, and behind her sauntered the sheriff–Sheriff Dallas, to be exact, with a flask in his hip holster instead of a shooting iron. His deputy, Missy Ferguson, was by his side, sullen but silent.

“Well, well,” said Dallas with a light slur in his voice. “What have we here?”

“I told you to get the sheriff,” Miss Scarlet hissed angrily at Tizeech.

“I…I did!” Tizeech stammered.

“The real sheriff, Deputy Ferguson! Not this drunk idiot!” Miss Scarlet was whispering loudly enough for Sheriff Dallas to hear, but he either ignored her or took it as a compliment.

Dallas walked around the room, hands clasped behind his back in what he probably fancied was a thoughtful pose, looking at Pearl on the bed, bound, and Miss Scarlet with a repeater pressed to the chest of a Valley Union man. “Your girl says this man was threatening you with his irons,” said Dallas, “but from where I’m standing, it looks the other way around.”

“Yes, Sheriff, that’s exactly it,” said Miss Scarlet. “You’ve uncovered my nefarious plot to tie up Pearl and then shoot the gun out of the hand of my own john.”

Deputy Ferguson had untied Pearl, who stood up. “I can vouchsafe that this scoundrel is the malefactor here,” she said. “Miss Scarlett saved me, no thanks to your and your lead-footed pace in getting up here.”

“And yet, from where I’m standing, it looks like the law is on the side of this man here,” said Dallas, jabbing a finger at Edenburner. “I think you’d better let him go, missy.”

“What law, in what fever dream, in the head of which diseased syphilitic codger, says that?” Miss Scarlet cried.

“This law,” said Sheriff Dallas. “Right here.” He opened his duster, reached into his waistcoat, and produced a folded piece of paper. Unfolding it, and pinching a pair of pince-nez spectacles on his nose to read it, he intoned gravely. “Let it be known that, under the authority of the acting civil servants during the duration of this emergency rail severance, that this warrant permits the search of suspicious environs by the agent designate hereafter named, and protects the same from any recourse, legal or moral, that might arise from the ensuing investigation.” He looked up. “Signed this day by Sheriff Brandon Dallas on behalf of Mr. Jedidiah Edenburner.”

Exasperated, Miss Scarlet lowered her repeater. “You have a search warrant for my place, signed today? That is corruption, sir, pure and simple.”

“Is it, now, missy?” Dallas said. “The head of the Valley Union office came down to have a talk with me this afternoon, said that he had a suspicion that you might be engaged in some sort of…questionable behavior. I signed the warrant over to his agent on the spot.”

“In other words, as soon as his gold coins hit your pocket!” cried Pearl. “This man’s boss bribed you to get him out of trouble!”

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