“Bee” Hoover looked up at the bodies hanging from the gibbets. Tanned by the fierce sun, not even the circling buzzards wanted them. “Who are they?”

Tam Frederick continued to chew on the toothpick, and did not look up. “That there’s Blacklaw Hill. You obey the law, or the Hill gets you.”

Bee shuddered. “Do you know who they are?”

Taking out the toothpick, Tam flicked a mote of spittle off of it. “Well, let’s see. We got us Johnny Hammer, Addie Greenwood, and…uh… Jere Hardison, I think.”

“There’s four of them up there,” Bee said, looking up at the bodies and counting silently.

“Don’t rightly remember who the fourth is, lessin’ it’s still Bettina LaChance.”

“What did they do?” Bee said. “Murderers? Rustlers?”

“Nah,” Tam said with a solemn head-shake. “Johnny Hammer was a carpenter, but he was known to nail more wood than he needed to make cabinets. Hah! Addie Greenwood was accused of being a witch, and she want to the gallows rather than do a trial by ordeal. Jere Hardison was accused of shoplifting, but he refused to plea, so they hung him as if he was guilty. Bettina LaChance, well she was a gossip, plain and simple.”

“And the penalty for all that was…death?” said Bee. “On whose authority?”

“The law,” Tam replied. “Sheriff Rolf Law. Judge Rolf Law, too, and I think there might be a Marshal Rolf Law and a Coroner Rolf Law in there someplace too. You know what’s good for you, you mind all the laws and all the Laws.”

“And how will I know what’s punishable by death in town?” said Bee.

“Easy,” replied Tam. “Everything, unless you go through a trial by ordeal. Enjoy your visit, stranger.”

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