Out of Town

Before I continue the story about my first few days in Phoenix, I want to give you all an idea of what I’m doing here. I have an associate who is a proponent of the new sciences that have boomed since the war and he has assured me that the new National Dynamic Data Link (NDDL, or Needle) will change the way we communicate. I had resisted him for some time. The recent attacks in Carson City, however, have forced me to reconsider my position. The speed with which other townships in Nevada and California were able to mobilize their militias and come to Carson City’s aid is a testament to the power of the Needle. Thus, I have opened a very new branch of the Phoenix Sheriff’s Office on the Needle.

This will serve as my hub of disseminating information to the rest of the nation as we struggle through these difficult times. In addition to matters concerning the safety of Phoenix, I will also feature alerts relevant to the surrounding towns and recitations of my own personal experiences that others may be able to draw insight from.

The following events took place approximately two months ago.

I returned to the saloon promptly at high noon the next day. After I had whistled Dixie in the sandstorm for a good while, I set off to find my new office. Waiting for me on the empty pine desk was a shiny new badge. I left it where it was as I got dressed the next morning; I wanted to get used to the layout of the town and get to know some of the more important locals before revealing that I was the new lawman. The sandstorm had been good cover for getting into my office the day previous. This day I had to go out a window in the back near the holding cells.

The saloon was called the Red Eye Runner, something I had missed in my haste during the storm. The old man was at the same table where the cards had been dealt. He was grinning and wheezing out a chuckle. His two friends were no where to be found.

“Where’s the other two?” I asked, letting the saloon doors back easily so they wouldn’t rattle.

He grunted a slightly derisive sound. “Them dunderheads are liable to get buffaloed by a ground squirrel.”

I had no idea what that meant, but I agreed with him anyway. As I reached for a chair, the old man waved me away.

“Don’t get comfy, Yank. We got a bit of a ride ahead of us.”

Damn. I had been looking forward to breakfast.

We rode west out of town for a stretch, past several green fields of alfalfa and cotton. I’d heard that citrus grew here, had even seen some on my way in, but my luck wasn’t such that we passed any. I was destined to be hungry all day. Eventually, I could make out a large barn in the distance, though as we drew nearer I began to doubt that barn was the correct term. Shack may have been more appropriate. I started to dread winning whatever was housed inside and ran through a list of the annoying things it could be: rusted scrap, sick cattle, burlap sheets…

We were within five minutes of the building when my senses came back to me. I had ridden well out of town alone with a person – a person of Southern descent – I didn’t know to a deserted shack. This was exactly how the Menace operated, especially if they had been tipped off that I was the new law.

“What’s that off in the distance? Looks like a plume of smoke coming from those mountains,” I yelled to the old man riding next to me. As he peered off in the direction I indicated, I drew my six gun. I pointed it at him, but kept it low so it might go unnoticed. It didn’t. Oh well.

The old man smiled as he stopped his horse.

“Gettin’ worried? Out here past the cotton, don’t many people go. I can understand that.” He slid off his saddle. I did the same, now aiming directly at his heart.

“You think I’m one of ’em?” He squinted at me.

“I’m not sure how you’re riding a horse if you are, but I think I don’t trust you.”

“Let me lead your horse. You can cover me. Ain’t nobody in the barn right now that’ll come out and attack you.”

“Nobody that will attack me, or nobody at all?”

“Nobody at all.”

I handed him the reins to the horse I had rented in Phoenix and we walked the remaining distance. I covered him with my revolver, but my attention was on the fields around us and the entrance to the barn. The old man tied up the horses, walked to the barn door, and stopped.

“Ready to see a real sight?” he asked in a tone that didn’t seem to recognize how close I was to shooting him. Or maybe he just didn’t care.

He waited until he was sure I wasn’t going to say anything, grunted, and heaved the door open.

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