A cold wind blew through Dodge, and the sky darkened.
Sheriff Ardern, leader of the Ardern Gang, rode high in her saddle, and squinted her eyes.
She was due to do battle with Big Bad Garner, the second-baddest man in the whole damned town.
Some folks said she hated his guts. But the Sheriff claimed she didn't hate anyone. Hatred, she declared, just wasn't something she had in her.
And yet something that bore a striking resemblance to it passed through her when she saw Big Bad Garner standing in the middle of the main street of Dodge.
He wore a crimson vest, scarlet necktie, pink leather chaps and a canary yellow 10-gallon hat. He didn't exactly go about his business discreetly but his gaudy appearance belied the fact he was a vicious opponent who was fast on the draw and never stopped shooting even when his powder was dry.
The Sheriff got off her high horse. That never made her feel comfortable.
She stared down the barrel at Big Bad Garner.
He stared back at her with the dark eyes that were the last thing a lot of politicians in Dodge had seen before he took their scalp.
Big Bad Garner drew first, and said, "How do you respond to charges that your proposed hate speech laws are a threat to free speech?"
She shot back, "All you need is love."
He fired, "What exactly do you mean by these proposed hate speech laws?"
She returned, "Love is all you need."
He flung at her, "Do you even know what the hell you're talking about?"
She flounced, "Love, love, love."
The Sheriff tried to get back on her high horse, but slumped in her saddle.
Townsfolk gathered in the saloon and talked in low voices about the Sheriff's failed shoot-out with Big Bad Garner.
"She looked bad," they said.
"She looked like a damned fool."
"She looked dowdy next to Big Bad Garner."
Just then, the doors to the saloon were flung open. A tall, thin, ageing cowboy walked to the bar, and said, "I'll tell ya another thing about her that y'all will want to hear."
A few of the boys in the saloon recognised him from days gone by when he held a position of power in Dodge.
He cleared his voice, and said, "I don't think I've ever seen, in my life, brand destruction as devastating as that."
Nobody said anything. The boys returned to their card game.
He said to the barkeep, "How come no one's payin' much attention to my very interesting and certainly most eloquent remarks about Whitey Collins?"
"'Cos we weren't talkin' about her. We were talkin' about the Sheriff."
Former Attorney-General Finlayson tossed back his bitter drink.
Sheriff Ardern faced down Whitey Collins at high noon in the main street of Dodge.
Whitey reached for her holster, but seconds later lay sprawled on the ground in an untidy heap.
The last thing she heard was the Sheriff's zinger: "Karen."
Sheriff Ardern was given a copy of the proposed hate speech laws. She picked it up, then yawned, put it down again and sang to herself, "Imagine all the people livin' life in peace."
In a darkened room, the baddest man in the whole damned town squinted his eyes and drew on his cheroot.
He watched the smoke rings rise in the air.
"When the Sheriff has the guts to face me in the main street of Dodge," thought Slim Bad Hosking, "I'll be ready."