Smoke from cooking fires drifted across the plaza. The evening smelled of horse meat.
Sheriff Ardern sat on the balcony of the saloon and lit a cheroot. Her eyes narrowed as she looked over the town. There was very little movement. She couldn't remember the last time a stagecoach pulled in.
"It's quiet," she said. "Too quiet."
Deputy Robertson looked up from shining her boots.
"You say somethin', boss?", he asked in a high, pleading voice.
Downstairs, the Ardern Gang played poker. They were waiting for the sheriff to decide their next move. Greeny Shaw was waiting, too. The co-leader of the Shaw-Davidson Gang paced up and down in the corridor outside the sheriff's room. He was rehearsing his speech. "I'll tell her straight. 'Now look here!' No, too confrontational. 'You need our gang!' No, not actually true. 'We'll do anything you want.' No, too true..."
The sheriff could hear Greeny's footsteps on the floorboards. She could even hear the breathing of her gang in the saloon. She could hear everything. Some folks found that mighty suspicious but when they raised concerns, they were never heard from again.
The sheriff sent for Doc Bloomfield. He rode into town and his spurs jangled as he walked through the saloon and up the stairs to her room. "Out the damn way," he said to Greeny Shaw, and entered without knocking.
"What's the latest?" said the sheriff, without turning around.
He stepped on to the balcony, and said, "Rounded up a bunch of folks who I didn't like the look of and put 'em in quarantine."
"Good." She passed him a bottle of whiskey. He took a long swig and lit his cheroot with his breath.
"Hey. Boy," he said, and motioned to Deputy Robertson, who got down on his hands and knees to act as Doc's footstool.
He put his feet up and narrowed his eyes.
"Don't you copy me," she said without even needing to look at him.
Doc didn't reply. He knew only a fool crossed Sheriff Ardern.
The Ardern Gang played poker, and waited. Greeny Shaw paced back and forth outside the sheriff's room, and waited. The Seymour Gang rode through town, hootin' and hollerin'.
Greeny Shaw paced back and forth outside the sheriff's room and waited. The Ardern Gang played poker and waited. The Collins Gang limped through town, moanin' and blamin'.
Greeny Shaw wore a hole through the floorboards and fell through the ceiling into the saloon, crashing on the poker table. The Ardern Gang fell backwards in their chairs. Many were concussed. Others ran around the saloon and tore at their hair.
"Damn fools," muttered the sheriff. The town was going all to hell and the horsemeat was running low and she hadn't thought up a plan to get things moving but even if she did, what was the point in delegating work to the gang? They couldn't think straight. Hell, they couldn't even shoot straight.
Just then she heard the crack of a whip and the rumble of wooden wheels on a dirt road. A stagecoach! A stagecoach was coming! Loaded with rich tourists who would throw their money around and get the town back up on its feet!
"It ain't arrivin', Sheriff," said Deputy Robertson. "It's leavin'. That's Hollywood actress Kirsten Dunst and her nanny gettin' out of town."
Sheriff Ardern stubbed out her cheroot. It was time she went downstairs and chose her government. The town needed saving. She put on her lipstick and formed a confident smile.