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There’s a small nondescript town somewhere on the dusty plains surrounding the Stoneface Hills. A one-horse-town existing only because of the way station for the new stage coach line, mostly it consists of entertainment for their customers and a few families desperate enough to stake in a prosperous future of the place which might never come true.

Opposite the station is a small sheriff’s office, the building so new one can still smell the resin bleeding out of the pine tree boards. A brand-new sign tells everyone concerned that B. Cute is the name of the law in this place.

He’s in his early twenties, lanky, bright-eyed and cursed with hair the color and texture of dusty straw. Recently he’s been occupied with the most important case of his new position as a lawman.

The stagecoach has been robbed in his district. The passengers have finally arrived and as his luck went, he already has one suspect in his custody. A man of about his own age is held captive and all he needs to solve the case and boost his career now is evidence. The man’s belongings offered no proof of him being involved, but an eyewitness would be as good as physical evidence as well, maybe even better. But although there were three women – well really girls - riding the coach at the time of the robbery, their value as eyewitnesses is more than questionable. The questioning of two of them was more than disappointing and his hope is on the last one, the oldest of three sisters, who is sitting opposite his table right now.

Grace Turner is no classical beauty, but easy on the eye with her milk-white skin and long strawberry hair. The young sheriff smiles gently at her as he starts his inquiry.

“It seems your sisters were quite distracted and too upset for a reliable testimony, so I do hope you can help me identify the evildoer who scared you and your poor sisters so much, and relieved the coach of a strong box containing a $2.000 payroll. So please tell me, did you get a look at him?”

“Oh yes, I had a very good look at him indeed.” Virgin like she blushes.

“What did he look like?”

“He was definitely the most handsome man I have ever seen.” The young woman sighs.

Sheriff Cute rolls his eyes. “I was thinking along the lines of a description.”

“Description?”

“Yes. What was he like?”

“Handsome, strong, polite, very gentlemanly in fact.” Her eyes become a dreamy look and her face softens.

“His physical features would be more helpful, ma’am,” the Sheriff presses on. “I suppose he was young, slender, about 6 feet tall, dark-haired and dimpled, wearing a brown suit, right?”

“Oh no, not at all! That’s not him,” she insists. “Tall he was, with broad shoulders and muscular arms – he picked me up as if I was weightless when I stumbled and almost fell - handsome face, tanned skin with a shimmer of gold to it, soft features, honey colored curly hair, sensual lips – oh so kissable and inviting - eyes the color of forget-me-nots ... or rather cornflowers?”

The young Sherriff rolls his eyes again, fighting visibly for patience. “I think this is enough of a description of this one man. What about the others?”

“What others?”

“There must have been more than one of them.”

“Really...? I don’t remember having seen anyone else besides him...”

The Sheriff heaves a deep sigh of resignation as he sees his presumably prospering career vanishing into thin air...

-o-o-o-

A few yards away a young man listens to the exchange attentively with a broad smile on his face. He doesn’t seem to mind that he is locked up behind bars, but looks rather contented. His smug smile disappears as the sheriff turns around. Innocence and trust are all that emerge from his big brown eyes as he watches the lawman stride over, after he has shown the young lady out.

“Well, Sheriff, seems like we have to part ways now.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I heard your interrogation of your witness, well there was no way to avoid it. I don’t exactly fit her description of the man you’re looking for.” Long slender fingers run through dark-brown hair and push it out of his face. “As I told you before, I am William Gates, travelling salesman in corsetry and lingerie – as you should already know, since I suppose you checked out my goods very thoroughly by now.” A glint of mischief flickers up in the corners of his eyes but it is gone too soon to be noticed by the blushing lawman. “Maybe we could find a nice present for Missus Cute? Do you think she would be interested in silk stockings or a nice little something in white lace? There’s nothing that suits a beautiful woman better than a lovely smile and white lace, if I may express my humble opinion...”

“A cute Missus is none of your business,” the sheriff cuts him off harshly.

“Of course, not. I’m truly sorry, Sheriff.” His expressive face emphasizes the seriousness of his apology, but his eyes keep twinkling. “But if I may be so bold to remind you: by the letter of the law you can’t keep me prisoner forever, if you haven’t got any evidence.”

“By Jove, I know, you’ve been there,” Sheriff Cute grunts.

“I don’t know what you know, Sheriff, but I know, that I’ve been nowhere near Copperhead Pass for an entire week. You can ask my customers in Silver Gulch and Miller’s Crossing – if they will be so brave to admit their purchases that is. But with enough persuasiveness and encouragement you should be able to round up at least one or two of them – searching in the right places where questions about an issue like that - a woman’s underdressing - wouldn’t be considered too improper and hurt nobody’s decency and ... uhm ... reputation.” Another wide smile lights up the handsome face which some might assess as somewhat impish, even devious, if they had a close enough look, which doesn’t apply to the young Sheriff, who develops a new shade of a pinkish complexion.

He looks at the suitcase filled with unmentionable women’s things, trying hard to chase pictures of one particular pretty girl of Madam Rose’s Parlor of Love showing them off, out of his mind – and the way she may reward such a gift. His glance pans over the door, the desk, back to the cell and the man in his custody. He heaves a deep sigh and unlocks the door.

“I suppose you’re right. I aim to use my time searching for the man I can pin down for the robbery, not some little sidekick nobody even noticed. You can’t be of any importance anyway. If you were in on the robbery, they probably payed you off and kicked you out as soon as the deed was done. You really don’t look like a hardened criminal to me. You better learn how to keep your nose clean, before you get yourself in some serious trouble.”

Within a blink the happy smile of his captive is gone and the young man’s faces clouds over. He opens his mouth, stops, swallows hard and then nods slowly. “I am – grateful – for your opinion,” he declares seriously in a gravely and somewhat tight voice. “I wish you good luck in finding a man more wicked than me and capable of planning a raid so expertly, that I would pass as his unnoticed ... sidekick.”

Without haste he picks up his belongings as the Sheriff hands them over. He places the hat on his head with more deliberate care than necessary, thrusts out his hand to the Sheriff and squeezes his just a notch more than comfortable. “I thank you for your hospitality and your good advice, Sheriff Cute. Be sure I’ll never forget your name.” His dark-brown eyes glitter in an almost unsettling way, but within an eye’s blink the uncomfortable feeling is gone.

He nods at the Sheriff one more time and leaves. Fifteen minutes later all that is to be seen of him is a dust cloud raised by the pounding hooves of his horse as he’s heading out towards the distant hills.

-o-o-o-

When he reaches them, his mood is already better. He follows a hidden path into a small cleft cut into a steep cliff towering over a little creek. At the metallic click of a cocking gun he freezes and conjures a smile on his face. “It’s me, Kid. Relax.”

“Heyes, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you forever.”

“I had a little talk with B. Cute...”

“Bee Cute?” his partner snorts. “You couldn’t wait to spend your money on some girl?”

“Not exactly, Kid. B. Cute ’s the local sheriff.”

Instantly, Kid Curry’s good mood disappears. “The sheriff? Are you crazy?”

“No, he had more luck than common sense, when he snatched me right away as I checked out the new stage schedule. Fortunately, my disguise worked perfectly and he had no hard evidence, besides his eyewitnesses.”

“Eyewitnesses? So how did you get away then?”

“Praise the Lord for your looks, Kid. You’ve got such a conspicuous attitude...”

“A what?!” snaps the Kid, his blue eyes narrowing.

“Keep calm, Kid. You did us a favor this time. You just have to learn to keep a low profile on the job ...”

“Says the man who’d love to paint our names in bright-red letters on every coach we take.”

“See, Kid, I was thinking about that, too. I don’t think we should do coaches anymore. It’s too unpredictable: the exact time, the route, the number of passengers - we could do way better going for trains.”

“Trains? Trains?” Kid Curry’s temper is rising with every word. “Now I know that you’re outta your mind! How would the two of us stop thousands of pounds of fast-driving metal?”

“You’re right, we would need more manpower, but the profit would be remarkable. We could make ourselves names.”

“Names? What names?” the Kid asks suspiciously. “Like in ‘reward on our names’?”

“Well, yeah, I guess. They should know who’s faster and smarter than they are - every time, everywhere!”

“You really mean it...” the Kid moans and turns away.

“Yeah, sure. Wouldn’t you like them to know your name? Be someone, not a no one anymore? Hear your name spoken with respect? Think of the advantage it would give us – way less resistance and risk when they know with whom they are dealing – and just think of the impression it would make on the girls...”

Blue eyes light up with new interest. “Maybe your idea ain’t as stupid as it sounds...”

Heyes laughs and lays his arm around his partner’s shoulders. “Aw, Kid, I knew you would see my point. Let’s give it a try, huh? If it doesn’t work, we can go back and do something else anytime.”

“You sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure!”

Kid Curry doesn’t look convinced at all. “Well, just let’s get outta here before one cute sheriff gets smart and follows your tracks. We can talk about it on our way.”

Heyes smiles brightly, pats Kid’s shoulder one last time and off they go, laughing and racing each other up the hills towards new heights, only limited by the sky.