Sunday, August 21, 2011


by Molly Buffington

The town was just like every other in the West: tumbleweeds, a saloon with a couple drunks staggering around a barmaid, a poorly guarded bank, horses, a sheriff nailing "Wanted" signs to a board, women in bonnets buying groceries... the works. None of them saw what the man surveying the town did.

Women turned their heads and batted their eyelashes at him. He seemed to walk aimlessly, just a clean-cut cowhand, still retaining some youth, with swaying light red hair and icy blue eyes. The sheriff nodded his head to him.

"Howdy, stranger."

The man, a little surprised, tipped his stetson. "Howdy."

He tried to walk on but the sheriff, an older man with gristle-y, grey-tinged hair, grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

"You new to the Lone Star State?"

"Yes sir," the man lied.

"I'm Lawrence, local law enforcement."

"Joseph Robertson, sir. Here on business with my family's farm. Be gone in a few days."

That seemed to satisfy the sheriff. "Enjoy your stay, son," he said, smacking Joseph a little too hard on the back as he walked on.

Joseph wiped his brow. There was no way this Lawrence could have seen through him. No, it just wasn't possible. He continued walking and reached the board with the "Wanted" signs.

"Fast Jack," a man in his mid-40s with jet black hair and a gold tooth. Wanted for battery and defying law enforcement, $50 reward.

"Quick-Draw Stevens," white-blond with a crooked nose, train robbery and horse thieving. $150 reward.

And how could he not notice? "Billy The Kid," a cocky choice for an alias, brown-haired, baby-faced, wanted from the Grand Canyon to the Mississippi for everything from cattle rustling to armed robbery to murder. $500 reward, dead or alive.

Joseph's eyes grew wide at the last charge. "I didn't commit murder," he mumbled.

The town looked like a good enough place to settle down. He had money, freedom, power. A great deal of power. He would always have that.

He looked behind his shoulder to see if anyone spotted him staring at the posters and then shook off the fear, swaggering over to the saloon. He subconsciously checked his gun: still there, still loaded. He pushed the door and glanced around. Friendly barmaid, a few poker games, several ladies dolled up for business. He nodded to himself. He liked it here.

He sat at the bar and stared at himself in the mirror. Over his ear, a tuft of his hair was brown instead of red. How had he missed that? He concentrated, digging deep into his guts and willing himself to change. Shifting was never easy, always painful. Anyone passing by would think he had terrible indigestion. It took a good 30 seconds of focusing and chanting under his breath. But when he looked up his hair was all red, his eyes were all blue, and he looked nothing like the man in the poster.

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