A tin can soared into the sky, then drifted down.
A bullet popped it back up. A second, third, fourth. Six shots in all kept it dancing until it hit the ground again.
Slade blew the smoke off his revolver, twirled it around his finger, then handed it to Miles, who took it and loaded it.
“Ready?” Slade asked.
“As I’ll ever be,” Milo answered.
Slade threw a new tin can into the air. Its journey was uneventful. Up, then quickly down as the three shots Miles took got nowhere close to making their mark.
“I don’t get it,” Miles said. “I shot that werewolf.”
The lawman walked over to the can and picked it up. “Shooting a werewolf’s like shooting the broad side of a barn. Anyone can do it.”
Slade loaded three more rounds then handed the pistol back to Miles. “No offense.”
“But the real trick,” Slade said as he hauled his arm back and prepared to throw the can again, “Is to shoot something small and far away…”
Slade hurled the can up into the air. Miles missed twice before the can plopped down again.
“…before it shoots you,” Slade said.
“I’ll never get it,” Miles said.
“Takes time,” Slade said. “And patience.”
“That’s ok,” Miles said as he passed the revolver back. “I don’t want to get it anyway.”
“Why don’t you keep it?” Slade asked. “Never know when you might need it.”
“No,” Miles said. “Pa was right. Fighting isn’t something to look forward to. I never want to hurt anyone ever again.”
“Fair enough,” Slade said.
Slade and Miles sat on a fence together.
“I wish I hadn’t killed him,” Miles said.
“It was you or him,” Slade replied. “You’d rather him be here now?”
“Honestly,” Miles said. “Yeah. Just so I don’t have to feel bad about it.”
“Huh,” Slade said. “First time I ever heard someone say that.”
“You never feel bad when you shoot someone?”
Slade stalled by taking a long drag off his cigar then exhaling the smoke. “Honestly? All the time.”
There was an awkward silence until Slade broke it. “Don’t tell anyone. I got a reputation to keep.”
“I’m just going to live a peaceful life so I never have to kill someone and feel bad about it ever again,” Miles said.
Slade nodded. “Good plan…except…what if someone comes after you anyway?”
Miles took a few seconds to think about that. “I’ll worry about that when it happens.”
Slade rolled his eyes, unholstered his revolver and passed it over to Miles once more.
“Kid, there’s an old saying,” Slade said. “‘God made man and Samuel Colt made them equal. Take it already in case you need it.”
“Nope,” Miles said as he pushed the revolver away. “Besides, no one’s equal to a werewolf.”
“Good point,” Slade said.
The lawman holstered his weapon.
“You know,” Slade said as he chomped on his cigar. “You’d probably know more about this than I do but it seems to me that if one werewolf were to kill some kind of big important boss werewolf, that he’d become the boss werewolf.”
“That’s true,” Miles replied. “Technically, I’m now King of the Western Werewolves.”
Slade choked on his smoke in shock. “I was just joking. Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Miles said.
“So why don’t you…”
“Claim the title?” Miles asked. “Because every alpha wolf has to protect his reign from a non-stop onslaught of challenges from werewolves who think they’re bigger and badder.”
“Suppose that would get tedious,” Slade said.
“It would,” Miles said. “And besides. I’m a werewolf of peace now.”
Slade shook his head. “Werewolf of peace.”
The duo stood up.
“So listen,” Slade said. “Miss Bonnie and I are headed West and we’d like it if you’d come along.”
“No thanks,” Miles said. “I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Oh,” Slade said. “I wasn’t saying that. Just that, you know…”
Slade scratched the back of his neck and worked up the courage he needed to say something emotional. “…we’d miss you.”
“I’ll miss you all too,” Miles said. “But I need to be my own man. Make my own way.”
“I can respect that,” Slade said.
“I’ve got to,” Miles added. “Pa told me if our line lasts long enough a Freeman might accomplish something great one day.”
Slade tipped his hat. “Something tells me that will happen sooner than you think.”
The sappiness was not lost on Miles. He smiled.
Slade stretched out his hand to offer a handshake. Miles bypassed that gesture and gave Slade a hug instead. A big one.
Such displays of feeling were new to Slade, but like anyone, he figured out what to do. He returned the hug, patted the young man on the back, then let him go.
The lawman rubbed a tear away.
“Something in your eye?” Miles asked.
“Aww it’s this damn cigar,” Slade replied. “Dirty habit. Don’t pick it up.”
A bag was propped up against the fence. Miles picked it up, opened it, then unbuttoned his shirt.
“Where will you go?” Slade asked.
“Not sure,” Miles replied. “Explore awhile. Maybe head down Mexico way eventually. Pa thought it would be nice down there.”
“Pima,” Slade said. “Little town in Arizona. Southwest of Tombstone. That’s where we’ll be if you ever need anything.”
Miles folded his shirt up neatly and put it in the bag. It’d been the first time he was able to take off a shirt without destroying it in awhile.
Slade looked away as the boy removed his pants. Miles folded them up and packed them too.
“I’ll come visit someday,” Miles said.
“I’ll make us some dinner,” Slade said. “Lest Miss Bonnie poison us all.”
Miles’ chuckles trailed off and turned into heavy breathing.
Slade turned around to find the boy had taken his werewolf form.
The bag laid on the ground a few feet away.
“I got it,” Slade said.
The lawman noticed Miles’ head was pointed in the opposite direction. This gave him the chance to sneak his pistol into the bag just before he hanged the strap around the werewolf’s neck.
Slade patted Miles on the head as he would a puppy. “Take care of yourself, werewolf of peace.”
A rush of air pushed out of the werewolf’s snout, followed by some panting.
Slade pointed his finger at the wolf.
“Don’t go blaming yourself forever for what happened to your father,” Slade said.
More air. More panting.
“All right then,” Slade said as he slapped Miles’ furry back. “Happy trails.”
Miles took off. Fast. Lighting speed. His paws galloped across the plain as his fur bandied about in the breeze.
Slade watched his young friend gallop away until he became a blip on the horizon.
“Shit,” Slade said. “I know you will.”