The top of Tobias’ hat flapped up and down as he dragged a bag of grain behind him. Arnold and the rest of the townsfolk helped, while Eleanor, too frail to drag anything but herself, came along for moral support.
Legend has it that there was no act too evil, vile, or immoral that Sawbuck Sam Duncan wouldn’t have done for a ten dollar bill, hence his infamous nickname. But on top of his killing and thieving, he’d been treating the Gulch like his own personal bank, making withdrawals from the citizenry in exchange for protection…from himself, naturally.
He rode into town with his two lackies, Clovis and Slim. Clovis had a pair of buckteeth, so prominent you didn’t know whether to stare at them or use them to open your beer. He manned the reigns of a wagon, ready to pick up Sawbuck’s loot.
Slim was an ironic nickname because he was, in fact, very fat. So fat that if horses could talk, his probably would have asked him to skip a meal or two, or seventy-five.
“Everyone stay calm,” Tobias whispered.
“I am,” Arnold whispered back.
“Good,” Tobias said.
“The Mayor usually gets it first,” Arnold noted.
“God damn it, Arn.”
Sawbuck reached the welcoming party and hopped off his horse, his spurs jangling with each step. The shotgun toting Clovis wasn’t far behind. Slim joined his compatriots, and while no one could be sure, historical accounts quote witnesses noting that his horse breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well you didn’t make me wait,” Sawbuck said as he counted the bags.
“No sir,” Tobias said.
“And you brought all ten.”
“What a surprise,” Sawbuck said as he chewed on a toothpick. “You shit brains are finally paying attention. Load it up.”
Tobias didn’t need to be asked twice. He felt relief but refused to show it. He grabbed a bag and hucked it into the wagon. Arnold and the other townsfolk joined in.
Sawbuck stepped up to Tobias and stuck his finger into a hole in the middle of Tobias’ hat.
“That’s from when I shot Mayor Finley as I recall,” Sawbuck said.
Tobias nodded, forcing the top flap of his hat to bob up and down.
“Pumped him full of lead,” Sawbuck said as he pointed to a second hole in the hat. “Just like Mayor Benton.”
“Sure enough,” Tobias said.
“Oh,” Sawbuck said as he lifted the top flap of Tobias’ hat up, then let it flop back down. “That must be from when I trampled Mayor Bratton with my horse. Sure was a lot of fun. His oily hide laying in the dirt, hoof prints all over his ass.”
Tobias stayed quiet as Sawbuck leaned in to study the latest Mayor’s face.
“Can’t say he didn’t deserve it though,” Sawbuck said. “He fucked me over and no one fucks over Sawbuck Sam.”
Sawbuck squinted his left eye shut and looked at Tobias with his right. “You’d never fuck me over, would you boy?”
Tobias shook his head. “No sir.”
“Good,” Sawbuck said as he smacked Tobias in the back so hard he almost knocked him over. “Keep it that way and you’ll be wearing that hat a good long time.”
Sawbuck turned around to find Clovis standing in the back of the wagon, holding up a brick.
The outlaw erupted into a rage. He grabbed Tobias by his collar.
“You fucking me, boy?!”
“What?” Tobias asked as he eeked out a chuckle. “No. Didn’t you ask for grain and bricks?”
Sawbuck backhanded Tobias across the face, knocking him to the ground.
“I swear I thought you asked for grain AND bricks,” Tobias said. “None of my business. I assumed you were building an outhouse or something.”
Sawbuck slapped Tobias again.
“Come on, Sawbuck,” Tobias said as blood trickled out of his mouth. “Just a big misunderstanding. Didn’t you all think he asked for grain and bricks?”
Arnold was nervously shaking as he stepped up. “I thought he asked for grain and bricks.”
Sawbuck wasn’t up for a discussion. Instead, he pulled his pistol and shot Arnold in the head, then pressed the hot barrel against Tobias’ forehead.
“Anyone else think I asked for grain AND bricks?”