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By Jack Ballas

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He’d think of where he’d come across the man. His thoughts shifted to the tall rancher. Why? Was there some tie-in with the rancher and the miner? Nolan shook his head. The rancher was a straight-forward, honest-as-a man-would-want-to-meet sort of man. The miner would bear watching. Nolan chuckled. He’d been a lawman so long it had gotten to the point where he found shadows and suspicions everywhere he looked. He groaned, pushed back from the table, and set out to make the earliest of his nightly rounds—saloons and brothels.

Kelly shook her head. “Em, that big man’s all right. ” She put a bowl of mashed potatoes in the middle of the other dishes. “An’ I know you’re worried ’bout your papa somethin’ awful. Don’t be. ” Emily looked up. ” Kelly smiled. “Nope. An’ I’ll tell you like it is; ask Wes, he’ll tell you the same thing. ” Wesley sniffed. “Reckon we could talk while we eat. ” “Oh, Wes, you say the same thing ever’ time supper’s almost on the table. I ain’t never seen you when you wasn’t starvin’. Sit. ” For a few minutes, the only sound was that of flatware against bowls, then Emily finished chewing a hot buttered biscuit and looked at Wes.

Why you think he don’t want us to hear? Hell, we’re his partners. He done said we gonna split the takin’s from that vein—a half to us, an’ a half to him. ” Shorty rolled a cigarette before he answered. He took a long drag, let the smoke curl out of his mouth, and inhaled it up his nose. “Bull, if they wuz a whole pile o’ gold a’layin’ on the table an’ you could have it all by gittin’ rid o’ your partners, what would you do? ” He shook his head. ” Shorty took a last drag off his cigarette, pinched the fire out between his thumb and forefinger, then grinned.

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