Doc Ward stood outside Miss Whiskey's place, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Looking at Rye, he asked, "He said Sheriff Cody killed his sons? Did he say what his name was?" Rye slowly shook his head, "No, and after he unloaded both barrels, I wasn't inclined to ask while he reloaded." Doc nodded his understanding. "Anything with his name in his pockets? I'd at least like to know who we're burying." At this query the undertaker piped up. "Just a couple of dollars and more shotgun shells." Again Doc nodded. "Any reason to believe he's part of this new group with Zeb Gardner? He's down at the jail right now talking to the sheriff. Any of their group inside?" At this question, Miss Whiskey, who had been standing nearby, commented "Not tonight, and I don't think so Doc. He ain't as well dressed as that group, and they seem to have plenty of money. Also, I noticed since you sh.. had the run in with that man down by the jail, they always come by in groups of twos, at least. He was alone." Doc nodded his agreement and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I'll see if the sheriff has any ideas. Hopefully he'll be done talking to Gardner soon.
At that moment, Gardner was feeling frustrated, sensing the sheriff was smarter than he had been told, and suspected more than he let on. He had come into the jail with a couple of demands in mind, although he had called them "requests." As the sheriff stood behind his desk, Mr. Gardner took the seat offered to him, Alice Slye in her typically risqué clothing seating herself first. Once she was seated, the sheriff sat himself back down. "Sheriff, I have a couple of requests of you." Nodding, Cody asked pleasantly "And what might those be?" Gardner, looking very seriously, said "I believe it would be appropriate to fire your deputy and charge him with murder." Sheriff Cody paused for a moment, then leaned back in his seat, his elbows on the arms of the chair, fingers interlocked in front of him.
"Not simply fire him, but charge him with murder? Why would I do that?" Mr. Gardner, feigned a look of awkwardness before responding, "Well, now, face it, he does appear to be somewhat of a loose cannon." Gesturing to his own face that still had some swelling and bruising, more from having the tooth pulled than the actual blow with the shotgun butt. "According to the undertaker, he shot Bob Monk in cold blood." Now Cody was genuinely surprised. "The undertaker said that?" Gardner hesitated a moment before continuing. "Uhmmm.... Well, not exactly. He did say Bob's pistol was still in the holster. So what else could it have been? We're just cattlemen," Gardner lied, "but Bob was known among our small group as being... Handy... Handy with a gun." At this, the sheriff asked "Was he known to be a liar or to exaggerate things as well?" Mr. Gardner stiffened. "Most certainly not." Cody responded, "So, when he asked Doc if he was scared, and then told him that he was going to kill him, Doc was smart in taking him at his word, wouldn't you agree?" Gardner shifted in his seat, unaware of the information before now. Cody continued. "I wouldn't expect any man, much less a deputy working for me, who had previously been threatened by someone, and was being confronted and told by that person he was going to kill him, and had the means on his hip, to wait for that man to make good on his word before responding. Would you?"
Gardner sat quietly for a moment, when Alice Slye leaned forward, placing a lace-gloved hand on the edge of the desk and, smiling a smile that was a little cold for its effort, chimed in, "Sheriff, Bob was well liked. Men at the ranch aren't happy about what they see as him being murdered. I don't want it to get ugly for you." If Alice was thinking the Sheriff would be any more likely to agree with her due to her womanly charms, she was mistaken. With a frown and a cold gaze, Cody responded "It will be entirely up to Mr. Gardner, and you, if you are giving orders over there, to keep under control. I will not be threatened, and I certainly won't fire my deputy so he can be tossed to wolves." Alice, quickly shaking off the surprise of the Sheriff's answer, replied, "Oh, no, sheriff, that isn't what I meant at all. We're just worried about keeping the peace, and everyone being safe." Cody smiled a smile that let her know he took the comment with more than just a grain of salt. "Then we're on the same page. I know Doc doesn't want to hurt anyone," Cody paused, looking at Gardner's jaw and smiling, "much less kill them. I'm confident, though, that he will not be pushed. I think you both understand that he has my full faith to do the job as he sees fit."
Cody leaned forward, his voice lowered, less in a threatening manner and more informational. "I believe Doc has a couple of graveyards behind him. It seems to me, he has gone out of his way to find a way to not add to them. Unfortunately, he was the best man for the job when I got beat within an inch of my own life, and I had to talk him into taking the job, at that. Now it seems we have enough trouble to warrant me keeping him on. I'm glad to have him, quite frankly." At this point, Cody's voice took on more of a lecturing tone. "I'm convinced his actions at the dance saved lives." When Gardner started to protest, " Cody held up a hand, "Either some good townspeople were going to be shot by your crew of 'cattlemen,'" Cody added sarcastic emphasis to the word, "or you, and maybe a few of your men, were going to be lynched at some point. This is a peaceful town, with peaceful people who just want to be left alone. Like many another though, they have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, will fight if pushed, make no mistake."
Gardner stood, and Alice Slye and the sheriff stood as well. "I have friends in the legislature who may feel the need to inquire further." Gardner threatened. "Your deputy, you, and the people of this town." Cody took a deep breath, counting to control his temper. Finally, after a long pause, he replied, "So do I, Mr. Gardner, as well as other places. Let your friends inquire. I welcome it. There may be plenty for them to inquire about before too long. Seems with arson, assaults and beatings, we've had an increase in crime since you and your group have moved into the area. Right now, I'm only able to say it is a coincidence. Who knows what a full blown investigation might reveal." Gardner's face got hard and he turned on his heel. "Good evening, sheriff," he said stiffly. As he approached the door, Doc Ward was just walking in. Gardner shoved his way by, even as Doc was tipping his hat and saying "Ma'am," to Alice Slye, who offered a cold glare in return as she brushed past.
Closing the door, Doc Ward looked at the sheriff. "What did they want." Cody shrugged. "For me to fire you." Doc grinned and let his hand hover over his badge. "Are you going to?" Cody's answer was succinct. "Nope." Doc sighed. "Well, damn." As he sat down, Doc looked over at the Sheriff and asked, "Say, did you ever kill any brothers?" Cody, completely confused, paused before replying, "Not that I am aware of, why?" With that, Doc explained about the man that Rye had shot. "Part of the Gardner bunch?" Doc shook his head. "My first thought, but nobody seems to think so." Cody shook his head again, "That is troublesome. Troublesome, indeed. Why can't things just stay quiet? This is a good community, with good people. I'd hate to see that change."