Adding a Little Spice

Every good hawkshaw relies on his keen sight when tracking low-life vermin. Sheriff Crawfish readjusted his hat to keep in step with the sun’s travel into the afternoon. With eyes better shaded, Vernon continued his scrutinizing of the latest varmint who’d been poking his patience: Doctor Simon Jarkins.

Up to a few months ago, Crawfish’s routine had been near perfect. He rose at the rooster’s crow and, being a firm believer in cleanliness standing next to godliness, washed the grit off the back of his neck. With his ivory-handled barkin’ iron holstered at the hip, Vernon pinned the tin star of respect on his chest and set boots to the quiet streets of Red Ridge, spending the hours making sure those streets stayed that way. Then, as the sun surrendered its last rays of Vernon’s peacekeeping day, he walked the path ending at Widow Patterson’s abode to satisfy a hankering for something sweet.

Returning to his own blanket each night, Crawfish bowed his head and thanked the Good Lord for not requesting the sheriff’s help in sending an unfortunate soul to the bone orchard, finishing up with his prayer of expressed appreciation for apple trees. Yes, it was all a man could ask for until ‘The Pill’ slithered off the stagecoach and hung his shingle above Henry’s Saloon.

“Wait.” Scott’s pencil tapped the last few written words. “Henry’s Saloon? You’re not concerned about this man losing his privacy due to flocks of admirers?”

Johnny’s swept-out arm offered an explanation. “The way I see it, Henry could use the business.”

“Well, what if the place gets so damn crowded we can’t get a foot through the swinging doors for a nice cool beer?” A moment was given to ponder. “It’s a possible situation demanding serious thought.”

“I can’t argue the point. It would be a sad day.”

“An establishment named Horacio’s Grog Shop would fit nicely into this intriguing plot of mystery and high adventure while guaranteeing us a clear path to a poured mug.”

Horacio’s Grog Shop. Yep, that’d surely slow a man down on where to meet up and quench his thirst. Brother, I believe you’re what people call a visionary.

Scott grinned as he visioned Harlan Garrett meeting up with J.S. Lance for a frothy pint of grog. “It’s a gift. I hate to brag.” A line was drawn through Henry’s Saloon, thus affirming elbow room at a polished bar for the Lancer brothers.

It didn’t take long for the doctor to start relieving the aches and pains in Red Ridge and gaining his own reputation as a ‘Samaritan of the Sick’. Crawfish snagged the matchstick from his mouth and examined its wooden tip. ‘Samaritan of the Sick’ didn’t require the same raise of an eyebrow as ‘Mercenary for Justice’ but it did give a fella pause to mull the words over in his mind. Judging the flame splinter was good for another day, it returned to the depths of Vernon’s shirt pocket.

Like most dutiful women, Widow Patterson suffered from bouts of lumbago.

“Hold up.” Scott tossed the pencil down and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I should know better than to travel this road with you, but what’s your reasoning a dutiful woman would most likely suffer from lumbago?”

“All I hear comin’ out of the kitchen when Maria’s hunched over a bucket and peelin’ potatoes is mi espalda dolorida. I figure apples can’t be that much different from potatoes.”


A devilish Cheshire Cat smile spread across Johnny’s face. “Tell me, brother, what road did ya think I was travelin’ down?”

“Never mind.” Scott cleared his throat. “Let’s reword this a bit. It’s best we avoid misleading our readers.”

Years of apple peeling had taken its toll on Widow Patterson, plaguing her with bouts of lumbago. So, when pain dug its claws in after a particularly grueling day in the kitchen, Bedelia climbed the steps leading to Doc Jarkins, seeking his tender touch of relief from the curses of pie-baking.

If a fella asked Vernon Crawfish when he noticed a shift in the wind, he’d have to say soon after sly Simon laid his healing hands on Widow Patterson. Truth be told, the warning signs would’ve gone unnoticed by most men. However, his years as a Mercenary for Justice had honed the sheriff’s senses sharper than a maiden aunt’s hatpin. It was his eyes of a mountain cat that spied the evening’s customary wedge of pie growing slightly smaller with fewer apple slices while his bloodhound nose detected the sweet aroma of sugar and cinnamon gradually fading. Fate was showing its hand and the cards laid down on the spilled-whiskey-stained table pointed out the loser: Crawfish.

Vernon pushed off from his leaning post while his brow dipped south at the scene playing out in front of Red Ridge’s emporium. There Widow Patterson stood smiling while handing over a basket of apples to her savior from lumbago. It had become clear, if actions weren't taken, that it was a sure bet the sheriff would only be left with an empty pastry pan and a few measly crumbs that had fallen off the smirking lips of Doctor Simon Jarkins.

The pencil hovered above paper, waiting for the author's next words. When none came, Scott's gaze drifted up to view his brother staring back. "And then what happened?"

Johnny's palm slapped down on the table. "By God, we need inspired!" Quickly rising, a finger pointed out a directive. "Stay put."

A mason jar filled with amber liquid, two shot glasses and the promise for inspiration returned with J.S. Lance. "Jelly's home-brewed apple brandy."

"That stuff can peel paint off a barn door - burn a town down using a single match - clear a landslide with a well-aimed pea-shooter."

"No truer words have been spoken, big brother."

Scott grinned. "Allow me the honor to pour the first of many."

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