Normand was sitting on his cot sipping cool water when three men came in and stood in front of his cell. They stared at him, assessing his sun-blistered face and red eyes, and his filthy clothes, tinted green by the mica sands. “May I help you, gentlemen?” is what he wanted to say, but his throat was a raw tube of parched meat and he was too sullen for pleasantries anyway.
“I hear tell they gonna hang you in the morning,” said the man in the middle.
“I suppose so,” said Normand.
“I hear you and your boys have been knockin over coaches out on the border. That’s why they gon’ hang you.”
He put up his hands, giving them an awkward, supplicating half-smile.
The men looked at each other, then back at him. The middle one addressed him again. “I also hear you’re the wiliest, and most versed trapper out in the K-Set. Is that right? And you’re the first Ainean to ever survive a siege from them whatcha-callit—Beam-o Ip-nimmy fellas?”
Normand’s face slowly broke into a grin. “Ayuh.”
“Congratulations, asshole,” said the middle-man. “You’ve just been drafted.”
—The Fiddle and the Fire, vol 3 “The Rope and the Riddle”
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