"Are you sure this is a good idea, sheriff?" Deputy Barnett's hat twitched as he tried to look every which way at once. He held the reins so tight that his horse danced sideways every few steps as it fed off his nervous energy.
Connor McClane glanced at the young man and fought back a smile. "It's fine, Amos. We're just here to talk. Nothing more, nothing less." Despite his assurances, his eyes darted to the shotgun holstered on his saddle and he focused on the comforting weight of the twin Peacemakers on his belt. Cora was right. It wasn't the smartest idea riding out to the Gaines's ranch without backup, but he saw no other way around it. Arriving with a cavalry at his back would have put them on the defensive immediately and may have resulted in a shootout. He really did just want to talk, and he hoped they did, too.
The wind whipped through the small canyon that led to the Gaines homestead. The sides were about twice the height of a man, great to hide on and still short enough to jump from when needed. It was the perfect place to set up an ambush. Connor had trouble with just such an issue before when he needed to bring Jed in for questioning on a stage coach robbery. It had almost cost him his life.
Dust and dried brambles blew across their path. Amos coughed and pulled his bandana up over his nose and mouth.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Amos. The boys might not take too kindly to you tryin' to look like one of them." Connor grinned at his deputy, even as he himself longed to pull his own bandana around his face. He blinked rapidly to clear the dust from his eyes and lowered his head to let his hat take the brunt of the next dust swirl.
"What's talking gonna do anyway?" Amos relaxed just a smidge and one hand settled onto the gun at his side.
Connor shifted in his seat and shrugged. "Not sure, to be honest. Mr. Richards has no proof o' the crime, just his word. And the man's a bit of a cheat himself. I wouldn't trust him far as I could throw him. That's why I want to talk to Jeremiah, give him the benefit of the doubt. You know the saying, 'Innocent until proven guilty' and all that."
Amos laughed. "The Gaines brothers were born guilty, sheriff. I've never once known them to be innocent of anything they were accused of. There was just a lack of evidence is all."
Connor smiled. "True, Amos, very true. But still, try not to ruffle any feathers just yet. Not unless we have to."
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