Chapter IV -- Collateral Damage

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Sheriff Augustus Poe let out a long sigh laced thick with both annoyance and frustration as he stood in the open doorway of the Consummated Bank and Trust.

Up until this particular misguided debacle of such epic proportions, he'd enjoyed having settled into his new role as the town sheriff while the town itself had suffered under the firm grip of an unrelenting heat wave.

Even then, things had been fairly quiet up until now.

With one hand rested comfortably upon his gun belt, he stroked the thick curl of his beard with the other as he turned back to study the first body that he'd found, half turned as the man lay out half twisted in the street.

The shotgun blast that killed him must have hit him like the hard punch of a knuckled fist to have kicked him out as far as it had back into the street where vacant brown eyes lay open only to stare at whatever it was that they'd last seen while an unkempt tangle of dark hair lay exposed from beneath the flop hat that been knocked off as he fell.

His Colt pistol remained clutched in a final death grip of sorts at his side; while from the closed hammer, it was clear that he'd managed to fire off a least one shot before death had claimed him.

A thin trickle of blood from his slack lips trailed down the stubble of his chin to pool in the dirt where ants had begun to move in to claim what they could from the corpse.

Things hadn't gotten much better once he'd seen the inside of the bank.

Jacob Davies - the detective sent by the Pinkerton agency - had managed to put one of the robbers down before Davies himself had fallen dead.

For what it would be worth to his family, the man Davies had shot managed to unload his shotgun into the other ne'er-do-well rather than the agent directly.

Iced down and prepared properly for travel, Davies just might yet be able to have an open casket at his funeral.

The detective had requested that Poe and his deputies avoid the bank while he waited for whatever men that they'd been warned about to show up.

Something that had proven to be a very costly mistake on his part, as it turned out.

Trouble had come in the form of the two dead men who appeared to have tried to rob the bank moments before yet more had arrived to do much the same thing.

A dark irony not entirely lost on Poe, with such cruel twists of timing and circumstance involved as they apparently had been for everyone involved.

In the confusion, the new arrivals had managed to escape almost unscathed - one headed west while the other rode east.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, Running-Deer had managed to locate just the barest hint of a faint blood trail from one of the riders just outside of town before she'd gone off to track the wounded rider while he and Cat had cleared everyone out of the bank.

His Negro deputy was someone who clearly didn't require the pistols that he wore to intimidate as his massive size alone made anyone think twice before they were to go up against him.

For all intents and purposes he was a human mountain of walking black granite that no one wanted to mess with.

Poe looked up to find the giant as he stepped out from the shadows across the street, a grim expression on his usually jovial features.

"Sheriff, you may want to take a look ..." he offered with the usual rumble of his graveled voice, "... there's a dead woman sitting back there in the shadows. She's also appears to have a LaRouchette scarf around her throat."

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