It was a dark and stormy night when Big Al busted through my door. Lightning cracked, walls shook, and my sheriff certificate clattered to the floor. Broke the handmade frame. Hail bounced off the building like billiard balls and the sound beat on me like a cue stick.
“Colt, you gotta come quick. There’s something bad up on the third floor of the hotel—all manner of screeching and moaning. The guests left and I ain’t going up there.”
I looked at him, calm as a drowning man thrown both ends of a rope. “Let’s wait for daylight.”
He slapped his leg. “That’s what I said, but we got people wanting to get some sleep. Something awful is happening up there.”
A chunk of ice bounced against the window like a pistol shot. “If it’s that scary, why should I have to go up there?”
“You’re the sheriff.”
I slammed my badge onto the desktop. “Nope. I resign.”
“You live up there.”
The badge winked at me. Damn.
I scurried up the stairs to the third floor of the hotel. The hall was dark. A foul wind kept blowing my lantern out. I finally shielded it enough to keep it burning and stood in a halo of light. The other end of the hall was black as an inkwell.
“Who’s down there?”
That moan came again along with a clattering of metal. Not good.
“Alright. What is down there?”
I moved closer. It wasn’t all dark at the end of the hall. Glowing, feral eyes stared back at me… waiting, judging, hungry—too high off the floor to be an animal. Maybe. Could be a bear.
The grip of my pistol coming into my hand gave weak assurance. “I won’t ask again.”
My spine rippled at the husky voice. “Damn you, Colt. It’s me. You know, the wife you tossed out this morning?”
Knowing her gentle soul, I backed up a step. “Now, Zelda. There’s no need for this. The judge says we can all have a divorce.”
“I have no intention of divorcing you. There’s nothing wrong with our marriage.”
“Really? You’re married to three of us. In the same town. Me, Big Al and the Mayor.”
The hot-eyed apparition moved into my halo. Holding a pitchfork.
I took a nervous step back. “You hiding horses up here, Zelda? Pitching hay?”
Her wild hair shook and quivered, fevered gaze never leaving me. “No divorce, damn you. I won’t allow it.”
My pistol double-clicked as I hammered it back. “Put that fork down.”
Screeching, she aimed the tines and rushed toward me.
A clap of sound thundered in the hallway as I splintered the floor at her feet. Wind from the open window behind her cleared the smoke as my boots clambered down the stairs. I hit the ground floor running, headed for the stable.
Big Al met me in the street, matching my stride. “You can’t run away like this.”
“Hell I can’t. She’s your problem. I’m taking the mayor’s racing horse.”
A screaming wail came from the boarding house, followed by another clap of thunder.
“Hey, wait for me. If you take that horse, the mayor won’t get away.”
I grinned at him. “I never liked the mayor.”
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