Jan/Feb 2001  •   Fiction

The Shooter

by Charles Langley

She stood there waif-like in her pressed denim pants and soft chamois shirt, eyes blazing fire, the smoking gun still gripped tightly in her dainty hands. Deputy Sim Pruitt sat on the floor, his left sleeve dripping blood.

"Why'd you do it?" the Sheriff wanted to know. "You and Sim have some kind of history?"

"Never saw him before in my life," she said, "until I came in here and he said it."

"Said what?"

"I don't want to talk about it. I sure ain't gonna repeat it. Woman got a right to defend herself against a varmint like him."

"Anybody hear what Sim said?" the Sheriff asked the men at the bar.

No answer.

"Anybody see how she got his gun away from him?"

No answer.

"Sim, I've seen you take down some pretty mean hombres in my time. How could you let a female no bigger than two hoots and a holler take your piece and gun you down?"

"I ain't proud of it. I don't want to talk about it neither."

"If you said anything out of line to Miss Priss here, 'fess up to it and we'll pretend it never happened."

"My name ain't Priss, Mr. Sheriff. It's Kate Owens. And I don't appreciate you talking about me like a young 'un. I'm sixteen and I should be treated like a lady."

The Sheriff sized her up and half-smiled.

"I don't mean no disrespect, Miss Owens. Only we don't cotton to people just shooting down a deputy sheriff for no reason."

"You gonna tell him or do I have to?" the only other woman in the establishment asked the girl. She got no answer, so she turned to the Sheriff.

"This is Katie's birthday," she said. "She got all prettied up and put on that new brassiere thing she ordered from Montgomery Ward. So she came here to look for her Pa who tends bar here sometimes. That's when Sim said it."

The Sheriff's patience was waning.

"Said what, for crissakes?" he roared.

"He said 'Got a match, Sonny?'"

The Sheriff looked at the deputy on the floor and the pretty girl in the denim pants.

"Justifiable shooting," he ruled. "Sim, git off your ass and get back to work."