Seldom Seen Slim leaned forward in the saddle, rested his forearms on the horn, and squinted into the hills. “What’s it gonna be, Mr. Briggs? Way Cheyenne’s gang’s hol’ up in them rocks, if’n you go after ‘em in daylight, you’re buzzard bait.” Neither Slim nor his horse, Pinto Bean, flinched when bullets from the hills kicked up crimson dust around the skittish posse.
It took a lot to rile Seldom Seen Slim. His hips were far from the ground, but his thin legs bridged the gap just fine. His sandpaper skin was as abrasive as his talk was smooth. And he moved slow and methodical like a gila monster. But when he moved to bring in a bad guy like Cheyenne, he struck like a rattlesnake.
Slim was Marshal Brigg’s deputy, and nobody west of some river Slim couldn’t remember the name of had gotten the drop on him — ever. Folks called him Seldom Seen because when he wasn’t at the sheriff’s office, he was at the Pecos Public Library checking out books and writing in speckled, black-and-white notebooks. He piled the notebooks everywhere in his hotel room — on his table, his dresser, even in the bathroom in case he got an idea while taking a bath. And he had rolls of number two yellow pencils — lots of them, with a small red pencil sharpener — the kind he shoved a pencil into and twisted.
Deputy was Slim’s day job. Slim was a writer. He wrote stories about bad guys. Tough guys. Dangerous guys. Guys who were no match for Seldom Seen Slim.
Then the day came that Cheyenne and his Red Rock Gang held up the bank, got clean away, and holed up in the hills. Marshall Briggs and his posse got Cheyenne pinned down behind the boulders, but couldn’t flush him out — not for the better part of the day — in spite of the withering sun and the rising temperature. The posse was getting mighty thirsty and the gang had to be miserable too.
Slim had stayed behind in town to edit a story, but now he sat easy in the saddle on Pinto Bean. He didn’t need to hurry. No one got the drop on Slim — never had, never would.
“I’m stymied, Slim,” the marshal said, removing his Stetson and wiping his brow.
“Dunno how to get Cheyenne outta them hills.”
Slim regarded the marshal, moved his eyes slowly up the hills, and wrinkled his nose. He gritted his white teeth, and they barely parted when he spoke. “Way I see it, Marshal, ya got no choice. Can’t wait til dark. Cheyenne’ll sneak off.”
The marshal rubbed his chin with one hand and slapped his Stetson against his jeans with the other. “They got lotta firepower up there, Slim. Somebody’s gonna get hurt.”
Deputy Slim moved his jaw from side to side and spit into the sand. “Lemme think on it.” Then he pulled a dappled notebook and a lemon colored pencil from his saddlebag and scribbled a few lines. He ripped out the page and handed it to the marshal. “Have Shorty take that back to town and give it to Jake down at the General Store.”
The marshal stared at the paper a moment and glanced at Slim. “What the — ? You sure about this, Slim?”
“Trust me,” Slim said, touching the pencil tip to his tongue. Marshal Briggs handed the paper to Shorty, and Shorty mounted up and galloped off in a cloud of red dust. Slim dismounted and sat down on a rock. He flipped open the cardboard cover of a notebook, began to write, and became as engrossed as a dog with a new bone.
The sun moved an hour’s worth, but Slim didn’t notice. A trail of rising dust and the rumble of Jake’s white van interrupted Slim’s contemplation. He closed his notebook and put it in his saddlebag with the pencil. Jake pulled to a stop and stepped out on the sand.
“What now, Slim?” Jake said.
“Fire up the music,” Slim replied. Jake reached into the cab and flipped a switch. Tinkling chimes blasted from the van, and the marshal and posse broke out in smiles.
“Catchy tune — ‘Turkey in the Straw,’ ” Marshall Briggs said, grinning. “Now what?”
“Give ‘em a minute,” Slim said, narrowing his eyes and placing his right hand on his pistol butt.
The marshal’s smile disappeared and the posse turned serious. Everyone watched the hills. A moment later the marshal threw up his hands, and the posse cheered. “They’re comin’ out, boys. Keep ‘em covered,” Marshal Briggs hollered.
Sure enough, Cheyenne and his gang scrambled down the rocks and ran to the van like third graders at an Easter egg hunt. Bold, blue letters on the van proclaimed “Ice Cream,” and pictures of cones and popsicles decorated the sides. The gang, waving quarters in the air, ran to Jake and pushed and shoved like folks at a Black Friday sale. Shouts rang out: “It’s the ice cream man!” and “Root beer popsicle, please!”
Cheyenne, unwrapping an ice cream sandwich, stepped up to the marshal and handed over his gun. “Nothing beats an Eskimo Pie,” he said grinning, “Not even bank robbin’.”
Marshal Briggs and the posse slapped handcuffs on each gang member. “Finish up, boys. We’re headin’ back to town. Gotta hand it to ya, Slim.”
Slim touched the brim of his Stetson. “Sure ‘nuff, Marshal. I figured the ice cream man would bring out the Cheyenne Kid.”
Slim mounted his horse and moseyed down the trail. Someone asked, “Where’s Seldom Seen headed, Marshal?” Slim turned back in the saddle, grinned, and licked a fudgsicle. He gave a little wave and then rode off as the sun turned the sky orange.
Marshall Briggs gazed at horse and rider like a proud parent. “I expect Slim’s headed to the library. Likely gonna write a story. His work here is done.”