Friday, August 2, 2013

Gauntlet - Episode 14.



Episode 14 – A Tight Leash

The wind whipped and swirled lingering wisps of dust around him as Marshall stood silently outside the Sheriff’s office. Just as Arbiter had said it had the word ‘Sheriff” scrawled above it on a sign that swayed back and forth lazily above the door. Without the simple marker you might not have known it was anything other than just another one of the town’s little shops or merchant stalls. A wooden walkway of plank boards ran in front of it covered by a crude overhanging awning that did little to shelter the structure from to bright sunlight.

The lumber lamented his booted presence with a groan as Marshall stepped up to approach the door and the sleepily swinging sign squeaked. Through a sun shielding screen of glass he could make out the still burning brilliance of a lit light. Somebody was indeed still at the office after all. He let his closed fist declare his arrival with a rhythmic series of raps that paralleled his pounding pulse. But he found himself unable to restrain himself to customary courtesy and instead charged inside.

“Alright Arbiter,” Marshall growled. “We are going to have ourselves a little chat!” Like walking into a hurled bucket of ice-water Marshall found himself suddenly standing in shock. He had been expecting to lock horns with the Sheriff, to have his chance to pin him down and confront him once and for all. Instead all he found was his Deputy, Rook, looking up at him calmly seated from behind a stack of papers.

“Can I be of service to you, Mr. Lawson, the Sheriff is not in presently,” Rook offered. Despite himself, Marshall stumbled for a moment before recovering to stoke the fire once more that burned inside him. He had lost a measure of the momentum that had carried him here but he wasn’t ready to let it go completely just yet. All he had to do was remind himself of his reasons for coming to see the Sheriff in the first place and just like that he could feel himself warming again.

“Where is he Rook, where is your boss,” Marshall heard himself demand. Riding on his rising rage he slammed forward in a surge to lean on the desk, his brown eyes no longer holding a warm welcome. “I want Arbiter,” he roared ruthlessly. Rook only blinked in response, his eerily iridescent eyes remaining calm against Marshall’s confrontation. “And I said that the Sheriff isn’t here right now,” replied Rook.

“I don’t know what this is about, Mr. Lawson, but if you would kindly calm down and explain the matter maybe I can be of assistance.” As the deputy spoke his eyes caught sight of the weapons that now hung at Marshall’s sides. “I am afraid I am going to have to ask you to surrender those guns though, it isn’t permitted to carry a weapon within town.”

Turn in his guns; was this some kind of sick joke? Marshall couldn’t believe what he was hearing and this from the same man he had just helped avoid an alleyway accident. “He must keep you on a tight leash, ‘eh Rook?” Furious Marshall let loose his tongue upon the dutiful Deputy. “How can you sit there and ask me to remain helpless while people suffer and the lawless go unopposed? The bank was almost robbed, a man is dead and the only thing that stood between them and the people of Redemption was me. What are you, some whipped dog or a deputy sworn to uphold the law?”

Marshall could mark each barb as it hit home with every intended measure of contempt. And while the Gael-Noir was a notoriously difficult race to read, he thought he could spot a subtle shift in the deep violet eyes that hinted that he was reaching him. But other than that simple clue, he couldn’t be sure. Every other aspect of the Deputy remained just as relaxed and unchanged as before. It was infuriating, and Marshall readied himself to unleash another violent verbal volley.

“What can I do,” Rook intercepted him in a hushed and somber whisper. “I am just a Deputy; I don’t have the authority to actively combat anyone without the Sheriff’s approval. He establishes the official policy, and he is the one who is directly responsible for enforcing the law. I only work for him, and after that little incident in the alley he told me to stay here and work on this paperwork. I’m on probationary restrictions; no patrolling or anything. He thinks I am going to start some kind of trouble if I keep acting like that and maybe he’s right.”

Marshall remembered when once he himself had just tried to follow orders and patiently stand aside when something happened that he could have stopped. And as he stared into Rook’s eyes he decided he was not about to let another man willingly suffer the same pain. His hand rose from the desk, and its backside cracked against the Deputy’s cheek with a snap to send him clear of the chair.

“Are you, or are you not a sworn officer of the law for the town of Redemption,” Marshall challenged. Rook rubbed at his face before picking himself back up off the floor as he considered his answer. “Ye-yeah, I am,” he admitted awkwardly. “Well then shut up and start acting like it. It is your job to keep people safe, period. Quit making excuses, you’re not ‘just a deputy,’ or only ‘under order.’ You are an acting agent of the law, if you keep letting your hands stay tied then it is the people of Redemption who suffer. Because to them, you are the law and right now that is something they desperately need.”

“You may be right,” Rook confessed. “But, wait, what do you mean – why did you come here looking for the Sheriff anyways?” “Because of something one of the robbers said,” Marshall reported. “And since you two are the only ones who wear the badge in this town, I can safely you out as the corrupt lawman. So that only leaves the Sheriff as the soiled shield.”

“What will you do,” Rook asked, only a lingering tremble in his tone. In answer he found Marshall systematically reloading his revolvers one caseless round at a time. There was an unspoken intention in every practiced motion. It was like watching an act of poetry without the words that ended as Marshall holstered his side arms and raised his head to look once more towards Rook.

“No plans, no promises,” he declared with deadly determination. “Gauntlet is going to give him the chance to face his guilt before he goes to the grave.” “I’m not sure I can agree to vigilante violence,” Rook objected as he watched Marshall start to leave. “You don’t have to agree with anything, just don’t try to stop me,” warned the out-of-town outlaw.