Author's note: This is from a prompt given to me by Cindy(rainechief): Teaspoon needs deputies (not the riders) -- how do the job interviews go?
Teaspoon stood back and looked down the length of Rock Creek's main street. Fairly every window, with the exception of Tompkins's store proudly displayed one of his wanted posters. They were carefully printed and sent down the Express line to nearby towns as far as St. Jo in one direction and Ft. Laramie in the other.
"You look mighty proud of yourself, Sugar Lips." Polly brushed a kiss on his cheek and slid her hand into his.
Puffing out his chest a bit, Teaspoon nodded at the poster visible in the marshal's window.
The position of Deputy is open.
Pay is $5.00 a week.
Meals provided when on duty.
Apply at the Rock Creek Marshal's office
The first of March 1861 at noon.
"It's a pretty good one if I do say so myself." He placed a kiss on her temple and then gave her a big grin. "Let's go to the restaurant and celebrate."
"Really, now?" Polly gave him a curious look.
His voice whispered into her ear. "My treat."
She gave him a radiant smile. "Let's go."
Teaspoon snapped his pocket watch closed and got up from his chair. "Well boys, let's go out and see who we're gonna hire."
Jimmy arched a look over at Buck and the two smiled at each other. "Let's go take a look at who we're gonna laugh at."
Buck nodded and followed Jimmy toward the door.
Teaspoon stopped short and let out a whistle when he saw what was waiting. "I'll be hog tied and trussed up with a bow."
Barely hiding his laughter behind his hand, Buck offered up, "Pink or blue, Teaspoon?"
The marshal threw a grumpy look at his two part-time deputies. "You both hush. Seein' as how you're part of the reason I gots to hire new blood."
Turning back to the crew waiting for them in the street, Teaspoon ambled out onto the walk as though his owned the town. It was a moment crafted to instill a little fear in the hearts of the would-be lawmen. Couldn't hurt to have them on their toes. Jimmy and Buck followed along behind trying to find a balance between amusement and authoritative scowls in their expressions.
"What's your name, son?"
The young boy that stepped up to the boarded walkway was as green as he was blond, very. "My ma calls me Scoot and my pa calls me, Son, but I reckon you want somethin' more 'fficial like."
Teaspoon rubbed at his eyes. "Scoot will suffice for now."
The boy shrugged and one strap of his overalls fell off his shoulder. "'salright by me."
Turning to the other man holding still in the street Teaspoon asked for an introduction and was rewarded with a softly spoken. "Jeb Bonner."
"You got a reason you wanna take up the badge, Jeb?"
The old man pushed his hat back on his head, revealing a snow white thatch of hair and for some reason Teaspoon didn't think continued on to the back of his head. "Wells, I reckon I've done just about everythin' there is to be done, 'cept bein' a law man."
"Really?" Teaspoon seemed to recognize the 'jack of all trades' in Jeb that called to the vagabond within. "What is it that drew you to the notice I posted?"
Jeb reached up a hand that seemed to move in slow-motion and stroked the scraggly beard that fringed his chin. "Well, got here a day or two early and stopped in to talk to you 'bout the job… see if'n it would strike my fancy."
"Well now, I must've been out doin' my rounds or keepin' the-"
Jeb waggled a finger. "Nope… you wuz sleepin' at your desk. I tried wakin' ya up but ah didn't have no luck, Marshal. You must'a been real tired."
Teaspoon didn't have to hear the laughter to know it was there. He gave both riders a glare before turning back to the two candidates. "I dunno if you two, uh… gentlemen really quite understand what this job entails."
Scoot gave a shrug and Jeb didn't seem to breathe much less think.
"You ain't got no hope of turnin' either of them into anything but dead men if you pin a star on their chests."
Jimmy stood up straighter, his hand reaching down toward his rig as a man emerged from the shade of the trees.
Buck took the silent cue and straightened, turning slightly to the side, ready to cover Jimmy's back.
"What're you doin' here, Colter?"
The man's grin was as shifty as it had been the last time he'd come around looking for trouble. "Well, Hickok… don't see's how it's any of your business since I'm here to see the marshal."
Teaspoon folded his arms over his chest. "What're you doin' here, Colter?"
The bounty hunter laughed and eyed the two strangers. "Gettin' a job if these two are the only competition."
Scoot stood his ground, unaware of the danger that Colter represented, but Jeb… he waved off when he got a good whiff of Colter's attitude, but Teaspoon wasn't sure he was sad to see the old man go.
"Well, I never said I'd even consider you for the job, Colter, so ease off on the others."
Colter eyed the one remaining deputy candidate and swept a gaze past Jimmy and Buck. "Well, hurry up and decide on me so I can get to work."
"I thought you already had a job, Colter."
The bounty hunter was prepared to ignore Jimmy's question but he saw the pointed look that Teaspoon gave him and sighed. "I do… but ah'm givin' it up; bounty huntin' ain't as profitable as it was 'fore." Colter hefted the rifle and shifted his weight onto his other foot. "I guess you can say I'm lookin' for somethin' better.'"
"So that's what this is," Teaspoon prompted, "a steady paycheck?"
"Or do you just want to use the badge as an excuse to kill criminals." Buck's distaste was obvious.
Colter looked over at the young Kiowa. "You want to keep 'em around for some reason, son?"
Buck bristled under the harsh speculative glance of the bounty hunter. "I have a problem with killin' for no reason."
Laughing, Colter raised a brow. "That's rich comin' from an injun and-"
"I'd figure a way to hold my tongue if I was you, Colter." Jimmy didn't have to draw back his coat or tap the grip of his gun; Colter's eyes watched him closely once he heard the tone of his voice.
Then a moment later he gave up the pretense and looked at Teaspoon. "You're gonna give me the job, Marshal… so just announce it and get it over with."
Teaspoon folded his arms and gave the bounty hunter a long look. "Really now, what makes you think I'm gonna give you the job… you and me, uh, we ain't had the … 'best' experience with each other, so why do you think I'll hire you?"
The moment was a long one, Colter taking his time setting the words in place in his mind before letting them out into the wild. He stepped closer to Teaspoon looking at the two riders out of the corner of his eye before he admitted in a low voice. "I ain't here 'cause I think you like me… I'm sure ya don't. I'm good at what I do."
"Ah don't need a trigg-"
"I'm fast; I'm a dead shot-"
"That ain't all this-" Teaspoon sighed, his hand pushing back his hat to scratch at his temple, "that ain't all you need."
"I've taken down more wanted men… I've done it more times than I can count on my fingers-"
"I'm surprised he could count that high."
Buck smiled at Jimmy's dig, but Colter tried to ignore it. "So I think you need me."
Teaspoon scrubbed his hand over his face. "Son, I don't need a man jus' 'cause he can shoot. I need a man who can take the long hours of waitin'… the walkin' circuit 'round the town… the simple matters mean as much as the big ones. Can you understand that?"
Scoot perked up, bouncing his thumb off his chest. "I once rescued a cat from a tree."
Colter snorted and shook his head. "Look, if that's what you got in mind, then maybe-"
Teaspoon stepped up to Colter and looked up into his face. "I know you're fast, Colter… I know you got the eye for it… the reflexes might be a bit too much… but I want you to understand," he looked over at Scoot too, "this ain't no walk through the roses… it's hard work, but it's honest work and-"
"Whoa…" Colter held up his free hand as though the words were stampeding at him, "say that again…"
"What?" Teaspoon looked over at Jimmy and Buck first before settling back on Colter, "I said it's hard work but it's also honest and-"
"Well that settles it," Colter interrupted, "I dunno if I can handle somethin' like that, Marshal." He reached up and tipped the brim of his hat. "Looks like I've gone and wasted a couple of days, but I'll get over it."
He turned and walked away and as he did Teaspoon turned to Scoot. "Well son, let's go on inside and we can talk and-"
"Uh, Marshal Hunter?"
The older man stopped and fixed the young farm boy with a stare, "Yes, son?"
Scoot couldn't quite come up with the words but he did take off running after Jake Colter hollering for the man to slow down and tell him what 'he' did for a living."
That left Teaspoon standing alone on the boardwalk with no applicants for the job.
"So, uh… what's next, Teaspoon?" Buck couldn't hide the amusement alive in his eyes, and Jimmy certainly couldn't find a way to keep his shoulders still while he fought down the laughter.
"Next? Hell if I know boys…" he looked back at his window and sighed. "You think they'll give me a discount on another set of signs?"