The Piano

“Remember Hiram Sigafoos?” the judge asked Curry.

“Cattle rustler, wasn’t he?” Curry said, standing in front of the judge’s desk, hat in his hands. “In lockup a couple years back.”

“That’s the one. Escaped and disappeared.”

Sigafoos hadn’t escaped, Curry recalled. The judge had given him a furlough because his wife was sick, a point Curry had sense enough to keep to himself. “Yes, sir.”

“I finally found the sonofabitch,” the judge said.

“Where is he?”

“Up Hellroaring Creek. I want you to go pry him loose. Think you’re up to that?”

“Yes, sir.”

The judge gave him a sour look. “If there was anyone else, I wouldn’t be sending my jailer, but the other two deputies are at that homicide training class.”

“How far up Hellroaring Creek?” Curry said.

“Couple of miles. There’s a cabin up there he’s been squatting in. Don’t screw this up, Deputy.”

“No, sir.”

“If he’s in my court tomorrow morning, there could be a promotion for you. Must be boring as hell counting flies over there in the jail.”

“Yes, sir. How did you find him?”

“His wife turned him in. Here’s the warrant. Now go get him.”

As he guided his motorcycle up the trail, Curry admitted to himself he didn’t feel quite as casual about this errand as he’d let on. Sigafoos had a hot and fightable temperament, and if he knew Curry was coming, the situation could prove troublesome.

The trail wound through an abandoned gold mine, and Curry geared down to guide the cycle between piles of arsenic-laced ore tailings on which nothing grew, the mounds white-orange in the sun. The wind blew eerily across the mouths of the empty tunnels. He was glad when he was past the mine and into the forest again, although the tree-covered slopes on both sides made this a good place for a bushwhacking.

Up ahead the valley floor had been cleared of trees, and in the center of it Curry saw a log cabin. He stopped, leaned his motorcycle against a tree, pulled his rifle from its scabbard, and walked up the hill to get a better look. It was a pretty good cabin, with most of the bark peeled and nearly all the branches lopped off. And it looked to be occupied, a thread of smoke coming from the chimney. Maybe this matter could be settled without an undue amount of running and chasing.


(forthcoming in Quiddity International Literary Journal)