art by Alan Bao
by Matthew W Baugh
The small grey man walked into Ben Murphy's office and stared at him with enormous black eyes. Ben had seen a lot during his fifteen years as Sheriff of Chaves County, but nothing like this naked, spindly-limbed, huge-headed critter. For that matter, he couldn't rightly say whether the thing was a man or not, despite the lack of pants. Still, Ben knew the value of remaining calm and helpful, whatever the situation.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
The little man (Ben decided that was the simplest way to think of the critter) blinked its eyes. "Are you the Sheriff?"
The little man's small mouth didn't move, the pleasant baritone just seemed to come from thin air. Ben was impressed, but worked against looking startled, or looking around the room for the source of the voice. A lawman has to be calm and controlled at all times, or there won't be any respect for the law. That had been Ben's credo for his time in office and he saw no reason to change that now.
"I am," he said.
"My name is Oorlatu'u," the critter replied. "I was in your... jurisdiction and thought that we could help each other."
"What did you have in mind?"
"I am a bounty-hunter," Oorlatu'u said.
"Can't say I care much for your profession," Ben said.
"You are not alone in this dislike. Nevertheless, I have adhered to the local laws and customs quite scrupulously. I hope that will ameliorate your attitude."
Ben frowned at the big words and wondered if Oorlatu'u was trying to make him look ignorant. That was something Dell Martinson, the town's only lawyer, liked to do, and it irked Ben something fierce.
"Can I take it that you've bagged an outlaw?" he asked.
"I have brought in the Wichita Kid," the little man replied. "I have used a box rather than a bag."