Genre: Western

Plot: An isolated town in the alps gets a new sheriff.

Words to use: snow, mountain, peak, noose, rope, frostbite, wolves, patrol, subzero, temperature, summit, climb, outlaw, outsider.

Heading into the rugged Alps, Ralph Jones led his horse Russ with all his worldly possessions toward of Battendorf. A tall peak loomed in front of them. The snow still fresh from the recent storm. He left Geneva just a few days before, on the track of an outlaw. There were rumors about Battendorf, a town isolated and hidden along a valley of a tall alpine mountain. The wind howled around him, the temperature dropped, he hoped he wouldn’t get frostbite. Ralph, an experienced lawman, kept going, leading old Russ through the crevasses and snowy outcroppings. He pulled his jacket closer with his gloved hand, the other hand on the rope pulling Russ. It was quite a climb and even he became tired, wondering about his decisions in life. 

He finally reached the summit, the treacherous decent was next. The landscape was barren and rocky. The snow crunched under his boots and Russ’ hooves. They echoed through the valley. Far off in the distance on the other mountain was the movement of a pack of wolves. He hoped that they were not going to be a problem for them. They inched closer and short shrubs climbed through the cracks of the rock, the snow becoming more sparse. They were leaving the subzero weather of the mountain. Soon short trees, stunted from wind, popped up intermittently, until the trees became taller. He knew he was getting closer to his destination and thanked god for making it through. Dangling off a limb in one tree, a nooseshifted back and forth with the wind, Ralph’s stomach dropped. The noose was a warning. Daring someone to break the law and warning those who do. I guess that’s one way to get people to follow the law, he thought to himself. Russ snorted. 

The houses were typical Swiss, filled with bright colors and gingerbread painted white. The street was smooth, the tracks of the wagon wheels and horses were filled with the water of recent melted snow. The townspeople were as cold as the ice upon the mountain he just descended, filled with frosty looks for the outsider. Russ and him walked by the chocolate shops, windows filled with watches, and hand crafted puppets, until he got to the subdued jail with a nondescript door leading inside to the sheriff’s office. He found it empty and figured the sheriff would be out on patrol. There was a carved wooden bar to tie up Russ and sat on the derelict chair sitting on the outside of the building to wait. He had to confirm with the local sheriff about new people in town, a picture of the outlaw he was chasing was folded in his pocket. The smoke of his pipe billowed in the cold alpine air, near freezing. It kept him warm. Russ snorted, shaking his head back and forth, and pawed the ground. “It’s okay, Russ,” he said. A little boy was watching him from behind the window of one of the shops as he smoked and waited. Moments later he came running up to him, cautiously but with the impetuous spirit of youth. Curiosity got the better of him but he brought news to the old law man.

“Excuse me, are you waiting for the sheriff?” The little boy said.

“Why, yes I am. Do you know where he is?,” he asked between puffs. The looks from behind closed doors were watching the scene before them. The doors of shops inched opened. Faces peeked from windows. 

“He’s dead. He was killed by another stranger who came through. Are you here to kill someone too?” The little boy was fidgeting, stroking the horse. 

“No, I am here to find a killer and bring him to justice,” he replied. 

The little boy turned on his heel and ran back toward the shop. Ralph watched his retreat and then speak to someone behind the door. The little boy disappeared inside and an elderly man came out, looking at him from the distance.  The man, dressed in a dark suit, a pocket watch glittering as the sun streamed through cracks in the clouds was holding a sheet of paper, making a decision. He crossed the road, headed toward Ralph who remained in his seat, leaning back foot on the wooden fence that separated him and Russ. 

“Are you Ralph Jones?,” the elderly man, a thick Swiss accent apparent. 

“I am,” Ralph puffed. “How can I help you?”

“This telegram is about you. My grandson told you the tragedy of our last sheriff so I sent a request for a replacement and they sent you. Here read it,” he handed him the slip of paper. Confusion swept through his face like a wave of regret of taking on someone much bigger than you are because you have to prove yourself. 

“Well, I am here for an outlaw,” he handed the sheet of paper back to the elderly man, unmoved by the news. He knew why he was there, this was a mistake.

“It was but now it is not. You are here for us. We need a sheriff. The outlaw you were following was not true. A ruse. They knew that it would lure you here but this is where you are to stay. I am sorry for the inconvenience,” the old man wasn’t really sorry. “The snow has already settled in the mountains as you climbed through. It is now impassible so you must stay.”

Ralph was standing now, arms crossed in defiance. “I see. I guess I have no say in the matter. Can you show me the way to the stables for my horse and to my bunk? I need to settle in I guess.”

Ralph Jones settled in, the anger and resentment resigned itself to acceptance of his fate. But for now. Next spring…who knows?

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