Gideon straddled his Morse. “Morse,” Gideon said under his breath with contempt. “They ban weapons here, but not stupid names.” “Morse” was a combination of “mechanical” and “horse,” and, Gideon was certain, the idea of some hollow headed fool in one of the central marketing departments who’d never even been to the Aphelion Worlds. Worse yet, the Morse was made by the Slixx company who shipped nothing else out to the edge Worlds. In his short time on the planet he’d attempted to change the Morse’s name to “Slixx,” but after blank stairs and a few people thinking he’d named his Morse, he’d given up. He’d come here chasing ghosts from his past, not to rename the settlement’s machinery.
Gideon had paused on his Morse thinking about the name conundrum when he overheard two men talking.
“If we put the kettle on the burner the flames’ll get it,” said the first man.
The second man nodded knowingly. “We’ll have to put the water in a pan and slide it into the oven,” the second man said. “Before it knows it’s cooked.”
Gideon had spent long enough in law enforcement to understand the cadence of a bank robbers code, and he wasn’t stupid enough to think these guys needed to discuss the finer points of boiling water within eyesight of a bank.
The two men walked off.
Gideon sighed. He wasn’t in law enforcement anymore. He’d left the postal inspectors—the only federal law enforcement the Aphelion Worlds ever knew—after the death of his last partner, but he couldn’t let a crime happen either. He raised his Morse to full height and set off to see if there was a local lawman he could push this off on, but he was already sure that whatever lawman he found in this place wouldn’t be up to the job.
Gideon found the local lawman in the saloon playing cards with the town’s undertaker. A fair number of chips were partially stacked in the midst of the table. Half-finished drinks and a sheriff’s badge lay near the edge.
“You Sheriff Rodgers?” Gideon asked.
“My friends call me Buck, but you can call me Sheriff Rodgers,” Sheriff Rodgers said without looking up from his hand.
“May I speak with you in private?” Gideon asked.
“I think it’s obvious I’m in the middle of something right now.”
“It’s important, Sheriff.”
“So’s this hand.”
“Fine. I’ll wait till you lose it,” Gideon said.
The Sheriff looked at the undertaker and said, “Call.”
The undertaker smiled. He laid out his cards: four pink ladies and a couple of miners. The Sheriff threw down his hand and jumped up from the table in disgust.
Gideon called after him as he walked out the door. “Sheriff, can I speak with you?”
“I ain’t Sheriff no more,” Rodgers said and pointed towards the table. Gideon turned back to see the undertaker pinning the badge on his coat.
“Can I speak with you for a moment?”
“Pocho paquichmo?” the undertaker asked.
“You speak common?” Gideon asked.
“Pacha-pachooku.” The undertaker said with a smile.