Support Your Local Deputy - By William W. Johnstone

Chapter One

My deputy, Rusty Irons, was as itchy as a man ever gets. We were at the Laramie and Overland stage station, in Doubtful, waiting for the maroon-enameled Concord stage to roll in. Rusty couldn’t come up with proper bouquets, not in the barely settled cow town of Doubtful, Wyoming, but he managed some daisies and sagebrush he had collected out on the range.

Rusty was waiting for his mail-order brides. That’s right, Siamese twins, joined at the hip, from the Ukraine. He ordered just one, but they sent him the pair. He’d gotten a hundred and fifty dollars reward, offered for Huckster Bob, wanted dead or alive. Rusty got him alive, and collected, and applied the money to getting himself a wife.

And now we were waiting for the stage to roll in. It was an hour late, and maybe more.

Well, my ma always said there’s nothing worse than a sweating bridegroom, and Rusty filled the bill. He had sweat running down his sides. His armpits had turned into gushers.

“Well, you get to be best man,” Rusty said.

“If I don’t arrest you first for bigamy,” I said.

“I looked it up; there’s no law in Wyoming Territory against it.”

“Well, I’ll arrest you for something or other,” I said. “You found a preacher who’ll tie the knot?”

“No, but I’m going to argue that all he has to do is marry me to one of ’em.”

“What’ll you do with the other?”

“I can’t auction her off,” Rusty said. “So she gets to be the spectator.”

“They speak English?”

“Not a word. They’re from Lvov, Ukraine.”

“Well, that’s a good start,” I said. “You won’t get into arguments. My ma always said the best part of her marriage was when my pa was snoring.”

“Well, you’re the result,” Rusty said.

I wasn’t sure how to take that, but thought I’d let it pass without a fistfight. His armpits were leaking worse than ever and I didn’t want his sweat all over my sheriff suit and pants.

“You figure they’re joined facing the same way?” I asked.

“Well, I wouldn’t marry them if one was facing backwards. Here,” he said, pulling out a tintype.

The image of two beautiful blondes leapt out at me. It looked like they were side by side, except they had a single dark skirt.

“This one here’s Natasha, and the other is Anna,” Rusty said.

“You know which one you’ll hitch up with?”

“We’ll toss a coin. Or maybe they’ve got it worked out.”

“What if one wants you and the other doesn’t? Or you want one and not the other?”

Rusty, he just grinned. “Life sure is interesting,” he said.

Word had gotten out, and a small crowd had collected at the wooden stage office on Main Street. Some of the women squinted at Rusty as if he was a criminal, which maybe he was. One man looked like he wanted to propose to the other. But mostly they stared at Rusty, wondering what sort of twisted beast would want to marry Siamese twins. And now there were fifty of the good citizens of Doubtful, standing in clumps, whispering, pointing at Rusty as if he belonged in the bottom layer of hell.

Rusty, he just smiled.

“I’m glad you got me that raise,” he said.

“You’ll need it,” I replied.

I’d gone to the Puma County Supervisors and talked them into raising Rusty’s wage by five dollars, because of his impending wedlock, and his faithful service as my best and most useful deputy. That put him up just two dollars below my forty-seven a month sheriff’s salary, but I didn’t mind.

I saw Delphinium Sanders, the banker’s wife, glaring as hard as she could manage at both of us. And George Waller, the mayor, was studying us as if we belonged in a zoo, which maybe we did. I sure didn’t know how this would play out, or who’d marry whom, but it made a late spring day real entertaining there in the cow town of Doubtful.

Hanging Judge Earwig was there, too, and thought maybe he’d do the marrying if no one else would. Judge Earwig was broadminded, and didn’t mind it if people thought ill of him. He might even marry both the twins to Rusty, seeing as how there wasn’t any law against it. That’d come later, when the next legislature got moralistic. Or maybe Rusty could take his gals to Utah and find a Mormon cleric to fix him up, but I didn’t put much stock in it. Utah had outlawed that sort of entertainment.

That stagecoach sure was late. Dry road, too. Dry spring, no potholes or mud