Western. 14,500 words. Originally appeared in The Missing Slate.
Aging outlaw Silje Rash rides into civilized Reno to retire, but struggles with the choice, instead throwing in with a double amputee and his half-Chinese niece against a sadistic Sheriff looking to make a name for himself. (Winner the 2017 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best Short Fiction)
It was late when Silje Rash rode into Reno. A waning sliver of moon hung in the gangrenous sky above her, destined to relent into darkness over the coming nights. Only the false dawn of electric street lamps kept the shadows at bay.
She slipped her gnarled hands free of their mittens and tried to rub them back into use. The chill autumnal wind had taken its toll on her worsening rheumatism over the half-day journey from Virginia City.
As her stalwart blue roan Morgan, Jenny, rocked beneath her along the rails of the new streetcar line, a cry pierced the charnel night.
Rash reached for her worn Colt pistol out of habit, but stopped short of drawing it. Reno was a respectable place—a proper town, with electricity and sewers and running water. It was a place for a crippled old gunslinger to domesticate herself and wait for the end, not for shootouts and vigilantism. They’d even outlawed outdoor privies.
Out from the haze in front of her emerged the new bridge that spanned the Truckee. The old iron-arched workhorse that had graced the river banks for decades had finally given way to the modernity of concrete. On the other side of the bridge, Rash knew, stood Mrs. Tolliver’s Boarding House for Aged Ladies. Her destination. Her gallows.