Sheriff Moric pushed his hat back. The sweat from his brow ran down the left side of his furry face. It was high noon, but the day was only mildly warm, not too hot. Funtown never got too hot. Sheriff Moric’s stern moose gaze looked up and down First Mainstreet. The inhabitants of Funtown were going about their daily business, reassured by the firm poof of a Moose sheriff. Funtown could get wild sometimes, but it was not a splashy place. On occasion, things could get out of hand, so the fine citizens of the town appreciated having a Moose around.
Sheriff Moric was just turning to head back into the Sheriff’s Office, after taking a moment to wave to Tiger Lily, who was sweeping her front porch, when little Billy Doggy came running up. “Sheriff! Sheriff! You need to come quick!” the little german shepherd puppy said while gasping for air after such a hard run.
“Now slow down, Little Billy. Just take a breath and tell me what’s wrong,” Sheriff Moric said as he kneeled down to look Little Billy in the face.
“Sheriff, some strangers are in town. They have Nancy Malone cornered between the mill and the bakery, and they won’t let her go on her way. They are talking mean things to her!” gasped out Little Billy.
Sheriff Moric stood up with a stern scowl across his moosey visage. He did not tolerate such splashy behavior in the town he was elected to protect. Besides, Nancy Malone was the local baker, and Moric had always had a soft spot for bakers, especially since his Aunt Moosette was such a kind and generous example of the type.
“You show me where, Little Billy. We will put a stop to this right now,” said Sheriff Moric with a deep rumble from down in his broad chest.
Little Billy ran ahead. He was in such a rush that he dropped to all fours and began to sprint down First Main Street. Ducking between the General Purpose Store and the Candy Store, he took Cat Alley over to Second Main Street. He moved fast for a little puppy, but the long-legged sheriff kept pace with him. Sheriff Moric didn’t even shift form to run on all four pooves.
Soon Little Billy and Sheriff Moric were racing down Second Main Street, all the way to the north end of town. The Mill was located out on the north end to give it room for the windmill. Sheriff Moric could see a collection of people at the end of Second Main street, just before the town buildings clustered around. He could see the bright colors of the calico dresses Nancy Malone liked to wear, but standing around her were at least five figures who appeared to be dark green mixed with a dingy gray.
As he and Little Billy got closer he could hear one of the green figures talking loudly. “See you are going to bake for us now SEE…or we will pinch you hard and burn your bakery down!”
Sheriff Moric’s stern visage now showed signs of real anger. Funtown might not be near Moose Valley, but it was not nearly splashy enough for this sort of behavior. The town was a good place where many people came to have simple fun. The last thing he would tolerate was a gang of imps moving in to ruin it for everyone.
It did not matter if they were here with official sanction of the Impy Emperor or just making independent mischief. But this stopped today, right there, right then.
The very irritated Moose moved forward to put a stop to this heinous and mean spirited situation. “You better get home to your Momma, Little Billy. These strangers might cause some trouble, but I promise to protect Miss Malone.”
Little Billy rose up on his back paws, his face twisted with indecision. He was a good puppy who generally did as he was told, but the Sheriff was all alone, and Little Billy wanted to help. “All right,” Little Billy said, shifting from foot to foot. “I will go, Sheriff, but you be careful. There were at least three more of these strangers before I ran to get you, and who knows where they got to.”
“I should have known,” Sheriff Moric pulled a two-gun rig the same dark chocolate color as his fur out of somewhere, and slung it around his hips as he walked with the ease of long practice. For most things, Sheriff Moric went armed with nothing more than his Moose Pocket, hat and boots, but when facing eight or more all by himself with someone to protect, he could not afford to take chances. The guns at his hips had been specially designed for Impfestations like this. Though not much more than the grips showed above the holster, they all glowed in the strong sunlight, the one on his left looked like it had been carved from a giant sapphire, and the right from a citrine. They both gave off a watery reflection that shifted as he walked. In the small loops on the belt where a gunfighter in the movies might carry more spare bullets, Sheriff Moric had pieces of taffy and toffee specially made to be extra sticky and neatly wrapped in waxed paper.
“I do not think Miss Malone likes your proposal gentlemen. Why we should let the lady go back to her bakery. If you want to buy her wares in the usual way, I am sure we can work something out. If not, I think you should wrap up your business here and be on your way, Sheriff Moric spoke politely, but he kept his pooves near ready to draw, and he chose his position where he could see all five imps, and the likely lurking spots of their friends.
“I don’t care what you think, mister. We were talking to the lady. You should just go back the way you came before you get hurt,” the biggest of the five apparent imps said without looking away from Nancy Malone’s stubborn, but frightened face.
The other imps saw who they were dealing with, however. A couple started to back away. One scowled and tried to look menacing, but had to fight to keep his spine straight and his shoulders un-hunched. The fifth and littlest hid as far behind their leader as he could without taking eyes off the Sheriff and reached up to tug at the leader’s sleeve, urgently.
“What do you want?” The leader glared down and tried to shake his arm free.
“Moose sheriff,” the little one muttered, swinging from the boss’s sleeve.
“Speak up if you insist on speaking,” the boss imp growled, dropping the little one back to the ground.
“This town has a Moose Sheriff, Boss,” the little one said slowly, making certain to clearly enunciate each word.
“This is a town of clowns gardeners and circus performers,” the imp boss said through a sneer down to the little imp on his arm. “What makes you think…” His voice drifted off as the implications of timing finally intruded on the plans the imps had for Nancy Malone.
Slowly, the boss imp straightened to his full height, well above sheriff Moric’s, even with the antlers. The dirty, grey and green figure turned to the way the others had focused, and stared cooly at the Sheriff down a long, narrow nose. The boss imp rid himself of his hanger on with a sharp snap of his wrist.
“See to our new baker,” the boss ordered, sidling over to the middle of the street, tickling the handle of the greasy black weapon he wore low on his right hip.
“I know your kind, Moose,” the boss called down the road, ice dripping from the words. “I know what kind of things you can do, but there is still only one of you and many of us. Let us have the woman. She will be perfectly safe and well paid working for us. If we fight over her, who knows who might get hurt.”
“If Miss Malone wishes to abandon her bakery here to work for you, we shall be desolate without her, but it is her right and privilege to do so,” Sheriff Moric said gently with a touch of sadness.
Then the dark, moosely visage grew stern. “However, if Miss Malone does not wish to go with you, I shall support that decision to the best of my ability. As the duly elected Sheriff of Funtown, it is my right, privilege, and duty to do no less.”