ROCK HEN AND A HARD PLACE

13

Nevada Territory, June of 1860

TRIGGER WARNING:
* Racially motivated injustice

“Why?” Bo asked the Marshal.

“Because,” the Marshal said, “the US Federal Government believes that, as a leader of the, uh… laboring community… you are in a good position to… address crime in the town of Rock Hen.”

“That’s nonsense,” Bo said, holding up his wrists. On them were heavy shackles, due to the fact that Bo was being held in jail. Only a few weeks earlier, Bo had beaten a man named Edward Lancome nearly to death for knowingly sending both Bo and his sister, Lee, on a suicide mission to an unstable cave. Lee had given her life to save Bo, and Bo had lived to extract revenge from Lancome. The constabulary of the town of Rock Hen had arrested Bo, and made Lancome a hero. Bo was awaiting his trial for assaulting a white man.

“It’s the honest truth,” the Marshal said, unconvincingly, “The US Federal Government has-”

“Shut your lying mouth,” Bo hissed, cutting him off, furious, “If Lancome had been Chinese, or if I had been white, I wouldn’t be sitting here. And if Lee was sitting here instead of me, you wouldn’t be offering her this job.”

The Marshal’s mood stiffened and cooled, “What’s your point?”

Bo stood up and walked towards the Marshal. When the Marshal realized that Bo wasn’t going to stop, he backed up. Bo kept closing the distance slowly, step by step, until the chains holding him to the wall were taught, the Marshal had his back pressed up against the door, and Bo’s face was inches from Marshal’s, breathing onto his neck.

“You want to make me Sheriff of Rock Hen,” Bo said, “because the white people in the town will hate it. They’ll stop obeying the law. Fights will break out. The Chinese and the whites will clash, and no one will listen to me. You want to destroy this town and the people who live in it. You’re were going to discard me because I’m Chinese. You want to use me because I’m a Chinese man. And you don’t value Lee because she’s Chinese and a woman.”

The Marshal snarled, and shoved Bo backwards, much to Bo’s surprise. Bo fell on his rear as the Marshal barked, “So what? What will you do about it? If you turn down the job, you’ll go to trial, and I’ll find the one man in Nevada who hates the Chinese people of this town more than anyone else. And he’ll get this badge and this gun.”

Reaching into his jacket, the Marshal produced a cloth package, and unfurled it to reveal a six-shooter revolving pistol and a bronze star with the words “Sheriff of Rock Hen, Nevada Territory” on the front.

“This land is going to hell one way or another,” the Marshal sneered, “You might as well take what I’m offering.”

“You’re offering to use me,” Bo said, “Use me to bring about the end to my own people.”

The Marshal snorted, and began wrapping up the gun and badge again. With a rap of his knuckles on the door, the Marshal wordlessly asked the officer on the other side to come and unlock it.

Bo hesitated, but then spat, “Fine, I’ll do it.”

The Marshal smiled wryly, “Good, good. You’re making a smart choice, son.”

Holding the empty gun and the heavy badge, Bo looked down at the choice he had made.

“Good luck, my boy,” the Marshal said, insincerely, “The jailer will be by soon to unshackle you. When you get to the Sheriff’s Office in Rock Hen, there’ll be someone who will give you the key. Inside, you’ll find the bullets for your gun.”

“Not willing to stand in a room with me and a loaded gun?” Bo asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m no fool,” the Marshal said, “And by the time you have a bullet in that gun, I’ll be in Louisiana. I have no intention of ever coming back to Nevada…” the heavy lock on the door finally slid open, and the officer let the Marshal walk out into the hall. Before the door closed behind him, the Marshal looked into Bo’s eye and said, with a gleam, “…until you’re dead.”

The door slammed shut. And Bo was alone with his choices.

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