When the sun fell behind the horizon, Joss went back to their meeting spot at a trot. He hadn’t found a trace of the Bachelor, or anyone else. Not so much as a horse dropping.
He expected Denver to be back within the hour, depending upon how far out he’d wandered. When the Sheriff didn’t show, he became increasingly worried.
A quick ride around the area, hollering the Sheriff’s name garnered no results, so he headed back into town to round up a search posse. They searched deep into the night, and were out again at first light. Nothing. It felt like the Gentry case all over again.
“I’m so sorry, Tillie.”
His hat was in his hands. His boots, on her porch. His heart, in his stomach.
“I knew the risks when he went out there, Joss. I knew them when he started down this path twenty years ago. Don’t give up hope just yet. We’ll keep looking.”
“In the meantime, you’re gonna have to be the acting Sheriff. ‘Least until the Marshal comes ‘round. Are you gonna be able to handle that?”
“I’m gonna do my best.” He forced a smile and shook his head. “Oakley, and my lil’ sis Delilah, have decided they’re a-gonna be my deputies. I s’pose I can’t expect no one else ‘round town to listen to me, so they’re gonna have to do.”
“You’ll do fine. I have faith in you, Joss.”
As he walked away, situating his hat back on his head, she leaned her forehead against the glass of the window.