In search of a few more credentials himself, Keenan ran for sheriff of Bent County and was defeated in the primary shortly after Mason's arrest. Last January he was hired as undersheriff by the victor, Brian Spencer, who says he's "comfortable" with the way the complaint was handled. "Had I had a doubt about how it was investigated, I would not have taken him on," Spencer says.

But others have been reluctant to let the case go--hence the anonymous letters. Orvis Smith muses that the letters probably caused less of a stir than Mason and his supporters might have hoped, simply because rumors about the case and Keenan's alleged improprieties had already been floating around town.

"About the only outrage was that people were hollerin' that they had to pay 23 cents' postage due," Smith says.

Although subsequent letters have appeared around Las Animas, Smith says the case is no longer a hot topic in town. "Everybody's forgot about it," he says. "This is a little Peyton Place, and stuff like that really doesn't last very long, because something more sensational comes around."

Not that Keenan has been forgotten altogether. In June he made headlines again when his patrol car skidded off a rainy highway, over a dirt bank and into a field outside the town of Hasty. Keenan and his wife reportedly sustained minor injuries in the crash, while the sheriff's wife and another Las Animas resident were unharmed. Keenan was cited with a DUI; both Sheriff Spencer and the state trooper who investigated the accident say they don't know whether he was on duty at the time. Although the case has yet to go to trial, Keenan resigned voluntarily the next day.

Spencer bemoans the fact that Keenan's conduct continues to attract comment months after he's left the force. "These allegations--I have people point the finger at me all the time," he says. "Well, if you're a suspect in a case, I have to have evidence to prove it. Unfortunately, society doesn't have to have evidence to prove anything against a cop."

Keenan is now said to be living in Baca County. "My understanding is that he isn't going to get back into law enforcement," Spencer says. "I think that's a terrible misfortune, because the man is a talented officer. If he got into a large agency, he could be a tremendous asset."

Whether Keenan makes the move to the big city or not, Mason has already made up his mind. "Never again," he vows, "will I live in a one-mule town.

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