COLD SILVER

Here is something else from some time back. It takes vampires and dhampirs and puts them in the West. Hope you enjoy. If not, keep the criticism constructive please.

It was dark when Branimir rode into the small town, collar up and his hat pulled down low in the howling wind.  Snow by daylight most likely.  Most of the buildings were dark, either empty or their residents long asleep.  His horse continued its slow approach to the centre of town, where light and music spilled out from the windows of the town’s one saloon.  Silver gleamed on the bridle and saddle as the moon passed from behind the clouds, the leather creaking with the movement of horse and rider.

Drawing up in front of the saloon, he lifted a leg over the saddle and dropped to the ground and stepped up onto the boardwalk, leaving his horse standing before the hitching post near the watering trough.  It wouldn’t go anywhere until told.  Unbuttoning his duster, he stood in the doorway of the saloon, letting his eyes adjust to the light.

One of the whores inside nudged her friend from a table, where they sat having a drink.  Business wasn’t exactly brisk at the moment.  Their eyes slid over the new arrival with professional interest.  He was a tall man, with a lean muscular build.  He pushed his hat, showing flaming red hair.  Under the black leather duster he wore a black shirt worked with silver thread, the collar unbuttoned.  An animal tooth hung from a leather cord tied close against his throat.  Finally he pushed open the batwing doors and stepped inside, silver spurs jingling on well-worn black boots, black jeans rolled up at the hem to keep the spurs free.  He pushed his duster back as he entered; freeing the pistols he wore holstered in a well cared for gun belt, also worked with silver.  One old man took in the .45 Colt Peacemakers, the black clothes and silver and got up, tossing down money for his bill before walking out the door.

The bartender noted the exit of one of his regulars and studied the stranger as he approached the bar.  “What can I do ya for,” the bartender asked, throwing the towel over his shoulder.

“Whiskey,” the stranger said in a cracked voice, dry from a long ride without water.  “And a glass of water.”  He picked up the glass of water, draining it in one long drink, then picked up the shot glass of whiskey and toss it back and motioning for another.

The bartender poured, eyes slightly narrowed, obviously chewing over something before speaking.  “I’ve heard of a man with two guns, dresses all in black.  Some sort of hired killer.  Known as Branimir.  We don’t much like that kind around here.  This is a peaceful town.”

“I heard that too.”

“And?”

“And I’m hungry.  Anything to eat?”

“Look mister, we may not be gunfighters but we know how to take care of ourselves.  So what do you say you just keep those pistols holstered and everything stays friendly?”

“And what do you say you find me some food?”

One of the whores laughed from their table.  “Ed has a pot of chilli but I don’t know if you’d survive the night eatin’ it.”

“Shut up, Jenny,” the bartender growled.  “You want a bowl, mister?”

“Yeah.  I probably had worse in the war.”  He drained the second shot of whiskey.  “And a cold beer if you got it.”

“Sure thing.”  He poured a mug of beer then went into a room behind the bar coming back with a bowl of chilli and a spoon.  The stranger dug in hungrily, occasionally taking a sip from his beer.  His eyes scanned the room through the mirror, taking in the few regulars, one sitting before the piano banging away with more enthusiasm then skill.

“Not very busy.”

Ed shrugged.  “It’s the middle of the week in a small town.  Come back Friday.  The boys up at the mine and the Bar Deuce get paid tomorrow.  They’ll be fixin to climb the walls.”

Grunting, Branimir pushed the now empty bowl away and took a long pull from the beer.  “There a sheriff or marshal in this town?”

“Sheriff is over at Colby, it’s the county seat.  Plus they got five mines around there and a hell of a lot of cattle.  We got a deputy, when he’s not passed out in his own cell.”

“Which is more often then not,” Jenny piped in.  “Not a nice night out there, mister. Why don’t you spend it with me?  I’ll give you a special all night rate.”

The other hooker got up, sidling up to the strangers side.  “You wouldn’t know how to handle a man like this, Jenny,” the dark haired whore purred.  Her breasts crushed to his arm.  “I’m Emily.  And if you are who Ed thinks you are, I heard you killed Big Bill Albright.”  Her eyes glinted and he bit back a smirk.  Was it the smell of death that surrounded him that some women responded to?  Something about danger just seemed to thrill some of them.

“Big Bill wasn’t so big from a half mile away with a Sharps.”

“Told you all he was just a killer,” Ed muttered.

Emily looked up at the stranger, batting her lashes.  “Wasn’t afraid, were you big guy?”

“Albright was a thief, murderer and rapist.  If I wasn’t pressed for time, he would have died a lot worse then being gutshot.”

“Well aren’t you a hard man.  Mmm, that’s my favourite kind.  Why don’t you come upstairs with me, big guy?”

“I’m looking for a man,” he said.

“You some fancy boy, then,” she asked with derision.

Brilliant green eyes lifted, studying her quietly.  She gulped, suddenly feeling like a mouse finding itself in front of a cat that has just eaten and is deciding if it wants dessert.  Beating a retreat, Emily took her seat beside Jenny again, draining the glass sitting before her.

“I am looking for a man,” he repeated slowly, “ by the name of Gordon McDonough.”

He could see eyes turning to him in the mirror and the man playing the piano skipped a beat.  “What would you want with Gordie,” Ed asked.

“He’s a killer, a monster.  Was chased away from Scotland and started up in New York.  Left there one step ahead of the hunters.  I was hired to take up the chase in Kentucky and tracked him all the way out here.  Now if you can tell me where he is I’ll be on my way.”

“So you can gun him down in cold blood?  I don’t think so, mister.  Not just because someone with money wants him dead.  If there were something to it, the law would be involved.  Maybe you want another Gordon McDonough.”

“I doubt it.  Pour me another beer while you stand there.”  He took a slow drink.    “Be doing yourself a favour you let me know where this monster is.  Before women and children start disappearing.”

“What?!  Nobody in this town would think such a thing of Gordie McDonough.  Why the hell do you?”

The stranger leaned forward, eyes staring straight into Ed’s.  “I know what he is.  I have seen the bodies he has left behind him.”  His gaze slid around the room.  “Anyone remember hearing the old stories about a corpse that rises from the dead and feeds on the blood of the living?  That’s McDonough.”

Ed and the whores and the drinkers scattered among the tables started laughing.  The stranger watched the piano player through the mirror, who was biting his lower lip.  Hands started caressing the keys, a slow sad tune filling the saloon.  A tune played with a lot more skill then had been evidenced moments earlier.

“Sure you ain’t escaped from the mental asylum, mister,” Jenny asked.

“Then perhaps you can explain why you never see him during the daylight.”

“I don’t see much daylight either.  Does that make me a boogeyman too?”

“I don’t know.  Do you like to rip out the throats of women and children and drain them of blood?”

“Jesus, mister!  Gordie has friends in this town.  No one would believe him capable of such things.  Maybe you should just finish your beer and leave.  The hotel’ll probably have some rooms available.  Then just leave in the morning.”

“My grandmother used to tell me stories from the old country about these creatures,” Emily said in a quiet voice, slowly turning her glass in the wet ring it had left on the table.  “They always said they had no reflection in a mirror.  But every time Gordie has been to the bar I have seen him in the mirror.”  Her gaze briefly slid to the piano player before settling on the table before her.

“Everything has a reflection in a mirror,” Branimir said.  “But like the old ones say, running water does seem to cause them trouble.  Slows them down a bit.”  He turned around, leaning back against the bar.  He looked around the room, thumbs tucked into his silver belt buckle.  “The stories are also right about silver.  Its too pure a substance for the evil bastards.  Got a friend of mine down in Texas named Reid keeps me supplied with bullets made of the stuff.”

“My grandmother was a god fearing woman but she also believed in evil that the old ones told of.  McDonough has only been in town for a few weeks and all ready a friend of mine has disappeared,” Emily said.

“Come on, Emily,” Ed protested.  “You know Lara kept talking about wanting to go to Frisco.”

Branimir smiled coldly.  “He’d been running hard when he landed here.  Probably right hungry.  I doubt she reached San Francisco.”

The piano player stopped, hands poised over the keys.  “It’s all a pack of lies,” he said in a soft Scottish accent.  “I hunt monsters like what he’s been talking.  Monster’s like him.  By God I protect people, Emily.  I would never have done anything to Lara.  You would believe a hired killer over me?  Who knows how much blood is on his hands?”

“I do not know who to believe,” she murmured, biting her lower lip, eyes moving between the two men.  “You both scare me, but he also excites me, but you…”  She shuddered.

Branimir snarled silently.  “Enough gab.  Let’s get this over with, vampire.”

McDonough stood up and turned around, holding his arms out at his side to show he was unarmed.  “There are laws about just shooting people down.  These people will vouch that I have made no attempt to attack you.”

The stranger smiled coldly, a slight up curling of one side of his mouth.  “And Brodie’s law is a passed out deputy sheriff.”

“Believe it or not, I’ve got friends in this town.  Who aren’t hysterical prostitutes?  We don’t just rely on the law to take care of us around here.”

Behind him, the bartender drew back the hammer on a shotgun.  “You’re not killing anyone here tonight, mister,” Ed said.  “Just leave.”

The man in black laughed softly.  “You think you can pull the trigger before I plug him?”

“Doesn’t matter.  Hard to cash in when you’re dead.”

“Branimir, is it?  Listen to reason.  From that range that scattergun will blow you in half,” McDonough said.  “Nobody needs to die here tonight.  Just ride out of town and we’ll forget all about it.”

“Sure, and let you go on feeding on women and children?  No, I don’t think so.  I’ll die happy if it means removing you from the world.”

McDonough snarled, slight fangs protruding from his teeth as his eyes blazed.  “Shoot him, Ed!”

The stranger dropped, his left hand flashing over to his right hand pistol and drawing smoothly as he fell toward the floor.  The blast from the shotgun blew his hat off his head.  Gordie caught some of the spread and was knocked back against the piano.  He jerked back upright, bleeding from several holes, his face distorted with anger, red spots showing on his starched white shirt.

“See you in hell,” the stranger murmured from the floor as he fired, fanning the hammer of his pistol.  The silver slugs pounded McDonough’s chest, driving him to the floor.  Almost before the shots were fired, Branimir reached up and grabbed the barrel of Ed’s shotgun, ripping it from his hands and tossing it away.  He broke open the revolver, removing the cylinder and dropping a loaded cylinder in place and closing the pistol, hammer drawn back as he rose to his feet.

Slight curls of smoke rose from the wounds in Gordie’s chest as he coughed, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.  Branimir crouched over him, the bartender and the whores staring in horror.  “Damn…you,” McDonough gasped between coughs.  “Why…couldn’t…you have…ridden on?”  Deft fingers searched through the corpses pockets, eyes flashing anger when he came across a picture of a young girl.

“She’s….ours…now,” Gordie coughed out.  The gunman snarled, thumbing back the hammer of his pistol and shoving the barrel into McDonough’s mouth.

“No, that would be too quick.  I hope you have a nice slow death,” he murmured to McDonough, fangs showing before they slid back into his gums.  He stood up, pocketing the picture and sliding his pistol back into the silver worked holster.  Not for the first time it occurred to him that he was wearing more money then most people saw in a lifetime.

“Well, its not a pile of ash but I don’t think most corpses smoke,” he drawled.  “You lot satisfied?”

“Uh, y-yeah,” Ed stammered.  “Shit and I thought Lara had just left.  Poor girl.”

“Not likely.  Search his place if you got the stomach.  Who knows what you’d find.”  He picked up his empty beer mug and leaned over the counter, pouring a fresh one.  Spurs jingled as his boots sounded on the wooden floors, the saloon silent.  He paused in the doorway; finishing his beer and watching the snow swirl around.  Good thing he was headed south.  He hated the cold.  Sitting down the empty mug he pushed the doors open.

“Hey, what about your bill,” Ed called from the bar.

The hunter stopped halfway out onto the boardwalk, fastening the leather duster close.  He looked over his shoulder at the corpse smouldering on the floor near the piano. “Don’t charge me I won’t charge you.”  He swung aboard the stallion, pulling him around and nudging him with his heels, disappearing into the snow.

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2 responses

  1. Good story, Jerry. Good dialogue and voice here.

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