[EFC Blue Ribbon - Free Speech Online]


Part 3 of 3

Published: Published: Bewildering Stories issue #158

“Well boys, it appears we’ve lost the element of surprise.” Poe said evenly as they spread further apart. “You don’t suppose they jumped a deer and thought they would take it while they were up here, do you?”

None of the men said anything in reply as they nervously pulled their shotguns out and rested them across their saddles. Hammers clicked back in unison as they set them to safe.

Since the flurry of shots had passed, silence descended like a blanket over the ridge.

Rolleston was the first to spot the woman and draw Poe’s attention to her. “Marshal is that the whore we’re looking for?”

She stood in the shadows of a grove of pine on the west side of the meadow watching them silently as they all turned to watch her.

“Bidwell you stay here and watch our backs. Rolleston I’m gonna ride up to her while you circle around and make sure she’s alone. Remember to avoid looking into her eyes any way that you can. Keep your shotguns at the ready.” Both men nodded as the two horses started forward to make their way through the tall meadow grass toward the woman.

She looked simple enough, although shorter than the men in the Posse. Long auburn red hair fell over her shoulders and she appeared paler than a white woman should. As Tombs had described earlier, she wore a flowing red dress with a tan shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Ample cleavage under the bodice and the soft features he saw made it easy to understand why she would be a popular attraction at a brothel.

As Rolleston guided his horse in a sweep to the woman’s right, he casually pulled his six-shooter from its holster and carried it flat against his leg and out of sight. Ever so carefully, he eased the hammer back and cocked it while his finger casually rested over the trigger guard. He didn’t care if they claimed she’d been shot at least once in the chest with little or no effect back in town.

A clean head shot would suffice to put her down hard and fast if it became necessary. He smiled, figuring how even a vampire’s brain might have trouble growing back after a shot like that. Once she was down, he’d take the shotgun to her as they had planned.

Poe slowed his horse and turned in a casual circle to the woman’s left, hoping to keep her from being able to watch both of them at the same time. When he was only a few yards away, he stopped and turned to face her.

“Are you the whore they call Medusa?” He called out to her. “I’m Marshal Augustus Poe.” Even from this distance, he looked at the bridge of her nose rather than into her eyes. From what little he could see of them they appeared bright white rather than the red the gamblers eyes were supposed to have been during the gunfight.

The woman smiled as she turned to face him and apparently ignored Rolleston altogether as he rode around behind her.

“Are you in need of the pleasures of a woman, kind sir?” She purred in reply tilting her head as if to look her charmed best. “If so, I’m sure we could work out something of an agreement for my services. Perhaps even a discount for your friends that are here with you.”

“We’ve been sent to collect you and your companions to face charges for the murders that occurred yesterday at the Agarose Tavern over in Kasher Point. So I ask you again, are you the whore they call Medusa? If so please come forward and we will escort you back peacefully and with as little fuss as possible. If you call out your friends they will be cared for as well and little harm will come to them.”

The woman didn’t seem fazed by what she had just been told. “Marshal, we had absolutely nothing to do with the deaths of those people. We are just innocent victims of happenstance and location. Now would you be so kind as to leave us alone so that we may continue our journey in peace?”

Poe sighed with resignation. They never seemed to want to come back peacefully even when he asked them nicely. He gripped the stock of the shotgun a little tighter.

“Marshal watch out! Bidwell’s gone!” Rolleston called out from behind the woman. Sure enough, when Poe turned to look back, Bidwell’s saddle stood empty as his horse calmly chewed on bits of grass. There hadn’t been any sound of warning from Bidwell.

“You fucking whore!” Rolleston roared, snapping Poe’s attention back to the woman as he saw Rolleston draw a bead on her with his pistol and pulled the trigger.

Time seemed to slow down as he realized Rolleston’s mistake. Instead of using the shotgun as they had planned, he had resorted to the weapon he was far more comfortable using — and which had already proven ineffectual against this woman or her friends.

He saw the puff of smoke rise from the pistol, as Medusa’s body seemed to ripple and spin in the air around the bullet as it sliced through the spot where she had just been standing. Rolleston had gone for a head shot and would have got it, had she not moved as fast as she had.

Completing her miraculous spin, he watched as she leapt at Rolleston while the bullet finished its journey and glanced off Poe’s left kneecap before imbedding itself in the buckle of his saddle.

Poe screamed in raw agony, gripping his wounded leg and dropping the shotgun as his horse reared in fright and threw him from the saddle and began to gallop back toward town. Unfortunately, as Poe fell from the horse, his right boot became hopelessly entangled in the stirrup and he soon found himself being dragged unceremoniously across the rough ground on his stomach as the crazed horse picked up speed with every step.

The last thing he saw before his head hit something hard was Bidwell’s horse with its empty saddle as it lowered its head to eat more grass while watching him go by. Bidwell hadn’t made a sound when they’d taken him. He was just gone. Tombs was right, these things must be vampires.

Then everything went black and he no longer felt the agony of his injuries as the horse dragged his body through the woods.

* * *

Medusa stood over the prostrate man watching with pleasure as he gasped and twitched while he slowly died. His eyes bulged as they snapped back and forth erratically in their sockets. Everything had happened faster than she would have predicted.

She considered herself fortunate to have snapped his neck before he’d thought to bring the shotgun up. A hand beneath his chin with a hard twist round while taking him from his saddle had done the trick quite nicely.

Her wound from the bullet back at the brothel had healed just before the Posse had shown up. Fortunately, fresh blood had proven the perfect antidote.

A rare half demon vampire, she enjoyed powers that her vampiric companions could not. She still enjoyed feeding from the blood of her victims, finding raw fear to be like a powerful aphrodisiac when added properly. It seemed to fuel her powers and make her stronger each time.

Walking over to where the dead man’s shotgun had fallen, she carefully picked it up to examine it. Double-barreled and loaded. Someone had put serious thought into what kind of weapons they could bring against them, she realized. The humans were learning. Carefully she eased the hammers to their safe position as she pondered the implications.

She sensed Monroe, the older of her vampire companions, as he approached. His gloved hand held the reins to the horse of the man he’d killed, drawing the attention of the others. The dead man’s body lay over the saddle.

“Shall I go after him, Daemon?” He asked looking at the path the galloping horse had chosen to drag its injured rider through the woods below them.

She noticed Monroe’s skin had regained much of its original coloring after feeding, something she would never enjoy. Her skin was the same pale color now as the day she was born with it.

“No, it will be enough to confuse those that will follow. Make sure you leave nothing to indicate what has happened to these men. An unsettled mystery is best when left in the minds of those we flee.”

“Yes, Daemon.” The vampire said, turning to lead the horse toward the lodge.

“Oh, and one other thing, Monroe; I should remind you that because of your carelessness at that parlor we must cross the mountains sooner than we had planned. In the future I may find it necessary to travel with only one rather than two companions at my side, or in my bed.” She chided softly, gently sliding the shotgun back into its sheath for emphasis.

Grabbing the horn of the saddle, she pulled herself up and settled onto the comfortable seat. It still held the warmth of the man that she had removed from it.

“Yes, Daemon I will remember that well, as will Stephen.” The vampire replied solemnly, keeping his eyes to the ground in shame as he felt her gaze hard upon him.

“Take the other body as well and feed from it while his blood is still good,” she commanded before kicking the horse to a brisk trot toward the lodge.

Soon they had the horses loaded down with both the living and the dead. The two women sat quietly, tied upright in their saddles. Although she had enjoyed the power their fear brought with it, she allowed the vampires to calm them for the next part of their journey.

She had taken the precaution of double-checking their efforts to leave nothing behind and found herself pleased that such a simple threat had ensured the vampires had done as she had requested.

They would dispose of the bodies as they traveled through the mountain passes, including those of the women, when their sustenance had expired. She looked forward to the sheer terror the women would feel before they died.

They had enjoyed their short time in the Wyoming territory and looked forward to returning one day to resume where they had left off.

It amused her to think of how many people waited for them with little or no protection on the other side of these very mountains. The humans they had tormented on this side were becoming educated in dealing with their kind, and it had become nothing more than an annoying game of cat and mouse as they traveled.

If the Marshal still lived after falling from the horse, it was doubtful he would survive more than a day or two in his condition. His horse would finish him off for them. Perhaps the discovery of the dead marshal would make things even easier when they returned. Legends like that had worked well in the dark ages.

The vampires would enjoy becoming legend.

She certainly had.

* * *

The End

Copyright © 2004, 2005 by Robert L. Sellers Jr. All rights reserved.
Please do not use without permission of the author.

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