[EFC Blue Ribbon - Free Speech Online]


Part 1 of 1

Summer, 1878 / Goblin's Toe, Wyoming

Nadia felt content. For the first time since they settled in the town of Goblin’s Toe, she also felt completely relaxed and rested. Her sated husband Mikhail gently nuzzled the nape of her neck which brought a flushed laugh as her hand rose to tangle with his long brown hair. Mikhail gently slipped his hand forward on her hip to pull suggestively close as they walked toward the back office of their brothel. Bliss from their feral run allowed Nadia to let her long blond hair run wild, not to be bothered with the weave of ponytail that she often favored.

She felt Mikhail tense and looked up to find their vampire partners patiently waiting for them. Close-cropped blond hair cut flat across the top, the tall angular master vampire Leviticus LaRouchette casually leaned against the wall with arms folded. The sharp cut gray pinstripe suit hung tight to his frame, his white shirt stark against pale skin while narrow lips formed a smile that did not echo through his ice-blue eyes. When he unfolded his arms she was startled to see a deputy’s badge pinned to his lapel.

“Welcome back.” LaRouchette said evenly, a faint hint of amusement in his tone.

LaRouchette’s vampire companion, the ever elegant raven-haired Natalia De Lascanti, sat at their desk with account books open. Emerald green eyes looked them over while her dark lips turned in a smile to match that of LaRouchette. Dressed well in satin and lace, the result showed the vampire’s class was above the common folk of the town around them.

Nadia felt sharp apprehension as she looked from one vampire to the other. “Has something happened?” She felt Mikhail’s hand fall away as he stepped further into the room and away from her. Ever casual, he closed the door behind them.

Natalia leaned forward and closed the books. “We had a visitor while you were gone. Someone who wanted to ... share his regards.”

“My dear,” LaRouchette gently chided. “Should we not tell her of the bank robbery first? They may want to know of what excitement they have missed while out frolicking along the trail. They do call what you two were doing ... frolicking, do they not?”

Nadia curbed the rise of irritation as she looked from one vampire to the other, pointedly ignoring LaRouchette’s rudeness. “Someone robbed the bank? Was anyone hurt?”

Natalia looked down at the surface of the desk with a frown. She reached over to open a drawer and carefully pulled out a long blue scarf that she let drop to softly pool upon the desk.

The scarves were something LaRouchette had come up with to identify the girls that they actively fed from, as compensation for their time and pleasure. The scarves were also worn while wounds healed between feedings, to serve as warning to those who might otherwise have abused them.

“Oh no...” Nadia moaned softly, pungent realization of what the scarf meant, and whom. “Please tell me it was not Daisy May.” She stepped forward to pick up the scarf before slowly collapsing into the guest chair. When neither vampire spoke, Nadia balled the scarf in her hand, her galvanized anger abundantly clear. “Tell us what happened.” Mikhail moved forward to gently rest a hand of comfort upon Nadia’s shoulder.

“Two of your kind managed to kill three mortals.” LaRouchette replied evenly. “Details of their exact nature imparted from the soldiers that visited with our dear sheriff not long afterward.”

Mikhail looked up with concern. “Do these soldiers know of us?”

LaRouchette nodded curtly. “They are the special group who hunt those who break mortal law. They also report to the same people that our dear sheriff reports to back in Fort Danna.”

“That will have nothing to do with us, fortunately.” Nadia replied softly as her thoughts returned to the dead young woman.

“A man named Danvers might disagree.” LaRouchette offered evenly with a raised brow as he watched their visitors pale at the mention of the Lycan alpha.

Nadia rose to her feet. “John Abraham Danvers was here?”

“Yes. He was confused as to his position and we had to ... clarify it for him before he left.”

Nadia shook Mikhail’s hand from her shoulder as she turned and slowly paced around the chair. “We are not going to run from that man or his ... people, ever again.”

“I doubt he expects you will. We had Pandora entertain him and she tells us that he plans to be in San Francisco to bother others of your kind for some time. She also managed to give him directions to friends that ... once introduced, will keep track of him for us while he is there.”

Nadia gripped the back of the chair firmly, knuckles white and jaw clenched in anger. “Do not ever confuse us with his kind Leviticus. We came to this country in peace and have suffered much while not fighting with his kind.”

“And you will not simply kill him ... why?” Natalia casually asked, the predatory nature of her question nothing of a mystery to any in the room. “You can kill him, can you not?”

“That would start a war.” Mikhail responded evenly. “Something we have had enough of back in our own country.”

Nadia suddenly frowned. “He had two agents in town, have they come by as well? They passed themselves off as ranch-hands named Twain Jones and Taylor Brevets. They are nothing more than enforcement dogs for Danvers pack.”

LaRouchette smiled. “They also appear to be on the trail of the two who left after the robbery. Perhaps they plan to apprehend them before our sheriff does.”

“And use them against us, no doubt.” Nadia finished for him. “If we had something of theirs, we could track them as well.”

Natalia reached into the drawer and removed two shirts stained with sweat and grit of their previous owners. “They spent time here before they left. They have no idea that we kept some of their clothing, distracted and well sated as they were.”

Nadia picked up a shirt and held it to her face, inhaling deeply through it. She smiled; a look of lustful vengeance hard to miss. “It is enough. Thank you.” She handed the other shirt to Mikhail who took it from her.

“This could be a trap.” Mikhail observed, laying the shirt aside to pick up the other. After inhaling what scent he could, he looked from Nadia to the vampires. “They may want to separate us in the woods. We should stay together, perhaps in favor of the sheriff and his direction.”

LaRouchette shrugged. “With our sheriff on track for one and the soldiers the other, who knows what or who will be caught in between. Although, now that you mention it, that does bring up another matter of some importance.”

Natalia looked over the account pages. “We have a couple girls who have shaved more than their share of the profits. We may need to teach others a lesson through them ... a subtle, yet public lesson that will not be easily forgotten.”

Nadia looked from the vampire to the scarf in her hand. “Do what you must, but not here. We will take care of our problems, you take care of yours.”

With that, she turned and left the two vampires alone as Mikhail moved to follow.

LaRouchette pushed off the wall and walked around the desk. “I understand we have a request for to ply our services at one of the local ranches.”

Natalia’s eyes narrowed as she recalled details of the place. “Yes, the men of Ingersoll, Brandt and Munson. The owner Brandt favored me with his pleasure when we last visited. I would not be so disinclined to suffer his touch again, nor he mine as well, such were his polite entreaties when we last parted.”

“Good, take Pandora and our misguided children. It may be time that they found out who they have stolen from. Perhaps Pandora should join us as she has so unsubtly requested, something that you could accomplish while there, or afterward. She enjoys a softer touch than I could possibly manage.”

“And where will you be while we ... ply our services?”

LaRouchette gently fingered the badge on his vest. “Discovering what lawmen do. I have spent so little time in the local jails. It may prove fun, and then there is the pleasure that comes from being properly healed.”

When Natalia raised a brow in confusion, LaRouchette casually pulled back his coat to reveal the pistols on his belt. Ever the showman, he wore them butt forward. When cross-drawn, the pistols would offer faster fire than the more common straight draw allowed.

“I am still surprised the sheriff chose to leave you in charge while he is away.” Natalia said evenly. “Pleasantly so, but surprised no-less.”

“His rules are simple. How did he put it...,” LaRouchette closed his eyes as if in deep thought. “I cannot kill anyone unless they have killed someone else, and then only if the punishment fits the crime and follows the supposed rule of mortal law. Truth be told, I believe he amended the last part just to add mystery and interpretation on my part.”

With a gleam of mischief in his eye, LaRouchette turned and walked out the door with a casual bounce in his step.

Natalia rose to her feet and closed the book and the drawers. It had been too long since she had brought a willing person over. A trip to the ranch could provide just the peace and quiet she would need once they disposed of the more problematic children.

First, she would find Pandora and have her gather the others. Perhaps it was time that her alter-ego Pest Jungfrau once again walked amongst those in need of her services.

* * *

1351 / Prussian port city of Graatsenburgen at Oder River

Flames from sconces bolted high on the walls bathed everything with a dancing cover of light. Clothed with the black dress and veil of a newly grieved widow, Natalia de Lascanti giggled with drunken delight as she mingled with the evening crowd of the markets. The masses moved through the streets of the city as evening turned thick with night. Her arms rose as she seemed to dance in pirouette, only to cast shooting stars of blue flame high into the night sky. Peasants who saw her cast the blue fire turned to flee in fear of her witchcraft.

The chemist who supplied the formula had not died for naught, she mused. His secret for sapphire flame had proven itself, while his drunken mistake of confusion with her for a common street whore allowed her to pluck his book of tricks once she fed and left him to die behind the pub that he had so crudely wooed her from.

Ingredients were easily mixed and applied from those he carried within a neat satchel. Hint of black-death ingested from the chemist’s blood intoxicated her as she wandered much of the city to pass on his infection. Her hand slick with rancid blood, she gently caressed the faces of those she passed like long lost lovers.

Now released en masse through her touch, the plague would set in with a vengeance.

Her vampire sire Leviticus LaRouchette waited patiently, looking back over the city behind her. “I take it you have had your way with the locals once again?”

Natalia gently slipped her arm through his and turned him as they walked along the road. “Oh, much more than that, mon cheri.” She replied breathlessly, the stupor from slacking her hunger beyond limit had left her giddy. “I left a present for our brothers of the church.”

Pressed by the crowd in the street to mingle along the side of the road, they watched as a column of men, stripped naked to the waist, passed by. As if marched to a marked beat, they whipped their backs to draw blood from thick welts. In a morose drone of penance, they mumbled words of prayer as they moved past.

LaRouchette restrained Natalia as she reached out for the last man in line. “Flagellants are not for us, my dear. They are bland and leave one listless.”

Natalia giggled with mirth that revealed a flash of fang. “They will find their sins well met when they return.”

LaRouchette’s eyes narrowed as he turned her to face him. “What have you done?”

Natalia’s hand rose to gently caress his chin. “They have a woman locked up that may be part demon, for she certainly entertains the spirit in a rather delicious way. They use her body in ways more carnal than holy. I simply gave her the gift that will allow her to use their bodies as they have used hers.” She looked over his features and sighed. “Their penance will indeed draw blood, just not from a whip or chain.” Natalia’s smile was one of dark satisfaction.

“You turned a half-demon? Are you mad?” LaRouchette’s anger was thick. “She will cut through them like a sickle through wheat. Others will know that we were here.”

“Mon cheri, by the time she is through with the brotherhood, most of the city will be dead. The hunger will consume her and she will as likely die a death that was hers to begin with.”

LaRouchette seemed to relax as he looked over the crowd, before he reluctantly nodded agreement. “Yes, I see your point. What of the blue fire?”

“A simple trick; it will add mystery for those who survive. The chemist, unfortunately, did not get to enjoy his work as I have.”

Arm in arm the two moved away from the crowds of the city and into the darkness.

* * *

Summer, 1878 / Goblin’s Toe, Wyoming

Leviticus LaRouchette studied the lead bullet rounds that he discovered in Sheriff Poe’s desk drawer. Along with the folded sketch of the bank and the victims, he was amused with the Sheriff. Mortal curiosity mixed with the tenacity of a sharp legal mind bent on justice was refreshing for a western lawman.

The jail office was neat and quiet. Three cells swept clean with sheets folded, piss-pots emptied and doors open. The double dial calendar clock was accurate once adjusted to match his pocket watch. The handsome rosewood casing revealed itself to be a Welch clock with perpetual calendar to tell him the month and date while the day of the week was marked beneath the time.

The sheriff had numbered each bullet and marked their location on the sketch. As he studied detail through a magnifying glass, LaRouchette saw clear scratch-like marks etched against the sides of each bullet. Notes from the sheriff indicated which firearm each of the victims had been found with and what caliber.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, he carefully replaced the bullets, sketch and magnifying glass in the drawer. He looked up to find a thin young man in the doorway. Hat held in both hands, he warily looked around the office.

“I, um, was looking for the sheriff...” the visitor said with hesitation. From the ruffled brown hair and rapid heartbeat, his nervousness was almost amusing.

LaRouchette smiled as he rose to his feet. “The sheriff is unavailable. Perhaps I can be of help?”

“We needed the sheriff to see a drunkard about a faro dealer he done shot almost dead in the bar.”

The man stumbled back and out of the way as LaRouchette walked past and stopped, turning back to face the man. “Well, lead on sir, almost dead might be real dead by the time you show me this problem.”

*   *   *

Clementine Blue swept the boardwalk of trail and mine dust along with other assorted trash left by the lunch crowd, humming an old melody that she often shared with her late sister Daniela. She could picture the two of them as children, hand in hand singing as they plucked and gathered flowers for their mother’s table.

Daniela’s long brown hair would mix randomly with her auburn-red as they had danced round and round back then; now, hers splashed protectively across curved breasts and down her slender back while Daniela rested peacefully within her coffin under a nearby hillside.

It had not mattered to her sister that Clementine was the result of her mother’s forced relations with her demonic father. She and Daniela had remained close until Daniela’s unexpected and tragic passing.

Clementine’s favored sterling silver pendant lay nestled securely in the narrow hollow revealed by the opening of her blouse. A drop of blood, casual brush of finger over the silver square and any spell she happened to have cast upon it would become active.

From the trust brokered with the local blood-feeders, she chose to stop wearing her black neck wrap with patterned stitched crosses of warning.

The local whoremaster and his mate gave no inclination to partake of her blood and had made their disinterest clearly known to her in an effort to make her feel more at ease when they were nearby. Close quartered with the two vampires on the long trip West in an enclosed coach had initially left her unsettled when they first arrived in the town that they now called home.

Trouble had called the day before when a group of men had run into ambush while they attempted to rob the main bank. Two men and a Pinkerton’s detective rested upon pine at the local undertaker’s place of business while two others had cut and run, chased by Sheriff Poe and the Negro smithy called Cat.

Sheriff Poe accepted her suspect nature when she finally revealed it to him, while a casual friendship had blossomed with the Negro smithy Cat. Mixed blood much like hers flowed in his veins and his demonic nature had proven more comfort than threat to her.

With the approach of a heavy wagon, she looked up and was pleasantly surprised to see the young doctor from Kasher Point. Without realizing it, she ran her hands down and straightened her dark skirt while she pulled her white blouse neat and tight.

Matthew Bracna smiled as he pulled the wagon to a stop on the roadway next to her. His head shaved of blond hair worn when they last met, she was embarrassed to admit her heart sped up and warmth of a faint blush formed upon her cheeks. She winced as she heard Daniela’s laughter from the hillside.

“A cargo-man now Doc?” she asked with a curt smile that hopefully covered her discomfort as a faint charge of static danced across softer parts of her body and tickled nether regions in subtle ways that were suddenly hard to ignore.

*What is wrong with me*

Bracna laughed. “Um no, not exactly, just supplies shipped west for the priests renovating the monastery up the road. I see that you have been hard at work cleaning up this place, it certainly looks better than my last visit.”

A flush of warmth spawned an idea and before she could stop herself she put voice to it. “Want company? I could use some fresh air and can pack a lunch quick-like.”

*Quick-like? Must be the spirit of Daniela ... stop it!*

Her knuckles turned white as Clementine clenched the broom in juvenile embarrassment. She covered her momentary lapse with a gentle sweep of the dirt from the stoop with uncertain hope that he would decline. “I met the one of them when they came through and picked up supplies.” She continued. “He seemed nice enough.”

*Seemed nice enough? Daniela, if you were not dead already, I would most certainly kill you for this. If you did not hear me before ... STOP IT!*

“Why not, I am fairly sure the priests could use a sharp broom and soft feminine touch about the place.” His smile warmed her in places that she steadfastly refused to admit.

“Let me gather the food and I will be right back” she tossed the broom into the wagon before rushing to the kitchen. Daniela’s soft laughter followed her even as she tried to rush away from it.

“When I get back, we are going to have words sister...” she fumed under her breath.

*   *   *

The worn burgundy Abbot-Downing coach rolled to a stop behind a quartet of handsome black horses winded from the pull as sweat glistened and bits were chomped by stark white teeth. Their destination was aptly signed “Tail Rides Inn”, a simple building of work rooms with beds, wash basins, soaped lubricants, piss-pots and fresh linens with soft pillows.

The aged driver, tall and narrow with tailed black suit and bowler climbed down to open the door for three well dressed women as they stepped out, two hurried past with giggled excitement while the last known to him as Pandora stood and waited patiently. The coachman tipped his brim before taking his leave to climb back up and out of proper earshot, experience told him his passengers clothing would still appear fresh when he picked them up, while the women wearing them would have the worn, haggard look and stiff walk of pained exhaustion from the hard ride and chaffed indifference of their whoredom.

Natalia remained seated within the coach, having seen the looks of anticipation between the two young women now staking claim to their rooms. Pandora had seen the looks as well, a smile of anticipation across her lips. “They are counting their side-take already.” Pandora mused, looking back at Natalia.

Reaching into the purse at her side, Natalia removed a small velvet bag that she handed to her consort. “When they take to their cleansing between shifts, add that to their coffee or tea for taste. Call it a blend of laudanum and other ... medication for their troubles. Double the dose when the last of the men have left.”

“We are agreed upon my reward when we return?”

Natalia looked deep into the other woman’s dark brown eyes and found her eager and willing. “Your reward will be from my fees when we return, and other bonuses as agreed.” She responded, watching Pandora turn to follow the others.

The coachman whistled and the coach moved on toward the mansion and the man that waited for Natalia there.

*   *   *

Nadia and Mikhail separated as they left town along both sides of the road Sheriff Poe and the Negro smithy had taken earlier. It would become a game of cat and mouse as they raced to catch up and hopefully gain headway on the two men.

Nothing more than a flash of paired, overly large silver-back wolves to anyone who saw them pass; they held nothing back and ran full out with the speed of feral form. Their target would not have tried to leave the trail for as long as necessary, if at all. With any luck they would gain headway and find him before Poe or the smithy managed to.

The hope that they could protect their interests and survive any incursion the pack might bring urged them on as they looked for sign.

Somewhere deep within each, they prayed they would be in time to fix the problem before more blood was spilled.

*   *   *

Natalia stood alone as the coach departed toward the stables.

The welcome glow from lit lamps hung to either side of the open door greeted her as she strolled through and closed it behind her.

The entry room was grand, a wide swept stair led to upper floors, while a candle lit chandelier graced the high ceiling and bathed the room below in pleasant light.

She could sense the house was empty except for her host in the dining room.

Ezekias Brandt smiled from his chair at the head of the table, cigar in hand as he watched Natalia enter the room. He motioned to a side chair already pulled from the table for her where a long stemmed glass of red wine waited as her only place setting.

“Pardon me, madam if I do not get up, for I am in the midst of dinner.” The youngest of the three owners, he lived alone on the property. Dark hair silvered with accent of age, his eyes smiled with the same darkness as the moustache that graced the curve of his upper lip. She remembered his solid build was not unlike the men who handled his cattle and worked his fences.

Natalia settled into the chair, taking a sip from the glass of wine. “I trust you will be pleased with the relief your men will have from the supplied reward for their labors.”

“The coachman will have a token of our thanks when he takes you back, should be a busy day or two until then.” Brandt replied. “How is dear Leviticus? Does he keep you well treated and fed?”

Natalia smiled at the implied secret of their nature not unknown to Brandt. “Well enough that he offers two of our women to stay and keep your men warm and well tended.”

Brandt frowned as he drew from the cigar and slowly exhaled a stream of smoke like a dragon. “And exactly how much will this kind offer cost me.” Always the businessman, he was working the numbers.

“Twenty-five hundred for elder, who although experienced is less practiced and five-hundred for the challenge of troubled youthful exuberance which you take your leave of at your convenience. The one that remains will return to us in the spring more properly aware of her situation than she is now. We would throw in the services of a doctor for the usual wear and tear, but I am sure your camp physician would enjoy a change of scenery now and again at no cost to you.”

Brandt put a show of thoughtfulness at the pros and cons, while he watched her sip from her glass. “You have a deal. We should break even on room and board, but come out ahead even with their monthlies. Do I want to know the particulars of what they did to make them available to us as they are?”

Natalia rose from her chair and straightened her dress before she gently pushed the chair back in. The intake of breath from Brandt as her hands moved over her bodice had not gone unnoticed. “If I am not mistaken, there is a warm bath prepared for me, for which I will politely excuse myself to properly cleanse dust and other unmentionables from my travels. I shall also look forward to the comfort of your bedchamber when you retire. As to the young women and why they are here, make sure you keep an eye on loose coin around them. The fair Louisa may be a victim of association with youthful greed of Chandra, but let them amuse you at their peril.”

Brandt laughed in response as Natalia turned and moved toward the entry room, pausing at the archway before she turned back to him. “I have been told, on fairly good authority, that the distaste of monthlies can be adequately parlayed with the touch of a slick tongue and firm grip. Many have also alluded to one door opening as another seemingly closes for the duration.”

Nearly choking on his cigar at her inference, Brandt leaned back in his chair to consider her words as she removed herself from the room.

“Oh, how I love the idle word play of women with blood thirsty spirit. Worth every penny of pleasure and vein opened for their indulgence.” He mused to the empty room as he set the cigar down and finished his meal.

He would need the energy later, he was sure.

*   *   *

Leviticus LaRouchette stepped through the double doors of Goldman Palms tavern and found all eyes quickly upon him. Overturned tables, chips and cards lay at the feet of the crowd. The wounded dealer sat in a chair tended to by local whores while the roughed up drunkard sat dejected at the bar drinking shots as he waited.

“Finally, the tin man shows up. What took you so long ... lost your badge in the latrine?” he finished with a long, drawn out belch before he downed another shot and slammed the glass on the bar to pour another. “Or was it that ugly excuse for a lawless pistolina at the slender curve of your lady like side.”

LaRouchette calmly approached the man and grabbed his wrist with one hand, gently lifted the bottle with the other and dropped it to shatter behind the bar.

Fire flared behind the man’s eyes as he stood, his wrist still held by LaRouchette. “You ready to die, law man? I only need one good hand for the likes of a sod muncher like you.”

“As do I” LaRouchette seethed, spinning the man fast around and hard against the bar to place irons upon each wrist. LaRouchette turned to the whores who watched with sudden interest. “Will your dealer survive his wounds?”

“Yes, I think so.” The young red-head managed while the other just smiled as her hand seductively played with a strand of wayward blond hair.

“Dammed if I cannot kill you today” LaRouchette sighed dejectedly as he yanked the man from the bar and shoved him toward the door where one of the cells of the sheriff’s office waited.

“However, when the sheriff does return, that will be another matter entirely.” He mused with a smile.

*   *   *

Ezekias Brandt woke to the morning light of day, alone with a sudden rush of light headed hangover that spun the room above him.

He smiled with the knowledge that it was more the loss of blood and other more intimate fluids, not the whiskey ... this time.

Forcing himself to slowly rise to his feet, he moved to the window, a palm against the wall to steady himself as he loosed a stream with practiced aim into the piss-pot.

“No blood or swelling this time boys, I think she likes us.” He mused into the murky depths of the pot as he filled it. “Last time she left us sore to the piss and touch ... memory to relive another day, I am sure.”

Through the window, he watched one of the whores carry an armful of clothing to the coachman before she entered the coach.

“What about the two whores,” he had asked the previous evening, voice strained as she suckled his inner thigh, torn between wanting her to stop and urging her cool fingers further north instead of asking questions that may have already been answered.

“The young one is a problem in need of a solution.” She replied before the gentle touch of her tongue caressed his wound closed. Shifting her body she gently nuzzled his other inner thigh. “The elder should survive the winter and will be welcomed back in the spring if you no longer want her by then. Think of her as my gift to you for the duration. I may even bring bonus.” Her bite made him gasp as her hand found him and his memory became fuzzy.

Brandt shook his head and moved toward the closet.

“There are times I wish I had never had the pain and pleasure of that deviled woman.” He muttered, pained at the pull of his trousers. His men would make light of his shortened stride, but never know the true reasons behind it.

There was some pride to be properly sore after an adventure with such a woman.

*   *   *

Pandora’s predatory smile amused Natalia. “I wondered if the mansion kept you as busy as we were.” She gasped in surprise as Natalia moved to straddle her and push her head aside without warning.

“Call it my warm-up” Natalia hissed, her fangs buried quick and deep in the soft skin of Pandora’s exposed neck. Natalia rode out the dying woman’s instinctive struggle of fight or flight, not pulling back until the near last of her living essence had been devoured and her heart fluttered and struggled toward failure.

Back to her seat, Natalia thought of the woman across from her and waited patiently.

The two of them would have fun, once she recovered from the turn.

She was sure of it.

* * *

The End

Copyright © 2011 by Robert L. Sellers Jr. All rights reserved.
Please do not use without permission of the author.

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