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Dead Men Hanging

Part 2 of 2

Published: Bewildering Stories issue #166

* * *

He had first met Abigail Dorchester on New Year’s night almost three years ago. He could remember every detail of what had happened that night and often replayed it while out walking the town.

He had been making his usual rounds and was heading back to his office when he heard a soft groan as he passed a gap between two buildings.

Concerned that someone might be in danger he had drawn his pistol and quickly made his way toward the alley behind the buildings.

Much to his surprise, he found that it was not a woman that had been in danger, but a man. There was a woman there as well, with long black hair and wearing what appeared to be a ball gown; however, she was holding the unfortunate man’s neck against her lips as she fed from him.

Turning to face him as he approached, he saw her tongue dart out as it ran over fangs red with fresh blood while she let her victim fall to the ground. Her eyes seemed to glow like red embers in the darkness as she watched him.

Fortunately, this was not the first vampire he had run across or he would have shot her without any hesitation. Much like the giant grizzly, bullets only seemed to annoy vampires and generally just slowed them down or resulted in dead bystanders. Treating them as normal human beings had proven the best policy over the years when he had come across them.

For his own protection, he holstered his weapon and moved toward the fallen man. It was the infamous Michael Moorhen. His quick temper and meaty fists had landed him in the town jail on more than one occasion.

Without having to ask, the woman had moved away and watched as he knelt to check for the man’s pulse. “Good, he’s still alive.” Poe announced with relief. Turning his back to the woman, he pulled Moorhen up and dragged him over to leave him slumped against the building.

“With any luck he will think he passed out back here.”

The woman had wiped the blood from her mouth and looked somewhat normal by then. Normal as far as a vampire might be concerned, anyway. Her eyes no longer glowed, which was also a good thing, he assumed.

“Let’s take a walk before someone sees us back here with him, shall we?”

“You’ve met someone like me before.” The woman observed, wrapping her arm through his as they moved toward the street. “My name is Abigail Dorchester.”

“I’m Sheriff Augustus Poe, ma’am. But all my friends call me Poe.” So far so good, no one appeared to have noticed them leaving the alley.

“Does it not concern you how you found me back there?”

“That man has done worse to others in his day. As long as you left him alive I don’t have a problem with what would otherwise be nothing more than a minor assault.”

“Ah, so you have met others of my kind before.”

“Before I became Sheriff I was a United States Marshal, ma’am. We saw many strange things in our day. Vampires were just some of them. Do you have a place to stay while you’re here?”

He stopped as she turned to look up at the sky. He saw her smile at whatever it was she had seen. “So it’s true then, you can wish upon a star.”

“I suppose with your condition you get to watch them a lot.”

“What is it I can do for you now that we’ve met and you know what I am? I’m afraid it is rather unusual to meet someone who is not wary of us.”

“Well, to be honest, you have presented me with something that our town has been in desperate need of.”

Turning, they continued arm in arm down the boardwalk toward his office.

“What did you have in mind?” she asked, watching people heading toward the tavern on the other end of the street.

“Well, doctors are hard to find around here and given that folks like yourself tend to have been around a while, I figure you might have some experience in that area.”

She thought about it for a moment. “I suppose we might be able to help you out with that.”

“We?” he asked somewhat startled.

“My Sisters Grace and Valeria are traveling with me and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind settling down for a bit.”

“Good, so then we have a deal. I know of a house that is available and would suit you well with its remote location.”

“It has been a long time since we had a home that we could call our own. I like you more and more, Sheriff Augustus Poe.”

“Please, call me Poe. We may have something else to offer in exchange for your services now and then.”

“Really, and what would that would be?”

“Well, given the amount of use the gallows tree has seen over the years, it almost seems a waste of rope each time we have to hang someone. Perhaps you and your sisters might take care of that for us when it’s called for.”

“That does sound like a grand idea.”

“Waste not, want not,” Poe replied with a smile.

* * *

The men lay silent, unceremoniously shackled to bedposts and stripped to their waists. Boots, shirts and socks rested at the end of each bed.

Built much like the men chasing them, they looked deflated and weak now. When the brawl had broken out in Phoebe’s, it had taken several men just to get them under control once the gunfire had stopped. Even then, they had not surrendered easily.

The death sentences handed out and the method used to accomplish them seemed appropriate and just to everyone involved.

Signs of feeding were on their necks and chests. One was even missing a nipple. It was eerie how the wounds seemed clean of any spilled blood.

Abby lit several lamps as she made her way around the room. “May I ask what you will do with them?”

“Hang them from the gallows tree.”

That stopped her in her tracks as she turned to look at him. “Now that is something I would not have expected, hanging dead men from a tree. How... original.”

“You’ll know and I’ll know they were dead before we hanged them, but it’s the Posse chasing after them that has to believe they were alive when they were hanged.”

“And the fact that they are bloodless will not cause concern?”

He began gathering up the men’s shirts and boots. “If we do this right, they won’t bother looking that close.”

Somewhat amused, she watched him look for something to put the dead men’s clothing in. “Perhaps you should allow my sisters and I to do that for you. We have had some practice at this and can carry them ourselves with little or no trouble.”

“Good point. How soon can you have them ready?”

“Would tomorrow night be acceptable?”

Setting the clothes down on the end of a bed, he nodded. “Tomorrow it is. Then we can hang them.”

“Would you like some whiskey before you leave?”

Poe smiled. “Actually I hate to ask for another favor, but this brace has been acting up again.”

Abby moved toward the stairs. “Come along, your Doctor has some whiskey waiting for you upstairs as well as her tools.”

* * *

Bart Hollingsworth frowned as he looked up at the three men hanging from the tree. “You know, Sheriff, as much as I appreciate your help in locating these men, I would have preferred them alive.”

Poe noticed that none of the men with Hollingsworth bothered to get off their horses as they looked at the bodies swinging from the tree.

“Normally I would agree, however they managed to kill several people and Judge Williams is partial to swift justice and a short rope.”

Hollingsworth simply nodded. “We have a Judge like that back home who will be greatly disappointed that you beat him to the punch.”

“Do you want to take them with you?”

“No, go ahead and bury them when you get the chance. As long as we found them dead we have no need for them anymore.”

Poe signaled two men who began pushing a cart toward the tree.

“Sorry your trip was for naught.” Poe said, reaching out to pat Hollingsworth’s horse.

“You know how it is: you win some and you lose some. Good day, Sheriff.”

“Good day, Mr. Hollingsworth.”

Poe smiled as he watched the posse head home. “All in a night’s work, Mr. Hollingsworth, all in a night’s work.”

Walking back toward his office he smiled realizing that Abby had managed to adjust his brace well enough that he hardly even felt it now.

Good doctors were hard to find, and he planned to keep these doctors around for as long as he could.

* * *

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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