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How Legends Are Born

Part 4 of 9

A Compilation

The seven members of the Posse arrived at the base of Tungsten Ridge as the sun was reached a high point in the clear blue sky above them.

Poe tried not to think of how much each of the volunteers reminded him of the dead man that he had examined back at the Agarose.

Much like the unfortunate man who had last been with the whore Medusa, all were hardened ranch hands; thick-muscled with hard eyes and tough attitude toward anyone who would kill innocent people and think they would get away with it. Well practiced at staving off poachers from the cattle they protected, each was known as a crack shot and did not seem likely to cower in the face of danger.

They sat quietly the evening before, sipping whisky as Tombs laid out the suspected nature of who and what it was that they were going after and could very well be in wait for them in the morning.

None scoffed at the requirement to wear crosses and carry corked vials of holy water. They were all experienced men and willing to carry out their mission even after the wild story they had heard.

Given that bullets had not seemed to slow the things down properly, they strapped sheaths holding double-barrel shotguns to each saddle that would be within easy reach. While a bullet might pass through someone, a shotgun blast would just as likely cut the same person in half at close range.

When they reached the foot of the ridge, Poe sent two men off to the east with another pair dispatched to approach from the west. This left Rolleston, Bidwell and himself to ride up the middle as they hoped to block any attempt to flank them. The only route left for anyone at the lodge to escape would be to run further into the high mountains.

Poe and his men had just reached the edge of a wide meadow below the lodge when several shots erupted from the east causing flocks of birds to rise into the sky from nearby trees. Several more answered from the west. The high pitch snap of the gunfire indicated pistol fire, rather than the dull roar of shotguns.

“Well boys, it appears that we have lost the element of surprise.” Poe said evenly as they spread further apart. “I sincerely doubt they jumped a deer and thought they would take it while they were up here.”

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 that we are looking for?”

The woman 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, circle around and make sure she is alone while I talk to her. Remember to avoid her eyes any way that you can, and gentlemen need I remind you to 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, clothed in a flowing red dress with tan shawl wrapped around her shoulders, shorter than the men in the Posse. Long auburn red hair fell over her shoulders with a pale complexion to complete the image described earlier by survivors in the Agarose. Ample cleavage under the bodice and the soft features Poe 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, Poe 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, his finger casually rested over the trigger guard. He did not care if they claimed she had 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. Poe tried not to smile as he figured even a vampire’s brain might have trouble growing back after a shot like that. Once she was down, he would take the shotgun to her as they had planned.

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

“Are you the whore that they call Medusa?” He called out to her. “My name is Augustus Poe, Federal Marshal.” Even from this distance, Poe looked at the bridge of her nose rather than the depths of 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, her head tilted in allure as if to look her charmed best. “If so, I am sure that we could work out an agreement for my services. Perhaps there may be a discount for your friends as well in the offer.”

“We have been sent to collect you and your companions to face charges of murder at the Agarose Tavern over in Kasher Point. So I ask you again, are you the whore they call Medusa? If so, please call your men in and we will escort you back peacefully and with as little fuss as possible.”

The woman did not seem fazed in the least. “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 as kind 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 easy 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. Bidwell had not made any sound of warning.

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

Time seemed to slow down as he realized both his and Rolleston’s mistake. Instead of using the shotgun as they had originally planned, he had also resorted to a weapon that they were both far more comfortable using —- and which had already proven ineffectual against this woman or her friends, particularly at range.

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

Completing her miraculous spin, Poe was watching the whore leap at Rolleston when the bullet finished its journey and glanced off Poe’s left kneecap before imbedding itself in the buckle of his saddle.

Screaming with raw agony, Poe gripped his wounded leg and dropping the shotgun as his horse reared in fright and threw him from the saddle to begin to panicked gallop back toward town.

Providence favored Poe as he fell, his right boot hopelessly entangled in the stirrup as he found himself being dragged unceremoniously across the rough ground on his stomach while the crazed horse picked up speed with every step.

The last he saw of his posse was Bidwell’s horse with its head lowered to eat more grass while it watched him go by. Bidwell had not made a sound when they took him. He was just gone. Tombs was right, these things must be g’ddamn vampires.

Something hard hit the back of Poe’s head and everything went mercifully black as his horse dragged his body through the woods.

* * *


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

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