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How Legends Are Born

Part 7 of 9

A Compilation

Images chased their way through the mind of Marshal Augustus Poe like a fox after a speeding hare. Only he was the hare running through the grass of the plains looking for a hole to hide in while the fox was hard on his trail.

Glowing white eyes of a woman with red hair, pale skin and a crooked smile of ruby covered lips faded to the image of an empty leather saddle atop a lone horse.

Smoke of a fired pistol rose to cover an ugly snarl on a man’s angry face as he yelled out in anger.

Dark eyes, watching from beneath the brim of a reaper’s hat, measuring him not for a pine box that would be big enough to hold him, but for the life he had led and the people that he had killed along the way. “Even the bad ones will cost you,” the reaper’s deeply graveled voice teased.

Everything seemed to come back to the empty saddle on the horse. Something was wrong, and he just could not figure out what it was or why.

Then with the rush of free fall, he remembered what had happened.

He realized he must be dreaming and all he had to do was wake up to clear his head of the images.

Opening his eyes, he saw a thin ragged grey line cross a rough plain of white. Like a river, it branched off here and there only to fade off into the sea of more whiteness. It took a moment for him to realize he was looking at a crack across the ceiling above him.

The dark skinned face of an angel appeared; framed as it was with pitch-black hair. Dark amber eyes looked intently into his as he looked back at the soft sculptured beauty of the angel.

Must have been an Indian woman that had found him, he thought. He could not remember any sign of Indians along the trail. Why was one looking at him now?

“Who the hell are you?” he managed to ask, his voice graveled and weak.

The dark angel turned away for a moment and then returned to apply a cool cloth to his forehead. He could not help but smile at how well the cool cloth felt. He was alive and not lying dead wherever it was that the g’ddamned horse had drug him; and he was under a ceiling. Indians did not usually have ceilings. He just could not figure out where he was or why he could not move his leg.

* * *

The young doctor Poe had come to know as Bracna helped him clean up and explained what injuries he had suffered. The Indian woman had found him and hauled his carcass in for medical treatment just in the nick of time.

He had run across the old healer many times, sharing more than a few campfire meals with him along the trails; but had never seen the woman with him. Perhaps the old man had not wanted anyone outside the tribe to know about her. Learning what Sioux the old man had shared would prove to be a good thing, he realized now.

Each breath reminded him of the broken ribs. He had been told that the bullet had left enough of his kneecap that he would not lose his leg, but would have to wear the brace contraption the doctor had made up for him from here on forward.

Leather straps above and below his left knee held hinged metal rods that would help support his weight and bent with his knee.

Running-Deer, as her name appeared to be, and Doc Bracna both helped him learn to walk with the brace, while careful not to re-injure his ribs. Tightly wrapped as they were, it would still take several weeks or longer to heal properly before he could even consider riding again. He began serious consideration of the effect the injuries would have upon his career as a marshal.

A few days later, Colonel Alvin Bonnet from Fort Danna arrived and presented himself, asking the doctor to leave them while he spoke to the Marshal. Bracna had taken Running-Deer with him as well, patiently explaining in broken French and Sioux that the nature of the Colonel’s visit was something of a private matter and would not concern them.

With reluctance she had gone with Doc, the look on her face telling what little she thought of the visitor.

The Colonel from Fort Dana was not quite six feet tall, with close cropped dark hair, a clean face and tanned olive skin. He looked to have a backbone of steel as he stood in the now empty room except for the two of them. His sharp blue eyes matched the dark blue of his uniform. Poe realized Bonnet was one of those rare individuals who got complete respect even if they had not been wearing a uniform that commanded it.

“If I did not know better, that Indian gives impression that she does not like the army or our officers. As she and I have just met, I highly doubt it would be my person that draws such hatred so soon.” Bonnet said with an easy smile as he removed his hat and set it on a nearby chair.

Moving to the dresser, Bonnet held up a bottle of whiskey that he found there, which Poe refused. “Doc says it mixes badly with the laudanum and might hurt the healing process. But he promises me I can pick up where I left off when I am back and properly fit.”

Bonnet simply nodded, pouring himself a glass and capping the bottle. “I have broken ribs myself chasing Indians on more than one battlefield; leg once as well.”

He moved to casually lean back against the windowsill. “That is a good woman you have there, Poe. You should keep her, strong women like that are hard to find; although a shade too red for the locals, unfortunately.”

Poe almost laughed. “She is not mine to keep, Colonel. It may actually be the other way around, given how we met.”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room as Bonnet sipped from his glass. He did not appear to want to give whatever news it was that he had brought with him.

“The others in the posse are all dead.” Poe said evenly without question.

Bonnet seemed to consider his response carefully. “At this point we are not entirely sure if they died then or are dead now. Other than finding you over here, we found little or no sign that the others of the posse ever came off that ridge.”

Poe closed his eyes, remembering the faces of the young men that he had led up that ridge and the gunfire they had heard before the cursed whore had appeared.

“I hear you met our charming friend Medusa and her card cheat colleagues.” Bonnet went on. “Two gentlemen who appear fast with cards and guns or so it would appear.”

“What the hell are they?” Poe asked, still not sure if he had actually seen the woman move as she had around the bullet.

“We are fairly sure that she is some type of mixed demon or vampire prodigy. The worst kind of vampire you can find these days. The other two remain somewhat of a mystery as to their exact nature.”

As much as it hurt, Poe chuckled at what he thought was an attempt at humor. “As opposed to good vampires, is that what you are really trying to say, Colonel?”

He saw the same thoughtful and straight expression on the Colonel’s face as he had seen on Tombs’ when they were talking about vampires.

Watching as the other man pulled a sheath of papers from his jacket, Poe took them when offered. As he unfolded them, he saw the letterhead of the United States Marshal’s Office printed in bold across the top of the first page.

Bonnet returned to the window as he watched the activity of the trading post outside.

“What the hell is this?” Poe finally asked with clear irritation. The letter officially spelled out that although he had been severely injured in the line of duty as marshal, his career would continue; but only after he accepted a transfer to a new branch of the military.

Prepared for the usual reaction that came from the news he had delivered to select individuals for several years, Bonnet braced himself. “A few years ago, we discovered that there are people amongst us who are not exactly as they appear. At first we thought there was an epidemic of sorts, but then it became clear what was occurring, and why.”

Poe looked up from rereading sections of the paperwork that he held. “You are talking about that whore and her companions?”

Bonnet looked somewhat amused at the question. “In actuality those particular individuals represent the ilk of the people that I refer to. Consider them no different than the criminal element we have amongst our own kind.”

Poe put the papers down and glared at the Colonel. “Spit it out, what exactly is the ‘our’ kind that you are referring to?”

“Scientists tell us there are some fairly strange and bizarre turns that nature has taken as part of the evolutionary process. This includes people who can use magic after a fashion, as well as those inflicted with what we would call a pox of sorts rendering them mutated from their original form. After the pox has settled in and taken hold of them, some require blood for sustenance while others apparently can shape-shift at will.”

Poe raised a brow at the last comment. “Please do not tell me you mean werewolves Colonel. That whisky may have gone bad and caused you to lose your head.”

Bonnet smiled in amusement at the overly familiar reaction. “We have come to call the shape shifters Lycans, Mister Poe. Many lycanthropic types can change into things other than the usual werewolf form that you have mentioned. I believe we have identified several variations that include werebears, but even they seem fairly rare and unique amongst their people.”

Poe’s eyes fell to the document before him as he grasped what the other man had just told him. Vampires existing were one thing, but these so-called Lycans were entirely another. He looked up at the Colonel. “Does silver still kill them? Or have the adventure books gotten that part wrong like they did with vampires and sunlight?”

“Silver nitrate mixtures have proven very effective, although I believe a silver bullet to the heart of any man, or woman for that matter, will kill them quite adequately.” Bonnet smiled wryly. “I should add that there are differing flavors, for want of a better term, of vampire out there. Some of them actually do suffer in the sunlight as the adventure books you refer to have stated so well. Not all of which they write is as fictional as you might think.”

He held up a hand to stop Poe’s next question. “I know what you are going to ask, others have as well. Yes, the Lycans heal almost as fast as the Vampires appear to. Vampires have to use blood they take to enhance the process, while Lycans must change form to heal their wounds.”

“My question was about what others that you have made reference to Colonel, but thank you for that other information. It is plenty helpful, too.”

“Ah, yes, the others. They have more to do with those papers that you have been reading than the creatures which we have been talking about.”

“It says here that I have been transferred to...” he paused, flipping through the papers. “To a branch of the United States Army, more exactly the Third Division, second Calvary under the command of General Armstrong Montgomery.”

“We call ourselves the General’s Secret Service. The other part is just bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to placate the accountants back in Washington.”

“Care to explain where I fit into this whole picture?” Poe asked evenly.

“As a member of the GSS you will be assigned as a sheriff to a town or city of our choosing. Once in place your job will not only be to enforce the law but to be on the lookout for variations of these creatures that might otherwise endanger the reputation of our country, or relations such as they may currently be with our more native friends.”

“Anything else I should know about?”

“This group and the specifics of its membership should be held in the strictest of confidence from any and all people not associated with us. Even those close to you outside of our group should not be aware of what it is that we do unless absolutely necessary; and then after much thought and consideration as to the result of their having such knowledge.”

“With all due respect, Colonel, this group of yours sounds more like some kind of twisted gentlemen’s club, than a service of the army.”

“The information we have on file tells me you have been a Freemason for several years, is this true, Mister Poe?”

Raising a brow at the mention of a group he had been active in off and on, Poe was puzzled. “Yes I am; third degree and Past Master. I fail to see how that has anything to do with what you have described so far.”

Picking up his hat and smiling as he put it on, Bonnet ran his fingers along the brim to make it straight.

“We are all brothers of a sort in this new adventure, Mister Poe. You might call it a requirement of sorts, especially when working with men you have to be able to trust inherently. For, you see, I, too, have been known to pay attention to the man in the black hat sitting in the East on occasion.”

Bonnet turned toward the door and paused. “Heal those wounds and have Mister Bracna wire us when you are ready for your assignment. We will expect notice by spring at the latest. I will leave it entirely up to you if you wish to bring that Indian with you. However, I might suggest a change of dress to lessen her impact on the locals, if you know what I mean.”

“I will let you know first thing, Colonel Bonnet, when I have made my decision.”

“No hurry, and welcome to the GSS. Your friend Tombs speaks highly of you and looks forward to having you in the fold, as it were.”

“I bet he does.” Poe muttered to the empty room after Bonnet had left. He heard a sharp whistle outside followed by the snap of a whip and the clatter of hooves as the Colonel made his way out of town.

“Just what the hell have you gotten yourself mixed up in now, Poe?”

* * *


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

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