High Country Curse

Lightfinger, Bigfoot, and Vampire

I read a Facebook comment considering the fact that an adventuring party consisting of a Victorian gentleman thief, an old west gunslinger, a disgraced former samurai, and an elderly French pirate was plausible. I took this as an urban fantasy challenge and the following free story is the result. Copyright 2020 – All rights reserved.

The Samurai’s Tale: 1790

I was a man of intellect, reason, and action. I had no time for fantasy tales of vampires. Until I was disgraced and ready to die.

The saddest part of it all was that I had dishonored myself in order to save my daughter. It was a useless gesture as the lord I had abandoned sent another samurai and three farmers, to hunt us. An arrow in the back had ended my daughter’s life and now I faced another warrior whom I had trained with on many occasions. Alone, it would have been a fair battle but my dishonor meant he would occupy me while one of the farmers would attack from behind and hamstring me. As I fell, my opponent would remove my sword hand and carry off my katana, wakasashi, and tanto blades to finish my disgrace. I would not be granted an honorable death, but would be left to either bleed out or finish my days as a crippled beggar.

The four of them entered the light from my small campfire from different sides. They were moving slowly, taking their time, grim-faced.

Blinking away my tears, I stepped away from my daughter’s body, drew my blade and took a defensive stance. The warrior tossed aside the bow, drew his blade, and attacked. The first few blows were standard, expected, and easily deflected. He was toying with me. I could only track two of the farmers with their long pikes. I danced from side to side, hoping to avoid the crippling and cowardly rear attack.

Suddenly, my opponent’s eyes grew wide and he took several steps back. I pressed the advantage just as a scream from behind interrupted the ringing of our blades. A bloody pike flew past me and clattered against a tree. The other samurai and I both froze and his face held something I’d never seen him display in the past. Fear!

Another scream and another pike landed at my feet. A quickly-moving shadow caught our attention and we saw the remaining farmer turn and run. The shadow resolved itself into a slender man who was faster than anyone I’d ever seen. He grabbed the farmer by his hair and spun him around. The pike came around too, but it broke against the attacker’s forearm. The same arm snapped forward and ripped out the farmer’s throat. Before the body could fall, the slender man clutched it to his mouth and we heard ripping and sucking sounds.

The slender man dropped the corpse, turned to face us, wiped his bloody mouth on a sleeve, and spoke. “I believe the odds are much more even now, don’t you? Please take your time and continue.”

Swallowing the gorge raising in my throat, I turned my attention back to the battle at hand. Our steel rang loud and glistened in the firelight as we fought. My blade finally buried itself in his neck and, as he fell, his blade laid a furrow over my belly. Bleeding profusely and clutching my own entrails, I stepped back from his body and recognized the sound of applause.

The vampire was squatting, clapping, and smiling at me. “Well done. That was as fine a battle as I’ve seen.”

“Thank you.” I replied with a slight bow, as I raised the katana with one hand and prepared to engage the monster.

“Oh relax my friend. I’ve no plans to kill you tonight. I do believe you owe me a story though. Why were these men hunting you and why did they murder the child?”

I sheathed my blade, squatted by the fire and took a drink from a small bottle of saki. For a few minutes, I said nothing, just stared at the small body. “There was a battle and we were all fighting at the side of our lord. We were chasing the enemy from our streets when I heard my wife scream my name. She was running towards me, our child by her side, when an arrow took her life. She fell and our daughter stumbled and fell into a ditch. The enemy was still a threat, and our lord ordered us to continue. I disobeyed, rescued our daughter, and carried her away from that miserable place.”

The vampire nodded understanding. “It was a cowardly act for them to kill her with an arrow from the dark. I’m glad we ended them.” He looked up and I stared into eyes black as night. He held my gaze for a few moments, then looked away before speaking once more. “I have enjoyed watching your mastery of the blade. Teach me aido, the way of the sword, and I will heal all your wounds and grant you a very long life.”

I glanced down at the bloody mess of my belly. “You cannot save me. I’ve seen many wounds such as these and even if I should survive the night, my old lord will send others to finish the job.”

“Let them come. It you take me as your student, you will become as me. No one will stand against us.”

He appeared sincere, but I had to ask. “I just saw you rip apart three strong men with just your hands and teeth. What need of you for the sword?”

“I have lived more than two hundred years and am easily bored. I can speak and read a dozen languages and am always looking for new things to learn. I have plenty of time to learn and it would amuse me to be able to wield a blade as you.”

I held out the bottle of Saki. “Can you drink to the deal?”

He took the bottle, raised it in salute, and replied. “But of course, sensei.”

The Pirate’s Tale: 1830

I was beyond angry.

The last vessel we’d taken had been well-provisioned. We all should have been rolling in doubloons, but our thievin’ captain had taken most of it.

“What’s that ya be mutterin’ about, Jean-Pierre?” My English crewmate’s rough manner of speaking betrayed his ignoble birth and crude upbringing. No matter, though. He was a strong fighter.

“I’m just giving voice to my displeasure at our captain’s cowardly betrayal.”
He gave a wry laugh. “Aye. You’ve got that right. Throw us a party to celebrate and divide the spoils. An’ in the middle, sneak out and sail off, leavin’ us ta rot in this stinkin’ bayou. I tell ya, t’is not to be tolerated.”

“T’was my plan to take me share and buy me own ship. But now, I’ve another plan.” I turned to face him. “Since we’ve been abandoned together, if you’ll aid me in a bit of work, I’ll fair split the spoils.”

“Sounds fair ‘nuff. We goin’ sign on with another skipper?”

“I’ve kept my ears open the last few visits to New Orleans and have learned of an Octaroon witch who sells potions and amulets in the French Quarter.”

“Th’ witch o’ Canal Street? Are you sure that is wise?” He seemed visibly shaken. “I’ve heard many a tale o’ th’ horrors befallen those who’ve confronted her. She’s a voodoo queen.”

I barked a laugh. “Hah! Don’t be such a superstitious fool. The Good Lord will protect even those such as us from any pagan magic tricks.”

“Be that as it may, Jean-Pierre, but I’ll keep me distance, if all be th’ same to ya.”

With that, he took his leave and I turned away to pursue my goal.

Despite the late hour, the moon on high had many a drunk, gambler, and whore, cavorting the docks. None would pay me mind as I paused in the shadows and watched the last client leave the witch’s side-street home. She extinguished the oil lamp on the porch as well as the parlor light. The flickering glow of a candle revealed her passage to a back room. After only a few moments, that too, faded to darkness.

Patiently, I suffered the clouds of mosquitoes until the moon gave the only light. Slipping from shadow to shadow, I was gratified to know her home was well-maintained and not a single board on the steps or back porch groaned at my weight.
I’ll admit to surprise when a match flared and was used to light the whale-oil lamp. She was sitting, quite at ease, in an ornately-carved rocking chair and appraised me for several moments before speaking.

“Am I to assume you’re not here looking for spiritual guidance or a love charm?”

Her manner and speech indicated a proper education which seemed at odds with her reputation as a worshiper of pagan idols and unholy sacrifices.

“You are correct in that assumption, m’lady. I’m in desperate need of financing and it would appear you’re well enough in that regard, to provide me with some coin. If you’ll show me where you keep your wealth, there will be no need to shed blood this fine evening.”

With a fluid motion, she stood, turned to the door, glanced over her shoulder, and beckoned me to follow. She led me into a tiny, but clean, kitchen and placed the lamp on the counter. Several shelves were covered with bottles and flasks of a multitude of sizes and shapes. Some revealed dried fish, frogs, and other creatures I was loath to identify. The witch retrieved a heavy bit of black crockery, set it by the lamp, and removed the lid. She stepped back and nodded towards it.

“There are my earnings for this month, m’lord. Take what you will and leave me in peace.”

Wary of treachery, I lowered my cutlass and glanced into the jug. There were a couple of gold pieces and a handful of silver. “What’s this?” I asked. “Albeit small, this is a fine home and you’ve obviously more than a few clients. I was told you’re one of the wealthiest women in New Orleans.”

She gave me a half-smile. “Like most of the wealthy, I have learned not to keep every penny near my person. I support and trust both of the fine banks we have in this town. I never keep more than a month’s earnings here.” She waved her hand dismissively. “There it is. Take what you will and be gone. I’m tired and wish to sleep.”

I glared at her, but filled my purse with the contents of the jug and tied it to my belt. “I can’t believe someone as apparently well-brought-up and wise as you would be as impolite as to sneer at someone who is armed, such as I.”

She lowered her head and her eyes seemed to glow red in the pale lamplight. “You may think you’re safe with that shiny blade in hand, but I’m not without weapons of my own. Take care, thief! Leave while you still may.”

Angered beyond reason at her insulting tone, my cutlass whipped out and passed over her belly! She stumbled back, clutching her middle, while bright red lifeblood spurted between her fingers. She whimpered for a moment, then raised her head and gave me a look I’ll never forget.

In a harsh, gutteral voice, she declared, “As you have taken my life, I’ll grant you long life, but the curse of a coward. None but those of evil intent shall abide thee even as the years pass and your fortune grows.”

Despite the heat, I grew cold inside and took a step backwards as her clawed fingers struck towards my breast. Still pointing, she dropped to her knees, seemed to shrink into herself, and finally collapsed, face forward.

I knew she had lied, so took my time searching every jar and drawer. Sure enough, three more jars in the kitchen, a purse by her bed, and a fine leather shoulder bag, gave up their gold and silver with enough to purchase a fine ship and hire a crew.

The first gray light of false-dawn put the moon to bed and, as I walked out the back door, I smashed the lamp on the counter. The last few dregs of oil spread fire over the floor and on the witch’s body. By the time I reached the end of the block, the whole house was in flames and it threatened other homes. I cared not a whit.

The Thief’s Tale: 1885

“Damn it all to hell and back!”

Mother would have been appalled at my most unladylike cursing. But she was gone to her reward and if older brother had his way, so soon, should I.

Staring into the darkness of my cell, I despaired. For on the morrow, my fate was to feel the snug embrace of a rope, coiled to my head.

“Psst! Lady Terwilliger.” The harsh whisper had a familiar ring.

I stood up and peered through the small window. Flickering candlelight revealed a hooded figure. “Yes. What now do you demand of me?”

The lock rattled, the door swung free, and the hooded figure turned towards the light, to be recognized.

“Gentleman Jack!” I exclaimed.

She pressed a finger to my lips. “Hush you now! We must be off quickly and quietly. I’ve bribed the guards, but they cannot turn their backs forever.”

Two hour’s later, I found myself in the back room of a waterfront tavern. An open chest revealed garb suitable for a common sailor. My friend and savior placed her hands on my shoulders and faced me, head on. “This is where we needs part. You must don that apparel and board the ship at the end of the quay. The captain knows of your female identity, but has been well-paid to consider you nothing more than the son of a poor merchant family who is sailing as super-cargo. Within your seabag there is a purse with some coins that should give you a fair start in the colonies.” Her lips quivered slightly as I believe we both fought tears, then she kissed me. Hard. On the lips.

The captain was waiting at the foot of the gangplank and held out his hand. “Took ya long enough. We’re off on the tide, ya know.” He glanced from side to side, then continued in a whisper. “From now on, you’re Master James of James & Sons, Ltd. Understood?”

I nodded and spoke aloud. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll try not to be a bother. Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

In a louder voice, he replied, “Granted, Master James. I trust that once we’re underway, you’ll sup with me, in my cabin?”

“I would be honored, Sir.”

Later that morning, I really didn’t feel like eating as the golden light of early dawn revealed my younger brother’s corpse, hung for his highwayman ways, dangling from Traitor’s Gate. Our older brother would be rejoicing as he would now be sole heir to the estate and his purse would be full of the Judas silver he had earned by naming us as highwaymen.

We arrived in Boston harbor and I quickly realized the few coins m’lady Jack had bequeathed me were not enough to maintain the fine lifestyle of which I preferred. Thus I had no choice but to fall back upon the lightfinger skills my now-deceased sibling had taught. I was driven to take more care, however. With the help of a good friend, I had slipped the noose once. In this new land, I had no such friends should I grow careless. With that thought in mind, I moved among a Saturday market crowd, a tiny blade in hand, and cut three purses before I heard a cry raised. Heavy with my ill-gotten gains, I left town dressed as a rough-cut young man, atop a spirited horse and pulling a mule with the rest of my meager possessions. I had heard that gold and freedom was to be had in the far west.

The Skinwalker’s Tale: 1869

The soldiers came in the night. They stank of whiskey and laughed as they shot the warriors first, then the old men, and finally, with the butts of their rifles, they smashed my little brother’s head. There were more than a dozen of the white devils and it only took a few to hold my mother and I as they stripped and defiled us. One got too close while rutting and my mother bit off his ear. He screamed obscenities, stood up, one hand pressed against his head, and shot her twice in the chest and once in the face. I screamed then and he turned the weapon on me. I don’t recall hearing the explosion but well remember the burning pain as the bullet tore through my side. As I rolled over and curled up, one of the family dogs whined and licked my face. At that moment, the black magic called to me and I responded, pulling the poor animal’s soul into mine and it’s pelt seemed to expand and flow over my body.

I was known as Asdza, a medicine woman and valued for skills passed down through many generations. As many others before and after, I had been warned away from the dark arts.

The next morning, I walked into the village, covered in blood, with my clothing in shreds. I told everyone that the soldiers had attacked and I had been off behind a tree, relieving myself. I saw most of it before I was discovered, raped, and beaten unconscious.

They followed me back to our campsite and were surprised to find all the uniforms dead as well as my family. “What happened, Asdza? How did these men die?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. While I was hiding, I heard screams, but thought it was all our people.”

One of the elders looked up from examining a body and declared, “This is the work of
yee naaldlooshii, it goes on all fours, a skinwalker.”

I pretended shock and fear and they believed me… for almost a year.

The Gunslinger’s Tale: 1870

When you see buzzards circling, you’d best ignore ‘em and keep ridin’. I knew I was in injun territory and needed to be gone before dark. But, like mos’ fools, curiosity got the best o’ me and I decided to take a gander up the ravine to see what had died to attract so many carrion birds. Imagine my surprise to find a lovely squaw, nekkid, an’ staked out ta bake in the high desert sun.

I sat my horse for a good five minutes, hand on mah Colt, and carefully scanned in all directions. Satisfied we really were alone, I dismounted, and stood over the woman. She was quite young and nice to look at, but something told me she was nothin’ but trouble. After one more slow look around, I suggested, “Looks like you’ve really managed to piss off someone.”

She glared at me. “Free me… please.” It was almost a growl. “Free me quickly, before they come back and I will give you a great gift.”

“Lady, it appears to me that you don’t have a pot ta piss in. What could you possibly offer this poor old negro?”

She barked a laugh that startled my horse. I had to grab the reins to keep ‘im from runnin’ off.

“I offer a long life and the ability to terrorize your enemies.”

I just shook my head at her superstitious utterances as I pulled my Bowie knife and bent down to cut her bonds. “Most folks find a strong black man with a pair of Colts and a reputation like mine, pretty terrifying.”

She said nothin’. Just smiled.

As I cut the last thong and helped her to stand, she grabbed my wrist in one hand, wrapped her other hand in my bearskin, and laughed. The laugh turned into a growl as the fur seemed to flow over her entire body. I heard myself scream as pain, mixed with anger, coursed through my veins. When my vision cleared, she had been replaced with a grizzly. I tried to draw a pistol, but my paws only stroked the fur on my side! The grizzly ran away and my horse tore off in the opposite direction. I tried to ramble after it and came to a small pond, hidden by rock walls on three sides. My reflection explained much. Although standing on two legs, I appeared as a giant animal, covered in a shaggy golden fur, and long of claw and fang. Legends I had heard as a child came to mind and I gave a hoarse whisper. “Sasquatch!”

Death at Sea: 1890

We had grown bored. Over the past thirty years, my pupil had learned all I could teach and was, in every way, my equal in wielding a katana. In turn, he had been teaching me languages, the art of the paintbrush, and how to be a vampire.

Our boredom had led to a mutual decision to take passage on a square-rigger headed to California, in the Americas.

“Good evening, Master Sadakichi. I’m glad to see you’ve survived the sickness that drove you to your cabin almost as soon as we left port.” The captain seemed friendly enough, but there was a stench of death about him that was even more disagreeable than body odor.

Nonetheless, it was my understanding that he was both master and commander of the fine vessel and with a good wind, we were on our way. “Thank you, Captain. I think I prefer the ocean at night. During the day, I find the endless vistas tiring and a bit disquieting.”

He slapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll become fast friends on this trip. Please call me Jean-Pierre.” He looked around. “And where, might I ask, is your traveling companion?”

“He has decided that our cabin is quite enough for now. I shall be retiring shortly, as well.”

I thought it strange, the short nod and smile Jean-Pierre wore as he strode off.

A few days later, we were in sight of land. Rugged mountains and deep green forests filled the horizon. It was late afternoon and our captain had promised we would anchor in the morning. For some odd reason, I felt agitated and had woken up earlier than usual. No one had noticed as I slipped from the cabin and took shelter in the shade of a thick mast. Since I was still young, for a vampire, I had no real problem with direct sunlight except that it hurt my eyes and my pale flesh would sunburn quite easily.

A flock of seagulls were following us, looking for scraps, while a splash to one side revealed one of those huge black and white fish, chasing seals. It was a pleasant scene until I heard a short scream, ending with a gurgle.

I ran back and was reaching for the cabin door, when it burst open. Our captain was the first through and he was holding a shiny revolver.

“There you are, you bastard. Time to follow your friend, to hell.” He fired and I felt the bullet tear through my side, bouncing off a rib.

I knew only a direct shot to my head would kill me, but I let him think I was mortally wounded, and dropped to one knee.

Two more crew stepped from the cabin. One held my friend’s katana in a one-handed, clumsy grip. His other hand held a head. They had surprised him as he slept and decapitated him. Anger gave me strength and I moved faster than most mortal eyes can follow. My open hand stabbed the sailor’s throat and collapsed his windpipe. As he fell, I grabbed the katana, swung around, and sliced the other sailor’s throat. A fan of arterial blood framed Jean-Pierre and he fired two more shots. One went wide and the other merely nicked my shoulder. Before he could get off another shot, I slapped the weapon from his hand.

He stepped back and gave a wicked smile. “You don’t think I know what you are? The sun is still up and you’re weak.”

I glanced around and realized that aside from the sailor at the helm, the rest of the crew surrounded us. There were more than twenty of them.

“Are you all sure you want to do this?” I growled.

One of them, wielding a cutlass, lashed out at me. I grabbed his wrist with the blade, and felt the small bones shatter. As the light sword dropped, I grabbed it.

Once again, I was moving faster than most mortals, evaded their other blades, and started slashing. All that exercise and blood on the deck made me hungry, so I only crippled the last three sailors. One at a time, I drained their lifeblood, then hurled the corpses over the rail.

Refreshed, healed, and enjoying the last few glimmers of red sun on the waves, I was ready to finish the captain.

He held a double-barreled shotgun. The first shot tore at my left arm, but did no real damage. It would heal before morning. The second shot missed because I had shoved the barrels to one side. Unfortunately, it caught the helmsman full in the face.

I grabbed the captain and bit his throat, fully intending to drain him as I had already done to the others. That lasted only a few seconds until I tasted the wickedness that gave rise to the horrible odors. I was forced to throw him aside, gag, and puke his foul blood. Hearing laughter, I looked up from my sickness to see his neck wound rapidly drawing closed and healing, before my eyes.

The captain rubbed his neck and informed me, “That witch cursed me with long-life. So far, I fail to see it as a curse. Even a foul demon such as yourself cannot abide my taste.”

I thought about his words and something occurred to me. “I’ll grant I’m unable to stand your taste or stench, but what of the ravenous fish that follow this fine ship? Your crew is dead and you cannot handle it yourself. What if I were to hurl you overboard right now?”

If it were possible, his face blanched even more and the wicked smile was lost. “As a sailor, I’m sure you’re a good swimmer, so you might be able to make land from here. Rest assured, however… If you survive, I’ll find a way to end you.”

Without waiting for his reply, I rushed forward, grabbed his arm, swung around hard, and threw him like a bag of rice, over the rail. I watched as he swam towards shore.

Even a shark wouldn’t eat him.

Kindred Souls:1891

The full moon called to the beast within and I had grown accustomed to spending two or three nights out of every month, roaming the forest, hidden from mortal eyes. This night was different, however. A half-dozen men had been following me. They kept their distance, but I knew they weren’t out for an evening constitutional. I was approaching a popular campsite that was nestled in a cleft in the rocks when they galloped forward.
I turned my horse to face them and kept one hand on my Colt. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

They kept their hands on their reins, but all had holstered sidearms. The leader appeared to be a red-faced drunk I’d seen in the saloon on many occasions. “We were watchin’ you, nigger. An’ we don’ appreciate your kind starin’ at our wimmin.”

“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage. What are you talking about?”

“Don’t lie to us!” He spittled at me. “We saw yer flirtin’ with that white woman as you left the saloon.”

“She was coming in as I was leaving. I held the door, she thanked me, and I wished her a pleasant evening. There was no flirting, merely good manners.” I tried to appear nonchalant, but had to worry. A few pellets or a single bullet to this body, might hurt like the dickens, but I would heal quickly. A close blast from an old scattergun or a single large shot to the head might, indeed kill me. Shifting to the sasquatch took a few seconds and I was fairly certain that these men would be able to fill me full of lead before I could deal with them.

One of them had been hanging back, using the others as a shield. He drew his gun and shot me! I felt the burning pain of a bullet passing through my upper arm. Before things had a chance to escalate, a slender chink jumped from a ledge, screamed defiance, and used a long sword to decapitate one of my assailants. He spun around and a hand holding a gun that had been swinging his way went tumbling off, into the brush. I took advantage of his distraction and got off two shots, killing the drunken leader and the only other fellow looking my way.

I figured the chink was a goner with all the lead flying his way, but I threw myself off my horse, rolled into the brush and called to my inner beast. A few seconds later, all seven foot of Sasquatch stood up and screamed defiance at the enemies… Only there were none left. The clearing was littered with dismembered bodies.

He glanced around, smiled at me, sheathed his sword, wiped blood from his face with a scrap of cloth, clasped his hands together, and bowed. “It appears we are much alike, my friend.”

I started to growl, thought better of it, and shifted back to human. “What sort of chink are you?”

He shook his head. “I’m afraid you are quite wrong. I’m no Chinese. My name is Sadakichi and I’m from Japan. I am both Samurai and a vampire.” Before I could comment, he continued. “We both have a beast within that craves blood. You appear as a great shaggy bear, while mine is a bit more subtle, but nonetheless, a killer. Let us move along and find another campsite where we are not surrounded by corpses.”

I nodded and held out my hand. “Pleased to meet you Mister Sadakichi. My name is Tom Colt.”

He shook my hand. “Just Sadakichi is fine as we are to be friends, Tom.”

I calmed my horse, mounted up, and reloaded my pistol. My new friend ran off so fast, I almost missed him. A few moments later, he rode back down the ravine on a black mare. He led us off the regular trail for another mile or so before setting camp and trading tales.

As Sasquatch, I rambled in from hunting, just as false dawn revealed deep shadows. As a man, I started a small fire for our coffee and some trail grub. “You want anything, Sadakichi?”

“I’ll take a cup of that fine coffee when it’s through. I’ll skip the jerky for now.” He strapped his bedroll behind the saddle, then squatted by the fire. “So, you’re hunting an Indian skinwalker and I’m hunting a murderous sea captain. It appears as if fate has thrown us together, Tom. I’ve heard a rumor that two people matching that description are running a mining camp whorehouse.”

This caught my interest. “Do you know where?”

He smiled and nodded. “I was on my way there when I interrupted your lynching, last night.”

“Thank you for that, by the way.”

“You’re quite welcome, my friend.”

Petticoat Prisoner:1893

I was sick and tired of being Gentle James, the gambler, and looking forward to converting some of the gold in my saddlebags into a fine home in San Francisco. This mining camp seemed just as dirty and depraved as the last few as I had worked my way over the mountains. It would be good for a hot bath, a meal, and a night’s sleep with a roof over my head.

Feigning shyness, I had run off the bath girl as soon as my tub was ready. Before the water had a chance to cool, the door opened to reveal a dark-skinned woman and a huge hulk of a man. A foul stench entered with them. “What is the meaning of this? Get out! I paid for a private bath.”

“See there, my captain? I told you it wasn’t a boy. I smelled woman the minute she passed the bar.” The woman wore a corset over a dress slit to the hip and a nasty smile.

“You’re right as usual, m’lady.” He stepped forward.

I grabbed the gun from beside the tub, but before I could bring it to bear, he swatted my hand and the weapon clattered against the back wall. He grabbed my wrist and yanked me up so I was exposed and flinging suds and water.

“You bastard!” I screamed. “I’ll have you hung for this.”

His other hand slapped me so hard that I think I lost sense for a moment. My ears were ringing and I punched his vest. He ignored it.

“She’s a bit scrawny, but should make a fine addition to our stables.” He called a name and another man, entered, carrying a chain and several small iron rings.

Despite my kicking, he managed to grab an ankle and lock one of the rings around it.

The next few weeks found me chained to a filthy bed where I was used and abused by strangers.

Eventually, the witch and the captain decided I was broken enough or they were short-handed, and gave me a threadbare dress, corset, shoes, and let me serve behind the bar. After few hard beatings, I had learned not to complain, and just kept my head down.

I was beginning to think I should have just let them hang Lady Adelphia Terwilliger alongside her brother.

The Dirty Scupper: 1893

We rode into town shortly after sundown and I saw the Chinese fella sittin’ on the train station platform. We dismounted and I approached him. “Good evening, sir.” He glanced my way and ignored me. I held up a penny. “Can you tell me where my friend and I can get lodgings and a meal?”

He snatched the copper and pointed towards the far side of town. “Only one place in town will accept yer kinda folk. Down that street you’ll find the livery, a butcher’s shop, and the Dirty Scupper Hotel facing them.”

We left our horses at the livery and walked over to the Dirty Scupper. It was aptly named.

“Hello, gentlemen.” The barkeep couldn’t help but see our dusty clothing and saddlebags. “What can I get you, this fine evening?”

“Good evening to you as well, sir. My friend and I are looking for some drinks, a meal, a bath, and a place to lay our heads that doesn’t smell of horse.”

He chuckled. “Go ahead and grab that empty table over by the piano. I’ll have a girl bring your drinks. The cook will rustle up a hearty stew and buttered bread.”

I handed him some coins and he told me what room he had free. We declined the offer of a couple of whores.

When we had drinks in hand, I noticed Sadakichi was looking nervous. “What’s the matter? You see something I didn’t?”

He shook his head. “No. Not see. Smell. He’s here, someplace, Tom.”

“He who… you mean the Captain?”

Sadakichi gave a brief nod. “He stinks of rotten meat. He is either in this building or he’s walked through in the last few hours.”

“Well, you can’t very well behead him here in public. Let’s eat, get some sleep, and I’ll look him up and see about talking him into meeting someplace a little more private tomorrow.”

A barmaid brought two large bowls of stew with a skinny loaf of bread laying on top of each one. I heard a quiet rattle of metal, looked down, and realized her ankles were shackled so she could only take short steps. When I looked up at her face, I expressed surprise. “As I live and breath. Lady Terwilliger. What are you doing here?”

She glanced over her shoulder. “Keep your voice down. The pair that own this place took all my stuff and told the sheriff I was their slave. They give the sheriff free drinks and pussy whenever he wants, so he doesn’t argue.” She glanced aside. “Who’s your friend?”

“Sadakichi, I want you to meet Lady Adelphia Terwilliger. We also know her as Lady James. Lady, this fine fellow is Sadakichi. He’s a sam guy.”

The warrior winced, then gave her a quick bow. “The word is Samurai.” He continued. “And it is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Terwilliger.”

She put her hands together and gave him a bow in reply. “The pleasure is mine, Sadakichi San.”

His eyes narrowed and he gave a half-smile. “It appears as if Lady James knows something of my people. We cannot allow her to remain in this sad state.”

I nodded. “Agreed, my friend.” I turned back to her. “Please be patient for another day or so and we’ll see about springing you.”

That warranted a quick smile. “Just be very careful. The owner and his partner are nasty bits of work. He stinks worse than any man I’ve ever been around and she is a bloodthirsty bitch.”

Sadakichi gave a wide smile at this. “May I hazard a guess that he was a sea captain?”

I added. “And she’s a skinny Navajo woman?”

She gave a hesitant nod. “How the hell did you know that?”

The Plan

Our meals done and we were headed upstairs when I caught the scent. I paused and whispered low. “Is that stench what I think it is?”

While I always had a pair of Colts hanging low, Sadakichi wore his katana on the left for a cross-draw. His face was grim and a hand rested on the hilt as he muttered, “Jean-Pierre”.

The foul smell grew stronger towards the end of the hall. Our room was the middle of three on the front side. Once the door closed, I dropped my saddlebags and sat on the bed. “What do you think, my friend? Should we try for that bath?”

He gave that half-smile and shook his head. “I think we would come out smelling even worse and might not come out at all.”

“I’m glad we’re of a like mind. Lady James said the witch is the only one who can stand to be in the same room with him. How do you want to play this?”

“Your friend said they come down at closing to chase off the last of the drunks and count their earnings. Why don’t we surprise them on the way back to their room?”

That seemed like a good idea, but I wanted more details. “The Captain can heal wounds, but I agree with you that he probably can’t heal losing his head. As long as the witch isn’t able to shift into something or someone else, I’m of the opinion she won’t survive a belly-full of lead.”

“What of your Lady?”

I considered for a moment. “I’ll see if I can pay for her services for the night. She can leave with us.”

“Good. I believe I can remove her chains.” He thought a moment. “After the Captain and his witch go to bed, you can start a fire in the kitchen, just under their room. Then you and the Lady wait at the foot of the stairs. I’ll wait here, with the door cracked. When they pass, I will take the Captain’s head. When the witch starts down the steps, shoot her.”

“What of the rest of the folks?”

He gave me a wide smile, with a rare display of his fangs. “As you well know, my friend. It is in my nature to feed on such rabble as these drunken miners.”

Hunter and Prey

I asked the barkeep for Adelphia. He said she was busy with another client, but he’d be done soon. I gave him a penny tip and he said he’d let me know when she was available. It amused me to think of introducing him to Sadakichi.

Upstairs, I walked slowly down the other wing until I got to the room number she had told me was hers. No one was in sight, so I pulled my Bowie knife, and as quietly as possible, I cracked open the door. Adelphia was standing next to the bed, a dress over the footboard, and wearing only a corset. She didn’t look happy.

A large man had his back to me. His pants were down around his ankles and I saw a gunbelt and boots at the end of the bed. The Lady’s eyes grew wide when she saw me and she gave a small shake of her head.

The man looked up, saw her expression and turned towards me. “What the hell, boy! I didn’t call for no fuckin’ room service.” Then he saw my knife and he dove for his gun.
He stumbled as his jeans tripped him and I kicked his knee. He fell hard. Before he could yell, I jabbed the knife in the side of his throat. Only a quick whine and some gurgling ensued. I sat on his legs to keep them from pounding on the floor and attracting attention. “Adelphia, get dressed quick! We’re leaving.”

She pointed at her ankle cuffs. “What about these?”

“Sadakichi can remove them. We’re leaving now.”

“You just murdered the sheriff. They’ll hunt us all down for a lynching.”

I grinned. “Not if this place and everything in it burns to the ground, tonight.”

She put on the dress and I carried her to our room so the chains wouldn’t rattle in the hallway. As Sadakichi revealed his skill with a small metal pick, she suggested, “Don’t kill the barkeep right away. Get him to open the safe in the office behind the bar. Those two don’t trust banks and that has my stuff as well as all the gold they’ve gotten from the miners. I’ll start the fire, then meet you behind the livery.”

I looked at my vampire friend and, after a moment, he agreed.

Only a pair of candle-lanterns were lit on either end of the counter as the barkeep was cleaning his stuff. He saw the Lady and I coming down the stairs and reached for his shotgun. “What the hell you two doing down here? And where are your chains, slave?”

The Samurai dropped from the balcony, tore the shotgun from his hands, and grabbed him by the throat. I had seen his grip strength on several other occasions and knew the barkeep would be unable to break free. Sadakichi lifted the struggling man over the counter by his throat, carried him with one hand, back to the office, where he threw him down, against the huge safe.

“Open it.”

Stuttering, he replied, “I… I can’t…”

Adelphia grabbed my arm when she saw the Samurai’s fingernails turn into wicked claws and his fangs descended. I patted the back of her hand and whispered, “Don’t worry. He may be a blood-sucking demon, but he’s my friend. And besides lightfinger… we all have secrets, don’t we?”

The barkeep tried to back up against the safe, staring in horror at the vampire. He pissed himself, tears were flowing, and he was blubbering in fear.

The vampire smiled and saliva dripped from his fangs. Speaking softly, he ordered,

“Open the safe now, or I will peel you like a grape.”

It took two fumbling attempts before the barkeep made his fingers work on the combination. When the door swung wide, he tried to scramble away from the predator. In an instant, the vampire lunged and a single swipe laid open the poor man’s neck.

We watched him take a few, quick gulps of the gushing blood, then wipe his mouth with a bar towel and turn to us. “Take what you will and be ready, my friends. I’m going to wait for our hosts to awaken when they smell smoke.”

The safe held four pairs of saddlebags. Each was heavily-laden with gold. There were also bundles of large bills and smaller bags of what I imagined was gold dust. Adelphia was awe-struck.

“Don’t be greedy!” I warned her. “Only take what you can carry.”

She nodded and grabbed one of the saddle bags. “These are mine.” She hefted it, then opened both flaps, and added a couple bundles of bills and a few coins. I hefted each of the remaining pairs, chose the heaviest, and followed her lead to top them off.

She lit a whale-oil lamp from a candle then,with the bags slung over one shoulder, she kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll be waiting at the livery.”

I stationed myself in a doorway at the top of the stairs and waited for Adelphia to set fire to that end of the building.

It wasn’t long before I smelled some wisps of smoke and muffled cursing came from the end of the hall. The door slammed open and the witch came out, wearing nothing more than a silken robe. The captain followed and, as he passed the first door, Sadakichi stepped out behind him and, with a single, powerful stroke, decapitated the man.

The witch turned just in time to see the pirate’s head bounce from the wall and roll to her feet. The corpse stumbled two more steps before collapsing against her. She screamed, scrambled back, and pushed the body away from her.

The samurai raised his blade in a defensive position and I saw her reach down and grab the pirate’s hand. In a moment of time, he body flowed like clay and suddenly, my friend was facing the captain again. This time, he was naked and angry.

Before they could engage, I shot the skinwalker in the buttock. It screamed and dropped to one knee. I knew it could heal as fast as I could, but I didn’t give it a chance. Two more shots to the chest, then I walked up, placed the barrel inches from its head, and blew its brains all over the floor.

With all the ruckus, three more doors opened. One whore, clutching a robe, ran for the far window and made herself scarce. The two men each had guns and they pointed them our way. I shot one in the face and the other shot and grazed my shoulder. My last shot took him in the chest.

“Did you leave some gold for me, Tom?”

“More than you can carry is in the safe, Sadakichi San.”

Smoke and flames covered us inside, but outside, several people stared as the two of us were laden with saddlebags and covered in blood.

Fangs glistening, the vampire growled at me. “These are all witnesses. Go my friend. I’ve worked up quite an appetite and they will do nicely.”

I didn’t argue.

A man came out of the livery and pulled a gun on me. “Stop right there!”

With no chance to reload, I dropped my stuff and let the sasquatch take over. A single panicked shot went wild and I broke my opponent’s neck by smacking his head almost off his shoulders. I looked around, saw Adelphia watching me from the side of the livery barn. I shrugged and changed back to a naked human.

Her eyes went wide, she tilted her head, then smiled. “You’re right, cowboy. Looks like we do all have secrets.”

~ The End ~


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