November 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm #561191RPGMP3 Newsbot
- Posts : 1658
Check outÂ Dirty Deeds, the latest Saddlebag expansion for Doomtown: Reloaded.Â In stores now!
The Ballad of Mario Crane, Part Four
by Jeff Bailey
Stakeouts. Theyâ€™re horrendous with a good partner. Itâ€™s worse with Bippy gnawing at my dreams. New York was never like this. New York had its problems, but hell â€¦ I never died there.
Iâ€™ve been watching Soddum for over a week. I havenâ€™t seen the man Iâ€™m looking for yet â€¦ Sloane. Iâ€™m guessing he rules from inside one of the buildings here, a general in his headquarters. Thereâ€™s precious few buildings left: an abandoned saloon where the gang drinks, some houses with torn walls, and some cabins, all either new or built by those who now call it home. Itâ€™s not a question of where. Itâ€™s how to play my one chance to find him before I get spotted.
Iâ€™ve learned Sloaneâ€™s gang. There are a few leaders. The most senior appears to be the man with the cards. The woman gives her share of orders, too. She talks short, like sheâ€™s delivering messages. When I met them, the three of them were it. Now theyâ€™ve got a small army under their heels.
I see a lot of run-of-the-mill bandits, who occasionally drift into town. A Mexican rides in and out every few days. Lookouts walk patrol routes. It took a few days to suss out the weak spot I wanted. Or rather, the weak man.
Iâ€™m always surprised gangs allow drunks. Theyâ€™re erratic, believe just about anything â€¦ and theyâ€™re often known for making up things. So their first report of trouble is often ignored.
I watched him last night, and Iâ€™m watching him tonight. Like clockwork, he starts singing too loud for the irritable types in the bar room, they throw him out, and he heads for the outhouse. I sidle up so that when he opens the door, Iâ€™m right in his face, gun drawn. He almost lets out a yell, but a hard barrel swipe to the cheek quiets him.
â€œThe man with the cards. British talker. Where does he sleep?â€ I ask. But I already know.
â€œI-I donâ€™t know. And I wouldnâ€™t tell ya. You try anything in this town, youâ€™re a dead man.â€
I smile at his words while shoving him against the outhouseâ€™s back wall. â€œStay there. Iâ€™ll be back when itâ€™s done.â€ I jam a stick in the handle, just thin enough to buy me time to get out of sight. And just like every drunk, he wants to be a hero.
Iâ€™m at the back door to card shufflerâ€™s house thirty seconds before the drunk gets to the porch. Iâ€™ve got my hand on the latch, waiting.
*bam bam bam*
*BAM BAM BAM*
Shouting upstairs. â€œBloody hell. Someone better have a reason for waking me up!â€
â€œMister Jonah, sir! Thereâ€™s an assassin lookinâ€™ fer ya,â€ the drunk yells.
Jonah. I memorize the name.
Feet thud on the floor above. I test the knob. The slight give says itâ€™s unlocked.
Angry mutterings accompany footsteps descending the stairs, followed by the opening of a door.
I open this door right in time with the other. I pull it closed behind me — I found a lot of burglars by looking for open doors — and move into the dark hallway. The angry conversation both guides me and covers my footsteps. I could have done this last night, but getting into a manâ€™s house unheard is tricky. Getting into a manâ€™s house while heâ€™s shouting at a drunk at the front door â€¦ thatâ€™s easier.
â€œâ€¦ get the hell off my porch, Jimbo. Wake me again, it wonâ€™t just buy you a broken tooth.â€
I hear cards shuffle, and a moan of terror. Jimbo believes the cards arenâ€™t for show, and heâ€™s a regular here. Sometimes I trust a drunk.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Jonah.â€ Jimbo gives a shaky laugh. â€œMustâ€™ve heard wrong.â€
I ease into the front hallway. I see Jonah lit from one of the very few street lamps. I slip forward quiet foot by quiet foot, gun in hand.
Jonah slams the door. Showtime.
Click. â€œDonâ€™t move â€¦ shout â€¦ so much as flip a card.â€
His eyes roll sideways to see a face. I show him Colt steel.
â€œHands up and empty. Donâ€™t think youâ€™re too important to shoot. Youâ€™re just not worth a bullet â€¦ yet.â€ He drops the deck and raises his hands.
â€œSo youâ€™re not an assassin â€¦â€
â€œThe back room.â€ I saw it on my way in. We move slowly, but with no trouble. He seems to know Iâ€™m not in the mood to talk yet not of a mind to kill him.
I donâ€™t know what it means that I see so well in the dark these days, but itâ€™s a gift. Most people would say â€˜adjustedâ€™; I donâ€™t think that quite fits. I spot a chair near a stove and point to it.
â€œSit on your hands.â€ He does. Itâ€™s awkward and leans him forward. Itâ€™s not handcuffs, but it doesnâ€™t have to last long. Now heâ€™s facing me, looking equally confused and suspicious.
â€œSomethinâ€™ familiar about you, mate. I know you from somewhere?â€
I look him in the eye. Have you attended so many murders? I move my hand to my lapel.
â€œLetâ€™s see if this jogs your memory, Jonah.â€ I had already unbuttoned my shirt. I move my coat aside enough for the hole to show. He doesnâ€™t gasp, doesnâ€™t cry out, but does grow attentive. Jonah knows more than me about the dark forces in the world. I button up and play my opening card. â€œDonâ€™t try anything. You and your friends had your shot. Itâ€™s my turn.â€
Jonah leans back as far as he can without moving his hands. â€œMister. Youâ€™d better –â€
I punch him in the gut. I pull back the force a little, but itâ€™s still harder than most human punches. He coughs a little blood, but somehow keeps his hands under his legs.
â€œYou donâ€™t get to say what Iâ€™d better anything. You do get to tell me where I can find Sloane. You get to give him up to me.â€
He blinks twice. I slowly pull back the hammer and rotate the cylinder. Itâ€™s full.
â€œUm, heâ€™s â€¦ in the cabin on the north side of town. Thatâ€™s a right mansion in these parts.â€ I review my observations. The blonde was there several times. Sheâ€™s still his girl, apparently. He notices my thinking.
â€œSo whatâ€™ll you do this time? He got you once; heâ€™ll get you again.â€ He sneers — an achievement while heâ€™s still coughing from my punch — and chuckles. â€œAll youâ€™ve done is show me where not to shoot.â€
I shake my head. â€œSomeone might get that shot, Jonah. But it wonâ€™t be you.â€ I cold cock him, and with the tiniest of crunches, Jonah folds like a nine-high hand.
I slip out the back. I know where Iâ€™m going, and I know the patrol routes. As I said, my eyes are dark now. I might have guessed where his lair was; itâ€™s where the lookouts keep the tightest focus during the day.
It takes a few minutes, but I get there. The shack has a few windows. I see a figure at a table with a bottle of liquor. The gleam of metal tips me off thereâ€™s a light inside and a gun on the table. I donâ€™t have time to wait for him to get drunk. The patrols will find me before I get in. So I do this loud and proud with a single kick.
The door slams open.
Three shots come at me. The first one takes me in the shoulder, going straight through. It stings, but it doesnâ€™t bleed. The second and third prove how good a shot he is. They go straight through the hole, almost on top of each other.
The lantern on the bedside table shifts in the commotion. I see long, dirty blonde hair â€¦ womanâ€™s hair. Thereâ€™s nobody else here. I draw a bead, but donâ€™t shoot. It might be a mistake, but dying gave me more patience than before. And I wonâ€™t make things right by becoming what Iâ€™m hunting. Iâ€™m rewarded for my forbearance when her gun clicks empty. I see loose bullets on the table and grin.
She glares at me coolly, but drops the gun. She studies my face, then looks at the still-smoking holes in my coat. She watches the fabric blow outwards a bit as the wind comes in from the open door. She folds her arms in front of her, hands on elbows. Itâ€™s not quite â€˜hands-up,â€™ but itâ€™s not openly threatening.
Her voice is icy contempt. â€œYouâ€™ve taken two rounds to the chest, but I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m the first to shoot you there.â€ She studies me as I take in this unexpected scene. â€œYouâ€™re calm for a monster.â€
My hand tenses on the trigger. She sees it, but doesnâ€™t flinch.
â€œThe man you ride with is the monster! Where is he? Where is Sloane?â€
She softly chuckles. â€œI am Sloane. Ask anyone out there.â€ She smirks. â€œExpecting someone else?â€
I pull the hammer back with my thumb. She still doesnâ€™t flinch.
â€œIâ€™m not in the mood for tricks. I came to kill Sloane, the man you rode into Liver Creek with, but you donâ€™t exactly have his shoulders.â€ I pause, considering the narrow smile that wonâ€™t wash off her face. â€œOr did I get here too late?â€
With a simple shrug, she admits to the murder. She looks at my gun, and then looks to meet my eyes. Thereâ€™s a glimmer of recognition.
â€œYou do look a little familiar. Liver Creek â€¦ oh, yeah â€¦ the cute rolling move before he shot you. Not sure how youâ€™re standing here now, but it looks like I did you a favor. Was that all you wanted?â€
I want my life back. I want justice â€¦ or at least vengeance. But things arenâ€™t going my way tonight. My frustration edges out in a slow sigh. â€œYou murder a murderer and expect a thank you? Then what? I leave, and you pick up where he left off? Is that what you want me to do?â€
She shakes her head. â€œI donâ€™t care what you do. Shoot or get out of my house.â€
I look down the barrel at this woman, the trigger tight against my finger.
She’s tough â€¦ ruthless. She was there in Liver Creek. Iâ€™ve seen her threaten the crowd over and over again in my nightmares. Hell, she just shot me three times in less than a minute. But she’s not him.
I ease the hammer down. She laughs in my face.
â€œSo even after dying yourself, you still donâ€™t have it in you to pull the trigger?â€ She pauses, more in contemplation than surprise. â€œYou donâ€™t have the sense to be a killer.â€ Her head shakes again. â€œYou must be a lawman â€¦ only thing that makes sense. You had the grit to get inside here, but not the guts to finish the job.â€ She nods towards the holes in my coat. â€œLiterally.â€
I flick the tip of the gun at her. â€œIâ€™ve still got the drop on you. But youâ€™re right. I was a lawman. Iâ€™ve stopped killers, but unlike you, I donâ€™t shoot people just because theyâ€™re in my way. And Iâ€™d hardly call your situation any better. You live in a ramshackle cabin in a corpse of a town while you and your gang fight for scraps. Your man took more from you than he took from me. Youâ€™re wasting the heartbeats God gave you.â€
She scoffs. â€œSpare the lecture. Youâ€™re tough enough that a hole in the chest didnâ€™t put you down, but you donâ€™t have the heart to finish this. Iâ€™m callinâ€™ your bluff. I shot you three times, so you know what Iâ€™m capable of. I just told you I killed him. But you still wonâ€™t shoot. Your badge is covering your eyes.â€ Her tone sharpens from angry to mocking. â€œ â€˜Iâ€™ve stopped my fair share of killers.â€™ Well, Iâ€™ve dealt with my fair share of lawmen. They talk tough.â€ Her voice gets louder, and her stare intensifies. â€œBut sometimes the lawâ€™s right inconvenient when they think they know whatâ€™s what. Then they remember the law is just words. They look for the word that gets â€˜em what they want. Like â€˜expeditedâ€™.â€ She shakes her head as she takes a second to cool off. â€œBut when a lawman canâ€™t hide behind the law, canâ€™t use it as their conscience, they fold. So if you’re done here, it’s the middle of the night.â€ She slumps into the chair next to the bed. â€I’d just as soon go to sleep.â€
I take a breath and think. Iâ€™ve been on a one-way mission since I left Gomorra. If the man who killed me had been here, Iâ€™d have taken him down with no thought to a future. But this — him dead, her gloating and maybe aiminâ€™ to kill more folks than he did — I canâ€™t throw myself away now. But I also canâ€™t kill her just because she looks guilty. Not even because she says sheâ€™s guilty. I have to see this whole thing through. To do that, I have to get out of this town alive â€¦ in one piece, I mean. That might mean killing every gunman from here to the county line, or â€¦
I move the gun to point up in the air – still at her, but enough to signal her to get up.
â€œDonâ€™t push your luck. My badge doesnâ€™t cover my eyes, it just stays my hand until itâ€™s needed. And right now, Iâ€™m at a fork in the road. One way is the way folk like you always choose. You die, I die, everybody dies.â€ I mime pulling the hammer back with my thumb. Then I tilt my head back towards the door. â€œThe other road is a proper escort out of your camp so I can keep my promise to all the people your man killed, the promise to make sure all of us didnâ€™t die for nothing.â€ I move a little towards the door, where I saw her coat. â€œSo we’re going for a walk.â€ I pick up her duster from the pegs on the wall and throw it at her.
And I see what was hanging underneath it.
Iâ€™ve seen it a thousand times. Sometimes I take the guns from it and shoot him. Sometimes I watch helplessly as he draws the guns from it and shoots me or everyone else. One time, I threw him into the wall with it.
I click back the hammer for real and aim straight at her forehead. She knows something changed. Her eyes move to the wall and the sturdy leather holster belt hanging there â€¦ with a gun in it.
She flings her duster at me and bolts out of her chair for the gun. I throw the coat off and just manage to slip the pistol out of the belt before she yanks it off the wall. She curses as I move back again – but she seems more concerned about the holster than the gun.
I clear my throat. â€œThatâ€™s his holster. I wouldnâ€™t have thought it fits you. So what is it, a blood keepsake?â€
Her eyes fix on my gun. Sheâ€™s coiled to strike. Her hand clenches around the holster like itâ€™s a drunkâ€™s last bottle, and the anger she kept down finally boils up. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter one rotten bit who owned this before, or why I have it. It belongs to me now.â€ Her fingers tighten even more. â€œHeâ€™s dead. Nobody here for you, lawman,â€ she spits.
We stare for five whole seconds. No words. Iâ€™m holding my gun with the hammer back. Sheâ€™s clutching that belt. Something about it hit her like lightning. Five seconds ago, she was so done with me she almost went to bed. Now sheâ€™s nitro. This woman might blow up the world, with herself on it, just to see the fireworks. I wouldnâ€™t get ten feet from here with this woman as my â€˜escort.â€™
But while weâ€™re just staring, it hits me. Sheâ€™s a tall, well-built woman with decent muscles. Iâ€™m a tall, shriveled man with incredibly compact muscles. Her duster is right there. I pocket her backup gun and slowly pick the coat up off the floor.
She watches me shrug her coat over my shoulders. I grab her hat with my free hand. Her eyes are burnt iron. Sheâ€™s about to spit fire at me, but she swallows it. After a moment, she speaks again in a more controlled voice.
â€œYou missed your chance to get what you wanted here. And youâ€™re not worth any more fuss. If you somehow get out of Soddum, leave my duds where I can find â€˜em, and Iâ€™ll forget all about you.â€
I tense down a hair and allow a smile. â€œReally? How â€¦ chivalrous of you. But go ahead and sleep tight. I won’t forget about you. Not ever. You were there when he killed me, and you didnâ€™t flinch. Iâ€™ve heard nothing but horror stories about you. You may have taken my prize away, but youâ€™ve taken his name. Bad move. Iâ€™ll be watching you closely from now on. If you keep on his road of killing innocents without a sigh of regret, Iâ€™ll remind you Iâ€™m still here. If you think Iâ€™ll go away, you underestimate the patience of the dead.â€
I back away slowly. Sheâ€™s still clutching the holster â€¦ his holster. I donâ€™t want to know if she cherishes the memory of his life or the memory of his murder. But sheâ€™s the problem now. I need to find out who this woman really is, and why sheâ€™s taken his name. Is it a shield, or a sword? I canâ€™t find that out here. Not now, not in her cabin, and not in Soddum. I have to wait for her to make her play, make her mistake, tie the noose around her own neck. So I close the door and begin my slow walk into the dark night.
- The forum ‘Industry News’ is closed to new topics and replies.