By: Marty Linson
The sun blazed down from high, the ground shimmering in the horizon as a speeding stage coach could be seen, followed by a trail of dust. The six horses at full sprinting gallop as the driver stood crouched cracking the reins. The driver glanced up over the top of the coach, seeing nothing but dust he started to howl with laughter as he sat down and reared back on the reins. The horses following suit, slowing to a more manageable pace, and coming to a walk as the driver took one last look as the dust cloud faded away. He pulled to the left, steering onto a side trail that led around a blind corner; and just as all six horses made then turn, his sight catches a horse in the path, and a woman standing in front of it. She stood roughly five foot, three inches, had a dusty round brimmed hat that bent over the front covering her eyes, with a round flattened top. Her perfect platinum blonde ringlets cascaded down the sides of her face and over her shoulders and vest. Her shirt was buttoned up to the top two, covering her small but firm stature, boots, jeans, chaps and pistols drawn and aimed already, each barrel at an eye socket; which at this range was possible for her.
“WHOA, Whoa!” The driver shouted out, pulling back on the reins stopping the horses.
“DON’T… fucking move… you piece of shit…” she shouted, her face still mostly covered, but a sly grin could be seen from under the brim.
“W..wh… who, are you?” He stuttered as a clamoring could be heard in the coach behind him.
“Oh, sugar, you know me…” She grinned as she looked up allowing him to see her face, and he knew immediately who she was.
He let out a gasp, “Classy… Clementine… but… why…?”
She cut him off before he could finish his question, “You know damn well why I found you… NO one claims to have bedded me, for ANY reason, other than I may claim to have bedded someone…” The hammers cocking back on each of her pistols echoed through the narrow passage.
“Yo… You can’t do shit! I said nothing you bitch! My family…” With that the door on the side of the coach burst open as a rather dirty and gruff looking man came leaping out from inside with pistols drawing out. Before his feet even hit the ground a bullet wizzes through the side of his head, as a second later the shot is heard from a distance. Two more cracks of bullets go ripping through the coach as two more bodies fall out followed by their distant gun shots. Off on a hill overlooking the pass can be seen a glint of glass, behind which laid One Shot Wanda, self-proclaimed physicist, and known sharp shooter. This of course would then make the man sitting next to her, her husband, Dead Eye Duke. His binoculars to his eyes, he was an engineer, gunsmith, and her spotter as well.
Clementine flashed a grin once again as the last two bodies fell out of the coach totaling five now. “You were saying something about that family there sugar?”
“….” His mouth agape, chocked for words at the flashing instant that things were happening, his brain in shock, and unable to process at this point.
“Well then, maybe your little ‘gang’ being wiped out here will let others know to not lie about bedding me…” as she finished the slow squeezing of the triggers she started at the beginning of her sentence concluded as each unleased their rounds as they bullseye through each eye socket, blowing out the back of his skull. She paused for a moment, as the smoke trailed out of each barrel. “That… felt… fine…” she sighed contently as she holstered her guns and strolled towards the horses, soothing them each as she moved to the coach. Wanda and Duke stayed their positions, watching her back for any unknown stragglers. Clementine searched through each of the bodies, pocketing what little money or valuables each one had, and then hopped into the coach.
Wanda handed her rifle to Duke, who immediately started airing it out and breaking it down slowly with a pair of thick gloves on. Setting pieces off to air cool as he packed up the parts, hiding them away in a picnic basket. Wanda stood up brushing herself off. She was wearing what appeared to be the top half of a dress from her waist up, and black tight pants from her waist down. Turning to what was a hitched open matching bottom to her dress top, as she stepped into it, as Duke closes it up behind her, disguising as a large dress perfectly. Kneeling down, Duke gathered up the rest of the fake picnic, putting it into the large basket. Closing it he stood up, pulling his suit jacket off of the folding hanger on the tree, and tightened his tie. They smiled and kissed as he picked up the basket and they made their way down to the Clementine.
As the two walked up to the stage coach a dirty and beaten man fell to the ground with a dull thump, as he was unable to break his fall since his hands were tied behind his back, as well as his ankles together under him. Clementine stepped down out of the coach behind his decent, as she glanced up directly at Duke, as the man squinted to the brightness of the sun, unable to make anything out immediately.
“So what the hell is this piece of shit doing here tied up Duke?” Clementine cocked her right brow as she swaggered toward Duke.
Wanda spun around to tilt her head with attitude at him as well, “What the hell is your piece of shit brother gotten into now?”
Duke just shook his head, and sighed loudly as his hand covered his face, “How the hell would I know. I’m right here with you two, I haven’t seen him since he ran off from us all.” He glanced down at his brother as he gave him a firm kick to the side, “You hear that Dallas? What the hell? Seriously, how long has it been now, and this is how we cross paths again?” He kneeled down as he slipped the bandana gag out of Dallas’ mouth.
Dallas’ coughing slowed as he recovered from the cheap shot kick his older brother had taken, “you a…” he coughed again, “asshole!”
“Yes, I’m the asshole, from the looks of it we just saved your ass,” Duke stood back up, taking a step back next to his wife.
“What did you get into this time?” Wanda asked, while Clementine scuttled the crime scene, freeing the horses, searching the coach again, and shoving it off the path into the surrounding brush.
Duke knelt down to his brother, unsheathing his knife, “now Dallas, I swear if I regret untying you, I won’t stop Clementine from shooting you.” Duke then cut the binds at Dallas’ wrists and ankles as he nodded in response.
Dallas sat up, rubbing his wrists as he stretched his legs out, kneading the stiff muscles as he came to a stand finally, “I can’t thank you guys enough, I’m sure once they got what they wanted I wouldn’t have seen the next sunrise.”
Sighing loudly Wanda responded, “And what exactly are they looking for?”
Wincing he stretched his back, Dallas responded, “A safe, and I know where it is now. It’s being moved to the coast. However the coach carrying the safe is going to be stopping at Drawbridge overnight, and that’s where I was planning on grabbing it.”
Duke’s brow arched as he asked, “And what exactly is in this safe?”
“Money and a priceless artifact as well, some rich guy owns it. He’s already in San Francisco awaiting its arrival; apparently he’s going overseas to have it looked at or something.” Dallas’ excitement was apparent, and obviously focused on the artifact.
“What do you know about this artifact, Dallas?” Wanda added.
Dallas frowned at her, “Well that’s why I want to get a hold of it. It’s said that it’s some ancient item that even the Church is after to hide or something.”
“Wait… the Church, as in the Vatican, in Rome?” Clementine piped in as she walked up to the group, joining the conversation.
Nodding in response, “yes, exactly. I did a bit of digging and found that while it’s not being actively looked for, it is an item of interest, something about it predating some civilization, I don’t remember,” Dallas rambled off what he knew.
Duke looked to Wanda, then to Clementine, “Well ladies, is this a job we want to help him with? Or are we going to steer clear?”
Clementine grinned deviously, “Well he did say there was money, I’m always up for that.”
Wanda nodded, “I can’t lie, I’m awfully curious about this artifact that Dallas is talking about. If it in fact exists, I’d love to get a look at it.”
Duke’s gaze focused on Dallas, who stood there with a stupid yet eager smile on his face, awaiting his brothers answer, “Well little brother, it appears we might be getting the family back together. I say we meet up with Everett, see if he’s in, make a plan and head out. From the sounds of it, the safe won’t be in Drawbridge too long.”
They all looked at one another nodding in agreement as they got onto their horses and rode off.
The town was eerily quiet as they approached. It was around one in the afternoon as they rode in. Looking around it almost appeared empty, there didn’t seem to be much if any law in town. What people they did see were all inside the bank for some reason. They rode up next to the bank giving their horses a light tie off of the reigns, each of them looking to the other, nodding as they checked their arms and entered the bank.
The bell above the door rang, and seemed to jolt everyone inside out of some sort of trance. The customers at the counter turned and left with rather blank expressions on their faces, however only pausing outside the bank as they stood only a few feet away almost frozen.
“I don’t know about this, kids, I’ve got a bad feeling about this one,” Everett said under his breath. A gruff older gentleman, the look of a weathered outlaw, he was the ladies’ father. His hair was silver, with a large bushy silvery mustache that shuffled as he spoke. Atop his silvery head sat a dusty black Stetson hat, wearing a long dark brown duster.
“It looks like it might be easier than we thought though,” Dallas responded, eager to get his hands on the artifact, this close already.
“I’m inclined to agree with Pa,” Clementine said, feeling rather uneasy as her stomach started to turn.
Some of the patrons standing in line started to shift their awkwardly blank looks to those who just entered. Some brows rose in suspicion of the newcomers, as others only stared blankly. One woman ran up to Everett, grabbing his arms as she began to shake him, screaming, “Don’t do it! Don’t look at it!”
Everett threw the woman to the ground as he pulled his shotgun, “Well, I guess we’re doing this then…” He said under his breath to those with him. “Alright folks, this here is a robbery,” shooting off a round into the ceiling as everyone jumped and hit the ground.
Clementine pulled her dual pistols cocking the hammer of each back in the same motion, “you heard the man folks. Please stay on the ground, keep your hands were we can see them and this will all be over soon enough.”
The old woman rose to her knees, shaking her head back and forth, “you can’t! Don’t open the safe! Don’t look into it! It will show you things, things no one should ever know! They talk to you throu…” she was cut off as Dallas hit her with the butt of his gun at the base of her skull, knocking her out as she crumpled to the floor.
“What the fuck Dallas! You didn’t have to hit the woman.” Duke made his way to her, as he bound her hands behind her, and legs together leaving her on the floor.
“Alright, we want in the safe,” Everett dropped the muzzle of his gun to point at the bank teller at the counter.
The teller just nodded emphatically, as he opened the door for them to come behind the counter, and guided Everett and Dallas back to the bank vault. The remaining three took positions in the lobby to cover the customers as well as watch for any activity outside.
As they approached the vault they could see a single three foot square safe sitting in the middle. “NO!” The teller turned to both of them as he shoved them away from the vault, then burst into a sprint towards the vault. Both men stumbled back completely knocked off balance as the teller grabbed the vault door pulling it closed. “You can’t take it from me! It talks to me, it wants me to help it, you don’t understand,” was the last thing heard as the vault sealed shut.
“Fuck!” Dallas screamed, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Everett sighed, “I’m wondering if this safe is really worth all this. These people aren’t acting right kid.”
“We have to though, we’re so close! I’ve been looking for this thing for the last five years!” Dallas was almost begging for Everett to not call it. “We’re right here, we’ve got dynamite, and we knew we may have had to blow the vault. Let’s blow it, open the safe and get the hell out of here.”
Shaking his head as he sighed once again, “I swear if I regret this kid…” Everett went back out to the lobby, “things have gotten difficult, we’re gonna blow the safe.” He said to the other three, walking past them and out to his horse. The few customers who froze outside were still standing in place in front of the bank as well. He shook his head and pulled out a handful of dynamite from his satchel and walking back in.
“Wait, what? I thought the teller went back with you?” Duke replied as Everett reentered the bank.
“Yeah… and locked himself inside. There’s something strange here, Dallas doesn’t want to give up. Might as well blow the safe and get something out of this.” Everett shrugged off as he made his way back to the vault again. Dallas eagerly stood by as Everett placed the dynamite in strategic places to blow the door out of the wall. He wired it all up to blow, taking the lead out of the room, pulling Dallas out with him, as he handed it to him, “Here, you blow it, you got us here.” Dallas took the plunger with a smile, and without any hesitation blew the vault.
“A little warning you ass!” Clementine coughed as the smoke filtered through the lobby. The other two where coughing and waving smoke and dust away.
Dallas ran past Everett and into the vault, only to vomit upon the sight he found. Everett followed, gagging down his own vomit as he turned away coughing, “for fucks sake!”
The teller who locked himself into the vault had apparently cut open his stomach, and had somehow wrapped his still intact intestines around the safe; as if he was absorb the safe into him. What was crazier is that the back of the safe appeared to be somehow absorbing into him before the vault blew. A piece of debris had removed a good portion of his head when the door was blasted off, appearing to have interrupted the process.
“What is it?!” Duke asked to Everett as he emerged from behind the counter still coughing and gagging slightly.
“It… it’s disgusting, I can’t even explain it…” Everett said as he continued away from the vault.
Clementine ran off into the back to see for herself as Wanda looked to Duke, “what do you think Duke?”
Shaking his head, “I don’t know, I have a very bad feeling about this. I think maybe we should cut our losses and get the hell out of here.”
Wanda began to nod right as Clementine’s scream could be heard echoing from the back, as Duke and Wanda ran to her aid, they came up and saw the same scene. Only this time Dallas was sanding amidst the man’s entrails madly spinning the dial in the safe around. His ear pressed up against the blood coated safe, as he was attempting to crack it, to gain entry and obtain the object of his desire.
Duke grabbed his brother by the arms as he dragged him away from the safe, only making Dallas protest, kicking as he was dragged from the vault, “NO! Don’t take it from me! I’ve almost got it I know it! I can crack the safe, Duke let me go!” He was doing everything he could to get out of Duke’s grip.
Wanda wrangled Dallas’ arms as she helped Duke get him back into the lobby. Using some rope they bound his arms behind him and to one of the wooden pillars in the bank. Wanda glanced at the patrons once again, realizing that none of them had protested or even moved since they got there. Walking out into the lobby she knelt down slowly, looking at one of the customers laying there.
“Don’t look in it! Whatever you do! Don’t look in it! They will talk to you! They will command you!” The old woman suddenly leapt at Wanda tackling her to the ground, somehow free of her bonds.
Wanda yelped, “Duke!”
Duke spun on his heel as he grabbed the old woman by the arms pulling her off of his wife, “what in the hell?! Where did she get this strength?” He was obviously struggling with keeping her away from Wanda as she pushed away from the old woman and scurried quickly to her feet. Duke’s grip began to slip from the old woman’s arms as she continued to lash out towards Wanda. As he lost his grip finally she lunged forward, arms out toward Wanda as she drew her pistol firing off a round opening up the back of the woman’s head as her lifeless body fell to the floor. For a moment, they froze at the sudden violent conclusion to the clamor.
Duke made his way to his wife as he took the gun from her hand. She was still in shock of the strange experience as she wrapped her arms around him. Her eyes looking around the lobby as she asked, “wait, where’s Pa?”
Glancing around Duke noticed as well that he wasn’t in the lobby any more. They’d also left Clementine back in the vault. They both dashed towards the back, instantly forgetting their own trauma, only thinking of Clementine as they could hear her soft sobs the closer they got. Only to become frozen once again in their steps, as they’d found Everett.
Everett stood in the vault, the safe open at his feet. Holding in one hand the handle of what appeared to have been a mirror. This mirror however, seemed to be from elsewhere. Its handle was made from a human spine, and the back housing of the mirror was the back of the skull. The mirror appeared to be a shimmery reflective black surface, although it seemed to ripple as Everett looked into it. His gaze was transfixed, as he brought the mirror up to head level, they witnessed a sickly black tendril emerge from the mirror and enveloped his head. Once done it began to pulsate from the mirror to his head subtly.
“Pa! No!!” Wanda shrieked, as Everett seemed to turn and look back at them. However his face couldn’t be seen, only the black, sickly pulsating black tendril that now encompassed his head.
Duke grabbed Wanda and pulled her back out into the lobby, “whoa! Nope! You’re not going in there. You, honey, look at me.” He moved her face to look into his eyes. “Honey, you stay here, watch Dallas. I’m going to go get Clementine, and we’re getting out of here. Once you ladies are safe, I’ll try to see what we can do for Everett.”
Wanda couldn’t even speak at this point, her eyes had a slight gloss to them, as she felt her own mind slipping away, the words that came didn’t seem to even be hers, “don’t look at it, she said, don’t open the safe…”
“Wanda! Stay with me!” Duke shook his wife by her shoulders, but it seemed to have no effect on her. He glanced back towards the vault, turning back to his wife he kissed her, “I’ll be back, I’m going to get your sister.”
Duke pulled his pistol as he entered the vault; walking up to Clementine who’d seemed to finally stop crying. He knelt beside her, “Clementine, where’s your dad?” He looked around, unable to find the old man or the mirror he’d been holding. “Clem…” cut off as he turned to look at her again and realized she was already dead. Her eyes were locked in some horrific bulging state, while her mouth fell agape in some indescribable fashion, giving her appearance of something surreal. Exhaling a gasp as he fell back, he shuffled on the ground to get to his feet again as he ran out of the vault.
Wanda was sitting up against the wall in the lobby as he ran to her falling to his knees. Duke turned her to face him as he was greeted with the same expression of her younger sisters. Gasping again as he cried out, “NO!! Wanda!” Tears straying down the sides of his face, as he tried to pull himself together. Looking around at the customers, they all too had the same look as they lay on the ground unmoving. He wondered now, had they always been that way and they’d all been somehow not seeing it?
There was a flash of lightening from the clouds that had suddenly moved in that lit up the lobby for a moment, showing Everett standing in the entrance of the bank facing Duke who immediately took a step back. He caught a glimpse of Dallas still tied to the pillar, bug eyed as he watched Everett standing in the doorway, he called to him, “Hey, Dallas…”
“Y…y…yeah?” he responded, his gaze never leaving Everett.
“It looks like it’s just us brother. I’m gonna drop my knife and kick it over to you, get those ropes off and get your gun.” Duke’s free hand pulled his knife, and guided it down the outside of his leg, and let it go, falling to the floor. As soon as the knife’s impact made a sound Everett was in front of Duke, hand wrapped around his throat holding his feet just off the ground. Duke fired off his pistol’s rounds all into Everett’s chest as he stood there looking at Duke blankly just taking the shots. Black blood oozed from the bullet holes left in his chest, but they seemed to have no other effect on him.
“Let him go you fuck!!” Dallas screamed at him as he tried to free himself from the ropes that held him.
Everett looked to Dallas, cocking his head to one side as his hand holding Duke’s neck, snapped it like a twig, and let his lifeless body fall to the floor.
“NOOOOOO!!!” Dallas cried out as he heard the sickly snap of his brother’s neck. He went wild as he fought against his binds, struggling and screaming at the old man, or now creature that had killed his brother.
Everett knelt down at Dallas, grabbing his jaw and forcing him to look into his eyes. Dallas’ eyes resisted at first, and then began to focus on his eyes. They seemed to move as they became solid black and Dallas became transfixed.
Dallas stumbled into the next town a day and a half later, parched and weather beaten from the sun. He collapsed at the entrance of the saloon. A group was sent out to Drawbridge, as that was the direction he’d wandered in from. Only to come back later that day to say that no one was found, it was a ghost town.
The next day Dallas had awoken. The Sheriff and others came to the doctor’s house where he’d been laid out. As they walked into the room, they saw his gaze had a sort of gloss to it, as if he wasn’t there anymore. As well he was mumbling to himself under his breath continuing to say, “The messenger said, we may have forgotten them, but they have not forgotten us.”