Rhett Caufield unconsciously pulled back into the shadows within the formerly grand foyer of Lord Grimelys mansion. The charred ruins enveloped him like a suffocating vice, and though he prided himself on his steady nerves, he found his current surroundings a little uncomfortable.
The sound of a man cursing to Rhetts right alerted him to the presence of another in the ruins, and he carefully glanced around the tall ruined wall he was hidden behind. Within a slim patch of darkness, he could make out the approaching figure of a portly man, whose body lurched about with an odd top-heavy gait, as if not in control of his own faculties.
Rhett fingered the long butt of his pistol, waiting for the man to emerge into the light. Half-ready to pounce upon him regardless of what the moonlight revealed, Rhett nearly lost it when a sharp whistle preceded a holler through the leveled hallway. "Where are you, Caufield? Show yerself!"
Idiot... Rhett thought to himself, forcing his first five impulses down and stepping out in front of the outlaw. "Wendigo " he derided, "youre late."
"Fire me! Ha ha! Hahahahahaha- HICK!"
The shock of Garrisons sudden belch was enough to send him reeling backward, nearly through the thin Victorian doorway behind him and out into the field above town.
"Youre drunk," Rhett stated flatly, the disdain laced through his words quite evident, even to a drunkard.
Garrison smiled. "I shoots straighter when Im drunk!"
Im sure the ladies appreciate the fact that you dont, Rhett answered to himself. "At least get up here out of the light. You know we cant afford to be spotted."
Garrison stumbled forward, allowing gravity to take control of his forward bulk. Lazy bastard, Rhett commented, again to himself.
"So wheres our illustrious leader, anyway?" Garrison asked, displaying uncommon articulation for a man two beers from the grave.
"Oh, shell be along shortly. Id imagine," Rhett answered, glancing up at the approaching western clouds. "She doesnt care for the light "
* * *
Just over one hundred yards away, in the tallest remaining spire of the old Whateley mansion, Wilhelmina observed the exchange with a keen interest. Her inhuman vision was more than enough to identify the two men who had invaded her realm. She could smell the stench of alcohol upon the man called Wendigo Garrison, and instinctively knew that even little Basil - with all his recent infirmities - could best the man. Caufield was something more of a challenge; anxiety leapt and frenzied within him like a cyclone. Wilhelmina guessed that - at any time - he was little more than a fraction of a second from violence.
The contrary scents intoxicated her, reminding her how long it had been since her last meal. The potent tang of their sweat and their sex only increased her desire, but she resisted the temptation, knowing that the Faminites, or her granddaughters, would eventually be along with something for her to eat.
Besides, these pretty morsels might prove more important alive
* * *
"Gentlemen!" Scott Pierce said to the grumbling Blackjacks as he stepped into the ruins of Grimelys foyer. "So good of you to answer my summons."
"Not like we had much choice!" Garrison impudently spat back at the rotund newcomer. "Whats the deal with meeting us out here, anyway?"
"And at night," Rhett finished.
The Sweetrock executive reached within a low pocket and pulled out a lavish pocket watch, noting the hour. "The night has only just begun. I would assume that men of your persuasion would still be hours from retiring. Early bird robs the coach and all that "
"Sure," Rhett answered, "But it still seems strange, meeting here after what happened last year."
"Ah, the Knicknevin thing." Pierce dismissed Rhetts comment, seemingly out of hand.
"Thing?" Garrison scoffed, shaking his head (perhaps more to clear it than make a point).
"I dont believe in demons, Mr. Garrison." Scott cut the outlaw off, as flatly as he could manage. "Neither do my employers."
"The locals certainly do, Pierce," Rhett interjected.
"Perhaps we can use that against them," Pierce answered, leveling a mordant gaze upon the Blackjack. "Bear in mind, gentlemen, that the outside world - though fascinated with your little town - considers it little more than a tourist attraction. No one believes the stories about towering demons and the pits of Hell. But that means that they are all trying to decide what actually happened out here. And that can only work to our benefit."
Something about Scott Pierce made Rhett Caufield nervous. Really nervous. He was suddenly acutely aware that he was alone (one sluggish drunk, notwithstanding) and miles from help. Looking to the skies, he noted that the clouds had moved in low over the former Whateley acres. Shes late, he worried. Thats not like her at all
* * *
Interesting, Wilhelmina noted as she watched the third man. She blotted out all trace of the outlaws and concentrated all her efforts on "Pierce", searching for his scent.
Not even the musky, earthen odor of the recently buried. Whatever this newcomer was, he was certainly not living, but she wasnt altogether sure he was dead, either. She watched as the conversation grew tense and, for a moment, wondered if the outlaws anger would bloom out of control. But she was disappointed when Pierce simply shut them both down. One moment their nerves and trigger fingers were twitching like mad, and the next
No human can do that, Wilhelmina realized, suddenly very aware of Pierces true nature. I thought wed seen the last of your kind in Gomorra. Why have you returned mongrel?
* * *
Scott Pierce momentarily looked away from the outlaws, noting the intruders position. Several dozen yards away, and above them. He made a mental note to casually observe that direction when he turned to meet their last business partner, who was already approaching from the northeast. No need to call the meeting off now, he decided; the situation was still well under control. One person shouldnt pose too much of a challenge for him, given his newfound abilities. It simply meant that he wouldnt have to look for dinner tonight. The strong bestial musk upon the wind suggested that this one might even taste a little spicier than Gomorras typical menu
"Howdy, boys," the woman said as she entered the foyer. "I havent missed anything, have I?"
"Merely our appointment time, Miss Sumner," Pierce quipped. "Nothing of import."
"Outstanding!" Jewel answered. "Shall we get started then?"
"Of course," Pierce responded, drawing a thick bundle from his overcoat and offering it to Jewel. "The target of your operation is the current head of Sweetrock West, Maxwell Baine, who - for more than a year - has been operating without the endorsement of our parent company. Gentlemen, it is about time that someone taught Mr. Baine the price of his arrogance "
Garrison tracked Jewel as she settled into a relaxed position leaning against the closest wall. Hed appreciated her assets since hed run with the Sumner gang back in the early 70s, but something was different tonight. He couldnt remember a time when she looked so inviting.
Maybe it was just the liquor talking, but his libido was suddenly leaping.
"Are you still with us, Mr. Garrison?" Scott Pierce pushed through Wendigos liquor-clouded thoughts and drew him back to the conversation at hand. Scott knew that his own reaction to Jewels obvious beauty was merely creeping into Garrisons weakened thoughts - that his inhuman attraction to her was expanding the simpletons own lecherous desire - but he wouldnt permit any of his hirelings to be distracted.
Back-pedaling, Garrison babbled out the last untainted thing that had crossed his mind. "Baine Yeah, sure. Lets take em down. Where do we sign on?"
"So youre not uncomfortable slandering Baine, even considering his close ties with your former leader?"
"Jackie?" Garrison started. "We dont work for him anymore."
Rhett Caufield chimed in, "Blackjack named his price: a pardon and a few kind words to the miners. But where does that get us? No," Rhett shook his head. "The moment he backed down, he lost our respect. Weve got no loyalty to him anymore."
"Fine, fine," Pierce noted, looking to Jewel for corroboration.
"Dont worry, Mr. Pierce." Jewel waved his worries away. "Were all want the same thing here."
Money, the four agreed silently.
"Excellent." Scott Pierce mentally checked that item off his list. Without further pleasantries, he moved on to the meat of the matter. "Our first objective is to confuse the situation - to distract Maxwell Baine, and make him nervous. I propose a few well timed cases of industrial sabotage, attributed to a third party."
"Who?" Caufield asked.
"Someone that no one would expect, but whose current ideology lends itself quite nicely to subversive behavior - the Sioux."