Castor McCracken staggered into the Fat Chance Saloon. A bullet had grazed his leg, and his clothing was charred and singed: he had barely escaped the fire that had reduced the Whateley estate to ashes. Of the clan, half were dead or dying, Nicodemus had vanished, and Wilhelmina... Castor had seen the forces massing against her, and hed no desire to go up against that!
"No siree bob, the McCrackens know when to call it quits. Dont we, Pollux? But we also know when ta take care of business."
Cassandra had disappeared with Nicodemus. She had rejected their advances. As if she was too good for them. How dare she!
That left Charlie Landers. He had refused their previous, generous offer. If he had joined forces with the Brothers, perhaps now more of the Whateleys might be alive. Perhaps Castor wouldnt have been shot at by those damned Rangers. Perhaps he wouldnt have failed in his job.
Castor was pissed. So was Pollux. It was time to put an end to the barkeeps life. Loyalty among freaks could only go so far, and the former Crab Boy had gone far beyond the bounds of civilized manners.
Standing upright, Castor adjusted his bowler to the proper angle, checking it in the cracked mirror behind the bar. Ya have to look your best for a killin, or whats the point?
Then he drew his treasured pearl-handled revolver. If he had to kill Charlie, than he was at least going to do it with the nicest weapon he had, regrets or no.
Where would the dwarf had gone to ground? Behind the bar? Possible. Landers might not suspect the McCrackens were here to finish him off. Given the chaos outside, no one would take Castor drawing his gun as anything other than a precaution.
Advancing to the end of the bar, Castor peered behind it and down. There was barely enough space between the elevated platform and the underside of the bar for a man to hide. But Castor checked it out nonetheless. You couldnt be too careful.
Castor spun at the sound of a shot outside. There was a brief, female scream of pain, abruptly cut off. In one motion Castor ducked behind the bar. Ma McCracken didnt raise no idjits... well, actually she didnt raise us much at all after we killed her as younguns, but still... The McCrackens had sided with the Whateleys and their unholy allies, so it was unlikely whoever was shooting was a friend. If they were, enough time to settle matters when they arrived.
The figure that came through the saloon doors was dressed in almost blinding white, although in places soot and dirt obscured her patina. A large figure, carrying a rifle at the ready.
As Castor popped up over the edge of the bar, the woman brought her rifle up and fired. "Jack! Hastings! Stay back! This ones mine!" Then she lunged forward into the saloon as McCrackens bullet whistled over her head.
His shot had thrown her aim off, and the womans bullet shattered what was left of the Fat Chances mirror. Castor turned to follow the Ranger, firing two shots. Somehow, the new arrival managed to stay just ahead of the bullets as she moved to cover behind an overturned table. Then she popped up on the far side of the table. A single shot ran out, and Castors revolver went spinning across the room.
For a moment, Castor was stunned. He had never seen shooting like that. Then reluctantly he put his hands in the air. "You wouldnt shoot an unarmed man, would you, Ranger Karl?" he called out. "I might have worked for the Whateleys, but I aint one of their clan. Im just a gunfighter.
Slowly, Katie Karl rose up from behind the table, her rifle at the ready. She was cautious, but she was still an idiot. If Castor had had the drop on her, shed be dead.
Still, his hands were in the air. She probably figured he was harmless. Idjit!
There was a sound of ripping cloth, and a pair of withered hands pulled themselves free of the black silk shirt that Castor wore. A twisted, malevolent face peered out from Castors chest as the hands pointed at the Ranger.
There was a crack of mystic lightning, and energy shattered the table in front of Karl. With a curse, she threw herself back as Pollux McCracken directed his arcane energies across the room to follow her. Glasses and bottles flew everywhere, shattered by the beams of energy passing over them.
"Kill her, brother, kill her!" Castor screamed. He sidled to the right, trying to get to his revolver. The other Rangers would probably come to their leaders rescue, and he needed a weapon before they arrived.
"Not today!" Karl screamed back at him. She had no time to bring her rifle to bear, but she grabbed a shattered bottle and threw it across the room with all of her strength and accuracy guiding it to its target.
Pollux emitted an unearthly scream as the jagged edge imbedded itself in his face. The agony shot through Castors body, and he crumpled back against the wall, the revolver still yards from his hand.
Shock drove him to his knees as his legs crumpled out from under him. His vision blurring, he reached down but there was nothing he could do for his brother. The wound was a fatal one. And if Pollux died, Castor wouldnt be far behind.
Dimly he looked up to see Karl towering over him, her rifle pointed square in his face. At the same time, he saw her face across his vision from a lower angle, as his brothers flickering eyes tried to take her in. The look of disgust on her face was plain to see.
"Another damned Whateley freak," she cursed.
Only what your damned God made me - the Whateleys had nothin to do with it the thought flashed across Castors mind. Whether it was his or his brothers, he couldnt tell. And a second later, as Karl pulled the trigger, it didnt matter.