Saddle up, pardners! The wildest week of the year is upon us, and our excitement is ridin’ high! Gen Con has moseyed into Indianapolis, and we’re celebrating with the release of the Debt of Blood Story Arc.
Hold onto your ten-gallon hats, because this story arc is a trilogy, featuring three stories that we will be releasing before Gen Con to celebrate! In the days to come, we’ll be rustlin’ up this captivating tale, and you can read the first fiction, Hot on the Trail, below!
Then, sharpen them spurs and round up your posse, ’cause we’re headin’ for high-noon showdowns and poker-faced antes at this year’s Gen Con! We hope to see you there!
Hot On The Trail
By Russell Smith
The food smelled so good, it felt as if Marshal Bass Reeves hadn’t eaten in days. Fact was, Bass had been far more interested in the serving of the Aunt Lou Marchbanks’ famous version of chuckwagon stew than he was the shot of Union No.13 Deadwood Dick had slapped down on the bar in front of him. “I know you wanted to get home to the family,” Dick said with the widest of grins, “but this is the least I can do. Losing that many horses at once could have ruined me, so the least I could do is see you to Deadwood’s finest. Aunt Lou don’t cook that for just anyone. Had to call in an old favor.”
Bass sighed and looked the handsome charmer in the eye. “Told you, you didn’t have to do that,” he grunted. “Just doing my job. Just so happened to interrupt someone else’s party.”
“You busted a whole gang who were gonna’ rustle off half my horses. Nineteen of them. One of you. Two six-shooters. I ain’t ever heard the like.”
“And you didn’t even empty one of them.” The door to the back kitchen burst open. A broad, graceful woman with a complexion as dark as Bass’ own, backed into it, holding three steaming hot bowls each carrying that heavenly scent in them. Reeves’s nose identified several of the spices in the air and his belly rumbled. “Word is, you put two of them down and the rest recognized a tall, dark Marshal right away. They wanted none.” Aunt Lou Marchbanks placed the bowls of piping hot stew in front of Bass and Deadwood Dick, whose spoon was twirling in his hand before his bowl hit the table. “Mmm, mmm, mmm – it is time,” he said, a piece of chicken sliding off the bone as he tapped it with the spoon.
Bass felt the quiet relief in his bones that he had left no plots to dig. He reckoned he might have done enough to earn a little treat, after all.
The exit door opened. “Mister Reeves? Got a job for you.” Perfect timing, as ever. But even though it wasn’t exactly a secret as to where he was, nobody should have been coming through here. Unless they were invited, or been cleared to do so.
Seth Bullock was a white man with a mustache to rival Reeves’s own, and what seemed to be a permanently stern look in his eyes. It came with being a Sheriff in Deadwood. Fortunately Aunt Lou saved him the trouble of finding the right words by saying what he’d been thinking. “You must want to speak to Bass real bad if you took the trouble to come find him here.” That much was true, although technically you couldn’t truly miss the Grand Union Hotel, even if it had been publicly converted to a garrison. But this room was reserved for the staff to eat, itself even then mostly Aunt Lou’s little place away from the rest of the world.
“’Fraid so,” he said. He turned to Reeves. “Shall we walk?” Seth gestured for him to rise. Bass countered by offering him a stool. “Concern of the law,” Bullock said, shaking his head.
“Won’t leave these walls,” Bass insisted. Lou had already polished a fresh bowl and reached for the ladle. Deadwood Dick mirrored Bass’s hand movements. “You may not get another opportunity to try this, Sheriff.” He spooned a mouthful from his own bowl with an ecstatic smile.
Seth looked at them, sighed and then closed the door behind him. Aunt Lou gave an approving nod and pointed to a space on the table before landing the bowl down. No sooner had he seated himself had Deadwood Dick poured him a shot of whiskey. “So what’s the scoop?” Reeves asked, tending to his own unfinished bowl.
“Heard you had some experience on the weirder side o’ the West. Dangerous as some o’ them outlaw gangs are, I’m more talking things that go bump in the night.”
“Shame you didn’t arrive just a touch sooner, Sheriff,” Dick said. “The whole reason we’re here is because he saved my stock from a gang. Something weren’t right there either. Thought they were just there rustlin’ but when the marshal here came to round them up they mentioned that word, ‘appetite’ a few times too many. Almost lost me mine.” The spoon was in his mouth as soon as he’d said his last word.
Bass nodded as he finished his own mouthful. “Yup – one got away. I gave chase and made it as far as the window, then all I saw was four legs and fur and the man’s hat in its teeth. Come to think of it, even big as he was, he didn’t have time to swallow him whole. And I did think the pants were a strange touch. Either way, I wasn’t about to shoot a fleeing dog. Had the weirdest howl though. Almost sounded like…human laughing…
…Anyway Mr Bullock, you were saying?”
Bullock pondered what he’d just heard and shrugged. Reeves did likewise as he finally tried to make sense of what he saw earlier. He gave up and just took another mouthful of stew, waiting to inevitably hear something worse. “Jack McCall. You heard of him?”
“Yeah, he’s the one who killed Wild Bill Hickok at that card game a few years back?” Aunt Lou asked, drying a clean glass.
“I remember him making the wanted list,” Reeves added,” but that took a few days longer than I’d have expected it to. I’d taken another job by the time it came up.” “He skipped town fast. Doubt anyone would have hurried looking for him till they heard who he’d gunned down. Ain’t the done thing to have folk killing the law whenever they have a disagreement.”
Bullock frowned. “Right. We picked him up, but the jury found him not guilty, even with witnesses. Seems Hickok killed his brother before then and he’d come to settle the score. Jury bought it, and McCall walked.”
“Like I said, ain’t the done thing.” Reeves finished his shot, first a sip and then a full head tilt. “So you’re coming to tell me Hickok wasn’t the only deputy on his list?”
Aunt Lou wiped another pan. “Well, word is he’s back in town.”
Seth lowered his spoon. “How did you hear that so soon?”
Lou gave a slow shrug, pointing outwards. “Remember where I am, Sheriff. I gotta’ hear something every now and then. Didn’t catch why he was back though…”
The corners of Bullock’s mustache upturned slightly. “So I heard he’d been babbling about Hickok being back from the dead or something. Now he’s the one with the debt of blood to pay.”
“Back from the dead?” Deadwood Dick put down his now-empty bowl. “Are you serious?”
“Wouldn’t be the first,” Aunt Lou said, matter-of-factly, as she tidied away the pan she’d just dried. “Probably won’t be the last.” Everyone stared at her for a beat, before Bullock turned back to Reeves and resumed. “Maybe you should start with Calamity Jane. She used to run with him back in his breathing days. Swore, funny enough, he never died in the first place and folk thought she was crazy, but maybe she was just the first to know?”
Reeves had already reached for his hat and stood up, gesturing to Deadwood Dick to do the same. “Reckon a good place to start looking for the dead…is where they’re meant to be. Come on Nat – let’s get to work.”
Deadwood Dick shook his head. “Oh, no. Not me. You don’t see me carrying a badge. And ‘sides – I thought this was me showing my gratitude to you?” He pointed to the bottle and the empty bowls.”
“Yeah, that was your thank you. Now I’m calling in the favor. I’m gonna need to borrow a ride. And if you want it back…”
Dick rolled his eyes. “Ah, heck no. You couldn’t at least have waited to have gone in the day?”
“Well, here we are,” Deadwood Dick said to his riding buddy. “Mount Moriah Cemetery. And this is as far as me and my horses are going tonight, favor or not.”
“This is more than enough.” Reeves gave a gentle nod and immediately cast his eye to the silhouette just out of the moonlight by a gravestone. “Thank you, Nat.” But his friend was already grabbing the reins in a hurry.
“Yeah. Stay out of trouble, Bass.” With that, Reeves watched him disappear back out of sight in a hurry. He then trained his senses on everything else going on in his vicinity. He couldn’t miss the caterwauling In the distance behind him, by one of the stones. He listened closer, heard the scraping of glass bottle against stone. That was Jane, all right. He moved quickly, efficiently towards her, but all the while looking around. He had that feeling he got sometimes, that someone else was watching. He was usually right, but until they showed their hand he couldn’t worry himself with it. Everything he needed to concern himself with was at that headstone.
The one with James Butler Hickok’s, better known as “Wild Bill,” name on it.
“Where is he, Jane?”
The mess of lank hair swayed in the moonlight as she looked up at him. Given where they were, she could have been haunting the place herself. She was, in a way. Her demeanor closer favored that of an apparition than a living person paying her respects. If all he’d been told were so, then she’d been dead inside for some time, numbing the pain elsewhere from the bottom of the bottle. Even as he checked around, he could see faded embers and broken branches which once comprised a shelter. It wasn’t hers, though. The faintly visible footprints going to and coming from were too big for a start. They went…out, but if he followed them, he’d be chasing his own tail – he knew that. Better he gave her a chance to let something slip he could use.
Calamity Jane collapsed by the stone, mumbling incomprehensibly. He listened, hoping to divine a nugget of sense, but to no avail. Eventually, she stopped, looked up. What little he could see of her eyes through the matted hair saw her staring more through him than at him.
“I told ’em! I told ’em all, Bill would be back! He came back once, you know, with a big ol’ hole innis’ head. You don’t look so good, I says to him, and he told me to shut my mouth. And he’s back again, oh yes indeed he is. Whoever hired Jack McCall is about to die, I reckon, because ’ol Bill ain’t hisself these days.”
“That much I knew.” His sole focus on Jane was broken by the sound of howling in the background. He dared hope it was just a wolf, but he thought back to the hat in the jaws and froze for a moment. There was something out there, he sensed it, but whether it was, even if it wasn’t a wolf, it was leaving well alone for now. No need to poke any bears, either. He stilled himself, took slow, deep breaths. “You happen across McCall in your travels?”
Those words caught Jane’s attention. She steadied, straightened herself up and brushed some of the mop out of her face. Her eyes remained a thousand miles away, but she clung onto a thought real hard. “He headed for the hills. Wanted to go somewhere he wouldn’t be found ‘less someone was serious.” She pointed west .
“Deeper into the Black Hills?” Reeves asked, more out of affirmation than misunderstanding. She nodded. He chewed his lower lip for a beat and then returned his own nod of acknowledgement. “Listen, Jane. If what you’ve told me is true, take yourself to Bullock’s office and turn yourself in. Ain’t gonna be cozy but it’ll get you through the night.” He looked around, much more deliberately this time, and sniffed the air. Nothing but the smell of sweat and rotgut off her breath.
“Yeah,” she said, already sounding more sober. “I might just do that. “He ain’t the Wild Bill I knew, that’s for sure. Something different. And all I can smell is blood. That’s coming with him, Marshal – you can take that to the bank.”
“Hmmm,” he said. Their eyes truly locked on one another for the first time. “I don’t doubt it.”
The Office of Indian Affairs was not a place Reeves preferred to visit. He’d rather not the law go treading heavy around things that didn’t concern them as much as they thought. Still, he stood, hat in hand, and gave a polite bow as he entered the room.
“You must be Eagle Woman Who All Look At. I’m-”
“Marshal Reeves – yes, I know.” The reply was brusque, but sincere. “I had a feeling it’d be you they’d send. What brings you over to the Office? Deadwood Dick finally offer to pay off his wager with Francisco, has he?”
“What, um, no, I…“ Reeves had a rare muddled moment, purely because his mind was elsewhere. He cleared his throat. “Jack McCall. I got it on good authority that he’d headed this way.”
Eagle Woman smirked. “You got it from Calamity Jane, you mean?”
Reeves raised an eyebrow, making his best diplomatic efforts not to glower at her. “Like I said, good authority.” He gave a single nod of affirmation and watched her chew on the thought for a moment before straightening her face. At that moment, the door leading out to the front desk burst open. Through it strode a party of four, each he recognized from a previous job he’d had in the vicinity. He knew Sifting Squirrel as a hunting party leader. The rugged Francesco Rosales, a smiling Enapay, and a businesslike Tsinsah formed the rest of the group, each armed and packed for an excursion. Reeves remembered Enapay in particular as a handy scout. “You tell Dick we’re all square when you see him next,” Francisco said, grinning. No need to ask if they’d been listening in then. “He helped me out much more another way. As did you, Marshal. That trouble you handled for him had been meant for me. So, whatever it is you want, you’ve got my vote.”
Eagle Woman took a quick look at Rosales, then Reeves, and gave a single nod. “All right then.” She reached for a notebook on her desk then flicked through the pages. Without looking up, she continued. “You’re here for Wild Bill, aren’t you? McCall knows something you need, but so do I. Did Bullock mention he’d been here already?” She didn’t wait for his answer. “Al Swearengen?”
“Swearengen?” Reeves asked. “What’s he got to do with this?”
“They both came here themselves asking us why Wild Bill’s still walking. Not so much on the breathing’, though. I called on the spirits to know for sure. Speaking of such – you know what you’re getting yourself into, Marshal? ‘Cause I don’t think you do.” The others nodded, almost in chorus.
“If I’ve got this right, the bullets that Hickok took oughta’ have put him down for good… but didn’t. From what Bullock told me, we’re not dealing with a lucky cigarette case or a well-placed Good Book here. So, no – nothing I fully understand, but enough to know he was dead, but came back from that. And I think McCall knows the reason he felt strongly enough about something to do that.”
Now Eagle Woman looked back up at him. “And I think you know more than you realize, Marshal. Your instincts serve you well.” She signed a formal looking document and proffered it to Reeves. “You have permission to enter the Black Hills.”
Sifting Squirrel cracked his knuckles. “McCall, however, didn’t ask. More fool him. If the Sioux patrols find him before you do, I can make no promises they’ll bring him back alive. Maybe you’d better find him first.”
“Reckon you’d find your way round the Hills?” Tsinsah said, almost goading.
Reeves didn’t take the bait. “Maybe. But all things considered, I’d rather not take the chance.”
“Good decision. Not that we were going to let you, Marshal.” Eagle Woman smirked and raised a hand, gesturing at the others. “Who’s volunteering?”
“I’m out, sorry.” Tsinsah shook her head. “Already have a task.” Sifting Squirrel reluctantly threw up his hands in agreement.
“I’m down for this.” Enapay said, with surprising enthusiasm. “Won’t be my first manitou. “You can handle yourself, I know that. But I think you’ll need me for this one.” With a confident grin, he turned to the others for affirmation. They huddled for a moment, muttering something, but before they could announce the decision of their conferment, Eagle Woman pointed at him. “Yes, go.” She said. “Please accompany the Marshal.”
“You did ask for a guide, right?” Enapay said, half grin, half grimace. “I mean, if it was muscle, I’d have made you wait for Zachary Deloria.”
“Mmmm, hmmm.” Reeves replied. Head down, he stared absently at the dirt as they moved at a pretty solid walking pace considering his crouch. Once they’d left the Office of Indian Affairs, Reeves picked up a trail he believed must have been McCall and followed it like a bloodhound. He’d shown few signs of slowing the entire time they got on the move.
“Seriously, I’m not meant to be the one having trouble keeping up with you. I’m the one who knows his way around here.” As he said the words, Enapay slapped a hand on Reeves’ shoulder. “Hey, hold up. Movement.”
He hadn’t seen Reeves already ready his twin Colts in hand, though the marshal complied. “Top ridge, one o’clock, right?”
“Yeah, I –“
But before Enapay could answer, he heard movement behind him also. He hadn’t turned around but could see
Reeves already pointing back with one of his six-shooters, despite still looking, as far as he could tell, at the dusty path. He heard the sound of an arrow nocking to bow, but farther away, the familiar sound of a buffalo rifle being loaded carried in the valley.
“You’re a touch smaller than our patrol.” A gruff snarl came from an old man who had swiftly and silently gained on them. He very definitely wasn’t alone. “It’s a bit more lively out there tonight than it’s been in a while.” The old man spoke to Enapay while entirely ignoring Reeves in his exchange, before pointing at the lawman. And who is this?”
“Marshal Bass Reeves.” Reeves introduced himself, his tone carefully balanced towards emissary rather than authority. He had little here anyway. But that didn’t mean he could allow anyone to walk over him either. He lifted the peak of his battered fedora to show his full face and held out a hand. “I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure yet…”
The old man cast a brief, rheumy gaze at him, but after a brief thought, took Bass’s hand and shook it with surprising strength. “Dakota Katzeek’s the name,” he said. He released his grip, and his eyes flashed fiery orange for a split second. “You’re on the hunt for the interloper too. Tread steady, Marshal Reeves. He is not all that’s hiding in the hills tonight, and the further you get from Deadwood the more likely those weapons are to fail.”
“Aye,” Enapay said, sounding distant. He had turned his back on the conversation and was making hand gestures, uttering faint words Reeves couldn’t quite catch. The gentle breeze briefly burst into a gust, and for that split second changed direction too. Enapay had been gathering a direction from nearby spirits. “McCall’s gone just east of here.”
Dakota nodded. “Better hurry. You go that way, we’ll go this. See who finds him first.”
“No argument here.” Reeves had already started advancing east, his eyes down on the trail he’d now regained. The second he stepped past Enapay, his partner followed suit.
“You get that feeling we’re still being watched?” asked Enapay, breaking his quiet song to the spirits. Quick as he was keeping an eye on the cat spirit he’d called upon to keep the trail alive, Reeves had not put a foot wrong.
“I’ve never shaken it since I left Mount Moriah,” Reeves answered, keeping his eyes down. He was pretty sure he didn’t see what Enapay did, but there was enough there to speed his pursuit. It felt like very little time at all before they found themselves in a clear area at the bottom of a canyon. Here, McCall’s footprints seemed fresher, and Reeves picked up a faint but recent sniff of smoke on the wind. “He’s been here. I don’t think we missed him by much. But we still missed him.”
“Guess he never planned on staying for long,” Enapay said. “Just long enough to shake a lawman and buy himself some time for whatever he’s got in mind.”
“Hmmm. And I don’t think it’s us he’s running from.” At that moment, Reeves could’ve sworn he heard a snapping sound. He whirled around, trying to trace the source of the noise. His tracking led him to look up an instant before a few specks of scree tapped his shoulder. At the top of the canyon he spied a tall silhouette holding a freshly snapped wooden lever under a rock – the branch he heard snap. With extraordinary strength, the shadowy figure roared, then wrenched the rock down. It dislodged several larger ones on the way down.
“RUN!” Reeves said, leading by example. Enapay knew well enough to follow suit – away from the falling boulders. Reeves glanced up and back as he ran, just in case he had anything else to deal with. “Hickok…” he said, just before the sound of rocks falling drowned out every other noise. By the time he’d taken a look up, the former gunfighter had vanished. That wasn’t their immediate concern though. Another slide had already happened ahead of them, cutting them off. “Great. We’re trapped.”
“Trapped is better than dead.” Enapay scanned each end of the ravine. The rocks kept coming down. Whatever he was looking for, he’d better be quick. “A little flash of moonlight. There.” He pointed just behind him, to his right.
“Well, if there’s light, it’s gotta go somewhere…”
“So do we.” Enapay reached for Reeves, but the marshal was already on the move, just where Enapay had identified. Just in time, as a loosened piece of the ravine broke from the wall and arrowed downwards. Unstable footing or not, they picked up the pace and moved toward the sliver of light, a gap in the wall just about wide
enough for them to squeeze through. Enapay, there first, sidestepped in, catching his cheek on a side of the wall as he did. Reeves glimpsed back to see the massive boulder smash into the ground where they had just stood and shielded himself from the debris as it impacted. Pelted by some of it, he yelped as he turned away, around about the time Enapay grabbed and pulled him part way through. The limited space knocked his hat off his head, and he flicked at his guide’s arm in resistance before catching his fallen hat in his left arm and taking that same wriggle rightward.
The flash of moonlight quickly went as they adjusted their eyesight to the new surroundings. The temperature had dropped, and in the distance, Reeves could hear a faint trickle of running water. Enapay had been about to say something, but Reeves raised a hand to stay his words, whether Enapay had been able to see him or not. His companion acknowledged and so he pointed up and to his left, raising a single finger before tapping his ear. Footsteps. One person. Over there.
One final rumble outside also extinguished the sliver of light from the outside, and for a moment, Reeves stood in pitch darkness, as even the illumination in the cave had vanished. The light source had been a reflection, perhaps? Either way, nothing. He focused his senses, still heard the echoing steps some way in the distance, but he knew pursuit would be hazardous here. “I liked the moonlight better,” he whispered – enough volume to carry as far as Enapay’s ears.
“I’m glad you said that!” He couldn’t see Enapay grinning, but he could hear it in his voice.
Enapay responded in his normal voice. “We’re in luck – turns out we might not be trapped after all. You heard footsteps, right?”
“Yeah.” Reeves continued to whisper. “So why are you speaking so loud?”
“Because they’re not really here. Well – you’re not hearing what you think you are. See, the Veil’s real thin here. Probably our first lucky break all day.”
“Just as long as you’re telling me we can get out of here.” This time, Reeves spoke at his regular volume and listened to the echo properly. Now that he had his attention drawn to it, his voice didn’t carry the way he expected it to, farther away and yet just kind of muffled. This was still a cave; of that he was sure, but not being able to see his way through it. Then he did hear an echo, but it wasn’t him, or Enapay. That had been the laughter he heard just before the rockslide that got them here in the first place. Hickok’s laughter. He drew his six-shooters in a flash, but only had the sound to go on as he still couldn’t see a thing.
“Are you crazy?” Enapay hissed. “I’m your only target here.”
Reeves felt gentle pushes on the top of each weapon and followed up, reholstering them both. “Ah. Yeah. The Veil. Right.”
“If you did hear what I thought I just did though, we probably oughta’ hurry. Gimme a sec – there.”
A sudden glow, faint, but clear, manifested in front of him, which illuminated enough to show him that it had appeared in Enapay’s cupped hands. As he looked at it, the light grew brighter without being blinding and took a particular form, that of an incorporeal, small, silvery rabbit. Enapay crouched and spread his hands, and the rabbit’s luminous glow bathed the area surrounding them. It was as if moonlight shone down upon them and the area, and as he looked up, there was maybe enough clearance for someone around one and a half times his height. His eyes were drawn back to the spectral rabbit scampering away, leaving a trail like a silver thread behind it. “I’m guessing that way then?” Reeves said, faintly raising his mustachioed lips.
“Indeed.” Enapay waved him on. “After you, Marshal.” Reeves gave a single nod and stepped briskly after the bouncing bunny.
The echoing laughter had not gone away. Nor had it made itself known in any one direction. It was everywhere and nowhere, as far as he knew just in his head, though Enapay had said he’d heard it too. But that wasn’t all he heard. “YOU TELL HIM I’M COMIN’!’ boomed the Hickok voice. Reeves slowed his pace, but went on high alert. He raised his six-shooters. His eyes darted all around the silvery cave, which had opened out and split across two possible paths. He caught the direction the rabbit had jinked towards – then rapidly disappeared out of his sight. He turned back towards Enapay, whose face blanked as he tracked exactly what Reeves had seen. Enapay’s eyes widened and at the same time, the light shifted into a baleful orange-red, a bloody sunset of sorts. “That’s…that’s not good…” Enapay muttered.
“ACTUALLY…” Hickok’s voice boomed behind Reeves, “…I’LL TELL HIM MYSELF.”
Reeves heard the sound of a safety cocking behind him. “DOWN!” he cried, as his well-honed instincts took over and he threw himself to the ground on his left, where he remembered there had been a rock large enough for cover. Also, years of hard-won experience had shown that most folks tended to lead and fire to their right. As he did, he heard a brief howl, then a thump, thump, thump as bullets cracked into the rock by his head. He pulled his thumb back on both his shooters and with a simultaneous click, held them raised and waited for a gap in the hail of bullets. Once he sensed a break, he swiftly peered out of the cover and tried to identify his target, just in time to see someone firing. Not at him, nor Enapay, but instead toward the corner of the unlit path. He recognized the figure. “MCCALL!” he yelled, and the trembling figure glanced at him for a split second before himself taking cover. Reeves ducked again as bullets came at him once more, but not all of them. Some, he could hear, were reserved for McCall. Still, Hickok had made by far the most recent attempt on his life, and he could see his outline against that fiery hellish background. “Your one and only chance, Hickok.” He took a lengthy blink behind cover to flash a snapshot of his target into his mind for when he next leaned out of cover.
“I’D RATHER DIE, MARSHAL!” Hickok growled. “BUT BETTER YET, I’D RATHER YOU DIED.” More rounds smacked against his cover, but he had a feel now for their origins. With the next break, he stood and unleashed a hail of his own before crouching back down. “NICE TRY,” Hickok taunted. “MY TURN.”
Just before he finished speaking, Enapay cleared the distance between himself and Reeves and leapt for cover beside him. “You didn’t miss him,” he reported. Several more rounds smashed into the rock. “I didn’t slow him down either,” Reeves answered. As he stood up for his round, he noticed Wild Bill, who looked like one of Hell’s own against the backdrop, his own eyes burning orange as he took aim at Reeves with a snarl. Out of the corner of his vision, he saw a trembling McCall step out of cover and fan the hammer on Hickok, completely uninterested in Reeves. Hickok swore in pain and turned his attention back to McCall. Seizing his opportunity, Bass emptied his remaining rounds into Hickok…who just seemed to ignore them as if every one of them had missed. He crouched back, albeit somewhat subconsciously as he tried to assess his aim, somewhat stunned at the result. “I hit him. I hit him…”
Enapay gave a firm nod. “You did.” The light faded back to a far paler orange and after waiting several beats, the cave fell silent other than the sounds of Enapay and Reeves himself breathing heavily. He patted himself down, checked he hadn’t taken any hits, but felt clean. Enapay rose and pulled Reeves up with him. “We gotta go, right now.”
“What did I just –?”
“Damned manitou. You didn’t see what you thought you did. They’ve gone now, but there’ll be more. Come on.” The pair took the path still faintly illuminated to them and picked up the pace down the trail.
“My guns didn’t touch him,” Reeves said, mostly to himself, his composure returned. “Only McCall’s. By campfire tale logic that makes sense. McCall took him down the first time. Something special about his gun, maybe?”
“A good question for later,” Enapay said. “But now, we leave.”
They emerged from a corner of the hills and could see the town below them. Reeves caught a breath and first examined whether there had been any more trail to gather. Satisfied that there was not, he then took a wider look. The town stood below, lit by night as he might have expected – well, almost. It seemed to have that unnerving orange glow about a part of the center, the same color as – “Fire…” he muttered, as he traced his own gaze and indeed saw a larger plume of smoke billowing from one of the buildings in the distance than was quite natural. He squinted, blinked again. It was gone, but he couldn’t shake the chill he felt over him.
“What?” Enapay asked, as he closed his hands together, and with that, resealed the spirit trail they had just taken and stepped across to Reeves. “Did you just say, ‘fire’?”
Reeves shook his head, doubting himself. “Something ain’t right down there.”
Enapay chuckled. “You’ve been in my company for far too long, my friend. I think you might be…“
Gunshots. Screams. The pair looked at each other, then back at the town, then back to each other. With a single simultaneous nod, Reeves and Enapay ran again. This time, they ran down the trail, towards the sounds of trouble.