Authors: Eric Barkett
His redheaded partner was fortunately alive. He was a little worse for the wear. Besides the marks Jonathon had given him, he had acquired several scrapes and bruises. Ross was unconscious, a purple egg bulged from his head. Jed rechecked his breathing after seeing the bruise. It was extraordinary that the sheriff lived. Davy was not so lucky. The gunshot proved fatal. He was another victim of vampiric savagery. Jed saw all the carnage and death. The roof of the saloon caved in a crash. Soon the frame would fall as small flames licked the remaining wood.
Obadiah slowly drew to his legs, wincing as he stretched. “Hard to believe you volunteered, huh?” Jed remarked.
“Yeah.” Then the boyish grin spread across his features. “Glad my father isn’t here.”
“I’ll say it for him: Told you so.”
Obadiah chuckled, “At least I got my hat.”
“What?” Jed’s hands flashed to his hair. He just noticed it was bare. “That son of a…” His voice trailed off. The shadows had taken one of the gifts back.
The two men stood side by side. “I guess we won. It’s over.”
Jed shook his head. He recalled the men running. It stood to reason that several vampires in their bloodlust were chasing the fleeing humans down. The road to Hickory lay long and straight. Dawn was hours distant. The moon shown in the sky. Creatures prowled in the night stalking at the edges of civilization. A gunslinger’s duty was never finished.
“Collect your horse, Obadiah. The night is young.”
Ash and burnt timber covered the floor. The smoky odor filled the nostrils. It was impossible to mark exactly where the rooms had lain. She moved among the debris, lifting rubble out of the way. Nothing remained standing after the blaze burned out. The entire frame had turned to ash once the roof was gone. Anything inside was destroyed. Or so she hoped, dreading to find that which she sought.
One large pile had potential. She shifted the scorched beams. Underneath was a horribly scarred body, past the point where any flesh survived. The women drew a knife and began the distasteful act. The similarity to cutting burnt toast was sickening. Holding nauseam down, she stuck her hand in the cavity she created. Her hand brushed against something moist. Gripping the slimy organ, she ripped the heart out. The heart too was the same, blackened and crispy. Shaking the heart, a silver ball fell from the heart. Nadi reached into her bag to draw a vial. She poured the contents, blood, onto the heart. Transforming before her eyes, the burnt went away, replaced with vibrant tissue. Disturbingly, the organ pulsed in her hand.
Nadi glanced at a corner. Enough light remained to cast the lightest of shadows beneath a crispy beam. The shadows pooled together, intertwining as they twirled, pranced, twisted, and spun to form a delicate hand that reached towards her.