So we killed a werewolf. And some zombies. And saw the Ferryman. All this three days after arriving in town. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We arrived in Ghost River on a Wednesday. It’s a sleepy little town, and the addition of our stage coach train raised the population by a whole 2%, not counting the horses, which boosted this one-horse town to a grand total of four (plus an ass. But that’s another story.)
Things started out as you might expect; getting settled in Pringle’s Boarding House (dinner at six sharp, no drinking, no shooting, no hanky-panky, please-and-thank-you!), checking out the local saloon (rubes, all of them, but I went easy on them this time.), getting the general lowdown of the place. Sherrif paid us a visit at dinner and laid down the law, as expected. I think our motley crew gave him a bit of a scare, but he covered it pretty well.
After dinner, Caleb and I headed to the Saloon for the usual night’s entertainment (meaning, I pulled out the old 52, and he sat at the bar and did whatever he did while I liberated the townsfolk and visitors of their hard-earned dollars. Don’t look at me that way; I bought at least four rounds for the table during the course of the night. I may be merciless with a pack of cards, but I have a soul.) Only after a few hands, we heard the jangling spurs of Dusty crashing down the main street, toward the old dry river wash. (You can hear him coming a mile away with those things; you’d think that they’d teach a man how to be stealthy in the Rangers, but I digress.)
When we hit the street, Dusty was already almost out of earshot, with his military sabre drawn, streetlight flashing off of the blade as he ran (it being a new moon and all.) He shouted something about the “girls” off to the east, and some other nonsense about a green glow coming from the dry riverbed. Of course, now that you mention it, there was a greenish tinge to the horizon as we approached the river, moonlight glinting off of the surface.
We stood staring, a little slackjawed, for a spell, until Josie heaved a rock into the river. The waves propagated across the still water, bouncing off of the skiff slowly moving down the middle of the river. Looking hard, we could see a single figure in the skiff. The figure turned toward us as it pulled even, fixing each of us with what I guess would be a look of warning or maybe something else entirely. It was hard to tell, since we couldn’t see it’s face. Calling out didn’t yield any results, other than the figure pointedly ignoring us and continuing down the river.
Wilhelmena suggested we ask crazy old Coot about the river and the boatman, divining with flawless logic that he would be the one most likely to even discuss the subject, being crazy and all. So we walked back to the stables and found him sleeping in the stall with his burro. After jostling him awake and introducing ourselves, we asked him about the river and the boatman. He laughed with that disturbing, wheezing laugh all old people have, and told us that whenever he appeared, people tended to go missing. And something about carrying their souls to Hell.
Since the boatman was gone, and Coot didn’t actually have any useful information, I decided to finish out my card game back at the Saloon. The ladies and Dusty went back to the boarding house and after a few more rounds and a couple more drinks, I closed out the poker table and headed in to get some shut-eye myself.
I was woken up a couple of hours before sunup by a commotion at the Sheriff’s office. I met Wilhelmena and Josie on my way out to the ruckus, and the three of us walked over to find out what was wrong. Turns out that a farmer’s kids had disappeared in the night, and there was no sign of the Sheriff. After a couple of hard bangs on the door to verify that he was indeed out, and not out cold, I formed a posse of the townsfolk to search the area around the farmstead. I roused Dusty and Caleb from their rooms, and we headed out to the farmstead ourselves.
After some searching around, Dusty and Wilhelmena spotted tracks leading away from the farm. Big tracks. With claws. So of course, we followed them.
After a few hours’ tracking time, we arrived in a small box canyon. The tracks led straight up to a shack at the far end of the canyon. A brief check revealed something moving around inside of the shack. And the shack was barred from the outside, so clearly whatever it was with the big feet and the claws couldn’t be inside, as no other tracks were visible. A check at the roof airhole revealed pitch blackness inside, so Josie decided to partially unbar the door and take a look.
Whatever it was inside slammed against the door and threw Josie and the bar clear. Then that whatever emerged, followed by a group of about six other whatevers. Whatever they were, they looked like at some point they were townsfolk. They weren’t townsfolk any more.
The first one came shambling toward me with its claws raised, so I blew it away with ol’ Betty. At close range, the 16-gauge barrel can really pack a wallop. Not only was there a hole clean through the Walker (Whilhelmena told me later those things are called “Walking Dead.” An apt description, since they’re dead, but still walking around. Sort of.) but I blew it back a couple of feet with the impact.
That didn’t seem to go over very well with the other Walkers, as I then had four surrounding me. One made a swipe that near pulled my arm off, but Wilhelmena took care of that one. I think Josie got another one, but things were pretty confused at that point. Especially after Caleb tossed that stick of dynamite nearby. That took care of the rest of the Walkers, and damn near took care of us too. As it was, it took a few moments to clear our heads, and my ears are still ringing.
Dusty joined us from his sniping position, and then we heard some more movement from the shack. Yup, you guessed it. Two kids came shambling from the shack, matching the description of the ones who were taken. We took care of them.
Afterward, we cleaned up the area (and ourselves; Walkers make quite a mess when they explode) and headed back, agreeing that the best thing to do would be to tell the townsfolk we hadn’t found anything yet. Better that than explaining that we had shot two kids who weren’t kids any more. Those kinds of explanations never tend to go well. We made plans to return to the box canyon at night, to trap whatever it was that was abducting the townsfolk and turning them into un-townsfolk.
We bumped into the Sheriff back in town. Apparently he had been dealing with some injun trouble out to the west of town. With nothing to report, I headed to get something to eat, while the girls went shopping. Dusty headed to the bar for some hard drinks to calm his nerves. Or maybe he had a sasparilla. The ladies headed out to do some shopping and research. I met up with Wilhemena in the boarding house parlor, who informed me that we were most likely dealing with a werewolf. I nodded, as it made sense that if we were dealing with ghost rivers, phantom skiffs with phantom boatmen, and zombies, we would of course be dealing with something else nasty that could rip the heads from our shoulders quicker than you could say “boo.” That’s just the way of things.
So I went to the Trading Post and haggled for some silver jewelry. I’m good at that kind of thing. I dropped off some chains for Caleb to spike his sticks with, dropped off some odds and ends with Dusty for his rifle, then headed over to the blacksmith’s shop with my bullet molds and shells. All told, after I was done, I had a couple of loads for each of my pistols, including some real pretty buckshot, and a couple of rifle cartridges. The ladies got a couple of loads of bullets as well. I figured we were ready as we could be. We headed back out at sundown.
Round about midnight, we made it back to the box canyon, everything pretty much as we had left it, except for that whole darkness thing. I sent my ornery nag into the corral, and set up shop with my Winchester ’76 on the fence, giving me a clear shot of the entire box canyon. The ladies followed suit, taking cover inside the corral or in the canyon, and Caleb hunkered down near the shed. Dusty chose to take watch over the entire box canyon from the entrance, which proved to be unfortunate.
Not two minutes after we had set up, we heard a deep howl from outside the box canyon. And then all hell broke loose.
Dusty, having planted himself in the bushes at the entrance, was totally unprepared for the 8-foot tall slavering hulk standing behind him. He got a shot off, which went wide, before the beast took a giant swipe at him that knocked him clear into the box canyon. Fortunately, other than being a little shaken up, Dusty was none the worse for wear. Tough as nails, that Dusty.
The ladies and I proceeded to open up on the monster. I caught it in the shoulder with my first rifle shot. Wilhemena damn near took its head off with a well-placed shot from her glowing gun (Don’t ask me. I don’t know how it works.) and Josie did the damnest thing with a bag of marbles. They must have been some kind of mini-explosives or something, because she nailed that beast square in the chest with those three marbles. Those little pieces of glass did more than the two of us with the silver bullets combined. Between the three of us, we had the beast on the ropes.
The beast was staggered, so we each got another shot in: Wilhemena almost taking its arm off this time, me plugging it square in the gut with my shot, Josie tossing some more of those marble-grenades, and Dusty getting a shot off with that cannon he calls a rifle. Caleb was itching to toss one of his firecrackers into the party, but before he could, the thing swayed and crashed to the earth, the life from its eyes completely gone out.
I walked up to it, stopping Dusty from smashing the monster’s head in with the butt of his rifle, and took a look. The man was bleeding from a dozen wounds we had inflicted, and he was most assuredly dead. Too bad you can’t question a corpse, because there were a couple of things I would have liked to ask him. Of course, he had taken the first swipe, so he himself had taken negotiation off the table. We tossed his body into the shack and re-barred the door. Wilhemena commented that he might look a bit like Ms. Pringle’s lost husband. We set our minds to have a chat with her when we got back into town.
But right now, I think it might be time to get out of this box canyon and find out what’s really going on. I don’t think the werewolf was the source of those Walkers, more of an errand-boy. And then there’s the river boatman. And that injun trouble out West. And I need a drink.