I see last week whetted your appetite. Good! Then Dave Benneman, Camille Douglass and I have done our jobs! Without further ado, we bring you back to the old west and our tension filled poker game of CONJURING MISERY…
Sitting with my back to the door was making my damn neck itch. Not that I was given much of choice. Only good thing was it let me keep an eye on my ratfink uncle who was currently laying a card in front of Sam as the German droned on. Two things happened at once. Gunther said the magic words, “Yaqui Star” and next to Smoke, Sam picked up the card Jinx dealt and froze.
Hard won instincts kicked in with a vengeance. There was no time to bring my girls out to play. Instead I reached for my next best weapon, my magic. A harsh word and between one breath and the next, time slowed, creeping through amber as the scene around me froze for everyone but me. The wild flow of magic left me gritting my teeth. Holding it to my will and slowing the tick of time was like trying to ride a buckin’ mustang, bareback. Breathing through the bone-grinding pressure and pain, I tried to figure out who or what was threatening to interrupt our game. Smoke was leaning into Sam, who was in the midst of laying his cards down, his mouth partially open. Probably getting ready to fold. What spooked him?
The magic gave another vicious tug. I wouldn’t be able to hold the clock back much longer. My gaze roamed around the table, trying to pick up the clues I didn’t have time to read. Jinx’s half smile. Gunther’s gaze aimed behind me. Villalobos staring daggers at Smoke. Another tug, this one strong enough time slipped my hold. Next to me Two Crows blinked, his dark eyes focused on me. Behind him Smoke’s eyes widened.
I dove to the side even as the recalcitrant magic raked out with vicious claws and I lost my grip. Time snapped back into place. I had Ruby up and talking before the door finished opening as Pearl was pinned in her holster under my weight. It was awkward shooting from the floor, but I made do. Lead left the barrel in quick, repetitive barks and hit their target. Unfortunately they weren’t very discouraging.
Of course when you’re already dead, pain ain’t much of a deterrent.
“Dimond Jim?” The distressed high pitched squeal had to come from Gunther, but it was hard to tell from my position on the floor.
Around me chaos broke out. Two Crows was up and next to Smoke, who was standing in front of Sam. No telling what the others were doing. I could hear boots frantically scraping across the floor. I rolled until I was on my back and could bring Pearl into play. As soon as the last bullet left Ruby, I started in with Pearl. The girls were good, but they were merely gnats to a revenant. I was just hoping to give Smoke enough time to keep our dead miner occupied.
There was nothing of Dimond Jim in the empty eyes aimed at me. It made it easier to pull the trigger. Another of my bullets plowed into his face, leaving a red ruin behind. He barely rocked back, but he shook his head, flinging drops of blood like a hound shaking free of water. Well, I had his attention now. He zeroed in on me and lurched forward even as Pearl gave it her best. As she sent her last bit of lead flying, I braced.
Like the muffled blast of dynamite set off in a mine, a sound that might have been a word rang out, filling in every inch of the room until the echoes grew deafening. But it wasn’t enough to drown out the ear splitting shriek coming from the thing that used to be Dimond Jim as it reared back, hands clamped over his ears, what was left of his lips peeled back sending beams of light reflecting off the diamond imbedded in his tooth.
Taking advantage of the unexpected reprieve, I rolled to my feet leaving Pearl and Ruby behind as I pulled my knife free. A quick glance behind the revenant confirmed Smoke was focused on me. “Now, Smoke!” Her lips moved and the edge of my blade began to glow an unsettling red. Sound washed back into the room. There was the clamor of shouts and yells erupting behind me, but I didn’t have time to worry about it. Instead, I closed in with Dimond Jim. Still reeling from whatever magic was messing with his head and ears, the revenant was slow to react. Lucky me.
I used the over turned chair to launch off of and managed to sink my blade hilt deep into Dimond Jim’s ruined eye socket. I didn’t let go as he teetered backwards, slamming into the door. I rode him down, twisting my wrist to ensure as much damage as possible. Only when my boots were braced against the floor once more, did I pull my blade free and slowly straighten. Looking down, I muttered a curse at the blood spattering my coat. Dammit, now I’d have to change. I wiped my blade on Dimond Jim’s shirt to remove the worse of things. Then turned to face the chaos erupting behind me.
Sweat covered my brow and soaked through my dress making the taffeta material, already a nuisance, almost unbearable. My legs wanted to shake but I locked my knees. There were too many dangerous characters in the room.
“Well Snake, you can take another ear to add to your necklace,” I drawled.
Snake gave me a feral grin. “I may need to get a new string.” She knew the game we were playing. When people thought you were savage they tended to stay clear. Regular old dangerous wasn’t good enough for the average layman.
Jinx snorted but when I glanced over at him I could tell he was shaken. All that rosy pale skin his ginger complexion gave him had turned a slightly gray color. That’s right Uncle mine, your nieces have more tricks up their sleeves than you realized. I arched a brow at him and he quickly looked down. My eyes must still be black. It would fade in a moment.
I turned to check on Sam. He flinched but maintained eye contact. “Maybe we should have taken a better look at the body.” He volunteered.
I shook my head negative and was about to speak when Two Crows cut me off. “That thing has been dead for days, the body will taint anything that touches it.” His voice was deep but raspy from disuse. Snake had made her way to my side and he looked pointedly at her knife.
She dipped her head respectfully. “It will be taken care of.” She pulled a handkerchief out of her back pocket and wrapped the knife carefully. If we got to it before sun up we might be able to salvage the blade. Snake herself needed a salt bath pronto but she wouldn’t leave me in here alone and we needed information.
Two Crow’s words had told us a lot. Death emanated from the man coating his aura, but he was not a revenant raiser. He didn’t carry that particular stench. Much to our surprise he cleared his throat to speak again and any hushed whispers in the already quiet room were cut off. “Tonight I came to see what would become of what is rightfully mine. One of you will find it, you will use it, and you will come to understand that you were not made for its burden. That burden is mine alone. Once you realize this I suggest you return it to me. For this minor service I will grant you three requests, within reason, if you have to ask if it’s reasonable then you already know the answer.” With that he looked around the room and started toward the door, but not before leaning in and whispering in my ear.
I watched his back as he disappeared out the door all the while feeling everyone else in the room watching me. Damn it, the old shaman had given me a clue, but he had not been subtle about it. Glancing up Jinx and Villalobos looked at me with calculation. Snake placed her hand on Pearl, or was it Ruby? I never could remember which lethal implement had which pet name. Sam had shifted behind me slightly. Smart man, and he was just about to come in useful.
Clearing my throat, I called out. “Charlie, we’ll be needing two large bags of salt.”
The barkeep appeared in the door left open by Two Crow moments ago. Looking at the body of his friend he opened his mouth in horror. Lucky for us this revenant had a direct order he had come straight to the back room. After whom? We didn’t know, but whoever or whatever raised him had been as subtle as one could be when resurrecting a decomposing corpse.
Before Charlie’s brain could jump to any crazy but possibly true conclusions Sam stepped forward. “Charlie, it appears Diamond Jim had some sort of fever. We have to stop it from spreading, get the salt quickly. I have the coin.”
Charlie blinked twice but jumped quickly to our bidding at the word ‘fever’.
Snake raised her voice as soon as Charlie was out of earshot. “Alright fellas we got work to do, or should I say you’ve got work to do as I’ve done my part and now have a lovely salt treatment to tend to. Jinx you and Smoke take care of the body.” I nodded immediately knowing that whereas our uncle was an ass and a borderline sociopath he would know how to dispose of a revenant and therefore not hinder my movements. Snake continued, “Villalobos, I believe our fellow player has succumbed to the vapors. The man is shit at poker but probably should be revived nonetheless.” She pointed to the prone form of Gunther on the floor behind the table. I’d completely forgotten about the man but shrugged it off, he definitely wasn’t the threat in the room.
Sam leaned over to whisper in my ear, “And what exactly am I supposed to do.”
I returned his whisper. “You my friend are going to show off your skills. We have a name. Donoma, Diamond Jim’s girlfriend.”
Join us once again when we return with Chapter Six next week…