Prose Header

Dead Calm

by Robert L. Sellers Jr

Table of Contents
“Gentlemen’s Club” appeared
in issue 159.

Welcome to the Weird Wild West where the men are tough and the women can be, too. It’s a place with horsepower measured by hands or hooves, and the number of cylinders in a long gun or pistol makes the difference between life and death on the open frontier of the western United States.

The streets here are dusty, the lead hot, the women fast and the cards faster. Disagreements finish face to face with pistols drawn at noon while the undertaker waits with his pine. Quick justice is dispensed under tall trees and at the end of a short rope — if you’re lucky.

There are people here who are not as they seem, and others who watch them. Supernatural and mortal alike unite to reach what peace they can find between them. Hunters can become prey, and prey can become the hunter. This is their story.

part 1 of 2

Spring 1875: Goblin’s Toe, Wyoming

With the sun just clearing the tops of nearby hills, Sheriff Augustus Poe and his female companion Running-Deer got a clearer picture of their new home bathed in the light of a new day.

A large collection of weathered buildings, two water towers, stables, and the gaping mouth of the Donnetelli Scaggs mine looked back at them like the maw of a great beast hidden within the hillside.

Donnetelli Scaggs was the reason the town had grown from a simple trading post to that which it was today. Dug long and deep into the earth and rock, it surrendered what the miners could dig out of it and the owners could sell.

The top of what was rumored to be a large mansion appeared through the trees of the hillside opposite the mine; Poe assumed the current owners of Donnetelli Scaggs would live there to enjoy the view of their business interests and the activities of the town below. With Demetrius Donnetelli having been dead for several years, it could only be the home of his surviving partner, Luscious Scaggs.

Poe was finally comfortable with the brace on his left leg, but he wondered how it would affect his ability to keep law and order in the town, which had a history of loose understandings of not only what the law was or how it was to be enforced.

Poe’s long hair was bleached white by the sun; his skin remained dark and creased by days spent under the gentle caress of the wind. The wisp of beard he’d managed to grow the previous summer had filled in dark but threatened bits of red and gray that seemed to expand in an alarming fashion each time he caught himself in a mirror.

Undoubtedly, this would lead to some misunderstanding, as folks pegged him old and incompetent. Fortunately, the grit and determination lurking behind his pearl-gray eyes was not a bluff, as some had already learned while he was in the marshal’s service and paid the ultimate price for questioning his ability to defend the law with pistol and long gun alike.

His companion, an exotic mix of French-Canadian trapper and Ute Indian mother had found him almost dead, and with the help of an Indian healer had managed to get him to a doctor.

In a rare moment of unpreparedness, he’d taken a posse up against a group of vampires and been saved only when one of his men accidentally shot him and he’d been dragged off by his horse.

Willowy and lithe with long black hair to her waist, Running-Deer had proven both a quick learner with firearms as well as an uncommonly patient teacher who shared lessons of hand to hand combat with both Poe and the young Doctor Labbo back in Rock Valley.

While he’d recuperated under their ever-watchful eyes, Poe had learned that the government was not only aware of the supernatural elements around them, they’d formed a group to help watch over both mortals and supernaturals alike. Under the command of General Armstrong Montgomery back in Washington, they’d become known as the General’s Secret Service, or simply the GSS.

The new group helped maintain peace when elements of either side wreaked havoc and needed to be run down, captured or prosecuted as best as could be done. It had become clear that in certain situations, the prescribed punishment would be to remove them permanently as a threat.

Because of his experience within the Marshal’s service and the extent of injury to his leg, he’d been drafted to help with the task. He and Running-Deer now found themselves heading to their first assignment in what Colonel Alvin Bonnet had said would prove nothing short of a challenge even to the legendary patience of Augustus Poe. The steely-eyed Colonel served as their contact with General Armstrong from Fort Danna where a specially trained group of forces was on call to handle situations that might come up.

Poe looked at the city ahead and sighed. “I suppose we better get this over with.”

After much argument and discussion, it had taken the combined efforts of both Poe and Labbo to convince Running-Deer that acceptance into their new environment might go better if she were to take up wearing the loose white blouse and long brown skirt that she now wore.

Pointing out the fact she would be his deputy had finally tipped the scales in their favor, although her favored spirit necklaces still hid beneath the white fabric and showed hints of color rather than bare skin to the casual observer.

The boots had taken a lot longer for her to agree to; although afterwards, in a surprising turn of events, she’d selected the wide brimmed brown flop hat from the post store that she began to wear without any cajoling from either of the two men. Both had to admit that her resulting appearance would be nothing short of stunning to anyone who saw her.

Turning in her saddle, Running-Deer raised a brow in surprise. “You are not looking forward to being amongst these people?”

They’d come to share the mixed French and Sioux languages she’d grown up with under the guidance of the Indian healer Crazy-Bear. It would help when they didn’t want those around them to know what was being said.

Although her grasp of the English language had improved markedly, both had become comfortable speaking in her language rather than his.

Poe tried to come up with something that would explain the current situation in a way she would appreciate, and the language would allow. “Before a big storm arrives, the wind tends to settle and the air becomes still. We often call it ‘the calm before the storm’. It’s a lot like what we are going to see when we arrive. There are going to be people happy to see us and those who won’t care. There will also be some who will plan to bury us; or at least me, by sundown — if not sooner.”

He paused in thought. “Such is the nature of weather like that or the people living in towns like this one. We will see a dead calm of sorts once they know we’re there.”

Running-Deer nodded. “I suppose it will be as when I arrived in our village for the first time long ago and the healer Crazy-Bear took me in.”

Poe smiled wryly. “Something like that, only this time there might be guns and hot lead involved.”

* * *

With a final thrust from the cowboy as he loomed over her, Daisy May Wells felt more than heard the grunt of satisfaction as he rolled off and lay beside her.

The obnoxious snores she had found herself in the company of during the previous night began to fill the small room again as she sat up and turned, placing bare feet upon the floor.

Pain in her lower back and other more sensitive areas were proving that although she was well paid for her charms, ranch hands were not ones to keep company with overnight; especially when they’d been driving herd for weeks with little or nothing but the hind ends of cattle to keep their eyes focused on while on the trail. This one in particular had treated her with rough hands and a poor attitude from the moment the clothing had left her shoulders.

Sighing with detached melancholy that she often felt after the men finished quenching their lust, she got up and padded across the smooth wooden floor. Moving with practiced ease to straddle the basin, her fingers using a cloth lathered with soap to remove what remained of the man and his carnal desires.

Just twenty the end of last month, her shoulder-length, reddish-brown hair and dark green eyes seemed to attract enough attention to keep her in the good graces of the owners as well as keep money in her pocket, a roof over her head and food in her stomach. With what little she’d saved over the winter, the traveling dress they’d kept on contract for her at the Mercantile would be on her body in no time.

Her mind wandered as she washed and applied powders to protect herself from whatever else the man may have chosen to quench his unruly desires with. She’d heard the rumors and jokes enough to know that whatever happened out on those trails with the cattle, she didn’t much want to know much about, or consider.

Perhaps it was getting to be time that she moved on, toward what remained of her family in California. The winters here were long and hard enough that she wanted something better and warmer to enjoy.

Finished with the cleansing ritual, she moved to the man’s clothing and pulled out one of many long thin paper cigarettes that she’d seen in his shirt pocket.

Sitting across the wooden sill of the window, she kept one foot on the floor with the other casually resting against the edge of the window while the powders set and her body dried. With any luck that would be the last of his needs for the night.

Lighting the cigarette with a match she tossed into the mottled depths of the spittoon; she enjoyed the taste of the raw tobacco, mixed as it was with other mysteries of the trails that the ranch hands collected and enjoyed. The exhaled smoke would help remove the musky scent that filled the room as well. The sun was up, bringing light to half the main street below. With any luck by nightfall, the men would be back out on their trails and she could afford time under the hot waters of a long bath.

Fortunately, she was still young enough to catch herself a man if she found a descent one once she reached California. Perhaps even dressing fancy and tending church regular as she used to. With any luck, her children would be city born and not country bred like their mother. Her breasts remained supple and firm, ready to fulfill both the regular desires of a husband and the hunger their children would have when born.

Two riders caught her eye as they made their way down the street below. The man, with long white-blond hair and dark beard riding a palomino, while the other a dark-skinned woman with long, black hair riding a brown mare. Even with the riding dress and wide brimmed hat, Daisy could see Indian blood ran in the woman. Perhaps a half-breed of some sort acting as a consort to the cowboy with her.

She’d heard of such things from the trail men she’d pleasured. Indian women who’d been raided out and taken for companionship. This one looked to be serious competition and would have to be watched by the other girls as well as herself.

A soft knock as the door opened drew her attention away from the newcomers as she turned to find the owner Nadia standing at the door with a pleasant smile.

Attractive and tall, she always treated the girls well who worked for her and her husband, often giving them what they might not otherwise be able to afford. Long blond hair in a neatly twisted ponytail fell behind the simple dress that looked fancy upon someone with Nadia’s natural beauty and firm shape.

“You may go, Daisy; his time has passed and his money spent,” Nadia offered pleasantly with the touch of foreign accent that told of countries far away from the territories of Wyoming.

“Thank you. He takes his women most like the way he handles his cattle I’d guess,” Daisy replied wryly, stooping to gather her own clothing before passing Nadia and making her way to her own room and the comfort of undisturbed sleep.

Other women in various stages of undress passed by the doorway as they, too, returned to their own rooms. Modesty was not amongst the talents offered, nor practiced.

Nadia walked through the small room, looking with disdained amusement at the man sprawled upon the bed. Even she would not have allowed calloused hands such as his upon her body, but the girls were used to the rough handling and didn’t complain all that often.

His skin was dark from the trails and muscled from driving cattle. He and others like him had the rancher’s money filling their pockets, which proved to make them an enticing mix for the girls when the men came looking for pleasure.

Standing at the window, she noticed the two horses tied to the post in front of the Sheriff’s office and the glint of metal on the breast of the man with the dark-skinned woman below.

Strong arms encircled her waist as her husband Mikhail wrapped her in a gentle hug and she leaned back against him. The soft touch of his brown hair as he nuzzled her neck brought the smile he knew it would.

“We have much work to do, my lover. Apparently the law has sent someone to replace our poor Mister Dewey,” she sighed pleasantly, bringing a hand up to entangle her fingers in the thick waves of his hair.

Dark brown eyes filled with thoughts of the body held against him, moved to look at the figures below. The white-blond hair of the man and the dark hair of the woman were striking in comparison. They were both tall and angular, and Mikhail saw little that meant the new sheriff would be the sloth of the old. “Have they cut poor Dewey down yet?” he asked, hands moving lower over her stomach as he continued to nuzzle affectionately.

“Just yesterday,” she sighed, turning her head with thoughts not meant for working hours. “We need to finish rousting the men. The girls were busy and need rest if we are to turn what profit we can.”

“I feel like a run tonight, what would you say?” he asked with a hidden smile.

Nadia smiled. “The last time we went for a run, we ended up lying down rather than running, if I recall,” she responded with amusement, turning into his touch.

“Twenty miles this time, I promise,” he mumbled into the back of her neck. “Then we can lay the rest of the night.” The soft touch of his voice against her skin sent reminders of past pleasure rippling down her spine.

“Fifty and you have a deal; no less this time,” she offered in compromise, her voice catching as fingers played teasingly across the fabric of her dress.

Hands wandering up to gently caress the soft fabric over her breasts, Mikhail turned to look at the man who was filling the room with obnoxious sounds of his snoring.

“I will wake him; you go tend to the others,” Nadia suggested with the resignation of one who’d woken too many men to the light of a new day and their empty pockets. She watched as the two below entered the Sheriff’s office.

Alone with the man once again, she moved to the bedside and gently reached out to shake his shoulder.

Slow to wake, he took her touch to mean something other than what she had intended. “Again. This time you do the work,” he mumbled trying to pull her down upon him, becoming annoyed as she kept her feet.

“Again! Damn you!” he roared, sitting up to glare at the woman who had woken him. Eyes filled with fleeting remnants of pleasure-induced sleep moved up and down her body as he saw who was standing next to the bed. “Bout time they gave me what I paid for. Now get those rags off you and climb on.” He growled, reaching out to pull at the fabric of her dress.

The surprise that crossed his rough features was clear as her hand grasped him beneath his chin and effortlessly pulled him from the bed and onto his feet.

Glaring at the woman as he worked to break her grip, he saw cool amusement as she held her position and looked at him with light blue eyes that flashed hints of gold and red.

“What the hell, I paid for pleasure, goddamn you. Now let me go!” he roared, standing to face her and realizing she was not about to do as he’d told her.

“What is your name?” she asked pleasantly, voice soft with distilled anger mixed with a strange accent.

“Michael Moorhen, you upstart bitch of a whore, now let me the goddamn hell go!”

“Mister Moorhen, you are banned from this establishment as well as the women who work here for one month. Do you understand what I have just told you?”

Enraged at what she’d said, Moorhen brought both hands up as he tried to pry her fingers from his throat without success. Her arm and fingers may as well have been iron for what little give he could get from them.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2005 by Robert L. Sellers Jr

Home Page