by Robert L. Sellers Jr
Table of Contents|
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
“My name is Clementine Blue and I’ve traveled from King’s Cross, Pennsylvania looking for my sister Daniela. I’ve told you this already. Why don’t you believe me?”
“I didn’t ask who you are, ma’am. I asked what you are.” He answered evenly with a sigh of resignation, moving to reverse the Indian’s chair as he straddled it. “Believe it or not ma’am, we get some strange folks that pass through here, and I happen to be of a mindset that there’s nothing wrong with them — just as long as they don’t pose a threat, which I believe you don’t.”
She watched him pick up a trigger mechanism and begin assembling it just as his Indian deputy returned and quietly whispered something in his ear, her dark amber eyes keeping track of Clementine as she spoke.
The Sheriff winced at the news. “Well, goddamn it to the moon anyway.” He muttered, looking down at the gun parts while he pondered what the deputy had said.
“Did she find her?” Clementine prompted, realizing Running-Deer had found something of her sister that hadn’t been good.
The Sheriff said something to the Indian in what sounded like broken French. With her language skills she picked up what she could of it. The fractured words sounded like he wanted her to check out something.
The Indian took down a double-barreled shotgun and loaded it before leaving them again.
“Your sister is working up at the mansion for a gentleman who just recently tried to get rid of us — permanently,” the Sheriff informed her with veiled contempt and a frown, getting to his feet as he pulled each pistol from its holster and verified that they were loaded in all cylinders.
“Are you expecting trouble from him?” Clementine asked, wondering what kind of man her sister had become involved with, given the last vision she’d seen from the seeker.
“Trouble, no. I’m the Sheriff and we have a legitimate reason to go visit him now,” he replied with a wry grin. “He’s just not going to be happy to see us again so soon.”
When he moved to open the door and held it for her to follow, she was surprised that he was offering to take her along.
“If I told you to stay here and not come, would you?” he asked knowingly, with a bemused look.
“Probably not,” she replied earnestly. “But I’d stay out of your way when I followed you.” It was her turn to smile.
“Let’s go together then, so I can keep an eye on you no matter what you may be hiding yourself to be.”
“Thank you for understanding my situation, Sheriff.”
“My pleasure ma’am; although you may not like the sister you’re looking for when you find her, considering where she’s at and what she’s probably been doing with that man up there,” he warned, touching the brim of his hat with one hand as she passed.
“One step at a time, Sheriff; finding her is what I came out here to do.”
* * *
The first sign of pending trouble was the sudden caress of hot, fetid air that enveloped her like dragon’s breath while the Sheriff led her up the winding road toward the mansion. It was so sudden and unexpected that she stopped in her tracks while he kept walking and turned only when he realized she’d stopped.
“Problem?” he asked with concern, one hand gently caressing the butt of a pistol while his gray eyes scanned the area around them, apparently able to tell from the frightened expression upon her face that something was amiss.
Closing her eyes, she focused her sensorial eye as it picked out telltale signs of another demon nearby. One that was both old and powerful, from the way it had masked itself from her upon her arrival.
Silently as if in prayer, she cast a mumbled protection spell that would encompass both herself and those nearby like a floating bubble. She’d been quick enough with the prick of her finger as her hand brushed the pendant that the Sheriff probably hadn’t noticed what she’d done.
“Look ma’am, if there’s something you’d like to share; right now might be a damned good time. I’d prefer not to find any surprises waiting for us up there if we can help it.” Opening her eyes, she noticed him nervously brush off the brace on his leg.
“There’s a demon that sleeps up ahead, Sheriff,” she whispered, still not quite believing what her third eye had told her. “We must hurry before it wakes.” Moving past him, she left the Sheriff standing while she continued up the winding road.
He’d just caught up to her when they came across the tall Indian deputy crouched by the side of the road looking at something in the weeds at her feet.
Ever so carefully, Running-Deer used a long stick to pick up what looked to be a thin robe of some sort. All Clementine could see of it was sheer black lace, which meant it hadn’t been designed to keep someone warm. Running-Deer turned to hand the stick to the Sheriff as she stood and continued to study the ground, walking through the weeds to head off down the hillside away from them.
Gently touching the soft fabric with her fingers, Clementine felt the tingle of familiarity from her sister Daniela’s touch; an odd ability she’d developed while they’d grown up. She could tell whose clothes were whose by simple touch.
Hearing the Indian yell for them, she carefully followed the Sheriff through the grass and down the hill toward where Running-Deer stood looking at something that lay near a fallen tree.
When Clementine rounded the sheriff, who had stopped next to the Indian, she got a better view. She gasped as she realized it was Daniela’s body that they’d found sprawled naked against the log.
Her body had come to rest as if she’d been simply waiting for someone. Her head hung forward slightly and was turned to the left; her long brown hair was draped over her slender shoulders; her eyes were still half-open, while her lower jaw hung slack in her strange sultry expression of death.
One knee was up while her other leg lay spread to the side, leaving herself completely exposed. One slender arm lay almost casually back across the log, while the other hand grasped the end of the branch that she’d been impaled upon and which probably had caused her death through agonizingly slow blood loss.
Bringing a hand up to feel where her own breast had hurt, Clementine realized now why she’d reacted as she had when the seeker had found her sister. Her sister was dead. She’d not only shared her suffering, she’d shared her final death throes as well.
Clementine fell to her knees as she looked into the dead eyes of her sister; beginning to pray to the goddess for Daniela’s soul as the Sheriff sent the Indian for the undertaker and for someone else he called the Cat.
* * *
“I’m a witch,” she said softly when they were alone.
The Sheriff had been quietly examining her sister’s body, looking for whatever it was lawmen looked for in such situations. “I beg your pardon?” he asked in surprise, turning to look at her.
“When you asked back in your office, I was hesitant to tell you. Now I realize that it might have been a mistake on my part.”
When the Sheriff remained silent, she looked up to find him gently moving her sister’s long dark hair to one side, exposing her slender neck.
“What are you looking for?” She asked, not exactly sure what he was doing or why.
“She wouldn’t have done this to herself, someone had to have done it to her, but there are no marks on her skin. If she’d been grabbed, there should have been bruising.”
The Sheriff did the unexpected: he laughed. Tipping his hat back, he sat in the dirt against the log next to her sister and brought a knee up to rest his arm across it without realizing he’d almost mimicked Daniela’s pose.
“Okay, what else should I need to know about your sister that might help us find out who did this? Something tells me she wasn’t your average who... er, woman, as sorry as I am for your loss, ma’am.”
“It isn’t who you’ll be looking for Sheriff, but rather what. The demon I sensed on the way up here had something to do with her death, and I’m probably the only one who can get rid of the creature.”
“Tell me how to kill it and maybe I can help.”
“That’s just it,” she said with a resigned sigh. “You can’t kill full demons, you have to convince them that it’s in their best interest to leave and not come back.”
“And you plan to do this convincing how?”
Clementine smiled. “I’m not your average witch, Sheriff; it’s something that only someone like myself can probably do.”
When he simply motioned with a roll of his hand to continue, she realized she was as far in as she was going to get and putting her cards on the table might be the only thing she had left.
“My mother was assaulted by a full demon. It’s how I came to be.”
His raised brow said volumes as he glanced sideways at her dead sister next to him and then back to her.
“No, she was mortal and did not inherit as much of our mother’s abilities as I have. We have very different fathers.”
The Sheriff took a moment to absorb the information, his expression somber as he sat against the log. “I’ve met a demon vampire once. How exactly would I know you’re not any more evil than she was?” When his hand gestured to his wounded knee, she realized where he’d probably gotten the brace from.
“Simple, Sheriff: I wouldn’t try to kill you. Vampires are blood hunters and would see you as prey rather than as someone who could help them. If I were a vampire, you and your deputy would already be dead.”
The Sheriff climbed back to his feet and dusted off his pants, taking one last look at the body of her sister. “We’d better get back up to the road and wait for the others.”
Clementine reached over and gently closed her sister’s eyes before following him back up the hill. It was going to be time to play some demonic truth or dare, where the stakes might be higher than even she could afford.
* * *
The massive size of the giant Negro wearing a smith’s apron startled her as he walked up the road toward them and smiled, his kind eyes looking down at her. Carried gently in one of his massive hands was what looked to be an oversized shotgun of some sort, until she realized it’d probably have to be bigger for the giant to use it effectively.
His hand rose to touch the brim of his hat as he looked from her to the Sheriff and back. “Tyrone Montreal. However my friends call me The Cat, or just Cat as it suits them, ma’am.” The giant rumbled as he looked up the road. “Widow Maker get another one, Sheriff?”
“Widow Maker?” she asked, watching a thin gaunt man in a worn suit and top hat leading a horse-drawn cart toward them. Its wheels wobbled. Running-Deer was close behind with her shotgun and another thin man, the mirror image of the first. Apparently these would prove to be the undertakers. They were as identical in appearance as they were in choice of suits.
“They call the mansion Widow Maker due to the many deaths it’s caused over the years, something our smith here enjoys telling folks all about,” Poe explained. “While the twins take care of getting your sister, we should go up and have us a conversation with the man who lives in that cursed mansion.”
* * *
Spreading apart as they walked across the circle drive toward the mansion, the smell of smoldering fire mixed with spoiled meat assaulted their senses causing them to stop as it wafted over them.
Following the sickly sweet stench, they found the source near the edge of the tree line, marked as it was with discarded kerosene lamps. Clementine noticed empty shotgun shells lying about in the grass, as both Poe and Running-Deer stooped to pick several up.
Someone had set an intense fire, with little left but the ash. When Cat moved in to take a closer look, he reached for a lump and held up what looked to be the badly charred foot of a Negro woman.
At the site of the burnt flesh in his hand, Clementine’s third eye flared a warning. “That foot is from a vampire.”
Cat smiled and shook his head. “Vampire? You’ve been reading too many stories, ma’am. They don’t exist, at least not in these parts anyway.”
Moving closer, she saw the color of the unburned skin. “It might be from the Negro woman I saw in a vision with my sister.”
Poe held up a hand to stop another comment from Cat as he shook his head. “She knows of what she speaks Cat, just go along with it for now.”
Clementine turned away and faced the mansion. The dragon’s breath returned as a wisp of wind to envelope her with its soft caress. “Sheriff, we need to leave... now. I need to work with Cat to create what I’ll need to remove the demon that lives here. If we stay much longer it may overpower what little I can do to protect us.”
With reluctance, the Sheriff finally followed Clementine and the others as they moved back down the road and out the gate, which Cat helped close behind them.
Looking back up at what was visible of the mansion above them, the Sheriff turned to her. “What exactly will you need, and how can we help?”
Clementine turned toward Cat. “How soon would you have your forge hot enough to cast an iron circle with a nine-foot radius containing two opposing equal triangles over one another?”
Cat slowly smiled and began to chuckle. “If you mean a Teufelsloch, then, no. Without the proper fuel I can’t. There’s not enough wood to raise temperatures that high.”
Poe looked with confusion between the big Negro and the woman in black. “A what?”
Cat looked from Clementine to the Sheriff. “A Teufelsloch is kind of a trap for demons, usually used like summoning circles, but I’ve seen them used to entrap them as well; something only a good smith could make.”
“If it is just fuel you need, then I can supply it,” Clementine offered, as she thought the process through. “How long would it take if the forges were hot enough right now?”
Cat rewarded her with a wide smile. “How is it that the only other of your kind to ask for such a thing were men? I understand these traps can be complicated for a simple woman such as yourself.”
Clementine simply shrugged. “You’re assuming the trap is as complicated to make as it is to use. They really aren’t. Shall we visit your forge and get started?”
With any luck, she figured, the demon would be gone by mid-day tomorrow, or else she wouldn’t be around to care.
Copyright © 2005 by Robert L. Sellers Jr