Maria Faust and her Zombie
companion, Mr. Tall, encounter big trouble
under the big sky in...
A 4-Episode Weird Western!
Stanley "Buck" Weiss
MARIA FAUST DRAGGED
HER SLENDER RIGHT index finger across the card table in a slow one-inch
circle. Curly locks of red hair hung down around her soft and porcelain
like face as she flashed her bright green eyes at each of the four men
she was facing. Men had told her that she had the features of a
beautiful doll before, but few had the guts to add that her eyes had
the same cold look of one.
In her left hand she held five playing
cards. Five cards that she knew would make the men sitting with
her pull their pistols and accuse her of swindle. Of course it
was swindle. She was very good at cards. Good enough to
know when to cheat so badly that you knew you'd get caught.
Maria had arrived in the small Nevada town of Cold
Rock seven hours before. Her employer, Sir Reginald M. Wormfall
of Wormfall's Cabinet of Curiosity
had sent her a telegram from New
York requesting that she negotiate the purchase of a peace pipe from a
local tribe. The peace pipe was rumored to have the power to elongate
the life of the men who smoked from it. Pipe of youth or not, the
good gentleman wanted it for his showroom and he would pay Maria well
to get it for him.
She blew one of the curls from in front of her face
before letting her voice slide out like sweet honey.
"Well --" There was one cowboy still in the
game. "-- you gonna show me those cards, Sugah, or should I just
drag that pile of cash over right now?"
Maria had met with the Indians only to discover that six of their
children and the school mother that the Quakers had sent to teach them
English had disappeared from the small schoolhouse north of the
village. Maria surveyed the scene and surmised from the tracks
and scuffle marks that they had been taken by men on horseback.
The tribe leaders were in no mood to discuss the sale of their pipe
with their children gone, so she offered her services for their
retrieval; six children and a schoolmarm for the right to display the
peace pipe in The Cabinet in
New York for one year, not a bad deal.
The dust covered cowboy smiled out from under his wide brimmed
hat. "You show me what you got under that dress of yours, girl,
and you can drag that money in." He paused to spit in the small brass
basin sitting next to him and then tossed a few bills into the large
pot. "Anything else is going to cost you another ten dollars."
It had taken only three hours to track down Shotgun Ron and his
boys. The town was a piss poor, dried up, and dying mining
venture, and these boys were throwing money around like they had just
hit the jackpot. The gold, it was as good as the rock to these
sick bastards; she could hear breathing and weeping silently not five
feet under the floor boards of the room. This is what she did for
a living. Travel the west looking finding, buying, or hustling
artifacts for Wormfall to place under glass in his Cabinet. It
wasn't the most stable job, but it had its rewards. Playing cards
with two bit thieves in shit towns like Cold Rock, Nevada was not one
"Why, Mr. Shotgun." The words poured out of her mouth like
molasses and got another lust filled laugh from the men around the
table. "I do believe you are being fresh with me." Maria
tossed a ten-dollar bill in the pot and asked the man to show his
She had been in the town salon, known as The Hind Quarter, for about
twenty minutes before she found the back room where Shotgun and his
boys were holed up. She used her looks to get into the room where
the boys were having a private celebration, a flash of her money to get
a game, and her talents at cards to stack the deck in her favor.
Shotgun Ron laid down his cards with a smile. "Full house, Jacks
over Bitches!" He let his jaw go sideways in a little
laugh. "Kind a like it's gonna be here in a few minutes, right
boys?" The men around him all slapped the table and made
Maria placed her cards on the table and sat back. Shotgun, Maria
wondered why they called him that, she saw no shotgun with him,
continued to laugh as he reached into the middle of the table for the
money. There was a slight shaking of his eyes as they fell on
"Well, isn't that interesting." Maria said as she sat there resting her
hand over the small circle she had drawn with her finger earlier in the
game. "Looks like we both got full houses. Except mine are
Aces over Assholes!"
The laughing stopped dead. The men looked at each other and then
to the woman in front of them. This was not the look of
admiration or lust that Maria had seen when she first entered the
room. This was a look of death and pain.
Those looks told Maria a lot about the kidnapping of the schoolmarm and
her Indian children. These men were not the masterminds.
They were bandits and rapists. They did things for money and
pleasure. They forced their will on others to make them forget
that they were only shit stains in the pants of the world.
Tension hung in the room like a wet sheet drawn tight on a line.
The four men had become like one creature, bent, poised to strike, only
waiting for the head to say the words.
"Who are you," Shotgun asked through clenched teeth.
Maybe, Maria had underestimated his intelligence.
The other men were fingering their holsters.
"Where are the children, Andrew?"
The man known as Shotgun Ron looked aghast at the speaking of his birth
name. He pulled his gun so fast Maria almost didn't see it coming,
"I say again woman. Who the hell are you and how the fuck do you
know my name?"
She knew it because it floated around on the surface of his mind like a
beacon. His name, his hatred of his family, everything; his
childhood of killing animals in his Colorado mining town rested like
black and putrid rot on the top of a poisoned watering whole.
But why they called him Shotgun? She could read surface thoughts,
and if she concentrated, deeper thoughts of the people around
her. It was a talent that she had always possessed. Mamma
Magdalena, had taught her a great many things while Maria was her
protégé, but even the great hoodoo priestess could not
read minds. Yet, Maria couldn't get deep enough into any of their
inebriated and lust filled heads to pull out the information she
needed. That was the reason for the card game. Sometimes
the hard way was the only way. And sometimes the hard way
happened to be so much more fun.
"I can hear the school teacher under the floorboards." The poor
woman was crying and sputtering quietly through her broken mouth.
"But" She dragged the last words out as she slowly tapped the table
where her index finger had drawn the circle not two minutes
earlier. "The Indian children aren't down there. I am going
to need to know where those kids are, Andrew."
"You ain't gonna know shit!"
The other men had stopped laughing. They just looked back and
forth from Maria to their leader. Shotgun pulled the hammer back
on his Colt and motioned toward Maria with his outstretched hand.
"Get her, boys!"
On to Episode
2 : Introducing Mr. Tall
The Cold Rock Gamble is copyright by Stanley "Buck" Weiss. It
copied without permission of the
except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to