Maria Faust and her Zombie
companion, Mr. Tall, encounter big trouble
under the big sky in
...

Murder's Accomplice

A 4-Episode Weird Western!


by Stanley "Buck" Weiss
About the author

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Episode 4:
  Underground Showdown


*         *         *
THE STAIRS DOWN INTO THE TOMB were ancient stone and lit by torches on the side of each wall.  Maria pushed out with her mind once more and found the scared little thoughts of the children somewhere below.

She grabbed a torch off the wall and handed it to the sheriff.  He was shaking like a leaf.

“You up for this?” she asked as she pulled one down for herself.  She was not used to working with locals and found them a liability more than help in most cases.

“Yeah.” He pulled a small flask from his shirt pocket.  “Just gotta get myself a little liquid courage.”  He took a small swig and held the bottle out to Maria.

“No thanks,” she replied as she turned down the stairs.  “That stuff does nothing but get me into trouble.”

They hurried down the long staircase until Maria figured they were a good thirty feet under the small stone crypt that they had entered.  Obviously, the Collins family had a little more to them than just sweet old caretakers of the local graveyard.

The stairs ended at a small antechamber where coffins spilled out of large crevices in each wall.  The coffins were empty; the corpses of the Collins family providing the Lurkers that Gant had left to guard his sanctuary.

Beyond the antechamber stood a huge ornate door depicting demons tormenting men and women on some level of hell.

“What the hell is this, a church?”  The sheriff held his torch close to the engravings.

“Yes, sheriff.” Maria put her guns away and locker her fingers together cracking her knuckles.  “I do believe it is.”

Maria could feel the tormented minds of the children just beyond the door.  Their fear was twisting her, tapping into her head and welling up the anger inside her until she could do nothing but act.

She could also sense Gant, his need and his madness.  It was like a black tide flowing into her mind.  She shut it out, pulled her hands apart, told the sheriff to get behind her, and concentrated her mind into a strong focus shoving the doors in.

The room on the other side was as huge as the biggest barn and twice as high.  In its center was a great stone altar beside a circle of blood drawn on the floor.  The children were being kept in a small cage at the far end, stored like animals to be the snack of whatever came out of that ward.  Gant stood over the altar dressed in black robes from head to feet.  He wore a horned mask that shaped his face into the grotesque.  He chanted in an ancient tongue and blood poured from his slit wrists onto the small Indian girl that lay naked before him.

Lurkers moved from either side of the door as Maria and the sheriff entered.  Shots from Maria’s colt caught one of them in the face sending it back to the grave.  The other was knocked back by the sheriff’s blasts but kept coming as Maria moved past in a rush to get to Gant.

Gant’s chanting sped up as Maria crossed the room expiring two more lurkers as she climbed the stairs to him.  She fired once and Gant’s mask flew off his face.  Blood trickled from the man’s temple where the bullet had grazed but not killed him.

He plunged the knife down.  A blood curdling scream erupted as the hot knife slid into the blood covered belly of the Indian girl.  Gant lashed out with his right hand knocking Maria down with a force of air.

Maria fell crashing to the floor, her guns flying away from her as she rolled painfully downward.  She was too late.  The wave of fear and pain from the wounded girl fell onto Maria like a blanket of mire.  She could feel herself getting colder as that blanket moved out to cover her whole body.  She had to save her.  She had to get off of her side and put a bullet in the man before he could hurt the girl again.

Gant dipped his hands in the mixed blood that pooled on the girl's stomach.

“Hold it right there, Gant!”

The sheriff stood below the altar, and pointed his Peacekeeper up at the grinning face of the town mortician.

“Ah, sheriff.”  Gant hissed through blackened teeth.  “How lovely of you to join us.”

Gant threw his arm forward, throwing the mixed blood down onto the sheriff and the floor.  The sheriff fired his gun.  The bullet hit Gant right between his beady little eyes.  The mortician smiled as blood slid down his face and then he fell backwards, his lifeless body making clunky noises as it slid down the stone steps.

Maria pushed herself up as the body fell and looked around for her guns.  She found one of them as the building began to rumble around them.

“Uh, Miss Faust?”

Maria moved towards the sheriff to find him covered in blood and standing in the middle of the pentagram shaped ward.

“I can’t seem to move my feet.”

Maria could see a dark shape materializing behind the frozen sheriff.  The sheriff could feel it too.  He started to turn his head…

“Don’t turn around,” Maria said in the calmest voice she could muster.

The sheriff stopped his movement and looked straight into Maria’s green eyes.  There was a reflection there of red skin and huge white teeth coming out of the blackness behind him.

“Do you still have anything in that flask of yours?”

“Yeah,” he chuckled nervously as he reached into his shirt pocket.  “But I thought you said you didn’t drink.”

“It’s not for me.”

He tossed her the flask.

She held it in her hands and spoke a quick incantation in a long dead language.

The creature noticed the fat man in front of it and moved close enough that spittle from its hot maw dripped down on his large hat.

 The flask started to glow red as Maria pulled it back and drew her ivory handled Colt with the other hand.

“When I say move, you try your best, ok.”

“Whatever you say.”

She launched the flask at the creature's face just as it reared back to engulf the sheriff.

Dive!

Maria slammed the hammer back on her pistol and pulled the trigger just as the flask entered the demon’s jaws.  The bullet connected and the flask exploded with a deafening roar of combustion and screaming monster.

The mystical hold on the sheriff’s legs dropped off just as the creature’s head exploded behind him.  He jumped to the side and rolled clear as the demon’s headless girth fell to the stone beside him.  Dark blood and pieces of flesh covered the man’s clothes and face, but he jumped up quickly as an eerie quiet filled the room broken only by the quiet weeping of the children in the cage and the poor sacrifice on the altar.

Maria tore pieces of the dead man’s robes and tied the girl’s belly wound as much as possible.  The sheriff let the children out of the cage and they all made a quiet trip up the stairs and out into the night air.

Mr. Tall met them at the top; his suit was torn beyond recognition and he was covered in gaping wounds, his arm hanging limp at his side.  Maria looked at him as the sheriff and children walked silently by.

Two words slid between their minds: “meat” and “below.”

*         *         *

Maria delivered the children back to their tribe and watched as the Indian healers sucked the poison of the dagger out of the sacrificial child and healed her wounds.  There was a small feast in her honor.  The pipe of life was passed into her hands.  She pulled on its smoke and held it in her lungs as long as she could.  She had so much of the west to see, she needed all the help she could get.

The End?


Back to Episode 3 : "Where is the Cemetery?"


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The Cold Rock Gamble is copyright by Stanley "Buck" Weiss. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)