A Weird Western Saga
in the first "season" of "Serenity: a town in the old west"... Raven
Clark and Deputy Stu Lake
manage to thwart the ultimate plans of Marshal
Boxer and his demon masters -- resulting in the town being freed
of the evil influence and most of the town folk losing their memory of
what had occurred. The result is that Boxer has lost his
influence...and his position but, conversely, there's no way Raven and
Lake can arrest him when no one else remembers what he'd done. The
result...a stalemate. But all, for now, is quiet. A few months later,
life is back to normal. Lake is the new Marshal and Boxer has wormed
his way into being deputy.
But dark forces are brewing, seeking to reassert themselves over the town...
Mayor Brubaker cut the red ribbon strung between the thin posts of the makeshift arch. The crowd applauded.
Brubaker adjusted his monocle. “And now, the marshal will break ground and officially get the project underway. Marshal?”
“It’s my honor, Mayor.” Stu Lake dropped the shovel blade into the dust. The crowd applauded.
During the ensuing outdoor reception, Tom Putnam pulled Lake aside. “Mayor says you’re leaving town, Marshal. Where’re you headed?”
Lake waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, it’s nothing. Just have to make sure the fence wire’s holding together. Boring, I know, but it's part of my job. I’ll only be gone for a few days.”
Putnam grimaced. “Days?”
Lake grinned. “Lots of fence wire.”
The marshal laid a hand on the shopkeeper’s shoulder. “Just go to the deputies if you need anything.”
“Yeah.” Tom Putnam glanced at Deputies Richter and Boxer. “I’m sure we’re in good hands.”
The marshal rode for The Outskirts. No sooner did Serenity disappear over the horizon than Lake came upon the rest of his party. He dismounted and crossed to the meager campsite. “All set?”
Raven Clark looked up from the freshly wrapped burlap bundle. “Yep, got everything we need.” She looked over her shoulder to the small figure swaying next to Apollo. “We’re going.”
“Oooo!” Lili Clark shook her fists. “Rooftops on kittens!”
“Shur will be nice ta have a place ta put yer feet up, eh, Mayor?”
Brubaker stood alongside Deputy Richter outside the post office, watching the afternoon’s crowd disperse. “Indeed. We haven’t had a place like that in . . . come to think of it, we’ve never had one, have we?”
“Nope.” Richter looked up from his nasal treasure with a grin. “An’ there’ll be gamblin’ too.” The grin faded. “Poor ol’ Marshal O’Halloran yuseta love a good wager.” Richter turned to the third man outside the post office. “You a bettin’ man, Deputy?”
“Oh.” Aloysius Boxer smiled. “I’ve been known to take some chances.”
Marshal Lake stretched out under the starry sky, hands clasped behind his head. “Gorgeous tonight, isn’t it?”
Reclining against a rock, Raven glanced up, then returned her gaze to the fire. “I suppose.”
Lake looked across the dust. Lili slept in a ball between them. “Nervous?”
“Not really.” Raven’s eyes remained on the campfire. “I just want to get it done, at this point.”
“Yeah.” Lake’s eyes returned to the stars. “We should have taken care of this months ago, but with all that’s happened since—”
“I know.” Raven flicked a pebble into the fire. “They deserve better than this.”
“Yeah.” Lake closed his eyes, recalling the two men they traveled to honor. “I know.”
“Awlright, awlright, I’m cummin’! Calm down!”
Boxer dragged Richter by the collar to the side of the sawmill. They settled before a mass of construction supplies. “There! See there?”
Richter rubbed the crust from his eyes and yawned. “See wuht? It’s a pile a’wood an’shit. Wuhdo I care?”
Boxer rolled his eyes. “God, this was so much easier when you were mine.”
“Wuht?” Richter scratched his rear.
“Never mind.” Boxer grabbed Richter by the shirt cuff and pulled him to a stack of boxes. The top one was open. “There are six sticks of dynamite missing from this case.”
Richter peered into the box. “How kin yew tell?”
“I helped Muggs stack them when they arrived.” Boxer took a stick from the open case. “There are supposed to be twelve to a case. This one’s got six.”
Richter’s eyes searched the night sky. “So . . . that means there’s . . ”
Boxer dropped the dynamite in the box with a sigh. “Six missing.” He thumbed the lip of the open case, then moved on with the plan.
“Hey, what’s that on the ground, Deputy? Near your foot.”
The sun hung low in the sky when they reached The Outskirts. Raven and Lake dismounted to find the mine looking exactly as it had months earlier. Raven pulled the pouch of supplies from her saddlebag and slung it over her shoulder. Lili recoiled from the mine and fell on her backside in the dust.
“The nannies! Not the nannies! No more sore cheeks! No more!”
Raven knelt and grabbed the little girl by the shoulders. “It’s all right, Lili. The nannies are gone, remember?”
The girl’s little chin quivered. “Sore cheeks and birds eating brother, Auntie.”
Raven stood Lili up. “There’re no more nannies, Lili. I promise. Besides, the marshal is here to protect us. Right, Marshal?”
Lake gave Lili a warm smile. “With my life, little lady.”
“There. See?” Raven extended her hand to Lili. “Now, come on. Take Auntie’s hand and we’ll go in together.”
“All-all right, Auntie.”
The child grasped her hand, and Raven suppressed her revulsion as they walked toward the mine.
Like the exterior of the mine, the chamber was untouched since the day Raven, Lake, Lili, and Boxer left it. The walls were battle ravaged, the center altar and thrones were in ruins, and there were jagged stone pieces of The Four strewn everywhere.
Grimm was the only thing missing.
Raven, Lake, and Lili found a pile of ashes where they’d left the massive man’s dead body months earlier. At the heart of the mound laid Grimm’s huge revolver. Raven turned to Lake. “This must have happened as soon as we left him. Remember how we found his horse?”
The marshal nodded. “Yeah. He gave his life to beat The Four, and there’s almost nothing left of him.” Lake removed his hat and bowed his head. “Good man. Both of them were.”
Raven pulled the small urn from her pouch and knelt with it next to Grimm’s ashes. A tear rolled down each cheek as she placed Nolan Paige’s ashes alongside those of his protector.
Nearby, Lili shook her head. “The toy never liked him much.”
“You shut up!” Raven’s voice was a harsh hiss that startled Lake. He frowned at Raven, then took Lili by the hand. “We’ll give you a minute.”
They crossed to the mouth of the chamber, leaving Raven alone with Nolan Paige for the last time. She caressed the top of the little urn with a fingertip as she spoke.
“I know it’s been a long time since we talked, but I didn’t want to say good-bye until I was sure I’d have the time to do it right. I’m still not sure that time is now, but you’ve waited long enough.
“We won; that’s the first thing you should know. Your mission, our mission, we did it. We found out what was in this chamber, and we beat it. Well, mostly Grimm beat it, but he’s probably told you that himself by now. I wish you could have seen him. You would have been so proud. He saved me, Lake, the whole town. I’m in awe every time I think of him.
“You were right about Deputy Lake; he is a good man. He rode with Grimm and me against The Four. I know I didn’t trust his motives when you told me what he did for us in the duel, but you were right about him all along. He stood by me, even against Boxer. Lake is marshal now, and Serenity is much better for it.
“Boxer is still around, unfortunately. He turned on his masters and emerged from the battle unscathed. I know, typical Boxer. He’s one of Lake’s deputies now, so I take some ironic comfort in that.
“And then there’s Lili.
“I don’t know if you’d think too much of me for this, or too little, but I’m mothering the little girl who murdered you. The Four were in control at the time, but their hold on her died with them. I’m trying to take care of her because I thought it’s what you’d want me to do; what you would have done. It’s so, so hard though. I struggle with it every day. The Four shredded her mind, and every time I look at her, I want to do to her what she did to you. I know that’s horrible, I know that makes me weak, but it’s true and it tears at me every day”
Raven laid a hand over the urn and cried.
“I miss you. I love you. I have to go.”
She got up, crossed to the chamber door, where Lake and Lili were playing Pat-A-Cake, and sniffed back the tears.
“I’m ready. Let’s do it.”
Raven, Lake, and Lili ducked behind a large boulder as the last three sticks of dynamite demolished the mine entrance. Chunks of rock tumbled into the opening, making it impenetrable. The first three charges had already done the same to the interior chamber’s doorway.
They emerged from hiding. The marshal took the little girl’s hand, and Raven lead them to the horses.
At noon the next day, Deputy Boxer was at the Serenity town gate to greet the returning riders. Raven and Lake noted the smirk on his face and exchanged a glance.
“Welcome back . . . Marshal. The mayor wants to see you.”
“And we found this at the scene. Show him, Deputy.”
They were gathered outside the post office. Richter extended a fist to Marshal Lake and opened it. A single, silver shirt button was in his palm. Richter grinned. “Only one man I know got a shirt wit gen-u-wine silver buttons own it. Dat’s Marshal Stu Lake. Present from his momma.”
Raven glared at the smirking Deputy Boxer as Brubaker squinted at Lake. “Is this true, Marshal? Is this button from your shirt?”
Lake, jaw clenched, looked over his shoulder at Boxer. Raven read the look. “No, Lake! Don’t! Mayor—”
“Yes, it’s my button.” Lake dropped his gaze to the dust. “I took the dynamite.”
Brubaker plucked the monocle from his eye socket. “But why, Stu?”
“I can’t tell you.” Lake’s eyes never left the ground. “And I won’t. It’s my business. No one else’s.”
The monocle back in his eye, the mayor puffed out his barrel chest. “Well, I must say, this is most disappointing. Doesn’t seem to be any harm done as a result of the missing dynamite, but I can’t have my lawmen taking things that don’t belong to them without explanation. You made a great deputy, Stu, but maybe you’re not marshal material. Therefore . . .”
Raven watched as the smiling Boxer stepped forward. “Oh God, don’t say it.”
“Stuart Lake, I have no choice but to remove you from office, and appoint Deputy Aloysius Boxer as Serenity town marshal.”
Boxer stepped in front of Lake, his hand open, his grin wide. “I’ll take that star, Stu.”
Lake removed his badge and dropped it in the new marshal’s hand, glaring into Boxer’s eyes all the while.
Boxer yanked his deputy’s star off and took great care pinning the marshal’s badge in its place. He presented the deputy’s badge to Lake. “I could use a deputy, Stu. You up for it?”
Behind Lake, Raven put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Lake brushed Raven’s hand away and reached for the deputy’s badge. Boxer allowed the former marshal’s hand within an inch of the star before letting it drop to the dirt. “You’ve got the job. Now get back to the office. You too, Richter.”
Richter giggled as Lake picked up the badge. Raven stared at Lake as the deputies crossed the street. He never looked back.
Brubaker extended a hand to Boxer. “Congratulations, Marshal.”
“Thank you, Mayor. I’ll make you proud.” Brubaker took his leave. Boxer’s warm smile became a cruel smirk as he turned to Raven. “Well, well, well. Look where we are.”
Her entire body quaked. “I took the dynamite.”
Boxer buffed his star with a sleeve. “I know it. But, exposing you as the thief wouldn’t have gotten me back where I belong.” He tilted the badge up and huffed on it. “Framing Stu did.”
Lili clapped randomly at Raven’s hip. “Yay! Yay for the toy!”
At the end of the street, a stagecoach rumbled into view.
Raven stepped into Boxer’s face. “If you think I’m going to do nothing and let you take control of this town again, you are sadly mistaken.”
“It wouldn’t be fun if you did.” He tipped his hat with a grin. “Ma’am.”
Boxer turned to go, but the sight of the woman Avery Cobb helped off the stagecoach brought the marshal up short.
Her ebony hair cascading down her back, her voilet eyes glinting in the afternoon sun, her crimson lips perfect with a billowing dress to match; the tall, slender woman passed the slack-jawed Cobb with a sly smile, and crossed to Boxer.
“You’re the marshal, I presume?”
Boxer’s hat was in his hands as Raven appeared at his shoulder. “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you . . . please?”
The women smiled. “I’m looking for someone; perhaps one of you know him. Nolan Paige?”
Boxer and Raven exchanged a glance before they could stop themselves. “Nolan Paige?”
“Yes.” The woman tossed her long hair, a single black tendril settling alongside her face. “I was told he was here.”
Raven swallowed hard. “I-I’m sorry. You are? . . ”
“Oh, excuse me. Where are my manners?” The woman extended a milky hand for Boxer to kiss. “My name is Elizabeth Brynne.
“I’m Nolan’s fiancé.”
Next - Episode 2: Midnight Meetings
Serenity is copyright by Jason Chirevas. 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.)