A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... Raven
Clark and Marshal Stu Lake mis-appropriate some dynamite to seal up the old mine where they had stopped the evil months before -- but Boxer uses that information to force Stu's resignation...and have himself re-instated as marshal! Meanwhile, a visitor arrives in Serenity -- Elizabeth Byrnne, who claims to be Nolan Paige's fiance. But how does one explain her fiance is dead, murdered by dark forces months ago...and most people in town no longer remember he even existed...?
“Because.” Deputy Lake dropped a fist on the table. “He would have done much worse to you.”
Raven pushed away from the wall; her arms still crossed over her chest. “Well, what do you think he’s going to do to me now that he’s back in power?”
“Nothing.” Lake stood and grabbed his rifle from the table. “Not so long as I’m still law.”
“Please.” Raven crossed to the door, which still read ‘Serenity Star,’ and opened it. “There is no law under Boxer. You’re just his toady. Again.”
Lake’s jaw clenched as he looked from the open door to Raven. “So, it’s like that, huh?”
“I see.” Lake stepped to the doorway. “I’ll get back to my patrol. Goodnight, Miss Clark.” The deputy stepped into the chilled night air, and Raven slammed the door behind him.
The creature kept to the shadows as the deputy passed
“Thank you so much for agreeing to see me, Miss Brynne. Please, have a seat.”
“Thank you, Marshal.”
Boxer pushed Elizabeth Brynne’s chair in under her, then rounded his desk to the wine bottle. “I’m sure the accommodations here are less than you’re used to; perhaps there will be spirit enough to make up for it.” He uncorked the bottle and filled the best wine glasses one could buy from Putnam’s General Store halfway with chardonnay. He set the bottle down and offered her a glass. “Will you honor me?”
She took the glass with her fingertips. “As you would permit me, Marshal. Thank you.” Elizabeth took a sip as Boxer slid into his chair. “Although, I must admit, I wonder what this is all about. I can think of no occasion that calls for wine.”
Boxer downed half his spirit in one swallow and placed the flute on the desk. “The arrival of an elegant beauty such as yourself is all the occasion a man needs, Miss Brynne.” He turned up his palms. “How could I resist?”
Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Again, thank you.” Elizabeth pulled another sip from her glass, then set it on the desk. “When you asked me to meet you here this evening, I initially thought you were going to tell me something dreadful about Nolan.”
“About Nolan? Oh, heaven forbid.” Boxer waved the suggestion off with a flourish. “No, he’s just out of town for a few days, as I told you when you arrived. You’ll see him soon enough.”
“Yes, of course.” Elizabeth’s smile was thin as she traced the lip of her flute with a fingernail. “Would you happen to know where he went? What business he’s attending?”
Boxer refilled his wineglass. “That, I don’t know. I assumed it had to do with his article on frontier life.” The marshal peered at Elizabeth over the rim of his glass as he swallowed his wine. “I try not to meddle in the personal affairs of Serenity’s citizens. Or those of her guests.” He returned his flute to the desk and took up the bottle.
“More wine, Miss Brynne?”
The creature leaped to the shadows as the figure approached the Serenity Star.
Raven padded to the front door as the pounding on it, and in her head, persisted. She peeked around the shade, rolled her eyes, and threw open the office door. “What?”
Deputy Lake strode past her into the office. “You’re a tough nut to crack, you know that, lady?”
Raven cocked an eyebrow as the deputy breezed past her. “Sure, come on in.” She closed the door and resumed her earlier cross-armed posture against the wall. “I’m what, now?”
“I can’t figure you out.” Lake dropped his rifle on the wobbly table and swiveled to face her. “We ride together to The Outskirts. We fight alongside each other against The Four. I get you out of jail when we get back to town. I come out against building a betting parlor, even though the whole town was for it, because you didn’t think it was a good idea. I go with you to turn the Outskirts mine into a tomb. I let you steal town property to do it; I can’t believe I did that. And—”
Raven yawned. “Is there a point in our future?”
Lake glared. “The point is, I’ve done everything you asked of me since we joined up against The Four. As soon as I do something you don’t approve of, which, by the way, I did to protect you, you turn on me like a rattlesnake.”
Raven blinked sleepy eyes. “Oh . . . was that the point?”
Elizabeth Brynne reclined in her chair, a tendril of black hair twirled around a finger. “So, you have two deputies?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Boxer gulped from his third flute of wine. “Lake’s out on patrol. I like to keep a presence on the street as much as possible.”
“Mmm.” Elizabeth sipped her wine. “That’s wise of you. And your other deputy? Where is he?”
“Richter.” Boxer snorted into his glass. “I gave him the night off. He’s not as . . fit to be seen as most folks.” He swallowed the last of his wine and licked his lips. “Besides, I thought I could handle this meeting on my own.”
Elizabeth giggled. “Did you, now?”
“Fine! You want the truth?”
“I think I can handle it.”
Raven pushed away from the wall. “Don’t be so sure.”
Lake folded his arms over his chest, mirroring her posture. “I’m waiting.”
She looked him dead in the eye. “I don’t trust you.”
His arms and jaw dropped. “You don’t trust me?”
Raven looked away briefly, then back into his eyes. “No. I don’t.”
Lake turned away, throwing his arms in the air. “I don’t fucking believe this.” He wheeled on Raven, jabbing a finger at her. “You know how much I’ve risked for you?”
Raven crossed to the base of the staircase. “It’s not a risk if you’re never in danger.”
Lake jammed his hands to his hips. “The hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means.” She leaned against the stair rail, arms crossed again. “The result of all your ‘help’ is Boxer’s back in charge of Serenity, and you’re back at his side. Everything is the way it was before. Except now, there’s no Four hanging over Boxer’s head, and the only ones who’ve suffered are me and the two men who died trying to protect me. This could have been Boxer’s plan from the start. And yours.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“Add to that, I’m now saddled with a crazy little girl whose care takes up most of my time, and pardon me if all this doesn’t seem like an Aloysius Boxer Original from day one.”
Lake stepped into Raven’s face and pointed up the stairs. “That little girl is a victim in all this, and you know it.”
“She murdered the man I love. And, as I recall, you’re the reason I’m stuck with her now.” Raven started up the steps before the tears could come. “Goodnight, Deputy.”
“Wait!” He slammed his hand on the stair rail. “There’s something you don’t know.”
Outside, the creature slid from the alley toward the front door.
Sitting on the edge of the desk, Boxer leaned forward and poured the last of the wine into Elizabeth’s flute. “Go on.”
“That’s basically it.” She reclined, smiling at him through her eyebrows. “Nolan asked me to marry him just before he came out here. I hadn’t heard from him in quite a while, so I thought I’d come out and surprise him.” She twirled at her hair and lazily wagged the foot of her crossed leg.
“Indeed.” Boxer traced the edge of the desk with his fingers. “I’d say you’re a surprise to us all, a stunning one at that.”
"Thank you once again, Marshal.” She swallowed the last of her wine. “Are you this cordial with all town visitors?”
“Oh, of course.” He puffed his chest, jaw jutting out. “I’m a big believer in civic hospitality.”
The pointed toe of Elizabeth’s black leather boot found the marshal’s shin and rubbed.
“So I’ve noticed.”
“So, I put a shot in Diamond’s shoulder, and Mr. Paige won the duel.”
Deputy Lake turned his palms up and cocked his head. “I saved his life. Why would I do that if I was in with Boxer the whole time?”
Raven looked up from her seat on the steps. “I don’t know, but I’ve already heard this story.”
The deputy’s arms dropped to his sides. “You did? Then why—”
“I wanted to hear your side. It fits with what Nolan told me.” She sighed. “He trusted you.”
Lake crossed to the steps. “Then why can’t you?”
She looked up at him, steel-eyed. “Because even he lied to me.”
Outside, the clock tower struck midnight, and the creature moved toward its prey.
Boxer and Elizabeth Brynne staggered to the marshal’s office doorway, locked in an awkward kiss and grope. They broke and exchanged a glassy-eyed look. Boxer opened his mouth to speak.
And a lithe, simian shape leaped from the street, tackling him back into the office.
At the Serenity Star, Raven and Lake sat in silence, she on the steps, he on the wobbly table. The deputy breathed a heavy sigh and hopped to his feet. He reached for his rifle when a shrill scream from upstairs sent a jolt down his spine.
Lake crossed to the steps, where Raven was on her feet, looking to the upstairs landing. Lake followed her gaze to find Lili standing wide-eyed at the top of the steps.
“Monkey babe is breaking the toy!”
Boxer clawed at his holster as the creature rained blows down on his head and shoulders. The marshal tried to defend himself with his other arm, but most of the fists were getting through.
Outside, the creature’s attack had knocked Elizabeth Brynne to the floorboards. She got to her knees and peered into the office.
Boxer caught sight of Elizabeth’s head in the doorway. “Get this thing off me! Ahhh!” The creature had grabbed the marshal by the wrist and elbow, and sunk its teeth into his forearm.
Elizabeth Brynne got to her feet but remained outside the office.
Deputy Lake charged across the street, rifle in front of him, gripped by both hands. Raven, Lili straddling her hip, labored to keep pace.
Lake reached the marshal’s office and took the steps in a single stride. He rushed past the gawking Elizabeth Brynne and into the office. What he found brought him up short.
A hairless, ape-like creature, about half the size of a man, had Marshal Boxer pinned to the floor with a forearm across his throat. The marshal’s hand shook as he reached for his gun. The creature repeatedly smashed Boxer in the face with its free arm.
Lake came in behind the creature and delivered his rifle stock to the back of its head. It was like hitting a small boulder. The creature lurched forward, then turned on Lake with a snarl.
Without hesitation, the deputy wheeled the rifle round and uppercut the creature in the jaw with the stock.
The creature tumbled off the marshal and crashed into Richter’s desk. It righted itself with blinding speed and crouched to spring at Lake, but the deputy traced three shots in a line across its torso and the creature crumpled to the floor with a yelp.
Raven stopped in the office doorway to check on Elizabeth Brynne, then appeared at Lake’s shoulder. “Are you all right?”
He turned to her. “Yeah, but I have no idea—”
“Stu, look out!”
Raven turned away, shielding Lili from the creature as it flew through the air, Lake’s jugular vein in its eyes.
The deputy brought his rifle up, but knew he wouldn’t get a shot off in time.
The creature arced to within a yard of Lake’s neck, when a shot echoed off the office walls. The ape-thing sailed over Lake’s shoulder and collapsed in a heap near the spittoon, a fresh bullet hole in its sloped forehead. It did not get up again.
Lake, Raven, and Elizabeth looked to the floor. Boxer was still laying there, his smoking revolver in one hand, his throat cradled in the other, struggling to breathe.
“What . . . the fuck . . . was that?”
Next - Episode 3: Morning Ride
Previous - Episode 1: Power Play
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.)