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A Return to the Strange Town of...

Serenity: Season Two

A Weird Western Saga

by
Jason Chirevas
about the author

Previously, in "Serenity: season II"... While there have been no less than two demonic attacks seeming targetting Marshal Boxer, Raven Clark relates to Elizabeth Byrnne what occured before Elizabeth arrived (between Serenity season one and season two, by our reckoning). Meanwhile, little Lili seems particularly distressed about something...



Episode 5:  Duel Redux

"WHY DO I GET THE FEELING you’re not telling me everything?”

Marshal Boxer stood opposite the desk in Dr. Bullshank’s private office, Deputies Lake and Richter at his shoulders.

Bullshank snatched a handkerchief from the desktop and buffed his spectacles. “You know everything I know, Marshal, I assure you. I’m not exactly equipped for veterinary medicine here, let alone the occult.”

“Ah ha, so.” Boxer leaned both fists on the desk. “It definitely was not a regular monkey.” (that attacked him in Episode 2: "Midnight Meetings" ~ the ed.)

“No.” The doctor reclined in the creaky wooden chair. “The final autopsy report I sent you last week said as much. But, other than the information Miss Clark provided about the creature bearing a demonic brand of some kind, I don’t know anything about its origins.”

“So, the demonic brand thing, that’s all Clark told you?”

“That’s all.” Bullshank stood, edged around the deputies, and opened the office door. “You were attacked by a supernatural ape thing, Marshal. That’s my official medical determination. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Abercrombie Putnam has stepped on another rusty nail and requires my attention in the other room.”

Boxer replaced his hat, fixed Bullshank with a glare, and shouldered past the doctor into the street.

+========+========+

“But, why must I, Auntie?”

“Because.” Raven pulled Lili past the post office. “If I’m going to mother you, it’s high time I started doing it right. You’re a child, and children belong in school.”

“But.” Lili broke into a grin that made Raven uncomfortable. “I’m special.”

Raven glared. “Not anymore. You’re going to school, but it won’t be that bad. Miss Benjamin said you’re only to listen to the lessons at first.”

Lili puckered her lower lip. “No one ever got rich that way.”

Raven smiled at the little girl, but glanced away when the child looked up at her.

They reached the corner, and a slender man in a puffy white shirt stepped from the alley.

His right arm was missing. His left hand held a gun.

+========+========+

“Stu! Come quick, he’s got Lili!”

Lake, Boxer and Richter wheeled. Raven Clark ran toward them. The marshal squinted past her. A one-armed man stood in the middle of the street, holding a long-barreled pistol to Lili Clark’s head. “Oh, you’ve got to be kiddin’ me.”

Raven was before them. “It’s Jackson Diamond. (remember him from back in season one, episode 5: "Duel"? ~ the ed.) He wants to see the marshal and Mayor Brubaker in the street right now, or he will kill Lili.”

“So.” Boxer yawned. “What do you care?”

Raven didn’t look at him; her eyes remained on Lake. “Can you take him out from here?”

The deputy’s eyes shifted to the dandy gunfighter, but his head remained still. “He’s watching us. No way I could draw a bead on him and take the shot before he killed Lili.”

“Well.” Boxer threw up his hand. “We’re licked then. Sorry we couldn’t help you out, Miss Clark.”

Raven’s eyes went glassy, and her jaw clenched. The marshal turned to go, but Lake’s hand was on his shoulder. “She’s a little girl, Box.”

Boxer’s gaze went from Lake’s hand, to the deputy’s eyes, to Raven. “Only recently.”

Lake stepped around Boxer, and they were face-to-face. “A little girl gets killed in town and the marshal does nothing; most folks’d want that marshal fired. Especially if there was no spell cast over them.”

Boxer looked sidelong at Lake, who had no trouble holding his gaze, and sighed. “Deputy Richter.”

“Yes, Marshal?”

“Get the mayor.” Boxer finally looked away from Lake. “Tell him we’re wanted in the street.”

+========+========+

Most of Serenity lined the street. Ten yards from Jackson Diamond, Marshal Boxer hooked his thumbs into his belt and rocked on his heels. “What’s the game this time, Diamond? Bobbing for apples? I know it isn’t an applause contest you’re after.”

The shootist made a face. “Humorous, to the last. I’d forgotten that about you, Marshal. You’ll pardon me, but the last time I saw you, my arm was cleft from my body.”

Boxer wore a toothy smirk. “I remember.”

Diamond glanced at the marshal’s left wrist. “I see your arm has healed.”

“It has.” Boxer smirked.

Mayor Brubaker’s brow furrowed. “You know this man, Marshal?”

Diamond frowned. “Of course he knows me, Mr. Mayor, as I assumed you would.” He looked to Boxer. “So easy am I for everyone but you to forget, Marshal?”

“A lot goes on here.”

“I see. Then I shall make this visit more memorable.” The dandy gunfighter cocked his long revolver and pressed the barrel to the back of Lili’s head. Behind Boxer, Raven squeezed Lake’s arm.

Diamond cleared his throat. “Tomorrow at noon, I want the man I drew against last year standing where I am now. We will duel again, this time to the death. If my demands are not met for any reason, I will murder this child.”

Lili rubbed her hands together. “Hee hee, murder.”

“It’s not that simple.” Boxer adjusted his hat. “The man you faced last year is dead.”

“Faced last year? Man is dead? What are you two talking about?” Brubaker laid a hand on Boxer’s shoulder, but the marshal jerked away.

“Very well.” Diamond mopped his brow with a puffy sleeve. “You have until eleven-thirty tomorrow morning to choose my opponent.” He backed Lili toward the alley he’d come from. Raven stepped forward, but Lake stayed her with an arm across her middle.

Diamond was at the mouth of the alley, his gun barrel pressed to Lili’s temple. The crowd parted to allow him passage. “Until tomorrow, Marshal.” A flowery bow, and he was gone.

+========+========+

Five minutes later, Boxer, his deputies, Raven, and Mayor Brubaker were gathered in the marshal’s office. “Well.” Boxer tossed his hat on his desk. “Here we go again.”

Richter wandered into the holding cell, yawning. Brubaker fiddled with his monocle. “What is all this ‘again’ business, Marshal? Have you had prior dealings with this man?”

“Yes, but I don’t have time to go into the details now.” (because only Boxer, Raven, Lake and Lili remember the earlier events, right? ~ the ed.) Boxer put a hand on the mayor’s back and ushered him to the door. “Do me a favor and spread the word, would you, Mayor? Tomorrow morning, I want everyone out of the street by eleven o’clock.”

“Well, yes, all right, marshal. But at some point, I want to know what you know about—”

Boxer slammed the office door shut and locked it, then turned to the others. “All right, who’s for poker?”

“Poker?” Lake hung up his duster. “The hell you talking about, Box? We’ve got to decide who’s facing Diamond.”

Boxer kicked his feet up on his desk. “Do we?”

“You son of a bitch.” Raven crossed to the marshal’s desk and slapped his boots back to the floor. “You’d let her die. A child!”

Boxer glared at Raven through his eyebrows. “First of all, you ever lay hands on me again, lady, and they’ll be sponging you out of the walls like they did your boyfriend.”

“Fuck you!”

“Secondly!” The marshal was on his feet and in Raven’s face. “When Jackson Diamond rides into town tomorrow morning, my deputies will gun him down on sight. You got that, boys?”

Richter lounged in the holding cell. “Got it, Marshal.”

Boxer broke his stare with Raven. “Got that, Stu?”

Lake sat at his desk, eyes on the wall.

“Got that . . . Stu?”

“She’s just a little girl.” It was Raven’s voice in Boxer’s ear, soft, quiet. “Doesn’t that matter to you?”

The marshal’s head turned slowly back to Raven. “She killed the man you loved. Doesn’t that matter to you?”

Raven’s gaze dropped to the floor. “Not anymore.”

Lake was at Boxer’s shoulder. “Lili did what she did to Paige because of The Four, Box. You know that. Can’t you remember what it was like to have them in your head?”

A full minute of silence passed. Finally, Boxer turned his head toward the holding cell but kept his eyes riveted to Lake’s. “Deputy Richter.”

“Yeah, Marshal?”

“You and I are off duty tomorrow.”

+========+========+

At eleven fifty the next morning, Jackson Diamond rode into Serenity wearing a black velvet waistcoat over his puffy white shirt. Most of the town lined the street. One of the marshal’s deputies, the woman he’d snatched the crazy little girl from, the mayor, and the town preacher stood at its center. Diamond’s horse pranced to a halt in front of them. “Where’s the marshal?”

“Cattle dispute outside town. He and Deputy Richter rode out this morning.” Deputy Lake shrugged. “Couldn’t be helped. The marshal said you’d be honorable enough to understand.”

“That I am.” Diamond bounced out of the saddle and straightened his coat. “So, who’s my opponent?”

Lake blew out a sigh. “I am.”

The dandy gunfighter’s eyes lit up. “Oh, excellent. Killing a lawman without fear of reprisal.”

“Heh, yeah. Lucky you.” Lake put a finger in the air. “Uh, but, there’s one new condition to the duel?”

Diamond stopped combing his hair and looked sidelong at Lake. “Oh?”

“Yes.” Lake gestured at the people over his shoulder. “You’ve already got what you wanted: a duel to the death in Serenity. So, now I want you to tell Miss Clark and the reverend there where little Lili is, and they’ll ride out and fetch her while we duel.”

Diamond looked past the deputy and sneered at the trio behind him. “I suppose that would be all right. You’ll be dead before they get back, though. I suggest you say your good-byes now.”

Diamond gave Raven Lili’s location. The dandy gunfighter strolled to one end of the street, twirling his pistol around his trigger finger, as Lake turned to the other three. “Well, I guess that’s it then. You’d better get out there and get Lili.”

“Right. Bless you for what you’re doing, Stu. God will watch over you.” McCallum headed for his buckboard but stopped when he realized Raven wasn’t behind him.

There was a lot she thought about saying as she and Lake held each other’s gaze, but Raven gave only a single nod. “Good luck.”

He returned the nod with a lopsided smile. “Thanks.”

+========+========+

Reverend McCallum’s buckboard grew smaller against the horizon. Lake assumed a stance similar to Diamond’s at the opposite end of the street.

Mayor Brubaker stepped between them. “People of Serenity and duelists in the street; this is a fight to the finish. When the clock strikes high noon, shooters will fire until one man is dead. If Mr. Diamond wins, he is free to go, with the provision he never return to town. Do both men accept those terms?”

Brubaker looked to Diamond, who nodded. Lake did the same.

Sweat drenched the man with the star on his chest. The man with one arm was dry.

Eleven fifty-nine.

+========+========+

Mayor Brubaker’s hand was in the air. “Ten . . . nine . . .eight . ”

Lake’s hand tensed over his revolver. Just jerk it. Quick. One motion.

“Seven . . .six . . .five . . .”

You can do this. He’s only got one arm.

“Four . . . three . . .”

Fuck it, you’re dead. At least the kid’s safe.

“Two…”

The gunshot crackled off the wooden walls of the street, startling everyone.

Deputy Lake’s revolver was still in its holster.

So was Jackson Diamond’s, but he was dead, a bullet lodged in his heart.

All eyes turned to the source of the shot. Standing outside the general store, a smoking revolver in his hand, a mix of confusion and rage on his face, was Tom Putnam.

“What . . . what have I done?”

+========+========+

“Awright, that’s good enough fer the likes of him.”

The body of Jackson Diamond, stripped of anything valuable, flopped into a shallow grave outside of town. Deputy Richter, wearing his new puffy white shirt, and Muggs, the stable master, shoveled dirt into the hole. They were almost done when Richter froze. “Ho-lee shit!”

Ten yards away, an ancient man in tattered clothing took one last step and collapsed in the dust. Richter and Muggs dashed to the man’s side, and the deputy turned him over.

“Jesus Christ! It’s Marshal O’Halloran! Fetch the doc, Muggs! Now!”


Next - Episode 6: Surreal Stampede

Previous - Episode 4: What Happened



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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.)