A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... Gunslinger Jackson Diamond returned to Serenity for revenge, unaware that only four people in town even remember he had been there before. But his plans for retribution are cut short by a shot from store keeper Tom Putnam. Meanwhile, a surprise return, as Serenity's true marshal, Grady O'Halloran -- deposed by Boxer ten years earlier (though most in the town only think he's been missing for a few months) -- stumbles into town...
Deputy Richter stood at his desk. “Sure, Marshal. What’s going—”
Two thick horns pierced the office door to either side of Boxer’s head.
“Jesus Christ!” Richter moved to Deputy Lake’s empty desk. Boxer sprang up, vaulted the desk and landed next to Richter. “Push!”
The marshal and his deputy heaved Lake’s desk in front of the office door as Raven Clark appeared from the holding cell. “What going on?”
Boxer and Richter had the deputy’s desk held between them at waist height. “Some fucking . . monster cow chased me in here. We’re blocking the door.”
With a collective grunt, the men hoisted Richter’s desk onto its mate. There was a guttural moo from outside, and both desks shuddered. Boxer, Richter, and Raven ran to one side of the marshal’s desk. “Push!”
They shoved the desk to the door with ease; papers and a tin mug falling aside. The men stood Boxer’s desk on end against the other two, and everyone leaned, panting, against it. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Raven glanced at the marshal between breaths. “Came to see Tom (who killed outlaw Jackson Diamond last episode ~ the ed). Did you say a cow chased you in here?”
“Not just any cow.” Boxer flung his hat across the room. “This thing’s a monster.”
Raven’s eyes narrowed. “Another demonic creature is after you?” (the first two were in Episodes two and three ~ the ed.)
“Maybe.” Boxer jammed his hands to his hips. “This is getting ridiculous.”
Another moo, another thump against the door.
Raven’s hand went to her chest. “Oh, my God.”
The marshal cocked an eyebrow. “What?”
“Auntie says cows are our helpers.”
“Not this one, kid. Trust me.”
Deputy Lake, Lili slung over his shoulder, skidded to a halt in the dusty street. Another monster cow pounded at the marshal’s office door.
“Hinderer behind us, Mister Stu!”
Lake turned to see the monster cow that had chased them up the street from the Serenity Star. It pawed the ground with a thick hoof and snorted.
Lake’s eyes darted about, looking for an escape. The marshal’s office was no longer an option. He saw a clear path to only one nearby building.
The monster cow charged. Deputy Lake dove from its path, rolled on his shoulder, keeping Lili against his body, and dashed for the school.
“Well, this was certainly not worth coming back for.”
Crammed into the closet off the doctor’s private office, Grady O’Halloran, clad in nothing but a towel, Dr. Bullshank, and Mayor Brubaker could barely breathe. Brubaker’s monocle popped out. “Do you think it’s gone?”
“No.” Bullshank’s chin was wedged against the wall, forcing his gaze to the ceiling. “I can still hear it moving around.”
A monster cow was in the larger examination room. A bedpan stuck on its head, the beast destroyed everything it came in contact with as it searched blindly for an exit.
“Good heavens!” Brubaker jolted, squeezing more breath out of the other men. “I just remembered something.”
“What’s that?” O’Halloran voice was a high-pitched leak.
“Miss Brynne. She’s . . ”
“. . . alone in her room at Town Hall. We have to get her out of there.”
They were in the holding cell with Tom Putnam. Raven fixed Boxer with a glare as Richter gripped the bars with sweaty hands. “How do you know she’s alone?”
Boxer stood, waving a hand. “Doesn’t matter. Bump, when the coast is clear, I want you to get over to Town Hall and bring Miss Brynne back here.” He looked sideways at Raven. “She’s to have the full protection of this office.”
“And what about Lili?”
“She’s here with me.” Elsa Benjamin pulled her head back under the desk.
“All right, good.” Deputy Lake stepped away from the mountain of children’s desks and chairs in front of the schoolhouse door. “But I think it’s safe to come out now.”
Elsa and Lili crawled out from under the teacher’s desk. Benjamin swatted dust from her long skirt. “What’s out there, Deputy?”
Lili wagged a finger at the teacher. “No helper of ours, that’s for sure.”
Lake looked from the child to the woman. “Wicked cattle of some sort. I don’t know if they’re mad or what, but they’ve chased everyone off the street. I grabbed Lili out of the Star office before they could get to her.”
Elsa gulped. “’They?’”
Lake gave a single nod. “I’ve seen at least two.”
Lili stared at the pile of desks against the door. “Bet that makes for tricky leaning.”
The hot air balloon drifted over the horizon, bound for Serenity. Its lone occupant peered at the town through a spyglass. The balloon dipped. A meaty, leather-gloved hand reached up and fired the burner. The balloon rose into the strong tailwind.
Serenity grew closer. It wouldn’t be long now.
Atop the pile of desks, Boxer pressed his ear to the office door. “I don’t hear anything.”
He hopped down and nodded to Richter. “You’re on, Bump. Go for it.”
The deputy’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “Jeez, Marshal. Are you sure I gotta do this?”
“Yes.” Boxer pulled the leaning desk away from the pile. “Miss Brynne’s counting on you.”
“Oh awlright.” Richter helped Boxer pull the piled desks away from the door. They crouched, each man peering through his own horn-made hole in the door. There was no sign of the monster cow.
They stood. Boxer slapped Richter’s shoulder. “Good luck, Bump. We’ll see you and Miss Brynne back here soon.”
The deputy dragged a hand across the back of his sweaty neck, glanced out the door in both directions, and ran for Town Hall.
He didn’t get ten feet before the monster cow burst from the alley and charged.
“That’s it. I’m doing all my lessons plans at home from this day forward.”
Lake suppressed a grin. “Sounds like a good idea. We’re hosting more than our share of monsters lately.”
Lili’s brows knit. “Lately?”
The pounding at the door stopped. Elsa Benjamin crept toward the mountain of desks and chairs. “Do . . . do you think it’s gone?”
“I don’t know.” Lake bobbed from one foot to the other. “But I sure wish I’d gone before we came, so to speak.”
Elsa looked over her shoulder. “Oh. The outhouse is right outside the back door.”
Lake stopped bobbing. “The back . . .? Oh, fuck!”
All eyes turned to the back door, and an explosion of splintering wood reduced it to kindling.
Elsa Benjamin clung to Lake’s side as the dust cleared, and a massive cow snorted into the room.
The beast was gone. Dr. Bullshank, Mayor Brubaker, and a recently clothed Grady O’Halloran surveyed the broken mass of furniture and equipment in the doctor’s office.
Brubaker pressed his monocle into place. “What the devil was that thing, doctor?”
Bullshank stared at the splinters of his examination table. “I don’t know. Crazed cow of some sort.”
“A crazy cow?” O’Halloran scratched his head. “I know I’ve been gone for ten years, but I don’t reckon they’re growing cows that big anywhere, mad or otherwise.”
The doctor and mayor exchanged a wide-eyed glance, then looked at O’Halloran.
Deputy Richter dipped his shoulder and dove through the Town Hall window. Glass and bits of windowpane rained over his back and shoulders as Richter rolled to his feet. The monster cow did not follow. Instead, it blew a heavy snort through the jagged remains of the window and moved off.
Richter shook the glass out of his clothes, wrapped a handkerchief around a gash in the palm of his hand, and went up the steps.
The balloon set down at the Serenity town gate. It’s hulking pilot vaulted from the basket and marched to town.
“My God, Stu! Do something!”
There was a cow-sized hole where the narrow back doorway had been.
Elsa Benjamin was atop the tangle of school desks; Lili was contorted inside the pile. Deputy Lake stood at the center of the room, face-to-face with a cow so massive its bulbous muscles threatened to split its skin in a dozen places.
Lake took a step back and reached for his revolver. The cow snorted, dragging a hoof along the floorboards. Lake jerked his pistol and fired as the cow charged.
The bullet took the cow between the eyes, embedding in its skull. Deputy Lake leaped to the nearest wall. The monster cow skidded to a halt short of Desk Mountain and wheeled to face Lake. Though the bullet hole between its eyes bled, the cow was unfazed.
Deputy Lake scrambled to his feet and lunged to his right as the cow charged again.
Richter’s boots slid to a stop before a closed door to the left of the mayor’s office. Panting, the deputy pounded the door, leaving splotches of grime on the surface. “Miss Brynne! Miss Brynne! Marshal sent me. Yew gotta come on, now.”
“Come in, Deputy Richter. It’s open.”
Richter twisted the knob and pushed the door open. Spread across the simple cot in her makeshift hotel room, barefoot and draped in scant lingerie, was Elizabeth Brynne. Richter’s shotgun hit the floorboards just ahead of his drool.
“Come in, Deputy. I have something for you.”
Boxer and Raven’s backs braced the pile of desks against repeated thuds at the breaking door. “Where the hell is Richter?”
“Who cares?” Raven was tossed away from the desk pile by a jolt from the outside. She turned and put her shoulder where her back had been. “By the time he gets back here, there won’t be an office to return to.”
Tom Putnam waved an arm through the bars of the holding cell. “Lemme out of here, Marshal! You need all the hands you can get.”
“No can do, Tom.” Boxer’s boots slid over the floorboards as the piled desks shuddered. “I can’t leave Miss Clark alone at the door. This thing’ll blow right through her.”
Raven sneered. “Oh, why don’t you just go to—”
An explosive blast from outside snared the words in Raven’s throat, and the blows to the door stopped.
Atop Desk Mountain, Deputy Lake tugged Elsa Benjamin to his hip with one arm and pulled Lili Clark up through the mess with the other. Below, the monster cow flung several desks and chairs to the far wall with its horns.
Desk Mountain teetered.
Tears streamed down Elsa’s cheeks. “Oh God, Stu. I don’t want to die. Not like this.”
Lili clung to Lake’s opposite leg. “Auntie gravely mistook the demeanor of cows.”
The cow shook a stray desk from its horns and stepped back. It looked up at the huddled trio, sneered, pawed the floorboards, and charged.
A blast came from the back door, and the cow’s head exploded. Its body collapsed in a heap at the wobbly base of Desk Mountain.
Lake, Elsa and Lili looked to the ragged back doorway. Filling it was the biggest man to hit Serenity since Grimm. His broad torso was wrapped in a double-breasted military style jacket, the flap open and hanging down. He wore taut riding trousers and black boots up to his knees. He had hair to match his boots, a bucket jaw, and an elephant gun resting over his shoulder. “This makes three. That the last of them, Marshal?”
“I think so.” Lake, Elsa, and Lili gaped as Boxer stepped from behind the massive man. “I didn’t see any others.”
Raven Clark appeared at the big man’s other shoulder. “Where’s Lili? Lili?”
“I’m here, Auntie.” Lili waved from Desk Mountain. “We need to talk cows.”
“Just come here, you.” Raven dropped to her knees and held her arms wide open. Lili trickled down the pile of desks and leaped into Raven’s embrace. Raven kissed the top of the little girl’s head and whispered in her ear. “I was so worried about you.”
Lake and Elsa Benjamin stumbled to the floorboards and crossed to Boxer and the hulking newcomer. “I reckon we owe you big, mister. Who are you?”
“My name is Burton Scarborough.” The stranger flashed a piano key grin. “I hunt monsters.”
Boxer cocked an eyebrow. “Good thing you showed when you did, Scarborough. But, how’d you know to come to Serenity?”
“Actually.” Scarborough slid the elephant gun into a leather sheath strapped to his back. “I didn’t know there were monsters here at all. That’s not why I came.”
Boxer, Lake, Raven, and Elsa exchanged glances. Raven stood up. “Then why did you come, Mr. Scarborough?”
“I came for her.” Scarborough’s thick, black-gloved finger was pointed at Lili.
“She’s my daughter.”
Next - Episode 7: Whose Child?
Previous - Episode 5: Duel Redux
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.)