A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... A Serenity hearing ruled to take custody of Lily away from Raven Clark and return it to the man claiming to be her real father, Burton Scarborough. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone, Elizabeth Byrnne, the supposed widow of Nolan Paige, reveals a sinister and supernatural agenda as she seduces Deputy Richter, sucking his life force from him, and warping him to her will...
Raven whispered a good-bye to Tom and strode past Boxer away from the holding cell. The marshal followed close behind, and nearly walked up Raven’s heels when she stopped at his desk. They were on the border of Tom Putnam’s earshot; Raven’s tone was harsh, but hushed. “You can’t stop what’s happening from happening. He remembers something. Something you said the spell would ensure he’d forget.”
Boxer leaned against his desk, arms folded. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, the hell you don’t!” Her finger was in his face. “That man sits in that cell, day after day, wracked with anger and regret. His soul knows he shot Jackson Diamond for a reason, but his mind can’t recall that reason. You and I both know why Tom did what he did. How can you let him rot in that cell as a murderer?” (Tom killed Jackson Diamond in Season II, Episode 5: "Duel Redux"...and Diamond took one of Putnam's kids hostage wa-ay back in Serenity, Season One, Episode 5: "Duel", remember? ~ the ed.)
“Because in the eyes of this town, that’s what he is.” Boxer thrust a thumb over his shoulder. “Tom Putnam killed a man in full view of the entire town. My duty is to uphold the law and maintain the peace. What would you have me do?”
“The right thing.” Raven turned on her heel and crossed to the office door. “For once.”
Raven stomped out of the marshal’s office and collided with a slender figure in an elegant bonnet. “Oh, excuse me, Miss Benjamin. My mind was elsewhere.”
Elsa Benjamin straightened her bonnet, blinking rapidly. “That’s . . . that’s all right, Miss Clark. I suppose you’re consumed with thoughts of little Lili.” The schoolteacher’s eyes never left the street.
“Uhm, yeah.” Raven’s hands found her hips. “She’s leaving tonight. Apparently, her father likes to hide his movements as much as possible.” She shrugged.
“Indeed.” Elsa glanced across the street at the Serenity Star office. “He seems an odd man, but . . a strong one.” She dragged a heel in the dust.
“I’ve known stronger.” Raven placed a hand on the schoolteacher’s arm, which went rigid. “Listen, I have to get home, but I wanted to thank you for what you did for me yesterday.”
Reflex pulled Elsa’s arm from under Raven’s hand and forced her eyes to meet the other woman’s. “What do you mean, what I did?”
Raven’s brow furrowed. “Your vote. On the panel. You voted to keep Lili with me.” The teacher’s eyes returned to the street. Raven tilted her head, trying to meet Elsa’s gaze. “Didn’t you . . .?” (see last episode ~ the ed.)
Elsa’s eyes remained in the dust. “No. I didn’t.”
Raven straightened. “I see. Then who . . ?”
Elsa’s eyes left the street. Raven traced her gaze, and her jaw dropped.
The teacher was looking at the marshal’s office.
Deputy Lake eased into the barber’s chair with a heavy sigh. Mr. Caruthers swept a drape over the lawman with a flourish. “The usual, Stu?”
“Yep.” Lake stared at himself in the mirror. “Just enough to keep it out of my way.”
Caruthers snipped to work. Behind Lake, Mr. Johansson twiddled his thumbs in a waiting chair. “Why doesn’t this town have a newspaper?”
Caruthers cocked an eyebrow. “How’s that, Mr. Johansson?”
The town undertaker crossed his legs and sat back. “A newspaper. Why doesn’t Serenity have one? Isn’t that run-down office Miss Clark lives over for printing the news? Stu?”
Lake swallowed hard. “Uh, yep. That’s the old Serenity Star office.”
“Well, when was the last time the presses ran? You remember?”
A bead of sweat swelled at the deputy’s hairline. “Nope. I sure don’t.”
Johansson looked to the barber. “Nils?”
The slim haircutter froze mid-snip and considered the ceiling. “Can’t say as I do.”
Johansson removed his tall hat, mopped his brow. “Odd. Very odd. Reminds me of something Grady O’Halloran said to the doctor and I during the monster cow attack.” (see episode 6: "Surreal Stampede" ~ the ed.)
“Oh?” Caruthers eyed the increasing number of droplets on Deputy Lake’s forehead. “What’d he say?”
“He said-” The clang of the bell over the barbershop door snared the words in the undertaker’s throat. Lake used the mirror, the others turned to the door, and all eyes fell on Reverend McCallum.
“Afternoon, gentlemen. Am I interrupting something?”
Elizabeth Brynne rolled off the pile of crepe paper skin and brittle bone, and settled onto her back. Panting next to her, eyes closed with a severe grin carved in his face, was Grady O’Halloran. Elizabeth rolled to her side, head propped up on one hand. “So, how was that?”
The ancient man’s eyes peeled open, pupils clouded over in a milky gray haze. “It was . . wonderful.”
Brynne traced her big toe along O’Halloran’s leg; a trail of dried skin flakes kicking up in its wake. “I’m glad. But I wonder, would you do me a favor?”
The old man’s response was a belch of submission. “Anything.”
Elizabeth Brynne smiled wide, and leaned close to Grady O’Halloran’s withered ear.
In the corner, naked but for his gun belt and hat, Deputy Richter stood facing the wall; giggling without end.
“Tell me, Daddy. What will it be like?”
Burton Scarborough whirled his daughter in the air as he answered. “Oh, there’ll be far off places, beautiful trees, happy people, and wonderful things to eat and drink. All the time.” The huge man's exuberance melted at the sight of Lili’s trembling lip. “What -- what’s wrong? Am I spinning too fast?”
The little girl folded her arms with a harrumph. “Happy trees and far off things to drink? Sounds awful, Daddy.”
Scarborough’s lips pursed. “Uh, well, there’ll also be monsters. And . . .and Daddy will have to kill them.”
Lili’s arms slid down her front as she smiled.
Scarborough nodded. “Uh huh, that’s right. It’ll be dangerous and, and bloody, too. We may even die!”
The little girl threw her arms around her father’s neck, her fingers six inches from meeting. “Oh Daddy, that sounds delightful! I bet the blood will be the best part. Tell me it will.”
“Uh, well . . .”
Another hug. “I can’t wait! You and Auntie and I are going to have so much fun together!”
Scarborough set the little girl on her bed. “Ah, Lili, about Auntie. She-”
“You haven’t told her yet?”
Scarborough turned to find Raven in the doorway. “Not yet.”
Lili peered around her wall of a father, squealed, and ran to Raven’s embrace. “Auntie, did you hear? There’s going to be blood!”
Deputy Lake stood by the barbershop door, eyeing his haircut in the mirror. “Tidy as ever, Nils. I’m much obliged.” Lake plucked his hat from the rack and turned to go.
“Oh, Deputy. I just remembered.”
Lake peeked over his shoulder, the doorknob in his hand. “What’s that, Mr. Johansson?”
The gaunt undertaker took position in the barber’s chair. “During the monster cow attack, Grady O’Halloran told Dr. Bullshank and I he’d been out of Serenity for ten years.”
Lake’s slick palm slid off the brass knob and he turned around. “That right? Ten years?”
“Indeed.” Caruthers cracked the drape to rid it of the last of the deputy’s hair and swept it around the undertaker’s neck. “Very odd considering he was only missing a few months.”
The barber and Reverend McCallum exchanged a glance as Lake mopped his brow. “Yeah, well, a few months lost in the desert will make you say a lot of things, Mr. Johansson. What can I tell you? I’ll catch y’all later.”
Lake turned to the door, but the undertaker’s voice stopped him cold. “The thing of it is, and I do not believe the doctor will mind my saying, former marshal O’Halloran is in far worse condition than even a man his age exposed to the desert should be.”
Glances all around. Caruthers stopped snipping. Lake stepped forward. “S-so, what does the doctor think? What kind of shape is O’Halloran in?”
The undertaker locked eyes with the deputy. “It’s as though he’s aged ten years since last we saw him.”
The ensuing silence was broken by rapping on the glass of the barbershop door. All eyes turned to find Grady O’Halloran waving at them. Lake opened the door and the old man shuffled inside.
“Reverend McCallum, could I have a moment of your time? I need a favor.”
Midnight at Serenity town gates. The clear, starry night and full moon provided a pale blue light for Burton Scarborough to make the final preparations for balloon liftoff. Raven stood a dozen yards away, watching the massive envelope billow with Lili on her hip. Deputy Lake stood behind them.
Everything was ready. Scarborough approached to within a few yards and gave Raven a nod. She returned it, and the massive monster hunter returned to his balloon to wait.
“Ok, sweetheart. It’s time.”
Raven hugged Lili, then set the little girl down. She pointed to Lake. “You gonna say good-bye to Deputy Stu?”
Lake dropped to one knee, arms wide. Lili toddled to him and they shared a brief embrace. “Bye, Deputy Stu. You’ll be a real hero someday. Don’t worry.”
Lake wore a lopsided grin. “Thanks. I’ll look forward to that.”
Lili looked over the deputy’s shoulder and her eyes brightened. “Bye, Toy!”
Lake and Raven turned to see Marshal Boxer emerge from the shadows. Raven was in his face immediately. “If you’re here to ruin this, so help me God, I’ll-”
The marshal waved her off. “I’m here to say good-bye.” Boxer stepped around Raven and knelt in front of the little girl. “So long, kiddo. I’m not sure if you remember, but you and I go back a ways. I’m going to miss you.”
Lili wrapped her arms around Boxer’s neck and gave him a hearty squeeze. “I’ll miss you too, Toy. I’m glad you’re not broken anymore.”
The marshal cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not?”
“Nope.” She winked. “You’ll see.”
“Heh, ok.” Boxer stood. “You go on and say good-bye to Auntie now, hear?”
Lili hopped into Raven’s arms as Boxer disappeared into the night. Raven hoisted the little girl to eye level. “So, this is it, I guess. Huh?”
The child’s lower lip puckered. “Yeah. Are you sure you won’t come along, Auntie? There’re things to kill.”
Raven swallowed hard and tried to smile. “Even so.”
Lili frowned. “Ok then. I guess I better go. Daddy’s waiting.”
“O-ok.” Raven lowered Lili to the ground. The little girl waved to Lake one more time, then walked toward the balloon. After ten steps, she turned and ran back to Raven, who knelt and met her at eye level. Lili pressed her cheek to Raven’s and whispered in her ear.
“I’d make Mr. Nolan all better if I could.” (Nolan was killed by Lili when she was possessed wa-ay back in Season I, Episode Ten: "Veritas" ~ the ed.)
“I know.” A tear rolled down Raven’s cheek and onto Lili’s. She took the child by the shoulders and held her at arm's length. “I love you. You know?”
Lili’s features dropped. Her head tilted and her brows knit. Raven started to speak, but Lili’s sudden grin and giggle kept her silent. “Of course I know. Silly Auntie.”
Lili ran to Burton Scarborough.
The balloon rose into the night.
Raven held fast to Deputy Lake, and Lili was gone.
Next - Episode 9: Night Siege
Previous - Episode 7: Whose Child?
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.)