A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... Raven Clark is forced to say goodbye to Lili -- the girl she never wanted but grew to care for -- as she leaves town with her true father. Meanwhile, some of the town's folk seem to be remembering things from the period when they were enchancted, and Elizabeth Byrnne sets into motion her own sinister plans, supernaturally warping Deputy Richter and Grady O'Halloran to her will -- and O'Halloran is sent off to find the Reverend McCallum...
“You know, you could probably have less fun, you put your mind to it.”
Raven’s gaze drifted over her shoulder to find a grinning Deputy Lake. She rolled her eyes and returned to her cup.
“Come on.” Lake stepped up to the landing outside the Serenity Star office and book-ended Raven’s lean against a support post. “It’s a beautiful night, the whole town is together; this is what the Summer Celebration is all about.” He gulped the last of his whiskey. “Best of all, no monsters. This is a good time, Raven.”
Her eyes remained on the revelry-filled street. “I don’t have anyone to enjoy it with.”
“Oh.” Lake’s gaze dropped to the ground. “I see.” He considered the bottom of his empty cup. “You know, it’s been three weeks. It’s not like she was really yours.”
The moonlight flamed in Raven’s eyes, startling Lake away from the post. He threw up his hands in surrender and moved away.
Ned Varlow pulled his horse to a stop. Serenity stood in the distance, glowing with celebratory light. Varlow wiped the brown drool from his chin as other riders galloped to a halt around him. Soon, the thunder of hoof beats filled the air and Varlow’s horse was surrounded by fifty others.
The gaunt, pock-faced rider closest to Ned nodded at Serenity. “That it?”
“Yep.” Varlow snorted something green back into his nose. “Ten uh mah boys wuz murdered there last year.” (wa-ay back in Season One, Episode 4: "Riders" - remember? ~ the ed.) His grin revealed few teeth. “But that ain’t gonna happen this time, is it Lance?”
“No.” The sallow rider stared at Serenity. “It’s not.”
“Hee Hee.” Varlow squeezed his horse’s reins. “What’re you gonna do to them?”
Lance seized Varlow by the hair and ripped him from the saddle. The pale rider cocked his head, unhinged his jaw, and buried two stiletto fangs in Ned’s jugular.
Lance swallowed half the scuzzy rider’s thick blood and threw Varlow’s remains to the dust.
The Putnam children and Tommy Donnelly danced and clapped around Muggs, the stable master, who wore a court jester’s hat as he jigged in kind. Nearby, Harriet Putnam managed her first smile in weeks.
Deputy Lake found Boxer, Mayor Brubaker and Deputy United States Marshal Harrison Brennan watching the festivities from outside the marshal’s office. “Looks like everything’s coming off without a hitch this year.”
“Sure does.” Boxer nodded as Lake arrived at his shoulder. “I’m glad for it, after last year.”
Brubaker’s brow knit as Brennan straightened. “Oh yes, I was sure sorry to hear about Arthur and Caroline Chaney. Fine folks. No one should have to go that way.”
Brubaker peered over Brennan’s shoulder. “Arthur and Caroline Chaney? I never heard of any-”
“My aunt and uncle.” Boxer checked Brennan with a look. “They were trampled in a stampede last year around this time.”
“Oh.” Brubaker’s brows were still knotted. “I’m…I’m sorry to hear that, Marshal.”
Brennan, his brow a music staff of ridges as well, opened his mouth, but Boxer stopped him with a hand up. “You all hear that?”
Brubaker shook his head, but Lake and Brennan’s ear pricked up. There was a low rumble beneath the sounds of celebration in the street. Lake nodded slowly. “Yeah, I hear it. Sounds like-”
Boxer’s eyes flashed. “Horses.”
The four men crossed to the middle of the street. The street lanterns barely cast their light beyond the edge of town, but still they could see it.
A huge cloud of dust bellowed and grew ever closer on the horizon.
All celebration stopped as the cloud grew closer. Children clung to parents, couples to each other. Marshal Boxer, Deputy Lake and Deputy U.S. Marshal Brennan stood shoulder-to-shoulder, guns drawn.
In front of the Serenity Star office, Mayor Brubaker stood close to Raven Clark. “I don’t like the look of this, Miss Clark. Not in the least bit.”
“No.” Raven glanced at the defenseless crowd, then at the three men protecting them. “Neither do I.”
Deputy Lake glanced over his shoulder, then at Boxer. “Where the hell is Richter?”
The marshal’s eyes never left the crowd of riders now visible in the oncoming cloud. “I have no idea.”
The dust in the street stirred as the riders thundered closer. Hoof beats filled the air with their sound and shook Serenity with their fury.
No one moved.
When the riders drew within one hundreds yards, Boxer stepped forward. He made sure his long, thick revolver was visible and held up his hand.
The riders kept coming.
Boxer raised his hand over his head. “Halt!”
The riders kept coming.
Boxer waved his arm and thrust his palm out in front of his chest. “Halt, by order of the marshal!”
Hoof beats and whinnies filled the head of everyone in the street. Every horse was black.
Boxer raised his gun and fired two shots in the air. “Hold it right there!”
Boxer dove between the legs of the lead horse as the riders barreled past him and into the crowd.
Lake squeezed a single shot from his rifle as the riders overtook Boxer, but his own dash from the street prevented him from seeing if the shot found its mark. Lake dove, tucked, rolled and found himself outside the post office. Flashes of hoof and braying shrieks surrounded him. Lake avoided a charging horse and caught sight of a man standing a few yards away. He squinted to see Deputy U.S. Marshal Brennan, looking disoriented.
A rider reared up behind Brennan, the horse’s hooves driving toward the older man’s head. Lake cupped his hands over his mouth. “Marshal!”
Brennan, his gun hand limp at his side, turned toward Lake’s shout. The first hoof whistled past his ear. All the speed his fifty-plus years would allow managed to deliver him from the second. The horse snorted and its rider sneered at Brennan, who stumbled and fell onto his backside at the sight of the rider’s open mouth.
Raven dashed toward Lake as the riders approached, but she lost sight of the deputy the moment the charging horses flooded the street. Now lost in a sea of living black, Raven spun and staggered to keep safe. A stray hoof caught the hem of her skirt and tore it off above the knee. The sharp tug pulled Raven off her feet and she crashed to the dust. She spied the worn wood of a building between the tangle of equine legs, got her feet under her, and dashed toward it.
The open door was in sight. Raven ducked a leaping horse, hopped a street trough, tripped over something on the other side and fell chin first on the steps just shy of the open door. Stars bursting behind her eyes, Raven rolled to her back. She’d tripped over a small, quivering mound pressed against the side of the trough.
Little Abercrombie Putnam had never been so frightened.
With screams worthy of startled soprano, Mayor Brubaker streaked through the door of the unfinished betting parlor. Muggs kicked it closed behind him.
The mayor, wheezing uncontrollably, managed a look around. Muggs stood nearby, his meaty hands wringing the jester’s hat. Harriet, Dick and Jane Putnam were huddled against a side wall, all in tears. Brubaker’s monocle and watch hung from their chain and fob. He straightened, put them in there proper places, and faced the hulking stable master. “What’s at play here, Mr. Muggs? Who are these men?”
“I got no idea, Mr. Mayor.” Muggs looked plaintive. “Was hoping you’d know.”
“They’re here to kill us!” Harriet Putnam’s voice was shrill through her sobs. “They’re going to kill us all! They may have already gotten Abbie!”
Muggs crossed to Harriet as her children fell into hysterics. “Easy now, Mrs. Putnam. No need scaring the young’uns any more than they is already.”
“Indeed.” Brubaker fingered his monocle. “There’s nothing to suggest any of those men saw us come in here, even if they do wish us ill. Perhaps they’re just cowboys working off a drunk.”
Mrs. Putnam wiped her nose. “And…if they’re not?”
“In the event they’re up to no good.” Brubaker’s chest inflated. “I will read them the letter of the law. They’ll learn to respect the office of mayor of Seren-”
A thump at the door snared the word in Brubaker’s throat.
“Might be time for that letter reading.” Muggs swallowed hard as he looked from the door to the mayor.
Brubaker had fainted.
Boxer saw the door to the Serenity Star office open as he approached. He pounded the street as hard as he could, his strides long and sure, but the horse gained, its breath blasting the back of the marshal’s neck. With a headlong dive, Boxer cleared the steps, the landing and the doorway, crashing in a heap against a wobbly, three-legged desk in the middle of the Star office. The horse veered off, its rider’s head narrowly missing the dusty Serenity Star shingle.
Two pairs of hands grabbed Boxer’s arms and pulled him to his feet. The marshal started to struggle, but found himself in the grip of Dr. Bullshank and Nils Curruthers. The doctor thumbed the gash under the marshal’s eye as the barber slapped dust out of Boxer’s clothes. Eli and Merle Gunderson stood near the door, which was now locked.
Bullshank glanced around the room. “There’s got to be something I can use to close that cut.”
Boxer waved him away. “Forget it, it’s nothing. What we need is wood, pieces of metal; anything we can use to make a cross. And we need Raven Clark, she owns this place.”
The others exchanged glances. Bullshank shrugged. “Crosses? What for? And why do we need Miss Clark? Who are these men, Marshal?”
Boxer stood the wobbly desk against the cracked front window. “These aren’t men, doctor. They’re…”
Raven Clark pushed Deputy Lake’s desk against the marshal’s office door as Elsa Benjamin and Mr. Johansson stared slack-jawed at each other. Abbie Putnam was locked in the holding cell with his father. The slim undertaker stepped forward. “Vampires, Miss Clark? Surely you can’t be-”
“Deadly serious, Mr. Johansson. Those are vampires out there.” She glanced around the room. “We may have to break some of this furniture down to make crosses. And we need the marshal, one of the deputies at least.” Raven’s hands found her hips. “Actually, I’m not even sure they’d qualify as owners.”
Elsa Benjamin’s thoughts clung to one word: deputies. “Did anyone see Stu? I-I mean Deputy Lake? I didn’t see him get off the street. Did…did anyone see him?”
No one answered.
With the last of his breath and energy, Avery Cobb reached for the church doorknob. It turned easily. Gasping for air, he limped inside. None of the riders pursued him from the street, but he was not about to stop and ask why not.
Cobb stumbled in the church proper and came up short.
Elizabeth Brynne lay naked on the altar; Reverend McCallum servicing her sexually. Deputy Richter and former town Marshal Grady O’Halloran stood to each side of the altar. Each held a rifle.
Cobb forgot about the flood of black horses in the street as he moved past the pews. “What…what is this? Bump?”
Richter met Cobb at the head of the aisle. “Yew wasn’t s’pose ta see this, Mr. Cobb. Yur not wonna the ones she wonts.”
Cobb stood dumbstruck as Richter raised his rifle. “Bump I…I won’t…you don’t need to-”
The point blank blast turned Avery Cobb’s head into a pulpy canoe. His body fell spread-eagle between the pews.
Next - Episode 10: Night Siege (part 2)
Previous - Episode 8: Questionable Conclusions
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.)