A Weird Western Saga
in "Serenity: season II"... While Elizabeth Byrnne gradually exerts her control over some of the town's folk -- and discovering this costs Avery Cobb his life! Meanwhile, another menace invades the streets of Serenity -- a gang of cowboy vampires...
A horse passed close to the post office window and Lake dropped to the floorboards. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, dammit!” Brennan’s eyes flared. “He had fangs. Like a wolf’s. Or a bat’s”
Tommy Donnelly shivered. “You mean they’re…monsters?”
“Don’t be silly.” Brennan patted the top of Tommy’s head a bit too hard. “There’s no such thing as monsters, son.”
Lake cocked his eyebrow and squinted over the top of the counter. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Marshal.
“I would not…be too sure…of that.”
Eli Gunderson braced the wobbly, three-legged desk against the broken window as pale, veiny arms snaked through the jagged pane. “What-ev-ur yew’re going to dew, Marshal, now vould be a gewd time fur it.”
“Indeed.” Dr. Bullshank strained to push a rusted printing press against the Serenity Star office door.
Boxer pulled a knot tight around two chair legs. “Clear out of there, Eli!”
The big farmer obeyed as Boxer crossed the room, climbed up on the braced desk, and thrust the makeshift cross at the exposed part of the broken window. One of the bony hands grabbed the cross and, with a shriek from outside, pulled back a scalded palm.
Boxer looked at Bullshank with a wink. “See? Vampires. Told you.”
Three arms burst though the window and pushed hard on the desk. Boxer fell over backward to the hard wood floor.
The cross fell out the open window.
The desks of Serenity’s three lawmen leaned against the door and two windows of their office. Raven Clark lit the last of the lanterns and joined the others outside the holding cell. Inside the cell, Tom Putnam cradled his youngest son, who wept and quaked uncontrollably despite his father’s low, soothing voice.
Elsa Benjamin held her lantern out toward Raven. “I don’t understand. How can you say these men are vampires, Miss Clark? Vampires are folklore. Legend.”
“Indeed.” Johansson nodded. “They’re fiction.”
“I know they’re vampires,” Raven dug into a pocket of her mangled skirt. “Because of this.” She produced a small, leather-bound journal and thrust it into the lantern light.
Elsa and Johansson exchanged a look. “What’s that?”
“This, Mr. Johansson, is what a very smart, very special man knew about all the folklore, legend and fiction that walks the earth each and every day.” Raven shoved the weathered little book back in her pocket. “And, if we’re lucky, there’s enough knowledge in there to get us through the night alive.”
A child’s scream from the holding cell.
Raven flinched. “Oh. Sorry, Abbie.”
The first vampire rider pushed through the broken window frame; spikes of glass pane leaving jagged lines of red on its arms and face.
The Gundersons, Bullshank and Curruthers crowded behind Boxer at the base of the staircase. Boxer pressed his back against the group. “Out! Get out! You’re not invited here!”
The dust-crusted creature smiled a pointy grin and pulled its other leg into the room.
Bullshank pounded Boxer’s shoulder. “Your gun, Marshal! Shoot it!”
Boxer glanced over his shoulder. “Won’t do any good, Doc.”
“Shoot it, man!” Curruthers was tearing up. “For God’s sake!”
Boxer sighed, drew his revolver, and put two shots in the vampire’s chest. The creature tumbled against the wall, regained its footing and stalked the group anew, grinning all the while. A second creature pulled its way through the ruined window.
Boxer shot a look over his shoulder.
A group of riders shouldered the unfinished betting parlor’s door in unison. The only things preventing their entry were the oak beam spanning four hooks along the door and the near seven feet of stable master that braced it.
“I can’t hold this door much longer, Mr. Mayor!”
Brubaker, Harriet Putnam and two of her children cowered against the opposite wall. Brubaker’s head still swam from his fainting spell. “You have to hold out until they go away, Mr. Muggs. You’re our only hope!”
Muggs grunted under another assault on the door. His wide-toed boots slid a bit in the dust.
Through his latest round of drying tears, Dick Putnam’s eyes frantically scanned the big, open room. They went wide at the sight of something protruding from a dark corner.
The base of a ladder.
Dick’s neck craned and he found the ladder’s matching end braced against a temporary platform near the ceiling. He jerked his mother’s skirt. “There, ma! What about that?”
All eyes followed the boy’s slender finger to the corner. Harriet Putnam looked up. “Oh, Dickie, I couldn’t possibly. But you take your sister and go.”
“No, ma!” Dick teared-up anew. “Not without you!” He tugged Harriet’s wrist. “You can make it. I’ll help you.”
Harriet Putnam looked at the two men in the room. Each gave her a nod. Both had to be close to 300 pounds. At least Muggs was muscle.
“Lead the way, Dickie. But this better be a strong ladder.”
The door splintered and Lance lead a dozen riders into the church. “I always like to raze the churches first,” he declared to no one in particular. “Makes me feel all fresh inside.”
The riders stormed into the building and came up short.
With Deputy Richter and a milky-eyed Reverend McCallum at her shoulders, Elizabeth Brynne plugged the aisle, hands on hips, in a scant negligee.
“This is my church.”
The corners of Lance’s fanged mouth started to curl into a sneer, but a sudden feeling from his empty core stopped them. It was not the feeling of freshness.
As the riders around him stumbled backward toward the door, Lance found himself reaching out toward the woman before him with a shaky hand. His voice was a thin whisper. “Are…are you…?”
Elizabeth Brynne shifted her weight to one hip. “This is my church. And my town.”
Lance recoiled, palm to his chest. “So help me. You are.”
The woman took a step forward.
Lance tumbled onto his backside and scrambled out of the church before Brynne’s bare foot made the floorboards creak.
With fangs and claws at his heels, Marshal Boxer flung himself up the last few steps and into Raven Clark’s bedroom. Eli Gunderson kicked the door closed behind him.
Boxer pushed himself to his feet and checked the room. All were accounted for. “Downstairs is the old newspaper office, that’s public. Up here’s a private dwelling. Only Miss Clark could invite them in here and not even she’s that stupid.”
Dr. Bullshank shook his head. “I still don’t understand this, Marshal. How can simply hiding in Miss Clark’s bedroom save us from these men?”
“They’re not men, Doc.” Boxer crossed to a window and peered out. “I told you, they’re vampires. And vampires have rules.”
“I don’t know if vampires exist.” Curruthers was huddled in a corner. “But those men are…otherworldly.”
“Yew kin say thaht agin, sir.” Eli Gunderson pulled Merle close. “I tink I side wid da marshal.”
“Well I don’t.” Bullshank moved to the window. “And I’m not going to sit here and wait to be murdered, Marshal. We need a plan from you. We need-”
Boxer, still looking out the window, silenced the doctor with a palm. “What the hell?”
Everyone tensed. “What?” Merle’s upper lip was beaded with sweat. “What is it?”
Boxer turned to them with a smile on his face. “The vampires. They’re…”
“…leaving? What do you mean?”
Raven stood on tiptoe and pressed her face against the bars to get the best view of the riders as they thundered en masse toward Serenity’s limits. “Just like I said, Mr. Johansson, they’re leaving.”
“Hear that, Abbie?” Tom Putnam cradled his son’s face in his hands. “No more bad men tonight. We’re safe.”
Abbie kept crying in the event more bad men were en route.
Raven drew a deep breath and tugged at the desk against the door. Johansson joined her on the other end and the desk moved easier. “You know, Miss Clark, I feel as though I’ve been through a crisis like this with you before.”
Raven froze for a moment, hoped he didn’t notice, then swallowed. “Oh. Really?”
“Indeed.” They set the desk on its stubby legs in roughly the same place they found it. “In fact.” The undertaker removed his stovepipe hat and scratched his pate with a pinky. “I believe it was during this time of year. During the Summer Celebration.”
Raven managed a crooked smile. “Well, that can’t be, can it? Heh. I mean, I only just arrived in Serenity a few months ago. You must be thinking of someone else. And something else.”
“Perhaps.” Johansson replaced his hat and wandered away. “Perhaps.”
Raven exhaled. Elsa Benjamin appeared at her shoulder. “I hope Deputy Lake is all right.”
“Yeah.” Raven didn’t turn to face her. “Me too.” She clutched the small leather square in her pocket.
“What do you think made them ride off like that?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” Lake returned to the counter from the post office window. “But they’re definitely gone. Box, Richter and I will ride out and make sure once everyone in town’s accounted for.”
“I’ll join you.” Deputy United States Marshal Harrison Brennan got to his feet, no easy task with three children still attached to his jacket. “I’ll not have random mob violence in my territory.”
“Thanks, Marshal. We’ll be glad for the hand.” Lake looked to the window. “I just hope everyone’s all right.”
“Just go. Leave me. Save yourselves!”
Mayor Brubaker’s squeal filled the room. At the base of the ladder, Harriet Putman rolled her eyes. “Come now, Mr. Mayor, if the children can do it…”
“Yeah.” Muggs held the ladder steady. “Them riders been gone for a while now.”
Five rungs from the top of the ladder, Brubaker remained paralyzed and petrified. “I…I can’t! It’s too high! This is all your fault, Richard Putnam!”
Harriet glanced at her son, whose lower lip looked on the verge of a quiver. “Just ignore him, Dickie. It was a fine idea.”
“Sho’ was.” Muggs smiled down at the boy. “Mr. Tom’s gonna be proud when he hears. The marshal too, I bet.”
Dick smiled. Muggs looked to his mother and spoke in a darker tone. “Wish I knew what made them riders skin out like that.” His deep voice reached a whisper. “We was lucky, what we was.”
“I know.” Harriet placed a hand on each of her children. “We owe who or whatever scared those men away a bushel of thanks.”
Elizabeth Brynne looked down her nose at the ruined body of Avery Cobb. She poked her chin at it and looked to Richter. “Toss that in the street, then meet us in my room as soon as you can.”
“Yes ma’am.” Richter moved toward the carcass.
Byrne turned to Grady O’Halloran and Reverend McCallum. “Make sure you’re accounted for, then do the same.” They nodded.
Elizabeth crossed to the altar, then turned on her heel. “This attack will lead to too many questions. We have no more time to eliminate the obstacle. We move now.”
She left the church through the back door. Richter, O’Halloran and McCallum giggled uncontrollably as they carried the late Avery Cobb out the front.
Next - Episode 11: The beginning of...The End
Previous - Episode 9: Night Siege (part 1)
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.)