I came to where I’d left off, the sound of screaming filling the dark cell, only now I realized it wasn’t me that was letting it out. The Vampire had sunk his teeth in my neck and drank from my dark blood, a blood that for a Vampire would be like drinking fire. I’d forgotten about this little detail until just now and it recalled me back to the time I first realized this.
I’d been hunting a Vampire from overseas, one I was told had been around since some crusades or something or rather. I found him soon enough, but only because he came looking for me, the one that spouted around town that he was hunting his sort. He came at me that night as I figured he would. I was held up in the Inn and had stuffed my bedding full of blankets and pillows and such hoping it would draw him over there while I came from the shadows behind him and staked him through his heart. What I didn’t count on was that my soulless husk gave off a particular scent, one that a Vampire wouldn’t mistake.
He barely even looked at the bed after he came through the window and then set his eyes on the shadows, where they met mine. Before I’d even had time to raise the stake, he’d pulled out a thin sword and ran it through my shoulder, drew in close, and sank his teeth into my throat. He drew back sudden though, letting go of his sword as his hands clutched at his mouth which had started to smoke as if it had been set on fire.
I didn’t waste any more time. The sword was still through my shoulder and stuck in the wall behind me, I lurched forward, tearing up muscle as I ran the stake right through the creature’s heart. Come to think of it all, I can’t recall why I forgot this until now.
As I used my arm to prop myself up, I realized that the hold on me was gone. It was me that propped myself up, by choice and aching movement, whatever hold that demon had on me weren’t pulling at my strings anymore.
“Seems you done me a proper favor, Vampire.” I said as I clapped my hand to my neck to make sure I’d stopped bleeding. “But I’m gonna guess that wasn’t your intent.”
The Vampire eye’d me seriously with pain in its eyes. But there was something else there too. The girl had made her way over to the Vampire and wrapped an arm around his back, and that’s when I realized what else was in the Vampire’s eyes.
“GET AWAY FROM HIM!” I shouted, but it was too late.
The Vampire got to his feet quickly and spun around, grabbing the girl around her throat and squeezing as his other arm looped around her waist to hold her between us. I scrambled to find my gun, my hands fumbling around the dark floor. I found it quick enough and cocked the hammer back as I raised the barrel to point toward the Vampire, but I couldn’t see him in the shadows that reached into every part of the room.
“PUT HER DOWN, MONSTER!” I bellowed.
No response came, probably because he hadn’t healed yet and couldn’t respond. I watched the girl’s eyes swirl back until her lids closed and she stopped struggling.
“I know Apocitus is in you now! He wants her alive, not dead! I know that much, so take your damned hand away from her throat!”
Whatever was in him now responded and the hold on her throat laxed, though he kept it there to keep her held up between us just so I couldn’t get a shot.
“You know I ain’t lettin’ you out of here with her?” I said backing away toward the only entrance.
“I know.” Came a voice that sounded as if it was dragging itself through gravel and dirt.
“Got your voice back I take it?”
“I’ll do you the same favor I asked of you, I’ll get her out of here. Apocitus won’t get her. I’ll make sure you’re good and dead.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“How you figure that?”
“I am not under control of anything but my own acts.”
“What? But I saw it in your eyes. I saw that darkness in there.”
“What affected you was indeed pulled into me, but such power has no hold on one such as I am.”
“They why’d you near strangle that girl?”
“You understand so little, Jones. Having just put my fangs in you, I expected a certain response. I was simply restricting that option.”
“You did this on purpose? But why her? Why would you use her?”
“Because it was effective, and necessary.”
“What’s necessary about choking her? You could have done with just keeping her between us until your voice healed.”
“I could not chance that, because of what she is.”
“She’s a mute girl, what sort of problem does that make?”
“This girl is no mute. She is a Banshee, and had she opened her mouth we both would be unconscious on the floor once again.”
“Banshee?” I said as I tied it all together. Every time she went to open her mouth I’d fallen over as the world went dark. That feeling I’d had on her that I couldn’t place. I knew she wasn’t normal, not human normal, but I couldn’t get a read on her. I guess that was on account of never having seen such a thing as her. “I didn’t think they existed.”
“All that you have seen and still you dispel stories of old as fiction.”
“I just ain’t never come in contact with one is all.”
“Well now you have, and she is all that keeps us from killing one another.”
“It would seem. Your move then, Jones.”
I thought for a moment before lowering my gun. “Now that I know what she is, I think I got this worked out how we’re gonna get out of this. And as mad as it may sound, I am actually going to need your help.”
“Go on then.” He said lowering the girl neatly onto the bed.
“Well, first thing I need is her to come to, and next I’m gonna need a saw and some of that there bedding.”
* * *
We made short work of the plan I had. I tore up a mattress that smelled the least of old sweat and piss and got a few handfuls of the thicker cotton from its innards. I plugged my ears up with it, took my gun and railed it against the iron bars of the jail cell. I heard it a little, but it seemed good to me. I only hoped it could stand up to the Banshee’s scream. Thinking about how this plan of mine hung on that voice not putting myself or the Vampire out of commission, I doubled up. Pulled a bit more out, found some leather straps downstairs and tied what I could around my head. I railed the bars again and didn’t hear a thing. I reckoned that’d be good enough. And if it wasn’t we’d all be dead, so I wouldn’t have to overthink it later and feel all regretful about nothing.
When I came back upstairs the Vampire was helping the girl sit up as she held her head likely from the kick she was feeling now. I’d been knocked out a time or two, I didn’t envy a person having never experienced it. Felt like a mule’d kicked at the top of your skull. Knocked a dent into it. You’d feel around for the dent, not sure if you can feel it or not. It’s a might bit disorienting.
He apologized to her, said he had to, but that things were okay now and we had a plan to get out of this mess. I don’t know if it was the fact that a cowboy demon-hunter and a vampire had put together a plan, but her face seemed fair displeased.
“It’s alright, darling.” I said. “I reckon I got a fair idea how to take this out. And if you don’t mind too much, we could really use your help. Because to be honest, I don’t really have a plan without all of us together on this one.”
She looked at me and just stared. I wasn’t sure what it was for so I added in, “And I ain’t gonna kill ya. I know what ya are now, and I don’t care. I kill things that hurt others, such as Vampires.” I saw him show his teeth and I nearly let out a chuckle. “But you ain’t done nothing to no one. So don’t you worry about none of that.”
I couldn’t really tell if she’d heard me, or if she cared. She looked to the vampire who nodded. She looked back at me and nodded in like. I figured we had a plan set.
“Right then. You rest here a bit, make sure you got your, uh, voice back. We have a couple of things to collect around town, shouldn’t be hard to find and time ain’t exactly a luxury we got. So we’ll be short about it.”
The Vampire stood as she drooped her head down into her hands. I watched him put a hand on her shoulder, as if it cared or something which sickened me a bit. He turned to me, his face straight and without any pleasing look upon it. “What is my part, Jones?”
“Well, I think I spotted a ladder a few buildings around, outside a barn. We’ll need it, and a saw. Kind of like one two fellers would use to cut a tree down.”
“Not sure I’m following just yet. What is this plan?”
“Easy enough, we use the ladder to get you up on top of a nearby building, quietly enough, with saw at the ready. I take our girl here to him, put her in front of him, and let her wail.”
“Then what? We hope we wake up first?”
“Nah. We wear these.” I said holding up the cushioning which must have looked like a mutilated chicken.
“You must be joking.”
“I ain’t. Look, I already tested em. Can’t hear a thing through em. This will work.” I told them with all the assurance I could muster. “We put him out, you jump down with that saw where you and I can push and pull until we hack that Demon’s big head off!”
He didn’t look impressed, but I didn’t care. “It’ll work, Vampire.”
“For your sake, I hope it does. We’ll leave you to die if it does not.”
I looked to the girl who just looked away. “Sounds fair to me.”
* * *
It didn’t take long to find what we needed. The saw was dull, but it’d do. The ladder was rickety, but it’d hold for at least one go. And that’s all we needed. We went back to where we’d left the girl. She seemed in better condition now, her eyes seeming less bothered somehow. Still, when she looked at me it weren’t the same as before. It bothered me that I didn’t know what it was about and that asking her would just get me to a foggy sleep if she decided to try and answer. So I just had to let her look that way, whatever it was.
“It is time, Jones.” The Vampire said from behind me, and I hadn’t caught on that he’d been there for some reason, which bothered me more than the girl’s uncomfortable stare. Letting my guard down with a Vampire at my back. He may not fare well dining on my blood, but that didn’t stop his strength and speed. He could tear me apart if I wasn’t paying attention, like now.
“Alright then,” I said turning to face him, realizing how close he was, barely a breath between us. “We’ll make our way to the closest building to where that demon is standing. I’ll come with you to prop up the ladder, get you up there nice and quiet like. We don’t need his attention on you. You stay low on the roof and come when you see that demon fall. Got that?”
“My mind just barely grasps the sophistication of this plan.” He said as if biting his own tongue for a drop of blood to quench his thirsts.
“Then let’s go, and be my guest in leading the way. I think I’ve had enough of you at my back for today.”
He looked beyond me at the girl, I supposed, then turned and went towards the stairs with me short behind. I gestured to the girl and she fell in after me. We grabbed the ladder between the Vampire and I, threw the saw on top and walked quietly back to the center of town.
The sky had become dark with smoke and I could smell the ash in the air as we made our way. The closer we got to where the smoke was still rising in the air the more I got an odd feeling in my gut. I told myself that it was just nerves, just me questioning this plan. I didn’t catch that it was a more familiar feeling, something I hadn’t felt in a time. I wanted to turn back, my gut was telling me as much, saying this weren’t the way to go. I knew it weren’t, but this was work, and often a man didn’t want to go to such a place. That’s just what I kept telling myself as we propped the ladder up. I braced it with my boot and held it good as the vampire went up, pausing when it’d creak, until he was finally at the top hoisting the saw onto the roof and strapping what looked to be a partially plucked chicken over his head and ears.
I looked at the girl, “Ready, darlin’?” I asked.
I told myself again that it was just the feeling in my gut for this whole thing that was telling me the situation weren’t right. I even tried to tell myself that it was still just that awkward feeling I got when I was around this girl that was messing me up. I took her in my arms, she was light, unbelievably so. That feeling of whatever she was struck me a bit, but it weren’t bitter or nothing, it just felt like someone had stuck a nail in my shadow. I gave her a nod, and she went as limp as she could so we could try and fake this whole situation. I made my way around the building, the light of the demon dancing like live flames off the surrounding walls and doorways lighting the street up good as I came around the corner. But the demon was no longer standing.
Apocitus’ head was on the ground, it’s ashen skin blowing away with the light breeze as it’s skull once again shone through. It’s body had crumbled as well, like burned wood, black and falling into pieces. The sky was still dark as the smoke rose from where it was laying and continued to put out the sky above. But it wasn’t until the click of a dozen rifles or more rang in unison that that feeling in my gut found itself telling me ‘I told ya so’ and I remembered why it had felt so damn familiar.
“Bout time ya showed ya’self, Mista Jones.” Came the voice of the mayor I’d thought I’d heard the last of. “I declare we very nearly left after putting this demon down. Figured you’d run off, as is your custom.”
I thought about running now, after all it was my custom or whatever the man had just said. I was still by the alley I’d come out of, and I could just turn and go. The girl wouldn’t even slow me much, she didn’t weigh nothing. I wondered briefly what the Vampire’d do and then shook it from thought. The girl in my hands propped her head up to see what we was up against. I started to pull my heel up when I heard the click of another gun, this one just to my right where I’d come from the alley. I chanced a quick side glance and saw the glimmering shine of a neatly polished barrel poking out of the shadow, two wings carved neatly into the fine silver. But even in the shadow I could see who it was. The eyes stared back above a smile I knew must have been there. Those eyes that mocked my own. White, where my own were black.
“Angel.” I muttered with every ounce of disgust I could muster. Still, it weren’t enough.
“Abacus Jones.” He answered back like rustling a hand over fine grass. “Tell me, which one of your demon eyes would you like me to shoot out first?”