His eyes stared back at mine. A damned mirror of a sort. As if my dark eyes and heart could ever reflect light. Not that Angel was ever good. Not from my dealings with the white eyed bastard. Hell, I bet even his name was one he dare gave to himself. Probably had a real name once like Charleston or some uppity name like that. Damn his eyes.
Every time I had the luck to run into him I always thought back to the day I first met him. Him riding into the town of Bail, either named on account of the haystacks they pedaled or due to the sheriff being known to let a man pay him off to avoid jail time, anyway, those white eyes of his acting a sort of trumpet or something I must not have been able to hear. For when I glanced out the window of the tavern the people in the city were all walking up to him and paced with his horse, touching his legs, his arms, and all the while he smiled. But it weren’t nothing, that smile, it was paint. The kinda thing that just hid what was underneath it.
He came into the bar and left his flock behind him. The way his spurs rang it was like they themselves were perfect as he was trying to pass himself off as. I didn’t like him. Not one damned bit. I took my eyes off the game that was in front of me, the same one I’d played all night long. He made his way to the bar, and when the bartender asked what he’d have, he answered, and here I thought the spurs made a pretty sound, this one just about made me fall outta my chair.
“I’ll have water, my good man.”
“Water?” The bartender asked in much the same disbelief as I was having trouble stomaching. “Not many a man come into a tavern for water these days, mister…”
“Angel, and I’m not actually here for a drink. You see I was instructed to come here, to this very tavern.”
“Whatever for? My whiskey ain’t any better than another tavern’s? Perhaps it’s the ladies you’re here for then?”
“Please!” Angel said and for the first time that smile of his fell away. “Such things are beneath me. I’m here for the man with the dark eyes. The man named Abacus Jones.”
I hadn’t even noticed that he’d spun around to face me as he said this, his hand already on his gun while mine were loosely and dumbly on the chair I was sitting in. It didn’t even cross my mind until after the bullet tore through my shoulder that I should probably reach for my gun.
It stung, worse than any bullet I ever been pegged with. And the feeling quickly left my arm. Even if I’d wanted to reach for my piece now I couldn’t. The bar erupted in chairs falling and folks scrambling for their places against the walls. After that, all that was left was the damn hum of his spurs, perfect silver from what I could see from here. It was safe to say at this point that I didn’t much like him.
“Abacus Jones.” He said as he walked slowly closer to me. “The famous demon. The soulless monster. The abomination. You, Abacus Jones, you are responsible for all that now walks on this plane that should not be allowed to exist.”
“I don’t see that as truth, pardner. As I’m the one that’s been taking them out of this world. Or haven’t you heard?”
“Oh, I’ve heard tale of such lies. But they are just that.” He stood over me now, his gun cocked into position. “Lies.”
Another shot rang out and I felt a burning in my leg, same as my shoulder. Whatever he was shooting me with weren’t normal bullets. Those stung, sure, but not like this. This was like fire.
“It ain’t lies. I don’t follow no master by myself, and what myself does is kill monsters!”
“Then perhaps you could have saved us all the trouble and started with yourself.”
Another shot rang out and hit my other leg, just above the knee. It hurt like hell, and whatever healing I was capable of, wasn’t working, so yeah, I was worried.
“I won’t shoot you again, monster. These bullets, castor shells, they’re quite expensive, but I have no idea if the dark magic that pulses through these will actually kill you for good.”
“That’s a damn shame. They hurt like hell.”
“Indeed. No, I have other plans for you.”
He holstered his piece and walked out. Now, I knew that my luck weren’t that good that a man intent on killing me would just give up when he’d almost got the job done. I knew that, but didn’t stop it from crossing my mind until he stepped back in, a barrel over his shoulder. He set it down right in front of me, and I smelled it right away, gunpowder.
He sat on it, pulled a cigarette from the inside of his coat and stuck it between his lips before reaching down and striking a match on the bottom of his boot, and when it struck I lost the ability to breath for a moment expecting the barrel in front of me to explode. But it didn’t, and Angel lit his cigarette and put the still burning match on the table on top of a few dollar bills, which were still mine. He reached down again and took off a spur from his boot an then slammed it against the table where it stuck up in the air before flicking the spur itself, and that damned hum rung out and wouldn’t stop.
“You see, Jones. A monster of your ilk, it needs to be handled delicately. I could riddle your body with bullets, but I have no assurance you won’t eventually heal. Yes, that’s right, I know how that body of yours works. But see, flames, they will do the trick. They always work on your kind. A demon. It’s the only way to truly send you home, to the flames that you came from.”
“Can’t say I agree. There are plenty of things that don’t take kindly to flames. Hell, it only makes em mad. Like your Carrion demon, that one it…”
A boot met my jaw, and I knew it was broke.
“Save your words for your master on why you failed.” He said before getting up, and taking the gunpowder and spread it all around the floors by the peoples feet still standing at the walls. Not one of em moved. They just stood there even with the powder on their feet. I felt my jaw start to heal, but it was slow on account of those bullets causing me troubles still in my body. The table above me caught fire. The money burning up quick as the flames grew tall and I found myself more upset about the loss of the winnings than my current sitting. It weren’t often I won a healthy amount from cards, and now it looked like I wouldn’t have a thing to show for it. Which was damned bothersome.
My jaw healed enough about the time he was done emptying the contents of the barrel, dumping the last of it on me and my opened wounds.
“Ain’t you gonna grab that spur of yours. Least can do me is not letting me hear that damned noise before I die.”
“I have more. This one stays.”
“Y’all get on out of here now.” I said to the people still standing around. “You don’t need to be seeing any of this.”
“They can’t hear you, Jones. Rather, they can, but it does not matter.”
“All that you touch is tainted. You have sealed their fate as well as your own.”
“They ain’t done nothing. You let them go. Now!”
“You do hear the sound, do you not? That that the spur makes. That hum, merely a nuisance to one such as you is a siren call to these helpless things. They will do as they’re told and nothing more.”
“This ain’t right. If its me you want…”
“I have you. You are dead already. And everything you touch must die with you. I take no pleasure in this of course, it is simply right, I assure you it is.”
“Then why the hell are you smiling?”
Sure enough that smile of his had returned to his face. That’s when I saw him for what he was. That even with my being soulless, whatever the hell he was was far worse. He’d kept his soul. And his soul was something that took joy in such things as this.
“I find joy in seeing an end to your kind in this world. Have a good death, Abacus Jones.” He said as he stepped out the doors and threw his cigarette back where it caught the gunpowder.
I didn’t have much time to think, and still having one good arm I did the only sensible thing. I grabbed the table leg with the burning money, and turned it over. It helped to spread the fire further, but I’d gotten what I needed out of it. That damn spur. I grabbed at it, and stopped it from making that terrible racket. Immediately the people started to move again. By the time they were running out of the spreading fire, some of them on fire themselves, I was already using that spur to dig into my wounds and pull those bullets out. I had time enough to get the one from my other arm, but with the spreading fire there weren’t time enough to fully heal.
I spun over, facing the ground, and jammed the spur under the first nail, pulling it up rather quickly before getting at the other one. That side undone I pushed up on it and was able to loosen the other side as well. I went at the next board, then the next. It was thin, but I threw myself in with the fire licking at my boots. I hit the ground underneath the floor, dust and dirt, and began to crawl. I’d make it out back, dig the other two bullets from my legs as the fire took the building, and the sound of gunfire rung out in the streets. Just one gun though. One man. And I knew that any efforts I’d made to save them folks didn’t save them but for a few seconds. Angel was taking them out anyway. But it gave me enough time to heal up enough to make my way to the stable and grab the first horse I could get. It ain’t my way to run from a thing like that. But by the time my legs were working again and I was able to pull my piece, the gunfire had stopped. I did make my way to the streets only to see the littered bodies of folks and the burning buildings. Seemed Angel had set enough of the other buildings to flame to lick the whole town in a matter of hours. There weren’t nothing left for me to do there, so I took off with my stolen horse. I didn’t suppose there’d be a soul left to care I’d taken it.
I’d seen countless towns burn down for one reason or another so I’d stopped keeping track. But that one. Bail. I’d remember that one. That was when I’d met Angel. But it weren’t the last time I’d seen him. Hell I’d seen him more than I’d seen most folks in this life. I’d hoped the last time I’d seen him would be the last. The day a flaming rock fell from the sky and struck him damn near center in the face. I reckoned he’d lost his head from that. But here he was, eyes that about made me sick staring into mine once again. Those damned white eyes of his, that grin that showed the wrong kind of joy. The same sick smile I’m sure he had as he pointed his gun at countless others. It occurred to me that of all the things I’d sought out in this world, the things I knew to be monsters, this thing in front of me was probably just as deserving of the end I granted them, if not more so.
Even with his barrel pointed into my left eye, I thought of dropping the girl in my arms, reaching for my piece, pulling, cocking, and shooting him. I wanted to with every bit of my gut. It told me to do so, that it were right to do so. But with as much as we’d put bullets in one another, we were both of us still standing just the same as we did the day we’d met. And I couldn’t stomach it further.
The girl catching on that the demon was no longer the problem began to stir, propping her head up and opening her eyes to the gun pointed at me. And that was my saving grace. She’d open that pretty mouth of hers and put them all down. Then I’d pull my piece and unload whatever was in the chamber. But that’s when I noticed his mouth moving, but no sound came out. In fact, I couldn’t hear a thing. And I remembered why, the cushioning around my head, tied up tight with belts and string. I must have looked like a damned fool.
I was waiting for the girl to do her thing, but then I felt the press of metal to the back of my head, and quickly the padding around my head was pulled up and I could hear the crackling of fire, and the laughter of the men around me.
“As I was saying, Jones. Which eye do you want me to shoot out first? Oh, and best keep your pet on a leash, if she opens that mouth of hers she gets the first bullet down her throat from this gun. You’ll get one from the gun at the back of your skull.”
“She’s just a girl.”
“She’s a monster. Just like you. I know what she is.”
“She ain’t a part of this, so let her go. This is between you and me.”
“Not anymore, Jones. You see, this isn’t about you and me at all. Its about so much more. So you see, where you’re going, we’re going too. And afterwards, well, then it will finally be about you and me. But until then, kindly put down the little demon girl. There’s a good boy.”
I didn’t want her to get hurt. So I did as I was told, putting her down slowly, letting her delicate feet touch the ground. I’d have drawn my gun if that barrel at the back of my head didn’t follow me the whole way. As I came back up I held my hands to the air, and finally the gun at my back fell away.
“Tie her up, boys. Mouth first, of course.” Angel said.
They were quick, throwing a ratty piece of cloth over her mouth tight. It was too much, I couldn’t just stand there. My hands dropped, and I reached for my gun, but I never felt the cold metal against my fingers. The world went dark, as if I blinked and it stopped as the familiar sound of that gun I’d never forgotten rang out a single shot. Angel had fired his gun.