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16 July 2011 @ 10:15 am
the two faces of vengeance - prologue  
Sunrise, Wyoming, 1878

Rufus Turner is putting together the fifth coffin of the day (and it’s not even noon) when he hears laughter coming from the other side of the road. He huffs under his breath, wondering what’s up this time. Those four stupid gunmen of Zachariah Adler’s who are always perched out in front of his house (mostly because they’re here to keep watch – Rufus’s shop and that house are the first things you see coming into town from the east) are all seemingly having a lot of fun – he turns his head and sees that they’re looking at someone coming into Sunrise. It’s a man, has to be around thirty or so – he’s riding a mule and he’s dressed… well, like a preacher. You can’t see his face because his hat is obscuring it, but he’s wearing a white collar, half-covered by a grey scarf around his neck. He’s also wearing dark trousers, old dusty leather boots and a dark red coat. He doesn’t raise his head when he hears laughter and keeps going straight on.

Bad idea, Rufus thinks, especially if you’re riding a mule.

It does show that Rufus has been living here for all of his life and has put people in coffins for most of it (by now he can take measurements just by looking – maybe he should memorize the stranger’s). As soon as he thinks that, the gunmen start shooting between the mule’s legs. The mule starts running, clearly beyond control, but Rufus has to give the stranger credit for reflexes – instead of trying to stop it or falling off, he reaches up and grabs the bar that holds up the sign saying
Undertaker. He swings twice before jumping down gracefully, then takes his hat off, brushing dust away, before turning in Rufus’s direction.

He has a beautiful face, Rufus thinks – straight lines, pale skin, unruly dark brown hair, fine-shaped lips and two huge blue eyes. It’s a nice color of blue. Then those eyes focus on him and Rufus shivers – the man’s face is carefully blank, devoid of emotion, and suddenly the those eyes turn to ice. Rufus swallows, but tries to hold the stare. He’s not going to look at the ground in front of anyone staring at him, that’s for sure.

“I understand that you build coffins,” the man says, his voice deep and low, and Rufus gives him a nod.

“Then get three ready.” The man adjusts the hat back on his head so that you can see his face now, and turns towards Adler’s gunmen. Rufus is trying to remember their names but he can’t – heck, these four aren’t important links in the chain anyway, they’re just here to report who comes into town.

“We don’t like pretty faces like yours around here,” the first says.

“And I’m sure that your mule is having a great time,” a second adds.

“That was what I wanted to talk you about,” the stranger says calmly. “My mule. See, it’s not very nice that you’re laughing. He always thinks that people laugh at him – let us say he takes it a bit too personally.”

“Are you fucking around with us?” the third guy says, drawing a gun.

“I am most surely not. Now, I was hoping you would apologize. I could always try to convince him that you didn’t mean it. And you might be just lucky enough to get away with a kick in the mouth.” His voice drops another octave, and it’s clear that he isn’t fucking around or joking.

Rufus barely sees how it goes. One second, Adler’s men are drawing their guns, and the next he hears four shots and before they could even aim the four of them drop dead on the ground. There’s a smoking Winchester in the stranger’s hand, and Rufus realizes he hadn’t even seen him take it out of the holster under his coat.

The stranger turns his back at the carnage and goes back to where Rufus is, then holds up four fingers.

“Four coffins. My mistake,” he says before turning his back on Rufus as well and walking into town.

Rufus is sixty years old and has seen a whole damn lot in his life, but this? This has made him speechless. He shakes his head, figuring that it’s time he gets down to building those four coffins. Those idiots won’t bury themselves, and if Adler takes it as nicely as Rufus thinks he will, his business is not in any danger of dying anytime soon.


On the other side of the city, seven hours later

Say what you want, but Balthazar is re-thinking for the umpteenth time his decision of moving from England to this godforsaken place, and he has definitely decided that working at the local newspaper is the most frustrating job he has ever had. (Fine, he had to move from England to a hole in Wyoming because he used to work in a much more important newspaper back there, and he wrote a couple of articles that he shouldn’t have if he wanted to keep his job, so it’s really his fault here.)

It could be worse – his boss is the one person you’d like to work with when it’s just the two of you putting the sodding thing together three times each week. But when all you print is obituaries and
wanted pictures of that Alastair thief and of the other thirteen people helping him, you tend to remember your home country fondly (and he hasn’t thought fondly about it for a long time). Also since the bloody thief and his not so merry band of acolytes are on Zachariah Adler’s paycheck, it’s not like anyone around here even tries to collect the reward on their heads, so it’s all just wasted paper. Still, you can’t exactly write long pieces against the richest guy in town if you want to keep your job. Gabriel Milton, who founded the newspaper, is of the same opinion that there’s only so much you can do.

Anyway, Balthazar is putting together the last obituary of the day – seriously, so boring – when he hears noise coming from Caleb’s emporium. And – damn. As usual.

Lisa Braeden is coming out headed to her wagon, carrying some sowing supplies – but the problem is that there’s one of those thugs in league with Alastair waiting outside. Brady? Yes, Balthazar is pretty sure that’s the name. Lisa’s husband died three months ago in a very suspicious accident while working in the town’s mine (which Adler owns, of course) and she has a kid to feed as well, and they never did have much money. She probably hasn’t managed to pay the rent this month, or otherwise the thug wouldn’t be walking up to her.

There are times when Balthazar feels sort of bad for never lifting a finger to stop any of this from happening, but then again he’s a journalist and not as a bounty hunter for a reason. He has learned his lesson – after all, the last time he wrote an article saying horrible things about someone important, he had to change continents. He can’t exactly blame himself for not wanting to do it all over again.

The worst thing is that the window is open and he can hear everything.

Brady comes closer and whistles at Lisa, shaking his head.

“Look at what we’ve got here,” he says, disapprovingly.

“If I’ve got to pay your stupid fee, I’ll have to earn it somehow,” she spits back, and at least she’s looking at him in the eyes.

Bad idea.

He slaps her hard and she falls on her knees, all her supplies scattering on the ground.

“I think I’m gonna take these, since it’s money that should’ve been somewhere else. Don’t you agree?”

She reaches out for something that looks like a toy she might’ve gotten for her kid and he moves forward, his boot’s heel pressing over her hand, and she screams, and he laughs, and then –

“Dontcha think you should argue with people the same size as you?” someone says out of the blue, and Balthazar stands up and goes to peer out the window.

If anything, this sounds like an interesting development.

There’s a guy he has never seen behind Brady, jumping down from a black horse (a very beautiful horse, Balthazar thinks). He’s wearing dark jeans, camel-colored boots made of soft leather, a dark green poncho and possibly a blue shirt underneath. His hat leaves his face visible – he can’t be older than thirty, but Balthazar would bet that he’s younger than that, and that’s too pretty of a face to go unnoticed around here. He has plump, dark pink lips, green eyes with eyelashes so long that one could take them for a girl’s, short, light brown hair. In contrast to his pretty face, his hands are so rough that Balthazar can see blisters on the fingers from where he’s sitting.

“What the fuck do you want?” Brady spits at him, and the guy just looks him over.

“Huh. I think I know your face. It was on the walls of the three towns I rode through to get here,” the guy says, sounding almost too cocky for his own good. “Walls inside the sheriff’s office in each of them towns.”

“And so? That should give you an idea of what you’re dealin’ with. If I were you, I’d fuck off.”

“Thanks for the offer, but my dad didn’t raise me to ignore it when some moron strikes a woman. And I could really use the five hundred dollars they offered for your stupid face,” the guy says, and then Brady reaches for his gun.

He never manages to take it out of his holster – the man closes his fingers in a fist and punches Brady so hard that his head breaks the wood of the stairs on Caleb’s shop front as it hits.

“Son of a bitch,” the guy mutters before making sure that Brady’s not going to wake up anytime soon. Then he turns to Lisa and holds out a hand, helping her up. He takes her wrist in the other one, very gently, completely in contrast with everything he’s done until now.

“That looks bad – you can go to a doctor, right?”

“Yes,” she nods, “but I should get these first.”

“Let me,” he answers, and picks up everything that had spilled on the ground before putting it in the wagon.

“Could you tell me where the sheriff’s office is?” he asks.

“Sure. Walk until you get to the saloon -- you’ll recognize it, the name’s Singer and it’s also an inn. The sheriff’s office is on the other side of the road.”

“Much obliged,” he says, putting a hand on Brady’s arm and hauling him up.

“Hey,” she asks as he leaves, “what’s your name?”

He looks at her, considers it. “Dean,” he says. “Dean Winchester.”

Then he starts dragging Brady towards the saloon.

Bloody hell, Balthazar thinks, and then he hears Gabriel coming out of the printing room.

“What the fuck was that noise?” Gabriel asks, cleaning his hands on a rag. He doesn’t look too pleased with the world in general, but since Gabriel hired him Balthazar has never seen him much pleased about anything.

“I think that our life is about to become much more interesting,” Balthazar answers. “And our articles might finally be engaging, and it’s about time I’d say.”

“Really. What happened?”

“This town might’ve just found itself a knight in shining armor. Though I’m afraid he’s a bounty hunter, rather than, you know, a
proper knight.”

Gabriel’s eyes suddenly glint dangerously. “You, my friend, are going to sit down and tell me exactly what was going on outside this joint. Right. The fuck. Now.”

Balthazar smirks, gets himself a glass of whiskey from the cupboard where they keep a stock of alcohol, and does.


part I
 
 
feeling: determineddetermined
 
 
 
speakeasv on January 16th, 2014 12:59 am (UTC)
That first bit was wonderful!!! I hope Balthazar is going to be a prominent character in this, because a) he's great and b) you wrote him so well!!!