~Pestilence~

(This is a story Pete told me about his time in the wild west during the building of the transcontinental railroad. It has mature content.)

Pete rode slowly into town… if you could even call it that. He looked around in disgust at the sea of tents and cheaply made shacks. They were pitiful. It was like a writhing cesspool of humanity.

He passed through the masses, heading towards the town’s more substantial buildings. He drew quite a few curious stares and a lot of dark muttering. It wasn’t just that he was a well-dressed man, rich, educated… and refined. But he was also obviously Oriental. Most of the men he was passing, the ones living in the mud and squalor, worked to the bone, and exhausted to the core, were Oriental. The railroad barons hired thousands of “his people” to lay the beds, cut tunnels, grade, and level the ground for the miles and miles of shining track that would connect San Francisco Bay with Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River. They were worked like animals. But it wasn’t just the Chinese. There were the Irish workers as well. They resented the competition for jobs and resources that the “celestials” as the Chinese were called, presented. Pete laughed at that. He was the only true celestial among them, and they’d be horrified if they knew the truth.

It didn’t help that he was riding the most beautiful black stallion any of them had ever laid eyes on. Pete leaned over and patted Procyon’s broad proud neck. He’d been carrying Pete for a long time now, a lot longer than anyone would imagine.

“Why do we bother? They will die on their own. They are pathetic… and smell foul. Would our time not be better spent on the battle field?” The horse’s voice sounded in his mind, as always, serious, and full of loathing for the human vermin.

            Pete laughed, nodding in complete agreement. “Yes, my friend. They will die indeed, and we will help them along. But not every battle occurs on a field.”

He rode up the Main Street of the town, surveying a dozen permanent structures. There was the usual collection, a few houses, a livery and blacksmith, a general store, a bank/surveyors office, a doctor’s office, a church, and a saloon, complete with its complement of scantily clad women parading along a balcony over the main door. They called enticingly to the men below. He smiled. It had probably been the first thing they’d built. The mortals were so predictable. It also happened to be exactly what he was looking for.

In a smooth graceful movement he dismounted and after removing a small leather pouch from his saddlebag, he proceeded into the shadowy interior of the saloon. One might suspect that such a place would be empty, or at least quiet this early in the day. According to the large wall clock, it was barely past nine in the morning. But the joint was jumping as they say; this was a railroad/mining town after all.

As usual his entrance did not go unnoticed. He could have been circumspect. He could have chosen to wear the attire of his “countrymen,” pretending to be one of the many migrant workers who had stumbled in looking for a drink or a quick tussle with one of the ladies upstairs. He’d done so before. But lately he preferred to make an impression. And it was a lot of bother to feign being what he was not. It would be different were he in a city. He could lose himself in some cheap quarter, perform his task, and be back in civilization in less than an hour. Not so much here. Besides, he had to admit, this was more fun.

He approached the bar and dropped the pouch on the worn wooden counter with the distinct metal thud of many coins clinking together.

He may be hated for his appearance, he may be envied for his horse and fine clothes, but his money was good anywhere.

“Can I help ya, sir?” The man who suddenly appeared was thin and looked like he had stood too long outside during one of the many dust storms that ravaged the countryside; all the color had been scoured from him. He seemed as plain and flat as the wood of his bar. Pete refrained from sneering at him. It wasn’t his fault he was stuck in this loathsome hole in the middle of nowhere; a man had to make a living.

“Yes, I require a room… upstairs. I’ll be staying the night.” He kept his voice very controlled, and his accent as sounding slightly French. Usually he’d have employed more of a British lilt, but the Americans were still quite touchy about their recent break with England. It had only been about a hundred years since the Declaration had severed them from Great Britain, but if Americans were anything… they were good at holding grudges.

The bar man looked at him strangely. They all did. He was something new, something different, and completely unexpected. But he took the coins Pete held out to him, his eyes widening even more. “Sir, I ain’t got change here for this. I’d have to go across to the bank…” He trailed off because Pete was shaking his head.

“I require no change, but I expect your best. She must be young, healthy… and strong.” He eyed the man, watching his reaction. He was never denied the service he requested, but the last bit sometimes made the owners nervous. He had no intention in hurting the girl, well not exactly. Of all of them, she might actually survive.

“Yeah, of course. I know just the one for ya. That your horse outside? I’ll have your bags brought up to a room right away and the horse taken down to the liv…” Again the man went silent as Pete shook his head.

“I wouldn’t recommend that if you fancy keeping the use of both your hands. Just tell me which room, and I will see to things myself. My horse will remain where he is.” Pete waited patiently. He had to go through this every time.

“But sir, an animal like that… someone might try to… You should let me take him down to the stable, he’d be safer…” The man was sweating, obviously afraid someone in town would try to make off with Procyon. He didn’t want to be held responsible for that.

“I assure you. He will be fine right where he is. If you know what’s good for you, do not approach him.” Pete spoke louder than was strictly necessary, directing this comment to the room at large as much as to the nervous barman. Someone would try anyway, probably several. It made Pete smile. Again, the mortals were extremely predictable, and in this case, actually helpful. Their attempts to steal Procyon would save Pete the need to feed him. Not that the horse actually required food (anymore than Pete himself did) but he’d developed the habit of eating and expected Pete to provide sustenance on a semi regular basis. A few hands, maybe even a whole arm or a leg, would make the animal quite happy.

“If you say so, sir.” The barman bobbed his head, looking apprehensively around the room at the men he suspected would try to make off with the horse as soon as the sun went down. There was some muttering amongst the patrons, and quite a few glances at the beast who stood placidly beside the hitching post. Pete hadn’t even bothered tying the reins to it. He wouldn’t insult Procyon like that.

“It’ll take me a few minutes to get yer room ready. Would ya like something to drink, while you’re waiting I mean?” The man was already pulling a glass from under the bar and wiping the dust out of it with the dirty rag in his hand.

Pete sighed but nodded. “Your best whiskey, and leave the bottle.”

The man rummaged under the counter for a moment before producing a plain bottle of golden brown liquid. He quickly poured the glass full and set it and the bottle in front of Pete. The gold coins disappeared and the man scuttled off, running up the creaking flight of stairs, calling in hushed tones to the women who’d come in when Pete had. They’d watched the entire exchange with interest.

Pete ignored the argument that broke out over which lady would be his for the night. There was always an argument. He was after all tall, extremely handsome, clean, and rich. The chosen female would consider herself quite lucky to be his.

Instead, he concentrated on the glass and its amber liquid. It wasn’t bad. Considering the rustic setting, it must be imported. He missed the distilleries in Scotland. Those early blends were much more refined than these rougher American spirits. He’d have to ask Fabian if they still had any of the 1710 stock at the house in Edinburgh. That had been a good year and Pete had personally bought the entire stock of the small local distillery. He’d always had a weakness for good whiskey.

He’d finished nearly three quarters of the bottle before the man returned, standing nervously nearby, plainly not wanting to disturb Pete. It was understandable. His kind tended to intimidate the hell out of the mortals. Pete just smiled and glancing around, spotted an old man perched on a bar-stool at the far end. He looked like a prospector. He certainly wasn’t with the railroad. A satchel sat on the floor at his feet with a bedroll and a mess kit tied to the outside. The whole thing was covered in grit, as was the man; but still, he had a presence. The man looked over as if feeling Pete’s gaze upon him and didn’t look away as so many others would have under Pete’s scrutiny.

Pete nodded and picking up the bottle, walked over and placed it before the surprised fellow. He refilled the man’s empty glass and then his own, and clinked the two together. “To you sir and your fellow miners. May you hit it big… as they say.”

The guy looked suspicious at first but wasn’t one to turn down a free drink, especially Carl’s best whiskey. He downed the shot and shuddered slightly as the liquid burned through his chest. “That’s very kind of ya, sir. I ‘ppreciate it.” His words slurred just a hair. Pete took in the faded uniform jacket, complete with rank insignia for a sergeant major of the Union army. Though, covered in as much dust as it was, it could easily be mistaken for being Confederate gray.

“It is my pleasure. Anything for a fellow soldier.”

The man’s eyes flickered over Pete taking in the clothes, but more deftly noticing the man, the way he carried himself, and the fact that he wore no pistol upon his hip. “Where did you serve… sir?” His voice took on the tone one uses when addressing a superior officer, of which Pete most certainly was.

“I last served under General Butler, during the assault on New Orleans.” He said it quietly, with seeming pride. “I was his personal surgeon.”

The man nodded. This made sense. He’d heard that the Oriental had their own types of medicine which were quite effective in the face of the recent outbreaks of cholera. The disease had wiped out whole towns and decimated the troops on both sides of the war.

“So, you’re a doctor? You were at the battle of New Orleans when the north took the city back from the Confederacy?” Even in his slightly drunken state, the man sounded impressed. The permanent loss of New Orleans was considered one of the worst defeats suffered by the Confederacy in the western portion of the war.

Pete nodded. “Yes, I was retired soon afterwards for my work in establishing hospitals in the poorer parts of the city. General Butler was quite renowned for his generosity in taxing the rich of the city and setting up relief for the underclass. He was… an inspiration.”

The man smiled at Pete’s almost reverent tone. “Aye.” He raised his glass, even though it was empty, holding it aloft. “To the North, may her flag forever wave.”

Pete nodded and instead of refilling the man’s glass, simply handed him his full one. “To the North. Please, enjoy…” With that, he stood and bowed gracefully to the old soldier, leaving the man with the bottle and a surprised happy grin.

As he turned he nearly ran into the barman who had been shadowing him ever since he’d moved to sit beside the sergeant major. “Your… Your room’s ready, sir. Violet is waiting for ya, room three. It’s the one in the corner there.” He pointed over his shoulder up the stairs where the women were still congregating, watching him, though most were looking quite crossly at the faded barkeep.

Pete nodded then fished another two coins out of the pocket of his waistcoat. “Please see that the gentleman there and any other soldiers who come in today are well compensated for their service to their country.” His eyes flickered from the bottle he’d left, to the waiting ladies on the landing above.

The barman stared dumbly at the coins and then around at the assembled men who had suddenly gone completely silent. Pete’s voice had carried… and Carl was pretty damn sure that most, if not all of them, could claim they had served in some capacity or another.

“That won’t be a problem, will it?” Pete pulled another gold coin out adding it to the other two in his palm and raised his eyebrow in polite inquiry.

Carl shook his head emphatically. He hadn’t seen this much money in… “No sir, won’t be a problem at all. Real generous of ya.” He pocketed the coins, suddenly very nervous to be holding such a fortune, having already hidden away the first three coins this strange man had overpaid him. He smiled brightly at Pete. He could finally afford to sell this damn place, or even just give it away. He’d take his wife and daughter and they’d get on that train to San Francisco and live like real people. “Thank you, sir. You let me know if there’s anything you need, anything at all.”

Pete shook his head. “Just see that we’re not disturbed.” As he moved past a table of men who’d been playing cards, one reached up and touched his sleeve.

“Saint Michael bless you, sir.” His thick Irish accent and lack of teeth made it hard to understand the man, but the sentiment was obvious.

“My pleasure… please, enjoy.” He moved quickly to the door, ignoring the sudden movement of the patrons towards the barman, and the clamor of voices demanding whiskey and time with the women.

Procyon had shifted, moving into the shade of the tall oak that stood beside the saloon. It was nearing noon and the street shimmered with heat devils. Pete unbuckled his bags, but left the saddle in place. He glanced at the street and the traffic which had picked up while he’d been inside. “You’ll be all right on your own tonight?”

The horse’s huge head swung towards Pete, pinning him with a look that spoke volumes. “Don’t be insulting.” He pawed at the ground, kicking a loose stone across the small yard between the buildings. “Go. Enjoy your mating. I’ll try not to cause too much trouble.”

            Pete smiled. “I appreciate that.” He dug into his other pocket and pulled out a small wrapped parcel. Procyon’s ears perked up as soon as Pete opened it, and seconds later had inhaled the dozen sugar cubes contained therein. He patted the horses gleaming black flank and with his saddlebag thrown over his shoulder, went inside to find Violet.

 o~O~o

            The number three was roughly carved into the plank door at the end of the hall. Pete knocked softly and waited a few moments before knocking again. After another dozen heartbeats a woman’s voice called. “Come in?”

He opened the door, stepping into the small room whose main feature was a large bed. A young woman somewhere between the age of sixteen and twenty stood next to it wearing nothing more than a see through slip. The hair cascading over her breasts to her waist was as black as Procyon’s mane. Her eyes were dark as well and had just a hint of the almond shape common to those born in the East. But her hips were wider, her build stronger, and her chest much fuller than that of a typical Asian woman. She would be considered tall, though he still towered over her by a good eight inches.

“I’m sorry, I was told to come to room three… Was that an error?” He set his saddlebag down on the floor beside the bed. “Are you Violet?”

She eyed him up and down smiling almost shyly though he could see she was anything but. “It’s what I’m called… and most people don’t knock.”

He smiled. “A gentleman doesn’t enter a woman’s room without permission. What is your real name?” He bent momentarily and removed his boots, placing them carefully together next to his saddlebag.

She laughed and it was a rich warm sound that lit her face beautifully. “What makes you think Violet isn’t my real name?”

He unbuttoned his cuffs, and rolled the fabric up his forearms before replying. “Your mother is Chinese, and your father is most likely Irish, or perhaps German. A white man either way. Neither would have named you Violet. Besides… Rén bi huā jiāo.”*

He smiled as she blushed, which he’d bet she didn’t do often.

“Your accent sounds strange, but nice.” She sat on the bed leaning back just enough that the nightgown she was wearing slid up, showing off a generous portion of her soft creamy thighs. Her hair fell away revealing the tight roundness of her breasts, and the darker area of her nipples poking through the silky material. She smiled at him, yet kept her eyes down in a more demure pose, again, playing up the “shy Violet” angle. She painted the perfect picture of allurement, suggesting at everything, but revealing nothing. He had to admit, she was good… so far. “Would you like me to rub your… back? I imagine you’ve ridden quite far today.” She patted the bed beside her invitingly, momentarily flicking her eyes upward to catch his.

He watched her, letting the weight and the heat of his gaze slide over and around her lithe body, until she averted her eyes and again seemed to be blushing. He slowly undid his waistcoat and laid it aside and then began unbuttoning his shirt. In a surprisingly quick motion, the girl slid across the bed and had undone the buckle of his belt before his hands clamped tightly on her wrists and she cried out in surprise and pain as he yanked her upward till they were eye to eye.

“Do not presume to know what I want.” He spoke with a dark hiss and she shook her head, her eyes suddenly wide with fear. He threw her back, and she landed heavily against the headboard but did not cry out.

He eyed her a moment longer, making sure she wouldn’t attempt something like that again and resumed removing his shirt.

He liked to keep his things neat. Some (his brothers for instance) would say he was obsessive about it. But details were important and he made sure he was careful in every aspect of his life. Were he to make a mistake, the consequences could be quite dire.

After folding the shirt and placing it and the waistcoat over the back of the room’s only straight chair, he turned to the woman on the bed.

She had surely received rougher treatment than what he had just displayed. She was a halfbreed after all and would be despised by pretty much everyone in the vicinity. And yet, she cringed fearfully from him.

He slowly undid his belt, sliding it from the loops of his pants and laid it on the table beside the bed. “I trust I won’t need to use that?”

Her eyes darted quickly to the fine leather, then away as she shook her head. “No, sir. I’m… I’m yours until sunrise. I’ll do whatever you say.” That she was visibly trembling pleased him. He needed her blood to be pounding, her adrenaline racing… and this was only the beginning.

“Yes, my lovely little flower… you will.” And with that he reached forward, grasped the neckline of her gown, and ripped it from her body.

She was perfect, lying there naked under his hands; he knew he had found exactly what he needed. She closed her eyes as he traced her collarbone, down in between her breasts to her navel and even further into the patch of soft curls between her legs. She was warm there and quite wet. The rigid tension in her body slowly melted away as his fingers caressed and teased the soft skin both without and within her. She gasped, surprised at the pleasant sensations, which were such a contrast from the earlier rough handling. This behavior more appropriately matched the man who had insisted on knocking on her door, rather than just barging in. She opened her legs wider to him, her hips moving to meet his touch, and a soft moaning purr like sound emanated between the breathy gasps. A sheen of sweat broke out on her full breasts, and Pete leaned over, gently licking the moisture as he took her nipple into his mouth. She moaned now, and grasped at his shoulders and head, trying desperately to pull him closer.

The backhand came out of nowhere and he heard a different type of gasp as her face snapped away then rotated slowly back to stare at him in complete shock.

He was almost afraid he had gone too far. Her eyes were glazed and it took her a few seconds to refocus on his face. The imprint of his hand lay clearly across her lovely cheek, and a drop of blood bloomed ominously at the corner of her mouth.

“Can you still hear me?” He waited a moment, he had plenty of time, all day… and all night actually. He had hoped she would be sufficient, but perhaps he’d misjudged her. He did specifically ask for a strong woman.

After a second she blinked and there was some semblance of a nod, but it didn’t get very far, as if her muscles weren’t quite sure which way to go, or perhaps there was an internal argument about how she should respond. Pete smiled, but it was a cold thing, and he knew she was coming back to herself as she began to shake again.

“Let me make one thing quite clear. I touch you, you… do not touch me. Do you understand?”

Violet nodded again, it was small motion, her neck was probably hurting, but he could see that she had gotten the message.

“Good, because I won’t remind you again.” This time he knelt over her grasping her wrists tightly as he held her down. He brought his face close to her skin, and the heat of his breath brought up goose bumps across her entire torso. She didn’t close her eyes, but watched him with a skittish terror that he took great delight in. He lightly kissed her shoulder, her collar, and then her neck up to her ear. Again, it was soft, gentle, and after a few moments of this she seemed to relax a little, and her breathing changed from the panting of fear back towards some semblance of pleasure.

He let go of her wrists, sliding his hands heavily along her sides until he was gripping her firm hips. He leaned down and kissed the divot there, tracing the lovely curves with his fingertips, then further along her legs and up and down her thighs. He alternated between squeezing and stroking the smooth skin, until he noticed that she was once again spreading her legs wider, inviting him to touch her, to take her… And he did. For an hour, for two, for three, his fingers, his kiss, and his tongue brought her to the edge but never granted her the release she so desperately craved.

Pete glanced up at the window. The sky had darkened and the noise from the rooms around them had gone from a fairly quiet murmur to an impressive cacophony of lustful moans, outright screams, and cries of passion. Violet was doing remarkably well. She hadn’t moved beyond stretching herself out further, granting him access to every inch of her bare skin. Nor has she tried to touch him again, though he could feel how hard it was for her to resist.

He got up slowly, stretching his arms over his head as he stood beside the bed gazing down at the woman who writhed in frustration covered in their combined sweat. It was almost time. She was just about ready.

He dropped his hands to his pants, slowly, deliberately undoing the button and let them fall to his feet. Instead of simply stepping out of them, he bent and made a show of picking them up, and carefully folding them before he placed them with his other clothes. The girl stared at him hungrily, her whole body trembling now for a completely different reason. Again he knelt over her and just the touch of his knee against hers had her gasping. He leaned in and kissed her forehead. He could feel the heat of her body inches from his chest and chuckled as he met her fevered gaze.

“Are you ready?” He said it quietly, and her hands twitched, as if she were going to reach for him. But instead she nodded emphatically.

“Are you sure?” He smiled at the way her whole body vibrated beneath him, ready to take anything he had to give.

“Yes, please!” she rasped. Her little hands balled into fists, holding onto the damp sheets as if afraid she was about to fly off the bed.

He nodded and held his hands over her chest. Closing his eyes, easily he ripped through the skin of his left palm, leaving a small pool of blood in the center. He dipped his right index finger in the rich red liquid and drew two Sigils upon the girls gleaming chest right between her breasts. They weren’t big… the Sigils. The first was his true name, and the other was the name of a very specific creature, a microscopic one of which Pete was quite familiar and most fond; one of his own creation.

Violets eyes opened with a completely different type of shock. As the blood touched her skin, she seemed to glow, to swell with energy and light, and then the symbols were gone, absorbed away into her very being. She shuddered and shook in the grip of what could easily have been mistaken for a grand-mal seizure, or an epic orgasm, but as the quakes subsided, the euphoric look she threw Pete went way beyond mere hunger or lust.

Despite his earlier warnings, she grabbed him, pulling him down hard against her body as she first kissed, and then bit deeply into his neck. He chuckled, laughing at her sudden ferocity and wasn’t even surprised when she flipped him over and impaled herself upon him. He let her have her way, taking the pleasure that was rightfully hers, which he had denied her all day. She kissed him, she bit him, and she rode him, deep into the night, experiencing multiple orgasms, one after another that were like nothing she’d ever felt before. Were he an ordinary mortal, she’d have killed him in her enthusiasm. As it was, when she finally fell over and stretched out on the bare mattress beside him (the sheets and blanket had been shredded into nothing more than rags from their almost combative coupling) he was panting as hard as she was. She lay in the loose circle of his arm, her head on his bicep, staring up at the ceiling as she tried to slow her racing heart.

“My real name is Lìhuá. It means…”

“Beautiful and flourishing. It fits you well.” His hand caressed the lock of long hair that lay over his chest. It was lank with sweat, yet smelled just slightly of jasmine when he held it to his nose. “And you will indeed flourish, I’ve seen to that.”

She turned, levering herself up on her elbows so she was facing him. “I don’t know what the hell you did, but that was…” She smiled at his satisfied expression. “I hope you enjoyed it as well.” She kissed his arm and didn’t object when his fingers curled, digging deeply into the soft flesh of her hip.

“I assure you. It was quite enjoyable. You… surprised me.” He pulled her roughly onto his chest and kissed the spot between her breasts where he’d drawn his name in blood. “As to what I did.” He ran his hands over her back, cupped her bottom and felt himself stirring as she moved sensuously along his torso. That she was ready for more was remarkable. Most of the women he took, that he marked, would be unconscious at this point, and certainly wouldn’t have left him panting and wanting more. He sighed. It was almost too bad he’d had to mark her with the second Sigil; she was something special.

“I feel amazing, and you… feel even better.” She grabbed between his legs, making him groan and close his eyes. “I swear, I feel like I’ll never need to sleep again.”

He didn’t bother to respond, he simply grabbed a thick handful of her hair and sheathed himself in her very willing flesh.

Violet’s cries drowned out those from the rooms around them, and lasted until the first rays of dawn painted the sky with pinks and gold.

 o~O~o

            “Must you go? You could stay here… a man as rich as you. You could own this town.” Violet lay on her stomach, her knees bent, feet twirling saucily. She hadn’t bothered to get dressed and the morning light just accentuated the already golden tone of her skin.

Pete finished dressing, doing up the last buttons of his shirt, then used a small brush to remove the dust from his boots before pulling them on. He drew out the leather pouch of coins and after removing three, tossed the bag on the bed, spilling the twenty or so remaining coins within it between Violet’s ample breasts.

She stared at them in surprise, rising up on her knees as she collected them in her hands. They clinked between her fingers as she counted. He was surprised she could count so high, but then again, a woman of her profession would be wise to know rudimentary maths. And if nothing else, she needed to be able to keep track of the days of her cycle to keep from becoming pregnant by her patrons.

She wouldn’t have to worry about that from him. His kind couldn’t sire children, any more than they could be killed. And yet, he had left life within her. She wouldn’t know it for days, she might not ever know, as strong as she was.

“What are these for? Carl said you paid him already, that I shouldn’t ask for anything else.” Her eyes shone, glinting much like the money did in the morning light. She was holding a fortune.

“Those my dear, Lìhuá, are for you. I thought perhaps you would like to travel a bit. I’d actually take you with me if I could, but I’m meeting up with one of my brothers today, and it would be impossible for you to accompany us.” He bent and touched her cheek in an unusual show of tenderness. “You’re going to have a good long life, though it may be a bit lonely. For that, I am sorry.” He shouldered his saddlebag then leaned down and kissed her upturned lips. “Thank you for a lovely night.”

She grabbed a hold of his waistcoat keeping him in place and looked seriously into his eyes. “I’m not going to see you again, am I?”

He shook his head. “No, for which I am sincerely regretful.” He allowed her to kiss him rather deeply, then straightened up and left the room without a backward glance.

 o~O~o

            Carl met him at the bottom of the stairs. The room was fuller, though much quieter than it had been the previous morning. More than a dozen men sat slumped over the tables, or stretched out on the floor snoring away in drunken bliss.

“Sir, was your night, was Violet satisfactory for your… needs?” The man looked exactly the same as he had, and was still extremely nervous.

Pete nodded, smiling genuinely at the gaunt fellow. “She was exactly as I required, thank you.” He motioned to the slumbering miners. “It seems you had a busy night yourself. I take it you had enough to see to their needs?”

Carl glanced around. It had been one of the most raucous nights he’d experienced in many years. His women would be in no shape to service anyone for the next two days at least, and he’d be serving cheap beer until the next shipment of spirits arrived at the end of the week.

“Uh, yes, sir. You didn’t hear’um last night? They were singing your praises. Your generosity won’t soon be forgotten.”

Pete inclined his head, accepting the compliment in stride. It was all part of the plan.

“You’ll be going then? Your horse is just where you left him. Some of the local boys tried to take a go at him last night, but as you said, they regretted it.”

“Yes, I imagine they did. My apologies.” Pete’s voice carried no actual regret. He had warned them.

“Good journey, sir. I hope we see you pass this way again sometime.” Carl held out his hand to Pete, smiling as the fancy gentleman actually deigned to shake with him.

“I sincerely doubt that.” Without explanation, Pete walked through the doorway and found Procyon standing beneath the same tree he’d been under the day before. Dark ominous stains littered the ground around the horse, as well as a few scraps of cloth and what was unmistakably a few fingers.

Pete stepped over these deposits and strapped his saddlebags back in place. “You’re usually neater with your food.”

Procyon shifted, eyeing the slight mess around him. “There were a dozen of them. Had they come at me a little slower, I could have been more precise. As it was, they limped away into the night wailing pitifully. I had a good dinner either way.”

Pete patted the stallion’s long neck. And pulled himself gracefully into the saddle. “I’m glad you were kept well entertained.”

The pair made their way to the edge of town where a pale red-haired man waited on a mare as starkly white as Procyon was black. He pulled alongside and the other man nodded to Pete, smiling, genuinely glad to see his brother.

“Your foray was successful?” Dean’s voice held a slightly disapproving tone.

Pete nodded. “Oh yes. The girl was ideal. She has an extremely strong constitution. I doubt she will contract the disease herself; but will pass it on wherever she goes. She is the perfect carrier. I also made sure to pass the contagion to a miner and the barkeep, but they won’t last. I didn’t mark them with my blood as I did her. Like the others I’ve used, her life will be extended, which will make her that much more useful.” He didn’t describe to Dean his method of raising her adrenaline, or using the body’s natural immunity boosting response to sexual stimulation to protect the girl from actually contracting the disease he left within her body. She would carry the plague wherever she went, and he’d left her enough money to travel the entire continent.

Dean raised his eyebrow. “So what did you give her, more cholera?”

Pete shook his head, smiling darkly. “No. I decided to bring back an old favorite, though I changed the nature of the beast just a bit.” When he said nothing else, Dean raised an eyebrow.

“Small pox.” Pete held out his palm and over it swirled a malevolent little cyclone of dark particles. “A new virulent strain. The mortals won’t know what hit them.”

Dean nodded but made no reply. Pete knew his brother had lost his taste for blood over a thousand years ago, but he was still their leader. It was no matter though… with Ren stirring up war, Fabian causing widespread famine, and Pete spreading plagues everywhere, Dean’s job as Death was already done for him.

The two rode swiftly along the road headed south. They had agreed to meet up with the others in Mexico. The Four Riders hadn’t been together in many years. It was high time for a reunion.

Rén bi huā jiāo 人比花娇 “You are prettier than the flower.” Old Chinese idiom.

Calandra Usher

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Copyright 2.2.2015

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