We rejoin our motley trio as they meander through the magical vistas of the old west with the first part of Chapter 11 from CONJURING MISERY, a joint story-telling effort of Jami Gray, Camille Douglass, and Dave Benneman

Photo from: letusnerd.com Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: THE GUNSLINGER

Photo from: letusnerd.com Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: THE GUNSLINGER

Sam

Snake sat up gasping, and I released a breath I’d been holding for far to long. I held my position on the boulder giving them a few minutes. Their conversation was as taunt as a fat girls britches. Smoke pulled her sister from the hole I’d dug and they embraced.

“Where’s Sam?” Snake asked, concern coloring her voice.

Smoke pointed. I gave a little wave from my perch.

“What in tarnation is he doing up there?”

This query she posed to Smoke, but I decided to insert myself back into the situation. “She put me up here and told me not to move until she said it was safe.”

Snake turned to Smoke. “Well?”

“I’m not sure it will ever be safe, besides he looks kinda cute sittin’ up there. Sorta like a prairie dog.”

I slipped down and dusted myself off as if any amount of brushing would ever get rid of it. I had grit in places where I don’t have places.

Smoke turned. “Did I say it was safe?”

“No, but it appeared to me—”

“Where’s my hat?” Snake pointed a gloved finger at me.

“I told you it wasn’t safe.” Smoke smirked at me.

I scrambled back onto the boulder. “I see, Miss Smoke. I won’t let it happen again.”

“Sitting’ on no rock ain’t gonna save your sorry butt if you don’t find my hat pronto.”

“You see Miss Snake, in all the commotion of saving your sister’s life so that she could in turn come up here and save your life, it sort of buried itself underneath half of this here canyon. Now if y’all want me to go digging around for it I’ll be—”

“You saved who?” Snake looked at Smoke who gave a noncommittal shrug.

“It’s gettin’ so a fella can’t even finish a thought around here.”

Snake seemed to have recovered from her near death experience and stomped over to my refuge. She tilted her head back, then grabbed an ankle and pulled me unceremoniously off my perch. “Explain gambling man before I do something I might regret.”

“You want the long version or—”

“Just the facts pertaining to how you came to save my sister.” She grabbed the lapels of my once white jacket.

“When the canyon wall caved in we ran for cover, diving into a crevice. Once it stopped raining rocks I dug myself out and looked for Smoke. Her face had turned a peculiar shade of blue and the abomination she resurrected earlier had a death grip on her throat. I commenced to skewer the monstrosity with my sword.” I caressed the hilt of Dragon Breath affectionately. “That’s when we heard a God awful scream of agony and hustled to find you on death’s doorstep.”

She eased her grip on me and commenced to straighten my scarf. “Your scar is showing again.”

Smoke put an arm over her sister’s shoulder. “You left out the part where you slapped me. Twice.”

“Yes ma’am.” I felt the dirt cracking on my skin as I smiled. “I didn’t see how bringing that up would do me no good and it didn’t seem pertinent.”

“Pertinent to me.” Smoke felt her cheek with her hand as if she could still feel the sting of it. “Let’s have one of those cigarillos. My nerves are a little high-strung.”

Snake pulled out her last two, and offered me one.

“Thank you Miss Snake but I’ll pass.”

Smoke blew out a series of smoke rings forming a chain. “So where’s the Yaqui Blood Star?”

“Damnation I never saw it.” Snake threw her arms up in frustration.

It was then that something caught my eye. “Miss Snake, I hope you don’t think me too forward, but this looks new.” I reached for her neck and pulled the amulet out of her shirt.

“Dip me in cow shit and call me a rose garden.” Smoke reached out to touch it. “I can’t believe after all this searching we finally have what we came for.”

I didn’t like the feel of the thing. My own straw hat lay abandoned twenty feet away, I walked over to retrieve it. “At lest one of us still has a hat.”

“Don’t push your luck too far gambling man. For the life of me, I don’t know how you’re still drawing breath. Slapping Smoke once is generally punishable by an intensely slow and painful death. You add losing my hat and it’s a blessed miracle the vultures haven’t picked your bones clean already.” Snake rested her tired bones on the ground with the boulder at her back.

“She makes a good point.” Smoke joined her and created another smoke-ring chain.

I whistled for Daisy Bell. “I think this calls for a celebratory drink.”

“That mule is long gone if she has one ounce of sense.” Snake gazed at the coveted amulet around her neck. Simple blue and white beads threaded onto gut held a stone the size and shape of a chicken egg. The blood red stone reflected beams of light like the crystal on a fancy chandelier.

A moment later the steady clip clop of steel shoes came ringing into our little clearing. “I’ll take a pound of loyalty over an ounce sense every time you cut the deck. Whoa there girl.” I scratched behind her ears and lifted a bottle of hooch out of the saddlebag. The sound to the bottle releasing the cork got me to salivating. I offered it to Snake, seeing as to how she was most recently almost dead. “Sorry, I didn’t think to bring glasses.”

She nodded her gratitude and tilted the bottle back. Then passed it on to Smoke.

“Here’s to mud in eye, better than a poke with a sharp stick.” Smoke took a long pull and handed the bottle to me.

“You sure have a way with words Miss Smoke.” I took a drink and swirled the amber liquid in the bottle holding it up against the last rays of sunset. “Miss Snake, I’d sure be obliged if you would tuck that thing back in your shirt ma’am.”

“Does it bother you Sam?” Red beams of light played over her face like knife blades.

“It bothers me to no end, and if I may be so bold, it appears to be making you not yourself.”

At this Smoke moved so she could look into her sister’s eyes for a long moment. Confusion blanched her normally stoic demeanor. “Sam can you fetch me your saddle bag?”

I sensed something wasn’t right. I unlaced the saddlebag and handed it to Smoke.

She crouched on her heels and talked softly to her sister. “Snake darling, you’re going to have do it sweets. Put the necklace in the bag and keep it next to you.”

I seen a gypsy lady one time who could mesmerize folks. Snake looked as if she’d been mesmerized. I didn’t know if Smoke or that awful necklace done it to her, but I didn’t like it. I drew Dragon Breath. “Miss Smoke. You want me to cut the gut for you?”

“She has to do it herself. No one can take it from her.”

“I’ve yet to find something this won’t cut.” Smoke measured her sister. Nobody would be taking the Yaqui Blood Star from her without a fight. And Snake’s unwillingness to take the dreaded thing from her neck own neck was evident. “She’s had a string of bad hands Miss Smoke. Maybe she ain’t up to what you’re asking.” 

Smoke looked at me with real concern, then nodded at my sword. “May I?”

I turned the hilt toward her. “I never let anyone else hold it before. She has a mind of her own sometimes.”

Smoke hesitated, her hand curled around grip and her eyebrows arched. She handed it back. “That’s no normal blade.”

“Yes ma’am I know.”

“I don’t know what might happen when you cut it. It could go real bad.”

I nodded. “Last hand, I’m all in.”

Smoke positioned the saddlebag so the necklace would drop right into it. “You hold this right here sweets.” She placed Snake’s hand on the saddlebag. Then she lifted the lanyard so that I could slip Dragons Breath between it and Snake’s neck. “This might kill us all.”

I lifted Dragons Breath and cut.

Join us next week for Chapter 11’s conclusion as we head into the festive holiday season….

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