It’s that time again, gather round for another installment in our ongoing Urban Fantasy-slash-Western serial, CONJURING MISERY. Your three storytellers: Dave Benneman, Jami Gray and Camille Douglass are weary and saddle sore but we promised to continued on. We now return to the on going saga of the hand of villainy and the conniving mistress of evil holding it…
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I yelled over my shoulder, noting Smoke put her fire, or what ever the hell she called that shit, away. She clearly felt the threat had passed. I wanted put a little distance between me and that godforsaken shack before I turned to face the witchy sisters.
“What are you trying to say Mr. Fancy Pants?” Snake came through the door holstering her shooting irons as well.
As for myself, I was staying vigilant. Night Bird had more tricks up her sleeve than a snake oil salesman. “It means maybe you can’t see true bat shit, because you’re too close to it.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t want to kill you, maybe a just a flesh wound.”
I ignored her threat, chalking it up to her playful nature. Besides I learned a long time ago not to play with snakes. “At the risk of prematurely ending our partnership, I have a few things to share. First, hunting this thing has cost me a lot of money by my humble standards. Money, which I have no faith in ever getting back. Beyond the monetary reward dangled in front of me by your uncle, I have nothing more to gain. A wish is a vague thing at best, and if the fairy tales I read as a kid have any truth in them, wishes often back fire.”
“If you want out, walk away,” Smoke interrupted.
“Please, allow me to finish.” I wiped the dust off my glasses while I gathered my thoughts.
“Then get to it, we’re burning daylight.” Snake lit one of her desert dog turds, the blue smoke curling around her as if truly her namesake, but between one blink and the next it dissipated as quick as it materialized.
“At the risk of proving my daddy wrong, I feel like I need to see this thing through. You two have been cagey to say the least, still I believe you have an honorable cause for seeking the Yaqui Blood Star.” I held up my hand to ward off another interruption. “Last, you two are hard to like, but some how you managed to worm under my skin. I’ve come to think of you as friends, in a strange way. I don’t cash out on my friends.”
“I think he’s sweet on you.” Snake bumped a hip into Smoke.
“You’re not saddling me with that mule.” Smoke returned the hip bump and stole a drag off Snake’s cigarillo. “It’s you he’s pining for.”
“Hold your horses, ladies.” I shook my head at their byplay. “I’m not proposing marriage here. I’m talking friends, as in I’d hate to see anything bad happen to you. I don’t look that good in black, and carrying caskets give me the willies. So I’m going to be honest here, because if we’re going to be friends we need honesty between us.” I carefully replaced my glasses and stiffened my spine. “First of all, I wired Jinx to come to Misery after I located Diamond Jim and had reason to believe the Star was here. I suspect, but cannot prove, Two Crows and Night Bird are both shapes that Donoma can assume. Furthermore, I believe last night Villalobos was in possession of the Star and for some godforsaken reason decided to double cross Mendez. Maybe he figured he could shop it to the highest bidder, at least until Diamond Jim showed up. Or maybe, he changed his mind and decided to keep it for himself. Either way, if I’m right, whatever just left here knows exactly where our treasure is hidden as there is no way he didn’t spill his secrets to the nightmare that just left.”
Pausing, I let my words sink in and waited as the sisters thought it through. Those familiar glances they exchanged told me they were conferring silently. For the second time since I’d met them, I found myself spilling my guts and not completely understanding why. Strangely, when in their presence a feeling that I could trust them embraced me. Perhaps this was some form of the magic they were capable of? Or had we formed a bond deeper than a couple days could account for? “Before I commit any more effort to this quest. I have to know why the Star is so all fire important to you. There it is. You have the cards. If you deal me in, I’m here to the finish, with or without a wish. But I can’t play if I don’t have a hand.”