Slade had spent most of his life coming to grips with the fact that on the inside, he wasn’t a tough guy at all. His machismo was an act, a theoretical veil that he had to put on to scare away the villains of the world. It worked but he suffered knowing that it was thin and could be easily pierced at any time.
U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp, on the other hand, was the real deal. He didn’t fake the rasp in his voice. It was one hundred percent genuine, as if he began each day by chewing on a bucket of rocks for breakfast.
Slade and Tobias sat on a lumpy couch. Earp sat across a table from the brothers in a comfortable chair.
Ferdinand, Tobias’ wrinkly old hound dog, slept under the table.
“Oh my Lord,” Miss Bonnie said as she waddled into the sitting room with a plate of cookies. “A celebrity in our home.”
Miss Bonnie held the plate in front of the guest’s face. He took one. “Much obliged.”
The redhead set the plate down on the table. Slade and Tobias each took one.
“You’ll need something to drink,” Miss Bonnie said as she waddled out of the room.
“Quite a catch you’ve got there, Slade,” Earp said.
“You should visit more often,” Slade replied. “This is the first time she’s ever served me anything since…since…well, forever, come to think of it.”
Earp, Slade and Tobias all bit into their cookies, chewed for awhile, and then, in unison, they all gagged and threw their treats under the table. Ferdinand helped himself.
“I hope she’s good in the sack because that was the worst fucking cookie I’ve ever had in my life,” Earp said.
Out of any other man, Slade would have considered that statement to be fighting words but this was Wyatt Earp, the goddamn Chuck Norris of the nineteenth century. When he spoke, people listened. And whatever he said, it was invariably awesome without fail.
Miss Bonnie returned with a nice cool glass of lemonade and handed it to Earp. That he was happy to see after his long ride. He gulped half of it down right away.
“You’ve outdone yourself ma’am.”
“Do you want another cookie?” Miss Bonnie asked.
“Oh I couldn’t,” Earp said. “I’m stuffed.”
“Scooch!” Miss Bonnie ordered the Slade brothers. They each moved to opposite ends of the couch to make way for the redhead.
“Dear,” Slade said. “I wouldn’t mind a glass of lemonade.”
“The kitchen’s right there,” Miss Bonnie said as she pointed at the doorway.
Slade briefly closed his eyes, sucked back his agitation, then remembered that he was still in the presence of goddamn Wyatt Earp.
Earp leaned forward.
“Now that the pleasantries have been dispensed with, let’s get down to business. As you’re all aware…”
Earp stopped and stared at Tobias’ hat.
“Is he going to wear that dumb ass hat the entire time?” Earp asked.
Slade turned to Tobias for an answer. “It’s my mayor hat.”
“It’s his mayor hat,” Slade said. “Kind of a tradition.”
Earp shook his head in disbelief. “All right then. As you’re all aware, the Federal government of the United States of America has essentially told everyone West of the Mississippi River to fuck a donkey with a dry dick.”
Tobias scratched a pencil across a piece of paper and repeated Earp’s words. “With…a…dry…”
Earp knocked the pencil out of Tobias’ hand. “Stop taking notes, boy, and just pay attention. Rather than help us in our time of need, those brie cheese sniffing Yankee fucks stationed soldiers all along the Eastern side of the Mississippi, and then went to work on building a wall to keep us out.”
Earp sipped his lemonade. “To make matters worse, those Eastern pricks still expect us to stick with them. The president has declared that we’ll all be considered traitors if we form our own country. Federal office holders in the West are expected to keep working without pay and any monies owed to Washington, collectors are supposed to collect and hold in trust for the U.S. government until the zombies are defeated.”
“They can’t expect us to abide by those rules forever,” Slade said.
“Of course not,” Earp said. “Defeat the zombies but we won’t help you but we want to tell you how to run your lives from beyond a fucking wall and take all your money when the zombies are gone? Hell, that’s like going through all the trouble to trap yourself a woman then letting a stranger fuck her.”
Earp set his glass on the table and nodded at Miss Bonnie. “Apologies, ma’am.”
“I’ve heard worse,” Miss Bonnie said.
“Federal office holders across the West have either quit or begun selling their power for bribes,” Earp said. “More so than usual. If you thought this place was lawless before…”
“We aint seen nothing yet,” Slade said.
“Exactly,” Earp said. “Slade, you’re looking at one of the last few assholes left who is still doing his job in this zombie infested hellhole and…”
“…you want me to be an asshole too?” Slade asked.
Earp tapped knowingly at the side of his nose. “You got it.”
Slade looked at his redheaded advisor to get a sense of what she thought of that premise but couldn’t get a read.
“But before you give me an answer, you best find out what you’re getting into,” Earp said.
“I already killed a vampire,” Slade said.
“Son,” Wyatt said. “That’s just the tip of the tit.”
Earp slid back in his chair. “It brings me great shame to say this but, I could have prevented the West from being zombed.”