Bill’s room was filled with books. They stuffed his shelves. More were stacked up on the floor. Dusty tomes on the occult and supernatural. Titles such as “Zombiology: The Physicality of the Undead,” “Lattimore’s Treatise on the Vampiric Species,” “Werewolves in the New World,” and “Witchcraft: A Brief History,” just to name a few.
Hand drawn sketches hanged on the wall. Pointy fanged vampires. Hairy werewolves. Fair haired witches. The majority of the sketches were of zombies. Hideous, brain chomping zombies.
Bill stepped into the room. A few seconds passed until he noticed Jericho hadn’t followed suit.
The gunslinger looked at the doorway. Jericho stood in the hall, knocking on an invisible barrier that prevented his entry.
“Oh right,” Bill said. “I invite you in.”
With that, the barrier was gone and Jericho stepped inside. Bill closed the door and locked it.
Jericho looked around the room, spying all the sketches and books. “You certainly have educated yourself, Mr. Hickok.”
The guest pulled Lattimore’s Treatise off of Bill’s shelf and perused it. “A first edition Lattimore. Impressive.”
“Expensive,” Bill replied.
“And here I thought the Legion Corporation’s Board of Directors had managed to burn every copy and convince the public that Lattimore was stark raving mad,” Jericho said as he returned the book to the shelf. “Then again, all of these authors were either murdered, publicly maligned into ruin, or bought off to cease further publications.”
Jericho took a peak at Bill’s copy of Zombiology. “I suppose that’s why you’ve kept mum on your knowledge of the occult?” Jericho asked as he closed the book and shelved it. “You fear the Legion Corporation will defame your reputation and rob you of your celebrity status?”
Bill stood there, defiantly stone faced.
“Perhaps it is your life you’re more concerned about?” Jericho asked.
Jericho wagged his pointer finger at Bill. “Ah. You fear for those you love.”
“Enough chatter,” Bill said. “Are you the real deal?”
Jericho opened his mouth. Click! His fangs popped out.
Bill motioned to a full length mirror in the back corner of the room. Jericho stepped in front of it. As soon as he did, the mirror reflected not the image of a man, but that of an invisible being. No face. No hands. It was as if a hat and suit were hovering in the air on their own.
“Satisfied?” Jericho asked.
“Yup,” Bill said as he gestured to a lumpy sofa behind a coffee table. Jericho sat down. Bill took a comfortable chair to the right of the table.
Bill drew one of his revolvers and pointed it in the vampire’s direction. “Just so we’re clear, this is filled with six silver-tips. I can shoot the wings off a horse fly at a hundred paces so putting one through your black, useless heart from this range would be as easy as pie for me.”
“Oh my,” Jericho replied. “Your paranoia is unnecessary but understood. Have you the payment?”
Bill fished a small netted bag out of his pocket and plopped it down on the arm of his chair. The vampire stared longingly at the golden coins.
“Have you the goods?” Bill asked.
The vampire reached for his pocket. Bill cocked the hammer of his revolver. “Slowly,” Bill urged.
“Of course,” the vampire said as he timidly put his hand into his pocket. He removed a deck of cards, flipped it over, and spread them out across the table.
“Just as you requested in our letters,” Jericho said. “At a glance, a simple deck of playing cards, nothing out of the ordinary for a legendary gambler to be carrying.”
Bill kept his gun pointed at the vampire as he leaned closer to look the cards over.
“But at a closer inspection,” Jericho continued. “You can see that the face cards and the aces feature renderings and the names of the Legion Corporation’s Board of Directors, as well as their most trusted associates.”
“It took me a great deal of time and expense to have this printed for you,” Jericho said.
If Bill was grateful to the vampire for that, he didn’t let it show. “Why?”
“Pardon?” the vampire asked.
“You sought me out,” Bill said. “Looking to make a deal. I know shit heels have no problem turning on other shit heels, but I want to know the specific reason behind your betrayal.”
Jericho smiled. “Very simple. I have long been a loyal soldier to the Legion’s cause. I have done their dirty work. Carried out their directives without question. Bided my time as younger vampires who have accomplished less than I have were promoted to higher stations than I. All of that I have endured but what I can no longer stand is…the mockery.”
Bill sat silently, waiting for the explanation.
“Vampires do possess extraordinary healing powers,” Jericho said. “But alas, we do not heal to the most robust version of ourselves possible. Instead, we remain stuck in the condition we were when we were turned. Thus, the scars on my face will never disappear. As you can imagine, amongst a group of beings whose looks remain perpetually youthful and beautiful, I am the butt of many a joke. The Chairman won’t even allow me a medallion so that I can enjoy the sun’s warmth.”
“There are no vampires who look old?” Bill asked.
“There are,” Jericho replied. “A number of the elderly have been turned. However, few have had the misfortune of having been turned whilst looking as I do.”
Jericho stacked the deck and handed it to Bill. The gunslinger took it, then tossed the bag of coins at the vampire, who caught it effortlessly.
“Why are you so inquisitive as to my reasoning?” Jericho asked.
“I trust no vampire,” Bill said. “And you reaching out to me seems like a good trap.”
“It does,” Jericho said. “And I have no way of assuring you that it isn’t. I can assure you though that you have purchased the betrayal of enough vampires that word has begun to circulate and the Board may very well be onto you.”
Bill stood up and put the deck into his coat pocket. “We’re done here. Take a walk.”
Jericho remained seated. “Excuse me?”
“Our business is over,” Bill said. “So unless you’ve got any other information worth a shekel or two, move along.”
“But it’s daytime,” Jericho said.
“Not my problem,” Bill said.
An agitated Jericho stood up. “Common courtesy dictates that you let me stay until nightfall.”
“Bloodsuckers don’t get common anything,” Bill said. “I renounce my invitation.”
As soon as those four words poured out of Bill’s mouth, Jericho flew out of the room and into the hallway as if some kind of invisible force was pushing him. His hand desperately clinged to the bag of coins.
Bill walked over to his side of the door. Enraged, Jericho pounded his fists on the invisible barrier that separated him from Bill.
“And just where am I supposed to go?” Jericho asked.
“The lobby,” Bill said.
“Like a common peasant?” Jericho snapped.
Bill reached through the doorway. For him, there was no invisible barrier at all. He yanked the bag of coins out of Jericho’s hand and slammed the door.
Outside, Jericho pounded his fists against the door. “Damn you Bill Hickok! Damn you to Hell!”
With a smirk on his face, Bill tossed the bag of coins into the air then caught it. “Dumb ass vampires. Twelve of them hoodwinked with the same bag.”
Bill pulled one of the coins out of the bag and peeled off the golden foil to reveal a circular chocolate disk. He took a bite out of it. “Mmm. Still good too.”