“I’m not the devil,” Blythe said. “But I’ll give him your regards.
The Reverend wasn’t exactly a formidable opponent. Short and pudgy, bald with unruly white hair on the sides of his head. He pushed his spectacles up the bridge of his nose.
“You’re all the devil to me,” the Reverend said as he thumbed through his bible. “Pardon me. I have lost my place.”
Blythe hollered over the Reverend. “Whatever this is, it won’t work, Slade! Stop hiding behind an old man! It’s beneath you!”
Like trained pets, the zombies stood still, moaning to themselves. Blythe had brought six conductors with him. Five were already in werewolf form. The sixth, a tall, slender man, had black hair with just a light dusting of grey flecks throughout.
Still dressed in his conductor’s uniform, Blythe’s man unholstered his pistol.
“Shall I relieve you of this foolishness, sir?” he asked.
“No Mr. Gentry,” Blythe replied. “I’m mildly curious as to what this fellow is up to.”
The Reverend licked his pointer finger as he flipped through his bible until he triumphantly tapped the page he’d been searching for and wagged his finger in the air. “Get behind me, Satan!”
A grin worked its way across Blythe’s face. Gentry snickered.
“Mr. Gentry,” Blythe said. “Be a good man and take Misters Vaughn and Morris around the back in case they’re planning something.”
“Right away, sir,” Gentry replied. The conductor headed for the back of the livery with two werewolves in tow.
The Reverend carried on with his reading.
“And Jesus said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are but a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the concerns of God!”
Blythe had been alive for thousands of years and never once had someone so frail taken such a bold stand against him. He was amused.
The vampire walked closer to the preacher, taking in the impromptu sermon.
“And then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
The Reverend closed his bible. Blythe mocked the preacher, clapping loudly as if he’d enjoyed the performance.
“I have never heard a finer reading of the Book of Matthew,” Blythe said. “Tell me, are you going somewhere with this?”
“I am,” the Reverend said. “I take it you forfeited your soul to become the abomination you are now?”
“Indeed,” Blythe said. “And it was the best decision I ever made. My soul was only slowing me down. That’s what souls do.”
“Oh no,” the Reverend said. “Souls raise people up. Hold them to a higher standard. A man’s soul is constantly whispering to him to do the right thing. People do wicked deeds when they ignore their souls and you, why you clearly behave as a man who lost his soul long ago.”
“Good riddance,” Blythe said.
The Reverend tapped his finger on the cover of his bible. “Don’t you see, son? You could get your soul back.”
Blythe raised a quizzical eyebrow and waited for the Reverend to elaborate.
“Jesus told his disciples to ignore worldly pleasures and material gain, for all of that is worthless if one loses his soul in the pursuit of personal power,” the Reverend said. “Here you are, poised to take control of America and I assume you won’t stop there. The world will be next?”
“That’s the long term plan,” Blythe replied.
“And won’t world domination seem pointless to you once you realize that you lost your soul along the way?” the Reverend asked.
“I wasn’t really using it,” Blythe said.
“No,” the Reverend said. “No, I doubt that. I’m willing to wager that you were once a decent man and you were somehow led astray. Something put you on the path to become what you are today.”
“This bores me now, Reverend,” Blythe replied.
“What if I told you that you could get your soul back?” the Reverend asked.
“I’d tell you that you are a senile imbecile,” Blythe answered.
The Reverend shook his copy of the good book. “It’s all right here. The world means nothing to a man who forfeits his soul to control it but sacrifice yourself in the name of Jesus and you will find your soul.”
A visibly puzzled Blythe replied, “What?”
“There are biblical scholars far more learned than me,” the Reverend said. “But surely this passage means that if you would repent for your wicked ways, take up arms against the evil that you serve and sacrifice yourself in the Lord’s name, then your soul will no doubt be redeemed in the eyes of the Lord. All will be forgiven and your soul will dwell in Heaven for all eternity.”
Blythe’s eye’s glistened as if they were full of hope. He clutched his hand over the space in his chest where his heart used to beat.
“Oh Reverend,” Blythe said. “Do you really think so?’
“I know so, my boy,” the Reverend said.
Blythe surprised the Reverend with a hug. The vampire pulled the old man close and rested his chin on the Reverend’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Blythe said.
“There, there, son,” the Reverend said as he patted Blythe’s shoulder.
“It’s just that you have no idea how long I have waited for someone like you to say this to me,” Blythe said.
“It’s all right,” the Reverend said. “You were lost but now you have been found.”
“Indeed I have,” Blythe said. “And now I have a lesson that I must share with you.”
“What is it?” the Reverend asked.
Click. Blythe’s fangs popped out from his upper gums. The Reverend screamed in pain as those sharp pointy teeth dug their way into his neck. He struggled to push Blythe away but he grew weaker with every sip of blood Blythe took.
Finally, the Reverend’s body went limp and collapsed on the ground.
With blazing red eyes and blood dripping from his lips, Blythe knelt down to give the Reverend the lesson he spoke of.
“Being without a soul means never having to say you’re sorry.”
The Reverend gasped one last breath as the life drained out of his eyes. He was no more.
The vampire wiped the blood off his face. He retracted his fangs and his eyes returned to normal. He looked to his zombies. They were licking their lips and aching for a taste of the Reverend but they stayed put.
“Finish off the seconds,” Blythe ordered them.
Instantly, the undead swarmed the Reverend, ripping his carcass apart, clawing at each other just to get a piece.
Blythe struck a match and lit the rag stuffed into his special cocktail.
“Enough stalling, Slade!” Blythe said as he hauled his arm back, ready to throw the bottle at the livery. “Get out here and face me!”
Suddenly, Blythe felt an intense pain in his chest. He looked down to find he’d been pierced by a wooden arrow, the sharp stone head of which had already lodged inside of him.
He dropped the bottle, allowing it to crack in a fiery explosion just before he hit the ground.