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How the West Was Zombed – Part 13 – One Year Later

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A year has passed since the West has been zombed.

Miles makes a deal with a suspicious new acquaintance.

Annabelle takes up Doc’s cause.

Slade and Miss Bonnie head to Arizona and get a visit from Wyatt Earp.

And finally…a master outdoorsman is put on the path to the presidency.

Chapter 123       Chapter 124     Chapter 125

Chapter 126       Chapter 127      Chapter 128

Chapter 129       Chapter 130       Chapter 131

Chapter 132       Chapter 133       Chapter 134

Chapter 135       Chapter 136

Epilogue

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How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 123

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One Year Later

New Mexico

The Rattler was aptly named because it was filled with vipers. Cutthroats, villains and assorted reprobates guzzled brews and exchanged tales of their heinous misdeeds.

Gambling. Brawling. Knife fights. It was comparable to the Bonnie Lass, but with less charm and ambience.

The double doors swung open and in walked a man wearing a hat with a red feather in it.

Miles. He’d hit a growth spurt and was over six feet now. Height. Muscle. There was even the slightest beginnings of a rudimentary mustache on his lip.

The joint grew silent. Card games. Fist fights. It all came to a halt as all eyes followed him as he bellied up to the bar.

Nelson Cooper, the owner/barkeep had a face that looked like it defined stupid. Lazy-eye. Crooked teeth. Unibrow. Permanent scowl. Dirt beard. Stain covered shirt that looked like it doubled as a bar rag.

Miles plopped a coin on the bar. “Sarsparilla. Straight up.”

Cooper and his contingent of barflies laughed.

“Can’t you read?” the barkeep asked as he pointed to a sign above the bar.

It read, “No Vampires. No Zombies. No Werewolves.”

“We don’t serve your kind here,” Cooper said.

Miles gulped. How did this scumbag know anything about him? He’d just strolled into town and hadn’t said a word to anyone.

He bluffed.

“I’m not a damn werewolf,” Miles said.

Cooper pointed to one more line on the sign. “No Negroes.”

“Shit,” Miles said.

He picked up his coin and scooched off the barstool.

A voice called out from the back left corner of the room.

“Cooper, quit acting like the power to poor booze gives you a ten foot dick and pour my friend a drink.”

The barkeep threw his hands up and trembled in fear. “Aw hell, Hoo Doo. I didn’t know he was with you.”

“Well now you do.”

Miles looked over to the corner table. There sat a rakish man with a gaunt face. He was skinny, bordering on emaciation. Sandy hair and a black hat with a white band. Rumpled suit that looked a tad baggy for him.

“Thanks,” Miles said as he started for the door. “But I don’t want any trouble.”

“Nonsense!” the man said. “Come have a seat and we’ll have a little chat.”

The barflies returned to their debauchery. Miles took a seat at the man’s table. Cooper plopped a bottle of sarsaparilla down.

“Soda pop!” the man scoffed. “Bullshit! He’ll have a scotch.”

“I don’t drink,” Miles said.

“And I didn’t hear that,” the man said as he shooed the barkeep away.

Miles took a swig of sarsaparilla. He’d been running all day and was powerfully thirsty.

The man dropped a few pinches of tobacco onto a paper and rolled himself a cigarette.

“Hoo Doo,” the man said.

“Who do what?” Miles replied.

The man grinned. “Me do.”

Miles was confused. “You do what?”

“Hoo Doo.”

“You do hoo doo?” Miles asked.

“I do,” the man answered. “My name and my trade are one and the same. Hoo Doo Brown, at your service.”

Cooper set a glass of scotch down and left. Miles stared at it.

“It’ll put hair on your chest,” Hoo Doo said.

Miles picked it up.

“Not that you need any,”Hoo Doo said.

Miles was flabbergasted. Hoo Doo lit his cigarette and popped the end between his lips, leaving it to dangle there.

“Oh come now,” Hoo Doo said. “I can spot a supernatural at fifty paces. I saw the look on your puss when that fat sack of crap insulted you. It was all you could do to keep yourself from unleashing the beast and tearing him apart. Not to cast aspersions on your kind but werewolves aren’t exactly known for their self-control. What gives?”

The young man raised the glass to his lips. “I’m a peaceful werewolf.” He took a sip, choked, then immediately sprayed it out in a fine mist.

Hoo Doo laughed. “Your first drink I take it?”

Miles made a face as if he’d just been sucking on a lemon. “And my last one. That was awful. Why do people drink this stuff?”

Hoo Doo reached into his pocket and pulled out a bar of soap and a small pocket knife. He went to work whittling the soap.

“Oh,” Hoo Doo said. “To forget the past, I suppose. I’m not exactly sure of the science of it all but I can’t imagine a beverage that dulls the senses could taste like candy.”

Miles returned to his sarsparilla.

“What’s hoo doo?” Miles asked.

“Now there’s a question,” Hoo Doo said as he whittled away. “I suppose I could regale you for hours about its history but when it comes right down to it…”

Hoo Doo tapped the ash off his smoke into an empty glass. “…it’s the art of asking demons for favors.”

Miles eyes grew wide with fear.

“Not exactly a profession I’d recommend,” Hoo Doo said. “Nothing in life is free and well, those demons are happy to cater to your wishes if you ask them the right way but they take a little piece of you each time.”

Hoo Doo sighed. “Sometimes I feel like I have nothing left to give. One of these days, I really should stop.”

Miles scooched back in his chair. “Thanks for the drinks, mister. I best be moving on.”

“Oh please,” Hoo Doo said. “You just got here. And you never even told me your name.”

“Miles.”

“Tell me Miles,” Hoo Doo said. “What’s a nice werewolf like you doing in a place like this?”

“Just passing through.”

“On your way to…”

Miles was torn between his fear and his inner desire to not appear rude. “Mexico.”

“Que bueno,” Hoo Doo said. “Pretty country. Prettier senoritas.”

“I guess.”

“You’re out of luck I’m afraid,” Hoo Doo said. “The Federales have got the border locked down tighter than a nun’s knickers out of fear that their country might get overrun with zombies. Can’t say as I blame them. Zombies are truly the biggest assholes in the entire supernatural world.”

Miles shook his head. “Guess I’ll do something else.”

“And what do you do?” Hoo Doo asked.

“What?”

“Your profession,” Hoo Doo said. “Your employment. Your raison d’etre. How’d you get that coin that Fuckface McGee over there refused because he prefers ignorance over making money?”

“I…I begged for it.”

“A beggar?” Hoo Doo asked. “Oh, no no no, son. We can’t have that at all. Have you got any skills?”

Miles shrugged. “I can draw.”

“Ah!” Hoo Doo said. “An artiste! I do admire a pretty picture and I’m certain one day when your pantings are hanging in museums I’ll gush with pride as I tell people I knew you when but I’m afraid I don’t know a single accomplished artist who can help you get started. Can you build something?”

“No.”

“Swing a hammer?”

“I could try.”

“Tote that barge? Lift that bail?”

“I would if anyone would hire me.”

“Ah yes,” Hoo Doo said as the shavings from his bar of soap piled up on the table. “I imagine your color makes it difficult to win over folks like old Cooper there.”

“I’m not complaining,” Miles said.

“That’s the spirit,” Hoo Doo said. “Perhaps you could become a hired gun.”

Miles sipped his soda. “That’s a job I’d never want.”

“Could have fooled me with that Colt strapped to your hip,” Hoo Doo said.

“Gift from a friend,” Miles said. “Just for show. I don’t even keep it loaded.”

Hoo Doo rolled his eyes. “Son, let me help you. That is information a stranger should not know.”

Miles nodded.

“That’s information that even a friend should not know,” Hoo Doo added. “Are we friends yet?”

“I don’t think so,” Miles said.

“We’ll get there,” Hoo Doo said. “Regardless, assume everyone is looking for your weaknesses. They’ll find them sooner or later but you don’t have to point them out and make it easier for them.”

Miles nodded again.

“Many a bad man would pay top dollar for the services of a werewolf,” Hoo Doo said.

“I’m not that kind of werewolf,” Miles replied.

“As I live and breathe,” Hoo Doo said. “You really are a pacifist werewolf.”

“A what?”

“Pacifist,” Hoo Doo said. “You abhor violence.”

“I do.”

“That’s admirable,” Hoo Doo said. “I’d quit violence myself if it weren’t so damn effective.”

Hoo Doo put his knife away and set his soap down on the table. He’d carved the bar into the shape of a little man. A round head. Stick body, legs and arms.

“Give me your critique as an artist.”

“Not bad,” Miles said.

“I’m no Michelangelo but I try,” Hoo Doo said.

Cooper was back. “Hey Hoo Doo, I know you’re the King Shit around here but I can’t have this nigger drinking in my bar all night. Pretty soon all the niggers will want to…”

Hoo Doo balled his hand into a fist, raised it up, then pounded it down on his little sculpture, smashing it flat.

As for Cooper, he didn’t gasp or choke. He didn’t cry out in pain. He simply collapsed in a giant heap on the floor.

The barflies cared enough to look, but not enough to get involved. They went about their business. Miles jumped out of his chair and lightly slapped Cooper’s cheek.

“Mister!” Miles said. “Hey Mister! Wake up.”

Miles looked up. The smashed soap. The smile on Hoo Doo’s face.

“What did you do?”

“I asked for a favor,” Hoo Doo replied.

Miles shook the man’s shoulders. “Hey! Mister, come on!”

The young man looked back to Hoo Doo. “Do something!”

Hoo Doo sighed. “Oh God, you’re one of those bleeding heart types aren’t you? All right…”
Hoo Doo took his time as he took some of the soap and rolled it into a ball to make a head. Then he crafted a few sticks to make a body, legs, and arms. He wiggled his fingers over the sculpture and…

“Get off me nigger!”

Cooper pushed Miles aside and stood up. “What the hell happened?”

“You had one too many I suppose,” Hoo Doo said. “My friend here was just trying to help you.”

“Trying to sneak a feel on my pecker was what he was doing,” Cooper said. “We don’t take kindly to queers in here neither.”

Cooper stormed off back to the bar. “I’m going to add that to my sign.”

Miles returned to his seat.

“Shit,” Hoo Doo said. “I worry about you, Miles the Pacifist Werewolf. If you let a half-wit like that walk all over you then you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.”

“I’d rather take people’s abuse then hate myself for hurting them.”

Hoo Doo’s cigarette was all smoked out. He took another paper and some tobacco from his pocket and rolled another one.

“Ahh,” Hoo Doo said. “Then you have hurt someone.”

“None of your business.”

“There’s a spine,” Hoo Doo said. “We’ll make a man out of you yet.”

Miles stood up. “Goodbye.”

Hoo Doo lit his new cigarette. “Well, I can’t say there are many employment opportunities out there for pacifist werewolf but as it turns out I just happen to have one.”

“Not interested.”

“It’s very lucrative,” Miles said. “You’ll never have to beg for coins again and you’d be surprised how quickly a fat pocket earns you the respect of even the most basic of imbeciles.”

There was a little voice in Miles’ head, working overtime as it shouted for him to leave.

He went against his gut and sat back down.

“Like I said. I won’t hurt anyone.”

“And you won’t,” Hoo Doo said. “For it’s not your claws or your teeth that I’m after but rather, your above average sniffer.”

“My sniffer?”

“Precisely,” Hoo Doo said. “Son, down in Mexico lies a magnificent treasure of great value. It isn’t made out of gold and who cares, seeing as how that commodity has become less precious ever since our esteemed government gave us the cold shoulder. It’s not even silver, which would be more useful as everyone and their uncle wants to pack silver heat now that the cat has been let out of the bag with regard to the existence of werewolves and vampires.”

“Diamonds?” Miles asked.

“Hell no,” Hoo Doo said as he puffed on his cigarette. “What good did a diamond ever do anyone except for getting a bunch of people killed so some ugly lady could pop it onto her finger and smile? Same thing with rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. All junk compared to this.”

“I can’t think of anything more valuable than gold, silver or jewels,” Miles said.

“For years I have sought a treasure made out of flesh and bone,” Hoo Doo said. “And for just as many years, I have searched for a werewolf to sniff it out for me. Alas, I have yet to meet a werewolf I wasn’t sure would snap me in two and take the treasure for himself as soon as he found it…until now. This job really does call for a pacifist werewolf and I must say I feel like asking God to pull his pants down so I can kiss his ass for finally sending me one.”

“I don’t know…”

“I’ll cut you in.”

“Fifty-fifty?” Miles asked.

“What?” Hoo Doo asked. “Fuck no, pacifist werewolf. I’m the one who’s done all the research and I’m the one taking all the risk sneaking your furry hide across the border. We get caught, all you need to do is wolf yourself and run away. Me? They’ll string me up and hang me up by my toes in a dank, depressing dungeon somewhere until the end of time.”

Miles looked out a window. The moon was full and was casting some light onto the table.

“But if you can’t do it without my nose…”

“I have created a monster,” Hoo Doo said. “Fine. I’ll take seventy, you take thirty. Keep in mind I’ll be paying two unsavory characters to join us out of my own pocket. Mexico’s not a place you want to visit without some muscle and we both know you won’t be providing that, pacifist werewolf.”

“What if I say no?” Miles said.

Hoo Doo shrugged. “Then I return to my glamorous lifestyle of drinking alone, you go outside and beg for people’s pocket change and the treasure stays lost, unless some other jackass finds a less greedy pacifist werewolf to find it for him first.”

Miles was torn. He thought about how his father had once been sweet talked into taking what sounded like a fancy, high paying gig only to end up a tool of evil. He didn’t want to make the same mistake, but he was getting tired of begging for money as well.

“I won’t have to hurt anyone?” Miles asked.

“You have my word,” Hoo Doo said as he took a drag on his cigarette and stretched out his hand.

Miles took it. “Then I’m in. I guess you look trustworthy.”

Hoo Doo leaned into the moonlight. His face disappeared and was replaced with that of a chattering skull. No eyes in the sockets. Just bone. Miles watched in terror as cigarette smoke poured through Hoo Doo’s teeth then swirled around his rib cage, the bones of which looked as though Miles could reach out and play like a xylophone.

Miles looked down to see he was holding a boney hand. He looked up.

“Well now,” Hoo Doo said. “I wouldn’t say that.”

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How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 107

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Major Culpepper watched as Private Robards placed the last dynamite bundle.

“That’ll do it sir.”

“You’re sure?” the Major asked. “We can leave nothing to chance.”

“It’ll be a magnificent explosion,” Robards replied.

Robards picked up a wooden detonator box, being careful not to get his hand anywhere near the plunger at the top. The device was hooked up to a large spool of blasting cord, the opposite end of which was hooked up to the last bundle of dynamite. In turn, that bundle was connected to a long line of bundles placed on supports all across the bridge.

“I’ll walk the box across, sir,” Robards said. “I don’t trust any of these other idiots with it.”

“Very well,” the Major said. “Just be sure not kill us all with that contraption.”

One of Robards’ helpers picked up the spool and walked behind the demolition expert, leaving a trail of blasting cord behind as they walked toward the Illinois side of the bridge.

The Major addressed the crowd. Corporal Bartlett took his place next to a squad of soldiers.

“Now then,” Major Culpepper said. “Women and children only! All men say your goodbyes and then off you go back to the West to fight the zombie menace. Make your country proud.”

An ornery looking man shouted, “Why don’t you fight the zombie menace?”

The Major grabbed his belly and laughed. “Oh you are a card sir! I’m much too important to have my brains eaten. Away with you now!”

All the men turned and started to trudge back to Highwater. Women of all ages marched across the bridge. Some carried babies, others held their children by the hand.

One woman kept her face covered by a scarf. Her shoulders were wrapped by a raggedy, worn out afghan. A bonnet covered the top of her head. She hobbled along slowly, her right hand gripping a cane. With her left arm, she clutched a white cloth bundle.

Bartlett approached her.

“Oh ma’am,” the Corporal said. “Here, let me help you that.”

The old woman’s voice was high-pitched. “No thank you sonny.”

“Please ma’am,” Bartlett insisted as he reached for the bundle. “You look very unsteady and I fear you might drop your grandchild.”

The old woman looked down and shook her head. “Oh no, sonny. He’s fine. What a nice young man you are for caring. Goodbye!”

Oddly, the old woman picked up her pace, walking as if she didn’t even need the cane.

Bartlett kept up. He grabbed the bundle and pulled it away only to be surprised how heavy it was.

“Ma’am I don’t mind helping you at all…what the…ooomph!”

Bartlett strained under the weight of the bundle. “What in the world?”

The old woman grabbed the other end of the bundle. “He’s a very fat baby. Let him go!”

“What have you been feeding him?” Bartlett asked as he yanked the bundle his way.

“Buttermilk three times a day,” the old lady said as she yanked the bundle back. “He’ll be as big as Paul Bunyan one day!”

There the pair stood on the bridge, locked in a tug of war with the bundle, each refusing to give in.

“Stop!” the old woman protested. “You’re hurting him!”

“Ma’am,” Bartlett replied. “I’m with the government. You can trust me!”

Finally, each person pulled their end of the bundle so hard that the cloth came undone and hundreds of metal objects clattered all across the bridge.

Cutlery made out of pure silver. Forks. Knives. Spoons. Gold pocket watches. A flask or two. A cigar box. Rings. Necklaces. All manner of jewelry. Coins of every denomination.

Bartlett was shocked. He grabbed the bonnet that was covering the old lady’s head to reveal a head of grimy receding hair. He then pulled her scarf away to discover that she was not a she at all.

It was frequent Bonnie Lass customer Roscoe Crandall.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Major Culpepper asked as he stepped over to inspect the commotion. As soon as he saw the riches at his feet he added, “What in the name of William T. Sherman is all this?”

Roscoe started to reply with his old lady impression. “It’s not…”

Seeing that Bartlett and Culpepper were not amused, Roscoe reverted to his own voice.

“It’s not a bunch of peoples’ personal belongings I looted from their homes while they were all busy running for their lives from the dead men I swear,” Roscoe said. “It’s all mine.”

Bartlett raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

Roscoe grabbed the lapels of his pink dress and puffed out his chest. “They are! I’ll have you know I’m a rather well-to-do man in Highwater!”

Bartlett shook his head. “You’re in a lot of troub…”

Before the corporal could finish his sentence, a bullet tore through Roscoe’s skull. The degenerate’s body fell to the ground.

The corporal turned to the Major, who was holding a smoking pistol.

“Sir!” Bartlett said.

“Oh don’t give me that look, Bartlett,” the Major said. “The man was clearly scum.”

“But he should have had a trial!” Bartlett said.

“We’re under martial law, man,” Major Culpepper said. “The law’s very unclear in dark times such as these.”

The major looked at all the shiny objects on the ground, then back to Bartlett.

“Be a good man and scoop that all up, will you?” the Major asked. “We’ll claim it for the war effort.”

“But we should try to find out who the owners are,” Bartlett said. “Maybe some of these things belong to the women.”

“Nonsense!” the Major said. “We have a wall to build!”

Bartlett shook his head disapprovingly then remembered his place. He dropped to his knees and started picking up the items and placing them in the white cloth.

A feint sound interrupted his concentration.

“Arrrrrrwooooo!”

Bartlett lifted his head up. “What was that?”

The Major nonchalantly dropped some tobacco into his pipe. “What was what?”

“Arrr! Arrr! Arrrrrwooooooo!”

“That!” Bartlett said.

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100 Chapters of How the West Was Zombed

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100 Chapters, 3.5 readers. 100 Chapters.

Slade needs to catch a train, have a fight with a damn vampire, and then things get wrapped up and then the future is foreshadowed and then boom! Cut…print…await my fat ass check from Jeff Bezos.

OK maybe it won’t be that easy, but we’re getting there, 3.5 readers. We’re getting there.

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How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 29

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Louisiana, 1859

THWAP!

The whip cracking across Joe’s back might as well have been a knife. It cut just as deep and with as much precision. There wasn’t much he could do about it. His hands were bound tight and tied to a hook above his head. His body had already told him to fall down, but his captors wouldn’t allow it.

THWAP!

The man wielding the whip was Edmund Lorante, Overseer of the Marchand Plantation. That was more or less a fancy title that meant he kept an eye on slaves and made sure they didn’t get out of line. He relished “educational opportunities” and had called in over a hundred of Monsieur Marchand’s pieces of property from the field to watch. A few of his white subordinates stood by, shotguns at the ready.

THWAP!

“What did you do with it, n****r?” Lorante asked. He tossed out the word so nonchalantly, as though using it didn’t phase him in the slightest.  It was a word used casually in those days.

Joe was out of strength, but mustered up enough to answer, as he’d already done a dozen times, “I…I didn’t take it.”

THWAP!

“Enough of this foolishness,” Lorante said. “It’s no use to you. You can’t spend it. There is not a single reputable merchant that would see a n****r with money and not conclude it to be stolen. Turn it over and this all ends.”

“I didn’t take it,” Joe repeated.

Blood seeped out of Joe’s wounds, dripping to the ground below. The blaring sun didn’t help, covering him with blisters until he felt like he was inside an oven.

Lorante performed for the crowd, as he enjoyed doing. Joe’s plight was a perfect “this could be you” scare tactic to rattle the other slaves. The overseer took full advantage of it.

“Your Master, Monsieur Marchand, takes care of you doesn’t he?” Lorante asked.

Joe knew the drill on this one and knew there was no answer other than “yes boss” that wouldn’t lead to the whip being cracked again.

“Yes boss.”

Lorante turned to the slaves. “All of you! He provides you with food and water, room and board. All that he asks is that you put in a day’s work to earn your keep and how is he repaid? With thievery.”

He turned his attention back to Joe. “Come on now. Where is it?”

“I swear I don’t know,” Joe said.

THWAP!

Lorante shook his head and made a “tsk tsk” sound. He patted his forehead with a handkerchief, dabbing the sweat away, then continued his lecture.

“You n*****s,” the overseer said. “You all think you’re so smart, don’t you? Most of you behave and do as you’re told but then once in awhile one of you comes along and starts filling your heads with ideas – that you ought to be paid, that you ought to be educated, that you ought to hold office and become businessmen and gentlemen and take on jobs that not a one of you has the brains to handle. I’d no sooner hire a n*****r for a thinking man’s position than I would my dog. Joseph!”

Joe spit out some blood. One of the lashings had made him bite his tongue.

“Boss?”

“You were the only n****r allowed in the house when Monsieur Marchand noticed his money was missing. Do you take me for a fool?”

Another one of those “only one answer will do” questions.

“No.”

“Then tell me where it is!!!”

“I don’t know.”

THWAP!!!

Lorante coiled up his whip, walked over to the whipping post (because this was a time when such a thing actually existed) and got in Joe’s face.

“If we have to do this all day then so be it but by God…you will learn your place boy.

The boss motioned to his men. “He wants to do it the hard way. Cut him down. Bring her out.”

A knife chopped through the rope, leaving Joe to crash to the ground. Though exhausted, sick, and in tremendous pain, his blurry eyes watched as the love of his life was walked to the whipping post.

Lydia. So sweet. So beautiful. She didn’t cry or fight it. She’d seen scenarios like this before and knew it was no use to protest. She put her arms up to be tied, aware if she didn’t they’d be held up for her anyway.

“NOOOO!!!” Joe cried. “No boss, please, please…I didn’t do it. I’d tell you if I did…”

“You’re doing this Joseph,” Lorante said. “Not me.”

“I’ll help you look for it,” Joe said. “Please. I’ll look over every inch and turn over every stone until I find it for you.”

As soon as Lydia was hooked, Joe began hyperventilating. He felt like a trout pulled out of the ocean, gasping for air and unable to find any. His stomach felt sick, but far worse than any feeling he’d ever had before.

“Lydia,” Lorante said. “Do YOU know where Monsieur Marchand’s stolen bills are?”

“No sir.”

Joe’s eyes turned yellow and his muscles bulged. Sweat didn’t just drip out of his pores. It flooded out.

“Your little boyfriend here never whispered in your ear what he did with it?” Lorante asked.

“No sir.”

Lorante uncoiled his whip. “What a pity.”

There’s a little bit of beast dwelling inside everyone, some more than others. Most people go through life without ever letting their inner monster out. Most are just naturally gifted with the ability control it without even knowing its there. Others are just lucky enough to never experience an event awful enough to be overcome.

But when that whip tore across Lydia’s back, Edmund Lorante saw himself staring up at a massive growling, snarling, bloodthirsty werewolf. The last words of the slave master’s life was, “What the?” before he was ripped apart at the torso, each half of his body thrown far away from one another in an explosion of blood.

Lorante’s men were equally astonished and opened fire. The buckshot blows might as well have been kisses as that didn’t stop the beast from slashing the men to ribbons.

Though Joe intended them no harm, the slaves, as you can imagine, ran away as fast as they could. Who wouldn’t upon seeing a werewolf? Many of them were able to run to freedom. Some, sadly, were caught and held accountable by death for something they didn’t do.

Lydia felt the understandable urge to run herself but that went away when the beast cut her down with a single flick of his claw. She put her hand out and Joe met it with his paw. He stood there in disbelief at what he’d just done, his mind one big fog. He passed out, fell down, and moments later was back to his old self.

The event was written up in the papers as “The Great Marchand Plantation Slave Revolt of 1859.” An ill-tempered slave named Joseph conspired with his fellow slaves to murder the kind and noble Mr. Lorante and his dedicated assistants.

That’s the story Madame Marchand told the press anyway. She and the Monsieur had witnessed the whole spectacle from their mansion’s veranda and immediately barricaded themselves in their room afterwards. It wasn’t necessary as Joe just walked away with Lydia. He wasn’t interested in any more bloodshed and at the time, didn’t know he was able to call upon the beast inside him at will.

Astounded by the sight, the Monsieur dropped dead of a heart attack shortly thereafter. And the Madame only went with the revolt story after being laughed off as a crazy slave sympathizer by the local authorities. She never did live down her reputation as a crackpot who made up a ludicrous story about a loathsome wolf man to protect her late husband’s property from being pursued and punished.

As for the missing money, Gerard, the Marchand’s youngest son, would later confide in his mother that he took it to finance a trip to Europe to “sew his oats” as he called it.

Meanwhile, as days on the run turned into weeks, Joe, with Lydia at his side, learned all he could about his new power and sought out those who shared it.

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How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 25

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After the courtroom cleared out, Slade confronted Sampson.

“What the hell are you doing?” Slade asked, his voice raspier than ever.

“Marshal, I hate this as much as you do but the Governor has the right to issue pardons and once he does there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Take it up with him.”

Slade, man of action that he was, ripped the star off his shirt, slammed it down on the Judge’s bench, and stormed out of the courtroom.

“Slade!” the Judge called after him. “Don’t be ridiculous! This town needs you!!!”

Gunther’s stomach churned. The idea of leaving a job he held most of his life was unsettling, as was the idea of being disloyal to Slade.

“I don’t reckon there’s some kind of generous retirement payment for a man who’s held the position of Deputy Marshal for over forty years, is there?”

“Not that I know of,” the Judge replied.

“I figured as much,” Gunther said as he tugged at his star. “Oh well, here’s mud in your eye.”

Gunther tugged and tugged but the star wouldn’t budge.

“Deputy,” Sampson said. “I don’t have all day.”

“Now hold your horses,” Gunther said as he continued to fumble around, “I don’t want to rip my vest. My wife made this for me…ah…here we go.”

Gunther slammed his star down next to Slade’s.

“Gunther, don’t do this,” Sampson said. “You could take Slade’s place and become the Marshal yourself.”

“What?” Gunther asked. “And be the man who has to make all the decisions and be responsible for everything? No thank you. I’d rather be hung upside down by my toes and beaten with a wet noodle.”

“What will you do now?” Sampson asked.

“I don’t know,” Gunther said. “Get even older and die I guess.”

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How the West Was ZOMBED – Chapter 14

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To say that the Olmsted property was a dump would be an insult to dumps. Without old Frederick looking after it, the log cabin had gone into disrepair and the few acres became overrun with weeds and tall grass.

“Oh my,” Sarah said. “I knew enough to be skeptical when the advertisement described it as ‘luxurious’ but this isn’t how I pictured it at all.”

Sarah and Slade walked into the cabin where they found cobwebs, dirty dishes, and dust, dust, and more dust.

“I have my work cut out for me,” Sarah said. “So be it. As the good book says, ‘idle hands are the devil’s handiwork.’”

Slade nodded.

“Thank you, Marshal.  I don’t want to keep you from your duties any longer.”

Slade tipped his hat then headed for his horse, only to stop abruptly. He had something to say, and without Gunther around, it was going to be difficult for him, especially since Sarah was new to him.

“Is everything all right, Marshal?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t…”

Sarah removed her bonnet as she waited for the words to come out of Slade’s mouth. All that long pretty hair didn’t help the Marshal connect his brain to his voice box any faster.

“I reckon I don’t feel it’s right to…”

Big brown eyes. Staring. Blinking. That’s all Slade saw.

“…to leave you all alone out here…because you’re a woman and all.”

Sarah smiled. “Oh, I know,” she said. “This certainly is unorthodox. Ever since he passed, I’ve come to realize how much I relied on Jedediah for everything.”

“I’m sorry,” Slade said.

“It’s all right,” Sarah said. “He slipped away peacefully in his sleep. Such a kind, gentle man. It would have been nice to have known him a bit longer but seventy-four years is more than anyone can ask for.”

Slade felt a burning need to check to see if he heard that correctly.

“Seventy-four?” he asked.

“Unusual, I know,” Sarah said. “But father needed a loan and Jedediah had the money. Can’t say anyone ever asked my opinion.”

Fortunately, Slade’s stoicism prevented him from sharing his opinion.

“But you need not worry about me, Marshal,” Sarah said. “I’ve come to accept that no man will ever want a once married old maid of twenty-six so I shall persevere and learn how to survive on my own.”

Slade was only two years older. And he was alive. He was beating old Jedediah on two fronts.

“I’ll lend a hand,” Slade said.

A rusty axe was buried in a tree stump, surrounded by logs Olmsted never got around to. The Marshal went to work splitting them.

“You’re too kind, Marshal,” Sarah said.

“Rain.”

“Pardon?”

“Call me Rain.”

“Very well,” Sarah said. “Rain.”

Sarah retreated to the cabin and went to work on tidying up. An hour later she poked her head outside to check on her helper only to find him shirtless, his sweaty muscles gleaming in the sun.

“Oh my Lord,” she said. Good church goer that she was, she averted her eyes and walked back inside.

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How the West Was ZOMBED – Chapter 10

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High atop the town’s rickety old water tower, a massive, hairy, hulking beast observed Slade as he dozed. Black fur, dagger-like claws, a snout full of razor sharp teeth. Even at rest, the eight-foot tall creature’s breath was hot, even steamy.

The legends are true. Werewolves have lived amongst humanity for ages, blending in as humans when they can, hiding in the shadows in their alternative form when they’re unable to keep their inner beast at bay.

This one seemed rather interested in the church, having surveyed the property for several minutes. A half mile away in the distance, he saw a pair of red eyes similar to his own emerge above the courthouse. The being they were attached to drew closer, leaping from rooftop to rooftop until it too found a spot on the water tower to lay low.

What is the deadliest power a werewolf has in its personal arsenal? Its unmatched strength? Explosive temper? Incomprehensible speed?

All of these factors are palpable but many would argue that telepathic communication is what makes werewolves truly terrifying. Known to hunt in packs, they can sneak up right behind their prey and openly discuss their plans of attack inside their minds without making a sound.

“Is this the place, Pa?” the newly arrived werewolf asked.

“Yes.”

“Doesn’t look like much.”

“A job’s a job, Miles.”

Miles wasn’t quite as large as his father, but he was still menacing and formidable. Gracefully, he and his father leaped from the tower and landed on their feet on the ground below. Almost in defiance of basic laws of physics, they barely made a sound.

“They’ll never accept us here,” Miles said.

“That’s up to you, son,” Pa replied. “Control the beast and maybe we can stop moving and settle down for a change.”

Pa carried a small pack on his back. He bit the shoulder strap with his teeth, werewolf hands being much too large to manipulate human objects. Opening his mouth allowed the pack to fall to the ground.

“That’s not what I meant,” Miles said.

Father and son morphed into human form. Pa was in his forties, strong and tall with a little bit of salt mixed into his peppery hair. Miles was fifteen. About six inches shy of six feet, he looked like he would have to get soaking wet to weight a hundred pounds. His ribs could have been played like a xylophone.

Underneath the water tower, the two very naked black men carried on their conversation. In human form, they weren’t able to communicate telepathically, so they used their mouths, as people have been known to do from time to time.

“I meant they’ll never be able to accept, ‘us.’”

To Miles, the older man was Pa. To the rest of the world, he was Joe. Joe Freeman. Joe rummaged through the pack, handed his son a pair of pants, then found his own and pulled them on.

“Well, that’s a bird of a very different feather, I reckon,” Joe said.

“Can’t we just live in the wild?” Miles asked.

“You can when you’re older if you want,” Joe replied. “Me, I’d rather have a bed to sleep on and a hot meal once in awhile.”

Miles buttoned up his shirt. “No one treats you like shit in the wild.”

Joe put his hat on. “I suppose not. But you know as bad as it is for black folk now, it’s a tiny bit better today than it was when I was your age.”

“So?” Miles asked.

Joe pulled on his boots. “So Lincoln made a law to set us free but there’s no law that can make people not treat us like shit,” Joe explained. “I was born a slave. You were born free. I doubt you or I will see it in our lifetimes but I like to think that one day someone in our line will become a successful, well-to-do man about town.”

“Yeah,” Miles said. “Keep dreaming.”

“Dreaming keeps me going,” Joe said. “It’ll take a long time. Maybe forever. But I hope if we keep going about our business and standing up for ourselves, one day folks won’t even care what skin color people are.”

Miles took a seat on the ground. He grabbed a stick and doodled pictures in the dirt.

“And fairies will sing, and unicorns will dance, and leprechauns will give us all pots of gold…”

“Oh Miles,” Joe said as he laid down on the ground. “You’re way too young to be this cynical. If you want to live on the range and chase rabbits like an animal when you’re grown I won’t stop you, but if you ask me, us removing ourselves from all the opportunities of the world is what the bad men of the world want us to do.”

Miles paused to admire a rudimentary castle he drew. “So what? We take the shit…”

With his eyes shut, Joe kept walking. “And your kid will take shit…and his kid will take shit…and all the kids going on down the line will take a lot of shit but…”

“What?” Miles asked.

“Someday a Freeman will do something big that will make all the shit worthwhile,” Joe said.

Miles traced the outline of a little knight just outside the castle wall. “And if that never happens?”

Joe became annoyed that his sleep was being disturbed. “I don’t know. Then we’re all shit out of luck. Go to sleep, will you?”

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How the West Was ZOMBED – Chapter 9

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Highwater didn’t have much in the way of large public buildings, but the Reverend Cavanagh allowed his church to serve as a makeshift jailhouse whenever Slade and Gunther had too many yahoos in custody for the cage in the Marshal’s office to hold.

The Buchanan Boys were arranged six per pew, their legs clapped in irons, each man chained to the one next to him. It wasn’t exactly conducive to good shuteye.

“Now boys,” Gunther said. “Let’s go over the rules.”

Jefferson Knox was a good old boy Gunther knew from way back. A fellow veteran. He had a scar across his right cheek courtesy of a Confederate bayonet. Those were dark times indeed. The American Civil War led to an internal neighbor against neighbor struggle in Missouri. Some, like Gunther and Knox, chose the North. Others chose the South. Fifteen years had gone a long way to heal the statewide wounds, but they weren’t fully closed. Bad blood remained.  Hard feelings festered.  Animosity on a scale that grand  doesn’t go away overnight, let alone a decade or two.

Knox held a double barreled shotgun. He and his mop topped sons, a duo in their early twenties who thankfully got their looks from their mother, had been sworn in as special deputies. Cole was a bit taller and muscular. George was lanky, but it was nothing that a few push-ups couldn’t have fixed. They were each packing pistols, though they’d never used them on anything other than forest animals before.

Like everyone else in town, these three didn’t lift a finger to help Slade in his time of need, but Gunther figured it was better to hire them than Waldo, Townsend, and Blake. At least the Knox family was kind enough to keep their dissent to themselves.

“The first rule is we’re in charge and if you do somethin’ we don’t like, you’ll get shot,” Gunther said as he walked down the aisle, Winchester in hand. “Attemptin’ an escape? That’ll get you shot. Smugglin’ in contraband? That’ll get you shot.”

Gunther paused next to Smelly Jack, who felt a compelling need to ask, “What if I f$%k your mother?”

The deputy walked on, but not before introducing the butt of his rifle up against the side of Jack’s head. “Talkin’ out of turn? That’ll get you shot.”

The old timer joined the Knoxes at the front of the church, right next to the preacher’s pulpit.

“Boys,” Gunther said. “Really, when it comes right down to it, y’all should just assume that anything you might do or even think about doin’ will mostly likely get you shot. Any questions?”

Jeb Buchanan, Jack’s brother-cousin on his father’s side, raised his hand. “What if I…”

“It’ll get you shot,” Gunther said. No need to hear the question.

Unbeknownst to his underlings, Slade had returned from his appointment with Miss Bonnie and was watching through the front door. Convinced his men had the hoodlums under control, the Marshal took a seat in a rocking chair on the front porch. He shifted his hat over his eyes and settled down for the night.

A triumph over the Buchanan Boys. A rejection from Miss Bonnie. Though it’d been a long day, the rest he needed eluded him.

Something was off. He don’t know exactly what it was, but he just had a hunch. A fit of intuition. A feeling…like he was being watched.

“ARRR….ARRR….ARRRRRWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Slade jumped up and drew his weapon. He looked around. Nothing. He holstered his Colt and returned to his attempt at slumber.

“Damn coyotes,” he mumbled.

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How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 4

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Slade was right where Gunther had left him, still in the street, concentrating on his duty. The Marshall finished his chaw and traded up to a cigar, chewing on it as he squinted through his half-closed eyelids under the blinding high noon sunlight.

“I’ve recruited a special deputy,” Gunther said.

Doc put his hand out. Slade shook it. “Obliged,” was the most gratitude the stoic was able to muster.

“A distinct honor to meet you, Marshall,” Doc said. “Doctor Elias T. Faraday, M.D. by way of Boston, Massachusetts though I assure you I’m no relation to the Chestnut Hill Faradays, lousy beggars…”

“He’ll chew your ear off and spit it out if you let him,” Gunther warned.

The three men stood in a row, watching and waiting, waiting and watching. Had you, the noble reader, been facing them, you’d of seen Slade in the middle, Gunther on the left, and Doc on the right.

“‘Fraid there weren’t any other volunteers,” Gunther said. “Bunch of pansies.”

Slade chewed on his cigar. A few moments passed.

“Miss Bonnie sends her regards,” Gunther said.

“Oh?” was Slade’s response.

“Oh that perked you up, huh?” Gunther asked.

More cigar chewing.

“My mistake,” Gunther said. “Since you don’t care I’ll spare you the details.”

“What?” Slade asked.

“Well,” Gunther said. “I don’t recall her exact words but she left me with a general impression that if you buy the farm today she’ll be broken up about it.”

The end of Slade’s cigar glowed red with an inhale. Smoke billowed out of his mouth in an exhale.

“Yeah?” Slade asked.

“Yup,” Gunther said. “Gal even offered to come back you up. I turned her down, of course, a gun fight being no place for a lady and all.”

“Right,” Slade said.

The side of Slade’s mouth not chomping on the cigar curled up in a virtually unheard of smile, then quickly disappeared.

“I saw that,” Gunther said.

Doc pulled out the bottle of snake oil he was carrying in his suit coat pocket and waved it in front of Slade’s face.

“Marshall,” Doc said. “I couldn’t help but notice you speak in the manner of a man with a sore throat. One sip of my Miracle Cure-All will…”

Gunther pushed Doc’s hand away. “Trust me,” the old man said to Slade. “There’s still a taste in my mouth like I licked a gopher’s rear end.”

Slade paid no attention to any of it. Nothing was going to distract him from the impending showdown.

“Suit yourselves, gentlemen,” Doc said as he took a gulp. “More for me.”

BONG….BONG…BONG….

The church bell rang twelve times. Noon.

“You two should walk away,” Slade said through gritted teeth. He said most of his words through gritted teeth. That’s just what tough guys do.

Gunther put his hand on his boss’ shoulder. “Son,” he said. “I’ve lived my life. Had my Mavis. Had my younguns. Explored all over this country. Anything else I do is just extra cream in the butter churn if you ask me. Don’t worry about me none, I’m with you till the end.”

Slade grunted. Gunther knew that meant, “Thank you.”

Doc ruined the moment by clapping loudly. “Bravo, sir, bravo! Finer words were never spoken. To that sentiment, allow me to add that I too have traveled through many a town in this new world. I’ve seen many a hamlet torn asunder by fiendish bullies and you, Marshall Slade, are the first man I’ve seen brave enough to fight for all that is good and just in the world. You move me so that I simply must be a part of your stand.”

Another grunt from Slade. Even Gunther was impressed.

“Maybe there’s more to you than I thought, Doc.”

“Plus, I’ll be able to sell even more bottles of my Miracle Cure-All once the distinguished members of the press spread tales of our glorious victory across the continent,” Doc said.

“And you ruined it,” Gunther replied.

Clip clops. Loud yelling. Hoots and hollers. Guns being fired in the air. Thirty some odd Buchanan Boys rode their horses through town. Leading up the pack?

None other than the notorious Smelly Jack Buchanan himself.

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