I have been a member of the Fantasy Faction forum for getting on for five years now and one of the best things about the community has been the writing contest – it’s only 1500 words so come give it a go! Contest winners were posted on the website but that hasn’t happened for a while, so I’ve been asked to fill in. It’s an honour to do so, and here is another winner.
The theme for the competition when this story won was “Supernatural Wild West” and the story is “Wanted” by Deannadilello
For three days the Masterson brothers rode hard in the sweltering heat. On the sunset of the third day they came to a valley.
“There.” said Clay. “That’s it. That’s Blessing.”
“Doesn’t look like much.” Jesse noted.
“Who cares? It’s not like we’re going to live there.” And with that, Dusty kicked his horse rode down the hill.
When the brothers reached the town proper, Main Street was deserted. All three felt an uneasiness they couldn’t explain.
“Well, hello there!”
The men stopped their horses and turned to the direction of the greeting. An older gentleman was standing on a stoop, a huge grin on his face.
“Welcome to Blessing. My name is Austin and I am the proud owner of The Golden Alley Hotel.” he said pointing to the sign above his head. “Why don’t you hitch up your rides and come on in.” Before any of them could reply, Austin went inside.
The brothers dismounted and entered the hotel. On the main floor were several tables, a small piano, and a bar that Austin had planted himself behind.
“What can I get ya?”
“I’ll have a—“
“We’re looking for this man.” Clay said, cutting off Dusty. He produced a piece of paper from his pocket and pushed it across the bar.
“Wanted,” Austin read. “Bart Sloan. Dangerous and at large. $10,000 reward. Last seen in the town of Blessing.”
“To you remember seeing him?” Clay asked.
“Oh, I remember.” Austin nodded. “Hey, Hadley?”
At the sound of her name, a young woman waiting tables made her way over to the bar. Her long black hair swished side to side as she walked. She held her tray in line with her ample bosom. Jesse in particular made no attempt to hide his interest, choosing to leer at the young woman with great intensity.
Hadley looked at the wanted poster.
“Oh yes.” she said. “He passed this way some time ago. Said he’d be coming back and to keep a room for him. In fact, what day is today?”
“Friday.” Clay answered.
“Well, then. He’ll be back in town tomorrow.”
“Why would he be coming back here?” Dusty asked, never one for tact.
“Our town may be small,” said Austin. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.” He gave a wave and music began to play. The brothers turned to find a man sitting at the piano. Dusty also thought he saw two more men playing cards when he could have sworn there had only been four.
“I’ll have some rooms made up.” said Austin.
“I could sure use me a bath.” Jesse said to Hadley The young woman smiled.
“I’ll boil some water.”
Jesse winked at Clay who rolled his eyes.
“I call.” Dusty said. The player opposite him, whose name he couldn’t remember, laid down his cards. A measly two pair. “Full house!” Dusty barked.
“Son, you are on quite the roll.” said the man. “Another whisky for the winner!”
Dusty was on a roll, alright. It helped that no one seemed to notice he was dealing from the bottom of the deck. He thought for sure he’d be called out for cheating, but Dusty had never seen a man loose so much and stay in such a good mood. Well, if he wanted to lose all his money Dusty was happy to oblige.
“Another hand?” Dusty asked.
The men nodded as Austin approached the table with a bottle of whisky.
“Now this,” he said. “This is the good stuff.” He poured a generous amount into Dusty’s empty glass.
Dusty looked at the other full glasses on the table. Had they been drinking at all? He had seen them lift their drinks to their mouths, but then they would start rambling on about this thing or that, never once taking a sip.
“You boys better catch up!”
The men raised their glasses.
“To your winnings.” said one of the players.
“To Blessing!” Dusty shouted and knocked it back. The men set their full glasses back down on the table.
Jesse watched as Hadley poured another full kettle into the tub.
“I think one more should do it.” she said. “Be back right quick.”
“I hope so.” Jesse muttered as the door closed behind her.
Jesse stripped down and lowered himself into the tub. The hot water soothed his aching muscles. Most of them, anyway. Jesse closed his eyes and sighed. Austin was right. He was going to have a good time.
Opening his eyes he gave an involuntary jump. Kneeling beside the tub, her face surprisingly close to his, was Hadley. He hadn’t heard the door open or her footsteps across the creaky wooden floor.
“Darlin’, you move like a cat!”
Hadley laughed in reply. He watched her look at him, all of him. This girl was not shy.
“Would you like more water?” she asked holding up the kettle.
“Water’s just fine.” Jesse said with a smile. “Care to join me?”
Hadley set the kettle on the floor.
“It is you who will be joining me.” she said raising her other hand so quickly Jesse barely caught sight of what was in it.
Clay sat on the stoop of the hotel and lit a cigarette. The horses were watered and fed. He didn’t feel like playing cards or chasing women like his brothers. These were distractions. A man could lose his wits, not to mention all his money. Clay decided he would take a walk.
Wandering the town he thought of all the days and nights they had spent herding cattle. Sleeping outside in the cold or the wet. Smelling of cow dung. Truth be told, Clay would be happiest if he never had to lay eyes on a cow again. And if they brought Bart in, maybe he never would.
Clay knew he would be the one doing the shooting. Dusty talent was cards and Jesse was the faster rider, but Clay was the best shot. He was the one who had killed that lowdown dirty cowboy looking to steal from their herd. And if he was going to be the one doing the shooting, why shouldn’t he keep the reward money for himself?
When Clay’s legs started to protest, he decided he would turn in and keep his eyes peeled for Bart in the morning. As he made his way towards the hotel, he could hear boisterous laughter coming from inside. When he walked past the window he saw a man talking to Austin, pounding his fist on the bar and laughing loudly. Clay removed the wanted poster from his pocket and stared at the picture. That was Bart all right. And yet Austin didn’t seem the least bit frightened.
Clay surveyed the tables of card players. Dusty wasn’t among them. He was sure Jesse was off with Hadley. Well, that was just fine.
Clay entered the hotel and walked up to the bar.
“You Bart Sloane?”
“What’s it to you?”
“A ten thousand dollar reward.”
Bart whistled through his teeth.
“And just how were you plannin’ on bringin’ me in?”
“I’m gonna ask nicely.” Clay said his hand on his pistol.
“There’s only one way to bring me in,” Bart said. “And it ain’t alive.”
“Then I think you and I should step outside.”
Clay went through the front door with Bart close behind. Once on the street, the two men put distance between them and faced each other. The other members of the hotel came out to watch.
Bart held his hands to his sides as did Clay. Austin yelled “Draw!” Bart raised his pistol, but not in time. The bullet left Clay’s gun and Bart fell backwards landing square on his back.
Clay began to walk towards Bart’s body, thinking about all his could do with his money. He watched in shock as Bart slowly lifted his head from the ground. Clay fired his gun again, but Bart continued to rise. He fired again and again until he emptied his chamber. And there Bart stood. Feet planted. A wide smile across his face.
“You’re a right straight shooter.”
“I think he’s after your job, Bart!” said Austin. The crowd laughed.
“What in the hell is going on here?!” Clay felt himself shaking from his head to his boots.
“Easy.” Austin said. “Everything is going to be alright.”
At that moment Hadley made her way through the crowd and walked over to Clay.
“Blessing was a boom town.” she began. “There was gold to be found and everyone wanted a piece. When the gold ran out, people packed up and left. But some of us had made a home here so we decided to stay. That winter was the heaviest snow fall in history. No one could get in and no one could get out. We ran out of supplies and the snow kept comin’. It’s a sad way to die, freezing and starving. But now,” Hadley continued. “We’re never cold or hungry or sick. We’re never in pain. It’s wonderful. Except,” she said. “We do get lonesome.”
“We can’t leave town.” said Austin. “We’ve all tried it at one time or another. We just end up back here.”
“We’d just like some company, is all.” Hadley said. “Fresh faces. New conversations.”
“Where are my brothers?” Neither of them answered. “Where… are… my…. BROTHERS?!”
“Easy, now. They’re right here.” Austin pointed to the front door of the hotel. Those who had gathered in front of it stepped aside as a white light began to glow. The light came together forming the shapes of two men. He could see through them to the building behind.
“It takes some gettin’ used to.” Hadley said. “Give it time and they’ll figure out how to appear solid. How to move objects and how to come and go at will.” And with that, Hadley disappeared and reappeared next to Jesse.
Clay had turned to where Bart had been standing and it seemed he, too, had disappeared. Clay heard the sound of a gun cocking in his ear.
“Guess you won’t be collecting that reward after all.”
It was to be the last words Clay heard in his lifetime.
Hadley’s pencil moved with a sure fire swiftness.
“That’s a real nice likeness.” Austin said.
She held up the piece of paper with the three faces.
“Yes,” she said. “I think this will do.” Hadley reviewed the words.
Wanted: The Masterson Brothers. Extremely dangerous. $100,000 reward.
Last seen in the town of Blessing.