The thirst was getting to him as the sun beat down on the dry, dead earth. He’d forgotten when his water supply had run out, but he clearly recalled the previous morning when he’d desperately banged on the end of his canteen to get the last remaining drops of whiskey. Bennett McNally rubbed his eyes in frustration. He was less than a half day trek from the next town, and he swore that if it didn’t have a decent place to get a drink, he’d burn the place to the ground.
The small town of Watch Hill was not the ideal place to be travelling to. It was one hundred miles from anything and rumour had it that the folk in the town weren’t quite normal. Bennett grinned at some of the tales he’d heard about the backward little town. Brother’s sleeping with sister’s, men laying with the cattle, women as old as time itself, whoring themselves out to anyone who would take them. Bennett had heard it all before, but about other towns. Never had a single tall tale ever been true, and he was sure that Watch Hill would be no different.
Bennett was making his way to Watch Hill for one reason, and one reason only, information. He needed information on the most infamous man on the face of God’s green Earth, and there was a man said to be residing in Watch Hill that could reveal all.
Brand, Bennett’s horse, gave a tired snort and shook his head. Bennett patted the beast to give it some reassurance, but he was sure that if he didn’t rest his horse soon, Brand would not be destined for the world much longer. Squinting into the distance he could make out the shape of a town in the haze of the sun.
“Not far now fella,” Bennett said as he urged Brand forward. The horse obliged and kept going, but his breathing was starting to get laboured.
“Keep going. If you make it as far as the town, I’ll get you a nice filly to ease your suffering.”
The sun was low in the west when Bennett made it into Watch Hill. The town was nothing special; something Bennett had seen dozens of times before. The main street was a built up line of kindling, with various shops and other businesses interspersed throughout it. A small but well kept church was at the end of the main street and headed up a small square that lead out to areas of residence. A few people were scattered about the main street, mostly packing up their things after a hard day of work. As Brand trotted down the street, Bennett could see that there was one place in particular that the people of the town were heading. A Saloon named “The Big Shot,” at the corner of the main street, and music and laughter were spilling out of every wooden beam. It was ironic to see such an establishment so close to a place of godly worship.
Bennett stopped Brand at the sheriff’s quarters just opposite the saloon, tied him up, and encouraged him to drink out of a large trough of water. The horse drank with gusto, and Bennett subconsciously licked his lips.
Making his way over to the saloon, Bennett tipped his hat to some of the people he passed and when he entered through the rather heavy wooden doors of the building, the smell of food and liquor hit him. Instantly his mouth watered and his stomach growled. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.
“What can I get you?” purred the voluptuous barmaid as she leaned over the bar towards Bennett.
“Whiskey ma’am, and a portion of whatever food you’re serving,” Bennett asked impatiently. He could hardly wait to taste that sweet nectar on his tongue again. The barmaid winked at him and grabbed a glass. Bennett’s hand was outstretched and waiting as she turned around to give him his drink.
“Much obliged,” Bennett muttered quickly as he brought the glass to his lips. In one swift gulp the whiskey was gone. He drank it so fast he could hardly taste it, which meant he deserved another. He raised his hand and he received another dram. This time he savoured it until a hot, steaming bowl of stew was put down in front of him.
“There you are, that should fill you,” said the barmaid, giving Bennett a coy smile. “Now what about spending some time with one of my girls? You look like you’ve been travelling for a long time, and what better way to relax than indulging in some...lusts on the flesh?”
As Bennett ate the stew that was hotter than holy hell, something stirred deep within him. When had he last indulged in “lusts of the flesh” as this barmaid put it? No, he couldn’t get distracted, not at this point. He’d travelled hundreds of miles to get to this backwater town; he needed to see to business first.
“It’s a tempting offer ma’am, but I’m really here to ask if you know a man?”
The barmaid smirked and flipped her dark, brunette hair over her shoulder. Leaning her elbow on the counter in front of Bennett, and placing her chin very delicately in her hand, she said as sweetly as possible, “I know every man, intimately.”
Bennett was unfazed. This barmaid was buxom, and very attractive, but he required information and he was going to get it.
“Do you know a man who goes by the name of Collins? Nate Collins?” he asked as he placed his spoon into the now empty bowl. The barmaid briefly glanced down at the empty bowl and then looked up at him from under her eyelashes, that coy smile still playing on her ruby red lips.
“What’s it to you?” she asked charmingly.
“I need to speak with him on an important matter,” he replied bluntly.
The barmaid stood up from the counter and straightened the bodice of her dress. She then turned around and grabbed two more glasses from the bar and poured them both a drink.
“Are you McNally?” she asked matter-of-factly, her tone completely changed. Bennett was taken aback, but he did not show it.
“I am Bennett McNally. You know of Nate Collins?” Bennett asked, taking the drink she offered.
“I am his sister. Nate owns this saloon and is frequently out on business. However he told me he would be in town for a while as he awaited a visit from some bounty hunter named McNally. Now Mr. McNally you must understand that my brother rarely hides things from me, seeing as I run this business for him, and when he was loath to tell me what was going to pass between the two of you, I vowed to make it my business to find out,” she said as she held the glass of whiskey to her lips. She took a long sip, but never took her eyes off Bennett.
“Miss Collins, if your brother chooses not to tell you something then that is none of my concern. My concern is his current whereabouts?”
She laughed, a sound that tinkled like chimes in the wind, but Bennett did not think she was laughing because something was particularly humorous.
“Of course I know of his whereabouts, but I’m not going to tell you until you tell me why you’re here to see my brother. Now Mr. McNally are you going to comply, or am I going to have to persuade you?” and with that the barmaid pulled a pistol from under the bar and held it under Bennett’s chin.
Bennett didn’t break a sweat. Only men who weren’t familiar with dangerous situations would sweat at a time like this. This was not the first time he’d been threatened by a gun to the face. Very slowly, Bennett brought his hand up to the gun and pushed it away from under his chin. He got up from his chair and leaned over the bar, getting his face as close as possible to the barmaid without causing too much of a scene.
“I don’t take kindly to having a gun in my face Miss Collins. Now you’re going to tell me where your brother is, or I so help me, I will kill you and everyone in this sorry state of a saloon,” he said in a low growl.
“Oh I like a man with fire in his belly, but if you kill me then you will never know where he is,” she said as she delicately ran a finger down the side of his bearded face.
Bennett felt his eyebrows furrow in anger. He was dangerously close to striking this woman, but causing a scene in a crowded saloon was not his style. He reigned in his temper and drew back slightly.
“I’m here for information on a specific man,” he said cautiously, picking up his glass and indicating his need for another stiff drink. Miss Collins grabbed a bottle of amber liquid and poured a rather generous portion.
“What man?” she enquired, taking a sip of whiskey.
“The only man any bounty hunter worth his salt would dare track down.”
Miss Collins had been about to take another sip of whiskey, but she stopped just before the glass reached her plump, red lips. Gently, she set the glass down on the counter and then cleared her throat delicately.
“I see,” she said, a slight waver in her tone. She moved to the far end of the bar and signalled to a saloon girl who was sitting on the lap of a portly gentleman. The girl removed herself from his grasp and moved to behind the bar. Miss Collins said something to her and she nodded her head.
“Mr. McNally if you would like to follow me,” Miss Collins said abruptly as she motioned for Bennett to follow her. Bennett drained his glass and pursued the barmaid. She made her way up a set of hidden stairs, which were most likely used for more important patrons of the saloon. The wooden stairs creaked underfoot and there was a distinct smell of dust in the air. From the looks of it this staircase wasn’t used very often.
“My brother is in this room Mr. McNally. I cannot tell you what state he will be in when you go in, but I urge you to let him finish whatever it is he’s doing before you discuss your business. He doesn’t like to be rushed,” Miss Collins explained as she placed a hand on a door with an ornate brass handle.
Bennett nodded his head and adjusted his hat. He may have been a bounty hunter but he did like to make good first appearances with people he was doing business with. Miss Collins gave him another wink, leaned up and kissed his cheek, before pushing the door open.
“My thanks,” Bennett said gratefully. He then entered into the room.
It was a large room and was well lit by candles of all shapes and sizes. The walls were relatively bare, except for a few framed paintings, one of which depicted Miss Collins astride a black horse. A heavy table sat in one corner of the room and several chairs sat around it. The chairs were ornate and looked expensive. They’d probably been imported from elsewhere. Nate Collins, the owner of the saloon, was found rutting with a number of women on a large, four poster bed at the opposite end of the room. Bennett stopped in his tracks and then made to leave the room, however Miss Collins had closed the door and locked it. He was essentially trapped.
“McNally I presume?” Nate called from the bed as a plump, blonde woman bounced on top of him, wonton moans escaping her mouth.
“I can come back when you have...finished,” Bennett said curtly as he averted his eyes.
“Nonsense I won’t be too long with these lovely ladies,” Nate called as he hands reached for the waist of the woman atop him.
“Really I-,” Bennett started, but was interrupted by Nate.
“Have a seat in the corner, pour yourself a drink and enjoy the show!” Nate shouted as he rutted into the blonde woman, and another blonde woman made to place herself over the man’s face.
Bennett tried the handle again. No luck, it was definitely locked. He resigned himself to the fact that he would have to sit through this debacle if he wanted information, and made his way over to the table. He sat down and dipped his hat to try and hide his view of the bed.
Time passed slowly, and a small clock that ticked ominously from the other side of the room almost seemed to mock Bennett. Nate was no closer to finishing with these women than he had been when Bennett had first entered the room. Glancing out of the window he could see that the evening was progressing on. People were still coming in and out of the saloon and not only were noises coming from the bed next to where he sat, noises where now coming from the room above too.
Bennett was feeling uncomfortable in more ways than one. A bottle holding a candle burned in the middle of the table, and since entering the room the candle must have burned through half of its wick already. He couldn’t help himself, he had to look.
Nate Collins was now using his mouth to pleasure a brunette woman, while the two blonde women interacted with each other. The plump one looked at him and licked her lips, beckoning him over with her finger. Bennett held up his hand and turned his head away again.
“Feel free to join in McNally,” Nate said as he got up and tossed the brunette woman onto her stomach. He brought her to her hands and knees and then continued with the task at hand. The brunette woman gave a loud moan and gripped the bed sheets tightly.
“I’ll pass,” Bennett grumbled, dipping his hat further down over his face.
“You’re a modest one. You two, enough with that and go and sate the gentleman,” Nate ordered. The two blonde women finished with each other and made their way over to Bennett.
Startled, Bennett jumped from the seat as the stout blonde whipped his hat from his head. He backed up towards the door as the women advanced on him.
“Don’t be shy,” one of them whispered, grabbing his crotch. Bennett pushed her away, but the other one was on him like a shot.
Normally having two women would have been something Bennett would have taken great pleasure in, but with Nate in the room, pounding into the brunette and eliciting loud moans from her, and from him, Bennett just couldn’t get his head around any of this.
Suddenly Nate let out a huge roar as he finished up with the brunette. She too moaned loudly as she thrashed about on the bed. Breathing heavily, Nate slapped her behind and pushed her back down onto the bed.
“Enough girls leave him alone for the time being,” Nate said as he waved his hand in the air.
The two blonde women left Bennett as suddenly as they had come upon him, and Bennett felt his insides relax just a little.
“Nothing better than a good session with whores to loosen you up for the night,” Nate said with a satisfied tone as he threw on his trousers.
Bennett mumbled something incoherent into his hand and then sat down at the table with Nate. The man poured him a glass of red liquid and then sat down opposite him. Bennett studied the glass and then smelled its contents.
“Wine?” he asked.
“I had it brought in for me,” Nate said as he took a sip.
Bennett had rarely seen wine, he was more of a whiskey drinker, but he knew that most wealthy people tried to obtain it, and served it often at parties. Bennett knew Nate was wealthy, but he hadn’t realised just how much he had.
“I see the gun industry pays well,” Bennett commented as he pushed the wine glass away, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. This particular liquid doesn’t agree with me.”
“Suit yourself, all the more for me,” Nate said gluttonously. The brunette sauntered over to the table and draped a linen shirt over Nate’s shoulders. He winked at her and then slapped her behind again. She giggled and then made her way over to the bed again. Bennett shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“So you have come to me seeking information? I have your correspondence,” Nate stated as he flipped a folded piece of paper onto the table.
“I have,” Bennett replied simply. Nate scoffed and drank some of his wine. He then scratched his chin and got up from the table.
“Has anyone told you yet that you’re on a fool’s errand?”
“A few people, here and there,” Bennett told the man as he paced in front of the window.
Nate paced back and forth in front of the window, watching the people on the street below. The candles in the room flickered and moments passed where the two men were in complete silence. Bennett knew this was a waiting game, he’d heard all about Nate Collins and his love of making his business partners sweat. That’s probably what the intercourse with the whores had been about, either that was he was some sort of addict or deviant. Bennett could wait; he’d been waiting for a long time.
“I am at a loss as to what information you could possibly seek from me McNally. I am but a simple gun merchant, and owner of a particularly lavish saloon,” Nate said finally as he turned his back to the window.
Bennett chuckled internally. This man believed his saloon to be lavish? Clearly he had not travelled to every corner of the country. This establishment was average, nothing more, nothing less.
“That’s just it Mr. Collins. I need information from a simple gun merchant, who just so happens to deal guns on the sly with highly dangerous criminals.”
A grin graced Nate’s face and he sat down opposite Bennett again. Nate Collins did not have a bounty on his head for what he did behind closed doors. Who he chose to sell guns to was no mans business, and this just so happened to work in Bennett’s favour. This man sitting in front of him, with the shirt draped over his shoulders, and naked whores awaiting him on his bed, had sold guns to nearly every person with a bounty on their head in nearly every state in the country.
“Information comes at a price,” Nate said finally, sitting back in his chair and crossing his legs.
Bennett reached deep into his overcoat pocket and fished out a sizeable bag of coin. He dumped it onto the table for Nate to inspect. The man picked it up, weighed it in his hand and smirked.
“This should do. Now what do you need to know?”
“The two with the biggest bounty on their heads at this moment in time are the Duxton Brothers. Born and bred in Virginia, but long since left their place of birth, I need to know where they are heading. They move around often, never staying anywhere more than a few months. I need to know their last whereabouts,” Bennett explained as he leaned forward slightly in his seat. He heard a whispered mumble and a giggle behind him from the whores and from this he could guess that they were familiar with these two particular brothers.
“Emmett and Billy Duxton. I haven’t seen them in nearly 6 months. It was in Iowa, in some small town by the name of Carpenter where I was doing business with some of my fellow merchants. You could have called it a gathering of the gun merchants. Carpenter was a very accommodating place with whores a plenty,” Nate explained as he reminisced about his last meeting with the brothers.
Bennett recalled hearing about this gathering but he had been otherwise indisposed with another bounty to investigate it. He internally berated himself for not doing so, but he’d needed the money from that bounty to live, and he couldn’t pass up the $7000 it yielded. Nate continued on with his story.
“I had just finished up with dinner for the evening and was walking towards the local saloon when someone caught me off guard from a dark alley. It was Billy Duxton and he and his brother were looking to purchase some guns. I obliged and set a date with them for the next evening to deal with them. They purchased several pistols and some rifles. It looked like they were getting ready to have some fun somewhere.”
“Did they happen to mention where that somewhere was?” Bennett asked calmly.
“They did,” Nate said, his tone suddenly changing. Bennett held his guard.
“Would you care to tell me? I did pay you after all,” Bennett asked. Another smirk settled on Nate’s lips and Bennett got an uneasy feeling in his stomach.
“You did pay me, McNally, however you didn’t pay me enough for that. You’re going to have to offer up something more,” Nate said devilishly, a strange look in his eye. Bennett followed Nate’s averted gaze towards the whores on the bed. What was this man’s problem? Could he not keep his mind off these women for just a little longer?
“I can pay you more, if that is what you require?” Bennett stated firmly.
“McNally, we both know you’re not looking for the Duxton brothers for their bounty. You’re following something much more...alluring. You seek The Immortal Man, and my information will help you do that. You know as well as I do that those two low life’s are probably next on his list and if you find them, you find him, so my information must come at a price.”
Bennett growled lowly and placed his hand on his pistol. Nate was toying with him and he knew that he held the upper hand.
“Please if you shoot me, you’ll never get what you want,” Nate said as he stood up and shrugged off his shirt.
“What is it you want?” Bennett asked, keeping his hand firmly on his pistol.
Nate laughed, and the sound was cold and calculating. Bennett felt on edge, and knew that he wouldn’t like what Nate was about to propose.
“I’m a man of simple pleasures Bennett McNally. I know how to give pleasure and I know how to get it,” Nate explained as he walked over to a small table by the door. He picked up a bell and rang it loudly. In a matter of moments the door unlocked and the buxom barmaid entered the room and locked the door again.
“You’ve met my sister already,” Nate said as he held a hand out for his sister to take. Bennett nodded curtly to the woman, who winked at him again and blew him a kiss. Nate chuckled and then took his sister by the chin and kissed her deeply.
Bennett’s insides rolled and he felt hot bile rise up his throat. Brother’s sleeping with sister’s the rumours had said. Maybe the rumours about Watch Hill had been formed on solid ground.
“We’re going to have some fun McNally, and if you can satisfy not just my sister and these wonderful ladies here, but me as well, you’ll get the information you desire.”
Bennett was lost for words. Was this man being serious? Nate Collins was taking his trousers off again and he looked more than ready for action, so he must be serious. He fought with himself. On one hand, he really needed the information that Nate had. He was the only man who would have dealt with the brothers, knew of their last whereabouts, which would help lead him to his intended target. On the other, he really didn’t want to have to go through with this depraved act. Satisfying only the women would have been no problem, but to also try and satisfy Nate? Did he have it in him? Could Bennett McNally swallow his pride and go through with this?