Ballad of Cassidy

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Summary

Cassidy Bullock travels around post Civil War America. Horrors wait in every shadow, and monsters haunt the dark corners of the Wild West. After the horrors of the Civil War and death of his family, he is adrift in the terrors that linger at the edges of civilization. Demons, ghost, and damnation threatens to threaten his mind and very soul.

Genre:
Horror / Mystery
Author:
Dickson Lee Turpin
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
31
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

The Shootist Chapter 1

Down the dusty road, sand drifted up with the sudden gust. Chill of the night already chased the heat of the hot day. The smell of horses was drowned in hard liquor from the saloon. Soured sweat dragged over the packed earth, between the perfumes of soft women. Fine grain scoured the flesh, made exposed skin raw. It dug into the clothes, clung to the body. Jingle of spurs punctuated every step of worn boots. Beneath the tiger-orange sky, all held a feverish glow. Steep shadows stretched out like streams of the blackest waters. Cassidy had forgotten the taste of civilization, under the assault of the sun.

The saloon, extravagant as the one horse town, had no name. Once it had been Desert Mothers, but through gambling or murder, no one owned it for long. Numerous boards of wood held the building together. A musician played at a drunken, manic pace. Greasy light dripped out through the windows and bat-wing doors. Dark patches of blood had darkened the wood of the porch. Screams, laughter, curses, and oaths beat to the rhythm of raucous drinkers. Just outside the light, an undertaker measured all who entered with keen eyes adept. Cassidy Bullock paused before him, and let him get the casket size.

Two drunken men, brought to rage by a card game, wrestled through the doors to wallow out in the street. Smoke drew in from the hand rolled cigarette, which drifted up from Cassidy’s hard grin. Weary eyes, like the dawn over a desert, swept over them. He brushed his beard down in thought, and dismissed them as fools. Lashed to the post, his horse gave Cassidy a glance, and he rubbed the beast with a hard smile. Ember at the tobacco’s tip brightened, and he dropped it to the hard packed earth. Gaze fell to it for a moment, before a boot extinguished it.

The bat-wing doors squealed on hinges which were badly damaged. Wood of the frame replaced in a shoddy fashion. Cassidy took in the room, from under his battered hat. Though his Caroline was gone, part of him still searched for her killers. Parson’s Raiders left no one to identify them. Thought of the Confederates raised the ghosts of his family. He willed away their faces. It wasn’t like he knew the true identities of the men.

Among the gamblers, pistaleros, whores, drunks, and thieves he passed. Soft women, smiles broad and lascivious, beckoned to him. Hard cases, with eyes that shifted, followed Cassidy across the room, hands on pistols. Cowboys drank away their earnings. Lowest in the territory, they found this nameless locale, where no one cared. They ran from the law, themselves or lovers, but he sought a reckoning. Lost to the world, they sought fortune in low places of the lowest sort.

Cassidy paused. There was a wealth here, but money meant little to him. Information was in abundance. Others places had been fruitless, yet this was his last hope. The endless road had wearied him. Maybe, after a few days, something would turn up.

Nestled in a corner, away from the rest, a table recoiled from the room. It was uneven, covered in splinters. He sat, flicked a tooth off, and caught the eye of one woman. A tall bottle of whiskey was set before him. Inside of the amber liquor he watched them drown.

Silence of the road was filled with the faces of his family. Ruthie-Girl laughed and smiled in her Prussian-blue dress. Bartholomew “Bart” practiced his gunmanship with a stick bent like a dog leg. Caroline had hand sewn a grass-green shirt for the boy. Half the bottle disappeared that only smeared the memories, which assailed him. They laughed and danced through his mind. Ache of his heart deepened, hard grin broadened.

Service to the Union had pulled him from Caroline’s embrace. There was no other, in his heart or life. Every moment away, even when he fought Lance Van Lear’s men, the light of her love called him home. Along with McWhorter and Gregory, they’d been a thorn in the Confederate General’s plan. Parson’s Raiders were sent to make Cassidy pay for all the inconveniences. He could still smell the smoke from his house, his dead boy and girl. Caroline had cut one of them deep. Knuckles popped on the empty bottle.

“Still thirsty, my friend,” he said, and placed a fine, Kentucky bourbon in front of Cassidy. “You shouldn’t drink so heavily on an empty stomach,” he added, as the lady returned with a plate of food.

Cassidy’s hard grin returned, but he pointed the revolver at the man’s heart, under the table. Six men were with the well-dressed man. All were hard cases, and the kind of men, who would die like they lived. “Who are you? And, what do I owe all this hospitality?” he asked, withdrew a cigarette, and it was lit for him. Smoke drifted up, Cassidy’s blue eyes cut through to the man.

“Johnathon Cassian,” he smiled easily, and gestured at the six others, “these are my men. You’re Cassidy Bullock. People say that you’ve kept many undertakers busy.”

“People say lots of things,” he countered with a rigid, wide grin, “But I’ve sent many a man to judgment.”

“Oh yes,” Johnathon smiled, “you’ve certainly done so, and earned money by your trade.” The men with him laughed, “All in pursuit of Parson’s Raiders.”

Cassidy hesitated, glass of bourbon in hand, “You’ve been talking to people. They leave no one alive, so it makes them hard to track.”

The men with Johnathon laughed, but he glanced at them, “Well, we’re aware of where they can be found, though we know how dangerous they can be. I gathered shooters, who can take care of those bandits. And, I would like to hire you.”

“You know their location?”

“The problem with such men is they’ve made lots of enemies. All across the territory Parson’s Raiders have destroyed towns and lives.”

Cassidy drank, looked at him, “I know all this.”

“Yes, but what you don’t know is they were disbanded,” Johnathon hooked his thumbs in his pockets. “The General went back to his little fiefdom.”

“I know that too,” Cassidy looked at his drink.

“Do you know that they’ve done jobs for Lady Nuit?”

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