Part 3

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Sheriff Augustus Poe carefully eased his way through the light brush and stepped out onto the flat ground that surrounded the monastery.

Rehashing history with the hunter who'd found his deputy had put a rather somber cast upon an already long day.

Musing as he stooped to adjust the brace on his knee, he realized that whatever beliefs his deputy may have had, they must have clearly saved the day for everyone involved for her to have survived such a brutal attack as she had.

When he stood to check his adjustments, he noticed Clementine Blue as she sat alone on the flat-bench of the cargo wagon.

As he approached and rounded the wagon, the lamp light danced across her features to reveal both fatigue and worry; for at that particular moment she looked much older than she should have for her years.

With everything else that had happened he realized now how it had affected everyone involved and not all in a good way.

Without asking, Poe pulled himself up and took a seat next to her. They sat like that for several minutes before she spoke.

"She's fine for now. But I need to speak to ... LaRouchette."

Without a word, he reached for the reigns and released the brake as he gently urged the horses around and back toward the roadway.

"How do you do it?" she inquired softly. "I mean, I understand keeping the law and all that, but ..." she fell silent as she watched the horses.

"Well, first ..." he began with some amusement, "... you have to start by accepting that which you cannot fix well before you even begin to work on that which you may be able to and hope that you can."

They rode in silence as she seemed lost in thought.

"Chasing the man that did that to my deputy ..." he continued, "... would not help her in any fashion and, well ... others are after him that will be far better at finding him than I could have myself."

Silence again fell as she appeared to inwardly struggle with something.

"We're going to have to move her somewhere else; somewhere safe and far more secure." she informed him.

"I know." He replied.

Startled, she turned to look at him. "You ... know?"

"I've read the reports and seen the pictures of what they do to their victims ..." He replied evenly, "... all it takes is a bite or a slice and she was, well for want of a better term ..." he looked very uncomfortable for a moment, "... chewed. With everything else he probably did to her, she's never going to be the same after those woods; not now, not ever."

They sat quietly until they neared town.

"When we leave with her ..." she paused as if in thought. "... I think it may be best if Cat helps us move her and keep her safe when we get to where we're going."

Poe smiled for the first time in a while. "I wouldn't have it any other way." The smile faded as they pulled up to his office. "Although I do believe I'm gonna miss him; good deputies are getting harder and harder to find."

Both of them frowned as they took in what faced them from in front of the jail.

A man stood watching them from what looked very much like stocks that he'd only heard of but never actually seen up close until now.

"Sheriff, that g'dammedest deputy of yours is plum g'dammed crazy." The man yelled.

Poe sighed. Clearly the dammed vampire had done his job while it looked like he'd managed to take his instruction to heart.

At least there weren't any guillotines nearby.

"Go find LaRouchette and do what you need to do." Poe said without looking at her. "But when you see him please tell him that I was very much obliged that he followed my rules."

Clementine smiled in empathy for the man that reeked of rotten fruit as she climbed down and started up the road toward the brothel.

The humor of his situation only served to renew her determination that much more.

From his position in the stocks, the man didn't seem to appreciate her pity.

"Well, aren't you going to get me the hell out of these?" he bawled with irritation as the sheriff remained seated in the wagon and ignored him.

Poe looked up the street as he watched Clementine move off to where ever it was she was headed before he finally looked down at the man as he snapped the reigns and got the wagon moving once again.

"My deputy apparently thought it best that you are where you are and I don't find myself in much disagreement with his decision one iota. It's been a long day and I need some sleep."

The man's howl of displeasure did nothing to loosen the bonds that held him in placed as he kicked and pulled against them.

"At least get me some fresh fruit, g'dammit!"

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