Part 5

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"After I sent the telegraph out to all stations for a Marshal, I sent another over to a friend at Fort Danna ..." Tombs explained, "... who then sent a reply back shortly before you arrived to inform me that he'd dispatched a special cavalry force to help us out. Unfortunately, from the way things look now, it would be far too late by the time they managed to find their way here, so I'd like to send you after them with several men while the trail is still warm."

Poe frowned, as he suddenly realized why his friend must have chosen to stay behind.

"I'm expendable while you have family that depends on you now."

Tombs looked long and hard at the floor before he looked back up at Poe. "Same can probably be said for the other men that I'll be sending with you. I don't exactly know what those things are or what exactly it is that they may be up to, but Mary Jane would kill me herself for going off against them now that she's about due with our third."

The two men studied at one another as silence filled the room around them.

It didn't take long for Poe to come to a decision - in the end there really wasn't much of a one to have been made anyway.

He'd sworn an oath to protect the people of the territories and he simply wasn't about to start backing down from it now.

Even when there was more than ample evidence that someone had gone to great effort to make it look like they were vampires just to frighten the locals into not chasing them down like the common criminals that they actually were.

"Alright, let's get this posse of yours together and see what we can do before the cavalry arrives to mess up any chance that we might have to find that whore and her friends. Probably best to head out at first light in the morning."

Tombs smiled as he turned to leave the room. "They're already waiting at the stables with their gear to ride out when you are. We didn't know you were coming, but I'm sure glad that you're here to lead them."

Poe smirked and let out a loud snort while they descended the stairs. "Tell that wife of yours that I will be expecting a proper meal when we get back and also let her know I prefer my steaks thick and juicy. Only way someone like myself can teach someone like you to send a bunch of us on a wild goose chase to find something that we both know damn well does not exist."

The big man stopped just outside the doors where they watched as the last of the boxes were hauled up and onto a wagon just across the street.

"Poe, do me a favor and be extra god dammed careful up there." He suggested solemnly, "Let them go if it even smells bad from a distance. As long as we know where they are, the cavalry can take care of them when they get here soon enough."

The seriousness of the comment and the look of concern upon his friend's face sent a chill through Poe. He hadn't appeared to be joking and truly seemed worried about what might be found lying in wait for them up on that ridge.

With a simple shrug to shake off such heebie-jeebies, Poe took a moment to square his hat on his head.

"I'll go fetch my horse and move her to the stables with the others." He offered politely as he watched the wagon slowly begin to move. "Meet us there in a bit so that we can figure out how we're going to deal with whatever it may be that will be there to be found."

Without having waited for a reply, he left his friend standing at the doors of the Agarose while he began to walk back up the dust-filled street.

Poe kicked himself when he found his fingers had wandered to his gun belt to count ammunition.

For the first time in a long time, he found himself facing the fear of the unknown and wondered if he could best it before it bested him.

How do you kill something that bullets won't put down?

He hoped to have that particular question answered by the time the posse left town in the morning.

As he looked around while he untied his Palomino, he wondered where the closest church might be. They probably could use some holy water and a few crosses before they headed out in the morning; not that he really believed for a second that they were chasing real vampires, but just in case he was wrong.

He still couldn't believe what the evidence had told both he and Tombs of their quarry.

They were going to be hunting vampires that could come out during the day.

Somehow, of the many books that he'd read as a kid; none had ever seemed to mention that vampires could do that.

Damn hacks probably had no idea what they were writing about half the time anyway.

With one foot in a stirrup, he high stepped up and into his saddle before he began to make his way toward the stables.

Along with everything else that he'd seen and heard of today, he also become certain well beyond doubt that most of those who chose to write such fanciful fiction had probably never left the city or town where they lived or had seen much of the real world that they claimed to have written about with such colorful and completely idiotic imagination.

Damn shame to have wasted such talent if you were to have asked him.

But then again, as he made his way down a side street, he found himself forced to admit that even he had enjoyed what they'd written about which also suggested that perhaps they were only half as foolish as they appeared to be about what it was that may be real and that which might not exactly appear as it should.

With any luck by this time tomorrow, he'd know one way or the other.

He couldn't remember the last time that he'd cut into a thick piece of meat and looked forward to reacquainting himself with such a meal even if it was at his friend's expense.

A small price to be paid indeed, he mused.

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