Part 2

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Summer, 1878 / Goblin's Toe, Wyoming

Poe walked through his town feeling some sort of relief for the first time in longer than he cared to admit.

Not exactly the same joy that he might have once felt as he worked to protect a town that he could still call his own, but relief that the bigger problems had been reduced to far more manageable problems that he'd been able to find solutions for.

Secured in the former game room of the mansion, he'd left the bank manager to meet his fate at the hands and fangs of Pandora.

She'd assured Poe that she would get everything that the man knew and let Poe know what she'd found afterward.

As far as Poe was concerned, it would save hangings going forward to use the vampires and give them benefits not otherwise enjoyed by many other executioners.

His legal obligation met; the man responsible for soiling his town would soon meet his maker.

A policy of don't ask, don't tell would also work well budget-wise; as expensive as rope had become these days.

Suddenly he stopped, having caught just the faintest whiff of familiar odor that could only come from one place.

Cat's old forge.

Before he'd left with Running-Deer, Cat had told him that his fires would not be out for long.

Curiosity as to the true nature of strangers who might have otherwise taken up residence in his town no longer seemed to bother him as much as it once might have.

Perhaps a sign that some scars had managed to heal or he was learning to treat those that hadn't quite yet.

When he entered the Forge, it seemed strange this time around; almost like crossing a border from one world to another as he walked through the mists of smoke from what many had joked was nothing short of the searing breath of a dragon in slumber.

It reminded him of the first time that he'd met Cat there.

While Franklin Tombs appeared as a big man of hulking frame at just over six foot, he was barely a foothill next to the mountain of black granite everyone knew as Cat.

Steppes of bald scalp had led down the back of the mountain to meet the rolling hills of his shoulders. Arms thicker than Poe's thighs bristled with muscle as the hammer rose, only to crash down in the slow process necessary to form perfect lengths of toughened steel.

Veins spread as thick vines beneath taught dark skin, carried whatever it was that had powered the man. The line of backbone passing between the overhang of muscle and shoulder blade on his back looked nothing short of a thick iron fence post.

Poe had estimated at the time that the Negro man-mountain was well over six feet tall and then some.

Now he realized that there were other creatures that worked the forges and size truly didn't matter as long as the work got done.

"Hello Sheriff." The woman said softly; jet black hair tied neat as it lay flat down her bare back.

Her stature just a bit shorter than his, she topped out just above his shoulders. Like most smiths he'd known she worked topless. From the narrowed waist and muscled legs below her apron she seemed far too small to have worked where she was.

Until she revealed what made her both efficient and made up for her lack of size.

Four extra arms extended from her back to assist with the work at hand. Skin tinged dark blue; she almost seemed invisible in the haze.

"I was wondering when you'd come round. Cat told me to expect you and not to bother hiding what I might have otherwise done normally."

She turned to face him as the extra arms slid back behind and out of sight while her blue skin turned brown. Light almond eyes shifted from red to study him as the blood red ruby centered upon her forehead seemed to draw even more attention.

"I would offer my name but I've learned your people have great difficulty in either remembering it or saying it properly.

Poe realized why Cat had called her, what she lacked in size was clearly made up in determination.

"What should I call you, then?" he finally asked.

"Cat has come to call me Rose ... and I would appreciate it if you would do the same."

She moved toward him and gently caressed his cheek with the back of her hand.

"I also understand that I am to wear his badge." She smiled up at him as she reached for a robe to cover herself. "Better?" she mused at his attempts to cover his discomfort.

Poe could hear Cat's laughter rolling in now at the thought of this moment.

"I'll bring tea to your office in an hour and we can speak further." she leaned up to whisper before she turned to disappear into the mists that enveloped her.

Poe tipped his hat and turned to leave as he mused at how much more that he had to learn and from whom.

Perhaps Abby would help with that when she got back.

He just might have to start writing a manual or guide for others to follow; he sure as hell could have used one several times by now.

A project for another day, he mused as he stepped back into the sunlight.

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