The biggest problem we had when it came to bringing Darryl Whitcomb to justice was that we had no idea where he’d run off to. Seamus had spent a week sending out telegrams to everyone he knew, which seemed to be everybody in the country, and called in every favor he could remember. If Darryl showed his face in any settlement that consisted of more than just a couple houses nailed together, we’d get word.
Until that happened though, we still had a living to make. So to speak.
I was happy to be getting out of town and out onto the plain again. Seeing all those people milling about, leaving pieces of their aura on everything they touched, was starting to drive me a bit buggy. I had taken to spending my evenings in the saloon, watching people people pass back and forth, just staring. It was like looking at a portrait someone kept smearing paint all over.
Turns out folk thought that was creepy.
So Seamus hooked the wagon back up and we set off for the next town on the map. I took up my usual position of outrider, though I found myself walking since horses and other animals no longer took kindly to me, and staring out over the ocean of grass. It was peaceful. If I didn’t look over at my travelling companions, I could pretend I was normal again. That all a man could see was just sky and ground and clouds. Tangible things he could hold in his hands.
Hands not covered in the dead skin of an old priest, that is.
Then I saw the man on the hill.
“Hold up,” I called over to Felix, who was driving. I couldn’t talk too loud, cause of the stitches holding my mouth together, but I found I could make myself heard if I tried hard enough. “I don’t like the look of that fella.”
“What fella?” he asked, looking over at where I pointed.
He wore a large hat, beaten to near shapelessness, and a fur coat that looked to be made of about a dozen different critters. He just stood there,staring right at me, with one hand holding an antique looking flintlock rifle while the other kept rubbing at his leg like it ached him. He stood still as a statue.
“You see someone up on that hill, Titus?” Seamus asked as he walked up behind me.
“I take it you don’t?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “Guess I better go find out what he wants.”
Seamus looked like he was about to protest, but changed his mind. I trudged up the hill, not taking my eyes of the stranger.
He was young. Way too young to be here on his own. And he was so damn pale he’d make the moon look like it had a tan. He also looked about as scared as a boy can get.
“Have you seen my friends, mister?” he asked when I got to the top of the hill. His voice was trembling and he kept grabbing his leg. “I been waiting for ‘em to get back for....for a long while.”
“What’s the matter with your leg, son?”
He looked down at it like he’d never seen the thing before. I could see an old bloodstain running down the back of his pants leg. The smell of rot was thick around him.
“I can’t feel it,” he said blandly. “I sat down on the wagon seat and stuck myself on this nail that was bent up. Weren’t much of a cut really, not at first. Then it started achin’ real bad. I must have fallen asleep an’ rolled off the wagon or somethin’. Pa’s gonna have my hide when he finds me.”
“I think maybe you should move on,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “Maybe if you try to find them, you’ll...”
"Oh, no,” he said, chuckling sadly. “Pa said if any of us get turned around or lost to just stay put. He said he’d find us eventually. He’s a good tracker, my Pa is. He’s gonna sell hardware to the folks trying to find gold up north. Says we’re gonna make a ton of money. Enough to....”
“Enough to what?”
“I don’t remember,” he said. “If you see ‘em, will you tell ‘em where I am?”
“Yeah, I’ll do that.”
“Thanks, mister. My name’s Eli. My Ma calls me Skeeter though.”
“I’ll keep an eye out, Eli. I’ll tell them where you are should I find them.”
“Thanks. Good luck out west,” he said, turning to look out at the setting sun. He looked almost hopeful, his black eyes full of promise. “It’s a grand adventure, my Pa says.”
“Yeah. I guess you could call it that.”