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August 15, 2022

Heading Towards the End of the Trail

By Lydia Manx

Jenny Foley woke with a start as a cold breeze found her neck. She hadn't even remembered going to bed. Her back locked in fear, as she didn't feel Johnny's backside pushed up against hers. Then she recalled the odd evening they'd had at this new town. Johnny wasn't going to be sleeping next to her waiting for her to fetch and carry his breakfast. To her relief, Ben was still open-mouthed snoring and snorting from his corner of the campsite. Dawn was just coming up into the sky and she wasn't rightly sure if the previous night had been a dream or a nightmare. Johnny had left them alone and forever and she'd found a new friend.

Molly.

She looked around, half expecting to see the small woman curled in a corner. The black-haired woman wasn't anywhere to be seen. But then as Jenny thought about it she probably had a real bed over in the saloon given her job. Jenny felt a sharp pain in her neck and slowly rolled her head to work out the kink. Something definitely was different about the new day. She slowly got up and stoked the fire back to life and began to assemble the meager ingredients they had left for a breakfast. Not having to feed Johnny gave them far more food. Johnny was a cruel man with large appetites. She still was trying to wrap the idea into her heart that Johnny really was gone and not coming back anytime soon. A smile lit her face and she added some more wood to the flames.

The day slowly rolled along and she kept wondering what happened to Molly. Ben bounced around the camp with his newfound friend Nate. Jenny was just happy that Nate was a real live boy, not someone Ben had imagined. Distracted by the beginnings of the day, she forgot to worry about the woman and instead began to worry about what they'd do for money. Time pulled her along and she continued making a home in the dirt- and grass-filled field.

Later that night

Molly smiled her bitter, slightly crooked smile and wondered what it would take to shake this damn town up. She'd been working the local saloon for a good month solid and still hadn't found the man with the juice. Every town, no matter how tattered and torn had a center. The one person everyone went to when they were in trouble, needed help or advice. Her smile caught the attention of one of the new arrivals.

"Hey, pretty lady, you sure are a sight for sore eyes," his voice was rough from bad whiskey and his beard closely trimmed. The scented oil in his slicked back hair and the aroma of a fresh bath meant he had some money. The gleam in his eyes added in to make him just a bit dangerous. It seemed like the money needed to be spent right fast and she was more than happy to liberate a few gold coins in the interest of enjoyment.

So Molly did her job and edged up slowly to the bar while catching the bartender's eye. Charlie, the bartender, nodded and poured her a glass of well watered-down whiskey. The man who'd called her over would be paying full price for the drink whether she drank any or not. The Dakota Territory had recently come up for grabs, and that'd brought a vast number of humans flowing through the town. She was growing bored with the sameness of the area but wasn't ready to run out quite yet. She'd get to the Black Hills eventually.

Molly knew nevertheless that she had to head out of town soon. She wasn't keeping very good control over her base hungers lately and with all the humans running around at all hours of the night she was going to get noticed. But she had to think of Jenny and Ben now. A family was always the best way into a new town. Hell, one of the last towns where she'd fed in was all due to a nice couple with a wagon and limited intelligence. They'd been looking for a place to stake out in the 'wild west' and she'd been looking for a way into the next town. They weren't worthy of becoming vampires but they were delicious just the same.

Everything that happened after they'd hit that discarded town grew a little blurry but Ned helped her get to this town a few months back. It wasn't much but at least everyone was still alive. She didn't think that she'd been a very good vampire in that other place. Ned assured her there wasn't anyone left to find them. Her scattered images were of fangs and blood being spilled in a large quantity. Ned knew how to help safeguard her from discovery, but still she wasn't sure what exactly had happened. That was vaguely disturbing.

Shaking her head free of the nasty thoughts she looked at the latest future victim. He wasn't ugly, but somewhat older than she liked. He would be a challenge. Older men liked to think on occasion while the younger ones were easily led astray. She preferred not to have to work so hard at her meals.

"New to town, stranger?" She put a bit of vamp in her voice. His eyes sparkled with interest. After all these centuries she still had it. He edged closer to her and he had no fears in the least. He wanted her in a different way than she wanted him. She bit back a fang-filled grin and let his hand trail down her arm. The touch of her arm gave him pleasure. Humans were so easy.

"Sure am, little missy. So what's a man to do for some entertainment around these parts?" His tone dropped down on the word 'entertainment' and she knew what he was asking. Given what she was wearing and how her breasts spilled out over the top it wasn't a big guess what her job was at the saloon.

Smiling softly she whispered, "Besides me?"

He heard her and smiled. Only a few of his crooked teeth were missing. Considering his age, he wasn't half bad. She looked up and down and saw that she'd excited him. His laughter was tinged with interest. The bar had grown noisy and she knew that he was more than ready for some of her brand of entertaining. Or at least that's what he thought. She promised herself just a sip or two as she let the man indicate the way out of the bar.

With a nod towards the bartender and a coin passed over subtly, he picked his drink up and turned to her with his hand out. She placed her palm in his and felt the tremor of interest, then his hand slid around her and down the back of her dress and he pushed her towards the stairs. He was bolder than most of her clients but she could handle it. His boldness sharpened her hunger and she figured he didn't seem to know anybody so maybe she could have a bit more of her brand of fun than his.

Just like that she'd decided that his night wasn't going to end well. She bit back a grin and took him to her room. So many humans, and so little time to drain them all dry. She loved the west.

***

Sleepily she wandered back down the stairs. Her visitor just had made an untimely exit out the window resulting in a severely broken neck. Tragic. Thankfully he did have a hole in his pocket and all his lovely coins found a new home in hers. Since she was seen with him last she hit the bottom steps and pulled on a frightened set of features. She headed for the bar and rolled her shoulders as if in pain.

"Charlie! That odd man leaped right out my window after striking me. His drawers down around his ankles and all!" She slid one of the smaller coins to Charlie while he shook his head. He didn't ask how he just happened to find his way out the window since he'd paid first and from her added token, quite well. Some of the more sober crowd murmured but nobody immediately ran out to check. They all knew better than to mess with saloon gals and figured the customer needed to take an alternate route outside and it was none of their business.

After a beat or two, the suspense was killing them, and since a few of the drunker customers didn't have the smarts to stay in their places, they wandered out to see what 'and all' entailed. The man was half buried in the mud when one of the more adventurous drunken sots turned him over. To their horror they found out immediately that the landing face first out a second story -- 'butter side down' as it were -- wasn't helpful to keeping things where they belonged. Molly had fanged in mid-job and he stayed stiff. The mud had hard packed dirt beneath it and needless to say it wasn't very pretty. A few of the patrons spewed their dinner and liquids into the dark at the sight.

Molly claimed she was too upset to do much more and palmed over another coin to cover her absence. Charlie tipped his head and allowed her to leave. She'd given him enough to cover a full night of business and he didn't care. That was the way things went in the corners of hell. Prices were met and folks did what they damn well pleased.

Once she cleared the ruckus she'd caused she dropped the saloon gal swagger and rolled her hips with the predatory stroll of only the truly damned. She was going to see if Jenny was still up. Last night the woman had fallen asleep once Molly had got close enough to begin to work her plan. Frustrated, she had put the tired woman into her bedding and left.

She walked slowly through the tents hearing exhausted miners and camp folks settling in for the evening. The wet coughs of those sickly and near death tempted her to wander a bit but she stayed focused. Ned still hadn't come back to find her since they parted last night. She wanted that tonic conman, but Ned was getting upset with her giving into her appetites lately and she needed him to help at times. Being one of the only vampires around could be lonely not to mention dangerous. Women weren't appreciated for much more than what they kept between their legs.

She found Jenny stirring the coals on her campfire. The boy was thankfully missing. Hopefully he was asleep and not going to wake up easily. She needed to get Jenny to invite her and Ned into her wagon. Once that was done she would encourage her to head further west. After tossing out the last beau in her room the town wasn't doing it for her and she wasn't interested in watching the latest miners bellying up to the bar. They tended to be really old and not worthy of her fangs.

Jenny was poking the coals and looking into the flames.

"Hello?" Molly edged to the boundary of her fire and asked Jenny, to the woman's surprise.

"Oh, hello." Jenny was stiff. Molly had been away too long and the human had time to think. She mentally slapped her forehead. She hadn't even given thought to how worried Jenny was. Now that she was near she could drink in the fears and knew that she'd caused it.

"Sorry I left last night. If I don't show up before morning, they dock me a night's pay," she ducked her head and tried for pathetic. Jenny saw the bent head and heard the subservient words without a word.

The stick worked a few stray pieces closer to the hypnotic flames and Jenny waited. Molly hated begging but realized that last night when she'd left the woman far too vulnerable, that meant that now she needed to make up for lost time. She hated having to think of humans. They weren't around long enough to bother memorizing their names, much less their likes and dislikes. Smiling without fangs she said, "I got here as soon as I earned enough money."

Jenny looked up at that. She knew it wasn't too late into the evening, and naturally grasped that what she said meant that Molly had worked really hard to get back to the camp -- probably flat on her back or however. The guilt washed over her face and she said, "I didn't know you would get in trouble for staying out."

"Naturally. I am little more than property." Molly watched the words sink in and knew she'd hit at Jenny's core. Just to shove the knife in further, "Did Johnny come back? Should I leave?"

Jenny shook her head, "Not a word from him."

Molly would have been pretty shocked if Johnny had shown back up, given Ned staked and disposed of Jenny's husband for her last night. But he'd got to drain the tinker potion salesman so it wasn't like she hadn't shared the bounty. Ned still hadn't found her, and Molly wasn't used to being avoided by him, especially after such a peculiar evening. She wondered if he was still alive. Since she hadn't made him she could only guess. Frustrated she turned back to Jenny with a smile, "So what ... do you want me to leave you alone or not?"

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-09-24
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