Gunfight week continues. This is another look at the Lone Crow gunfighter with an excerpt from "The Five Disciples," by Joel Jenkins, from Low Noon: Tales of Horror and Dark Fantasy From the Weird Weird West.
..."Drop the gun, Ferguson!"
Crow wondered just how many bullets it would take to stop a man that big, but thankfully Ferguson didn't appear anxious to put that question to the test. He dropped the shotgun and raised his hands to shoulder height. Keeping his pistol trained on Ferguson, Crow took a pair of steps backward to stay out range of those over-sized mitts, just in case Ferguson couldn't resist the temptation.
"Sit cross-legged on the floor," ordered Crow, "and put your hands behind your head."
Ferguson did as ordered.
"Why didn't you look at me?" demanded Buena. "Don't you like women?"
"I didn't want to end up dead," said Crow. "Now get down on the floor next to Mr. Ferguson."
"Or what? You'll shoot me, too? There's no bounty on my head. What do you want with me?"
Crow caught a closer glimpse of the pasteboards on the table and now he could see that they weren't a standard deck of cards. They were altered to include cryptic symbols, lewd drawings, and occult figures so that the pasteboards were converted into some sort of tarot deck. "I want nothing to do with you, witch. Now get on the floor."
She complied with a deliberate lack of urgency, baiting Crow.
"I got a good look at you," said Shotgun Ferguson. "All those white man clothes can't hide your red skin."
"And running all the way from South Carolina can't save you from justice," replied Crow. He holstered his gun and cinched Ferguson's wrists together with practiced movements. At that moment Buena glanced over her still-bared shoulder and saw that Crow had no weapon in his hand. She lunged, raking at him with her long nails. He avoided her initial attack and gave her a shove that sent her tumbling.
In that brief moment, Ferguson untangled his crossed legs and lurched to his feet. Before he could find his balance, Crow gave him the heel of his boot and the big man staggered into a divan made from old sea crates. They splintered beneath his weight and Ferguson found himself sitting among the broken slats, his hands still bound behind him.
"Justice?" spat Ferguson. "I'm a black man. There's no justice for me and if you think you can fool the white men into giving you justice because you wear their clothes, then you're fooling yourself. You're an Indian and you'll always be one."
"You're wanted for three murders," said Crow.
"And they send their lapdog to execute justice?" Ferguson's laugh was bitter.
"Come along without a fuss and I won't have to do any executing," said Crow. "I'll take you to the law, and you'll be sent back to South Carolina to face trial."
"A lynching, you mean. I killed those three men, all right—but they were white and I'm not. It doesn't matter what they did to my sister."
Buena began to mutter incantations underneath her breath.
"Save your curses, witch," said Crow. "I'm immune to your magics."
"You may be immune to my charms, Indian, but other men are not."
Crow frowned. "What did they do to your sister?"
Ferguson struggled upright. "They forced her, then killed her so that she wouldn't tell nobody. I happened into the barn where they did the deed. They were trying to hide her body beneath the straw. I took away a shotgun and turned it on its owner. Two barrels at close range—it cut him in half."
"No kidding," said Crow, who recalled how close he had been to suffering the same demise.
"The other two men I killed with my bare hands." Ferguson shuddered as he relived the incident.
"I understand you killed Philips and Morganstern when they tracked you down in Kansas City."
"The bounty hunters?" said Ferguson. "They didn't count on me taking my shotgun to the outhouse with me."
"Are you going to hold that against him?" cried Buena. "He was just defending his life."
"But is he telling the truth?" asked Crow.
She raised her chin in proud defiance. "He's under my charms. He can't tell a lie, and he is completely under my control. All it takes is one visit and I can make any man my slave...except for you, it seems." She raised a beckoning hand toward him. "But given some time, perhaps..."
"Enough," said Crow, who felt temptation as keenly as any man.
"Are you scared of the passion that I might unleash?"
"I've met Philips and Morganstern," said Crow, who abruptly changed the subject. "The righteous of the world won't mourn their loss."
"Where are the other four of you?" questioned Buena.
"What are you talking about?" said Crow, who wondered if Buena was again using some sort of ploy to pull away his attention.
Buena shook her finger. Her hands were covered with rings and arcane amulets dangled between her breasts. "I read the cards. They said that five were on the way. That's how Shotgun knew to be ready for you."
"Five what?" asked Crow.
"Five followers or acolytes," said Buena. "The cards were unclear, but they are men of great power. I sensed a power about you, so I mistook you as one of them. But you, you possess a different sort of power. It shrivels my guts..."
Crow hissed between his teeth. "I'm not the only one in San Francisco that's looking for Shotgun Ferguson. Five Chinese bounty hunters rode into town two nights ago. They've been asking about Shotgun. It's hard to hide a black man your size—even in a place as big as San Francisco."
Buena furrowed her brow. "What did these bounty hunters call themselves?"
"I don't know how they refer to themselves, but I've heard others refer to them as The Disciples. Disciples of what, I'm not sure."
"The Disciples of the Immortals," spat Buena. "What a fool I was to charm a man with such a large bounty on his head. I should have known it would bring doom upon me."
"It doesn't much matter how I meet my death," said Shotgun Ferguson, "but I'd prefer to do it with a gun in my hand, spitting in the face of the Devil instead of swinging from a tree."
"They're coming now," moaned Buena. Her long lashes flickered and her eyes flickered and darted, alternating between a glassy stare and the whites of her eyes. "I can feel them. The Immortals have imbued the Disciples with a fraction of their power so that they might go forth and bring fear and terror into the world."
Buena's vision regained focus. "Let me go!" she shrieked. "I beg of you. Let me go!"
"Fine," said Crow.
Without waiting for any further elaboration, Buena cast one glance at the tied paramour. "Ha sido divertido, Shotgun." She lurched across the tent, her hand diving beneath a cushion and she produced a Colt Pocket Dragoon pistol, a five shot .31 caliber gun with a stagecoach raid engraved on the cylinder. Crow nearly fired a shot through Buena, but instead of targeting the Indian bounty hunter, the witch reeled through the tent flap and into the falling dusk.
The intoxicating scent of the perfume still lingered after Buena's departure, but when she opened the flap a breeze passed into the tent clearing much of the air.
Ferguson breathed a heavy sigh. "Where am I, and why am I tied up?"
"I'm Lone Crow, here to collect you and the bounty on your head."
Shotgun Ferguson tested his bonds and Crow could hear the fiber of the new ropes creaking under the forces exerted by those muscular arms. "The last thing I remember is coming inside of the tent of a Chileno harlot. I didn't mean to, I was just passing through."
"It's safer to stand in holy places," said Lone Crow. "Telegraph Hill is not the place for the likes of you or me."
"I'm a wanted murderer," said Shotgun. "Does it matter which other of the ten commandments I break?"
"Your killings were done in the name of justice and the defense of your own life," said Crow. He plucked an eighteen-inch knife out of the sheath tied to his leg.
"What are you doing?" asked Ferguson.
"I'll make it quick," said Crow. He brought the knife across the the strands of the rope that bound Ferguson's wrists. The rope unraveled and Ferguson rubbed at the grooves in his flesh.
"The harlot had you bewitched," said Crow. "You're free now."
"Except for the fact that you plan to bring me in for that bounty," said Ferguson. "I'm telling you now, that I'm not going to let that happen. I'd rather die than go back to South Carolina."
A wind whipped through the tents and shanties of Telegraph Hill, shaking the tent in which they stood. "Load your shotgun," said Crow. "They'll be here, shortly."...