Authors: J. R. Roberts
Face to Face with a Nightmare
It loomed up in front of him, surprising him even though he was prepared. It was a huge shape with fur and teeth and yellow eyes. The creature saw him at the same time and they both reacted. The wolf rose up and roared at him, took a swipe at him with one huge paw. Clint fired his gun twice, was sure he hit the thing, but it turned and ran off.
He chased it, and then realized he had been clawedÂ .Â .Â .
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Copyright Â© 2013 by Robert J. Randisi.
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Jove mass-market edition / September 2013
Cover illustration by Sergio Giovine.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Frederick Talbot climbed into the back of his wagon and closed the flap. Around him he could hear the others in the wagon train conversing beside their fires, trading stories, or offering parting words as they turned in for the night. He could also hear Captain Sean Parker giving orders for when they would rise and start out again.
The days of the wagon trains made up of a hundred prairie schooners heading west were gone. This was a train of ten wagons, a group of neighbors from the East who had decided to move out West and were traveling together for safety's sake.
Despite their small size, they had elected officers, and had hired a guide and a man to be captain. In some respects, this might also have been considered the last wagon train. At least, that was how Captain Parker thought of it.
But tonight Frederick's thoughts were elsewhere, not on the history of the wagon trains, or their start time in the morning.
He went to a cedar chest he kept hidden beneath a blanket, unlocked it with a key, and opened it. From inside he withdrew a small wooden box, also locked. He took out a smaller key, unlocked it, and opened it. The items inside were those he had hoped never to need, but there they were.
There was a set of rosary beads, a crucifix, a prayer book, a pistol, a silver bullet mold, a wooden mallet, three sharpened wooden stakes, some garlic paste, and vials of holy water, all lying in felt in the oak wood box.
This was his vampire kit.
Frederick had come to the United States from Germany. His neighbors had come from Germany, Poland, and Romania. They had thought to settle in the East, but did not encounter the open arms they had hoped for, so they decided to go west.
Frederick Talbot carried this kit with him wherever he went, and he knew many of the others did, too. Some of them claimed not to believe in vampires and werewolves now that they were in the United States, but Talbot was not yet ready to give up that part of his heritage.
He touched the mallet, the stakes, picked up a vial of the holy water to study it and then return it to its felt bed. Finally, he closed the box, locked it, and placed it back in the chest.
“Papa?” his daughter's voice came from outside. “Papa, what are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he called back, hastily turning the key on the chest and then covering it with the blanket. “I will be right out.”
He moved to the back of the wagon and pushed the flap aside.
“Papa, supper is ready,” his seventeen-year-old-daughter, Sarah, said. “Come to the fire.”
“I am coming,” he said, stepping down from the wagon.
“Careful,” she said, “do not break your neck.” She reached out to help him.
“Do not fuss,” he said, slapping her hand away. Sarah had been born to Frederick and his late wife, Delilah, late in life. So Talbot was, at sixty-six years of age, the father of a healthy seventeen-year-old daughter. Healthy in that the boys on the wagon train were all mooning over her, whether they were teenagers or older.
Talbot followed his daughter to the fire, where some of their neighbors had gathered. The Talbot family usually ate together with the Gerhardt and Mueller families.
Sarah spooned out a good portion of stew into a wooden bowl and handed it to her father.
“What were you doing in your wagon, Frederick?” his longtime friend, Howard Gerhardt, asked him. They had come to the United States on the same ship back when both of their children were young.
In a low tone Howard asked, “Were you looking at that vampire kit again?”
“Shhh,” Talbot urged him.
“You are a silly man, my friend,” Howard said. “The old ways have not followed us here.”
“You do not know that,” Talbot said. “It is better to be safe.”
“Even if they have followed us,” Gerhardt said, “we have certainly left them behind in Pennsylvania.”
“I am not convinced,” Talbot said, “and I have a daughter to protect.”
“And I have a son,” Gerhardt reminded him.
“Boys can fend for themselves,” Talbot said. “It is my job to protect my daughter until she finds a husband.”
Gerhardt looked across the fire to where Talbot's lovely daughter, Sarah, was handing his son, Carl, a bowl of stew.
“Perhaps she has already found a candidate.”
Talbot did not reply. Gerhardt was his good friend, but he did not think Carl was a suitable match for his daughter. And therefore, he kept his mouth full of stew so he could not reply.
Clint Adams was in Effingham, Missouri, for three days when there was a murderÂ .Â .Â .
*Â *Â *
On his first day he met Rita St. John, who ran a dress shop on Main Street. He'd actually been walking past the store, on the way to find a restaurant, when she came out the door and they collided.
“Oh, I'm so sorry,” she said. “I wasn't lookingâ”
“No, no,” he insisted, “it was my fault. Are you all right?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I was justâI don't have much business today, so I was going to close early.”
She was a tall redhead in her late thirties, with short hair and green eyes, a lovely face despite a nose that might have been a bit too big, if a man wanted to be critical. Clint didn't. The attraction was immediate.
“Well,” he said, “I just got to town and was trying to find a decent place to eat. Do you know of one?”
“Sure,” she said. “There are several good places in town. What are you looking for?”
“A good steak.”
“Then you have to go to Andy's CafÃ©. It's a few blocks that way, and you turnâ”
“You wouldn't be hungry, would you?”
She stopped short.
“Hungry? Well, I, uh, I could eatâ”
“Why don't you take me to Andy's,” he said, “and then I'll repay the favor by buying you a meal. We can call it a late lunch.”
“WellÂ .Â .Â . I, uh, don't know youâ”
“My name is Clint Adams,” he said. “I'm in town to visit my friend Ray Bullet.”
“Ray? Why, he's the sheriff.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Well,” she said after a moment, “if you're friends with the sheriff, I guess it's all right. Just let me lock up.”
He waited while she locked the front door of the shop and put the key away in her small bag.
“My name is Rita St. John. Andy's is this way,” she said.
“Just lead the way, RitaÂ .Â .Â .”
They ate together, exchanged histories. She had been in Effingham for five years, trying to get her business going. He never did find out that first day if she recognized his name. But their attraction was so strong that she ended up in his hotel room with him, and he never did get to see Ray Bullet that first day eitherÂ .Â .Â .
*Â *Â *
He woke the next morning with Rita beside him. They had been together for over fifteen hours since their first meeting, much of them spent in bed.
She was a tall, full-bodied woman with pear-shaped breasts topped by brown nipples, and a tangle of copper-colored hair between her long legs.
She woke while he was staring at her admiringly, and covered her face with her hands.
“Oh, my God,” she said.
She peered at him from between slightly spread fingers.
“I've never done this before.”
“What? Had sex? I thought you seemed at least a little experienced.”
“No, not that,” she said. “I've had sex before, but never with a man I don't know.”
“I thought we got to know each other very well over a couple of good steaks.”
“And after a few hours we ended up back here,” she said. She dropped her hands and looked around. “What time is it?”
“It's early morning.”
“Morning?” she asked. “You mean as in, the next day?”
“Yes,” he said, “it's the next day. Technically speaking, we have now known each other for two days.”
“Oh, God,” she said, again covering her face.
“Was it that bad?”
She dropped her hands again and looked at him.
“No, no,” she said, “it was wonderful. I mean, it was veryÂ .Â .Â . I'm just not used toÂ .Â .Â .”
He rolled toward her, put his hand on her belly, which twitched.
“So I guess you don't want me to do this,” he said, then lowered his hand, “or this,” he moved his middle finger, “or this.”
“Oh!” she said, jumping. “Oh, yes, please, do that some more.”
She put her hands at her sides and arched her back as he moved his middle finger just a little, just lightly touching her.
He leaned over to kiss her right breast, then her left. They were heavy, leaning to the side just a bit beneath their own weight. Her nipples were large, and he licked and sucked them as he continued to stroke her with his finger.
“Oh, God,” she said, grabbing for his head. He got away from her, though, and kissed his way down over her belly until he could replace the tip of his finger with the tip of his tongue. He licked her until her entire body went taut and she spasmed beneath him, gathering the sheet in her fists and biting her lip so she wouldn't screamÂ .Â .Â .
At that moment there was a knock on the door. She grabbed the sheet and covered herself with it, as if the person at the door could see her.
“Relax,” he said, “they can't see you.”
“What if it's someone I know?” she whispered.
“The only person who knows I was coming to town is Ray Bullet.”
“Oh, God. Ray?” she said. “He can't find me here.”
The knocking persisted.
“Well,” he said, “let me see if it's him, and then I'll make sure he doesn't see you. How's that?”
He got to his feet, pulled on his pants, and grabbed his gun.
“Do you need that to answer the door?” she asked.
He went to the door with the gun in his right hand, used his left to turn the knob and open it a crack. Ray Bullet stood in the hall.
“Ray,” he said. “Look, I'm sorry I didn't come see you when I got in, butâ”
“Never mind that,” Bullet said. “Get dressed. I need you.”
“Need me for what?”
“I don't have a deputy, and I have a problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
“The worst kind,” Sheriff Ray Bullet said. “There's been a murder.”