On the streets of Durango, there is a saying:
“If there is anyone who does bad things, he will most certainly be eaten by a demon.”
But, how does one recognize a demon?
No one has seen one.
But everyone with evil intentions seems to die by some mysterious circumstance.
The death will be investigated, but there will never be a single clue, and the case will grow cold.
Little by little, people will start to believe that these were just rumors.
However, a small population believes in the demons that walk among us and continue to look for them to this day.
Wildred Pike steers the horse into the small road that leads home. He has just come from the market, bringing staples of grain and produce. As he pulls up to the modest home, he hops down and begins to carry the food inside. As he returns to the cart for another load, Sheriff Anderson steps up to him.
“Sorry to intrude upon your time, sir. I felt I should make your acquaintance,” the sheriff says. “I’m Bobby Anderson, the new sheriff in town.
Wilfred grabs another large bag and hoists it over onto his shoulder, “I know who you are, sheriff. You can state your business or carry on, but I’m going to keep doing my work here,” the father tells the man.
“That’s fair enough,” Anderson says. “I met your daughter about a week ago, and she’s been helping me out. I hear there’s been some type of misunderstanding, so I thought perhaps I should ride out here and clear things up.”
Wilfred returns to the wagon and looks Anderson square in the eye, “If you’re like any of the other sheriffs that this town has had, I won’t reckon that there’d been a misunderstanding. There are plenty of ‘those type’ of women in town. You can find them at the saloon, though there are rumors of a new owner. I hope you’ll see my point of view when I tell you I don’t want my daughter hanging around town any more than necessary.”
As Wilfred grabs a basket from the back of the wagon, Bobby nods, “I just thought you should know that truth about what’s been going on between your daughter and me…”
The words barely leave Anderson’s mouth when Wilfred drops the basket as the produce spills all over the ground. He clenches his fist and turns to the sheriff, “I raised my daughter since birth. I don’t need you telling me what is going on with my daughter. I picked this land for a reason, sheriff. It’s to be close enough to Durango to get necessities and work. Far enough away that we don’t go into town without reason.”
Anderson doesn’t back down as he can tell he touched a nerve in Wilfred Pike. “I don’t presume at all to understand what it’s been like raising two girls on your own, Mr. Pike. I came out to assure that regardless of how those other sheriffs were in this town, I plan to uphold the laws of the state of Colorado. I want to assure you that you and your daughters are safe in Durango’s city limits, and if anyone crosses the line, they will be dealt with. You raise them girls as you see fit, but don’t take it out on them that they want to live their lives.”
Wilfred has quelched his anger in the last few moments, but he’s not quite finished. “I hear you’re a rich man, Sheriff.”
“What’s that got to do with this conversation, Mr. Pike?”
“I’ve seen men like you come into this town and buy whatever and whoever you want. You seem to think that because you have money, everything the world has to offer is for sale. I can assure you that me and my daughters are not for sale. I don’t know what you’re interest is in Durango, Sheriff, but if you’re here to throw your money and your power around to get what you want, I’ll ask you to look elsewhere. I won’t have my daughters treated as possessions in this world.”
“Mr. Pike, when I took on the position of sheriff in this county, I renounced my family’s inheritance. I served in the President’s army in the war. I served as a police officer, and then a deputy, and now as sheriff. The reason is that I despise the way that the rich throw around their wealth to bypass the laws of this land. I assure you that I would treat no one, including your daughters, as a possession. I’m here to uphold the integrity of the law.”
Anderson turns and walks over and climbs back up on his horse as Pike watches him. “What’s your interest in my daughter?”
Anderson looks down at Wilfred Pike and takes a moment before answering, “Your daughter is a breath of fresh air around this place, Mr. Pike. I would hate to see that change. Put a little trust in her. She seems to know exactly what she’s doing. Oh, and I’ve been asked to see if you’d reconsider letting her sing at the saloon.”
Pike reaches into the back of his wagon to pull out another bag, “And why would I do that?”
Anderson smirks, “The new owner of the saloon is my ma, and she would be delighted to have your daughter continue with her performances. The way I hear it, there ain’t a singer within a hundred miles of here that even compares to the voice on Eloise Pike. Think about it.” With that, Sheriff Anderson pulls on the reigns and leads his horse down the path away from the Pike residence as Wilfred Pike watches him go.
Eloise steps out of the home, “Was that the sheriff? Is everything okay?”
Wilfred turns to her, “You should probably get ready for work. I hear the saloon is expecting you to sing tonight.”
Eloise’s eyes light up, “You mean it, pa?”
With a smile, Wilfren nods his head, “But help me unload this wagon first.”
A man is taking a shower. As he turns around, we see his golden fingernails as he applies soap to his torso. Around his neck is a necklace with an adornment hanging from it. He turns off the water, and a servant immediately walks over and picks up a towel to hand it to him, which he wraps around his waist before stepping out of the shower.
He’s given a second towel that he uses to dry the rest of his body.
After he dresses, he walks down the stairs to the foyer where a meal has been prepared for him. As he takes a seat at the head of the table, he asks his servant asks, “Who is our target for today?”
The servant walks over and picks up a slip of paper, “Ethan Johnson, male, 40 years old. A treacherous man who uses his wealth to bully others. He is a horse breeder and often steals horses from neighboring farms and sells them to buyers from out of town.”
A Few Days Ago
A man walks onto Ethan Johnson’s property and is inspecting some of the horses and recognizes his marking when Johnson rides up on him with several men riding behind him.
“What you doing on my property, Ellis?” asks Johnson.
“These are my horses,” responds Ellis. He doesn’t want to accuse the wealthy man of stealing outright, so he says, “They must have wandered on your property by mistake. I’ll need to check my fences.”
Johnson smirks, “They’re on my property. Therefore they are my horses.”
Ellis points to the branding, “This is my branding right here, Mr. Johnson. I’ll just take what’s mine and be on my way. I do apologize for the intrusion.”
“It’s called trespassing. I think you know what we do to trespassers around here.”
A while later, a beaten and bloody Dan Ellis is tossed out of the Johnson gate by his men. From high on his horse, Johnson looks down at him. “Don’t come on my property again, Ellis, or next time you’ll leave in a casket.”
As the servant tells the story, Sansibar nods his head as he places a napkin in his lap and prepares to eat.
Sheriff Anderson walks into an imposing looking home. He steps in and looks around, “They did a great job with this,” he says to himself when a woman walks into the room.
“Robert!” exclaims the woman and walks over to hug him.
“Hi, ma,” says Anderson. “And it’s Bobby; you know that.”
“And I told you to call me mother!” rebukes Ma Anderson. “Calling me ‘ma’ is so unrefined. You were raised better than that.”
The sheriff chuckles, “You better get used to it. It’s how it is around here. You aren’t in the big city anymore, ma.” Anderson continues to look around, “You had to have something built this extravagant?” he asks. “You’ll freeze in the winter.”
“Nonsense,” his mother says as she leads him through the foyer and into her study where a young woman is sitting. “I want you to meet Miss Frisk. She is from the city.”
“Which city?” asks Anderson as Elenore Frisk rises to her feet.
Ma Anderson scoffs, “There’s only one city, son. New York City, of course. She speaks French, and her family is one of the richest in the country. I thought you could show her around Durango.” There’s a hidden nudge that Sheriff Anderson is very familiar with. His mother has been trying to set up his marriage since he turned of age, but he’s resisted at every turn.
“I’m far too busy to be a tour guide, ma,” says the sheriff, “Or perhaps you have forgotten I have a job here? I’m sure you have a servant or two around here that can do that for you.”
Sophie Anderson motions for everyone to sit down, “You know I hate that job of yours. You could live off your inheritance for the rest of your life without working. You should leave that type of work to those who need to work.”
“Father was the business genius, ma. I don’t have that type of gift. You’re set for life. This is what I want to do with my life. I want to do something that has meaning.”
Elenore looks back and forth between them as they speak.
Sophie scoffs, “No one is born with business talent, son. It has to be cultivated. You just need to apply yourself. But, as they say, no man can be successful without a woman at his side.”
Bobby grits his teeth. He couldn’t even tell you the number of times he’s had this conversation with his mother. He smiles politely to the servant, who brings some coffee and sets it on the coffee table in front of him.
As Bobby reaches for his coffee, his mother makes a fuss, “Speak to your guest, Robert.” She’s trying to force this pairing together.
Bobby takes a drink of his coffee and shrugs, “I’m not sure what there is to say. I really should be heading back. My girl is waiting for me. I’m sure she’s brought me lunch.”
Sophie’s eyes go wide, and Elenore looks over at Sophie.
“What girl?” asks Sophie. This was news to her.
“Perhaps I can ask her to show you around?” says the sheriff to Elenore.
Now Elenore is looking uncomfortable. Sophie scoffs, “What girl, I asked you? You never told me you had a girl!”
Elenore rises to her feet, “I don’t think I’m needed here. If you’ll excuse me, I should send word back home before it gets too late.”
Elenore rushes out of the room before it gets even more awkward for her.
After Elenore leaves, Sophie rises and moves to sit next to Bobby on the couch, “What is wrong with you? I raised you better than this. Do you really have a girl, Robert?”
Bobby drinks from his cup of coffee, “Whether I have a girl or not is not the issue here. I’ve repeatedly asked you not to set me up with these girls I don’t know.”
Sophie is still interested in this girl that he spoke of, “Tell me about this girl! Does she come from a good family? What does her father do? If she’s a troublemaker, I will oppose your marrying her. I hope you know that!”
The sheriff sets his empty cup down on the table, and Sophie quickly places it on top of a coaster. “Ma, if I decide to get married, it’ll be someone I chose, not someone chosen for me. How about you stick to running the saloon you just bought and let me do my job, and I’ll worry about marrying when I’m ready to.”
The sheriff rises after placing a kiss on his mother’s cheek, “I’m heading back to work. Thank you for the coffee.”
As he strides out of the home, his mother stands up, “I want to meet her!”
Ethan Johnson staggers out of the saloon after having drunk his fill. Some of the other patrons are trying to help him walk as he seems to be having some trouble. He brushes them off, “I can walk by myself,” he slurs as the others give him space and then return to the saloon.
Ethan walks around the corner of the saloon and hurls on the ground. He wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt. He then turns toward the wall, reaches down and unzips himself and then the sound of liquid splashing on the ground is heard as he relieves himself in the alley. Suddenly, something flies down from the sky, grabs him by the back of his jacket, and lifts him high into the air.
The demon carries him to the outskirts of town and drops him on the ground before slowly landing next to him. Ethan’s eyes open wide as he shouts, “Demon! Demon!”
Sansibar’s wings curl back in. His ears have become long and pointed, and his golden nails have extended into claws.
Ethan stumbles to his feet and tries to flee, but Sansibar soars over him, landing right in front of him, and grabs him around the throat as his golden nails pierce into his neck and blood begins to flow from Ethan’s mouth.
Sansibar flicks his wrist, completely slicing through the throat as Ethan falls to the ground, dead.
His servant walks into the area, “Are you okay, master?”
“Of course,” replies Sansibar as he looks down at the dead man. “He is not well-liked. He won’t be missed.”
“Winter is approaching. Perhaps it’s time for you to head back and prepare for hibernation.”
Sansibar considers it but then shakes his head, “There is still time, and there are still evil men to kill.”
“But winter is coming faster than usual this year,” explains the servant. “You know what happens if you haven’t returned by the time it comes.”
“You don’t need to worry. I’ll be home in plenty of time for hibernation.” With that, Sansibar spreads out his jet black wings and soars into the air as his servant watches him leave. The visual of Sansibar flying in front of the moon is impressive.
“A tavern singer?” asks Sophie Anderson as Sheriff Anderson walks into the room the following morning.
“Pardon?” he asks, confused.
Sophie rises from the couch and walks over to him, “You’ve been spending time with a tavern singer?”
Bobby Anderson is trying to figure out what his mother is talking about, and then it dawns on him, “You mean Eloise Pike?” he laughs out loud. “Mother, Eloise Pike is the singer I told you about that sings at the saloon you just purchased. Where did you get the crazy idea that she was my girl?”
Sophie walks back over and plops herself back down on the couch, “I hear things, Robert.”
“Robert,” she says again. “If you think I’ll allow my only son to get married to a saloon singer, you better think again.”
Anderson looks at his mother, “First of all, I’m a grown-ass man, ma. I can damn well marry any woman I please as long as it’s legal in the state of Colorado. I do not need your permission…”
“She’s uneducated, uncultured, unsophisticated…” Sophie interrupts.
Bobby interrupts right back, “You’ve not even met her, and I’ve already told you, she’s not my girl. I was just trying to get rid of that girl you were trying to pawn off on me.”
“Pawn off?” Sophie seems appalled. “I am looking out for my son. Is that a crime in the state of Colorado? To want to see my son marry someone who will improve his life? Does this girl know you much money you have? I bet she’s nothing more than a gold digger…”
“Ma,” warns Bobby. “Go visit your own tavern and listen to her sing. At least meet her before you go condemning her. And, as I said, she isn’t my girl, but she is probably one of the most genuine girls you’ll ever meet in the town of Durango.”
“I won’t allow it!” It seems that once that Sophie’s mind is set to something, it’s hard to sway it.
“Fine and good, ma. Even though I’ve told you time and again that we aren’t a thing, it seems you won’t listen, so there’s nothing more to say,” he tells her. “But even if she were my girl, your objection wouldn’t sway me from being with her. You don’t run my life, I do, and I have for many years now. So, I guess you need to decide if you want a son in your life or if you’re willing to let him go. I won’t be bullied by my own mother.”
Sophie rises to her feet, “You’d go against your own mother?”
Bobby was about to walk out, but he turns and looks at his mother, “You’re the one who’s going against me.”
As he stalks out of his mother’s home, Deputy Trawls rides up, “Sheriff, we got a murder.”
Wilfred rides up to the mill on his horse when the foreman comes out to meet him. Sliding from his horse down to the ground, “I’m not late, am I, Fred?”
Fred doesn’t look very happy at the moment, “I’m sorry, Will. I gotta let you go.” He reaches for Wilfred’s hand and places an envelope in it, “Here’s what I owe you, but I can’t afford to keep you on. I’ll keep buying your crop if you’re still willing to sell it to us, but we’re barely staying afloat, and you’re the new guy, so you gotta be the first to go.”
Wilfred sighs as he looks at the envelope. He nods his head understandingly. “I get it. If things pick up, come out and let me know, and I’ll be happy to come back to work. And, of course, I’ll still sell my crop. I gotta make a living somehow.”
Fred seems very distraught to have to do it, “I’m really sorry, friend. I promise if things turn around, you’ll be the first guy I hire back.”
“How many did you have to let go?” asks Wilfred.
“Three. You, Jim and Nelson.”
“Ouch. Nelson’s wife is pregnant with twins,” Wilfred says. “Thanks for keeping me on as long as you did, Fred.” Wilfred hops back on his horse and rides off, knowing there are no more than about five dollars in that envelope.
School is out, and Sarah Pike is starting to walk home when Emma Ratcliff and her friends walk up behind her, “Sarah Pike. It was quite the show you put on at my mother’s party. Maybe we underestimated you. We’re gonna go up to The Edge if you want to come along.”
Sarah should have listened to the hairs standing up on the back of her neck when Emma issued this invitation. Instead, she nods as she looks back at Emma, “Sure.”
The Edge is a cliff that overlooks Durango. It started as a tunnel for the railroad but left abandoned when the engineers decided to go around. The area was mostly used by Doc Banner, who built his home and hospital in the area.
Emma and her girls begin the trek up the path that leads to the top as Sarah pauses and looks up. She hadn’t been to The Edge before, and she was starting to feel like this wasn’t such a great idea when Emma looks back, “Are you coming? You aren’t scared, are you?”
Sarah shakes her head, “I ain’t scared of nothing,” and she follows behind them.
Wilfred trots up beside Eloise, who appears to be walking home, “Hop on. I’m heading over to Nelson’s place. Then I’ll take you home.”
Eloise reaches up, and Wilfred pulls her up behind him. “Why you home from work so early?” asks Eloise as she wraps her arms around her father’s waist.
“Got laid off.” Wilfred had learned long ago not to keep things from his daughters, so he tries to tell them as quickly as possible whenever there’s a change. “Nelson too.”
“But his wife is about to have babies!” exclaims Eloise. “That darn Fred Trent!”
“Now, now,” says Wilfred. “It’s not really his fault. Crop wasn’t good this year for anyone, and folks just aren’t buying grain as much. He said he’d hire me back as soon as he could.”
“Still,” says Eloise.
Wilfred gives his horse a nudge, and it picks up speed.
Moving past all the brush, Sarah, Emma, and her friends reach the clearing overlooking Durango. Sarah’s eyes go wide as she sees how small the town looks from up here.
“How’d you guys find this place?” she asks.
Looks are exchanged between the other girls before Emma says, “We’ve been up here plenty of times. We like to sit on the edge and just look down at the city.”
“Wait, you sit right on the edge? That’s a long fall if you slip,” says Sarah.
Emma smirks, “Don’t be a chicken. Ain’t none of us ever fell from there. Right, girls?” she asks the others, who all nod in agreement.
Sarah looks at her, “Well, you sit there if you’ve done it so many times.”
“Ha!” cries out Emma, “I guess Sarah is all talk after all. We’ve already told you we’ve sat there several times already. We come up all the time.”
Sarah looks to the edge, then back to the girls. She sets her school stuff on the ground and begins to walk towards the edge.
“Fred gave me this, but I know you need it more than I do, Nelson,” says Wilfred. Eloise remains on the horse as she waits for her father. “With those babies coming, you’re gonna double the mouths you gotta feed.”
Nelson seems very touched by this, but he tries to give it back, “You know I can’t accept no charity, Pike.”
“It ain’t charity, my friend. You can pay me back when next year’s harvest comes in,” says Wilfred as he pushes the envelope back. “I’m serious. We have enough feed for the winter. I’m about to prepare to go hunting for the winter’s meat. Go get what you need for those babies.”
Nelson’s eyes start to tear up, “Thank you, Wilfred. I didn’t know what I was gonna do when Fred told me the news. This should get us through the winter.”
Sarah inches herself towards the edge when her foot slips and she lands on her butt and begins to slide towards the cliff. She reaches out to try and grab a branch, but the branch wasn’t connected to anything, so she keeps sliding.
One of the other girls looks at Emma, “Are we just going to let her fall?”
Emma smirks, “She won’t fall. We’d never get that lucky.”
“You know what I mean!” she snaps back.
Sarah tries to kick at the ground to stop her momentum, but the ground is soft, and the dirt just parts at the intrusion of her shoes.
Suddenly, Emma finally realizes that Sarah is actually going to go over the cliff. Not wanting to be around when it happens, she bolts from the area and heads back down the side of the mountain.
Sarah begins to scream as her feet no longer have ground underneath them, and she keeps sliding towards the edge until she reaches the end and slips over the side. The only thing keeping her from falling to her death is a tree root sticking out of the side, which she grabs with both of her hands and holds on for dear life as she screams.
Eloise, still sitting on her father’s horse, suddenly reaches up and covers her ears, then her eyes pop open, “Sarah. Pa, I gotta go. I’ll be back!” Before Wilfred can say anything to her, Eloise kicks the horse into action and cuts across the dirt road into the pasture across the way, taking the shortest and most direct route towards the cliff.
The two girls that Emma left behind are talking amongst themselves as to whether to try and save Sarah or not. The sounds of the girl’s screams are loud. The root Sarah is clutching slides out of the earth a few inches, and Sarah just knows she’s going to die here today.
Eloise kicks hard at the horse, trying to make him go faster as she gets closer to the cliff. Looking up, she sees Sarah hanging on for dear life. “Sarah!” she yells.
The root begins to cut into Sarah’s hand, and the blood is making it slippery as Sarah’s hand slides down the length of the root until there’s no root left, and Sarah begins to plummet to the ground below.
The girl passes out.
Eloise suddenly sprouts translucent wings, launching herself from the horse, and flies towards Sarah, catching the girl in her arms, and gently lowers them both to the ground, where the wings suddenly disappear as quickly as they appeared.
“Sarah! Sarah!” screams Eloise at her sister. “Please wake up.”
Sarah’s eyes flutter open, “Am I alive?”
Eloise chokes back a sob, “You’re alive, you dummy. What in the world were you doing up there?”
“Just,” says Sarah, “Can you yell at me after my heart stops pounding? What happened? How did I survive?”
Eloise shakes her head and hugs her sister tightly to her, “Yes, but you’re gonna get an earful later!”
The two girls that Emma left up on the mountain come running over to them, “Are you okay, Sarah? We promise we didn’t know Emma was going to do that!”
Eloise turns an angry eye to the girls, “This was Emma Ratcliff?”
The two girls both nod their heads.
“I reckon you both better leave while I’m still being civil,” says Eloise as the two girls turn and run off. She pulls Sarah in close and hugs her, “Don’t you ever do something that stupid ever again, do you hear me?”
Sarah begins to sob, “I won’t. I promise I won’t.”
Deputy Trawls and Sheriff Anderson arrive at the crime scene just out of town, where Ethan Johnson’s body was found. They dismount their horses and walk towards the body, “How long ago?” asks Anderson.
Trawls shrugs, “Someone reported it just before I came to find you.”
Bobby kneels and rolls Johnson over onto his back, where he finds the four slash marks across his neck. “What kind of weapon did that?” he asks.
Trawls shrugs again, “We thought it might be an animal of some sort.” Trawls seems to be a bit squeamish next to the body, so he stays a few feet back.
Anderson reaches for his pocket knife and checks the depth of the slashes on the man’s throat. “These slices were made with some type of metal. Ain’t no wild animal can make clean cuts like this with their claws that I’m aware of. Anyone call the undertaker?”
Trawls winces each time Anderson lifts a piece of skin on Ethan’s neck, “No. Figured I’d wait to see what you thought.”
Sheriff Anderson finally stands up, “Well, I think the man is dead. I ain’t got no clue who killed him or what.”
“Still think it’s some type of wild animal,” says Trawls. “But I couldn’t begin to tell you what kind. Too small to be a bear. I haven’t heard of any wild cat sightings around here since we established the town. If it were a wolf or coyote, probably be bite marks.”
“On top of that, the bear would have made a much larger mess. This was clean. Meant to kill, not to eat. That’s why I would say it’s not an animal. Some man has made a weapon with four blades on it. Sliced right into his neck,” says the sheriff. “Ride back into town and fetch the wagon, and we’ll take the body to the undertaker.”
“Have you met Doc Banner yet?” asks Trawls.
Sheriff Anderson shakes his head, “The town doc? I’ve heard he’s a little peculiar, but I haven’t had any reason to see him directly. Why?”
“Peculiar is a good word for him. But, you might let him take a gander at Ethan. He might have some suggestions on what caused this more than you and me.”
“Well, we can’t have him looking if we don’t get a wagon, so go get the wagon, and I’ll make sure ol’ Ethan doesn’t become some wild animal’s dinner tonight.”
Trawls is happy to be out of there as he gets back on his horse and rides back towards town.
“You were a son of a bitch, Ethan, and I don’t know who you pissed off, but it was the wrong person this time,” Anderson tells the corpse.
Eloise returned Sarah home, explained everything to her father, leaving out the parrt where she few into the air. She’s not even sure how that happened. She got ready and then rushed off to work at the saloon. As she walks down the dusty road, she sees Emma on the other side of the road, walking to her family’s mercantile. She has a strong desire to give that girl a piece of her mind, but she hasn’t the time. Instead, she kicks a bucket that stumbles across the street right into Emma’s path.
Emma trips over it, squeals and spins around, and then falls right into a nearby water trough. She splashes about, trying to get out as passerbys chuckle and laugh at her distress.
“Maaaaaaaaa!” wails Emma.
Eloise grins and walks into the saloon.
The bartender immediately tells her, “The new boss wants to see you.”
Eloise waves, “Thank you!” She walks down the long hallway to the manager’s office and knocks.
“Come on in,” says the woman’s voice behind the door. Eloise opens the door and steps in, “You wanted to see me?”
“Depends on who you are, sweetie.”
Embarrassed not to have introduced herself, Eloise blushes and nods, “I’m Eloise Pike. I’m the singer.”
Sophie Anderson rises from behind her desk and walks over to check out Eloise Pike. She’s confident this little girl is trying to get grubby little hands in her family’s fortune. Since she last met her son, she’s done a little snooping herself around talk and asking a few questions. People will spill anything for a few dollars. Seems no one would have a bad word to say about Eloise Pike.
She motions to the table, “Have a seat, and let’s have a little chat, shall we?”
Eloise takes a seat at the table, and Sophie joins her, “I hear you are the best singer this side of the Mississippi River.”
Eloise blushes at the compliment, “Well, they do tend to enjoy singing. I can’t comment on how good I might be.”
Sophie brushes off Eloise’s modesty, “People can’t stop saying good things about you in this town. Though, I am sorry to hear that your pa lost his job over at the mill. That must be tough.”
Nodding, Eloise seems in good spirits about it all, “I’m sure we will manage. We always do.”
“Well, I can’t have our star singer starving to death,” Sophie says as she reaches into her purse and pulls out four ten-dollar bills and sets them on the table. “Here. Make sure your family eats, you understand?”
Eloise had never seen ten-dollar bills before. She honestly didn’t even know they existed. Everyone mostly uses coins for currency in Durango and occasionally a single dollar bill. It almost looked like it wasn’t real. She looks up at the woman, “I’m sorry, I can’t accept that.”
Sophie narrows her eyes, “What do you mean you can’t accept it?”
Eloise shakes her head, “It would take me years to pay off that much money. I only make twenty-five cents a week working as a singer.” Eloise was no scholar like her sister, but she knew that it would take many weeks of working to pay off four ten-dollar bills. She rises from her seat, “I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but I just can’t accept. I should get ready for my performance if you’ll excuse me.”
Eloise turns and leaves the room as Sophie watches her. “Perhaps I didn’t offer enough,” she says as she retrieves the money from the table and places it back into her purse.
Seated around the table of a diner, four men appear to have been waiting for a very long time. Finally, a woman walks in and takes a seat at the head of the table, “Looks like everyone is here.”
“I thought we were going to meet alone,” says one of the young men. “Why are there so many others around?”
Sable Banner smirks at the man, “Around this table are the men who have pursued me for the last year. I was thinking instead of wasting everyone’s time individually. I’d prefer to do this all at once.”
Another one pipes up, “So, you’re finally ready to choose your suitor?”
Sable looks around the table, “Perhaps. Perhaps not. While I appreciate your interest in becoming my husband, I can’t just settle for anyone.” She turns to the man directly to her left, “Joshua, while you have plenty of money, you are a drunkard, smoke those awful cigars, and I’ve seen you consorting with undesirable women. I’m afraid you just can’t appreciate the woman that I am.”
Joshua gets to his feet, “You’re saying I’m not good enough for you?”
Sable smiles at him sweetly, “I am.”
Angrily, Joshua storms out of the diner.
The man to her right chuckles under his breath, “As if that man ever thought he had a chance with you.”
Sable turns to him, “Let me see your hand, Parson.”
Parson lifts his hand. She takes it and looks at it, then turns it over and looks at the other side.
“You have the hands of an artist. I can see the years of stains on your skin,” she tells him. “Didn’t you tell me you always wanted to be an artist?”
Parson nods his head, “I always have.”
Sable tsks at him, “But you let your family pressure you to become a lawyer. If you cannot stand up for yourself to your family, how will you ever stand up for me? The man for me must have self-respect. I’m afraid it isn’t you either.”
The man next to Parson chimes in, “What about me?”
Sable chuckles, “You, Lee?” She stands up and walks around the table to meet Lee as he rises from his seat. “The only reason you ever pursued me was that you knew you couldn’t get me. You made promises to your parents that you would marry me, but now it’s time to tell them the truth.”
Lee starts to say something, but Sable has already turned her back on him and walks back toward her seat, so he sadly walks out of the restaurant.
This leaves one man she hasn’t addressed, and he’s looking somewhat cocky at the moment. He stands up and adjusts his suit with a big grin on his face. “Of course, it would be a doctor for a doctor. I know you plan to take over your father’s hospital once he steps down, and it’s only fair that you have a husband who is also a doctor to work side by side with.”
“Bo?” she starts to say when suddenly, a man falls from his chair, obviously seizing. Sable moves to intervene, but Bo holds her back, “We don’t have the proper medical supplies to treat him here.”
She brushes off his hand from her shoulder and kneels. She reaches for a napkin to place it between his teeth and then raises his hand to his chest. She puts her fingers on his wrist, “Heatbeat is normal. He’ll be okay, but call a wagon and let’s get him to my father’s hospital once his seizures die down.”
Someone rushes out of the hospital to get help as she gets to her feet. Bo grabs her hand, “Let’s go talk about our future.”
Sable pulls her hand away from him. “You’re just a coward,” she tells him. “That man could have died, and you would have just stood by and let him. If you think I would want that type of person working in my hospital, much less become my husband, you are wrong. You’re the worst of the worst. Get out of my sight,” she snaps at him.
Bo huffs and marches from the diner as well. Sable walks over and picks up her purse from her chair. Lee is still sitting there, and she blows him a kiss before she walks by him and leaves the diner as well.
Lee gets to his feet and starts to say something but then just sighs sadly.
Sheriff Anderson leads Doc Banner into the undertaker’s office, where a body lays on a table with a sheet covering it. Doc seems to be very relaxed until Anderson pulls back the cloth revealing the marks on Ethan’s neck, and Doc Banner’s eyes go wide, and he leans down close.
Doc moves around the table to look at the other side of his neck.
He remembers years ago when the demon saved him from death. He looks up at the sheriff, “I’ve seen these marks before.”