Chapter Ten – The Opening Skirmish

Billy walked into town next to Chisolm’s horse, taking a moment to adjust his gunbelt and resettle his holy blades. He wasn’t fully comfortable with letting the hunter make such a production of entering this town, where Blackstones were acting as security, both man and monster, but that was the plan Chisolm had felt best.

Granted, he likely thought he was keeping the one human he wasn’t fully familiar with safely out of harm’s way, which was kind of sweet. Stupid, but sweet.

Billy let his senses expand, keeping his wings fully in check as he sought out his fellow monsters. His little demon was still on the edge of town, keeping close to the shadows so he could “walk” directly to where he needed to be on Chisolm’s signal; he could clearly hear whatever or whomever he was focused on, and at the moment his Goody was listening for the hunter only. Faraday was strolling blatantly through the back alleys, the good people of Rose Creek paying no mind thanks to Fae influence and a bit of you don’t see me, move along. Vasquez, for his part, had flashed a toothy smile and almost literally vanished from view; Billy had been just able to sense him walking alongside Faraday for a few moments before splitting off.

What troubled the angel, frankly, was how easily Horne slipped into town. He was still more human than wendigo, but the change was far too close for comfort. Billy’d known angels—angels of death like himself, seraphim, even archangels—that had faced off with wendigo and just didn’t come back. The only sign they’d even existed was when they would find angel feathers and holy steel much later, the only things left after the wendigo had eaten the rest of them.

He had no intention of letting Horne touch him or his new companions.

The shaman in training had taken to the rooftops, and Billy caught sight of him from the corner of one eye moving to slip up on a rooftop sniper. Content that the shaman had things in hand, the angel shifted his focus back to the street just in time for the Blackstones to approach.

He took in the measure of the ones standing before him and Chisolm. There was a Fae with them, likely Summer court judging by his healthy weight and the fact that he was armed with a crossbow rather than a gun, and the hedge witch seemed to be in charge of the group; at least, he was the one telling the human sheriff what to do. Billy wasn’t impressed, and he made a mental note to take down the Fae first when the opportunity arose.

Chisolm, bless him, led on the Blackstones by cooperating happily with everything they asked, but even Billy could hear the delight in his voice when he remarked, “I’m more than willing to turn over my guns to you gentlemen, but I can’t say the same for my compadres behind you.”

Billy grinned a bit viciously as Goody literally melted out of the shadows in the alley just behind the Blackstones, rifle resting on his shoulder and eyes that shimmering black he made them when he concentrated on it. Faraday stepped just a bit louder, drawing attention to where he’d been strolling back and forth along the walkway for a good five minutes, and Vasquez appeared across the street from him between one breath and the next, almost shimmering into being. Horne, for his part, just walked idly out of the alley closest to Billy, eating something he’d brought along and that the angel hoped wasn’t human flesh.

That the Blackstones weren’t impressed was unsurprising, honestly. That they then tried to get the drop on them wasn’t either. The surprise came when Red Harvest did get the drop on one of the humans amongst them and the hedge witch tried to throw a stunning charm at Chisolm. The hunter drew his weapon and shot two Blackstones down even as he dodged the charm, and Billy took down the Fae and another human with two quick tosses of his knives.

He lost track of the hedge witch after that, focused on taking out weapons where he saw them and unmindful of the fact that his wings had flared in the shadows as he moved, that a few feathers had shifted into the real world and dropped to the ground in his wake. From off to one side, he could hear Faraday take out the three on the balcony of the hotel and Vasquez let out a roar as he fell upon two more Blackstones. The shaman on the roof let loose a volley of arrows, taking down a few more of their shared enemy, and in between the rest of the gunfire, Chisolm’s included, he could hear the quiet pop of his little demon’s revolver sending at least two of the Blackstones to visit with his father. Those two would leave no bodies behind; the curse on Goody’s weapons was such that a fatal shot sent them body and soul straight to hell, where they could then explain to Lucifer just why, exactly, his son had dispatched them so thoroughly.

In short order, the battle was done and there were twenty-six bodies lying in the street; there would have been twenty-eight except that his demon had covertly dealt with them. Billy glanced around as he tugged a blade free from the body he’d pinned to the saloon’s post, and he ignored the sound it made hitting the ground. He was far more interested in the look Chisolm shot his way, one that said they were going to be having a talk in short order.

The sound of a horse whinnying drew his gaze to the livery, where the damned hedge witch finally reappeared riding out of town. Goody was already raising his rifle, and Billy could see the hesitation. He knew what his demon was thinking: they needed to send Bogue a very clear message, and a frightened human wouldn’t show what they were really capable of doing here. Faraday moved to stand behind the demon, and Billy saw the moment when his beloved’s eyes shifted to hellfire white in the instant before he fired.

Faraday let out a low whistle and said something to Goody that was returned with a vicious grin. The angel walked over in time to hear the last of what they were saying:

“Trust me, mon ami: when the time comes, he’ll wish I’d just shot him dead. For now, he’s our message to Bogue.”

Faraday blinked for a moment, looking almost speculatively at Goody, almost searching for something, before he let out a laugh. “Hell, I almost look forward to whatever comes next,” he said. “Does anyone know how we did individually?”

They had been walking back to join the others as they talked, and Chisolm spotted them easily. He definitely intended to talk to Billy, but the angel noticed that the hunter’s gaze was locked on Goody at the moment.

Goody, whose eyes were still blazing white.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Chisolm said evenly, “but ain’t your eyes usually black?”

His little demon gave a sly grin. “Only when I want ‘em to be,” he replied mildly. “I think it’s time to stop playing for the moment, so our messenger knows just what’s what.”

“And what, exactly, will Bogue be dealing with?”

“Well,” Goody drawled, blinking and letting his eyes go back to blue once more, “in this case, an Antichrist and an angel of death, for starters.”

Chisolm’s gaze swept over to Billy, and he obliged by letting his wings flare into sight for a moment before folding them away again; if he left their shadow on the ground, that was his business.

“Huh,” was all Chisolm had to say, but the sound was pleasantly surprised. “How’d everyone do?” he continued after a second.

“I got six,” Faraday offered with a grin.

“Five,” Billy offered, looking around the town and catching faint hints of humans and halflings watching from the safety of the surrounding buildings.

“Two are explaining themselves to my daddy right about now,” Goody offered mildly, which caused Faraday to cackle as he finally realized that the demon was deathly serious when he said shit like that.

Horne chimed in to say he’d taken care of two as well, and Red noted in verbal monster-speech that he had shot down four of his own.

“How ‘bout you?” Faraday asked Vasquez.

“Six,” the ancient one replied, looking a bit put out that he hadn’t actually gotten to eat any of them; a couple appeared to have had large chunks taken out of them, but no one appeared chewed on.

Faraday’s grin shifted to something slightly devious, and Billy just knew the Fae was about to start playing. “I got seven,” he said instantly, counteracting his previous truthful statement and goading the ancient just a bit. He even helpfully held up seven fingers to show Vasquez, who snorted at him in wry amusement. “You wanna try to even it up, V?”

“Say when, guero,” the ancient one replied, amusement clear in his tone and in the flash of his very sharp teeth. From next to Billy, his little demon scoffed at the pair of them and then made a show of checking his rifle when both elder monsters shot a quick glance his way at the sound.

“Behave,” Billy chided; Goody only shot him a grin and a wink before turning a newly white-eyed glower to the man Chisolm was coaxing out from beneath the saloon’s porch. The angel turned his gaze that way as well, keeping his physical wings tucked away but letting them flare in his shadow, and he spotted both Faraday and Vasquez turning fierce looks towards the cowardly human as well.

Chisolm made his statement — if Bogue wanted Rose Creek, he was gonna have to come take it his own self or be branded a coward — and sent the former sheriff on his way. Although he did stop the man to add one more, somewhat cryptic addition: “Lincoln, Kansas. Like the president. Sam Chisolm. Say it,” only letting him leave when he repeated the new information back verbatim.

Billy glanced over to his demon to see if he knew what that meant, only to see those hellish eyes narrowed speculatively at the hunter. Seemed that Goody did understand the intent and was somewhat concerned for his hunter friend. The angel made a mental note to ask about that later and moved to drape an arm loosely around Goody’s waist; he was feeling oddly protective for some reason, and the contact soothed him, if not the demon as well.

Then he noticed the black blood dripping from Goody’s wrist and realized what had sparked his protective instincts. “Goody,” he whispered. “You’re bleeding, little demon.”

“Hmm?” Goody blinked at him absently before glancing down at his own wrist. “Oh. I didn’t notice.”

“I ain’t even gonna ask how someone don’t notice when he’s been shot,” Faraday chose that moment to chime in. “But maybe clean it up before the good people come on out.”

“Where is everyone?” Horne abruptly asked, either truly curious as to where the town folk had hidden themselves or annoyed with the monsters speaking amongst themselves.

“I think we killed ‘em all,” the Fae responded immediately, smart-ass grin on his face.

“Probably just wanna make sure the candle is lit ‘fore they blow out the match,” Goody mused, drawing an amused look from Faraday and a snort from Vasquez; Billy simply rolled his eyes at his demon’s poetic phrasing and lightly tugged him towards the hardware store to shove him into a chair and make him tend to his injury.

Right about then, the halflings rode into town, young Emma calling out for everyone to stop hiding and Teddy chiding them to come see what the monsters had done for them. The first one out was a boy of probably seven, who rushed up to one of the bodies and asked, loudly, if he was dead. Billy wondered if the boy had a bit of monster in him; he didn’t feel entirely human, but the woman who’d grabbed him to pull back by her side had not one hint of other to her.

Emma cleared her throat to draw her neighbors’ attention before speaking. “I have gathered these men and monsters to aid us,” she began firmly.

One of the men, one who felt completely human but who also felt oily to the angel, demanded, “Who asked you to go out and speak for us?”

“Seems I was the only one with the balls to do so,” the Fae halfling snipped in response; Billy felt his lips curl into a smirk while he heard Goody actually snicker in amusement. Emma stared down the man until he looked away, then continued, “These men are here to offer us assistance against Bogue. Mister Chisolm?”

Billy grinned again as the hunter stammered for a moment, obviously not expecting to be put on the spot. He fell into introducing himself, noting that his main purview had been Kansas, although he did have hunting contracts in several states, and noted that this had just been the beginning.

“This was… an opening skirmish,” Chisolm stated. “Bogue will be back, though, and we need to be ready. Now, we ain’t got a lot of time, but if we all work together then we can likely save your town.”

One woman, holding a baby in her arms, stepped forward. “That’s all well and good,” she said, handing the child to the older woman next to her, “but we don’t have the time. Bogue said he’d be back in three weeks, and that was eight days ago. There’s no way—”

“Seven days,” Chisolm interrupted.

“Seven—? What, no…”

Billy shot a look at the hunter, who seemed certain in his words. From the seat he’d pushed him into, his little demon watched Chisolm with a solemn expression, and from the corner of his eye, he could see Faraday watching closely as well.

“Three days to Sacramento to deliver the bad news,” the hunter began, “one day to gather up guns and monsters of his own, three days’ ride back. Seven days is what we’ve got.”

Everyone began speaking at once, most arguing that there was no time, that they couldn’t fight, a few claiming that they weren’t running but weren’t fighters.

“If you wanna leave,” Emma cut in, voice hard and making Billy feel oddly proud of the young woman, “leave. But only take what you brought with you.”

“I’m staying,” Teddy said firmly. “This is my home, and I ain’t leaving my orchard.”

“Everyone go get a good night’s rest,” Chisolm said to the stunned townsfolk. “It’ll probably be the last sleep you get in a while.”

With that, the hunter turned and headed towards the saloon; Billy pushed off the wall to follow, noting that Goody rose as well and fell into step next to him. Faraday and Vasquez joined them quickly, the shaman right behind them and Horne taking up the rear. The angel wrapped his arm securely around his demon again, feeling prickly with the proto-wendigo right behind him.

“I need a damned drink,” Faraday muttered under his breath. Billy silently agreed and hoped to heaven that there was something strong enough in this little town to get him hammered.

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