Sangre Sangria

by Toni

Ezra walked down the sidewalk of Four corners. He was quite pleased with himself. The last couple of days he had made a hefty sum of money gambling with some men who had come in on the stage. These men were quite well off and did not seem to mind loosing part of their purse to him. All in all he thought a good week so far. He would meet his fellow peacekeepers in the saloon partake in some good whiskey, not the watered down stuff, and play some friendly hands of cards making sure not to win all of their money. Ezra thought he heard his name called. He looked further down the street. Standing almost engulfed by the night he made out what he was sure was a woman. She had long dark hair and dark eyes though her complexion was pale. In comparison her lips were luscious and deep red. Ezra felt compelled to go to her. He had almost reached her when she turned and walked into the darkness of the alley. Ezra followed.
At the end of the alley the woman turned, she reached for Ezra inviting him into her embrace. Ezra felt her penetrating gaze holding him to her will. She wrapped her arms around him. He melted into her embrace. She kissed him on the mouth a warm inviting meeting then her lips traveled down to his throat. Ezra closed his eyes and trembled with pleasure. His will was no longer his. The woman looked into his eyes and smiled revealing two sharp pointed teeth. Ezra knew he should be afraid but he could not move. She pulled the edges of his shirt collar away and after a brief kiss bit into his throat opening the vein allowing her elixir of life to flow into her throat as she drank greedily until she was sated. Ezra moaned in both pleasure and pain. He could feel his life ebbing from him. He became dizzy from the loss of blood but remained standing till she had finished with him. She helped him gently fall to the ground. He lay on his back still unable to turn away from her. The woman bent down and kissed him on the forehead. "Thank you my lovely one, I will return to you another time," she whispered to him then backed away fading into the darkness.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra lay on the ground his mind reeling. Why was he here and on the ground. He felt weak but he couldn’t remember what had happened to him. His neck hurt and he could feel a wetness there. He reached up and touched his neck, the pain became worse. He brought his hand up to his eyes. Through the dim light he could make out the dark blood. How did that happen. He couldn’t continue to lay here. He knew it was important to get help for himself, he didn’t know how much blood he may have lost.

Ezra struggled to turn over and pull himself up from the ground. His head swam, he was very lightheaded but he had to get up. On shaky legs Ezra managed to stand up. He wasn’t far from the saloon. He walked to the front of the alley. He could hear the sounds of the saloon and the lights from it seemed so much brighter now. Clutching at any railing he came near, his destination came closer. He had only to cross the street and enter the doors. He stumbled once crossing the street managing to catch himself before he fell. No one was outside to see his distress. He went through the swinging doors fours steps into the room and he fell to his knees.

+ + + + + + +

Chris, Vin and Josiah were sitting at Ezra’s favorite table playing poker.

"Ya think we’ll be able to keep any of our money once Ezra gets here?" Josiah asked to no one in particular.

"I think we’ll manage to keep some, Ezra’s pretty flush right now, won some money from those men from the stagecoach the other day. Think it’ll just be a friendly game this time," Chris said. They all knew they would be taking a chance when playing with Ezra but it was still fun.

"I kinda thought he’d be here by now," Vin remarked.

Buck let out a whoop from the bar, he was keeping company with Miss Millie but they wouldn’t be staying in the bar much longer.

The doors swung open Ezra staggered in only to fall to the ground. Buck was the first to reach the pale gambler. He was on his knees, his head leaning over ready to fall the rest of the way. Buck reached for him before he could fall. Chris, Vin and Josiah had left their table and come to the aid of their friend by then. Ezra was assisted by Buck and helped into the nearest chair. His eyes were glazed.

"I’ll go get Nathan," Vin said as he exited the saloon.

Inez brought over a shot of whiskey. "Senor Chris," she said as she placed the glass on the table in front of Ezra. Chris nodded his head.

"Ezra take a drink of this," Chris said and picked up the glass and held it to Ezra’s lips. The strong drink brought the ailing man somewhat to his senses. He looked up beginning to actually see his surroundings and the worried expressions of those around him. Nathan entered with Vin just behind him. He got down on his knees in front of Ezra looking into his eyes. He could see Ezra was very pale. He was holding his hand to his neck where blood was still slowly flowing through his fingers.

Nathan pulled Ezra’s hand from his neck. The wound was discolored. There were two punctures like bites, the skin was torn downwards. As pale as Ezra was indicated he had lost a lot of blood but there was not much on his clothes. He might have a head injury but as he felt around Ezra’s head he could feel no bumps, cuts or bruises. Nathan held up his fingers. "How many fingers am I holding up?" he asked.

"Three," Ezra said. He was right.

"Ezra, you think you can tell us what happened?" Chris asked. What ever had happened he had to check it out. The safety of the town was at stake.

Ezra turned to Chris with a questioning look. "I can’t remember anything " he said and shook his head.

"Let’s get him to his room, I’ll clean him up and check him out there," Nathan said.

Josiah lifted Ezra by himself cradling Ezra to his chest like a child. Ezra would normally resist him but he was just too weak.

Ezra was taken to his room where his clothes were removed and he was placed under the covers. Nathan noticed no other injuries to Ezra’s person as his clothes were taken off just the nasty injury to his throat which he cleaned and covered. Nathan felt Ezra’s forehead, he felt cool to the touch. At least he had no fever. He needed to make sure he didn’t get an infection from the wound.

"Nathan he gonna be alright ? Chris asked as Nathan finished tending to Ezra.

"Don’t know for sure, I think so though. Give him a few days to get his strength back. I think he lost a lot of blood but I don’t know where it went to. There wasn’t much on his clothes. I think it’s the shock that’s affecting his memory. He’ll probably remember what happened to him when he wakes up tomorrow," Nathan explained, he would sit by the gambler while he rested for the rest of the night.

One by one the rest of the peacekeepers left Ezra‘s room, they knew he was in good hands.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan watched as the southerner, his friend tossed and turned in his bed mumbling words he could not understand. He was most certainly in the midst of a nightmare. Nathan wondered of he should wake Ezra up. His question was answered when the pale gambler cried out in pain and terror sitting up in bed. His eyes were wild.

"It‘s alright now Ezra, it was just a dream," Nathan said as he reached over to touch the other man on the shoulder.

Ezra started, he was still not quite awake, all he saw was the dark shape reaching for him. He drew in his breath, then realizing it was Nathan trying to comfort him, he exhaled and smiled weakly his eyelids were already trying to close. He didn’t want to fall back to sleep yet afraid the nightmare would return but he couldn’t fight the effects of morpheus.

Nathan saw Ezra settle back down and fall asleep. He shook his head wondering what in the world had happened to him.

+ + + + + + +

"Nathan how’s Ezra?" Chris asked as he saw the healer walk down the stairs from the gambler’s room. He and Buck had looked around the town once the sun had come up to see if they could find where anything had been amiss. They had not found anything unusual.

"He’s pretty quiet right now, had a hard night though, demons I guess " Nathan replied as he walked over to Chris’ table. Inez brought over an empty cup and a pot of coffee. She filled Nathan’s cup then refilled Chris’ cup. "Breakfast?" she asked. Nathan shook his head yes, she had already planned on bringing Chris’ breakfast.

"has he remembered yet what happened last night?"

"Nope but he was still asleep when I left."

Chris’ attention was brought to the stairs where Ezra was gingerly making his way down. He got up from his chair and helped guide Ezra the rest of the way to their table.

Ezra didn’t look his best. He had dark circles under his eyes, his skin was still very pale.

"Mornin'," was all Chris said.

"Morning," Ezra mumbled and smiled weakly.

Chris got up and brought an empty cup and the coffee pot to the table. He poured a cup for the gambler. Ezra brought the cup shakily to his lips and slowly drank.

"Senor Standish, would you like some breakfast?" Inez asked as she brought Chris and Nathan’s breakfast.

Ezra smiled. "Maybe just some toast my dear." His stomach needed some settling.

"Ezra you remember yet what happened to you last night?" Chris asked.

Ezra closed his eyes as if to draw forth the memory then shook his head. "Sorry Mr. Larabee, I remember walking down the street to join you all, I thought I heard someone call my name, then I came to laying on the ground."

"Nathan, I thought you said it was probably an animal," Chris said looking at Nathan.

"No I said the wounds on his throat looked like an animal bite, I sure don’t know what kind though," he replied shaking his head.

"Don’t worry yourselves gentlemen, I am feeling much better already. I am sure it was an isolated incident. One of which I have already forgotten," Ezra laughed at his joke. Chris just smiled a small smile.

+ + + + + + +

A couple of days later and Ezra was beginning to feel himself again. Besides from the bandage around his neck he was ready to resume his nightly gambling activities. A stage coach was due in this afternoon and he was going to make it a point to inquire as to its occupants. He still didn’t know what had happened to him that night, but in his dreams he kept seeing a woman seducing him. Buck had wet dreams about women he had nightmares. Nathan continued to fuss over him and thought he should be keeping off his feet more. He tried to explain to the healer he was off his feet every night while playing cards. This didn’t seem to appease Nathan.

Later on that evening Ezra was back at his table playing poker with a couple salesmen from the stage. The game was interesting but neither men were a match for Ezra’s expertise. He had become bored and tired, he really didn’t know which made him leave the game early and retire for the evening. At least Nathan would be happy.

Ezra entered his room. He pulled off his cravat in front of the mirror exposing the bandage still at his throat. The wound itched but otherwise didn’t bother him much. He removed his coat and vest hanging each of them up so they wouldn’t wrinkle. After all as his mother always told him, appearances are everything.

The room began to darken, he looked at his lamp it was the same as it had been. Gliding out from the now darkened corner of the room the woman appeared. He remembered her from the night before. He was afraid but the allure of the woman’s gaze drew him to her. She pushed him into his rocking chair standing over him. She drew her hand over his hair causing his head to fall back and slightly to the side. Pulling the bandage away from his throat she watched as the vein pulsated in his neck. She pulled her eyes away from his throat and gazed into his emerald green eyes. He was fixated on her wanting her embrace at the same time repelled by it. She softly kissed each eye then let her mouth travel down to his. She would like to continue the caress but the urge for blood would not let her linger. She tipped his head further to the side causing the vein to pulse and bit into his throat greedily lapping at any blood which escaped down. She eventually could feel the heart slow its beats. She stopped, it was not yet his time. "Not yet mi amore," she said breathlessly and gently kissed his forehead. She glided back into the darkness.

Ezra rocked in his chair, he was too weak to move he thought at any moment his heart would stop but he remembered the words spoken to him, " Not yet mi amore." Shivering he closed his eyes and let himself be engulfed by the night.

+ + + + + + +

Chris was worried. It was almost eleven and Ezra had not come down yet even for Ezra that was late. He had originally assigned Ezra to ride with Vin to the next town with a prisoner but when Ezra had not come down earlier when it was time to leave he had decided not to take issue with it. He had asked JD to go with Vin but now he thought he should check on the gambler.

Josiah noticed Chris’ concern. Any other time he would have hauled the gambler out of his bed when he had not shown but Chris had not said anything. He watched as Chris made his way to the saloon.

"Looks like you got something in mind," Josiah said as he began walking next to Larabee.

"Getting kind of late thought I’d check on Ezra," Chris replied.

"Mind if I go with you?" Josiah asked planning on going no matter what Chris said.

Chris turned to the preacher and shrugged."Suit yourself."

The two made their way up the steps leading to the second floor and to Ezra’s room. Josiah reached up first to knock on the door not sure just what Chris’ intentions were going to be. There was no answer. Josiah knocked again. "Ezra you in there?" there was no reply. Chris turned the doorknob, it was not locked. He opened the door. The bed had not been slept in. Ezra was in his rocker facing the window. The chair still rocked.

"Ezra ?" Chris called out.

Ezra didn’t answer.

Josiah walked up to the chair and touched its’ back causing it to stop rocking. Ezra’s head rolled forward resting on his chest. Josiah reached for Ezra it looked as if he might fall forward. Chris walked around to the front of the chair he pulled up Ezra’s head to see his face. He was as white as a sheet. The wound at his throat had been ripped opened further. Chris thought he was dead but could see as Ezra’s chest faintly rose. The collar to Ezra’s shirt was bloodied.

Chris looked up at Josiah. "Take care of him. I’ll go for Nathan."

Josiah picked up Ezra’s limp form and took him to his bed. He cleaned around Ezra’s throat wound. There was something familiar about it. What he was remembering was more off a myth or legend. After he made sure Ezra was alright he would check one of his books.

+ + + + + + +

Chris paced like an animal in a cage. "Nathan what in hell is attacking him, this time it was in his own room." He wasn’t mad at the healer he was just worried and had to take it out on someone. Nathan just happened to be the one closest.

"Honestly Chris I’ve never seen anything like it, it still seems like some kind of animal. But no animal would go in someone’s room to attack him."

Josiah entered the room, he had a book in his hands. He had an answer but he didn’t know how to broach the subject, he knew no one would believe him.

"Ezra still doesn’t know what’s been attacking him?" Chris asked.

"No, but if he looses anymore blood he’ll die, I’m surprised he’s alive now after all he’s lost."

"I want someone with him at all times. Whatever getting at him will have to get through me."

"Us," Buck said as he walked into the room. "Vin’s with him now," he answered at Chris’ questioning look.

Josiah had remained silent. "Brothers, I have an idea as to the culprit," he said. The rest turned towards him. When he didn’t speak up immediately Chris spoke up. "Well Josiah?"

Josiah cleared his throat he opened up the book he had been holding, he had bookmarked one page.

"It only rises in the night seeking its’ prey, feasting on the blood of its’ victim. Its’ elongated fangs biting into the tender flesh of the victims’ throat. Releasing it only when its thirst had been sated. "He closed the book and looked at the other men.

Nathan was the first to speak up. "Well that sounds like the attack but what kind of animal is it?"

"It’s not an animal," Josiah replied.

Chris paced the room. "Josiah, you’re starting to piss me off, whats’ that book you read from?" he asked impatiently.

"Dracula," Josiah admitted. "Ezra gave it to me awhile back to read.

"Wait a minute, I’ve heard of it, it’s about a creature called a vampire. A dead man that drinks the blood of the living to stay alive. That’s not real," Buck said. Ezra had read parts of the book to him when he got it.

"Let me get this straight, we’re talking about a vampire?" Chris shook his head in disgust. "Ezra’s fighting for his life and you’re talking fairy tales."

"I know it’s hard to believe, every culture has a legend of the vampire, they may call it something different but it happens in every culture," Josiah tried to explain he knew it sounded crazy but it answered a lot of what had occurred.

"Chris, I know this is just a piece of fiction but I’ve read articles that aren’t fiction. Even the Indians have their vampires. At least accept the option that it’s not an animal. Maybe it’s a crazy person, someone who thinks they need the blood to survive."

"Highly doubtful," Chris said in disgust.

"What, whoever it is that’s doing this we still need to protect Ezra. I say we just do a little extra to insure his safety," Josiah persisted.

"Like what?" Nathan asked. He couldn’t believe Josiah of all people would suggest a vampire. Being Josiah it made him consider the impossibility all the more.

"We put up garlic around Ezra’s room, vampires don’t like the smell."

"Neither do the rest of us," Buck interjected.

"I’ll hang a cross on the wall by the bed, they detest the cross and it wouldn’t hurt to get a little help from the man upstairs. It will only come out at night so we can rest in the day time it doesn’t like the light."

"Sounds like he and Ezra have something in common," Buck continued. He couldn’t believe Josiah, a preacher, was spouting such nonsense.

"And the only way to kill a vampire is a stake through the heart and to make sure it stays dead you cut off his head….and stuff garlic in its’ mouth."

"Oh, and is that all there is to it. My god Josiah you have to be kidding." Chris said. He’d about had enough.

"So it’s strange. We shoot people defending ourselves and others. We even hang them. The French made something called a guillotine that cut off their heads. What’s the difference."

Chris stalked out of the room. He didn’t believe in vampires. He would stop whoever or whatever was attacking Ezra but he wasn’t going to be a party to the nonsense Josiah was spouting.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was in his bed propped up with some pillows a shawl was around his shoulders, the blanket pulled up to his waist. He didn’t think he had an ounce of energy in him. Everything was sapped from him. He didn’t even have the strength to shuffle his ever present cards. He didn’t feel like sleeping. Actually he didn’t want to sleep. He kept having dreams or nightmares according to how far the dream progressed. He dreamed about a woman, she was extremely beautiful but there was something about those eyes. They were cold, very cold. She would glide towards him. He wanted to kiss her full, inviting lips. They would embrace then he would feel the pain. He would feel weak as though his life were draining from him. Then everything would be awash in red, blood red and he would wake up terrified and sweating.

He was waiting for Vin to return. He had asked him for some hot tea. His throat hurt both on the outside and inside. He hadn’t looked at his neck since the second attack. He knew it was bruised and cut. He didn’t even like to touch the wound. The sun was beginning to set he was becoming afraid he wished Vin would return soon. He didn’t know why but he didn’t want to be left alone after the sun went down. The lamp had not been lit yet and then sun was almost gone. His heart was racing.

The door began to open he felt trepidation looking back and forth between the setting sun and the slowly turning doorknob. He clutched the blanket knowing he would not be able to defend himself. The door opened.

"Hi Ezra glad your awake." Josiah entered the room. "Thought you might like some company. "He had seen the fear in Ezra’s eyes. He certainly couldn’t blame him.

Ezra released the breath he had been holding. He had never been so happy to see someone in his entire life. "I was expecting Vin, he went to get some tea for me and hadn’t returned yet." Ezra wanted things to appear normal. He hated being an invalid.

"Ya, I thought Vin was supposed to be with you. Don’t worry I plan to stay here the rest of the night. Would you like me to read to you or would you like to play some cards?" Josiah asked.

"Josiah, do you see your birds around me?" Ezra asked. "I did in my dream." He was afraid.

"Ezra, the birds only come for me. The birds don’t want you, don’t you worry about it." Josiah felt so sorry for the scared gambler. He didn’t care if the rest of the peacekeepers were going to help him or not, he was not going to let anything else get to Ezra. He remembered when he had dreamed of the black birds. He thought he was going to die at Indian village. Poor Ezra, he had remembered them.

When Vin finally returned with Ezra’s tea he was startled to find Josiah sitting with Ezra. Josiah glared at Vin in disapproval.

"Sorry I had to help Mrs. Potter with something," Vin explained he hadn’t meant to be gone as long as he was.

"If you can make sure you’re going to be here I have to get a few things," Josiah said sarcastically. He didn’t mean to sound so harsh, Vin was as concerned as the rest of them, but the gambler had to come first right now.

"I won’t budge till you come back," Vin promised.

"While I greatly appreciate your all company you make everything seem so dire," Ezra drawled.

"Well Ezra I may not know what’s happening to you I’m certainly going to make sure you don’t come to any harm. Place would be too boring without you," Josiah said with a smile he did not feel.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah gathered what he thought was necessary to protect Ezra from the vampire. He wished he had put them all up before it had gotten dark. He knew Vin was there but the tracker didn’t know what he was up against. He looked up and saw the moon was full. Somehow he felt more uneasy seeing the bright orb.

Josiah entered Ezra’s room. The gambler slept uneasily. Vin sat in the corner in the rocking chair facing Ezra. His mare’s leg lay across his lap.

"How’s he doing?" Josiah inquired.

"He’s been tossing and turning, I think he got more rest when he was awake. I’ve half a mind to wake him up," Vin answered.

Josiah began pulling assorted items out of his bag.

"What in the sam hill are those?" Vin asked picking up the wreath of garlic.

"Chris or Buck didn’t tell you who I thought had attacked Ezra?" Josiah asked as he began rubbing the garlic around the door and window.

"Nope, been up here most of the time. God Josiah those smell terrible. I can’t stand them. Ezra’s surely not gonna put up with them."

"Well he’s going to have to for awhile, here hang this cross on that nail there by Ezra’s bed," Josiah instructed.

"Okay, but at least let me open up that window to get some fresh air in here."

"No, leave it closed," Josiah said forcefully.

"Josiah, what exactly do you think got to Ezra here," Vin said as he sat back down in the chair and looked up at Josiah who had finished hanging the strand of garlic across Ezra’s chest.

Josiah looked at Vin, he decided to be blunt. "It was a vampire, a creature that sucks the blood of the living."

Vin shook his head in acceptance but didn’t say anything. It was not what Josiah had expected. When Vin saw the quizzical look on Josiah’s face he explained.

"I lived with the Indians for quite a long time. They have their own legends, legends the white man wouldn’t accept as real. I’ve heard a bit about your vampire and I guess it makes as much sense as any. I’d of liked to have seen the look on Chris’ face when you told him that though," Vin said and cocked his head and smiled.

Josiah laughed. "You did miss something." It felt good to have someone believe his impossible explanation. He felt a weight lift from his shoulders.

"Okay what you got planned," Vin asked.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra awoke the next morning. The first thing he noticed was the stench. He wrinkled his nose then noticed there was a whole wreath of garlic laying across his chest. He went to brush it off when Josiah reached across him and took it off.

"I guess we can take it off for now," he said.

Ezra’s stomach was turning by now. The smell in his room reeked.

"Mr. Sanchez, please open the window, I think I’m going to be sick," Ezra said as his face turned a shade of green.

Josiah placed Ezra’s empty water basin next to him in case he did throw up and opened the window. Now that it was daylight he figured Ezra would be safe for awhile. Ezra waited to see of the nausea would pass, grateful when it did subside.

Once the matter of his stomach was settled Ezra glanced around and notice the cross, which most assuredly he knew he hadn’t put up and the garlic placed around the entrances to his room. "Josiah, would you care to explain to me what is going on here?" he asked as he waved his arm around his room indicating the cross and the garlic strands.

"They are for your protection," Josiah explained.

"Protection from what?"

"The thing that attacked you."

"And this thing doesn’t like crosses or garlic." As soon as he said it realization came to Ezra what Josiah was talking about. He looked shocked. "You can’t be serious, I would of thought this was something JD would have come up with. NO, No it’s my fault I let you read that book," Ezra said shaking his head. He made to get out of the bed but was stopped by Josiah.

"Whatever you need I’ll get it for you. Nathan said you’ve lost way too much blood and need to stay in bed for a few more days."

"I assure you, I am fine," Ezra said and got up from the bed only to find his legs buckling out from under him.

"Uh huh, fine," Josiah said and laughed. When he made no move to help him up Ezra glared across at him. "Are you going to help me or not?"

Josiah reached for Ezra and lifted him back into the bed. It was apparent the gambler was as weak as a kitten for Josiah did most of the work.

"Well what would you like for breakfast?" Josiah asked.


"Nope, you need more than that. You gotta get your strength back , I’d say steak, eggs, biscuits and coffee."

"You know I don’t eat that much in the morning."

"Well it looks like todays going to be the exception ‘

Josiah was looking out the window when he saw JD passing below him. "JD!" Josiah called out. JD looked up and saw Josiah. "I need you to fetch Ezra some breakfast."

"Sure, what do you want?"

"Steak, eggs, biscuits and coffee," Josiah called down.

"Sure thing!" JD yelled back up.

Chris was walking out of the telegraph office when he heard the commotion. He walked over to JD and looked up.

" I think you’re yelling loud enough for everyone in town to hear."

"Sorry had to get JD’s attention, wasn’t gonna leave Ezra unattended."

"He up?"


"Be right up."

"Anything for you Chris?" JD asked.

"No thanks JD already ate, thanks for asking," Chris replied.

JD made his way to the restaurant with the breakfast order as Chris went up to see Ezra. As he entered the gambler’s room his saw Ezra propped up in his bed with a grimace on his face.

"What wrong with him?" he asked.

"You know Ezra, don’t like to be an invalid, tried to get up, learned his lesson. Didn’t ya Ezra," Josiah said.

"How ya feel Ezra," Chris asked him.

"Besides some extremities that don’t seem to want to function right now, just fine," Ezra said sarcastically.

"Just as long as you’re alright," Chris said sympathetically.

Chris saw the cross and garlic around the room, he looked at the preacher and frowned.

"Ezra had an uneventful rest last night," Josiah said trying to vindicate his unusual treatment.

"This place smells terrible." Chris grimaced as he walked to the window to get a breath of fresh air.

"I suppose Mr. Sanchez told you what he thought attacked me," Ezra said with a smirk. He knew Chris Larabee would certainly not put up with the explanation.

"Anything coming back to you yet?" Chris asked ignoring Ezra’s comment.

"Unfortunately not, but I most assuredly can tell you it was not some demon in the night. There has got to be some other explanation," Ezra replied not buying into any of the preachers’ madness.

"Uh huh," Chris mumbled.

JD entered balancing a large tray with the breakfast for Ezra and Josiah." Buck’s coming up with the coffee, didn’t think I could balance that too," JD said with a hurt expression. A crash was heard coming from the other side of the door with the voice of Buck swearing profusely.

"I think I’ll ask Inez to come up with more coffee," Chris said and left stepping over Buck who had managed to spill the coffee all over the hallway but luckily not on himself.

"Buck I could’ve done better putting it on the tray," JD exclaimed and laughed at the downed man who continued to sputter obscenities under his breath.

"Heh, I tripped on the rug. Okay?" Buck said embarrassed.

"Whatever you say Buck," JD said as he gracefully placed the tray of food on the table next to the bed.

"Well done Mr. Dunne," Ezra said with approval.

Josiah clapped and JD bowed and looked back at Buck with a grin. Buck growled back.

He turned to Ezra. "Well Ezra how ya feeling today?" he inquired.

"I will be right as rain as soon as my coffee arrives, first meal of the day is always most important you know," Ezra replied as he steadied his food tray on his legs and Josiah helped him tuck his napkin around his neck. He really didn’t feel like eating but knew he wouldn’t get out of it and would do the best he could.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had decided he would be the next to stay the night with Ezra and he damned well was not going to allow those insufferable garlic flowers to be in the room all night. He believed in what a bullet would kill not a boogieman.

+ + + + + + +

The pale creature watched longingly at her victims’ window. She had not been allowed the previous night to feed on him. She could have fed on another but longed for the sweet taste of this one. One more feeding and she could have him as her own to keep forever. She saw the accursed flowers being removed from the window. Someone watched over him but that would not stop her from feasting. This night she would take the remaining life force from this man.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee sat in the rocker next to Ezra’s bed. He watched as the gambler twisted and turned in his bed, he was having a fitful night. The cross still hung over Ezra’s bed. Larabee could see no harm in that but the garlic he had removed though the smell of the flowers still seem to permeate the room. Nathan had said Ezra had had a close call, he couldn’t loose any more blood. The gambler was still as weak as a kitten. Chris had to laugh to himself when he thought of the sight of Ezra on the floor earlier and Josiah standing over him smirking. Josiah was not going to molly coddle Ezra. Chris reached for his cup of coffee. He knew it was going to be a long night. He knew he wouldn’t sleep on the job but he had made sure Vin had made the coffee. You could cut the trackers coffee with a knife.

Chris looked at the sleeping gambler. When had he taken the man into the fold. He knew in one way it was when the man had returned after deserting them. The man had made a mistake but had come back to help save their lives. Chris knew he deserved a second chance. Ezra tried to make everyone think he was self serving but there was a grain of service in everything he did. Ezra loved to rub Chris the wrong way but that kept Chris on his toes. He hoped Ezra had come to realize that he now had family in this town.

Chris stood up sipping from his coffee cup and walked over to the window. A gentle breeze blew in. The full moon illuminated the main street. He saw movement at the edge of the shadows. A woman, a stranger stepped out of the shadows. His gaze was drawn to her. She had long black flowing hair and dark piercing eyes, eyes which captured his gaze. He could not break away from her stare. The cup of coffee dropped from his hand splashed the hot liquid onto the floor. He was being willed out onto that street to that woman. Chris turned and began slowly walking across the room and out the door. He went down the back steps down to the street. The woman was still there, beckoning with her gaze.

+ + + + + + +

The night creature watched as the darkly dressed peacekeeper was drawn to her. She was not interested in him at least not on this night. Tonight was for her pretty one, her best beloved. She had no reason to hurt the dark one he had only kept her from the one she must fill on. As the man walked toward her she reached out her hand to him. Laying her hand on his arm she led him to a bench forcing him to sit. Placing her hand over his eyes she closed them and willed him to sleep. The creature turned. Now was the time of turn for her best beloved.

+ + + + + + +

The creature entered Ezra’s room. She saw him laying asleep in his bed. He had been asleep but she willed him to awaken. She saw his piercing green eyes open.

"Mi, amore after tonight you will only live in the dark. You will forever be by my side," she said to him.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra could feel himself being called to awaken. It was in his head, the voice, it was the same voice he had heard before. It was beckoning to him join me, join me. He opened his eyes. The beautiful woman stood over him caressing his face. Ezra felt a terrible fear but also a consuming desire for her. He heard her calling him but he knew he was too weak to move.

"Take my hand mi, amore I will give you the strength to leave with me," the creature directed.

With a shaking hand Ezra managed to grasp the woman’s arm. He pulled his arm back and gasped the woman was icy cold. His arm struck the wall, the cross which had been hung there fell hitting her arm then landing on his chest. The creature screamed out in rage and fear the cross had burned her skin. Her countenance changed from that of the beautiful woman to become bestial. Ezra shrank back at what he saw before him. The cross fell to the bed.

The night creature saw the cross fall to the bed she would still have what she came for. It grabbed Ezra.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington was leaving Millie’s room for his own. He turned and saw Chris Larabee sitting on a bench apparently asleep. This was certainly an unusual occurrence for his friend especially when he thought he remembered Chris telling him he was staying with Ezra tonight. Buck walked quietly up to his friend.

"Hey, Chris!" he yelled.

Chris jerked his head up as his body fell to the floor. Buck laughed he had gotten Chris good. Pay back was hell though.

"What the..," Chris managed.

"What’s going on Chris?" Buck asked. Chris still didn’t seem too clear headed.

Chris looked up noticing where he was and where he wasn’t.

"heh Chris thought you were with Ezra tonight. Josiah’s gonna be real mad if he hears you left him alone," Buck joked still unaware of the severity of the situation.

"Come on Buck I think I’m gonna need your help," Chris said as he walked determinedly towards Ezra’s room.

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Ezra tried to pull away from the creature. He had no strength and its’ grip was like a vise. He knew this was the same creature that had attacked him prior for the memory of his attacks had returned. He was no longer under the hypnotic spell of his attacker.

The creature began to drag him to the door. It burst open. Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington stood in its way. The creature let go of the gambler. Using one arm it hit Buck knocking across the hallway. Larabee using his fist punched at its face. It growled and grabbed at his throat intending to rip it out. A shot rang out. JD had heard the commotion and had run to help. The bullet hit the creature but did not faze it. It threw Chris into JD. The creature turned and grabbed Ezra’s arm dragging him away while the others tried to pull themselves to their feet.

The creature continued to drag the bedraggled gambler down the stairs no longer caring if it was causing injury. It screamed into the night in rage.

Josiah and Vin stood at the end of the street. Vin raised his mares leg and shot at the creature still not believing it would have no effect.

Josiah held up his cross. The creature screamed . It hovered over Ezra not wanting to relinquish its victim. The gambler lay unmoving, he had hit his head hard on the stairs while being dragged down them and mercifully had escaped into unconsciousness.

Chris, JD, and Buck circled the creature from the other side with their guns drawn.

The creature circled Ezra, snarling at the encroaching peacekeepers.

Buck saw Ezra was not moving and feared for his life. When the creature had turned towards Vin he rushed at it managing to wrap his arms around its torso. The creature effortlessly broke free from Bucks’ hold and raked its nails along his chest knocking him to the ground.

Nathan had stood to the side close enough to try and pull Ezra away as the opportunity arose. He pulled one of the knives from its sheath and threw it at the creature. The creature screamed in pain but then pulled the knife from its chest and flung it back at the healer just managing to miss him. Chris fired his gun aiming for its head.

"Chris the guns no use!" Josiah called out frantically. "Vin! In the church... there’s a bag in the first pew. Run get it, quick!" he told the tracker.

The tracker sprinted to the church and found the bag. In it were three stakes the preacher had honed to a severe point. He grabbed the bag and brought it back to the street.

"Chris, catch!" he said as he threw one of the stakes to the gunman. He threw another to Nathan. The creature was becoming more agitated. It feared the stake.

The cock began to crow. The creature looked up just seeing the beginnings of day. It let go of Ezra and ran towards Chris and JD. It would not win its’ prey this night but it must get away to survive. The creature knocked down JD. It was becoming weakened and afraid.

Josiah ran to it with his cross raised. Buck pushed it to the ground. It snapped its’ jaws still fighting.

"Chris the stake, ram it in its heart!" Josiah yelled.

Even after what he had seen Chris hesitated. The creature managed to knock Josiah off of it and tried to rise. Chris pushed it back down and without hesitation this time pushed the stake into its heart. The creature screamed in rage and still fought for survival. Chris pushed the stake further in, with all his strength he shoved it in until the tip came through and touched the ground on the other side.

The creature screamed in agony and despair at its final demise. It stopped moving. The sun had begun to rise as its rays hit the creature its body began to disintegrate. After many years of unholy existence the body began to crumble to be blown away by the winds. All that was left laying in the sand was a simple garnet stone on a chain the creature had worn around its neck.

Chris dropped to the ground weak in the knees still unable to accept what had happened. He was salt of the earth these things just didn’t happen, but it did. He looked over at Buck. His friend sat nearby his mouth was open unbelieving except for the slashes on his chest. Chris didn’t think they were too bad the blood had already stopped flowing from them. He looked up. Nathan was tending to Ezra. The gambler was regaining consciousness.

"Nathan how’s he doing?" he asked.

"He’s got a concussion and a lot more bruises but asides from that no worse for wear," the healer replied.

"That’s what you say," Ezra managed. He certainly did feel a lot worse. "What happened to her, it?" he asked looking around and not seeing anything. "Is it gone?"

"Dead," Vin replied "permanently," he added when he saw the concern on Ezra’s face.

"Josiah can you give me a hand here with Ezra?" Nathan asked.

Josiah walked up ready to lend a hand.

"I can do it myself," Ezra groused trying to rise.

"Well ‘ Josiah asked.

"Give me a minute," Ezra said trying to clear his head which had decided to start spinning.

Josiah grabbed Ezra up and flung him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

"Mr. Sanchez please a little decorum," Ezra pleaded.

"Ain’t got all day," Josiah said and laughed as he proceeded to take him back to his room.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah dumped the gambler on his bed listening to him gripe all the way up. Nathan followed him into the room, He checked over the gambler finding a few bruised ribs. Ezra had been in a dangerous situation the healer knew the gambler could easily had died. He realized Ezra had become important to him also, he thought that was strange but maybe he decided he had started to like the irritating man.

Chris entered the room. "How is he Nathan?"

"He’ll be fine with rest," Nathan replied.

Chris pulled the necklace from his pocket. He looked at it then gave it over to Ezra. Ezra looked up at Chris with a questioning look in his eyes.

"It came from that thing. I think it should go to you. You earned it," Chris explained.

Ezra looked at the stone, trepidation ran through him, he wasn’t sure if he really wanted it. He shrugged "Thank you Mr. Larabee," he said. He would lock up the necklace.

+ + + + + + +

Josiah walked down the street, he saw Chris sitting on a bench emersed in a book. He sat down next to him.

"Whatcha reading?" the preacher asked.

"Dracula," Chris mumbled.

"Sorry didn’t quite hear that."

"Dracula," Chris spoke out this time and glared at the preacher just daring to say anything.

"Good book," Josiah said with a nod.

The End?

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