Currently reading: Novella: By The Fire (The Stranger) – Chapter 7
Novella: By The Fire (The Stranger) – Chapter 7
Posted on 19th November, 2017 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
The journey of The Stranger continues…
Jayne and James are under-threat from a danger looming in the darkness. Can The Stranger get there in time to save them? Find out in this latest chapter…
By The Fire (a tall tale of Stranger times): Chapter 7
Opening the door, he stepped into the lobby of the Phoenix. The lengths of hardwood strained as he looked into the dining area. The room was dark, no movement. Just the faint glow of the white table cloths standing out.
Passing the reception desk he heard feet scuffling on the floor above, accompanied by the sound of a thud – as if something heavy had been dropped. Grabbing the bannister, the stranger cleared the steps three at a time, without making a sound. The hard soles of his boots met with the wooden steps perfectly, four strides and he was at the top.
A man stepped from room seven, his attempt to hide in the black of night betrayed by the moonlight shining through the windows into the darkened corridor. The man looked to his left sharply, to see nothing but the empty corridor. As he looked, the stranger had already stepped back against the wall of the landing. He waited a few seconds before looking around the corner. The man had made his way to the door of room eight, a sack containing the belongings of room seven’s occupant held in one hand, a long-sharp toothpick in the other, the blade home to fresh blood – whoever was in room seven was either badly injured or worse.
The snoozer entered room eight slowly; the door creaking as he went. The stranger – back toward the wall – made his way down the corridor. He looked through the open door of room seven, on the floor the body of a woman lay still, her white gown a deep red across the abdomen and chest. The hotel thief stepped back out into the corridor, room eight was empty. Upon stepping out the man had turned to face the last door, the door to room nine.
As he reached for the handle, the stranger took grip of his shirt and threw him against the wall. Stunned, the man dropped the sack and lunged blindly with his knife hand, the blade slashed against the stranger’s face; opening his cheek, barely missing his eye.
Pain shot through him as warmth flowed down his chin and dripped onto his shirt. The snoozer lunged once more, the blade slicing across his abdomen as the blade slashed from left to right. The thief’s return attempt was hopeless as the stranger – fighting through the pain – brought his knee up to meet his forearm. The stranger leapt back into the doorway of room eight – as the man slashed once more – before throwing his body against the thief, forcing him in to the corridor window. Shards of glass fell to the floor as the thief staggered forward. The stranger threw himself foot first into his chest, sending the man crashing through the window to the ground outside.
He closed his eyes; steadying himself with his palm against the wall. He turned towards movement. James had opened the door, clearing the way for his sister – who was on her knees behind the bed, arms stretched out holding the service revolver the stranger had come to acquire some time ago now. She was shaking, her skin pale with fright.
The sharp stinging doubled as he opened his mouth to talk. “No need for the gun anymore Jayne.” He gestured with his hand for her to relax the weapon.
She let it go, fingers spread as if disgusted having held it.
The stranger entered the room, taking the Smith & Wesson and placing it back in his coat pocket, before folding the coat back over the arm of the chair.
The sound of a door slamming shut jarred him from sleep. He touched at his face as his eyes slowly came in to focus on the wooden slats above, the tips of his fingers brushed across week-old facial hair; matted together with blood – some of it still tacky to the touch. His cheekbone swollen, sore, making it difficult to open his right eye fully. As he strained to sit up, his swollen eye seeped. “God dammit.” He muttered, wiping the back of his wrist under it.
The door behind him opened, bringing with it the sound of the morning bustle, as well as a draught of dust and dirt. He coughed as he got to his feet, his entire body ached from spending the night on the floor.
“You’re up. Good.”
Duane Dalton turned to face the voice. The town Marshal stood there. Ciril Hage had been the law in this town since Duane had arrived here when he was a young lad. His rough grey beard framing his sun-weathered face. The man had always looked exactly the same, ageless but old and experienced at the same time.
“I’m up.” He agreed, flexing his jaw. “And the one from last night is gon’ get put down.”
Marshal Hage lifted the hat from his head and walked over to the desk at the left of the door from which he had entered. He dropped the hat onto the desk and combed back his long fringe with his fingers turning back toward the prisoner.
“That the same one who did that to you?”
“Tha’ be right!”
“The same one who disarmed and knocked you to the ground before you could take breath?” The Marshal laughed.
Hage cut him off. “You won’t learn until you’re dead in the ground will you?” He exhaled. “You got off light, I’ll say.”
The heavy thud of hooves stopped outside. “That Barnum talking son o’a bitch will get what’s coming to him. Mark my words.”
“Now listen you beef-headed-” The door swung open, bringing another a gust of dust into the jail.
A short stout fellow; flush of face leaned in through the doorway, breathing heavy. “We’ve…” He struggled to catch breathe. “There’s an…”
Ciril Hage paused for a moment. “Come on Hudson, out with it! You do know it’s you who’s supposed to ride the horse, not the horse ride you right? You look exhausted man!”
The Deputy took a deep breath and blurted out. “We’ve-found-another-body.” Accompanied by a spray of spit.
“Where?” The Marshal asked, wiping his cheek with his sleeve.
“Near the entrance to the mines.”
“I’m on my way. Fetch the Doc.”
“The Doc? He could be anywhere! Where would I begin to look?” The man exasperated.
The Marshal walked to the door and turned the Deputy around by the shoulders. He pointed out of the doorway. “You see that building there, the one that says ‘Dr Clement Redmond: Healer, Medical Advice, Apothecary, Dentist, Surgeon’? That’s probably a good place to start!” He persuaded the Deputy forward and continued to watch as the man ambled up the road, barely getting clear of an oncoming stagecoach.
Hage stepped forward into the street, the door held ajar by his foot. “If he’s not there, then try over at the Littleton place!” He stepped back through, closed the door behind himself and muttered. “Not fit to shovel shit.”
He paused for thought before picking up from where they had been interrupted. “Now, as I was saying.” he looked to Duane Dalton. “Shut your big bazoo and quit your bellyachin’. If you can manage that until I get back then that’ll be that.”
The Marshal walked over to his desk and retrieved his keys; before placed his hat on his head. “If you choose to test me, well…” He adjusted the hat until satisfied, and opened the door. Dalton squinted as dust blew into the room once more, looking past the Marshal to the street outside his eyes fixed on a figure in the distance – the stranger, with two young companions on horseback.
“Hittin’ road awful quick considering we has unfinished business.” Duane nodded in the direction of the stranger.
The Marshal turned to look and noticed Mister Jones nearing his horse. He turned back to Duane and eyed him from head to toe, to head. “Looks finished to me.”
The door clattered shut. Duane cursed rubbing his eyes – attempting to the get the dust from them.
To Be Continued…