As I mentioned in my last update, I am currently working on a new novel, a Western story with its roots in the weird. I don’t want to spoil too much, as some of this is prone to change the closer we get to a full release, but I wanted to take some time to highlight a few of the broader aspects of the world of Winter’s Law.
They are whispered of in dark, smoky taverns, little more than stories of myth and legend, tall tales not to be believed. Fades, creatures that can warp a man’s mind. Monsters that lurk in shadow, haunting the plains and harsh crags of the wild West.
The truth is far, far worse.
Midday had hit in Carter’s Mill, but it was hard to tell. A flurry of ominous clouds had moved in, robbing the town of much of its sunlight. Unusual in the summer heat of the desert, but Jack Bahlien was glad of the dim lighting as he sat at the bar that lined one wall of McGinty’s saloon.
Maybe the dim lighting hid the incredulity in his eyes as they rolled back.
“What’re you tellin’ me, Scoggs?”
Scoggs blew out through his nostrils and slammed back another shot of whiskey. He wiped a grimy sleeve over his damp forehead, and motioned towards the bartender for another shot. “I’m tellin’ ya, Jack, that it’s the honest truth. I know what I saw.”
Jack stared at Scoggs, trying to decide how best to tell the old hand that he was out of his damn fool mind, but the man was clearly rattled. New beads of sweat sprung up on his forehead, and the neck of his shirt was soaked.
“Okay, Scoggs, so let me get this straight.” He waited, holding his tongue as McGinty swooped in and refilled Scogg’s empty shot glass. He lowered his tone, as if he was giving voice to some underground conspiracy. “You saw Colby Miller, and he was…skinning a dog?”
Scoggs’ hand shook, whiskey spilling over the glass. He swallowed, licked his lips and quickly downed the whiskey, a trickle of the firewater seeping down his grizzled chin.
“Mhm.” He nodded slowly, like he was trying to convince himself. “That’s right. Colby was back behind the shed, right across from Owen’s stable…”
Scoggs’ voice trailed off, his eyes drawn like they were suddenly lost in some faraway place. Jack looked around, wondering if anyone else was watching this display. Emmit and one of his crew were enmeshed in their own private coversation at one of the tables, and a stranger sat alone at another in a dark corner, silently brooding over a half-empty bottle. No one seemed to give a whit about quivering Scoggs.
“You didn’t see it!” Scoggs shouted, interrupting Jack as he jumped to his feet. He held the empty shot glass up in his shaking fist. “You didn’t see the way he smiled at me, the look in his eyes! It was…it was…he’s not right, Jack!”
Scoggs fell back onto his stool, and for a second Jack thought the man might start sobbing. He began to shake his head, one hand shielding his face.
Jack glanced over his shoulder. Well, anyone who hadn’t been paying them any mind before, they certainly were now.
“I think there’s something wrong with him, Jack,” Scoggs whispered. “I think maybe there’s something wrong with me, too. I…I hear things in my head, Jack…”
A shiver passed down Jack’s spine as someone pushed through the saloon’s double doors behind him. The shot glass slipped through Scoggs’ fingers, crashing to the floor in a hundred pieces.
Jack spun on his stool, but he already knew.
Colby Miller looked over as the doors swished closed, his gaze lighting on Scoggs and then Jack. He flashed them a knowing smile, and that’s when Jack noticed the blood.
Right about the same time that he noticed the smile slowly spreading across Scoggs’ sweating face.