Today, I feel like vampires. So vampires it shall be. Well…lumberjacks that run into vampires, because in my world that combination is a beautiful thing and it’s still my birthday week, so there you go. This bit is from Mooner, an e-book title of mine that combines my love of pioneer history with my love of wrecking pioneer history…and also vampires. Because they’re awesome. Basically all you need to know is a group of lumberjacks walk into a bar on their night off, and things spiral downward from there…
Nancy shook her head. “I ain’t scared of you and your boys, John, and neither should you be,” she added to Bill. Her rolling eyes were framed by laugh lines, though at the moment her face was stern and cold as a sudden blizzard. “I know how you boys are and don’t think for a minute I approve of you trying to put your ways on a nice young lad like him.”
The men turned a cold shoulder to her like usual. She was only of use to them if she was carrying a loaded tray. Only Bill shot her a sympathetic glance. The older woman tucked a graying curl under her hat and strode off to deliver drinks to the tables. “Don’t you let him get you full, boy. The last thing you need is to depend on them to get you back when you’re dead drunk.”
“Bah, what does she know? C’mon, lad, drink up!” John urged, and his more naïve companion steeled himself before knocking back the firewater. “There you go, Bill! Let’s have another!” he laughed, inhaling his own whiskey before presenting his empty to Red. “To a lucky son of a bitch!” he roared, clapping the younger man across the back so hard the youth bent over the bar top. “You boys won’t believe it, but Bill here has the biggest string of luck you ever saw! I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up and thought he was a goner, almost catching his foot on a tree root running from a falling fir! And don’t get me started on the time I thought he’d fallen to his death while limbing out!”
The boy shrugged with embarrassment and ran a hand through sandy hair. “Either luck or a higher power’s been with me. All I want is enough to send back to Ma and settle down.”
A few of the others sprawled along the bar muttered in disdain. “Don’t have time for no dunghisters,” a craggy-faced logger croaked into his glass, practically spitting the derogatory term for farmer.
For a brief moment a snide glitter crept into Big John’s eyes as he glanced towards the sack clenched tightly in Bill’s fist.
“Settle down! Luck or no, it isn’t a bad idea to be careful,” Red advised, fully knowing that there were plenty who’d take the boy’s decision as an insult to the profession. He was quick to replenish glasses and change the subject. “Besides, it’s not spring yet. Your pal Joe closed the door and ended up a resident of the undertaker’s down the road last Saturday.”
For once John blanched and set his drink back on the bar. “I thought he just went out to get his teeth fixed!”
Red rolled his eyes. “A man would have to be desperate to travel ten miles to the nearest girl house in this kind of cold.”
Bill’s shock reached him through the warm haze of the whiskey. “Was he sluiced?”
“Well he didn’t just drop dead!” The barkeep shook his head and snapped his fingers at the youth employed to keep the peace. “Jack, you missed one! Lars has his caulks on and I don’t want no cases of smallpox in my saloon, you hear me?”
They watched as the local youth encouraged the sawyer out the door. After a few moments the Norwegian returned, sans his spiked boots, cursing the air blue.
“They don’t know what got him,” Red mumbled. “He was found outside last Saturday night after I closed, blood all over the snow.”
“Caulks don’t do that,” Bill offered for lack of something better to say.
“Boy, a knife couldn’t even do that. Catcher’s ax, maybe. Half his chest was ripped out and strung from one end of the street to the other.”
Bill shuddered in the heavy warmth of his bright green mackinaw and grabbed for the glass that John had shoved towards him. “What the devil could do that to a man?” he murmured, the alcohol slowly warming the chill of fear away.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve seen a lot in my time, and it’s probably a fluke. Can’t be helped, at any rate.” John’s mutter was dark as he scanned the room in search of some new amusement. His younger friend’s gaze drifted as well, and he rested his sack on the bar to keep it in sight.
For a moment Bill thought he was imagining things or was having a particularly bad reaction to the rotgut. Blinking a few times refocused his tired gaze and proved that there was, indeed, a moving pile of…something at a table close to the other end of the bar.
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s, Bill signed on to work in a logging camp. The work is brutal, but it promised a fast paycheck with which he can start his life. Unfortunately, his role model is Big John. Not only is he the camp’s hero, but he’s known for spending his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and lives of so many men their age. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows. It watches and badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door, or does someone else have their own plans for his future?
Wanna talk vampires with me? I’m in Louisville all weekend at the Imaginarium Convention!
Also, don’t forget to enter the Night Owl Reviews summer scavenger hunt…the hidden word on my blog miiiight be under one of the links at the top of the page.