I’m not a fan of poachers. For three days, I tracked a man hunting on the edges of Gods’ Hollow.
On the morning of the fourth day, I caught up with him. He was eating a breakfast of goat, taken from my land when I stepped into his camp with my Colts drawn. Even under the barrels of my guns, he tried to talk and slide his hand toward the shotgun at his side.
I put two rounds into his belly and sat back to eat breakfast while he died. I was surprised a short time later when a priest strode out of the forest and directly to the man. It took me a moment to realize what the priest was, and when that moment passed, he had already collected the poacher’s soul.
“Will you walk with me?” the reaper asked.
I nodded, ate the last bite, and put out the campfire. I left the body where it lay and walked out of the woods with the reaper. Like most of his kind, he remained quiet as we traveled, and it wasn’t until we reached Main Street that he broke his silence.
“I’m going to Texas City, Texas,” the reaper stated. “But before I go, there’s one last person I’m to collect here in Cross.”
I waited, and the reaper smiled at me.
“Not you, Duncan Blood.”
“No, I didn’t think it was.”
The reaper’s smile broke into a grin. “Of course, how foolish of me. You have been around too long to not know. I will collect her gently. She has suffered, far more than most know.”
“Who will run the studio?” I asked.
“A fair question.” We lapsed into silence again for a short time. “We have our eye on a young nephew. He is an Aldrich, and he is not as gentle as the others. He is, in fact, deficient in some ways.”
We reached the studio, and the reaper stopped me outside. “Go and be well. I wish to do this alone. It is the last gentle death I will give. In Texas, the deaths will be bad.”
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