I don’t know what the hell he was, but he was damned foul.
It was one of the few days where I was not hunting. I was looking forward to a fine whiskey recently liberated from a commanding officer’s private collection, and a long smoke with my dog, Henry.
As we walked along, Henry’s nose to the ground and the birds singing a fine song around us, we came upon a large collection of corpses. What struck me as odd was the fact that there were both Federal and Secesh mixed together. This was not the normal procedure. Secesh were, more often than not, either left to rot where they fell or buried by their brethren who had been taken prisoner. We took care of our own, of course.
Yet here were these stacks of dead men, and I do mean stacks. Easily four and five feet high and running along both sides of the road.
Henry was no longer interested in whatever scent that had caught his attention, and the singing of the birds had lost its beauty. Ahead of us, I saw a large tent. A man was standing outside of it, and there was a body on a set of boards in front of him. The stranger was operating some sort of contraption, and he smiled broadly at me as I approached.
It was a smile filled with far too many teeth.
The hackles on my dog stood up, and I dropped a hand to my Colt, resting it there and returning the man’s smile as I came to a stop a short distance away.
“Good morning,” the man said, bowing slightly. “I take it you’re a scout?”
“I am,” I lied. “What are you?”
“A surgeon,” he answered, and I knew if for a lie as well. “I’m embalming this gentleman here. You’ve heard of the practice?”
I nodded. I knew of it and knew the man was not embalming the corpse. He was extracting something, and when I caught sight of a faint glow about the corpse’s neck, I drew my pistol and blew the surgeon’s jaw off. As he staggered back, I put three more rounds in his head.
It’s one thing to rob the dead. Quite another to steal their souls.
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