Merit Kraft was a stranger to me, but he didn’t deserve to die the way he did.
Along North Road, close to Gods’ Hollow, I caught sight of Merit. He was a quiet man, nearly fifty, and he worked as a hired hand for the Coffins. It was Sunday, and he did as he was wont to do, which was wander the roads. He minded his business, and in a small New England town, that’s all one can ask for.
I was about to call out to him when he was ambushed.
Five men and three women sprang out from behind the stonewall that runs along the border of Gods’ Hollow and North Road. In the morning light, I saw the flash of knives, heard him scream, and swore as they field stripped the man on the spot.
I managed to get off a single shot, clipping one woman in the arm, before they were sprinting back to the Hollow.
When I reached the steaming offal, which had once been part of a hardworking man, I heard a bell toll from the Hollow. The damned place had shifted again in the night, and there was a church where there had not been one before.
I was over the wall and chasing the killers down as they made a mad dash for the building, hastily weaving through a small cemetery.
I let off another pair of shots and blew out the brains of two men, causing the others to drop Merit’s body. The remaining six turned on me, and from the church, others spilled out. Like the killers, they were armed with knives and all were dressed in their Sunday finest.
I slowed to a walk, reloaded my spent rounds, and let my Colts thunder in the Hollow. The churchgoers ran at me, howling invectives in a language I did not understand.
A few got close enough to wound me as I reloaded, but I’ve been struck by worse than a madman’s knife, and the bodies piled up around me.
At the end, a minister stepped out from the church, his face red with rage and a long carving knife in his right hand.
He died on the threshold of his church, his own carving knife in his mouth while his church burned around him.
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