He smoked his last pipe a little before sundown.
I’d known Peter Murphy for the better part of ten years. He was a solid man, not given to foolishness nor any excesses. Peter enjoyed a pint after a day’s work and a pipe of good tobacco whenever he could get it.
Why in the hell he decided to take a stroll along Honor’s Path, I’ll never know.
I was in my kitchen, swearing at a loaf of bread that was refusing to rise, when young Daniel Black came rushing up to the backdoor, telling me that Peter had gone for a walk.
I didn’t have to ask where. There was only one place that would set a Black off like that.
I had only a moment to grab my Colts, and I told Daniel to run on ahead and ask his father to get the shotguns ready. The boy replied that they were, and he and I broke into a quick trot.
There was little else I could do.
Peter would either be savable, or he would not.
When I reached the Black Farm, I took both shotguns from August Black, Daniel’s father, and told him to keep everyone near the house. It had been years since anyone was foolish enough to try and travel the path, and who knew how hungry the damned things were that lived beneath it.
I had only gone a dozen or so feet in when I realized that Peter hadn’t gotten much farther.
From where I stood, I saw what remained of him, and to this day, I’ve no idea as to how he died or what happened.
His clothes were frayed and worn, his boots missing. Peter’s yellowed bones could be seen through holes in the fabric, and his skull was twisted around so that the empty sockets stared up at the trees and the sky. His pipe was a foot or so from the bones of his left hand, and I paused only long enough to pluck it from the ground.
I left him where he lay. What good would it have been to haul his bones out to bury them?
I think of him, occasionally, when I sit on my porch, take a drag from his pipe, and wonder what the hell he was thinking.