He became tangled in the orchard.
It was October of 1923, and when I slept, I still heard the guns on the Western Front. On bad days, it was difficult to leave the house. I’ve seen horrors before, but what I had experienced in France and Belgium was far beyond anything I’d witnessed.
I awoke to a cold and bitter wind in my room, and when I opened my eyes, I saw my bedroom window was open. For a moment, a dryad loitered on the sill, a wicked look in her hard gray eyes.
“The Orchard, Blood,” she told me, her voice reminiscent of dead leaves whispering across the earth. “Quickly, before he dies.”
It’s not often the fey are so bold as to come to my house, let alone open a window, so I took her at her word. I pulled on my clothes, slung my holsters and moved out a quick clip. Within a few minutes, I was at the apple orchard, and I could hear someone yelling.
I drew one of the Colts, pulled the hammer back and walked toward the cries, and soon I found him.
He was a large man, splayed out on his back and held in place by the thick and gnarled roots of a pair of apple trees. Close by was a bag which, upon examination, held all the accouterments of the professional arsonist. Leaving the bag where it lay, I turned my attention back to the prisoner.
Hunkering down near him, I holstered the Colt, found my pipe was still in my coat pocket, and I happily packed the briarwood bowl as the prisoner demanded that I help him.
With the tobacco smoking, I peered at him.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I’m lost,” he answered.
“Seems like it,” I agreed.
“Can you help?”
He waited a moment, glared at me and then demanded, “Will you?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head.
“What do you want?”
“Who sent you?” I asked him.
He eyed me, weighed his options and answered, “Miskatonic.”
“To burn me out.”
The man nodded.
I stood up.
“Are you going to let me go?” he asked.
“Why?!” he screamed.
“Because my trees like their meat fresh,” I replied.
Before he could say another word, the roots tightened and pulled.
The sound of his limbs being torn from their sockets filled the orchard’s silence.