Hatred rolled off the house in sickening waves.
I sensed it the moment I stepped onto the narrow, hardpacked drive that led from North Road up to the small, abandoned house. The building, which had never been larger than a glorified woodshed, was the home of Emma Watts, a lonely old widow who had resided there for the better part of thirty years. She was rarely seen in town, getting all her food from the forest and her small garden.
She was self-sufficient and touched in the head.
But there was no malice in her.
The hatred coming from her home was wrong.
So too was the open door.
When I reached the front of the house, I had both Colts drawn. Whether they would do anything against what might be in Emma’s home, I didn’t know. But I was sure as hell going to find out.
I nudged the door open a little further with my boot and let my eyes adjust to the gloom inside the building. At the far end, near Emma’s cot, I saw him.
Bits and pieces of the Japanese man were translucent, a sure sign that he wasn’t part of the world. At least not any longer. When he turned his head and fixed his gaze on me, the hate boiled the air around him.
He neither spoke nor gestured toward me.
Instead, he stood up in a single, graceful motion and drew a sword.
I didn’t wait.
The Colts roared, shaking the thin walls of the house and catching the thing in front of me by surprise. Great white chunks were blown out his back, and when he staggered forward, he sagged, body collapsing from the missing pieces. He sank to his knees and tried to crawl forward, and I shot him in the head twice, blowing away half of his skull.
Still, the man came on.
With an impressed grunt, I blew his head clean off his shoulders and then stomped the rest of it into the worn floorboards of Emma’s home.
A moment later, he broke into mist and seeped into the cracks, leaving me alone in the house.
I searched for Emma, but there was no sign of her. When I left the house, I put it to the torch.
She no longer had a need for it.