November 14, 1891

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We went into town for a drink.

Horatio and I decided we had no desire to drink at home. We’d spent most of the day cleaning up glass and cursing the Hollow. By the time the sun set, there was a fine coating of snow on the ground and more following behind it. We had a few nips of the brandy, then we put on some winter gear. Mine was old and well worn, his had once decorated a soldier doll. Either way, they did what they were meant to do, keep out the worst of Old Man Winter’s bite.

Since none of the horses were particularly fond of Horatio, and since he wasn’t particularly fond of them, I walked the few miles into town with the monkey on my shoulder. We talked of war and love and various sins. He’d been in the prime of his youth when he was snatched, and he’d left a wife and several children behind.

When we reached town, I headed for Edelweiss Tavern. Ernst, the tavern keeper, served a fine beer and even better schnapps. Horatio and I had every intention of drinking the night and most of the following day away. Ernst was an old Austrian, a man who’d done his killing on the blood-soaked fields of Europe, and he had the damnedest sense of humor.

At the door to the tavern, we could hear men singing in German and Horatio, and I enjoyed a good chuckle. We would, it seemed, have good company for our drinking.

As we entered the tavern, the singing stopped.

Ernst stood behind his register, unmistakable in his broadbrimmed hat. The other men I didn’t know, but I knew they were from the Hollow. Their eyes fixed on me as I reached for the Colts.

“They’ll be no gunplay in my home, Duncan,” Ernst snapped, and everyone – myself included – looked at him in surprise. “That goes for the rest of you too. You come into Ernst’s for two reasons, to make merry and to drink. You can die under his guns tomorrow if you so choose,” he told them, and to me, he added, “and you can put more weight upon your shoulders. Tonight, you will drink or find some other place to wet your lips.”

I looked to Horatio, and the monkey shrugged. “You said the schnapps is good.”

“So I did,” I agreed and ordered a round for everyone.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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