I found them on the edge of town.
I’d spent the night in one of the houses, getting a few hours of sleep and making sure I was ready for whatever the day might bring.
Or, rather, as ready as I could be.
The Hollow rarely made things easy.
The sun had risen in the south for some ungodly reason, and I found seven men standing by an open box as the morning light illuminated the town.
They had rifles with them, but they’d stacked the weapons off to one side as they peered down into the box. A few of them chuckled, but their good humor vanished as they caught sight of me approaching them. I don’t know if any of them had helped to butcher Emma, but they were suspect all the same.
I stopped a fair distance from the men, rested hands on the butts of the Colts, and nodded good morning to the strangers.
“Can we help you?” the man in the center asked.
“Depends,” I answered. “I’m looking for the fellow who murdered my friend, and my mother, too.”
The men shifted uneasily where they stood, eyes flickering from the box to me.
“Well,” the center man began, stroking his chin. “Don’t know as we killed anyone lately. And as for your mother, who might she be?”
Smiles crept across their faces.
“Ah,” the center man nodded. “No, we didn’t kill anyone, though we drained a pig yesterday. She did squeal a bit, I’ll give you that. And as for your mother, well, she’s the one what sent us the pig. Your mother, she said you’d come and that we were to give you a welcome.”
The men sprinted for their rifles, but my Colts were already clearing leather.
The revolvers roared, and each man went down.
None of them were dead, though.
I didn’t want them dead. Not yet.
They were game as hell, though. Each was trying to get to their weapons, but I took my time going from one to the other, breaking fingers before gathering up the rifles. I took the weapons to the box and found myself looking down at a puppy. The sight of the dog irked me some, and I suspect they meant it harm.
With the dog tucked into my coat, I went back to the wounded men and asked where my mother was.
I confess I asked hard.
None of them lived long enough to tell me.