“They won’t do a damned thing.”
My hands rested on the butts of the Colts as I took in the sight of the man before us. He was old, aye, but far older than he looked.
He gave me a nod, sat down, and put his stick across his lap. “Sit.”
I hesitated, then decided it wouldn’t hurt to sit a spell. Cain and I had been on our feet for the better part of thirty hours if I was judging time correctly, and I had no reason to believe I wasn’t.
The pup crawled into my lap, curled into a ball and promptly went to sleep.
The man across from me took a pipe out of his bag, packed it with tobacco and lit it.
“You’re looking for Mother,” he stated.
“How many have you come across?”
“Just the one so far,” I told him.
The man sighed. “Just as I thought. I couldn’t quite remember the day, you see.”
I didn’t, but I waited to see what else he might say.
“Cain’s but a pup,” the man continued, “and there’s only a hint of white in your hair, I imagine.”
The man smiled. “You’ll meet another mother tomorrow. Early in the morning, if my memory serves me well. She’ll come gunning for you, and they’ll be a handful of men with her, pulling the triggers. It’ll hurt.”
“Getting shot usually does,” I said and disliked how tight the words were when they came out.
“It’s time for Cain to leave you,” the man added.
I stiffened and looked down at the sleeping dog. “You can’t have him.”
“I already did,” the stranger said softly. “Centuries ago. He’ll die if you take him tomorrow. She’ll make a point of killing him. One of her men will shoot the pup in the belly, and he’ll die badly.”
“How long have you been here?” I asked.
He smiled. “I’ve been in and out of the Hollow for a long time. When I came in today, though, the memory of the fight returned, and I knew where I had to be. Let the dog come with me. Let him live.”
I eased the pup off my lap, and as he shook the sleep away, my older self called to him, and the dog went.
I’d be alone, but at least Cain would live.
How could I argue with that?