They hid from me.

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It was the best defense they had, and it still wasn’t enough.

I rowed myself to the closest dock, and by the time I climbed up, the harbormaster came down to see me.

He and the two men with him were dead before they hit the water. Wiping my knife clean of blood, I followed the dock to the shore. I stood for a few moments and got my bearings. With the smell of the sea around me, I loosened the Colts in their holsters and looked for someone to question.

I saw nothing save an old dog, who sat and eyed me with benign curiosity.

He raised his muzzle slightly, sniffed the air and let out a dry chuckle.

“I was wondering when another Blood might show up.”

“When’s the last time one passed through?” I asked.

The dog scratched behind his ear, though for a moment and answered, “My sire saw one, and he lived to a hundred. I’m close to two hundred, myself, so it’s been a spell.”

“It would seem so.”

“I suspect you’re here for Gao,” the dog continued, “what that he likes to eat folk from the Hollow more than his own.”

My surprise must have shown, for the dog snorted out a laugh. “I’m old, Blood. I’ve been to your Hollow more than once, and I’ve smelled it on quite a few others.”

“Can you take me to Gao?” I asked.

“I’ll bring you as close as I can,” he replied. “But there’ll be hell to pay. They’ve known Bloods before. Killed a few and chased off a few others.”

“It’s been known to happen,” I nodded. “But I’ve a knack for sticking it out and staying alive.”

“Seems you do,” the dog said, yawning. He got to his feet, shook himself, and as he turned around, a single shot rang out from nearby.

The bullet ricocheted off a paving stone hear him and splintered, sending fragments all around us.

The Colts were in my hands and the sniper, who stood a short distance away, was hastily loading for another shot.

The heavy slugs of the .44s caught him in the chest and splintered the rifle’s stock. He staggered back and fell to his knees as his head snapped back as another pair of rounds slammed into his face.

“No,” the dog sighed. “They’re not fond of Bloods at all.”

“Fair enough,” I said, reloading the Colts. “They’ll like me less when I’m done.”

#China #Horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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