There are times when the wrong person is chosen for the job.
It’d been 18 months since the explosion, and while I’d not found anybody, I knew the doorway was closed.
But the Hollow was still open.
One of the ravens spotted the man around noon and sent another bird to me. Martha and I left the house, picked up the trail of the stranger and with the dog’s nose and the raven’s guidance, we tracked the man to a lumber road up to the northwest. He was far from my land, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t trouble.
We went up the road a ways and then we saw him. The man was bent over, feeding brush to a small fire.
I am not a fan of arson, nor am I overly fond of arsonists in general.
Strolling towards him, I called out, “Cold, friend?”
The man jerked up and offered a weak frown. He cleared his throat and said, “What I’m doing is my own business.”
“As it should be,” I nodded. “But it looks like you’re about to set fire to the whole damned lot. The pines’ll go up quick. It’s been dry this season.”
“Just as it should,” the man declared. “I’m trying to burn a pest out.”
“Yes,” he continued. “A man who stole his mother’s farm from her. Who killed his siblings to keep them from interfering.”
“Sounds like a right bastard,” I remarked.
He chuckled, bent over, and added more to the growing fire. “He is. I met his mother a few days ago, and she asked if I was willing to help the town. I was. She sent me through the Hollow with a charm to help me back.”
He patted his chest, and I glimpsed a cord around his neck.
“That a fact?” I asked.
“You know Blood’s farm is a little to the southeast,” I told him.
“It is.” I drew my Colts.
“How did you know this is for Blood?”
I cocked the revolvers. “Put the fire out.”
He shook his head, and I shot him in his thighs. The impact of the rounds knocked his legs out from under him and sent him crashing head first into the flames. As he screamed, I walked forward and used him to smother the fire.
Only when the last of it was out did I put a bullet in his head.
With the smell of burnt flesh and pine needles in the air, I kicked dirt over the embers and hated my mother a little more.