She stood her ground.

I found her in the basement of her department.

I took a belly full of birdshot as well and was damned thankful she hadn’t thought to change the load.

She realized her mistake the moment I caught myself on the doorframe and brought one of the Colts up.

Beatrice broke the shotgun open as she stepped back and tried to reload.

But reloading on the move, and when you’re a target, is something that takes a hell of a lot of practice. Practice she’d never had.

The first slug from the .44 shattered the stock of the shotgun, sending splinters of wood into her side and arm. Blood sprang from a dozen minor wounds, and she dropped the weapon, trying to reach a door at the back of her office.

My second shot caught her in the belly and took her off her feet.

She landed hard on the floor and skidded a foot or so, her back against the heavy door she’d been trying to escape through. With her lips pressed together, she drew a knife from her bodice, but I was already there, kicking the blade from her hand and stomping down on her fingers, shattering them.

She meant to kill herself, and I meant to stop her.

I’d be the only one doing any killing.

I crouched down in front of her, cocked the hammer of the Colt and pressed the barrel against her shoulder.

“I’ll take you apart a piece at a time, Beatrice,” I told her, and she nodded.

She spat blood out to one side, smirked and asked, “Am I still pretty, Duncan Blood?”

“You would be if you hadn’t killed my friend.”

Beatrice shrugged.

“Otto named you.”

“Of course, he did,” she wheezed. “You want to know if there was anyone else.”

I nodded.

“Three more,” she smirked. “Two have gone on to bring the wood north. There’s a man who’ll pay fair price for the wood of a talking tree. Especially one as old as yours was.”

“And the last?” I asked, ignoring her comment.

“Jackson Noble.”

She laughed at the flicker of anger that passed over my face.

“Oh yes, your friend Jackson,” Beatrice grinned. “He’s the one who told us about the tree. Brought us to it. Will you kill him too?”

“What do you think?” I asked and shot her through the mouth.

Friend or no friend, Jackson would die.

They all would.

#trees #horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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