I was lucky.
I found him sitting in my parlor, sword across his lap and a glass of brandy in his hand. His cap was set at a jaunty angle, and his empty right sleeve was pinned to his jacket.
His demeanor and the smile on his face told me two things.
First, he was fast. Second, he’d take off a hand if I went for a Colt.
His smile broadened as I sat down in my chair across from him.
“This,” the stranger said, holding up the brandy, “is as fine as they come. Mister Blood and I can tell you, I’ve naught had something this smooth before.”
I inclined my head slightly and expressed my thanks.
He set the glass down and kept his hand away from the sword’s hilt, which I appreciated.
“I suspect,” he stated. “That you’ve seen a fair share of dead men wandering out of the Hollow of late.”
“Aye. You’d be right about that.”
“I am not one of them,” the soldier stated.
I raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, I’m dead. Several times over, if you’ll believe it, which I think you will. I’ve no liking for being dead, however, and so I come back.”
“Well, on with this little story,” he said. “I noticed some heavy traffic toward this particular Cross, and I thought it rather odd. Then, of course, I heard your mother’s voice and all oddness left. Your dislike for one another is well known.”
I shrugged, and the man chuckled.
“I’ll have you know,” he added, “I’ve no great love for your mother either. I’ve put a few of her down, and the last one cost me my arm. Worth it, though. As it is, I can no longer play quite the way I like, so I’ve had to shift the game a bit.”
“How so?” I asked.
“By letting people know what’s coming. Some listen, more don’t.” He shook his head. “You, I suspect, will listen.”
“I take it in turn.”
He chuckled. “Come All Hallow’s Eve, Mister Blood, your mother will send in a sizeable force to try and burn your farm to the ground.”
“I’m not fond of fire.”
“Nor should you be. I, however,” he said, finishing his drink, “am rather fond of this brandy. Think I might get another?”
With a chuckle, I nodded and got us both a drink.
“Is there more?” I asked.
“Isn’t there always?” He replied.
And there is.