I found her beau.
My hand had finally grown in about midnight, and I gave it another hour, just to be sure. I didn’t need it to go through any growing pains as I tried to pull a trigger.
With a Colt in each hand, I climbed a circular stairwell toward the top of the building. About a third of the way up, I heard a pair of voices. Young men were chatting in good humor.
That changed when I rounded the stairs and stepped onto a small landing.
The men had just finished locking a round door, and one was in the act of putting the key away.
“Hello,” I greeted, and the men panicked.
The one holding the key died with a slug from one of my Colts in his brain. The second man, his face splattered with the blood and the brains of his friend as the dead man slid boneless to the floor of the hall.
“And who are you?” I asked.
“Caleb,” he whispered. “Caleb Withers.”
Anger surged within me, but I kept it locked down.
“Caleb?” I asked, my voice tight. “You’d be Genevieve’s beau, then?”
The cords on his neck stood out, and he started to shake his head.
“Think about your answer, boy,” I spat. “If you’ve a Blood in this place, then you know what I can do. What I’d be happy to do.”
He whispered, “Yes, I’m her beau. I’m a beau to each and every one. Forty-five, to be exact.”
I heard a hint of pride in his comment, and I pointed a Colt at his groin. “I’d watch your mouth.”
His entire body shook, and he soiled himself.
“How many of them are still alive?” I asked.
He licked his lips and answered, “Um, let’s see. Two, maybe three. I can’t remember. Most die in different ways. I don’t do much after I fetch them for the school.”
“So you’re bait?”
He nodded. “No one is as good as me.”
“You’re using the wrong tense.”
Caleb frowned. “What do you mean?”
I fired both Colts, and the slugs tore through his groin and his abdomen. Excrement tumbled out of the wound as easily as fresh linen from a basket.
He tried to stuff his guts back, but they wouldn’t go.
As he stood there, confused as to what had happened, I stepped forward and helped.
I drew my pruning knife and grabbed a handful of intestines.
With his screams filling the stairwell, I began to cut.