“She’s eating them.”
I was roaming the shore of Blood Lake, a new Winchester repeater in my hands and my Colts on my hips. A cool wind came in across the water, and there was no sign of the merfolk who’d been creeping up and raiding my sheep.
The old dog, black with her teats low from long years of feeding pups, sat by a piece of deadfall and looked at me with sad, tired eyes.
“She’s eating them,” the dog repeated.
I cradled the Winchester in my arms and asked, “Who?”
“My mistress,” the dog informed me. “Madame Arkwright.”
I frowned. “I’ve not seen her in some time. I’d thought she’d moved on to her sister’s in Providence.”
The dog shook her head. “No. She’s still at home, and most think she’s sick abed. But it’s not true. She’s been having orphans delivered to the house. About one a month from the different associations in New England.”
My back stiffened, and I clenched my teeth.
The dog nodded, sensing my anger.
“She’s been donating to the orphanages for years, planning out her menu,” the dog continued. “She finished the latest, a girl from Hartford, last evening. She’s sent a letter in the post up to Bangor, requesting a child from one of the Native Schools.”
“She’s home alone?” I asked.
“What’s your name?”
“Regina,” the dog replied.
“Go on to my barn, Regina,” I said. “There’s food and water. A pair of older dogs as well, brothers around your age, I believe. I’ll be back soon enough.”
“You’ll stop her, Mr. Blood?”
Regina and I went our separate ways. Soon, I stood at Arkwright’s porch and rang her bell. It took her a few minutes to reach me. When she opened the door, I could smell blood and filth. In her eyes was the madness that comes from eating too much human flesh, and I forced my way in.
I’d thought of feeding Arkwright her own tongue, perhaps her fingers, too.
But there was no need.
She was insane, and she needed putting down, not torture.
Arkwright clawed at my rifle, and as she took hold, I drew one of the Colts, shoved the barrel up under her chin and pulled the trigger.
I put the Colt away and smiled.
Seems I had a new dog, and Arkwright would eat no more orphans.