Read Excerpts

Cursed by Vivi Anna

cursed-banditcreekChapter One

The sound of the explosion echoed off the rocky mountain. Jack lifted his head from staring at his drink and glanced at the saloon doors. Other patrons did too, looks of panic in their wide eyes. There was no panic in Jack.

As the others in the saloon ran to the doors and outside, he picked up his glass of whiskey and shot it back. He no longer left the burn of the alcohol as it went down. His throat was long ago numbed, as was the rest of him.

He pushed back his chair, the legs scraping against the wooden floor, and walked to the bar. The bartender was long gone, outside with the other curious lookers, so he reached over and plucked the whiskey bottle from the counter and brought it over to his table. He sat back down and filled his glass. He drank it down as the second explosion rocked the building.

The lanterns on the walls fell to the floor, splattering kerosene everywhere. Bottles of alcohol tipped over. One rolled across the counter, bounced of a stool and smashed on the ground. Jack barely flinched while he poured himself another drink.

Samuel, the bartender, ran back in, his brown hair wind swept and his eyes wide and glossy, as they lit upon Jack.

“The mountain’s coming down. The town’s going to flood.”

Jack didn’t respond. He just kept drinking.

“Did you hear me, Jack? We’ve got to get out of here.”

“I heard you,” he said without looking up. All that mattered to him was the whisky in his glass.

“Forget you.” Samuel waved a hand at him. “You were always crazy.”  He rushed into the back room.  When he came out again, he had a canvas sack stuffed with his things. “You’re a damn fool, Jack. You know that?” as he passed the bar counter, he swiped two bottles, both whisky, and kept on going out the swinging doors.

Once he was gone, Jack picked up the bottle and took it over to the piano standing in the corner of the dark and dingy room. Setting the whisky on top, he sat on the bench and lifted the hood over the keys. Closing his eyes, he began to play. All the notes of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor came to him in a rush and his fingers stroked the keys repeatedly until they were sore.

He took a long pull on the bottle then wiped his mouth. He thought of sitting here drinking and playing until the water came. But that wasn’t really his style. He’d never really been a passive man. In the past when people spoke of Jack Bennett, they pronounced him to be a man of action. A doer. A taker.

It had been his idea to rob the bank all those years ago. And the trains.  His bandits and their escapades had been the reason the town had been named Bandit Creek. He was infamous even if those in town didn’t really know who he truly was. It had been so many years ago, that they’d forgotten. But Jack never forgot. No, his memories were always there. Right at the forefront of his mind. Taunting him. Forever haunting him.

He drank to forget but it never worked. His memories were as fresh as if they’d just happened.

“What are you doing, Jack?”

He whipped around to see a man with long dark hair and black eyes leaning against the bar counter, a cigarette dangling between his thin lips. Except he was no man. He was the demon who stole Jack’s soul.

Standing, Jack drew his pistol and started shooting. He cocked his gun repeatedly until all six shots were done. Four of those bullets hit the demon. The other two smashed the bottles on the bar shelves. The smell of gunpowder and whiskey filled his nose making him gag. But still the demon leaned against the counter, smoking his cigarette, as if Jack hadn’t drawn his pistol at all.

“Why bother? You know you can’t kill me.” He fingered one of the holes in his chest and dug out the bullet. He flicked it, covered in blood and gore, onto the counter.

Jack tossed his gun aside, picked up the whisky bottle and walked out of the saloon.

As he meandered down the middle of town, his boots kicking up dirt, he didn’t have to look behind him to know the demon followed him. On some level he’d always been following Jack. It was his curse to endure.

He passed several people running the opposite way, bags, horses and children in tow. Most of them ignored Jack as he headed towards the mountain and his doom. A few told him to run the other way, that the mine had blown and along with it the dam, that the flood waters were coming. He just tipped his hat and said thank you.

He walked, drinking from the bottle now and then, until he came to the gulch at the bottom of the mountain. Thick dark smoke covered the rock face. If he squinted hard he could even see the flames licking out from the mine shaft.

From where he stood he could hear the rush of water thundering toward him. When the mine blew so did the dam holding millions of gallons of water back from the valley and Bandit Creek, the mining town. But the deluge would not hold back any longer. Nature always prevailed.

After taking one last drink, Jack tossed the near empty bottle aside and opened his arms wide ready to embrace his fate.

“You know it’s not going to matter, right?”

Jack ignored the demon talking at his back. He wanted some peace as he finally met his death.

“You can’t die, Jack.  I made you immortal remember?”

“Shut up!” Jack growled. “You’re not real. You’re just in my head.”

“Oh I’m very real.”

The surge was coming; he could hear it getting closer. He could hear the trees and farm houses being ripped apart by the flood.

“Leave me alone,” he said. “Leave me to finally die.”

“The only way you’ll ever leave this plane, Jack, is by giving back what you stole.”

Jack turned then just as the roaring deluge descended upon him.

“Return the gold.”

Those were the last words Jack heard before he was swept away by the flood waters…

“Jack.”

There was pressure on his cheek.

“Jack.”

It came again. A tapping on his face.

Slowly he blinked open his eyes. The sun nearly blinded him. He put up an arm to shield himself from the brightness.

“You can’t sleep here. It’s a public place.”

It took a few moments for him to get his bearings and to remember where he was. When he was.  He looked up into the tanned face of Deputy Medicine Crow.

“I can drive you home, if you want.”

Jack pushed up with his hands so he was sitting on the park bench instead of lying on it. He was in the town park and it was January. His breath came out in plumes of steam. He was definitely feeling the frigid temperature.

The deputy took his arm. “Do you want that ride?”

Jack shook his head. “Don’t need it. I got two legs, don’t I?”

The deputy took a step away.  “No problem.”

Jack got to his feet. He wobbled a bit, put his hand out for balance. The deputy helped him. And Jack hated him for it.

“I got it.” He pulled his arm away, then adjusted his wool hat to cover his ears better. They were nearly frozen. He wondered how long he’d been asleep on the bench. By the numbness in his extremities, it had obviously been hours. The last thing he truly remembered was getting a coffee at Cora’s.

Slapping a gloved hand to his face, he tried to get straight. He had work to do now. His dream had told him what he needed to do. It was so obvious he didn’t know why he didn’t think of it before now. The whiskey was clouding his mind, making him stupid.

And still he craved it. It was like a million ants crawling over his skin. He was sure he had another half bottle hidden away near his tent, which he’d pitched somewhere near the lake. He just had to remember where that was. Then he could get busy, and do what he needed to do.

He looked around trying to remember his surroundings. He couldn’t even remember which way was north. The deputy had already turned and was making his way back to his squad car on the street.

“Hey. Hey deputy.”

He stopped and looked at Jack. “What is it? Did you change your mind about that ride?”

“Which way is the lake?”

The deputy frowned but pointed north. “What are you going to do at the lake, Jack? It’s not really a safe place for you to be.”

“I’m going to find my gold. So I can finally die.”