Michaela and her husband Trey had ran the way station for two years
and had only had minor problems with Indian attacks and outlaws.
Usually just the stock run off or missing, or the truck garden picked
over. When the stage came through, Michaela was proud to have a good
meal ready and waiting. Her husband was happy with his life, and
considered himself lucky to have found her and convinced her to
marry. He knew about her Immortality, but he told her it was just a
'minor hindrance'. Their life was not an easy one, but they were
content. Then Farley had shown up.
Three men, dusty and tired, had ridden in shortly after the last
stage had left. Trey had been mending harnesses when they appeared.
As they slowly approached the station, he called quietly to Michaela.
When she appeared in the doorway, he told her to be ready for
trouble. The horses had been run hard and were in bad shape. Trey
let the men stable their horses in the barn and gave them some grain
after haggling over the price.
As the men stepped up on the porch, Michaela stiffened, feeling the
familiar sensation that heralded the approach of another Immortal.
She stared through narrowed eyes at the men who were trying to wash
some of the dust off at the wash basin. One of the men, a tall thin
man with black hair and a rather large nose, sneered at the other two
and brushed past them to enter the dining area. He stared at her,
then gave her an acknowledging nod. She stared back unblinking until
he had wandered over and sat down at the table.
"So is it possible to get some food around here?" he asked with only
a thin veneer of politeness. He picked up a knife and started to
clean his fingernails.
Michaela kept her face expressionless as she turned to the stove and
dipped up a bowl of stew. She placed it and a chunk of fresh bread
in front of him. "No one gets turned away hungry. But it's three
bits a head to sit and eat." She winced inwardly at her terminology,
and the stranger gave her an evil smile. But whatever he was going
to say was interrupted by his two companions stomping through the
door, her husband behind them.
"Michaela, these gents are wanting fed and a place to sleep. I told
'em we could feed 'em, but they'd have to camp out." He nonchalantly
took his rifle from where it leaned against the wall, and sat down to
"clean" it, keeping it carefully pointed in a neutral direction, but
yet easily swung to cover the men at the table.
Michaela looked at the other two men. "Three bits a piece to eat is
the charge. There's a good camp about 3 miles on up the road." She
dished up two more bowls of stew and placed them on the table. Her
husband looked sharply at her, knowing good and well that in most
towns, it only cost two bits for a bowl of stew. His eyes narrowed
when none of the men even protested.
The men ate their food quickly with very few table manners. The thin
man stood up and walked slowly behind Michaela to reach around her
for the stew ladle. She moved out of his way, but he moved with her.
His men snickered behind them, the redhead spraying food through a
gap in his teeth.
"I'm afraid I have some bad news, Michaela," he whispered in her ear.
"We can't pay for supper." He slowly ladled more stew into his bowl.
"You see, our bank job was ruined by a troublesome do-gooder. We
took care of him, but not before he caused a very big hole in our
plans." He gave her a pseudo-sorrowful look. There was a scuffling
sound and Michaela turned to see Trey being held by the other two
"Trey!" Michaela lunged forward but the other Immortal held her
"Farley, let me shoot him now!" said the redhead, twisting Trey's arm
savagely behind him. Trey's face twisted from the pain, but he made
"Tsk, tsk, gentlemen," Farley calmly replied. "We should at least
offer to repay their hospitality, even if it is given grudgingly."
He sauntered back to the table, dragging Michaela. She wanted
desperately to get to her sword, but it was in the backroom. It
might as well be in Europe, she thought despairingly. Farley shoved
her into a chair, then motioned his flunkies to bring Trey to the
table. As he was forced into a chair, Farley pulled out a deck of
"What say you we cut for the price of supper?" He shuffled the deck
with slim, nimble fingers. "High I win and don't pay, low you win,
and live." Michaela tried to make a dash for the back room, but was
jerked back by Farley. "You can't move just yet, my dear. You are
going to provide the after dinner entertainment."
"No!" Trey shouted and lunged upwards, but Red swung the butt of his
gun to meet Trey's head with a sickening thwump. Michaela knew Trey
was dead before he hit the floor.
Farley looked at the body on the floor, then at Michaela. "Oh well.
I guess we skip the card games and go straight for the
entertainment." He reached for her and dragged her to the back room.
He gave the large bed a smile. "I do so like my comfort." He threw
her onto the bed and held his gun on her while he searched the room.
When he found her sword, she seemed to wilt.
"Really, my dear. Don't you know, as a female, you are only good for
three things?" He held up a hand and counted on his fingers.
"Cleaning, cooking, and 'entertainment'." She closed her eyes,
trying to prepare herself for death, but opened them again when he
tossed the sword into the dining room. "I just don't like to have
any distractions while I'm being 'entertained', my dear." He removed
his gun belt but held his gun while he started unbuttoning his shirt.
"I'm next!" the redhead called out as Farley cruelly pulled her head
back by the hair to kiss her....