Light Over Boot Hill
By Michael J Rener
“BAM BAM BAM” “BAM BAM BAM”
The sounds of a single gun was going off in the street. People ran to the window of the Dusty Throat Saloon to see what was going on. Even the piano player and the dancing girls stopped their activities. Gunfire hadn’t been heard in Grantville in years. In fact old Boot Hill was so overgrown, most people forgot it even existed. After all decent folk were buried in the Church Cemetery. That place was reserved for criminals and gunfighters.
Eli Horst, the owner of the saloon, and Mayor of the town, peered out the front door into the darkened street.
Nothing, not a soul around. After all it was Saturday night and most people were either in the saloon or in the church depending upon the strength of the conviction of their faith.
As he looked up and down the street, he could see the deputy standing in front of the jailhouse.
“What’s going on Hank?” he asked.
“Don’t rightly know there Eli. So you heard it too?”
“As did every one of my customers. Scared the women half to death.”
“Well sorry about that, but it wasn’t me, and I haven’t seen a soul out here when I had a look.”
“Did you get a good sense of which direction it came from?”
“Yes over to the west, towards old Boot Hill.”
The two looked towards the old cemetery and thought they saw a light flicker in the distance, then it went out just as fast.
“Now who do you suppose that could be?” asked Deputy Hank.
“Oh probably just some fool kids playing a game,” replied Eli. “I wouldn’t pay them no mind.”
“You’re probably right. Hey could Miss Ellie bring over some grub, I’m stuck here all night and could really use some of your daughter’s fine cooking to cheer me up.”
“Sure deputy I’ll have her bring over some fried chicken.”
Eli went back to the saloon and let everyone know it was nothing and the festivities started up again.
Deputy Hank went back into the empty jailhouse waiting on some of his fianc©’s delicious fried chicken.
Reverend Bill Brown was deep into his sermon on the evils of alcohol and dancing, when the shots were heard in his church. This stopped him in the middle of the sermon and walk to the door in the back of the church.
“See what the evils of sin has done to this town? It has brought back the dangers of the gun,” he shouted as he flung open the doors, only to see the darkness.
He stepped outside and heard nothing. He was expecting to hear screams and more gun fire, but alas it was all quiet. Too quiet in fact.
He looked around and all he saw was a fading light over Boot Hill.
He shook his head and went back to his flock and continued on with his preaching.
Sheriff Peter upon reading the report of the shots from his deputy decided to take a look himself. He himself didn’t hear the shots the night before, but then he was a deep sleeper and hardly anything woke him up at night.
He entered the old cemetery and looked around. Near the back he noticed that a few graves had been disturbed. By the dampness and color of the soil he determined that it was very recent, in fact it the newest disturbance had to have happened in the last 24 hours.
The best he could tell, about 6 graves had been opened and the contents removed. The freshness of the dirt told him it had happened during the previous evening. All the graves were from young punk gunfighters who passed through town and were gunned down, pretty much during their first duels. Grantville had the reputation during it’s first few years as a place where young guns tried their hands at making names for themselves before moving on to the better known places like Dodge, Tombstone and Leadville.
He looked around and noticed a bit of singed bushes. There were two sets of footprints leading from the bushes to the gravesites and back again, but not beyond. The imprints were like none he had seen before. There was a very strange pattern left in the dust from each of them.
There was no sign that any horse or carriages were used to enter and leave the cemetery. The back end had a high rail and barbed wire fence, yet were undisturbed as well.
He felt a cold chill run up his spine.
He came back into town and discussed what he saw with Eli and Reverend Bill. The both agreed that something needed to be done. So he went and asked for a volunteer to sit up with the Deputy in case the grave robbers returned.
Young Sam Watkins volunteered. Young Sam was approaching 17 and wanted very much to be hired on as a deputy, so he took any chance he got to work with the sheriff.
That night Deputy Hank went up to Boot Hill with young Sam. They were sent there by the sheriff to observe and report.
Of course they were expecting nothing, maybe a few punk kids, but just after darkness a strange light appeared out of nowhere.
They both shot up and stared as first a tall lanky man walked out of the light. He was followed by a shorter man with a humped back. They seemed to be speaking a strange language and the tall one was pointing out certain graves to the shorter one.
“Das, das, das, und das.”
“Jawohl mein Doktor.”
With that the shorter one pulled something out of his satchel placed it on each of the four graves.
“BAM BAM BAM BAM”
Explosions filled the air with dust and light as the four graves popped open and the caskets flew into the light that reappeared.
Young Sam and Deputy Hank ran towards the two strangers as they headed back towards the light.
Young Sam caught up with the taller one, but just as he tackled him they fell into the light. Deputy Hank was able to keep the shorter one from entering the light just as it faded into darkness.
“Bitte, Bitte,” said the stranger.
“Yea you bet I am bitter,” said Hank pulling his revolver. “Where’s Sam and your partner?”
“Nein sprechen Anglisch,” replied the little man obviously scared out of his wits.
“Don’t try to mesmerize me with your devil talk,” said Hank obviously not recognizing German. He raised his revolver and knocked the little man out with the butt of his gun.
He tied the man up and looked around for any clue what happened to young Sam and the taller guy. But no clues were found. It was as if they disappeared into nothing.
He picked up the smaller man and plopped him onto Yong Sam’s horse and rode back to the jailhouse where he locked the man up in a cell.
He wrote out his report for the sheriff and took a long drink of bourbon.
The town was all abuzz about the events from the previous night. Hank brought the Sheriff and the Mayor up to look at Boot Hill and he recounted what happened.
At first they looked at the deputy with skepticism, but then after he went through the motions they were convinced he wasn’t drunk.
Reverend Bill was in the jailhouse looking at the little hunchbacked man and tried to talk with him. All he got was responses in a language he didn’t understand, so he proclaimed the man “The Devil” and left to go pray for guidance. He saw the lights again and was convinced the devil was coming around to claim the souls of all those gunfighters, murderers and other criminals entombed on Boot Hill.
The sheriff wasn’t sure what to do with the stranger, as no one could talk to him. So he left him in the cell.
That night Deputy hank was trying to get information out of the little stranger. He was drinking heavy and was irate and frustrated. He decided something had to be done to avenge Young Sam’s disappearance.
He hit himself in the eye with the butt of his revolver and after making sure there was a welt, he went to the cell and let the little man out. He waved him out and indicated that he was free to go.
The little man nodded his understanding and left the jailhouse into the darkness. The deputy pointed to the alley and the little man headed out towards Boot Hill.
The deputy ran up behind the little man and shot him in the back.
Again Eli came out of the saloon to see what the commotion was. He was shocked to see Deputy Hank hunched over the stranger.
“He hit me and escaped. He was trying to get away. I had no choice I had to shoot him.”
“Really Hank? Have you been drinking?”
“Well just a little, but look at my eye.”
Eli looked at hank’s eye and whistled. “Man that’s a beaut,” he said. “I guess it’s all right then.”
“Darn right it is,” said hank slurring his words.
The Sheriff was disappointed in Deputy Hank. He had an idea that hank was lieing, but couldn’t prove it. Still he shouldn’t have shot an unarmed prisoner. Especially one that didn’t seem to be a danger.
Later that morning he was shocked when a man with a foreign accent came in to meet with him.
“Ach you are in charge here?” asked the man.
The sheriff looked him up and down before replying. “Yes I am how can I help you?”
“I believe you have a friend of mine here. Well not so much a friend as an employee. You see he was left behind the other night.”
“Ah I see and do you have someone that belongs here by any chance?” asked the sheriff.
“Yes I do. I assure you he is fine and unharmed. I would like to propose a trade. Your friend for mine.”
“Hum that might not be possible. You see your friend as you say tried to escape and attacked my deputy. In the process, he was shot and killed.”
“I see how unfortunate. That changes everything. Could I at least have th body?”
“First of all who are you and where do you come from and how did you get here?”
“I really can’t tell you that. I am afraid you will never understand. I am a scientist and that is all you have to know. I am doing experiments back in my lab and I need bodies. I felt that since your graveyard up there has been neglected that no one would care.”
“Ah but we do care about grave robbers. I am going to have to detain you.”
“I can’t let that happen sheriff.”
The stranger stood up and as the sheriff was rising he pushed the sheriff back into his seat.
“Most unfortunate indeed,” muttered the man as he left the jailhouse.
The sheriff rose, but before he could follow the man he saw a bright light at the door. He rushed out and all he saw was a stunned Reverend Bill.
“The Devil. I saw the Devil himself,” Bill was saying over and over again.
“What are you talking about man?” asked the sheriff.
“He came out of the jailhouse and just disappeared. Flash, gone in a flash of light.”
The sheriff just shook his head.
Late that night Reverend Bill prayed in his church. He was alone and didn’t notice the flashes of light appearing all over the town.
Out of the light came gunfighters who had blank stares all over their faces. Zombied bodies. They started going through the town and killing everyone they ran into.
Bullets were just absorbed into their bodies as they went from building to building. Not a soul was left in Grantville.
Then just as they appeared, they disappeared mysteriously into the darkness.
Reverend Bill emerged the next morning from his church and witnessed the destruction and mayhem from the previous night. However there were no dead bodies. Just evidence of something sinister happening.
He went through all the houses and noticed how the doors were torn off their hinges, and bloodstains were everywhere.
But again no bodies were found.
He went into the saloon, tore off his collar, went behind the bar and grabbed as many bottles as he could carry. He sat down and started pouring drinks that he drank as fast as he could.
It was a year later when someone stumbled across a deserted Grantville. All he found was a skeleton holding a whiskey bottle.