The woman’s name was Rebecca Mercer, and she was his wife.
Franklin pulled a pocket watch from his jeans and checked the time. Nearly two in the morning. Which meant it was officially their anniversary. Ten years.
Her beautiful red hair now lay thick with blood where it had pooled around her in a crimson halo from her cut throat. So much blood. Franklin wasn’t any stranger to blood, but it still shocked him how much had escaped from his Rebecca.
When he’d walked into his home with the flowers, he’d hardly crossed the threshold when the smell assaulted him. Blood, yes, coppery and thick in the air, mixed with the indignities of death… but under it, the familiar smell of sulfur. Franklin knew that smell, an odor that spoke of old rites and summonings. He and his brothers had witnessed more than their fair share of “normal” atrocities in Vietnam, and then some. Most members of Franklin’s family could see things. They could sense when the Elder Gods’ own were near. Many had taken up the cloth in some form or another to warn humanity against the things of the night—things even the night was afraid of.
But not Franklin. And not his brothers.
What was the point of warning people when you had the means to send evil back down its hole?
Besides, Franklin knew that as terrible as the Elder Things were, human beings were just as capable of evil and selfishness. He knew he wasn’t free of those failings either.
Franklin crossed the room to the kitchen table and sat down. He carefully placed on top of the table the flowers he’d cut from outside. His eyes were drying up; he was running out of tears. For a moment he was glad their children hadn’t lived to see this. No child should see their mother in this state.
After a few deep breaths to steady his nerves, he pushed himself back to his feet and retrieved a sheet from their bedroom to drape over her. He paused only long enough to close her eyelids. Those green eyes had looked so terrified and shocked.
He went back to the room and opened the closet—he’d built the armoire himself, just like the rest of their home—and pushed aside the shoes on the floor of the closet. Using the small hole in the back, left corner, he pulled up the floor board to expose the false bottom. Snug in the recess was a box, the top inlaid with carved stars and runes.
Franklin pulled out the box and opened its lid. More stars and old, arcane symbols covered the inside surfaces. The only thing inside was a single Colt Peacemaker.
Franklin knew what would be coming his way, and there wasn’t much time. Blood and sulfur always called the Old Ones and their minions.
He ran his fingers over the runes—ancient words from a dead language—carved into the grip of the Peacemaker and etched along the barrel. It could kill what normal guns couldn’t. As he walked out of his home, he spared a glance to the shrouded form of his wife.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Franklin knew what would be coming his way, and there wasn’t much time. Blood and sulfur always called the Old Ones and their minions.[/pullquote]
He’d go to Hell and back for Rebecca. Do anything for anyone or anything for her.
Franklin took one step outside his front door, pulled the lever back on his pistol, and fired it into the air. There weren’t but five homes in the vicinity—all built by him just three years ago—and that gunshot would bring their occupants running. And they’d come armed. He expected no less of his brothers.
Franklin Mercer didn’t have to wait long. His brother came—guns ready—into the clearing in which his home had been built. They each carried a pistol similar to his own, all passed down from the Lieutenant.
“Heard the shot, Franklin,” Jeremiah said. He was the youngest of them, with dark hair that had no chance of ever being tamed.
“It does my heart good to know you still know the sound of this here gun.” Franklin held up his pistol, then flipped open the cylinder to pull out the empty casing and replace it with a fresh one.
“What happened?” asked Henry, only eleven months Franklin’s junior. Henry looked a bit like a bulldog. He’d been the only one of the brothers to inherit their father’s looks.
Franklin gestured inside. “You’d best go see.”
They knew better to question him. After all he had done to get them through the war, they accepted his words without a fuss.
Franklin waited outside as they all filed in silently. He didn’t plan on going back in there himself until this was all finished.
Stephen came back out first, followed by his twin, Alan. They weren’t much for talking, but Stephen put a hand on Franklin’s shoulder. He didn’t say a word. Didn’t need to.
“Condolences,” Alan said. He did most of the talking for the twins. His eyes were wet, and Franklin figured this was the first time he’d seen his brother weep. “Any idea who did it?”
“Oh, I think I have a general idea,” Franklin answered.
Jeremiah and Henry followed the twins out. It was a few more minutes before Daniel walked out, his brow furrowed in concentration. Daniel was the smart one, the one that people had to be careful around because he never missed a trick.
“How much time we got?” Daniel asked.
Franklin pulled out his pocket watch and examined it in the moonlight. “Half-hour or so.”
“I don’t get it,” Henry said. “Who’d want to kill Rebecca? And why?”
“That ain’t the question,” Jeremiah said. “Why are elderspawn involved? That’s what we should all be asking.”
“Indeed,” Daniel agreed. “But now’s not the time to ponder on it.”
“And I don’t intend waitin’ here for the things to converge on us,” Franklin said. “I plan a lot of death this morning.”
“For Rebecca,” Alan said. Stephen nodded his agreement.
“For Rebecca,” Franklin echoed, looking each brother in the eye in turn. He had their attention, just like back in the war. If they did what he said, Franklin knew everything would be all right. “Here’s what we are going to do…”
This is just one of the stories in the anthology Redneck Eldritch, available now!