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Venom

Old Thyme 8. Death at Pine Mountain

The vampire stepped inside the tavern, and the door closed behind him. Dressed in a gentleman’s attire more at home in the 1940s, the vampire stood like a gaunt statue with that same distant look he had held while waiting in the Cadillac that night he had chauffeured Susan to the funeral home.

“Ring of Fire” played over the jukebox.

“I see my message found you,” said the vampire.

“Where’s my son?” said Augustus. He didn’t recall pulling his revolver out, but there it was held in his hand. His heart thundered.

The unmistakable sound of the pumping action pushing a round into the barrel of a shotgun came followed by the deep, demanding voice of the bartender. “Take it outside fellas.”

Not appearing the least bit concerned, the vampire grinned showing off his terrible fangs. Augustus’s hand began to shake, and he gripped the revolver tight.

There was a pop sound, maybe even glass shattering. Gun kicking in his hand, Augustus cringed fighting to hold his hand steady. There was no going back now, he squeezed the trigger twice more at the monstrous kidnapper as he backpedaled knocking a stool over, his left elbow smashing into the scrawny fellow. He had hit his mark, he felt sure of it, but that evil grin wouldn’t go away.

Shotgun blasted, the jukebox exploded spitting glass, the music died.

Turning about, Augustus fired in the direction of the bar. Another blast and birdshot tore into his leg. As he crumpled over, he fired again, and the bartender fell over. Augustus hit hard on his side, but managed to hold onto the revolver. Pain shot up his leg, and he growled through clenched teeth.

Sitting up, he spotted the scrawny fellow, Neville, lying still on the floor hugging a fallen stool. Slumped against the front door, the vampire sat there spitting blood.

Loud ringing in his ear made hearing difficult. Fearing the bartender might be reloading somewhere behind the bar, Augustus leaped up onto his feet. His knee felt like it was on fire, and he grunted trying to hold back the inferno racing through his veins. Holding his gun out, he hobbled to the bar and peered over.

The bartender sat against the back counter, his mouth agape and eyes hanging open. Blood gushed from the dead man’s temple. Neville was dead, too, but Augustus didn’t find a reason. Heart attack, perhaps.

The kidnapper still hadn’t moved, but he coughed blood. As the ringing faded, Augustus could make out heavy breathing accompanied with a round of spitting. Looking at him now, he realized the old man didn’t appear much like a vampire. Dragging his injured leg, he made it over to the front door. The old man looked up at him as he knelt beside him.

Plenty of blood in the old man’s mouth, but no fangs.

“Your son,” said the old man, voice raspy. He licked blood from his lip, and appeared like he was going to continue, but instead let his head droop. His shirt was soaked through, and he was choking on blood. This old man wasn’t a vampire after all.

“Where is he?” said Augustus. He removed his finger from the trigger, and lowered his gun. “Is he at the ranch?”

The old man fell silent.

Augustus searched the dead man’s pockets, discovering a wallet and a set of keys. According to his driver’s license, the old man was Jonathan Villeneuve of Bend. He found a business card for Old Thyme Funeral Services, which struck Augustus odd, since his business was named, Thyme Funeral Home, but it quickly came to him. The family business went back further than he had realized, here in Bend, where Villeneuve had been employed.

Augustus took the business card and left the wallet on the floor. Glancing around the tavern, he was looking at two murders, possibly a third. Death had enough business for one night. Opening the door, he let the kidnapper’s body fall over. No sirens, but the tavern stood far enough on the edge of town that it would likely take a few more minutes.

Dragging his leg to the hearse, he felt dazed, and didn’t know where to go. Not the ranch, not with a knee shredded by birdshot. The local hospital meant an invite to jail. Home, naturally, he thought, where he had everything he needed to patch himself up and enough booze to wash away the pain.

The drive home was the longest drive of his life.