A bustling, wild, but dangerously exciting town setting on the eastern slopes of the Rockies where the prairie met the mountains. A town filled with a lawless raw energy. A rapidly growing western town filled with miners moving on through the Rockies in search for the next gold mining camp. Or with cattle barons who ruled vast cattle empires on the rolling plains just east of the city. Filled with people of all walks of life who flocked to the West in search for a new start. A city growing too fast with little, if any, law enforcement to curb the waves of crime which traveled the West in search for its next victim.
Jeremiah Pitt knew the monster was here, somewhere, in Denver. The magic within the Iroquois war-axe constantly whispered to him, giving him directions and advice, whenever awakened from it silent slumber by the arrival of evil. Through the night, from one saloon to the next, he searched.
He found the mortal coil which contained the evil monster within a smoke filled, brightly lit saloon filled with rows upon rows of tables for the gambling crowd. As he entered the establishment he noted the long bar stretching down the entire length of the building to his left and the dozens of large kerosene lamps hanging from the ceiling which lit the established with a yellow-hot glaring light. The kerosene light, drifting through the heavy tobacco smoke filling the room, seemed to magnify yet blur the images before him. To his right the gambling tables were packed with cowpokes, cattlemen, bankers and a smattering of farmers. All with cards in their hands. All smoking cigars or pipes or rolled cigarettes. All losing money. All except the house and a few independent card dealers who had rented out tables for their for their own private game.
One of the rented tables in the far back of the crowded establishment belonged to the one he hunted. A big man. Built like a bear with massive shoulders and thick arms. Long black hair, pulled back of his shoulders, clean and glistening, matched the thick beard and mustache masking most of the man’s face. He was dressed like a gambler. A white shirt underneath a three button black silk vest. Tailored dark gray slacks. An expensive white shirt with long sleeves ending in a pair of gold and diamond cufflinks.
He did not look like a monster. But Jeremiah Pitt knew. True evil never disguised itself in something horrific to look upon. The darkest evil always appeared to its intended victims as something beautiful or powerful. Appeared as someone to trust and honor. Better, obviously, to lure the unsuspecting into its deadly web.
He made his way slowly past the gambling tables. The heavy silver spurs strapped to his worn and scarred boots jingling musically with each step. A hand rode on the handle of the heavy .44 caliber Remington revolver riding low on his hip. Stuffed into his gun belt behind him was the war-axe. The magic talisman whispering to him even as he approached the table casually.
Half way to the table where his prey sat the big man sitting at the table looked up, narrowed his eyes, and frowned. Yet continued to deal cards out to seven men sitting around the table. Stepping up to the table Jeremiah laid a hand on the shoulder of one of the players. The man looked up and into Pitt’s face. And then, unbidden, for some reason slid back in his chair and stood up, handing his freshly dealt cards to him in the process.
Pitt accepted the cards, sat down in the chair, and smiled at the dealer.
“Been riding a long time to find you, mister. A long, hard ride.”
“Yes?” the black bearded giant grunted, lifting one shaggy eyebrow suspiciously. “Why your interest in me?”
“Seems like we have mutual acquaintances. A young Comanche family traveling south out on the plains about a week’s ride from here. A family with two young boys. Migrating to Texas. Minding their own business. Remember meeting them about a month ago?”
“Sorry. I don’t,” the big man grunted, shaking his head as he folded up his hand and laid it gently on the table and smiled amicably at Pitt.
“You should. You butchered all four of’em with that bowie knife stuck in your belt there.”
The six men sitting around the table threw cards onto the middle of the green velvet tabletop and hurriedly got out of their chairs. They moved away from the buffalo hunter and the card shark rapidly. The scraping of chairs across wooden planks floors around the gambler and hunter became a quick staccato of rapidly retreating witnesses.
The bearded gamble, hands lying palms down on the green velvet of the table, watched in amusement as people cleared a large space around him and the man sitting across form him. Returning his gaze back to the unshaven, unbathed hunter his smirk for a smile widened maliciously.
“Interesting, stranger. You walk into this saloon, find me minding my own business, sit down at my table, and accuse me of murder. Tell me. Why would I want to kill four Comanche? What would I gain killing four dirt poor Indians?”
“Souls,” Pitt answered just loud enough for the gambler and no one else to hear as he laid the Iroquois war-axe onto the table beside him. “You eat souls for sustenance. Especially the souls of children.”
What happened next is in dispute.
No two stories are exactly alike. Witnesses, the entire saloon, recount numerous versions of the incident. None of them were written down. Only passed along orally from one generation to the next. Researchers have been unable to verify the folktale. The incident is soundly ridiculed by many historians, calling the story too outlandish to believe. A few, however, believe the stories as being gospel.
As the folktale goes, the gamble turned himself into a howling monster. For a second or two he eyed the buffalo hunter silently. Almost complacently. And then suddenly he leaped out of his chair, hurling himself over the top of the table hands outstretched in an effort to grab the hunter’s throat. In that brief space, while in mid-air flying over the table, the black haired man changed. His whole physical being morphed into a howling, hairy beast with a back lined with massive horns and teeth as long and as sharp as daggers. Hundreds of them. His already powerful hands became gargantuan in size, his fingernails turning into massively sharp talons.
The patrons of the saloon left in a wild stampede of pure terror. Left so violently every window of the saloon’s ground floor was shattered and doors were ripped off their hinges as hundreds of bodies flew out into the night in their efforts to flee. Into the night the patrons fled. Most screaming in sheer terror as they ran in the night down dimly lit streets.
Only one mortal stayed behind to witness the fight. Denver’s most renowned drunk. Too drunk to stand up and run, he lay in a corner of the building beside the rear door of the establishment. He was almost crushed by the fleeing crowd. But through the frenzied mass of screaming, terrified men pushing and cursing their way past him, he swears he saw what happened next. Swore to his dying day what he saw actually happened exactly as he related it to whomever wanted to hear it.
The buffalo hunter moved faster than the monster hurling toward him. The tall man came out of his chair, swiped that strangle looking war-axe off the table, ducked underneath the monster’s outstretched claws, twisted completely around in an one hundred eighty degree arc in the process, and brought the sharp edge of the war-axed down on the back of the monster thick neck. Brought it down with a force powerful enough to cleave head from body. The monster’s head bounced twice on the wood plank floor, rolled a foot to one side, and then . . . unbelievably! . . . began to shake violently! Shake violently, openig its mouth to begin screaming in an unholy voice, as . . . as . . . ghosts by the hundreds fled from its mouth and soared into the air above its body!
Hundreds and hundreds of ghosts flew out of the monster’s mouth, rose up above the hunter still gripping his war-axe, and then fled through the walls, ceiling, and busted windows with blinding speed!
As he lay against the far wall of the saloon the town’s drunk watched as the hunter glanced in his direction and smiled. Walking to a still upright card table he grabbed a half filled glass of whiskey and tossed it down his throat with one sharp toss of his wrist. And then, grabbing the neck of the whiskey bottle, the killer of monsters walked across the cluttered mess of the saloon and handed the bottle to the drunk just before stepping out into the night. Never to be seen again.
Swear to god! the drunk swore over and over to anyone who would buy him a drink and listen to his tale. That’s exactly what happened that night. Swear to god!