Strange Days: Chapter Twenty-Three Of “Bounty Hunter”

I lead them into the bayou. But not to my home. I lead them in a southerly, then westerly direction. I skirt my own lands and head directly for Baton Rouge. Here, I might find sanctuary for some of the refugees. The rest will be sent on to Texas.

“First stop is Baton Rouge.” I turn to them. “You will be safe there. They will welcome as many of you as they can accommodate. I will lead the rest to Dallas.”

“Isn’t Baton Rouge under vampire control?” On of the refugees is almost ready to panic.

“No. It has been vampire free since the death of The Impaler twenty years ago. It is under the leadership of a changeling. It is also defended by a strong garrison of soldiers. Mostly Werewolves and Changelings. Bounty hunters are welcome, unless they are outlawed.”

“Then we will have to warn them of Hent.” He is worried.

“Who?” I am taken aback by the name.

“We only know him as Hent. He came wandering into town claiming to be some big protector. Him and that big axe of his.” He looks over at me. “He was caught raping, or attempting to rape, the Commandant’s wife and daughters. The council gave him a choice. Either go hunt vampires as payment for his crimes, or hang. He chose to hunt.

“Next thing we know, vampires are overrunning the city and the commandant is retreating. We had no choice but to flee.” He shakes his head.

“Which direction did this Hent go?” I am now alarmed.

“He went back north. Said somethin’ about having business in New York. And Washington DC.” He looks over at me. “And then he said something about going into the wastes. Something there interested him. Or, rather, someone. Someone called the Husbandman.”

“We commissioned a Scotsman to go hunt him down and kill him before the city fell. Called himself War Hammer.”

“I only hope that we have enough time to get to Dallas before he turns back south.” I am determined to warn every city left.

***

We enter Baton Rouge. Proca is the first to greet me. last time I saw her was when we freed her from the slave pens. Her rehabilitation seems to be going just fine.

“Hello, Proca.” I smile.

“Hello, Mistress Cris. I never got to thank you for freeing me.” She smiles back.

“Don’t worry about it. All in a day’s work for me.” I take her hand. “Is Id in?”

“Oh, yes.” She perks up at the name of the city commandant. “And He has been hoping you would come this way again. It has ben too long.”

“Yes it has, Proca.” I let go of her hand. “Will you take me to him?”

She motions to another human and he takes the refugees into his custody and leads them away. She turns back to me. “Yes.” She takes the lead and I follow.

She was just a young lady when we freed her twenty years ago. Now, she is forty. She has the look of motherhood about her as well. “Do you have children now, Proca?” I am curious.

“Oh, yes! And I named our eldest after you. Id and I, well, he asked me to marry him shortly after my liberation and I accepted. After rehab, we held the ceremony and I began duties as his wife. I could never have found such a caring and loving husband if he hadn’t been among those who helped free us.”

Id had been among those with Grady. I had never asked him what his name was short for. Never thought it was worth it. He had volunteered to restore the humans to a close semblance of what they had been before being enslaved.

And I see that he has done wonderful things. I am proud of him. Proca leads me to the city hall. Down a long corridor and to a door. She pushes open the door and I am greeted by the sight of Id playing with his-their-children. Laughter and the giggling of children fill the room.

“Cris!” He is wonderfully surprised. “What a pleasant surprise! What news do you bring us?”

“I wish it was good news, Id.” I shake my head. “I just brought in a huge group of refugees. Mobile has fallen. I believe Washington DC and New York has too.”

“Damn!” He breathes the curse. “Any news why?”

“One of the refugees said something about a man named Hent.” I shake my head sadly. “He committed atrocities and then betrayed the cities because of his punishment.”

“Yes.” He understands. “We have been monitoring this Hent for some time. He is a Chosen. More precisely, he is a Grigori. Or was. Now he is evidently a Fallen.”

“What do you know about one called War Hammer?” I am now looking for clues.

“Another Grigori. But one of the good guys. Used to be Hent’s partner.” Id looks at me. “But they had a falling out. something about Hent trying to kill the Scotsman.”

“Not a very friendly guy.” I look down as one of his children come up to me. I smile. “Hello. Who might you be?”

“My name is Cris. Like you. Are you the one mama named me after?” She is such a cute one.

“Yes. and your siblings would be?” I look up and wink at Id.

“Angel and Davi.” She smiles back at me. “I like you. you’re nice.” she wanders off to play some more with her sister and brother.

“Quite a family you have, Id.” I look at him, smiling.

“You ought to settle down sometime and try it yourself. Might make you happier than you are.” He grins.

“Nah.” I look him in the eye. “Not yet. I have too much to do.”

“You always have too much to do.” He chides. “You have to make time. I make the time, Cris. Otherwise, I would go insane. This job is far from easy and consumes a lot of time. But I still take time for my family.”

“When the time is right, I will settle down, my friend.” I look away. “But not now. It isn’t time. I still have to finish my mission.”

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