“Come on out Lyndon,” Bill Johnson called out as he took position, rifle at hand, outside the old wooden house.
His voice carried with it an air of authority to match his physically imposing frame. He wore a long, weathered, leather coat. His Stetson hat tipped forward, his dark brown eyes barely visible below the rim. In the dim light of the fading Texas sun he stood in the shadow of the quaint little house of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett.
“You got nowhere to go. The odds are against you this time.”
The remote location of the hillside house and picturesque scenery painted a perfect picture of everything a family home should be. It was a perfect place for the Bennett’s and their ten year old daughter, Molly. That was before Lyndon Wesley walked into their lives.
“Well let me see, Mr. Johnson,” said Lyndon, his high pitch squawk coming back at Bill from within the house. “Ya got yourself a crazy, murderin’, son-of-a-bitch. And I got me a lock-down in a house with a purdy mother, her dead husband and her very alive and very beautiful daughter. I’d say it’s you who’s facing off against the odds sir.”
Bill had been tracking his man for five long weeks and now, finally he had him cornered. Lyndon Wesley: AKA Wild West. The man with a ten thousand dollar bounty over his head dead or alive – twenty one dead including women and children will get you that kind of a price.
Inside the house, Rosie Bennett sat on the old wooden floor with her child crying at her side.
Her husband lay motionless just ten feet away by the open log fire. The hole in his chest oozed dark red blood onto the oak brown floor. The bright glowing flames from the log fire created cruel shadows of his contorted corpse against the stone walls. His killer stood by the small side window in the kitchen. the barrel of his six shooter pointing out towards the yard.
“Please God, help us,” Rosie whispered.
“God?” snapped Lyndon, turning round to face the woman. His lips tight and thin over his brown teeth in a grimace.
“Do you think God gives a shit about you? Hell no. If he did, then why he put ya with me in the first place, hey? Life’s one big game, and the big man upstairs, he’s the player. We all just pieces in his board game. I bet he looking down on us in here and laughing his almighty ass off. Yea, he gets a real kick out of watching people suffer.”
Lyndon began to prowl up and down the old, wooden floor like a rabid animal caught in a trap, hungry for blood. His scrawny body and straw-like hair that hung over his sharp features made him look like a feral beast. Outside, Bill Johnson edged toward the house, rifle at the ready. His heart beating like a drum in his chest. A shot rang out, Bill scrambled to the ground for cover. Panic grabbed him by the throat and squeezed tight in anticipation of the pain of the bullet entry. It never came. The bullet had missed him.
“Bill, you hurt?” said Lyndon.
His Colt .45 was poking through a side window from the kitchen, “Hope ya ain’t dead old buddy, was only meant to warn ya off that’s all. We’re just beginning to have a little fun you an’ me.”
Suddenly, in one swift movement, Bill rolled over on the floor, pointed his gun at the small window from where the voice came from and pulled the trigger. A sound like thunder erupted from the rifle and a scream cut through the air like a lightning bolt. Lyndon screamed out in agony, holding the left side of his face where the bullet had skimmed his cheek, tearing a hole along his jaw line.
“You filthy bastard!” said Lyndon, “You filthy, rotten bastard.”
Bill scrambled to his feet then darted toward the front door. Inside the house, Rosie Bennett made a snap decision to make a run for it. She grabbed Molly by the wrist and headed for the back door. A shot rang out from within the house and the tiny wrist she held in her hand went limp.
“Molly!” Rosie screamed, her heart had only time to feel the terror at the sight of her daughter’s bleeding corpse before it exploded in her chest from the second blast from Lyndon Wesley’s handgun.
“Stupid bitch,” Lyndon snarled; one hand covered his cheek, the other held the handle of the smoking gun. “I never said nothin’ ’bout leavin’, young lady.”
At that moment, the door burst open and Bill Johnson came charging in. Lyndon had only time to turn around and set eyes on the bounty hunter before he was struck by the but of the rifle, flooring him and scattering his gun across the floor. “You filthy dog,” Lyndon said from behind blooded teeth. “Your mother was a whore, your father was a-”
“Shut your hole.” Bill put the barrel of his rifle against the lips of his downed opponent. “You’re gonna hang for what you’ve done.”
Lyndon kissed the barrel of the gun at his lips. “We all gotta go Bill. It’s been a fun ride tho, hey?.” He began laughing, a wild, uncontrollable outburst. Outside, the night had taken the sun, darkness prevailed. Somewhere in the distance a wild coyote howled.
The abrupt clang of steel on steel awoke Lyndon Wesley from his slumber, as it had for the past seven days since his capture and consequent incarceration at the hands of Bill Johnson.
“Wakey, wakey,” the guard said, an overweight gentleman with slicked back hair and a genuine dislike for the latest addition to Huntsville State Penitentiary.
“You fat, worthless hog,” Lyndon said, jumping out of bed and grabbing hold of the cell bars with both hands, “I hope your wife gets vaginal disease and dies.” His flesh wound on his face began to weep from underneath the dressing from the sudden movement.
“Mind your language, you filthy piece of human waste. The priest is here to see your sorry ass.”
The guard stepped away from the cell, and a towering black figure revealed himself. At six foot seven, he dwarfed the guard and then Lyndon as he entered the cell. His long white hair tied back in a neat pony tail; his gray, piercing eyes sunk deep within his skull.
He spoke in a soft English accent. “Could you give us a moment alone, please?”
The guard looked a little hesitant. “You sure about that, father?” he asked.
“I’m going to be fine,” the priest said.
He then pointed to the room's lone steel chair.
“Please, take a seat, my son,” Lyndon duly obliged. His eyes remained fixed on the stranger before him. “Do you know who I am, Lyndon?” the priest asked.
“Yep, you’re a man of God.”
“In a figure of speaking yes, I suppose I am. And do you know what I’m here for?”
“You’re here to read me my last rights, see if the good old lord can save my balls from the burning flames of hell.”
A wild grin stretched across Lyndon’s face, he never passed up on a chance to taunt the lord. The priest matched his wicked smile with one of his own. A cold shiver ran down the spine of Lyndon.
“You ain’t no priest,” Lyndon said. “You’re something else.”
The smile on the priest's face never broke, Lyndon began to feel a strange sensation like butterflies in his stomach. “You’ve had a troubled life, Lyndon.”
“So, what the hell do you know about it?” snapped Lyndon. Whoever he was, whatever he was, he wasn’t a priest. Of that, Lyndon was certain. Presently, the priest spoke again.
“I know about your father.”
Lyndon raised an eyebrow at the priest. Many had heard the story but few dared to speak about it in his presence.
A story about a father who, after his wife had left him to raise a child on his own, hit the bottle hard and took out his anger on his son. Lyndon had learned about the violence from a very early age. Then on one cold winter’s night, just three days after his fifteenth birthday, Lyndon had taken his father’s hunting rifle, walked into his bedroom while he lay, and shot him as he slept.
“You think you know some shit about me,” Lyndon said, his fists began to clench by his side. “Yea, I killed my daddy and a whole bunch of other sons of bitches along the way too. So what, you don’t know me.”
“I know all about you Lyndon,” the preacher said, his deep gray eyes never trailing for a second away from Lyndon’s gaze.
“I know about little Frankie.”
A sharp pang shot through the center of Lyndon’s heart. Fear? Panic? Or something else? He wasn’t sure. It felt like a crooked arrow had been fired from point blank range, twisting as it penetrated his chest. Not since childhood had he heard another living soul utter the name of his little brother Frankie, not until now.
“You just shut the hell up now, preacher,” said Lyndon, his eyes widening.
The priest continued, “I know that your little brother Frankie died when he was just five years old. You were two years his elder at seven. The two of you playing together down the old mine shaft. It was a terrible accident.”
“Watch your god-damn mouth.” A deep rage began to boil in the pit of Lyndon’s stomach.
“But we know better,” the preacher said. “Sure, you made everyone believe he slipped and fell, but we know different, don’t we, Lyndon? You pushed little Frankie down the shaft. Killed him. And the reason? No real reason. You’re a natural born killer, Lyndon, and that’s all the reason you needed. Soon after, your parents split up and your mother left. The truth is, although they never spoke about it, deep down they knew you killed him and it tore them apart."
Lyndon had heard all he had wanted to hear from this demented priest. He began to rise from his seat, fists clenched. “Now you listen to me, whoever the hell-”
Before he could stand, the preacher waved his hand in a subtle gesture and Lyndon felt a powerful force pull him back to the chair, he had no choice but to obey. The arteries in his neck were pulsating, struggling to keep up with the heavy output from his heart. A strange taste of copper flooded his mouth as the adrenalin coursed through his veins. He had been in some bad spots before but never had he felt such fear, such dread as he did now.
“Be still,” the priest said.
“What do you want?” Lyndon said from behind clenched teeth.
“For the first time in you’re life, I’m going to give you a break. I’m here to offer you a deal.” The sinister grin returned. “The deal of a lifetime.”
“I suppose I ain’t got no choice but to listen,” Lyndon said; the situation, he realized, was out of his control.
“Good boy,” the preacher said, relaxing his gesture and so releasing the invisible force. But Lyndon remained seated. “The deal is simple; you will not die from the hang man’s noose tomorrow morning. In fact, you won’t die from anything, ever.” He raised his arms and held them out towards Lyndon. “My child, I am offering you the gift of immortality.”
A look of bewilderment came over the face of Lyndon, he was perplexed to say the least. His simple mind was working overtime to make sense of everything that was happening. And although what the mysterious stranger was saying sounded like the ramblings of a mad man, he believed every word of it.
“You mean to say I get to live forever?” Lyndon said, not quite believing he was having this conversation. “And what do you want from me?”
“You know the answer to that question Lyndon, I want your soul.”
A cold silence fell upon the room, neither man breaking its frosty embrace. It felt en eternity had passed until Lyndon finally spoke.
“This is horse shit.”
“You doubt my power?” the priest said, one eyebrow raised inquisitively. Recalling the ungodly skill the priest showed by holding him against his will, and the ghastly way he mad Lyndon feel in his presence, it wasn’t hard to imagine he held such power. Whoever he was, he was for real.
“What are you,” asked Lyndon, “some kind of devil?” The priest kept his gaze fixed on Lyndon.
The cold silence fell between them again, the damp walls of the cell accentuated the chill in the room. It felt like time had stood still and only the two of them existed in this moment. It was a painfully quiet moment. Lyndon broke the silence.
“Well, hell's bells,” he said, “I couldn’t give a hoot what happens to me when I die, preacher, or whoever the hell you are. The way I see it, my ass is in the fire when I leave this shit hole anyways, so who gives a damn? I wanna stick around this dump as long as I can.”
The preacher regarded him with cautious optimism. “Do we have a deal then?” he asked.
“Shit, I don’ know why we even talking ’bout it still. Let’s shake on it and get me out of this cage.”
They shook hands. The priest's hand was long and thin, cold to the touch and clammy.
“Goodbye Lyndon,” he said. “See you very soon.” The priest called for the guard who let him out.
“Hey,” Lyndon called out. “What am I supposed to do now?”
With that final word, the priest was gone. Lyndon remained in the dark of the cell, not sure if what had just happened had actually just happened. The next day he was taken by the guards to the gallows. A hood was put over his head and a rope tightened around his scrawny neck. Panic had set in and taken hold of him when the realization came to him that it must have all been a lie.
A cruel joke set up by some twisted son of a bitch he had wronged in the past. The list of potential candidates that would play such a sadistic trick was far too great; he had crossed many a man in his short time, killed, maimed, and robbed. It could have been anyone. He could imagine someone was out there now, watching him, laughing at him. Probably in the crowd of people that had gathered to watch his execution.
A deep rage burned inside of him, the panic gave way to blind rage, he began shouting expletives from beneath the hood. The gallows opened. The rope tightened. His neck snapped. In that moment, there came darkness. It was the first thing his waking mind registered. The second thing he registered was a familiar voice asking him to wake up. The preacher has a subtle, English accent.
“Wake up Lyndon, wake up.” His mind told his body to move, but his body disobeyed.
He was paralyzed. Suddenly, a strange tingling sensation started at his head and passed through his body, bringing with it a horrific sensation of pain around his neck from where the rope had been. Full mobility returned once again to his body. Now he realized he was lying on his back. He put his hand out in front of him to feel for his surroundings. His hand hit against something hard and wooden about two feet in front of him. He attempted to roll over and stand to his feet but he hit another wooden obstacle only a couple of feet away to his left. His heart began to race as he realized where he was, buried alive in a coffin.
The voice came again from the darkness, “It’s no use trying to escape, Lyndon.” A crazed, claustrophobic panic overcame Lyndon, and he started lashing out. His arms and legs banged against the confines of the wooden box. He went to scream but no sound came out, his voice box had been crushed by the hangman. And the pain, the pain was now unbearable.
The voice spoke again, “I am a man of my word. I told you I would give you eternal life, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”
Lyndon began to sob, his hands were broken from striking against the coffin, and his neck was burning in agony.
“But don’t worry, my child,” the voice said. “I wouldn’t leave you on your own for eternity, I have plenty of people to keep you company.”
A hand grabbed hold of his right leg. He tried to pull himself free, but to no avail. Another voice came from the darkness, a voice he had not heard since childhood.
“You killed me,” the voice whispered.
Little Frankie was the first to welcome him to his living hell. Then another hand grabbed his left leg, another grabbed him by the hair. Voices from different people, young and old – all of them his victims he had sent to an early grave. All of them repeating the same words, over and over like a mantra.
“You killed me, you killed me.”
Then the biting began. Lyndon’s body convulsed as the teeth of his dead victims sank into his skin, some of them tearing out chunks of flesh. But for each incision, for every chunk of flesh, his body healed and the flesh returned in a constant cycle of regeneration.
“My word is my bond,” the voice whispered from beyond. “You shall never die.” A wretched gurgle was all Lyndon could muster as his throat was torn out by the hands of the dead. It was a pain he had never known in his life, but he would come to know it again and again.