Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. The verse from the Bible is Matthew, chapter 13, verses 49 and 50. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Edward's rebellious years. (1927-1931)
Thanks to Bronzehairedgirl, the fastest beta in the west..uh…east…uh…south!
Author's Note: While many believe that the Ku Klux Klan populated only the southern states, in the early twentieth century, the American west became a refuge for racial and religious hatred. Multiple lynchings occurred between 1915 and 1930 in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, in addition to those in the southern United States.
by silly bella
It puzzled me, the hatred one man could harbor for another. How, for some inexplicable reason, someone could write off a whole race of people as inferior because of the color of their skin. But wherever civilization rose from the dirt, prejudice reared its ugly head. I knew what they didn't: underneath every color of skin, the blood ran thick and red.
I'd read in school the history of the Ku Klux Klan, former rebel soldiers who banded together to persecute freed slaves. Those groups, with their white sheets and burning crosses, cut an ugly swathe in American history. Even in modern times, their heinous crimes filled the newspapers. Maybe not the front pages, but if you looked, you could find it.
Somewhere along the way, the hatred crept out of the south, following the freed slaves wherever they went. It grew, as well, encompassing new people: Jews and Catholics. In the west, Indians and Hispanics found themselves victims of the same unmerited disgust.
One would think that the harsh climate of the Rocky Mountains would create a community where people considered any man who toiled hard of equal worth. But for all its work ethic, Colorado was no different. Which made it a fertile hunting range for me.
The law might seek out common murderers and rapists, but the Ku Klux Klan managed to evade the legal ramifications of their actions. Pillars of the community, they stood together behind the white linen sheets.
But I could smell them. I knew exactly who killed those three men found naked and hanged last week. Exactly who ravaged the woman with them, then left her there to die, covered in burning tar, along with her baby. I could not imagine how they could have deserved such a death.
Perhaps I fooled myself by thinking I was any better. I killed, and I did so frequently. But even the guilty men I killed died a quick and relatively painless death. I saw no reason to torture them. But these men, these good men, felt justified in doing just that—all because of the color of another man's skin.
Tonight, I hunted killers as monstrous as I.
I had followed them, watching them carefully. Listening to them plot. Tonight they had in mind another murder. Two women and one man, all siblings who had dared question the recent death of their brother and his friends. They had spoken out against the sheriff, who had made no effort to discover who had hanged the men and violated the woman. Of course, he didn't need to make an effort; he already knew who did it. He was there, watching, taunting the men as they struggled to breathe, taking his turn with the woman. I saw it in his thoughts, his memories. He had handed his brother the rock to kill the child.
Tonight, it would be their victims who lived.
I saw other murders in his thoughts as well, a young woman, barely twenty, her children's faces in her lap as she begged the men to stop beating her husband. She made the sign of the cross—the same cross that burned in front of her house, its flames scorching the aspen tree beside the building, sparks igniting the corner nearest the trunk. His cruel laugh as the man died and his brother called out, "Get thee to a nunnery," to the newly-made widow.
Tonight, they would not laugh.
Waiting in a grove of aspens that I had seen in the sheriff's thoughts as he talked with his brother, I wondered exactly what Carlisle might think about these men. Would they remind him of the witch-hunts of his youth? Would he consider me as bad as his father, killing in the name of justice? I hung my head, ashamed at the thought of him even seeing me with these red eyes. But how could he understand? He had never satisfied that thirst, appeased that burning in his throat, found a peace from the constant desire for blood. I laughed bitterly. Peace. Carlisle had a different kind of peace, one born of compassion. An emotion I couldn't raise for the men I stalked tonight.
And then they came, riding horses while their victims, hands bound, ran behind to keep up lest they be dragged to their deaths instead of waiting to be hung—or worse. I heard the sheriff say to his brother, "These two are young. You reckon we'll be their first?"
"I'm certain we'll be their last," his brother sneered. The rest of them laughed. Their thoughts were ugly.
In the darkness I could see the girls' fear, smell the adrenaline in their blood. It made me thirsty. I could wait no longer. There were five men on horses. I would feed well. Deciding to take the sheriff last, I moved ahead. One of the men carried a torch, and in the flickering light, he saw me. I grinned. The horses sensed something about me and one of them reared, knocking his rider to the ground before running away. His head hit the ground when he fell, knocking him out. I didn't want the other horses to run for the safety of the people tied to the saddles. Quickly, I took the reins from the riders' hands and returned to where I stood. It was faster than they could see, so it must have seemed like magic when they noticed the leather in my hands.
How did he do that? It's some kind of trick. The sheriff was skeptical.
"Demon," the one with the torch shouted. I knew he was the minister of the local church. "Get thee behind me, Satan."
"Not Satan, but close enough." I laughed. If only they knew how close. "Cut them loose," I instructed the sheriff's brother, nodding at his knife.
He didn't budge. Like Hell I will.
The doctor, a man sworn to do no harm, sneered at the three he had planned to kill, "Has the devil come to claim his own? Perhaps the fires of Hell will burn you as white-hot as he is." Foolish man. I would help him learn about the fires of Hell.
"Wouldn't that be somethin'?" the sheriff laughed.
I knotted the leather strands of the reins together and rushed the sheriff's brother. I snapped his neck and used his knife to cut the ropes from the hands of the prisoners. Again, I moved too fast for them to see me do it. They knew only the results of what I had done.
Captors and captives alike gaped when they realized that now I stood before them, a dead man at my feet, the sheet covering his head peeled back to reveal his identity. The women huddled on either side of their brother, and he placed an arm around each of them. I heard one of the women thinking, her accusation ringing in my head. He is a demon.
"Go," I urged them. "Walk about a half-mile due east. There are three horses there. Keep them or sell them as you wish."
The man stared at me, unable to speak or move, his mind utterly blank from fear. He held his sisters tightly. One of them prayed, her voice so low I was sure none of the men on horses could hear her.
"You can't let them go," the sheriff shouted. "They're ours."
I turned back to the Ku Kluxers. "On the contrary. I believe the laws of this country have prohibited the ownership of human beings for some time." The minister began to pray, mumbling the words nervously.
One of the women seemed to have found her senses. She stepped away from her brother and pulled his arm. "Let's go while we can." She led the others away, pressing them to move faster. She turned to look at me once more. Is he the Angel of Death? And then she began repeating a verse from the Bible: So shall it be at the end of the world: The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Gnashing of teeth, indeed. I smiled dangerously at the three men left on horseback before knocking them to the ground. With the sheriff under one knee and the minister under the other, I drained the doctor before their eyes. They stared as he screamed from the burning venom, their minds empty of everything but the horror of dying.
I dropped the drained corpse beside the minister and lifted him, bending back his head to expose his neck. He had progressed from prayers to repeating, "Get thee behind me, Satan," in a rapid monotone until the raging flames filled his body. So this is what hell-fire and brimstone feel like. Behind me, the tangled horses whinnied nervously.
Terrified eyes bulging, the sheriff looked from one bloodless body to the other. "You are a devil," he whispered.
I laughed and hissed, "See you in Hell," before I ripped into his throat, letting the blood slake my thirst as his screams filled the darkness.