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The bounty hunter had been after a pair of brothers. After deserting from the Union North, they came West and have since caused enough trouble to warrant arrest in three territories. The price on their heads was hard to resist, and he didn't put up much of a fight.

Over the past few weeks, he always seemed to be just behind them. However, the brothers helped him in a way. The bodies they left behind, he often recognized as competition, other hunters falling victim to the prey. The unusual thing about the corpses was their apparent cause of death. Most of them looked as if their flesh had been carved off with a knife, dug deep in. He wondered how many others there were, left out in the desert for the scavengers.

Perhaps it was foolish of him to pursue these men. Yet love of money drove men to do foolish things. However, he actually considered himself to be a very clever man, despite the precarious, arguably stupid situations he put himself in.

A shadow fell over him, where he sat before the morning fire, tending to the coffee. He squinted up at the hulking outlaw, one that would see him rewarded with a hefty sum when he brought him in, dead or alive. Tall, muscled, and far too smart, Victor Creed eyed him curiously, the newest member of the Creed Gang. He was now one of eight men, the brother James Logan Howlett included.

As a bounty hunter, he'd dealt with some pretty scary men. The scariest were always the smart ones. Victor was undoubtedly the smartest by far, and his younger brother was no slouch either. This would have to be executed perfectly. Unlike the last time he'd done something like this, he had no backup, and if he were discovered this time, he'd be lucky to walk away with only a beating.

If he walked away at all.

Victor crouched down in front of the fire, tilting his black hat back. He reached for the coffee pot, his long nails clinking against the metal.

"You're up early, John-Boy."

That was the name Victor had dubbed him. He didn't try to correct him. He never did. Manco, Joe, Blondie, it never mattered what they called him.

"Too excited about getting paid. I could hardly sleep."

"Is that right."

He pinned John with an intense, discerning look. For a moment, he thought the outlaw knew and he was going to rip into him with those claws he call finger nails. John kept himself from tensing and casually shifted his tin coffee cup to his left hand, leaving his right trigger hand free. If Victor made his move, John felt sure that he'd at least be able to shoot the man before he tore his throat out.

Rather than spilling any blood, Victor smiled, showing glinting, white teeth and too long canines.

"That is exactly what I look to hear, boy."

He stood and turned to the rest of the crew, still sleeping.

"Get up, you bunch of lazy bastard's sons!" he yelled, marching to the nearest man and kicking him.

Not a light tap, but hard enough to lift him off the ground and across the ground a few feet. The rest all got up themselves before he could get to them, except one. James slumbered on, his grey Stetson pulled low over his eyes. Victor stalked over to him, the rest of the crew packing away their sleeping gear and checking their guns. He stood over his brother and crossed his arms.

"We got work to do, Jimmy."

Victor was the only one who called him Jimmy, probably the only one allowed. Still, James didn't move. The elder brother grinned again as he wandered off. There was a copse of trees a few yards from their camp, and he disappeared inside for a few minutes. Victor walked back out with a snake coiled around his forearm, its head held firmly in his hand, all the while grinning. It hissed from between clamped jaws and rattled its tail.

Once over his brother again, Victor shook the snake's tail, riling it even more and dropped it on James's chest. Before the snake had realized it was free to take its vengeance, James had snatched it off and severed its head with a long, glinting knife. Its blood pooled over the ground, staining the few tufts of grass. Its body still twitching, James picked it up and threw it at Victor who plucked it out of the air easily.

"Oops," he said. "Did I disturb your beauty sleep, little brother?"

"Shut up," James growled back, scrubbing a hand over his face.

"Ain't you glad he just kicked you awake?" one of the men muttered aside to the first abused man who glared back at him.

During all of this, John remained by the fire, sipping his coffee with the ease of a man who was just as mean and bad as the rest of the crew. In a sense, he was. In another, he was a wolf among sheep. Granted, sheep with guns and enough corpses under their belt to fill graveyards, but still…

A light groan drew James's attention. The man who'd been kicked gingerly probed his torso, and James turned a scowl toward his brother.

"You been beatin' on 'em again to wake them up," he said, almost a question but more of a fact.

Victor merely grunted.

"I told you to at least give them some warning. What good are they if you got 'em bruised up and bleedin' before the action starts?"

"Excuse me. I didn't realize you were their mother."

James rolled his eyes and walked to the fire, more importantly the coffee. John picked up the pot and poured him a cup before refilling his own. James nodded his thanks before taking a long swig.

"What's the plan, Victor?"

"The Bummers Gang has moved into our territory. We're gonna find 'em and kill 'em."

Comparatively, the Bummers were small time. Their crimes were petty thievery, horse theft, threats, basically making a general nuisance of themselves. But they did have a reward if they were brought in alive. John said as much.

James truly looked at him for the first time, cautious, belligerent. Tilting his head, Victor smirked and held up his hand, clicking his claws together.

"I like the way this one's mind works."