Fletcher had been the first one to spot the man with the blindfold. He was the smart one, always had been. The one who always noticed things, and thought of things, and made good plans; and that’s why he was in charge. And it was lucky for ol’ Blindfold down there that Fletcher was in charge, else the boys would’ve cut him up and fed most of him to Nice and Lady, and probably ate some of the leftovers themselves. Especially Cup. Cup was crazy.
Nice and Lady was their dogs what they got off a crazy old woman who thought they’d be protection and was wrong, and Fletcher had named ’em because he said that they got ’em from a real nice lady, and the boys thought that was pretty funny, so that’s what they named ’em. Right now, Nice and Lady was somewhere with Sloan being real quiet like good dogs. And they was good dogs. Better than some of the boys, but that wa’n’t much of a compliment when you thought about it.
But Fletcher was in charge, because he was the smart one, and so Blindfold was still warm and breathing for now. At least until Fletcher could figure what they was going to do with him. Killing him and letting the dogs eat good was the easy thing, they done that plenty of times, but Fletcher knew the easy thing usually wa’n’t the best thing. And there was something wa’n’t right about this one, because Blindfold, he was dressed weird in a coat too big and had a blindfold on his eyes, and was just kneeling down there in the street like that for an hour or more. That’s how Blindfold was when Fletcher saw him, and that’s how he was right now, and it been an hour or more. So Fletcher knew he just had to figure what to do with him.
“Heya, Fletcher,” Mull whispered. Mull was a good one of the boys, real quick with the jittergun, like magic-trick quick, but he wasn’t real smart.
“Shhh,” Fletcher said.
“Yeah, but — Fletcher. You figure what we gonna do yet? I gotta leak.”
“Well, go on,” Fletcher whispered back. “I ain’t stoppin’ ya. Just do it quiet.”
“Why’s he just sittin’ there like that, Fletcher?”
“Because somethin’ ain’t right with him, Mull.”
“You mean like he’s dead or somethin’?”
“Yeah, Mull, I been sittin’ here lookin’ at a dead man for a hour. Go take your leak before ya wet us both.” Mull grunted and started off to another corner of the roof. “And do it quiet!”
Fletcher took another look around, looking for something he hadn’t seen yet, something Blindfold might be counting on or waiting for. But it all looked like everything else. Broke down buildings and roofs that all fell in and garbage in the street. He looked back down again, down at Blindfold, and he was still just setting there, on his knees all weird, not moving or nothing. Fletcher looked at the sky. Couldn’t be more than another half-hour before the sun go down and the howlies come out, and it’d take a good ten minutes or so to take care of Blindfold and get him packed up and maybe another fifteen to get back inside and locked up. Fletcher looked back at Blindfold again.
Guess they’d have to do the easy way after all.
“Mull,” he whispered across the roof. Mull was zipping up and he looked over, and Fletcher motioned with his hands to get down off the roof and around back to where the boys was waiting. Mull nodded, and they both went down the back where an old ladder was only half hung on, but they climbed down easy because they was both pretty good on their feet.
When they got to the bottom, Creed and Yeager was sitting around leaning against the wall and doing the things they did when they was bored; and Mags he was sleeping; and Cup, well, Cup was just setting there facing the wall — staring at it like he could make it fall down just staring at it — and if anyone could it was probably him. Cup was crazy.
“Hey, Fletcher, what’s the plan?” Creed said, and he stood up and stretched, like he was ready to do some work.
“Where’s Sloan at?” Fletcher asked.
“Around the other building with Nice and Lady.”
“OK. Here’s the plan,” Fletcher said, then noticed Mags was still sleeping. “Wake Mags up.”
Yeager kicked Mags pretty good, and Mags woke up mad and Creed laughed a little.
“Come on, Mags,” Fletcher said, “we gotta do some work.”
“What’s the plan?” Mags asked, sitting up and rubbing his ribs where Yeager’d kicked him.
“Creed, you and Yeager, you’re gonna go round to where Sloan is, and then you boys get Nice and Lady and come up behind him. Then me and Cup and Mull and Mags, we’re gonna come up in front of him.”
“OK,” Creed said. “And then what?”
“Then I’m gonna ask him some questions.”
“OK. And then what?” Creed repeated.
“Well, then I reckon we kill him.”
“OK,” Fletcher said.
“OK,” Creed said, and then he and Yeager went off to find Sloan and the dogs.
“Cup,” Fletcher said. “You get that?”
For a second, Cup didn’t do nothing, then all sudden-like he just sits up and headbutts the wall, and he sits back with a big smile — with blood coming down between his eyes — and then gets up and starts walking. Cup was crazy.
Mags and Mull started following him, but Fletcher caught Mull’s arm and said real low, “Hey, Mull. I’m gonna ask him a couple questions, but if he acts funny, you don’t wait. You just go on and shoot him, alright? I wanna ask him a couple questions, but I won’t be mad if you gotta just shoot him, alright?”
“Alright, Fletcher, I got you,” Mull said, and he patted the jittergun he kept in a holster right at the front where he could reach it real quick.
“Alright,” Fletcher said, and he patted Mull on the shoulder because he was one of the good ones, and you could always count on Mull, even when Cup went crazy.
Fletcher walked out into the street with Mull just behind him and walked up a couple of yards from Blindfold. Cup and Mags was already there, but kind of hanging back, and then when Fletcher was there in the street, Sloan give a little whistle and come out of the alley behind Blindfold with Nice and Lady barking all a-sudden — because they been such good dogs to be so quiet so long — and now they was slobbering and pulling their leashes, and Creed and Yeager was right there behind them, laughing at how the dogs was dragging Sloan up the street. But the dogs they quit when they got close and started pacing back and forth like they was a little confused and a little excited.
“Hey,” Fletcher said, once all the boys was in place. But Blindfold just sat there on his knees with his head down like he was sleeping.
“Hey!” Fletcher said louder. Blindfold didn’t move or nothing.
Then for no reason Cup just let out a holler and threw a brick or something right at Blindfold and it went next to his head so close his hair moved, no fooling. But Blindfold he didn’t move or nothing, not even like it’d been a fly buzzing.
“Knock it off,” Mull said, kind of sharp-like to Cup. Then he leaned in. “I told ya, Fletcher, pretty sure he’s dead.” Fletcher shooed Mull away. He was quick on the trigger, but not so much with the thinking.
“Hey, old man, my friend thinks you’re dead. You ain’t dead, are ya?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Blindfold said, and Mags actually jumped back two steps, and Creed and Yeager both busted out laughing at that. And Nice and Lady kept walking back and forth, back and forth, and Nice whined a little high-pitched whine, and Sloan jerked his leash to shut him up.
“Not yet. That’s right, not yet,” Fletcher said, chuckling and turning to look at Mull. “See, Mull, he ain’t dead yet.” Then he turned back to Blindfold and Blindfold’s head was up, like he was staring right at Fletcher, even though he couldn’t see nothing, and Fletcher felt something wasn’t right. Blindfold’s hair was long like a woman’s and dirty grey, and his coat was worn-through pretty good, and his hands was flat on his legs, palms down, and Fletcher saw his fingernails was all cracked and black in places like somebody been digging. “What’s your name, old man?”
“Today,” Blindfold said. “I am Faith.”
Creed laughed at that, and Fletcher thought Creed laughed too much, and Nice and Lady both started whining and turning circles on their leashes, and Sloan had to rough-talk ’em to get ’em to shut up.
“Faith, huh?” Fletcher said, smiling big and putting on a show for the boys, even though he didn’t much like how things was feeling. He took a step back to get a little distance, but did it all casual so it didn’t look like he was scared. “Didn’t know people still had any of that these parts.”
Fletcher heard Cup grunt behind him, and then he heard something heavy smash something else, and whatever it was must’ve broke from the racket it made.
“Yeah? And what you got faith in, Mister Faith man?”
“I had faith I’d find you here.”
Nice and Lady were whining bad now, like they did when storms come up, and they was getting Sloan tangled in the leashes, and he kicked Nice once and Creed wasn’t laughing no more.
“Sloan, shut them dogs up, will ya?” Mull said.
“Shut yerself up, Mull!” Sloan said.
Fletcher licked his lips because his mouth was all dry and he was going to ask some more questions, but something just wasn’t right, so he decided he was done.
“Alright, Mull,” he said.
“Yep,” said Mull, and Mull stepped up, and Fletcher wondered if it was good or bad that ol’ Blindfold couldn’t see it coming. But all sudden-like Blindfold come up on one knee and he was close, way closer than Fletcher thought he could be, and there was a quick noise like water, and Nice and Lady broke running, and Mull made a little coughing sound.
“Fletcher…” Mull said, and he was looking down, and Fletcher looked down, and Mull had his hand on the jittergun — but the gun was still in the holster, and there was a piece of steel through his wrist and up deep into his belly and out his back, and Fletcher followed the steel back to Blindfold’s hand and realized it was a blade.
“Well…” said Fletcher, but he didn’t know why. And then Blindfold took his sword back and Mull fell down on his knees.
“Fletcher…” Mull said.
Creed and Yeager both went for their guns then — and Blindfold went backwards like he was on a cord that got yanked, and went past Sloan and cut Yeager, then turned a little half circle, and Creed fell down screaming. Blindfold made a little circle in front of him with his sword like he was cutting air, but it made red spray up, and then Creed quit screaming.
Sloan was used to having the dogs, so he was still trying to get out his knife when Blindfold went past him again fast; and Sloan didn’t make no noise, he just tip over.
Fletcher was backing up then, backing up past Cup and Mags, and Blindfold coming right at them. And Mags had got his two-gun out by then and he shot both barrels of it, and Blindfold went down in the street. But turned out he was rolling and Mags just hit Cup with all his shooting, and Cup fell down. And then Blindfold took Mags at the knees and did something else too fast to follow, and Mags went backwards making a sound like a whistle gurgling.
Then Cup went crazy.
He got up all bloody in the front and screamed, and picked up a broken chunk of street three times bigger than his head — and had it over his head like he was going to smash Blindfold, but Blindfold turned around real fast and Cup’s hands come off, and the piece of street fell on him, and his face hit the ground real hard, and he moved some and groaned, but his head was broke.
And then Blindfold was on one knee in front of Fletcher, and he had a sword in his hand and it had red on it, and Fletcher hurt in the middle, and his shirt and pants was all warm and wet, and he realized his gun was still in his holster — and he hadn’t even thought about getting it out until just now.
“I knew you wasn’t right,” he said, and his voice sounded funny, like he was talking out the bottom of a well. Maybe he could get his gun out now. “I knew it.”
Blindfold didn’t say nothing, he just stood up and slung his blade out to the side, and all the red went sliding right off it like it’d never even touched it, then he put it somewhere in his big coat. Fletcher realized he was setting down, but he couldn’t remember setting down; and he kept thinking if Fletcher could ask enough questions, he’d figure out what ol’ Blindfold was up to and maybe then he could get his gun out and kill him.
“You come all the way out here, just for us?” Fletcher asked.
“No,” Blindfold said. “You were on the way.”
It was going dark, and Fletcher wondered if it was just his eyes, but then one of them howlies made a cry somewhere not real far off, and that meant the sun was going down. Blindfold didn’t seem to be in no hurry though, just buttoning his rag-man coat like he was on his way to a funeral.
“Way to where?” he asked.
“East. There’s a city.”
Fletcher felt real tired and he figured if he laid down on his side, it’d be easier to get the pistol out the holster, and he was going to need that for killing Blindfold, and then again when the howlies come, so he leaned over sideways on an elbow. Blindfold started walking away, and Fletcher never had no worries about shooting a man in the back so long as he didn’t get too far off, so he called after him. It didn’t hurt none no more.
“Hey! What’s it got there worth seein’?”
Ol’ Blindfold stopped for a second and turned over his shoulder, but not really looking at Fletcher, like he was thinking about it.
“Demons,” he said.
Then he just walked off.
Fletcher never did get that gun out.