Jack Mongrel

“What’d you see?” Angelina leaned out over the wooden balcony in light of the afternoon, her hair ragged and breasts shimmering. Her breath slowed as the throes of romp subsided and she regained her ladylike composure. There were few people on the street below, and none that could witness her baring all of God’s creation. She would return to this very balcony in full dress later in the afternoon and evening beneath the light of a nearby lantern, offering her wares to passers-by and the occasional farm boy who looked to make the most of his visit into town. Until then she would finish her work with this one, who calls himself “Alfred” and was likely to be a different person by the time he left town.

The man beside her ignored her as he concentrated on the row of buildings across from the way. His brows furrowed, the crevices along his forehead deep and well-entrenched after years of concentrated staring. His graying hair limply cascaded around the bloated and worn skin of his face. He would not admit to being frightened nor anxious about what he may or may not have seen, but it was his way to stand and stare. The stiff fur of the long-dead bear around his waist fluttered in the breeze, as did the fur along the man’s back and legs. After a long and punctuated silence he said, “I didn’t see nothin.”

“Then why’re you lookin out like that?”

“Cause I feel like it.”

Angelina turned back to the room. “Always squintin out at nothin, you fellas. Never get why.”

“You don’t need to get nothin,” he said. “Now get yourself back in bed. I got more comin to me.”

He stopped his turn when Angelina yelled out, and only had time to utter the words “thought I smelled—” before a bullet passed through his neck and erupted out of the other end in a cloud of red. Angelina’s shrieks heightened as the man fell to his knees, then his hands and knees, then his stomach, and finally his face. Blood continued to pour out as the other man in the room, the one holding the rifle, stepped toward the balcony. His entire form appeared to be shrouded, revealing little to no detail other than the man had a penchant for black and was not likely to pause to reveal anything more than that. As he stepped to the rail he paused long enough to reveal his face, which was dark and covered in the coarse approximation of several days of beard.

Angelina’s cries subsided as the robed man grabbed the edge of the railing with his free hand. “You tell em who done this,” was all he said, and leapt down to the dirt road below. As he walked he began to break apart the rifle in his hand, the rifle that ended the life of the notorious forger Jack Mongrel, known to make acquaintance with every prostitute in every town and village between the Four Rivers and Mount Hool.

He placed the barrel and butt of the rifle beneath his robe, and adjusted the white collar around his neck. The wide-brimmed black hat shielded his eyes from the sun. He walked toward the corner of the next road where a flittery woman and her child passed alongside him.

“Morning Father,” as she and her child walked along the lane.

“Mornin Sister.”

The sound of bells and the usual alarm that occurs after a death filled the air behind him. His gait quickened, and he kept his head low so as to not arouse the attention of the old ones sitting in front of a livery on the edge of town. He made note of the town name. He would not return to Buford for several years.