Wild Western: The Man Named Zeke #1

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TommytheHitman

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23rd February, 1857

Hill Valley, California

There was a man named Zeke, and he was a stranger.

It had been a cold day when the man named Zeke stumbled into the small town of Hill Valley, and thankfully most of the town's residents had been hiding in the shelter of their homes when Hill Valley's newest resident had arrived. There had been a chill in the air, one that passed between the buildings like a monster hunting its next victim, peering out from the alleyways before darting quickly behind the closest cover available and moving on.

There had been a fair few townsfolk out and about that morning performing their normal duties, enough to tell the events that would later occur and to keep the legend alive. There had been the local paper boy, holding his papers with one hand and gripping the contents of his wallet with the other as the leather skin kept his raw, red fingers warm. There had been the town priest, gossiping gently with a few church goes outside his holy building, as his lord watched from above the heavens and waited for even the smallest hint of blasphemy. There had been the local blacksmith, busy fashioning together horseshoes upon his forge with a blazing hammer that may have been fashioned in the molten pits of Hell itself! And of course, there had been Zeke, who stumbled into town without a horse, or a coat... or even shoes for that matter, and who's chittering, white teeth made enough noise to wake up any remaining townsfolk trying so desperately to get an extra lick of sleep.

Yes, there had been Zeke, and his exploits would be legendary... but they hadn't happened yet.

The town blacksmith, a man by the name of Martin Fox, was the one closest to Hill Valley's main entrance, and as a result was the first to see the town's new visitor staggering past his home, looking half dead as he walked. Feeling a sense of concern for the seemingly bedraggled man before him, Martin did what so few people did at that time, and offered a helping hand.

"Whoa there, friend!" Martin said, placing his hammer down as he moved away from the work station and towards the fence that separated his home from the rest of the town. Zeke, man of mystery, stopped in his tracks, slow and sluggish like a zombie, before leaning the wooden fence to his right in order to rest for a moment. "You look like you've been through the wars!" The blacksmith pointed out with a false, awkward chuckle as he moved towards his visitor. "Are you feeling alright?"

Zeke definitely didn't look alright.

His face was largely hidden beneath a brown hood, connected to the tatty, moth eaten shirt that the man was wearing, and as Martin began to look more closely at his acquaintance, he thought that he saw something that greatly resembled blood dripping from the upper, hidden portion of Zeke's face.

"Beer." The man responded by almost spitting out the word, catching Martin so off guard that he almost stumbled back from his support and forcing him to grip the fence to steady himself. "...tell me where I can find a beer and then I'll be alright." The blacksmith frowned, feeling almost intimidated by the aggressive, unnatural response he'd received. He thought back to a time, many years ago, when he'd had the strength and speed of a hundred men... and he felt the aching pain of old age hit him in the stomach as his mind returned to the present.

"Tavern's just a little further down, friend." Martin answered, turning back to his work with a sense of unease that hadn't been there before. "Have a nice day." A garbled grumble was the only reply that Zeke received, and as the blacksmith returned to his duties, he took note to perhaps keep an eye on this possibly unsavory gentleman.

It was a long walk to the local tavern. At least it seemed it as Zeke dragged his tired legs in the direction of the black, dust battered building just down the road. He felt the pain in his bones and the eyes on his back, noticed the shuffling of curtains all around as well as the strange, duck shaped sign that he passed as he walked up the stairs to the building. Zeke ignored all of them, opting instead to focus on dragging himself along the filthy dirt road that lay beneath his feet.

It was a shame.

If Zeke hadn't been so tired from prior ordeals.... or if he'd been perhaps a tad more experienced in the ways of the world, he would have paid more attention to the whining in his gut and turned his attention to the doting old priest across the street, who even now was leaning in to whisper under the ear of one of his followers, and who even now was plotting the most sinister of plans.

"Get word to the Master." He whispered to a fat, old nun named Dora, all while watching Zeke, the mystery man, enter the house of evil across the street, a house he would not leave for a good long while.

___________________________________________

2nd March, 1857.

A week passed for the people of Hill Valley, yet while the world moved on its spinning axis, the man named Zeke did very little moving of his own. He'd found a comfy little seat right by the tavern's barstand and he would, on occasion, raise a hand to get the barman's attention for another order, but that was the most movement he did.

The Dancing Duck was no stranger to drunks and misfits, with the former making up most of the building's clientele, but it was rare for the establishment to find a strange mix of the two seemingly glued to the table with a very powerful thirst that could not be quenched. Louis Reed, the establishment's owner, had never seen a thing like it. There had been times he'd thought the man at his table was dead, but there had always been another order for more beer from the corpse before Louis had found the courage to check. The bartender stood at his post now, polishing a glass on a quiet, warm day, when he finally noticed the man named Zeke raising his head from the stand, blinking quietly as if he were unsure where he was.

"Where am I...?" Zeke moaned as he pulled back his hood, revealing a tuft of dirty, blonde hair covering his head, as well as a large, painful looking scar covering the man's right eye.

"Paradise, if you're a drinking man." Louis said with a friendly tone, adjusting his bleach clean apron before venturing over to talk with the paying customer. "Which is what I take you for, given the number of booze bottles you've been downing all week." The barman waited patiently, as his customer's eyes seemed to wobble as he almost fell back asleep, before the man caught himself and straightened up.

"What date is it?" He asked while attempting to stand up, balancing against his foot stool for support yet still almost toppling over.

"Well." Louis bit his lower lip as he sank into deep thought, a trait often noted by his wife as well as his patrons. "If I'm right... and I think that I am. I reckon it's the third of the third this very day."

Zeke seemed to sober up quickly, almost shaking as he heard the date. Rattled for unclear reasons, he paced quickly, again stumbling slightly, to the Dancing Duck's windows and peered out into the ageing streets outside, all while Louis watched curiously.

"You're not from around here, are you stranger?" The barman asked, stepping out from behind the barstand into the main area of the building. "America, I mean."

"Z...Zekes." Zeke slurred, still feeling tipsy. "Call me Zeke."

Whatever the man saw outside he didn't like. He backed away from the window at a snail's pace, until he found himself back under the dim light of the bar, and under the temporary sanctuary of the shadows.

"What brings you to America, Zeke?"

A dark glint appeared in the man's eyes, perhaps representing a sinister thought passing through his mind. He turned to Louis coldly, as cold as the cheap alcohol he'd been drinking, and he frowned whilst saying nothing. When no answer was given, Louis provided one of his own.

"You're here to kill someone, I take it?"

"With my bare hands." The man answered, revealing fingers connected to bone and flesh covered with bandages that all together looked like they'd ended the lives of many that had got in this man's way.

"That'd explain why you're not carrying a gun." Louis said with a nervous chuckle.

An eerie silence filled the room, accompanied only by the sound of the wind rattling against the windows, as well as the sounds of people going about their business outside. Louis Reed and the man named Zeke exchanged a glance as they waited, though neither was sure what the other was waiting for. The sound of creaking footsteps seemed to pass through the entrance to the Dancing Duck, and Louis Reed, for whatever reason found himself holding his breath as the door to the tavern swung open.

"Mister!" A boy, the same young boy who'd been selling papers in the town the day that Zeke had arrived, rushed into the building, red in the face with panic and worry as he ran to the stranger in the center of the room. "Mister you've gotta help me!" The boy cried before grabbing the alarmed Zeke by the sleeve on his arm and practically dragging him towards the door.

"What?!" Zeke yelled, sounding terribly confused as he ripped himself free from the young boy's grasp and took a step back. "Slow down boy before I slap some sense into you!" The paperboy stood by the door, eyes filled with a mix of hope and fear as his voice trembled ever so slightly.

"My sister, sir." He explained as Zeke knelt down on his knee to talk to him, dwarfing the young boy in height but kneeling nonetheless. "Please. You've gotta help, they've got my sister." Louis Reed watched the events with a concerned eye from across the room, carrying a dishcloth in hand as he wiped one of the many tables clean.

"Maybelle?" Lou said, evidently familiar with the child and his family, and looking all the more concerned as time passed. "Who's got her, Clive?"

"Bandits, Mister Reed." Clive explained, breathing heavily from all the running he'd been doing. "They just rode into town and nabbed her!" Tears began to well up in the poor boy's eyes as he turned again to the stranger. "Say they're gonna kill her... Please, sir. You've got t-"

"Shut up!" Zeke snapped, standing up a changed man from the one that had knelt down. Gone was the slouched, drunk persona he'd adopted, in its place was someone far more formidable and dangerous. "I'll help you." He promised before taking the boy's hand. "Just show me where they are."

Bright, orange light filled the Dancing Duck as the man named Zeke stepped outside, and for a moment the mystery man found himself temporarily blinded as his eyes adjusted to the sunlight. Clive gripped the man's hand tight, keeping him on the right track as they walked, and when Zeke's vision finally returned following his first few steps, he saw a version of himself staring right at him.

"Zeke." The Wanted poster read, followed by a badly drawn image of the man in question."Wanted Alive for Theft and Murder. Reward of $30,000!"

"Oh no..." Zeke grumbled as Clive let go of his hand and he felt the familiar sensation of a pair of guns trained upon him.

"I brought him to ya, sir!" The boy yelled with a cruel chuckle as a man and woman, both of whom were holding guns aimed at Zeke's head, stepped out from behind a carriage parked just across the street. The man was dressed in a mix of brown and white clothing, with a grey beard dangling from his chin, while the woman had flowing, orange hair dangling from underneath a cowboy hat, with a red bandana covering her face. "I did just as you asked! He didn't suspect a thing!"

Up in the Church's Bell Tower, Zeke caught a glint of light from the shadows, and noted a man with a rifle overlooking the proceedings.

"Good work youngster." The old man said in a somewhat jovial manner, letting his wife keep aim on Zeke as he relaxed his tired, ageing gun arm. "I hope this'll sate you till we get rich!" He chuckled before tossing a silver coin to his young accomplice still standing at Zeke's side.

"But I want my share now, Mister Morrison!" Clive snapped, sounding like a spoiled brat as he tossed his coin to the ground and covered it with sand. Mister Morrison chuckled once again, before bringing his gun hand back up to aim. Zeke felt a twinge of regret and raised his hands up towards the heavens, angry not just at himself, but the world.

"Later, boy." The old man said, plain but stern. "We've gotta hand this poor, stupid $%*£@&D over first."

There had been many people in Hill Valley that day, all of whom saw the events that were about to unfold. Some watched nervously in the streets, afraid of the gunfire that they felt was sure to come. Some watched excitedly from their windows, hoping to see some bloodshed before the end of the day... but there was one, and only one, who watched from the rooftops with nervous anticipation. He stood dressed completely in black, not a single bit of skin visible across the man's whole body, and the heat that this man felt upon his heart and upon his back was enough to make any other normal soul pass out in a stroke.

This man's name was the Shiver, and soon the whole world would know his name.

To be continued?

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TommytheHitman

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batkevin74

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@tommythehitman: Watch Back To The Future recently? :)

Nice to have another WW back, just curious on WHERE & WHEN this is going, issue 2 should explain some more.

Good job

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TommytheHitman

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@batkevin74: Ah, yes. Yes I did. Underrated trilogy that I feel stays quite consistent throughout the three installments.

Have you already guessed who the main protagonist is? ;) I'm sure you have and a simple yes or no will suffice.

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cbishop

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#6  Edited By cbishop

I don't know how I missed this. It's on your FOP page, in the FOP annual, but it wasn't in the official library, or on the FOP group page. Sorry, man. Corrected now...

Corralled in the Wild Western Roundup! Yeehaaaa! :)

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TommytheHitman

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@batkevin74: Maybe! Super busy with Uni at the minute but rereading it put me in the mood to continue.

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Good Job.