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The Courthouse

Corky knew the man was trouble when he started eating his own entrails. Cannibalism was frowned upon in most social circles and the enthusiasm with which he chewed made the sheer grotesquery of it hit her like hot copper. Add the fact that he had killed six people and it made for a dicey afternoon. There had been rumors about the walking dead almost as soon as Corky was deputized. Gomorra was a rough town; people died all the time, and most of 'em were mean enough that bullets seemed a little too easy. Add to that the fact that drifters came and went every day, and sure, you're bound to have a few stories about fellas coming back from the grave. But until this morning, she never gave any credence to them. Now, she was prepared to rethink things.

She and Templeton were on duty, when a woman came flying in, talking about someone shooting up the LAD Saloon. Johnny went to get the Sheriff, while Corky - lucky her - got to scope out the situation. People were flying off the street as usual during a gunfight, so nothing seemed extraordinary amiss. Then she got to the saloon. Or more precisely, to the sidewalk outside the saloon. And there he was, noshing on his innards like they were Sunday brunch. The large shotgun hole in his guts suggested that someone had already tried to put him down, but judging by the way he was scooping stuff out of it, it didn't seem to matter. His skin had a gray-green quality, like meat that's gone bad.  He had a six-gun in one hand, and from what it looked like, he had given plenty of use. Two bodies were slumped on the street around him, and a third lay half in and half out of the LAD's window.

Corky didn't waste any time with him. Drawing her pistol, she capped off a shot that punched him right in the chest. She'd been a trick shooter on the rodeo circuit before turning to law enforcement, and could hit a bird blindfolded if she had time to aim. She saw the bullet blow out the back of his ribcage and imbed itself in the LAD's swinging doors. The man grinned at her and started shooting back. Instincts kicked in and she dived to safety just as the bullets whizzed past her. She pulled herself behind the cover of a nearby water barrel as screams echoed from up the street. The people hurrying for cover picked up their pace, and out of the corner of her eye, she could see onlookers scattering like panicked lemmings. The Cannibal Man didn't seem too attached to her as a target; he kept shooting, presumably at those hapless folk still clearing the street.

"Gotta stop him," she thought to herself. Easier said than done. A man who keeps goin' after you've plugged him in the heart needs a lot more than what she had to slow him down. "Still, I gotta try."

In one smooth motion, she popped up from the waterbarrel and took aim. Cannibal Man was cackling like a rooster and throwin' his hand in the air; his pistol hung limply from one outstretched hand. "Perfect," she thought.

The first shot blew the man's index finger off, the second his thumb. Maybe he couldn't be killed, but Corky was damned if she'd let him pick up a firearm again. His six-gun clattered to the ground, along with the digits that used to work it. He didn't look overly concerned. Crouching like a dog ("and still cackling - what was so goldarned funny anyway?!"), he snatched his fingers up with his mutilated hand.

Corky's next shot went wide while he stuffed the fingers into his mouth and began chewing enthusiastically. She cringed and ducked back behind the barrel to reload. When she came up again, he had a surprise for her. In his free hand was another pistol - this one sporting a circular array of barrels. The gun jigged and the air was full of shrapnel.

"Gatling! He's got a Gatling pistol!" her thoughts screamed. The ricochets careened around her head even as the gun continued to spit out new bullets. She hunkered down and tried to stay invisible while the onslaught continued; gazing around furtively in hopes that Templeton might show up with the cavalry.

Good God... Her eyes widened. A mother and her two small children walked out of Miss Coutreau's, into the line of fire like they hadn't a care in the world. That didn't last long; Cannibal Man grinned and leveled the Gatling at them...

Blam! Blam! Blam! Corky's gun pulled his attention away from the potential victims. His chest thudded as the bullets slammed into him, but he kept his feet and continued to spray the street with bullets.

"Get yer kids off the street!!!" she screamed, as the trio scampered away.

Just what this situation needed was a new gaggle of innocent bystanders. She reloaded again, this time with the last of her spare bullets. She was about to pop up for one last round of derring-do when she spotted the Indian coming down the street. He was huge, built like the side of a barn, and his face was decorated with warpaint. His bare chest rippled with muscles, and he carried the biggest warclub Corky had ever seen over his shoulder. He was staring intently at the undead gunslinger; the high amount of lead in the air didn't seem to bother him. Corky felt it her civic duty to say a few things to him.

"Git down, ya crazy Injun! He's shootin' people!"

The big man turned. "I'm not an 'Injun,' Deputy Hendricks. I'm a New York Iroquois. And that Restless Spirit out there don't scare me any more than you do."

A bullet whizzed past his cheek and imbedded in the nearby wall. Corky almost snarled as she reached out and grabbed his forearm.

"Scairt er not, yer puttin' yerself in harm's way! An' I got a responsbility to keep you safe until Johnny shows up with the heavy artillery!"

"Hands off, woman," he spoke softly. The huge club in his hands gleamed in the sunlight as he hefted it over his shoulder and strode out into the street.  Corky felt her grip slip away and her indignation rise.

"Fine!!!" Injun wanted to get killed that badly, why step in his way? Maybe she'd get a chance to blow some more fingers off while Cannibal Man was busy cleaning his clock. The Indian calmly strolled towards the LAD. The gunman, spotting an obvious target, pulled the still-firing Gatling pistol in the big man's direction. Hot lead flew around him, nicking his clothes and buzzing past his ears. Yet none of it actually hit him, and he continued walking in a straight line towards the undead creature. The monster paused, then took careful aim at the Indian's head. A hail of bullets spat out of the barrel in a deadly arc, but still, they missed their target. Again and again, the gun fired. Each time, it was found wanting. The Indian was now less than fifteen feet away.

"You're shooting iron looks a little broke there partner."

He crossed his hands. The monster stopped and stared at him. The dull look in its eyes was slowly replaced by something else, something akin to fear. The big Iroquois smiled and hefted his club; three arrowheads gleamed along its bent surface. The first blow took the thing's head off, like a branch sheared from a tree. It stared goggled-eyed at him, its jaw still chewing on the severed fingers. Without pausing, the Indian brought the war club up again, then brought it down on the thing's chest. It split wide open, shattering like a rotten melon and tumbling into disarray. The war club tore straight through the middle of the carcass, and didn't stop until it struck the hard wood of the sidewalk.  Cannibal Man - his anatomy now reduced to a fetid pile of goop - let the pistol fall with an enthusiastic plop, then collapsed. As suddenly as it had begun, the ordeal was over.

The Indian pulled the club free and shook the detritus off of it. Corky poked her head out, then walked up behind him, shaking her head in disbelief.

"What the hell was that thing?" she asked.

"Walkin' Dead," he replied. "Real nasty one, too. You take its fingers off?"

"Yeah."

"Nice shootin'."

There was a pause. Corky cleared her throat and started again. "You gotta name?"

"My father called me Little Running Bear. You can call me Mr. Little Running Bear." "Thanks for the assist, Mr. Little Running Bear. What are you doin' here?"

He smiled grimly. "Just fishin'," he said. "Catchin' little fish 'til the big one shows up."

Corky pretended she understood and nodded her head sagely. "So how come you weren't afraid of gettin' shot out there?"

Little Running Bear looked carefully at her. His granite eyes were not unkind. "If you have to ask, Deputy Hendricks, then you wouldn't understand."

Corky nodded again. There were worse epitaphs to close the afternoon.

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