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Darker and more unpleasant than this nights rarely get. A cold northerly wind whipped the rain into the face of a lone traveler, trying to make his way across the ever-muddier prairie. His horse had bolted when the thunderstorm that preceded the downpour broke, and the weight of his saddle and his drenched clothes were quickly wearing him down. During one of the few breaks in the cloudburst he thought he saw some lights to the west and decided to head towards them. Once again the rain subsided for a moment and, even in the light of the moon, he could see that what a little while ago had been faint specks were now bright dots. Taking heart, he pushed on and before long, quite a bit sooner than he expected in fact, he reached the edge of a small village. Just as he was about to enter it, a gruff voice made him turn around. Its owner, a shabbily dressed man, twisted his gnarled face into what no doubt was his idea of a friendly smile.

“Howdy, stranger. Lookin’ fo’ shelter, eh? Well, you’re in luck, an’ you’re not. You’re lucky that you found this place. The only town fo’ miles around. An’ you’re lucky that you ran into me, heh heh. Other folks you might meet here ‘round this time o’ night ain’t as friendly, oh no. But it’s bad luck fo’ you that Mrs. Liotta’s hotel is at the other side o’ town. Formidable woman, that is. Runs the hotel an’ the saloon all by herself, ever since the death of her man Ray. An’ runs it tightly, too. See this scar on my cheek? Ended up at the wrong side o’ one of her kitchen knives fo’ missin’ the spittoon, heh heh. Yeah, a real clean place, that is. But you won’t get there tonight. Why? Well, d’you see that big buildin’ where there’s light burnin’? You really don’t want to go near it, not now. That’s where the Fang Gang lives. Real unfriendly bunch, ‘specially at night. But you’d have to, to get to the hotel, so… Ah, they know better than to lay a finger on me. They may not like the sun, but they sure do like my moonshine, heh heh. Yes sir, it’s the best this side o’ the Mississippi. An’ if they ever touch me, they know they’ll never get ‘nother drop. That other house with the lights on? Oh, that’s the mayor’s place. Doc Ferris. He’s prob’ly measurin’ his skulls. Yeah, that’s a hobby o’ his. Fre… fray… somethin’ology. He says the shape o’ someone’s skull can tell you what kind o’ fellow they are. The things some o’ those learned folks believe, eh? Heh heh. Yes, ‘course he knew the people whose skulls they were. How else d’you think he knows if he’s right? Whoa, stranger, watch your language. You never know when you might need his tender mercies, not in this town. An’ if he ever hears you talk like that… That’s the sheriff’s office over there. An’ don’t let his mild manner fool you, now. Bud White may talk like a polite city boy, but he’s one o’ the fastest guns in the West. Draws at the drop of a hat an’ never misses. Made our undertaker a very rich man, heh heh. Come on now, no dawdlin’. My place is nearby. You can stay in the guestroom overnight. Gives you a chance to taste my white lightnin’, too. Hey, who’s there? Oh, I see. Easy, stranger, it’s good folk. ‘Sides, if it wasn’t, that gun wouldn’t have been o’ much use to you. Hello Star Chan, out lookin’ fo’ mandrake, are you? Yeah, this week’s batch o’ moonshine is comin’ ‘long jes’ fine, heh heh. Good huntin’, sweetie. Huh? Oh, she’s a nice girl, just a little strange in the head. Indjun squaw. Knows evvythin’ there’s to know ‘bout herbs. The only one in town that the Fangs are really ‘fraid of. Well, here we are. Come on in, stranger. By the way, what’s your name? They call me Nite Owl, bet you can guess why. Now, how ‘bout some…”

The unpainted door closed. Seconds later, a heavy thud could be heard, followed by the sound of lugging, the soft creaking of ropes and pulleys, muffled clangs of metal on metal, and an eerie gurgling. At the edge of town Star Chan, who was digging near the foot of a wooden structure, looked up and smiled. The sky had cleared and the full moon shone down on the joist a few meters above her head. One of the nooses hanging from it cast its shadow on a sign right beside her, which read



Calm down, , it’s not as bad as all that. Surely, you don’t believe everything such a thoroughly disreputable character says, do you? No, this is a friendly place, meant as a successor to the much lamented Talk Buffy message board. If you want to discuss anything related to the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, or any other part of the space-time continuum that’s known as the Whedonverse, this is the page to be. Questions, answers, theories, suggestions, hypothesis, snippets of news, extolations or diatribes, anything goes, just keep it – there’s that word again – friendly. Happy posting.

PS Any similarities between the names of certain H2G2-researchers and those in the story above are, well, not exactly coincidental, but not reflective of their respective characters either, only the product of the author’s imagination. And shame on you for thinking otherwise. smiley - winkeye


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