After getting something to eat and drink, John did ride with Bonnie on patrol, gaining a quick tour of the MacFarlane ranch at the same time. Quite a nice operation, he noted...clearly the McFarlanes had put many years of hard work into it. It was the first time John had ever seen a ranch with its own jail, general store and train station. An exceptionally large barn lay nearly in the center of the ranch. The sides of the barn sported several colorful, circular designs filled with geometric patterns.
"That's the barn, over there. Pa built it himself when I was just a little girl."
"What are those designs painted on the side?" John asked.
"Oh, those are hex signs. Back when my father first built the barn, he had some help from a group of Pennsylvania Dutch settlers who moved out here from back East. Seems they thought putting those up would help ward off bad luck or something."
"Have they worked?"
"I asked my pa that one day, after we lost a good bit of the herd to some rustlers," Bonnie replied, wistfully. "Now, my pa's a very practical man...not one for mumbo-jumbo or such...but he said, 'who can say, perhaps we'd have lost them all if they weren't there'. Besides, a little superstition can be a good thing around these parts, Mr. Marston. Not everything is always as it seems, or as science or the Good Book would have us believe."
John nodded at this, thinking back to the events of the last few weeks.
"You don't have to convince me of that, Miss MacFarlane."
She looked over her shoulder at him.
"Good...that's good...perhaps you're not as dumb as I thought."
He grinned in response and shrugged.
"How about a cold drink, Mr. Marston?"
"Thank you, ma'am. Getting shot then riding a horse seems to take it out of you. I could use a rest."
Bonnie laughed and motioned to the door of the main house, "Sure, come on in. I'll show you the house, and then you can sit for a while."
After partaking of Bonnie's hospitality, John later helped her keep watch on the property line that evening. Bonnie even let John borrow a fine rifle. They were able to chase off some rabbits from the garden, and even a few coyotes that tried to make off with some of the chickens.
"You know, you can actually handle a rifle" Bonnie commented with some admiration, as she rode with John to his cabin.
"It's something I've had a little experience in," John replied.
"Maybe Bill Williamson did get lucky, after all."
"Luck didn't really come into it, miss."
"You're a useful man to have around the ranch, that's for sure, but don't think I've forgotten what brought you here. We'll do whatever we can to help you."
"I sure appreciate that, Miss MacFarlane."
"Thank you for your help, Mr. Marston," Bonnie said, as John hitched up his horse. "Makes me kind of happy I saved your life. Get some sleep and I'll see you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Miss MacFarlane."
John entered the cabin and went directly to bed. He was quite tired, and his wound still took a bit out of him. As he drifted off to sleep, he heard some of the ranch hands talking and laughing around the fire just outside. The MacFarlane ranch seemed like a real nice place, and he considered it the first good thing that had happened to him in some time, gaining these folks as allies.
In the chambers of the Cabal, Nephilos stood over a large stone table, upon which was carved an intricate, detailed map of the New Austin region. Mystic sigils were also carved around the edges of the table, and a small, silver planchet was almost imperceptibly moving by itself over a tiny mark labeled "MacFarlane Ranch". He smiled to himself as his associate, Saraphel, strode into the room, a glass of wine clutched in his hand.
"So, has your cat's paw finally got up off his dusty little...death bed?" Saraphel drawled, taking a sip of his no doubt very expensive vintage.
"Yes...yes he has. For a moment there I feared we had overestimated his abilities, but he appears to be made of slightly sterner stuff. I hear we have you to thank, at least in part, for Marston pulling through?"
Saraphel have a slightly drunken titter and then spoke in the voice of a little girl.
"Papa...please, save Mama and Jack!"
He laughed to himself some more, gave a little bow, then flopped into a nearby leather chair.
"You know, dreams and sendings are my forte, as it were. I'd like to see the strapping Mr. Marston have another go at it, as well. It seems it was his pesky morals that made him so sloppy. I think he's much more likely now to face the ordeals he has ahead of him with a more, shall we say, practical demeanor."
"Yes," Nephilos agreed, turning his attention back to the planchet. "Nearly dying will do that to a man."
The next day, Bonnie brought up the idea of seeing the Marshal in Armadillo. Apparently, he had already expressed an interest in speaking with John as well. Since she had to get some supplies anyway, she suggested John accompany her into town. As they drove, the topic of Bonnie's upbringing came up.
"Many years ago we did briefly employ a French governess...well, I think she was French...she said she was French, but she spoke Russian. She also claimed to have Romany blood...you know, a gypsy. She taught me how to read the cards."
"Read the cards? Like playing poker?" John asked.
"No! Like...fortune telling and such."
"Ah...so you know the past and can see the future, eh?" John laughed.
"Well, it doesn't actually work like that," Bonnie said, suddenly feeling a bit embarrassed, "but I can tell you it does give me some pretty good insights into people, and of what might happen."
"But so can a dose of common sense...and you seem to have that, too." John replied, "So...have you looked into my future?"
"No," she lied, "not really. I think you've got a destiny, though. Something you're going to do...something important."
"I hope my only destiny is to grow old with my loved ones."
He looked over at her, but noticed she wouldn't meet his eyes. They road on in silence until they reached the town.
"So this is Armadillo. Manhattan it is not...but it does okay for us. The most important thing for you right now is to get yourself to Dr. Johnson's office to purchase some medicine. The first one's on me."
"Thank you, miss. I'll pay you back."
"I'm sure you shall. The doc's a good fellow. He saved your life, so be polite to him. Meet me in front of the general store when you're done."
The doctor's office was small, but neat and fairly clean. John noted a gunsmith was located just two doors down from the doc's place. He'd definitely have to stop by there when he had some money in his pocket. With a dark amber bottle of medicine in his hand, John returned to the general store. Bonnie was leaning against a post, waiting for him.
"Well, thanks for driving me. It was nice to be able to enjoy the view for once, and a little company never hurts now and again." she said, as she hoisted herself up into the driver's seat of the wagon.
"You're more than welcome, miss...it's the least I can do. Thank you for the medicine."
"Why don't you have a look around Armadillo? You can always take the stage coach back to the ranch later."
"I might just do that, miss."
"Try not to get shot," Bonnie added, as she goaded the horses with the reigns, "I might not be around to save you later."
With that, Bonnie drove off in the direction off in the direction of the ranch, leaving John standing in the middle of the dusty main street.
John looked over at the saloon, and considered getting a whiskey. Most of the windows had been replaced already, he noticed. If the events of that night had affected the town at all, it was certainly hard to notice it. Men and women were bustling here and there about their business as normal. Since his funds were so low, he decided to forgo getting a drink, and just go straight out and meet with the marshal, as Bonnie suggested.
Entering the dark, dingy sheriff's office, John noted one of the cell doors was open and contained a loudly snoring, weasel-faced man who wore what seemed to be a silvery badge.
"Excused me!" John called out.
"Hey...HEY! You got a visitor!" prodded a man in a locked, neighboring cell.
The sleeper awoke with a start and spit on the floor.
"Shut up, YOU!" he said to the prisoner, then looked over at John. "...and what you want?"
"My name's John Marston...you wanted to speak to me."
"I guess because we're both in the business of the law. Look, are you the marshal or not?"
The man grunted and gave a half laugh. "Naw...I guess you're lookin' for Leigh Johnson. Well, he ain't here...he's probably over at his 'parlor'."
"Yup...he's not just the marshal, he's also the town undertaker," the weasel-faced man said, spitting again on the filthy floor. "Look behind the saloon. I hear he got another 'client' in just this morning."
Thanks for the reviews! Love getting them. Hope this chapter is okay. If I skip something that happens in the game (such as John and Bonnie's horse race, or most of the conversation on the wagon trip to Armadillo), just assume the events proceed as normal. I don't see the need to just post a transcript of the game if I'm not going to make any appreciable alterations to a scene. I will be placing in bits here and there (such as John and Bonnie's conversation before/after he picks up the medicine) to anchor the story to the core game, though. Didn't want anyone to think I was trying to pass that off as my own.
I also see that a downloadable pack called "Undead Nightmare Pack" will soon be available from Rockstar! Included will be "ghost towns and cemeteries hosting zombified humans"! Turns out my AU isn't so AU after all!