Friday, September 29, 2017

Van Helsing's Gun

Van Helsing's Gun
Bobby Derie

It ain't easy to draw on a vampire. The pants-shitting surge of adrenaline helps, and eyes wide in the dark to catch any flutter of movement, but there isn't much room to clear your gun in a crypt, and less time to do it in. A clear street at high noon, with twenty paces, is hard enough for most folks.

To her credit, Maggie Hunter had managed to at least clear the gun from the wide leather holster on her left hip before the nosferatu caught her by wrist and throat. Strong, slim, cold hands gripped her tight and twisted. Maggie gritted her teeth until she felt the bones in her wrist grate against each other, and the big pistol fell from her nerveless hand. She had time to spit half a damn before she felt herself tossed against the back wall, hard enough to knock the wind from her.

The vampire stooped down and picked up the gun. It was Maggie's first real sight of her, limned in the open doorway. A few inches short of six feet, grey hair cut short and drawn back in a man's cut. They'd buried her in a slim, tailored suit, breasts bound tight so there was barely a rise in the chest at all, the face old but the skin still tight, except for the little wrinkles around eyes and mouth that must have made her smile warm and bright in life. No jewelry, no make-up to add color to the well-manicured fingers and cold, fishy lips. The nails gleamed as they turned the pistol over and over, then cocked the hammer.

"Van Helsing's gun," the nosferatu said. The voice was cracked, as though from long disuse. "There's a poetry in this, don't you think?" she added, as she pointed the double barrels at Maggie.

Hunter breathed shallowly through her mouth, the dust in the air was driving her nostrils crazy. Her wrist throbbed, still painful, as she stared down the twin black abysses of the pistol, imaging she could almost see the .577 calibre silver slugs.

It was a howdah pistol, that Van Helsing had picked up ghost only knows where in his travels. At it's heart, it was a cut-down .577 Snider rifle, with a custom stock fitted. Maggie had pried the damned thing from Hellsing's own crypt, three nights back. Muttered apologies as she peeled away the skeletal fingers that gripped it, then almost broke the poor bastard's spine getting out the leather belt with its special holster and the sling of silver bullets. It had taken a day to clean it, make sure the action worked. Fresh black powder packed in. She hadn't fired it though - didn't want to waste the silver.

"If you're going to do it, go on and do it." Maggie spat, trying to clear some of the tomb-dust from her mouth. "It's a better way to go than anything else I'd get from you."

"Yessss..." the vampire's face drew up into a smile, all those shadowed laugh-lines spread out and deepened. "Quick. I'll do you that favor."

A flash and roar. A clatter and a scream.

After-images burned in Maggie's eye, her night vision ruined. At the entrance to the crypt, the vampire had collapsed. The right hand - the one that had held the pistol - was just gone. Everywhere on her face and chest were bursts of white flame where bits of silver shrapnel had embedded into her cold flesh, ripping through the thin cloth of the suit, which smoldered away in rings like dying celluloid. Gray flesh blackened and fell away in curling strips; one entire eye was a glowing mass of metal that sank quickly through her skull, which began to quietly collapse in on itself into a dark grey dust.

On the floor where she had dropped it was what was left of Van Helsing's gun; the breech almost cartoonishly cracked and twisted where it had ruptured. Modern powder, Maggie mused, was perhaps a bit too strong for the old gun.


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