Chapter I

At 12:00 a.m. October 18 1871 Jim Dziewisz entered the house of his soon-to-be-fiancée, worried for he had heard a gunshot coming from that area, he crept quietly to the door and ever so gently opened it. He sneaked in looking around diligently, he called ever so quietly "Camille, Camille are you here." He got half way to the stairs when his foot caught on something, he looked down and saw to his ultimate horror the body of his beloved lying in a puddle of fresh blood. He was sensible enough to know he could do nothing to help but entreat the police to help, he strode quickly (for it is not appropriate for a gentleman to run) towards the door, he grabbed the knob, but all of the sudden froze up. He had been stabbed! As he had been nearing the door the killer positioned himself, waited for the opportune moment then thrust his dagger through the air, hitting its intended target. The killer knew it was always good to demonstrate one's true self at first acquaintances, in other words show what you've got in the beginning so that they'll know what to expect. He drew his sword and sliced off the head; he then sat the beheaded body on an available chair and put the head on a table with a note sticking out of the mouth. Seeing his task done he made his clever escape (with his weapons sheathed of course) he ran up the steps quieter than an ant to the human ear and stealthier than a world-famed fox, he opened the window, crept onto the ledge, whistled for his horse, then jumped. He landed successfully and rode off to the other side of town. Glad to have finally started the long reign of terror he was going to bring to this little town, the thought of the police completely confused by what was going on thrilled him with an unspeakable pleasure.

Sheriff Serenity Mundy was the first to arrive on the scene; it was not long until everyone had shown up with the exception of one man, who never woke up this early so no one really worried about that, this man was the famous Roy Reeves. In a few more minutes even the late sleeping Roy had arrived on the scene, he was unfortunate in that he really did not care for the sight of blood, a feature most abundant in this murder. Roy was 33 years of age; he had short curling black hair and green eyes, with a voice deep and with a strong southern accent. His knowledge acceded that of most of the townsmen, at least his knowledge of the criminal mind. He was easy-going and graciously kind, no matter who needed help, he was always there.

Serenity was a slightly built woman, though she was small she could pistol-whip the sense into anyone before they could take a breath, aged 26, she had long dark brown hair that would make any woman jealous, her eyes, large liquid pools of hazel would drown any man that looked into them. The way she spoke enthralled men too, she had a slight drawl to her words, which were spoken with the voice of a lark, only a little bit of her accent remained, mainly that words such enchanted and haunted rhymed. She was the woman of every man's dreams but she did not take kindly to anyone trying anything on her, partially because she was feisty, partially because she did not give a rip about them in any semi-romantic way, but I personally think it had a bit to do with the possibility that she loved someone in particular who loved her too, but like the others this is just a theory. The women wished they had her looks, especially those that were single and looking for a wealthy husband, she did not care one bit about her appearance. She was too intent about her job and her secret love to care about her appearance or anything frivolous like that.

Roy's cousin, who was also Serenity's best friend, Marie Ivers, was the one that had found Miss. Camille Styrac, and Jim Dziewisz. Marie was exceptionally tall, approximately 6' 6", she was markedly gaunt weighing in the region of 125 pounds. She had long blond hair that glistened in the sunlight, eyes that were lavender pools, aglow with the passion of another exhilarating fight. It was unknown what her occupation was but she managed to keep some, but little, money in her pocket. She was of a cool disposition earning her the nickname "Ice Demon" also in part due to her love of fighting. She had been through countless fights giving her experience, skill, and making fighting second-nature to her. She lived with her friend in a saloon (it was her friend's saloon) she did not usually sleep that much because, she was not exactly afraid, but she was worried (I know it is not the right word but the right word does not exist) that if she were to fall into a deep sleep and stayed in it for awhile that she could easily and unfairly be killed, plus her old wounds never stayed quiet for long and often complained with any added pressure. She was an exceptionally talented fighter in many respects. She could fight well with many weapons including some foreign ones; mainly she used fists, guns, karate, daggers, or swords, but she had also been known to use a cross-hand spear, pitch fork, scythe, a flail, and one time she used a boomerang. Even when drunk (which was hard for her to be after many years of conditioning) she could still shoot straighter than most people can sober. She barely had a conscience so when it came time that she had to kill someone, she wouldn't stop to think if that person really deserved to die but would just shoot and maybe decide later. From the many fights that she had been in, she had been wounded many times, she already had had a high pain tolerance but with those wounds she had an even higher pain tolerance.

After a few moments of trying to collect himself Roy could finally investigate the murder. He found the note and read it, it read:

"Dear Roy,

Good job on finding this note, but it is going to take a heck of a lot more sleuthing to figure out who I am. It is only a waste of your time to search this place more, seriously, there is nothing left here that will be of use to you. Just so you do not call me "that person that killed Jim and Camille" you can call me "The Phantom", I do suggest you refer to me as that or I might just kill you. Remember I will strike again so be alert; I was thinking I would tell you who but I figure why bother.

Sincerely,

The Phantom

P.s. If you want to contact me just come over to the shack behind Officer Minot's house."

"Why would the kill... I mean The Phantom tell us where to find him if he wants to kill more people?" said one spectator.

"I don't know, what of you Roy… Roy, are you listening?" replied Serenity.

"Huh what! Oh uh I'm not sure, I'll need more time to think about this" speaking to a man doing sketches "Those sketches done yet, I need them as soon as possible." back to Serenity "I shall review the notes and sketches back at my house, I shall tell you what I find. Until that time good-bye."

"Did you hear about the murder Kate? It was most gruesome! The head of that Dziewisz guy was found on a table with a note sticking out of his mouth. There is a chance that the police can catch him though, he left a note saying where he was at the scene."

"I hope he is caught, that crime was so nasty and uncalled for!"

Meanwhile The Phantom was resting at his home laughing at the clueless nature of the police. He was plotting his next crime; meanwhile he was smoking a cheap cigarette, drinking cognac, and smoking some locally grown marijuana. He had a scented stick, which he called incense, burning releasing a smell similar to old leather floating through the air. He was singing a song that he had made up in his spare time, it went something like this:

"Blood is my drink

Death is my friend

So what do you think

When I say it is the end

"Blood and wine

Wine and blood

Dope oh so fine

With a fresh green bud

"Anarchy ain't my game

And Death ain't my name

But if you dare cross my way

You'll regret the day"

"This Phantom guy is seriously driving me insane, he devised a flawless plan and then says where to find him! Even criminals with the worst plans don't say where they are goin' to be. I have worked with dozens of cases and solved most of 'em, but this one is too darn confusing. The whole dumb town expects me to figure this idiotic case out in at most a week, but the heck I can't! We'll just have to investigate that shack behind Mr. Minot's place, and maybe ask him a few questions." said Roy to the east wall of his house. Suddenly there came a knock at his door, he had been deep in thought and was brought back all too suddenly by the knocking. After nearly jumping through the roof he answered the door, just as he had guessed (and as he had hoped) in came Serenity. He knew that she would ask about the case, but also she would probably hang out with him some supposedly "investigating the case". He was exactly correct, she asked him what he had figured out, he said nothing new but it would not hurt to investigate the shack, she agreed and said that she would send someone over that night in order to take the Phantom by surprise.

The saloon itself was simply designed on the first floor with the chairs and tables at the front of the room. The bar was in the back squished between a flight of stairs on the left and the storage room to the right in which nobody but Marie and Kate were allowed to enter and or use. If one were to walk up the flight of stairs one would be confronted with the wall, but if you were to turn around you would see an open hall lodged between a banister and the wall almost running the width and a little less than half of the length of the building leading to a decently sized room at the end. This room was the Master's bedroom in which Kate slept; it was nicely furnished with a writing desk, a bed, and a chair, plus a painting of a young beautiful woman whom was her mother. It was about midway down the hall leaning against the banister that Marie's cot was located. Though one may think that it is completely unfair that Marie should sleep on an old hard spring cot and not get something better she actually is getting more than she is giving. In a deal she and Kate worked out earlier, it was decided that Marie would be the security of the place killing enemies, chasing out bad people, etc. and Kate would give her in return, a place to stay, and other necessities. The agreement was made without Kate realizing that her friend drank heavily and would be gone most of the time, after learning this she was too kind to force Marie into anything but just lessened the quality and quantity of what Marie got and told her that if she did more of the work and did not drink so much the things she got would be better and more profuse. Marie did not mind what she got though and things never changed.

Meanwhile back at the saloon, the crowd had picked up to about eight people. Five of them were just ordinary dregs that usually stopped by; another was a pompous headed rich idiot who thought he owned the whole world and that he was the greatest gambler in the west. A man was in there (probably the greatest person you'll ever find drunk in a saloon) he was most handsome (at least that is what Kate Samuelson thought). His hair was black curls that came almost to his shoulders, brown eyes, clean shaven; he appeared to be tall and a bit muscular. He was a decent gambler but he especially knew when a person had a hand that he could never beat and so not to even try. Lastly but never least, Marie Ivers was there, extremely drunk but still as cold as ever and as lucky in gambling matters as ever. It was her that was scaring the dregs from the table with her skill, her that was limiting wisely the handsome man's playing time, and it was her that was enraging the rich idiot by the fact that she just kept winning and winning.

It was after the 13th time in a row that she had won that the pompous rich idiot became enraged. First he had to get her to fight him, he called out in a drunken tone, "you ugly a- cow, you cheated, how the h- could you have won so many rounds without doin' so." He thought that he could easily take her if that is what it required, though he had rather capture and have a little fun with her back at his place, eventually making her his concubine. Though he would have expected her to either cry or try to kill him, she only said "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you sure as h- ain't beholdin' me!"

"That's it you dumba- b- now you dun forced me ta fight ya!"

"How pleasant this should be, I haven't killed anyone since the day before yesterday. I hope my muscles haven't fallen asleep from all the lax time! Oh, I almost forgot, how do you wish to die? I have several weapon choices and am quite skilled at all, just depends on how you wish to die!"

"Guns! The fastest draw and da best gunman wins, a.k.a. whoever ain't dead wins." "Most splendid, Kate we might have to do some burying today, I got myself a live wire! Whenever you care to begin sir I will be happy to join!"

"Come on draw you little coward! Draw!" coolly shouted Marie.

A few more seconds rolled by at the pace of minutes.

"Draw now or forever hold your piece."

Even more seconds crawled by but still no one drew.

"Aw I understand now, this little boy here can't fight unless Mommy is beside him now can he. Come on little baby, the least you can do now is draw."

By this time people were crowded round watching and placing bets on who would win, waiting for someone to draw, but still keeping their distance. The last little comment finally split his last nerve, without thinking at all he drew his gun, but before he could fire Marie had shot him down and was leaning against a chair waiting for him to die. He dropped to the ground, dead, with a look of both amazement and fear on his face. Most everyone had chosen wisely as to who would win so not much profit was earned, the fight had been way too easy for Marie, and she greatly resented it. The handsome man that had been sitting there the whole time rose from his chair and complimented Marie on her job well done, she said "Thank-you sir but that guy was way too easy, not really worth my effort, but as long as someone enjoyed it."

"Oh yes that is right, I never introduced myself, I am Warren Shaw. I recently arrived here from London, quite an exciting little town you have here."

"Ha! Exciting is about the last word I'd ever use to describe Imperfection, boring as h- if you ask me!"

"I really must be going but might I see you again, possibly here?"

"Probably will, I live here and am here often, plus I think my friend over there has a thing for you." She was pointing to Kate who was blushing and trying to look busy doing anything else but watching.

"Well cheerio then!"

"Why the heck did you do that!" stammered Kate slightly embarrassed.

"Do what?" Marie asked all too innocently.

"You know what I mean, why did you tell him that I liked him?"

"It didn't look like you were going to, so I just wanted to help ya out and say something."

"How do you know I wasn't going to say anything? How do you know that I wasn't going to say something later to him?"

"Trust me you never even came over to where he was; you just kept shining that one glass, staring at us the whole time of course!"

"I was waiting for the right moment for your information!"

"Doubtful, I remember what it was like to spot the man of my dreams. I know how hard it is to say something to him; I just wanted to make things easier."

"Next time let me do the talking with my boyfriend!"

"I am but a telegram, you send the messages through me and I let them be read by the receiver."

"Come on, I'm 19 already, I can do things on my own without anyone to hold my hand through it!"

"I know that you are a mighty 19 and I am 20 years of age but I have been through a h- lot more things than you have, not because of anything you did wrong but because I let myself go and let the world do what the h- it pleased."

"Why don't I just do that, it seems to have worked fine on you. If I did that maybe I would get that guy, whatever his name is, and do a lot more fun things."

"That is the entirely wrong way to go! You wouldn't get any of the things that you want and would only get s-."

"You didn't!"

"I did to. Only a limited quantity of things went right, which was that I kept my small number of friends and I still have Roy. I told you once before but I will say it again, if you think my life is just so wonderful listen to this, it'll dampen the idea. My parents died long ago when they were very young, shot by a stoned drunkard! My oldest sister, Julia, was forced into prostitution when she was 13 years old because she was the oldest and there was no one to take care of us. My eldest brother, Benjamin, is now a cripple living his remaining days in a sanitarium. My twin sister, Zelda, was so distraught by what happened that he has since become an insane, goldfish killer. The four that are younger than me; Dolly, Frances, Pamela, and Amber; are so broke that they had to borrow the clothes on their backs; I send them as much money as I can and hope they have a good life but that I really doubt! Then my youngest two siblings, twins Ruth and Lily, they died when they were but a year old, we could barely keep all of us alive before and after that. As if you haven't guessed my past is a little too depressing for me plus I feel as if my friends are leaving me, and as life does like a jest, I am most clearly dying, and I'm sure I'll get another cause of death or two before it is all over! Now does my lifestyle sound fun! If so just let life control you like some rookie writer telling a horror story about you and wanting to excite the story by torturing you but still let you live until things get good! I would suggest you not try it but if you think everything will be just dandy jump right on in and join me."

With that she stomped out of the saloon and out of town over to a little man-made lake. She had always loved to go to the lake in her spare time, but she rarely ever got a chance to. She would go to the lake to think about things, mostly about her past, other times her future, and on a rare occasion about the present. The way the sun and moon reflected off the water would bring peace to her troubled mind, not even whisky could do that for her. Many a night she would fall asleep out there against a rock with a bottle of whisky in her hand and peaceful thoughts on her mind, and sometimes (unknown to anyone else) she would smile the whole night. All she had ever wanted was to have a family at peace, and a boyfriend that she knew was hers (unlike Roy). Nothing else had ever really interested her, not even drinking, she just did it to forget her problems and ease the agonizing pain in her mind of dying and not being able to help her friends and family anymore.

She had always dreamed of living in a quaint little cottage in the country, she did not care if anything of hers was elaborate or not just as long as it was a happy place. If she got really lucky there would be a white picket fence surrounding the yard and a small dirt path running nearby so that she could easily get into town without riding cross-country. The house would be furnished with quaint yet beautiful furniture, not crowded with it, with lots of open space, there would be a small kitchen, a small dining room, a small living room, and two small bedrooms upstairs. She always imagined that she was married and had a range from either one to four children (it changed between dreams), the children were a girl (the oldest) named Rene, another daughter named Frances, yet another daughter named Evelyn, and a young boy named Antoine. She never had a clear image of anyone but she could guess they were all decently handsome (she never thought she could be attractive but she figured she must have been to get a decent guy) the eldest daughter was the clearest image she had but even she was blurry.

This was the fantasy she always kept in her heart and the one she always tried to make true, this is what she had always wanted. It was with this thought she almost always fell asleep with when she out at the lake, the rest of her dream would be scenarios that happened in her perfect little houses, it would always end with a joyful solution. This being one of the greatest differences between her life now and her life in her dream, in her current life rarely anything that she wants to happen happens, and what does happen usually is concluded violently, carried out violently, and finished violently. She considered herself one of those snakes that pretend to be dangerous but are actually harmless, they just don't want to be bothered and so they act tough rather than run off. She would act tough to protect what was hers and not get insulted by all the tough guys in town, but all she wanted was to be the kind snake protecting and cherishing what she had earned.

Back at the saloon Kate was cleaning up the place almost ready to retire to bed, she was sorry she had upset Marie, she hadn't meant to, but she really liked that guy and she wanted to get him herself and not have Marie win him for her. She would have apologized right then, but she knew it was a bad idea to interrupt Marie when she was angry, especially if she was angry and had gone to the lake, Kate knew Marie loved her and would never hurt her but still she could get quite fierce. To Kate it barely mattered if she apologized or not, Marie would be back sometime the next day and would have forgotten it all and even if she hadn't forgotten she would never want to talk about it. In the room with her was a dog, it was Marie's dog, the dog had been with Marie for about nine years and had come to love Marie as if Marie was her puppy, Marie loved her too, as a friend and a trusted sister. The dog was a black and tan Hovawart named Revenant, she was a medium-sized dog, she was very kind, but very territorial, she would not let anyone cross onto her land unless they had been previously approved, though it usually was an annoying fact it sometimes was extremely useful. She had a tendency to disappear and then reappear in an instant earning her the Revenant meaning "Ghost", if she could be found she was usually with Marie on some form of outing, even at Marie's secret job.

Marie had another dog that was often with her, it was a grey Irish Wolfhound named Ombre, she and Marie had known each other for 14 years. She was a very tall dog that when standing on her hind legs could use Marie as a head rest with ease, her height intimidated people, but she would never hurt a soul (unless that is one were to race her and she were to crash into them). She was always taking care of Marie, even if Marie could do it herself, as if Marie was her puppy, between her and Revenant Marie felt almost like a puppy. Ombre was not very territorial, so she never quite worked for a guard-dog, but she would never let anyone hurt Marie, if it came to a point that Marie could not fight off the enemy, Ombre would chase the enemy off. She had been with Marie for four years before Marie's parents had been killed, she was the only thing that had given her hope, she still carried that devotion in her heart. Marie had another creature that was always with her, he was a horse named Camarade, he had been with Marie for her entire life, he was a lean black stallion that stood 19 hands from ground to shoulder, making him relatively tall with a long black mane and tail. He was the only animal friend that Marie had that didn't treat her like a baby, he treated her as if she was a much younger sister aged 6 or 7, but still as a good friend. He was a very gallant, noble, loyal, and kind horse, he was always trying to protect Marie but he would also listen to her and even if she was heading into trouble he would do as she said and rescue her if things went wrong. Marie would always take in the stray animals in town, and then would raise them whilst trying to find them a home, that was how she had gotten Ombre, Revenant, and Camarade.

One evening when she was coming home from a friend's house, she heard a whimpering sound coming from a small cluster of trees; she didn't know what it was but being she was only 6 years of age, she was eager to investigate. She crept further and further into the trees until it sounded as if the noise was coming from the other side of a bush, very carefully she moved some of the branches away and peered to the other side.