The Bounty Hunter rode through the desert. Three days after he led Coldgrass, the desert had begun to dominate the landscape, replacing the wide open plains. The animal life also changed. First, there had been cows and buffalo's and sometimes a few wolves. Now, the only animals The Bounty Hunter saw were the vultures who flew in the air, and sometimes a giant white beetle. It had now been more than a week since he had left Coldgrass and he continued his chase of Johnny Kane.
It was about noon and the sun stood right above The Bounty Hunter. A giant beetle scurried over the trail, just in front of the horse's hooves. He heard a loud crunch as the beetle was crushed under his horse. His horse almost tripped, but regained it's balance.
''Easy, boy.'' The Bounty Hunter said. The horse lifted it's head a bit as if it nodded. They rode on.
A few minutes later, The Bounty Hunter stopped at an oasis. He dismounted his horse and walked towards the water. There was a sign next to the pool of water. It had a white cross on it. It was safe to drink the water here. He fell down to his knees and bent over, his face reflecting in the water. He saw his glasses on his face for a moment as he moved his face to the water closely. He started to drink. He made slurping sounds as he gobbled up the water.
His horse next to him did the same. After his thirst was quenched by the cool water of the pool, he sat down in the shade of a palm tree and had lunch there. He ate a few slices of bread he had held out of a large brown bag in his saddle-bags and a few strips of dried meat. The bread was a bit hard and the meat tasted like rubber. But it was the only thing he really had to eat. He put the food back on his bag and sat down at the palm tree again, his duster spreading out in the sand. He thought about his chase, his quest, his goal. Catching Johnny Kane and avenging Clarke, his mentor and friend. Almost a father for him really. It was the only thing that mattered to him now. Catching Kane. Goosebumps Kane. Why he was called Goosebumps? The Bounty Hunter didn't know anymore, but he would remember it later. Probably.
Two weeks, he thought. That was about how far behind Kane he was. Two damn weeks, he thought.
He had gained a week over the course of one month. It would take a few months to catch up with Kane and it would take even longer to take down his gang members and Kane himself.
He sighed. He would avenge Clarke, but would he continue bounty hunting? That was what he was thinking about. Was it that great to go bounty hunting without Clarke, without his mentor. He didn't know, but he was doing it now, and he knew it wasn't as enjoyable without Clarke.
You can find a new partner, you idiot, He heard Clarke's voice say to him, deep inside himself. A partner like you?, he asked it. Clarke held it's mouth. So I thought, he said to him. He closed his eyes. Don't fall asleep, he thought for a moment. Then he fell asleep.
He woke up a few hours later, judging by the position of the sun, which was slowly climbing towards the horizon again. His horse was still standing in the same spot he had left it, but it was now chewing on some grass it had found somewhere.
''Sleep well?'' a voice asked. It sounded clear, but also as a soft whisper in the wind.
The Bounty Hunter immediately sat up, his hand sliding down towards is revolver.
''Hah! That peashooter ain't gonna work against me, son.'' the voice said.
The Bounty Hunter's eyes flashed around behind his glasses as he searched for the origin of the voice. He felt something was around, but couldn't quite put his finger on it.
''You can't see me, can you?'' the voice said. ''Not unexpected. They never see me.'' The Bounty Hunter heard a chuckle.
''You can stop looking, son. You won't find me. I'm invisible.''
The Bounty Hunter knew what it was. It was a spirit, somebody bound to this place or an item that was lying about this place. He looked around again and saw it.
A few metre's from the oasis away a large cross was sticking was out of the ground. Somebody was buried here.
''Yes, I'm buried there.''
It was definitely a spirit, although some would refer to it as a demon. This wasn't a demon. Demon's were evil and murderous beings. Normal spirits just hung around places and scared visitors. This guy was probably harmless. Probably.
''So what's your name?'' the spirit asked.
''Are names important?'' The Bounty hunter asked.
''Like I give a damn. I just want to know your name.'' the spirit said.
The Bounty Hunter didn't answer the question.
''Fine then, son. Well, I'm The... uhm The Spirit Of The Oasis. That's because, you know, this is a oasis, son. Not very original, eh?'' the spirit said.
The Bounty Hunter shook his head. ''What's your old name?'' he asked.
''Are names important?'' The spirit shot back.
''I see. Never mind.''
''It's Harris.'' the spirit said immediately.
''Pleased to meet you Harris.''
Another chuckle. ''Hah, you're the first person who has talked to me since a long time. Normally, people just ignore me and move on. One, a priest even tried to, uh, exercise, is that how you say it?''
''Exorcise.'' The Bounty Hunter corrected him.
''Yeah, he tried to do that. He moved on quickly though when I kicked him between the knees.
Say, son, how come you don't go away like all the other normal folks?'' the spirit asked.
''I'm not normal. I'm a Bounty Hunter.''
''Son of a-... A Bounty Hunter... It's been a while since your lot has passed by here. A Bounty Hunter.'' the spirit said dreamy.
''How long have you been here?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
The spirit laughed again. ''Hah, I can't even remember.'' he said.
''Gee, maybe, five years... six? I actually don't know...''
The Bounty Hunter shrugged. ''I heard that before.''
''You met a spirit before, then?''
''How was he?''
''Who, the spirit?''
''Evil. Evil and murderous. It tried to kill me. More than once...''
''But how did you banish it?''
''I didn't. I ran away. Quite hard.''
He heard the spirit laugh. After a while the laughing stopped.
''You don't know how to banish a ghost then?'' the spirit asked.
The Bounty Hunter realised why the spirit had made contact with him. ''You don't want to be here anymore, do you? You want to go. Move on, or whatever.'' he said.
''Am I right?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
Still no answer.
''Am I right?!'' The Bounty Hunter asked again.
He heard a whisper that sounded like a sigh.
''Yes.'' the spirit answered.
''I could help you.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''If you want.''
The spirit was silent for a moment before saying: ''You can?''
''I can. I learned it from my old mentor, Lewis Clarke.''
''Yes. Now do you want me to banish you, or not?''
''Please! Do it.''
The Bounty Hunter went to his horse and rummaged through the saddle-bags.
He took out a large stick and went back to his spot next to the pool of water.
He drew a symbol in the sand and looked up. ''You might not like the next part of the ritual.'' he said.
''Everything to get me away from this place.'' the spirit cried.
''Alright.'' The Bounty Hunter stood up and walked away from the symbol, heading towards the grave of the unfortunate spirit.
''Wait, what are you gonna do?'' the spirit asked.
''I'm gonna exhume your grave.'' The Bounty Hunter answered.
He heard something which mostly resembled a gasp. Exhuming a grave was a big offence to most people and some even believed it would invoke the rage of a spirit or demon. But The Bounty Hunter didn't believe that kind of thing. He thought it was something for little children to fear and for old people to tell stories about.
He sat down on his knees and began to dig away large patches of sand with his hands.
''Are you sure this is necessary?'' the spirit asked. He made a swallowing sound.
The Bounty Hunter said nothing, but continued to dig away the sand.
After a while, he felt a few hard things under the sand and he knew he was getting close to what he was looking for. He dug away a final few handfuls of sand and saw a bunch of bones sticking out of the sand in front of him. ''Hey there, good looking.'' he said.
The spirit chuckled a bit.
The Bounty Hunter pulled on of the bones, one from the arms he believed, and went back to the symbol he had drawn in the sand next to the water.
He placed the bone in the middle and sat down on his knees in front of the symbol. He spread his arms as if he wanted to hug the air and looked up in the sky. Strange, unknown words, remainders of an ancient language, started flowing out of his mouth. Words, sentences, whole paragraphs, left his mouth and flew into the hot desert air. Meanwhile, as The Bounty Hunter continued the ritual, the symbol in the sand started glowing. The single bone lying in the middle went up in the air, slowly. It was hardly noticeable, but after a few minutes it levitated a good few centimetre's above the sand.
''Is it worki-'' the spirit stopped in mid-sentence. The Bounty hunter sensed that the aura of the oasis had changed. Whereas he had felt a bit uneasy at first, he felt calm now. He was sure the spirit had departed, was heading towards the spirit world now. He stood up and threw some sand over the symbol, while the picking up the bone. He walked back to the grave of the unknown man. Harris is his name, he suddenly remembered. Harris... Is that a first name or a last name?, he wondered. Could be both.
He took his watch out of the pocket of his vest and looked at the time. Almost four. He put his watch back started throwing sand over the corpse again. When he had finished, he wiped some sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his duster. The sun was starting to get pretty low now. Better hurry, Or I'll have to set up camp here. He thought. But why not?, Clarke wondered why he didn't want to sleep there on the oasis. It was a better place than just somewhere next to the road. Maybe you don't want to sleep in the place where you just exorcised a spirit and where some guy is buried. That could be a reason. His mentor did have a point.
He walked to his horse and mounted up, changing his normal spectacles for a pair of tinted ones.
Like that he rode off into the sunset.
That night he slept at the side of the road, his hand on his revolver and his senses heightened. The moon shone on him as he lay in a small depression in the sand.
Suddenly, he felt it. A faint sensation of being watched. Slowly, he opened one of his eyes and peered through his eyelids.
He saw nobody, but noticed a faint glow not to far away from him. He opened both his eyes and looked towards the glow.
He stood up and started walking towards it, holding one hand in front of his eyes.
The glow was a bit bluish and the origin of it seemed to pulsate a bit. He squinted his eyes a bit and kept on walking towards the glow. It dimmed a bit. He moved his arm away from his face and looked straight in a familiar face. In front of him, sitting on a rock and smoking a cigarette, was Lewis Clarke. It looked like Lewis Clarke, except that he had a blue glow around him. Everything was there: His clothes matched, his hat matched, he even sat in the same way he always sat. The only thing wrong with him was the fact that the half of his face, including his left eye, missed. Also, he had bluish stains on his clothes. ''Morning there, boy.'' he said, drawing another puff of his cigarette and shoving his head back.
The Bounty Hunter looked at him with big eyes, reached in his vest pocket without looking away, took out his spectacles and put them on. ''Bu-'' he started again, but couldn't finish his sentence.
''Hmm? Something wrong, boy? Something about me?'' Clarke had always had that annoying habit of calling everybody boy, no matter the age, and in some cases even the gender, of the person.
''L-lewis?'' Was all The Bounty Hunter could mumble.
''Have you lost your tongue, boy?'' Clarke smiled. It looked strange with half of his face missing, even though his mouth was still intact, although covered in blood. His teeth were still white, which gave a strange contrast with his dark beard and the dark colour of the blood on his face.
''B-but you're not supposed to be here?''
''And yet here I am, sitting on a rock and smoking.'' Lewis smiled again. It gave him an unnatural look.
''You're dead.'' The Bounty Hunter said. ''You are dead, and you're back in Eastfield, lying six feet under.''
''Come on, boy, you know about spirits. You met one this afternoon. You even banished it from this place.'' Lewis lit another cigarette. ''Yeah, it doesn't matter how much I smoke now. I'm already dead.'' again the smile.
The Bounty Hunter slowly shook his head. ''This is different. The spirit from this afternoon, I couldn't see him. He could only speak to me. And, he was connected to this place. His grave was here.'' he pointed down the hill at the small cross sticking out of the ground, lit by moonlight.
''That's true.'' Clarke said. ''That's certainly true, boy.'' He threw away his cigarette and lit a third one. ''But,'' he said, striking a match and holding it to his cigarette. ''I am connected to this place. Or rather to something in this place.''
''Yeah, like what?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
''Why, you, of course...'' Clarke said, smiling again.
''Me?'' The Bounty Hunter asked.
''Yes, you, boy. We are connected to each other. And so, I can go from Beyond to here, and only you can see me. Because, boy, we're connected.'' he smiled.
The Bounty Hunter looked at him in amazement. ''So, why are you here?'' he asked.
''For spiritual guidance.'' Clarke said. He burst out in laughing. ''Nah, see, boy, I am gonna go with you and I want to watch as you blow of Goosebumps' head. I want to see that, boy. Wouldn't want to miss the killing of the killer.'' he laughed again. ''The fall of Goosebumps. I think he might be able to see me too, you know, boy. I hope he does. I hope he can stare in the face of the man he killed as he lies on the ground, bleeding.'' Clarke looked down angrily and sighed. ''Son of a bitch.''
The Bounty Hunter said nothing. He just sat down on the rock next to his old mentor and looked at the moon. It was full and he looked around, wondering how many people would be torn apart by werewolves and vampires tonight. Like you care, Bounty hunter. You're just a hired killer. Why would you care about human life?, he heard Clarke's voice in his head.
I'm not just a hired killer. I work for the law, he shot back.
Ah, that's an old argument. A real old one, was Clarke's answer.
He hadn't noticed that the ghost of Clarke had disappeared. He looked around.
I'm back to the spirit world, boy. Don't bother looking. The Bounty Hunter heard Clarke chuckle. Say, you better go to sleep, boy, you need to get up early tomorrow. You gotta catch a killer.
The bounty Hunter felt how Clarke went away as if a certain entity left his body. Suddenly, he realised how tired he was. He went back to his camp and sat down in front of the cold remains of the died out fire. A bit of smoke was still coming out of the charred remains and ashes, but it was barely visible. The moon was considerably lower than when he had woken up and it was about to go under again, making place for the sun. The Bounty Hunter laid down again and closed his eyes.
When he opened his eyes again, the sun was just coming up and coloured the sky red. He stood up and looked at the rising sun, the light reflecting on his glasses. A small scorpion was crawling past his foot. He didn't notice it. Neither did he notice that it was one of the most poisonous scorpions known to man. He didn't notice, because he was too busy looking at the horizon.
Swiftly, he broke down his camp. He rolled up the overcoat he used as a blanket and put it back in his saddle-bag. The pan that had first been placed over the fire was hung back at it's regular spot, just next to his rifle.
When he had finished and only the ashes of the camp fire remained, he mounted his horse and started riding down dirt road again. He wondered if the apparition he had seen that night was real or whether he had just dreamt it. He decided the last. But was it really important if he was dreaming about Clarke or not? Wasn't it better for him to focus at his current task. Avenging said Clarke and killing Johnny Kane. And also collect a nice bounty, of course. He shrugged and kept on riding, his back towards the rising sun.
End of Chapter 3.