Judge sat at a saloon bar, holding the short glass of whiskey close to his chest with his right hand. A piano player plinked away at the keys in the background, and a multitude of conversations filled the atmosphere. Judge stared down at the smooth grained wood of the bar, lost in thought. The other patrons continuously glanced his way, staring at the strange figure that sat hunched over the bar. Judge knew they were staring, and he didn’t much care.
He had buttoned his long coat to hide most of his armor and equipment, but pieces of brass and silver still peeked through above his neck and through small tears of his outerwear. The hat he wore was pulled down over his brow, and his left hand was tucked away inside his coat pocket. His crossbow was still slung across his back, its intricate design a mystery to anyone who did not know the meaning of the scrawled symbols all over its surface. His ever loyal mutt Helsing sat on the floor next to him, ears perked in case of any food or drink that may fall his way. The dog was a sight himself, missing his hind legs and other parts that had been replaced with strange brass clockwork prosthetics.
Although he knew all eyes were on him, there was little chance anyone would approach or speak to him, save for the bartender. The folk knew him as Judge, the reaper of evil souls. When a monstrous blight came upon a town, he was the one they called upon to capture and condemn the evil back to whence it came.
It was almost sundown, and Judge had been in the saloon nearly the entire afternoon.
“Maybe we’ll get the day off after all…” Judge muttered under his breath to Helsing.
It wasn’t a moment after Judge had uttered the words that a boy came crashing through the saloon doors. His eyes were wide with fear, and he breathed heavily as though he had been running all day. He clasped an envelope in one hand, crumpled from his white knuckle grip.
“Judge!” the boy cried out.
Judge let out a heavy sigh, his shoulders slumping slightly as he heard his name called out across the saloon. The music stopped, and all the conversations hushed. All eyes were upon Judge, waiting to see his response. He knew it was likely a messenger boy, sent running from the telegraph station to deliver a message of some kind. Judge didn’t turn to address the boy, but spoke aloud in his deep raspy tone.
“Damnit, boy, stop yer hollerin and just bring it here.”
The boy walked between the tables of various saloon patrons, all of them staring as he made his way up to the bar. He stayed as far back as he could, and stretched out his right arm with letter in hand so he wouldn’t have to be any nearer to the Hunter of Monsters.
“S..sorry Mister Judge, Sir. I…”
Judge’s left hand shot out from his pocket and snatched the letter. Half of his hand was clockwork and mechanics, but it was covered in strange symbols and wasn’t like any other clock prosthesis. The boy couldn’t help but stare at the half mechanical hand that gripped the paper, and forgot to release his hold on it.
“Don’t call me Mister,” Judge said sternly.
The words pulled the boy out of his trance and he released the paper, taking backward steps as he did so. He finally turned and ran out of the saloon, judge watching until he was out of sight. When Judge turned back to the bar, the piano player continued the previous song. Conversations sprang up around the room once more, though there were always eyes glancing and watching Judge’s every move.
Judge broke the seal on the envelope with a finger and unfolded the paper on the bar.
TOWNSFOLK OF FAIRBANK CALL FOR JUDGE
FOLK AND CATTLE DEAD OR GONE MISSING
WILL PAY HANDSOMELY
Fairbank was only a half a day ride due east from Sulger City, the town where Judge was currently trying at a glass of whiskey. Fairbank was a little town, and had grown from a stagecoach stop to a full town only in the last couple of years. It was a stopping point for many on their way to Tombstone.
“You wanted to go to Tombstone anyway, right Helsing?”
The dog yipped once which, as far as Judge can figure, meant “yes”.
Judge simply nodded at the dog, indicating it was time to go. Judge tossed a coin upon the bar, downed the whiskey quickly, and turned to exit the saloon. He met a couple of glances on his way out, each of them casting their eyes away as he caught them staring.
Judge and Helsing rode halfway to Fairbank before camping just off the horse trail. He figured they could wait till morning, and waiting might bring fresh dead to inspect so he knows what he’s up against. Judge laid his head against the saddle he removed from his horse and tilted the brim of his hat enough to keep the firelight out of his eyes. Helsing lay next to him, letting out a short grunt before drifting off into slumber.
The next morning was a short ride into Fairbank, and many folks came out from their homes and shops to see the Monster Hunter make his entrance.