The three Watch Dogs stand alone in the dark house with only a light torch to fend off the shadows. Before them hangs the once breathing body of Lavina, that now hangs cold and stiff. Her eyes bulging, all life slowly extinguished with a kick to the chair. Some of the shadows seem to dance and laugh at them, as if some kind of trick of the mind or the torch. House now seems to be very dark and so very cold.
Jesse slowly and quietly walked over to the rigid form of Lavina, wrapping his arms around her legs and lifting her up as he looks at Joshua. Joshua pulls his blade and cuts at the now slackened rope, freeing Lavina from the self made bond. They place the body carefully down, the eyes still staring in wild panic to beyond the vale. Their hands have an un-natural chill to the bone from the contact with her. Lavina’s neck now revealed, has vicious welds dug deep and scratch marks from where her own fingers franticly grasped at the death necklace, a too late change of mind. Jesse closes Lavina’s eyes and takes one of the bed clothes, draping it over her lifeless form.
The Watch Dogs finally step back outside, the cold air of winter is about but it feels a lot warmer than it was inside Lavina’s. The stream carries on in the background, peaceful and oblivious to the harsh cold grasp of death. The town seems a lot smaller in the dark now, only small specks of light coming from each house, like a representation of each soul that clings to life.
Soon the Watch Dogs find themselves at the steward Gabriel’s door. They knock carefully upon the door that has been kicked open one too many times of late. There comes a yawn and a shuffling of feet as Gabriel mumbles a response. Eventually the door opens and Gabriel looks out at them with bleary bloodshot eyes, dark heavy bags have made home under each. Again he yawns as he greets them. Ambrose suggests to him that they go out to the stream for a private talk, informing him that it can not wait. Jesse reassures Gabriel that he will wait there so as to make sure that Azubah will be okay.
Jesse sits himself down outside of Azubah’s door, hearing little quiet sobbing and murmurings, while Ambrose and Joshua accompany the tired Gabriel out to the stream. Once they have all gone Jesse announces through the door to Azubah that he is there and that the steward had to leave for a short while.
Ambrose talks with Gabriel about the merchant Micajah, explaining what he had done earlier and that he would have left town by now. They talk about the situation with Azubah and the baby. Gabriel shares with them that he had fallen asleep only to wake and find Azubah wanting to put a blade to herself. Ambrose explains that they are not happy with Micajah taking the baby from Azubah. Gabriel explains that he feels that there is something more, something that people are keeping things from him, even in confessions. That brings Ambrose on to the subject of talk about Lavina, asking when her husband had died. Her husband had died about one year ago, and that Angelo had stepped in to help her. As soon as Ambrose mentions that it is regarding Angelo, Gabriel quickly thinks the worst and asks if he is alright. Ambrose also cuts Gabriel short when he shows relief, explaining that he should be worrying about the ritual of passing.
Gabriel stops and sits quiet for a few seconds before asking what she had done, why they had to kill her. Ambrose assures him that he hadn’t, to which Gabriel quickly turns to look at Joshua. Ambrose slaps the steward across the face, knocking him to the floor, instructing him to be quiet and listen. Gabriel just lies on the floor trembling as he listens to what Ambrose has to say. They explain to the steward that Lavina had hung herself because of payment she felt she had to pay for her home and board. “I believe that your town’s benefactor Angelo was using not just Lavina in this town, but making some profit from passers by. Like this Josiah character whose name may be Elijah or Theodus or some such? Do you understand now what has happened in this town, what people have been keeping from you and why.” Gabriel raises his head from the ground, “I don’t wish to draw your anger but I don’t understand. What was he doing to raise money?”
“He was making the women of this town in to painted jezebels.”
“Poor Lavina.” Then his breath catches with a thought, “Are you suggesting that the unfortunate condition of Azubah and Waitstill are the same, that he did that….” A heaving deep sound bubbles from within his throat, and then suddenly a loud splatting can be heard over the sound of the stream. Gabriel retches a few more times and he holds his hand up as if in self defence, between each breath trying to form words of apologies. After a short while Gabriel manages to hold it down and wipes his mouth on his sleeve. “Those poor, poor girls. They told nothing of this to me.” He asks the Dogs what they are going to do the purge the town of this sin. Ambrose explains that they are planning to meet with Angelo next.
A baby’s cry starts up from the next room, and Azubah can be heard in reply. “Oh please be quiet. What do you want? Please…..’Rockaby baby on the tree…..’WILL YOU STOP CRYING! Are you hungry, what…Oh I give up, I don’t know what to do?” Now an additional crying can be heard from Azubah’s room. Jesse knocks on the door. Azubah stops crying and asks if it is Gabriel, the baby still crying in the background. Jesse calmly answers her apologising that the steward isn’t back yet. After a short pause Azubah asks if it is Brother Jesse, and he asks if she would like him to come in. Another pause and she asks if they can talk. Jesse assures her that they can, he confirms to her that he is a Watch Dog, but he is there to help where he can also. She asks Jesse where there is to go for her after all of this, not sure what to do. Jesse instructs her that she has to think for herself as well as the fact she now as a baby boy to think of too. She pleads that she has nothing, no way to support her or the child, however she does tell Jesse that Angelo told her that he would help her out, give her a place to stay. Jesse asks her what he had wanted for the help he was offering, but she tells him that he only told her that they will sort that out later. He asks if Angelo had shown anything like this before towards her, and she shares that she felt him watching her, she thought he was judging her but she is not sure now. When asks she confirms that he has been watching her since she started showing with the pregnancy. Jesse asks if Angelo had shown any of this attention to Waitstill, but Azubah confesses that she hasn’t spoken with her lately, since she has been angry with her about Josiah. Jesse assures her that she needs her friend more than ever now, they need each other. They shouldn’t blame each other for what the man had done to them.
Next Azubah and Jesse talk about getting a husband, Jesse telling her that there has to be someone out there for her. He asks if she had look further a field than just the town she is in now. She has been blessed by the King of Life and that all of this is happening for a reason. Jesse assures her that she may not have to worry about trying to get to another town, that a suitor may come to meet her. He tells her that she has committed the sin and now has to deal with it, and that she not only has herself to think of now. That she should listen to what the steward is telling her, he is there for her and the baby. Gabriel has done a lot for her without thought, and she should not just throw that away. Jesse tells her that all she is doing all the time is looking in the dark, creating more shadows and not looking for the light. He suggests that she needs to read the book, and he then pulls out his Book of Life and hands it to her. Next he picks up the baby and comforts it, cradling it in his arms and calming the crying down.
The steward Gabriel thanks Jesse when he returns with Ambrose and Joshua, for looking after Azubah. Jesse talks to him quietly to one side, asking him whether he had any spare Books of Life that he good give Azubah, telling him that he has given his to her for now and will pick his up tomorrow morning once Gabriel has swapped the books over. The crying and whimpering from within Azubah’s room has quietened down, a peace seems to be filling the room finally. After instructing Gabriel, Jesse goes out to meet up with the other two Dogs outside and discuss their conversations and findings. They decide to have another word with Waitstill, so they go back to the steward Gabriel’s house.
Ambrose knocks upon Gabriel’s door once more. “I’m not going to be slapped again am I?” Gabriel states as he opens the door to find the three Watch Dogs waiting outside. Ambrose assures him that he is fine, no slap due, they just would like to have another word with Waitstill. Gabriel mentions that she may be asleep, however he will go and check. He knocks on the door to her room, another yawn escaping his mouth.
After a few moments Waitstill exits her room, her hands cupping under her belly, a thin loose night clothes and towel covering her as best she can. “I was sleeping you know.” She states to the Watch Dogs as she looks at them. “Do you know how hard it is to sleep in a room that size, with a baby in your belly?” Jesse apologises to her, and Ambrose assures her that they would not have disturbed if it was not important. Ambrose grabs a chair from the alter room for her to sit on, which she does with a sag. She then asks if it is about Theodus, whether they have found him. Jesse tells her it is about Angelo, to which she asks them what he has done. Ambrose tells her that it is what they are trying to find out. He asks her if she has spoken with him. Waitstill shares that Angelo had spoken with Azubah the day before, but only looked through the door at her when he passed and had said nothing. She shares her thought on him, suggesting that he is a friendly enough guy, not judgemental like everyone else. Ambrose asks her if Angelo had offered any help for her after the baby was born, any explicit offers, but Waitstill states that he had suggested that she would need somewhere to stay, that she would not be able to stay with the steward. She then confesses that he mostly spoke with Azubah, that everyone pays her more attention, “as she whinges all the time.”
Ambrose thanks her for her time, and hopes that she will have a pleasant sleep. “Is that all you woke me up for!?” Waitstill demands, and he confirms this for her. “Interesting punishment you Watch Dogs think up. Is this going to happen every night?” Ambrose cuts her short saying goodbye to her and turning away. The other Watch Dogs follow suit leaving her alone, and they all thank the steward bidding him a farewell. Next they decide to visit Hiram and have a word with him.
The three Watch Dogs find Hiram sat outside his parent’s home busy sorting through his bag of items. He seems to be placing the items into two piles, one of which appear to be more precious than the other. His shock of bright hair visible even in this dark light. As they walk up to him he is studying a simple figurine with an appraising eye. Hiram quickly looks up when they approach him, greeting them and giving Jesse a wide smile. “I saw what you did to the old man earlier. Good for you, he has had it coming for years now.” Jesse just nods back at him. Hiram states that Micajah will not be around for a while, which leaves plenty of time for other business to set up. Jesse suggests to him that he should listen to what they have to say, and answer all the questions they ask. Hiram asks the Dogs how he can help them, offering if they would like any of the items he has.
Hiram states that he had saw them talking with his uncle earlier, to which Jesse asks who he means. They get told that the steward Gabriel is Hiram’s Uncle. “Can’t you tell?” Hiram tugs at a lock of hair on his head. “Not many like us around.” Jesse assures Hiram that Gabriel is a good man. He then asks him what his thoughts are on Angelo. Hiram tells them that he thinks Angelo is a good business man, a man who knows his craft. “Just look at those houses up there.” Hiram points at the houses across the stream on stilts. Hiram tells them that he could be working anywhere but he had come there. That Angelo has always an eye out for opportunity. Jesse asks him if he had been offered a house by Angelo, which he is told that he wasn’t.
Jesse asks Hiram how he and Joseph got involved with helping Lavina. Hiram shares his feelings of how it is always good to help out others, and while he was talking with Lavina, Angelo was near by and came over and suggested how he could help. During there conversation Hiram tries to bring up the subject of Micajah, and how long he would be away. Also whether the Watch Dogs could try to keep him away even longer, Jesse quickly cuts him short holding his hand up to him, reminding him that they are not there for that sort of thing and suggests that he leave the subject.
Hiram carries on answering the question of Jesse, sharing what he knows. He tells them that his family was asked to move to the town about six years ago, long before Angelo had arrived. Angelo has been in the town only very recently. He is the man you go to if you want something done, he has connections, he gets things done. Hiram tells them that Angelo is a smart man, and who Hiram wants to be like when he grows up. Jesse mentions that he may not want to think that. But Hiram points out that the man has the skills, the smarts, the money and respect. Jesse asks Hiram what exactly Angelo does to earn a living. Hiram tells him that he is a craftsman, he builds and repairs all the houses, and he mostly gets paid for doing all this. Sometimes he goes out of town, unsure where he goes, possibly goes looking for a lady to woo. Hiram confirms that he has never seen a Mrs Angelo. Never seen him trying to woo any of the women in town. He shares with Watch Dogs that this is why he wants to leave the town and travel, to find himself a good wife from another town. With that confession from Hiram, the three Watch Dogs decide to bid him farewell and hurry to go talk with Angelo.
The Watch Dogs march up to Angelo’s house, no light is visible now within the building. The bright moonlight reflecting off of the pistols strapped to their hips. The wind seems to have picked up, a winter chill trying to reach their bones. The mark on the house is that of the tools of a woodworker. Ambrose steps up and knocks on the door.
After a short wait the door eventually opens to reveal Angelo standing there, a smile on his face and his blue eyes reflecting the light from the moon. He is wearing a loose night gown, covering most of his body, and where not revealing his tanned and toned skin. Angelo greets them and invites them in, stating that it is rather late but welcomes them none the less offering them a drink. After being refused the offer he asks if he could change in to his clothes. Jesse assures him that they only wish to ask him a few question, they do not want to keep him or for him to take any longer than necessary to go back to bed.
Angelo takes them in to a cosy room, offering them each a comfortable seat to sit in. The room also has a stone fireplace, and a luxurious mahogany table. He sets to lighting some candles. Various small ornaments and figurines of the Tree of Life can be seen around the room now. Angelo pours himself a small glass of water. Once seated himself he asks the Watch Dogs what brings them out at this time of night.
Ambrose tells Angelo that they have heard some disturbing reports of his behaviour. He asks them what exactly it would be. Jesse stops Ambrose from answering him and asks Angelo to tell them how he makes a living. He looks a little puzzled by this and tells them that he is a woodworker, as the sign outside the house suggests. He hopes to make money from when he can get the houses up and ready, but until then he does the odd repairs and maintenance to the other houses and furniture. Jesse checks with him that this is how he gets his pay from doing all the repairs around town. He then sweeps his hand over to Ambrose for him to carrying on.
“You have been accused of mistreating at least one young lady here.” Ambrose informs Angelo who raises an eyebrow to this, “Mistreating?” He then tells them that he takes pride in being a gentleman, and wishes for them to tell him more of these accusations.
“You have been making or pressuring her in to whoring.”
“I see. And they have been taking these accusation to you have they.” He waits for Ambrose’ conformation before stating that jealousy is a horrid thing in a town like this. Ambrose agrees with him but asks him what it has to do with this situation, “Do you deny it?”
“What do you think? Of course I deny it.” Jesse asks him who he thinks would of accused him of such a thing. He responds that they are a few, he knows the old man Micajah is not a fan. The also suggests that the two boys always want to cause trouble. And that was all until asks if there was any others. He then offers that Lavina may have as she has seemed odd of late, but after all he has done for her he is not so sure. Angelo asks if she has said something, but Jesse informs him that they are not going to say whether she has or hasn’t said anything. Angelo then asks if the people offered them any evidence with the accusations. Again Jesse informs him that they may or may not have supplied some evidence. To which he suggests that they have not supplied any. After a pause he asks if that is the reason for their visit and laughs, asking them how he can help to clear his name.
Jesse stands up and asks Angelo if he could take a look around his house. “My house is your house Watch Dog.”
“Then I will leave him to you two.” Jesse talks to Ambrose and Joshua, before stepping out of the room to take a look around. Jesse takes a look around the rest of the house, rummaging in cupboards and draws looking for any signs of unorthodox work practices. He finds a small bag with a large sum of money within. Pouring the contents out on the floor, a couple of photographs slide out with all the money, in the picture is a woman known as Lavina with a man next to her. The couple are stood next to a stage coach, the man well dressed with a smile on his face. The couple appear in each of the photographs. The photographs are something of a rarity as they are frowned upon around these parts, something that is more of an eastern thing. Turning the photographs over Jesse finds some writing upon them. ‘May we never forget our first days together in wedded bliss my beloved wife.’ Jesse places all the money back in the bag, taking it all with him back to the room with the others.
“Can you explain?” Jesse holds out the bag and photographs to the assembled, looking directly at Angelo.
“I could but I am not sure what there is to explain.”
“Well there is money I have earnt.” Jesse then waves the photographs in the air. He then explains that he now remembers, that the lady had left them when she was over, she was weeping a bit. That he was always meant to give them back to her, but he kept forgetting so he left it safe with the money so it wouldn’t be stolen. “I really should take them over now.” Jesse quickly tells him no, and asks why he had not left them on the side to remind him to take them back. Angelo explains that with them being a bit of a rarity, and with all the trades about that they may be taken. Jesse then asks him why he came to this town, and is told that it being a new town with plenty of opportunities. A lot of work needed and thought that he could manage it. Wanted to be the man of the town and saying that he had always wanted to be looked up to. Jesse next asks how come there is no Mrs Angelo, and is told that he has always let his work get ahead of him, that maybe this is his sin. He assures them that there has been plenty he has been interested in, but work had always got in the way. Angelo again asks what they are really there for so he can help them get this sorted out and everyone happy.
Ambrose explains to Angelo that the sooner he explains his relationship with Lavina the better it will be for him. “Watch Dog, I gave her a place to stay, are you telling me that is a sin now.” Jesse asks him at what cost did he give her a place. Angelo explains that every now and again, when she could afford it and out of the kindness of her heart, she had given him some money. “She gave it. I would not shame her by not taking it. What’s wrong with that?” Joshua asks that it is fine, she gave money when she could afford it, but what about when she couldn’t. Suddenly a cold chill wind blows through a window thrown open by the wind, the candles flicker and die. Angelo goes over to the window and closes the window. “I don’t like your tone.” He turns to look at Joshua, a deep chill now to his voice. “I recommend that you get out of my house right now. We’ll take about when you feel like be a bit more civil.” Joshua just stands there and stammers at this, Jesse begins to lose his anger at this, grinding his teeth and clenching his first and reminding him that they are Watch Dogs and they will do what they like. Ambrose however turns to look at nothing, the near distance and calls out that he is not here to deal with the demons, demanding that they be gone as a chill whips up and around him rustling his coat ever so slightly and the windows rattle.
Ambrose informs Angelo that Lavina is dead. Suddenly the shine in Angelo’s eyes goes out leaving a pair of dark empty pits. “And you didn’t think to tell me this. That’s it get out. GET OUT.” Jesse strides up face to face with Angelo his fists still clenched holding back his anger, “We’re Watch Dogs, we’re here doing our duty. And you Will answer our questions.”
“She was alive until you came here, so you are going to GET out NOW.” Jesse can feel what seems like cold fingers reaching in to his soul. Joshua walks up and joins Jesse being toe to toe with Angelo, “WE ARE DOGS, WE’LL LEAVE WHEN WE ARE FINISHED. WE’LL LEAVE WHEN WE GET THE ANSWERED WE NEED.”
“No you’re going to leave now!” Angelo demands and grasps at Joshua and Jesse looking at Ambrose. Jesse stamps his foot down hard standing his ground and slipping from the lose grasp on his collar. However he manages to throw Joshua out, and pushes Ambrose through the door too. Joshua tries to land a punch but it just bounces off from the solid muscle. As Ambrose drops to the bottom of the steps outside he quickly turns and pulls his weapon.
With his pistol drawn Ambrose threatens Angelo to get back in to the house. Angelo swipes at the gun held at him looking directly now at Brother Ambrose. Jesse taking advantage of the distracted Angelo, he strides from the doorway to the house and throws a punch towards the back of his head trying to punch the demon out of him. As if with a second sight, or just because of the demon within him, he seems to sense Jesse and swings wildly towards him, a Tree of Life figurine clasped in his fingers, forcing Jesse to suddenly stop at the last minute and step backwards. As this happens a soul chilling wind blasts through Jesse and touches upon the other two. A distant laugh can be heard chuckling at them. Joshua un-shoulders his big rifle and takes aim at Angelo. Seemingly ignoring the big gun aimed his way Angelo moves towards Jesse forcing him back. Joshua pulls back hard on the trigger, feeling the powerful recoil slam into his shoulder, and a loud explosion fills the night sky. Angelo’s should explodes in a shower of blood and bones as he is forced forwards and down flying in to Jesse and taking him down with him. He then begins to thrust with the improvised weapon in his hand like a cornered beast, first at Jesse then hoping to lunge at the other two. Jesse quickly jumps to his feet whipping his coat up and around as a distraction to the wild swing and moving his body at the last minute to avoid contact. Joshua keeps his distance away from this madman, keeping out of arms reach, while Ambrose runs towards him to close the distance and dodge under one of his swings. Ambrose quickly rises behind him and throws a punch of his own, but somehow Angelo knows where he is and dodges the blow as if the voices in the distance whispered in his ear. Jesse again tries to take advantage of the distraction and swings his leg out and fast against the back of Angelo’s knee. Fortunately this time he makes contact and Angelo drops like a sack of spuds. Quickly Jesse drops and pins him. Angelo screams out, “YOU JUDGE ME. YOU JUDGE ME. She would have ended up hooking anyway! I just kept her hidden, kept her hidden from their scorn. I helped her. You know that’s how she would have ended up, she had no one else. I just lead it to her earlier. How dare you judge me for that!” Blood pouring out from his mangled shoulder. “You don’t deal with the real world!”
Brother Ambrose the more sociable of the three Watch Dogs walks up to Angelo the town’s woodworker, lifts his gun and place against Angelo’s head. Next sound that resonates across town is the explosion from Ambrose’s pistol, leaving a bloody hole through Angelo’s head, the smoke from his gun exiting from the back of his head. Blood, bone, and brain matter splatter on the ground a couple of feet away, and a shower of blood sprays up Ambrose’s coat. Then the exorcised and judged body of Angelo rests in peace on the floor before his home, blood pooling around his head.
Eventually a peace settles across the town once more, only the sound of the running stream can heard on its long tireless journey.
The next day the three Watch Dogs leave Stubborn Mount and go find the merchant Micajah. They soon come across him, finding him covering a nasty looking deep purple bruise on his face. He then starts to tell them that he had heard about a group of three Watch Dogs travelling around that matched their description, one story mentions that they are a kind bunch and very thoughtful, where as the other tells of a psychotic group. Ambrose ignores his stories and asks him why he did what he did and what he thought he was going to do. Again Micajah explains that he was doing what he thought was best for Azubah and the town, while at the same time help another family out that was in need of a child as they could not have their own. Ambrose explains to him what had happened with his town, about the demons and Angelo and suggests that for his penance he should help by finding suitable suitors for both Azubah and Waitstill. Micajah is not too happy with hearing this, protesting that it will not be an easy task. The Watch Dogs ignore his protests.