Illo by Jim Garrison

Why his bullets were silver. . . .

Like so many others, they had been forced to leave the old country.

Texas was still recovering from the Civil War and Reconstruction. So nobody asked many questions of the nine individuals. They had the pallid complexion of recently released prisoners.

Unfortunately they had to keep moving. The same problem they had in the Old Country.

They left a trail of dead men, women, and children behind them, all drained of blood. All the way across Texas.

Lead couldn't stop them. But crucifixes, garlic, and even the occasional Star of David could hold them off. And they were vulnerable when they slept by day.

Soon the Texas Rangers were on their trail. When the nine vampires crossed over into northern New Mexico, the most famous Ranger of all was still on their trail.

They found a spot in the rugged mountains, impossible to climb to. Packets of dirt from their native Romania lay in padded niches in a shallow cave. A twisting passage led to a narrow mouth that faced north.

But they had to fly farther and farther for their food. And were usually too proud to drain cattle of blood.

People were naturally getting scarcer in the area.

Finally they had been out most of the night without seeing a soul. Then one spotted a small fire down to glowing coals.

They came closer. At first, they saw two horses. Then two men wrapped in blankets. One was an Indian. The other wore a mask.

Nine vampires landed near the campfire. All nine became human in appearance. But their strength was much more that that of any human.

They had rarely needed anything more than brute force.

It was the keen eyes of the Indian that spotted them coming outof the darkness.

"Kemo Sabe!"

The masked man was on his feet, blanket tossed off. Twin six-shooters cleared leather and were aimed in an instant.

"Halt!" the deep voice boomed out.

"Fool, your puny weapons cannot stop the Princes of Darkness."

Then a shot hit the first one in the chest. A pain like he'd never felt. He fell to the ground and tried to draw a breath. The night grew even darker for him.

There had been nine of them. But the masked man's guns held twelve bullets. The last one of the family watched with dimming eyes as the masked man reloaded his guns with silver bullets.

He wondered, "Who was that masked man?" It was his last thought.

The next evening, nine bodies lay buried beneath the wall of a ravine.

The masked man shook his head, then mounted a magnificent white horse. The Indian, already atop a somewhat smaller paint, didn't even look at the landslide.

"Hi Yo, Silver."

"Get 'em up, Scout."

The two rode off into the sunset, leaving those who had been undead and were now merely dead.