"Welcome to AlKirk," Cobb muttered.
It was the middle of the morning and the town was deserted. Every second building was boarded up and the inhabitants of the ones that were still occupied had barricaded themselves indoors.
"There's something not right about this," said Zen.
"Stay here with the boy and the old man," he told Al. "Niggers too. Rest of you, draw your weapons and come with me."
John lead the men into the town center with as much stealth as they could muster, ducking down side streets and sheltering behind the occasional tree until the Hotel came in sight. Sure enough there was a rag-tag collection of boney nags tied up outside.
"Bummers!" Zen hissed between clenched teeth.
"Nobody makes a move without my say so." John ordered. "Not until we know how many there are."
Crouching on all fours they half crawled half ran the last few hundred meters to the side window of the saloon bar. John saw a brief glimpse of a face disappearing behind the curtains of one of the rooms up above what had once been a milliners shop on the other side of the road.
Up close they could hear the sound of the revelry inside. An out of tune player piano churning out some garish parody of one of the songs they'd used to listen to. A lifetime ago before this nightmare of a war had begun. Male voices calling out for more drinks. Glasses clinking. The barman calling out reassurances.
"Yes, sir, absolutely sir, you just make yourselves at home, it' a right honor to have you here just please don't let's anyone hurt anyone ..."
The yankees roared with laughter. John wondered how long they been there. How drunk they were.
Carefully he drew himself up to standing, making sure to keep to the shadows he reached into the pocket of his kit bag and pulled out a little square shaving mirror. From back in the days when he used to shave. For a moment he caught sight of the grim, grey-faced man he'd become, unrecognizable for the handsome young swashbuckler he'd been at the start of all this. He remembered how proud they'd all been of themselves in their handsome uniforms. How proud she'd been of him. He pushed the memory away, forcing himself to focus on the task at hand. Carefully he angled the mirror to scan the interior of the bar whilst avoiding the glare of the sun.
"There's six of them," he said. "And they've got hostages. Women. Three of 'em. Whores most prob'ly."
"It is them?" asked Zeb. "The ones who killed Ellie?"
John nodded. "It's them."