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The Strange White Man Part 20

Back in Carpenters hometown a messenger from the telegraph station rode out to the ranch the day after he sent his telegram. He was met by the ranch foreman shortly after passing through the gate and was informed that the boss was out but he could slip the message under the door.

The messenger hesitated for a moment until the foreman tipped him handsomely then he complied. When Carpenter and Holly returned from their place in the cave that evening they found the telegram on the floor. It stated the Aunt Lilly was arriving on the tenth on the 11:00 AM train and to please have someone meet her at the station. Carpenter smiled and Holly gave him a concerned look.

"We are going to have company? Isn't that dangerous?" Holly asked.

"Not in the slightest." Carpenter then headed to the bunkhouse to speak to Marcus about meeting the train.

Stiles found out about the telegram and decided now would be the time to keep a closer watch on Carpenter's ranch and the girl that lived there. Maybe she had him under a spell, those creatures can do that. Whatever the case he would make sure that there were witnesses to his revealing her as a demon of the night.

The 11:00 AM train arrived on schedule and Marcus was waiting on the platform per his bosses instructions. The conductor deboarded first and placed the stepping platform on the ground and assisted those deboarding if they required. He only moved after about a dozen people had exited and held out his arm to allow the elderly female to grasp it.

She heavily veiled and stooped over with age and that caused her to move slowly. Marcus approached and asked if she was Miss Lilly. The kind face barley visible underneath the heavy traveling veil smiled at him answered that she was Miss Lilly. He offered his arm and walked her to the buggy. Once she was seated he returned for the two heavy trunks that had been placed on the platform.

It was a slow ride to Carpenters ranch as the dirt road was full of holes and uneven in places and he didn't wish to jar his elderly passenger more than necessary. Upon their arrival he used the key that Carpenter had given him and assisted her into the house and then carried the trunks in.

"Do ya need anything else Mam?" Marcus asked.

"No, I will be fine."

"Mr. Carpenter is out running errands and will be back at dusk."

"Very good. Thank you."

The old woman shuffled about the room taking in all the fine furnishings and then set the kettle on to boil and brewed herself a cup of tea. She took a book of poems from the bookshelf and then sat at the kitchen table to read and drink her tea as she waited. It was shortly after sundown that Carpenter and Holly appeared entering from the rear door.

"How was your trip?" Carpenter asked.

"It was long, hot and dusty," the old woman answered in a perturbed voice.

"I apologize for that."

"And well you should."

"It was not my intention to upset you."

"Too late for that. So are you going to cook dinner or do I have to eat with the ranch hands?"

"I thought we would go into town for supper."

"Great another bumpy journey on that so called road."

Holly just stood there listening to this old woman argue with her boss and became nervous. Aunt Lilly seemed unable to be comforted by his inquiries and was disagreeable on every topic. Carpenter saw the look on Holly's face and did something he rarely did, he showed a big smile.

"Holly, I want you to meet Aunt Lilly."

Holly stepped forward extending her hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

The old woman raised both of her hands and removed the heavy veil revealing a kind face lined with age and full head of silver hair. For reasons unknown her boss was drawing the drapes closed as she did this. After placing the veil across the kitchen chair she moved her hand to her head as if to fix her hair that the veil had rumpled. Instead she grabbed if and removed it. Holly stood there stunned.

The old woman then removed her nose and chin. She then removed something from between her cheek and gums that cause her face to flatten out. Finally she then produced a cloth that was in a mason jar filled with some sort of liquid and began to wipe her face and suddenly the old woman was gone and on her place stood a handsome man who extended his hand.

"Lafayette Bonnet at your service."

Holly almost fainted and Carpenter laughed aloud as he moved past Holly to give this man a hug.

"How are you old friend?" he asked.

"Its good to see you," Bonnet responded.

"You might have told me," Holly said in a slightly perturbed voice.

"No, I had to see if his disguise could fool you. Remember your powers of observation as they are much more acute than the average persons."

Holly watched as the newcomer continued to remove the outer garments of the old lady and soon there was no trace of her. The actor stood there shirtless as he unpinned his pant legs so they could resume their original shape and then from one of the trunks he recovered a shirt and jacket which he donned it before he took his place at the kitchen table with them.

"So tell me my friend how can this humble actor be of assistance to you?" Bonnet asked.

"Don't let him fool you Holly, he is one of the most gifted actors and make up artists I have ever met."

They were interrupted by a knock at the door as soon as the actor had hidden himself Holly admitted the old cook with a tray full of food.

"The boss said yer guest might be hungry so I cooked up enough for all three of you."

As Lafayette ate, Carpenter told him of the new problem he was having while Holly sat there looking concerned. Carpenter saw the look on her face and spoke to her.

"Have no fear, he knows what we are."

"If not for him I might not be here today," the actor told her.

Carpenter then told of meeting Lafayette on board one of the paddle boats while he was living in Mississippi. He was performing on the ship and Carpenter was amazed by his skill and approach him to tell him so. The actor liked this man immediately and the headed to the bar for a drink where they talked for hours about theater and actors. It was while they were walking back to his hotel that they were jumped by a group of thugs.

Never without his sword cane Lafayette dispatched two of them while Carpenter took on the other two. One got off a lucky shot with his pocket pistol and it hit Carpenter in the chest and he fell to the ground. The thug with the pistol then advanced on Lafayette firing as he moved.

The first bullet struck him in the shoulder and as he prepared to fire again he was attacked from behind by an enraged Carpenter who snapped his neck but not before almost draining him a good portion of his lifeblood. Lafayette lay in the dirt bleeding as Carpenter knelt next to him.

"How badly are you shot?" he inquired.

"Just a flesh wound."

The sound of gunfire brought people running. Carpenter grabbed the sword cane and sliced the neck of the man he had attacked and drained.

"To help with your story,"Carpenter said before being swallowed up by the night. The marshal and townsfolk found Lafayette laying on the ground bleeding from a gunshot would and four attackers.

"I know these polecats, trouble makers the lot of them," the marshal said aloud after looking at the faces of the deceased.

Lafayette was taken to the doctor who patched him up as he told the story of being accosted by this group and was forced to defend himself. There was no further inquiry, the mayor and marshal were satisfied with the story that was told to them.

After he had returned to his hotel room there came a knock on the door. Being weak from the loss of blood he called out, "Its open". There at the door stood the man who saved his life.

"You have to invite me in," Carpenter intoned.

"I know."

"You do?"

"Yes, no ordinary man could survive a gunshot to the chest and live. I spent years in Europe and England studying and reading on all the folklore. So I know what you."

"Yet you are no afraid."

"I'm too curious to be afraid."

Carpenter was invited in and they talked until dawn and a friendship was formed. They kept in contact over the years and did favors for each other at times, but they would not disclose the nature of these favors to Holly. They talked through lunch and dinner and kept talking until sleep overtook Lafayette and he begged to retire.

"Tomorrow we begin our ploy to discredit this hunter," he told Holly.

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