Previously on Fractured Dawn . . .
A man wakes on a beach with no memory and discovers a strange purple stone embedded in his chest. After being visited by a silent women with red hair he settles down for the night.
After a run in with bandits, he finds himself in the town of Bridgewood. On his first day out and about he gets involved in a bar fight which leads to him being employed to pay off debt.
The man from the beach was busy wiping down the stove when Dusty Brooke walked in.
“Not a bad first day,” she said as she settled on a stool near the serving hatch. “No one threw up and the coin flowed as normal.”
“What more can a cook ask for?” he replied.
The man finished off the stove and threw his rag into the bucket of dirty water beside him. He lifted the bucket and was about to turn when he realised she was still looking at him.
“Is there anything else?” he asked.
“No,” she replied. “It’s quietened down out there. Guess you can call it a night.”
He put the bucket back down. “Excuse me?”
“That’s what I’m going to call you,” she replied. “I’m not liking the whole ‘mysterious man with no name’ thing you’ve got going. I can’t call to you and I can’t order you around. It makes me uncomfortable and I don’t like that. Until you get your memory back I’m going to call you Cook.”
“And if you remember you name and I don’t like it, I’ll still call you Cook.”
He watched her for a few seconds trying to work out if she was joking with him but the face displayed nothing close to a sense of humour. He shrugged and picked up the bucket again. He figured she had a right to be pissed. He had caused a ruckus and broken things in her bar after all.
“I’m sorry again,” he said. “For the scuffle.”
“You were protecting a girl,” said Dusty. “One of my girls. I guess that wherever you’re from they clearly taught you honour.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Dusty stood up and walked halfway closer to him. “Everything is a bad thing if it ends up getting you killed.”
Cook put down the bucket again and sighed. “That asshole doesn’t scare me.”
“Do you know who he is?”
“Do you know who he is,” she said. “The ‘asshole’ that you humiliated and beat up?”
“Right now I barely know who anyone is,” said Cook, trying to keep his calm.
“Then you should be doubly careful who you poke with a stick. You never know who’ll poke back.”
Cook and Dusty just stood there for a while, staring at each other, with only the faint sounds of the few final patrons in the bar for company. Finally Cook nodded and Dusty nodded back. She went to the door leading to the bar.
“Good night, Cook,” she said. “I’ll see you back here tomorrow.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. He waited until she was gone before grabbing the bucket and heading out the back door. He chucked the dirty water over a nearby bush. As he went to head back inside, a sound caught his attention and a small flame appeared to his right. Cook raised the empty bucket over his head ready to throw it just as a man stepped out from the shadows. The man used the lit match on his cigarette.
“That would be a hell of an introduction,” he said.
“Guess I’m not big on people sneaking around,” said Cook.
“Suppose I could have approached you in a less dramatic way.”
Still unsure of who the man was, Cook held on tight to the bucket as he lowered it, just in case.
The man waved the match’s flame away, flicked it somewhere into the shadows and took a puff. “Wife doesn’t like the smell,” he said. “Says I can’t smoke around the house.”
Cook stayed quiet.
The man took another puff and then held out his hand. “Where are my manners? Name’s Lenton.”
Cook shook the hand.
Instead of releasing the grip, Lenton tightened it. “That’s Sheriff Lenton,” he said. He then waited for that to sink in before letting go of Cook’s hand. “Word between the trees is that you’ve been causing trouble in my town. And all on your first day.”
Cook didn’t answer straight away. He had mistaken Dusty’s comments for humour when they weren’t and was beginning to wonder if the whole town had a single funny bone among them. He didn’t feel the need to laugh but he also didn’t want to escalate the situation by getting angry.
“Look,” he said. “I’m in a bit of a strange situation at the moment.”
“You’ve lost your past,” said Lenton.
Cook nodded. “I have. And it’s a little . . . disorientating.”
Sheriff Lenton stepped a little closer. “I knew a man once, same age as my son. They grew up together as best of friends. We fed him at our table on a number of occasions and he always made me laugh with his jokes.”
“Two winters ago,” continued the Sheriff, “he killed his wife and cut up her body. He didn’t get far what with the blood trail he left in the snow. We dragged him back to town and charged him with her murder. I watched him cry for two days straight before we hung him. As I led him to the gallows I had to ask him why he did it, why he murdered such a kind person, why he murdered the person he’d loved. And do you know what he said to that?”
Cook opened his mouth to say no but there wasn’t much of a pause to fill.
“He said he didn’t know,” continued the Sheriff. “Said he couldn’t remember a damn thing that happened that night.”
“Was it the shock?” said Cook as the Sheriff took another puff.
“That’s what he probably would have liked people to believe.”
“But you didn’t?”
“Not one bit.”
“So why do you think he couldn’t remember?”
“It’s amazing what a man’s mind will do to protect itself.” His face glowed red has he took a nice, long, final drag. He flicked the butt away before blowing out a cloud of smoke before him. “I think he didn’t want to know what he’d done. I think he was in denial.”
For a while the two men just stood there out back of the inn.
“Why are you telling me this?” said Cook.
“What atrocities are you hiding from, stranger? What’s following in your wake?”
“I wish I knew.”
“Maybe you don’t,” said the Sheriff. “Somewhere in that head of yours are all the answers.”
“Look, I said I’m sorry about the bar fight,” said Cook. “And I’m sorry I have no memory as that clearly offends you. If you want me out of town then that’s your right but I’d appreciate you letting me pay off my debt to Dusty first.”
“I’m not going to kick you out,” said Lenton. “But I’d appreciate you not hanging around longer than you need to. My one job is to protect this town. We’ve got it nice and peaceful out here away from the cities. We get riff raff, sure, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“I’m not going to cause any trouble,” said Cook. “I just want to find my feet before I head off and try and get my answers.”
The Sheriff stepped aside. Cook walked past and opened the door back to the kitchen.
“Do you know what scares me most about you?” said the Sheriff.
Cook turned on the top step and looked down at the Sheriff. With the light of the kitchen Cook could now make out the gleaming Sheriffs badge pinned to his shirt as well as the two hand axes sat snuggly in his belt.
“Nope,” said Lenton as he pulled another cigarette from his pocket. “I don’t like that you don’t know where you’re from. And I don’t like that you don’t know what brought you to our shores. But most of all, I don’t like the fact that you have no idea if trouble is following you.” He lit the cigarette. “And just so you know, if anyone or anything comes calling for you, I will gladly hand you over.”
“You’re too kind,” said Cook.
“I am,” said the Sheriff. “When it comes to my town I will not compromise for its safety.”
“Are we done?”
Lenton nodded before turning and heading off into the shadows behind the inn. “Good night, stranger,” he called out.
Cook headed back into the kitchen and felt the anger rising. One of his fears was people knowing who he really was and judging him before he could explain his predicament. He hadn’t expected to get on someone’s bad side for not knowing who he was.
He raised his arm and threw the bucket across the kitchen with all his might.