I was looking through my old files and discovered the first couple of pages to what was supposed to be a Mountain Man novella.
Thought I’d share. 🙂
This was supposed to be the story leading up to the events in MM4 “Well Fed,” but for some reason it got shelfed, reworked, and here you go. I found it shoved in a file not opened since 2012. It’s only a couple of pages, and certainly not the lead-in adventure that happens in the first hundred pages of MM4, but I figure I’d post it and let you see how I initially saw Gus visiting Mortimer’s home. Mortimer wasn’t even Mortimer then. Ain’t that something? Hard to think that Mortimer was someone else.
Be forewarned, these pages are unedited and roughly 6 years old, so you might see a different style here. You might also be frustrated with where it all ends.
Anyway, it’s a peek into what almost was… but didn’t quite happen.
So read it… or LISTEN TO IT right here!!
RC surprised the hell outta me the other day when he sent me this…
Leathered and Dead
Keith C Blackmore
The beast rattled and rolled ever so gently, its bulk trembling on its chassis, urging Gus to make up his mind on just what the hell it was he wanted to do. A trickle of sweat ran into his right eye, making him blink at the subtle sting, but he didn’t take his eyes off the house.
It was a fucking mansion.
Owned by the Benton family, who made their fortune on selling off their impressive apple orchards to land developers, perhaps a hundred meters back from a stone wall facing the street, the mansion festered on a low hill like some poisonous thing warning off predators. The first autumn winter after the Fall yellowed the grass, and Gus wondered if he was tempting fate by even considering of going in there. Smaller houses were better. Smaller houses were more controllable if there were gimps lurking about. He’d driven by the place so many times when he was working with the boys, doing interior and exterior house painting, and often wondered what exactly was in there. Jesus, they might have a vault in there, part of his mind squeaked in awe. He fought that one down. Money had no worth now in the new world. Money was worth shit in fact. What he wanted was more practical.
But damn if that monster on the hill wasn’t calling out to him.
Gus looked out the side windows of the Chevy cargo van he drove, and saw that the roads remained empty. It was early afternoon, and he had plenty of places to go if he didn’t want to housepick this one. The trouble was, he was tempted by the Benton mansion. The thing seemed to practically dare him to drive on up. Come on up Gus, and take a walk around. See what you like. Got somthin’ for you, oh guaranteed, we got somethin’ for you.
That is, of course, if you got the balls.
That last line cut into Gus’s pride like a dull knife slicing an overripe fruit. All he needed was a house calling him out.
A mansion. The Benton abode corrected him with a prickly air.
Gus smiled. A house, he insisted spitefully, you clapboard fucker. He could sling hurtful shit too. The place seemed to darken then, squatting there on the hill. No doubt feeling a spark of fury in its spacious halls, like a single lantern gone too far into subterranean depths.
Then he decided. What the hell.
The van pushed forward with a throaty burst of gas, bursting through white painted gates flicked with rust, through the metal back in a shriek. The lay of the land sloped upwards, and Gus felt himself lean back as the beast climbed the hill, taking the curve of the road in stride. He kept his eyes on the sunny bulk of the Benton mansion. Dying grass filled his peripheral vision, the grounds periodically speared with great trunks of elm. He remembered the grounds and trees being almost immaculate back when the world was the world.
The road curved upwards and ended in a paved cul de sac. Gus quickly turned the beast around and pointed it back at the slope, just in case he needed a quick getaway. He wondered if old man Benton would be home himself. He remembered the old bastard as being tall, broad in the shoulder and muscular, as a working on a prosperous farm might make one. Greying hair parted to one side, the crease cutting to the scalp. Old man Benton turned dignified when the cash came in, or as Gus thought––infected with money.
He parked the beast and gave the key a quick turn to kill the engine. The front door to the place was a huge door of oak a statement of wealth alone, its frame cut by knives and chisels into a Baroque statement and coated in a weather defiant seal. The house itself was brick and stone and hardwood and as dignified as old man Benton no doubt thought of himself as. But there was something else in the fitting of the stone, something that chilled Gus, despite his sweaters and leather outerwear. He scratched at a beer lover’s gut, feeling the leather shift underneath the fingerless gloves he wore. It was the only area that was vulnerable to a bite. Nothing would get through the leather he wore, or the plastic pads on his elbows, knees, and shins. The brace about his neck had him covered there, and nothing was getting past the motorcycle helmet he donned. All of his gear was battle tested and proven to protect his ample ass. It was only seven months after everything went to shit, and even though survival was a day to day thing, he figured he had an extra seventy five pounds of to starve through, if he really had to.
Gus took a breath and moved to the back of the van.
The rear doors opened a moment later, and he dropped to the pavement. The heels of his boots clicked on the asphalt and the sheath for his bat, strapped across his back, shuddered. Gus lifted the short barrel twelve gauge, racked a shell into the chamber, and placed its butt firmly against his shoulder. He let the leather strap attached to the shotgun hang, liking it thus, for some unknown reason. He had looted enough houses up to this point now to know instinctively how he was going to proceed and what to do. Muscle memory, he heard it was called, or something like that. He took a moment to give the strap running across his front a tug, feeling the bat shift ever so slightly. The shotgun was for crowd control, but the bat was quieter and just as effective. He’d tried axes before, but they were too unwieldy. Chainsaws weren’t as good as the movies made them to be either, as the blade sometimes bounced off of the bone. He held a katana once, and almost laughed at the thought of using it in a fight. The steel was much too light to cut completely through a skull and, like an axe, it would take seconds to wrench it free if it somehow did pierce a brainpan. Seconds were precious in a fight.
No, the aluminum bat he carried was just right. It was better to bash in a head, drive the bone fragments into the old grey matter––that was all it took––and a gimp would go down.
Gus took a mind-clearing breath and released it, taking a moment to flip the dark visor up on his helmet. It would be dark in there. Even though the windows appeared intact, someone had taken the time to close the curtains.
And that’s it!
Or so I thought, even though the story’s barely begun. Anyway, hope you found it interesting. Abrupt end.
Awesome! Thank you very much for posting this little gem.
Give RC’s narration a try too…. 🙂
Nice! Took me right back into the world according to Gus. Thanks for sharing.
Just listened to Leathered and Dead. Great piece. Would love to have it available on audible. Looking forward to #7!
MM is like a drug to me and a comfort. I listen to them over an over. Every little snippit is appreciated. Thanks for sharing!
I just finished MM4 and now my husband is ready for that one. We loved them all. I hate to finish a series of books, it is like losing old friends. These stories were all consuming, in a good way.
Any chance there are more mountain man books in the works?
Working on one now but my PC up and died. In transition mode… but don’t worry. Nothing was lost. Just waiting on a new machine…
Yaaay!…evil machines eating our dreams