Tag: mystical

Agents of the Vault – Part 11

Part 11 of Agents of the Vault.  The story of how Grisom and Charlie met.

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Agents of the Vault
Part 11
By Grant Baciocco

As a kid, reading dime novels of the adventures of the cowboys, being on a ride was all Charlie wanted.  Now, it seemed, he was living it.  Out on a ride, facing off against outlaws.  Meting out frontier justice.  Though he had no official capacity in law enforcement, capturing Leland with Grisom, and Doris, had made his year.  He had a smile on his face that couldn’t be erased.

Six months ago, Charlie had left his the family farm determined to ‘make his way’ in the world.  He was determined to find adventure and not become a farmer like his father or grandfather had been.  Not that he begrudged either of them for being farmers and not that they were pressuring him into the vocation, in fact, they were happy to see him spread his wings.  As long as he kept in touch.

On the day he left the farm, Doris made it clear she was coming with him.  No matter how loudly Charlie protested, Doris would not leave the saddle bag.  Finally, it was Charlie’s grandfather who said, “Son, I reckon she’s going with you.  Sure seems like a good idea since she’ll listen to you better than anyone else.  I figure it’s the right thing to do seeing as she’s smart enough to keep ya from doin’ something stupid.”

So it was decided.  Doris would come with Charlie.  After a week or so of traveling he found work as a ranch hand on a cattle ranch outside of Peoria, Illinois.  He was a good worker and, being the low man on the ladder, didn’t mind the work he was given.  The hardest part of the job was keeping Doris a secret from the rest of the ranch workers.  Not an easy task when they all shared one large room of the bunkhouse as living quarters.

One afternoon, Mr. Templin, the ranch owner, sent Charlie into Peroria to meet the train.  Some new supplies were arriving from back east and Charlie was to secure them and bring them back to the ranch.

Charlie sat in the cart near the depot, feeding Doris slices of apple through the flap of the saddlebag, when he suddenly heard loud gunfire from Main Street, behind him.

Turning, he saw a man running down the street with two men chasing after, getting off shot after shot on him.  The man locked eyes with Charlie and yelled, “Start moving that cart kid.”

Charlie, was confused, but obeyed, clicking the horses into action with his tongue and a flip of the reigns the cart lurched forward along the train tracks.  The man running down the street slid into the back of cart as it pulled out.  For the first time Charlie noticed that the man was carrying a small bundle wrapped in brown burlap.  Once the man was on the cart he pulled out a gun and began opening fire on his pursuers.  The two followers scattered in the street, then doubled back for their horses.

Charlie kept the horses running, but turned to look at the man in the back of his cart, “Mister, I don’t need any trouble.  Are you a bank robber or something?”

The man kept an eye behind them, but yelled forward, “No I ain’t.  I just have something they want.”

“That the Sherriff and deputies shooting at you?”

“No.  Pinkertons.”

Charlie swallowed hard.  “Pinkertons!  Look Mister, I don’t need any trouble.  I don’t want to mess with the Pinketons.”

“Son you know what Pinkertons are?”

“The Law.”

“No.  They ain’t.  They’re glorified bounty hunters.  Working for whomever will pay them.  Don’t matter if the job is right or wrong, as long as the money is good, the Pinkertons will do it.”  Charlie could barely hear the man over the roar of the cart as it rumbled down the road.

“Where you want me to take you?  I ain’t taking you back to the ranch I’m working at.”

“You know the road that leads north into the foothills?”


“That’s what we want.  Head there.”

Charlie steered the cart towards the road in question.  He was nervous but his heart was pounding with excitement.  He had no clue if the man in the back of his cart was someone he could trust, but it felt as if he was.  He was a tall man,  with rugged look to him.  His brown hat pulled down near over his eyes.  He had two day stubble and his eyes were such a dark brown that when, combined with the shade the brim of his hat made, almost made them look completely black.  His vest, shirt and pants had a layer of trail dust miles thick.  Two silver pistols hung in holsters at his waist.  He looked like a man you would cross the street to avoid.  There was something about him, however, that put Charlie at ease and made him trustworthy.

As the cart sped towards the foothills at a breakneck pace, the man in the back kept a careful watch on the road behind them.  Charlie divided his attention between the road in front, the man in the back and the saddle bag on the bench next to him.  In the excitement, he’d almost forgot about keeping Doris’ presence unknown.  As they drove he reached a hand down to slide the bag closer to him.

The man in the back saw this movement out of the corner of his eye.  He instinctively reached for one of his pistols.

“No need to go for your gun kid.  I don’t mean to harm you.”

It took a second for Charlie to realize what he’d meant.  He chuckled nervously, “Uh, no sir.  I wasn’t reaching for a gun.  I was just making sure my bag didn’t bounce out of the seat.”

“Well, I ain’t aiming to take whatever’s in your bag either.”

“Wasn’t afraid of that, sir.  If I was really nervous I would have bailed miles back.  Just making sure my bag was close.”

The man nodded and turned his attention back down the road.  Charlie looked back at him.

“Think we lost them?” Charlie asked.

“They know the direction we headed and it won’t be long before they piece together where we went.” The man replied.  “I think we bought us some time, but that’s about it.”

Charlie was taken back a second.  “Us?”

“Yeah.” The man replied.  “You’re part of this now.  At least for the time being.  I’m going to need someone to help me get out of the area safely.  You’ve just been volunteered.”

Charlie shook his head as he spurred the horses on faster.  It dawned on him that instead of finding adventure, adventure had found him!  Charlie took the turn to the road that led to the foothills.  About two miles down it, the man in the back of the cart hollered, “There’s a smaller side road coming up on your left, hard to see, take it.”

Charlie nodded, “Didn’t think there was much out this way.  No people or places at any rate.”

“There ain’t.” The man replied.  “That’s exactly why we want to head this way.  There’s an abandoned farm about a mile into the woods.”

Charlie nodded and kept the horses moving.  He made the left onto the smaller road.  A few minutes later, an abandoned farmhouse came into view between the trees.  The man climbed up over the back of the seat on the buckboard and sat next to Charlie.  Charlie grabbed his saddle bag and moved it onto his lap as the man sat next to him.

The man looked at the saddlebag.  “You sure are nervous about that bag, son.  What do you have in there?”

Charlie gripped the bag tighter.  He looked over at the small bundle wrapped in burlap in the man’s lap,.  “What do you have in there?”

The man looked down then back up at Charlie.  He smiled, “Good point.”

Charlie circled the buckboard around back of the farmhouse so it couldn’t be seen from the road.  As soon as they were parked, the man hopped off the front clutching his parcel to his chest.  Charlie gathered his saddle bag and slung it over his shoulder.

“If you want to get out of town, shouldn’t we keep going?” Charlie asked, watching the man climb the back steps to the farmhouse.

“I have to do something first.” The man said peeking in through the windows of the run down farmhouse.  “Hope the kitchen table is still in here.  We’re going to need it.”

Charlie watched as the man tried to force open the back door with his shoulder.  “I’m Charlie by the way.”

The man lurched against the door, popping it open.  He steadied himself and turned back to Charlie.  He nodded toward Charlie, “Grisom.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.  Follow me.”  The man stepped over the threshold and into the kitchen.

Charlie began to follow him.  There was a whistle from the saddlebag.  Charlie whispered back to it, “Shhhhh, Doris.  I’ll be careful.  Let’s see what he’s up to.”

Charlie climbed the stairs of the back porch and into the kitchen.

When Charlie entered the kitchen, he found Grisom lifting the edge of the kitchen table to spill the remnants of a long forgotten meal onto the floor.  Dishes fell with a clatter.  When it was clear he let the table slam back to the ground.  He gingerly placed the burlap wrapped package he was carrying onto the center of it.  He looked over at Charlie.  “Think that water pump out back still works?”

“I don’t know.  I reckon so, unless the well’s run dry.” Charlie replied looking out the back door towards the pump.

Grisom crossed the kitchen and grabbed an old wooden bucket from near where the stove sat in the corner of the room.  He stepped back and held it out to Charlie.  “Go fill this with some water.”

Charlie looked confused.  “Why?”

“You want to see what’s in here?” Grisom said, slowly undoing the burlap that was wrapped around the parcel..

Charlie looked at the package and nodded.

“Then fetch me some water, boy.” Grisom barked.

Charlie didn’t waste a moment.  He grabbed the bucket and raced out the door, down the back steps and towards the pump.  He placed the bucket below the spout and began pumping.  After several seconds of pumping, just when he thought that the pump needed to be primed, water started pouring out and into the bucket.  The saddlebag over his shoulder began to move slightly.

“Easy girl.” Charlie whispered.

A whistle emanated form the bag.

“I get it, you’re thirsty, I’ll get you some water, I just gotta do this first.” Charlie replied.

A disappointed whistle echoed back to him.

Once the bucket was three quarters full, Charlie stopped pumping and picked it up.  He moved fast back towards the farmhouse, but not so fast water sloshed from the bucket.  He leapt up the steps and into the kitchen.  When he entered he saw that Grisom had unwrapped the burlap from the bundle and there, sitting in the middle of the wrapping, was a simple water pitcher.  It looked as if was made of pewter.  Perhaps iron.  It was tarnished, grimy, dented.  It had no decoration or writing on it.  It just looked as if it was a simple water pitcher that had seen many better days.

Charlie smirked as he set the bucket down on the table.  “The Pinkerton’s are after you because of a water pitcher? Did it belong to someone’s Grandmother or something.”

“No.” Said Grisom.  He took out his handkerchief and dipped it in the bucket of water.  He wrung out the excess and then, gently, began clearing the dirt from the the sides of the pitcher.  His strokes were very delicate, as if he thought the thing would crumble under his touch.

“I’m not quite sure that I want to have the Pinkerton’s after me because of some old water pitcher.” Charlie said.

“This ain’t just some old water pitcher.” Grisom replied shortly.

Charlie took the cue and stopped with his questions.  He watched Grisom clean the sides of the pitcher.  The dirt came away, but the water did very little to brighten the dingy metal it was made of.  Grisom worked for a minute more, making sure dirt and grime was cleared from the sides and bottom.  Charlie noticed he never scrubbed the insides.

“You know your revolutionary war history kid?” Grisom asked, finally breaking the silence.

“Some.” Charlie replied.

“You ever hear of Molly Pitcher?” Grisom asked.

“No, sir.”

“She was at Valley Forge with her husband who was in the artillery.  She was what’s called a ‘water girl.’  She ran pitchers of water back and forth to the infantry and artillerymen.  The water was used to cool down the barrels of cannons after they were fired so they didn’t split.”

Charlie nodded, listening intently.

“Later she was involved in the Battle of Monmouth.  This time she was running water back and forth to the men under British fire.  Her husband was killed in that battle and Molly took up his position at the cannon and kept up the barrage.  We won that battle and after, George Washington gave her a commendation and the nickname ‘Sergeant Molly.’  What most people don’t know though is that Molly made sure they won the battle by bringing water to all those cannons in her pitcher.”

Charlie raised an eyebrow.  “How’d she manage that?”

“Witchery.” Grisom replied.

“Witchery?  This Molly Pitcher was a witch?” Charlie scoffed.

“No. She wasn’t a witch.” Grisom replied.  “Well not as you’re thinking.  You see there are certain items in this world that have inherent powers woven into them when they are made.  These powers come from the earth, not from any evil spirits or devils, just from the earth.  The Indians have been using them for years.  We have only begun to harness them.  The secret of how to infuse an object with witchery is a shrouded secret and rarely used, but these objects do exist and they have been fundamental in protecting this country of ours.”

Charlie scratched his head for a minute then looked at the pitcher.  “And this, is Molly Pitcher’s pitcher?”

Grisom nodded.

“And it’s got some witchery in it?”

“That it does.” Grisom replied.  “Remember how I told you the water Molly brought to the attilerymen was used to cool down the cannons?”

Charlie nodded.

“The witchery in this pitcher enchanted the iron of the cannons.  It made it so that the cannonballs always hit their mark, thus helping us win that battle and several others as well.”

“Well, I’ll be…” Charlie said in astonishment.  He crossed to the table and placed his saddle bag down on it, staring transfixed at the pitcher.  “How’s it work.”

“Simple.” Grisom replied.  “You just fill it with water then pour the water from the pitcher over the barrel of the cannon.”  To illustrate, Grisom picked up the bucket and poured water into the pitcher.  Charlie watched in rapt attention.  As the water filled the pitcher, Charlie saw a bright flash of green ripple through the water.  “Give me your gun.”

“What?” Charlie questioned.

“Give me your gun.” Grisom said, his hand outstretched.

Charlie unholstered his gun and handed it to Grisom.  Grisom lifted the pitcher and poured a little water over the barrel of Charlie’s gun.  The same green ripple Charlie had seen in the water appeared to ripple across this gun barrel.  Grisom set the pitcher back down and handed Charlie back his gun.  Charlie stared at the barrel.

Grisom looked out the kitchen door towards the backyard.  “See that cow skull hung over the door of the barn?

Charlie looked over his shoulder and scanned the backyard.  His eyes wandered towards the barn and then to the weathered skull that hung above the door about 200 yards from where they sat in the kitchen.  Charlie nodded.

“Shoot it.”

Charlie looked back at Grisom.  “Shoot it?”

Grisom nodded.

Charlie stood and began crossing towards the door.

Grisom grabbed his shoulder. “No.  Shoot it, from here.”

Charlie turned and looked at Grisom as if he was nutty.  “I can’t hit that thing from here.  It’s far too far away for me to hit.”

“Try it.  Shoot from where you stand.” Grisom ordered.

Charlie snickered and raised the gun In front of him.  “If you say so.”

Charlie looked down the barrel and aimed at the skull.  He snickered to himself, hating to have to prove this guy wrong, but he aimed best he could at a target so far away and then squeezed the trigger.

Charlie couldn’t be certain, but he thought he saw that same flash of green ripple along the gun barrel as the gun fired.  A millisecond later, the skull above the barn shattered.  Charlie stared in disbelief.  He looked at the gun in his hands then back at Grisom.

“How…?” Charlie asked.


Charlie smiled and looked back down at his gun.

“Don’t get too excited kid.” Grisom said.  “It’s temporary.  Only lasts for one shot.  That’s why Molly Pitcher had to keep running back and forth.  Helped us with the war though.”

“So the Pinkertons want it because…”

“Because imagine if you could find out how it works and then raised up an militia that always hit their target?  The world would be yours.” Grisom replied.  “I’m taking this to Yankton to a place called The Vault.  A secret place where witchery items are kept away from those who’d use them wrong.”

“Like the Pinkertons.”

“Yep.” Grisom replied.  “You should come with me.”

“Come with you?”

“Yeah.  What else are you doing here?  Working on a ranch?  The way you drove that wagon, I could use some help.” Gisom replied.  “Besides, you have some experience with mystical things yourself.”

“I do?” Charlie asked quizzically. “What do you mean?”

“I mean her.” Grisom replied, pointing to the table.  Charlie looked and there stood Doris.  She’d creeped out of the shoulder bag and was frozen, like a child who had just been caught red handed.  She stood stock still, her tongue out.  She’d been, lapping up water from the water bucket as Charlie and Grisom had talked.  “A prairie fire.  Read about them.  Never seen one.  How long have you had her?”

Charlie was furious at Doris and Doris knew it.  She sheepishly pulled her tongue back into her mouth and crept backwards, slinking back into the saddle bag.  Once inside she turned around so both Grisom and Charlie could see her eyes.  Then her tail snuck out and reached for the flap of the bag and pulled it closed.

Charlie sighed heavily and told Grisom the story of how his Grandfather had come across her mother on the prairie and how Doris had become the family pet.  Grisom listened quietly, nodding occasionally.

When Charlie was done relating the tale, he crossed to the table and lifted the flap.  “C’mon out here.” He said, smiling.  Doris barreled out of the saddle bag and sprinted across the table to look up at Grisom.  A huge smile appeared on her face.  For the first time since Charlie had met him, Grisom smiled.  He crouched down so he was eye to eye with Doris as she sat on the edge of the table.  He reached out a hand and like a cat, Doris immediately began rubbing her head against it.  She whistled contently as she did.

“Does she breathe fire yet?” Grisom asked.

Charlie smiled, “Oh yeah.  One of her favorite past time was belching fire down in the gopher holes in Grandma’s corn field to root out the varmints.  Most of the time though, she’d wind up setting the field on fire.”

Doris left Grisom’s hand as he stood back up.  She crossed over to the bucket and resumed drinking from it.

“You’ve done well to keep her outta sight.  There’s many who’d love to get their hands on a prairie fire.  Same folks who want to get their hands on this pitcher.” Grisom replied.

“Why?” Charlie asked.

“Because men are greedy,” Grisom replied.  “All they can see is power.  Figure out how to breed more of them to use to their own devices.  Or figure out how to harness her fire belches for no good reasons.”

Charlie nodded.  “Well, my Grandpa trained her pretty well to keep hidden.  She knows to stay still in the bag when we’re out in public.  But I reckon she sensed we could trust you.”

Grisom nodded then looked back towards Doris who’d again frozen drinking water.  She was staring outside the kitchen window.

Grisom followed her gaze, “What is it girl?”

Suddenly a shot crashed what was left of the glass in the window pane.  Charlie and Grisom leapt to the floor, Doris skittered back into the saddle bag which began to roll due to her momentum and it tumbled off the table.  Charlie saw it happen and caught it before it hit the ground.

From outside the house, a deep voice yelled, “Grisom!  We know you’re in there.  We just want the pitcher.  Give it to us and we’ll let you go.”

Grisom had a gun out and cocked it.  He scooted across to the table and slid the pitcher off it.  Looking into it, he saw there was still some water left.  He looked over at Charlie, “This is going to end in a shootout kid.  You up for it?”

Charlie, nervous but game, nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Good.” Grisom replied.  Hold out your gun.

Charlie held out his gun next to where Grisom had his held out.  Then, using his other hand, Grisom poured the remaining water in the pitcher out over the barrels of both guns.

“Now,” Grisom instructed, “You’ll hit your target, but you still have to aim.  These ain’t magic bullets, the witchery just uses where your mental focus is aiming and helps the bullet along.”

Charlie nodded.

“The good news is there’s only two of them and there’s two of us.  But they cannot, get their hands on this pitcher.  And we can’t let them know about Doris.” Grisom said.

Charlie nodded, holding the shoulder bag close.  Grisom held out the, now empty pitcher.

“Put this in the bag with her and put the bag on that shelf there.” Grisom ordered.  Charlie did as he was told, placing the bag, with Doris and the pitcher on the back of a shelf near where they were crouched.  Grisom made his way, on hands and knees, towards the door.

“Jarrett.  It’s Grisom.” He shouted.

The deep voice bellowed form outside, “I know who it is you damn fool.  Throw out the pitcher and we ride away.”

“Well, you see, that’s the problem.  I ain’t got the pitcher.”

Several more shots fired in through the window of the kitchen.  They were followed by several through the kitchen door.

“You’re a horrible liar Grisom.” Jarrett replied.  “Now look, you give us the pitcher and we leave you.  Or we burn down this heap of kindle you’re hiding out in, kill you, your new friend in there and then sift through the ashes and get the pitcher.  Either way, we’re leaving here with that pitcher.  Just there’s only one way you live.”

Grisom looked over at Charlie.  “I think Jarrett’s out that way.” He pointed towards where the window had shattered and where Jarrett’s voice had come from.  “Not sure where the other one is but I would imagine he is got his gun trained on the door.”

Charlie nodded.

“Now look,” Grisom continued, handing Charlie his gun. “I’ll go out the door and keep them distracted.  I’ll walk over by the window and try and get Jarrett to come out of cover.  When I do you take him out from the window there.”

“What about the other guy?” Charlie asked, rubbing his hand along his pants.  He was sweating a bit now.  This was his first shootout.

“I’ll try and draw him out.  After you shoot Jarrett, toss me my pistol through the window and pick him off.  No matter what, you stay in here.  If they get the better of me, just give them the pitcher.  They’ll leave you alone.  Once they have it, they’ll leave.  But you can not let them know about your friend.  You understand?”

Charlie nodded again.  He began crawling in the direction of the kitchen window.  Grisom edged his way towards the kitchen door.

“Jarrett.  I’m coming out.” Grisom yelled out the doorway.  “I’m coming out unarmed.”

Charlie watched nervously, gripping the end of his pistol tight, as Grisom stood and dusted himself off.  He took a step out the door.  Hands raised, looking in the direction of where Jarrett’s voice was coming from.

“Where’s the kid you were with?” Jarrett yelled.

“He’s not part of this.” Grisom yelled back.  “This is between us.”

“He became part of it when he helped you escape.” Jarrett yelled.

Charlie had his back against the wall, under the window.  He could see Grisom standing outside the door.  Charlie slowly began raising himself up the wall, to get into position to take a shot a Jarrett, when he saw something move out in the yard past Grisom.  The other Pinkerton agent stood from behind the cart and took aim at Grisom.

Charlie acted in a flash.  He fired a shot at the agent.  The bullet whizzed behind Grisom who took a step forward in surprise.  The bullet hit the agent square in heart, knocking him back to the ground.  Charlie spun and cocked his gun again pointing it out the window, in the side yard where Jarrett stood.  Jarrett aimed his gun at where Grisom was and before he could cock it, Charlie fired again.  Jarrett spun wildly and dropped to his knees.  Seconds later he was face down in the dust.

Charlie’s heart was pounding.  He could barely catch is breath.  He looked out the window as Grisom came around the side of the house.  Grisom took a look and saw Jarrett on the ground.  He then looked back up at Charlie in the window.

“Kid, you have nerves of steel.”  Grsom laughed.  “Nerves of steel.  That second agent had the drop on me.  If I would have been alone, I would be dead.  Say, you want a job?”

Charlie was just barely able to string a few words together.  “A job?  What kind of job?”

“The people I work for, The Coalition, are always looking for men and women brave enough to seek out artifacts like the pitcher and bring them to The Vault.  They’re called Agents.  See, we get a badge and everything.”  Grissom folded open a leather flap he’d taken out of his pocket.  A dull, golden badge shone in the sunlight.  “I reckon you and your friend there in the bag, would fit in with The Coalition just fine.” Grisom replied.

Charlie turned and looked over to the shelf where his saddle bag was.  He could see Doris’ eye peeking out from under the flap.  He thought about the dime novels he read as a kid.  He thought about what had just happened moments ago.  He’d just taken out two Pinketton Agents.  Going back to work as a ranch hand, just didn’t seem like a possibility anymore.

“Mr. Grisom.” Charlie said with a smile.  “I’m in.”

In the months that followed, Charlie had been on several missions with Grisom, locating historical artifacts and returning them to the various Vault locations across the country.  This current mission, returning the writing desk was going to take them to the Vault in Yankton, the biggest in the network, where Charlie would be able to official apply as an Agent of the Vault.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 10

Part 10 of Agents of the Vault.  Grisom and Charlie cut out across the prairie towards Yankton.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit www.patreon.com/saturdaymorningmedia

Agents of the Vault
Part 10
By Grant Baciocco

The sun began setting behind them as the day wore on.  Charlie had woken and had been steering the cart for awhile, giving Grisom time to rest.  Most of the afternoon had been spent listening to Leland try to get Grisom and Charlie to let him go by offering them the entire haul of gold.

“You can get away clean.  They’ll think I have it all.  Think of what you could do with all that gold.” He’d coaxed, unsuccessfully.  After about an hour of this constant pleading, Charlie had Doris shut him up with a fireball that dissipated inches from his face.  Leland had been close to silent since, muttering quietly now and then, but for the most part, silent.  Doris was now curled up between Grisom and Charlie, fast asleep.

Grisom roused when it began to get cold.  He scanned the horizon then took a deep breath.  “We’d better start to thinking where we’ll bed down for the night.  Better to sleep now and get an early start before dawn.”

Charlie nodded.  “There’s a flat spot up ahead near that bluff.” Charlie pointed out.

“Head for it.” Grisom replied.  “I think we’re going to have to keep a watch out tonight.” Grisom said, looking behind them.

“You think she’s behind us?”

“I know she’s behind us.” Grisom answered.  “Just a matter of how far behind.  And she doesn’t have a cart loaded down with gold slowing her any.  We just can’t risk pressing on thorough the night and driving the cart into ditch that could put a wheel out.  No, we’ll take turns watching.  I’ll take the first shift since I’m fresh.”

“I’ll make us some supper with what we took from the cabin.”

Grisom nodded.  “Good, but it’s gonna get cold.  We can’t build a fire.  We can’t tip our hand to where we are and have her ride up on us.”

Charlie nodded again and pulled back on the reigns, bringing the cart to a slow halt near the flat spot he’d seen.  The horses, glad to stop, whinnied.  This woke Leland up.

“You guys gotta let me take a leak!”  Leland whined, twisting his prone body around so he could look up at Grisom and Charlie.

Grisom looked over at Charlie.  “You wanna chaperone or me?”

Charlie took off his hat and wiped his brow with his sleeve.  “I got an idea.  Why don’t we let Doris chaperone him?”

At the sound of her name, Doris raised her head groggily and gave Charlie a quizzical look.  Charlie looked down at her, “What do you say girl?  Can you chaperone Leland here to heed nature’s call?”

Doris, understanding completely, made a dour face, her long tongue sticking out in disgust.

Charlie chuckled.  “I’ll make you a deal, if Leland here tries to run off, fashion himself a weapon out of a stick or something or even just looks at you funny, you have our permission to burn him to a crisp.”

This perked Doris right up.  She loved using the full extent of her fire powers at any chance she could, so though the thought of accompanying Leland disgusted her, the possibility of being able to use her full fire ball was too good to pass up.  She agreed and Charlie and Grisom, who’d slid off the cart, dragged Leland down from the bed of the cart to the ground and undid his hands.

Charlie looked Leland in the eye, “She’ll do it to.  Go and come right back.  One whistle from me and you’ll be burning up.”

Leland nodded and then looked down at Doris with a twinge of fear.  Doris stared back up at him and motioned with her tail that he should get going.  Leland sighed and trudged off away from where they’d stopped.  Doris trotted behind him, almost like a guard escorting a prisoner to the gallows.

Charlie kept an eye on Leland and Doris as they walked away from the cart so Leland could do his business.  Grisom began taking down three bedrolls he’d taken from the cabin and began lying them out.

“What are we going to do with him?” Charlie asked.

“Leland?” Grisom replied.


“We’re going to take him to the authorities in Yankton along with the gold.”

“No, I mean what are we going to do with him on the way there.  I can tell Doris has had her fill of him and it would seem that you are on the short end of your tether with his gum flapping as well.”

Grisom stopped spreading out a bedroll and looked after them.  “Well,” he said, “He continues his whining, I’ll just knock him out again.  I have no qualms with him being comatose the rest of the way.”

Charlie nodded, then turned to get the food they’d taken from the cabin down out of the cart.

“That protection on the trunk was something else.” Charlie said.

“Mmmmm hmmmm.” Grisom replied.  “It’s a Keep Out.  An ancient protection that prevents people from getting into what the person who casted it don’t want them to get into.  They put it on it in New York.”

“Sure sent Leland flying across the ground.”

“Mmmmmm hmmmm.  That Keep Out should hold us until Yankton and the Vault.”

“Is it going to prevent her from getting inside of it?

“Possibly.  Unless she has a breaker with her.”

Charlie looked over at Grisom.  “A breaker?”

Grisom nodded.  “Yeah.  Those who can break witchery cast on an object.”

Charlie was silent for a second, taking this in.  “Think she’s has one?”

“She might.” Grisom replied.  “But that’s why I brought you along.”

“Me?  I don’t know anything about breakers or witchery.”

“No but your a good shot.  Breakers are just like the rest of us, bullets are their weakness.”

Just then they heard a low whistle and they both turned to see Doris leading Leland back towards camp.  Doris shepherded him over towards Charlie who picked up the leather strap they’d used to bind his hands and made to rebind them.

“Is that really necessary?” Leland asked.  “I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere and you have this..”  Leland stopped himself before insulting Doris again.  He cleared his throat and smiled a smile that was far from genuine  “You have Doris watching over me.  Where am I going to go?”

“Nowhere.” Grisom answered.  “And the reason you are going to go nowhere, is because you’re going to have your feet and hands bound.  Can’t risk you slipping off on one of the horses in the night.  And if you feel like complaining about it, we’ll gladly gag you as well.”

Leland didn’t retort.  He just sighed heavily and allowed his hands to be tied, looser than they were when he’d been in the back of the cart, but still tight enough to prevent escape.  After he was bound, Charlie led him over to his bedroll and sat him down on it.  He then returned to the food.

“We’ve got us three cans of beans here.  But with no fire to warm them up, I guess it’s just these biscuits.”  Charlie said.

“Well, maybe Doris could warm them up for us.” Grisom replied.  “It’s not totally dark yet and a few blasts from her and those cans will be nice and warm.”

Charlie looked at Doris who was sitting at full attention.  “Whattya say girl?  You in for helping us cook dinner?

Doris nodded excitedly and turned a small circle.

Charlie found a flat rock and brought it over near the bed rolls.  He opened each of the cans with his pocket knife and set them on the rock and took a step back.  Doris was standing nearby eagerly panting, excited to use her fire breath.

Charlie looked down at her, “Okay, listen, you have to take it easy.  Not too much fire or you’ll burn them okay?”

Doris nodded, somewhat frustrated and stared transfixed at the cans.  The hair along her spine stood stiff and her ears were twitching.

Charlie smiled then said, “Okay, go for it.”

A low whistle escaped from Doris’ mouth as she opened it.  A small ball of blue flame appeared between her long incisors and quickly grew in size.

“Easy.” Charlie coached.  “Easy.  We want to be able to eat this stuff.”

Doris’ eyes began glowing red and she made a sound much like a cough.  In that moment, the blue ball of fire expanded to twice it’s size and hit the three cans of beans squarely and then dissipated.

From his bedroll, Leland laughed.  “That’s it?  All that for…that tiny blue ball of flame? What in tarnation have I been worried about?  The worst she could do is give me a mild burn.  Lukewarm beans for dinner.  It’ll be just like being on a cattle drive.”  He cackled again.  Doris spun and growled loudly at him.

“Doris.” Charlie barked.  “No.  Down.”  Doris settled uneasily on her haunches.  Charlie put on a riding glove and reached down and picked up one can.  He brought it over to Leland.  “Here’s your beans.”

Leland smirked and took the can from Charlie.  Instantly he knew he’d made a mistake.  The can immediately blistered both his hands.  Screaming, he threw the can forward and the beans inside spilled out onto the prairie floor, bubbling and steaming as they hit the cold night air.  “What the hell you trying to do to me?”

Charlie laughed, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought they were lukewarm.  My mistake.  That’s all you get tonight though, Leland.  Better eat them before the prairie critters do.”

Doris whistled in merriment at Leland’s discomfort.  He had sore hands and the realization that his dinner was now cooling on the dirt floor of the prairie.

Grisom and Charlie tucked into their respective cans while Doris was allowed time to go hunting for her food, coming back with two prairie dogs she sloppily ate near Leland, just because she knew it would thoroughly disgust him and it did.  Between not eating much, the blisters throbbing on his hands and the sight of Doris slurping down prairie dog intestines, Leland was feeling uneasy and lied down to try and sleep.

Grisom took the first watch while Charlie laid back on his bedroll with Doris curled up next to his left hip.  She snored peacefully next to him as he gazed up at the stars and smiled.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 9

Part 9 of Agents of the Vault.  Jane reaches Leland’s cabin.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit www.patreon.com/saturdaymorningmedia

Agents of the Vault
Part 9
By Grant Baciocco

Jane and her three Pinkerton Agents followed the tracks the cart had left the night before.  In the late afternoon, they came across the valley where Leland’s cabin was and not to long after they came across the cabin.  They found two dead and an indian, Iron Dog, clinging to life.  Jane crouched next to him.

“What happened here?”  she said softly, yet firmly, wanting information.

Iron Dog had been lying, bleeding out, for hours.  His eyes tried to focus on Jane.  “Water.”

Jane whipped her head around, “Brenner, water.”

Brenner scrambled for the ladle that hung off the side a rain bucket outside the cabin and brought it sloshing full of water to Jane.  Jane, helped Iron Dog lift his head and held the ladle as he drank.  After he had sipped, and rested his head back, Jane handed the ladle back to Brenner.

“What happened here?” she asked again.  She asked more firmly this time, sensing that every second counted where the dying indian was concerned.

Iron Dog took a deep breath.  “Two men.  Had no weapons.  Brought them into camp.”  He coughed roughly.  His breaths coming in rasps.

“Yes, then?”

Iron Dog took a deep breath, “Leland tried to open the trunk.  Big bright flash.  When we could see again, two men had guns.  Shot us.”

Jane looked up at Brenner.  “It’s true.  The stories about the trunk must be true.  It’s protected magically.  That was the flash.”  She looked back down at Iron Dog.  “Where did they go?”

Iron Dog’s eyes had closed again.

“Where did the two men go?” she repeated and shook Iron Dog roughly, no longer caring if she hastened his departure.

Iron Dog opened his eyes.  “Took trunk.  Gold.  Leland.  On cart.  Left hours ago.”

“Dammit.” Jane said standing, letting the man drop with a thud to the ground.  “Water the horses now.  We need to move fast to catch them.  That trunk can’t get to Yankton.”

Brenner barked orders at the other agents and they hastily prepared to move out.

Iron Dog weakly reached out a hand and touched Jane’s boot.  “Take me to doctor.  Please.” He rasped.

Without looking down, Jane slipped out her gun and shot Iron Dog through the head.  The shot echoing throughout the valley.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 8

Part 8 of Agents of the Vault.  Charlie, Grisom and Doris make their way to Yankton but their cargo, Leland, is not too happy about it.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit www.patreon.com/saturdaymorningmedia

Agents of the Vault
Part 8
By Grant Baciocco

The horses trudged slowly up out of the valley, straining under the weight of the cart which hauled Grisom’s trunk, the trunk full of gold and three fully grown men: Grisom, Charlie and the bound Leland.  Doris loved running in the tall grass of the prairie and did so as the cart ambled along.  Charlie enjoyed watching her tumble and fall as they travelled and was glad to give her some time out of the saddle bag.

After watching her for a bit Charlie turned to Grisom, “You think she’s the last one?”

Grisom looked over at Doris as she sped ahead of the wagon, trying to outpace the horses.  “Not sure.” He replied.  “She’s certainly the only one that’s ever been on record of being in captivity.  And with the way their bodies supposedly disintegrate when they pass on, there’s been no record of them before excepting the very brief mentions in the Coalition’s record books and even those are sketchy.”

They rode along in silence for a few seconds.

“You know they are going to want to take a look at her when we get there.” Grisom said flatly.

Charlie nodded.  “They ain’t gonna keep her or anything.”

“No.  I don’t think they would.  And I don’t think Doris would let them.” Grisom added with a chuckle.

Charlie smiled.

Grisom continued, “They’ll want to study her a bit though.  She’s a one of a kind.  She’s the United State’s only native mystical creature.  No other creatures like her exist here.  The Coalition will want to learn as much as they can about her for the records.”

Charlie nodded and looked out at Doris who’d now climbed up the tug of one of the horse’s harnesses and was proudly riding upon it’s back, closing her eyes as the wind blew into her face, smoothing back the fur on her head.  The same horses she’d spooked the night before took her as a peaceful creature now.  This was one of her wonders, she could be bold and almost vicious like she had been last night or she can be sweet and peaceful as she was now.  Charlie settled back against the buck board and let the rolling of the cart lull him into a nap.

Charlie startled awake to the sound of voices.  His right hand went instinctively to his gun.  He came to his senses and realized that Grisom was talking to Leland who’d regained consciousness after being wholloped.  And Leland was none to happy at his predicament.

“You have no right.  You ain’t no lawman.  You ain’t got no power to apprehend me.” Leland was shouting from his prone position in the back of the cart where he lie between the two trunks.  Doris had left her perch on the horses and was now seated on the gold trunk looking down at Leland as he spoke, cocking her head like a dog does when they are trying to work something out they can’t quite grasp.

“Well, “ Grisom started and Charlie could tell by that ‘well’ that this conversation had been going on for quite some time before he’d woken up, “I tell ya Leland.  I may be no sort of official lawman as you say, but I can be quite sure that there’s a bank in Yankton that’s going to love to have a few words with you once we get there.  And It’s my thinkin’ that they may just have a reward to offer for making sure you arrive.”

“Be that as it may, you have no right to make me ride back here lyin’ down like an animal with this…creature or whatever it is strarin’ at me.”

Doris understood this and took the insult directly.  Her back arched and her teeth bared.  A small, strawberry sized ball of flame hovered between he two long incisors.  A low whistle escaped her throat.

Grisom laughed, “Now, you see you’ve insulted her Leland.  And if there’s one thing Doris can’t abide, it’s insults.  So if I were you, I’d apologize or things might get a touch bit hot back there.”

Leland looked over at Doris again and the fireball had grown to the size of a tangerine and hovered about two inches from her mouth.  The whistling got higher pitched.  Leland swallowed hard, “I…I’m sorry for insulting you.”

Doris didn’t look appeased.

Charlie looked back and laughed, “Don’t forget you manners Leland, Doris here is a proper lady.”

Leland shot Charlie a look that showed he hated to lower himself this much to an animal, but he turned back toward Doris and said, “I am powerful sorry if I have offended you…ma’am.”  He nodded his head a bit.

Doris immediately closed her mouth and smiled, the fireball disappearing into thin air.  Sitting pretty in the sun, proud to have been called ‘ma’am.’

The cart continued towards Yankton, with Doris keeping a watchful and weary eye on Leland as they ambled along.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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