“Welcome to Purgatory, Officer Haught.”
The Sheriff doesn’t get up from behind his desk. He’s mid-fifties, with a build that owes something to donuts.
“Thanks,” Nicole says. She’s still standing. They told her the boss wanted to meet her, but she wasn’t sure why, or how long a meeting this was supposed to be, or —
He doesn’t smile. “Just wanted to walk you through a few things.” He nods over at the couch against the wall of his office. “You can sit down for this if you like.”
Nicole swallows nervously and sits down on the edge of the couch.
“Heard you been asking some questions.”
“Maybe a few,” Nicole says. Really just a few. Mostly about how coyotes could carry off someone’s head.
“You’re not from Purgatory,” Nedley says. “I seem to recall that your file said you came from the city?”
“You might find things here a bit strange,” Nedley says. “It’s just how small towns are — you got your gang-bangers, and your coyotes, and your rumors. Nothing to worry about. Just — don’t go asking questions, Officer Haught.”
The first time Wynonna takes Nicole along on a stakeout, they get into an argument with a Revenant.
They’re supposed to be here to observe, but the Revenant has to make a comment about Willa, which is still Wynonna’s hair-trigger. Probably always will be. Wynonna draws, and while Nicole watches, the barrel of her big-ass gun begins to glow inside. Symbols Nicole’s never seen before trace themselves out in orange fire on the metal.
When Wynonna shoots the Revenant, his face flares and then lights up, and the wooden floor underneath him opens up. Sparks fly up as the Revenant is dragged down into a hole of hellfire.
Nicole’s frozen, watching as the Revenant is dragged to hell, screaming in a deep voice she’s never heard before that’s entirely unlike the voice he had in life.
Wynonna just stands there, watching, like this is normal.
Once the hellfire is gone, once the wooden boards are back, like they never went anywhere — Nicole forces herself to go look. She approaches the place where the hole was carefully, but the boards seem like they were before. No hint of singeing. No sign that someone met their end here, by Wynonna’s hand.
“What… what was that?”
“That’s what happens when I shoot them,” Wynonna says. She’s inspecting Peacemaker. “Wait, what did you think happened?”
“I —” Nicole hadn’t thought about it. “Waverly didn’t tell me it was that.”
Wynonna smiles. “Welcome to Purgatory.”
This was supposed to be a milk run, a simple trip outside the Ghost River Triangle to look into some rumors and stop by a Black Badge supply drop, but instead, Nicole and Dolls are pinned down by a monster with a gun. It’s protecting a nest of — something. Something writhing that’s going to feature in Nicole’s nightmares.
Nicole’s not sure what kind of Revenant this is. She’s seen Revenants do some freaky shit, but not like this. The monster they’re facing shifted from almost human into a shape she’s never seen before. Eight feet tall, with spikes along its arms and scales over its face. Its eyes glow red.
“We’re outside the Ghost River Triangle!” Nicole yells, over the sound of gunfire from the nest of — she doesn’t want to think about what those things are. “How is this possible?”
Next to her, Deputy Marshal Dolls takes a deep breath. “Oh, it’s possible.”
“But Revenants can’t leave.” Nicole takes a breath, pops up over the car shielding them long enough to return fire, and then drops back. “I’ve seen what happens to them at the boundary myself.”
Dolls looks over at her. “That’s just the demons under the Earp curse. The rest of them can go anywhere they want.”
“Would have been nice to know that a bit earlier.” Nicole checks her clip. Still a few bullets left. Good thing bullet-proof vests are Black Badge standard procedure.
“You know now,” Dolls says. Deadpan.
While she watches, Dolls’ eyes shift, from his usual brown into a glowing orange.
And that’s another thing they didn’t tell me about.
“Cover me,” Dolls growls, in a voice Nicole’s never heard from him before. “I’m going in.”
A fountain of dirt sprays up from the ground. Nicole jumps — too late, but they’re close enough that the shot probably wasn’t meant to hurt them. (Probably.)
“Doc?” Nicole turns to him. They’re just supposed to be meeting with a contact who might have information on a Revenant plot. Coming under fire wasn’t part of the mission plan.
Doc’s eyes meet hers. “I, ah, may have exaggerated when I said Long Larry would be happy to see me.”
Nicole’s hand goes for her gun. “What?”
“Just a teeny bit,” Doc says, with the expression that says he is totally lying.
The Revenant comes out of the barn. He’s tall, built like he used to be a blacksmith, back before Wyatt Earp sent him to hell the first time. He also does not look happy.
“Ah, Larry,” Doc says. “Good to see you, old friend.” He’s cringing back as he says it.
“Doc Holliday,” the Revenant says. “I’d been hoping you’d pay me a visit. And maybe we can discuss the matter of my horse.”
Seventy-seven Revenants down, and Wynonna and Dolls and Doc off fighting demons outside the Triangle, and sometimes it still doesn’t feel real to Nicole. She and Waverly are the ones living in the Homestead now, but it’s not because of the Revenants. It’s because it’s their home.
They’ve been talking around the topic of kids for a while now, since Wynonna got down to the final ten Revenants. Since it became something they could maybe really think about doing.
Starting a family, in a small town, where everyone knows their names. Nicole’s wanted that kind of life for herself for a long time. She wants that kind of life for herself and Waverly even more.
They’re talking around it again one night while they lie in bed. Nicole’s back from a long day at the station, because even without the Earp curse, Purgatory still has its share of supernatural weirdness going on. Maybe more than its share. They’re still waiting for things to settle down and it’s possible that they never will, which is scary and exciting at the same time.
“I should tell you something,” Waverly says.
She’s lying next to Nicole, but she’s looking up at the ceiling.
“Yeah?” Nicole turns over to look at Waverly. “What is it?”
“Any kids I have,” Waverly says. She’s still not looking at Nicole. “They won’t inherit the Earp curse.”
Nicole thinks that over for a moment. “Because we broke it,” she says, finally. She was figuring that.
“Because Wynonna’s kids would be the Heir?”
Waverly snorts. “Like Wynonna’s going to settle down.”
Nicole’s not sure about that, but… “So why?”
“Because I’m not an Earp,” Waverly says. “Not really.”
She turns over to look at Nicole, finally, and whatever she sees in Nicole’s face must be enough, because she starts telling Nicole everything. What Bobo told her, and how she managed to get herself and Wynonna tested — confirmed that they’re half-sisters, not full sisters at all. They don’t share Ward Earp’s DNA.
What Waverly doesn’t say, because she doesn’t need to, is how much makes sense now. Nicole’s heard the stories about how Ward Earp treated his youngest daughter.
Nicole strokes her shoulder. “How long have you been hanging on to this?”
“Since Willa —” Waverly shivers. “A while.”
“Oh, babe,” Nicole says, and she gathers Waverly into her arms. “It doesn’t matter to me. Or Wynonna. Or anyone. We love you for who you are.”
And one time someone explained everything
“I’m Black Badge Deputy Marshall Haught,” Nicole says, looking down at their new recruit from the front of the Purgatory Sheriff’s Department’s briefing room. “My wife, Waverly Earp, also works with Black Badge. You’ll be working with us on maintaining the boundary, now that the Earp curse is dead.”
Waverly smiles at Nicole from the back of the room — she always insists on coming along on these things. Nicole can’t stop herself from smiling back, but then she turns back to the new recruit.
She thumbs her phone to unlock and flips the presentation up on the projector. “This is the Ghost River Triangle,” she says, looking back at the slide of the map. “You may have thought that you got a boring post, out in the sticks. If so, you were wrong. The Ghost River Triangle is a holding pen for some of the most disturbing supernatural manifestations and creatures in the world. Your classmates with assignments elsewhere may wait years to see the kind of thing you’ll be seeing here in the next week.”
Well, next month, at least. Usually no longer. Black Badge likes rotating the rookies through Purgatory these days. It’s safer than it was when the Earp curse was still active, but the team in Purgatory still catches more than their fair share of unfriendlies.
Nicole’s presentation is a full hour and covers all of the stuff she wished she had known, when she started at the Purgatory Sheriff’s office. Photos of the most common types of unfriendlies. Maps. A short history of the Earp curse.
When she hits the button to re-encrypt the slideshow and turn the lights back on, the recruit looks shell-shocked. Good. The ones who think they know it all, even after sixty minutes of photographs — those are the ones she needs to ride herd on.
This one looks like they might take it seriously.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Nicole says, and she lets herself sound sympathetic. She’s never been where this junior deputy is. She had to figure all of this out for herself. But she can still imagine how it hits someone, even after the Black Badge trainings.
“It’ll get better,” she says. “Now. If you want to direct your attention to the back of the room, Waverly and our daughters made cookies.”