Sam Chisolm had taken up the job of monster hunting after… well, after.
He had considered it in those days just after the war ended, when folks were starting to try and get back to their normal way of life, when most everyone knew at least one monster, when one of his best friends was a demon who had fought with the Confederacy for the hell of it. That last part was what kept Sam from fully deciding on that route of employment; he couldn’t in good faith take on a career where he might actually be hunting down or taking in one of Goodnight’s relations.
Goody, however, had just laughed at his reasoning.
“Really, mon ami, do what you want with your life,” he shrugged. “Because just between you and me, if any of my brothers or sisters are stupid enough to get a warrant placed on ‘em, they deserve to get hunted down and embarrassed before crawling home to Momma and Daddy.”
Even so, Sam had just gone back home to Philadelphia. He moved back in with his mother and baby sisters, taking on the role as man of the house with his father now five years gone; when Momma had started talking about buying up some land, taking up sharecropping, Sam had set about buying a spot of land in Kansas for them and selling what they wouldn’t take with them and arranging their travel.
And it had been a good life, for all that it was far too short. And Sam Chisolm had a name to go with the man—the warlock—that had killed his family and near about killed him, too:
So when he’d recovered, after he’d sold off what was left from the family’s holdings, Sam Chisolm went and got himself duly-sworn as a monster hunter for Wichita, Kansas, and then proceeded to do the same for the Indian territories—and met a few shaman who were nice folk in their own right—as well as seven nearby states. When, not if, he got to Bogue, no one was going to be able to claim that it was just revenge.
After all, revenge was best served up cold. Sam had plenty of time to wait for Bogue to hit the wrong folks at the right time.
In his years as a hunter, Sam had dealt with a variety of monsters.
There’d been Fae, demons that were probably young given that none of them were as skilled as his old friend Goody, skin-walkers, various elementals, and on one memorable occasion a Harpy that had tried to claw out his stomach as he was apprehending her. Each time, he’d managed to bring in his bounty either dead or alive, although in some cases dead was the only way it was happening.
Right now, he was on the trail of a pair of monsters known as July Bully and Powder Dan. Dan’s dossier was clear: fire elemental, had killed a farmer and the hired help, stole the man’s plow horse, set his crops alight, raped the man’s wife and left her a burned-out husk. And that was simply the most recent of his crimes.
July Bully, on the other hand, was more of a mystery. What was known was that he was a cannibal, had killed and eaten a dozen humans and monsters both somewhere just north of San Antonio before fleeing west. Some folk thought he was a minor demon, possibly a lesser being that had been worshiped in Old Mexico that had crossed into the states. The only thing clear was that he was dangerous: three hunters before Sam had gone after him, and nothing had been heard from them since. Chances were good that Bully had eaten them, too.
From what rumor he could pick up, Dan was lying low in Amador City, so Sam made that his last search location. Bully could be hiding out with his partner, but he somehow doubted that; the last hunter had been heard from just outside Reno, so that was where he planned to start.
It took about a week to get to Reno, and he started asking around about a “friend” to see what turned up. Sam found that the other hunter, God rest his soul, had indeed been through the town, and that “Buster” had gone after the man to return something he’d left behind. He also learned that this “Buster” had returned about five days later claiming that the man had just vanished on the trail ahead of him so he’d given up.
Sam asked where “Buster” lived, and was given directions to a cabin about three miles outside of the town limits. He wasn't blind to the fact that none of the people in town seemed inclined to talk much about “Buster,” nor that the ones who did kept glancing around as if to make sure the subject of conversation was nowhere in earshot.
He already knew that he’d found his prey, and he took the time to purchase a few necessities before heading back out to track down Bully. Extra lead and fully iron and silver bullets didn’t go amiss—they never did, lots of monsters were affected by one or the other—and although it was on a whim, he felt that the machete might help out if there was any overgrowth to deal with. Some cured meat and jerky for the trail, and he was back on Horse and headed for the cabin.
He never made it that far.
About a mile out from where he’d been told the cabin sat, Sam was attacked by… something, a tall, thin, muscular something that rammed into his horse and knocked the beast over almost effortlessly, something that then ignored the animal and fell upon him with a sound that Sam would never truly be able to describe.
It sounded like a mix of a wolf’s howl, a fox’s scream, an owl’s hunting cry, and an eagle’s shriek. It was terrifying, and only instinct allowed Sam to pull his weapon and start shooting.
He kept shooting until the gun clicked empty, even after the monster slumped over and off of him. Sam pushed himself up into a seated position, breathing hard and wondering if maybe he was too old for this shit, and reached for his extra rounds. As he moved, he heard a growl, and realized that even though the monster had to have at least fifteen rounds in him, he was still moving. All of those had been gut shots, yet this… this creature was still alive, and it was glaring at him through sickly yellow-white eyes, was growling at him through a mouth of razor-sharp teeth set in a face far too lean to have ever been mistaken for human, and he suddenly understood the townsfolks’ fear.
Sam quickly finished loading his gun with the silver bullets and emptied it into the monster for a second time. He’d made sure to put at least one bullet into the creature’s head, right between his eyes, but once the revolver was clicking empty again, the monster resumed its low growl. This time Sam loaded the iron rounds, emptied fifteen into the monster for a third goddamn time… and finally it fell silent.
The hunter took one deep breath, then another, before pushing himself to his feet. He stepped closer to the monster, reloading with a few rounds of iron and silver as well as regular lead rounds, and watched, listened. There was silence for a beat, then two… then the sound of the monster drawing in a deep lungful of air.
Sam Chisolm was nearly positive what he was dealing with now. Folks said that wendigo were the worst of monsters, nearly impossible to kill, but folks also tended to say that Sam Chisolm was a stubborn son of a bitch with a chip on his shoulder.
The hunter turned to his horse, which had managed to climb back to its feet and was standing far enough away to keep away from the wendigo’s reach. Sam walked over, spoke calmly to the beast as he pulled the machete from where he’d strapped it to the saddle. Then he calmly walked back over to where July Bully, wendigo, was drawing in heaving breaths, raised the machete, and casually chopped off his head.
Finally, the wendigo stopped moving. Sam wasn’t entirely convinced that he wouldn’t do something completely bat-shit insane, like wake back up and reattach his head before trying to kill him again.
That was why the hunter walked back over to Horse and pulled an empty sack from his saddle bag. Usually he used it to carry any root vegetables or edible plants he found while out on the trail, but in this case, he wasn’t going to be using it for that purpose. Sam also pulled out a pack of matches and a bottle of whiskey before walking back over to the corpse. He set aside the sack, poured the whiskey all over both the body and the head, struck a match, and tossed it. Thankfully the whiskey made the corpse flammable enough that it caught quickly, and he didn’t move until there was nothing but blackened remains left. Sam didn’t bother with actually burying the body; any Indians that might be nearby would likely know what to do with the remains, as they’d been dealing with this type of monster for a good while longer than any monster hunter he knew of.
What he did bother with, was picking up the sack and using it to scoop up the burnt skull. He stood up and knotted the whole thing closed before gathering up his weapons and moving back over to Horse. Sam stowed the machete and spare ammo quickly before tying the sack to the saddle horn and swinging himself up onto his mount.
It was a three day trek to Amador City, where he knew he could find Powder Dan. He’d make sure to bury the head once he got to the city limits. Sam didn’t know anything about wendigo, but he had the feeling he’d been incredibly lucky. And his gut was telling him to take the head far, far away from where the rest of July Bully was lying in the sun; he’d be a fool to start ignoring it now.