Kenny had only been a clerk at the Gold City Bank, yet the men chasing him blamed him for its collapse and the loss of their fortunes. He held the evidence of his employer Silas Everett’s duplicity tightly to his chest.
Unfortunately, his pursuers were more intent on lynching him than listening to any proof. If he could make it to the Chinatown area on the outskirts, he could more easily elude his would-be murderers. His only saving grace was he knew the town better than any of the others did. Kenny had never been afraid of entering Chinatown, nor did he carry the same prejudice of his fellow townsmen.
“There he is!”
Tension increased at the sudden shout, and Kenny sprinted away from the wall, running deeper into the shadowed alley. An enraged cat hissed at him and darted across his path, forcing him to dodge the animal. The voices behind him grew louder and closer as the men yelled directions to one another.
His heart raced, feeling near to bursting in his chest. He still wasn’t close enough to Chinatown for his own safety, and had no choice but to evade the others in a headlong rush through the streets.
Moments ticked by as he tried to stay ahead of the men. If he could just reach the south edge of town… Darting between two buildings, he ran close to the brick wall then across a small alley. Kenny continued running between two long blocks of buildings. On both sides were several open areas between the businesses. He had to choose one before the others got into the alley.
Sheer desperation rode his heels as Kenny panted heavily, trying to find his escape. Not too far away, a woman stepped out of one of the buildings and screamed when she saw him. With no choice, Kenny darted down the closest opening then burst out through the other side, wildly looking around.
Not too far away. So close. He was only three blocks away from the safe haven of Chinatown. He knew damn well the good citizens of Gold City would never step foot in the one place they feared, regardless of the fact that the fear had never been justified.
The sound of a gunshot spurned Kenny on in a race for his life. Nausea welled up in his throat, and he could barely catch his breath. He forced himself to continue as a bullet whistled past him, way too close to his ear. Another hit him in the back of the shoulder but didn’t stop him. Once he crossed the invisible dividing line between Gold City and Chinatown, he still wasn’t safe. Not as long as he was a visible target. Abruptly, he turned and rushed down another street. Knowledge and instinct guided him, allowing him to hide in the warren of back alleys and dirt roads.
He made it, he was safe for now. Pain burned in his shoulder. He could feel it begin to spread outward and realized he’d been hit with silver. As a werefox, his body could reject a bullet and heal the wound, but not with a silver bullet. Kenny was bleeding profusely and needed a doctor. The only one who would help him wasn’t far away. Stumbling, Kenny barely managed to walk steadily to the door of Mengyao. Collapsing against the wood, he pounded on it, hoping the doctor was still awake. When it opened, he nearly fell into the room.
“Kenneth, what are you doing here? We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow,” Mengyao said as he helped Kenny into a nearby chair then shut the door.
“I’m in trouble, Doc. I’ve been shot. Back shoulder. I can feel the silver burning me.”
Mengyao quickly issued orders to his daughter, who had come into the room. She hurried away a moment later.
Kenny unbuttoned his shirt and tried to get it off as Mengyao moved behind him.
“The bullet is still inside, Kenneth.”
“I know. Go ahead and get it out, Doc. I need to get out of here as soon as I can. They’ll come looking for me once the sheriff calls in more lawmen.”
Daiyu hurried back into the room and laid her father’s tools and medicines on the table. She selected several special thin needles, then took Kenny’s hand. He barely felt a thing as she inserted them.
Mengyao examined the wound as his daughter worked. After a moment, he began mixing a potion.
Closing his eyes, Kenny let them take care of him. His mind seemed clearer even with the throbbing pulses of pain. He needed to work out where he could go to be safe and try to clear his name.
“Drink this, Mr. Kenneth. When you are finished, my father will take the bullet out.”
Kenny took the small china bowl she offered him and swallowed the contents.
“Daiyu, prepare the medicines Kenneth will need to take with him when he leaves. He’s being poisoned with silver. You know what to use.”
She murmured her assent and busied herself mashing several ingredients into a bowl, then used a small spoon to add them to several bottles. Relaxing as best he could, Kenny felt the pressure in his shoulder. There was some pain, uncomfortable yet bearable, far less than was normal.
“Where will you go, Kenneth?” Mengyao asked as he probed the flesh to find the position of the bullet.
“Only place I can think of, Doc. There’s a system of caves back in the town I grew up in. Haven’t been there for years, but I should be safe until everything quiets. Then maybe I can tell everybody the truth, and they’ll listen to me instead of wanting to hang me.”
After he extracted the bullet, Mengyao smeared a thick paste on to the wound, then folded a piece of linen. Pressing it in place, he used another bandage, drawing it up and around Kenny’s shoulder, knotting it. “You’re not healing as you should. You need to be careful for many days, Kenny, but it would be too dangerous for you to remain here.”
“Father, Delun has several horses. I’m sure he would be willing to sell one. Mr. Kenneth will need one to leave town.”
Kenny dug into his pocket and pulled out some money. After counting out several bills, he gave them to her. “If he’s willing, bring the horse back with you.”
Under normal circumstances Kenny wouldn’t have worried about needing a horse. However, the silver in his system and the metal box of papers made it impossible to escape by his usual method. The horse would have to do.
After Mengyao gave him a large bag filled with medicines, Kenny put it in the metal box and closed his eyes, listening to the doctor as he cleaned up. He was weak and could feel himself growing weaker. The use of the silver bullet had been intended to kill him, and Kenny knew exactly who had shot him.
As if reading his thoughts, the doctor murmured, “The medicine will slow the poison down, Kenneth. But you must rest once you’re safe and don’t forget to take a drink of the potion every few hours. It will take time.”
“I’m lucky you know the ways of my kind, Dr. Mengyao.” Opening his eyes, he smiled at him. “I do thank you for all of your help.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Silas Everett. I’ve got the proof that Silas has been embezzling. That’s the reason for everything. He told everyone that I was the embezzler.”
“Ah, that explains why they are after you. I had heard of the bank’s problems but didn’t realize it involved you.” Nodding sagely, Mengyao stepped closer to him and removed the needles.
“Yeah, and I know exactly who shot me. Silas can’t afford for the were tribe to find out what he’s done.”
After cleaning and putting away his tools, Mengyao sat on the stool near Kenny. “You must be very careful, Kenneth. I don’t believe a man like Silas will give up so easily.”
“The horse is in the back, Kenneth.” Daiyu came back into the room and went to stand beside her father.
“Thank you, Daiyu.” He stood, casting a regretful look at them. “I’m sorry to have to leave so quickly, and I thank you both for everything.”
“We will see you again some day, Kenneth.”
Nodding, Kenny could only pray that they would.