Philippe checked the rounds in his revolver. Six rounds, the same six rounds that had been there ten minutes before. The same six rounds that would be there in ten minutes time.
It wasn't that Philippe thought his revolver would be empty, far from it. No, Philippe liked the exacting nature of this act. He liked predictability and at times like this, surrounded on all sides by The Dark Below with little but a small posse and a poorly lit fire to keep him company, the predictability of his revolver gave him comfort.
Philippe remembered the day his son was born, Anton. He weighed only six pounds and seven ounces, but the doctor had declared him healthy. The same could not be said for Philippe's wife.
His friends had advised against the journey, that travelling from France to America was too dangerous with his wife so close to child birth. Despite all of this Philippe knew it needed to be done or else they risked a life with him behind bars and his wife to raise their son alone.
Philippe smiled at the irony. It had not been easy raising Anton alone in America relying largely on the kindness of strangers to provide him with enough to feed his son while he mostly went without.
Philippe remembered one stranger more than anyone, a broad shouldered burley man with a well maintained moustache. He had called himself Mr Hodges and had told Philippe of a bar he had recently purchased in the rural wilds of California and that he was looking for someone of a good will and nature to help him run the front of house.
The news of work and board was better than Philippe could ever imagine. It was without hesitation Philippe joined Mr Hodges from Capital City to this far away town all the while with a very small toddler close behind. The journey was not easy, but Philippe made sure to help out enough for three people, giving no one any reason to complain about his presence or his son's.
As the years went by Anton began to grow big and strong, but it was on his eighth birthday that Philippe began to grow concerned for his son and the life the had established in New Fairbank working at the Last Light Tavern. It was late that night when Anton approached his father, tears running down his face and deep gulps and sobs emanating from his throat.
"What's the matter son?" Asked Philippe, sure it was just another nightmare that had bothered his boy, no different to the other nightmares that had plagued his son in recent years.
Anton stared up at his father, thick gooey tears filling his eyes. The boy opened his mouth, but not a sound came out before he fell to the ground clutching at his father's legs, more sobs poring out of him.
Philippe put his boy back to bed but made sure to stay with him until he was fast asleep. Philippe remembered a conversation that he had shared with a bar patron the other night, a story the stranger had been told by his own kids no older than Anton was now.
The story sent a shiver down Philippe's spine at the time. Recalling it now, he longed to go back to when he thought it was nothing more than the dreams of children.
The patron's story was focused around a character that his kid had called 'Mister Long Fingers'. He said that the character seemed no different from the traditional bogey man, coming to kids at night in the corner of their eye and the shadows of their room. The difference with Mr Long Fingers however was that he spoke to his kid, asked the child to go with him to a land of darkness and shadow.
Thinking back now, Philippe remembered how this patron had never been seen at the Last Light again, but rumours had spread of this man running into the Crypts in the middle of the night shouting his son's name. Philippe smiled at the irony.
"One, two" Philippe began to count his rounds again and thought back to what had lead to this. How on numerous nights since his son had come to him crying of nightmares, and yet more of Mr Long Fingers and the devilish song that accompanied the misshapen creature.
"Three, four" Philippe continued his count remembering only a matter of hours ago. He had woken in the middle of the night, a strange lullaby creeping from outside his door. Philippe remembered shivering how he had opened his bedroom door, the music almost calling him down the corridor to his son's room. The memory lingered as he opened his son's door, saw the misshapen creature looming over his son Anton who in turn stared up at it with vacant pale eyes.
"Five, six" Philippe flipped his revolver shut, all rounds accounted for. His memory shifted and he was back in his son's room, staring dumbfounded at Mr Long Fingers as it beckoned for Anton to follow him through the open window.
Thinking now, Philippe struggled to remember what Mr Long Fingers looked like, remembering the elongated limbs, the shadowy body and the white ghost light that drifted our of the monster's mouth. It was from here the tune drifted, calling to both him and Anton, calling them both away.
It was then the creature saw Philippe and the music stopped, the light died and Philippe stood in shock as the creature grabbed his stunned son and disappeared into the night. Philippe remembered clearly how his wits returned to him, how he ran for his gun and out into the dark.
Philippe was able to assemble a posse at short notice, as he had gathered many names and favours over the years behind the bar, and he was grateful to every one of them.
Philippe would find Mr Long Fingers, he would find the beast and he would ensure that every single of his rounds were buried deep into it's shadowed head. Philippe's mind was clear, for every single scratch that had been inflicted on his son he would fully reload his pistol and empty it again.
It was then that Philippe stopped and holstered his pistol. Before him, from the shadows of the dark below that unmistakable lullaby began again. Without even thinking Philipe began to wander in the music's direction, drawing him forever home.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley