Chelsea Fights the Two-faced Woman

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

***

Chelsea pulled herself up on the rock with a glare for Bentley. The dog seemed as at home in these hills as he did in a bar. He scampered up the trail, only to double back, seemingly to check on her.

And like now, it always elicited chuckles from the other hunters. They elbowed each other and smiled. Most had taken to carrying treats, as Bentley, the filthy beggar, had managed to mooch food off of all them at some time or the other.

He sat now, chocolate brown fur blowing in the ever-present Dakota wind, blue eyes glued to her as she cleared the rock. Her smile came to her at his obvious concern. He opened his mouth, seeming to smile back at her. He stayed until she rubbed at his upright ears. Only then did he put nose to the ground and inspect the flat area in the midst of the hills.

Chelsea took out a water bottle and did the same. The bluff exposed them to the wind, but view of endless flat land and sky was worth the cold. The clean, pale blue horizon wasn’t marred by a single cloud. She pulled out her camera, needing yet more pictures of the infinite.

Keegan chuckled from her blind spot. “Don’t you have enough pictures of this state?”

“Never.” She flashed him a grin, the fringe from her leather coat swaying in the wind as she waved a hand at the scenery. “I never really got the Americana movement before I came out here. I mean I appreciated it because… art. But never got the people who needed to be out here, painting it.”

Keegan’s rare smile peeked past his long nose. “So does the Stetson mean you’re going to start painting again?”

“She’s an artist?” This question came from another hunter. Older than Keegan or Chelsea, he certainly wasn’t much past thirty if he had hit that milestone. Large and blond, with gray eyes, he was new to the area.

Chelsea shrugged, but Keegan nodded with enthusiasm. “And a damn good one. When we first met, she was in art school.”

“No.” She held up a hand, summoning her most pretentious expression. “I was at a religious conservatory with an amazing art program.”

Rick and Keegan laughed together, drawing Bentley’s attention. He padded over, sniffed at Rick, and then sat at Chelsea’s feet, pleading at her.

“Oh, sorry.” She pulled a bowl of out her backpack and poured water for her dog.

The strange hunter eyed Bentley with interest. “He’s very expressive.”

Chelsea nodded. “I swear he understands what we’re saying.” She smiled at the new hunter and held out her hand. “I’m Chelsea.”

The man had a firm handshake that didn’t jerk, press, or pull, but he suddenly couldn’t meet her gaze. “R-R-Rich.”

She couldn’t stop her sarcasm. “Really?”

Keegan rolled his eyes and gave her playful shove. “Play nice.” He meant that lots of hunters used fake names.

Rick’s face shaded towards red, but he laughed. The laugh was like the man himself, pleasant and unassuming. Though he towered over her and Keegan, there was no menace to him at all.

He shrugged his thick shoulders, and the gesture shaved a few more years off him. The tower of muscle before her had been reduced to a teenager caught with a fake ID. “I guess I’m just sick of being ‘Rick’, but I hadn’t really practiced the new name.”

She smiled at him again. “They’re similar enough, I probably wouldn’t have practiced either.”

Before Rick/Rich could answer, their guide called for them to head out again. The new hunter stayed with Chelsea, Keegan, and Bentley as they all headed deeper into the hills. The group was small, only five humans and Bentley, but they’d been assured that was more than enough to take on the Two-Faced Woman.

Local legend said that anyone who saw both faces died. Beau Chang swore that which face you saw didn’t matter. It was eye contact that killed a person. Which is why all five humans had sunglasses or a welding mask.

The path to the cave twisted endlessly into the very material of the hills. Chelsea found herself pressed in close to Keegan and Bentley, flashlight bouncing off rock walls.

Trying to ignore her sense impending cave-in she turned to the newest hunter. “So is it Rick or Rich?”

He laughed. “Well, I really wanted a new name, but since I flubbed the intro, I think I’m stuck with the old one.”

A small laugh escaped her. “So what’s wrong with the old name? Because I kind of like Rick.”

All good humor faded from the man. “Rick… Rick did some things, and, and I’d like to forget them. It would help if I could forget him.”

The strange hunter eyed Bentley with interest. “He’s very expressive.”

Chelsea nodded. “I swear he understands what we’re saying.” She smiled at the new hunter and held out her hand. “I’m Chelsea.”

The man had a firm handshake that didn’t jerk, press, or pull, but he suddenly couldn’t meet her gaze. “R-R-Rich.”

She couldn’t stop her sarcasm. “Really?”

Keegan rolled his eyes and gave her playful shove. “Play nice.” He meant that lots of hunters used fake names.

Rick’s face shaded towards red, but he laughed. The laugh was like the man himself, pleasant and unassuming. Though he towered over her and Keegan, there was no menace to him at all.

He shrugged his thick shoulders, and the gesture shaved a few more years off him. The tower of muscle before her had been reduced to a teenager caught with a fake ID. “I guess I’m just sick of being ‘Rick’, but I hadn’t really practiced the new name.”

She smiled at him again. “They’re similar enough, I probably wouldn’t have practiced either.”

Before Rick/Rich could answer, their guide called for them to head out again. The new hunter stayed with Chelsea, Keegan, and Bentley as they all headed deeper into the hills. The group was small, only five humans and Bentley, but they’d been assured that was more than enough to take on the Two-Faced Woman.

Local legend said that anyone who saw both faces died. Beau Chang swore that which face you saw didn’t matter. It was eye contact that killed a person. Which is why all five humans had sunglasses or a welding mask.

The path to the cave twisted endlessly into the very material of the hills. Chelsea found herself pressed in close to Keegan and Bentley, flashlight bouncing off rock walls.

Trying to ignore her sense impending cave-in she turned to the newest hunter. “So is it Rick or Rich?”

He laughed. “Well, I really wanted a new name, but since I flubbed the intro, I think I’m stuck with the old one.”

A small laugh escaped her. “So what’s wrong with the old name? Because I kind of like Rick.”

All good humor faded from the man. “Rick… Rick did some things, and, and I’d like to forget them. It would help if I could forget him.”

Snippets of memories both warm and painful flashed through her brain. She swallowed. “I know what you mean, but you can forget all that without forgetting yourself.”

Beside her, Keegan snickered. His mocking laugh said everything that he didn’t need to. He’d been fighting her depression for months now.

The big man chuckled as he glanced between them, though his gray eyes seemed about to spill over. “You’re right. Changing my name doesn’t change who I am in any way. So, I guess, I’m Rick.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Still not sure though?”

Rick’s laughter silvered his voice. “Oh man, you’re rough, you know that? Yeah, I’m Rick.”

Her answering smile hurt her face as their guide silenced them with a gesture. “Glasses on, lights out.”

Chelsea fished her glasses out of her coat along with Keegan and Rick. When she had secured hers, she reached into her coat again for a pair of shaded goggles. They fit Bentley perfectly, and he didn’t attempt to shake them off to her relief.

Once that had been done, Chelsea raised her thumb same as the other hunters. The guide nodded, his long, black braid bumping against his shoulder. The two hunters with the giant lamps lifted the heavy cases. Two bright beams lit up the cavern.

A humanoid shape screamed from the rough, uneven chamber. Bentley growled, bowled past Chelsea and Keegan, and leapt on to the Two-Faced Woman. Chelsea followed but barely made it two steps.

Giant, sweet, stuttering Rick had slipped past her, somehow, and proceeded to behead the downed monster with a single blow of his hatchet. Blood sprayed in the air while the Two-Faced woman twitched and tweaked towards death.

Rick stood upright, barely breathing heavy. A beautiful smile spread across his blood-streaked face. He scratched at Bentley’s ears. “What a good dog.”

Chelsea met Keegan’s eyes. Her partner shrugged. Easy money was the best kind of money. And fights where no one got hurt were even better than that.

“Glad he’s on our side,” Chelsea muttered before taking pictures of the monster to prove it was dead.

***

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