He came to in a bed. Which he could say was not what he was expecting for whatever came after. Not that he had much notion as to what came after to have expectations. It was fancy though. Plain white room, good bed. Probably the kind of conditions they kept poor Abigail in. The thought of his wife caused him to stir a little.
“Take it easy there, Mr. Marston.” The kid who put his hand on him was a wiry sort. Somehow even more of a runt than his own son.
“Take your damn hands off me!” John said as he pulled the arm away and got more a look at his surroundings. He was wearing the same clothes that he . . . got shot in. Only the holes were gone and they seemed to be cleaned up a little. The room was lit up by electric lights, metal adorned most furniture, and the floor was some smooth hard material shinier than lacquered wood. He swung his legs to the side and got up while rubbing his head. The wiry lad in the green clothes started talking into something he held in his hand while John got his bearings, finding his hat on the stand right next to him and restoring it on his head. He looked out the window and could barely describe what he saw.
“The legendary John Marston.” Came a new and more powerful voice. John spun in place and beheld a tall, bald, dark man with a deep voice. He wore a fine suit and had spectacles that covered his eyes.
“Who the Hell are you? What is this?”
“Agent Reeves, Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he said as he took the glasses off.
“Shoulda figured Ah’d wind up in the other place along with Ross and his affiliates,” John said. He turned to look out the window again. Much as he would later lament at not being with his family. He expected eternal damnation to look a little different than this.
“I’m afraid you misunderstand Mr. Marston. You’re not dead. Not anymore,” Reeves said. John stiffened.
“What?” Agent Reeves began to pace closer to John.
“There’s a lot about you John Marston that didn’t make sense. Some said you were a ruthless killer. Others said you were a lawman in all but name.”
“Ah never claimed to be no police officer, but Ah don’t regret a single bullet.”
“Of course that can easily be chalked up to deliberately bad press. After all, Edgar Ross did drag your name through the mud and took all the credit for himself as the hero. So what you did, good or bad was up to him if it got told or not.”
“That sumabitch. Wasn’t enough to just kill me was it?” Reeves was on a roll so didn’t pay heed to John.
“And then there are the . . . stranger legends surrounding you. Bigfoot, meeting the Devil, . . . an Aztec curse raising the dead.” John looked at Reeves sideways but said nothing. “I’m not a superstitious man, but I have to admit I was intrigued by the tales of your exploits. Especially as they got more fantastical. It’s almost like, forces were aligning themselves around you.”
“Ah imagine you’ll arrive at a point sooner or later,” John said.
“To put it bluntly John. This is the future. One hundred years and some change since your death. I was tasked by my superiors to find an ‘alternative solution’ to the crime problem here in Los Santos and I thought if there was even a slim chance that the legend was true-”
WHAM! John suckered punch Reeves. The Agent stumbled against the window John had been looking out of as John stormed toward the door. Another FBI agent was waiting at the door but Reeves waved him off. “Let him go,” he ordered. John turned to go downstairs and exit the building. The male nurse from earlier looked to the agent’s burst lip while Reeves’ backup walked into the room.
“You can’t just let him walk freely out there,” the other agent said.
“Trust me. He’ll find his way to exactly where I know he’s going.”
The sound of billiards cracking behind John made him turn away from his drink for a moment. He thought it was something else. Not that he almost wouldn’t appreciate a bullet to the back of the head at this point.
“Can I get you another one there cowboy?” The heavyset woman bartender asked.
“Please,” John nodded. She refilled his shot glass. “Just leave the bottle, if you’d kindly ma’am.” She nodded and left him to his vice. Denise here was surprised. The old school type that came ‘round here were 50/50 when it came to being civil, but this man was downright chivalrous. It was odd when you looked at him and saw he could pass for Charles Manson. Hey though, interesting characters weren’t that rare in her line of work. Speaking of which, Agent Reeves walked into the bar at just that moment. He sidled his way over to where he saw John slumped over the bar. “If you’re looking to dig up somethin’ other than me, I don’t remember anything that happened between then and now.”
“I believe you, and no. As curious as I am, I’m an FBI agent first, and an amateur occultist second. Look, John, I’ll be straight with you.”
“Given mah experience with your predecessors, Ah find that claim dubious at best,” John said. He didn’t even turn to look at Reeves as he downed a shot.
“It’s precisely because of men like Ross that our country is in the state it’s in. Liberty City, the Chinatown Wars, our cities are turning into war zones and the police that aren’t dying by the score are hopelessly corrupt.”
“And Ah’m sure that don’t apply to you,” John said. Reeves continued to talk to John’s back.
“Well, I’m technically a necromancer now. Gonna take quite a few talks with the pastor to make up for that. But I did it because I’m trying to do some good. There are three key figures here Los Santos. They’re at once totally psychotic and dangerously cunning. Tough bastards on top of it each.”
“Then why don’t you dig up Ross since it was him what brought Dutch and the others in? And when he’s done, Ah kin kill’im again seeing as Ah didn’t get the chance the first time ‘round.” Marston at least bothered to turn his head to give Reeves the stinkeye in profile.
“Things have changed John. I know it was you who hunted them down. Now I’m asking you to do the same thing again. If you do this, I swear to you I’ll set the record straight. Everyone will know it was John Marston who brought justice to the West.” John slammed his whiskey down.
“Justice? Killin’ a man who helped you on his own land. That’s justice?” Reeves slid into the seat next to John.
“He drinks on my tab, Denise,” Reeves said.
“Paying fer mah drink is appreciated, but it’s not going to git me to go on another manhunt.”
“I wouldn’t respect you Marston if I thought you could be bribed so easily.”
“There’s nothing you have Reeves, what could be my price,” John said.
“Try me,” Reeves said. John, at last, looked at the agent, at least curious as to what made him seem so confident. John’s eyes slid back to his whiskey, seeing his memories play out in the fluid.
“All Ah ever wanted was to live with mah family. Ah had to fight mah way through an army more than once, to kill the men Ah once called friends. Just to live less than a month with my wife and son.” He took another shot. “Wouldn’t trade those precious few days fer anything.”
“Then I do think I have something to offer you.” Reeves reached into his jacket and produced a manila folder. He slid it across the bar to John who opened it. Photos. What amazed John wasn’t just the quality of the photography but who was in them.
“Jack?” He asked. The man in the photo credited as Jack Marston was just that, a man. Standing in a military uniform.
“Sergeant Jack Marston. Decorated hero of the first world war, renowned author,” Reeves pointed to another photo, Jack with a woman, taken a few years from the first. “Loving husband and father.” John took one of the photos in hand, a family picture of Jack, his wife, both smiling, and a boy standing between them probably wiggling impatiently for having to keep still in these fancy clothes for more than three seconds. “He lived a long and happy life, not without hardship I’m sure. Especially after you were gone. But he made the most of the life he had and continued your name.”
John gripped the photo tightly between his finger and thumb. He closed his eyes as a lump welled up in his throat. Reeves reached over and slide one last photo right in front of John. This one was recent, a young girl with his dark hair.
“Karen Marston. Your great, great granddaughter.” John picked up the photo but suddenly turned to Reeves and stood up. He knew this old play.
“Where have you got her?” John said, a fire in his eyes. The same fire that Reeves was looking for.
“We don’t. She’s living with her folks in New Marais. They are, however, on hard times since a hurricane hit the region and the criminal element has made humanitarian aid virtually impossible.” John turned from the agent and started heading for the door.
“There’s a better way you can help her John,” Reeves said. John stopped. Reeves got up and folded his arms, directly addressing the gunslinger. “Hunt down the top criminals here in Los Santos, and I promise you, my hand to God Himself, I’ll not only clear your name and expose Ross, but I’ll also guarantee that Karen will be set for life. Better house, good school, she’ll never worry for money as she grows up. I’ll even fudge that it was in your ‘newly discovered will’. She’ll know that her grandfather loved his family.” John stood off from Reeves, his right hand flexing as it hung at his waist. Reeves was confident, but he did count himself lucky John wasn’t armed yet. Without a word, John walked right past Reeves, took one last swig, and thanked the bartender with the tip of his hat. He then headed for the door.