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The Evil Gun Part 1 - Strange Times in Yellow Flats

Max_Writer

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign scenario “The Evil Gun†by Kevin A. Ross with Lynn Willis from Blood Brothers 2 today from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with Ashton LeBlanc, Ben Abbott, Collin Townsend, Yorie Latimer, Kyle Matheson, Austin Davie, Ambralyn Tucker, John Leppard, and James Brown.)

 

Though the year 1875 had started off well with the formation of the Anti-Slavery Society in January, February saw worse news. Just after Valentine’s Day, John Valentine and a portion of his gang escaped the prison train taking them from Nevada to California. By the end of the month a majority of the Yavapai and Tonto Apache tribes were forced from Arizona’s Verde Valley by the U.S. Cavalry and made to walk 180 miles to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. However, on March 1, the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, prohibiting racial discrimination in public accommodations and jury duty.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Eva Weisswald and Jacali had returned to Dr. Weisswald’s home in Wyoming after the terrible events in Nevada. There, they had treated their wounds for several weeks and spent some quality time together.

 

In that time, Dr. Weisswald received a letter from her sister-in-law and cousin, Jane Weisswald Westerfield, back east. It read:

 


Dearest Eva,

 

I was simply giddy when I read your last letter. Glad to hear you helped them Cheyennes with
the Cholera outbreak. There’s already enough death and rampant disease in this world without it
claiming them poor Indians, too. Good to know that Hoff’s still alive and kicking. I miss that pup
something awful. He was just the sweetest thing.

 

Paul is doing much better these days. Got over that cold like it weren’t nothing. Still ran his
daddy’s store with all the fervor of a priest. I tell you if you stuck a steeple on that there roof, you’d
be pressed to see a difference between him and Father Isaacs. That man lives and breathes his work.
Not that I’m complaining mind you. It keeps bread on the table and a spring in his step. I just wish
he’d remember to be on time for supper. He was overjoyed when our little Albert started working
with him last month. I have never seen anyone so proud, bragging to all them fellers and ladies
that come through that “his son is upholding the family business.â€

 

To tell you the truth, I’m rather glad Albert decided to help his daddy. He was coming home
with all manner of bruises and cuts from doing Lord knows what. Been spending too much time
with that Bucky Elger and his little pack of miscreants. That boy takes too much after his Pa, Roy,
for my liking. You remember the things he used to do. His son’s no better, mark my words he’ll
be just as rotten. But I’m focusing too much on the negatives. This is a blessing, I supposed. The
Lord’s looking out for Albert and keeping his nose clean.

 

Ethel has grown so much, you wouldn’t believe it, Eva. Must be that Weisswald blood or some
such thing. I swear, she’s gonna be taller than her daddy by next summer. It’s all I can do to keep
her clothed, the girl just keeps outgrowing every dress I put her in. Reminds me a lot of you I’m
telling true. I worry about her ever finding a husband, though. She intimidates all them boys. I
found out she was wrestling with Ainsley Thomas’s boy out in the school yard last week, had him
crying uncle. She just laughed when I asked her about it. Says he insulted her Pa and wanted to
teach him a lesson. She’s a mountain girl if there ever was one.

 

Your Ma is, well, she’s your Ma. She’s still out in that rickety cabin of hers at the edge of town
and refuses help from everyone, including us. That mile-wide independent streak ain’t gotten any
smaller since you left. She did ask after you when we went for a visit the other day. Asked when
her “Little Effie†was gonna come see her from “that land of savage heathens.†She insists I ask you
to come home, again. Says “the West ain’t no place for a Weisswald.†I keep telling her you’re
happy with what you’re doing out there but she just won’t have it.

 

I know you can’t just come back all willy-nilly but I think it would do the family good to see that
you’re still the same old Eva and going as strong as ever. I await your next letter with as much
enthusiasm as I did the last one. Take care, Sis.

 

Jane

 


She had plenty of time while convalescing to write her sister back and took her time to compose a nice letter, sending it in reply. It read:

 


Loving Jane,

 

Glad to hear Paul is back in good health, due to my peppermint tea and garlic soup recipes
I sent you, no doubt. Maybe he should start selling some at that store of his, better than that
snake oil Jefferson Mangum was hawking up the road. Folks these days will believe anything.
They should just be listening to their mother’s wisdom to keep them healthy in the first place.

 

Now afore you get upset, I swear I am fine. A few days ago, I was attacked by a bear. Big
old ornery thing. I was trying to help an Indian and just got to bold, I reckon. As luck would
have it, my good friend Wilder was there and he patched me up good. It’s not as good as I
would’ve done, but it did the job. Lucky for me I’m made of tougher stuff. In a few weeks I’ll
be back to my old self. In the meantime, I can get some reading done for a change, so please keep
sending me books. That’s one thing this damn town needs: a good library. Maybe that’s what I’ll
do when I get too old to travel.

 

Hoff and Shy Ann are doing good. I have my friend, Jacali, taking care of them while I’m cooped
up. And Wilder is keeping me well stocked on wild game and firewood. All the townsfolk are
having to come to me for remedies, which is turning out to be a good change of pace. But I’m sure
I’ll be suffering from cabin fever before long.

 

Some days I wish I was with y’all again, but I’ve found a home and friends here that I can’t
leave behind. Besides that I’m needed here. Ain’t none of these high falutin doctors out here
helping the Indians or the folks who can’t afford it. Hell most of them won’t even make house
calls once their offices are set up. Don’t they know how impractical it is to bring a sick child
down into town?

 

I have been thinking of coming to visit y’all. Seems that trains are becoming a bit more affordable.
It’d be nice to visit the graves. I can’t believe it’s already been 10 years. And in some ways it feels
like hundreds. Maybe I’ll see y’all this summer if I can save up the money. And don’t be worrying
about me, I’ve lived through worse.

 

Love, Eva

 


* * *

 

 

 

Jacali remembered.

 

She was saddened when she learned of the army driving the Apache from their homes and it made her remember the time when the white men attacked her village. It had been a beautiful morning and then men came on horses, white men, some of them in army uniforms but most of them without badge or symbol to identify them. The Apache village was completely unprepared. Huts and tents were knocked over or burned. The ponies in the corral were shot or their throats’ slit.

 

The Apache had tried to fight back without luck. Her father had gone off with bow and arrow to fight the white men. Jacali’s mother had gotten her onto a pony to escape. As her mother put her on the horse the animal screamed as it was shot and collapsed to the ground, dying. She picked up Jacali and ran as fast as she could. Then a bullet struck her mother in the leg and Jacali stayed with the woman until she died. She later found her father’s body.

 

It was not a good memory.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Wilder had visited Dr. Weisswald often during her convalescence. He also met with Rueben.

 

While he was scouting for the Confederate Army, Wilder had been involved in a brutal battle at the edge of a flooded creek. Wilder didn’t usually participate in the fighting, being used as a scout for the confederacy. He turned tail and ran. A mile or so up the creek, he found an injured Union soldier and offered to help him. The man agreed. He didn’t want to fight any more either.

 

The man was Reuben Fielding.

 

The two men had fled west to the Colorado territory. Wilder had taught the man about trapping and Fielding had taken up the trade. Though they didn’t live close to each other, they sometimes met each other, as they did in March, and visited with each other.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

In April, Professor Brandon Stalloid was in San Francisco, recovering from his encounter in Nevada, when he was approached by the United States Secret Service who said they needed his services as a chemist and botanist. He was put on a train to Los Angeles. Then he was put on a stagecoach and hustled to Arizona territory. The three day ride from Prescott, found him in the tiny village of Yellow Flats, a tiny community in the middle of nowhere, on Sunday, April 11, 1875. He was met there by three army soldiers who escorted him to a small encampment of two dozen or so men under the command of Captain John Black west of town. Captain Black greeted him, made him sign a contract that he would not divulge anything he saw under penalty of law, and referred him to an older man with short graying hair and a mustache.

 

“Welcome!†the man said. “I’m Professor Marion Terwilliger! It’s so exciting. C’mon! Let’s go!â€

 

He led Professor Stalloid into the mine entrance the army seemed to be guarding and into the mountain. Lanterns were hung along the way and they soon found themselves in a large chamber at the end with a couple of other scientists. The room also held a pair of soldiers and a great deal of scientific equipment.

 

In the center of the room was a large silver object. It appeared to be a crescent about three feet across made of solid silver with strange spikes sticking out of parts of it. The metal was seamless and appeared to be a solid piece of silver without seams or openings. There was an odd feeling, like a low hum just on the edge of hearing, and Professor Stalloid felt uncomfortable and could have sworn it almost seemed like the thing was … watching him.

 

It looked uncomfortably familiar to him.

 

“I didn’t get your name sir!†Professor Terwilliger said.

 

“Brandon Stalloid,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Mr. Stalloid! Great! So, I guess they brought you here like they brought me here.â€

 

“Yes, by stagecoach.â€

 

“Exactly! Exactly! What an amazing and ingenious means of transportation … if you don’t mind being uncomfortable for great periods of time. So, we’ve been examining this thing. They’re calling it The Crescent.â€

 

“I see that. There’s a crescent.â€

 

“Well, apparently it gives off electricity and, the prisoners who were here, being used as slave labor, were - some of them touched it. And then they broke their shackles. It’s quite amazing! The government seems to think it’s of some importance. It appears to be made of solid metal, but obviously there’s something in there.â€

 

Professor Stalloid met Thomas Fall, a metallurgist and geologist, and Andrew Bennington, an engineer who specialized in electricity. Professor Terwilliger noted he, himself, was a physicist, chemist, and inventor.

 

He told Professor Stalloid they had determined the object had been embedded in solid stone before the dynamite was detonated, pointing out the stone around where it was found. He said he’d dated the object based on the surrounding stone.

 

“I believe it come from the middle Eocene Era, 50 million years ago!†he said. “Amazing, isn’t it? The other fossils in the area confirm it. This thing is 50 million years old. It seems to be powered because there is an electrical current you can get when you connect wires to it. Obviously, it’s artificial in nature. It’s obviously artificial in nature! So, the government wants us to study this.â€

 

He looked over the other man.

 

“I wouldn’t recommend touching it,†he went on. “I think that’d be a bad idea.â€

 

“But can I touch it?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“What?â€

 

“But can I touch it?â€

 

“I wouldn’t recommend it. You see these little piles of dust here?â€

 

He pointed out three small piles of dust next to the Crescent.

 

“I believe - I believe that’s what remains of the prisoners who actually touched it,†Professor Terwilliger said. “I believe, somehow, the device took all of the liquid out of them - you’re a biologist, aren’t you?â€

 

“They broke their shackles first?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Yes, I don’t know the whole story. They broke their shackles. They released the other prisoners. It must have quite a thing.â€

 

“They turned to dust.â€

 

“I don’t know. Our biologist disappeared. Are you a biologist?â€

 

Professor Stalloid shook his head.

 

“We need a biologist!†Professor Terwilliger said. “Darn. But you’re a chemist?â€

 

“Yes!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I’m a chemist as well. Chemist. Physicist. Inventor.â€

 

Professor Terwilliger told him the government wanted them to find out what the thing was and what it could do. He noted they could sleep in town at night if they wanted, though he preferred to sleep in a tent near the mine. When Professor Stalloid asked if they had done any animal testing yet, he learned they had not and he went in search of a lizard in the surrounding plains to do such a test.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Bounty Hunters were also coming to the area of Yellow Flats, Arizona, in search of the most important prisoner who escaped from the California prison chain gang that was, for some reason, working in the mine in Yellow Flats. Dan McGoohan was a notorious outlaw before he’d been captured the year before. He had also been an important man in John Valentine’s gang. Now he was loose once again.

 

The town was crawling with various bounty hunters and lawmen from California, Arizona, and nearby Utah and New Mexico in search of the notorious outlaws and some of the other prisoners who had escaped. There was also some question as to why California prisoners had been working in a gold mine in Arizona.

 

Yellow Flats was fairly small with six streets set up in a grid. Two hotels were in the town: the Eastwood Saloon and Hotel and Leone’s Five Star Saloon. There was no train running through or near the town; it was only serviced by stagecoach. A telegraph office was present though. It was a hundred miles from the nearest town: Prescott, Arizona, and stood near what had been Yavapai territory up until the month before. There was town marshal and a deputy but no town council or mayor. If something needed to be done, people made sure it got done.

 

In addition to the bounty hunters in town, a Federal Marshal had been there for a few days. Clayton Pierce was a tall man with longish black hair and a black mustache. He wore a plaid shirt, his badge prominently displayed. He usually carried his rifle over his shoulder and a six-gun on his belt.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Eva Weisswald and Jacali saw the village of Yellow Flats ahead. Dr. Weisswald rode on her dapple mare Shy Ann while Jacali rode a sturdy mount she called Nalin. They had come from Wyoming in search of someone who might recognize the drawing of what they assumed was The Horn on the buffalo skin they had found in the insane medicine man’s hut. They had asked tribesmen and Indians as they had traveled and only planned to stay in Yellow Flats for a few days to give them a rest from the camping they had done since passing through Jacobs Wells a few days before.

 

They had learned at Jacobs Well the Yavapai were moved out as a tribe in March but there were also rumors there of a brave living in or near Yellow Flats. They were there looking for the man. They got rooms at the Eastwood Hotel.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Father Peter Bishop was traveling through the west to rid the world of evil. He rode on a horse and wore a cassock and collar, carrying a crossbow on his horse and a quiver filed with bolts. He was a tall, lanky man and was very wrinkly and unattractive. He also wore a wide-brimmed black hat.

 

He had performed a few exorcisms in the last few years and stumbled across a few other strange things, including a man who thought he was a vampire and murdered people by ripping their throats out. He couldn’t explain all he saw though he sometimes had visions and was very sensitive to ghosts and spirits. He decided to stay at Leone’s Five Star Saloon.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

As they explored Yellow Flats, Dr. Weisswald and Jacali were surprised to see Professor Brandon Stalloid walking down the street with another man. The two went into Leone’s Five Star Saloon. They followed.

 

“That’s your supplier, isn’t it?†Jacali asked.

 

“Yes,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“We always seem to run into him.â€

 

“I could use some more laudanum.â€

 

They followed the two men.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Terwilliger had come to Yellow Flats with Professor Stalloid, wanting a good meal and some entertainment. The army food had not been great and he wanted something more substantial. Professor Stalloid was planning on spending the night in town but Professor Terwilliger noted he was going to go back to the camp after he ate.

 

On the walk to town, Professor Stalloid had told the other man about the strange things that had happened in Nevada two months before. Professor Terwilliger, who had never seen anything strange in his life, had no explanation for what the man told him, but the creatures sounded like dinosaurs to him.

 

“Quite amazing!†he asked. “Did you save the body? Have you stuffed it?â€

 

Then Dr. Weisswald and Jacali sat down at the table.

 

“Speak of the devil!†Professor Stalloid said. “This is the one that was levitating!â€

 

“Levitating?†Jacali said.

 

“Oh!†Professor Terwilliger said. “I’d like to talk to you about that!â€

 

He seemed very excited.

 

“Professor Marion Terwilliger!†he said. “Physicist. Chemist. Inventor. Nice to make your acquaintance!â€

 

He shook both of the women’s hands very enthusiastically.

 

“We’re here to … oh wait,†he said. “We’re not supposed to talk about it. We’re not supposed to talk about it.â€

 

He looked around carefully.

 

“We’re here to investigate … well, it’s this strange device!†he said.

 

He told them all about it the strange Crescent. He described it and noted some of the things they had learned.

 

“It’s impossible to damage or to mark or to mar,†he said. “We tried acid today. We tried the saws. It’s just amazing.â€

 

Jacali pulled out the buffalo skin and unrolled it, revealing the strange drawing of The Horn.

 

“Huh,†Professor Terwilliger said. “Why that’s actually a pretty … that looks a lot like it! Would you say this looks like the device?â€

 

“Uh … yeah,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“It’s an incorrect number of spikes on it,†Professor Terwilliger said. “It’s missing some spikes. Otherwise it’s a pretty good likeness.â€

 

“No effect on lizards.â€

 

“Apparently the device was used to orchestrate an escape from the mines by prisoners from California. It’s quite amazing. Apparently they broke their leg bands, just snapped them right off after they touched it! But we did find some dust that might … our chemical analysis of it is not quite complete but it’s quite exciting! Quite exciting. How did you float in the air? I understand that Indian Swamis can do that.â€

 

He had turned his attention strictly to Jacali.

 

“I did no such floating,†Jacali said. “Mr. Stalloid, he saw the other native man that we encountered together waving his hands and made up some story about magic that I don’t know how that happened, how he got that story.â€

 

“I had my doubts!†Professor Terwilliger said. “I did have my doubts.â€

 

“Miss Weisswald was there. She can back my story.â€

 

“Ah! Miss Weisswald.â€

 

Professor Terwilliger shook her hand again most graciously. Professor Stalloid took out his journal and wrote, next to the notes he’d taken about Jacali floating “Jacali is a liar.â€

 

“Yes, we met a Paiute,†Jacali said.

 

A woman came out on the small stage and they recognized the owner of the establishment: Leone Hathaway.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, for your edification, we bring you the famous … Gemma Jones!†she said.

 

The curtains opened and the saloon erupted into applause.

 

Gemma Jones was a dark-haired beauty with porcelain skin and the voice of an angel. Her singing was said to both sooth the savage beasts and warm the blood of any man. She was beautiful, with dark hair done in curls, and a fine figure of a woman all around. A singer by profession, she was fairly well known in San Francisco and other points in the west. She was soft-spoken, charming, and a little naïve. She traveled often and far.

 

She sang to the great delight of everyone in the place. Professor Terwilliger looked towards the stage with a wide smile on his face.

 

“It was a painted man who said he was looking for this object called The Horn,†Jacali said. “This was his picture.â€

 

“It looks exactly like the device!†Professor Terwilliger said, not taking his eyes off Gemma Jones. “What an amazing … she’s a great singer, isn’t she?â€

 

Professor Stalloid excused himself and went to a table where there was gambling going on. He was dealt into the game and met a well-dressed and debonair man with a pencil-thin mustached named Jack Pettit.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Gemma Jones had been in town for a few days. She had come to Leone’s to sing and had noticed most of the men in the town worked at the surrounding ranches. She had also heard about the bounty hunters in town due to the recent escape of a prison gang working in the mine. She had been given a nice private room upstairs in Leone’s and the pay was good, as well as the tips.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Lambert Otto was one of the men who had come to Yellow Flats in search of Dan McGoohan and his gang. He was 31 years old and well over six feet tall. Standing at six feet seven inches, he was a very sturdy man. He had short black hair and a goatee and mustache. His eyes were bright blue. He had a terrible scar that went down the left side of his face. He wore a duster and heavy riding boots. A derby was on his head. In addition to the pistol on his belt, he wore a saber. He sat alone at a table looking over maps of Arizona and the county as well as several wanted posters.

 

He had overheard Professor Terwilliger talking and eavesdropped on the table with the native woman and the showman.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jack West had a face that had been terribly maimed. The left side of his face had been burned some time before and bore an almost melted, scarred look. There was a hole in one cheek and his one eye bulged fiercely out of his head. He wore six-guns on both hips and was a lean, big man. He wore all black clothing and everyone who saw his face avoided him.

 

He stood at the bar and drank whiskey. He was confused at seeing an Indian in the establishment.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

As they watched Gemma Jones sing, Wilder sat down at the table with Jacali and Dr. Weisswald, taking Professor Stalloid’s seat. Professor Terwilliger didn’t even seem to notice.

 

“We could probably talk about something else and he wouldn’t notice,†Jacali said to Dr. Weisswald and she looked at Professor Terwilliger.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Marshal Pierce was standing on the Jack West’s left and saw his terribly maimed face.

 

“Fire do that to you?†he said to the man.

 

“Yeah,†West muttered. “Jack West. So, I had … Ugly Popie … got a little angry … and burned the **** outta my face.â€

 

Marshal Pierce had heard of Ugly Popie East, a beautiful woman and outlaw who was one of John Valentine’s lieutenants. Breathtakingly gorgeous, she was only called “Ugly†in an ironic sense. Many said she was ugly on the inside though.

 

“Well, hopefully the Lord will restore your looks in Heaven,†Father Bishop leaned over and said quietly.

 

“No, forget that,†Marshal Pierce said. “What’d you do back?â€

 

“Well … I was able to save my family,†West muttered. “But that bitch got away. Lookin’ for Dan McGoohan, ‘fore I can find her again.â€

 

“Dan McGoohan, you say?â€

 

“He’s got a bounty. I need that.â€

 

“We’ll see about that.â€

 

Marshal Pierce finished his whiskey and left. As he walked out, he tossed a silver dollar to Gemma Jones on the stage. She was singing and nodded at him and looked at him shyly with a smile.

 

Jack West walked over to the table with the Indian and leaned against the wall near the table, listening. He watched the stage.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

When Gemma Jones finished her set, Professor Terwilliger clapped loudly, seemingly very impressed by the girl. He turned his attention back to the women at the table. He seemed impressed by Dr. Weisswald, a white woman out in the west wearing pants. He seemed thrilled about the situation and thought it was great.

 

He went back to talking about The Crescent, as the army was calling it, noting again it gave off electricity and telling them about the men who had escaped and how they had broken their shackles. He noted the location of the mine and the fact that there were some two dozen soldiers there as well as Secret Service men.

 

“Oh wait!†he said. “But I’m not supposed to talk about that. Don’t tell anyone I talked about that.â€

 

At his table, Lambert Otto gathered his papers and went to the table with the Indian woman and the older man.

 

“Hello there,†Otto said.

 

“Hello, white man,†Jacali said.

 

“I heard that you were talking about how some prisoners broke their chains ‘round that area,†Otto said.

 

“He must be psychic!†Professor Terwilliger said. “We were just talking about that!â€

 

“Or he heard us,†Jacali said.

 

“It was the latter,†Otto said.

 

“Oh!†Professor Terwilliger said. “Oh! Very good. I should make something that helps people hear. I’ve been having some interesting thoughts lately.â€

 

“I think you should invent something that helps people listen,†Jacali said.

 

“I just said that, didn’t I?†Professor Terwilliger said to Otto.

 

“No, you did not,†Walker said.

 

“Regardless, do you know if Dan McGoohan was among those prisoners that escaped?†Otto asked.

 

“I haven’t heard that name,†Jacali said.

 

“Do you?†Otto asked Professor Terwilliger.

 

“I don’t remember the names of any of the prisoners,†the older man said. “It didn’t really seem that important.â€

 

“Were you also hired to find him?†Walker said.

 

“It’s contract work,†Otto said.

 

“Seems like everybody in this bar is looking for him,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Maybe we should work together,†Otto said.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Father Bishop finished his whiskey and then headed for his room. One of the dance hall girls took his arm as he reached the bottom of the stairs and escorted him up.

 

“You know, Father, I should confess some things,†she said.

 

“What much you confess, daughter?†he said.

 

“Well, I need some money first.â€

 

“Usually it’s the other way around.â€

 

“It can take me quite a bit of time to confess.â€

 

The man finally turned her down and she went back down the stairs.

 

Gemma Jones saw the whole thing and caught the girl behind the stage.

 

“That’s a priest,†she said.

 

“He’s a man,†the girl said. “He has needs. They all have needs. You have to offer. It’s only polite.â€

 

“But how can you sell yourself short like that?â€

 

“I need the money.â€

 

“I cannot believe you, Margaret. I just can’t believe you.â€

 

“Well, honey, we can’t all have a beautiful voice like you and all have money thrown at us. Just for singing.â€

 

Gemma shook her head and went on to sing again.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid enjoyed his gambling but only broke even, not really making any cash.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

After she was done singing, several ranch hands and others went to talk to Gemma Jones, as did Professor Terwilliger. He seemed very genuine and nice but was obviously somewhat smitten with the girl. Then he returned to Professor Stalloid and told the man he was going to head back to camp. He noted he liked sleeping there and headed off into the night.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Otto questioned Wilder who had hired him and the man confessed he had come down looking to be hired as a tracker after hearing about the escape. He noted he was a tracker but said he had preferred to help someone else track the killers rather than do it alone.

 

Jack West sat down at the table, examining Jacali intently. Then he turned to Wilder. Otto visibly grimaced at the man’s horribly maimed face.

 

“I heard yer … looking for Dan McGoohan,†he muttered. “I’m actually looking for a tracker. Mine’s late. You two look like you might be good at that.â€

 

“I have … skills in the tracking arts,†Wilder said. “And will gladly help you if the pay is right.â€

 

“All right,†West said.

 

“Well, there’s your man,†Jacali said. “I’m busy at the moment.â€

 

“Thank you for hearing me out …†West said.

 

“The name is Jacali, sir.â€

 

“Jacali. All right.â€

 

“And what is yours?â€

 

“Jack West.â€

 

“Nice to meet you, Mr. West.â€

 

Both Jacali and Dr. Weisswald had put their hands on their knives when the maimed man had sat down, a little worried about him. Wilder took another sip of his whiskey.

 

Professor Stalloid returned to the table.

 

“Is that sulfuric acid?†he asked, pointing at Jack West’s face.

 

“What is wrong with you?†the other man growled.

 

“Not as much.â€

 

“Can’t you tell this is from a burn? Fire … bad.â€

 

“Could be a chemical burn.â€

 

“Fire bad.â€

 

Dr. Weisswald looked more carefully at the man’s face and realized the terrible scars were caused by burns from a fire. There was actually a hole in his cheek and she thought she could see muscle and sinew under the damaged epidermis. It was a terrible wound.

 

Professor Stalloid took out his journal and wrote in it, sketching the man’s face and taking numerous notes.

 

“So, at dawn,†West said to Wilder. “We meet. What was your name?â€

 

“Wilder,†Wilder said.

 

“Wilder,†West repeated.

 

Professor Stalloid held up the book towards West’s face to make sure the sketches were accurate. He was content with his work. West ignored the man.

 

“Never talk to me again,†he said to the scholar.

 

“And what’s your name, sir,†Professor Stalloid said to West.

 

West just glared at the man.

 

“Hey, what’s his name?†Professor Stalloid said to Wilder.

 

“I did not ask his name,†Wilder confessed. “I feel I can find him if I need.â€

 

“John Doe it is,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Jack West,†West growled.

 

“Jack West,†Professor Stalloid said, making a notation in his journal.

 

“All right, I’m staying at the Eastwood,†West growled to Wilder.

 

West stood up, looked over the table, nodded, and left.

 

“A real people-person, that one,†Jacali said.

 

As he left, Dr. Stalloid noticed the man had a bump under his duster, probably a third gun on a holster on the back of his belt.

 

Otto thanked the table for their time.

 

“I’m Lambert Otto, by the way,†he said. “Nice to meet you.â€

 

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Otto,†Jacali said. “Thank you for being more polite than some of our other company.â€

 

Otto nodded.

 

“If you ever happen to go after Dan, just let me know,†he said. “I’m staying here, actually.â€

 

He headed up the stairs, one of the dance hall girls escorting him. He was annoyed when she offered to spend the night.

 

“Skinflints,†he heard her say as he closed the door.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Marshal Pierce tried to find tracks that night but found nothing substantial in the dark. He returned to Yellow Flats to the find the jail locked up. He headed back to the saloon and found most people leaving. Gemma Jones was also gone. Only the bartender and a dance hall girl were still up. She escorted him up to his room and was willing to spend a pleasant evening with him for $15.

 

“I’ll pay ya 10 if you just sleep in the bed with me,†he said.

 

That threw the woman off but she was willing to do it. They retired to his room for the night. When they went to bed, he lay there, stiff as a board. The girl shrugged and rolled over. When she fell asleep, he held her. When she woke up, he rolled away again. That lasted most of the night.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Monday, April 12, 1875, was warm and sunny.

 

Father Bishop asked the bartender at Leone’s if he had heard any strange rumors but, aside from the escaped prisoners, he had not. He saw Marshal Pierce leave the Saloon after he gulped down a quick breakfast. He stopped the man outside.

 

“Can I go with you?†he asked the man. “I assume you’re one of the ones hunting Dan McGoohan.â€

 

“Why would you want to come with me?†Marshal Pierce asked.

 

“I’d like to read him his last rites. If you do find him.â€

 

“If I find him I’ll bring him to you, how about that? I plan to take him alive. I have questions for him.â€

 

“Fair enough. Fair enough.â€

 

“I just don’t know what you can add that I don’t already have.â€

 

“If you also get wounded, I could potentially help you with that?â€

 

“I cannot ensure your protection. You understand?â€

 

“I understand. But I’ve taken many a risk in my lifetime. God has seen my way through it all.â€

 

“All right. Well, if you’re going to tag with me, you listen to what I say first and God second.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

They walked to the jail and found Town Marshal Bill Morton. He had a big mustache and was finishing up some paperwork. He was an older gentleman in his 40s with a Colt Peacemaker on his belt.

 

“Howdy fellas,†he said. “Can I help you?â€

 

“I’m looking for Marshal Morton,†Marshal Pierce said.

 

“That’s me.â€

 

“You have any leads on where Dan McGoohan might be.â€

 

“No sir. I’m just hoping that he doesn’t come back. Quite honestly, I’m hoping he got outta Arizona altogether.â€

 

“Has he affected this town?â€

 

“From what I understand, he’s one of John Valentine’s men.â€

 

The town marshal pointed to the wall where there was a wanted poster for McGoohan with a bounty of $2,000.

 

“I don’t want any sign of that gang anywhere around here,†Marshal Morton went on. “We ain’t got any help within three days ride. One telegraph office and if that gang shows up here, they could wipe this whole town out probably.â€

 

“You said he was here before?†Father Bishop said.

 

“He was working on a chain gang down the mines,†Marshal Morton said. “They brought in some prisoners from somewhere.â€

 

“The ones that escaped.â€

 

“Yeah. That’s why he’s on the loose right now. Hopefully, he won’t come back. But no, we haven’t seen him. If you find him …â€

 

He pointed to the three cells in the back of the building.

 

“… we’ll lock him up ‘til you take him away,†Marshal Morton said.

 

“Is there anybody I can contact who might’ve been in communication with him?†Marshal Pierce asked.

 

“There was some overseers, but they left. They were hired by the owners of the mine. I think they went back to California. And they took whatever prisoners they’ve been catching and they’ve been taking them back. Like 30 men got away. They’ve been rounding them up, very slowly, but most of them haven’t seen any sign of McGoohan since they escaped two weeks ago.â€

 

“You know anybody that I could contact for employment? Maybe trackers, men looking for work?â€

 

“I don’t. I don’t. There’s a few bounty hunters in town. You might talk to them.â€

 

“I already met one of ‘em. I didn’t like too much.â€

 

“Yeah, man with the face?â€

 

“Yeah, man with the face.â€

 

“I also saw a man with a bear on his head last night. We might try to find him.â€

 

“I-I don’t know who that is. He must be new in town. I haven’t met him.â€

 

“If anyone brings you Dan McGoohan, let me talk to him first.â€

 

“All right.â€

 

“Thank you, sir.â€

 

“Good luck to you, if you’re looking for him. Good having you here, Marshal. What’s your name again?â€

 

They exchanged names.

 

Clayton thought the town marshal would probably be pretty friendly with him.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

West and Wilder got together and went out in search of the escaped prisoners.

 

“I was thinking it’d be more 50/50 and then based on performance,†West told Wilder.

 

“That is … fair,†Wilder said.

 

“The only change would go to 40/60 depending on who does what.â€

 

“That is … fair … and I will take that under … advisement.â€

 

“Sounds like a plan.â€

 

West smiled. Rather, half his face smiled. The ruined part of his mouth would not turn up.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Weisswald and Jacali left the Eastwood' Saloon and Hotel and headed west towards the area of the mine on horseback. They spotted Professor Stalloid heading that way and caught up to him. He told them he’d try to get them in but he wasn’t sure.

 

“Don’t show any of them that pelt,†he said to Jacali.

 

“Okay,†she said. “Do you have a reason why?â€

 

“I don’t … I don’t like these guys.â€

 

“You don’t?â€

 

“I don’t trust ‘em. They have all these guns pointed at us all day?â€

 

“I’ll admit, that one man is not someone I would give my secrets to.â€

 

“I don’t really mind him but, yeah, don’t give him any secrets. Oh shoot! You showed him the pelt!â€

 

“What?â€

 

“He’s probably already told them!â€

 

Dr. Weisswald looked over her shoulder and saw what appeared to be a priest or preacher and another man following them out of town on horseback. She urged Dr. Stalloid onto her horse. The two men were catching up with them.

 

Dr. Stalloid told Jacali they would probably not let her keep that bow. She said she’d cross that bridge when she got to it.

 

“What bridge?†he said.

 

“It’s a metaphor,†Jacali said.

 

“I think we’re being followed,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

She pointed out the priest and the gunman trotting towards them.

 

“I don’t think they’ll like me bringing too many people so we’d better hurry up,†he said.

 

She helped pull him onto Shy Ann and they both kicked their horses into a gallop. The gunman following them picked up speed while the priest continued to trot, soon falling behind. However, the women were able to keep their distance from the unknown gunman all the way to the army encampment.

 

The guards near the road ordered them to halt.

 

“Hello, Brandon Stalloid!†Professor Stalloid said as the two horses stopped. “I brought associates. I don’t know who those two men are!â€

 

“You’re going to have to talk to the captain,†one of the soldiers said.

 

They led their horses into the camp.

 

 

* * *

 

 


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