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Worms! Part 1 - Spring in San Francisco

Max_Writer

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Monday, April 2, 2018

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign original scenario “Spring in San Francisco†and the Deadlands Dime Novel Scenario “Worms!†by John Goff Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. with Ambralyn Tucker, John Leppard, Yorie Latimer, and Austin Davie.)

 

Gemma Jones had stayed on the Sequoyah Star after the bandit attack, and arrived in San Francisco on May 22, 1875, in the evening, taking a hackney carriage to her mother’s house in San Francisco. Her mother owned an upscale saloon and hotel in the city but lived in a house in one of the nicer parts of town.

 

Her mother was happy to see her and hugged her and fixed her a home-cooked meal and coffee. They ate and chatted before her mother got serious.

 

“Lily has gone,†she said. “She wanted to go off and make her way in the world.â€

 

“Oh,†Gemma said.

 

“I got this letter a couple weeks ago,†her mother said. “It sounds like she’s doing fine …â€

 

“Whew,†Gemma said.

 

She realized that was exactly what she did, but it was still quite a blow.

 

The letter read:

 


May 2, 1875

 

Dearest Mother and Jenny,

 

I have finally found a place to call my own and I did it on my own like I always knew
I could. I have found a place in a town called Devil's Gulch, Colorado. It lies upon the
Kansas Pacific Railroad several miles from the other nearby towns. Better yet, I was able
to acquire revenue to make my dream of my own place come true. I call it the Gilded Lily
Saloon and Hotel and, though there are two other such places in town, it is doing very, very
well, most likely because I treat the girls well and make sure everything is fair.

 

I’m sorry I left so abruptly but I was certain if I didn’t take the action, I never would follow
through. I love you both and hate being away from you but this was something I felt I had to
do. Jenny is so successful and I want to be successful in my own right. I am now finding that
here.

 

I admit, I am having some troubles with the other saloon owners as they are jealous of the
success of the Gilded Lily Saloon and the fact that I, a mere female, am making such a success
of it.

 

I hope you will come visit me someday. I will continue to write whenever I can. I miss you
both very much.

 

All my Love,
Lily

 


Gemma’s mother told her it was the only letter she’d received from Lily and she was a little worried about her.

 

“When?†Gemma asked. “When did this happen?â€

 

“She left not long after you did, early this year,†her mother said.

 

She told Gemma that Lily had taken all the money she’d saved up, some $200, but she wasn’t sure where she might have gotten the money to buy a saloon.

 

Gemma spent time with her mother and friends in San Francisco. She sang at her mother’s saloon later that night and was well-received, as always. She saw a familiar face in the crowd: Professor Terwilliger. She saw he was there with a beautiful young blonde woman close to Gemma’s age. After she sang, they met with Gemma, Professor Terwilliger shaking her hand and fawning over her a little bit. She learned that he lived across the bay on a farm just outside of Oakland. He made small talk while the other gentlemen who vied for Gemma’s attention.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Brandon Stalloid continued to hear rumors about a demon loose in Chinatown after their dealing with the kidnapped child on May 28. He realized he couldn’t go after the thing alone and so focused on the lightning gun he had acquired during the terror on the Sequoyah Star. He hired a craftsman to mount a rifle stock on the back of the device. The man was a little confused as to why he wanted to put a stock on a camera and Professor Stalloid claimed it was for long-range photography. He also purchased a tripod for the device when he found a mounting on the bottom for such, and realized Professor Terwilliger had probably actually made the device out of a camera.

 

In early June, Chun Zhi Ruo came to Professor Stalloid in his laboratory told him there was a distinguished Chinaman there to see him. She said he was waiting in the parlor.

 

Professor Stalloid was not happy to see Yan Min, the leader of the Rightful Spirit Tong whom they had taken the kidnapped child away from. He sat in one of Professor Stalloid’s comfortable chairs and smoked a cigar.

 

“Ah,†Mr. Yan said. “Mr. Stalloid. I see that you are still … well.â€

 

“Why, of course!†Professor Stalloid said. “I try to be!â€

 

“If I may speak to you for just a moment.â€

 

Stalloid just looked at the man.

 

“When you visited me, there was an odd coincidence at my place of business,†Mr. Yan went on. “Two men were killed down in the basement and their bodies thrown in the sewers. I found it interesting that you and Mr. Li came and visited me at the same time.â€

 

“That is interesting,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I’m very disappointed in both you and Mr. Li for your acts of complicity in two murders.â€

 

“I don’t see what you mean.â€

 

“Well, you were obviously there as a distraction, were you not?â€

 

“I was there to sell you something.â€

 

“But it has been almost a week.â€

 

“I’ve been working on other projects.â€

 

“Are you still interested in selling me products?â€

 

“Of course, sir.â€

 

“Well, I would hate to send a demon to do the dirty work of my men, who could visit you at night.â€

 

“One of those things between the stars.â€

 

“Yes. However, reparations could be arranged by you and all could be forgiven.â€

 

Mr. Yan puffed on his cigar.

 

“What sort of reparations are we talking about, sir?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“My men are very important to me,†Mr. Yan said. “And you, obviously, are of great wealth.â€

 

He gestured around the room.

 

“So, I would think that $5,000 should suffice,†he finished.

 

“Ah,†Professor Stalloid said. “Well, you have already declared, I am a man of great wealth … and import.â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“I would dare say you might not even want to send a demon here if you’d like for your organization to continue to exist, for the police of my area not to get involved.â€

 

“Oh. But none can trace it to me, can they?â€

 

“But they can trace my will.â€

 

“I will leave you to consider it.â€

 

“I will not longer interfere with your Chinatown ways.â€

 

“That is good to hear. If you decide to make reparations …â€

 

“So long as you don’t kidnap any children.â€

 

“I cannot guarantee anything.â€

 

Yan Min left Professor Stalloid’s house.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

After their dealings in Chinatown in late May, Lambert Otto went looking for Pete Sutter’s body in hopes of cashing it in for a bounty. He didn’t find it. He asked Mr. Chang, the Six Companies representative, about the corpse but the man had not heard of any body. However, he learned there were still rumors of a demon loose in Chinatown and if he could do anything about it, the people of Chinatown would be grateful. He said he was interested in doing something about it.

 

He also looked for bounties around San Francisco for some time but found nothing. He heard rumors that someone called Popie East had been seen in San Francisco about a week before but she had not been seen since.

 

He shared with Professor Stalloid that the demon was still in the city. Professor Stalloid told him he knew it was as they had never dealt with it.

 

“I feel like it would be a great injustice if we just let that thing massacre its way through Chinatown,†Otto said.

 

“I don’t know if I have the firepower to be killing a demon,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“We could go recruiting,†Otto said. “I’m sure there’s some hired guns in town.â€

 

Stalloid agreed they could, as he put it, “round up a posse.†They knew a circus was in town and perhaps some of those people could help.

 

“They’ll do anything for a little bit of money,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid went to Li Wei, the lawyer in Chinatown, and asked him to write up his will. In the will, he wanted to leave all his possessions to, in succeeded order, Chun Zhi Ruo, Dr. Weisswald, Professor Terwilliger, Jacali, and finally Clayton Pierce. There were also instructions to help his friends if they ever came to San Francisco. Mr. Li thought that a little strange but noted he had seen stranger in the past

 

“It’s strange, but you’ve seen things we deal with,†Professor Stalloid said. “If suddenly, three of us are dead …â€

 

Mr. Li told Professor Stalloid that Mr. Yan had visited him and subtly threatened him about their dealings with the murders under the Rightful Spirit Tong brothel.

 

Mr. Li was not happy with Professor Stalloid about the scroll, having skimmed it and found it terribly disturbing and awful. He would translate it but it would take many months. He told the man there was supposedly a spell on the scroll that could raise people from the dead. He wanted to know if Professor Stalloid wanted the whole thing translated or just the spell. When Professor Stalloid asked what the whole scroll was about, Mr. Li told him it talked of Huang-Ti, the Yellow Emperor, and his miraculous inventions and cures. That intrigued Professor Stalloid and he asked the man to translate the whole thing. Mr. Li was not happy about it but he said he would do it.

 

When Professor Stalloid returned home, he wrote several letters noting if he was strangely murdered, it was probably Yan Min of the Rightful Spirit Tong in Chinatown. He left several of the letters in his house, put one in a safe deposit box, and the like.

 

He started to visit Mr. Li daily with baked goods and tea.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

On Friday, June 4, 1875, Professor Stalloid and Lambert Otto went to the circus. They saw Gemma Jones there, looking at various animals in cages. There were shows in the big top: jugglers, clowns, a strong man, trapeze artists, midgets and dwarves, clowns, and the like. It was all quite entertaining. The strong man threw axes and knives as well.

 

Ronald Clay, the strongman, was a large, handsome, muscular man with a handlebar mustache. He had been the strongman at the circus for some years.

 

“Stalloid, I’m impressed with that strongman,†Otto said.

 

“I believe he could even wrestle the beast down!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Maybe not that far …â€

 

“I believe in him … more than I believe in myself.â€

 

“I say we ask him after his act if he wants to join us in our little adventure.â€

 

They went behind the big top where several wagons and tents were pitched. Gemma Jones followed. They eventually found Clay sitting on a barrel by one of the wagons washing dishes in a big tub and smoking a cigarette. A midget who they recognized as one of the clowns was sitting on the step next to him, fixing a shoe.

 

“Hello, sir,†Otto said.

 

“Yes?†Clay said.

 

“I’m … Otto … I’m Lambert Otto,†Otto said. “This is … uh …â€

 

“Brandon Stalloid!†Professor Stalloid said, striding forward and shaking the strongman’s hand. “Child savior, healer of men and women alike! And we are forming a posse!â€

 

“Oh … okay,†Clay said. “What for?â€

 

“Demon hunting,†Otto said.

 

“Have you heard of the demon of Chinatown?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I’ve … heard of that but it’s just silly superstition,†Clay said.

 

“We can’t have no demons running around Chinatown!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“No sir!†Otto said.

 

“It could come into San Francisco, you know!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Chinatown is in San Francisco!†the midget said.

 

“The greater San … that’s demeaning …†Professor Stalloid said.

 

The midget gave the man a look.

 

“I don’t believe in no demons,†Clay said.

 

“We’ll pay you well,†Otto said. “Well, Stalloid will, I assume.â€

 

“I will pay you handsomely,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“How much?†Clay said.

 

“If we actually find and defeat this demon, I don’t know …†Professor Stalloid said. “Upwards of …â€

 

“One hundred dollars!†the midget said.

 

“I was going to say 50,†Professor Stalloid said. “But, if you just come with us─â€

 

“Don’t let ‘em sell you short, there, Clay,†the midget said.

 

“If you just come with us and we don’t even find anything, I will still pay you,†Professor Stalloid said. “Ten dollars for your day.â€

 

“Sounds like, uh, decent deal to me,†Clay said. “But, if we defeat the demon, if the demon exists, uh, seventy-five.â€

 

“That’ll be fine,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Oh, hello Gemma,†Otto said.

 

He had not noticed the girl behind him.

 

“Oh, quite,†Gemma said.

 

“That’s … that’s Gemma Jones!†Clay said.

 

“Yes,†Gemma said. “I have just seen your act and I was … I was very impressed.â€

 

“Well … thank you!†Clay said, gushing. “I really appreciate that.â€

 

“Of course,†Gemma said. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.â€

 

“Terwilliger’s not here, is he?†Professor Stalloid asked. “Here, right now, at the circus.â€

 

“I did see him a couple nights ago at my mother’s saloon,†Gemma said.

 

“But he’s not here?†Professor Terwilliger said.

 

He pointed at the ground.

 

“I have not seen him,†she said.

 

“Okay,†Professor Stalloid said. “I still have his thing.â€

 

“Oh!†she said. “Quite.â€

 

“I’d hoped to use it with the demon.â€

 

“With better accuracy.â€

 

“Yes, I’ve modified it.â€

 

“It’s hard to explain, sir,†Otto said to Clay. “I swear it’s true. Just think about the money. It’ll help you understand.â€

 

“Hey, I get 15 percent,†the midget said. “I helped negotiate the deal! I’ll see ya later, Clay.â€

 

“See ya later, Roy,†Clay said.

 

“I thought Roy was gonna help us,†Professor Stalloid said. “He seemed like a good fighter.â€

 

“Really, it’s him and his posse that can rough people up,†Clay said. “So, you’d have to pay all of them.â€

 

Introductions were made. Otto asked about weapons and Clay noted he had a bowie knife, pointing a thumb at the wagon he sat next to. He shared the wagon with five of the midgets, who took up a surprising amount of room for such small people. Clay had the smallest bed in the wagon, actually. He retrieved his knife and joined them once again.

 

“Where are those axes you threw during your act?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“Uh … I’m not allowed to go get those until performance time,†Clay said. “Ringmaster’s orders.â€

 

“Can I talk to your ringmaster?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

Clay took him to see the ringmaster of the circus. Stalloid offered the man $5 but the ringmaster wanted a $50 deposit on them as well. Stalloid paid for it. The ringmaster put the $50 in a safe in his wagon and the $5 in his pocket.

 

“All right,†the man said. “Bring them back. Bring my strongman back too. I don’t want to have to replace him.â€

 

Clay got four axes and they set forth. There was some discussion about alerting the police but in the end they decided not to bother as the police didn’t really care about Chinatown. Gemma told them she had a show that night at her mother’s saloon and would really appreciate it if they would come.

 

“I … I can’t go,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Why can’t you go?†Otto said.

 

“Terwilliger might be there,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Why?†Gemma said.

 

“How about you stand outside?†Otto said.

 

“Not until we deal with this demon,†Professor Stalloid said. “I can’t encounter Terwilliger.â€

 

They made arrangements to meet Professor Stalloid in a saloon and restaurant on Broadway Street just outside of Chinatown.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Otto and Clay went to see Gemma perform at her mother’s saloon. Otto and Gemma both saw Professor Terwilliger and the beautiful blonde woman there as well, sitting close to the front and drinking wine. Gemma sounded amazing with a great deal of clapping and coin- and rose-throwing at the stage after every song.

 

Otto went over to Professor Terwilliger’s table and tapped him on the shoulder.

 

“Terwilliger,†he said.

 

“I know you!†Professor Terwilliger said with a grin. “I know you. Wait! Wait! I never forget a face! Wait! You’re Stalloid’s guard!â€

 

“Not necessarily.â€

 

“You had all those guns though.â€

 

“I guess a better word would be armed acquaintance.â€

 

“Well, sit down! Sit down! I’ve forgotten your name. I’m sorry.â€

 

“I’m not his bodyguard, Terwilliger. I just happen to be with him a lot.â€

 

“Oh! Are you his … friend?â€

 

“I don’t know if I would go that far yet.â€

 

“Well, you should be friends to the people you’re around.â€

 

“Well, he’s certainly very nice to me at least.â€

 

“That’s good. Sit down! Sit down! Join us! Oh, this is Tilly.â€

 

Tilly had a smile that lit the room and she shook Otto’s hand gently. She also seemed cautious of the man, eyeing him warily.

 

“What are you doing here?†Professor Terwilliger said. “You’re from San Francisco? I live outside of town.â€

 

“I’m from Hills County, Texas, actually,†Otto said.

 

“That’s a long ways away!â€

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“How’d you get here?â€

 

“By horseback.â€

 

“Oh, that’s a terrible way to travel. I’m working on a balloon.â€

 

“A balloon?â€

 

“And some wings.â€

 

“Wings.â€

 

“Tilly’s been helping me. She’s been testing the wings out. She hasn’t broken anything yet! That’s always a good sign.â€

 

“So, what are you doing here?â€

 

“Oh, we’re taking the night off! Sometimes you have to relax. And Gemma Jones is here!â€

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“I love her, she’s great. She’s an amazing singer.â€

 

“Calm down,†Tilly said to the man with a smile. “Just calm down.â€

 

“Aw, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,†Professor Terwilliger said.

 

“I must say, she’s very impressive,†Otto said.

 

“She is! I’m looking forward to hearing her again tonight.â€

 

“So, do you want that lightning gun back?â€

 

“What lightning gun? What’s a lightning gun? Oh! Oh. You meant the static generator.â€

 

“Yeah, that … thing.â€

 

“That’s right, I lost that on the train. Wait, do you have it?â€

 

“No.â€â€™

 

“I’ve been working on an improvement of it.â€

 

“Really?â€

 

“Oh yes!â€

 

“What’s your improvement?â€

 

“Well, it doesn’t have the range but it doesn’t kill as quickly. I found the static generator, when it’s discharged, it tends to burn things. This more … well, it hurts things but it also stuns them.â€

 

“Could I look at it?â€

 

“Well, you’d have to come out to the farm. It’s out there.â€

 

“I have a horse. It probably wouldn’t be hard to get out there.â€

 

“You probably want to take one of the ferries. I’m across the bay.â€

 

“Really?â€

 

“Yes. Oakland area. Ask around there for me if you want to come visit the farm. You’re welcome any time.â€

 

“Yeah. So, you’re not worried about that static generator thing?â€

 

“Worried about it? You know I’ve got a friend who might be able to help you with that scar.â€

 

“Well, how?â€

 

“There’s this new surgical technique they’re trying to try to smooth out the skin. He might be able to help you with that.â€

 

“I’ll consider it. I do think it makes me look more intimidating … but at the same time less appealing.â€

 

“Fair enough. Fair enough. Well, if you want to keep it, you can keep it. I understand.â€

 

“So, Terwilliger have you heard anything about that … what’s he call it? That … thing?â€

 

“Thing? There’s been a lot of things.â€

 

“It looks like the moon … thing.â€

 

“Sh! I’m not supposed to talk about that. The Secret Service men were quite specific about that. I’ve only heard one rumor. There’s a town out in Colorado that has a silver one … a silver horn. That’s what I heard. Wait! I can talk about that! That has nothing to do with anything! Yeah, the Silver Horn. Some town in Colorado. I heard some rumor about that.â€

 

“Well, what’s the rumor?â€

 

“Just the Silver Horn. And horns are … curved. It’s probably nothing, I just … it just seemed interesting. But I’m too busy, I’m too busy to worry about that anymore. I’ve got too many ideas. I’ve got the quadrovelocipede. I’ve got the steam engine I’ve been working on. I’ve got the battery. There’s this one device, I don’t even know what it does. I’ve got the wings. I’m trying to design an engine out of a metal lighter than steel so it’ll be light and the balloon can lift it and then activate the engine, and the propellers will go. Like a steam ship! But in the air!â€

 

Otto waved Clay over and the strongman walked over.

 

“This is a mountain of a man!†Professor Terwilliger said.

 

“This is Professor Terwilliger,†Otto said.

 

“He has quite a mouth on him, doesn’t he?†Clay said.

 

“You could say that,†Otto said.

 

“I always just assumed it was just normal,†Professor Terwilliger said, gingerly touching his mouth. “Nothing special.â€

 

Tilly frowned at the rude strongman, looking him up and down disapprovingly.

 

“Nice to meet you,†Clay said.

 

“Nice to meet you, too,†the oblivious Professor Terwilliger said. “What’s your name?â€

 

“Ronald,†Clay said.

 

“Ronald,†Otto said.

 

“Mr. Ronald, nice to meet you,†Professor Terwilliger said. “Sit down and join us! We’re going to watch more of the show tonight.â€

 

“Terwilliger, do you happen to know anything about Chinese mythology and demons and stuff?†Otto said.

 

“There’s a couple of colleges in town, they might know,†Professor Terwilliger said. “I don’t know much about it. Never really focused on the Chinese. They did some wonderful things with gunpowder.â€

 

“I’ve heard about that.â€

 

“Of course as far as physics go, Arabia is the place to go. They knew their physics and math. Yes, that’s right. Rockets! I’m planning a bigger one. You know what, I think you could actually put somebody out of the atmosphere with a big enough rocket! The problem is, they keep blowing up on me. We’ll get back to it someday. Oh! I’m sorry. Mr. Ronald, this is Tilly. Tilly, Ronald.â€

 

She shook his hand and gave him a cold, suspicious look.

 

Otto asked if there was a college he recommended and Professor Terwilliger noted any of those in town would probably serve.

 

They watched the show. Gemma sang beautifully, as usual. Afterwards, a few of the gentlemen who were trying to court her talked to her. Her friends were also there that night, the four of them having a table to themselves. They also visited her after the show.

 

“C’mon Gem,†Joe Turner said. “There’s a new saloon.â€

 

Joe was not a bad young man though he could be quite flighty and often excitable about new ideas.

 

“There’s a new one?†she said. “Hmm.â€

 

“We’re going to try it out,†he said. “Johnny and Anne and Felicity.â€

 

Johnny Blakely had been to college and was an introspective youth who often served as the voice of reason within the group. He was short but had piercing eyes that rarely missed anything. Anne Sawyer wore rugged clothing and had been a tomboy all of her life. She worked on a ranch near San Francisco, breaking horses among other things. Felicity Hawkins was of upper-class breeding and wore very fancy and frilly clothing. Though she often joined them for their little adventures, she often seemed to be both excited and appalled at them.

 

Gemma decided to hang out with her friends instead of going into Chinatown and they left. She was surprised when the saloon Joe had chosen had Professor Stalloid, sitting at a table. The restaurant was very nice with gas lighting and a small floor show. It was a little more expensive than Gemma’s mother’s saloon and very nice overall.

 

Stalloid had eaten dinner in the place and found the food quite good, a mix between Chinese food and typical western fare. He had enjoyed a nice glass of wine with the meal. He was surprised when he saw Gemma Jones with four people in tow. Stalloid went over and smiled at her.

 

“Oh!†he said. “You found more people for the posse!â€

 

“Posse?†Joe said. “What are you talking about?â€

 

“These are my - these are my closest friends,†Gemma said.

 

Joe made introductions.

 

“So, are you going to help us hunt a demon?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

Joe gasped in excitement. Felicity gasped in fear.

 

“Must you get him riled up?†Gemma asked.

 

“Demon?†Joe said. “Let’s go!â€

 

Johnny gave Gemma a look and she explained to him how she met a lot of interesting people while touring.

 

“We’re going to hunt a demon in Chinatown!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“He’s quite the eccentric,†Gemma said to Johnny.

 

Johnny looked Professor Stalloid up and down carefully.

 

Otto and Clay arrived about then.

 

“Yes!†Joe said. “We’re in! Wait. Demons. Johnny, what do we do about demons?â€

 

Johnny sighed.

 

“I don’t know,†Johnny said.

 

“C’mon Johnny,†Joe said. “You went to college.â€

 

“We don’t study demons in college,†Johnny said. “Joe.â€

 

“Yes, I do apologize,†Gemma said. “Let me introduce you to my─â€

 

“Holy water!†Joe said.

 

“─to my … ah …â€

 

“I don’t know if it’s that kind of demon,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“… my closest friends,†Gemma finished.

 

She introduced Clay and Otto to the four. Johnny studied each of the new men with interest. Otto looked him up and down as well. Johnny noticed the bulges under Clay’s jacket where he had hidden the throwing axes. He also studied the wrapped-up rifle Otto carried.

 

“Well, I didn’t learn about demons in my school either,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

Otto pulled Professor Stalloid to the side.

 

“Stalloid, these people have no weapons and they look like─†Otto said.

 

“Well, then, why did Gemma bring them?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“They’re her friends,†Clay said.

 

“They’re her friends and they─†Otto said.

 

“Yes, you all are my friends and I brought you for the posse,†Professor Stalloid said. “She’s bringing her friends for the posse.â€

 

“She decided to forego─†Otto said.

 

“This is her hometown,†Clay said.

 

“This is my hometown!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“They decided they wanted to go to a saloon, I think,†Otto said.

 

“Yeah,†Clay said.

 

“I thought they said they wanted to go hunt a demon?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“No, after the show─†Clay said.

 

“That jolly one really wanted to go hunt a demon, he said,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“After the show at the saloon, her friends approached her and asked her to go to a saloon,†Clay said.

 

“I feel like we’re going to get these people killed if they go with us,†Otto said. “Or they’re going to wander off down some dark alley and get killed by some tongs. I say we just let her─â€

 

“If we’re not taking Gemma, I might have to go find more members of the posse,†Professor Stalloid said. “We can’t be a posse of three people.â€

 

“What I was saying, Stalloid─â€

 

“That’s more like a trio.â€

 

“Haven’t you heard of the three musketeers?†Clay said.

 

“That’s not a posse!†Professor Stalloid said. “They were musketeers! They’re trained soldiers!â€

 

“I’m a trained soldier!†Otto said.

 

“Wait wait,†Clay said. “I just remembered, they also had a fourth person.â€

 

“Yeah, that’s one trained soldier!†Professor Stalloid said to Otto.

 

“Regardless, I was going to say─†Otto said.

 

“They were French,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“─we’ll scout out for it tonight and figure out where it is,†Otto said.

 

Professor Stalloid suggested talking to the Clean and Pure Serenity Tong and seeing if they would lend them some men for their endeavor. Otto questioned whether they should get more involved in the tongs than they already were. Stalloid didn’t think the Clean and Pure Tong wanted the demon there but Otto argued they didn’t necessarily want to work with white men either. Professor Stalloid noted they had returned the child and when Otto asked if they seemed very thankful, Professor Stalloid said yes.

 

“He didn’t want to kill me anymore,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

He pointed out they had been in the Clean and Pure Serenity Tong safe house for a few hours though Otto noted the leader of the tong didn’t seem to particularly like their presence there. Professor Stalloid said he was still going to go, either there or to the Six Companies. Otto finally agreed.

 

“So, we’re hunting demons, huh?†Joe said. “What kind of demons? The kind with pitchforks and …â€

 

“I was just pulling your leg, sir,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Oh, c’mon!†Joe said. “I like this guy!â€

 

“Well, I’ve seen quite a few characters on the road, quite a few … unexplained phenomena,†Gemma said.

 

“Like what?†Joe asked.

 

“The likes of which you’d have to see to believe.â€

 

“Like those thunderbirds?â€

 

“Tell him about that spooky ghost sheriff,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“The drifter,†Otto said.

 

Gemma told her friends the story of the drifter in Yellow Flats and Professor Stalloid signaled Otto and Clay they were going to sneak out. Unfortunately, Joe noticed and called to them, asking where they were going.

 

“Oh, we’re going to get weapons,†Professor Stalloid said. “You don’t seem to be armed.â€

 

“Oh,†Joe said.

 

He pointed towards Felicity.

 

“She has a weapon,†he said.

 

“Well, what about the other four?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Bring me a big gun!†Joe said.

 

He wanted a big buffalo rifle. He’d never shot one and wanted to try it, he said.

 

Johnny got Gemma’s attention.

 

“Are your friends trying to ditch us?†he whispered to her.

 

“Oh, they wouldn’t leave,†she said.

 

“They’re walking out the door right now,†Johnny said.

 

She quickly got up and went to talk to the others.

 

“Weapons?†she said. “What are you doing?â€

 

“We’re going to go confront the demon,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Oh!†she said.

 

“We don’t want to bring your friends,†Otto said.

 

“Certainly you jest,†Gemma said.

 

“I don’t want them to get hurt.â€

 

“Are you going …?â€

 

“We’re just going scouting.â€

 

“Are you going after those things again?â€

 

“Scouting. At least that’s what I’m going to do.â€

 

“Those creatures.â€

 

“We’re not going to go fight it.â€

 

“No,†Professor Stalloid said, realizing she was probably talking about the creatures on the train. “Much worse.â€

 

Her eyes opened wide.

 

“It disappears and reappears,†Otto said.

 

“My God!†Gemma said.

 

“I actually know this one somehow!†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“You’ll get yourself killed!†Gemma said.

 

“I saw it and I knew it and I don’t like that,†Professor Stalloid said. “And it knew me, somehow.â€

 

Johnny had called the waiter over and bought Joe another beer. He was also ordering food. He gave Gemma a nod when she looked at him. She went back over and took the beer from Joe, drank a sip, and put the beer back on the bar. Johnny rolled his eyes and she slipped out.

 

 

* * *

 

 


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