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The Doom That Came to Devil's Gulch Part 4 - Horror at Whiskey Mine




* * *




They returned to the Gilded Lily after having a light dinner at one of the restaurants. Bowen noted he had supplies to explore the cave. Jacali said she wanted to get the codger in trouble but didn't think they had a good route to do that yet as all they had were the kids' word against his. She didn't know how to get the codger in trouble without getting the children in trouble as well. She did remember there was a deputy who was not as a hard-ass as Marshal Bishop was. She had seen the man around and could always hear him coming because he had a nervous laugh that preceded him wherever he went, it seemed.


Jacali asked Lily if the deputy was a good person who could help them.


"He's a weirdo,"Lily said.


"He's a weirdo,"Jacali said.


"He laughs all the time!"


"Well "¦"


"If you're standing on the street, you know he's coming five minutes before he gets there because he's chuckling the whole time. It's so strange."


"Is that something he's always done?"


"As far as I know. I've only been living here a few months. He's a chuckler and when you talk to him, he doesn't. Otherwise, he's always got a weird, nervous laugh. But he's an alright fellow."


"But do you think he would be trustworthy to go get the codger with the kids more than the marshal."


"Oh yeah, the marshal will throw them in jail and then fine them. And they're all from poor families."


"I don't want to do that."


"I don't think Chubby will. Chubby is always trying to get the marshal to ease off on people."


Jacali thought it was a good idea to keep a watch on the Gilded Lily and to talk to the deputy. They talked about going to the cave and Dunspar, Ophelia, and Gemma said they'd stay and watch the saloon.


Dr. Weisswald asked Ophelia if she was not interested in the Crescent. The serpent person said she didn't know what it was. When Dr. Weisswald said it might be in the cave, she told the woman to bring it to her. When Weisswald said they didn't know if they could bring it back, Ophelia dismissed her abruptly.


Otto told them about his encounter with Pete Sutter.


"He talked about glowing machines that brought him back from the dead,"Otto said. "I think. That healed him."


"Pete Sutter's an interesting character, isn't he?"Jacali said.


"I played poker with him,"Bowen said.


"I have an idea but I don't really want it to be true,"Jacali said. "When the dream slugs - God, I need a better name for those - next time I talk to them I'll ask."


"Yithians,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"Yithians,"Otto said.


"We have a name!"Jacali said. "Next time I talk to the Yithians, I will ask them. The thing is, they told me there is another group that wanted the Crescent. I think of their kind. It "¦ makes me wonder if Pete Sutter is their connection to getting the Crescent. I mean, obviously, they've really chosen a "¦ a bad peach on that one."


She suddenly remembered the Secret Service men on the Sequoyah Star holding their hands almost like claws. Just like the claws on the Yithians in her strange dream.


"I don't think we should trust Pete Sutter,"Jacali said. "And I mean, I thought that before but now, it's justified. I don't think we should trust Pete Sutter."


"Well, no,"Otto said. "I don't think any of us did before this."


"And again, I didn't either. But I think he has some connection to Yithians about the horn."


"And I think they might be manipulating him."


"Yes. That sounds like─"


"Because he does not seem terribly bright and pretty easy to fool."



* * *




Jacali, Dr. Weisswald, Otto, and Bowen returned to the mine they had trespassed in before and found their way to the crevice. It looked like some work had been done in the area to facilitate getting down into the hole, but not much. They set Bowen's 700 yards of rope and flung it over the side. Then they climbed down carefully but found the pit was deeper than the rope could reach. They noticed wind seemed to come out of the hole for about 30 seconds and then stopped for some time before it blew into the hole for 30 seconds. It was almost as if something impossibly huge was breathing down there.


They noticed, just below the end of the rope on the opposite side of the hole was a large vein of gold. Bowen's eyes lit up. He thought about trying to get to it but it was just too far away.


They climbed back up, took their rope and stakes, and headed back to Devil's Gulch.


As they got close to town, they saw a figure coming from town heading south. They were not far from town when they saw it and Jacali suggested intercepting the man. They recognized the figure. He had a thick, black beard, shaded glasses, and pomaded hair. He wore a nice suit. They thought it was La Forge. He stopped when he saw them, a little startled.


"Hello stranger,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"Good "¦ evening,"La Forge said uneasily.


"Heading out of Devil's Gulch, I see,"Jacali said.


"Just taking a walk,"La Forge said. "A constitutional. To settle my stomach. I had a very late dinner."


"Oh, I probably have some medicine for that,"Dr. Weisswald said.


She rifled through her doctor's bag for some mint.


"Yes, it's best to be home at this hour,"Jacali said.


"It best is!"La Forge said.


"Why are you wearing those glasses?"Otto said.


"Are you bandits then?"La Forge said.


"No, we're not robbers,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"No, I don't fancy myself a bandit,"Jacali said.


"Most don't,"La Forge said.


"I'm not a thug,"Bowen said.


La Forge backed away from them nervously.


"Where are you from?"he said carefully.


"We are just passing through Devil's Gulch, staying for a bit,"Jacali said.


"Ah,"La Forge said. "I see. Very well."


He continued to back away from them. Dr. Weisswald had pulled out some mint. She handed it to the man and he tucked it into his pocket.


"Are you the man selling stocks?"Bowen said.


La Forge stopped backing up.


"Where did you hear that?"he said.


"All around town,"Bowen said. "Everybody's investin.'"




"Lots of people. Uh "¦"


"I'll be honest with you, there is some stock that is for sale. I've been trying to limit the sales to a very few."


He looked at them.


"Why is that?"Dr. Weisswald said.


"Because I don't want people to claim that I'm ripping them off,"La Forge said.


"Are you?"Otto said.


"Why would they claim that?"Dr. Weisswald said.


"Because I'm an out-of-towner,"La Forge said. "And I don't want to seem like a criminal. Now, I'm going to walk back to town. If you want to shoot me on the way, there's little I can do about it."


He backed away from them again.


They escorted him back to town, following him and making him various nervous. He went back to the Empire Hotel and he used his room key to open the front door and then lock it behind him.


Jacali suggested posting someone to see if he tried to leave again. Otto volunteered but asked for someone to watch with him so he didn't fall asleep again. Dr. Weisswald suggested he keep pacing to stay awake, noting that was what they did in the war.


Otto stayed behind the watch. The others returned to the Gilded Lily.



* * *




About a half hour later, the front door of the Empire Hotel opened and La Forge slipped out again, heading south. Otto followed him at a discreet distance. La Forge walked about five miles out of town and met with a fellow with a mustache and bushy eyebrows wearing a plaid suit. They conferred for a short time and then they headed to a mine entrance nearby. They went inside and, a moment later, he saw light coming from within. The light dimmed as they walked deeper into the mine.


Otto found a safe spot in some broken rocks about 20 yards away and watched. About a half hour later the men ran out of the mine shaft, throwing their lamps down behind them as they sprinted away, looks of horrors on their faces. Something was in the mine that stopped at the entrance. It appeared to be some kind of amorphous lump made of viscous black slime that changed its shape as it writhed in the mine entrance.


The two men kept running towards town and he soon lost sight of them. The strange shape disappeared back into the mine entrance and he saw the flames gradually subside.


He went back to town and found everyone at the Gilded Lily had gone to bed and the structure looked fine. He went to bed.



* * *




The early morning hours of Friday, August 20, 1875, were broken by a screams and a great cry and hue from the east side of town. The initial cries were painful screams soon followed by cries for help.


Bowen was woken up fast as he had pitched his tent over on that side of town, not far from where the screams originated. He grabbed his pickaxe and ran out to find the cries were coming from Dallas Avery's boarding house. He ran to the back of the house and found a woman on the stoop there retching on the ground in terror.


"It's horrible!"she cried when she saw the old prospector. "Don't go in there! Don't go in there! It's horrible! Help! Help! Murder! Murder!"


He ran in and found the door to the ground floor bedroom near the kitchen was wide open. In the light from a lantern in the kitchen he could see what looked like a skeleton on the bed. The sheets and mattress were wet with fresh blood. He thought he saw a little hole in the ceiling above.


He went by the room and headed up the stairs, passing a couple of men coming down. He went to Dallas' room and found it locked. He tried the other door on that side of the house but found it also locked.



* * *




Dunspar and Gemma Jones reached the house along with a few other townsfolk from nearby homes and businesses. Gemma consoled the woman by the back porch.


"It's the Widow Barrington!"she said. "She's dead! She's dead! Oh my God! I heard the noise! I heard her scream and then I looked. Oh, it was awful! It was awful!"


Dunspar went to the room and saw the bloody skeleton, all that was left of the Widow Barrington.


Marshal Bishop and Dr. Gibbs had arrived along with Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, and Otto. Everyone was terrified by the horrible sight.


"My God,"Marshal Bishop said.


Everyone looked up as they heard the sound of wood being smashed upstairs.


"What the hell?"Marshal Bishop said.


He headed up the steps.



* * *




Bowen struck the door a second time with his pickaxe and smashed the lock, knocking the door open. He peered in and could see, from the light from the hallway, that it looked like a typical room. The bed was unmade and a few clothes were scattered around the room. He moved to the other door when Marshal Bishop came up the stairs.


"What the hell are you doing?"Marshal Bishop said.


"There was a thing on the ceiling,"Bowen said.


"You stop what you're doing,"Marshal Bishop said, putting his hand on his pistol.


Bowen put down the pickaxe.


"Get downstairs!"Marshal Bishop said. "What's wrong with you? Pick that up!"


Once they were downstairs, he wanted to know what the hell Bowen was doing. Bowen told him about the hole in the ceiling, pointing it out. He said he was trying to see where it went to see if they could catch what did it. Marshal Bishop got a stepstool and got up near where the hole was.


"I wouldn't do that!"Bowen said.


Marshal Bishop held up a lantern and noted there was something, some space, between the ceiling and the floor. He climbed back down and found the Widow Barrington's keys. Then they went up to the other room upstairs and unlocked it. It didn't look like anyone was living there and someone mentioned Miles Nelson left the day before. Dr. Weisswald asked what he looked like but it wasn't the old codger. Bowen suggested prying up some of the floorboards and they retrieved crowbars and got to work on it. They found a loose floorboard that led to a spot under the floor. When Bowen went into Dallas' room, he found another loose floorboard that led to the same space. Within was a little bit of gunnysack or burlap that looked like it had been burnt. Bowen pocketed it.


"What the hell's that!?!"they heard a familiar voice. "Whoa! What happened to her!?!"


"Oh, hey Pete Sutter,"Bowen said. "Hey Marshal, this is Pete Sutter."


"That's right, I'm Pete Sutter!"Pete said.


Marshal Bishop didn't seem to care.


Otto took everyone aside and told them what he had seen at the mine south of town.


"Oh!"Jacali said. "That sounds where the Crescent might be at."


"Or something worse,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"You think the Crescent can spawn tentacles?"Otto said.


"Or something worse,"Jacali said. "Like Weisswald said."


Dallas Avery wandered back and seemed quite surprised at the crowd near the boarding house.


"Where were you, Dallas?"Dunspar asked.


"I was taking a walk,"Dallas said. "I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep."


"Where to?"


"I just took a walk outside of town. It's so hot. What is going on?"


Marshal Bishop took the man down to the jail to talk to him. When they asked about Miles Nelson, the other boarders said he left the day before with a suitcase. They were not sure how he left town or when, exactly. Dr. Weisswald examined Widow Barrington's mattress and realized, though there was not enough blood for a person, there was a lot. There were also chemical burns on the mattress unlike anything she had ever seen before.



* * *




They returned to the Gilded Lily and quietly discussed the horror in the boarding house. Jacali was of the opinion they should investigate the cave Otto had told them about. She thought there might be a connection between what Otto had seen and what had happened that night. They decided to question La Forge that day and then possibly explore the mine.



* * *




All of them except Bowen went to the Empire Hotel after they ate breakfast that next morning. Bowen waited on the porch. They learned from Farnsworth La Forge was eating breakfast in the dining room and they were welcome to wait for him. They went to the saloon and hung out at the bar until they saw him come out of the dining room. When La Forge saw Bowen, Dr. Weisswald, Otto, and Jacali, he was a little taken aback, obviously recognizing them from the night before.


"Yes?"he said as they approached him. "Can I help you people?"


"We need to talk in private,"Otto said.


"I don't know if I want to,"La Forge said.


He again looked over the four he had met late the night before.


"Well, sir, it's about "¦ it's about "¦"Jacali said. "It's about last night. Otto, here, knows the details probably better "¦"


"I saw you meet a man with a mustache,"Otto said. "You went to that cave south of town. I saw you run out. Something came out of the cave after you."


"What was that?"La Forge said.


"Well, I don't know."


"Was it a bear?"


"I don't know."


A few other people who came out of the dining room stopped, curious, to listen to the conversation. La Forge noticed them.


"Well,"he said. "What was it?"


"If you "¦ don't know what it is "¦ I'm not going to say,"Otto said. "I feel like that kind of defeats the purpose."




Otto just stared at him.


"Very well,"La Forge said. "I met with a geologist. I had one come to this area a week ago. And the man has told me this is a prime spot for gold and silver, possibly other precious metals. I and my associate, his name is Maxwell Barrow, he's staying outside of town to be discreet, but now that's over, we were examining some of the old abandoned mines when there was some kind of collapse. It frightened both of us quite badly. However, if I'm right, the gold that was not found here before still resides in the ground around Devil's Gulch, which could lead to a possible gold rush! I didn't want to loose any information until the facts were sure, but you forced my hand."


He looked over all of them.


"Is that all?"he said.


Otto looked at the others.


"I'm satisfied,"Otto said.


Jacali left.


Some of the people in the place were murmuring and they realized the rumors were going to spread like wildfire.


They all returned to the Gilded Lily and prepared to investigate the mine Otto had told them about.



* * *




Dunspar went to the bank where he withdrew the money he'd had wired to him. He returned to the Gilded Lily and gave $400 to Lily.


"I expect a kitchen next time I come,"he said.


She looked at him with fire in her eyes and shook her head.


"Not a loan,"he said. "Gift."


"No!"she said. "How dare you!?! You think I'm just a woman, I can't earn this money?"


"I know you can!"




"I just want food next time."


"I will not take charity. Take your money. Take your money."





* * *




Otto led them all to the abandoned mine some five miles south of town and they could see the mouth was blackened as well as some of the massive supports. They didn't think the damage was enough to weaken them, however. The cave went back and headed downward at a steep angle. Gemma told them the rumors she had heard about the Whiskey Mine, in which men had heard strange noises and had to take a drink before they entered to work up their courage.


Bowen took a swig of whiskey and offered it around.


They entered the place and found it well-built. There was no sign of a collapse near the entrance. The roof was held by solid supports. The main shaft ran back at least a half mile and they explored for 20 minutes or so, the feel of the entire world above their heads weighing heavily upon them. The few side passages didn't go very far.


Finally, it came into the upper side of another tunnel that went nearly perpendicular to it where they met. This tunnel was of worked stone of strange manufacture. Hexagonal-shaped stones fitted perfectly into each other formed the floor, walls and ceiling. To the right, the worked tunnel went only a little ways before it had collapsed. To the left, it went into the darkness.


They followed the tunnel only a hundred feet or so before they came to a large room at the end. The room was about 50 feet across and, in their lantern light, they could see a huge basalt statue of a horrific, toad-like creature. It felt like infinite slothfulness and had eyes that appeared to be two slits of oozing blackness in the black, browless face. It had a fat, furry body and bat-like ears. The mouth was wide and the eyes half-closed as if sleepy. They seemed very deep. It also had a ruby mounted in the center of its chest.


On either side of the statue was a deep, bronze brazier. Strange-shaped, long cuts in the floor were very black, almost as if they were filled with darkness. The odd troughs seemed to be oddly and randomly shaped.


Ophelia gasped and looked around nervously.


"We should leave now,"she said.


"Why?"Otto said.


"We "¦ should "¦ leave "¦ now "¦"she said quietly as she backed up the tunnel.


"I'm with her!"Dunspar said.


"I'll need some more exposition on that,"Jacali said.


The serpent person had gone pale despite the fact that her human form was just some kind of magical disguise. Both Dunspar and Bowen were moving back down the tunnel.


Otto, Jacali, Dr. Weisswald, and Gemma stood in the entrance to the terrible chamber.


"What is this?"Gemma said. "What is this?"


Even those who were in the entrance began to back out when some kind of horrible, oozing blackness came out of one of the troughs.


"Run!"Ophelia said.


Gemma turned to run and then she went white and her eyes rolled back up into her head as she collapsed in a faint. Bowen, a little further up the corridor, had the misfortune of looking back and then screamed and ran down the corridor at a sprint, laughing insanely. Jacali, also stunned by the sight of the horrors suddenly dropped her bow and arrow as her arms went limp and she couldn't feel them. She looked at Gemma.


"Uh!"she said, unable to reach down to grab the woman or her bow.


Ophelia turned and ran away. Otto picked up Gemma and flung her over his shoulder, turning and running away as well. Dunspar ran forward and grabbed Jacali's bow before he turned and ran away.


"I'd be very mad at you if I could move my arms!"she shouted at the man. "Weisswald, I have polio! Help me! Help me!"


She ran away as well.


Whatever the thing was, it came out of the trough. It seemed to be a black, horrific ooze, a viscous black slime. Thos who had not yet fled saw it form a hand, and a blade, and a corkscrew-looking appendage from its bulk. Dr. Weisswald saw something come out of the other three troughs and then huge versions of the things come out of the great braziers before she turned to run. They moved unnaturally quickly, much faster than any of them.


Otto felt Gemma stir on his shoulder as the woman regained consciousness.


"Hey!"she muttered. "What's happening?"


"Not enough time!"Otto said. "We're moving!"


Gemma looked up and saw the others following them and something moving in the room behind them.


In the rear, Weisswald looked back and saw the horrors were quickly catching up to her. She knew she could not outrun them. She flung her lantern down onto the stone floor behind her and the lantern shattered and broke as kerosene came out and sprayed over the floor, quickly catching fire. She didn't look back.


They fled, following the dim light of the madly-laughing Jerimiah Bowen who led their escape. They ran as hard as they could and didn't stop until they reached the entrance to the Whiskey Mine. Otto had to put Gemma down as they were falling behind. They ran together after that until they reached the entrance. By the time they got there, Jacali had the use of her arms once again and Bowen had stopped laughing insanely.


Both Jacali and Gemma got sick.


"The good news is, I don't have Polio anymore,"Jacali said.


"Keep going!"Otto said.


Ophelia didn't stop at the mine entrance but jogged at least another mile away. She finally stopped and looked back as if expecting pursuit.


"That was a statue of Tsathoggua and those were formless spawn,"she said. "They don't seem to like fire."


She looked at Otto's rifle.


"That's useless,"she said.


"I figured,"he said.


"I think we should collapse that mine,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"Yeah,"Dunspar said.


"It won't matter,"Ophelia said. "They can get through a hole the size of a pin. They are literally living liquid. Not as bad as shoggoths, but they are awful."


"What's a shoggoth?"Jacali said.


"Yeah,"Gemma said.


"What should we do then?"Dr. Weisswald said.


"There is the locomotive,"Ophelia said.


"Well "¦"Jacali said.


"I've only heard tales of these things,"Ophelia said. "I've never seen them before."


"Do we think that thing is what killed "¦?"Jacali said.


"People think there's a gold rush in this town,"Dr. Weisswald said. "We have to stop it."


"Yeah,"Jacali said.


"What killed what?"Ophelia said.


They told her about the death of Widow Barrington.


"Yes, that's the way that they kill their prey,"she said. "They strip the body of its flesh."


"Did they cause the fire?"Bowen said.


"How do we stop them, then?"Jacali said.


"They are acidic, somewhat,"Ophelia said. "I do not know."


Dr. Weisswald suggested the burlap sack might have held one. Ophelia didn't think so, noting the things were intelligent and malicious. The burns might have been related but it wouldn't have been kept in a burlap sack.


"They are horrific,"she said. "They protect the temples. They've worshipped Tsathoggua. They've been around for as long as I know. My people avoid the formless spawn and Tsathoggua, an elder god."


"Maybe something stole something from the temple and they had put it in that sack because they were trying to escape with it and hid it under the floorboards,"Bowen muttered.


"You think the window had it?"Jacali said.




"Oh, you said the floorboards."


"And the thing came and killed her and reached up through the ceiling and that's why the hole's there and went and grabbed it back."


"But then nobody else saw anything coming in, that we know of."


"And then it retreated back into the ground."


"It doesn't go through the ground,"Ophelia said. "It usually travels on the surface."


"Oh,"Bowen said.


They realized the statue had a ruby and the eyes had been really deep, as if they had something in them too.


"We need to find the other ones,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"So we need to go through the whole town and figure out─"Jacali said.


"Well, I have an idea,"Otto said.


"Yeah?"Jacali said.


"What about La Forge?"Otto said. "He and that other man were there. There were two of them. There were two eye sockets."


"Maybe the bit of money Dallas has came into was from selling them two gems,"Bowen said.


"It could be as well,"Otto said. "Maybe he sold them to La Forge."


"Well, La Forge and his partner were the only people who knew about this place,"Jacali said.


"And they were being chased by them last night,"Otto said.


"Let's go talk to La Forge,"Dr. Weisswald said.


"I think it was Dallas!"Bowen said.


They returned to town and found the people there nervous. They were obviously excited about the rumor of gold but were very nervous about the weird death of Widow Barrington. Rumors were flying through town and they heard some people wonder aloud if the half-Sioux in the gypsy wagon outside of town had anything to do with it. There as a rumor of some kind of insane murderer in town or perhaps some kind of disease that killed Widow Barrington. Dr. Weisswald tried to nip that one in the bud but the rumors were moving faster than the truth could keep up. Everyone had a theory.


"Maybe instead of confronting La Forge, we could convince the telegraph man to let us look at what telegraphs he's been sending,"Otto said.


"I mean, I don't know if we have the authority to do that,"Jacali said. "It's very illegal."


"I know,"Otto said.


They stood on the porch of the Gilded Lily and discussed how to proceed. Otto suggested they confront La Forge on his nightly walk but it was quickly pointed out they didn't know if he went every night and no one thought he would return to the Whiskey Mine. As they talked, one of the boys who had vandalized the saloon walked up.


"We ain't seen the old codger,"he told them. "We've been looking for him."


Then he was off.


Bowen wanted to distract the telegraph man and noted it was just a two person job and should be easy. Jacali thought if they contacted La Forge, Gemma might be the best person to do so.


"Are you up for that, Gemma?"Jacali said.


"Yeah,"Gemma said.


"What about the telegrams?"Bowen said.


Neither Jacali nor Dunspar liked the idea of that. Bowen pointed out they might get something that could be used as leverage in the conversation. Jacali didn't think it could be helpful in that regard either. Bowen noted he needed two people to go for the telegraph so that one could make a distraction while the other one stole the paperwork. He pointed out he just needed someone to make a distraction.


"I'll get Pete Sutter to make a distraction!"he said.


He left.


Gemma wanted to know the exact plan for dealing with La Forge. Jacali pointed out they could wait until Bowen got the information from the telegraph office to see if they could use any of it for leverage. However, she also noted if too much time passed, she felt they should go ahead and go anyway and talk to La Forge. She said they might not need to go up in a huge group and she thought it should just be her.


"What would you like to know?"Gemma asked.


"We need to know if they took a ruby,"Jacali said. "And where it is. I guess. This is open to everybody."


"Simply threaten him,"Ophelia said. "With death. Until he tells you the truth. I don't understand the problem."


"Typically that's not how humans work most of the time,"Gemma said.


"It's been the way I've seen you work so far,"Ophelia said.


"I don't know,"Jacali said. "We need to know if he has the ruby and where it is and if he'll give it to us."



* * *




Bowen found Pete Sutter and offered him $20 to make a distraction.


"Fifty!"Pete said.


"Twenty,"Bowen said.


Pete wanted to know what kind of distraction the old coot wanted. He didn't want to go to jail.


"A good one,"Bowen said. "A Pete Sutter original."


"Hm,"Pete said. "I like the sound of that. You pay me in advance."


They walked to the station and cased the place. The telegraph office was in the back of the building, facing away from Devil's Gulch. It was somewhat isolated but it was also connected via an archway to the teller's booth, meaning they had to distract both Shamus O'Gara, the telegraph operator, and Old Zeke Pratt, the ticket seller.


"It's gonna cost you double "˜cause I gotta distract two people,"Pete said.


"You're distracting both?"Bowen said.


"I'll distract both. You want me to rob "˜em too?"


"I mean, I might be."


Bowen agreed to pay the man an extra $10. Pete thought for a few minutes about what kind of distraction would be best. Then he went to talk to Old Zeke.


"I overheard there's some bandits,"he told the old man. "They're gonna crash the train by putting a boulder on the track. You should go tell the marshal! Yeah. You should go!"


Old Zeke didn't seem to believe him at all. Pete grabbed him by the lapels of his vest.


"You're gonna lose a train!"he shouted at the man.


Then he tried to pick the man's pocket and get the keys but Old Zeke saw him and, though Pete got the keys, it was not without its own problem.


"You!"Old Zeke cried out. "There's a thief! Thief! You're a thief!"


Pete gave the old man a shove and then ran away. The old man leapt over the ticket booth and gave chase but he was quite slow.


"Shamus, help me!"he screamed. "He's gonna get away!"


Shamus O'Gara ran out of the door to the ticket booth in pursuit of Pete while Old Zeke followed, more slowly, shaking his fist at the man.


Once they left the building, Bowen slipped into the telegraph office and started looking quickly for the telegraphs sent and received. He soon found a file labeled "La Forge."It seemed to have all of his correspondences. He went to the teller window and opened the register, taking a handful of cash, before he fled.



* * *




Bowen arrived at the Gilded Lily with a folder with La Forge's name on it. They took an hour to look over the papers together as there was no one else in the saloon that late morning. Most all of it seemed to be harmless correspondence though some seemed to indicate some kind of competition between the managers at R.H. Macy and Co. There was nothing about gold. A few telegrams asked for more stock certificates to be sent as many people wanted to invest. A couple of telegrams didn't make any real sense to them. One read "Do not forget to inform J about the situation referred to earlier."Another was just a list of 20 words sent August 11. The reply to that was "Proceed I am in route"which was received on Aug. 12.


"All right, well "¦ I guess it's time for the plan to contact La Forge, right?"Jacali said.


Gemma nodded.


Dallas had shown up at the Gilded Lily for his lesson from Dunspar while they looked over the papers. He took the cowboy aside.


"They're studying too?"Dallas said.


"Uh "¦"Dunspar said.


"What're they studying?"


"They're trying to gather some information on a new topic?"




"Code breaking!"Bowen called.


"Yeah, code breaking,"Dunspar said.


"Oh,"Dallas said. "That sounds interesting. How do you do that?"


"Well, it's a bunch of secret words that─"


"Well, I know what a code is."




"How do you learn how to break a code?"


"Um "¦ you basically learn what certain words mean for other words. That type of thing."


"Oh. Can you teach me that?"


"Unfortunately, I am not skilled in that."


"Oh, okay. I understand teacher."


Dunspar took the young man to the other side of the room.


"Do we ask him about the hole in his room?"Bowen said.


"I don't know,"Jacali said.


They discussed whether or not to question Dallas. They also planned who would go with Gemma. She thought Otto should come with her as he was the one who saw the men in the desert initially. He noted he could be somewhere nearby in case she needed him. She decided she would go alone with Otto somewhere nearby. They left the building.


The others talked about whether or not to talk to Dallas about the hiding spot under his room.



* * *


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