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The Doom That Came to Devil's Gulch Part 3 - In Pursuit of Vandals




* * *




Jacali and Dr. Weisswald went to the jail to talk to the Marshal and asked him if he knew anything about the Bar-T Ranch. Marshal Bishop seemed a little leery about Jacali. Though she asked him the question, he talked to Dr. Weisswald when he answered. He told her the Bar-T was owned by Melville Watts whose son sometimes came into town and caused trouble. He never stayed in jail for long because his father paid off any problems he had caused so the owner wouldn't press charges. He noted they didn't come in often, every couple weeks or a month, and he didn't like seeing them come into town but there was little he could do about it.


"Do you know anything about the windows being broken at the Gilded Lily?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"Miss Jones has reported it," he said. "She came in this morning and reported some broken windows and some paint. She reported it yesterday as well. I looked into it as much as I can. I haven't found anything out, anyone specifically doing it. Maybe it's some kids. But "¦ there's not been anybody "¦ I don't have any suspects yet. At least not amongst adults."


"Thank you."


"You're welcome."


They left and went to the general store next, asking Mabry there about people buying lately.


"Everybody's buying paint," he said. "People are painting up the town because, when we get the new courthouse, we're expecting an influx of visitors. Not to mention we won't have to use the circuit judge anymore because we'll have a judge right here that comes and sees cases every day."


He thought a moment.


"Some other fella was in here asking about that too," he said.


"Who asked about it?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"Some stranger," Mabry said. "Had a long beard, long hair, was dressed real nice."


They looked at each other.


"Oh," Jacali said. "Do you mind telling us who has purchased paint lately."


"Everybody," he said.


"Literally everyone," Jacali said.


He told them people were painting their houses and businesses and getting the town spruced up.


"Here's the thing," Mabry said to them confidentially. "They're trying to impress Mr. Macy because if we can get the store and distribution center in this town, that'll put us on the map. Not to mention the courthouse. Now, just between you and me? That Mr. La Forge, he's been allowing people to buy shares of stock! He told me, he said he didn't tell anybody else in town. So shush. Don't tell anybody "˜cause I don't want people upset that I bought $500 worth of stock from him because I expect it to skyrocket."


Jacali and Dr. Weisswald looked at each other.


"How well do you know these people who are selling you these things?" Jacali said.


"Well," Mabry said slowly. "Silas Finch, he's the barber, he was the one who started the whole story because he found out from Shamus O'Gara, the telegraph operator, about some of the telegraphs that were being sent. Now, that's not strictly legal but, when they found out they weren't really that upset. Turns out they're going to put a store here and he was willing to sell me some stock when I asked how to get in on the ground floor. So he told me not to tell anybody. And Finch was the one who brought up the whole courthouse thing, because if they made this the county seat - because Middle Kiowa doesn't even have - it doesn't even have a train station - there's no train that runs there. There's nothing. This would be a much better place. We're the center of the county! Anyway, so that's who's doing it. Mr. La Forge, he's staying at the hotel, he's been here for a few weeks."


"Are you aware he also sold stock to Miss Jones?" Dr. Weisswald asked.


"No, I didn't know that," Mabry said. "Well, she's "¦ she's "¦ she's "¦"


He thought on that.


"Well, maybe he just doesn't want word to get out," he finally said. "Maybe he's just selling to a few of us, a few particular ones. Miss Jones seems really nice. I really like her place. I don't get over there very much but I like it."


"But this county seat business, the only word you've heard about it from people saying that the telegrams have been intercepted?" Jacali said.


"Well, they sent telegrams to New York City."


"But how did you find out about the telegrams?"


"From Shamus. The telegraph operator. Our telegraph operator. Up at the train station."




"Like I said, he was a little upset. You're not supposed to give that information out but "¦ once the news was out, he seemed okay with it. He said it couldn't do any harm."


"Do you know anybody who's unhappy with this county seat business?"


"Nobody in town. We're looking forward to getting the county seat here. Once we get the courthouse built, how can they say "˜no?' Middle Kiowa doesn't have a courthouse."


"So, they're building the courthouse currently?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"Not yet," Mabry said.


He told them they were building it on the south side of town and they remembered seeing a great deal of lumber, brick, and concrete among the other construction supplies there.


"Mr. La Forge has been arranging for all the supplies," Mabry said. "And you can go to town hall. They got the blueprints at the town hall, up on the wall. It's going to be beautiful!"


"We should find out if anyone else has this "¦ stock," Dr. Weisswald said to Jacali.


"Uh-huh," Jacali said.


"Who would also buy stock?"


"The heads of the saloons?"


"The bankers?"



* * *




Bowen saw Dallas leave the boarding house later that morning. He had eliminated the two left side rooms of the house by then as being Dallas'. He guessed the bedroom he suspected downstairs probably belonged to the Widow Barrington.


He went into the boarding house and saw a woman downstairs in the parlor, reading a book. She looked up as he came in, looked back down at her book, and then looked up again with a frown as he mounted the stairs. He knocked on one of the rooms on the right, where he thought Dallas might live. There was no answer so he went to the other one and knocked. There was no answer there either.


He knocked on one of the left hand rooms but guessed they might have left for the day.


He went to the blacksmith shop to have Levi Kerns make metal stakes and also bought 700 yards of rope.



* * *




Dunspar went to the bank and arranged to have money wired to him. Then he went back to the hotel to wait for Dallas for the teaching lesson. He taught him about the atmosphere first, and how it was made of chemicals. The two men actually had a lot of fun together and Dallas even treated the man to lunch. He asked if Dunspar wanted any money for the teaching he was giving him.


Dunspar read The Mysteries of the Worm the rest of the day.



* * *




Dr. Weisswald and Jacali stopped at the Doctor's Office in town. The sign out front read "Doctor Miles Gibbs, M.D." The building was obviously a house converted into a doctor's office. They let themselves into the office where the front parlor would normally be. A small, potbelly stove sat in one corner. There was a bed and a roll-top desk in the room. A bookshelf next to the desk held many volumes of books, probably medical journals. A skeleton hung in one corner.


"What's the trouble?" Doctor Gibbs asked.


He had a strong Midwestern accent.


"Oh, no trouble," Dr. Weisswald said. "Exploring the town a bit."


"All righty," he said.


"Is there "¦ the town seems bustling lately though," Dr. Weisswald said.


He told them the same thing they'd heard before: a new courthouse might be coming in, there was a store and distribution center for R.H. Macy and Company possibly coming in, and people were very excited about it. She asked if there was anything he was doing to expand his practice and he said he wasn't, though he was putting a fresh coat of paint on the house and tidying it up. He figured people would start moving there once the courthouse was built so he wanted his place to be a little more presentable.


When Jacali asked about the Bar-T Ranch, Dr. Gibbs told her pretty much the same the Marshal had. They asked him about Dallas and he didn't know much about him except that he hadn't been in town very long.


They went to the Bull's Head Saloon and found Pete Sutter there. He saw them and glared at them.


"Have you ever heard of a man named Dallas Avery?" Jacali asked him.


"No," Pete said. "What a stupid name! That's the dumbest damned name I ever heard in my life!"


"What about Jack West?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"That's pretty stupid too," Pete said. "It's obviously a fake!"


"Have you heard anything about the Bar-T Ranch?" Jacali asked.


"I hear they've got a pretty sweet operation," Pete said. "Pretty much run the whole county. They can come in, do whatever they want, and their daddy just pays "˜em off."


They talked to other people around the saloon about Dallas, La Forge, and the Bart-T Ranch. No one knew Dallas at all and La Forge wasn't seen a lot as he spent all his time in his room at the Empire Hotel. They learned he went to the telegraph office once or twice a day though, sending telegrams to New York City. They were scheduled to start construction of the county courthouse in a few days.


They asked about Patrick Mills but no one knew about him. When they asked around town, they learned he was a clerk who worked for Bob Smith at the hardware store. He was a nice enough fellow though kind of dull. He was courting Lily Jones before Dallas Avery came to town. Then Dallas swept her off her feet.


"And he's so handsome and so sweet and comes in here and gives candy to the children," one woman they talked to said of Dallas. "He's perfect."


They went to the Empire Hotel and asked the same questions, learning mostly the same thing. They learned La Forge was staying there. They learned the same thing about the expansion of the town but there, Farnsworth told them he heard they were going to put stores all along the railroad and were putting stores in everywhere. Thus, anyone who wanted goods from R.H. Macy and Co. would be able to get them easily. It was a genius idea that would pay off in spades for the company.


"Don't you think it's a little dangerous to expand so quickly?" Dr. Weisswald asked.


He didn't know but he understood Macy was rich and could afford it. The man already reputedly had four stores in New York City alone. Farnsworth said he checked on that and found that to be true.


They went to the hardware store and saw Patrick Mills when they entered. When he saw them, he blushed, looked embarrassed, and went into the back. They talked to Bob Smith a little bit. He said they were doing record business with sales of everything needed to make repairs and fix up people's homes and businesses. He was very excited to see the courthouse go up in a few days.


They asked him about La Forge and he told them he didn't know the man. He told them Silas Finch, the barber, had told him everything about the county seat and the courthouse. He had heard of La Forge but only knew he was an investor or something from New York City.


"We would like to speak to your employee, Patrick," Dr. Weisswald said.


"Oh," Smith said. "Okay. Patrick, there's some people want to see you!"


Patrick Mills came out of the back room looking like a dog who'd been caught and was obviously embarrassed.


"Can I help you folks?" he said quietly.


"We want to hear more about what you said last night," Dr. Weisswald said.


"Uh "¦ well "¦ I-I-I "¦ I don't know," he said. "Obviously I must be mistaken. I just "¦ I feel like "¦ something ain't right."


"Do you have any solid information that we could investigate?" Jacali said.


"No," Mills admitted. "No. I don't have any solid information. I'll be honest, I was courting Lily before Dallas came and "¦ uh "¦ and he swept her off her feet and then she kind of forgot about me. And "¦ maybe I'm just being jealous. But just something doesn't seem quite right. He seems too perfect. How can anybody be everything to everybody?"


"You wouldn't happen to know about any of the trouble Miss Lily's been lately with people throwing rocks and such?"


"I've been hearing about it. I've been hearing about them breaking glass. I went out there a couple nights ago, as late as I could stay up to kind of keep an eye out and nothing happened. There was nothing by the next day either. I was hoping it was just a one-time thing. Something threw some paint or something, I heard? Word around town is. I feel real bad for her. Some of the saloon owners are probably behind it. Well, maybe not Mr. Farnsworth. I don't know. I don't know. I shouldn't be spreading rumors."


"Do you know where Dallas is staying?" Dr. Weisswald asked.


"No," Mills said. "I understand "¦ I heard he's in one of the boarding houses over on the east side of town."


"Well, what you were saying about the saloon owners, any information that would help Lily "¦" Jacali said.


"It's just a guess," Mills said. "Buck at the Bull's Head, he's not a friendly fellow. I could see him being behind it."


"You think he could be the kind of person who wants to do dirty business like that?"


"Yeah. I would think so. I don't know if he would. He's the kind of person who could. So "¦"


Mills was obviously very embarrassed about the entire situation.


"I'm sorry I bothered you folks last night," he said. "Lily won't listen to me so I was hoping her sister "¦"


Dr. Weisswald put her hand on his shoulder.


"We'll look into it," she said.


He thanked her quietly and they left.



* * *




At the Gilded Lily, a few tarps had been thrown down over the floor where the paint had been splashed. They wouldn't be able to paint over it until it dried so that was being left for the next day. They had a nice evening there once again. There was a great show with Gemma singing again.


They all exchanged information after that as they sat at a table in the saloon. Dr. Weisswald suggested a plan for that night and the next day. Jacali was all for all of them watching the Gilded Lily that night. Dunspar noted he had insomnia so it was easy for him to stay up. Otto quipped he could slap him if he fell asleep again.


Jacali asked Otto if, the next day, he could give basic gun lessons to Ophelia. Otto agreed though he took Jacali aside to talk to her for a moment, pointing at his scar. Once he was out of earshot, he told her his real concern.


"You sure you want me to teach that snake person how to shoot a gun?" he said.


"Well, I mean, she's got to know how to defend herself somehow," Jacali said. "And she doesn't really express an interest in learning how to use my bow and arrow."


"But she could kill us. Or you."


"Well, Otto, any one of us with a gun could kill us."


"Yes, but she's probably more likely to kill us. She does not seem to like any of us."


"Well, I don't think she likes us any less than she likes anyone else in this town, or in this world basically."


"I just feel like it's a bad idea but if you want me, I'll do it for you. I do owe you."


"Well, I mean, keep in mind, Otto, that whatever feelings she has for us, we did save her life and we did get her "¦ a way to blend in to normal society."


"She thinks we're primates. And just because you save someone doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to help you."


"Not necessarily but, for any other person."


"I'll take her out to shoot my rifle tomorrow."


"You don't have to give her a gun, but I think it would be good for her to know how to use one and I have a feeling that this may get us more information about her time and about the things that she knows if we are able to help her in this way."




"So I think it "¦ I know you have your worries about it and, if something does go wrong─"


"I'd like someone to be with me."


"─it can be on me. Yes, I can be with you."



* * *




"So, what did you make of this last night?" Ophelia asked Gemma. "Taking apart a gun at the table?"


"What do you mean?" Gemma asked.


"When these two men took guns apart," Ophelia said. "That one and the one over there."


She pointed at Dunspar and Otto.


"Just "¦ being men," Gemma said.


Ophelia gave her a cool look.


"You will soon "¦ understand "¦ men do things for "¦ no reason at all," Gemma said.


"So, they're stupid," Ophelia said.


"I "¦ I did not say that," Gemma said. "Men do things for strange reasons. I don't. I'm not married."




"I'm not in a relationship."



* * *




Jacali brought up Dallas and making sure his story was okay at some point.


"Seems like a good guy to me," Dunspar said.


"I haven't heard anything bad about him, only that he's too perfect," Jacali said.


"True," Gemma said.


"I would say it couldn't hurt but "¦ it could hurt "¦ if he finds out," Jacali said. "I don't know if he's the prime suspect but "¦ I mean "¦ it is interesting."


"A suspect for what?" Gemma said.


"I'll keep watch on Dallas," Bowen said.


"What is he suspected of?" Dunspar said.


"It is possible he might be the one throwing the rocks," Dr. Weisswald said.


"I mean, if what Patrick said was true and that he was "¦ doing something bad and, admittedly, I don't think it's very likely, I think it would be good to cover our bases on it," Jacali said. "And make sure that's not what it is because, I think allowing it to slip under our gaze would be worse than him knowing we were worried about him and having to make it up to him."


Jacali also talked about their distress call of yelling out one's favorite berry. The berry was also a code word if someone needed help while talking to someone.



* * *




They set up a watch on the saloon that night. Jacali watched from near the photographer's shop nearby. Dunspar and Otto watched from the balcony over the front porch. Bowen planned to watch from the back of the building. Dr. Weisswald, Ophelia, and Gemma all stayed in the saloon proper, waiting in the dark.


"Do you want these people alive?" Ophelia asked Dr. Weisswald as they watched.


"The people throwing rocks?" Dr. Weisswald said.




"For now."


"I'd say that's optional," Gemma said.


"So, how old are you?" Dr. Weisswald asked Ophelia.


"Optional," Ophelia said.


Dr. Weisswald talked about how the year worked and how long humans lived. Ophelia understood the passing of a year but they didn't keep careful track of their births. Dr. Weisswald guessed the snake person was in her 30s perhaps.


"How long had you been studying humans?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"Six months before we were going to punch through and take over the world," Ophelia said.



* * *




It was in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 19, 1875, when Ophelia perked up. Gemma thought she heard something but moved to the front door and cracked it open to hear better.


"Get back," Dr. Weisswald whispered to the girl.


Gemma peeked out of the crack between the doors and saw four people out there with bandanas over their faces. They had stopped near the photographer. Then they all heard someone walking up on the balcony.



* * *




Outside, Jacali and Dunspar saw four people moving towards the front of the Gilded Lily from one of the nearby alleys. They suddenly stopped and stared at the front of the establishment for some time.


On the balcony, Dunspar moved over to Otto, and tapped him on the shoulder, waking him.


The four people started to creep back to the alley between the photographer and the hardware store. They moved very slowly and quietly. They stopped at the alley not far from Jacali and had a hushed discussion. She could overhear them.


"Are you sure the door's open?" one of them said.


"Maybe it was open the whole time," another said.


"I thought I saw it open," another said.


Jacali looked towards the front and thought she could make out the front doors open just a crack behind the batwing doors.


"Should we go back or should we get outta here?" one said.


"I think we should get outta here," another said.


"No, you're crazy."


"Hold on, just wait."


"Nobody came out."


"No, nobody's come out."




They watched the front of the saloon for a few moments.


"Okay "¦ go!" one of them said.


They ran towards the front of the saloon and then stopped just short of the building and started chucking rocks at the windows. Gemma Jones burst out of the front doors as Otto fired a warning shot into the air.


"****!" someone yelled.


They all turned and ran away but slowed when they saw Jacali come out of the shadows by the hardware store. Then they ran right at the girl, turning just short of her and running back into the alley where they'd talked before. Jacali shot one of them in the right hand. The person screamed but they kept running.


They all ducked into the alley, Gemma on their heels. Dunspar leapt down from the balcony and also gave chase.


"Fresh meat!" Ophelia said just before she and Weisswald ran out after the culprits.


The vandals ran down the alley and headed for a fence between the Empire Hotel and another building. They were gaining ground on Gemma, Ophelia, and Dr. Weisswald. They reached the fence and the one with the arrow in his hand scrabbled over. The other three struggled to climb the fence. Dunspar rushed them. Jacali pulled back on the bow and shot at one of the ones struggling to get over the fence, hitting him in the upper thigh of the left leg and he shrieked, dropped off the fence, and crashed to the ground.


Gemma Jones and Dr. Weisswald came around the corner of the photographer.


"They got injuns!" one of vandals yelled.


"They're gonna kill us!" the other cried out.


They scuttled up and over the fence. Dunspar knelt at the edge of the fence and held his hands together, offering a leg up to anyone who wanted it. Jacali ran to the next alley up to avoid the fence, going around the side of the building.


Gemma ran to Dunspar and he helped her up and over the fence. She dropped over the other side and saw the vandals ahead.



* * *




Weisswald stopped at the injured person and performed first aid on his injured leg. She broke the arrow and pulled it out, then bandaged up his leg. Ophelia looked down at the person.


"I'll take care of him," she said calmly.


"Chase after the rest!" Dr. Weisswald said.


Ophelia sighed and then leapt at Dunspar, taking his leg up but not really needing it.


"Do you need me here?" Dunspar said.


"Not really," Dr. Weisswald said.


He struggled to get over the fence.



* * *




The person with the arrow in his hand had run to the t-intersection at the end of the alley and was trying to crash by the garbage there. Jacali moved past the next building and saw them struggling to get around the junk that had been abandoned in the alley. The person with the arrow in his hand got by and ran towards her but hadn't she'd seen her yet.


She stepped out from behind the building and readied an arrow to shoot him.


"Don't do it!" she said.


The person ran at her, his left arm in front of his face. He leapt at the end of rush, going low, and hit the ground too soon, sliding towards her but stopping just short of her. He had apparently been trying to leapt between her legs to make his escape. He screamed as the hand that had the arrow in it rubbed along the ground.


"Ow!" he cried out. "Ow! It hurts so bad!"


"I told you to stop," Jacali said. "Sorry."


It sounded like the vandal was crying as he lay there, splayed out on his face.


She looked up in time to see the other two running the other direction down the alley towards the Empire Hotel. She moved to the vandal's side and put a foot on his back to keep him down.


"No!" the man cried out. "We didn't mean nothing by it. We didn't mean nothing by it."



* * *




Dr. Weisswald offered Dunspar a leg up and he was up and over the top of the fence. He ran down the alley and caught up with Gemma. Ophelia had passed the woman already and was almost up where all the trash was clogging the alley. Ophelia and Gemma reached the junk and couldn't get by it, there was so much.


"To your left!" Jacali shouted.


Ophelia tried to get by the junk but the more she moved out of the way, the more that fell into the way. Dunspar made it through and headed down the alley to the left after the vandals.



* * *




Bowen ran to where Dr. Weisswald was tending to the injured man. He sat down, tired.



* * *




Dunspar turned a corner in the alley and saw there was a very muddy spot at the end of it before it opened out into the street again. The other two vandals had made it past the mud and headed out into the street. He followed, leaping over the muddy spot. He ran after the two, who ran into the darkness of the badlands.


He followed, yelling "Blackberry!"


The two split up just before Dunspar lost sight of them. He turned and headed back.



* * *




"What is this stuff!?!" Ophelia yelled as she started smashing the various junk in the alley, trying to get by.


Lights started to come on in the buildings around them as Gemma tried to get past the junk. Eventually Ophelia made it past the junk and ran down the alley. Gemma got her foot caught in some of the debris.



* * *




Otto, who had gotten down from the balcony by the inside stairs, reached the porch of the Gilded Lily and thought he heard someone yell "Blackberry!" It sounded very far away.



* * *




Gemma gave up and headed back, disgusted by the amount of junk in the alley. Jacali flagged her down and asked for help. She made her way through the junk to the other woman and her prisoner.



* * *




They took the two people back to the Gilded Lily where two window panes were broken. One was still unconscious and the other cried and held out the hand with the arrow in it. Dr. Weisswald saw to the injured hand, breaking the arrow in half and then bandaging the hand up.


When they removed the bandanas from the two, they found they were both 12-year-old boys. One was crying from the wounded hand and his scraped up face and chest. The other eventually came to with Dr. Weisswald's camphor. The boy refused to cry. The crying boy refused to look at Jacali. Both looked terrified.


"We didn't mean nothing," one said.


"What are you names?" Dr. Weisswald said.


They gave their names as Jack Thompson and Eric Hutton.


"And-and who are the other two boys?" Dunspar said.


The two just looked him.


"Why would you do this!?!" Gemma said.


"The old man told us to," Brad said.


"What old man?"


"He gave us 50 cents. He said it was a joke."


"This isn't a joke!"


"The old man, he had a beard and he had a cane and he paid us 50 cents earlier this week and then "¦ and then he paid us 50 cents and we broke "¦ and the paint "¦ and then "¦ he paid us 50 cents tonight. He was going into the Empire Saloon."


"Hey, this isn't a joke, okay?"


"He said it was."


"Breaking people's windows isn't a joke," Jacali said.


"He said he was gonna pay for it," Jack said. "And he was just "¦ joking."


"No, he lied to you," Gemma said. "This is an offense, okay? This is my sister's saloon."


Jack wailed.


"You can't do this!" Gemma said.


"You could've gotten yourself killed," Otto said.


The boys looked scared.


"What are the names of the other two?" Dr. Weisswald said.


The two boys refused to answer that. They wouldn't snitch on their friends. Both of them were willing to take their punishment but they wouldn't tell on their friends.


"What was his name?" Gemma said.


"He didn't tell us," Jack said. "He was just some old codger. He was at the Empire."


"Is that where he stays?"


"I guess? I never seen him before in town. I don't know who he is. He's some "¦ and he "¦ and he "¦"


"Can you point him out to us?" Dr. Weisswald asked.


"If I saw him, yeah, I'd point him out to you," Jack said.


"How old is he?" Gemma said.


"Would the marshal be in?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"He looked old," Jack said. "He had a gray beard and "¦ no, not the marshal! Don't tell the marshal! Oh God! Not the marshal!"


Both of the boys were terrified of the marshal. They had all heard, over the course of the last couple days, Marshal Bishop was a stickler for the law. If you broke the law, you would be punished to the full extent of the law. He gave no breaks to anybody.


"We'll fix the stuff and we'll paint the door and-and-and-and we'll give you the money!" Jack said. "We'll give you the dollar fifty."


"You give "˜em the money," Eric said.


"Shut up!" Jack said. "We'll give "˜em the money!"


"You won't get in trouble," Gemma said.


"But if you tell the marshal, we'll get in trouble," Jack said.


"We won't tell the marshal," Dr. Weisswald said.


Both of the boys were visibly relieved when they heard that.


"But you can't do this," Gemma said. "Any more."


"We won't!" Jack said.


"And your friends as well," Dunspar said.


"Okay, we'll tell our friends," Jack said.


"And we might "¦ do we want them to point out the old man?" Jacali said.


"Yeah," Dr. Weisswald said.


"Here!" Jack said. "Here!"


He nudged Eric and they both held out 50 cents. They all realized the boys wore worn clothing and were probably pretty poor. Fifty cents was probably a fortune to each of them.


"No, you can keep it," Dr. Weisswald said.


"We'd also like if you help fix the saloon tomorrow," Otto said.


"Yeah," Gemma said.


"We'll paint," Jack said. "We'll paint and "¦ I don't know how to work glass "¦"


"Well, round up the rest of your boys, come back here tomorrow, and fix this," Gemma said.


They looked t her suspiciously for a moment but then nodded.


"And if they won't come," Jack said.


He nodded at Eric with a frown and Eric pounded his fist into his open hand. The boys told them they would make sure the other two boys came. They were also willing to identify the old codger, as they called their employer. They apparently wanted revenge on the old man.



* * *




They got a few hours sleep before the Gilded Lily opened that day. All four of the boys showed up soon after the establishment opened. One of them had a bloody nose and another had a black eye and another kid had a bruise. Gemma gave the boys cold rags for their wounds. The two new boys both apologized and seemed sincere. They asked where the paint and the brushes were.


"We've got to repay our debt to society," one of them said.


They got to work on painting the front porch, batwing doors, and interior doors.


They asked Lily to watch the boys and they apologized to her.


"You're really pretty," one of them said to Lily.


Gemma gave the boy a light smack on the forehead.


"Ow!" he said.


"That's not how you speak to a lady," she said.


"Okay," he said.


He walked over to Lily and pulled her hair.


"Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" the boy said.


Gemma glared at him.


"That's what I did with Mary Elizabeth Jones and I liked her!" the boy said. "But that was four years ago."


Gemma pulled him away from Lily.


They gave the boys paint brushes and paint and set them to work under Lily's guidance. She said she'd find some other chores for them as well, to help pay for the damages. She thought the floor could use polishing in the saloon. Dr. Weisswald asked Lily if La Forge was the one she got the stocks from and she confirmed it. She told the doctor she had bought quite a bit of stock. Dr. Weisswald also got a description of La Forge and learned he had a thick, black beard, wore shaded glasses, and had a thick head of hair that was held down with pomade.


"So, he's not old?" Dr. Weisswald said.


"No, he's in this 30s or 40s," Lily said.


She asked Lily about an old man with a beard who used a cane. She noted Buck at the Bull's Head had gray hair and a beard, but the boys would know him on sight.


Jacali suggested looking at the Empire Saloon and seeing if the codger might be there. Dunspar thought they should have the kids meet the codger again and intercept them. They asked the kids where and when they met the codger usually and they told them it was usually in the late afternoon or early evening. They said the old codger found them, usually outside where they played kick the can or some other game.


Dallas arrived as they discussed it. By then the boys had finished painting the front of the building and Lily had them polishing and cleaning the floor of the saloon.


"New workers?" he said when he saw the boys.


"Yes," Dunspar said.


"Kids gotta have something to do!"


"We're going to have a short lesson today, Dallas."


"All right. Yeah. Teach me, Teach."


The two did their lesson at the bar. Bowen kept an eye on them.



* * *




Otto and Jacali took Ophelia a mile or so out of town to show her how to shoot a rifle. They had a few cans and he showed her how to shoot and load the weapon. She was startled by the noise of the rifle at first but otherwise did fairly well for a novice.



* * *




After his lesson, Bowen followed Dallas at a discreet distance. He saw the man talking to numerous people throughout town, everyone charmed by him. It sounded like he was making inquiries about land for sale in the town, especially ranches in the area and what quality various ranches were in.


Dallas didn't return to the Widow Barrington's boarding house until suppertime and, by carefully watching the house, Bowen eventually saw Dallas in the window of the room in the back of the house to the right.


"Room Number Four," he mused to himself.


None of the rooms had numbers on them, he remembered. But that would be room number four to him.



* * *




Otto was walking down the street when he saw a familiar face: Pete Sutter. He frowned and walked over to the man, who was walking towards the Bull's Head Saloon.


"Pete Sutter," Otto said.


"You!" Pete said.




"Whoever the hell you are! What the hell do you want?"


"What are you doing here?"


"Whatever I want!"


The two looked each other up and down.


"I like the sunsets in Colorado," Pete finally said. "They make me feel like a little girl. What're you doing here?"


"Well, I'm just tracking the Crescent."


"You got five hundred dollars?"




"Then you ain't got nothing I want!"


"So, you have information?"


"What the hell's the crescent?"


"You still have a bounty on you, Pete?"


"I got lots of bounties on me, boy. But none in Colorado."


"Well, I'm not collecting right now."


"So, why don't you just blow."


"I saw you on the street!"


"What!?! You saw me right here on the street!"


"You were dead. Like a corpse."


"That's the thing about your Chinese death stars. An hour after you get killed, you're alive again!"


The two men stared at each other again.


"They used them machines on me," Pete finally said. "It's fine."


"What machines?" Otto said.


"The glowy things. You know. Them new-fangled medicine machines."




"I dunno. You know, them "˜boop' and there it is. And you're all healed up."


"I need one of those."


"You sure do! Right there in face! "˜Cause it's so ugly."


He laughed loudly at his own unfunny joke.



* * *




The others had the kids play as they usually did and told them they would be keeping an eye on them from a distance in hopes of catching the old codger. The boys were all on board with the plan and even talked about beating up the old man if they caught him.


"We'll throw rocks at "˜em!" Billy Hutchins said. "We're good at that. Billy's the best!"


As they watched, close to 5 p.m., they saw a man with a thick black beard, shaded glasses, and a thick head of pomaded hair walk up main street to the train station. They recognized him as La Forge from the description Lily had given them.


Nobody had approached the kids by dark and one of the boys approached one of them, telling them they had to go home. He said they could try again the next day.



* * *


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