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Jack West Interlude

Max_Writer

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign Tuesday from noon until 1:30 with James Brown.)

 

Jack West fell through strange lights unlike anything he had ever seen.  He had been in 1855 in the Apache village during the attack before he had fallen through into that odd city of stone filled with terrible creatures.  He had fallen again and then blinked.

 

The smell hit him first.  The smell of gun smoke was very thick.  His eyes focused and the first thing he saw was the dead eyes of the man sitting across the desk from him.  The smell of blood came next and he noticed the man had been shot three or four times in the chest.  With all the blood, it was hard to tell how many.  The room he was in was warm and he saw a window behind the desk and the dead man.  It was daylight outside.  He heard the crackle of a nearby fire and realized he was sitting in a very comfortable, stuffed chair with a high back.

 

The dead man was older and stout with a thick mustache and graying hair.  His suit, before he had been shot and covered with blood, had probably been very fine.  His jaw was slack and his eyes stared at Jack West, glazed over in death.  Jack West didn’t recognize him.

 

The pall of gun smoke made Jack West’s eyes sting.

 

He realized he had been hearing something since he had opened his eyes.  The sound of someone pounding on wood came from behind him.  He heard muffled shouts of alarm as well.

 

He looked at his empty hands and realized his pistols were on his belt and the hidden pistol pressed on his back behind him.  He was wearing his heavy poncho.

 

He got up and went to the window.  He noticed a blazing fire in the fireplace and saw that a large sideboard and a few heavy chairs had been pushed in front of the door to the room.  It was a cloudy day outside and the building he was in was obviously in the hilly badlands.  There were a few outbuildings and a barn but nothing else as far as the eye could see.  The room was on the second floor and he heard a nicker below him and saw his horse standing under the window.

 

The pounding on the door and shouts to open it up continued.

 

He quickly searched the drawers of the desk.  He found a pile of bank notes in one drawer and some odd, gold coins in another.  Two drawers were filled with letters.  One set of the letters were older and worn out.  The letters in the other drawer were newer.  The older ones were written to “Ignatius” while the newer ones were addressed to “B” or “Mr. B.”  He grabbed all of them and shoved them in his jacket.  He scooped up the money and the handful of gold coins and items as well.

 

He heard the rending of wood and looked towards the door.  An axe head had come through the panel and, as he watched, moved back and forth as whomever was on the other side worked it back out.

 

He flung the window open and climbed down onto the horse as the destruction of the door continued.  He noticed a rifle sheath on the saddle with the butt of a rifle in it.  He didn’t remember having that before.  His saddlebags and bedroll were still on the back of the horse.

 

He untied the horse from the shutter and, as he mounted it, he saw a woman through the window, working on dough with a roller.  She noticed him and her mouth turned into an “o” as she looked at the man in surprise. 

 

As he rode away from the house at speed, he saw he was in a low area in the badlands surrounded by hills.  He rode as fast as he could and soon heard yelling and gunfire from the house behind him.  He never looked back, glad to be out of range, and rode into the hills.

 

He soon found he had a dozen or so pursuers.

 

*              *              *

 

It took Jack West five days to lose the pursuers from the house.  He crossed a good distance in that time, using rivers and streams to try to throw them off the trail, as well as some other tricks he had learned over the years by men trying to lose him.  It was only on the fifth day that he started to try to figure out where he was, exactly, and, after another few days, stumbled across the town of Willoughby, whereupon he learned he was in Oregon.   He found out the date was October 11, 1875, and got instructions on how to get back to Nevada.

 

*              *              *

 

As he traveled back to California, Jack West had the opportunity to finally examine the rifle in the new sheath on his saddle.  It was a Sharp’s “Big 50,” a 50-caliber buffalo rifle.  It was loaded and 19 more bullets were in a pocket in the sheath.

 

He also had the opportunity, when he stopped in various towns along the way, to read over the letters.

 

The older letters proved to be signed only “JV.”  All of them were dated between 1853 and 1857.  They indicated the man lived in a town called Saltmarsh, Washington Territory.  They contained a lot of talk about chemical compositions and changing the chemical compositions.  He couldn’t easily make heads or tails of any of it.

 

The newer letters were from within the last two years from various people.  They were all working against something called the Yith, which Jack West recognized as the claw people.  It seemed like all of them had been kidnapped and he got the idea that the people were all kidnapped by the Yithians and were unhappy about it.  The feeling was they were all wanting to work together to stop the Yithians or get their revenge.  He got the impression they remembered what happened and they weren’t supposed to.

 

He also bought a fine silver engraved mirror at one of the towns along the way.

 

*              *              *

 

Jack West arrived at Terwilliger’s farm in Oakland, California, on Friday, November 5, 1875.  He saw more work had been done on the strange tower with the metallic dome on top that was connected with wires to the barn.

 

Professor Terwilliger was happy to see him, as he always was.

 

“Mr. West!” the man said with a grin.  “I’ve got something for you.”

 

“Whatta ya got?” Jack West said.

 

“Are you going to pay me for this?”

 

“Didn’t I rescue you from the …?”

 

“Oh yeah!  You can owe me.  A favor.”

 

“That works.”

 

Professor Terwilliger led the man into the barn where he opened a standing safe and took out the pistol Jack West had left with him.  He handed it over.

 

The gun had been heavily modified.  It was still a Colt Peacemaker, but with the addition of a bit of metal and glass atop it, almost like a sight, as well as a copper or brass nipple on the end of the barrel.  The barrel itself had a thick copper wire wound around it somewhat tightly.  The wire ran through the top of the pistol to the sight as well as to the handle.  He looked through the strange sight on the top and down the barrel.

 

“You’re going to have to be careful with it,” Professor Terwilliger said.  “It’s not as durable as just a regular pistol.”

 

“So, don’t drop it?” Jack West said.

 

“Right,” Professor Terwilliger said.  “Don’t drop it.  Don’t throw it.  These are copper wires.  If you damage them, it’s going to wreck it.”

 

Jack West looked over it.

 

“All right, so here’s what I did,” Professor Terwilliger said.  “You’re going to love this!  Inside the handle here, I’ve placed a tiny electrical generator.  When you pull the trigger, it activates the generator, which runs a magnetic charge up the barrel, pushing the bullet faster.”

 

He took Jack West outside and put on a thick pair of gloves.  It looked like he’d set up a little firing range outside of the barn.

 

“Here’s the main problem with it,” he said.  “You ready for this?”

 

“Uh-huh,” Jack West said.

 

Professor Terwilliger aimed and fired the pistol.  As the weapon fired, there was a high-pitched, ear-piercing whine from the pistol. 

 

“That’s the generator inside the handle,” he said.  “Don’t ever fire it without wearing gloves.  I wasn’t able to insulate it properly.  So the entire thing gets an electrical charge when you shoot it.  It also has to have special bullets.  Lead is not magnetic.  It won’t go.  It won’t go.”

 

He motioned with his hands down the barrel of the gun several times.

 

“What you need is special bullets made with a piece of something magnetic in them like a piece of iron,” he said.  “Steel.  Anything magnetic made in the bullets.”

 

“Can I just use iron?” Jack West said.

 

“Well, you don’t use an iron bullet,” Professor Terwilliger said.  “Lead is better for the propelling.  But you need someone iron inside the bullet.  They have to be specially made.  The ones I had made cost me a dollar a bullet.”

 

Jack West nodded.

 

“Have the person making them drill a hole through the bullet and put in a line of steel, iron, nickel, cobalt or some ferro-magnetic material,” Professor Terwilliger said.

 

“Yeah, sure,” Jack West said.

 

He had no idea what ferro-magnetic meant but got the gist.  Professor Terwilliger made sure the pistol was fully loaded before he handed it back over to the man.  He again warned him to be careful with it as it was more delicate than a regular pistol and if the coils were damaged, it wouldn’t work as it should.

 

“And speaking of … uh … special bullets,” Jack West said.  “Do you have anything that can go through armor better?”

 

“Hm,” Professor Terwilliger said.  “Hm.  I’ll have to think about that one.”

 

He did so.

 

“Why?” he said.

 

“Well, just … uh … some people like to wear … thick leathers,” Jack West said.

 

He thought on that a moment.

 

“Like myself,” he said.

 

“Oh!” Professor Terwilliger said.

 

He pointed at the thick poncho the man wore.  He poked it.

 

“I never thought about it but I’ll try to put my mind to it and see what we come up with,” he said.

 

“Thank you,” Jack West said.

 

*              *              *

 

Jack West spent a couple of days at Terwilliger’s.  He noticed more work had been done on the strange steam-powered vehicles and even stumbled across what appeared to be a long, narrow, delicate-looking house behind the barn.  He also noticed a lot of silk sheets and heavy cables in the loft as well.  There was some kind of cage-work that was almost as big as the barn but he was not sure what that was all about.

 

He spent a couple of days at the Terwilliger farm before he headed out to search for Valentine again.

 

*              *              *

 

It was late November when Jack West found himself in a little town named Furnace in the badlands of eastern Colorado.  The town hadn’t been on any maps he’d seen and most of the buildings there looked to be abandoned.  It lay in a hilly area and there appeared to be a few mines on the edge of town though the rotten supports and rusty rails gave him the idea they were no longer worked.

 

The whole place looked like a boom town that had gone bust some years before.  The buildings were run down, unpainted, and squatters were living in some of them.  Only a few people seemed to live in the town.  He guessed the town might have had a population of a couple hundred when it was a boomtown, but now there were fewer than a dozen actual residents.  The other hundred rough people were probably passing through.  Even the town jail was abandoned.  There was not even a door on the front of the building.  The bank, too, was abandoned.

 

He had heard not to go to Furnace as it was long-abandoned, but had gone anyway, in search of Valentine or word of him.  The town looked like it was primarily inhabited by bandits and outlaws.

 

Only the saloon was in use as far as businesses.  The place was nasty and the beer and whiskey were terrible.  Only the bartender seemed to be working there and the building had obviously not been cleaned in a very long time.  Most of the men in the town were there.  A fight was going on in the corner, one man beating up another while two other men just stood nearby and watched.  No one made a move to do anything about it.

 

He had sidled up to the bar and gotten a whiskey.  The once nice mirror behind the bar had been destroyed sometime in the past, leaving only a wooden-backed frame over the bar.  That’s why he didn’t notice the two men come up behind him until they stuck their guns in his back.

 

“Someone wants to talk to you,” one of the men said.

 

Jack West shifted in his seat.

 

“Uh-uh!” one of the men said.  “Keep ‘em where we can see ‘em.”

 

“Who might that be?” Jack West said.

 

“C’mon,” one of the men said.

 

“All righty,” Jack West said.

 

He picked up his glass and drained the terrible whiskey, putting it carefully down on the bar again.  He stood up slowly and saw the bartender go down behind the bar.  The two men with their guns trained on him were very large but didn’t look very smart.  They poked him in the poncho with their guns and one of them gestured towards the back door of the saloon.

 

One man they passed pulled his hat down and another looked expectantly at the tableau, obviously hoping for gunplay that didn’t happen.

 

Jack West led them to the back door and out the back of the building.  He led the men, at their instruction, only a short way down the narrow alley to the back of another building, opening the door there.  The small bedroom was obviously in use but they pressed the man to pass through it to the room beyond.

 

He found himself in a barber shop that was, once upon a time, also a dentist.  The front of the office, towards the back street, was completely boarded shut.  A little light came through the cracks in the boards over the broken windows of the place.  Solid boards were nailed over the door as well.  The shop had three chairs for customers, a single barber’s chair, and counters on two sides still covered in equipment, medicine, drugs, and the like.  The mirrors were still intact in the place on two walls a well.  It looked like it had been hastily abandoned sometime in the past.

 

A man in black sat in the reclined barber chair, his hat over his eyes.

 

“Here he is, boss,” one of the giant men said.

 

John Valentine tipped back his hat and sat up, his eyes wild and unblinking, his smile crooked and unsettling.  He got up and stretched.

 

“Good job, boys,” he said.  “C’mon in, Jack.”

 

The two men took the pistols out of Jack West’s holsters and then patted him down, disarming him.  They placed the numerous guns on the counter on the other side of John Valentine.  Then they left, telling Valentine they’d be right out back.  Valentine gestured for Jack to sit in the customers chairs and he took a seat on the barber chair again.

 

“Been looking for you, Valentine,” Jack West said.

 

“Mr. West, have you considered my offer?” Valentine said.

 

“I’ve been considering it, ‘cause I know you have what it takes to pay.”

 

“Oh.  That’s right.  I do.  So, you’d come work for me then?”

 

“It depends on the job.”

 

“Oh, there’ll be lots of jobs.  You like killing, right?  Most of my boys do.”

 

A gunshot came from somewhere outside.

 

“That’s probably one of ‘em now,” Valentine said.

 

“I mean, it is entertaining to … best others in gunplay, but …” Jack West said.  “… we gotta watch out for the ones we care about.”

 

“Well, I might leave you as a bit of a free agent.  But I need some information from you, first.  Then, you’ll be paid as you … bring me what I need.”

 

“Interesting.  Now … what do you think you need, Valentine?”

 

“The Crescent.”

 

“Now, there’s been a lot of talk about the Crescent.  If you don’t mind enlightening me as to what it does, ‘cause if it doesn’t endanger the ones I care about …”

 

“It doesn’t.  As long as they don’t touch it, they don’t come near it, they don’t do anything with it, it don’t do nothing to them.  Now, what it allows is for certain someones … that would be yours truly … to … I don’t want to sound crass … but I’d be able to … this is cliché.  You read the dime novels, don’t you, once in a while?  Get bored.”

 

Valentine pointed to some dime novels in the next chair.

 

“So, I would be able to effectively … well, in the background … take over the world,” Valentine said.  “You don’t want to go for half measures.”

 

“Why take only half when you can take all of it?” Jack West said.

 

“A man after my own heart.  It would allow me to effectively control who I want to control.”

 

“As long as it’s not me and mine, I have no qualms with that.”

 

“If my men aren’t willing to follow me voluntarily, what is the use?”

 

“Very true.  Because then you always got to look over your shoulder.  And that’s never fun.”

 

“Exactly.  As I said, you’re a man after my own spirit.  So, have we struck a deal?  It will make you a rich man.”

 

“Anything to help mine and mine, you can have whatever you like.”

 

“Yours and yours can stay where they are.  And do what they want.”

 

“Well, you might actually be able to directly help me with something then.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“‘Cause it’s one of your lieutenants …”

 

“Popie?”

 

“I believe is still looking for my family.”

 

“No, she’s not.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Oh no.  Not right now.  Maybe later.  But she’s … she’s settling down right now.  Starting her own little family.  Don’t you know about that?  I’m surprised she hasn’t sent you a letter to gloat.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“You know how women are.”

 

“Hm.”

 

“She’s settling down.”

 

The two men regarded each other for a moment.  Jack West took out his flask and drank a swig of whiskey and laudanum.  He had been adding more and more of the drug to each flask of whiskey as he needed more and more to calm himself.

 

“I would have thought you knew about this by now,” Valentine said.  “I’ll let her know that you’re interested.  She ain’t here.  She’s up north somewhere.  I think she said something about having ranchers to slaughter?  I don’t know.  I don’t remember.”

 

“As long as she stays away from my family,” Jack West said.

 

“She said she wanted to meet … her step kid.”

 

“She … implies we’re married?”

 

“No.  But she did use the term stepchild.  I don’t ask too much.  You know Popie.  She’s crazy.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And she’s a woman and with her being … expecting and all … they get crazier and crazier.  That’s why it’s best to kill ‘em when you’re done with ‘em.”

 

“Interesting logic.”

 

The two looked at each other.

 

“Now, you were asking for information at the moment?” Jack West said.

 

“That’s a good start,” Valentine said.  “Yeah.  Like, where are your friends looking for the Crescent right now?”

 

“Well, in the past-thing we did where we took the roll of Indians … very odd.  We found out there was more than one.  How many more …?”

 

“I know.”

 

“How many are there?”

 

“There are three.  Well, there were.  There are two left.”

 

“One exploded.  Now, they all tend to have a failsafe to explode?”

 

“Iunno.  I’ve only dealt with the one.”

 

“Hopefully not.  Well, currently, I’m looking to catch back up with them.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“And when I find ‘em, is this the best address?”

 

“Hm.  No.  I tend to roam.  Can’t let the grass grow under your feet, you know?”

 

“It’s peaceful.”

 

Somewhere nearby, they could hear the sound of people fist fighting.

 

“Not as well as it could be,” Valentine said.  “I will find you and contact you.  If you get hold of the Crescent, it’s worth a lot of money to me.  Enough that you won’t have to worry about money ever again.”

 

“And how much would that be?” Jack West said.

 

“How much do you think it should be?”

 

“I reckon it’s worth about … well, you said it’s world domination … as long as my people can live comfortably for their lives and their children.  Just 50 sounds like a comfortable starting point.”

 

“We can discuss it further when the Crescent’s in your hands.  Unless … you probably shouldn’t touch it.”

 

“I feel like I shouldn’t touch it either.  I did see one of your boys handling it though.”

 

“Who?”

 

“John?  Jack?  Andrews?  I shot him off of a train.”

 

Valentine frowned.

 

“Jack Parker?” he said.

 

“Jack Parker!” Jack West said.

 

“We’ve already been trying to deal with Jack Parker.  Yes.”

 

“Is he being troublesome?”

 

“I believe your friends have kidnapped him from me.  But I could be mistaken.”

 

“Really?  Maybe if I help get him free of that kidnapping?”

 

“Or kill him if he doesn’t want to come.”

 

“I can do that.”

 

“If you find him, let me know.  Find a way.  You can get a message out.”

 

“Reckon I can’t keep him with me.  If I kill him, do I need to bring you evidence?”

 

“A head is fine.”

 

“Hm.  It might not be preserved too well.”

 

“If I can recognize it as him, that’s all that matters.  He’s not worth as much as the Crescent.”

 

“Got you.  Now, do you pay more than the bounty office?”

 

“Oh yes.”

 

“Excellent.”

 

“You’ll get more than any sheriff or marshal will pay you.”

 

“And if you need any other heads, there’s some people I don’t like in that group.”

 

“Bring ‘em.”

 

“All right.”

 

“They won’t be worth much.”

 

“True.”

 

“But every penny counts.”

 

“And that satisfaction value.”

 

“How do you propose that we … seal the deal?”

 

“I reckon a handshake is good, but do you know of something … more binding?”

 

Jack West noticed, behind him on the counter was a fancy brandy decanter that was empty and a pair of nice tumblers.  One of the glasses was turned up and the other turn down.

 

“A drink and a handshake, I’d say, that’s a mighty fine way to strike a contract,” Jack West said.

 

Valentine looked over his shoulder and noted the empty decanter.  He stood and went to it, turning his back on Jack West, and picked up the glasses.  He turned back and tossed him first one, then the other glass.

 

“I appear to be out,” he said.

 

“Well, we’re in luck,” Jack West said.  “I got some fun stuff.”

 

Jack West filled each glass with the whiskey and laudanum mixture from his flask and then handed Valentine one of them.  The man had watched him very closely the whole time.  He smiled.

 

“To business,” Valentine said.

 

He tapped his glass to Jack West’s and then waited while the other man drank.  Then Valentine drank his down.  He smacked his lips at the good whiskey and complimented Jack West on his choice of beverage.

 

“One can’t drink just one,” he said.

 

He tossed his glass to the man again and Jack West filled them both up again and they drank once more.  However, after his second glass, Jack West saw the large amount of laudanum he always placed in the whiskey was affecting the other man.  Valentine seemed to realize it as well.

 

“Jack,” he slurred.  “How could you?”

 

He reached for his gun but before he could fill his hand with steel, he slumped down to the ground in a stupor.

 

Jack West retrieved his weapons from the counter and armed himself once again.  He was feeling the laudanum but had it under control.  He’d had to add more and more to the whiskey to even feel it and realized his addiction might soon start to affect him in a very dangerous way if he didn’t get it under control.

 

He checked Valentine and found he was armed to the teeth.  He had an Arkansas toothpick in the back of his belt in addition to the Bowie knife in his boot and the two pistols on his belt.  He found a .44 derringer in his other boot.  There was some money in his pocket.

 

Valentine suddenly grabbed his hand.

 

“Jack West, you must help me,” he said.

 

His voice sounded emotionless and bland, very unlike the strong southern accent he usually had.  Jack West saw that the man’s eyes were still glazed over and he hadn’t moved except to grab his hand.

 

“Help you with what?” Jack West said.

 

“You must not allow John Valentine to get the Crescent,” Valentine said.

 

“So, why do y’all need it then?  Are you the possessor people?”

 

“Do you know of the Yithians?”

 

“I think I’ve heard your strange name in passing.”

 

“I was sent - I was sent to stop him.  To make it easier to reacquire the Crescent.  It is ours.  It belongs to us.  I was sent to possess him.  To send his mind back to us.  But something went wrong, and I was trapped in his mind.  There’s two of us in here.  But his force of will is so strong, I cannot fight against him unless he is unconscious.  He was unconscious several days ago.  A week or more.  When he was … when he was … someone did something to him.  I am able to watch but not act from within.  He-he is … he was - he was - he was - he was knocked unconscious as you have done.  In these moments, I am lucid and I can actually communicate.  Some woman … cast a spell, I believe, upon him, which caused him to faint for some short time, less than a minute.  And in that time, I was able to try to make the change.  But I am trapped in this body.”

 

“Do you need him dead?”

 

“That would kill me as well.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“I was sent to recover the Crescents.  We need them back.  They are … important to my people.”

 

“What will they do for you?”

 

“We are gatherers of information.  These Crescents have been gathering such for millions of years.  They are a source of information for us.  We need them.”

 

“So, they’re a bunch of books, basically?”

 

“Uh … yes.  In your vernacular, that is an analogy that is accurate.”

 

“So … uh …”

 

“I’ve been trapped in his mind for two years.  He is quite mad.”

 

“So, y’all are weird, strange creatures.  Do I get some fun stuff for helping y’all out?”

 

“I am sure you’ll be greatly rewarded if you help.  Do not let him get the Crescent.”

 

“With what?”

 

“I … I do not know.  What do you wish?”

 

“Safety and security for mine and mine and maybe some fancy doo-dads.”

 

“I’m sure it could be arranged.”

 

“All right.  Well, then, my gun can be yours.”

 

“I can help you to escape this place, but you must do everything you can to stop Valentine.  Try not to kill him.  I would rather not die.”

 

“That’s fine.”

 

“If you can find a way to suppress his mind, destroy his memories.”

 

“I can force more of this down his throat─”

 

“No no no.”

 

“─but that might kill him, too.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Now … uh … I’ll take note of that if any of these other people that say they’re wizards say they can help with that.”

 

“Yes, please.  Please.  There’s someone named ‘Sparks’ that holds the other Crescent.  Valentine has learned this much.  He is planning on searching for this person soon.”

 

Whatever was talking to Jack West also quickly gave him the location of three other of Valentine’s hideouts in Colorado, scattered about the state.  It also confirmed there were three Crescents and told him they grew intelligent over millions of years.  It told the man it was sent to try to take over Valentine, but the man was touching one of the Crescents when the Yithian tried to take his mind.

 

“Normally, minds are transferred but, in this case, Valentine didn’t come out,” the Yithian said to him.  “We’re both in the same body but Valentine’s force of will is much stronger than mine.  He is completely mad.”

 

“Was he mad before he got the Crescent?” Jack West asked.

 

“Oh yes.  He was.  The Crescent drove him further into madness but he was already quite mad.  Now, I am trapped in this body as well and cannot act while Valentine’s conscious.  I can partially act while he sleeps, but not easily.”

 

“So … uh … tell you what.  You can go away.  He can come back.  We’ve already made a deal.  So, I’ll just continue that and get out of here nice and safely.”

 

“He will think you’ve betrayed him with your laudanum, I think.”

 

“But if he sees me sitting here, guns holstered but equipped, him in his chair, he should take that as a sign …”

 

“If you wish.”

 

Jack West put the man up in his chair and sat back down.  He waited for a half hour before he got bored and realized the amount of laudanum he gave to Valentine might take several hours to wear off.

 

“I’m gonna leave him a note,” he muttered.

 

He found paper and pencil and wrote the man a note:

 

 

Maybe I shouldn’t have used the top shelf with the laudanum.  The deal is still on. 

I’ll bring you Parker.  Once I figure out good places to send you information, I’ll

tell you about the Crescent.

 

 

He found a small table in the back room and left the note on the table next to the man along with the two tumblers.  He turned to leave and Valentine spoke again in the Yithian’s voice.

 

“Tell them  that John Valentine said ‘The wind is to the south,’” he said.  “That is a code for him to allow you to leave without him.”

 

“Sweet,” Jack West said.  “I’ll let ‘em know.  Thank you … uh … Bob.”

 

“I am called Lashanloshoolalal.”

 

“How ‘bout Lala for short.”

 

Valentine sighed.

 

“Good luck,” the Yithian said.

 

“Thank you,” Jack West said.  “I’ll work on that for you.  Now, these things … uh … the other ones seemed afraid … or something … to go back to y’all.”

 

“The other what seemed afraid?”

 

“Crescent.  And then it self-destructed after getting anxious.”

 

“The damaged one.  They do not want to return to us.  But they must.”

 

“All right.  And I highly doubt your Crescent can sway me from our deal, so …”

 

“Good.  Thank you.”

 

“Just make sure you keep your end.”

 

“We will.  Good luck.  Your friends will be in Denver soon.  They’re planning on spending something called ‘criss-mass’ with Dr. Weisswald?”

 

“Oh.”

 

Is that the lady with the pants, Jack West thought.

 

He added to the note to John Valentine that he was heading for Denver.

 

Jack West tipped his hat and left.

 

The two men out back stopped him but he gave them the password and they let him pass, one of them going back to the saloon while the other one stayed at the door.

 

Jack West left Furnace, Colorado, heading for Denver.

 

*              *              *

 

After he reached Denver, he heard about some strange occurrences on the Arkansas River in early November.  He did a little research and found a newspaper article about it in the Nov. 19 Denver Times.  It read:

 

 

Massacre in Granite!

 

Granite, Nov. 13 ― The town Marshal, deputy, and several other townsfolk were gunned

down in Granite by persons unknown.

 

Just after sundown, Granite Town Marshal Edward Denning and his deputy Hiram Shute

were both killed when the marshal’s office came under sudden and unexpected attack by

several men in the street.

 

The men proceeded to assault the Granite Saloon as well, which had closed early that

evening.  Incidental fire saw the injury or deaths of eight other people in the town.

Gunfire left the Granite Saloon badly damaged and soaked in spilled alcohol and blood. 

One man was found dead in the saloon and another in the street behind the building.  Whether

they were the raiders or customers of the saloon is not known.  Several other men reportedly

fled the saloon.

 

Confusion was rife in the town as locals retrieved their rifles and shotguns to take up the

fight.  Some were convinced it was an Indian attack.

 

Lake County Sheriff John Weldon and a posse of deputized men soon followed the raiders

to the north where their trail was lost the following day in the rain.

 

Cause of the attack is unknown.  Sheriff Weldon notes it might have been some dispute

over land rights or claim jumping.  He said it might have been a personal grudge held against

Marshal Denning, Deputy Shute, Opus Smith, the town drunk, or banker Festus Dalrymple,

who recently confessed to embezzling funds from the back in 1870.  Neither Smith nor

Dalrymple was injured in the attack.


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