Mornin’, 12 July 1868 – Police Station, Elm Run, Louisiana
Last night, I managed ta fight my phantasmal pursuers an’ won out over them. While it wuz not tha most restful sleep I’ve ever had, it sufficed. Instead o’ wakin’ up covered in sweat an’ urine, bawlin’ for a bottle o’ Lethe wash, I felt at least partly resolved. Four hours o’ fitful rest cleared away some worries an’ memories ta allow me ta see, with fresh eyes, tha horror o’ ’65.
It wuz durin’ my first independent patrol with tha Brigade while under evaluation. A bad o’ bad men got it inta their heads ta rob a bank out west a ways. Ta distract tha local law from tha protection o’ tha bank, these Vandals burned tha local school.
Most o’ tha law men, tha town’s youngin’s, tha schoolmarm, an’ a few others died in tha fire or fightin’ it, so tha Brigade (that’d be me) wuz called in ta form an’ lead a posse, an’ brin’ these blaggards ta justice. It wuz a seven man band – three bad brothers an’ their four hired hands.
We followed them for a day an’ more over dusty terrain, until we caught up ta where they wuz holed up in a hacienda, arguin’ up a storm. Fortunately, two o’ tha hands wuz kilt over some disagreement, leavin’ only five. When their hands wuz all kilt, tha brothers surrendered ta justice.
O’ little comfort ta tha parents an’ loved ones o’ those murdered, tha bank’s money wuz recovered, an’ tha three brothers returned for trial. We had ‘em photographed an’ measured for caskets, an’ I knew that just as soon as a Judge wandered inta town, we were goin’ ta get all that they deserved.
I told tha biggest o’ tha three, Mustafa, that I wuz goin’ ta enjoy watchin’ ‘im swin’, an’ may God have mercy on my immortal soul, I wuz. I saw tha grievin’ parents carryin’ away tha little burnt bodies. I knew that there wuz a far colder fire in store for these men.
Mustafa told me that I’d best watch my back, that tha Devil weren’t goin’ ta get his soul, an’ that he’d come back an’ kill me for this. Meanin’, I suppose, his capture, renderin’ ta justice, an’ planned execution. I ignored his words, knowin’ that his crimes were more than enough ta land ‘im in tha Pit.
But, I should have paid more attention ta tha executioner’s care o’ tha ropes an’ knots. Mustafa survived his hangin’, played possum while he wuz lain out an’ photographed (again), an’ once he an’ his brothers were alone with tha undertaker, he struck. Tha poor undertaker became just another o’ that bad man’s victims.
He’s just another thin’ ta scratch out on my ever-growin’ ‘ta do’ list.
So, tha Padre woke tha whole damn town (whose name I would learn in about an hour’s time wuz ‘Elm Run’) by rin’in’ tha church’s bell as a call ta tha faithful. It wuz well before tha local cocks had crowed even once, an’ my pocket watch told me it wuz a little after seven. After vowin’ ta kill my Yankee comrade for ruinin’ what had been a very restful night, I got up (unshaven) an’ headed ta tha church in my Stetson, long-johns, boots, an’ trousers. After tha seemin’ly endless horror o’ last night’s run through tha bayou an’ much less than a full fight’s sleep (we had rolled inta town well after midnight) anyone that had a problem with my appearance wuz goin’ ta eat a boot.
I wuz surpassed in sartorial awkwardness, however. On tha way ta tha church, I passed a man that would soon join our band in a distressin’ state o’ undress. It seemed ‘Hoss’, as I shall call ‘im, had lost a bet an’ been forced ta sleep nekkid as a babe in tha stables. While I’ve done that more times I can count, I wuz a youngin’ at tha time. Besides, I ain’t never done it nekkid.
I found ta my dismay that after callin’ tha faithful ta congregate, no one wuz at tha church – not even tha Padre hisself. Discomfited, I said tha words I wuz s’post ta, an’ ‘membered ta leave out a honey comb for Bear. A figure a holy place is a holy place, an’ if Bear can’t be bothered ta get off his arse ta get tha honey comb, he don’t want it anyhow.
Seein’ as it looked like tha cook staff had tha Pox, I chose not ta sample tha local delicacies. I instead chose ta brin’ tha food I’d picked up four days ago at Belle’s place out ta where our mysterious pistolero wuz tendin’ a fire an’ cleanin’ his irons. Me, I’d advise against brin’in’ gun grease so close ta a campfire, but he didn’t seem ta pay it any mind.
He an’ I sat mostly in silence. Me cookin’ spicy grits an’ brown bread, an’ tha other man starin’ inta tha Bayou like somethin’ out there wuz chasin’ ‘im. Tha Reaper, maybe. Tha type his is don’t live long, an’ are usually well aware o’ it. I kept my peace, for it weren’t none o’ my business how a man might choose ta die.
When I brought breakfast back ta town, I found an unsettlin’ sight – a third o’ tha tavern patrons had up an’ died in a fit o’ ecstasy. As that included tha sheriff o’ Elm Run, I (o’ course) had ta take responsibility. I secured tha man’s weapons an’ shield before sittin’ down ta listen ta Cher about why we were here.
I won’t go inta detail here, but Cher is obviously a font o’ local information, an’ is a far better scout for us than Kyle (who wuz introduced ta us as a scout, but is fairly obviously a medicine man) who is not only untrained in tha discipline, but is from a different climate.
As tha posse wuz resolved therefore ta deal with tha origin o’ tha local pox as well as tha stolen scrolls (supposedly in tha safe keepin’ o’ Mayor Blackthorne at his residence), we divided our force as follows:
• Clara, Padre, Jake, Cher, an’ tha Mysterious Pistolero ta Sheriff’s Office, intendin’ ta appoint a deputy ta tha sheriff’s job before tendin’ ta other tasks.
• Hoss, Kyle, Wicked, an’ Belle ta Mayor’s house ta look inta tha matter o’ tha stolen scrolls.
• Tha Agent stayed in its element, learnin’ more about tha local area.
Unfortunately, revealin’ that tha sheriff wuz dead caused his deputies ta die o’ fright ta a man. In order ta better dispense my duties, my part o’ tha posse searched tha station. In addition ta our previously surrendered irons, we found tha sheriff’s town log, an’ a sturdy-lookin’ safe.
In tha town log, we learned that a wanderin’ preacher, a cure all salesman, an’ a band o’ escaped slaves were tha last people inta town, an’ they stayed a o’ couple days. I’ll write more about it when I’ve had a chance ta read it more closely. Wicked is runnin’ toward tha station at a dead vamoose, an’ I should check that out before doin’ any more scribblin’.
Early evenin’, 12 July 1868 – Mayor’s Residence o’ Elm Run, Louisiana
My apologies, dear reader for tha poor legibility o’ this entry. I got win’ed, so I’m pennin’ this with my right hand.
It sez in tha Good Book that pride goeth before a fall. It’s hard ta imagine a man more prideful than one who calls hisself tha Pride o’ Texas. However, that is exactly what tha Brigade teaches us we are. No recriminations, I rated what I got, an’ I’m goin’ ta pay back my tormentor measure for measure.
Cher had told us that in a previous trip ta Elm Run, tha Mayor (Blackthorne) had consulted her on tha nature an’ use o’ tha stolen documents, an’ that tha two had concluded that tha dangerous nature o’ tha documents called for them ta be locked in a secure vault until more appropriate measures could be brought ta bear. As a result, about half o’ my posse headed out ta his house. Unfortunately, Widow Blackthorne wuz in tha throes o’ a powerful black mood. She comported herself in a manner frightful enough ta send three grown men packin’, skairt. Belle stayed with tha woman.
Wicked arrived first, tellin’ us o’ tha problem, an’ requestin’ his irons. I returned tha posse’s weapons, in tha interests o’ protectin’ tha town now that it had no Law o’ its own, an’ reminded both o’ tha shootists I had about me not ta go shootin’ little old ladies.
A fracas ensued that would ensnare first Belle an’ then Clara as we men wrestled with tha poor soul while also lookin’ for tha stolen documents. Our efforts were further stymied by tha presence o’ a stout lock. Our posse eventually won out, sadly at tha cost o’ most o’ tha delicate contents o’ tha locked vessel. About that time, an appropriate number o’ well-armed, well trained, determined men – thirteen o’ course – arrove in three wagons what were black as sin. Just in time.
In tha fracas, Hoss had managed ta leave tha posse, an’ I can’t say for sure what happened ta ‘im. Two o’ tha thirteen detained ‘im, though, an’ I can say for sure that he broke a leg. I imagine that it wuz durin’ this time that our Agent friend slipped away.
When Orleans Parrish sheriff Jim Powers showed up in tha Mayor’s Residence as part o’ this overwhelmin’ force, I knew two thin’s. First, we’d been hornswaggled inta undertakin’ a task under false pretenses. Sheriff Powers could care less about tha Confederacy an’ tha Union – he wanted tha documents for hisself an’ his own cabal. Second, that my posse would not survive armed conflict with these men, even had we not been belabored by tha still flailin’ Widow.
I spoke with Jim an’ learnt that he wuz arrestin’ us by virtue o’ his authority, not ta mention all tha lead that his posse could throw at mine, on tha charge o’ sedition. It seems that he’d taken a dislike ta tha fact that it had been our intention ta destroy, rather than recover, ‘his’ documents. Tha God damned pistolero drew down, an’ there wuz a chorus o’ cocked Winchester repeaters, a sound I really wish I didn’t know so well as I do.
After I tried (an’ failed) ta talk sense inta tha two parties, I just managed ta duck out o’ tha line o’ fire as I seemed ta fall inta a vision o’ Perdition itself. I can’t tell you tha particulars … I wuz in no position ta take notes, after all. I can tell you that when it wuz all over, most o’ my posse wuz hurt, tha un-named gunslin’er what landed us in tha fire wuz dead, an’ sheriff powers wuz away in his sin-black wagons with not only all o’ his posse, but tha documents, too.
Tha Agent must o’ seen that this might happen, though, because a cunnin’ly lain trap damaged tha lead wagon, sadly turned tha team an’ it’s ostler inta so much ground meat, an’ at least wounded tha men what were ridin’ in it. Sadly, tha cabal hardly slowed down. I didn’t see for sure, but I would guess that even tha hurt men climbed on tha side o’ tha remainin’ two coaches, an’ rode victorious inta tha sunset.
So, here I sit in tha telegraph office o’ Elm Run, waitin’ for tha New Science horizontal green bolt ta come an’ burn me like it kilt Cornelius. I had tha boy send a piece ta Austin, an’ tha reply should be forthcomin’ in tha wee hours. I’m tryin’ hard not ta think about what might happen ta poor Annie now that tha cabal has what it wants, because as I alluded a couple entries ago, I believe tha same people that wanted tha documents also have tha girl. Now that they have no motivation ta keep us alive, sheriff Powers can blame all o’ his crimes on us, put a huge bounty on our heads, an’ kill Annie off ta assure that there are no witnesses ta his dark deeds.
Tha last o’ Dietrich’s anise schnapps are keepin’ me from thinkin’ too hard about much, but tha onus o’ pain an’ death seems ta be surroundin’ me. I can focus on tha bright thin’s in my life, an’ I will. I’m goin’ ta write a letter that I can have sent by tha express out Montana way once we get back ta civilization.
Notes ta self:
1. Elm Run needs a cure for tha pox tha remainin’ citizens have got.
2. Belle’s been writin’ ta Wit, apparently since before Annie went missin’. As he’s a U.S. Marshall, that’s a concern.
3. Documents show that tha individual run out o’ that flyspeck o’ a town we found Walkin’ Eagle in (as a preacher what wuz sellin’ snake oil as cures) wuz here in Elm Run, too. Just before everybody got sick, o’ course – an’ just after tha documents ended up there. Documents also show that he seemed ta be in cahoots with some road agents.
4. Tha Padre’s an ol’ soldier, an’ some o’ that bloodlust is startin’ ta come back. I need ta pray for ‘im.
I had a moment o’ doubt, an’ nearly forfeited my responsibility in shame. If Bear believes in me, an’ I know my new family does, then I think maybe, no matter how black it may look right now, I might just clean this mess up. If I focus on that, I’ll catch both Mustafa an’ this ersatz sheriff, Powers – an’ then they’ll know proper justice.