Early Morning – Thursday, July 16th, 1868 – The Black Swan Tavern, Naw’lins, Louisiana
As my reader might recall, the whole reason why I requested detachment to Louisiana’s extraordinarily busy beat was because I received a highly irregular letter by U. S. mail. In Texas. That alone would have got me to pay attention, but the fact that someone was inferrin’ that my old posse – and Annie in particular – would have gotten me to ride into Lucifer’s own hacienda.
That’s pretty much would have been what it would have taken, too, because after a too-long range huntin’ down a band o’ vandals what had been disturbin’ the graves o’ war dead, I was overdue for a rotation back home the the Cheyanne region. Short of sleep, 1 I took the fastest available travel east.
If you’ve been reading this journal faithfully, you are aware of what happened next, One day followed the next until I was deep in some sort of underground chamber beneath Powers’ hacienda with a gun at my back watching a dead man menace my heart’s daughter with a blade. Worse, Annie looked like she’d been through every kind of hurt imaginable. If she was alive at that moment, – may all that is holy forgive me – I hoped she wasn’t after such prolonged and thorough torture. There was at least a small mercy in the fact that the poor girl was not conscious.
A dead man? Well…
Back in ’65, the Broadus brothers hung at the gallows for murder, bank robbery, arson, etc., etc. They were bad dudes, and they deserved killin’. The judge obliged to agree with my opinion, and that should have been the end of it. It was not.
The eldest brother, Mustafa, made good on his promise not to die. I’ve heard tell about corrupt executioners and such lettin’ folk go at a price, an’ blades cleverly put on the ear to score a hangin’ rope…none of that happened. We know how to Lynch a man in Texas.
The man must have been a contortionist freak what belonged in Mr. Lacy’s Epitaph, and an actor to rival Booth as well. Mustafa played possum as he was carried away, and cold-bloodedly waited while the undertaker attended to his brothers. Late at night, he added two new charges to his account – the murder of the undertaker and escaping confinement.
For almost two years, Mustafa Brodus went on a killin’ spree worthy of a plague. He went principally after the law men who’d changed his career so dramatically, but he didn’t mind killin’ whom-ever got in his way. I took care of a lot of other trouble while I kept on his tail, always a day or a week behind him – always left with cleanin’ up the mess. Sleep became an even more distant memory.
Despite Mustafa’s escape and subsequent acts, Bear seemed happy with the way I kept the peace, and I was more concerned with what the Totem thought than any of the green-apple lawmen I often worked with. On the infrequent occasion that I ran into a fellow member of the Brigade, I got the general impression that Colonel King was happy, too. After all, I got things done, didn’t complain, and always had my paperwork in order.
Then the sonuvabitch up an’ disappeared. Not, ‘gone inta injun country’ disappeared, not ‘left fer messko’ disappeared, just gone. With no leads, and other fires needin’ put out, I reluctantly put my search for murderin’ Mustafa on the back burner, and tried not to think about how he’d told me to watch my back. I got through it mostly by guessing the man had finally run across the wrong string of luck, and the Devil had finally come callin’ for his due.
It seems, though, that all that lyin’ to myself only bought Mustafa time to find a way to really hurt me. He’d gotten in good with whatever cabal o’ madmen Powers now served (rather than his Star), and in the fullness of time, he got what he wanted. All culminating in yesterday afternoon.
As I said a few pages ago, Powers had gotten the drop on me while I was infiltratin’ his hacienda and guided me to the large space beneath the house. 2 There, gloating in the dark was the big, ugly cuss what missed his final judgment in Austin.
While I cracked not-at-all-funny witticisms in an attempt to buy time, 3 Powers was tellin’ me how happy he was to make my life miserable while Mustafa started singin’ the song of workin’ his Infernal device. I don’t remember too much about what he said, unfortunately. I mean, there was Annie right there – and I’d failed to protect her from the very thing I’d been meant to.
When I managed to stop feelin’ sorry fer myself long enough to get mad for Annie, like she needed me to, that polecat the Devil put in all of us just leapt right up in me. Gun to my head or no, I turned on the corrupt law man, and then left ‘im sprawled out on the cold ground, acock.
About that time, I didn’t care much for what New Science sorcery Mustafa was up to. Annie took priority. After goggling for a moment that Powers had actually been holding me at knife-point, I kicked the weapon, knocking it to a corner of the space we were in. During my momentary incapacity, the cavalry showed up. Belle and Wicked at first, then Kyle and Clara – I think. I wsn’t much for note-takin’ at the time.
Belle did what I was goin’ to, and Wicked turned on a no-account huckster what I’d missed in all the excitement. I took a moment to make sure Powers was unconscious, not dead, 4 then rounded on Mustafa as Kyle passed me on the way to Belle and Annie. Somewhere in the confusion, an additional party entered the fray, unnoticed by me. 5
After Kyle pronounced the girl dead, I know my posse was incensed. We Stopped the malefactors, broke down the machines, and gathered the Scrolls which had been the whole point of this nonsense from the beginnin’, Somehow, in all the confusion, Powers ended up dead – executed by a hand unknown. I made sure Mustafa weren’t goin’ ta bother anyone no more with Clara an’ Cher’s help (they showed up later). An’ o’ course Kyle saw to the dead. It was done, but I jus’ felt … empty.
1. As usual, since the fire.
2. I’m not sure what to call it. It weren’t no root cellar (too big), nor no catascomb (too open). It was like a sort of camarilla, just underground.
3. With witch to assess the obviously bad situation and figure a way out, o’ course.
4. I did say I was angry, dinn’I?
5. Horse-pockey. I knowed exactly who it was, I just ain’t gonna put it in writin’. Come ask me, if I’m not dead.