Sunday, July 20th, 1868 – The Becky-Lou Too, Morningstar Lines Double-Sidewheeler, Mississippi River, Louisiana
I soon heard Kyle’s medicine song an’ realized that he’d had gone off to fulfill his function. It seemed ta take forever while the wind buffeted me on the roof. I nervously watched the empty streets below for movement an’ jumped at every shadow. Eventually, Kyle’s song ended, an’ I heard snippets of a conversation below me coming up through the winda.
That’s, of course, when there was finally movement on the street below. A man, movin’ swiftly, but not quite runnin’ had a long leather bag of the sort used for securin’ a rifle against the elements, an’ was movin’ up the street. I targeted ‘im, but since I didn’t know who he was or why he was there, I waited.
A man on the street level appeared, and hollered with a tone of authority for the man to stop. At nearly the same moment, an object was tossed from a room below me and doused the helpful stranger in oil. Since the runnin’ man didn’t stop, and I figured he wouldn’t lissen ta me any more than he had the other gent, I obliged him ta lissen ta Ruth. A solid round ta the right leg clipped his wings, an’ he crumpled ta the ground.
I cricked my neck and worked the lever jus’ in case Ruth would be needed again, an’ Clara, bloodied but unhurt, arrove from the same door the helpful stranger had, an’ clocked the wounded runner where he lay. It was then that I realized my helpful stranger was the General, and the door they’d both come from was the saloon!
I hollered down ta Clara that the runnin’ man had probably jus’ found the rfle-bag, an’ she thumped ‘im with a little less vehemence. About that time, Belle and Beauchamps showed, with the latter saultin’ the General. Golldern tinhorns.
I hollered at them all ta stop that, an’ gave the roof one last long look-see afore returnin’ to the room below. It had been thoroughly burgled in the interim, and Mr. Kane’s pockets had even been rifled. I shouldn’a been surprised, but I was. A dead body, 1 no clues, and a possible innocent bystander bleedin’ in the street. Whatever clues we were gonna get about this plot would have to come from the mouths of the perpetrators. I locked up before heading back downstairs, tryin’ ta step on the feelin’ that I’d already let the beasts outta the pen.
Once I got downstairs, I tol’ the clerk ta have the sheriff called for. Once the front doors were open again, I regrouped with part of the posse. 2 We talked, and found out that someone had winged Clara with a buffalo rifle, but swift action by the medicine man rendered her able ta walk an’ function, after a fashion.
We questioned the man, Vincent Black, who claimed ta be part of Mr. Kane’s retinue. Apparently, he an’ his partner – Glenn Johnson – had been hired by Hellstromme Industries ta make sure that nothin’ funny happened ta Mr. Kane durin’ the tournament, which I suppose might explain the heavy ordinance. Me? I’d gone with a big knife an’ sittin’ on the bugger.
Black din’ tell us much more under interrogation, jus’ some more things that, come the light of day, would make little sense. Among other things, he said his partner had gone for supplies. 3 From the man’s statement, the abbreviated posse swiftly deducted that someone was killin’ the front runners of the tournament so that someone further back on the list could ‘win’ the million grey-backs.
That meant (to me, at least) that Clara an’ Beau should play possum, and that we’d need ta get the rest of the posse together. Of course, everyone volunteers immediately ta go get the Padre, Wicked, an’ Jason. Beau figured that he’d be best ta go as he needed ta change, anyway.
While they argued about that for a minute, I pondered just how vain a body would have ta be ta risk his life for fashion. Maybe, I thought, he figured that with the presumed shooter here an’ bleedin’, he was in the clear. Did he not realize that the individual on the list beneath Clara, him, and Kane was Jason?
It didn’t matter none. I saw that they were still at it a minute later, an’ slipped away in the fray. Surely, the local sheriff would soon show up, toss Mr. Black in jail until things cleared up, and we could leave this damnable pesthole behind us come mornin’. After we Lynched Jason if he was the one doin’ the Clara-shootin’ an’ such, o’ course.
I arrove presently at the casino an’ found Jason directly. If he was the mastermind behind a murder plot, he sure din’ look it. He was playin’ stud with a lovely admirer on each arm an’ about ten boys in grey watchin’ him. He seemed genuinely surprised ta see me – I probably looked like a walkin’ corpse at this point – and come along almost immediately. Unless he’s the coolest customer I ever met, or the plot had been orchestrated behind his back. 4
I had ta disentangle Wicked from a coupla saloon girls what were belivin’ what he had ta say, an’ re-tasked him ta lookin’ about for clues. The Padre was pretty distracted – mebbe all that sinnin’ had ‘im discombobulated. Dunno, but he come right along when I gave ‘im the nudge.
Makin’ our way back ta a ‘safe’ hotel, we heard another loud ‘crack’ which split the air like a thunderclap. Another long rifle shot. The crowd vomited forth from the hotel in response, though not all of ‘em ran. I judged that havin’ sand weren’t no crime, an’ headed ta the stables ta get William an’ the flatbed. I figurd we’d need ‘im for movin’ the meat.
As it turned out, it was a good thing I did. The shooter lost ‘is footin’ an’ fell off the boss on the end of the widow’s walk. He landed in the hey behind me, coughin’ up blood. About then, I found out Beau had been creased across the head by a bullet. The lucky sunovabitch had gone off ta change while I’d been off ta the casino, and had managed (thanks ta the Padre’s corpsman skills) to get by with only a near scalpin’. It’s a good thing these varmints are such poor shots, I must say. Mebbe it’s all the head-aimin’ that throwed ‘em off?
Anyway, Kyle took enthusiastic custody of the prisoner, and I headed back ta the hotel where we’d originally regrouped, intendin’ ta muster at this other hotel, instead. Somebody needed ta tell the sheriff what all had happened, anyhow.
1. Of a high roller than less than two hours ago had been alive and playin’ in front of over a hundred onlooker,s no less.
2. Which now includes Beuchamps deChanticlear. Lovely. She always did like a sharp dresser.
3. If that was so, why was he in the street with a rifle? It really should have bothered me then that Kane had been stabbed ta death before any shootin’ started.
4. In which case, I also woulda held him blameless, I suppose. Still, you sup with the Devil, ya outta have a long spoon…