Sundown, July 15th, 1868 – The Black Swan Tavern, Naw’lins, Louisiana
I sometimes believe that I am surrounded by the grim specter o’ death. Very little light shines thorough to propel me forward, so stubbornness will have to do. Today was a longer day than I can remember havin’ endured for an exceptional amount o’ time. I can imagine it could be worse, but I’d rather not. I shouldn’t want it to become so.
Servin’ a warrant on Powers and his gang was a colossal effort in which seven good men gave their lives, many more were injured, and hundreds o’ dollars o’ property damage was done. Add to that the fact that no one will serve time for these crimes and that the worms ain’t goin’ hungry for a long time hereabout, and a body pales at the waste o’ it all.
I’d like to say it was a good thing, that the greater good was somehow served…and I do say as much to those outside “the know” – but I know it was a terrific waste at a horrible cost. Instead o’ justice bein’ done and closure had, we have death and more questions instead.
No less a personage than Ol’ Bill 1 had come out to ‘assist’ in servin’ the warrant – which tells you how important this arrest was. That ain’t all – he brung six Rangers with him, and they wern’t no green apples, neither.
The formal charges were bad enough. Murder, sedition, dereliction o’ duty, kickin’ puppies, etc. What we had little proof o’ was Powers’ connection to a cabal o’ radical thinkers whose creativity and drive to move their great work forward has driven them to criminal ends. We all have our demons. They say Lee’s was shame, Grant’s is the demon rum, and I didn’t used ta keep all o’ my vices in one place – Powers’ was Ghost Rock.
Was? Yeah, was. Read on.
When we served the warrant, it was on Powers’ home, a messkin style place at the edge o’ Naw’lins. My posse, bolstered by seven additional Rangers and six local hired guns (yeah, twenty one folks) arrived in the refurbished wagon (acquired in Elm Run) under no pretexts o’ subtlety. As a result, they likely saw us comin’ from a country mile away.
When we got to shoutin’ distance, it was plain to see that there were a number o’ men in a cat-hole crewin’ on some sort o’ New Science revision o’ General Gatling’s invention. In addition, there were men in boiled leather in the catbird seat on the roof’s balcony. They appeared to be armed with Marshal’s Service handguns. More New Science armament.
The colonel was roundin’ his horse to deliver the warrant and an ultimatum to surrender when a shot rang out. Our posse, the disorganized mob that it is, sprang into uncoordinated action. With us massed as we were, most o’ the posse was at least winged by the massive volume o’ fire Powers’ men produced in the immediately ensuin’ battle.
While I’m not a military man, the idea o’ puttin’ somethin’ solid between the gun fire and Emma 2 seemed like a good one. We cantered behind the wagon, and I wondered where the thunderous roar which Cher’s modified gun should have been makin’ was.
When I saw Ol’ Bill had been hit, I chose to abandon my position. After dismounting, I crawled to where the colonel lay bleedin’ and then pulled him behind the carriage’s wheels. To her credit, Emma still hadn’t bolted, unlike most of the gatherin’s beasts.
As the Aesclepian arts are beyond my depth, I used a bandanna or three to staunch the bleeding. I didn’t get much further than that when Bear once again offered help in the form o’ Kyle’s arrival.
With no relief forthcomin’ in the form o’ Cher’s expected artillery, and men droppin’ dead or wounded all around me, I played the role o’ the skairt barn-cat, puffin’ myself up with air and makin’ myself a little bigger. I began to yell at the top o’ my voice 3 before I broke toward the house doors at a dead run.
Miraculously, I was not felled by the heavy man made hail. I reached the sturdy doors, usin’ them to assist my rapid deceleration. They groaned with the effort, but held.
The next few minutes were nothin’ a veteran of the War or a resident of Kansas ain’t used to. If y’all want a plain description, go read Mr. Bierce’s penny-dreadfuls. I managed better’n most, workin’ my way inside the hacienda until Powers himself got the drop on me.
After the usual, “I’m so glad you could fit me into your busy schedule” / “Go crawl back in the Pit and fry, ye power-mad popinjay” banter, I came face to face with a horror I should have dealt with, and failed to bury deep enough.
1. For the uninitiated, that’s Colonel “King Phillip” Bill King, who is a close friend o’ the adjutant. I had the distinct pleasure o’ havin’ my keister kicked personally by Kin’ when I was cuttin’ my teeth out Arizona way. All the recent loose talk about the Colonel bein’ too old to cut it in the field is just that – talk. The Colonel’s just as vital now as when he was at the Alamo.
2. For a borrowed hoss, Emma has been a decent beast. Brave enough to stand still when a gunshot’s heard, and smart enough to run when a hundred screamin’ Cajuns are after her. I’ll have for ask ol’ Fordie where he found her, if I ever catch up to him.
3. The so-called “Rebel Yell” is an expression o’ this technique though it is said that such a battle-cry ain’t possible on a full stomach. Does coffee count?