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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  GENERAL TOPICS  |  Saddlebag Tales (Moderators: Marshal'ette Halloway, Lucky Irish Tom)  |  Topic: EotL 7 - Kentucky Horseradish 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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LimeyJack
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« on: November 21, 2008, 01:39:13 pm »


End Of The Line
by LimeyJack
cc by-nc-sa

7.  Kentucky Horseradish

The Railroad Agent sat across the table from Adam Smith Liche and coughed.  He fidgeted in his chair, took out his pocket watch, checked the time, but Adam didn't look up from his letter.  He kept reading intently.  The letters given to Adam by Mosley had totally slipped his mind until that very moment, and he'd cut the Railroad Agent off mid sentence to quickly look them over.  Things might have deviated from this father's plan, but Adam suspected their might be more than a little useful information still contained in the correspondences.  He was not mistaken.

“I know where they are.”  Adam finally spoke, and folded a letter closed.

“This Maniac Monk?  You know where he is hiding?”  Ask the Railroad Agent, surprised.

“There's no Maniac Monk...”  Adam said, trying hard to hide his annoyance.  “That's just a tale.  I should know.  I'm the one who told it.”

“But the reports are clear.  There were many witnesses.  Our trains were robbed by a man in monastic robes, calling himself-”

“I know!  I know!”  Adam threw up his hands.  “The bandits might have been wearing robes.  They might call themselves many things.  It's the Dry Gulch Gang that were after, however.  There's no Monk.”

“Then why would these bandits dress in such a way?”

“It's a legend.  Well, not really.  They think that it is, but it isn't.  I told a tale to these fellas that a ghostly monk haunts these hills and exacts revenge on those who enter his territory.”

“Why would you do such a thing?”

“To fool them into trading a useless mine for a preacher.”

“You traded a mine for a preacher?”

“The Reverend up yonder, yes.”

“I'm sorry, I don't follow...”

“Never you mind.  The important thing is these folks I thought I was fooling have fooled me one better.  They took the bait, lure and all, but didn't bite on the hook.  Instead of going honest, they're decided that my tall tale makes good cover to do some more thieving.  And your trains have been easy pickings.”

“This Dry Gulch Gang, then?”  The Railroad Agent seemed resigned.

“Yep.”

“Who are masquerading as Maniac Monks?”

“Yep.”

“Who doesn't exist and never did?”

“Yep.”

“This Dry Gulch Gang, you know where they're held up?”

“That's right.”

“And that letter told you so?”

“It did.”

“Can I ask you who the letter is from?”

“Err, my father.”

“I see.  And how does he know the location of the hideout of these desperadoes?”

“Well, he don't.  He's dead.”

“My condolences.  When did he pass on?”

“Oh, three or four months ago.”

“Err...”  The Railroad Agent was now totally confused.  “I'm sorry, but the first train was robbed but a week ago...”

“I know, I have trouble keeping it all straight myself.  Just comfort yourself in the fact I got this situation in hand.”

“Excellent.”  The Railroad Agent shrugged.  “If you'll tell me the location, I'll send a wire.  I have thirty Pinkerton Men waiting in Corral.  I can have them in the saddle and-”

“If it's all the same to you, I reckon I'd like to handle these here Desperadoes myself.”  Adam interrupted.

“It is most certainly not all the same to me!”  Objected the Agent.

“Well then-”

“Didn't you hear me, Sheriff?  I have thirty crack guns waiting less than a days ride away.  This matter can be dealt with and over before sundown tomorrow if you'd simply tell me the location of these train robber's hideout.”

“I understand, but-”

“There are expectations her, you understand.  Expectations back at Head Office.  The Northern Pacific cannot tolerate daylight robbery of merchandise that has been entrusted to to the company for shipping.  It could undermine trust, Sheriff.  Trust.  If shippers begin to feel that their goods aren't safe in a box car of a Norther Pacific train, they might think twice before shipping said goods with us.  And without shipments, there very little way you can make a railroad a going concern.  Now, I don't need to tell you Sheriff, that without a railroad, a town like End of the Line...  Well, how long do you think this town would last without a 4 o'clock train, Sheriff?”

“I understand the delicacies, here.”  Adam took off his hat and wiped his brow, letting his temper cool down.  “But this here is Seldon County, and I'm its Sheriff.  If a train gets robbed here, I reckon it's my duty to round up them that's done the thieving.  Now, I might appreciate that you've got thirty men waiting on your word, but we've have a stomach full of folk like that around here lately, and I figure if I give those kind of fellas free rein to ride all over this county...  Well, that'd just be a step backwards, now wouldn't it?”

“You can't be serious, Sheriff?  You're going to tackle these Desperadoes alone?  You already said they tricked you once.”

“I didn't say they tricked me...  I said they done me one better.”

“Whatever.   You're still only one gun!”

“Well, I'll take along Gully here.”  Adam said, gesturing to Gully behind the bar.  Gully waved weakly. 

“That's your posse?”

“More than enough for the Dry Gulch Gang.”

“Then I insist I ride with you.  The railroad has property at stake.”

“You do what you think you gotta.”  Adam said.  “You gotta horse and a gun?”

“No, but I'm sure I can hire or acquire both.”

“Then let's get to it.”

Two hours later found Adam, Gully, and the Railroad Agent sitting in front of the Singing Hinny on the backs of three of the Big Ben's horses.  They were all wrapped against the cold in heavy coats from Mrs. Sears' storeroom.

“Now that we're all ready, will you tell me where we're heading?”  The Railroad Agent asked peevishly.  His breath clouded in the air in front of him.

“To a mine of no significant value.”  Adam replied, and spurred his horse down Main Street.  The Railroad Agent let out a sigh.  Gully shrugged and spurred his horse after Adam.

Their journey took them a few thousand yards down the valley where they cut off south into the hills.  They followed a winding goat path through broken, snow covered terrain, bare of any sign of life.  They carried on along that trail until early evening when they stopped and built a fire for dinner.

“Is this mine-of-no-significant-value much further?”  The Road Agent asked as he broken up dried kindling and fed the first embers of a fire.

“Two more hours, maybe.”  Gully said between blowing lungs full of air into the fire.  The kindling caught, and began to crackle. 

“Best we reconnoiter this evening, and make ourselves know in the morning.”  Adam worked an opener around a can of beans.  “I reckon those boys will be a might jumpy.  Best not to come upon them all sudden like.”

“If you had told me where we were going, you could have had thirty extra guns behind you...”

“We ain't gonna need thirty guns in the morning.”

“So you've said.  Still, as insurance policies go...”

“I'll bring those boys in, never you mind.  Your Railroad will have its villains to make an example of. “

“I hope so.  There's more than our heads riding on this little adventure, Sheriff.” 

“What's that supposed to mean?”  Adam queried.

“Wheels within wheels.”  The Railroad Agent said dreamily.  “Wheels within wheels...”

Adam opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a cracking branch out in the twilight.  Adam spun, drawing his gun, and come face to face with the silhouette of Vert De Salle not ten yards away.  He was dressed in his furs, carrying the rifle Adam had given him.

“Bonjour, mon ami!”  Vert called, raising an empty hand.

“You're no friend of mine!”  Adam holstered his gun, and turned back to his can of beans.

“I see you have some friends...”

“Who's this?”  The Railroad Agent asked.

“He's nobody.”  Adam said, then thought better of it.  “No, scratch that.  He's trouble.”

“This the crazy trapper that told you about the Mounties?”  Gully asked, fingering the hammers on his shotgun.
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LimeyJack
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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2008, 01:39:51 pm »

“That's right.  Gully, this is Vert De Salle.”

“Why such a frosty reception?”  Vert asked, sitting down by the small fire.

“I hear you have very interesting friends.”  Said Gully, giving Vert a hard stare.  Adam had told Gully about his encounter in Corral with Deputy Marshal Mosley.  Gully had seemed neither shocked or surprised that Adam had had a conversation with the Devil.  The supernatural seem to be something that Gully took well in his stride.

“Are you angry about that little trip I sent you on to Canada?”  Vert ask innocently.  He said 'Canada' with far more syllables than Adam thought was possible.

“Angry?  Why would I be angry?”  Adam had the beans open, he dumped them into a skillet and pushed them over the fire.

“You understand.  This was not of my doing.”

“I sorry, could somebody tell me who this fellow is?”  The Railroad Agent asked again.  Everyone ignored him.

“No, you just consort with the Devil.”  Gully accused. 

“The Devil?”  The Railroad Agent was confused.

“Please.  You must understand.  There is a balance that must be maintained.  Out here, in the mountains, I can not afford to offend.”

“You sent me to my death.”

“You did not die!  This I can see.  You are sitting right there very much alive.”

“No thanks to you.”

“How can I explain?  This man.  Mosley.  He asks a favor, I cannot refuse.”

“Deputy Marshal Mosley?”  The Railroad Agent interjected again.  He was still ignored.

“You won't be offended if we don't ask you to stay for dinner?”  Adam threw some bacon into the pan.

“I have not explained very well...”  Vert said, dejected.

“Oh we understand.”  Gully replied.  He was still fixing Vert with his hardest stare.  “We'd just rather not eat with the likes of you.  Think of us as superstitious that way.”

“Then I will leave.”  Said Vert, standing to go.  “But I will say what I came to say before I go.”

“You can spare us any of your advice.”  Adam snickered.

“Perhaps you will take this.”  Vert brushed off his fur coat with his hand.  “You are seeking El Diablo again, are you not?”

“What if I am?”

“You seek to arrest him?  For the trains that have been robbed?”

“We do.”  The Railroad Agent volunteered.

“Then you best approach him carefully.  For he has prisoners once again.”

“Prisoners?”

“Yes.  From the last train.  Men and women and children.  I saw him bringing them up from the valley.”

“There was no word that the Monk had taken hostages...”  The Railroad Agent puzzled.

“But you did not know he robbed a train today, no?”  Vert smiled.

“No!”

“Yes, outside of Corral.  But his attack was interrupted by riders from the railroad.”

“My Pinkerton Men!”  The Railroad Agent said with glee.

“So they took hostages to makes his escape.  A few families of the green hatted pilgrims who have been crossing the pass this last season.  El Diablo made it back to his mine, but the railroad riders have him surrounded as we speak.  I cannot imagine how such a situation is going to turn out well.”

“Surrounded?  Right now?  Are you serious?”  The Railroad Agent could hardly believe Vert's words.

“Yes, at the old mine.  There has been much gunfire and explosions.  When I saw you coming, I knew you must rescue the prisoners, Sheriff.  For that is what you do, No?”

“You really think these are your Pinkerton Men?”  Adam asked the Railroad Agent.

“Most assuredly.  If they heard word that another train was being robbed, they would have ridden out without orders.”

“Then we'd better get moving before someone gets hurt!”  Adam dumped the bean and bacon into the fire, and jumped to his feet.  Within a minute, the three riders were back on their horses.

“As much as it pains me to say this, Vert.”  Adam said, swallowing his pride.  “Thank you.”

“Je t'en prie.”  Vert smiled, and waved.  The riders spurred their horses to a trot and where gone.

Darkness had fallen by the time the three men reached the mine.  The sound of gunfire welcomed them as they cleared the last ridge.  Muzzle flashes light up the night from a number of men scattered among the rocks around the mouth of the mine.  A nearby building, perhaps once a cabin, was engulfed in flames along with a nearby stable. 

“Hold  your fire!”  Adam yelled as he rode down towards the mine, but it was hard to be heard over the gunfire.  “Damn you all, hold your fire!”  He pulled up his horse near the front rank of dark suited men.  A few muzzle flashes emerged from the mouth of the mine, and bullets whizzed past Adam's head.

“Get down, you fool!”  One of the Pinkerton men yelled.

“Hold your fire!”  Adam yelled back, half leaping, half falling from his horse.  The Pinkerton Man waved his arms, and the gunfire slowly died.  A few shots came from the mine and ricocheted off the rocks with a high pitched whir.

“There's women in children in there!”  Adam yelled as he took cover.  “Are you plum loco?”

“These men robbed the four thirty!”  The Pinkerton Man yelled back.  “We've been duly deputized and authorized to bring these men to justice!”

“You ain't been authorized to do squat!”  Adam fired back.  “I'm the Sheriff of this here County, and these men are my affair!  You holster your guns, and pull back out of rifle range or I'll have you all brought up on charges for interfering with a peace officer in the performance of his duty!  You got that!”

“I don't care if you're the King of Montana!”  The Pinkerton Man yelled, red faced.  “The Railroad-”

“The Railroad is paying you to follow orders.”  The Railroad Agent said, as he maneuvered into earshot.  “What this fellow says here is true.  He's the Sheriff of Seldon County.  If he wants to tackle the desperadoes alone, then...  Well, the Railroad isn't going to interfere.  You understand me?  The Sheriff gets to try things his way!”  The Pinkerton man glanced between the Sheriff and the Railroad Agent.  He shrugged, holstered his pistol, and waved his men back from the rocks.  “Well, there you go.  I hope you have one hell of a plan...”

“Just give me an hour.”  Adam said, pulling his pistol out of his belt and handing it to the Railroad Agent.  “If I ain't back out by then, you can tell your Pinkerton Man he can start blasting away again.”

“Good luck.”  Said the Railroad Agent, taking Adam's gun.

“Thanks, I'll need it.”  Adam stood up with his hands in the air.  Almost instantly, a shot rang out, and a bullet ricocheted off the rock in front of him.  Adam crouched back down.  “Will you stop shooting for a spell!”  Adam yelled out.  “I ain't armed!”  He stood up again.  This time he was met with silence.

Still holding his hands above his head, Adam stepped out from behind the rock.  He crossed the fifty yards or so towards the mouth of the mine shaft, getting close enough to see the muzzles of guns sticking out through the rocks.

“Well if I ain't a Monkey's Uncle.”  A voice said in the darkness of the mine.  “The Sheriff!”

“Evening, Trigger Jim.”  Adam called out.

“Don't you be coming any closer now.  I got this here Henry line right up on your belly.”

“I ain't gonna move.  I just came to talk.  Diablo there?”

“I reckon.”

“And Curly John?”

“Heck, yeah.”

“And that big Chinese fella that don't talk much?  What's his name?”

“Bob?  Who'd you thinks pointing that 10 gauge at yeah.”

“I see.  Hey there Bob. “  Adam's arms were tiring.  “And them folks from the train?  You get them all stowed away in there?  Any of them hurt?”

“If they is, we ain't done it!  I tell you, them boys out there ain't got no respect for the rules!”  Trigger Jim sounded agitated.  “When a fella is all hid up behind womenfolk, you just don't go off blasting at him like that girly ain't there!  I mean, by heaven!  Ain't that a cardinal rule?  Ain't that written down somewhere?  No shooting at the womenfolk!  I tell you what!”

“Why don't I come on in there and have a word with you all?”  Adam began to lower his arms.

“Don't you be doing anything stupid!”  Trigger Jim yelled out.  “I still got a broken nose you done give me, and I ain't about to forget how quick you is with your hands!”  Adam raised his hands again.

“There's got to be a peaceful way out of this, Jim.  Let me talk to Diablo.”

“Diablo ain't in charge any more!”  It sounded like Adam had poked a sore spot.  “Not for a long time.”

“Well, I don't want to stand out here and wait to get shot!  Can't I talk some place where folks ain't point guns?”

“What's the deal this time, Sheriff?  Got another mine you want to trade these folks for?”

“Nope, no trades this time.”

“Maybe another nugget of gold?”

“Nope, nothing.  Just the chance to get out of this mess with your lives.  I think that's a pretty good deal, considering.”

“Sounds like a plug nickel to me.”

“Well, you ain't gonna get a better offer anytime soon!  And all you're gonna do is get them folks in there all shot to hell right beside you.  You said it yourself these Pinkerton Men out here don't give a damn about casualties.”

“Pinkertons?”  Trigger Jim said with disbelief.  “Sons-of-a-bitches.”
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LimeyJack
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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2008, 01:40:31 pm »

“That right.  Low down, no good, sons of bitches.  Hard nosed killers.  That's what you're up against.  Now, soon as I got here I called them off, but they're working for the Railroad, they ain't working for me.  Soon as I get shot, or they think I've talked enough, they're gonna start up again on you all, with no worry about hitting women or children, or me for that matter.  And that'll be the end of it.  Nobody's getting out of her alive.  Now, if you let me in there to look in on the state of them prisoners, I'm thinking that might buy us a little time to talk some more.  You know, sign of good faith.  Me standing out here, their fingers are just getting itchier and itchier...”

Adam let it sink in.  He could almost hear them weighing their options.

“Let him in.”  A voice said behind the shotgun.  It must be Chinese Bob.

“You want him to trick us like he did before?”  Trigger Jim replied.

“No tricks this time, I promise.”  Adam added.  There was silence, and a reluctant grunt.

“Alight, take off that damn jacket so we can see you ain't armed.” 

Adam removed his coat, and spun around.  Satisfied, a hand popped up from behind the rocks, and waved Adam forward.

Inside the mine, Adam came face to face with Chinese Bob's ten gauge.  “No tricks.”  He said, gesturing with the shotgun.  The first ten yards of the mine were lit with kerosene lamps.  At the far end of the illuminated section, a group of dowdy prisoners huddled together under the watchful eye of Curly John and his gun.   A man in the the group wore a baggy green cap very similar to the one worn by the Taw pilgrim Adam had met a few weeks before disembarking from the train.  The women and children looked terrified.  The was another man, hatless, who seemed somehow out of place.  Adam coughed, and almost chocked on his tongue in surprise.  It was Mr. Thurgood.  The executioner of Adam's father's estate.

“Greetings to you, my child.”  A voice said beside Adam, snapping him out of his shock of seeing Mr. Thurgood with the prisoners.  He has been so distracted that he hadn't seen Diablo standing in the shadows.  Wait.  Was it Diablo? He was dressed in monastic robes with a rope tied around his middle for a belt.  He was the Maniac Monk!

“Why in heck are you wearing that getup?”  Adam chuckled.  He looked for a sign of a smirk on Diablo's face, but there was none.

“What getup?”  Replied Diablo.

“Why are you dressed like a monk?”

“I dress in the robes of my order.  These simple garments are all the possessions I need to spread the word of faith and love in our Lord.”

“Why are you talking like that?”  Adam asked.   When Diablo gave him a sideways look.  He turned to Trigger Jim.  “Why's he talking like that?”

“His mind has gone!”  Trigger Jim said, tapping the side of him temple.  “That's what your Maniac Monk does to folk!  Drives them insane.”

“What?”  Adam said, confused.  “My Monk?  Who?”

“The Maniac Monk!  That haunts these hills!  That protects this mine!  He took Diablo's mind.  Look at him.  Loopy as a Sunday Preacher!”

“There's no Maniac Monk.”  Adam said with some annoyance.  “That's just a tale.”

“It ain't not tale.  He's real.”  Trigger Jim said, with a tone that sent shivers down Adam's spine.

“He is.  We've seen him.”  Chinese Bob added.

“He ain't!”  Adam steamed.  “I should know,  I made him up!”

Trigger Jim, Chinese Bob, and Curly John exchanged looks.  Diablo seemed to be praying. 

“Then why'd you tell us that story?”  Curly John asked.

“To get you to take this panned out mine in trade for the kidnapped preacher!”

“This mine maybe panned out, but it is protected.”  Trigger Jim said wearily.  “Protected by something... Unnatural.”

“It ain't protected by nothing but you idiots.” 

“Then what done that to El Diablo?”  Curly pointed to the praying man.

“Nothing!  He's a soft headed fool!”   Adam rubbed his eyes, trying to keep his temper.  “Are you going to tell me that the Maniac Monk told you to rob them trains?”

“No, no.”  Trigger Jim said, socially.  “That was a fella from the Railroad.”

“What?”  Adam's ability to process disbelief was wearing thin.  “Someone from the Railroad wanted you to rob their own trains?”

“Damn right.”  Trigger Jim said proudly.  “About two weeks ago, this fella comes on up to talk to us.  Says he's heard that we're just about the toughest, no good, band of desperadoes around this territory.  Well, I can't rightly contradict him, and he asks us if we'd be interested in robbing us some trains.”

“I don't understand...”  Adam asked.

“Said we could keep whatever we took.  They didn't care.  As long as we made it look good, and scared  some folk right well.  We'd be safe from prosecution, he told us, as we'd be working for the railroad, and only stealing railroad property.” 

“So, what happen?”  Adam mind boggled at the possible answers.

“Well the first couple holdups go off right nice.  Diablo here is out of his mind, so we figure we put him front and center.  That really scares the passengers.  Monk waving a six gun.  We crack the safe, we take some whiskey-”

“The booze!”  Adam had almost forgot his dry bar in all the excitement.  A stack of crates to the right of the mine looked like they might be his missing shipment.

“-but we leave the regular folk alone.  You know, like the fella had asked.  But then this last time, we're working on the safe and those Pinkerton Fellas come riding up on us like the wind.  Shooting, yelling, bullets hitting passengers and such.  Well, we realize that we're about to get ourselves killed, and for a job that the Railroad has told us to do!. So, we grab these here folks for cover, and we lit out of there!  We get back to this here mine, but these Pinkerton men has tracked us.  Then the shooting starts.  The cabin burns.  Then you show up and tell us that these Pinkertons are actually working for the Railroad...  Now what's the deal with that?  Why the heck would that Railroad set us up to rob them trains only to send these men out to kill us?”

Suddenly Adam became unconcerned with his shipment of whiskey.  He realized that Gully was still out there, in the rocks, with the Railroad Agent and the Pinkerton Men. 

“I think we're all in deep trouble, boys.”  Adam said solemnly.

“What?  What do you mean?”  Said Curly John, panic in his voice.  “Can't you get us out of this?  You said you could get us out of this.”

“I said that not having all the facts...”  Adam mulled.

“Facts?  What facts?”

“I reckon there ain't none of us who are supposed to get out of this mine alive.  Me included, now that I've come on in.”

“But the prisoners.”

“I think they're as much a problem as us, fellas.”  A shriek rose up out of the hostages.  A woman began to cry.  “I'm gonna need a gun.”

“What?”  Trigger Jim looked at Adam sideways.  “You just want us to give you a gun?”

“Don't you understand?  Them Pinkerton Men ain't here to free any hostages.  They're here to kill you, them and me.  Not for robbing no train, but to keep us all quiet.  To stop you telling anyone that it was the Railroad that was actually robbing its own trains.  To cause a panic.”

“A panic?  Panic who?”

“Shippers.  Stock holders.  Board members.  To undermine confidence in the safety of the Northern Pacific.”  Adam thought out loud.  He looked at Chinese Bob's shotgun that was still pointed at him.  “Would you gentlemen mind if I consulted with my attorney?”

“What?”  Everyone said at once.

“Right there.”  Adam pointed to the small man in the group of hostages.  “Mr Thurgood.  Would you come here for a second?”  Mr. Thurgood stood, and meekly walked over to Adam.  “Would, by chance, my father's estate own any stock in the Northern Pacific Railroad?”

“W-W-Why yes.”  Mr. Thurgood answered weakly.  “In fact, I think your father had a controlling interesting in that particular railroad.  Your-”

“Ah!  There it is.”   Adam interrupted, triumphantly.  “I see Deputy Mosley has not been idle.”

“I'm sorry.”  Thurgood looked confused.  “Mosley?”

“Never you mind.  It'd take plumb forever to explain...  The fact is Gentlemen, we are pawns in a much large game of chess, and if we ain't careful, we're gonna get right knocked off the board.”

“Well ain't that grand?”  Said Trigger Jim sarcastically.  “Now, how does any of that help us get the hell out of here?”

Adam scratched his head.  “I did say I'd need a gun...” 

Trigger Jim walked over to where Diablo was praying, pulled him to his feet, and pulled a Colt Dragoon out of his robes.  He dropped Diablo back to the floor, and handed the gun to Adam.

“There.  Take Muddlehead's.  He won't be needing it.”

“Thank you.”  Adam took the gun, cocked the hammer, and shoved it hard into Trigger Jim's ribs.  “Sorry, it's the only way out of this.”

“You no good, lying, son-of-a-”  Trigger Jim began.  Adam pulled the rifle out of his hands, and held it out for Mr. Thurgood.

“Here, take this.”  Adam said.

“No, no.”  Mr. Thurgood waved his hands nervously.  “I wouldn't know...  I mean...  I've never.”

“Just take it!”  Adam threw the rifle, and Thurgood clumsily caught it.  “Follow me.”  Adam barked, and began to lead Trigger Jim out of the mine.

“I really don't think-”  Thurgood stammered.

“Just follow me if you want to get out of this alive!”

Back out in the night air, Adam prodded Trigger Jim forward and let him stumble a few feet in front of him.

“If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna get you for this.”  Sneered Trigger Jim.

“I ain't got time to explain.  Just do what I tell ya.”  Adam kept the gun leveled.

“Was anything you said back there on the up and up?” 
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LimeyJack
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« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2008, 01:41:14 pm »

“It's all true.  I just ain't got time to explain.  Keep walking.”  They were half way to the Pinkerton Men.  “Mr. Thrugood.  I'm gonna put you in a tight spot.  Just hold that gun like you know how to use it, and agree with anything I say.  You understand?”

“Agree?  I suppose so, but I don't think-”

“Don't think.  Just agree.”

“Yes...  Yes, I will.”  Thurgood turned the rifle in his hands and grasped it in an almost a professional looking fashion. 

“Good.” Adam cleaned his throat, and yelled out.  “It's Sheriff Liche!  I have a prisoner!”  From behind a rock, the Railroad Agent and the head Pinkerton Man raised their heads.

“So we see!”  The Railroad Agent yelled out.  “And the hostages?”

“That him!”  Trigger Jim said, pointing at the Railroad Agent.  “The fella from the Railroad!”

“Stuff it!”  Said Adam through his teeth. 

“But that's him!” 

“I know!  Stuff it!”  Then aloud:  “Alive and well!”  Adam cleared the last few yards and pushed Trigger Jim to his knees in front of the Pinkertons.  “We're all done here, the prisoners are safe.”

“Who's this little fella?”  The Pinkerton Man said, gesturing to Thurgood.  “He with the Prisoners?”

“I'd mind your tone, if I was you.”  Adam mocked offense.  “Boys, this is Deputy Marshal Mosley.  I assume his reputation proceeds him?”  It was as if a lightning bolt had stuck.  The Railroad Agent and the Pinkerton Man almost jumped to attention.

“I'm..I'm..I'm sorry for the off color remark, Deputy.”  The Pinkerton Man tripped over his tongue.  “I didn't mean to imply anything...  With regard...  To your...  Um..  Stature..  Or lack there of...” 

Momentarily confused, Thurgood caught the gist of what was going on, and pulled himself to his full hight.

“Think nothing of it, my good man.”  He said with pomposity.  Adam tried hard to hold back a smile.

“Hey, Partner.”  Trigger Jim spoke up, addressing the Railroad Agent.  “Tell this Sheriff I be working for you!  That you come up here and told us to rob them trains!  Tell him...  Go on, tell him..”

“I have no idea what you're talking about!”  The Railroad Agent tried to chuckle.  “Are you some sort of fool?”

“Don't worry, fellas.  The Deputy Marshal has filled me in on the plan.”  Adam said casually.

“You have?”  The Railroad Agent said to Thurgood with surprise.

“Yes, yes.  I felt he needed to know.”  Thurgood glanced at Adam for assurance.

“But I thought...  I mean...”  The Railroad Agent began.  He seemed reluctant to be confrontational.

“Yes, well...  There has been a change of plans.”  Thurgood added.  The little lawyer sure was a quick study.

“I see.”  Was all the Railroad Agent could say.

“Tell them.”  Adam prodded Trigger Jim with the barrel of his gun.  “Tell them about the Maniac Monk.”

“But I thought that was just a story?”  Said the Railroad Agent.

“That's what he said.”  Trigger Jim said, pointing back at Adam.  “But he ain't.  He's real.  We seen him.”

“You've seen this Maniac Monk?”  Ask the Pinkerton Man in disbelief.

“Well, not me.  Diablo back there.  Drove him plumb loco, it did.  Crazy as a loon.”

“I don't understand?”  The Railroad Agent looked at Adam.

“Don't you see?”  Adam asked.  “What if this Maundering Monk is real?”

“But he's not.  He's a tale of your invention.  You said so yourself”

“But this here fella says he's actually seen him.  Drove his friend insane.  And there's a dozen witnesses says they saw a monk rob them trains.  The Deputy Marshal here think the story has potential.  That's why he tagged along with the prisoners.”

“I do.  I mean... I did.”  Thurgood chimed in with almost perfect timing.

“And as we see it, a few robberies might undermine a little trust in the railroad, drop the stock price a little, but what if word got out back east that the Northern Pacific is actually haunted? “

“Haunted?”

“Exactly.  What if the Railroad has gone and laid tracks on holy ground.  That iron horses have disturbed the slumber of an insane monk, fit to exact his revenge on passengers with wanton bliss.  That's something that would give folks pause before paying out for a ticket back in Minneapolis.  That's the sort of thing- featured properly in the right newspapers and whispered quietly in saloons  -that could really get things going.  Really start a panic.”

“Stock value would plummet...”  The Railroad Agent said wistfully.

“Exactly.  Certain parties might be very pleased...”  Adam let the innuendo hang.

“But I don't understand...”  The Railroad Agent began.  “You're Adam Liche...”

“The Deputy Marshal and I have come to an understanding.”  Adam said, in such a tone that implied that follow up questions were not welcome.

“We have.”  Thurgood added, solemnly.

“It will mean ruin...” 

“The price will be high, but such is the cost of loyalty...” 

The Railroad Agent and the Pinkerton Man nodded as if what Adam said made a great deal of sense.

“For this to work, there can be no witnesses.”  The Pinkerton Man looked squarely at Trigger Jim.

“Witnesses?”  Adam said.  “No, you don't understand.  We need more witnesses!”

“I'm sorry?” 

“This man has to be set free.  Him and his compatriots.  Prisoners too.  Anyone who knows of this Manic Monk.  Thinks they've seen him.  Talked to someone who thinks he's seen him.  Anything that spreads the word.  That's what we need!”

“But I hired these men to rob our own trains.”  The Railroad Agent questioned.  “If word got out...”

“Ah, heck.  The Maniac Monk robbed them trains.  That's the interesting story.  Any other tale is gonna die on the vine.”

“So we just let them all go?”  The Pinkerton Man seemed reluctant.

“I reckon.”

“That the way you see it too, Deputy Marshal?”

“I do.” 

The Railroad Agent and The Pinkerton Man looked at each other in confusion.  Both speechless, the Pinkerton man shrugged his shoulders, and holstered his gun. 

“You boys head on back to Corral.”  Adam said.  “The Deputy Marshal and I will cleaned up things here.”  Adam pulled Trigger Jim back to his feet and started him off back to the mine.  After a dozen yards or so, Adam risked glancing back.

“Are they leaving?”  Thurgood asked, too nervous to turn a look himself.

“Sure looks that way.”

“How'd I do?” 

“You're a natural born Satan.”  Adam chuckled.

“I'm sorry?”  Thurgood asked, confused.

“Oh, I'll explain it some other time.”

The next morning found Adam and Mr. Thurgood sitting at Adam's usual table in the Singing Hinny.  Adam fidgeted with the empty shot glass in front of him, as Gully cracked open one of the crates of whiskey from the stolen shipment.

“What we drinking?”  Adam asked impatiently.  Gully pulled the lid of the crate free, and tugged out a bottle.  As he read the label, his face turned sour.  “What's wrong?” 

“Did you order this?”  Gully asked indignantly.

“I don't know...  Maybe...  What is it?”

“Kentucky Horseradish.”  Gully placed the bottle in front of Adam.  Sure enough, the gray and black label read: 'Kentucky Horseradish.  The Colonel's Choice.'

“Sounds...  Invigorating.”  It was the only word Adam could think of.  “Care for a drink?”  Adam asked Mr. Thurgood.

“No, no.  I don't imbibe.”  Mr Thurgood replied.  For a second, Adam wished he didn't either. 

Adam poured himself a glass.  It had a milky color, that was as off-putting as the whiskey's name.  Adam belted the glass back and felt it burn down the back of his throat.

“Oh yeah, Kentucky Horseradish...”  Adam said, trying not to cry.  “Is that all we got?”

“Fourteen cases.”  Gully sounded defeated.

“I don't think this is what I ordered.”  Said Adam feebly. 

“Well, get used to it.”  Gully said without sympathy.

“Mr. Liche, if I may.”  Mr. Thurgood interrupted.

“Yes, of course.”  Adam breathed in heavily.  “Hey, thanks again for your help back there, but what the heck were you doing on that train, anyway?  You're a long way from 5th Avenue.”

“A fact I am painfully aware of.”  Thurgood open the valise he had on his lap, and pulled out an envelope and a cigar box.  “It came to my attention a few weeks ago that your father's letters that I was dutifully forwarding at the proscribed intervals, were being intercepted by forces as yet unknown.”

“Yeah, I know.  Mosley”  Adam interrupted.  He held up the two letters that Mosley had given him.  “They arrived.  By-and-by.”

“Ah.  Really?  Well, good.  But with the breakdown in communication, I took it upon myself to deliver the next correspondence in person.  You see, this letter came with a package,”  He held up the cigar box.  “and I felt it far too risky to leave to fate.”
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LimeyJack
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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2008, 01:42:12 pm »

“I admire the diligence with which you execute your duty.” 

“Thank you.  Unfortunately, the train from Corral was hijacked by those road agents.  I was tussled up, and carted off with those women and children as some sort of human shield.  Do you really think it was wise to let those Desperadoes go, Sheriff?  It seems like an awful risk.”

“The Dry Gulch Gang won't be robbing no more trains.”  Adam said, taking the cigar box and envelope from Mr. Thurgood.  “They might not be the sharpest knives in the draw, but crime ain't brought them anything but trouble.”

“And the hostages?  The green capped fellow, and his family?”

“Once the train makes it here from Corral, they'll be able to retrieve their things, and continue on for the Washington Territory.  If the snow in the pass ever clears, that is.”  Adam tore open the letter, and began to read.

“Just one more question, Sheriff?”  Mr Thurgood asked.  “Who is this Mosley fellow?”  But Adam was already reading:

My Son,
The great day has finally arrived.  Those drums in the hills-  The incessant beating of the drums of Doom -has finally ceased.  The Great Evil has come to End of the Line.  That against which we must wage our most terrible battle has shown its hand.  The War has begun.

As you well know, the Northern Pacific Railroad has returned to End of the Line.  I am unable to discern their stratagem for attack, but these details I am sure you are now intimately familiar with.  Their long turn goals, however, you may not be completely privy too.

The nub of the matter is this:  The Northern Pacific Railroad, who's westward expansion was halted when the Railroad went into receivership, in back in the black.  While I breathed, I was able to take a controlling interest in the company, but now without my attention, I can only assume that other forces have come to dictate policy back at Head Office.  Their plan will now be to continue laying track until steel stretches from shore to shore.  End of the Line, the ghost town that was once a boom town, lies directly in the path.  End of the Line must be destroyed if the railroad is to continue on.

And so the battle has begun.  It is imperative that End of the Line survive, and that the Railroad be frustrated in it attempts to expand its line to the Pacific Ocean.  They will attack you with all of their resources.  They will, without fail, lay siege to the town.  Train service will be halted.  Shipments will be lost.  You will need to seek another source of supplies.  Make this a top priority.

What agents I still have back in New York will be fighting this war on another front.  Your job is to hold the line there in the west.  Frustrate their efforts in any way you can imagine.  Time is all you can buy, but purchase as much of it as you can. 

I cannot stress enough that failure in this enterprise will have dire consequences for you and our nation.

Along with this letter, I have sent you a item you might find useful.  May it serve you well.

Be strong, my son.

Henry Archibald Liche


“I've made a terrible error!”  Adam gasped as he finished the letter.

“I'm sorry?  An error how?”  Mr. Thurgood asked.

“Oh, it's hard to explain.”  Said Adam, composing himself.  “I think I've fouled against my own team.”  Then remembering.  “What did you say?”

“This Mosley that you had me pretend to be?”  Mr Thurgood began.  “The mention of his names had a chilling effect on those railroad men.  Who is he that the mere mention of his name has such power, and how could they have mistaken me for such a man?”

“I think this Mosley is in cahoots back east to control of the Northern Pacific.  The Deputy Marshal and my father we in competition, and with my father's passing, Mosley is trying to tighten his grip.  I met him in Corral, not but a week ago.  He tried to entice me to join him, but I shot him down.  He seems to be a shadowy figure, I reckon.  I took a chance that his underlings ain't never had any dealt with him directly.  Plumb luckily I happened to be right.  You did a bully job of convincing them you were their employer.  I guess there must be the sinister aura about you...”

“Thank you.  I think...  Whoever this Mosley is, I can tell you that I've never heard of him.  If he's involved in New York finances, he must be a shadowy figure indeed.  What I can tell you, however, is who is most apt to gain should the stock price of the Northern Pacific take a nose dove, and it's no shadowy Deputy Marshal named Mosley.”

“Really?”  Adam was skeptical.  “Who is it then?”

“The person with the most to gain from a run on the stock of the Northern Pacific is your brother.”  Mr. Thurgood's words past through Adam's ears and didn't stick.  It took a second for things to register. 

“Come again?  Who?”  Adam did a double take.

“Your brother.”  Mr Thurgood said, and let it sink in.

Adam pulled the cork out of the Kentucky Horseradish and poured himself another glass.  He was going to need it.

“Forgive my curiosity, Sheriff, but what is in the box?”  Thurgood pointed at the cigar box.  Adam had almost forgot.  “I carried it fifteen hundred miles without peaking once...”

Adam opened the cigar box to find a shinny steel revolver of some strange design.  It looked old, almost ancient, but also new at the same time.  There was a small white card tucked under the barrel.  Adam tugged it free, and read:

For Shooting Dragons.  Aim Low.


The news just got better and better. 

Adam gulped back his glass of Kentucky Horseradish and let it burn.
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