A Legend Is Born (Short Story #19)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Lucy, the attractive redheaded telegraph operator, took a fancy to Bob Wells, the Pinkerton agent who had just arrived to assist Helen James. Lucy, after being the recipient of some serious flirting on the part of Wells the Casanova, informed him of the telegram to Slim Porter in Bozeman. The telegram that said: SLIM YOU AND YOUR MEN NEEDED IN HELENA ASAP. THE JOB PAYS WELL. YOURS CAPTAIN TAZ. Bob Wells reported the information to Helen James, who had been interrogating the injured T.H. Kleinschmidt and Angus the Scottish Sasquatch. That is, until both were murdered. Lucy didn’t know the name of the individual who sent the telegram, but she indicated she would recognize him if she saw him again.
After sending the telegram to Slim Porter, Taz’s right-hand man Buster had snuck into the Last Chance Saloon where the two injured men had been recuperating. The saloon was closed but the door had not been locked and no one was present besides the two injured men other than a cleaning lady who had fallen asleep. Buster had cut both men’s throats and continued cutting until their heads were severed. The cleaning lady, Bertha, did wake momentarily when Kleinschmidt screamed bloody murder as the knife pierced his flesh.
Helen James now had two more murders to investigate, but she was more interested in the imminent arrival of the Slim Porter gang. She learned from Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, that members of Porter’s gang had once been members of Henry Plummer’s Innocents gang. She recalled what Colonel Wilbur Sanders back in Virginia City had told her of Plummer and his hanging a few years back. Barnes informed Helen that Porter’s outlaw gang was known to dress in black and wear large black false beards, apparently not only as a disguise but to mimic Slim who had unruly black hair not only on his head but on his face as well. Slim’s reputation included an unpredictable personality and violent temper. Some said a head wound suffered in a barroom brawl caused his erratic behavior and explained his brutality. Rumor had it he cut off a rival’s head and took it into a bar to have a drink. Then he robbed the bar and then he and his men went next door and robbed the bank.
Helen asked Bob Wells to teach her how to shoot a regular pistol, other than the Philadelphia derringer she concealed in her garter and with which shehad shot Angus the giant. Wells suggested that some of the others could use some target practice in view of the possible confrontation with the infamous Porter gang. Shorty and several others followed Wells to the outside of town and an abandoned corral. Wells had borrowed several pistols from Tom Simpson, the owner of the hardware/gunsmith shop. He selected the pistols because they were just like his own pair.
“Oh, those are Colts just like Wild Bill’s!” Shorty exclaimed. “Other than for the pearl handles and his initials engraved on them.”
“No, I think not,” Wells corrected, “These are Dimick Navy Model 1864 pistols, my personal weapon of choice and superior to the Colts. Horace Dimick, a gunsmith and firearms dealer in St. Louis, bought 300 Metropolitan Navy Model 1864 pistols, modified them, and stamped them with his own name. The Metropolitans were identical copies of Hickok’s 1851 Navy pistols.”
“Yer tryin’ to bamboozle us,” Shorty accused.
“No, I’m not,” Wells insisted.
Wells explained that in1864 there was a fire at Colt’s East Armory that destroyed all but two buildings and severely crippled production lines. Metropolitan Arms of New York took up some of the slack by producing exact copies of the original Colt Navy sidearms, to include navy scene engravings along the cylinder. The original octagon barrel length was 7.5 inches. H. E. Dimick bought several hundred of the Metropolitan revolvers rather than manufacture them himself and stamped his name on some of them, like these being fired at the moment. Dimick shortened the barrels to 5.25 inches.
“What are the advantages and disadvantages of the shorter barrel?” Helen inquired.
“Disadvantages are decreased muzzle velocity and accuracy, but this is insignificant, at least in my opinion,” Wells replied. “The advantage is that you can pull the smaller gun from your holster much quicker. Let’s give it a try.”
Wells had also brought holsters and belts from Simpson’s store. They practiced with the guns for well over an hour. Wells emphasized that coolness and deliberation were just as if not more important than speed in a gunfight. “You must shoot at an adversary with the same precision and deliberation that you shoot at a target with, like we are doing now.”
“This is such a beautiful gun,” Helen noted. “Not a harsh angle on it. I love the female curve of the grip and smooth rounded wood.”
“Pretty gun for a pretty lady,” Shorty said and then guffawed.
The group walked back to the Last Chance Saloon, ordered beers, and sat at a large table. Soon Lucy the telegraph operator entered the saloon carrying a plaid cloth bag, which she placed in front of Bob Wells. “Your lunch, honey,” she purred. “More like dinner, now. I couldn’t find you at noon, and here I was hoping you’d be interested in a little something else.”
“We was practicing our shootin’, my dear,” Shorty offered. Your beau Bob can shoot faster’n you can spit and shout howdy. Now some of us can too.”
“I don’t know about that,” Helen said somberly.
“You just need some practice on real targets to boost your confidence,” Wells suggested.
“Yup,” Shorty agreed. “Plug some people. Put some notches on that new gun of yours.”
Lucy joined them at the table and Wells pulled a sandwich out of the bag and took a bite. “What’s this shit?” he muttered.
Suddenly Buster sauntered into the saloon and up to the bar. The bartender poured him a double shot of something or other. “What’s this shit?” Buster uttered in disgust.
Lucy blurted, “That’s him! That’s the guy who sent the telegram to Slim Porter in Bozeman.”
“So he must be this Captain Taz’s right-hand man, the one who murdered Kleinschmidt and Angus.”
“So arrest him,” Wells suggested.
“You do it,” Helen ordered.
“You’re in charge, so you said,” Wells snapped. “Look, he has that club Angus used on Kleinschmidt.”
Helen walked up to Buster and grabbed the club from him. “So what’s this shit?”
Shorty had fetched Bertha, the cleaning lady, who confirmed that it was Buster who had cut Kleinschmidt’s throat.
“Drop your gun!” Helen demanded. “This is your last chance. This is the Last Chance Saloon, you know.”
Buster bolted for the door, and Helen followed him. Outside, he paced off a distance of about 75 yards. Suddenly he turned and fired rapidly. He missed. Helen then drew, took careful aim, and fired a shot that hit Buster in the chest. He stumbled for about 20 feet before he finally fell to the ground, dead.
“He can shoot faster’n you can spit and shout howdy!” Shorty screamed.
“I’m not a he!” Helen corrected vehemently.
“You are a legend!” Bob Wells offered. “Soon to be the star of dime novels.”
“I’m going to write an article for the paper right now,” Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, said as he hurried off.
The wild west just got wilder
Click on link for source to go to The Lady Who Loved Bones at Amazon.com.