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Bank On It (Short Story No. 5)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement are welcome.
I'm just a monitor
The Cheyenne raiders appeared in Helena without much warning. A powerful hail and thunderstorm had descended on the town. Tornadoes had touched down nearby. Most citizens had sought cover in buildings.
But soon they made their presence known. Dog Soldiers led by White Bear galloped through the streets howling their war cries and shooting fire arrows everywhere. The smoke from burning buildings concealed the arrival of the other riders who rode camels to some extent.
Captain Taz and his four men met no opposition when they dismounted and entered the bank. The head cashier Kleinschmidt had eliminated the presence of the guards somehow as he promised he would do. The bank vault door was open, as also promised. The gang filled their sacks quickly. Soon they fled, their mission accomplished without incident thus far.
But then their good fortune changed. Marshal Howie got wind of the robbery and arrived on the scene with his Winchester. He fired a burst at the fleeing bandits and shot two and their camels. One man was obviously deceased. He approached the not seriously wounded bank robber and took him into custody. When he pulled their masks off, he realized he had wanted posters on both of them.
Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, indicated he would take care of the dead man as the marshal was anxious to interrogate the other one and then lead a posse after the rest of them. Marshal Howie did soon question the other one, but the wounded man would not divulge any information or even acknowledge his identity, Seth Morris.
Barnes had the dead body put in an open coffin and stood up in front of the newspaper office. The corpse’s hands touched his guns fondly. A sign was printed and put above his body.
KILLED WHILE ROBBING
THE BANK OF HELENA
Jimbo Walters, the local photographer who also worked on occasion for the newspaper, offered to take pictures of members of the public next to the outlaw. For an extra fifty cents they could hold a gun to make it look as though they apprehended this bad man. A great family photo for your grandchildren and way down the line, so promoted the photographer.
# # #
Cut to the chase
Marshall Howie and his posse lit out after the rest of the bank robbers. Two hours into the chase they met up with Sheriff Hiram Brown and his posse. Howie related what had happened in Helena.
“You didn’t see any trace of them?” Howie asked.
“Nope,” Brown replied. “Some Cheyenne, but no bank robbers on camels. Do you want my men to join your posse?”
“No thanks,” Howie answered as he surveyed the motley crew that followed the sheriff. The eight Chinamen, the Chinese girl May Ling, Helen James the Pinkerton agent, and Brown’s deputy Ned Helm all looked rather worn out.
“Where is Russ Lane?” Howie asked. “I thought he was one of your deputies.”
“He’s on a pack horse covered with a tarp. He got his throat cut.”
“By the Cheyenne?”
“I reckon so, Marshal Howie,” Brown said. “I don’t know who else woulda done it.”
Helen glanced at May Ling who smirked at the sheriff’s comment.
Marshal Howie said, “The Cheyenne took another girl, Angela Davis, the undertaker’s seventeen-year-old daughter.”
“I’m going to head back to Virginia City,” Sheriff Brown stated. “Got to bury my deputy before he gets too ripe.”
“Not me,” Helen James insisted. “I’m going to head into Helena. Do you mind if I question your prisoner, Marshal Howie?”
“Go ahead,” the marshal answered, “but he’s not likely to talk. He wouldn’t tell me much.”
“How much did the bank robbers get?” Helen asked.
“Around $50,000 in money and gold, so said the head cashier, Kleinschmidt,” Howie said. “He’s doing an accounting to make sure. Well, I’m heading out to chase them now. I’ll divide my men in half and send some after the Cheyenne and those two girls they kidnapped, one in Helena and the other at the Anderson farm. I hope they haven’t been raped.”
“Not much chance of that,” Sheriff Brown muttered. That’s usually the first thing on the savage’s list – rape the women.”
“Yup, I’m afraid you’re right,” Marshal Howie agreed as he galloped off with his men.
# # #
The bearded lady
Helen James couldn’t help but notice the late Judah Johnson in front of the newspaper office as she rode into Helena. She herself caused a bit of commotion riding a camel into town. Some likely thought it was one of the bank robbers who had returned.
Helen dismounted and had her picture taken with the deceased, Judah Johnson. Robert Barnes the newspaper editor struck up a conversation with her. He requested to have his picture taken with Joe the camel, which she accommodated with the help of Jimbo the photographer. Barnes told her his version of the bank robbery.
“It was just all too easy,” Barnes reported. “They went in and went right out, with bags of money and gold. The vault was open and no guards were around. I haven’t been able to find the head cashier, Kleinschmidt, to get his story for my article in the newspaper. His wife told me to went off to visit some friend who has a ranch ten miles south of here. I couldn’t help but notice that she wore a new dress, very fancy, and a new necklace and earrings.”
Robert Barnes invited Helen to dinner, which she accepted. Unfortunately, Marshall Howie also killed two camels when he killed one bank robber and wounded another with his Winchester. The owner of the Red Horse restaurant had taken it upon himself to butcher the two camels and was offering various barbecued camel dishes for supper, cheap, so said the sign in front of his establishment.
“That’s what’s going to happen to you, if you don’t behave,” Helen said to her camel, Joe. “So why do they call this place the Red Horse?” she asked Robert Barnes.
Barnes responded, “Most of the time they serve raw horse meat. The camel steaks will be a treat. Make mine very well done,” he said to the waiter.
“Please take my camel out front something to eat,” Helen requested of the waiter.
“Will he eat camel?” the waiter asked.
“No, he likes cactus,” she answered. “Would you eat your brother?”
That comment led Robert Barnes to mention that he had heard rumors that Sheriff Hiram Brown’s deputy, Ned Helms, was a cannibal. Like his uncle Boone Helm before him.
# # #
Helen went over to the jail after dinner to question the prisoner, Seth Morris. Marshal Howie was right. He wouldn’t spill the beans.
In exasperation Helen finally said, “So what will get you to talk?”
Morris replied, “I want you to find my lady friend and bring her here.”
“Where can I find her?” Helen asked.
“She is with George Bartholomew’s Great Western Circus,” he said. “They are somewhere around here performing.”
“What is her name and what does she do with the circus?”
Morris said, “Her name is Anne Hope, and she is a bearded lady.”