Blown Away (Chapter 1)
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. "Blown Away" is the first chapter, which I am just posting now. Chapter 2 "The Hex" will be published soon. 47 additional chapters have already been posted, so the novel is nearing completion.
The violent explosion on the steamboat Victoria blew the beautiful blonde paleontologist from Philadelphia, Hannah Monroe, and the exotic Arapaho princess from the Hell Creek nether region, Sweet Water, into the air and they descended into the water. Struggling in the river, the women glanced at the boat, which was in a sheet of fire.
Hannah and Sweet Water heard a combination of shrieks, cries, prayers, and groans. The explosion had punctured the wooden deck and a rain of hot coals from the furnace quickly set it ablaze. The smokestacks fell every which way. Both women had been cut by a hail of flying shrapnel, as were others who had been on board. A large piece of iron glanced off Hannah’s head, rendering her unconscious momentarily. Sweet Water established a firm grip on Hannah so that she did not drift off.
The women glanced at others in the water. It was apparent that only the best swimmers aided by fragments of the wreck could hope to be saved. Some individuals were killed in the explosion, some had broken limbs, some were scalded, some were borne under by the resistless current of the great muddy river, never to see the surface again.
Captain of the Victoria Brody Trent had retired from the watch just before the explosion. He could now be seen throwing doors and shutters to the people in the water. One of those in the water was Timothy O’Leary, an Irish dwarf and friend of Hannah and Sweet Water. He had been a member of Hannah’s fossil-hunting expedition, and he was traveling with them to St. Louis and beyond. His nickname was “Little Sexy,” and he planned to join P.T. Barnum’s outfit back East.
Tiny Tim screamed, “Oweya the-day lassies! My legs! My legs were blown off! I’m going to die! But no point in olagonin’ the dire situation, it only makes matters worse.”
Sweet Water responded, “We’ll help you, Little Sexy. Just hang on to that crate.” She pulled the debris that Tiny Tim clung to behind her as she made for the shore with Hannah in tow. The crate had contained fossils recovered by Hannah and the expedition, but now was empty and the contents had been scattered about the bottom of the Missouri River.
“Are there sharks in this river?” Tim asked apprehensively.
“No, Tim, no sharks,” Sweet Water replied. “Just snakes.”
“Scon from Ireland. Sharks off the Irish coast. I don’t like snakes, neither,” Tiny Tim said, grimacing.
“Well, obviously they can’t bite your legs,” Sweet Water said. “Not any more.”
The river was high, flowing fast and crowded with dead, drowning, and barely floating men. The Victoria was a state-of-the art draft mountain boat loaded with 3,000 buffalo robes, a whole lot of gold dust and nuggets, a safe containing several thousands of dollars worth of gold, a half dozen armed guards provided by the Allen & Willard Bank in Virginia City, and the crew and passengers. The explosion occurred at a bend in the Missouri River between the mouth of the Milk River and Wolf Point. As steamboats approached the point or high ground on the river where Wolf point had its beginnings, that hill appeared to have the shape of a wolf. The entire structure of the boat was in flames only about a minute after the explosion. The wreck of the Victoria floated about a half mile down the river, burned all the way to the water line, and soon disappeared under the water.
Sweet Water managed to drag Hannah and Tiny Tim to shore. Several other survivors soon joined them including Captain Brody. They collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath.
Captain Taz soon showed up with his men in a boat. He did not look pleased and blurted, “Damn safe is at the bottom of the Missouri River now. Maybe we shouldn’t have used that coal torpedo. Just like the one Confederate Secret Service agent Robert Loudon used to sink the steamboat Sultana and kill almost 1200 passengers.”
Captain Brody shouted, “It was you! You sunk my ship, you bastard!”
Taz brandished his pistol and shot Brady in the throat. The fatal wound spurted a great deal of blood that Hannah rushed to curtail, but to no avail. She began to sob and muttered, “He was a good man. You are not, you murdering animal!”
“Watch it bitch, or I’ll put a bullet in you next,” Taz snarled. “Maybe not. I have other plans for you. And that squaw.” He then glared at Tiny Tim and spat, “I’d put a bullet in the midget, but he already lost his legs and a lot of blood. He ain’t gonna make it. And his pecker got blown off too. I saw it floating in the water, just before a shark swallowed it.”
“That was a huge log you saw,” Tiny Tim corrected with a sneer as he reached under his kilt. “My pecker is just fine, thank you Lord.”
Sweet Water reached over and put her hand under Tiny Tim’s kilt. She said sweetly, “I’ll vouch for that.”
“Get them on the boat,” Taz ordered. “We are going to the hide-out. But strip them first and throw their clothes in the water. They will be less likely to attempt escape if they are naked and afraid.”
One of Taz’ gang asked, “Can we play ‘Put Out or Get Out,’ Boss?”
“We’ll see,” Taz answered. “Can’t you wait until we get to the hideout?”
“No,” the man replied. “I could faint from a raging boner and blue balls.”
Tiny Tim asked, “Aren’t you going to take me with you?”
“What for?” Taz snapped. “What good to me is a crippled midget? You stay here and bleed to death.”
Hannah recalled a similar predicament when her colleagues were slaughtered and mutilated by the Cheyenne and she was restrained to a tree naked waiting to be ravaged and raped. Hex Hawkins rescued her then. Hex, where are you now? she thought. Please save me again, darling! Please hurry!
The man with the afternoon wood freed his trouser trout and grabbed Hannah by the back of the neck and forced her head down.