Cutthroat (Short Story No. 30)
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.
Yet another throat cut
When the group arrived in Helen, they soon discovered that there had been another murder. Wee Willie Wilson, the dwarf and circus clown, came running up shouting about it.
“Why didn’t you tell the sheriff?” Shorty asked.
“You are the sheriff, ain’t ya?” Wee Willie responded.
“Oh yeah, I forgot,” Shorty answered. “Prolly cuz they didn’t give me a badge. Said the last sheriff got buried with his. Well, maybe they got some new badges made by now. So who got hisself kilt now?”
“What makes you think it was a he?” Helen James, Pinkerton agent, asked.
“Well, it coulda been a woman. Wouldn’t be a first. Poor Velma got herself hanged. So who was it, anyway?”
Wee Will said, “Ku-Lang, one of them Yellow Boys, got his throat cut.”
“Don’t call them Yellow Boys!” Hannah demanded. “That’s rude, among other things.”
“Who made you the boss of me?” Willie snapped.
“How would you like it if I called you a midget?” Hannah retorted. “A midget brain. Or a midget dick.”
“But it would be the truth,” Shorty offered, smirking smugly. “I seen him bending over the lady with the beard.” Anne Hope, the circus bearded lady, gave Shorty a look to kill.
The dwarf circus clown and the short sheriff and part-time circus clown began to brawl. Hannah and several other observers broke them up, but only after numerous blows had been landed by both.
Helen said, “Wee Willie got that Yellow Boy lingo from the sheriff of Virginia City, Hiram Brown. I heard Brown use such lingo when I was a member of the posse searching for this Captain Taz after him and his gang robbed the bank in Virginia City. Sheriff Brown referred to the new Winchester rifles as Yellow Boys because of the yellow appearance due to the receiver made of a bronze/brass allow called gunmetal.”
“So who is this, or was, this Ku-Lang?” Hannah questioned. “Are you sure he’s dead?”
Helen responded, “He was one of the leaders of the Chinese community and owner of the local opium den.”
Owner of the opium den
Doc Eberlin who had joined the group piped up with, “He is definitely dead. His head was nearly cut right off. Just hanging by a thread, or a piece of skin.”
Sweet Water suggested, “Pull his head all the way off and put it in a bag and show it to everybody. That’s what I did with Johnny Blackfoot’s head.”
“Yup, but Johnny Blackfoot really pissed you off,” Shorty said. “Ku-Lang must have really pissed off whoever cut his throat. That Ku-Lang, he had some good shit,” Shorty added. “Maybe he ripped somebody off on an opium deal. We should go over to his place, and smoke. They prolly are having a free dope party to commemorate his passing.”
“A lawman should not be smoking dope, you dope!” Hannah chastised.
Helen added, “Incidentally, a lawman got his throat cut while we were out riding about with that posse. His name was Russ Lane and he was one of Sheriff Brown’s deputies. Brown’s other deputy, Ned Helm, got his throat cut later on.”
“What, do we have a serial killer here?” Marshall Neil Howie asked. He had just joined the group who had sauntered over to the Red Horse.
Helen excused herself, saying she had a feminine problem that had to be taken care of.
“What, do your balls itch?” Shorty blurted with a smirk.
As Helen turned to leave, Hannah said to Shorty, “Obviously, common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in your garden.” Then she asked Helen, “Where can I get a camel like yours? Appears to be the best way to travel in the badlands hereabouts.”
Helen replied, “Only other one around here who has a camel besides me is Captain Taz. He now has three. He had five, but two were shot and killed during the getaway from the bank robbery in Virginia City. The owner of this here establishment cooked those camels that died and served them up to the customers here.”
“Where is this Sheriff Brown, anyway?” Hannah asked. “I would like to speak with him.”
Marshall Howie said, “Him and yet another posse took off after White Bear and his Dog Soldiers. They raided Helena and stole some horses and two young women.”
Dog Soldiers again
“Who were the women and how many citizens were killed?” Hannah questioned.
Howie replied, “A half dozen citizens were killed and a like number of Cheyenne savages. C’mon, I’ll show you the bodies, of the heathens. We already buried the Christians.”
“Not before lunch,” Hannah said, “it might ruin my appetite. I’m hungry enough to eat a camel.” She snickered and Helen frowned.
Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, said, “I have photographs. I had my man Jimbo Walters take them for my newspaper articles. Also maybe for the cover of my dime novel.” He showed her the photographs of the dead Indians in yellow and black paint and bonnets covered with upright eagle feathers. A whistle suspended from a thong hung from the neck of each.”
Shorty looked over Hannah’s shoulder at the photographs and said. “Ya shoulda strung them up from Hangman’s Tree, even though they was already dead. Woulda made a better picture than them just laying there. The only good Injun is a dead Injun.”
Sweet Water pulled her knife and made a move toward Shorty. “Remember that time you got scalped?” Hannah asked, and laughed out loud. So did Sweet Water.
“How could I forget?” an embarrassed Shorty responded. “While I was asleep, you all put the blood from a dead rabbit on my head after giving me a haircut. Then you put a scalp in my hand. One of the ones Bob Wells took off a dead Injun. I woke up thinking I had been scalped and started screaming.”
“As I recall, you also soiled your britches,” Hannah added.
“Yup,” Shorty confirmed. “You scared the crap outta me.”
# # #
Helen searched for May Ling, the Chinese prostitute and finally found her in an alley on her knees plying her trade. Helen grabbed May Ling and dragged her away, much to the chagrin to a cowboy who Helen recognized. The large pecker that he reluctantly removed from May Ling’s mouth had a familiar bend to it.
“Why did you kill Ku-Lang?” Helen demanded once she had May Ling alone.
“He tried to sell me,” May Ling confided.
“Yes, he tried to sell me. And he didn’t even own me. He tried to sell me to a buffalo hunter named Stump Jones. Go ask him. Stump backed out of the deal when he witnessed me cut Ku-Lang’s throat.”