Four Funerals and a Wedding (Short Story)
These short stories will be chapters in the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Bringing home the bodies
Shorty returned to the camp and told the others about finding Charlotte and Mabel, a fact obviously confirmed by the fact that he brought their dead bodies back with him.
Delilah verified the identities of the bodies and cried over her friends. Sobbing, she said, “Someone carved them up. Some sort of symbol is on Charlotte’s back. Mabel’s too.”
Reverend Isaac Nelson examined the bodies. He said, “That carving on their backs is an inverted pentagram. It is a symbol of the devil. Margaret has the same carving on her body.”
“Margaret is dead too?” Shorty questioned.
Reverend Nelson replied, “We found her corpse a few days ago. In the woods, naked. Besides the carving on her back, she was butchered. Her liver and several other organs were removed. Where is Hex now?”
Shorty said, “He went off alone to Helena to await a telegram from Hannah. She promised she would telegram him once the steamboat got to Fort Laramie, or the first stop that has a telegraph office.”
“Let’s get these bodies buried,” Reverend Nelson said. “I’ll preach the funerals. Nobody can preach a funeral like me.”
# # #
Most everyone in town turned out for the joint funeral, which was held outside in a field close to the cemetery. Reverend Nelson often used the field for his Sunday service since the church was usually otherwise occupied. An organ on wheels was transported from a saloon to the field, and the service began with organ music, singing, and praying out loud. Shorty got annoyed with the speaking in tongues, and Reverend Nelson got irritated with the offkey singing.
“I wish Hannah Monroe was here,” the reverend lamented. “She did a beautiful rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ for the soldiers at Fort Smith. Absolutely beautiful. They made her sing it three times.”
“Or Tiny Tim O’Leary,” Shorty offered. “He could really belt out a tune too. He did a beautiful rendition of ‘When the Pigs Begin to Fly’ that brought a tear to the eye.”
Reverend Nelson raised his hands for silence, opened his King James Bible, and quoted from Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”
Shorty interrupted rudely, “Delilah, she ain’t no woman. Ask Buck, he found that out when he tried to poke her.”
Most everyone laughed, except Reverend Nelson, Buck, and Delilah.
Reverend Nelson snapped, “We are talking about Charlotte, Mabel, and Margaret. You know, the three ladies who were murdered.”
“Likely slaughtered by the same devil,” Shorty muttered. “Probably by that Captain Taz. We should get these bodies buried and go out and catch that murderin’ outlaw.”
“Yes,” Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald agreed, “but Taz is cunning and brash and outwits any adversary. It will take somebody like Hex Hawkins to rope that rascal.”
“I’ll git him,” Shorty boasted. “But now I’d like to say a few words about the dearly departed. Margaret never cheated anyone. If you paid for a poke, you got one helluva poke. And Charlette could buck like a bronco and Mabel could suck a grape through a straw.”
In response, Reverend Nelson went into a rambling rant about Mary Magdalene and claimed that there was no evidence in the Bible to suggest that she was a prostitute.
Shorty again interrupted rudely and went off on a rambling rant of his own. “A wedding is a funeral where you smell yer own flowers. If any of you cry at my funeral, I’ll never speak to you agin. A friend of mine stopped smoking, drinking, and chasin’ wimmin - all at the same time. It was a lovely funeral. It’s not that I’m afraid to die – I just don’t want to be there when it happens. We had a wonderful experience today, but it’s time to say goodbye.”
Reverend Nelson nodded and motioned for the pallbearers to take the bodies to the graves.
# # #
Another one bites the dust
Captain Taz walked down the main street of Helena looking for fresh meat. The street was mostly deserted, but he noticed a comely young lady out for a stroll. With a fake white beard and limp, he had disguised him quite convincingly as a crippled old man. He had watched the funeral proceedings with much interest and amusement, recalling how much he had enjoyed killing and mutilating all three women. Their livers had been exceptionally delicious. The sex had been good too, especially after they were dead.
The young lady had barely put up a protest. He slit her throat and cut out her liver with his surgical instruments within minutes, and he carved an inverted pentagram on her back before he enjoyed his lunch. No one saw or heard anything until he began to have sex with her. He was finishing his business when the teenage boy began shouting at him. Taz knocked the boy to the ground with a backhand slap and quickly fled.
The boy ran to the gravesite shouting, “My sister has been murdered! My sister had been murdered!” Shorty and several other members followed the boy to the bloody body. When the boy, Alex, calmed down he told them an old man with a white beard wearing a snakeskin hat, vest, and boots had done the dastardly deed.
“Take the body to the gravesite,” Shorty ordered. “No point in letting the body get ripe in this heat.”
“Who made you the Queen of Sheba?” one of the bystanders asked.
Shorty sneered and said, “I’ll get the last laugh when they make me sheriff.”
# # #
Shorty, Bob Wells, and White Snake found the amnesia-stricken Hex Hawkins at a small Crow camp about twenty miles south of Virginia City. He had dried blood on his face and a wound on his forehead that extended to his scalp.
White Snake addressed the woman in the tee-pee with Hex as White Deer. “What happened to our friend Hawkins?”
She replied, “Crazy Hawk in fight with Dog Soldiers. He save our camp. That big one named Gray Elk take coup and hit him in head with war club.”
“What happened then?” Shorty asked. “Gray Elk and the Dog Soldiers didn’t try to scalp him and kill all of you?”
White Deer said, “Crazy Hawk pull Grey Elk off horse and beat him to death with fists and the Dog Soldiers ride off after leader dead. Then Crazy Hawk can not remember. He have headaches and sleep most of time. My brother and our chief Bloody Knife tell me to take Crazy Hawk for husband if I want. I want. My husband killed in battle with soldiers.”
“Hawkins needs white man’s medicine,” Shorty insisted. “We’ll go get a doctor.”
“No,” White Deer said. “Mary Two Stones give Crazy Hawk the Crow medicine and say words over him.”