Meet Me at Cripple Creek (Short Story No. 41)
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.
I can't believe he ate the whole thing
The paleontologist, Lady Hannah Monroe, at breakfast at the Red Horse restaurant in Helena, received a telegram from newspaper editor Robert Barnes in Virginia City. The telegram indicated that sources reported the outlaw Captain Taz could soon be found at a dogfighting event at Cripple Creek on the Musselshell River. Hannah tossed Shag a piece of breakfast ham and asked, “Shag, you ready to kick some mangy dog butt, girl?” She read the telegram aloud to those who had joined her for breakfast.
Shag barked twice, becoming excited.
“I’m betting on Shag,” Sheriff of Helena Leslie Baxter, also known as Shorty, proclaimed. “I’m likely to win a pot of money placing bets I kin then spend on entertainment. Cripple Creek will be swarmin’ with painted ladies.”
“What makes you think you’re going?” Hannah snapped.
Shorty replied, “You need a lawman. That would be me.”
Hannah responded, “I want Marshal Howie. He has jurisdiction. Besides Shorty, you can’t tell skunks from house cats.”
“Yup, but I never kick a cow chip on a hot day. What is this calf slobber on my pie?” Shorty complained to the waitress.
“That’s meringue,” Hannah advised him.
“Of course I’ll go,” Marshal Howie said. “But I don’t have much in the way of deputies. Neither does Sheriff Baxter. Nobody wants to go on a posse after hearing about those two deputies Ned Helm and Russ Lane getting throats cut while out on posse.”
The dwarf and circus clown Wee Willie Wilson reported, “We could get some circus people to be on the posse. George Bartholomew, owner of the Great Western Circus, hired some new acts from back East who just arrived in town. There are no performances for a couple weeks. The circus people are just sitting around doing nothing.”
“What’s your stake in this?” Hannah asked Wee Willie. “Why are you so eager to go off to Cripple Creek and tangle with Captain Taz?”
Wee Willie started to sob. “That giant snake of his et my best friend and fellow dwarf and circus clown, Sammy Short. He swallowed him whole while Taz just laughed.”
No more notches
Hannah tossed Shag a bone and the dog protested when Shorty playfully tried to take it away from her.
“What’s that damn dog growlin’ at?” one of the burly men at the next table asked belligerently.
“What’s it matter to you?” Sweet Water, the Arapaho princess inquired politely. “She ain’t bothering you.”
The complainer spat, “Who asked you, you dumb squaw?”
Sweet Water pulled her knife from under her buckskin dress and put it to the man’s neck.
Shorty said, “Did you ever hear about the time that Sweet Water here cut off Johnny Blackfoot’s head? And put it in a bag.”
The man fainted.
Shorty spit tobacco juice on him and said, “The moral of the story is don’t corner somethin’ meaner than you.”
Sweet Water flashed her knife menacingly at Shorty and he ran out of the Red Horse.
# # #
Fast Jerry, hiding behind a wagon that was parked outside the hardware store, stared fondly at the notches on the ivory handle of his Remington New Model Army .44 caliber revolver. The gun was virtually identical to the one preferred by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, except for the fact that Jerry had cut down the original eight-inch barrel to six inches. Advantages of the Remington over the Colt alternative were excellent durability due to the “topstrap” solid-frame design, ability to swap the cylinders quickly making it much faster to reload, and safety notches between each nipple allowing one to have the hammer in a safe position with all six chambers loaded, as opposed to just five with the Colt.
Fast Jerry fingered the last two notches and recalled how he gunned down the preacher and his wife as they exited the church. He decided to employ the same ambush strategy with Pinkerton agent Helen James – shoot first and worry about questions later. The first notch represented that young cowboy Randy with the long red curly hair and freckles who had pursued Jerry’s sister relentlessly until he finally caught her in the hayloft. Randy declined a shotgun wedding so Jerry provided a funeral via Remington. Jerry couldn’t really remember his other victims all that well because he had been drinking prior to the incident to bolster his courage. He did seem to remember that he never gave them much of a fair chance.
Helen James sauntered out of the Bale of Hale saloon, which was across the street from the hardware store. An old farmer came out of the store, threw a bag of grain on the back of the wagon that Fast Jerry hid behind, and drove off.
Fast Jerry, his hiding place gone, stood and snapped off a quick shot with his beloved Remington revolver. He missed. The bullet hit the batwing door that Helen had just pushed open. Helen took a split second longer, carefully aimed, and shot Fast Jerry in the chest. He felled backwards, killed instantly.
“Let’s get along to Cripple Creek,” Helen said to Robert Barnes and others standing nearby. “Captain Taz awaits the same fate as Fast Jerry.”
Barnes scribbled in his notebook he used for his dime novel. “Did you forget about due process? You’re a law enforcement officer.”
“Alrighty then,” Helen said. “We can hang Taz then. I don’t really see the point of a trial though.”
“Incidentally, do you have a dog to take to this dogfight?” Barnes questioned.
“No,” Helen responded, “but I have a camel. So does Taz. I hear there are also camel fights at this venue at Cripple Creek.”
“Yes,” Barnes responded, “I read about camel wrestling in the newspapers from back East. An American military officer became captivated by the spectacle while in Turkey and introduced it in Texas. Do you know how you tell a camel is ready to rumble?”
“Sure,” Helen said. “The camel salivates profusely with rivers of drool pouring out of its nostrils and mouth. My camel does that all the time.”
# # #
Shorty recruited some warm bodies for the posse including Anne Hope, the circus bearded lady. None of the newest members of the circus wanted to go along. “We can pick up some Yellow Boys along the way, in Helena.” He referred to the Chinese opium smokers who were called Yellow Boys because of their rifles and had joined the first posse. “Those Jesuit priests and Ursuline nuns want to go.”
“Wonderful,” Hannah muttered dejectedly. “If we are going with religious, we should find our friends those Mormons.”
Sweet Water frowned and said, “I no like Mormons.”
Just then Hannah received another telegram. It was delivered by Anne Hope who had just happened to be in the telegraph office entertaining the operator with sexy stories about her beard.
“Hey, this is from your man!” Anne exclaimed as she handed it to Hannah.
Hannah read the telegram to herself and then out loud. “WILL MEET YOU AT CRIPPLE CREEK. STOP. TINY TIM IS WITH ME. LOVE YOU, HEX.”
“Hallelujah!” Hannah blurted. She reminisced briefly to herself, smiled gloriously, and whispered to Sweet Water, “I can’t wait to see Hex again.” She simulated a certain sex act with her tongue in her cheek and they both began to laugh hilariously.
“I can’t wait to see Tiny Tim,” Sweet Water said softly and simulated the same sex act. They laughed even more.
“But Tim got his legs blown off,” Hannah said sadly. “He’s a cripple.”
“But he still has one leg that hasn’t been blown off,” Sweet Water responded.
“Not yet,” Hannah said, and they both collapsed from laughing. Finally Hannah ordered Shorty, “Make sure everybody is ready. We leave for Cripple Creek in an hour.”
Shag barked twice, becoming even more excited.