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The Bear and the Bare (Short Story #10)
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.
The leprechaun and the Native American princess
Pinkerton agent Helen Strong, circus bearded lady Anne Hope, Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, and Leslie Baxter also known as Shorty were seated at the Red Horse restaurant.
“What’s good to et here?” Shorty asked.
“They have camel,” Robert Barnes offered. “The camels the bank robbers rode were shot and cooked.”
“I jist might shoot and et that camel of yours,” Shorty threatened, glaring at Helen. “He spit on me!”
“It’s a she,” Helen corrected. “Can’t you tell the difference?” she inquired quite sarcastically.
“I didn’t care to look that closely,” Shorty replied, “but I got a good look at your pecker, lady. You put most guys to shame.”
“So start talking about what matters, Shorty,” Helen insisted. “Alan Pinkerton hired me to find out what happened to the steamboat Victoria. You indicated you knew something about that matter.”
“Yup, I do,” Shorty said. “The Victoria sank. It blew up. I weren’t on it at the time, but the leprechaun told me all about it.”
“The leprechaun?” Helen demanded. “Are you telling me some fish story?”
“Oh hell no, ma’am, or mister, or whatever,” Shorty insisted. “The leprechaun is an Irish dwarf named Tiny Timothy Leary who was along on the expedition to find dinosaur fossils. He was on that steamboat because he was hot after the Arapaho princess, Sweet Water. She was going back East with Miss Monroe to join the white world, and Tiny Tim was going back East because of her and to join up with P. T. Barnum.”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning, Shorty,” Helen suggested, “so I don’t miss anything. Start at where you joined the expedition. Tell me everything. We have all night.”
“I kin do that, ma’am,” Shorty responded. “I was in Virginia City, gambling, some months ago, at the beginning of summer. Hex Hawkins, you heared of him, right?” Helen nodded. “He came into the Bale of Hay saloon recruiting folks to go on some expedition into the badlands and Hell Creek Formation to search for dinosaur bones so he said. Well, I was flat broke after losing that last poker hand so I joined up.”
The usual suspects
“Who were the others on the expedition?” Helen inquired.
Shorty replied, “You know all about the boss lady, Lady Hannah Monroe, the paleontologist from Philadelphia. You know all about Hex Hawkins, mountain man, former spy during the war, and owner of a secret gold mine. White Snake, a Crow, served as our guide. Hawkins hired me and Buck, a former Johnny Reb, as was Boyd Dwyer, who couldn’t talk.”
“Why couldn’t he talk?” Helen interrupted, curious.
“Boyd got his tongue cut out by the outlaw Johnny Blackfoot. He got hisself kilt by Sweet Water. And she cut off his head.”
“For real, Shorty?” Helen questioned.
“Yup, she carried it around in a bag and showed it to everybody. Now where was I. Also with us from the beginning was the gunfighter, Bob Wells, and the preacher man Reverend Issac Nelson. He didn’t believe half of what he said, and the other half was bullshit. And then we had Percy Van Matre who had once been an undertaker, the Negro Woodrow Johnson and his seventeen-year-old son Josiah, two guys who were in love, Colston and Dorn, and two whores, Delilah and Margaret. Delilah was a man pretending to be a woman, like somebody else we know. That caused some friction in the camp. What with her being a whore and all, somebody was bound to find out, and when they did all hell broke loose. Wells shot Buck, who drew first, over an argument about Delilah. Wells kin draw quicker’n you kin spit and shout howdy. Sweet Water, Tiny Tim, Charlotte, and Mabel joined the expedition along the way.”
“Okay, tell me more,” Helen urged.
Shorty did. “Five hours after embarking from Fort Smith, we came across a burned-out homestead and a brutalized and slaughtered family, except for the sixteen-year-old daughter who had been taken captive. While the corpses were being tended to, Hex and Bob Wells tracked the five Cheyenne who had done it. They found the daughter who had been ravished and murdered. Then they caught up with the murderin’ savages, and they hanged ‘em. The expedition adopted the only surviving member of the family, Shag the dog.”
“What happened next?” Helen asked after Shorty paused for several minutes.
Bearing it all
“The expedition proceeded to the Yellowstone River. Hex, Hannah and White Snake took a detour to Pompey’s Pillar, where they viewed a dinosaur bone sticking out of the rock that William Clark had written of in his journal. While they were gone, Colston took a swim in the Yellowstone and was shot with arrows. That night the Arapaho’s most revered horse thief, Bent Feather tried to sneak into camp and pilfer the livestock. Hex caught him and used him to ambush the chief, Black Wolf, and his braves. In the battle, Black Wolf’s daughter Sweet Water was captured. The expedition discovered some buffalo-calling stones and the head of a mastodon, and then Percy got mauled by a grizzly. Percy got caught with his pants down and his pecker in Delilah’s mouth.”
“Yup,” Short confirmed, “Percy got distracted by a ragin’ boner and the grizzly got hisself a piece of ass.”
Shorty continued with the story and told of how Hex, Bob Wells, and White Snake hunted down and killed the grizzly. Hex had scared the bear out of a cave with dynamite. The blast exposed some dinosaur fossils that the group recovered, including a section of a lower jaw about two foot long that contained incredibly sharp teeth, some of which were eight inches long. While off hunting for fossils, the expedition’s wagons were burned by whites posing as Indians. On they went on horses to the Musselshell River. “Then things really got interesting,” Shorty added.
“How so?” Helen asked.
Shorty stated matter-of-factly, “Hannah, Sweet Water, and Margaret did the sun dance, nekkid.”
“Really?” Helen blurted.
“Yup,” Shorty said, grinning like a baked possum.
“Please describe what transpired,” Robert Barnes, editor of the newspaper requested. “This could make the front page.”