The Bounty Hunter (Short Story No. 33)
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 Sheriff Baxter posse decided to make camp for a few days while the Jesuit priest Father Adrian and the Ursuline nun Sister Abigail recovered from their wounds inflicted by the arrows of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. Both had lost a lot of blood.
Rather than just sit around and wait, Hannah, the paleontologist in her beckoning, decided to go off by herself and scout the area for fossils and the like. Shorty blurted as she departed, “We are sposed to be chasin’ Injuns and gettin’ back kidnapped girls, not diggin’ for dinosaur bones.”
A few minutes earlier, the Arapaho princess, Sweet Water, had ridden out on Pinkerton agent Helen James’ camel. Shag the dog followed them.
“Hey,” she stole my camel,” Helen complained to Shorty the sheriff and the others. “What are you going to do about it?”
Shorty shrugged and responded, “That Sweet Water, she don’t wear enough clothes to dust a fiddle.”
A stranger came riding cautiously into camp, covered in buckskin, with long scraggly hair and a full beard. He dismounted after shouting “Hello the camp, I’m a friendly” and pointed his Hawken at Shorty. Urine ran down the short sheriff’s leg.
“I’m lookin’ for a fella named Taz,” the stranger proclaimed loudly. “He’s known to wear a snakeskin hat, vest, and boots. He leaves corpses in his wake. They say he rides a camel. I seen camel tracks leavin’ this camp.”
Helen introduced herself. “Helen James, Pinkerton agent. I have a camel, but someone borrowed it, and she rode out a short time ago.” Helen introduced the rest of them. “And your name might be?” she asked.
“Thomas Tate Tobin,” the stranger replied. “Bounty hunter. Like I said, I’m lookin’ for this Taz fella.”
“So are we,” the other Pinkerton agent, Bob Wells, offered. “I heard of you when I was a Texas Ranger down south. You brought in those outlaw Espinosa brothers, their heads anyway. We have an Arapaho princess with us named Sweet Water, daughter of Black Wolf, the chief. She is known to bring back heads in a bag, like that of the renegade Johnny Blackfoot and a giant snake that belonged to this Taz.”
The group sat by the fire drinking coffee and waiting for the antelope cooking on spits to be done. Anne Hope, the circus bearded lady, fielded stares from the mountain man Tobin. Suddenly he reached over and tugged on her great long beard, which rivalled his own. She squealed. Then she said, “At the circus, the customers were allowed to pull my beard for a few coins. For a few more coins I would show my breasts, which would destroy any suspicion that I was really a man.”
Tobin took a few coins from his purse and tossed them at Ann. She showed him her breasts, and he was duly impressed. He snarled, “It weren’t you I was wonderin’ about. It was that one.” He pointed his Hawken, which he had not let go of, at Helen. Helen flashed him. “Yup, those pass muster,” Tobin said, now in lust. “Let’s see what you pee with.”
“Not now,” Helen snapped. “Aunt Flow has paid me a visit.”
Shorty laughed so hard he choked. Then he said, “Now that’s one thing them doctors will never be able to fix.”
“So you still like the Hawken,” Bob Wells said. “Most everybody carries a Winchester or Henry these days.”
“Yup.” Tobin agreed. “A Hawken is good enough for Jim Bridger and Kit Carson. So it’s good enough for me. Not mass produced like your rifles. Hand-crafted to my specifications, like .53 calibre, 12 pounds, 36-inch muzzle, walnut stock.”
“But it’s muzzle-loaded,” Shorty pointed out. “As opposed to our breach-loading rifles. We can kill more Injuns, faster.”
Tobin gave Shorty a chilling glare and pointed the Hawken at him again. Urine ran down Shorty’s other leg. “Only reason I don’t plug you is that you is short and bowlegged like me,” Tobin growled.
“Tell us the story about the Espinosa brothers,” Shorty begged. “I’m real interested in the apprehension of criminals. I’m just startin’ my career as a lawman. I used to be a circus clown.”
Tobin told the story. Felix Espinosa had begun killing in 1863. He murdered more than thirty gringos in one year in retaliation for his relatives killed in the Mexican-American war. Soldiers and posses chased Espinosa to no avail. The bandit looked like a demon when he displayed his jack-o-lantern grin with oversized and gapped teeth. He professed to be religious and claimed the Virgin Mary visited him in a dream and told him God ordered him to kill. Prominent Denver citizens hired Tobin to track Espinosa after numerous citizens of that city were murdered. Bodies were disemboweled and decapitated, hearts cut out, crosses slashed onto chests, and stakes driven through hearts and into the ground. Tobin pulled newspaper articles from his pocket and continued. The Sunday Gazette described the murder scene of Espinosa victim Jim Harkens: “Harkens had been shot in the middle of the forehead with a Colt navy revolver, then the murderers had taken the ax and split his head open from the top to the mouth, and then, judging from the appearance of his head and the ax, they had hit him on each side of the head with the head of the ax, and two pieces of skull and his brains lay on the ground at the top of his head. He was also stabbed twice in the left breast.” Espinosa thus became referred to by the newspapers as “The Axeman of Colorado.” Tobin finally tracked down Espinosa and shot him dead with his Hawken. Then he grabbed Felipe by the hair, dragged him to a log, bent his head over it, and brought his Bowie knife down hard twice, severing the head. Tobin did the same thing to Jose Espinosa. Then he put the heads in a flour sack and delivered them to Colonel Tappan at Fort Garland and collected his bounty.
The Chinese prostitute May Ling who had been listening patiently until now whispered to Helen, “I told you how easy it is to cut off somebody’s head with a Bowie knife. This Tobin fella didn’t even have the advantage of distracting the victim with her body, like I did.”
“No,” Helen whispered back, “he just plugged them with his Hawken.” Then Helen inquired, “So who put up the bounty on Taz and how much is it?”
Tobin replied, “The bounty is $5,000, but not dead or alive. Just alive. So I won’t be able to chop off his head and just deliver that. The person putting up the bounty wants him alive.”
“Who is said person?” Helen repeated.
“Miranda Woods is her name, from Denver. Taz tied up her husband while he brutally raped her. Then he sodomized them both. Afterwards, he burned the husband alive.”
“Yup,” Shorty said, “this Taz is real fond of burnin’ up people while they is alive. He did that to his friend Seth Morris who was in jail at the time. Morris was captured during the bank robbery. Taz, or one of his henchman, threw a fire bomb through the jail window. We have boarded up the window since then.”
Helen James added, “Taz is responsible for numerous other murders in this area. He shot the cashier at the Allen & Millard Bank when he couldn’t open the vault, and then he finished him off with his knife. He gave an accomplice named Turk Smith over to the Cheyenne so they could hang him upside down naked and cut off his genitals and stick them in his mouth. He killed a stagecoach driver and conductor and then a passenger, Fatty Foster, who was a hangman from Fort Benton. There are more bodies, many more.”
Wee Willie Wilson piped up with, “Let’s not forget my fellow dwarf and circus clown the late Sammy Short. Taz fed him to that giant snake of his, Roscoe. I can’t believe Roscoe ate the whole thing, as in Sammy.”
“Okay,” Tobin interrupted, “I get the picture. This Taz is a cold-blooded serial killer, like Felipe Espinosa was. Not to worry, I’ll catch him,” he promised, mounting his horse. “I’ll just follow the camel toes. And what about a peek at your camel toe that you promised?” he said to Helen.
Helen blurted with a scowl, “If I have to clean up this much blood again, somebody better be decapitated.”
May Ling smile smugly, recalling that she had decapitated sheriff deputies Russ Lane and Ned Helm and pimp Ku-Lang. All three had sodomized her and laughed loudly while doing so. May Ling said to Helen, “I did make them apologize before I slashed their carotid arteries.”
THE WILD WEST JUST GOT WILDER
According to the blurb on the back of the book.