Two Birds, One Stone (Short Story No.14)
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.
Burn, Baby, burn
Captain Taz snuck into Helena in disguise and made the rounds of the saloons to find out what was going on. His number one man, Buster Raymond, had joined him. Taz decided to kill two birds with one stone. He wanted to see what was up with this Scottish Sasquatch everybody was talking about. Perhaps he could add a Sasquatch to his collection of exotic animals. And he wanted to silence Seth Morris, the member of his gang who had been captured in the bank robbery. He wanted to silence his former best friend before he started to sing like a canary. Taz had made a token effort to free Morris, which soothed his conscience pertaining to the imminent murder.
“We can’t just go in the jail and plug him,” Buster cautioned. “We’d never get away with it.”
“That’s what you said about Thomas Meagher,” Taz snapped. “You said I couldn’t just go aboard that steamboat and plug him and throw him off the side.
Thomas Meagher, acting governor of the Montana Territory, had disappeared off the steamboat J. S. Thompson on July 1, 1867. The boat had been moored at Baker’s Wharf near Fort Benton and held 20 passengers and 200 tons of cargo. His body was not recovered. There had been various theories about Meagher’s disappearance, ranging from suicide to foul play initiated by his political opponents.
For weeks Meagher’s wife Lilly had personally searched the banks of the Missouri for her husband’s body. Finally, Taz seduced her and then told her how he had killed Thomas, and about who had paid him. Libby then paid him another $10,000 to kill the one who had ordered the hit.
That had been among Taz’s favorite murders. The man had three daughters who all begged for their lives and attempted to persuade him to spare them with sexual favors, which he accepted although he had no intention of letting them live. They ultimately burned, along with their father. As did the bodies of those killed in the stagecoach robbery. As did many others. And as would Seth Morris, so he had decided.
Taz’s thoughts drifted to San Francisco and Christmas Eve 1849. He had been among the Sydney Ducks who started the fire at a gambling house known as Dennison’s Exchange on Kearney between Clay and Jackson overlooking Portsmouth Square. The Ducks consisted of many like himself who came from a British penal colony in Australia. The fire ripped through the tent city downtown and would likely have destroyed the entire city if citizens hadn’t employed a scorched Earth technique, intentionally burning down houses in the path to eliminate fuel for the fire. Taz and his Sydney Ducks used the mass confusion to loot stores, burglarize houses and rob people.
And then he noticed Sam Short and Wee Willie Wilson sitting at a table in the corner of the saloon, and he walked over and stared at the two dwarves. “Do we know you?” Sam asked.
“No, we have never been formerly introduced. They call me Captain Taz. I know you two from the circus. You are very popular performers.”
“Everybody loves a clown,” Willie said. “But they don’t pay us much for all that love.”
“Would you like to make some extra money?” Taz asked.
Sam and Willie both nodded eagerly.
Yaz took the two dwarves to his camp on the outskirts of Helena where they made the fire bombs. They got a dozen glass bottles from Benjamin Burrows, the snake oil salesman, and filled them halfway with Taz’ special mixture of kerosene and grain alcohol. Rags were soaked in the liquid and placed around the mouth of the bottle, which they stoppered with corks. The bottles chosen were narrow enough to fit through the bars on the outside window of the jail.
Waiting for dark to go back to Helena, they sat around the campfire telling tall tales, each trying to best the others.
Sam Short offered, “We had a fire eater with the circus once upon a time. Quite the attractive young lady. Bright red hair to match the fire.”
“Yup,” Wee Willie agreed. “She had little burns all over her mouth and lips, and George Bartholomew, owner of the circus, fired her when Scarlet said she could no longer perform fellatio on him because of the pain of the burns. We heard she joined another circus and caught her hair on fire.”
“My kind of woman,” Taz responded with a guffaw.
“I thought you liked the ladies who packed a pecker under their skirts,” Sam gibed. “Like that pretty Pinkerton agent. You would have liked the lady snake charmer we once had in the Great Western Circus. She didn’t charm the snake with a flute. Princess Python played your skin flute, and then she demanded you reciprocate by playing hers.”
“I want you to meet Roscoe,” Taz snarled as he got up to fetch the twenty-five foot reticulated python. “Let’s see how you charm this snake.”
Wee Willie interjected, “Anne Hope, the bearded lady, was engaged to Seth Morris. His nickname was ‘Anaconda’ and she would like his penis to be pickled when he passes away. When she said that, she had assumed he was going to be hanged one day soon, but apparently his date with the Grim Reaper won’t wait for the hangman’s noose.”
Upon seeing the giant snake, Sam jumped up and attempted to flee. Taz shot him in the leg and Sam collapsed, squirming on the ground. Soon he was squirming even more as Roscoe began to pay him considerable attention.
About an hour later Wee Willie said, “I can’t believe he ate the whole thing. I’m gonna miss Sam.”
“Sam made me angry, very angry,” Taz said softly. “Let that be a lesson for you. I don’t need Sam to carry out my plan to fire bomb the jail. I’m sure you can do the job. Am I right?”
Wee Willie nodded enthusiastically, watching the snake carefully, which looked too full to be of much concern.
# # #
Seth Morris died in his cell from smoke inhalation before the flames consumed his flesh. But he did scream, “I died and went to hell” as he did just that.”
Taz was quite bored with the Scottish Sasquatch and decided that a snake that ate humans was exotic animal enough for him. But Taz did decide to stay in Helena temporarily and visit the Sasquatch’s sideshow again and have a chat with the strange Scotgh nh. He figured a man as strong as this one might be of use to him.