Weapon of Mass Destruction (Short Story No. 38)
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.
Death of an icon
Everyone returned to Helena after Sheriff Shorty was informed of the latest murder. Once in town, Sweet Water insisted on viewing the body of Princess Tatuhatahime. She sobbed miserably, and kissed the dead girl passionately on the lips. The undertaker had done a fine job on the corpse, to the extent that Shorty muttered that he would like to jump her bones. Hannah slapped him and he started to cry. Sweet Water recited an Arapaho death prayer.
Once Shorty stopped shedding tears, he became angry and snapped at Hannah, “You was rode hard and put up wet.”
Hannah slapped Shorty again and he cried again. She warned, “You better mind your manners if you want me to help you catch this Captain Taz.”
Shorty responded miserably, “I doubt anybody kin ketch that varmint. We had more than one posse after him, Pinkerton agents after him, a famous bounty hunter after him, and a mad Chinese killer with ancient weapons after him. Taz is still on the loose murdering people.”
“And he is probably planning another robbery and more murders at this very moment,” Hannah added.
Sheriff Shorty called for a meeting at the Red Horse restaurant. More bad news soon came to light. Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, informed the group that a Gatling gun had been stolen from a local gun shop.
Hannah recalled that the soldiers who accompanied her original expedition had a Gatling gun. If it would have functioned properly, it may have saved the expedition from being slaughtered by the Cheyenne. Except for her, who was restrained naked to a tree, until rescued by Hex Hawkins. She smiled at that thought. “Does the Gatling gun work, and is there ammunition for it?” she asked.
“Yes and yes,” Robert Barnes answered. He explained that the Gatling gun belonged to a local rancher named Blaine Butler. He had bought the gun from Benjamin Butler, his uncle and former Union general. He had bought it a few years ago, but it never worked properly, until now. General Butler had bought a dozen Gatling guns in 1863 for $1,000 each. Two of those were used in the War at Petersburg in 1864 and were very effective against Confederate attacks. Richard Gatling had difficulty selling his invention to the U. S. Army, so he sold them to others including foreign countries. Some Union officers, like General Butler, purchased the weapon privately.
“Why would anybody steal a gun like that?” Shorty questioned. “To kill as many people as possible as quick as possible? How do you know it works right?”
The little green man
“That sounds about right,” Barnes replied. “Richard Gatling’s intention with this invention was to discourage the human race from fighting wars by making warfare even more terrible.” Barnes continued to explain that Blaine Butler had brought the gun to Corwin Lee’s shop to have it fixed, which Lee did. Lee had a gun shop in Diamond City and just opened another one in Helena. After the Gatling gun was fixed, Blaine Butler did a demonstration for the public. “Very impressive, so the witnesses say,” Barnes added.
“I know Corwin Lee,” Hannah reported. “So do you, Shorty. We met him and his group along the Musselshel. He was building a trading post where the Missouri meets the Musselshell for the Montana Hide and Fur Company. Timothy O’Leary was with him and Tiny Tim joined our group. Shorty, do you remember what you said when you first met Tiny Tim.”
Shorty blurted, “Jumpin Jehosaphats, it’s a fucking leprechaun!”
“That’s what he said,” Sweet Water agreed. “I miss Tiny Tim. Where is he now?” she asked. “I miss that little man. I love him[J1] .”
“Yup,” Shorty said. Me, you mean, of course. That’s a natural fact.”
“No, not you!” Sweet Water spat. “I’m talking about Timothy O’leary from Dublin, known as Tiny Tim. Where is he?”
Shorty reported, “He suffered a concussion in the robbery and explosion that sank the Victoria. He also lost a leg and was taken to the U. S. Marine Hospital in Louisville. I talked to him there.”
Helen interjected, “That hospital opened in 1852 and was intended for victims of disease, temperature extremes, and mechanical deficiencies of the era’s naval technology. Many amputees injured in the War have been treated there.”
Shorty added, “It was at the hospital where Tiny Tim told me how the Victoria exploded and that Taz took Hannah and Sweet Water, and the safe.”
George Bartholomew, owner of the Great Western Circus, sat nearby and overheard the conversation. He interrupted, “I could use a one-legged dwarf for my circus. To take the place of Sammy Short.”
Sammy’s friend and fellow dwarf and circus clown spoke up, “Poor Sammy. He was swallowed by that giant snake. I saw the whole thing, and I can’t believe he ate the whole thing.”
“The devil snake belonged to Taz, the devil man,” Shorty added. “George, you also need a new snake charmer to take Princess Tatuhatahime’s place.”
“So who stole the Gatling gun?” Pinkerton agent Helen James asked.
“And what is Taz going to do with it?” Hannah asked.
“I go find Tiny Tim,” Sweet Water said.
# # #
A dozen riders entered the box canyon ten miles west of Virginia City that was now the main hideout of Captain Taz. The leader of the outlaws was Butch Baker, who had known Taz from Australia and San Francisco and was also a Sydney Duck, as were most of his gang.
Butch and Taz embraced. Butch said, “Taz, you promised much booty in your telegram if we joined up with you. Let’s hear about it and see some.”
Taz pointed to a case of whiskey sitting nearby and two naked young women tied to a hitching post. “How about some refreshment while we talk business,” Taz offered. “And let me show you why we can rob banks, steamboats, and whatever. Soon it will be trains.” Taz ripped the tarp off the Gatling gun.