With nothing left to do but wait and trade on the gullibility of criminals, the three marshals turned their attention to Pay Day. Three marshals against the arrayed workforce of Colt Industries and Ithaca Rifling Company…
“A big fuckin’ bear in front of the Ignit-Inn has a way of stopping trouble.”
They weren’t concerned.
Making use of the woefully small Marshal’s office, the lawmen assigned the three cells; one for Colt, one for Ithaca and one for any grasping hands or swinging fists in between. The rest of the town was making preparations as well. Brasshorn’s Tavern and the Ignit-Inn didn’t get a lot of business as most folk were resting up for the next day, so they closed early to do the same. Dr Richard Gasket laid out the bandages and splints in readiness. The Widow Garrett got the week’s orders prepared. The women of Etheric Delights turned down the beds with clean sheets. Ascension depended on the next two days to survive so comfort was paramount.
The marshals recognized this as well.
“By altering your guns, ve could generate a lower capacity of shock that would stun ze victim,” Octavius Wilhem explained to the bewildered Jack Lightning.
“Not… kill them…” Jack said, trying each word as if something would break under her thinking.
“You vould be able to generate a lethal pulse by joining ze guns together,” Wilhem explained slowly.
Jack turned the idea over as Wilhem expounded that while they wanted to send a message to the workers about the law, it wouldn’t be heard if the listener was dead.
Jack smiled “I can live with that. And so can the townsfolk,” It wasn’t so much that Jack Lightning was bloodthirsty, just that Lightning clan wasn’t big on second chances.
Wendell Caine had a different message in mind for occasions like this. He had ‘The Speech’. And if things were going to go the way the Lawmen expected, there would be plenty of audiences that would get to hear it.
After retiring early with a full night of peace-keeping in mind, the lawmen set about patrolling as the first truckload of workers mustered into town. Aside from the noise, there wasn’t much to charge folk with but each watched the workers closely with Wilhem patrolling near Etheric Delights, Lightning near the Ignit-Inn and Caine near Brasshorn’s.
First sign of trouble started at Brasshorn’s when a Ithaca worker found an excuse to shove a knife into the shoulder of a Colt worker. Caine moved between the two at a speed that was less about grace and more about shoving people out of the way.
“Damn Colt bastard’s tryin’ to cheat me out of my pay,” the Ithacan protested. Inside the saloon, an overturned table with cards and chips strewn across the floor completed the scene.
“Don’t care,” Caine stated, grasping the Ithacan with vice-like cordiality and stripping the knife from his hand. “We don’t tolerate no weapons in arguements.”
“I hearda you lot!” The Ithacan protested as his knifing arm went numb. “You a bunch a Colt lovers!”
“I’m what you call ‘impartial’,” Caine stated. There was a growl from over the Ithacan’s other shoulder. “So’s the bear.”
Smokey’s calming influence stopped further protests and the Ithacan allowed himself to be hauled off to the Marshal’s office.
Word slowly began to spread as a couple more brawls were broken up throughout the afternoon. So far, nothing serious had errupted but it was clear to all of the Lawmen and citizens of Ascension that back-breaking straw had yet to fall. Still, it was a testament to the marshal’s effectiveness and Jack Lightning’s reputation that it wasn’t until early evening that it did.
A fight started in the Ignit-Inn and spilled out on the streets. Like oil on fire, it spread out, consuming each Colt and Ithacan worker in a rage that saw them lash out, just as they were struck. All three lawmen stepped into the middle of the brawl and as knuckled skinned against Wilhem’s iron armour, jaws bruised near breaking under Caine’s rocky fists or uncontrolled spasms took them in a haze of blue from Lightning’s guns, the fight slowed enough that Caine began ‘The Speech’.
“Workers of Colt and Ithaca, LISTEN UP!” Everyone did.
Anyone starts somethin’, get’s their fuckin’ head kicked in!”
“Anyone instigating to start somethin’, gets their fuckin’ head kicked in!”
“Anyone who looks at me or the bear funny… GET’S THEIR FUCKIN’ HEAD KICKED IN! Good evenin’.”
It was all Wilhem and Lightning could do not to say ‘Amen’ as the crowd silently moved back into the Ignit-Inn and headed for the bar.
With a quick break for dinner, the lawmen of Ascension returned to keeping the peace. ‘The Speech’ had travelled beyond the Ignit-Inn since then and it was doing the job. The night was young but it seemed like the message had finally settled into the workers. The cells had a couple of men from either camp in them, but not as many as it expected.
But even ‘The Speech’ couldn’t quite settle the workers down over the Ithcan deaths sustained from the Indians or whatever had incinerated the Colt engineers
Atop the third story of the Ignit-Inn, crying down from the roof like a grease-stained prophet from on high, the call for mob justice was being led by Colt foreman, Brendan Windlass.
“Two engineers, friends of ours, DEAD!” he shouted. The words carried straight through the ears and into hearts of the assembled audience of Colt workers.
“Them two, tried to rip us off!” came the loud retort. The Ithacan crowd made way for Ned Trunnion, foreman of Ithaca. “And we damn well lost five men to them savages and you don’t hear us crying about it!”
Windlass didn’t even hear the retort except for the words ‘rip’, ‘us’, ‘off’. “You called that down on yer own head, Trunnion! And if it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be rebuildin’ the mansion!”
“Cry me a fuckin’ river, Windlass! Ain’t nobody can predict what fuckin’ thing goes on in the mind o’those savage bastards!” Trunnion said. And then he stopped as the immovable iron clad form of Octavius Wilhem towered over him. Caine and Smokey were staring down the crowd of some forty Colt Workers. And winning.
Jack Lightning went straight for the roof of the Ignit-Inn, striding up the side of the building as if there were a gilded staircase under her feet. The Lightning Marshal had Brendan Windlass by the shoulder before he could gather breath to keep shouting.
“You’re disturbin’ the peace,” Lightning said as ice frosted over her words before cold realisation, of just how much trouble he was in, reached Windlass’s ears.
“There needs to be… justice,” the word sticking in his throat as he met Jack Lightning’s eyes. ‘Arguments over’ was all he saw that left room for him being able to walk from this arguement. Or at all.
Her reputation speaking volumes, Jack Lightning made ready to haul the foreman down and into the cells for a night of appreciating the depths of fortune that he still drew breath.
And then fortune left him as a bullet teared through the centre of Windlass’s chest…
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 3