Roasted horseflesh competed with a blizzard of flies and high noon temperatures as the second thing angering Marshals Jack Lightning, Hans Octavius Wilhem and Wendell Caine today.
First and foremost was the murder of two engineers belonging to Samuel Colt, whose only crime was crossing notorious gunslinger Harry Winsome. Of Winsome though, his crimes stood numerous, the murders of the engineers simply being the latest, but they happened in stark defiance of the Marshals’ authority and the lack of clues present at the crime scene was the most annoying thing of all.
Despite the evidence being as barren as the surrounding desert, Marshal Wilhem had an eagle’s eye when it came to details. Already deducing the murderers had effected an escape by way of airship rendeavouz, the Iron Marshal had committed the boots of the criminals to mind for future comparison with people in the town of Ascension– specifically those of Winsome. Otherwise, there was little that could be found here and the Marshals saddled up and made ready to return to the town.
Wendell Caine may not have possessed the eye for detail that Wilhem had, but he did have a cunning mind won by years of hunting in the bear country of West Virginia.
“We should also make sure that the backup plans Colt had made are safe,” he said after a while.
The years of working together had formed a rapport such that Jack Lightning and Octavius Wilhem merely nodded agreement. Each knew in that there wouldn’t have been time for copies to be drawn up but that didn’t mean that others did.
The small town of Ascension welcomed its lawmen back with quiet indifference. Things were typically slow, the latest adventures notwithstanding, for five days a week. However on ‘Payday’, the workers from Camps Colt and Ithaca would avail themselves of Ascension’s businesses. Already expecting a busy night, the fact that men had been murdered was sure to add a savagery to the proceedings that would tax each of the lawmen’s faculties. And with one day left, the marshals wasted no time heading to Etheric Delights, where Samuel Colt had set up temporary residence and was making good use of the whorehouse’s bar.
The inventor of the revolving chamber, entrepeneaur of a mass-produced pistol and developer of underwater telegraph lines had turned his attention to a bottle of scotch as he awaited the news. Watching over him, Wilhemina Ether, propietor and madame of Etheric Delights was rehearsing how she was going to convince the elderly Colt to sleep it off without having to resort to the usual tricks of the trade. Her relief was visible as the marshals joined Colt at his table and while it was obvious that the news was not good, that they were able to drag Colt back up to his room meant she didn’t have to. There was a part of her more than a little interested why, in the midst of whispered conversation, that the impressively large Marshal, Caine, had boomed something about obtaining a copy of some plans, but the Mountain Marshal was not known for subtlety of any stripe.
In Colt’s room, the Marshals informed the gunsmith of the plan.
“Vhat we need of you iz to send vord of a telegram announcing your possession of zhese ‘plans’ in a manner zhat will get back to those responsible for your loss,” Wilhem explained.
“In the meantime,” Jack Lightning drawled, “We’ll take possession of these ‘plans’ for ‘safekeeping’,” gesturing at the empty documents folder she had tucked under her duster coat.
“Hopefully zhey will vant to be thorough,” Wilhem finished. Colt had said little but he was not so far drunk that he couldn’t follow the plan. With their roles understood, the marshals left, with Colt following some time later to make his telegram.
Returning to the streets, the Marshal’s headed back to their office when they were interrupted by an overly cheerful good morning. Winsome was taking coffee on the porch of Brasshorn’s Saloon.
“I got word of some more activity of them loathsome savages, sneaking about last night,” Winsome said as they neared.
“Ze natives are not here anymore,” Wilhem replied, keeping his tone neutral and to the point. “Zhey have said that zhey are moving camp.”
“Ah, but who can trust the word of such creatures,” Winsome said as he stretched out and propped his boots on the porch. Wilhem already compared the soles to the shape of those found at the crime scene. That they didn’t match simply meant that Winsome owned more than one pair.
“If you have any information, I expect that you’ll tell us,” Jack said. Her poise and manner completely ofuscated the building need to settle this in the traditional Lightning manner. Her hands stayed relaxed and by her sides.
“Of course. One must be ever vigilant against those with no respect for civility,” Winsome replied while turning his attention back to the cup of black coffee he was nursing. He hadn’t made it obvious but Jack was certain that he’d seen the ‘plans’ poking out from under her coat as well as spying Colt making his way to the General Store to send his telegram.
Caine had already grown tired of the conversation and had made way to the Marshal’s office. The other two caught up. The trap had been set, now all they had to do was prevent Ascension from being caught up in any violence resulting from tomorrow’s ‘PayDay’.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2