Marshals, Pinkertons and the miners gathered around the strand of gorilla hair clenched between thumb and forefinger of Hans Octavius Wilhem. The revelation left them stunned.
“You mean to say,” Caine said, voice echoing in the mine, “that the thing responsible for all this monkey business–“
“Iz something much larger zhan a monkey,” Wilhem finished. He pocketed the strand and turned to face the Mountain Marshal.
“I had zhe experience of seeing vone in captivity in ze old country. I remember it as being a powerful und dangerous creature.”
“But not armed,” Jack Lightning interjected. “Strikes me that ain’t the kinda thing one finds in the jungle.”
“Hardly,” Wilhem said.
“Was there anything like that in the circus?” James Lovelace asked the miners while scanning the crime scene under the light of new and most confusing information.
“Hang on,” Boxer said, eyes rolling up as he tried to remember. “There was somethin’ about a civilised gorilla. Could make tea and count and dress himself. And yeah… I think it could fire a gun.”
“Did you actually see it?” Wilhem asked.
“No, sir. Somethin’ about it not feelin’ up to performin’. Plenty more stuff goin’ on that nobody seemed to mind.”
“Not even ze Chinese workers?”
“Not a lot of them turned up. A lotta things get said about the Chinee, but it ain’t that they’re lazy.”
Finishing up with the room, the three Marshals and the Pinkerton Detective returned to the bucket and pulley system. Lightning got the miner to locate the other two miners who usually stayed in the victim’s company, while considering the possibility of whether an armed gorilla could scale the rope or the cave walls. It seemed a moot point though. A gorilla wasn’t going to lurk about unnoticed, particulary if the miners feared for their lives.
Still, it didn’t explain why a savage animal would sneak into the mine, ignore a whole bunch of folk, shoot one guy and sneak back out again.
The footsteps of John Henry Anderson and Bill Boxer echoed back through the tunnels. They were travelling with nothing more than a disappointed and sour expression on their faces.
“I assume zhen zhat ze late Xuanzang’s companions von’t be joining us?”
“I’m sorry, marshal,” The looming foreman looked halfway between stunned and ready to yell the cave down around them. “Apparently they’d already left.”
“Possibly to track down ze circus and avenge zheir fallen comrade,” Wilhem mused.
“Best catch up to it then,” Jack said. Investigating was fine and all but it was not the way to uphold the law. The Lightning Clan were very clear on what it took to keep the peace and Jack was wearing both of them at her hips.
Leaving the mine and returning to the steam tank, Wilhem stoked the boiler once more and it chugged to life, carrying them across the desert. Despite a fortnight’s delay, Caine was able to follow the caravan tracks and it wasn’t long before they came upon the circus…
…Slashed, burned and long dead to a man. Longer, by well over a week, than the miner they’d just left.
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE ADVENTURES OF THE COLT APOLLO: 2ND ROUND 2ND SALVO