The table where Marshals Jack Lightning, Wendell Caine and Hans Octavius Wilhem, along with Pinkerton Detective James Lovelace, was the eye of a storm of tossed dollars and and whiskey shots. Payday had turned to night and the workers of Colt and Ithaca were racing the dawn of another day of labour.
For the lawmen, they weren’t sure this one had ended.
“Spokey Sampson was responsible for the attack on the Congressmen’s airship?” Lovelace mused, the idea unwilling to settle into the comforts of logic.
“That’s what Miss Ether’s girl said,” Caine replied, having just shared the story of Annie’s confession.
“Zhis schveinhund haz to be stopped,” Wilhem scowled, looking over at Jack for some sign that Caine’s news had made an impact. The cold-blue glare was the sole response and it could have snap-froze her whiskey.
Lovelace, for his part, had been nursing his scotch, turning the glass over his hands just like the thoughts in his mind. “This doesn’t make much sense. Criminals like Spokey are only interested in the cash. What does he stand to profit from an international incident.
“Chinee coulda paid him,” Caine said, cracking his knuckles. Annie’s tear-stained confession of her betrayal was still fresh in his mind.
A vague glance back toward the Mountain Marshal was Lovelace’s only response, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Then all eyes snapped toward the door as a hush fell over the Ignit-Inn. Marching into the room, the leather and brass-covered member of the Secret Service stomped through the throng of men, who pushed, staggered or fell out his way.
“Vhat is?” Wilhem started before a folded piece of paper was produced from the sweeping leather overcoat and placed in front of him. Wilhem adjusted his monocle and unfurled the paper as the Secret Service agent spun on booted heel and marched back the way he came.
The three peered at the back of the yellow paper as Wilhem’s eyes swept over it. Lovelace waited out of politeness. Caine and Lightning waited because neither had found occasion to learn their letters all that well. None of them waited long.
“It zheems I’ve been ordered to Vashington,” the Iron Marshal announced as he folded the note and placed it in the lapel of his jacket. “Zee Congressmen vish me to make my report in-person.”
“What about us?” Lightning asked as Wilhem stood and smoothed his jacket.
“Vone vould assume you und Caine vait here,” he replied.
“Works for me,” Caine grinned while ordering another whiskey, pleased to have dodged another high-highfalutin’ ordeal with the Congressmen.
“Zee Congressmen intend to leave tomorrow. I best pack. I vill see you upon my return.”
“We’ll try to save some of Spokey for you,” Jack said by way of a goodbye.
The Missouri Class Airship took to the skies as the men from Colt and Ithaca staggered back to their camps with the same slow limping pace. William Henry Baker was heading back to Ithaca’s camp as well, bellowing something about retrieving some essential comforts for his stay in Ascension to a less-than-thrilled James Lovelace.
All of this took place under the gaze of Jack Lightning who sipped black coffee under the porch of the Marshal’s office. The smell of bacon and eggs followed her out as Caine took up a chair, his plate piled high with his and, if she was any judge, Wilhem’s breakfast.
“Ms Cartwright’s keepin’ busy then,” she said, eyes not leaving the street.
Caine’s jaws worked like pistons as he shovelled through the towering edifices of bacon, toast and eggs. His response was lost to dribbling yolk that, no doubt, would be adding colour to his beard until his annual bath. Jack waited until the worst of it was over before she started again.
“Wilhem say when he was comin’ back?”
“I dunno,” Caine replied as his faithful bear lumbered out onto the porch, a bucket of breakfast hanging from his jaws. “He was talkin’,” he shrugged.
Jack shrugged back. The German Marshal had a way of overcomplicating the simplest things. She swallowed another mouthful of coffee.
“Quiet payday,” Caine said as the empty plate clanged on the porch.
“Surprised nobody’s tried for that bounty again.”
“I’m not,” Jack replied, placing the empty cup on the railing and looking at four stumbling workers spilling out of Brasshorn’s saloon. Eight legs between them and none of them looked like they’d mastered walking.
“We gonna check out that place what Annie told us about?” Caine asked as his eyes drifted toward Smokey’s bucket of food. There was a growl from the bear as his breakfast came to the Marshal’s attention.
“Might do,” Jack said and then there came a Hollered from up the street.
“You yellow-bellied bitch of a snake!”
Both lawmen’s heads snapped around to the four men who were still learning to walk as they came toward the Marshal’s Office. One appeared to be having success as he had broken away from his friends and staggered down the length, and sometimes, the breadth of Ascension’s main street.
“What’s yer problem!” Jack called out, stepping off the porch.
“Yer my problem!” came the Hollered reply. You think yer so slick and scary? Well, I’m not ‘fraid a you!”
Dirt crunched under the Lightning Marshal’s boots as she took her time closing distance with the shouting idiot. He’d called her out and shooting him wouldn’t be a problem either in the doing or the explaining afterwards. But nobody called down the lightning unless they were very sure of themselves or didn’t have a clue. Much as she might have wanted otherwise, she couldn’t legally shoot folk for being stupid.
Caine had no worries about Jack being able to sort herself out over this but, like Jack, knew that you didn’t do something this foolish without having an ace up the sleeve. The Mountain Marshal’s eyes squinted and swept up and down the length of the street, checking the open windows of citizens, who’d been woken up by all the shouting, for an ace sporting a rifle. His eyes ended up on the four workers, another one had remembered how to walk and had caught up to his friend who was yelling his last words. Nobody was this stupid.
Then he saw it and realised they were.
There was something more to their eyes. More than the bloodshot reminder of a night otherwise forgotten. More than booze. A red film that chased off the whites of their eyes. That damn Injun drug!
“What’s yer name?” Jack called as one of the three behind the idiot hollering his last words, squared up alongside him. Closer to them both, Jack Lightning saw the familiar red eyes and scowled; their stupidity wasn’t just limited to calling out the Lightning Marshal.
“Name’s Finnegan!” came the reply.
“Me too!” said his friend. Both had their hands wrapped around the butts of their guns. Jack Lightning kept hers loose, but ready.
“You boys better walk away.”
“Women like you got no business tellin’ menfolk what to do. Should’a stayed in the kitchen!”
“Hey Jack!” Caine called out from the balcony, his rifle in hand and trained on the other two who hadn’t appeared to pick a side. “He don’t know you or he wouldn’t want you in a kitchen!”
Maybe the Finnegan brothers thought Jack was going to respond. Maybe they thought she was distracted. Maybe they thought there was an opportunity, or the red-rimmed rage from the drug had taken over. Either way, both reached for their guns…
…It was the last thing they ever did.
Jack Lightning’s hands went from loose to tense, to blurring as they came up with the Lightning Coil Throwers. She had both ready but only needed one pistol, hell, only needed one shot as a bolt of electricity took the first Finnegan brother of his feet and into a water trough nearby. The crackling sparks crawled like ants as the water splashed out and onto the second Finnegan brother, sending him into the spasmed fate of his kin. Both were dead before the smell of ozone wafted away on the morning breeze.
The other Lightning Coil Thrower, as well as Caine’s hunting rifle, kept a steady aim on the other two workers who stayed stock still and raised their hands to their shoulders. Blinking in disbelief, the red film faded to a pinkish hue.
“You with them?” Lightning called out as windows on either side of the main street opened a crack to spy on what had happened and to ensure they didn’t catch any stray shots. Caine watched them all for any treachery and found none.
“No… n-no way, Marshal!” they called back.
Keeping the guns out Caine and Lightning crunched up the main street to the shaking workers.
“Know why them folk was stupid enough to throw down with me?” Lightning said as she stood next to them.
“It… it… i-it was Finnegan’s idea. He had to, Marshal.”
“Had to?” Caine and Lightning asked together. There were easier ways to commit suicide, though none more certain than calling down the Lightning.
“Finnegan was up to his neck in debt. Owed one of Spokey’s men a lot of money for whiskey, women, drugs…”
“What’s that got to do with me?” Jack asked.
“He couldn’t pay them back and Spokey’s not big on forgiving debts. I-I only heard about this but Finnegan made a deal and got his brother to help him out. If he killed you, the slate was cleared. He was dead either way.”
Caine ground his teeth at the mention of Spokey Sampson. The Crime Boss of Ascension would not be long for this world.
“Where’d you get the drugs?” Jack continued. Both men blinked a couple of times before rubbing their eyes furiously.
The only response was the increasing high-pitched whine of the Lightning Coil Throwers. Jack Lightning did not ask twice.
“Whoa, whoa! That’s just the new thing. Its called ‘Sunset’. Spokey deals it.”
Caine slung the rifle across his shoulder and cracked the knuckles of his ham-hock sized fists. It sounded like gravel grinding together and both men paled.
“He don’t do it himself, does he? Gimme a name,” the Mountain Marshal growled.
“Jones!” both men shot back fast enough to make Jack Lightning blink. “Tall lanky fella. Black hair. Dark skin. Black hat! Only comes out a couple’a days a week. We heard, anyway, cause we don’t do that sort of thing, no sir!”
“Jones…” Lightning muttered. The name didn’t ring any bells. Neither did the description. Judging by how Caine was still ready to crush both their skulls, neither did he. But others might…
“You boys get outta town and don’t let us see you again or the Finnegan’s gonna be getting some company out by the cemetery.”
“Yes, sir, ma’am, marshal!” they stammered and both ran down the street, taking the first turn between buildings to escape the Lightning Marshal’s cold gaze. Already ignoring the pair, Jack turned to Caine.
“Might be this Jones can put us in touch with Spokey,” she said.
“Reckon so,” Caine replied.
“I’ll go talk to Buckshot, see if he knows anything,” Jack continued. “Why don’t you see if Madam Ether’s heard’a him before?”
Caine shrugged and lumbered off toward Etheric Delights, as oblivious to the Lightning Marshal’s intentions as he was to her smiling behind him.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2
Posted by Wordmobi