Dodge City, Kansas: July 2nd, 1876.
The undead scientist known as Dr. Francis Hedgewig was running. He did not know what he was running from, but run he did. He knew what pursued him thru the streets of Dodge was unnatural, ancient, and hungry for his blood. The doctor fled in a panicked state past window shops where twisted ghouls wearing human clothes laughed at the fleeing revenant. Doctor Hedgewig looked all about for any sign of aid or at least a human face, but there was none to be had.
Hedgewig tripped in the soft mud of Dodge’s streets and landed face first into the muck. Fearfully, he turned to face his pursuer, and was frightened by what he saw: not one, but SEVERAL forms sweeping down upon him, all claws, teeth, and hideous glowing eyes!
With a start, Doctor Hedgewig bolted upright in his hotel bed. The monsters were gone; he was alone in his bedroom. The doctor had not been sleeping well lately, not since he was pulled free from the rubble in the ghouls’ lair. Not since he met the strange collection of individuals who had disrupted his experiments, drawn weapons on him, and tried to convince him that he was some sort of abomination! He remember well their names: the Reverend Sebastian Dallas, who first claimed communion with Almighty God and then claimed that Hedgewig was not even human! The burly Ruckus Nighthawk and his skulky brother Leo: one delighted in destruction on an epic scale, and the other seemed to commune with unholy beasts in exchange for power. The savage Walks With Moonlight of the Northern Cheyenne who possessed knowledge of things beyond counting despite her young age. All of them had shanghaied the doctor into destroying his beloved Nocturnis cannabilis Hedgwidicus… Madness! But, the doctor remembered how the “ghouls” had seemed up close and personal; twisted, macabre abominations….had the Posse been right to destroy the ghouls? Had he become some monstrous abomination himself?
Nonsense! After all, he was a genius!
Suddenly, a rapping at the doctor’s door came. A young voice asked the doctor to allow him passage, as he had a letter from Marshal Earp requesting his presence at once. Sighing, and realizing that his brand of genius did require service to mankind once in awhile, the doctor donned his bulletproof vest, loaded his pitol and made his way to the Marshal’s office.
Amidst the scrub bushes outside Dodge, the Reverend was answering another call: the call of nature. His indisposed state, however, did not dull his senses, and he heard the horses approaching long before they arrived. Sensing no danger, the Reverend continued his business against an oak tree. The riders soon approached, and they regarded the Reverend with a mixture of embarrassment and caution. Finally, the riders spoke, requesting the Reverend to return to Dodge at once, for Marshal Earp was calling on him once more.
Intrigued and annoyed at the same time, the Reverend gathered his belongings and accepted the escort back into Dodge.
Ruckus Nighthawk awoke to the sounds of knocking at his hotel door. Sullenly, the massive mercenary shoved off the two or three whores laying on his bed and began to cut a path thru the multitude of empty liquor bottles scattered on the floor. Ruckus received the message, Earp was calling for him once again.
Grumbling his acknowledgment of the message, Ruckus donned his weapons and went looking for his erstwhile brother, Leo. To his astonishment, he found a note pinned to Leo’s door.
Didn’t trust Earp to keep his end of the deal with the pardon and all. Decided to head to Texas to check that things are indeed smoothed over. Be back in Dodge before the Fourth. Try to stay out of trouble.
Ruckus chuckled at his brother’s note, and decided that keeping out of trouble didn’t sound like any fun at all. With that, he proceeded towards Earp’s office.
Walks With Moonlight hadn’t slept. The reason was not nightmares, or sleeping under the stars. No, it was due to the fact that she had been assigned a room directly across from Ruckus’. The drunken debauchery that emanated from behind Ruckus’ door on a nightly basis had disturbed the young shaman greatly, and she knew there was no ritual to scrub the mental images from her mind.
That is why when the invite from Marshal Earp came, she was all too glad to answer it. ANYTHING to think of besides….THAT.
Slowly, the Posse was assembled outside the Marshal’s office. Short greetings were exchanged; this Posse was not one to mince words. Walks With Moonlight shot a disturbed glance at Ruckus, and Doctor Hedgewig commented on Ruckus’ lack of manure-based fashion…but other than that, it was a cold reunion.
The posse proceeded inside the Marshal’s office, and was met with an interesting scene.
The beleaguered Marshal Earp was in conference with two men: One was the Mayor of Dodge City, George Hoover, who was discussing with Wyatt that despite the devastation stemming from last week’s “earthquake” (See Sunday Recap, 1-23-11), the Independence Day celebration was going forward, no ifs, ands or buts! Wyatt pleaded with the Mayor to postpone, but the Mayor was having none of it. Besides, the Mayor claimed, Earp had plenty of troubleshooters on hand to help keep the peace. With that, the Mayor swept out of Earp’s office, leaving the legendary lawman to meet the Posse.
The other man in Earp’s office cut an interestingly disheveled figure. Old age lines cut into the man’s face like a road map of the Great Maze, and he displayed a toothy, almost inebriated grin. He wore a brown longcoat with a suspicious bulge beneath its folds. He smelled of strange odors, like chemicals. And most distinguishable of all, the man’s left arm had been severed at the shoulder.
Gesturing to the new arrival, Earp introduced him as Dr. Sidney Pinket and cryptically described the man as “…reliable.”
Dr. Pinket cackled at this assemblage of “heroes” and stuck out his remaining paw in a broad, if clumsy, way of greeting. Few returned it, except Dr. Hedgewig who was happy to meet another “man of science.” When Dr. Hedgewig inquired as to what field Dr. Pinket hailed from, Dr. Pinket produced a bottle of acrid-smelling liquid with a prominent label:
“Doc Sidney Pinket’s Amazing Restorative Cure-All! Afflicted by gout, syphilis, poor eyesight, erectile dysfunction or halitosis? Dr. Sidney Pinket’s Amazing Restorative Cure-All is your gift from Almighty God! With one quaff of this amazing draught, all your ills are GUARANTEED CURED, or your money back!* Disclaimer: Money Back Guarantee not valid in the United States of America, Confederate States of America or in any territory in the continent of North America, South America, or points in between.
Doctor Hedgewig was taken aback at this man Earp had called “reliable.” He was no doctor, but a flim-flam snake oil salesman! However, the Marshal seemed confident that Doc Pinket had a right to be here amongst this more-than-capable posse. Ruckus and Dr. Hedgewig immediately called Earp’s judgment into question, but Doc Pinket immediately silenced any further qualms with a flourish of the weapon beneath his coat at a speed that would have put Billy the Kid to shame:
A flash of steel proceeded this strange and deadly-looking weapon: Twelve barrels were arranged in a circle around the central body, and a strange clockwork mechanism adorned the firing assembly. It was one of the rumored Gatling Pistols, a product of mad science that had a fearsome reputation as a “problem solver” of unparalleled quality. And Doc Pinket suddenly and quickly had it leveled at the head of Dr. Hedgewig faster than anyone could blink.
Earp: “Any further questions?”
Dr. Hedgewig: “No sir.”
Ruckus: “I LIKE this guy!”
With all further dissension silenced, Earp set about explaining the need for the Posse’s presence in Dodge once more.
Dodge, as before mentioned, was a city in flux. Union and Confederate sympathizers both wanted Kansas to join their respective countries and they were not picky about who got hurt in the pursuit of that goal. This situation was only further tensed by the Fourth of July celebration, which was a decidedly Union holiday! In short, Earp asked the Posse to help keep the peace to keep any tensions from boiling over, with a twenty dollar a day payroll to sweeten the deal.
Reverend Dallas was the first to voice concerns. He felt this work was not what he did in this world. He was a hunter of all things evil and unnatural, not a babysitter for a pack of politically-charged drunks. Earp countered that tensions such as the Union-Confederate diaspora could possibly flush out more of the Reverend’s brand of villain. The Reverend reluctantly conceded the point and agreed to the Marshal’s terms. Ruckus demanded more money, but Earp quickly silenced that idea by stating he was only asking the Posse to watch one neighborhood, and they were already getting double the standard pay for a special deputy. Ruckus grumbled, but accepted Earp’s offer. Dr. Hedgewig demanded discounted premises in Dodge, but after what had happened with the ghouls, Earp flatly refused, citing that Hedgewig’s experiments were dangerous, and if he didn’t like it, tough.
Eventually, the Posse divided their assigned territory into manageable chunks and set about the business of keeping law in the Disputed Territories.
(Part Two Coming Soon)