Reverend Dallas and Ruckus Nighthawk paired together, the logic being that the Reverend’s cool head would keep Ruckus from causing too many broken jaws and bloody noses.
Ruckus and the Reverend sauntered down Front Street, taking note of the multitude of characters walking the streets of Dodge in anticipation of the Fourth of July event. Patriotic red, white and blue bunting were strung up all over the city, and Union flags flew proudly from pro-Union storefronts. Everywhere there were set up several booths proclaiming various items; everything from firearms to linens to snake oil bottles were being proudly sold and displayed throughout the streets.
The Reverend’s attention was quickly drawn away from his duties to a copy of his favorite newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph. The Reverend, being a hunter of all things evil and unnatural, found the Epitaph to be a significant source of information, if the rest of the world only saw it as a tabloid rag promoting sensationalist journalism. Quickly, he and Ruckus scanned the newspaper, and were delighted to see the results of their handiwork against the “Body Snatchers.”:
Traveling Companions Silence Body Snatchers!
In a follow-up to our last report about Dodge’s problem with dead bodies going missing from graveyards and coffins, we are happy to report that the so-called ‘Body Snatchers’ have been summarily taken care of by a group of hired troubleshooters engaged by the local law. In a stunningly revelatory press conference held by the group’s apparent leader, one Reverend Sebastian Dallas, it was claimed by this erstwhile band of do-gooders that the ‘Body Snatchers’ were some form of undead menace that fed on the corpses of the recently deceased!
To prove their case, this posse of concerned citizens displayed a hand belonging to one of these ‘ghouls’ as the Reverend coined them. It was a twisted, malicious looking appendage, and lent serious credence to the posse’s wild story. While other newspapers may have debunked the Reverend’s claim, we here at the Epitaph are proud to share the Reverend’s tale of triumph over the forces of evil that plague our Weird West. Good job, Reverend, to you and your band of heroes!
Curiously, Ruckus took note of the fact that none of the other newspapers had mentioned a word of the Posse’s deeds last week. The Reverend chalked it up the human need to ignore that which terrifies them.
This debate about human nature was quickly broken up by the interruption of a severe-looking old woman in her early sixties waving a flier in Ruckus and Dallas’ faces. The old woman, who called herself Ida Mae Hobart, launched into an immediate tirade about her crusade against the “demon drink” alcohol. Using religion as her platform, the Temperance League crusader demanded the Reverend’s support in abolishing liquor in the city, citing that a man of God should support this cause and if he didn’t, he was just as bad as those other sinners out there. The Reverend quickly admonished the old woman for her crime of judgment, when judgment is reserved for God alone. Ruckus backed up this argument with his considerable size and equally massive rudeness. Chastised, the old woman damned the Reverend and Ruckus to Hell as Godless heathens and went on her way.
Dallas and Ruckus moved on down the street, looking for more problems to solve.
Doc Sidney Pinket found himself in some trouble rather quickly during his patrol. Left to his own devices, the snake-oil salesman turned deputized lawman found himself embroiled in a one-sided scuffle between Ralphie Simpkins, a Confederate jayhawk and raider, against a humble young black man by the name of Walter Jackson. Ralphie had the poor fellow on the ground and was mercilessly kicking his face into the dust. Doc Pinket quickly stepped in and broke up the brawl, and Ralphie claimed that Walter started the whole row. Walter, incensed by this fraudulent claim, slugged the Rebel across the jaw, knocking him flat on his ass. Ralphie pulled a large Bowie knife and went after the ex-Union soldier, but Doc Pinket quickly disarmed and subdued Ralphie despite the use of only one arm!
Ralphie, embarrassed by this turn of events, was about to pull his gun on the sly shyster, but out of nowhere, his brother Jake pulled Ralphie off the street, apologizing to Doc Pinket for his brother’s rudeness. Doc Pinket graciously accepted, but Ralphie swore vengeance against Doc Pinket and Walter Jackson.
Dr. Hedgewig found himself enjoying the fruits of being a lawman in the Dog-Eye Saloon, where Dog-Eye McNary, pro-Union barman, was providing free drinks to the scientist, offering the doctor and any of his compatriots use of his saloon as a headquarters during the event. It was an obvious attempt to get on the Doctor’s good side, but the undead scientist didn’t seem to mind.
A drunken man with a decidedly educated manner of speaking approached the scientist, calling himself Clayton Mansfield, and proclaiming to be a fellow man of breeding, like Dr. Hedgewig. He impressed upon Doctor Hedgewig for a charitable drink, saying that he’d pay him back on Tuesday. Doctor Hedgewig, feeling sorry for the man, bought him not only a drink, but a bath, presumably to ward off the man’s smell.
Asking Dog-Eye about the man, the loquacious barkeep only knew that Mansfield had arrived in town recently and had paid for his room five days in advance. Since then, Mansfield had been drinking himself into oblivion, but was relatively harmless.
Walks With Moonlight patrolled the streets on her own as well, and came upon a curious scene. A soiled dove and a well-dressed gentleman were talking in hushed tones in an alleyway. Employing her stealth, Walks listened in on the conversation. The gentleman was not asking the dove for her services, at least not for himself, but rather was asking the woman, named Sally, to get close to Jake Simpkins! Apparently, the gentleman who was named Paul, wanted a close eye kept on Jake Simpkins and his band of Confederate partisans. Sally was demanding more money for such a dangerous assignment.
Relenting, the gentleman agreed to pay Sally’s higher wage and sent her on her way. Walks took stock of this meeting, and proceeded to follow Paul to his hotel room at the Grand. The clerk at the desk told Walks that Paul’s last name was Goodwin, and he apparently was quite a hand with the ladies, but made a curious observation about Paul’s habit of jotting notes in a notebook at all hours…
As the day wore on and wound down, the Posse convened at the Dog-Eye Saloon to compare notes and have dinner on the house. Discussions over steaks and suds yielded little information on any strangeness, but this was quickly broken by a loud scream from upstairs!
Leaping into action (aside from Ruckus, who quickly availed himself of everyone’s drinks), the Posse moved upstairs to a gruesome sight. In the corner was huddled Sally, covered in a bed sheet and screaming for her life. On the bed lay the body of Paul Goodwin, but he was only recognizable from his austere suit hanging in the closet and the hysterical screaming of Sally, for Paul’s head and arms had been severed! The grisly sight caused Doctor Hedgewig to faint away, collapsing in the hallway.
Walks With Moonlight quickly attended to the dove, who regaled the party with a story of a tall man who broke into the room and knocked Sally out before going to work on Paul. When she came to, she saw the gruesome body of Paul and his assailant fleeing out the window carrying a gunny sack soaked in blood!
Surprisingly, Doc Pinket quickly swept into the room and began examining the body of Paul Goodwin. With only a few quick inspections, Doc Pinket proclaimed that Paul had been killed by a very strong individual using a sharp instrument with a shallow blade, not unlike a surgeon’s scalpel. Also, the killer knew much about human anatomy, noting that the second and third vertebrae had been cleanly severed from one another, with no marks on the bone!
Clearly, there was more to Doc Pinket than met the eye. He had a near encyclopedic knowledge about human physiology. When questioned, Doc Pinket explained that he had once been an Army Surgeon and had served in Gettysburg. What Doc Pinket DIDN’T share was that he had seen wounds like this before… After this revelation, Doc Pinket moved to assist Doctor Hedgewig, reviving him…but also discovering for himself that the scientist had no pulse! Doc Pinket filed this information away for later, making no fuss about the Doctor’s undead state.
Meanwhile, Rev. Dallas searched the suit that belonged to the now-headless Paul Goodwin and discovered a curious note sewn into the lining of Goodwin’s waistcoat. The note revealed Paul to be a Union spy, and asked any Union citizen to give him all assistance if asked. It was even signed by President Grant himself! Clearly, Paul was a Union spy. Could politics and espionage have been the motive for this killing?
Instructing Ruckus and the now-conscious Doctor Hedgewig to remain the room and seal it off, Reverend Dallas enlisted Walks With Moonlight and Doc Pinket to search for this killer. During their stay in the room, Ruckus and Hedgewig discovered a scrap of white cloth affixed to the window where the killer had made his escape. The cloth was silk, and very expensive….
Rushing outside, the trio encountered a throng of citizens surrounding a familiar sight to Doc Pinket. Ralphie Simpkins had caught up with Walter Jackson and was again beating him into the dirt. With a sickening crunch, Ralphie stomped down on the arm of Walter Jackson, snapping it in two! The Posse quickly intervened, with Rev. Dallas covering Ralphie with his rifle and Doc Pinket attending to the fallen Walter. Walks With Moonlight took the opportunity to skulk behind Ralphie while Dallas had his attention, and quickly swept him down to the ground, removing his weapons. Ralphie spat and cursed the Posse, but before he could be arrested, a shot rang out.
The Posse turned to face Jake Simpkins and his Confederate band of Wilderness Riders atop horseback, rifles and pistols drawn. Jake commanded the Reverend, Pinket, and Walks to turn his brother loose. The Reverend refused, and it seemed that it was a Mexican standoff in the making.
Hearing the scuffle outside, Ruckus and Doctor Hedgewig moved outside to assist.
During the confusion, Clayton Mansfield shuffled into the crowd, and with one quick move, set Walter Jackson’s arm, mumbling something about a cast before stumbling back into the crowd. Jake Simpkins claimed that Walter Jackson had called out Ralphie, and it was a clear-cut case of self-defense…and dared anyone to say different. Ida Mae Hobart entered the scene, calling Jake and Ralphie liars, and in retaliation, Ralphie shoved down the old woman into Mansfield, sending both tumbling into a horse trough.
Finally, Ruckus Nighthawk settled the matter by brandishing a lit dynamite stick in the center of the crowd, demanding that everyone disperse! The Confederate Riders were sufficiently cowed, and backed off, leaving Ralphie to be arrested by the Posse and Wyatt Earp, who arrived at the last moment to see Ruckus take the situation in hand and…
…“defuse” it rather…“explosively”.
(Part Three Coming Soon)