NaNoWriMo Update Eight

With a resounding “meh”, a total of 1884 words were written this weekend. The total now stands at 13626. I’m going to have to try and make up the difference here next week if I don’t want to fall terribly behind…

Some effort had been made to clean things up after Hawkins had come stumbling back into town. The bodies of those killed had been taken back to Blackoak. Some had been embalmed so they could be sent back to relatives, others simply buried. The cattle involved had wandered off if they could, creating a wild assortment of tracks across the area. Hands from different ranches were still busy riding them down. Those that hadn’t survived had either been butchered for meat on the spot or burned. Of course, with the wreckage like it was, they couldn’t get to all of them.

“Ugh,” Hawkins made a strangled noise as the wind shifted towards them. The smell of rotting meat from carcases still trapped in the wreckage was overpowering.

“This has been here all this time?” Lonesome asked, face scrunched up against the smell.

“Orders from Haversham & Black,” Walsh explained. “Guess they told Sheriff Wilcott to leave it be aside from getting the bodies sorted. I suppose they plan on doing it themselves. Not a whole lot we could’ve done to move most of that stuff anyway.”

“Makes it easier for us,” Katherine told them. The place was a mess, certainly, and all the cattle tracks would confuse things a bit. But that was nothing compared to how things would have looked if there had been a large scale clearing operation. She turned her horse around so she could face Hawkins. The warm, smelly breeze sent strands of black hair crawling across her cheek. “Did you see where they went?”

“No. I stayed hiding until I was sure they were gone. But I can show you where the three of them took the lockbox, if that’d help.”

“Could do,” Katherine mused. “If we can track ‘em from there to where they left their horses we’ll have a good starting point. Lead the way.”

“Hmm,” Katherine inspected the scene. There had definitely been a shoot out. She spied a couple of bullet holes right off, and it was easy to pick out the corner of a railcar that had been in the way of a shotgun slug. Then, of course, there was the blood where the bandit had shot dead one of Hawkins’ people. Unfortunately a number of other people had been through the area looking for survivors and recovering corpses. “Where were they standing?” she asked.

“Over that way,” Hawkins motioned. “And the lockbox was over here.”

“Lonesome,” Katherine commanded, “Get to talking to those spirits of yours. See if there are any around that might be willing to shed some light on things. Walsh, you any good at tracking?”

“Sorry ma’am, I can’t say that I am.” The deputy shrugged. He was standing around, trying not to be in the way as the others went about their work.

“Then have a ponder at this. If you were going to derail a train with dynamite, you wouldn’t want to be too close. But you’d still want to watch, right?”

“I suppose so, yeah.”

“Then find me someplace that fits and see if you can spot any sign they were there.”

Hawkins watched the deputy trundle off on his mission. Truth be told he was feeling rather useless himself. “What about me?” he asked.

“You gave us a place to start,” Katherine told him in a tone of voice that carried some gratitude. “That’s good enough for now. Just stay out of the way, but holler if you see anything interesting.”

She was still following tracks when Walsh came looking for her. “You were right, Arbiter,” he said excitedly. “I think I found it.” The deputy led her to a nearby hill. It was far enough away, and had a good line of sight on the tracks. “I think there’s some horse tracks over here,” he added, though he sounded unsure.

“No, you’re right,” she confirmed as she knelt by the tracks. “Looks like they were all here, watchin. And then they went down… that way.” From there it was easy to track the bandits to where they’d dismounted by the train. From the looks of it they’d left on foot, come back with something heavy – probably the lockbox – then ridden off again. “Alright,” she clapped her hands together and smiled. “I think we’ve got our lead. We’d better collect Lonesome before we go. Where’d that mumbler get to?”

They found him sitting amid the wreckage, legs crossed, eyes closed, whispering to things they couldn’t see. Katherine knew better than to interrupt him when he was Talking, so she just walked a slow circle around him for a bit. He opened his eyes at the sound of her footsteps. He nodded to acknowledge her presence, but it was still several minutes before he stopped talking. With a shudder and pushed to his feet.

“You were at that for a bit,” Katherine commented curiously. “Find out anything?”

“No,” he said, seeming to choose his words carefully. “But at the same time, yes.”

“Well don’t that sound enlightened,” she teased.

“There was nothing to learn because there are no spirits here to tell me what happened,” he explained, frowning.

“And that’s odd?” Hawkins asked.

“It is because they’ve come back. Whatever was in that lockbox, Mister Hawkins, it… it scared them away, or kept them at a distance somehow. They don’t want to talk about it. The moment it loaded onto the train the machine spirits who lived there left. With the lockbox gone they’ve all come back. And now that they’ve told me, I can sort of feel it too. Something left over from when it was here. Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.” He advanced on Hawkins, eyes narrowed and mouth drawn into a scowl. “D’you know what was in there, Hawkins? D’you know what that thing was?”

“I don’t,” he took a step back at the intensity of Lonesome’s glare. “I swear I have no idea what was in there.”

“Take it easy, Lonesome,” Katherine stepped in. “The man’s on our side, remember?”

Lonesome looked like he was about to say something, but took a calming breath instead. “Yeah,” he told her. “Sorry, Kat. I just got… well, spooked a bit, I guess. But if I know anything it’s that we’ve got to get ahold of that box, and whatever those H&B men put inside it.”

“Then grab your horse and let’s get going. We found their tracks. Looks like they headed northwest from here.”

“What’s northwest of here?” Hawkins asked.

“Red River,” Walsh said off the top of his head. “It’s a mining town. The bring loads of cynnabar to the trains every now and again. Some gold and silver. Past that, though? Go far enough and that’s Badlands.”

“Badlands?” Hawkins had heard of the Badlands and the Gargoyles that lived in it. There were lots of wild stories about it all back on the coast. “Well, they probably won’t run that far, right?” he asked.

“You’d be amazed,” Katherine said dryly.

“Let’s hope they didn’t,” Walsh spoke with no small amount of trepidation. “Last thing I want to do is go head to head with a goyle.”




Red River was a mining town of the hastily built variety. Many of the buildings were ramshackle affairs thrown together for convenience and quick shelter, with little thought to aesthetics. Many of the workers still lived out of tents near the mines or on the fringes of town. The only exceptions to this rule were the sturdily built bank, the jail, and the saloon.

It was raining when Clayton and the gang rode into town. The street had turned to mud, and those people still out and about looked like drowned rats as they went about their business. The sheriff watched them come in from a rocking chair on the covered front of the jailhouse, cigar clenched between his teeth and a shotgun laid casually across his lap. Clayton met his eyes for a brief second, then looked away. He was nervous but didn’t want to show it. Word of the train robbery might’ve reached the town already, but with no witnesses they wouldn’t know who to look for. At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. Then again, another thought refused to be quieted, if word had come in they would know to look for a lockbox. A lockbox like the kind they had strapped to a pack horse and covered in a blanket.

They tied their horses in front of the saloon and dropped down into the mud.

“Stay with the box,” Brodie ordered Slim.

“Shit,” Slim spat out into the rain. “Why do I get the wet and boring job?”

“Cause you got to have all the fun last time,” Thomas told him, clearly relishing the fact that it wasn’t he who had to stay out in the rain.

“And cause that’s our meal ticket,” Brodie told Slim sternly. “It disappears we don’t get paid. So you want your cut? Make sure it stays put.”

“Fine, fine,” Slim held his hands up in surrender. “I’ll watch the damn box.”

The rest of them tromped into the saloon. As they went they shed water from their dusters with each movement. Most people were well soaked from being out in the rain anyway, so nobody minded much. Brodie pushed his way up to the bar and started talking to the man behind it. Morgan and Thomas held back with Clayton, trying to stay out of everybody’s way. Now was not the time to start a ruckus and get themselves noticed.

“Ya see,” Morgan told Clayton, “Easy as licken butter off a knife. We’ll be getting paid here soon and life’ll be good.”

“Thanks Morgan,” Clayton told him sincerely. “I know you didn’t have to bring me in on this. I appreciate it, I do.”

Morgan slapped him on the shoulder in a show of camaraderie. “Ah, what’re friends for?”

“I admit we were pretty surprised to see you come around asking,” Thomas added. “Thought you’d turned your nose up at us when you went and got that job as a ranch hand. Glad to see that ain’t so.”

“I never would’ve said anything against you, you know that,” Clayton insisted. “But you can’t go talkin about this, alright? If Millie ever knew I’d killed a man like that, she’d never look at me again. Hell, I’ll be lucky if I can look at myself.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Morgan said sympathetically. “She won’t hear a word of it. As far as your girl will know you just helped us drive some cattle, that’s all. As for the other thing… well, you get used it.”

“Quit flapping your gums,” Brodie told them as he pushed his way to where they stood.

“Problem, hoss?” Thomas asked, assessing the big man’s mood at a glance.

“Could be,” he growled. “Can’t say as yet. Just keep an eye out. Somethin’ ain’t right here.”

Brodie led them to a table where a woman in battered cavalry hat was waiting for them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *