Read Timpanogos Online

Authors: D. J. Butler

Timpanogos (7 page)

BOOK: Timpanogos
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Let’s step away for a moment and discuss.”

“Shall I kill him?” Rockwell seemed eager, and Poe wondered
if it was an act.

“Not yet,” Poe directed, between hard, violent coughs.
 
“But lets leave the scarabs on his belly
as a reminder.”
 
He held the
handkerchief carefully in front of his face to catch the sputum.
 
There would be blood in it, he knew.

Not yet, he thought.
 
Let me see this through first, and then take me, but just not yet.

*
  
*
  
*

“You didn’t have to poke fun at me,” Tam muttered to Sam
Clemens as they all moved away from Bill Hickman and huddled around the back of
the Danites’ steam-truck.
 
“Not
with all of them watching.”

“Not now, O’Shaughnessy.”
 
Clemens didn’t look irritated, but he looked distracted and
uncomfortable.
 
The poor idjit had
chewed through three of his fancy cigars in as many minutes.
 
Jesus and Brigit, though, who wouldn’t
be uncomfortable, with all the talk of phlogiston guns and flying ships?

Tam was uncomfortable himself.
 
He’d nearly been blown to bits twice in one day by something
called a
machine-gun
, first at the hands
of an overstuffed circus midget with an unholy affection for someone else’s
little boy, and then by the wee tyke himself.
 
He’d just about had enough of the Kingdom of Deseret.

It made him think of the Molly Malones and the Pinkertons
with something approaching nostalgia.

“Yeah, Sam,” he agreed, “only I was coming to rescue you,
don’t you see?”

Clemens ignored him and turned to join the circle with the
others.

“So it wasn’t right to mock me, is all I’m saying.”
 
Tam sighed.
 
He shuffled in close to listen, too, careful that he wasn’t
leaning over the head of the louse-sized midget.
 
The little bastard had armed himself with every knife he
could find.

“It’s time for reciprocal revelation,” the man everyone
called
Poe
was saying.
 
He was saying it to Sam, and he was
wiping blood off the corner of his mouth with a white handkerchief.
 
The man looked like a walking corpse.
 
“You’re the Boatman, and you brought a
delivery of rubies to Orson Pratt.
 
How many were there?”

Sam Clemens might not always be nice to his associate, but
he knew how to keep his cool.
 
“I’m
not saying it’s true, Mr. Poe, and I’m not saying it isn’t.
 
But I would like to understand your
reasoning a little better.”

“I took Pratt a delivery, too,” Poe explained.
 
“My codename was to be the
Egyptian
, but he accidentally called me the
Boatman
.
 
I’ve
seen your amphibious craft, and I think the Boatman must have been you.
 
You looked uncomfortable when I mentioned
rubies to Hickman.
 
How many did
you bring him?”
 
The bony-faced
Mormon woman looked fascinated by Poe’s every word, and Tam wondered what
her
game was.

“How many did
you
bring him?” Sam asked belligerently.

“What I gave Pratt wasn’t rubies,” Poe said.

“What was it?”
 
This question came from the more manly of the two Englishmen.
 
Tam thought his name was Burton.
 
He looked a little offended, like all
this was new information, and he wasn’t happy that people had been keeping
secrets from him.
 
“In the spirit
of reciprocal revelation, I brought Pratt nothing.”

“I don’t know what it was,” Poe said.

“Your profession of ignorance doesn’t exactly inspire
trust,” Sam joked.

“They were some kind of clocksprung devices,” Poe
explained.
 
“I don’t know what the
devices were designed to do, but there were four of them, and they were built
into canopic jars, little Egyptian-looking jars with animal heads.”

“We know what canopic jars are,” harrumphed Burton.

Poe ignored him.
 
“They might be ether-wave devices of some sort,” he said, “but that’s
almost pure conjecture on my part.
 
How many rubies?”

“Didn’t you say that Mr. Pratt has built four of his
air-ships?” the Etonian bastard asked.
 
Since the fight ended, he’d been followed around by two women, the
Mexican gunner and the young Mormon morsel.
 
Tam would happily have instructed either girl in the secret
beauties of the Irish avian population, but they stuck to the effete little
prat with his maimed headgear like blight stuck to a potato.
 
Just the sight of the three of them
made Tam want to spit.

The aristo weasel had two women slobbering over him.
 
Poe had the bony Mormon lady making
eyes.
 
Sam Clemens and Burton
yukked it up like they’d been hatched from the same egg and known each other
all their lives.
 
Even the dwarf
had the little kid.
 
Tamerlane
O’Shaughnessy was the odd man out.

He felt alone.
 
It surprised him how much the feeling bothered him.
 
Stop moping, you stupid bastard, he
told himself.
 
Mother
O’Shaughnessy’d die of embarrassment over your womanish ways.

Of course, on top of being lonesome, good old Missouri Sam
Clemens had as much as blamed him for kidnapping the child.
 
Sure, Tam had had the child in his
possession at one point, but for that matter, so had Sam.

It had been the dwarf who committed the kidnapping.

It just wasn’t fair.

“So what?” he interjected himself into the
conversation.
 
“Four ships and four
jars, so-bloody-damn-hell-what?
 
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
 
Four cardinal directions, by Brigit.
 
Four arms and legs on a man, four fingers to a hand if you
don’t count the thumb.
 
How many
fookin’ rubies, is this a game?”
 
He also felt slightly put out that Sam hadn’t mentioned he was carrying
around a bunch of precious stones, apparently for some kind of secret trade
with the Madman Pratt.

It was like Sam didn’t trust him.

But then, maybe he was right not to.

“I don’t know how many,” Sam Clemens told them.
 
“A small bag full of them.
 
I thought I was best off not knowing
the exact scale of the temptation.”

“Lee’s arming the air-ships,” Burton grunted.

“As far as I know,” the older woman said, “Brother Orson’s
only ever built one working phlogiston gun, and it wasn’t mounted on one of his
ships.”

“Consider the facts,” Poe said.
 
“Pratt arranged secret meetings in which he took delivery of
some number of rubies, and four mysterious devices, equal in number to the
number of his aerial fleet.
 
Pratt
took delivery, I say, not
Brigham Young
and not
John Lee
.
 
Our
Mr. Hickman there clearly knows nothing about these transactions, so I think we
have to infer that there is at least a strong possibility that Orson Pratt is
acting on his own in this matter.
 
He has good as said so to my… to colleagues of mine in Army
Intelligence.
 
Perhaps he is
building additional phlogiston guns to arm all the ships.
  
Perhaps the canopic jars
facilitate the arming in some fashion; perhaps they are targeting devices, or…
who know what they could be?”

“Bombs,” Tam guessed.

“Bombs,” sneered the dwarf.
 
“Like Hunley and his boys ever made anything so simple as a
bomb
.”

“I don’t think you can make an ether-wave
bomb
…” Roxie said hesitantly.

“I fear Pratt’s action may be imminent,” Poe continued.
 
“He was very anxious as to timing when
I delivered him the canopic jars.
 
He commented that he was almost out of time.
 
Did he give you any instructions about tomorrow morning, Mr.
Clemens?”

Sam Clemens hooked his thumbs into his belt and furrowed his
brow.
 
“He wanted me by the
Tabernacle at eight in the morning.
 
North side.
 
And the
reciprocal revelation?”

“Same place, same time.
 
Something’s happening tomorrow morning at eight, and he
wants us to witness it.”

“Or he wants to make sure we’re involved,” Clemens
suggested.

“Or standing on a convenient target,” Poe finished.

“We have to get President Young back to the city,” the younger,
prettier Mormon woman said.
 
“We
can’t let Lee win.
 
And if we don’t
stop tomorrow morning’s meeting, the Twelve and the Seventy will have chosen a
new President.”

“We also have to move to intercept Pratt,” Sam Clemens
said.
 
“What if he really does plan
to launch an attack first thing in the morning?”

“Any attack might be imminent,” Poe agreed.
 
“We may already be too late.”

“We split up,” Burton announced.
 
“I’m going after the air-ships.
 
Who’s with me?”

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

“So I expect you’re one cog that’s happy to be returning to
its ordinary slot in the good Lord’s cosmic wonder-machine,” Sam
suggested.
 
He chewed on a cheap
cigar he’d commandeered from one of the vanquished Danites; he’d chewed his way
through the entire supply he kept on his person.

That was one more compelling reason to get back to the
Jim
Smiley
as soon as he could.

“My people need me in my place,” Brigham Young agreed,
glaring at Sam like a bear facing down a mastiff.
 
“If you mean something more than that, I suggest you say it
plainer.
 
You’ll ruin Missouri’s
reputation for producing straight-talking men.”

They rode horses taken from the Hot Springs Hotel &
Brewery stable.
 
Ahead of them,
pffft-ankkkh
ing across fields of sugar beets and corn, went one
of the Mexican Striders; the second brought up the rear of the procession.
 
It was full night, and they moved by
the light of the half-moon slowly falling towards the western hills, not
wanting to attract any more attention than they were already at risk of doing,
just by the size of their party and the presence of the two big, clanking
fighting machines.
 
Someone’s crop
was getting trampled, Sam thought.
 
At least it was in a good cause.
 
Or maybe it was okay because it all belonged to Brigham Young.
 
Wasn’t this a kingdom, after all?

“You’ve got us wrong, Mr. President,” Sam said.
 
“Missouri doesn’t produce
straight-talking men, it produces skeptics.
 
And what I mean to say is, I can see how our rescue might
tempt you into thinking the hand of Providence was upon you, but I would
suggest that there are other explanations.”

“You mean luck,” Young guessed.
 

Young and Sam rode at the head of the horse-mounted middle
of the procession, together with Ambassador Armstrong.
 
Immediately behind them came Orrin
Porter Rockwell, slouched over his horse like he was a naturally inborn part of
the animal, and then Captain Dan Jones, with the boy John Moses in front of him
on his saddle.
 
The midget Coltrane
banged along on a horse far too big for him, and behind him came Absalom
Fearnley-Standish, his sister Abigail and Brigham Young’s fetching vixen-agent,
Annie Web, mixing in more or less among the crewmen of the
Liahona
.

“Luck,” Sam agreed.
 
“The diligence of my associate and the persistence of your own loyal
people, despite, I would like to point out, your apparent orders to them to
stand down.
 
Your own cogs saved
you by jumping out of place.
 
I
also wouldn’t discount the incompetence of our kidnappers, or fail to mention
our own manful efforts at overcoming our captors and escaping.
 
Porter Rockwell deserves some kind of
medal.”

“You don’t believe that God acts in the affairs of man,”
Young asserted.
 
When he wasn’t
snapping his teeth in anger, he had a kind of dignity that Sam found attractive
and also a little unsettling.
 
Young rode easily and upright even with his chest wrapped in a bandage,
like he expected people to look at him and respect him.

He made Sam want to knock him off his pole, just a
little.
 
Not hurt him, but maybe
get him a little dirty.

“I find that the victors in any contest are generally
persuaded that God is on their side,” Sam answered.
 
“The trodden down and beaten upon are not often so
optimistic.”

Young was silent for a moment.
 
Sam listened to the creaking of saddle leather and the soft
jingling of stirrups and felt the cool night air on his face.
 
Having spent much of the day in
darkness and suffocated by the smell of apples, he experienced this as freedom,
pure and undefiled.

“The best friend I ever had in this world,” Young finally
said, speaking slowly, “was Joseph Smith, Jr.”

“The King of Nauvoo.”

“Brother Joseph was the President, Mr. Clemens.
 
Jesus Christ was the King.”

“No offense intended.
 
I only meant to identify Smith by his common nickname, so you know that
I’m paying attention and know the man to whom you refer.”

“If you have heard of him, then you know that he was
executed by an illegal firing squad in Carthage, Illinois.”

“I have heard various views on the legality of the action,”
Sam acknowledged that he knew of Smith’s murder.
 
“No offense.
 
Your kidnapping is not the first piece of mischief to be perpetrated by
men calling themselves
Danites
.”

“Nauvoo was a kingdom dredged from the mud of the
Mississippi River, Mr. Clemens.
 
No
one wanted it when we went there, except for the mosquitoes, and without the
aid of Heaven, the blood-suckers would surely have driven us out.”

“I’ve seen Nauvoo,” Sam said.
 
“It’s a pretty town.”

“We made it so.
 
And once they had murdered our Brother Joseph, our enemies came for our
land.
 
They killed us, they stole
all our worldly goods, and they drove us across the Mississippi River into the
howling Lamanite wilderness.”

“I don’t know what a Lamanite is,” Sam noted.
 
“But it sounds bad.
 
I’ll readily concede that you were
mistreated, Mr. Young.
 
That
doesn’t make you unique, it makes you just like everyone else.
 

“For thousands of years on this continent,” Sam continued,
“each Indian people oppressed the next, with tomahawk and obsidian club, human
sacrifice and torture and cannibalism.
 
Then the white man showed up with weapons even more vicious—the
long rifle and the smallpox germ—and he joined the game.
 
The Spaniards oppressed the Indians,
the French oppressed the Spaniards, the Englishmen finally oppressed everyone
else and won, game over, and to celebrate the victory they changed their name
to
Americans
.
 

“Someday,” he wound up to his dramatic finish, conscious of
Brigham Young’s cool eyes on him in the darkness and half expecting to have to
jump back to avoid a burst of rage, “the next hand of rock-paper-scissors will
come up and somebody else will oppress the Americans.
 
Hell, maybe it will even be the Mormons, but that won’t mean
that God is on your side, any more than He was on the side of the Iroquois when
they sent the Lenape packing out of the Delaware Valley.”

“You misunderstand me, Mr. Clemens,” Young said
quietly.
 
“I am telling you that
God was on our side when our enemies drove us out of Nauvoo.
 
I am telling you that when all the
world saw as us trodden upon and beaten down, we rode west into the wilderness
cupped in the hand of the Almighty God.”

Sam nearly swallowed his cigar.
 
“I must be misunderstanding you
now
, Mr. President,” he spluttered.
 
“Are you suggesting that you were
persecuted and robbed and murdered and chased into the wilderness, as you
say—and that it was a
good
thing?
 
That God elected you to
defeat?”

“I am suggesting,” Brigham Young said, impressively calm,
“that God moves in mysterious ways.
 
Uprooting the Kingdom and moving it to the Rocky Mountains was hard,
harder possibly than you can ever imagine, Mr. Clemens.
 
Death and starvation and disease dogged
our every step.
 
But that move has
made us strong, and it has given us the space we needed to flourish and grow
and become independent.
 
And if
your President, or Mr. Jefferson Davis, or even the Queen of England, thinks to
coerce us into any particular action with respect to this coming war, or any
other thing for that matter… well, they will find that God has taught us to be
prepared.”

“And has God prepared you for the actions of Mr. John D.
Lee?” Sam asked.
 
He felt impudent
for his retort, but he was staggered by the things Brigham Young was saying,
and couldn’t leave them without rejoinder.

“God moves in mysterious ways,” Young repeated.
 
“We are all cogs in slots in His cosmic
wonder-machine, just as you said.
 
Rockwell and Eliza and Annie disobeyed me and they were right to do so,
but that doesn’t mean they weren’t acting as parts of the machine.
 
God is the mechanick, Mr. Clemens, not
Brigham Young.
 
I am nothing but a
cog that is happy to be returning to his usual slot.”

*
  
*
  
*

“If it all goes cock-eyed,” Sam Clemens had said, “remember
whose side you’re on.”

“I’m on your side, Sam,” Tam had shot back.
 
He’d felt like the girl in the corner
of the dance hall, looking shyly away from her beau.
 
Get a hold of yourself.

“You’re in the employ of the United States Army
Intelligence,” Sam had shot back, a little preachier than Tam liked.
 
“That makes you on
President
Buchanan’s
side.
 
And remember this.”
 
He’d leaned in close and looked around to be sure that no one was
watching.
 
“There’s still a war
coming.
 
If at any point it looks
like Edgar Allan Poe is going to steal Pratt’s air-ships for Jefferson Davis
and his cronies, you know what you have to do.”

And wasn’t Pratt the perfect name for a crazy old bugger
living in the mountains, building air-ships and phlogiston guns and planning on
burning down the whole bloody-damn-hell world?

“Kill Poe,” Tam had agreed.
 
“Kill Pratt.
 
Kill them all, if I have to.”

Sam Clemens had scowled and looked uncomfortable.
 
Good old Sam Clemens, rugged Missouri
hard-arse that he was, he was still a bit of an innocent, a bit of an old
maiden auntie.
 
“If you have to,”
he had agreed reluctantly.
 
“But
I’d prefer that you steal the ships yourself first, or destroy them.”

Then he’d ridden off with His Mormon Majesty Brigham Young
and the nasty dwarf and the Mexicans, without so much as a
please,
O’Shaughnessy
or a
thank you,
friend Tamerlane, for coming to rescue me from the godawful Danites who wanted
to shoot me dead
.
 
Tam understood that the man had to go show the people of the
Great Salt Lake City that he was alive and an innocent man, but still, manners
were manners.

“Why the make-up?” Tam asked.
 
“Are we going dancing, and no one’s told me?
 
And here I left me best frock behind on
the
Jim Smiley
.”

The wheelhouse of the steam-truck they’d stolen from the
Danites had two long benches that could have fit four men each in a pinch.
 
Richard Burton sat on the front bench,
behind the steering-wheel, and drove, his sword across his lap and Roxie Snow
beside him.
 
The truck rattled and
bounced along a rutted rocky road up and down low hills, a beam of light shot
out by its electricks splitting the night in front of it. Burton held tight to
the wheel, and the others held tight to the benches’ arms.

Edgar Allen Poe sat with Tam on the second bench and worked,
mostly one-handed, at affixing a false nose to his face with spirit gum.
 
Tam watched the others and tried to be
sneaky about the sips of whisky he was taking from the bottle in his coat
pocket.
 
He’d borrowed the liquor
from the galley of that great dead shrieking behemoth the
Liahona
, and if anyone minded, to hell with them.

He deserved a little drink for his efforts (what man
doesn’t? but especially clever, dogged Tamerlane O’Shaughnessy), and besides,
the alcohol helped dull the throbbing pain in his arm, leg and ear.
 
He’d been having a rough time of it,
these last few days.

“I’m impressed that you can do it without a mirror,” Roxie
smiled.

“I’ve spent long hours carefully observing women to learn
their secrets,” Poe said.
 
“Though
I have not yet mastered the legendary art of painting my lips using my cleavage
instead of my hands.”

Tam laughed sharply.
 
He sort of liked Poe.
 
He’d
miss the man, if he had to kill him.
 
He patted the Hushers to be sure he still had them both, and checked the
stiletto against his forearm.
 
Whatever came, he was ready.
 
He’d just have to be sure to take Poe by surprise—the man had
taken back his scarabs of death and was carrying them in his coat, now.
 
Tam didn’t want to get crosswise with
those nasty little Creation-disassembling buggers.

“Maybe you ought to poke into that fearsome huge box the
Liahona’s
boys humped into the cargo bay of this truck for
you, Mr. Poe,” he suggested.
 
“Maybe
there’s a spare cleavage in there that you could spirit gum onto your knobby
little torso and use to put on your lipstick.”

There, that’d teach the ugly southerner that he had to keep
an eye on Tam O’Shaughnessy, that the Irishman was not a man to be slighted or
ignored.
 
Poe would have to know
now that he was being watched with an eagle eye.

BOOK: Timpanogos
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Project Reunion by Ginger Booth
Bait & Switch by Darlene Gardner
A Song for Joey by Elizabeth Audrey Mills
Calypso by Ed McBain
Atlantis by Rosberg, Jessica
The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker
01 - The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton