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Authors: D. J. Butler

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BOOK: Timpanogos
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But Poe just looked at Tam with a dry stare as he squeezed
the nose into place.
 

Knobby
is a such a pedestrian word for a body this ravaged
by time and illness, Mr. O’Shaughnessy.”
 
He coughed several times, hard, to make his point.
 
At least this time he didn’t hack up
big gobs of blood.
 
“I had expected
better from an Irishman.
 
Really,
where is that Gift of Gab so famously proprietary of the sons of Eire?”

“I never kissed the Blarney Stone,” Tam complained.
 
“I’m a Dublin lad.
 
Never even been to County Cork.”
 
And wasn’t it more the pity?
 
If he’d had the Gift, he might not be
careening through the desert at night in the back of a stolen steam-truck,
trading banter with a consumptive secessionist spy.
 
He might be sitting in Parliament, or running a
railroad.
 
But Tamerlane
O’Shaughnessy’s gifts had always lain in a different direction.

“What about
knurled
?”
Poe suggested, going to work on a caterpillar-like set of false eyebrows.
 

Rugose
?
 
Scabrous
?”
 
He
coughed hard, but managed not to lose hold of the eyebrows or the spirit gum.

“Hush,” Roxie said.
 
Her voice was surprisingly gentle.
 
Tam wondered what reason she had to show affection to the decrepit
codger.


Cragged
,” Tam
grinned.
 

Bumpy
.”


Corrugated
,” Poe
added, “if it isn’t cheating to suggest two different words derived from the
same root.”

Tam laughed out loud.
 
“We’re all driving under the same roof now, Brother Edgar!”
 
If it came down to killing Poe, he
decided, he wanted to think in advance of some good fancy words to describe the
act.
 
Decapitation
, he thought, that was a good one.
 
He could say it to Poe just as he swung
the blade in for the killing blow, though it’d be better if Poe were tied up.
 
Then Tam could use the fancy word and
they could both enjoy it for a minute before it had to be over.
 
Incineration
for fire and
defenestration
if he could find any windows to throw the spy out
of.
 
Tam eyed the silver chain
around Poe’s neck, dangling something down under his shirt.
 
What was a nice, fancy word for
strangling
?

“Where are we going?” Burton asked from the front bench.

“It’s called the Dream Mine,” Roxie told them.

“That sounds cheerful,” Poe judged.
 

“A man named Koyle had it dug,” Roxie said.
 
“He told everyone he’d dreamed that if
you dug a shaft where he said, you’d hit an old Nephite mine, all dug out and
just full of precious metal sitting around waiting to be taken away.”

“What kind of mineral is
nephite
?” Burton asked.
 
“Is it precious?
 
Like bauxite?
 
Selenite?”

“The Nephites were an ancient people,” Roxie informed
him.
 
“They lived around here a
long time ago.”

“Hiya, heya, hiya, heya,” Tam chanted, then made his best
Indian war-whoop, slapping his hand against his round O of a mouth.
 
“I’ll admit I may be disadvantaged
because I got my schooling in Ireland, but the sisters never told me about
Indians digging for bauxite.”

“The ancient world is as unexplored and mysterious as is the
modern,” Burton growled, and took his eyes off the jittering road to shoot Tam
a gruff, schoolteacherly look.
 
“Nobody can afford to pat himself on the back for his wisdom just
yet.
 
Least of all the Irish.”

“Go to hell.”
 
Tam took a slug off his bottle.

“Old Bishop Koyle didn’t dream of bauxite, anyway,” Roxie
continued.
 
“It was gold.”

“Ah, well, then,” Tam said, and he felt himself brighten
up.
 
“That’s worth a little bit of
a drive to see.”

“Did they find the Nephite mines and the gold?” Poe
asked.
 
The eyebrows were affixed,
and now he was attaching a long fake scar running up one cheek.

“Not yet,” Roxie admitted.
 
“But they’re still looking.”
 
She frowned.
 
“You’re putting on a lot of make-up.”

“Pratt has seen me before, remember.”

“Not yet!” Tam felt himself almost squeak with
indignation.
 
“Then what’s the
fookin’ point of all this shenaniganning around?
 
I thought we were supposed to be going after the Madman
Pratt!
 
I wouldn’t have minded a
detour for stacks and stacks of gold, especially with one of ours in disguise
and ready for a good bit of thieving, or maybe even bauxite, but I can’t say as
I see the point of a detour for an empty hole in the ground.”

“It isn’t a detour,” Roxie said.
 
“It’s a short cut.”

“Mind you,” Tam added without a break, “I don’t rightly know
what bauxite is worth, but in big enough piles anything is worth money.
 
Even shite, don’t you know?”

“Buildings ahead,” Burton rumbled, “and there’s a light in
one window.
 
Better explain
yourself.”

“Slow down,” Roxie told him, and she hit a switch to kill
the electricks.
 
The bluish beams
of light shooting out the front of the steam-truck died instantly, and Burton
yanked on the brake lever to slow the big truck to a crawl.
 
Tree branches scraped up ominously
against the sides of the wheelhouse, but the Englishman kept the truck on the
road and moving forward, crunching the trees at the road’s edges to splinters
as it ground over them.

“Jesus and Brigit,” Tam cursed, “give the poor bastard a
warning next time.”
 
He took a
drink that he intended to limit to a sip, but that turned into several good
swallows.
 
Ah, well.
 
Tam might not have the Gift of Gab, but
he was enough of a true son of Eire to be able to hold his whisky.

“The poor bastard doesn’t need a warning,” Burton
growled.
 
“The poor bastard is a
man
.”

“What are you saying, English?” Tam demanded.
 
“I don’t make the mistake of thinking
you’re the same as that milksop Etonian shite you ride around with, don’t you
make the mistake of believing I’m afraid of you, you—”

“The mine is operated!” Roxie shouted, cutting them both
off.
 
Burton turned his attention
back to the road, now a ghostly-silver trail barely discernible in the
darkness, and Tam satisfied himself with staring holes in the back of Burton’s
head.
 
Throttle
, that was another word for
strangle
, though it wasn’t fancy enough to be emotionally
satisfying to Tam.
 
Suffocation
, that was it, but somehow that sounded too sterile.

“The mine is operated,” Roxie resumed, “but it’s a
front.
 
One of the tunnels is a
back door, it goes right through Timpanogos Mountain and up to Emerald Lake,
where Pratt has his facility.
 
It
lets him drive supplies up to the top of the mountain even in winter, and it
also lets him drive things up unseen.”

“Like what?
 
Like gold?” Tam asked.

“Like rubies and canopic jars,” Poe said quietly, “or anything
else.”

“Who guards the mine?” Burton asked.
 
“Who are you worried about?
 
More of these Danites?”

Roxie shook her head, a motion Tam could only see in the
darkness as the glittering of moon- and starlight in her earrings.
 
“Brother Pratt has always expressed
concerns to Brigham about the Danites, and about the need to protect his
facility, in case some Danite faction tried to seize power.
 
He’s contracted security to a private
firm.”

“Melqart’s fire, it seems the Madman Pratt had more
foresight than all the rest of the Salt Lake hierarchy,” Burton commented.
 
“So what private firm’s bullets will I
have the honor of dodging, then?”

“Brother Pratt insisted he had to have the best,” Roxie
continued.

Tam felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
 
He tried to drive it out with more
whisky, but it persisted.

“His facility is also the Kingdom’s central office of the
Pinkerton Detective Agency.”

“Aw, fook,” Tam cursed.

Burton chuckled.
 
“Something wrong, O’Shaughnessy?” he asked.
 
“Would you like to borrow one of Poe’s false noses?”

“Brigit and Anthony fook me right to hell, I’ve had enough
trouble with the Pinkertons to last me a lifetime.”
 
Tam felt tired and irritated.

Poe turned to look at him.
 
He looked like a complete stranger, all scarred and hairy,
but then he broke the magic of the transformation with a wet, guttural
cough.
 
“Of course you have,” Poe
said.
 
“That gives me an idea.”

*
  
*
  
*

Absalom Fearnley-Standish quite enjoyed the night ride.
 

He had little success sticking with Abigail; he wanted to
convince her to leave her brute husband and this desert wasteland and come away
with him back east and home to England, but she had no interest in the
message.
 
Every time he opened his
mouth, she spurred her horse away from him, sticking closer to the shaggy
Rockwell and showing her brother only her horse’s rump.

Absalom was impressed.
 
Before this evening, he would have sworn he was by far the better
rider.
 
Life in the Kingdom of
Deseret, life as Rockwell’s wife, had certainly changed her.
 
He almost didn’t recognize his sister
anymore, in this rugged, fierce, pistol-slinging woman of the frontier.
 
He was shocked to see how much a person
could change in such a short period of time.

He wasn’t upset, though.
 
He couldn’t be, with Annie constantly at his side.

“That can’t be true!” she almost collapsed from giggling at
his description of the Horse Guards’ Trooping the Colour, and the uniforms of
the Yeomen Warders in the Tower of London.
 
“England, the way you describe it, is so romantic!
 
Why, I don’t think there’s that much
uniform and pageantry in all of North America, but there certainly isn’t in the
Kingdom!”

“No, quite,” Absalom agreed, feeling that he’d scored a
point with her somehow.
 
“Your
Danites just wear black coats for the most part.
 
With different beards, they could be Amish wagoneers from
Pennsylvania, or fur traders from the Pale of Settlement.”

Annie laughed hysterically.
 
“Different… beards!”
Pffffffft-ankkkh! Pffffffft-ankkkh!

Absalom realized that he and Annie had drifted back through
the knot of the
Liahona’s
truck-men.
 
The Strider bringing up
the rear seemed to be clanking closer.
 
“Egad,” he said, gesturing vaguely at the Strider, “I hope there isn’t
trouble.”

“No, my dear,” Annie said, “she’s just jealous.”

“What?”

“Hush!”
 
“Hush!”
 
“Hush!”
 
The word to be silent reached them, passed down the
line.
 
Absalom duly fell quiet,
puzzled.

They stood in a cluster of tall trees, swaying in the night
breezes.
 
Ahead of them in the dark
was a knot of long, low buildings and dim lights that might comprise a farm.

Pffffffft-ankkkh!

The Strider stopped.
 
Absalom craned his neck back around and looked up at Sergeant Jackson,
who was riding gunner on the vehicle.
 
The big machine’s guns seemed to be aimed at a spot unnervingly close to
Absalom, but he shook his head, reassuring himself that it must be an trick of
the light.

“Mr. Fearnley-Standish,” he heard a voice at his elbow.
 
Turning, he confronted a small crowd of
men, including the Yankee Sam Clemens, the surly dwarf, his mountain man brother-in-law
and President Brigham Young himself.
 
It was Young who had spoken to him.

“Yes, sir.”
 
Absalom smiled pleasantly.
 

“Mr. Fearnley-Standish, your unique services are required,”
Sam Clemens said.
 
His words
sounded deferential, but the man’s tone always seemed slightly mocking, and it
put Absalom off.

“I’m here, gentlemen,” he said.
 
“For Queen and country.”

“You have an advantage over the rest of us,” Clemens
offered, which Absalom found intriguing, but unclear.

“We can’t be sure how much John Lee knows by now, or how
much he might have guessed,” Brigham Young added, as if this explained
something.
 
“And we need a safe
place to leave the Ambassador, at least.
 
This is not his adventure.”

BOOK: Timpanogos
6.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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