The rattling and shaking stopped. The few moments of sleep I had managed to snatch came to an end as the coach driver leant through the door.
“Dogtown, mister. Everybody out.”
I yawned and stretched a little. “Thank-you driver.” I muttered as I clambered from the cabin. “Just drop my bags off at the hotel, would you.”
“You’ve gotta be joking.” The man laughed as my cases hit the dirt. He climbed back into his seat, and with a “Jah!” whipped the horses into motion. A plumb of dust rose from the wheels as it sped down the little street. I coughed at few times and removed my glasses to wipe them on my handkerchief.
“What a coarse individual.” I murmured as I picked up my cases and looked about me. So this was Daugton, USA. Two and a bit thousand miles to see this. There were a few houses, a saloon, a general store and a sheriff’s office. It was cold, and a chill wind blew up the street, such as it was. There was no one to greet me, despite what my letter of employment had said. I picked up my cases and trudged to the saloon, in search of warmth and food. I didn’t get through the swinging doors of the “Dirty Dog”, as a voice sang out from behind me. A Yankee-Irish accent.
“O’Flaherty! Doctor O’Flaherty!”
I turned about on the veranda of the saloon and put down my cases. Coming across the street were the oddest-looking pair I have ever seen in my life, and I have seen a lot of odd things, especially in the war. The first was a little man in a bright green waistcoat, grey whiskers trimmed into a long moustache, and a cloth union blue cap. A pace behind and to his left walked the grim reaper himself. Excessively tall, lithe, draped in black with a Lincoln top hat to match. The little man was grinning with delight; the reaper was smiling like a skull, joyless.
“Doctor O’Flaherty! It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
“Sir, the pleasure is all mine.” I replied, extending hand. The little fellow gripped it tightly and shook it vigorously.
“O’Doney’s the name. I’m the mayor of this bustling metropolis you see. This,” he indicated the reaper, “is Mr O’Donnell, one of our city’s proud citizens and businessmen.”
“Undertaker?” I asked.
“I hope you aren’t too good a doctor. You’ll take my business away.” The voice from the crypt said.
Instantly I was defensive. “I am an excellent doctor, sir.” I replied. “I’ll do you out of as much business as I can.”
“Well spoken, O’Flaherty! Well spoken indeed. Although soon we'll have business enough for you both. Dogtown is growing at a tremendous rate. These gold in these here hills gentlemen!”
The Mortician was not so impressed. He indicated my six-shooter. “I hope you know how to use that, with your tongue, fancy-boy.”
“This is no Boston, sir. I carry a weapon and I know how to use it. I served in the war. As a surgeon, perhaps, but I have had occasion to defend myself from rebels and thugs.”
“And you’ll have plenty of opportunities to defend yourself in Dogtown.”
“Here comes one now.” Mayor O’Doney peered down the street. “Who are they?”
Two shady figures were ambling up the road. They looked like ordinary men, except for the way they looked about the place. Highly suspicious.
“Never seen them before.” The Mortician replied. Mayor O’Doney replaced his cap and started down the street. “Come on, sawbones.” O’Donnell continued. There’s trouble brewing.” The man in black took his place behind the mayor. What can a man do in such circumstances? I flicked the cover from my holster, set my bowler hat on straight and stepped quickly to the odd pair. Together we made an odder threesome.
“Where is everybody?” I enquired. The town seemed to be deserted.
“Posse. They rode out two hours ago.” The mayor replied. “Somebody’s stolen the beef baron’s prize herd. Sheriff, deputy, all the young men went to help.”
A figure appeared on the balcony of the saloon in front of us.
“Except that guy.” The Mortician added.
“Hallo Mr O’Doney, Mr O’Donnell.”
“Hallo Andrew.” The Mayor replied. “You got your piece, boy?”
“Stay there, then, whiles I speak to these fellows.”
“You got it, Mr O’Doney.”
We continued down the street. The two men had seen us coming, and were glancing up and down. They had stopped outside the Sheriff’s office. A hundred yards stood between us.
“You there! Yes, you two! State your business!” The mayor bellowed down the street.
The two didn’t stop to answer. One of them drew a revolver and fired down the street, before he kicked down the Sheriff’s door. The other man, who seemed to have a wooden leg, leapt through the glass plate window.
The mayor swore as he leapt into the street. O’Donnell drew his pistol and fired at the man still outside. I fumbled my own weapon, but managed to bring it to bear. Shots rang out up and down the street. Behind my head, the boy named Andrew managed to hit the scoundrel in the leg. The Mortician shot him in the other, and down he went, screaming in pain. A Shot from the upper window of the general store silenced the man altogether.
“Spread out!” O’Doney yelled.
“They’re trying to free the prisoners.” O’Donnell replied.
“I know that!” the mayor returned as he climbed to his feet, and continued his way toward the office.
“How many prisoners?” I asked the mortician.
“Two.” He replied. “Former Rebels.”
This drew my attention. “Rebels?”
The man in black nodded. “That’s right, sawbones. We’ve got plenty of rebels out here.”
I cocked my revolver, ready to shoot whoever came out that door. O’Doney had approached right up to the Sheriff’s Office now, standing a few feet from the door. A single shot rang out inside, evidently as peg leg shot the lock from the door.
“You men in there!” O’Doney yelled through the door. “Come out of there! We’ve got you surrounded!”
“Go to hell, Yankee!” A big, hairy man came roaring out of the door, fan-firing as he went. The mayor dodged them all, and managed to fire back. Shots blazed up and down the street, and the big man fell. Next out came a thin reb with a red beard. I closed one eye and squeezed. That fellow went straight to the undertaker with a hole in the back of his head. Last out was ole peg leg. He blasted at the mortician with a shotgun, and then struck mayor O’Doney with the butt of his weapon, before trying to run down the alley between the Sheriff’s office and the general Store. O’Donnell stepped forward and plugged him in the back. The bullet didn’t penetrate, but the slug knocked him senseless. I advanced to the Mayor and inspected his wound. “He should live.” One could almost see the disappointment in the dark man’s eyes. “Let’s get him to the surgery.”
“In the letter I received was stated that I would have a surgery.”
The Mayor moaned quietly “Hunter’s cabin.”
“That canvass shack?”
Andrew and the man from the General Store arrived, and picked up the mayor. I went with the Mortician to inspect the rebs. One had a bullet through the heart, another through the head. The other two needed surgery, but would live.
“Pretty fair, Mr O’Donnell, I would say. Two for your graves, two for my table.”
“Very true, Sawbones. Except that the two you patch up will end up on the end of rope and in my boxes anyway. Everyone does.”