Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.
You'd think that we would have been getting the hell out of Dodge after last time, but Etienne had new orders and those were to clean up the mess Miss Graves made. In an open fight we didn't stand a chance and we came up with some sort of plan: burn them out.
Why don't I just mind my own business and let someone else deal with this crap? Hm. I'm not sure I rightly know. I've spent a good deal of my life keeping my head down and listening to other people tell stories around the campfire, only half believing it. I've seen a thing or two myself, no-one gets as old as I around here and doesn't, not when you spend most of your time outside, far from any town. There's some weird stuff and it's everywhere. For the longest time it was enough that I made it through, didn't give much thought to other people. Most of them didn't give a damn about me, after all. But now - I've come to care about these people, I won't abandon them. And seeing to it that those monsters are taken care of, it's a purpose. And it's a damn sight better than being told that I'm too old and no more use to anyone.
Right. Burn them out. We bought up three huge barrels of petroleum and all the sticks of dynamite and bottles of nitroglycerin the town had to offer. And we packed our stuff and got the horses because there was no way this was going to be quiet and we better be ready to get away quickly. I don't know how, but Etienne even got the doctor to come along. We found the entrance to the ghouls' lair and they had tunnels all over the place. I got right up to their, I don't know what to call it, a big hall where they were all together, talking about how they were going to stay. Or rather getting told by their...king? The biggest and strongest of them all in any case, I wouldn't have liked to get on his wrong side.
We put some smaller barrels of petroleum in the tunnels. I had seen a crack in the ceiling of the hall that they used as a chimney and Elisabeth and me went to look for it topside, took a big barrel and some dynamite with us. Etienne, Kenneth and Alan stayed below to clean up any ghouls that might survive. It took some searching, but we found the crack. The soil was loose and if we had tried to get too close with the huge barrel, it probably would have collapsed. So we took a bundle of dynamite, lit the fuse and lowered it on a piece of rope, then dropped it when it was clear of soil and roots and ran like hell.
The explosion threw us even further, dropped what felt like a whole tree on me, but it rolled off then the soil started to slide beneath us. Somehow, we got a hold of some roots and pulled out of the hole. I could hear screaming and yelling from below - not all the ghouls were dead, but it didn't sound like they were going to make trouble any longer.
When we got back to the hole, we could see black smoke coming from it and the doctor said she could hear shots. I didn't hear much but the ringing in my ears. Kenneth was already topside, a bit singed around the edges. Alan and Etienne had been busy cleaning up the rest of the mess, but by the time we got to them, they were all done. Alan had been clawed and bitten and he blacked out while the doc was treating him. Etienne was, well, Etienne. I think he'd probably shrug it off if someone took an arm or leg. Elisabeth offered to heal Alan and me. He agreed and with a prayer, she healed all his wounds. I give her that, her faith can do good things. I still didn't want it, I would have felt like a liar if I did.
The good people of Dodge were already on their way to see what had happened and we made ourselves scarce. Etienne still had something to do in town, so we met up a few miles west. Over breakfast, we talked and Elisabeth made a joke to Etienne about laying on hands. He asked if she maybe wanted to lose her hand and made a grab for her. He didn't mean nothing by it, but I still flinched, almost punching him because I wasn't sure who was doing the grabbing, Etienne or the other guy. Etienne took me aside later and said that I would notice if the other guy took over, but I'm not going to rely on that. I've seen what can happen and I'm won't do any guessing and maybe guess wrong. I told him as much and he took it as the warning I meant it to be.
We're going West now. Etienne has been ordered to California and we're going with him. It's going to be quite a trek, especially this late in the year. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm not used to staying in one place too long and I'm restless after the months spend with the tribe, although I felt right at home there.