by Michael Morgan
© 2018 All Rights Reserved
This is a continuation of The Chronicles of Dr. Orek Nebelwerfer previously posted on this blog. Please let me know what you think.
— 2 —
“Come in,” Roger turned as the door swung open. “What did you learn?”
Gordon’s carpetbag landed on the bed with a sad note of protest from the springs, “Not much. Nobody’s heard of the Doc or his elixir. You check the telegraph office?”
“Yup,” Roger nodded as he fussed with the knot holding his soogan closed. “No messages. I told ‘em we’d be here and offered the usual fifty-dollar reward.” The knot came free and the soogan was unrolled across the bed.
“Where do you think he went?” Gordon dropped his hat on the writing desk, and lowered himself into the straight-backed chair.
Roger shook his head, “Quien sabe? If he left ol’ Thurston Howell’s Traveling Wonders, he could be anywhere.”
“If he’s running, he can’t be mixin’ any more of his elixir.” Gordon scratched under his chin. “Means he has to find a place to lay low long enough to cook up a new batch.”
“Borrow your brush?” At Gordon’s nod, Roger opened the carpetbag and fished around coming up with a stiff clothes brush which he applied to the indigo suit the soogan had surrendered. “That place will have to be big enough for him to get supplies. “
“True enough,” the chair protested as Gordon leaned sideways reaching toward the windowsill and the skinny brown bottle supporting a mummified flower. He lifted the bottle by the neck and turned it. The sun bleached paper label protested the disturbance by falling away.
Roger looked up as Gordon searched beneath the desk, “Find somethin’ ?”
Gordon straightened and held up the brittle paper, “We need to go talk to the deskman.”
— 3 —
“No sir, I ain’t never seen a bottle like that,” the desk clerk studied the label on the counter.
“Anything strange happen to anyone in that room?” Roger started to flip a page in the guest register.
The clerk closed the register, “IF you please sir.” The book vanished beneath the counter. “Yes, one gentleman who stayed in that room got drunk, and had to be arrested.”
“How long ago was that?” Gordon picked up the label.
“A good solid month or so,” the clerk stared at the ceiling. “He was a mean drunk. Started hollerin’ in the middle of the night. Woke the whole house. I went to his room, and heard him smashing the furniture, so I run for the town Marshal.”
“How did the Marshal deal with him?” Gordon slipped the label into his vest pocket.
“It was quite a row,” the clerk’s hands twitched with the memory. “The Marshal, me, and another fella stayin’ at the hotel had to pile on top of him long enough for my Missus to put the handcuffs on ‘im. He like to whipped all of us.”
Roger glanced at Gordon, “You sure he was only drunk?”
“Who knows?” the clerk raised exasperated hands. “He stank of whiskey to high Heaven, but I never knowed a drunk to fight the way this one did. He waved a dismissive hand, “I’ve had a few wild ones put a bullet or two through a window, and one knocked over a kerosene lamp and like to burned the place down, but this one was like some kind of lunatic. Bitin’ and clawin’ and screamin’ the way he did.”
“Sounds horrible,” Gordon nodded sympathetically.
The clerk leaned on the counter, “And the strangest thing was he didn’t have a stitch of clothing on.” At Gordon’s raised eyebrow, the clerk raised his right hand, “I swear that man was naked as the day he was born when the three of us drug him down to the jail. And him carryin’ on the whole way down Main Street. Lucky it was the middle o’ the night, or what a show we’d a made!”
“What brand did he drink?”
Gordon’s question interrupted the clerk’s glee at having a new audience for his heroics. “Brand?”
“Oh, I don’t recall,” the clerk pinched his chin in puzzlement.
Roger picked up the question, “You didn’t find a whiskey bottle in the room?”
“The Deputy Marshal came and collected that fella’s goods the next day. If there was a bottle, he might have took it.”
Gordon stepped back in, “Who cleans the rooms?”
The clerk knew the answer to that one, “That would be Gabby, Er, Gabriella. She’s been workin’ for us since her husband died.”
“How long is that?” Roger leaned an elbow on the counter.
“Oh, call it five years or so.”
“Is she around?” Roger straightened.
“You gents seem to be asking a lot of questions,” the clerk’s eyes narrowed. “You some kind of law?”
“Ex-law, you might say,” Gordon’s face was grim. “I was Sheriff of a little town in Bandera County a year ago. One day a medicine show pulls in. Next day half the town is dead and most of the rest were too badly injured to make it. The show pulled out during the night, and I was too busy trying to save the town to give chase.” Gordon eyes went far away, “Once we got the fires out and the dead buried, I started trying to pick up the trail. The one thing every dead person had in common was a little brown bottle wearing the label we just showed you.”
The clerk looked from one man to the other, “What happened to those folks? Was it poison?”
Gordon’s eyes sharpened, “It was like what happened upstairs.”