A Favour For The King – Chapter Two

A Favour For The King – Chapter Two

Tuesday 12th May 1925 – Bangor, Maine:

Bangor, Maine. Cherry still wasn’t at all sure about this job. He wanted to get a handle on the Solomon family business in Bangor so he persuaded the others to join him on a late night trip to some warehouses to have a look around.

We also booked a trunk call to Boston to enable us to speak to Charles Solomon as we still had a few questions for him.

There were several warehouses within walking distance of the hotel so we visited three. They were lightly guarded, mostly with elderly watchmen rather than armed men. The locks were stout but not excessive. No strong rooms or bunkers in evidence. We concluded that maybe the bulk of the family businesses here were legit.

However if they wanted to hide anything it would be pretty easy to do so. We had only looked at the most obvious Solomon warehouses after all.
None the wiser we returned to our rooms at The Charles Inn to get some sleep.

A pleasantly uneventful night followed.

Bangor, Maine - Hammond Street
Bangor, Maine – Hammond Street

Wednesday 13th May 1925 – Bangor, Maine:

The next morning we called Charles “King” Solomon.

First off we asked him why he had only referred to Joan as his cousin and not Harry her brother. He revealed that Harry was adopted, so just like the Italians this was about family blood. Harry wasn’t any good because he wasn’t related.

Next we asked why he was so interested in Joan. It transpired that The King, who was childless, was looking to Joan as a successor to run his business interests. She had been relatively amenable to this suggestion unlike her father David Solomon who was a stand up character who didn’t hold with his Bostonian cousin’s choices of business.

Then we asked about the fate of Vince Cagle. It turned out that he was still alive. The King took the long view that it was no bad thing to have Bruccola’s second in command in his pocket; so it looked like Vince Cagle was going to live.

We hung up with our assurance that we would get the job done as soon as possible.

In the lobby we scanned the morning edition of the local paper. Not much was going on. Any people knowing the movements or whereabouts of the murder suspect Joe Cagle were requested to contact Sheriff Patterson as a matter of urgency.

We then noticed a possible in to the local Native Americans. Fresh from her show in New York City, Bangor Playhouse was pleased to host a one-off appearance by Cheyenne Jane AKA Spotted Elk AKA Molly Nelson daughter of Chief Horace Aloysius Nelson, Chief of the Penobscot Indian reservation on Indian Island. We booked tickets and ordered a large bouquet of flowers to be sent to her.

In addition to a local tracker, we also needed to quiz someone about the local area. Chief Horace Nelson could have been a great source of information.

Ed then remembered from his researches the day before at the Historical Society that the paper had mentioned Horace Nelson several times. He was political. A civil rights activist, also a union agitator or “Wobbly”.

MacNifey had broken a few strikes in his time. Hopefully this wouldn’t need to come up.

Did show one thing though, Horace was no dumb native.

We wandered round the town’s outfitters getting supplies until it was time to head over to Joan Solomon’s club to meet her for lunch.

Lunch With Joan Solomon

Even in sombre mourning dress, Joan Solomon looked beautiful. She had a slender 5’10” figure with modern shoulder length blond hair. Despite her obvious sadness she was the perfect hostess.

After offering our condolences on the loss of her brother, McGee raised the question of what happened the night of the murder.

Joan explained that she and Harry had gone to a speakeasy on the edge of town where they could go dancing. It was called “The Corner House” on Devon Street. Despite her emotion she relayed the sad tale in a strong even voice.

Joan Solomon: “All was fine at first. Harry and I were enjoying pink gins at the bar when Joe Cagle saw me from the entrance hall.
He had always been sweet on me, ever since we were children but father had always managed to see him off. I never encouraged him or feigned any interest in him but somehow he had got it into his head that I was to be his girl. Maturity hadn’t mellowed him either. He had grown up into a brutish oaf. Big and tall, he was very uncouth, with a propensity to anger which was fuelled by his heavy drinking. It seemed that he had spent a long time in the woods just recently because he stank terribly. His dirty clothes were caked with sweat. His large beard just added to his savage visage.

“He bounded across the floor sending dancers sprawling in his wake. Then he made to sweep me in his arms. Harry despite giving up about a foot in height as well as at least a hundred and fifty pounds gallantly put himself between Joe and I. Joe lunged at me with his huge dirty hands. Unhesitatingly Harry threw an uppercut at Joe. It caught him clean but Joe was full of his moonshine and drunk with lust. It never stopped him for a second. He grabbed Harry with one hand, then punched him full in the face with the other. Poor Harry was knocked clean out.

But instead of leaving him, the brute then started pounding on Harry as he lay motionless on the floor. Joe kept hitting Harry for what seemed like ages until he seemed to suffer a moment of clarity. Even to his empty brain, it must have dawned on him that he had gone too far. He regarded his bloodied hands, roared above my screams, then ran out of the bar into the night.

I was so shocked all I did was scream while cradling poor Harry’s body for a long, long time.

His poor broken face will live with me forever.

When Daddy heard about this he wanted to track down that villain himself. But he is old and not as strong as he was.”

Joan then produced a derringer.

Joan Solomon: “I’m so ashamed. I was so shocked I didn’t even try to use this. I could have ended it. That was a present from Cousin Charles. Please, you must find him. Make him pay. He’s a horrid man. He must be stopped before he attacks some other poor soul”

Joan took a deep breath, then smiled again. You had to admire her self-control.

Joan Solomon: “But I shouldn’t be so maudlin. You are my guests. My friend Molly Nelson is back from New York. Molly is doing a one-off performance of her hit show at Bangor playhouse tonight. You must come with me. I have a box.

We studied at Columbia together when she was studying for her degree. She’s very clever. Oh do say you’ll come.”

She masked her sadness well but we could see that the loss was genuine. No way had she had anything to do with her brother getting whacked.

Joan went on to explain that another two of her college friends, Nathan Rinecker and Rose Barlowe were returning from an archaeological dig upcountry especially to meet up with her and Molly before she returned to New York. Rose Barlowe, now why did we know that name?

Hopefully it would come back to us.

They had all studied at Columbia University in the early 1920s and had remained good friends.

Ed recalled a newspaper report he had read yesterday. At the time he had dismissed it as irrelevant.

The Bangor Daily News

Friday 1st May 1925

Columbia University Expedition Team Comes to Bangor

Professor Eduard Christoff arrived in Bangor today with his team of 3 academic assistants, Helen Winters, Nathan Rinecker and Rose Barlowe.

He is a professor of Anthropology from Columbia University. He and his team of 3 post graduate students are heading into the interior to explore Penobscot Indian sites upriver near the village of Mattawamkeag. Before they set off he and his team will be giving a presentation to The Bangor Historical Society this evening before meeting with Horace Nelson, Penobscot chief at Indian island tomorrow.

We wish him every success in his expedition and will be exclusively publishing a full report of his findings upon completion in early June.

Reporter: Sarah Solomon

In between courses of delicious food accompanied by excellent red wine, Joan went on to explain that she had met with Cousin Charles. He had intimated that as she had demonstrated her academic credentials, he wanted her to think about joining him in Boston where he could teach her how to run his various businesses. Although she would inherit considerable business interests in Bangor, Cousin Charles had explained that these could be used in concert with his own Boston enterprises to create a really successful business empire.

Joan admitted that the fact Boston was so much less isolated was a real incentive to do this.

However her father disapproved. She was yet to convince him of the validity of the idea.

We left around 15:00 PM looking forward to the evening meeting. We had all been impressed by our hostess. It was obvious what the King had seen in her. A rare mix of great looks and real brains.

Molly Nelson’s Show

We hired tuxedos and headed over to the Bangor playhouse. The Solomon family box offered a great view onstage where we watched Molly “Spotted Elk” ‘s show. It was a sad cliché. She had to cavort around in a very skimpy outfit brandishing a tomahawk and wearing feathers in her hair. To see such an educated person having to behave in such a childish manner to entertain the masses was an excruciating embarrassment. Looking down into the audience we saw the only two Native Americans in the audience. Molly’s parents Horace and Philomena Nelson. They both looked absolutely appalled.

Don’t get me wrong, Molly was a great looking girl, she could and dance. She had curves in all the right places. But while this show paid the rent it was sad that Molly couldn’t make money using her brains as well. Still, what she made on Broadway was ten times more than anything she could do in Maine. Not an opportunity she could afford to pass up.

Eventually the show came to an end. The Bangor audience rapturously applauded. They loved the cliché. Much better than the seeing the true reality of a free thinking educated Native American that could challenge their whole society.

They couldn’t even get the name of her people right. “Penobscot” was a poor rendition of Panawahpskek. In new York they even called her “Cheyenne Jane”. She was about as far from Cheyenne heritage as we were from being Chinese.

Sheesh! I was thinking like those wobblys whose heads I busted. Maybe there was something to this politics thing. But too much thinking was dangerous, look what it had done to Ed or that poor preacher Father Jericho we left in the nuthouse. It was time to get a clear head. No more distractions.

Backstage we were given access to a private room. Here we met Horace and Philomena Nelson. Despite their disapproval of her show they were both really pleased to see Molly. There was genuine affection there when she sheepishly apologised for the crassness of her show.

Checking out Horace we saw that despite his age he was in great shape. He also had a knife strapped to his leg. Nothing odd about that. He was just being careful. The four of us were all packed too so it was not like we could criticise him.

We looked around to scrutinise the other guests, Professor Eduard Christoff together with Joan’s college friends Nathan Rinecker and Rose Barlowe and their fellow expedition member Helen Winters.

Professor Christoff was quite a short, skinny, weasly bespectacled man in his early 40s. He had thin greying hair with a quite arrogant manner. As he introduced the Columbia University dig team it was made abundantly clear that it was his expedition. Like some of the worst politicians he was instantly dislikeable. Calvin Coolidge he was not.

Rose Barlowe was the expedition archivist. She was an elegant 5’10” tall woman with pleasant looks despite a few scars on her cheek. Wait! McGee had it then. This was the Nurse Rose Barlowe, the heroine of Chateau Thierry & Belleau Wood. She had driven an ambulance in France during The Great War. Those scars were from shrapnel. She had been mentioned in despatches saving lives after her ambulance was shelled.

Nathan Rinecker, in his late 20s, was a little shorter with an athletic build. However he had a pale complexion and looked quite haggard. He had suffered with quite a bad cough all evening. It had taken quite an effort from him to suppress it during the stage show. We recognised the cough too. He had been badly gassed. He must have been in France. He introduced himself as the camp supervisor. Poor guy had to carry all the equipment, pitch the tents and do all the donkey work in addition to academia, all for that arrogant ass. Tough job.

Sharp eyed Cherry noticed shared glances between him and Rose. Looked like they had a thing. Good on them.

Last but not least was Helen Winters. Quite a bit younger than the others in her early 20s, Helen was very pretty with a great figure. We could see why Christoff had hired her. She paid him a lot of attention. She never strayed far from his side.

She pretended to be not so bright but that wasn’t the case at all. McGee knew dames like her. Didn’t want the guy to be threatened by their brains so kept them hidden.

She introduced herself as the trainee archaeologist.

As we worked the room, Professor Christoff approached Horace and Philomena Nelson and spoke to them in their native tongue. We would later find out that this was called Eastern Abenaki. Horace was very appreciative of being addressed in his own language. Rose came over to join the conversation. They were real academics alright.

Molly had been chatting with us, but when she heard her mother tongue she quickly excused herself to join the conversation.

We watched, mildly interested. It looked to us like the good professor was struggling to follow, whilst Rose and Molly led the conversation. Clearly they were good friends.

We made small talk with Helen Winters but she seemed distracted. Then we figured it out. She was following the conversation too. She was either too shy or continuing her pretence of being a pretty piece of fluff.

We wandered over to Nathan Rinecker. He was having a drink of water in the corner. He was struggling to catch his breath. He looked pretty beat. He’d been suffering since 1918 but didn’t make anything of it. We liked that. Some guys milked that kind of thing but not him. He made a real effort when we came over. He said that any friend of Molly and Joan was a friend of his.

He was really sorry about Harry. He told us that Joan and Harry had been very close.

Friend? Lovers even? Not our business. Not pertinent to the job at hand either.

Ed asked him about Razorshins. Nathan responded that while he knew a bit, we should really get all the information from the one who knew most: we should talk to Horace.


He talked about his duties, explaining that he ran the camp at the dig site. He was quartermaster getting all the expedition supplies and equipment. He ran the logistics. Kept all the expedition accounts. He also prepared all the camp meals and pitched the tents. A real hands-on practical guy. That’s where the muscles were from. Not your average collegiate bookworm.

He then talked about the dig. They had just been around 20-25 miles north of Bangor at a site near a small village called Mattawamkeag. They had discovered artefacts that were thought to be from the Stone Age. They could even be 10,000 years old. It was really important stuff. It extended their knowledge of Maine Amerind culture a great deal.

The more he spoke the more it was plain that he really didn’t like Professor Christoff. Among other things he said that the good professor had stayed at home during the war letting others get shot while he played the academic ticket.

Not like Joan’s pa, David Solomon who commanded a regiment and got the Bronze Star.

Or himself or Rose whom he didn’t mention.

He was in a spot. He was a bright boy but lacked the social standing or money to run his own expedition. Instead he had to kowtow to the likes of Christoff. Cook his meals. Make his bed. Pitch his tent. But he took it well.

Rose finished her conversation with Horace and his wife Philomena. She headed our way.

While Ed and Cherry spoke with her, Macnifey and McGee introduced themselves to Horace and Philomena.

Horace came across as a good man. He offered us the use of one or two guides to help track Joe Cagle in the woods. He said he also knew all about Razorshins but invited us to join him on Indian Island tomorrow where he could talk at more length in more privacy.

He shared Joan’s opinion of Cagle.

Sadly it had been almost inevitable that he would kill someone eventually.

He would gladly arrange for one or two of his warriors to help us track him down.

We asked why Sheriff Patterson, of the Bangor Police, hadn’t gone after him himself. Horace said that he believed that this was due to outside pressure. Maybe The King or David Solomon was leaning on the Sheriff to make him drag his feet while we did our work.

We then talked a little with Molly who had been consoling Joan. She apologised again for her show. She knew it lacked credibility but the theatre paid her far more than she could ever earn anywhere else. She asked us not to judge her. Molly thanked us for agreeing to visit her parents on Indian Island. Apparently this was a rare show of respect that was much appreciated. She thanked us for the flowers then wished us luck finding Joe Cagle.

Meanwhile Cherry and Ed chatted to Rose. They both liked her. Nearly everything about her was impressive. She had confidence without arrogance, knowledge without superiority, she was brave yet modest. She had indeed driven an ambulance in France for nearly six months until shrapnel wounds got her shipped home. She said she was just doing her duty. No mention of the two troopers she saved when her ambulance was totalled. How she ran down the road under fire to get another vehicle then drove back despite her wounds, to get the two troopers clear. Christoff would have milked that. Rose hadn’t anything to prove.

She talked about her work. How her studies allowed her to connect more with her friend Molly. She was completing her third degree in Anthropology by studying Panawahpskek Culture.

Three degrees! We were lucky to get out of grade school knowing how to read and write.

Christoff came over. He couldn’t help revealing his true opinions when he said “Who would have thought that these savages could have inhabited these lands for so long! They even made tools.” If he had such disrespect for their culture why on earth had he learned their language?

How two-faced! He had feigned respect for Horace earlier by addressing him in his own language but with his next breath referred to them as savages. We could only conclude that he was on the make. He had to be chasing some research grant money or something.

Horace had bristled at the term “savages” but said nothing.

Rose took the opportunity to walk away to get a drink ignoring him completely.

We left soon after but not before arranging to meet Horace on Indian Island the following day.

We wondered if there was some way we could find out whether Joe Cagle had a guy in town that he sold his moonshine through but doubted if we had the time to find out.

We returned to the Bangor hotel all talked out. It had been a pleasant enough evening in the company of four very good looking women. But that was the most talking we had done without shooting anyone in a long, long time. Just time for a proper drink before we hit the hay.

Bangor, Maine - Exchange Street
Bangor, Maine – Exchange Street

Wenesday 13th May 1925 – Indian Island, Maine:

Early the next day we headed to the Bangor outfitters to get all the outdoor gear we would need while tracking down Joe Nagle. We had more than enough guns on the boat. We also had grenades so it was just stuff like rope or waterproof clothing that we required.

The Penobscot River, that flowed past Bangor, was still really wide so it was real easy to get back on the boat and head north to Indian Island. If we stayed near the river we wouldn’t need tents either as could sleep on board.

It took only a few hours, even going against the current, to reach Indian Island from Bangor. It was quite a long narrow island opposite a small place called Old Town. Trees grew all over the island, in between which were quite substantial one storey stone huts or lodges. As we approached, another boat came to meet us. It was Horace. He was very glad to meet us. We didn’t know it, but everyone else in Bangor just summoned him to town when they wanted to speak to him, so he was really pleased to have some white people come to him instead.

We followed him to shore where he led us to his house.

Over refreshing Pine Beer he explained a little of his people’s history:

The Story of the Panawahpskek and Chief Horace Nelson’s Offer of Help

The white man has been here for 4 centuries now. Longer than any other part of what you call America.  But we were here long, long before your John Americk or Amerigo Dominguez. We know the land’s true name.

Right away they were very bad for the Penawahpskek and the other Algonquin nations. They brought new European diseases killing many of our people. Their traders demanded too many animal pelts, trading them for steel knives or magic fire. But our hunters were greedy. They killed more and more animals until much of the lands were cleared of food. Many starved.

They also brought strong liquor which unlike our Pine Beer was too much for us. Many warriors had cravings for this new drink. They did nothing else all day except drink. Many died doing this. It was like poison. In winter this killed even more of my people. Men would fall asleep with only small fires which would burn out in the night. In the morning we would find them dead of cold.

After the redcoats fought with the bluecoats our lands were split in two.  We did not need pieces of paper to tell us where our lands were. Gluskabe, the god of the Penawahpskek, had long ago shown us the rivers and forest pathways which were to be our home so we went as we pleased as we always had.

As time passed more white men came sailing bigger and bigger boats up the river. We could not stop the foresters or the big houses being built along the river. We had to flee our lands to the South as the forests were no longer our own.

Then the government took pity on us. Too many of our people died of the strong drink. More continued to die of smallpox or measles. So they enshrined “the imbecility of the Maine native” into their clever laws. We were now to be looked after by the white man’s government as they thought us too stupid to look after ourselves.

We were given a reservation on the Indian Island just north of Old Town.

That’s where we live now. We make a living selling items of artwork or working for the loggers. I am a chief but have to work as a ferryman too. I am reduced to taking loggers or sightseers across the river or gathering reeds from which our womenfolk make baskets.

Only a few days ago I took across an expedition from my wife’s university, Columbia, into the interior. Believing the law that called us stupid they refused to take even one of my people as a guide. I wonder how they will make out.

I know Joe Cagle. He is not welcome among my people. I have had to chase him off our island several times for trying to sell his liquor to my people. It still kills us. I needed three other warriors to subdue him but at last we managed it.

He is a big, brutal, stupid man, very angry too, with a great darkness in his heart. I was sorry to hear what he did to Harry Solomon but not surprised. He was bound to kill someone sooner or later. We saw him crossing the river on the night of the fight. We can show you where if you wish.

Ed then asked Horace about Razorshins. Horace assured us it was no ghost story used to scare lumberjacks on cold winter nights.

He shared the real truth.

The True Legend of Razorshins

The stories are true. There is indeed a creature out in the deep forest.

The good people of Bangor will tell you that Razorshins is an Indian but he is not. As I have said previously my people cannot stomach your strong alcohol. Razorshins is very fond of this drink, the stronger the better. This alone proves he is not of our blood.

Razorshins was a white man once. Before the war between the French and the English there was a trapper making a good living from all the rich game of our unspoilt land.

He was a drinker even then. He was prone to drunken rages in which he had such a fury that none could safely come near him. During one such instance he chanced upon a Penawahpskek lodge. As the warriors were out hunting only women and children remained.

He tried to force himself upon one of the women but she fought back. Trying to protect her family she stabbed him with her knife which only enraged him more. He went berserk killing everyone from the lodge. He was a big strong man. In his madness he tore the women and children limb from limb.

When the warriors returned they wept at the scene. None at all had survived the carnage. They called upon their greatest medicine man, Assaminasqua, to help find him so they could exact their revenge.

The punishment must be extreme. Death was too good for him. He had destroyed the future of an entire clan. The branch was broken so the family was at an end. It would not be easy however as this man had been in the forest for many years. Unusually for a white man, he had very good wood craft. He was able to hide for months from the warriors.  Though they never gave up.

Eventually they found him after one of his drunken rampages. The smoke from his still led them straight to him.  They fell upon him as he lay drunk among the body parts of a bear he had killed. The warriors tortured him for days on the purifying fire. Then they strung him up on a spirit tree.

While the wind howled, Assaminasqua forget the goodness of Gluskabe. Instead he called upon Ithaqua to curse this most evil white man. Let him not die but roam the forests forever with an unquenchable thirst that could never be slaked. In their hatred they called down the most terrible power. The man was changed by the breath of Ithaqua. The flesh on his legs was stripped to the bone by the icy wind. His shinbones were raised and honed to sharp edges. His hands and feet became clawed. His face became bestial.

He roared in his pain and rage breaking his bonds to fall upon the warriors.

Only the power of Assaminasqua saved them. Using a skill now lost to my people he bound the beast making it forever unable to harm any of the Panawahpskek. Then he put it to sleep, a great slumber which for many years.

Time passed and nothing was heard of him. But then as men stated to chop wood deeper in the forest he was disturbed once again. Now whenever the full moon is in the sky or a spirit tree in the forest is harmed he will come again seeking to slake his unending thirst.

Only strong liquor can stop him. Always carry some with you. Always be ready to run as fast as you can. Carry as little as possible in the deep forests.

That way maybe, just maybe you will get to live.

We took a few minutes to think over his words. What were we getting into? Maybe the razorshins thing was why the sheriff was so loath to do a manhunt in the backwoods.

We refilled our glasses. The Pine Beer was refreshing. Who knew Native Americans brewed their own alcohol?

A lean wiry warrior of around 20 was presented to us. His name was Running Deer. Horace promised us he was their best tracker. He would be pleased to help us catch Cagle. He certainly looked the part. In addition to a large hunting knife Running Deer had a military issue rifle which was well maintained. He’d had army training somewhere along the line. That would be probably be very useful.

Chief Horace did wonder what Christoff was really doing. He also wondered what he could find without any Panawahpskek guides to help show him where the sites were. There was definitely something fishy about him. His knowledge of Eastern Abenaki wasn’t as complete as Rose’s either. He had noticed that the previous evening but had been too polite to say. There was an angle there. But not our problem. We had a different job to do.

We thanked Horace for all his hospitality. Then we took Running Deer back to our boat before heading upriver to Cagle’s last known whereabouts. Running Deer was useful. He helped run the ferry with Horace over to Indian Island so he was able to give a hand piloting our boat along the narrower parts of the river. He didn’t say much. After last night that was fine with us. He just walked around near silently keeping watch with a hand on his rifle. Seemed to know his business.

We headed upriver till sunset when we pulled up for the night.

Out here in the thick forest it got very dark so wasn’t safe to try to navigate the boat.

We organised watches then hit our bunks.

Thursday 14th May 1925 – Somewhere, Maine:

Two hours into the first watch Cherry heard something. Movement in the undergrowth near the boat. He crept downstairs where he alerted the others.

As he returned to deck a shot rang out. It hit the boat but was pretty wild. Nowhere near where Cherry was crouching. He spotted the muzzle flash and sent a flare from his Very Pistol in return. It had the desired effect, lighting up a target.

Our haste betrayed us as our first few shots went wide. But then Macnifey fired a short burst from his Tommy Gun hitting the shooter. He was sent crashing out his tree to the ground below where he lay motionless.

We waited a few seconds then cautiously disembarked. We couldn’t discern any other hostiles.

Cherry searched his body. He seemed to be local, from Bangor maybe. Certainly not a wiseguy. Running deer scoped the rest of the area. He then picked up a trail of tracks. He led us into the forest.

It was really dark. Even though we weren’t underground the tall trees blocked out nearly all the starlight. It was eerie. The vets amongst didn’t like the woods at all. We hadn’t liked trees since we’d been in The Argonne Forest with the Lost Battalion.

Running Deer had worked well under fire. He was silent too. But it was just too dark so we headed back to the boat to wait for daylight. It was too much of a risk to get into a fire fight at night in the dense forest.

We left the boat at first light after a slightly uneasy night. Ed stayed behind to watch things.

We headed down the trail back into the forest. It wasn’t long before Running Deer stopped. He signalled to us that he had heard something. McGee heard it too. The unmistakable click of a bolt being eased back on a rifle. A shadowy man, obscured behind a tree was taking aim at Running Deer. McGee shouted a warning. Running Deer dove to the ground just in time.

McGee returned fire. The assailant slumped to the ground. It was a fine shot, with the partial tree cover there hadn’t been much to aim at.

MacNifey covered our flank. He spotted a second shooter and loosed a shot. However he hadn’t had much time to aim so the shot went astray.

Turning to his left, McGee fired again. His Mondragon had a faster rate of fire than the army issue bolt action used by our adversaries. It gave us the edge. McGee shot before the other could reload. His aim was true. The man dropped.

We checked the bodies of the men we had shot. The first was still alive. He was out cold but Cherry discerned that he was still breathing. Maybe we could stabilise him. Once back at the boat we could question him. What was going on? Even if you were protecting your still, you didn’t just shoot every passerby that happened near your camp. It didn’t make sense.

Something must have spooked these guys.

Besides bolt action rifles they didn’t have many items of note on them. Just knives and a keg of moonshine. While we checked the equipment Cherry staunched the survivor’s wounds. He wouldn’t bleed out so if we got time we could come back for him later.

Running Deer picked up their trail again. We followed it back to their camp. That’s when we found out why they were so jittery.

A small clearing revealed an axe lying in the stump of a spirit tree. They had deliberately chopped it down when they could have used any number of others for lumber or firewood.

These were local guys so they probably knew the legend. Why risk danger by chopping down a spirit tree? Maybe it was drunken bravado or something.

We then spotted a pair of feet sticking out the undergrowth. A fourth man lay dead. His bloodied face buzzing with flies. His scalp had been cleanly sliced off. We found it some yards away.

MacNifey searched the area around the corpse. In the close undergrowth he found some more tracks. These were more alarming. Long thin bare feet, perhaps elongated humanlike feet but with claws. Blood too. Probably from the victim though we couldn’t be sure. Running Deer estimated that they were a day and a half old.

Cherry took measurements and made a sketch. He also took a navigation reference so we could try to find that location again later.

The bloody tracks lead to a rude camp. There was little of interest there save an inscribed pocket watch: Property of Bob Clenton.

Running Deer told us that they were known to him. Four brothers who operated a still.

We loaded up then headed back to the boat. We were in Razorshins backyard. We had no desire to be his next victims. We had to get back to the boat.

Hopefully that thing couldn’t swim.

In our haste we had left the unconscious body where we had shot him. Did we want to go back for him?

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