I can say for certain that as we pulled up to this town an’ John-Boy told us it’s name, Prosperity seemed to resent the invasion of it’s solitude. There was not a soul out in daylight to be seen, and what daylight there was seeemd to be dimmed by the pall which hung over the town like a heavy storm-cloud.
John-Boy parked the auto-engine jus’ utside o’ town. Lead by the Padre, most of the posse took off inta town. The Padre went to the Church (o’ course), Chuck ab’ his brother-in-law went ta the telegraph/postal office and the gunsmith, respectively, and Wit, Belle, and the shootist – Wicked – went into the saloon/hotel, all lookin’ for people. For my part, I wan’t much for the place, so I took the opportunity to fire up a cigar an’ talk to the boys.
Well, to say that there was somthin’ queer about the place would be speakin’ mildly of it. Prosperity seemed ta be anythin’ but. As ever’body else was loot-igatin’, a whole mess o’ fire-ants of an ornery breed I’ve never seen the like of boiled up faster than a hive o’ bees, and started swarmin’ toward the auto-engine. Sensibly enough, John-Boy would have none of that. He pushed the boiler from idle to vamoose in no time, and we started pushin’ through town ta pick everybody up.
About this time, three things happened about simultaeneously:
1) Chuck discovered messeges in the telegraph office. (More on this in a bit)
2) Belle started yellin’ at the top of her lungs from the second floor of the Hotel. It was somthin’ about folks bein’ in love or whatnot. I later found out she was talkin’ about two people she was readin’ about in some dead girl’s journal.
3) The ferriner – Deitritch – started yellin’ inside the gunsmith’s and causin’ loud explosions.
John-Boy sensibly put the spurs to the auto-engine, and we pushed our way through the (un-squish-able!) fire ants toward the town square. Bruce fell off along the way, and his agony was so obvious at the ants’ bitin’ as well as the injuries of his fall, I was obliged ta put the poor man down.
The ants hadn’t quite reached the hotel by the time the auto-engine did, and the resounding kabooms in the gunsmith’s hadn’t settled down yet. I jumpped off the auto-engine ta go find the Padre, and Wit managed to get the Trouble Twins out of the hotel.
Trouble was, by the time I got to the Church, the Padre had already left, lookin’ inta the commotion he doubtless heard from the rest of the town. While everyone else was gettin’ away from the ants and talkin’ about how the deal with our situation, I ended up next ta the town’s hangin’ tree. About then, the explosions stopped.
I would find out later that Dietrich – that’s Chuck’s ferriner brother-in-law, ya see – hod got himself kilt in some sort of row and series of explosions in the gunsmith’s store. The Good Lord only knows what happened in there, but it would mean we’d need a double-funeral for him an’ Bruce.
[Parenthetically, Wicked told me that Dietritch died fightin’ some sorta unquiet spirit that don’t cotton to bullets, but is immune ta both bullets an’ the bigger kinda bullets the ferriner had called ‘grenades’. He also said he’s got some sorta hoodoo witchery that lets him magick up bullets ta kill those sorta thangs. Can’t say as I believe ‘im, but that’s what the man said.]
Anywhoo, I would also later find out that Chuck told everyone about what he found on the telegrams sent outta the office. Seems the town o’ Prosperity was mighty powerful scairt of these ants and sent away for the Cavalry. The United States Cavalry.
What was I doin’ all this time? Why, finin’ a poorly buried soul underneath the hangin’ tree, I was compelled ta do the right thing – even a convictred, hanged man deserves a proper burial. With the Padre along with us, I figgured it had ta be done.
Fortunately, the ants seemed ta get tired of us about this time and cleared out ta wherever they came from. The Padre performed a service that we all got choked up for, an’ then we set ta that rest we’d been needin’. I must say, I musta been powerful tired, for the pall just seemed to fade ta mist, and we all felt quite a bit better. The ants didn’t come back, neither.