Those Who Walk in DarknessBy: Joyce Lavene & Jim Lavene
A Jacks Jackson Mystery
“Are you sure they’re gonna come through here, Jacks?” Davey Hume asked for the tenth time.
Davey shook his head. “I hope so, or Pinkerton’s gonna have our asses! If we let that gang stroll out of the Mercantile after they robbed it, after he told us they were gonna do it, we’re gonna be close enough to dead to reach out and touch his whiskers!”
Jacks laughed at him. “You worry too much, Davey. I’m telling you, that the old man is gonna be on his knees thanking us when we bring in the whole gang instead of just the three they sent in to rob the Mercantile.”
Three men rode by on horses, already lathered from their fast ride out of town. They took the right fork in the dusty road and continued on, urging their horses faster. Their saddlebags were heavy with the cash and gold they’d taken from the Mercantile.
“Now!” Jacks said.
Without wasting another word, Jacks and Davey followed the three men. They stayed close enough to see where they rode but not so close that the thieves would notice them. The gang had been making random runs into Chicago since February. They didn’t always hit Pinkerton accounts, but the last one was both a Pinkerton-protected establishment and their first murder. They were getting careless and foolhardy.
The last two Pinkerton agents sent after them hadn’t come back. They had no leads on where the gang was holed up. They seemed to disappear after they left town. That left The Pinkerton National Detective Agency looking bad. That was something Allan Pinkerton didn’t tolerate.
Jacks and Davey followed the three men until they came to an abandoned town just south of the city. The railroad coming through had created plenty of such places. People left towns that the long, straight track had missed. The railroad meant opportunity and life to a struggling community. No point living where there wasn’t any hope.
It was impossible to tell where the three men had disappeared. Jacks and Hume rode slowly down the one dead street that ran through the center of the ten buildings that had once held a thriving community. Dust blew through the open cracks in the windows and covered the chairs that had been left on one of the porches.
Jacks pointed down to the tracks that had been left in the thick dust by the rapidly moving horses. They didn’t have to be unique. They were the only tracks on the rarely used street. The wind was blowing them away almost as quickly as they could follow them. It had been too dry in that area for a few years. That’s why the gang had been able to strike and hide so easily. Even an hour after they robbed a store in town, their tracks were gone, and they hid out in the abandoned town until their next job.
“What now?” Davey whispered, glancing uneasily around himself.
“Now, we ride through just like everyone else,” Jacks told him. “Slowly. We want to look like we’re looking for them.”
“We are lookin’ for ‘em, Jacks!” Davey grinned.
Jacks frowned. “You know what I mean, smart ass!”
They rode slowly past the empty livery stable and the small hotel. The doors on the saloon creaked in the wind. There were gaps in the boards that made up the sidewalk as they passed the old sheriff’s office. The wind and dust whistled through the walls and wailed down the chimneys.
“Gutterville,” Davey read aloud from a sign that was resting in the street. The horses walked slowly by it, nickering softly as their riders appeared to glance around the old buildings. “Nice name.”
“Nobody’s out here,” Jacks said suddenly, loud enough to scare a bird from its nest in the old telegraph office. “Might as well ride through. They gotta be out here somewhere.”
Davey jumped too. “Damn, Jacks! You scared the shit outta me!”
Jacks laughed. “Come on, rosebud! Let’s ride!”
They picked up the pace, following what had been the road out of town until they cleared a grove of trees that hid the town from view.
“This is weird!” Davey complained when they stopped after putting the tree barrier between them and the town. “I think we should’ve gone in shooting and hoped we hit them before they hit us.”
“Use your head for something besides your hat,” Jacks told him. “You felt them watching us. What do you think happened to those other two agents Pinkerton sent out here?”
Davey couldn’t disagree with that statement. “So, now what?”
“We wait until dark.” Jacks took a seat beneath a spreading elm tree, sat back against a tree, and tipped his hat forward over his face.
“I’m already bored.”
“Maybe so,” Jacks replied in a muffled voice. “But at least you’re not dead.”