Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Maurice LaMarche Sings 'Pinky and The Brain'

Yeeees, he does over at Craig Cumpton's Voice Actors in the News. See Mo and puppeteer Victor Yerrid engage, reflect, muse for no cost but the time it takes you to enjoy. As an act of balance, here is "Pinky" Rob Paulsen singing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme song with the very same puppet guy.

puppetsnshit

50 Shades Trailer Plus Satire

Universal Pictures UK

Coming Feb. 13. By then I hope to have 50 Shades of Zane Grey up on Amazon in both eBook and softcover formats. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving to the USA, and keep an eye on this blog or Facebook at JP Mac for updates. 

Image: Old Picture.com
Alone in the Pullman car, heart still rippling from our close escape, I marvel at the rich appointments: the tasseled lamps, the velvet drapes, a redwood desk featuring an ornate oil lamp and a disturbing paper weight of a naked man cringing in ecstasy. A faint smell of cedar mixed with aromatic pipe tobacco and saddle leather permeates the car. My soft chair is finely upholstered. I sip from a water goblet made of expensive European crystal. Oh my, holy jeez crap. I can’t believe I’ve been transported from the dangers of the frontier to a place of safety and mostly good taste. Gradually, my beating heart resumes normal tempo. I’m thankful it is no longer in my mouth. Medical professionals have deemed this tendency odd and fraught with hazards. I wish it would stop.

My Inner Spinster and Inner Bawdy Woman have ceased their panicked brawling. Inner Spinster sullenly tends to bruises dotting her face. Inner Bawdy Woman naps with mouth open near my temporal lobe. In my left ear, hearing returns in time for me to detect a discreet knock on the cabin door. From the landing outside, Mr. Grey’s private secretary steps inside the car. I bite my lip and give my eyes a practice roll. For a large man, he moves softly, gracefully. Dressed in a neatly pressed dusty suit, he displays an extensive array of facial scars. Grey’s secretary sneers at me. In his cultured English accent he says, “Is there anything you require, Miss? A jug of whiskey? Some gingham? Fiddle music?”

Contempt falls from him like wool at a sheep shearing; contempt and something sinister and cruel. I find his facial scars most disturbing, particularly the horizontal one running from one ear, under his eyes and across his nose to the other ear. It’s as if he were held down while someone tried sawing off his head.

“I’m quite fine, I’m sure.”

He indicates a long cord hanging from the ceiling. “Should you require anything at all, perhaps a corn cob pipe, education, morals, simply engage the sash.” He departs, taking my parasol without comment. I hope he returns it.

What had I done to deserve such treatment? My Inner Spinster rolls her eyes, cackles, then drinks deeply from my spinal fluid causing me to temporarily lose all sensation from the neck down. I mumble, murmur and whisper, wishing I’d accepted Butte’s offer to accompany me inside the Pullman car. Despite his deplorable gun work, he’d behaved gallantly on the road, saving me from robbery, as well as mutilation by Indians. Eileen Harrison will be deeply in my debt. But then my Inner Spinster reminds me that Butte also saved his own life and property. Where is the gallantry in that? Argh. I have made an inner pirate sound. Why?

Voices rise from outside the train. I peek out a curtain. Grey’s secretary supervises the unloading of the dynamite. Butte tends to our horse team, speaking with a man beyond my scope of vision. This man, this Mystery Voice, sounds youthful and confident, serene, commanding. I blush, bite my lip twice and listen.

“’Butte Parker?’ Didn’t you scout for the late Major Artis?”

“Told him not to go up the Rosebud. Only a few of us made our way back to Fort Sheridan.”

I marvel. Are Indians so torpid that indifferent marksman Butte Parker could shoot his way to freedom? Not on the evidence I have seen. I open the window a bit wider, drawn to the Mystery Voice like a cow to a salt lick.

“Parker, I’ve been told your tracking skills equal those of the savages. They say you could find an Indian in the middle of the desert, half drunk, blindfolded and snake bitten.” 

“Me or the Indian?”

“Let’s begin with you.”

“Even so afflicted, I reckon I could, if you cut my sign.”

“Do they bind you upon capture, the Indians? Rawhide thongs. Very tight.”

“Might. Depends. If mutilation is on the plate—and it usually is—they’ll tie you; otherwise you’ll buck some and spoil their work.”

“Could you possibly obtain me an Indian, or Indians, who might be persuaded to demonstrate their binding skills? In return, I would improve their station in life with training in basic hygiene.”

What a noble sentiment. Who was this Mystery Voice, reaching out to those less fortunate? Clearly, he possesses high moral standing. I go into a half swoon.

Butte responds tersely. “The Red Man’s around here in numbers and eager to make your acquaintance. Me and Anna Ironhead were just about hell-served-for-breakfast until your English fella and his men rode up.”

“I shall assume that is a ‘no?’”

"Reckon you cut my sign."

“By Hercules, sir, I always get what I set out after.”

 Butte spit a stream of tobacco juice.

Rapid footfalls ascend to the platform outside the car door. I let the velvet curtain drop and assume a more dignified position. I pre-blush and prepare my most business-like murmur. The car door opens and Grey’s secretary pokes his marred face inside to announce, “Mr. Lash Grey will attend you now.” Back lit by the sun, a shadowy figure steps inside.

I nervously rise to greet him but stumble like a drunken farm horse, knocking over the ornate oil lamp and starting a small fire. As the secretary extinguishes the blaze, I blush furiously, my color hidden by the smoke and a two-minute coughing fit.

Windows are fully opened, airing out the car. I am startled to find myself coughing into the cravat of a young, attractive man in an expensive suit unmarked by mud or horse apples. His fascinating eyes impale me, one pupil gray and the other a shade of teal. His reddish hair is combed back and his teeth are even whiter and more incandescent than those of Romegas. What’s more he is clean; cleaner even than Harney Calhoun.

With a ghost of a smile, he cocks his head and says, “By Hercules, girl, you are clumsy as a calf with square hooves.”

“I’m so very sorry, Mr. Grey,” I murmur, blocking a gasp at his handsome  features.

Grey dismisses his loathsome secretary. “That will be all, Manclutch. And do sit, Miss Ironhead. What the deuce became of Miss Harrison?”

My chair is only slightly scorched by the recent blaze. From my bag, I remove the paper with Eileen’s questions as I crisply whisper, “Unfortunately, Miss Harrison was wounded covering a shooting at R.I. Perryman’s Sporting Palace. But she has sent me with her queries, which I understand will be published in the Wolf Tongue Chronicle.”

“I regret her maiming. Miss Harrison’s persistence and drive are quite admirable. Now then, interrogate as you will,” he says and I wonder if he’s laughing at me. His domineering voice and odd eyes make me feel strange in a feminine way that defies description but involves DOWN THERE.

I stutter from nervousness. “Who is your pa-pa-partner in the Grey and Grey Railroad?”

“No one. I enjoy hearing my name pronounced twice. Sit up straight, would you please? I loath slouching.”

So arrogant. So controlling. I immediately comply.

“Do you have a great many engines and cars?”

“Yes. Quite a few.”

“Do you have cabooses as well?"

 “I do. I like to see a caboose on the end of every train. It’s like a period at the end of a sentence, brandy and cigars after dining, being hog-tied and caned after . . . never mind.”

Is he again laughing at me? And what of these questions? Eileen must’ve written them under fire. They stink like dish water in which miners have bathed. I note Lash Grey’s exceptionally long ring fingers and recall the worlds of Butte Parker. Suddenly my mouth opens like a coal chute and words tumble out unbidden, “Are you a Dandy Man with a yen for obtuse delights?”

Part I, Part II, Part III

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jurassic World Trailer

Now up over at Troy Benjamin's site. According to Troy: "Dr. Ian Malcolm told us that life was going to find a way but, apparently, so did humans and Jurassic Park (now World) is a thriving theme park akin to the Disney empire. But, as they famously say, something goes wrong."

You'll have to wait until June to find out.

But first, a teaser for a trailer.


Universal Pictures UK

Saturday, November 22, 2014

50 Shades of Zane Grey Part III



(After her reporter friend is wounded covering a saloon shooting, bumbling innocent Anna Ironhead agrees to interview mysterious railroad tycoon Lash Grey. In the company of a laconic, heavily armed frontiersman, Anna sets out on a dangerous journey across the Wyoming Territory, dogged by a number of squabbling entities living in her head. Suddenly Anna and the frontiersman find themselves confronted by a notorious bandit.)


Image: Wickipedia

“A most good day and I must rob you,” he says to Butte. “Ah, but who is this delightful young lady? Surely not your wife.”

A wife? How could anyone think of me as a ‘wife?’ Nevertheless, I feel a feminine thrill course through my clumsy body.

“Not married,” says Butte and spits. “But she’s with me.”

The thief holds me in his brown-eyed gaze, a smile upon his lips. “May I have your name, most beautiful sparrow? In return, I will not rob you so much.”

“Anna Ironhead,” I murmur.

Leaning forward in his saddle, he replies, “Only a little bit could I hear.”

“She’s a murmuring woman,” says Butte. “You’d better come closer if you want to hear right.”

“You tell me her name.”

“Don’t reckon I will.”

“Even though I could shoot you today and you would remain shot?”

Butte spits out another stream. “If you’re Romegas, and I reckon you are, you won’t shoot me.”

Despite his low moral character, I find the bandit’s smile enchanting.

“Ha, yes, you know of me. Oscar Romegas kills no man lightly because then I cannot rob him again.”

My Inner Spinster returns with syrup dripping from her chin. She stomps her foot in fright. I whisper to the bandit, “Should you steal from us, Lash Grey will, no doubt, be personally insulted and send detectives to haul you before justice.”

Amused, Romegas rides closer, “You are like a little bird singing in a derecho.”

Butte calls out, “She said Lash Grey will sic the Pinkertons on you if you don’t clear the road.”

Nodding as if weighing this new intelligence, the bandit urges his horse nearer to the wagon. “Such a mighty friend to have. They say he is a Dandy Man of the first rank. But why would a great man like Lash Grey visit with poor people? I assume no. So you must have money. I assume yes. Give it to me now.”

“I suppose we’d better hand over what we have,” says Butte. He reaches for his hat while addressing Romegas, “Keep my poke up here.”

“Not for long.”

In a swift move, Butte removes his hat and grabs a pistol, a four-barreled pepperbox—secured to his thick brown hair by means unknown—and fires. He wounds Romegas’ horse. I am almost deaf from the report going off so close to my ears. Simultaneously, Romagas fires both pistols. His twin .36 caliber rounds splinter the wagon box and shoot off the handle of Butte’s boot knife.

Terrified, my Inner Spinster and Inner Bawdy Woman run for cover. They crouch behind a ropy portion of my brain. I prepare to faint, but a nagging thought holds me in the conscious world: these men are terrible shots. At point-blank range, they have damaged a wagon, wounded a horse and missed one another despite clear intent to do otherwise. They would not last an hour in R.I. Perryman’s.

Weaving like a sapling in a cyclone, I prepare to resume my faint when over Butte’s shoulder, I catch sight of a large dust cloud. From the west, the cloud moves rapidly in our direction, parting briefly to reveal war ponies. Holy triple cow pie. My loudest murmur fails me. I can only point, making noises like someone who has swallowed a shawl.

Art: Rhyodon Shishido

Weapons leveled, Butte and Romegas see nothing but each another.

“Blasted pepper-box. Always shoots low.”

“Were I not out of practice from not shooting so many people, you would stand at the Gates of Heaven, explaining your foolishness in testing Romegas.”

“I’m game for another go. Let me draw my Smith.”

“You will draw nothing but your last breath.”

“Indians,” I murmur at last.

“Anna, hold on. I gotta ventilate this bandito.”

“‘Anna.’ I will whisper your name tonight in my sleep, after I drop this teamster with the impressive moustaches.”

“Coming fast,” I whisper. “Right for us.”

“What is she saying?” asks Romegas.

“Something ‘fast’ and ‘fuss.’ Can’t put a hand to it.”

A round cracks overhead with a sound like a bee. Butte and Romegas turn, as the Indians gallop faster, firing from distance.

 “Damn it all—pardon me, Anna. Arapaho, I reckon.”

Romegas shakes his head and sneers. “You have the eyes of a salted ham. They are Nez Perce.”

Butte munches on a corner of his moustache. “We can finish this now, Romegas, and the Indians will hang the winner, head down, over a slow fire. Or we can run like hell and complete our business later.”

“No one wounds Romegas’s horse,” snarls the bandit. “You will live until we meet again.” He favors me with his brilliant teeth. “And you, my confection, have the most wonderful big eyes. You could hunt mice at night without hindrance.”

Panic and fright give way as I blush and loudly murmur, “Is that a compliment?”

“More gracious wording awaits you another time.” Romegas wheels his tan mount and gallops quickly to the east.

Butte drops his pepper-box, and snaps the reins. Our wagon lurches across the rolling terrain as the team flies forward. I bounce and sway, fearful at the possibility of being captured, despoiled and tortured to death, all in one day. It seems like a lot.

And yet, I bask in the compliments of Romegas. He liked my eyes. He really liked my eyes. But then my Inner Spinster calls out from hiding, reminding me that Romegas is a bandit. He would have swiped my hand bag. This extinguishes the glow of his recent compliments.

“Grab your bonnet,” yells Butte as we descend into a rocky wash.

I almost topple from my seat as we rattle and careen down the trail, along the bottom, and up the other side. More shots. Whock as a bullet passes through the wagon. I think of the dynamite cases and pale.

I see the Indians clearly now: lean, coppery feathered men with carbines, bows and arrows, and skull-splitting hatchets. They race ahead, yelling and laughing, to cut off our escape. To the north, beyond our straining horses, I spot another dust cloud.

“Might be a second war party,” says Butte. He sounds anxious. His eyes dart about as if seeking another path, some exit from the ground itself. “If so, our elk is most truly skinned. But don’t fear, Anna, I’ll put a bullet through your head.”

My Inner Bawdy Woman croons sarcastically that Butte’s offer is a sign of true love West of the Mississippi. Then she lifts her skirts and sprints for my left ear, seeking escape from my head. Interesting. Where would she go? However, my Inner Spinster also flees the same way. They collide, tussle, pull hair, curse, and scratch. My left ear loses all sound-gathering ability. An arrow strikes the wagon near my feet. Butte glances at its markings and nods in satisfaction.

“Knew they was Arapaho.”

Image: legacypitchengine


Part I, Part II, Part IV

(Part Four will go live on Wed. Nov. 26)

That Voiceover Improv Thing With Bill Farmer, Steve and Julie Bernstein

Image: 1057thehawk







More improvised fun may be found on Paul Rugg's latest podcast. Listen as voice actor Bill Farmer along with Emmy Award-winning composers Steve and Julie Bernstein join the regulars for an hour of flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants comedy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

50 Shades of Zane Grey Part II


Image: Long Range Hunting
Hooves clop, harnesses jingle as the wagon moves at a leisurely pace, rocking gently over a dirt road. To the west rise the Bighorn Mountains, shorn of snow in the late summer. For some time now, the driver and I have ridden in silence. My Inner Spinster despises this hazardous trip. She wants to return to Wolf Tongue at once. When I disobey her wishes, she punishes me by kicking my mandibular muscles. This causes my jaw to open and close. My teeth clack together. I sound like a marionette.

“Hungry?” asks the driver. “I got hardtack wrapped in coyote lung.”

 “No,” I whisper, then lie, “I have a jaw affliction.”

Perhaps ten years my senior, the driver has long brown moustaches, a battered hat and hands rough and calloused, eyes blue and forthright. He smells of tobacco, stale beer, cordite, coffee, and a body unfamiliar with soap and water for at least a fortnight. Hence, he smells like an average man in the Wyoming territory. Except for Harney. Harney bathed every eight or nine days. He once told me this in strictest confidence, fearful other men might overhear and mark him a dude. Quasi-cleanliness was Harney’s most bearable trait.

Still frustrated, my Inner Spinster urges me to note the sheer amount of weaponry available to my driver. In addition to a holstered cavalry pistol, he carries a Smith and Wesson .44 stuck in his wide leather belt. A hunting knife handle protrudes from the man’s scuffed boot. In the wagon bed, within easy reach, are a Henry repeating rifle and a shotgun. Double cow pies with mustard: he is loaded for panther.

I refuse to allow weapons to weaken my resolve, and my Inner Spinster storms off to make flapjacks. Where in my head, I wonder, are the stove and ingredients?

Aside from the long arms, the wagon bed holds a number of heavy crates. I turn to the driver and whisper, “Such interesting cartage.”

“Dynamite, mostly. Railroad’s planning on running a line from Switchback Junction to Wolf Tongue. Least that’s what they say.”

I blush and bite my lip and murmur oddly.

“One more time?” My blush deepens and I murmur again.

“You’re something of a murmuring woman, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I whisper. “And there are times when, quite unconsciously, I make a sound like a Canadian goose.”

“Whatever noise you favor, sing out loud and proper if you spot anything wearing feathers that ain’t a bird.”

“I will,” I murmur.

“Ya gotta bark louder than that. Mind if I chew?”

Art: Rhoydon Shishido
Shaking my head ‘no,’ I decline his offer of a plug. The driver takes a bite of tobacco and works it around his mouth. Soon he locates a comfortable spot in the side of his cheek for the chew to homestead. Except for periodic spitting and the rattle of the wagon, we ride in silence. In the distance, I see a neat, gray farmhouse with cows munching grass near a well. I think of my family far away. I recall my father’s most recent letter. I have memorized every word.

‘Dearest Daughter, Chopped down a spruce last week. Some of it hit a fella named Amos Carterette. He’s different now. Your mother still lives in the root cellar and has come to favor it over the rest of the house and barn. She collects mole hides, believing them to be of cash value. I buy some as it pleases her to beat the band. She sends her love and says you should follow your heart. Scandal has died down and you could come home now, I expect. Hope you are well and not killed by smallpox.

A father’s love to you, Your Father, Danelaw Ironhead'

Home. I could return once more to Lakestump, Minnesota. To the bogs and the mosquitos and winters so cold the fish froze solid in the lakes and were sold in ice bricks. I think of the plain town folk who have a tendency to marry close to hand, as it were. At least in Lakestump my father, and, possibly, my mother would love me—if she could be torn away from mole stalking.

“You ever meet this Mr. Lash Grey?”

Startled, I blush and bite my lip. “No. I’m interrogating him as a favor for Miss Harrison of the Wolf Tongue Gazette.“

“Grey’s a powerful sort and plenty ambitious. Grey and Grey Railroad might even buy up Union Pacific. Or so they say.”

Worried about myself and my thoughts and all the people who live in my head, I realize I know little about the man I am to question. “What else have you heard, Mr. Parker?”

He smiles and I see that his teeth prefer solitude. “Titus Claudius Parker, at the quick and ready. But most around here just call me, ‘Butte.’"

“Very well, Butte. I am Miss Anna Ironhead. ‘Anna’ to you.”

I grow dizzy at my forwardness. What has gotten into me? Were it not for my astounding plainness, Butte would, no doubt, mark me as a camp woman.

Butte ejects tobacco juice between the horses, making a wet splatting sound. “Anyway, they say this fella Grey is a Dandy Man with a hankering for peculiar delights, if you cut my sign.”

“Oh that surely couldn’t be true.”

“Never been seen outside in God’s good air with a woman. That’s what they say. What’s more, they say he’s got a brace of real long ring fingers, often considered the brand of a Dandy Man.”

 “I’m sure I don’t understand.”

“Reckon you’ll figure it out in your own time.”

Higher rises the sun and I open my parasol, disturbed by Butte’s queer talk. What does he suspect about Lash Grey? And does Butte Parker truly think me capable of comprehension and understanding? Or is he being polite, the way one compliments the hairstyle of a woman with facial burns?

We pass a small ranch with horses penned up, watching us with long silly faces. I would love to ride a horse, but fear my toad-like appearance would cause the animal to bolt, fall, break a limb, and require prompt dispatch.

Image: Legends of America
My nose wrinkles at the scent of discount perfume, of a type often purchased by the quart from San Francisco. Sure enough, the smell foreshadows the arrival of my Inner Bawdy Woman. She leers and slaps her fleshy flanks and calls out, in a voice made hoarse by tobacco and strong drink, that I should throw myself at Butte Parker. A toothless frontiersman is the best I can ever hope for. Before I can feel mortified, she performs a lewd act with a portion of my motor cortex. This causes my arms to flap like vulture wings.

Butte casts me a sideways look. I burn crimson with humiliation and shame, unable to stop flapping for close to a minute. Spitting, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, touching his tongue to the top of his lip, Butte waits for my arms to stop, then says, “That business there, flapping; that a regular, everyday occurrence?”

Before I can bite my lip and whisper another excuse, there is rapid clatter of hooves, a blur of movement. I have no idea where the rider comes from, but even Butte is surprised as he tugs back on the reins, stopping the wagon.

Before us on the trail, a lean man on a tan quarter horse blocks our passage. Upon his head sits a pearl gray bowler. In his hands are a brace of Colt Navy revolvers pointed at Butte. Perhaps a little older than I, the rider sports dark good looks and a mouth filled with gleaming teeth. His own healthy teeth—I can scarcely imagine—would make this rider a royal catch for any woman in the territory.

Part I, Part III, Part IV

(Part Three will go live on Sat. Nov. 22)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Now Live: '50 Shades of Zane Grey'

(Half the first chapter. If so disposed, please leave a comment.)

 CHAPTER ONE 

 In my awkward ungainly way, I run toward the saloon. I imagine the very worst: Eileen without an eye. Eileen’s brains leaking out like giblets from a cracked gravy boat. Eileen wounded DOWN THERE. I only know that my dearest best friend was shot and has called for me. My Inner Spinster wags a finger and warns of serious trouble. Then she kicks a portion of my optic nerve, causing my right eye to flicker. I have trouble focusing and tumble over a horse trough. Brushing myself off, I run along a dusty street to the scene of the gunplay.

A crowd mills around the entrance of R.I. Perryman’s Sporting Palace. Half the Wolf Tongue men seem to be present. They talk and spit tobacco, occasionally striking the ground. Only grudgingly do they allow an ugly clown woman such as myself to pass through their ranks. On the rough wooden planks near the batwing doors, I see a blood-soaked Eileen. She sits up against the wall; her robin’s egg dress is splattered a ghastly red. My heart leaps into my throat and stays there, beating against my tongue and causing my teeth to vibrate.

“Took your time,” Eileen tells me. I blush and look down as she scribbles furiously on a notepad. Tearing off a sheet of paper, she hands it to a young boy. “Run this over to the Gazette. Tell the editor it’s the shooting at Perryman’s Faro table.” As the boy scampers off, I marvel at Eileen’s sand. She is adventurous, and attractive. I am a lowly dishwasher, awkward as a three-legged sheep.

In Perryman’s huge, bullet-holed window, I take stock of my overlarge hazel eyes and unruly dark hair that seems determined to vex me at every turn. I roll my big eyes, exasperated by my own plainness. I bite my lip. I murmur inane things of no weight. I make a soft honking noise like a Canadian goose.

“Stop honking this instant,” says Eileen.

“Jeez, sorry,” I whisper.

A .45 round has creased Eileen’s forehead, leaving a streak of blood like the war paint of a Cheyenne Dog Soldier. More seriously, she has been shot clean through the right breast. But far from simpering in pain, as I would have done, Eileen is angry and frustrated.

“Anna, you must conduct my interview tomorrow.”

“But I know nothing of the newspaper game.”

“Physically, I am a shambles, not fit to interview a peddler, let alone a railroad titan. All my questions are written down. You have only to ask them. With your wholesome beauty and charm, you will shine like the seat of a tramp’s slacks.”

 My beauty? But I was ugly as sin in an outhouse.

“Please,” says Eileen. “Do not deny me. This interview was difficult to obtain. Why a secretive railroad baron should respond to my request while denying others is, perhaps, a mystery you will solve tomorrow.”

Heavy breathing on my neck causes me to blush. I know who hovers behind me. Fresh-faced, ambitious, Harney Calhoun is a few years younger then I. His feigned attentions to me are both disturbing and annoying in that order.

“Hey, Anna. Hot night in town. Oh, and the stage out of Millipede got held up. Just came over the wire. Wanna go for ice cream?”

Eileen looks up sharply at Harney, “Tell me of this new mayhem.” 

On the porch beyond Eileen, one-armed Doc Monker steps over several corpses and kneels besides a wounded cowboy. Using modern Civil War medical techniques, he employs an iron probe to dig out a bullet from the man’s intestines. The cowboy’s screams, plus the promiscuous amount of blood, effectively quell my appetite for sweets.

“You know, Harney,” I murmur, “there are injured people requiring attention.”

Harney looks irritated. He is tall with an Adam’s apple so pronounced it appears to be a young head living in his throat. “I’m not saying we’d have to eat here. We could sit inside the shop.”

I roll my eyes. Eileen rolls her eyes. Even the gut-shot cowboy rolls his eyes.

Harney peers down at Eileen as if suddenly aware of her state.

“Hey, Eileen, you’re bosom-shot, or am I off the mark?”

“You’re like a prairie hawk, Harney. You miss nothing. How many robbers?” She holds her pencil poised over the blood-dotted notebook.

I break in quickly, “Please, Eileen. I’m not a reporter with your nerve and skill. I wash dishes at the boarding house. My hands are thick with pork chop grease.”

“You will clean them by tomorrow, I presume?” says Eileen, face fixed on Harney. “What property was taken?”

Doc Monker, the gut-shot cowboy and several onlookers glance toward Harney, who beams at being the center of attention. “I was done keying a message to Blind Man Falls when it came over the wire from Millipede. The Marshal there said Romegas held up the stage, sure as jack beans. Romegas stole thirty-four dollars in silver and a fella’s new pearl gray bowler hat. He left behind his old hat. I guess it was used up some.”

There is so much going on. My inner spinster presses her hands over her ears and says, ‘Aye yi yi yi yiiiii.’

Art: Rhoydon Shishido


“Took a man’s hat. That ain’t right,” moans the drover.

Someone in the crowd says, “That Mexican’s a mean bastard if you cross him.”

“Clever in his way,” says Doc Monker, cleaning his probe by wiping it on his dusty slacks. “For financial reasons, he hates killing anyone in a robbery. Then he can’t rob them again at a later time.”

My heart remains in my mouth, making it difficult to speak. I bite my lip. “Eileen, I can’t do your interview. Please don’t insist.”

“Anna, you must go and I will not accept ‘no.’ Do you realize this interview could establish me as a reporter of the first water? Why, it might even propel me all the way to Hay City and an editorial position on the Intelligencer.”

“Hay City, huh?” says Harney, as if asked his opinion. “Aiming mighty high, aren’t we? I’ll be there some day myself. This telegraphing game is only temporary. I’ve a hankering to go into the photographic impression trade. I got an old camera to practice with. ’Course, once I’m established, I’ll be looking for a wife.”

Harney glances longingly in my direction. I know he cannot mean me. I am 21 and unplucked due to my blunt, almost beast-like features. This must be mockery of some low sort. He continues, “We could have ice cream tomorrow. What do you say, Anna?”

To Eileen I blurt, “Where is the interview?”

“Switchback Junction.”

My Inner Spinster shrieks and runs around in terror. It makes concentration very difficult.

Turning to Harney, I say, “On the ’morrow, I’m doing newspaper work for Eileen. In addition, I may be having a womanly disorder. Modesty prevents me from saying more.”

“I guess that’s private woman stuff. But I’m holding a marker on that ice cream.”

I blush and smile weakly. Harney departs for the Gazette with Eileen’s notes on the stage robbery. Alone now, except for the gut-shot drover, Doc Monker, and a crowd of onlookers, I face Eileen and whisper, “Switchback Junction? Why not the Gates of Hades? The weekly stage has already left and the way is perilous with road agents and hostile Indians.”

A drop of blood rolls down Eileen’s nose. Her eyes cross, following its descent. “I’ve rented a wagon and secured the services of a driver. As you approach Switchback Junction, heavily armed men employed by the railroad will ride out to escort you safely to the interview.”

“Mighty chancy,” says the gut-shot drover. “Indians catch ya, you’ll take a week dying.”

“Mind your own affairs, cow poke,” snaps Eileen.

“Laundry ain’t a secret if you hang it outside.”

“Man has a point,” says Doc Monker, kneeling over Eileen. “Here, Miss Harrison. Bite this block of oak.”

 Eileen locks eyes with me. “Be in front of the boarding house at seven o’clock in the morning. Wear a good dress, a sturdy bonnet and a duster. Anna, this is so wonderful of you. You’ll do splendidly.”

I murmur in panic, but Eileen no longer listens. As Doc Monker spits on his probe for luck, Eileen bites into the wood block as if it were a moist cake. Soon her heels drum a merry tattoo against the planks.

Double cow pies.

And that is how I come to interview Lash Grey.

Part II, Part III, Part IV