Deadlands: Riders on the Storm

Freaks Attack Passengers at Last Switch

February 6, 1876

The Paiute Springs Sentinel

Sunday Edition

February 6, 1876
"Ever Vigilant, A Beacon of Truth!"

Freaks Attack Passengers At Last Switch

by Oliver Milhouse

This past Monday (January 31), Charlotte Romine, esteemed shotgunner for the Old Barcelona Line, came riding into the township on a runaway stage, alone, and at night. When Lionel Putnam, local livery owner, managed to calm the horses attached to dusty Concord, the gathered townsfolk found that Charlotte was in a state: bloody, bruised, and nearly dead. Doc Fabry was sent for and she was helped out of the coach's driver's seat. All she could say was "Last switch. Need help. Teeth. Too many teeth."

Town Marshal Lila Kimsey was on the scene and immediately called together a posse to go check out the goings on at the Last Switch, some fifteen miles to the north of town. For one thing, driver George Hawkins was missing and for another, Charlotte had just been assaulted something fierce.

Lionel Putnam and his son, Darius, volunteered, as did local card player and gunman Roland Dupre. The four men headed up Church Street and stopped in at the home of Geraldine Keeler. Apparently she was interested in the affair, as she joined her horse to theirs and the five rode north, lead by Geraldine's lantern.

As to what happened that night, we have reports from eye witnesses. Folks, it is a strange tale indeed, and violent.

According to Marshal Kimsey, the posse rode up on the switch. After checking out the situation in the wagon yard, they found signs of a struggle, a great deal of blood on the ground, and a pistol marked "G.H."—George Hawkins.

The lights were on and smoke trailed from the chimney of the house.

Miss Keeler snuck around the perimeter of the house and peeked in the windows. Inside were two women sitting on the sofa, an older woman comforting a younger one. Gathered around the kitchen table were five men, including a Union soldier and a Paiute scout. And George Hawkins, nursing a wound to the head. The menfolk were all in a heated argument of some sort. 

Miss Keeler came back and reported to the posse. Then Marshal Kimsey went and knocked on the door. One of the men that was arguing, a younger man with a large mustache and fancy suit, opened the door with a big smile and welcomed them in. The Marshal identified herself and avowed that she wanted to talk to George.

"That's when we all knew something was afoot," Marshal Kimsey said to me, later. "George is an honest sort and what he was sellin', we just weren't buyin'. All of them in there, 'cept the womenfolk, tried to come off as if everything was sweet as peaches but somethin' was rotten."

"Mr. Hawkins managed to convey to Miss Keeler that there was a trap door beneath the central rug," said Roland Dupre. "That started us on the trail to wondering if the truth was beneath our feet."

The posse reconvened outside the switch house and started searching the grounds. Eventually, Miss Keeler and Mr. Dupre checked the shed beside the house.

Miss Keeler led the way with a lantern. Sure enough, there was a door in here leading into cellar, connected to the house. Miss Keeler opened the door and went inside.

"We were immediately set upon," said Mr. Dupre. "It was a monstrous-looking man. Bald, with bat-like ears. Deep, dark eyes with red points in the center. Long, clawed fingers. And long, needle-like teeth protruding from their blood-red mouths. He jumped forward swiped at Geraldine with his long fingers, quick as a breath. We both drew iron and tried to send it back to Hell—but it just seemed to ignore us. It was relentless as the Mississippi in flood season."

According to Mr. Dupre, the freak tried to drink Miss Keeler's blood out of her throat. The two of them managed to switch places in the doorway so that it could concentrate on him instead of her, but it was strong as an ox and just as stubborn.

Miss Keeler apparently hit upon a new idea and left the cellar, only to return a moment later with a wood axe. By this time, it had latched on to Mr. Dupre's neck.

"It was strong, and its teeth were sharp, like little steel knives cutting into my neck. I'm not ashamed to say my knees gave way when Geraldine came back," Mr. Dupre said.

In one mighty swing, Miss Keeler managed to remove the freak's head from its shoulders. It collapsed to the floor, releasing Mr. Dupre.

By this time, the upper door had been opened, making Marshal Kimsey and George Hawkins witness to the life-saving blow. It also shed light on the remaining horrors of the cellar.  

Another of the freaks was holding a young girl hostage down there, his long-fingered hand resting on the moppet's innocent head. Further, the corpses of the Clarkes, the family that ran the switch house, littered the floor.

"The freak had the nerve to try and negotiate his way out, with the little girl, Jasmine, in tow," Marshal Kimsey said later. "I told him where to stow that noise."

Apparently reaching a stalemate, the freak reached down and bit the little girl on the neck! Marshal Kimsey started firing on the thing and Miss Keeler approached with the axe, but apparently the weight too much for the woman, for she kept missing the fiend.

The Marshal, dissatisfied with the uselessness of her bullets, jumped down into the cellar and took the axe from Miss Keeler. Then, in a mighty swing, took the head of the second freak.

"Damndest thing I ever saw," Marshal Kimsey said. " I know I hit that thing with a Peacemaker, but I may as well have thrown jelly beans at it."

The little girl, Jasmine Justice, formerly of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, is recovering from her wounds and has moved on to Pioche with her mother, Lucille. Mr. Dupre is also fully recovered from his ordeal. Miss Keeler is also recovering nicely.

The bodies of the freaks, still unidentified, will be on display in front of Allan's General Mercantile until Friday, and then they will be interred in unmarked graves at the west side of the cemetery. The nature of the strangers is still unknown, though Miss Keeler asserts that they are examples of genetic mutations of some sort or another. Marshal Kimsey asserted that she wouldn't dare speculate and don't rightly care—they're dead as dirt now and that's all that matters. Roland Dupre would only smile and say "the only difference between a monster and a genetic mutation is that one keeps you up at night."

Good night, friends.

New Visitors to Paiute Springs in Aftermath of Violence 

by Oliver MIlhouse

Paiute Springs would like to welcome our newest visitors, newly come in the aftermath of the horrific events of January 31, as previously reported.

Matthew Briggs is a seller of elixirs and powders from Virginia City He plans to stay in Paiute Springs and ply his trade for a spell. If that dries up, he'll head to Pioche.  

Gertrude Mankowitcz is a Polish immigrant from Chicago who has come to Nevada to live with her son, Christopher, a prospector in Pioche.

Robert Farmer is a prospector and businessman on his way to Pioche to check on his holdings there.

Major Adam Traynor (Ret.) is a former Union officer returning home to Pioche after sustaining an injury.

Shane "Three Feathers" Robinson is a Paiute scout employed by the Army on a courier mission to Pioche.

Lucille Justice, and her daughter, Jasmine, are both traveling to Pioche to stay with Lucille's mother-in-law after the untimely death of her husband, Gordon, back in Tombstone, Arizona.

If you see any of these folks before they return to Pioche, give them a big Paiute Springs welcome!

Funeral Services Friday

by Oliver Milhouse

Funeral services for the Clarke family will be held at the Paiute Spring Church this Friday, February 11, 1876 at one o'clock. Internment will follow.

The Clarkes were Edna, Paul, and young Travis. They ran the last switch of the Old Barcelona Stage Line between Paiute Springs and Virginia City.

Dear Aunt Sally…

by Sally Mae Baumgarten

Dear Aunt Sally, my ding dang horse has gone and gotten hisself a cold. What can i do?—H.

Dear H, mix four ounces of egg whites, 1 ounce of camphor, 1 ounce of ginger, 1 ounce of camuel, 2 ounces of licorice powder and honey. Use two bowls the first day and one bowl every day until they come out all right. Yours, Aunt Sally.

Dear Aunt Sally, There have been a lot of strange things happening of late. I'm beginning to be frightened. What should I do? —F.

Dear F., We do, indeed, live in strange times. But we must be brave and carry on. Our faith and our native strength will carry us on. Keep strong, F., and maintain your faith in your neighbors and in your Lord. Yours, Aunt Sally. 

Dear Aunt Sally, You really are a silly old bat, ain't you? —R.

Dear R., If you can't say anything nice, then do as my sainted mother said. Shut yer face. Yours, Aunt Sally.


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