He settled into the seat, thankful that it was softer than his saddle. He glanced in the direction of the kitchen and thought better of trying to navigate the trails of teetering junk piled up along the way. Instead he tipped his hat down over his eyes and relaxed for the first time in days.
Marley sauntered in about ten minutes later looking far too pleased with himself. “That horse is a marvel o Kis an>f mechanical engineering, if I do say so myself. I’ve been working on a new version that would remove the leather covering and allow the copper to act like a chemically powered boiler for steam. Make the beast move faster and more smoothly . . .” He trailed off, as he frequently did when he was distracted. Which was always.
Colt pushed his Stetson back. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I don’t know how stable sitting on a steam boiler is going to be, especially if I’m getting shot at,” he pointed out, his voice dry.
Marley’s dark eyebrows bent down in a deep V, disappearing behind the edge of his goggles. He worried his lip with his finger. “True.You do tend to draw a lot of fire. Perhaps that method of locomotion would better serve the horseless carriage I’m working on.”
A horseless carriage? Last time, Marley had been working on an improved steam flyer. “In the meantime, you might want to see what you can do about this.” Colt pulled the sting shooter out of its holster and tossed it to Marley.
Marley caught it, then pushed the button. A high keening sound split the air a second before a vivid blue wiggling arc of electricity shot out, launching a marble bust of President Lincoln off a nearby table and scattering a stack of papers. They instantly burst into flame. “Nothing’s the matter with it. The Tesla coil is active. Seems to be working properly to me,” he said as he stomped out the flames.
Colt tipped up the edge of his Stetson a little farther with his finger. “It blew two holes clean through the last person I used it on and nearly got me lynched.”
Marley peered at the sting shooter more closely. “I see. Perhaps it requires an adjustment. It’s still in prototype stage for the Tesla Rangers.” He set it amid the flotsam and jetsam on his desk. “In the meantime, I’ve got something else for you.”
Colt stood up and held out a hand. “After you, Professor.” He followed Marley to what would have been the kitchen in any normal home. It was a damn good thing Marley wasn’t married. Colt seriously doubted any woman could stomach the kind of chaos that Marley lived in. It smelled faintly of ammonia, and the counters overflowed with copper pots and various brown and green glass bottles, all marked with little white labels written in nearly indecipherable handwriting.
Marley pulled off his goggle thingies, handing them off to Colt. “Hold my spectro-photometric oglifiers. I don’t want them too near the oven. Might change the chemistry in the lenses.” Marley pulled on an oven mitt and opened the door to his large six-burner cast-iron stove and pulled out a cast-iron mold with little holes in it at regular intervals. He tipped the mold upside down over a tray, and out came a pile of bullets that looked like little, narrow, shiny cookies. “New silver bullets. Filled them with an improved mixture of powdered bone, lead, salt, and gunpowder. Should kill just about anything, natural or supernatural.”
Colt grinned and clapped Marley on the shoulder. “I always said you were a good cook.”
From the depths of Marley’s laboratory came the clanging of a bell. “Incoming message.” Marley handed the tray of bullets to Colt, then skittered into the other room, the bell still clanging. He dug through a heap on a sideboard table until he’d unburied a teletypingwriter, then flipped a switch that shut off the bell as the machine began typing out a message from Morse code. Marley waited until the typebars had stopped clacking, then rotated a few knobs and pulled the paper from the machine. He took the brass and leather goggles from Colt and snapped them back into place, flipping an extended lens over his eye as he scanned t K hehine. He the note.
“It’s from Remington. He’s gone to retrieve China McGee from jail.”
The bullets rattled on the tray. Colt set the tray down and ripped the paper out of Marley’s hand, reading it for himself. “Damn fool,” he muttered. “She’s a shape-shifter. I’m lucky she got caught and not me when that bank blew to hell in the fight. What’s he think he’s doing?”
“Maybe he thought you two were together.”
Colt grunted as he crumpled the page into a ball. “She might be easy on the eyes, but I’d be as likely to shack up with a mountain lion as that little blond hellcat. She’s a good thief, but you can’t trust a shifter.”
“Then why didn’t you just shoot her?”
“There wasn’t time,” he hedged. The fact was he’d been too damn busy trying to locate the deposit box of a deceased Hunter named Diego. It was rumored to hold a clue to a map revealing the location of one of the pieces of the Book. He hadn’t been paying attention to how short China had cut the fuse. The damn explosives to get out of the jail had blown too soon. He suspected it was a double-crossing gone wrong.
In the end he’d climbed from the rubble before the authorities arrived and had to leave both China and the deposit box behind and move on to his next lead in finding his pa’s part of the Book. He’d had no doubt she could fend for herself, and frankly she was Darkin, so he wasn’t all that concerned in the first place. One less Darkin in the world wouldn’t be such a bad thing. “Do you think you can get him a message?”
Marley shook his head. “His receiver isn’t working. He can send messages, but I have to telegraph him in return. I’m going to fix it next time I travel in his direction.”
“If you telegraph him, tell him to watch his back. That China McGee is bad news and if he needs a thief, he should look elsewhere.”
“Certainly.” Marley scooped up the bullets off the tilting tray and grabbed Colt’s hand, facing it palm upward. “Don’t forget these. I do hope they make the proper impression.”
Colt grinned. “If you mean by impression a hole eight inches deep, then I’m betting they’ll be just fine.” He began putting them in the individual loops holding the ammunition on his gun belt. “Thanks, Marley.”
Marley shoved his spectro-whozee-whatsit goggles back onto his forehead. “Don’t mention it. I do my best for the cause. Where are you off to next?”
“I’m going to see a man about a mine.”
“Still looking for the lost pieces of the Book of Legend, are you?”
“Last year I took down a dozen supernaturals prowling around. Last month alone it was five. This month ten. It’s gettin’ worse.” For the last three years he’d been talking to every Hunter he could find, scouring every scrap of written information he could lay his hands on, to piece together the location of the different remnants of the Book of Legend.
The Legion had become so fractured over the centuries that none of the branches—not the Hunters in Europe, nor the ones in Asia, nor those in the Southern Hemisphere—knew the true locations of all three pieces. But his latest discovery of his mother’s diary led him to believe the clue in Diego’s box wouldn’t lead him to Pa’s part of the Book, which was his main focus.
Better to risk his neck on a sure thing than a rumor in a deposit box in the clutches of that shifter. “I don’t know how big the crack has gotten in that gate to Hell, but thin Kellh="1em">
Marley threaded his fingers up through both sides of the cotton-like fuzz on his scalp. “I say, I didn’t realize it was as bad as all that. Perhaps you ought to take this as well.” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a corked brown bottle with no label.
“Holy water. You may find you need it.”
Colt chuckled. “You may be right. It might be pretty hard to come by in Bodie.” The saloons and houses of ill repute in Bodie outnumbered the churches by forty to one.
“According to what I found in Ma’s diary, that’s where the mine is.”
“But isn’t Winchester in Bodie?”
“Last I heard.”
Marley nibbled thoughtfully on his bottom lip. “You’re in more trouble than I thought.” He fished around in the drawer again, pulling out another bottle with a different-colored cork.
“More holy water?”
“No. Whiskey. You’ll need the water for fighting the demons and the whiskey for fighting your brother.”
Colt kissed the second bottle and tipped his hat at Marley. “You’re a good man, Marley. Don’t let no one tell you different.”
“Just do me a favor, old chap, and don’t do anything foolish.”
Colt chuckled. “You know me, Marley.”
ey raised one dark, bushy brow. “Precisely.”