On the evening of January 6th, 1876, Kate, Doc, and Monty got ready to board their train to Tombstone at 7:45 pm. The train came in right on time, but the conductor gave them some bad news. An override conduction pressure valve had come loose during the trip from Denver to Colorado Springs and they would have to wait on a replacement. It’d be at least a day before they could set out. Dismayed and a little perturbed, the posse grumbled about what to do next. Kate stomped off in search of a good steak and whiskey while Monty and Doc contemplated their next move.
As they stood on the track, a tall man, a little on in years but with a stern visage all the same approached. He introduced himself as Caleb Walters and asked if Doc was a card playing man. Doc and Caleb struck up some small talk and Monty soon chimed in. After a few minutes of easy conversation they decided to pass the time back in the Tattered Dog Saloon over cards. The beer and whiskey flowed and they only played for fun and the time whiled away. Sometime around 10:00 pm a long whistle blast came from the station. Doc, Monty, and Cal wandered out from the saloon and started to mosey towards the station.
As they came upon it, the train they were waiting on started sputtering down the tracks. As they rushed to see why their train was leaving, the station conductor held them back. He said another train was comin’ and they need watch out because it was comin’ in quick! They stood back as the most incredible locomotive rushed into the station, brakes screamin’ and the steam puffin’ away.
The sounds of the locomotive died away and that’s when they saw the carnage. Union boys comin’ off the train limpin’ and being carried off in litters. The armored car looked like someone used it for target practice and the whole train looked like it’d been painted by a blind field hand totin’ red paint. Doc moved in quick to help with triage as Monty grabbed a litter and helped moved men to the doctor’s office/barber shop.
Cal stood back and helped where he could. He brought food and water to those who needed it. He comforted the weary with a calm word and helped the men get their wits back. They looked like they’d been through hell. As Cal was making the rounds, he met with the commanding officer, Lt. Larkin. After a few quizzical minutes with Larkin, Cal was offered the job to replace his field artillery engineer and he accepted. Larking extended the offer of contract work to anyone else able in the town that could assist. The last attack looked like it had cut Larkin’s number of able men in half.
Cal came to Monty and Doc in the barber shop and they agreed to join him, but first they needed to find Kate. After a few minutes of searchin’ Monty found her laid up in bed in their hotel room, an empty bottle of hooch next to her. Monty tried to rouse her, but when he turned her over, she was pale and cold. Monty lost it and ran from the room hollerin’ that Kate was dead! Motny took off for the Doc at once, fighting through the throngs of people.
The commotion erupted at once and people rushed the stairs in curiosity. Cal could barely get in front of them and a youngster scrambled up the steps. As he hobbled up the stairs towards the room, the kid ran into the room and returned to the top shouting “She’s dead, she’s dead!” Cal shoved past him and got into the room, locking the door. With crowd gathered round outside the door, Cal looked Miss Kate over. Cal knew better what was happening but couldn’t let on too much lest he rouse the suspicion of others.
When the barkeep came in and Monty and Doc caught up, they wrapped her in a sheet and brought her to the train quick as they could. Once she was stowed, the train set off with a low whistle just a few minutes til 1 am.
The next few days passed at a snails pace. With the high snows on the tracks they could barely make 25 miles a day after having to stop at least once an hour to clear snow from the tracks. The cold days on the flat car were only punctuated by the sweltering nights in the armored car.
After a few days slow travel, a clear day finally appeared and it warmed, almost into the 50’s. At about noon, they approached a deep chasm known as Hangman’s Gorge. The chasm spanned almost a mile wide and looked as rickety as a 200 year old rocking chair. Lt. Larkin shuddered when he saw the pass and remarked grimly that he hadn’t enjoyed this part of his last journey to Fort Clark and he didn’t think he’d like it this time around.
The train crept onto the rickety tracks with a dull chugging. The lone droning oppressive in the open expanse. A shadow caught Doc’s eye and when he peered up through his scope he saw dark shapes coming down towards them from the mountains. No mere eagles or vultures, these black shapes bore sickening dread as they streaked down from the sky.
They swooped in low, lithe black shapes with bat wings and razor sharp talons. Their eyes were small and beady, ears gnarled and twisted, huge black wings reaching at least ten feet across; the largest one looked to be covered in scales. As the descended they echoed shuddering wails of terror. Monty aimed and took one directly in the chest with his rifle as it swooped, plucking it from the sky and sending it down to the earth.
Kate raised her shotgun and let loose with both barrels felling another quickly. Then they were upon them, raking and thrashing with deadly precision. Their talons rose and fell swiftly as Privates Joe Swanson and John Einrich were tossed to their fate in the chasm below. One of the things clutched Monty in it’s claws and brought him up off the train, but he held on with fierce strength and forced the creature to land on the train again or risk tumbling to the ground below.
Lt. Larkin fought bravely as he wield Colt and cutlass against the foes, protecting the cannon from the assault. The largest one twice attempted to throw him off but he stayed out of it’s clutches. The lead was flying as the beasts attacked with savage ferocity.
Monty put two expert shots on the huge beasts wing as he attacked the Lieutenant, crippling it. Kate put shell after shell into it from her double barrel as it attacked not the Lieutenant, but the cannon! Was there some devilish intelligence to the creature?
Doc was fighting his own winged menace when it clutched him and began to fly. He turned his six guns skyward and put the beast down. He then turned his shots on the hulking bat that stood in the center. The beast would not yield!
Cal had been furiously attempting to reach the safety of the passenger car, but now stood back to back with Kate firing his Peacemaker at the last of the beasts to remain flying. It advanced towards him, heedless of his .45 Colt blasting away. It crouched low, then sprung grabbed his shoulders and carrying him up. Cal dropped his Colt and snared the talon in his garrote, not letting the beast carry him to the chasm depths below.
Kate finally put the big one down just as Cal began to be carried up. With the creature rising with Cal in his clutches, Monty made the bold decision to leap onto the beast saving Cal from certain death! Monty brought his rifle down hard on the creature’s neck fracturing the spine and dropping it lifeless to the floor of the flatcar.
And as fast as they had come out of the sky, they were dead. The huge one lay convulsing on the cannon slumped in a lead riddled heap. The only slightly smaller one lay collapsed at the entry of the passenger car.