The names on the list read:
- Eugene J. Guest
- Felix Maroney
- Dr. Margot J. Jourdain
- Min Zhang
- Xun Ru
The agent examined the six individuals before him. He was not impressed. The first man, heavily armed with a rifle and two pistols, was the sort of person he would have expected to apply for this job. But the others were strange. A pale, dark-haired fellow was flipping tarot cards. A blond man carried a camera and was constantly scribbling in his notebook. They both seemed rather … delicate.
He thought the two women were ugly. The female doctor’s shapeless black dress and hair bun made her look dowdy and the Chinese woman with two pistols looked like homely boy. The last, a Chinese male, was complaining of a hangover from partying the previous evening. Not exactly America’s finest.
The agent explained that the Pinkerton Detective Agency had been asked to look into attacks on Denver Pacific Railroad caravans headed to Golden, Colorado. None had been left alive and while many thought Arapaho Indians were responsible, proof was needed. They would be paid $1.70 a day. If they discovered the source of the attacks and stopped them, they would be given a full month’s pay as a bonus. The group agreed and departed for Golden in an elegantly furnished stagecoach Ru bargained for.
They were only an hour’s ride outside of Denver when they saw the smoke. It was the wreckage of another caravan and a group of Arapaho Indians were picking through the remains. Eugene, who spoke Arapaho, went down to talk with them. They claimed that they did not kill these people and were trying to discover who was responsible as the locals were blaming them.
After the Indians left the group searched the caravan. They were unable to discern tracks of the possible culprits, but Dr. Margot Jourdain determined that the bodies were beaten to death with blows of unusual force. The lack of bite and claw marks ruled out an animal attack.
The group traveled on to Golden where a lynch mob had captured an Arapaho brave named Laughing Calf and was preparing to hang him for attacking the caravans. When the party asked about evidence or a proper trial, “Dirty” Steve Bishop, the mob ringleader, said if they couldn’t mind their own goddamn business they would be taken out. The mob began attacking but they made the mistake of bringing pitchforks to a gun fight. Steve Bishop and another man were shot dead and the rest scattered in fear.
Laughing Calf thanked the party for the rescue and explained that he knew what was responsible for the caravan attacks. A group of men seeking supernatural power had made a deal with what they thought was a buffalo spirit but in fact it was an evil spirit called a Manitou. The Manitou had transformed them into “Buffalo Men,” part man, part beast and endowed with great strength and greater savagery. Furthermore, the Buffalo Men could only be harmed by someone who had been blessed by an Indian so he would have to accompany them.
The group made arrangements to start looking for the Buffalo Men the next morning. Laughing Calf would not spend the night in town, so Lazlow, Eugene and Min set up camp with him on the outskirts of town while the others checked into a hotel.
Felix, Dr. Jourdain and Ru realized they had some PR work to do after killing two townspeople. Dr. Jourdain offered to pay the funeral expenses for several victims of the caravan attack which earned some goodwill. Felix spoke with their Pinkerton Detective Agency contact in Golden, Brian Valentine, to explain the situation. Ru retired to a saloon and struck up a conversation with a brown-haired man about getting some of the saloon gals to play strip poker. The man replied “How about if we gentlemen play instead” and offered to give Ru a handjob. Ru declined and beat a hasty retreat.
Camped out on the edge of town, Eugene told the others that he was a great musician and they were in for a treat. He pulled out his guitar and began to sing. This claim proved false for his performance sounded like a walrus. Min thought of the talentless performers she had seen at the Red Gong Concert Saloon in Shan Fan and told Eugene he should “keep his day job.”
The group set off the next morning to find the Buffalo Men and by midafternoon they came across a half-dozen minotaur-like creatures stomping around the open plains. The Buffalo Men turned and charged. But this proved foolish – they were over 300 yards away and the group had guns. One Buffalo Man was brought down, then another and another. The last Buffalo Man collapsed about 40 yards away, his body riddled with bullets. The group’s first adventure together had been surprisingly successful.