From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
October 2, 1879
In the Vicinity of Alder Creek, California. Weather fair and dry, high clouds.
Marcus has made two more deputies. Old Seth, an Alder Creek man, was made deputy principally for the fact that his hindquarters never leave the chair in the Jailhouse. It’s either the most brilliant or the stupidest move the Law has ever made, but my heart says Seth’s loyal to the right principles and will uphold the peace in Alder Creek if it needs upholding.
We’ve also deputized Mrs. Stevie Portridge, a Negro woman, married to a white man by the name of Jeb Portridge, who was living in a shanty town up-creek. She’s a shootist of much repute, to hear young Carter Burwell tell it. He came into town to apprentice himself to her, and she’s clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Mr. Portridge is dying of the Consumption, and Carter convinced Mrs. Portridge to bring the poor fellow in to see if Kiah could lay hands on and cure him, but Kiah says the Lord’s will has put Mr. Portridge’s redemption beyond the reach of prayer. He is in the mean while installed in the Parsonage, with his wife nearby and a girl from the encampment to serve as nursemaid, whereby he can be well looked after as he contemplates his final days.
Leonard Bolton, our putative Mayor of Alder Creek, voiced his concern that the Coloreds not be allowed into town, owing, he said, to their contagion. His and some other commentary we heard put Marcus and myself both in mind of some of the old breed of folk who still consider the Negro and the Indian to be more animal than human, but this is a Modern Age, and Jefferson Davis himself freed the slaves almost fifteen years ago, so if that is what this town is about, then Alder Creek is in dire need of a change of heart.
Marcus and I took a delegation up to see what the shanty town was about, and whether there was indeed rampant Consumption amongst them. We found a population of Coloreds living in poverty, some few sick indeed with Consumption and other ails, but many well. While we were there, the camp was attacked in the night by what we first took for common hooligans. In fact the perpetrators were the ‘Night Foxes’ of the story we heard at the Henharp Ranch, and though it looked like a common lynching at first, what we saw that night was pure Devilry.
They shot at us even after we identified ourselves as the Law, and they set the entire encampment ablaze. Several of the Negroes were killed, and others gravely wounded. We returned fire and felled some of the attackers, but one rose in the air on his mount, and when we had nearly brought him down with gunfire, the rider opened a pit into the sulfurous deeps and descended where we could not give chase.
The horse fell to earth, and it was indeed a corrupted creature, with wings like a bat’s sprouting from its withers. It died of a broken neck from its fall, though would have likely died of the gunshots in it if it had survived the plummet. When we burned its corpse, it gave a stench fouler than the most putrid of rotting dead.
Marcus and I, as Agents of the Law, moved the refugees in haste into the abandoned hotel in Alder Creek, taking it by Right of Eminent Domain to secure the public welfare. The dead were buried in the church yard to prevent their corpses from walking again. Only the Coloreds free from illness shall engage in commerce in town, and the sick among them shall remain confined to the hotel, with Deputy Portridge to safeguard the agreement, this to satisfy the townsfolk and keep the peace.