“Proceed no further,” Oppenheimer ordered the gang. Dickleburg and his men remained mounted on their horses in front of the sheriff’s station. The pale moonlight lit the town square; Patrons at the whore house stood by to see what the fuss was about.
“But we outnumber you five to one,” Dickleburg chuckled to the sheriff.
Only me and Oppenheimer stood ready to confront the gaggle. At that moment, the opium started kicking in. Normally that would drag me down. But Thankfully I took a bump of cocaine to keep me alert. Oppenheimer kept his eyes, along with his pair of six shooters, on Dickleburg. I had my shotgun lowered and cocked on the other nine men.
“If you’ve come here for Billy Friedkin,” Oppenheimer said to Dickleburg, “you may succeed at getting him, but we won’t be the only ones standing on hell’s doorstep tonight. So you need to ask yourself: is it worth it?”
Dickleburg gave another hearty laugh. “I think you misunderstand my intentions here. Of course I’m here for Billy. He is, after all, a very valuable employee to my company. I’m sure you’d do the same for your loyal deputy standing here,” he replied, referring to me with a wink and a smile. “I value all of my loyal employees, which got me thinking: I have not been a very good employer to you Sheriff Oppenheimer. We have a saying in Helena: money fixes everything.”
Dickleburg dismounted his horse, grabbed two comically large sacks- complete with dollar signs stenciled on- and threw them at the sheriff’s feet. “I do hope you accept my sincerest apologies,” Dickleburg continued, “I hope we have a much stronger working relationship moving forward.”
Oppenheimer stood motionless for a few moments as he stared at the sacks of cash. Finally he looked up at the townspeople still congregated around the whore house. “Give me a moment,” he uttered.
I followed him back into the sheriff’s office where he pulled out a large whiskey bottle from his desk drawer. “You aren’t serious about accepting his offer, are you?” I asked as he uncorked the bottle.
After several long seconds of nonstop gulping, Oppenheimer lowered the bottle. “Yes I am,” he finally replied.
“Come on!” I exclaimed, “What the hell is so important about Elkhorn?! Surely to god there’s a lot more places to find gold in Montana?!”
“Other places? Yes,” Oppenheimer replied, “but the best place? That’s right under our feet.”
My intuition, likely aided by narcotics, started kicking in. “So that’s why you’re in Elkhorn,” I said, “tell me: how much gold does it take to kickstart your time portal device?”
“Shit,” an obviously drunk Oppenheimer wondered aloud, “at least a few tons.”
“A few fucking tons?! You are telling me there’s that much gold in this godforsaken town?!”
“Ohhh yeah. But what does it matter now? My family’s here and it’s not like I could make it back to my own time anyway. So fuck it! I’ll take the money.”
I grabbed the sheriff by the lapels. “Goddamnit Oppenheimer,” I shouted, “you can’t give in that easily! You serve the PEOPLE of Elkhorn, NOT the corporations! The gold belongs to THEM…AND the natives they stole the land from.” I then let him go and straighten myself out. “Besides,” I continued, “you agreed to help ME to get back to my timeline.”
Oppenheimer just laughed. “That’s impossible and you know it.”
I shook my head. “Damn it man, if you pick up those bags of cash, I will shoot you myself,” I declared, “are we clear?”
Oppenheimer began rubbing his face. Then he picked up the whiskey bottle once again. “Dickleburg probably has some trick up his sleeve anyway,” he said. He looked out the window at the armed men standing by and took a swig. “I used to be a great physicist,” he lamented, “so what are we gonna do about Billy Friedkin? Do we turn him over?”
“That seems to be the only sensible option,” I replied.
The sheriff picked up the keys, unlocked Billy’s cell, and grabbed him by the arm. “I told you they’d be coming for me,” the prisoner said.
“We know Billy. We expected them to, you fuckin idiot.”
We escorted him outside and released him to Dickleburg. “Aren’t you gonna take the money?” the businessman asked.
“Just take Mr. Friedkin and get out of town,” Oppenheimer replied.
Dickleburg lit up another cigar and nodded. “That’s a shame boy, I thought we’d be partners,” he said. He turned around and signaled for his gang to open fire.
Oppenheimer and I dropped to the ground as bullets ripped up the sheriff’s office. All the townspeople fled into the whore house. We exchanged fire for what seemed like eternity but was likely only a few seconds. Then the sound of a Winchester rifle pierced through the gunfire as Dickleburg’s men began dropping one by one from their horses.
Mr. Ree was to the rescue.
TO BE CONTINUED…