Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fiction Friday: Jakob

This week's prompt:  In her right hand a woman holds a loaded gun, in her left, a coin that just came up ‘tails’…


The following article was published in The Age, weekly newspaper of Boulder, Montana.

Scourge of Elkhorn Ended

Elkhorn, MT.  June 17, 1889.  All of Elkhorn was present as the body of Jakob Matthiesen was carried through town square to it's resting place in an unmarked grave in Elkhorn Cemetery.  His death, on June 16th, by gunshot to the head ended his six month rampage through Southwestern Montana. 

This past January began a dark period for the booming mining town of Elkhorn. On January 15, 1889, Matthiesen rode into town after he had been missing for a year and a half. Rather than returning to his cabin to reunite with his wife and children, he instead burst through the doors of "Silver & Gold," one of the towns most infamous brothels. Witnesses reported that his rampage through the brothel was unexpected and unprovoked. As he entered the establishment, he grabbed Madam Sasha by the hair and slammed her head against the bar. He then pulled his colt from its holster and walked the bar, pointing the gun at three gentlemen waiting for their evening's entertainment. He then pulled a silver coin from his pocket. He stopped in front of the first gentleman and, holding the gun to his forehead, flipped the coin, frowned, and stepped to the second frightened man.  Matthiesen flipped the coin again, frowned, and moved on to the final man at the bar that night, Mr. Lanius Banta. Matthiesen flipped the coin a third time. He looked down at the coin and a smirked. He squeezed the trigger killing Banta. Matthiesen went from room to room that evening, murdering six patrons of "Silver & Gold" in the same fashion. He also injured three of the lovely young ladies. 

Matthiesen then dissapeared again, but his rampage did not end. There have been reports across the Elkhorn Mountains of a strange man with an untrimmed beard and a mess of dark hair down to his shoulders. The man sometimes had black eyes and other reports claim his eyes were red as blood. No matter how the descriptions changed, his actions were always the same:  A colt 45 to the head, a flip of the silver coin, and either a smirk or a frown. By June of this year, Matthiesen had been a suspected of 18 murders throughout Southwestern Montana.

On June 15, 1889, Matthiesen returned to Elkhorn, where he entered his cabin and murdered his wife, Ada Matthiesen, and two daughters, Clara age 5 and Beatrice age 3. Clara and Beatrice were found shot to death.  Ada was still alive when found, but had suffered a severe beating. She died under the care of the town physician.  Jakob Matthiesen was found on the floor next to Clara with a gunshot to the head. His wife and daughters were laid to rest at Elkhorn Cemetery on June 16th beneath a marker reading, here rests the sweetest buds of hope. "The townsfolk are relieved that this scourge on our community has finally been rubbed out," said Mayor Holter. Matthiesen left no survivors.

Firsthand account of Ada Matthiesen, wife of the infamous Jakob Matthiesen, taken on her deathbed in Elkhorn, MT.

Ada Matthiesen did not recognize the unkempt man as her husband. When she stood to protest his entry, he stormed across the cabin and pressed the barrel of his colt against her forehead. She and her two daughters, Clara five and Beatrice three, had just settled into their supper. Jakob held the gun to his wife's head and pulled a silver coin from his coat. He flipped it, looked down, and frowned.  Silently, he stepped toward his daughter Clara.  Instinctively, Ada grabbed his arm. He backhanded her, knocking her head against the wall behind them. She slid to the ground and he kicked her over and over in the head and along the length of her body. Ada tasted blood in her mouth and her vision began to blur. She did not loose consciousness, only she lacked the ability to make her body move from the cold floor. Instead, she watched as Jakob lined up his two daughters on the opposite wall.

He began with the eldest, Clara. He rested the gun against her smooth, white forehead and tendrils of blonde curls wrapped around the steel barrel.  He looked into her pale blue eyes, flipped the coin, smirked, and pulled the trigger.  At the bright flash and loud bang Beatrice begin to cry. The smell of fear mixed with gunpowder wafted across the room. Ada struggled to move. She could feel small pinpricks in her legs. She struggled against herself as she watched Jakob press the gun against Beatrice's face, wet and red with crying. He flipped the coin again. Ada twitched her toe. He peeled his long fingers back and looked down at he coin. Ada squeezed her hands into fists. Jakob turned to look at his wife. Ada was perfectly still, holding her eyes open in a glazed stare. She watched as Jakob's lips turned up into a smirk. He turned around and pulled the trigger. Beatrice's tiny, limp body joined her sister's in a heap on the hardwood floor.  

Jakob turned and walked across the cabin. His footsteps were heavy in the silence, sending out sharp echoes. Ada saw her chance when he began to scour the cupboards. She forced her body to move and managed to crawl to the sideboard. She reached up and slid the drawer open. She fumbled in the drawer, all the while keeping both eyes on Jakob's back. Her hand clamped down on the small pistol she had been keeping for protection since her husband had gone missing nearly two years ago. She tucked the gun under the folds of her dress and crawled back to her place against the wall. Jakob finally found what he was searching for and spun around with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He sidestepped Ada's body and plopped down in his chair at the head of the table. He took three big swigs of whiskey and let his chin drop onto his chest.

When Jakob awoke two hours later, his hands were bound behind his back and a single lantern in the center of the table lit up the corner of the cabin. Ada stood across the table, leaning heavily on it. She took several labored steps and rounded the edge of the table. From the corner of her eye, she could just see the two dark stpots on the wall where her daughters had been standing. A shiver ran through her small frame. She came within arm's reach of the man who used to be her loving husband, but now was just a shell housing some unknown darkness. In her right hand she held the small pistol and in her left, the silver coin she had found inside Jakob's tattered coat. 

Jakob's empty eyes stared directly into her own, but still he made no sound.  Ada tossed the coin into the air and watched it drop onto the old oak table in front of Jakob.  It bounced twice and then spun. The pair watched it spin, slow to a wobble, and finally come to rest. Ada looked from the coin to Jakob's dark face. In the low light of the lantern, she watched his mouth grow into an unearthly grin.