An Offer You Can't Refuse (Short Story No. 47)

Updated on May 26, 2018
Excellent graphic history of the bone wars
Excellent graphic history of the bone wars | Source

Author's note

These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.

The negotiator

It didn’t take long for the representative of Othniel Charles Marsh to find the beautiful blonde paleontologist Hannah Monroe. She had lingered in Helena temporarily, waiting for another telegram from her mentor Joseph Leidy in Philadelphia regarding the team of scientists being dispatched to the Montana Territory to recover the fossil of the giant dinosaur she had discovered. She had the jaw of the creature and an egg in her possession. She hoped the telegram would arrive soon because she was anxious to get to Cripple Creek and a rendezvous with her beloved Hex Hawkins. She reminisced about the first team of scientists that had had been brutally massacred by the Cheyenne, and from which she had been rescued by Hex when she was tied to a tree naked and marked for rape and torture.

The man sent by Marsh reminded Hannah of her former fiancé the good doctor. He was short and slight of build, with sleek hair, muddy eyes, and a pencil-thin moustache. Marsh’s man identified himself as Mortimer Miller and said he had travelled from Fort Benton where he had been supervising the loading of fossils on a steamboat to be sent to Marsh back East.

“So where did you get those fossils? Any large terrible lizard bones among them?” Hannah questioned.

“Here and there in the Hell Creek region of the Montana Territory, mostly from near the mouth of the Judith River. We have a team in that area. Much ado about nothing, apparently. Marsh wasn’t excited much about anything that was reported discovered, until he heard about your find.”

Hannah frowned and Miller expounded. He asserted that this was just the start of the search for fossils in the rugged Badlands of the Montana Territory that stretched for more than 100 miles along the southern banks of the Missouri River. He suggested that millions of years ago that dinosaur she had just found had chased its prey through a luxuriant flood plain that covered this windswept hardscrabble locale. He concluded with, “Give it another decade or so, and we’ll have bone hunters all over this place. It will be a war, a bone war! Marsh is determined to be recognized as the country’s leading authority in the new field of dinosaur paleontology. But so are others like Edward Drinker Cope.”

Princess Tatuhatahime
Princess Tatuhatahime | Source

The marl pits

Hannah said, “I thought Marsh had enough to worry about in Haddonfield, New Jersey. What’s going on there these days?”

Mortimer Miller explained that Marsh had secretly made arrangements with workers at the marl pits in and around Haddonfield, New Jersey, to send any fossils they find to him at the Yale Peabody Museum rather than to Cope at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Marsh had heard the rumors last year of dinosaur remains being found in a marl pit owned by the West Jersey Marl Company near Barnboro, outside of Haddonfield. Cope gave Marsh a tour of the marl pit where that dinosaur fossil had been found. “Marsh and Cope started out as friends,” Mortimer continued, “but they are becoming bitter rivals. Mr. Cope has moved his family to Haddonfield to be close to that action.”

The telegraph operator had been listening to the conversation and asked, “What is this marl you speak of?”

Hannah responded, “It is a mineral-rich clay-like substance that is the leading farm fertilizer these days.”

“Oh shit,” the telegraph operator muttered with a stupid grin.

“Something like that,” Hannah agreed.

The telegraph operator began to say something else, but an incoming telegram interrupted him just then. He soon handed a slip of paper to Hannah. She read it and appeared to be upset. “What is it?” Mortimer asked. “Bad news?”

Hannah replied, “The telegram is from Pinkerton agent Helen James. A friend and colleague of ours was murdered at Cripple Creek by this serial killer known as Captain Taz. The victim was Bob Wells, a former Texas Ranger, a member of my original bone-hunting expedition, and recently a Pinkerton agent like Helen. Taz could not possibly have beaten Wells in a fair gunfight. As Sheriff of Helena Leslie Baxter, also know as Shorty the circus clown occasionally said, ‘Bob Wells can shoot quicker’n you can spit and shout howdy.’ Taz must have taken Bob by surprise. The telegram said the body was burned. Taz is known as a man-burner.”

“My condolence on the passing of your friend,” Mortimer said. “Was Wells with the circus? I heard some rumors that this Taz murdered some performers with the Great Western Circus. One of the persons responsible for those rumors is George Bartholomew, the owner of that circus. He gave that as a reason for needing to hire new performers.”

“Taz murdered Princess Takuhatatime, the circus snake charmer. He mutilated her and removed some of her organs. He carved an inverted pentagram on her back, the symbol of Satan and her minions. He stole her snake, Beezelbub, an albino reticulated python. He already had an albino reticulated python of his own, but bigger, much bigger. That snake, named Roscoe, swallowed the dwarf and circus clown Sammy Short whole. Taz had an even bigger snake named Fagin. My friend the Arapaho princess Sweet Water cut off that snake’s head when he tried to squeeze her to death. She put his head in a bag and carried it around, just waiting for an opportunity to pull it out.”

Dinosaur egg
Dinosaur egg | Source

Do or die

Mortimer looked like he might be sick. He asked, “Can I see the dinosaur jaw and egg you recovered?”

“I guess so,” Hannah said. She opened the crate where she had the fossils secured and pulled them out.

“Incredible,” Peters said. “And you believe the entire creature can be excavated?”

“Yes, I do,” Hannah stated affirmatively. “By people who know what they are doing. My mentor Joseph Leidy in Philadelphia is sending a team of such people. They will secure the fossil, transport it back East, and it will become the greatest paleontological discovery to date.”

“And you will become famous for making the discovery,” Mortimer suggested.

Hannah responded, “Some say I should already be famous for fossil discoveries. But those fossils obtained on my first expedition are lying at the bottom of the Missouri River after the explosion on the steamboat Victoria.”

Mortimer said, “Marsh already has a team in the Montana Territory. Why don’t you let them excavate your new find?”

“No way,” Hannah snapped. “I don’t trust Marsh.”

“I have been authorized by Mr. Marsh to pay you $100,000 in gold for the dinosaur jaw, the egg, and directions to the rest of the creature,” Morris said.

“No thank you,” Hannah said with a snarl.

Mortimer Morris pulled a Wells Fargo Pocket Pistol from inside his coat and pointed it at Hannah’s head. “Accept Mr. Marsh’s offer. Or die.”


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)