Well folks, we’re getting into what I like to think of as the “other” book. There are three parts to Dragon Teeth, and they could honestly stand on their own as novellas. Not completely alone, they would still need to be a part of the same series, but they’re all so different. But somehow, they fit together well.
As we pass the halfway point of this book, Cope’s expedition wraps up their dig and packs up all the bones for transport back to Philadelphia. The bones won’t all fit on the wagon at once, so the group needs to leave some of them behind. Once they get to the steamboat on the Missouri River, Stevenson is ill and incapacitated, so he can’t go back as planned. Instead, Johnson, Toad, Little Wind, and Cookie go back in his stead. Four men go out, and only one returns. With the last of his strength, Cookie tells Cope that they had been ambushed and he was the only survivors. It seems that William Johnson had reached the end of his journey. Or so we are led to believe.
The very next chapter, we see an excerpt from Johnson’s journal. Now, since it’s a bit unlikely that Johnson would be writing while actively trying to escape from an ambush attack. As it turns out, Cookie and Little Wind had abandoned Johnson and Toad after seeing evidence that there was a Sioux band moving north towards them. That didn’t really do a lot of good, seeing that they all got caught in the attack. Cookie goes back to the river, as we saw, and Little Wind returns to Johnson and Toad. Now, I know that I’ve said that the characters in this book are, for the most part, well written and interesting. Little Wind is a bit of an exception to this. I cannot understand his motivation or his actions sometimes. It’s a shame, since his character has a lot of potential. That’s one reason I think that I find this book enjoyable, but a bit rough around the edges.
After Little Wind drives the carriage off of a ledge back into the badlands, Johnson has a chance to asses the situation. Toad has an arrow through his neck, and he’s dead. Little Wind yanks an arrow out of Johnson’s leg, but he seemingly isn’t hurt. I’m not going to lie, I really liked Toad, and I was pretty upset when he died. Now, I did say that Little Wind seemingly wasn’t hurt. That wasn’t the case. One night, Little Wind died in his sleep, leaving Johnson to decide what to do from there. Johnson decides to take both bodies with him, to find somewhere to give them a proper burial. On one hand, it makes sense that Johnson would want to find a resting place for his colleagues. Also, the threat that their bodies could be mutilated was ever-present. Hallucinating and delirious from illness and exhaustion, Johnson finally arrives in Deadwood Gulch.
Deadwood is the iconic western boom town. It’s dusty, it’s dangerous, and it’s going to be Johnson’s home for the next few months. He has to pay for his lodging and storage of his wagon, and the owner of the motel won’t let him leave until he does. So, Johnson needs to find some way to raise the funds to get home.