I'd really say the Tillman Affair began in the Prosperity Saloon in Virginia City. I had been frequenting the various saloons and brothels of the town, looking for a con artist turned murderer named Gregory Tillman. The barkeep at the Prosperity was a fat man and, as I recall, not too bright. Had a mustache to rival my own though and he was asking me about my target.
"Well, it seems our friend Mr. Tillman had a nice little patent medicine back east. And he was none too careful about his ingredients. The short version is, a couple of people died from his concoctions and, sadly for Mr. Tillman, one of those people was the wife of a rich New York businessman. Tillman fled out this way. So here I am, and I have reason to think he is here in Virginia City.", I told him and showed him a wanted poster with what I knew to be an accurate photo of Tillman on it.
"You a bounty hunter? Is there a reward?"
I nodded then said "Yep. And I could see fit to giving you a cut if you are helpful in helping me find him. The size of the cut depending on how helpful you are, naturally". Just keep your eyes and ears open, if you have any information for me, I will be at Allende's Boarding House, you can leave a message for me there if I am out."
The barkeep agreed to keep me informed if Tillman turned up and tried to enjoy the horrible beer they served in his establishment. I wasn't expecting much, I had been to every saloon, hotel, gambling house and brothel in Virginia City and hadn't found a thing. Most criminals were easy to track this way, they liked their booze and women. But Tillman was different, it seemed, he may have been a greedy murderer, but he didn't seem to have the usual vices of my usual prey. Finding him was going to be hard.
Three days passed and I considered giving up looking for Tillman, perhaps the man wasn't in Virginia City after all, and finding a more promising bounty to work. But that evening, there came a message, The fat barkeep at the Prosperity had come through. The barkeep sent one of his crew to tell me that a man fitting Tillman's Description was in the Prosperity RIGHT NOW. So I grabbed his gun belt, put on my hat and walked out into a crisp November evening.
I got there just in time. I spotted Tillman, a bespectacled little man, sitting at a table, talking to a couple men that I knew to be petty criminals and thugs, Bill Warren and James Short. Neither was the sort to be worth my time to round up, mind you, no rewards on them. That made them the sheriff's job, not mine. But they WERE the sort it is good to know because they can lead you to the bigger targets. I pulled my long barreled army revolver from its holster and shouted "Gregory Tillman, you are under arrest. Come peacefully, and I won't have to put any holes in you that God didn't already place there. Bill, James, Don't you move either." At this point, the otherwise noisy place got real quite. Drawing a gun will do that to even the loudest establishment.
At first, I thought I was going to be lucky, and all three were going to comply. Bill and James were sitting there, Tillman was calmly sitting with his hands on the table. Regarding me like a scientist might regard some new species of bug that he had discovered. As I got close, gun pointed at them, Tillman said in the calmest voice you ever heard, with an ever so slight German accent "$500 if you delay him."
James was the quicker of the two, he reached for his gun, and I put a bullet in his chest for his trouble. Bill was the smart one, though. He used that momentary distraction to throw his drink in my face and blind me. Just for a second but that was all he needed to bowl me over. Bill had a good 50 pounds of weight on me, so he was able to occupy me for a bit. But I had 20 years of experience on him, and while he tried to pin me to the ground, I bit off the lobe of his left ear. The pain made him pull back just enough that I could land one on his nose and get up and start chasing my real target, instead of wasting my time on the likes of Bill Warren.
While I was wrestling with Bill, I had seen Tillman run out the back. I pursued and had no sooner exited through the back door into an alley when almost literally ran into a seven-foot-tall mountain of muscle. It was human in shape but was apparently no man born of woman. It had a twisted face, like something half-formed. One eye was enormous compared to the other, and half of its mouth was pulled back in a rictus grin. Behind it, stood Gregory Tillman with a smirk on his face. I barely had time to take in those details when the thing punched me hard enough to knock the air from my lungs. I passed out.
I wasn't out for very long. But it was long enough for Gregory Tillman and his...friend to get away. I made my way back into the saloon. James was lying dead on his chair, and someone was tending to Bill Warren and his wounded ear. I pulled up a chair right in front of him and said "Alright Bill. Sherrif is on the way. What I tell him about you depends on an awful lot on what you tell me about Tillman. So why don't you tell me what you and he were talking about."
"I don't know what..." He trailed off because I said, "Bill, you know I hate liars, right?"
"He was asking us to kill some people. Drifters, Indians, people who wouldn't be missed. He wanted their bodies, but you interrupted before we could ask any questions."
"Did he say why?"
"Nope. Just that he needed them fresh. All at once and no more than a day old. ALive would be even better, and he would take care of them himself, but he understood if that was a tall order."
"You're doing fine Bill. But now for the question that determines if I tell my friend the sheriff that both of you", I indicated James' body, "Tried to kill me or if I just say you took a poke at me after I killed your friend. A couple nights in the hoosegow at worst.
Where were you supposed to take your bodies or captives?"
"He's set up in the old Jackson mine, near Gold Hill," Bill said and he gave me directions.
I smiled but said nothing, I must admit I was kind of what you young folks would call an asshole in those days. I wanted Bill to sweat out what I was going to say to the Sheriff. But when Sherrif Johnson arrived, I informed him of the little "misunderstanding" that I had with Bill Warren. The Saloon was full of witnesses who say James SHort try to draw on me, and I was not lying when I told Bill the Sherrif was a friend of mine. I was free to try to pick up Tillman within the hour.
It was getting late, but I didn't want Tillman to get any farther ahead of me than he already was. I picked up my horse from the Livery and rode for Gold Hill and beyond. It wasn't a long ride, half an hour at most. But it was long enough for me to wonder, what WAS that thing that was working with Tillman? Was it just a really ugly human or something else. If it were something else, it wouldn't be the first "something else" I had encountered, but it was still bad news. Humans could be taken down with bullets, "something else" usually not.
I reached the abandoned Jackson Mine around 8 PM, I think. The mind had shut down just three years ago, but it was already falling into decay. A few dilapidated buildings clustered around a hole in the ground and some lift machinery. A light flickered from one of them. I smiled because that meant Tillman was probably still there.
Quietly, I approached a window. The moon was full, but hidden behind thick clouds, making it easy to stay hidden. When I got to the window and peered in, I saw Tillman, who looked to be building some sort of copper tank. Surrounding him were tables full of flasks and beakers and jars of various liquids and powders. There were also machines, noisy and sparking, whose purpose I could not fathom. And behind helping him, apparently taking his orders, was that thing that had put me down back in Virginia City.
Well, I had tried the direct approach one that day and got knocked out for my troubles. I figured it was time to be a little sneakier. I located the outhouse. Sooner or later, Tillman would have to pay it a visit. And when he did, I would be nearby, waiting to catch him with his pants down, literally. I sat on the ground with my back to the outhouse and waited.
My wait was rewarded when, perhaps two hours later, I heard someone approach. I knew I wasn't visible from where I was seated, so I just waited until I heard the door open and close. Then I got up, opened the door and pointed it at a surprisingly unsurprised Gregory Tillman. He had placed a candle on the shelf and was standing over the hole and regarding me with that same bemused stare he had in the saloon.
"Ah, the Bounty Hunter from town. I was wondering how long it would take you to come here, have you been waiting long? Please, let me finish my business, and we will talk. I assure you I will not go anywhere", he said to me, in his slightly accented voice.
He had a point, nowhere for him to go, no reason for me not to close the door and let him finish. So I did. He emerged a short time later and said "Now that that is over, you should be fully aware of your situation. Please, shoot me."
I just cocked my head.
"No, please, do. Perhaps if I give you some motivation you will be less reluctant" Tillman said as he produced a tiny derringer from beneath his lab coat. I fired. Two shots into his chest. He staggered back twice, and I could see, even in the moonlight, that I had put two holes in his jacket. But no blood oozed from the wounds. He calmly reached into one of the holes and pulled out the bullet, then the other. I could do little but stare in stunned amazement as he tossed the bullet fragments aside.
"Do you see now, your situation? Your weapon cannot harm me, nor can it harm my brother. Let us talk, like civilized men. Inside, please, it is quite cold."
I followed him. Unsure of what to do next. He sat down and offered me a chair and asked: "Have you ever heard of the book, Frankenstein?"
"I have, but I have never read it."
"That you can read at all puts you one step above the man I thought you to be, good. It was written by a woman named Mary Shelly. Not long after she had passed through the part of Germany where there exists an actual Castle Frankenstein, once the home of a Baron Von Frankenstein."
"Okay, what's that got to do with you, and this?" I asked, pointing around the room.
"I am getting to that. In it, Baron Frankenstein creates a creature. Creates life. And this was partially inspired by stories of Conrad Dippel, an alchemist in Baron Frankenstein's employ. He was said to be searching for the secret of Eternal Life."
Realizing where this was going, I said: "And I take it you are this Conrad Dippel."
Tillman chuckled slightly and said "No. Conrad never achieved his ultimate goal. Part of his experiments involved creating life...by reanimating the dead. I am a result of those experiments. He created me just before a howling mob dragged him from the castle and hung him. He never had a chance to replicate the experiment that created me."
I pointed to the lumbering creature in the corner "Then what is he?"
"I consider Adam to be my Brother, but son might be more accurate. I have been trying, for 200 years, to recreate Dippel's process. So far, Adam is the most successful attempt to date. Though obviously, he is flawed compared to me. That unpleasantness in New York, which is why you are here, no doubt, I was trying to use some of my master's discoveries to gain funds to carry on his work."
"So you killed five people? Just to make money for this lab?"
"Accidental, I assure you. Dippel's longevity serums are dangerous and tricky to make. The survivors can easily expect to live to be 100, maybe more. I did not lie to them. I just failed to tell them of the risks."
But now, what to do with you? It is obvious that I cannot let you go. And I think that part of my problem has been a lack of fresh specimens to work with. I think you will do well as one of them." He turned to the creature "Adam, Restrain him."
Now, I am not an idiot. While Tillman was running his mouth, I was working on a plan. I had slowly been sliding my foot beneath a small stool as soon as he made the order, I kicked it into his face. It didn't hurt him, but the surprise was all I needed. I ran for the window and dived through before his lumbering brute of a brother could grab me. Once I reached the window, I fired into the machinery. Blindly and in panic, but I was quite pleased with effects nonetheless. Flames erupted, and some of the nearby chemicals caught fire. Bullets might not be able to hurt the bastard, but let's see how he deals with being burned to a cinder. His howls of pain told me 'probably not well.'
However, Adam had been away from the blast, and he was after me now. He spotted me and broke into a surprisingly fast but lumbering run. I was near the lift equipment that went into the mine when he caught up to me, so up I went. The creature followed. I knew he would catch me sooner or later, so I needed to do something and fast. I drew the Bowie Knife that I always carried and waited. When he got close enough, I brought it down like a butcher knife chopping through a piece of meat. I took off the creatures hand and now it was hanging by its remaining hand. It looked, to my surprise scared. It was grunting and possibly crying. But I couldn't let that deter me. I took the other hand off, and it dropped into the mine shaft. I climbed down and waited, Gregory Tillman never emerged from the shed.
I never collected the Tillman Bounty, I had to be content that I killed something that was going to murder a lot of people if not stopped. To this day, I can't say for sure if Adam ever escaped that mine shaft, but I have never encountered him or his brother since.