There Comes a Reckoning

A Shadow Walks Behind

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

I am siting in the office of the Office of Indian or Mining Affairs. The staff itself cannot seem to decide on a name. I worried that I would make a fool of myself trying to lead this expedition and it seems, I am living up to my own expectations. Chaos followed us here. After gathering all the members of our travelling group, there was a commotion at one end of town.

People were in a panic, running for their lives down Main Street. I have learned to respond to that kind of fear with haste. Lives depend on it. I picked my way down one of the boardwalks, dodging feeling citizens to get a sight line to danger. I spotted through the throng an Indian riding down the center of the street putting arrows into victims at random. He was a large fellow, paler than other natives I’ve seen.

Cyrus spoke some words of faith and took off in a furious charge, drawing and swinging his saber with fanatical fervor. I drew my own weapon and sought cover closer to the native. I drew a bead and fired a shot. Joseph and Johnny also lent their aid in the struggle and, with our determined intervention, the murderer fell.

A group of dog soldiers led by a native with half his face painted red and two feathers in his hair arrived. They gave surprising aid to the removal of the unsightly dead bodies and expressed their sympathies for the citizens of Deadwood in the attack. Cyrus was able to help us discern what the natives were saying. They explained the native had attacked their own people as well and they had been unable to quell his assault before he rode into Deadwood. We promised to convey his message to the town’s leadership.

I hurried to meet with Joseph Bearclaw and leveraged the inattention of his office assistant to ensure I would be able to speak with the native representative in Deadwood and make my case for a telegraph across the prairie. My research on that topic led me to believe that the Natives would not allow permanent fixed structures on their land. I presumed that any discussion around such a disapproved subject would by necessity be clandestine. So I phrased my rationale in misleading fashion as a need to plant trees.

I made a critical miscalculation of Bearclaw. He is a straightforward man. My inquiries cost me my involvement in the meeting. Bearclaw ejected me to sit on this damnable bench in a dejected state. I am left to depend on Miss Blackstone’s powers of persuasion. I am left to question my own capabilities. I marketed myself as a partner who could handle the business set up and earn the confidence of my investors. But as I sit here, it is the paramore of my investor rescuing me from my own faults. I am sure it will cost me.

And it reminds me that I still do not know what Ms. Blackstone is doing on this venture. Is she proof of Jake Kilburn lacking faith in my ability? Is he just protecting his investment? Or is she here to further some more personal goal. I really must find out more about her, lest I find myself perpetually under her thumb or in her debt.

I require a distraction from all these disappointing thoughts. I think I will go investigate Chinatown to see if I can find a gift for Ming.

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Pox Walker & Meeting with Mr Bear Claw
Eliza's Journal Excerpt

The group fractures as certain members attend to business they have. I offer to stay with Mr. Cerney, but he politely declines, parting ways agreeing to meet again in half an hour. I go to the bank and relieve myself of the majority of my purse. I take a breath leaving the bank, knowing my funds are secure. This town is a bit more rough and tumble then I had expected. I have managed to become engrossed in my pocket bible and am just slightly startled when Mr. Cerney clears his throat to gain my attention. Joseph is with him. He suggests we gather the rest of the group ahead of the meeting. We set about our way and hear a number of gunshots. The two gentlemen take off at their top speed. I make haste, but at a more gentile pace. Picking through the crowd to avoid being knocked down whilst also keeping an eye to the origin of the kerfuffle.

It seems the issue is an Indian fellow attacking citizens. After a bit it smacks me that he is quite emaciated and covered in boils. So very… deceased looking. I wrack my brain for a reason for this. The ichor smells of ammonia and puss. Glancing around a bit I notice one of the victims with an arrow in him has some unusual afflictions for such a wound. His eyes are puffy and he just seems bloated in general. I go examine the shaft of the arrow and do not notice a thing. I grab the hem of my skirts incase the ichor dries clear and pull the arrow from the corpse. Sure enough I notice a bit of the goo on the arrow head. Someone mentions there are 6 riders on the way and are indians. I take a quick peek around for a spot of concealment and find the tents are the my best bet. I take my leave, failing to notify my compatriots as time is quite the factor.

The group arrives and speaks among themselves. I hear a voice I am pretty sure is Cyrus’ answer in their language. I don’t speak the language and fear even if I could I wouldn’t hear the whole exchange. I eventually tire of hiding, they don’t seem to be searching for a thing apart from the boil inflicted indians. They have gathered the bodies and Mr. Cerney is relieving the contents of a lamp onto the bodies and kindling. An Indian strikes a flint a few times and the pyre goes up. It grows as expected for a moment then flares. I start to become a bit worried but just as I think to flee it seems to extinguish of its own accord. This appears to be clearing so I head to the Office of Indian Affairs. I am a wee bit late and make apologies, letting them know Mr. Cerney will be arriving momentarily. The lackey directs me to some seating and I take a seat, reading my pocket bible again.

Our meeting begins and Mr Cerney takes the lead. It is going poorly. I do not know what Mr Cerney is all about. He is discussing growing trees, buying praire land… I am befuddled. Mr Bear Claw looks to me, I fear I failed his test as I am quite flummoxed. Mr Bear Claw stands and tells us we have “Wasted his time”. My mouth gapes open and closed like a guppy. I am so very confused. Mr Cerney says he would like to compensate him for his time. He lays $200 on the table. Mr Bear Claw says he has 5 minutes. Mr Cerney continues to talk mostly in riddles. Mr Bear Claw is quite perturbed at this point. He turns to me and says he will continue to talk with me, if only Mr Cerney leaves as he has grown tired of being insulted. Still a bit confused by the situation I tell him I have no issue with this. Mr Cerney lays another $100 on the table on his way out.
I forget the exact details of the exchange now as I was heady with the rush of negotiations. However Mr Bear Claw tells me he was educated back east. I play on this. Appealing to his ego, a weakness prevalent in men of all shades. This helps convey my message that it benefits Deadwood with commerce and consolidating power for itself. Mr Bear Claw offers to talk to the council about permissions and fees that would be associated with the endeavor. I thank him kindly and tell him I am at his disposal if I can be of assistance. Mr Cerney is waiting outside and I inform him about what happened after his exit. We leave the building and the rest of the group is waiting as well as Ms Frost. Cyrus is making inquiries about a “Calamity Jane”. It seems she is the town drunk. This seems quite the accomplishment in a town such as this.

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On to Deadwood
Eliza Journal Excerpt

The issue of the newspaper with my story from the haunted town and the witch came out today. I picked up a copy excited to read the account and know some truth is getting out there. I am quite disappointed. Not only is there no mention of the supernatural, but it seems he has a source that contradicted me. I am not sure whom that could possibly be.

The Sioux are not at all convinced they have all those responsible for the end of their war party. Jake consults the Tarot. I don’t know if this does anything. I don’t… “feel” magic from him or the cards. At any rate he suggests I leave. It is quite difficult to find a reason to disagree. We both know Deadwood is the logical place. He is kind enough to supply me with a healthy bank roll and tells me to take Obsidian. After a quick and chaste kiss I head off to pack. I am always at least partially ready to leave anywhere so it isn’t long before I am on the trail. I ride through the night and around sunrise come across the stage coach the group has contracted. Quite a stroke of luck that. I am not sure why, but I am fond of the old man who runs the thing. He is quite… eccentric, but that is his charm for me. After a bit we head back on the trail.

We meet a young woman named December Frost at the restaurant. She works at the newspaper and gives us information on the members of the town council.

Ms. Frost gives us a tour of the town. It is… lively. The group stops in a shop and buys some ammo to replenish their stores after the fights along the way to town. Outside of the Green Wall bordello a body falls from the upper story. I fear that for not Ms. Frost’s intervention, I would have had quite the obituary. “Here Lies Eliza, Crushed by a falling, naked, cat house patron”. I shudder at that legacy.

We continue on with our tour finally darkening the door at the Office of Mining Affairs. We are met with an underwhelming amount of attention. Mr. Cerney finally goes and converses with an employee that looks less then immersed in work. He is able to secure a meeting with the appropriate manager and we leave to waste time until our appointment.

Mr. Cerney seems determined to sneak around back of the Office of Mining Affairs. I can’t fathom a reason for this sort of capper at all, let alone in the middle of the day. I twist a curse under my breath and I am comforted by the feeling of safety darkness provides. This part of the adventure goes quite poorly. Though I suppose it could be worse. I skirt around the corner before whomever tore open the shutters. Mr. Cerney seems to be up a fecal matter creek and lacks a canoe for his predicament. Luckily Joseph comes to the rescue with a suitably (for him) uncouth manner of actually urinating on the building! Perhaps I should not just write him off as a gun hand. I do wonder how the group will recover, though I suppose this will be a good test of Mr. Cerney’s talents.

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Trials and Tribulations
Meeting Murphy's Law

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

I have not the words to adequately express my immediate frustration with my companions! All my fears from last night have proven reality. Cyrus threatens to exceed the stamina of my patience at every turn by defying every last ounce of advice, caution, and sanity I’ve tried to convey. I cannot imagine a more cavalier attitude towards the unspoken than that which the chaplain has adapted!

Nothing about this day is going as I planned and I am now wracked with an overwhelming worry that the entire venture will be a complete disaster as a result of my incompetence. We arrived in Deadwood after the surprising appearance of Eliza sometime during the night while I slept in the coach. Immediately upon entrance to the city, the men I have paid for safe passage and escort begin planning ways to abandon me. I am unable to discern if this is a sign of persistent resentment over my contracting support with Jake Kilborn or if they are simply incompetent.

Cyrus wanted to go preach to sinners, Johnny and Joseph asked to go investigate local bounties to hunt, and I still do not know what has brought Eliza to suddenly grace us all with her presence. The most reliable member of the party so far has proven to be Justice.

I thought we had encountered a stroke of luck when, upon arriving at the Grand Hotel, we ran into a person with the exact knowledge that I needed in order to set my plan for a new telegraph in motion. My enthusiasm came too soon, as the woman, December Frost, admitted to being a sometime reporter for the local gazette. She was more than happy to listen as I expressed an interest in Cyrus’ past and he admitted to the belief that he was employed by God and the US Army as part of a secret organization of chaplains charged with hunting and destroying demons and expelling evil forcibly from the world. As I write them, I realize whe words look as mad on paper as they sounded in person. Cyrus passionately supported his “mission” when challenged. Have I saddled myself to the deranged imaginings of a madman? Will nothing go right on this journey!?

Even the sky is not cooperating with me! It rained bodies on us from the windows of a local brothel. We were informed of a local fight underway and chose to abscond from the premises. Our withdrawal proved too late, however as men began landing on the ground all around us. Eliza was nearly killed but for the intervention of Ms. Frost. And Cyrus, right after I suggested he be more careful about so openly advertising his mission and abilities, begins to convey his “powers” upon the wounded in the middle of the street in front of an entire crowd! Could we not have at least tried normal aid before attempting to look like lunatics? My intervention in this foolhardy escapade proved inadequate and both wounded men enjoyed the protection of Cyrus’ faith.

In an effort to make some good from come from this day’s disaster, I endeavored to meet with the local Native representative who I was told could help me gain influence among the locals to build permanent structures upon the land. I did not realize the name I had was incorrect. Or it seemed to be. There was some clandestine activity upon our exit from the mining office. I thought to listen in on some secret discussion, but my own traitorous feet made a clatter of rubble in an alleyway. Before I could safely react, a large armed Indian was looking into the alley.

Joseph, in a rare act of fortune on the day, provided a convenient mask to my presence in the alley. He began relieving himself on the building and earned a scolding from the Indian at the window. I tried to act natural and pull him from the alley, but my intervention startled the native and made him more irate. Only Cyrus’ calming demeanor could stand him down from violence. However, I am left to wonder how my meeting with him in the afternoon will go now that we have left such a fine impression.

I can’t help but think I’m doomed.

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A Night's Reflection

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

That was the second time in just a few hours I sat around a fire with thoughts weighing heavy on my mind.  The sights we saw tonight, I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.  I hope those around the fire with me tonight shared that same consideration.  But I’m beginning to worry that they are becoming all too accustomed to the darker elements out here in the Dakota Territory.  I wonder if they know how truly dangerous that darkness is and how poorly equipped our fragile society is to digest its existence.  I hope I’m making something from nothing, but there is this feeling in the pit of my stomach I can’t shake. 
 
Ming would understand.  Sitting here in the dark, I cannot help but think about her.  The time we spent talking was the most fulfilling I have enjoyed since arriving at Shady Gulch.  Tragically, she’s had a life full of darkness.  A slave to a Celestial tong, torn from her family, her sister stolen and abused by a man who is supposed to represent the grace and peace of his people.  Such dark things and the like that I witnessed tonight have no place in the lives of the innocent.  They corrupt with fear, paranoia, anger, and, ultimately, violence.  I do not dare to consider what would befall civilization if the ideas and recognition of these things were commonplace.  I am distressed by the fact my current companions are not sensitive to that.

We find ourselves joined by the tribe of natives who call themselves the Ghost Dancers.  After we saved Sky Eagle and his chief, Wovoka, they shared their campfire and a tale of their tribe.  They believe a singular Indian brave somehow broke the world and that by gathering a great many faithful braves to perform and believe in a ritual they call the Ghost Dance, they can introduce great healing medicine into the world.
 
It’s probably superstitious nonsense. But it sounds harmless enough.  The only part of Wovoka’s tale that distressed me was his firm desire to drive the ways of the white man from Indian lands.  I find that to be naïve.  Nothing is going to stop the engine of American industry.  Wovoka and those like him will scatter in the wind to the corners of the world where they and their ancient ways will be forgotten.
 

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

As I write this, I watch the embers of things I dare not speak flutter up into the starlight. The world is ablaze tonight. I fear what will remain when it cools.

Our steam coach was attacked tonight. Bandits dug a depression in the road that flipped the coach. There were at least six of them. We fought them off as best we could. Justice was shot by something that cracked like lightning. Joseph blamed me for the incident, but I plainly showed him I possessed no such weapon, nor would I shoot at Justice when I paid him to protect me. One vigilante escaped into the darkness. I don’t know what happened to him. We rounded up the others for the bounties.

We righted the coach and began repairs. I lay down to some much needed sleep. Little solace was I granted, however. A train that should not have been where it was clacked along some unknown rail line close to the north of us and blew its whistle. I am unsure if the Iron Dragon has a spur south or if some other local player has bargained with the Natives.

Further sleep was impeded by the arrival of a near dead Paiute native. Brother Cyrus, it seems, speaks Shoshonian as well. I don’t know what to make of him. What sort of priest understands Celestial and Shoshonian? He was able to ascertain that the native is called Sky Hawk, bodyguard to Wovoka, who is leader of something called the Ghost Dance Movement. They were attacked earlier this evening by another tribe, the Ravenites, I believe.

It all becomes a little fuzzy I’m afraid. Perhaps the heat of the fire is getting to me.

Sky hawk promised that we would be well regarded for any aid we could provide. Since Johnny confirmed the steam coach needed a full night of repairs, we knew we could spare the time. Making good with a tribe of local natives when I endeavor to put up a telegraph line through their land seems a wise political move. Whoever these Sioux are, I do know they have been adverse to any westward reach of the white man and the Union.

We set out to meet these Ravenites in battle. And met them we have, I believe. There is not much now to tell beyond a pile of ash. Traditionally, I believe, many natives burn their dead. We managed to patch up Sky Hawk and I thought it wise to try and cater to his people’s beliefs rather than leave native dead upon the plains to be found by others. Such an event might further stir up hostilities towards Shady Gulch.

For now, we gather our strength. In the fog of battle, some of the Ravenites retreated. We will soon seek them out and rescue the Ghost Dancers if we can. Then I shall make further case for my telegraph.

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Justice is Blind

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

I awoke this morning with the energy of anticipating coursing through my body. Each step felt lighter than in previous days. The apprehension of Mexican Joe gave me a satisfaction warmer than a spoonful of of Cookie’s red sauce.

I admit I am anxious to tell Ming of this success. We are meeting today to discuss Sing’s departure. That too, will provide me with a source of relief. It is a better morning than I have had in a long while.

An additional entry to Gene’s journal the same day

This morning marked Mr. Ramsey’s hearing with Judge Haverty. I spent prior days preparing for this, I knew with a firm confidence that I was ready. Joseph recounting of the incident differed greatly from that of Ms. Brubaker’s. Joseph stated that he became acquainted with the Brubaker’s by taking a few odd jobs as a property handyman. Mr. Brubaker spent much time away from his wife at work as an official for the Union rail and in gambling establishments. She was not equipped to the work of maintaining their property alone.

Joseph denied that there had been any physical relations between himself and Mrs. Brubaker. She might’ve made moon eyes at him, but he never acted upon it.

On the eve of the late Mr. Brubaker’s death, Mr. Ramsey attested that Mr. Brubaker engaged himself in a game of cards with a pair of acquaintances, Cal Willard and Eli Martin. Mr. Ramsey confirmed his involvement in the card game as well. He stated that the game was held in a public establishment known to all four men. Mr. Ramsey was succeeding with fair margin at the time of the incident. Mr. Brubaker, on the other hand, was having a poor night and on the verge of losing all his committed money.

Joseph recalled Mr. Brubaker growing more drunk and belligerent as the evening went on until his anger peaked. He rose from the table, declared that Mr. Ramsey had been cheating. Whether it was at cards or with Mrs. Brubaker was left unsaid. But it was Mr. Brubaker who drew first. Mr. Ramsey also declared that after the incident he awaited the arrival of the Marshall and did not resist when the Marshall took him into custody.

Many of these details did not match the tale of Mrs. Brubaker. She declared the game had been at her home. Both she and a maid saw Joseph draw first and kill Mr. Brubaker in a cold, jealous rage. She mentioned nothing of being acquainted with Mr. Ramsey as anything other than a lover. She went so far as to declare that on the eve of the incident, Mr. Ramsey had pretended to be a white man when clearly he was a half-bred native. She had also discredited the presence of Mr. Willard and Mr. Martin.

Further research into the case led me to a series of discoveries. The case had already been tried. Twice, in fact. Mrs. Brubaker had brought the case before a judge in Kansas City, where the even occurred, and in Dodge City. Mrs. Brubaker testified to nearly missing Mr. Ramsey at his latest stop before Shady Gulch. Presumably, she would have put forward the case there as well.

The recorded facts in the case file I received from Judge Haverty confirmed that Mr. Martin and Mr. Manning both witnessed the event. They testified that it had taken place at an establishment which Mr. Brubaker often frequented. They also testified that Mr. Brubaker had been drunk and pulled a gun on Mr. Ramsey. Ramsey, the quicker gunhand, drew and fired in response. He did, in fact await the Marshall’s arrival. Both men could not recall seeing Mrs. Brubaker at the scene of the incident and did not know how she came by the information in her testimony. the also said that night, Mr. Ramsey looked particularly indian in the dim lighting and speculated that might have had something to do with Mr. Brubaker’s unusual fury. The Union rail often had difficulties with indians.

The Judges in Kansas City and Dodge City, both ruled Mr. Ramsey’s involvement as self-defense.

I submitted as testimony to Mr. Ramsey’s character that he had aided in the recovery of the town’s finances. He had not resisted either the Marshall in Kansas City or Sheriff Truelock when they came to take Mr. Ramsey into custody. And he did not engage into a duel challenged by Quick Mike earlier in the week.

As had the other Judges, Judge Haverty ruled in Joseph’s favor.

Emerging from the hearing, I felt quite encouraged about my choice of Shady Gulch as a place of residence.

Scribbled Entry from the Journal of Gene Cerney

The sonofabitch escaped! Someone buffaloed Hal and broke Mexican Joe out of his cell! So frustrated. What to tell Ming?

Additional entry to the journal of Gene Cerney

I can’t sleep, so I might as well write. It’s mind-numbingly difficult and I can feel my pen scrabbling almost uselessly across the page. Words stick in the fog of my mind as rain in a pregnant cloud. I sit here wishing for something to take my mind off this incessant howling but it is nearly impossible!

I shall try to start at the beginning of this journey. After Sheriff Truelock revealed the escape of Mexican Joe, Moose, the man who bounces at the Golden Nugget informed myself and my acquaintances that Mr. Kilburn wanted to see us.

Attending upon Mr. Kilburn at his office above the Golden Nugget, I, and my compatriots sat as his behest. He explained that we should be most thankful to see him this morning. He was aware that my fellows had something to do with the most recent attack upon the Sioux Dog Soldiers. He also proudly declared that he had “taken care of it” through utilization of his own skills and at his own expense.

My companions were none too pleased by the thought of men innocent to the crime taking the fall in their place. However, Mr. Kilburn only said he had resolved the issue. He did not specify how. He went on to declare that he believed this mean my companions owed him a bit of a favor. Now, he was a reasonable man and not in need of any handouts. So instead he proposed a stint of employment. He had a courier who needed protection travelling to Deadwood.

To my shock, he then asked me to explain the rest as I was the acting envoy in our business venture. If my companions were displeased before, now they were clearly angry. I am quite sure they believed my involvement with Mr. Kilburn was somehow a knife in their back.

I tried not to hesitate in my explanation. I didn’t want Mr. Kilburn springing any other surprises on me. The man is as oily as grease from a pig. I told the others that I had a business opportunity to share with Shady Gulch. Working with Jake, I had secured support and bankroll from the town for the construction of a telegraph to Deadwood. They did not appear to see the new technology as a benefit, but Jake assured them this “misadventure” was a great opportunity to put Shady Gulch on the map.

Thankfully the funding for this project was at my discretion and I could hire fairly who I chose. Luckily, my companions agreed. I set off procuring us a stage coach, but there was still the matter of Ms. Song to handle.

We met and determined that putting heron a stage out east that afternoon was the best thing for her. Mr. Clockwork signed a letter of introduction to his family and made the necessary arrangements.

We set about procuring a disguise. Justice knew of a woman in town who would have a black dress that would conceal Ms. Song from prying eyes long enough to get her on the carriage. We called upon the home of Ms. Tanning, the Sheriff’s daughter, I was told. She invited us inquite graciously and was clearly an experienced hostess. Her house was well appointed and I presumed the Sheriff had something to do with that. I did not see many photographs or sentimental personal affects. Justic spoke plainly with the lad, much to my displeasure.

Though I was too late to voice it, telling anyone the real reason why we required lady’s garments was a foolish action. Justice has developed a most disruptive habit of giving away secrets that are not his own in distressing fashion.

I interjected when asked for the particulars of ladies attire we required. I requested a black dress and to my dismay the good woman broke into tears. I had never seen a woman manage to retain her beauty while crying before meeting Ms. Tanning. She was a noble and beautiful woman to be sure.

I, on the other hand, felt about as noble as a rat raiding hen house eggs. I took advantage of the opportunity to retreat after offending the poor widow and retrieve the dress from her trunk upstairs. One would think a person should mention that the woman from whom you are going to request a black dress is recently widowed!

The word “Justice” is becoming colored with irony."

Now in possession of the necessary disguise, Idressed Ms. Song in it and turned her over to Johnny to escort to the coach. The rest of us stood watch searching for other agents like Mexican Joe who might wish the young lady harm. I asked a grizzled war veteran taking the stage to please protect the young lady and he agreed. At least there was some good news for Ming.

our own stage arrived a few hours later. It was a steam coach, a most curious contraption. I am accustomed enough to the site of them, however, my companions were most intrigued. The driver, however, did not inspire confidence. He spoke with horses who did not exist to pull the coach. There was something clearly wrong with this this man’s understanding of the device he drove. But Ms. Brillo assured me he was the finest driver in the plains.

And that brings me to where I sit now. This ride has been the most uncomfortable of my life. The coach emits a grisley howling from the ghost rock and it clanks and rattles incessantly so that it is impossible for me to achieve sleep. I have been awake through an entire night as I write this and not one position in which I have situated myself has provided any solace from the cacophany and disjointed shuddering around me. It might be survivable were the coach not so damnably hot. I have removed every piece of clothing I decently can and still have sweat through what remains. Opening the windows offers no relief. It simply allows dust in. I wish that this journey would end qui…

The journal ends abruptly

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Breadcrumbs

An excerpt from the journal of Gene Cerney

My quest of bringing to justice those responsible for the harm inflicted upon Ms. Song brings me once again back to the piss-slick mud of Tent City. I hate this place. It is a fount for undesirables of all kinds. Not a day passes without a brawl or a murder. The miners who remain here after their hope of quick riches wears off are the surly, disenchanted sort who are as pleased to gain their whiskey money stealing or looting it as they are earning.

The country has decided that this squalor is worth the pursuit of glory for our nation. It is easier to see this glorious endeavor breaking the backs and spirits of the laborers than it is to see any bright future on the horizon. This land is sick. Rare is the virtuous man working for the improvement of his fellows. Power is more often held by the greedy and corrupt than by the good. Fear is a tangible thing here. It’s in the air. Fear of death, fear of poverty, fear of pain and strife, and fear that for all the best efforts of these people, a whole nation will leave these tent cities empty handed. But I think what disturbs me most is the fear I see in the eyes of people when they look into the shadows. It is as though they await some incalculable darkness to swallow them up. This country is sick. If I can do any good here by punishing the men who raped and removed the tongue of the young Ms. Song, I will. And damned be those that stand in my way.

I chose for my disguise a clever ruse as a miners’ association representative. Such a thing doesn’t exist, but I didn’t need to count on the scum I interviewed knowing that. I tracked the man to a shabby tent and pretended to be friendly with him and concerned about the beating he took. I flashed what looked like a badge to him and the man foolishly revealed he was beaten up over Sing. It is amazing what you can learn from people by capitalizing on the fear of authority. I pressed with disapproval at the picture he painted. Pimping was not an activity for miners sanctioned by the AMA, I said. He was tarnishing the good name of our organization while I was here to do him a favor. I insisted on procuring the names and whereabouts of all parties involved.

He gave up as much as he knew almost right away. He’d got the girl from a pair of men. He wasn’t sure exactly who they were. He might have been more afraid to tell me. But he did know they’d come from the forest outside of town where prospectors looking for ghost rock like to jump each other’s claims.

With this information, I gathered my new-found associates and the local deputy who was forced to accompany Mr. Ramsey during his probation. We braved the woods and found a place where the water comes off the mountains and pools before splashing on its way. It bore a resemblance to the location Preacher Sadler said he tried to baptize Ms. Song when Mr. Clockwork and me sought his testimony.

I must admit I have not enough talent at swimming as I ought too. When I chose to investigate the pool of water I hit my head and thought I might drown just trying to survive what some might call a middling current. But perseverance paid off in the discovery of a few choice objects including the Preacher’s watch.

Knowing that Sadler was here meant Ms. Song had likely fled from the grotto. We re-examined the scene and found old tracks that matched our timeline. The trail was difficult to follow, but follow it we did. We arrived at a cave deep in the woods.

Hal refused to accompany us but he did watch the horses and he was willing to let Mr. Ramsey travel with us. Honestly, I think he was hoping we’d all end up dead just to relieve himself of the burden of following Mr. Ramsey.

The cave was dark and wet, but large once we crawled through the entrance. We lit a lamp and made our way to an exit that opened up to a small grotto. Here we found tobacco and proof that someone had been tied up. We were able to determine that Ms. Song had escaped only temporarily. She was captured and brought here before being handed over to the pimp I had questioned byJohnny Reb and the individual with stars on his collar. Unfortunately, we found no further evidence beyond tobacco as to the identity of the other man.

Upon returning to town, I accompanied Joseph to his hearing with Judge Haverty. I expressed a need to examine the case information. The judge seemed annoyed. I believe he hoped to resolve the matter quickly and without argument. I rededicated myself to learning as much as I could about the alleged murder Mr. Ramsey committed back east.

I found my studies cut short. That evening, Mr. Clockwork had it in his head to free the elder sister of the young Ms. Song. He conveyed this desire during a meeting in his room in which we discussed what to do with the young Ms. Song. At this point in my journal I must mention Cyrus. He makes me uneasy. His faith in his divine’s ability to manifest power through him is unsettling. I’ve heard my hare of legions and histories. Rarely have I found one in which such a person’s intentions did not warp to self interest. I must keep an eye on him. He quoted his verses and spoke to Ms. Song. she appeared shocked and replied in nods and shakes of the head. I have to admit curiosity. He also professed he would heal Ms. Song and spoke a few words from his Bible, confident that he had healed her lack of speech. Her tongue was still gone. I fear madness might be near its onset already. Seeking to stem any future problems, I expressed my distrust in his abilities and cautioned him to keep them a secret. I do not believe he fully understood my intentions. I shall have to find an example in is own beliefs in which the “divinely inspired” caused hysteria and fear in those around them.

After the disagreement, Cyrus and I both agreed to accompany Mr. Clockwork to Chinatown where he knew of a brothel in which the elder Song, worked. Sing wrote us a letter to deliver to her sister. When we arrived at the brothel, a Mr. Lung approached us. He knew Johnny well it seemed. Cyrus muttered something in scripture then spoke to Mr. Lung. At first I thought it was another of his tricks. But Mr Lung, like Ms. Song appeared shocked. He responded clear as day in Chinese. And Cyrus gave an answer in English Mr. Lung clearly comprehended as suitable to the discussion. I considered the possibility that there was something to Cyrus’ professions after all.

For my own part, I paid Mr. Lung handsomely to spend time with his finest young lady. I could tell when he brought out women for us to see that he was holding back. I convinced him to let me see the Song sister. Ming arrived in my room and was, to my eyes, the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Captivated by her beauty, I found delivering my message difficult. I have never received such a massage. I avoided these places of ill repute. But Ms. Ming Song is a compelling reason to change my habits. Regardless of temptation, I comforted Ming upon the state of her sister and found my zeal for justice renewed in so doing.

As we exited the brothel, I noticed Mr. Clockwork paying a great deal of attention to a certain alcove. I shall have to remember to ask him if he noticed something peculiar.

We planned the remainder of the night to be quiet and uneventful. It seems as though things never proceed as planned. i awoke from slumber to the sound of a great crash. I rushed into the hall to see Justice working at Mr. Clockwork’s door. Fearful that Ms. Sing might be hurt, I rushed forward and crashed my body into the door and an attempt to open it. The bruise from that attempt persists to the time at which I painfully scribble this entry. Using more sensible means, Justice kicked in the door with a force to knock it off its hinges.

The scene within was frightful. Mr. Clockwork was half hanging from a broken window frame. The surrounding wall appeared splintered and cracked from a massive impact that explained the sound that woke me. Mr. Clockwork was holding onto a man with a face that was horribly mangled and bloody. Not wanting anyone to find Ms. Song in Mr. Clockwork’s room, I escorted her quickly to mine while Justice and Cyrus lent aid in pulling the two men from the window and into the room. When I returned and examined the man, I noted stars on his collar and retrieved a large bible page from his pocket. I looked out the window and saw the ladder he used to climb the wall as well as a knife dropped on the ground near it. Perceiving this man as the remaining individual for whom I’d been searching, I retrieved the knife and showed it to Ms. Song. She confirmed my suspicions.

The Sheriff arrived and took custody of the man he identified as Mexican Joe. Mr. Kristoff arrived and was shocked to find the room in such a sorry state. He was also upset to see a still built into Mr. Clockwork’s room. He and the sheriff both wanted to know expressly what happened. And Mr.Clockwork worked hard to convince Mr. Kristoff to rent him space in a shed attached to the hotel for his still in exchange for a partnership brewing German recipe beer for the hotel. I was only slightly vexed that Klaus capitalized on my idea.

As the excitement cooled I returned to m rooms to sleep. I wish I could press Ms. Song for some information on her lovely sister.

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Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

From the Journal of Gene Cerny

I have no time left to write about my dalliances of the evening. I need to get some rest or someone may grow suspicious of my lengthy slumber come afternoon tomorrow. The last thing I want is to draw attention to the girl by folks asking after me. If word gets out that she’s still alive, whoever hurt her may want to do more than just silence her. I truly hope no one has revealed the secret….

Narration of the following morning as experienced by the posse

Now most folks with a sense of right an’ wrong will tell you that Justice Jones is an honest, upstanding feller. ‘Course out here in the west, they’re more likely tell you he’s a, high falutin’ pain-in-the-ass, wannabe white man. The west is weird that way. It’s hard and ruthless. Ain’t got no mercy for nobody looking to be more than what they is.

So it went with Justice that morning. His actions while entrusted with the deputy star didn’t rightly please ol’ Sheriff Evan Truelock. Ya see, the Sheriff caught wind of his spittin’ on old lady Kilburn, fightin’ up in tent city, an’ puttin’ on airs round town. It didn’t help none, either, that Justice let Joseph go into the Nugget for a little hair of the dog and get into a spot with Quick Mike. Sheriff Truelock had heard from the big-mouthed gunslinger all about the insults and threats “that darkie” had slung at him. So he went to scolding Justice for embarrassing the badge and took back the badge he’d been waving round all day. As it turned out, not too many folks in Shady gulch much liked the idea of black law.

That created a bit of a problem for Joe. Joe was on probation from jail on account of his pending hearing regarding a murder back east. ‘Course it required a deputy to tail him about. With Justice given the heave from office, that left only Hal to do the work. An’ Hal wasn’t exactly one for work. Hal wasn’t really one for much of anything, in fact. Which meant that if Joseph simply started walking away, Hal didn’t have much spine to do more than follow.

As it was like to do, that quality in the deputy got him into a pickle soon enough.

Joe took off walking and headed straight towards Billy’s bar. Now if anybody knew anything about Billy Kilburn’s bar, it was that it weren’t real friendly for law folk. So Hal got a right bad feeling when he followed Joseph inside. The moment Billy saw Hal in his bar he made a big show of it. Hal felt the sweat on his skin go cold as a reed in winter. The room closed in around them. Where there had been a door, there were now the unwashed bodies of gap-toothed miners who looked about as friendly as ticks on a dog.

Billy’s fat mouth split into a sweaty ol’ smile. The kind you see on a viper before it strikes. An’ he declared it was time for the fights again. Ya see, Billy Kilburn ran a fightin’ ring in his bar he called The Pit. Prospectors, criminals, drunks and deadbeats tried their luck gambling on the fighters. An unlucky few were the fighters. The Sheriff didn’t approve of this gambling ring, but Billy’s brother and mother had a place on the council and Billy played the fights off as innocent “Exhibitions of Pugilism.” But there wasn’t a soul in town who didn’t know the truth of it. Billy’s was one of the dirtiest, dangerous places in town outside of Tent City.

Hal and Joseph weren’t leaving the bar until the law put on a show of civil justice in the pits. Both Hal and joseph knew the only civil act in the pits was likely to be the water thrown over their beaten bodies. True to heroic form, Hal ripped off his badge, tossed it to Joe and deputized him right there on the spot. Then he took off running and shoving through the crowd to get himself outside. He took a few shots on his way out, but he was glad to be breathing in dusty air with a few bruises instead of choking on his own blood.

‘Course, that left Joe in The Pit. An’ the fella that walked out the gate on the other side, wasn’t any spring chicken. He was a mountain of a man scarred up head to toe with a jaw as big as a boulder. Joe was sure he was going to be eating mud the moment everything started.

Every once in a while, you hear tell of a tale of an underdog scrabbling up a triumph over insurmountable odds. Like a squirrel protecting it’s oak tree from the likes of a hawk. The squirrel just ignores the hooked beak and razor sharp talons and charges the predator barking and scrapping for all its worth. An’ sure enough, chases the angry bird from his tree. Well, in this story, Joe was the squirrel. He gave the bigger man a few good knocks that took the wind clean out of him. No one was more surprised that Joe. He tossed down that deputy star and rushed out of that pit quick as he could. Billy watched, astounded and a bit irritated. He hadn’t bet on Joe, ya see. But that was that and Joe scrambled his way from the bar.

Hal didn’t apologize. He tucked his tail right between his legs and followed Joe ‘round town, complaining that he was missing his late morning coffee. He barely looked up when Joe ran into a face he hadn’t expected to see. Coming out of an alley way right in front of him was Granger, the man who had pulled him from a bank fire when they recovered the town’s money. Granger didn’t look startled, but he wasn’t making much eye contact and he seemed uneasy. The man looked dirty and trail-worn. He kept his head down so his hat covered part of his face and kicked a boot in the dust.

After a greeting, Granger had a favor to ask. It seemed he’d visited Mr. George Washington Grimsley at the Herald to try and set the record straight. The editor had appreciated his contribution, but he wanted someone to vouch for the stranger. Once Joe said he’d look into it, Granger hurriedly explained he had to be on his way, he had a long way to travel to Austin.

It was hard to say what record Granger needed to set straight, but a few things were certain. He’d looked uncomfortable and Shady Gulch hadn’t been on the way to Austin Texas from where they’d left him. At the Herald, Mr Grimsley indicated that there were two accounts of the retrieval of the town’s finances. One had recently been given by Mr. Granger. The other had arrived via note from Miss Blackstone. Grimsley wanted to know which one Joe believed to be telling the truth. Joe found it a bit hard to back a man who they’d found in a jail cell, so he picked Eliza.

While all this was going on, the town holy men were meeting after a long evening. Preacher Sadler returned to the church in the late hours of the morning to find Cyrus at his usual meditations in the church hall. Sadler was usually a man of fire and brimstone. He could wind words as well as any poetical type and knew how to make a spectacle. The sight of him now, however, was indeed unflattering. He looked haggard and hung over. The sharp smell of alcohol hung around him like an oily cloud. Cyrus watched him go to his pulpit and retrieve a tincture from a drawer hidden in back. As he took a swig, a few holy verses of reprimand came to Cyrus’s lips. In a rare moment, the preacher looked sheepish, toasted Cyrus with an added swig of the sinful liquor and tried to look studious over his hymnals before making his way into his room to sleep it off. Satisfied that he had done the Lord’s work in advising a fellow man on the evil’s of excess drink, Cyrus promptly returned to his meditations to explore empowerment through divine grace.

Johnny Clockwork, a dandy feller with a commitment to a gal out west continued his attempts to communicate with the young victim, Sing Song. Such a pretty name naturally accompanied a pretty young lady. But Johnny’s intentions were gentlemanly. He expressed a desire to send Sing out east to help take care of his sick wife. The young lady had observed the well dressed man now for some time and she knew he didn’t have it out for her. He’d been trying to help her and even confessed he’d seen her sister. Recently, he received packages from the post. Today, he seemed most pleased with his latest acquisition and removed a metal object from a case.

He began to work it and other pieces together into a large metal device. He tinkered away with a fur. Now what Sing didn’t know was that ol’ Johnny had a hankering for opium, a drug popular in China. Even the best of folks have their demons. An’ Johnny, well, he needed a little something extra for the pain of living. And so he was building himself a still to produce a liquid form of the drug that for a few brief moments gave him a little comfort from hardships in his life. The piece he received that morning was the last he needed to make the still operational.

Yes sir, there ain’t much a morning passes in Shady Gulch without a tale to be told.

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Fateful Choices

Common Journal Entry – Gene Cerney 

The search for the celestial girl’s assailant continues.  Deputy Justice returned to the rooms with no new information.  I’m still not sure who he talked to about the girl’s re-appearance, but I can’t imagine it was a good idea to begin sharing the information around town.  Small towns tend to be a haven for gossip.  Whoever hurt the girl might catch word of her survival and trace her back through Justice.  It might be wise to move her to a new location.  Mr. Clockwork’s room has some rather dubious safety concerns originating from the presence of that liquor still.  I’ll suggest it.

While Mr. Clockwork departed, presumably to inform the girl’s sister of her current state, I managed to learn a few more details about Sing’s condition.  As I wrote before, she does not know the names of the individuals who hurt her.  However, I was able to establish a time frame for the assault on her.  She inferred first that the “Preacher,” a man wearing a hat, guns, and a white collar was not the man who removed her tongue.  He did make unwanted advances upon her but she managed to escape.  This confession corroborates Preacher Sadler’s story as relayed to Mr. Clockwork and me.

At the time of her flight, she was still whole.  By the time Deputy Justice and Joseph found her, she was beaten and without her tongue.  That does leave a two week timeframe in question which I hope to fill by questioning the man from whom the girl was rescued.  Deputy Justice and Joseph said that man was a miner in Tent City, likely dirty, about my height, and sporting a wicked black eye.  I should be able to locate the individual based on that description.

Before I could go in search of Sing’s previous Captor, a ruckus broke out in the streets.  A glance out Mr. Clockwork’s window revealed the presence of an Indian party riding with circumstance into town.  Shady Gulch lies in the middle of the Sioux Nation and only exists due to the good will of the Sioux people.  This town bears no official affiliate protection from any other entity.  The presence of such a large party of Indians here gave me an uneasy feeling. 

An investigation into the reason behind their presence justified the tumult of emotions I was feeling.  The Indians, a party of nine, assembled before the Gold Nugget.  Five of them entered while four braves guarded the door.  One by one, notable townsfolk including Sheriff Truelock, Jake Kilburn, and Jacob Randall arrived, disarmed themselves and deferentially entered the saloon.  I made my way around back and joined a rather unsettling old cook in the kitchens to listen in on the conversation had between the townsfolk and the natives.  The cook was not thrilled with my entrance, but the persuasion of gossip to be had brought him around.   From my vantage, I could see an old woman already seated at a table in the saloon awaited the group. 

The topic of discussion was grimmer than I feared.  The Indians professed to encounter a war party of their braves slaughtered on the plains by weapons the kind the white man uses.  Saber, forged knife, and gunshot wounds had felled eight to ten braves in all.  Their arrival in town signified a demand for justice.  They believed the party responsible passed through or originated in Shady Gulch.  Regardless of the perpetrator’s identity, affiliated with the town or not, they were to be produced in the span of five days to the Indian tribal council for judgment.  Failure to cooperate would result in the total annihilation of Shady Gulch.

I took this information, and a fair amount of warm red sauce dousing my hair back to my current companions who had awaited news, like much of the town, out front of the Nugget.  A private aside with Joe led to some rather unsettling conclusions.  I deeply questioned the choices of companionship I had made in town thus far.  Joe confessed to having murdered a man in a prior town.  And, while he faced trial and was acquitted, tis realization put strain on my ability to trust him.  Furthermore, he confessed to believing he knew the party responsible for the Indian massacre.  He confided in me that he, Deputy Justice, the young chaplain whose name I have yet to learn, Mr. Clockwork, and a woman named Eliza were tracking a group of bank robbers.  The group was separated, but on his way to re-join the others, he passed the field of Indian dead.  It is his opinion that the bank robbers must be responsible. 

Or it was his opinion, at least until I questioned Deputy Justice and the chaplain and they admitted to defending themselves from an Indian attack.  I realized at that moment I had surrounded myself with men charged for murder on multiple fronts.  It was, to say the least, disruptive to my good nature and discouraging to my aspirations here in town.   I do believe the realization of their predicament shocked my companions to their core.  And, as any person is want to do when confronted with the discombobulating circumstances of moral conflict, my companions attempted to rationalize a mistake in favor of impossibly retained innocence.  Currently, the situation is unimproved.  The fate of Shady Gulch rests in the hands of these well-meaning but questionable characters.  I fear it will become my responsibility to mitigate some kind of resolution. 

Requiring respite from the squirming protestations of fault, I left my acquaintances to manage their affairs while resuming the one crime I knew I could approach.  During my investigation for Sing Song’s assailant, I came upon a description of a fellow who might bear some responsibility: a bald man carrying a saber.   Awaiting nightfall I investigated the shambling expanse of Tent City.  It is everything you would expect in the shadow of a mined mountain.  The air reeks of minerals, tobacco, urine and alcohol.  The tents are weathered and hastily constructed.  What structures there are appear pieced together with whatever material is at hand.  The occupants are no less patchwork.  Torn clothing, bloody noses and fingernails, and fleas adorn an unbathed mass of oily and foul miscreants smelling of desperation.  It is as detestable a situation as a man might willingly subject himself.  And into that disreputable mire of ruffians I stumbled, playing at harmless drunken folly to avoid agitating the locals. 

I found my quarry starting a fight.  I should not have been surprised, and yet it is almost unimaginable to think one person so foolish as to start a brawl in a drunken rage outnumbered five to one.  He was, however, armed with that infamous saber and I had no desire to see anyone hurt without reason.  I had not yet proven anything.  Injecting myself into the fray, I managed to dissuade both parties from the tussle while maintaining the appearance of a harmless drunk.  I escorted my latest marauding companion until he collapsed in a stupor at which point I searched him for any proof of involvement with celestial business or the young lady and relieved him of his sword.  Undoubtedly, he will come looking for it later.  However, by then, I might ascertain if it was the instrument used in the removal of the young lady’s tongue.  I left him his navy revolver but noted it might indicate former military involvement.  To have entirely disarmed him would have been as good as leaving him for dead and I may yet have uses for such an unlikable fellow.

I still have two more men to locate.  One is a man with long greasy hair and stars upon his collar.  The other is a black-eyed miner playing at being a pimp.  Judging by the surroundings they occupy, I do not expect the quality of their characters to improve over my latest suspect.

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