There Comes a Reckoning

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.

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


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.

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.

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.


I am leaving the group. It’s been a pleasure to share the table with you. May all your rolls be critical successes.

Jeff S.

Arrival in Shady Gulch

I arrived in town on what appeared to be a fine Sunday afternoon after the church service. The townsfolk filing out of the chapel seemed by appearance to be invigorated and in good spirits. Among the throng, I met a man named Johnny Clockwork while searching for the town mayor, a man called Peabody.

Mr. Clockwork directed me to the mayor’s house to identify it. He was an incredibly helpful and forthright individual to provide me with so much detail about the Mayor’s background. After a review of the home, Mr. Clockwork escorted me back to the Shady Gulch Hotel which is run by a portly German fellow name Klaus. The hotel was reputed to serve the finest lunch in town. That day it was turtle soup. How the establishment came by that esteemed reputation is a bit of a mystery to me.

I met the mayor and discussed my plans with him to bring the telegraph to Shady Gulch. He was suitably excited and suggested a meeting with the town council. I remained to have lunch with the mayor and discuss the future of Shady Gulch. I did not have turtle soup. Requiring a place to stay, I also rented a room at the hotel from the proprietor for the immediate future.

Once I procured my lodgings, unhorsed my belongings and had them in order, I made a stop at the livery and sold my pack horse to a woman named Jane. She seemed quite pleased to have another horse in her stables. I left the livery and stopped at the hotel to take a secondary inventory of my belongings. Upon exiting the hotel, I once again encountered Mr. Clockwork on the street. This time he said he was searching for a missing celestial girl. I agreed to help as Mr. Clockwork had been so kind in turn, and together we proceeded back to church to interview the town preacher.

The preacher appeared to me as a man of abrasive and self-righteous conviction. His pronounced eyebrows, weathered face and gun belt struck me as severe in his profession. Mr. Clockwork and I proceeded to question him regarding the celestial girl’s disappearance. He claimed ignorance of the girl’s whereabouts or condition. Mr. Clockwork reminded the Preacher that not only had he been the last recorded individual to see the girl, but that rumors circulated regarding him and his questionable attachment to the girl. Mr. Clockwork claimed that he wanted to clear up any doubts over the Preacher’s “good name.” It was plain to me that Mr. Clockwork suspected the preacher of responsibility for the girl’s disappearance.

However, contrary to Mr. Clockwork’s own opinion, the preacher professed innocence of any wrongdoing. He confronted the questionable nature of his visits with the girl by admitting that he often met with her to discuss salvation through the Lord. On the day of her disappearance, he took her to the river to baptize her. At the preacher’s suggestion and attempt to submerge her under the water of the river, she panicked and fled. That was two weeks ago and he claimed he has not had any contact with her since. I cannot say whether the preacher suspects Mr. Clockwork’s unspoken accusation, but his answers, despite repeated questioning, remained guiltlessly unwavering.

One detail to note, however, is, by his own admittance, the preacher’s alibi is weak. He was the last person with the girl. He watched her run off, professing to have slipped on a rock in the river while she escaped. And he returned to the church to pray for her safety rather than reporting her disappearance to the authorities.

I retired to my room to review my notes on the preacher’s story. It occurs to me that should we find this girl, we should discover whether or not she has a fear of water as the preacher proclaims. Not long after my consideration of the facts, I heard two men speaking down the hall. I peeked out into the hallway and noted that they were speaking to Mr. Clockwork at his chamber door about the missing girl. What was more, they carried a celestial girl with them!

Perceiving the possibility of this girl being the very same one last seen with the preacher, I interjected and suggest they take the young lady inside. As they spoke, I learned the girl’s sister, Song, was the one who had asked Mr. Clockwork to find the missing girl. The other two men, a large negro wearing a deputy star and a man who appeared to be at least part native, introduced themselves as Deputy Justice and Joe.

After placing the girl on the bed, Justice seemed inspired and almost immediately darted off with some idea or other. He wasn’t inclined to fully share. The girl scooted back to the corner and stared at the floor. Mr. Clockwork proceeded downstairs to procure food and drink for her. Joe remained with me and the unresponsive girl whose name, I learned, was Sing. Apparently, Joe and the deputy had been unable to get her to talk.

Politely, I asked Joe to allow me a moment alone with the girl in case she felt threatened by the presence of so many men. She was clearly frightened. It was at that point I spoke to her and she responded. She showed me that her tongue had been cut out and communicated in nods and shakes of the head. She conveyed that she was hungry, thirsty, frightened, and could identify her assailant by sight. If we could somehow place her where she could covertly review the townsfolk, we might identify her assailant.

I couldn’t say how much our intervention will really matter two the two young women. The fate of celestials is often left to celestials and it sounds as though these girls come from a house of ill repute or, at the least, the hands of an abuser. Local authorities rarely involve themselves in these matters. The cold truth is that whites have little regard for celestials except in how they can be used as tools or as toys.

Mr. Clockwork returned with food for the girl and I conveyed to him and Joe the state of her well-being. Deputy Justice arrived sometime later after his mystery errand and I shared with him also that her tongue had been cut out. To his credit, he appeared disgusted with the result and eager to punish those responsible. His name, which I thought at first to be an ironic mockery, might after all prove appropriate. He implored me to speak with her and I demonstrated for him her lack of responsiveness.

Too many people in the room I suppose.

The Cursed town of Halfway - Epilogue
Eliza's Account

In the aftermath we inspect the corpses of the outlaw and also those that perished from the ghost sheriff.

After I avail myself of one of the ruffian’s goods, Joe notices the pistols and attempts a trade. Sadly he is a little better at negotiating better than I thought. I head off

As I dig more into the ground it seems she was buried in iron chains.. there is also a necklace. I grab the pentagram engraved pendant and head back up. As I reach the graveyard the Justice is getting increasingly angry at Joe in regards to bags he has been placing over his horse. I quickly surmise they are the ill gotten gains of the bank robbery and say as much to Justice. He seems satisfied and they end their quibbling. Shortly after the fog grows thicker and thicker. As I begin to think panic may be the proper course of action, the fog breaks and the town is gone… along with what came from the town.

After searching/trading/disappearing:

$75 silver coin and
$75 Union Script
1 Colt Peace makers
1 holster gun belt
30 .45 rounds
scatter gun
witches jawbone

We pass by the largely insane miners heading into town. Marty Augustine is leaning against a post on the bar looking unimpressed. Ma Killburn is sitting taking notice. The Mayor is attempting to make it through us. Justice calms the crowd and I call out to the Mayor. The crowd finally lets him through.

George Washington Grimsly, the newspaper man. enters and wants a story. I tell him I will meet him in the morning to go over what happened. The townsfolk take the opportunity to demand the tale and I deliver the highlights telling them they can read the full details when Mr. Grimsly prints it.

Shortly there after the sheriff shows up and approach Joseph. Apparently he is wanted for murder. He goes peacefully.

Brother C.J. approaches me and asks if we go around doing good and if he can join us. I tell him I am not in charge and not even sure I want to continue associating with them. However if he is interested I would like to continue doing good in the area.

Jake Killburn asks me about C.J., Justice and Joseph. I tell him C.J. is a man of the cloth and not of the ilk of the local pastor. He thinks Justice needs to be reigned in and I agree. Though I don’t know if that will happen to the degree Jake wants. Apparently Ma Killburn is on the town council and angering her is not wise. Joseph is a tough read for me too and all I know is that he is crass. He also asks if Joseph and Clockwork would take a job with no questions asked. I think Clockwork would be amenable though not sure about Joseph.
By way of saying goodnight he asks if I have an escort to the church service tomorrow. I do not and accept his offer to do so.

He mentions there is a problem. I frown and inquire to the nature of the problem as a smirk shows on his face. He says Obsidian has lost a spring in his step and must miss me. I don’t think I hide the flush in my checks very well and I am up on the horse with him before I realize I reached out for his hand.

We attend the services. The sermon is… skillful. It sounds very lovely at first blush however his words tumble around in my head and I quickly realize he is claiming credit via intense prayer for us to succeed. He has quite the silver tongue.

The cursed town of Halfway
Eliza's Account

We attempt to leave the town after some difficulty in finding a non-haunted building… and find ourselves entering the town again. We press on through town further. As we approach the jail a group of men on horseback approach from the same direction we had arrived. They claim to be a posse out for some horse thieves. I quite hope there is only one group of outlaws prowling these plains and while guarded, I am hopeful our numbers have almost doubled.

As we are chatting what appears to be the sheriff steps out of the jail and addresses the horsemen. He claims this is the third time that he has run them out of town. The other posse seems genuinely bewildered at this assertion. From inside the jail we hear someone yelling that the sheriff isn’t real. I do notice the sheriff does not have a soul and say as much to the group, while he continues to ignore us. The sheriff starts to countdown for the group to leave again. As he reaches 3 the group of horsemen turns and starts leaving at a quick pace. At 5 the sheriff fans the hammer and empties his gun. I cannot tell if any are hit or even if he is actually firing bullets. He then turns and enters the jail. I am now certain he is a ghost re-living part of it’s life. I enter and see a rough looking man in a cell and no sign of the sheriff.

I engage the jailed man in a bit of discourse as to the merits of us letting him free versus keeping him in some sort of bondage. I cite numerous and well reasoned arguments in favor of prisoner status in regards to his freedom, whilst he mainly “hollars” (an American phrase I am not fond of but it is accurate) about how we are leaving him to die. I don’t know if he is too thick to understand or if this a ruse to garner sympathy. Unable to release common sense from the clutches of whatever impedes his admitting defeat in the matter he soon takes to making lewd thrust gestures and sneering out thinly veiled double entendres and outright propositions that would have even the most seasoned of Madams blushing. I take great satisfaction in assisting the bench he has fouled with his mere proximity on it’s journey back into earth and he lands with a soft thud on the jail floor. His mouth agape, eyes wide the thrusting has stopped and I smirk as he goes from being a figurative pain in my behind to having an literal pain in his.

He did succeed in distracting me from our current predicament long enough for Justice to decide to let him out and re-arm him with an empty gun and a promise to not reload until we part. I am too bloody tired to argue at this point so I back off. I do manage to raise my spirits by imagining very very terrible things befalling his person.

During this exchange the now free and heeled man did reveal a letter that was clutched in the hand of a lady whose skeleton was one of a pair in the cell. The other was dressed like the sheriff as he appeared, though tailored for a much larger man. The letter indicates remorse from a Jeremy in protecting the town from a group of men on horseback. At this point it I realize the sheriff on the porch was the sheriff as he wished he would have acted, not part of his last moments. We hear a woman crying, softly at first and builds. The exclamation point at the end is provided by a gun shot. This solidifies the theory that the hole in her head was that of a bullet wound.

We head back out into the foggy streets and head across the street to the bank. It shows fire damage on the outside and inside the scene is quite grim. Bodies strewn, but mostly contained to an area.It seems likely it was most of the town population. It appears to be the work of bank robbers. Brother Silas and Joseph seem to start experiencing the ghost of the fire that converted the building from bank to mausoleum. They quickly exit leaving myself and one person I trust less than the crazy saber swinging brother alone in the bank. I am not too worried, while likely fatally foolish to underestimate anyone out here I am aware of him and have seen too many others make that mistake. I find two rather delightfully thick stacks of union currency. I fear I was too gluttonous in my joy at flipping through the rather large denomination bills… one after another… and another.. Grainger notices me sliding the last one into my dress. He wonders at his share and I stifle my indignation at his audacity long enough to give him credit for not just going to maiming and murder, as the rest seem set as hair triggers. I manage to un-clench my jaw long enough for a pleasant promise to get him some pocket money before we part ways. He seems appeased, I hope he forgets… or gets run off without the ability to collect on that promise.

Joseph and Clockwork soon enter and look very very silly in the manner in which they travel from door to middle of the lobby where I realize they are, due to the supernatural circumstances, believe they are entering a burning building to rescue me. Which is as noble and foolish a thing as anyone has ever done for me and I will not forget it. I did try to help by explaining that, much like the woman crying’s gun shot, this fire was a ghost and could not bother them if they stopped allowing it too. Sadly perspective on the matter was corrupted too much at this point and poor Joseph fainted! I am honestly too startled to act at first, only snapping to action as Grainger begins to drag Joseph from the building. I will say these actions, do show me that though I do not agree with the methods they all employ, we all do have common aims and fall close enough in ethos to count as allies in the American west.

The next closest building is actually the wood craftsman shop, however a church is spotted through the fog and I as well as Brother Silas agree that it would be the best spot to investigate next.

There isn’t much in the place but a baptism font. It is filled with holy water, which in this God-forsaken little town is quite a valuable commodity. There is enough to fill 4 canteens very neatly, however we spread out the supply so that each of us is armed with some. Brother Silas points out this is an excellent place to stay and suggests we call it a night and continue investigating in the morning. I will admit here it was quite a tempting idea, but from my experience issues involving the Occult are best handled promptly.

We head out with the church agreed upon as a rally point and enter the workshop. The mood, already quite disturbing, is further enhanced by the collection of coffins in the space each with one of our names pinned to it. Grainger attempts to cautiously open the one set aside for him and just knocks the thing to the ground. Having already imagined the man in all manner of grotesque and macabre ends I head over and open the lid before I am able to consider other ramifications of this and find the box empty. I know it will do little good, but it does make my skin crawl to have my name assigned to a coffin so I take my mine from the pin, fold it neatly and tuck it away.

Next on the ghoulish tour is the gallows. A rather dapper gentleman hangs from the noose. A sign around his neck reads “Your Mayor”. Someone cuts him down and in the interest of investigation the body is searched. It reveals a pocket watch inscribed to a downs beloved mayor from it’s appreciate townsfolk. It’s laid with his body and we turn our attention to the well.

I suggest we drop a light source to find the depth of the well, and Grainger adjusts my plan adding we have rope and could lower a lantern down. This happens rather quickly and we soon have lit well. It is quickly discovered that the body at the bottom is that of a dead miner. I am the last to head down the ladder and see the exploration has led past an adobe brick patched area. This is quite odd as mud bricks are hardly a suitable material for a well. Moving past is a spacious little room with a ceiling high enough to allow us all to stand upright. at the center is a large iron banded vessel. There are clothes strewn about, all scraps or clearly female pieces, as well as bones. There is also a depression over to one side. Clockwork works his cane under the vessel and lifts. It rises enough for a glimpse of a scraggly haired woman’s head to be revealed. At some point the words witch and curse have started to be used and my heart is busy sinking at the realization that this is exactly the situation. Poor Johnathan is startled enough to drop the thing, though I suppose it could just have been the items heft. It is lifted again and it is noted that the jaw bone is missing. The depression proves to be a grave site and we leave the tomb for the town cemetery. Back where we entered town, but the last spot to investigate.

As we are headed back a group of horses, spooked but catching their breath trot into view. Joseph goes to gather one so we may ascertain whom their rider’s may have been, our guess is that same group that the ghost of the man the sheriff wanted to be ran off. As we riffle through the bags not finding much to go on Joseph mentions it has the same markings as one of that posse. Grainger attempts to mount the thing, but it is too scared still.

We reach the cemetery and see a man digging in one of the graves. I sneak around his flank while the flat-footed Grainger accidentally draws the laborer’s attention. I move in close enough to read the headstone.. it’s my name. I really do not care for this notion of my demise and ask him why he is digging my grave. If he is startled he does not show it, even though I am positive I made no error in my approach. He replies that I am living so this grave could not possible be for me. I mention that this being my grave was merely a theory based upon the finding of a caskets with mine and my compatriots names pinned to them. He seems non pulsed by this and goes back to digging while he dismisses me. I try to keep the conversation going by continuing my questioning. As it registers with me that he is reaching for his gun a shot rings out as a chunk of his scalp fly’s from him. Some part of my brain registers his reaction as a bit subdued for the situation and this is bolstered by a new hole in his belly from another shot. I uncap my canteen as Brother Silas’ blade bites deep into flesh. I mumble something from scripture as I douse the man with the contents of the canteen. Another shot or two crack through the night and he falls, clearly drained of life. Though it appears this isn’t the first time his body has done that. The holy water has set his person to bubble in a reaction more suited to Johnathon’s chemistry than a human meeting with water. This creature isn’t just harrowed though, he is also the very same bank robber we have set out to catch.

The last thoughts of Joseph Ramsey
Optimism went down with the sun and died with the coming of the weird west.

Ever feel like the world’s out ta git ya? Guess ya could say I ain’t feelin’ like we’re gunna leave here, so I’m writin’ this just in case.
Marty gathered his moxie sooner than we had speculated. He felt good ta take the girl back ta town before mid day and saddled up. I thought ta ride after the posse as they only had a couple hours lead on me and I’d be followin’ fresh tracks. I passed some dead on the way; injuns, looked ta be, hope they weren’t none of the 7 Feather tribes we just acquainted ourselves with.
Well, I caught up ta them quick. The full moon an’ stars came out givin’ us light ta ride well inta dusk, ‘fore a fog rolled in. Some kind o’ creepy, I felt, an’ as we stopped ta set camp against some rocks, Miss Blackstone and Mr. McMains thought ta seein’ roof tops just ahead.
Makin’ camp just out of town makes a person feel the fool in the morning, but hindsight bein’ what it is we might have been better off… I’m gittin’ ‘head of myself ‘gin.
Well, we gone and rode up into the small town, the sign comin’ in was blasted all ta hell an’ we couldn’t read the town’s name. We weren’t certain as ta what town may be out this way.
The first buildin’s was a stable house and the general store. Both were rundown, but we heard horses from the corral. They sounded a little spooked so me an’ Miss Blackstone moved ta take a look. Stumbling through the fog, I lost track of the pretty lady an’ found no horses in the corral. The weirdness of it still hasn’t been lost on me. The horse sounds came from no more than a couple feet from me, at one point, an’ Elisa’s voice seemed ta come from nowhere. The horse may have been a ghost of some sort, but the Elisa bit was just too offputtin’ ta explain.
I got back ta ma horse just as our lovely companion come out the front door of the buildin’. She was, surely, further away but clear ta ma eyes. Luggage in her hands musta come from the buildin’ an’ had medicine supplies in it. Looked like a doc packed up ta leave and didn’t.
Johnny, Elisa, and McMains headed into the general store lookin’ fer a person. I don’t know why they tried that buildin’, wit’ the doors fallin’ off and the injun statue freshly shined and lacquered, I s‘spect that any person livin’ there should be fixin’ those doors ‘nstead a polishin’ his wood. Things as they were, the negro, Mr. Jones and me stood guard watchin’ fer those things that people wanderin’ ‘bout in these territories ought ta be expectin’. The three found nothin’ inside an’ came out ta inspect the carving.
It was an injun wit’ a bow and quiver across his shoulders and a tomahawk in his right hand. Elisa was kneelin’ in front of it when it started movin’! The tomahawk raised clear above its head, poised ta mess up Elisa’s purdy head. Johnny’s first move don’t have much effect on the arm wit’ the ‘hawk, but McMains’ saber nearly removed the hand from the wrist. Johnny’s second hammer punch cleanly removes the entire arm –somethin’ ain’t right wit’ him… all gimpy but fast as lightnin’. Justice, sittin’ on his horse, next ta me, fires a couple times while the iron on my side reports three times, wit’ the last two removin’ the torso from the legs. I smiled as the gun twirled up ta my lips, my breath gave haste ta the lazy smoke ‘fore the warmed steel spun back home.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like ta do somethin’ fer the last time… I didn’t, and don’t, got a good feelin’ about this town…
Only the saloon and whore house remained an’ the hope fer somethin’ ta wet our whistles drew us ta the darkened bar. The lovely Miss Blackstone remained outside wit’ me an’ the other three went in. Lights came up, shortly, invitin’ us in. Miss Blackstone was quick ta lay eyes on every bit of the place, but I slowed, offput agin, this time by oddities like women’s gloves layin’ on the piana like the lady playin’ just ceased bein’. Justice said somethin’ ‘bout the piana playin’ ‘self an’ I shrugged it off, but, wit’ the eerie hangin’ ‘round, we were expectin’ it. Johnny, Elisa, and McMains creeped up the half rotten stairs in the back ta lay eyes on the goin’s’ons but found nothin’. I found a shiny double barrel behind the bar, wit’ no ammo… shiny in this town means special. Hopefully, I’ll live long ‘nough ta use it.
Just when the trio come down the rickety stairs the gloves kicked ta life pouncin’ on the keys like two-a Johnny Wilks from back home… Johnny was born wit’ no fingers on his right hand, ‘fore the weird happened. We all hightailed it out, ‘cept the preacher who went an’ slashed the gloves ta bloody bits. That were the most awful thin’ I think I heard… might rather hear that widow’s voice houndin’ me, may the Lord’s perfect peace surround her, that she might not witness my downfall.
We figured the last place ta check fer our quarry is the house of ill repute. The lights musta been low enough ta not notice outside, ‘cause they were on, dim, when the door opened. The dimmed lanterns shown on the fine furniture, as I looked fer a piana. None found a few of us wandered upstairs fera look-see. McMains saw somethin’ in a mirror an’ told us, but when I looked I saw a woman in the mirror. She looked ta want ta tell me somethin’, maybe her price… When I got near enough she reached through an’ grabbed at me. My right hand found the comforting weight of my Peacemaker and the mirror shattered wit’ the roar of fire. I shot her square wit’ no ‘ffect as she sliced at me wit’ a knife. My pistol dropped ta the floor as I grabbed fer her hands in d’fense. Suddenly, Justice and Johnny were there, wrestlin’ my left hand behind my back an’ the apparition ended wit’ me wonderin’ where the woman went… Justice told me that I was tryin’ ta gut myself wit’ one hand and fightin’ back wit’ the other… guess I’m glad fer them grabbin’ the right arm or Johnny Wilks might be havin’ pity on me!
Takin’ care ta keep our eyes out the mirrors, we went about smashing ‘em all. A glance ‘bout our ranks and we left ta sleep under the stars. We walked the horses out the other side of town… only ta find a shot up sign welcomin’ us ta a town wit the name blasted out… F***.


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