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The Doom That Came to Devil's Gulch Part 1 - Arrival in Devil's Gulch

Max_Writer

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Monday, April 23, 2018

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign original scenario "The Doom That Came to Devil's Gulch" Sunday, April 22, 2018, from 1:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. with Ambralyn Tucker, Yorie Latimer, Ashton LeBlanc, Ben Abbott, John Leppard, and Austin Davie.)

 

Gemma Jones awoke with a start as the train braked at Devil's Gulch, Colorado. She had dozed off in the passenger coach and had a dream about her father, a terrible man who had abused her mother, herself, and her younger sister Lily. She had been only 13 when the man had finally left them to fend for themselves in San Francisco, but it had been a blessing for all three of them. Charles Allen had been physically and verbally abusive to all three of them and seemed to relish hurting them.

 

Gemma had been called Jennie then. Her mother had taken the name Jones after he had left, anxious to be rid of anything that would remind her of him. They must have been happy once, Gemma always thought, but something soured her father and turned him to the path of crime, corruption, and evil by the time she had reached the delicate age of 13. She had learned, some years later, that "Charming" Charles Allen had been connected to the John Valentine gang and was wanted for numerous counts of forgery, fraud, theft, assault, and rape. So many counts of rape.

 

She couldn't remember the dream exactly and was glad of that. Anything connected with her father was awful.

 

She disembarked from the train, finally at her destination after what felt like so long.

 

She had left her friends on July 20, 1875, in Santaquin, Utah, taking the train north to Salt Lake City and east through Utah and Wyoming, though there were numerous delays, before heading into Colorado through Denver and finally arriving at Devil's Gulch, Colorado, on Saturday, August 7, 1875, on the 3:00 train. Steam flowed around the locomotive as the trainmen refilled the steam engine with water from the tower. A few other passengers got off when she did, including four Chinese dressed in suits. Others boarded the train.

 

The station stood on a rise above the town and she looked down to see the quaint buildings of Devil's Gulch. A clock struck three from a tall tower atop a building in the center of town and she saw a church on the near side of the village on a rise near a graveyard. A larger graveyard stood on a high place further back on the opposite side of town.

 

People in town seemed to be very busy and excited.

 

She walked down Main Street and soon found her sister's business, the Gilded Lily. It was a two-story saloon and hotel with a covered balcony on the top floor and a porch on the bottom in the front. The large building had a great sign with a golden lily painted on it and the words "Gilded Lily" advertising it.

 

Gemma found her sister and learned there were three other dance hall girls working there along with a bartender by the name of Frank Simms. Lily was happy and surprised to see her sister and hugged her and showed her all around the saloon and hotel. The main saloon was large with numerous tables and a large stage directly beside the bar. A balcony ran around the top where the rooms were and looked down over the bar and the stage. Lily had a large room in the back that she used as quarters and an office. There was also a good-sized storage room. She even had two rooms upstairs with pumps running right into bath rooms, one of them connected to the grand suite. Her own room below likewise had a room with a bath. The saloon didn't have food yet as there was no kitchen in the building, but she was saving her money to have a separate kitchen house built behind the saloon so they could serve food.

 

She told Gemma the building had been a general store but was abandoned when she had arrived in Devil's Gulch earlier in the year. It had cost a bit of money to refurbish it and she was in some debt but business was booming. The Gilded Lily was on Main Street and the first hotel and saloon travelers disembarking from the train saw. The stage often stopped on Main Street as well. The other two saloons in town were further down and she was certain it was helping her business.

 

She also told Gemma there was a man named La Forge in town representing the R.H. Macy and Co. store. Apparently, the company was talking about bringing a store in the town as well as a distribution center for mail order. They were buying land in the town and Lily was thinking of buying up a little land and then selling it later when the town boomed. There was also talk of building the county courthouse in Devil's Gulch. The Elbert County seat was presently in Middle Kiowa, which didn't even have a train station.

 

She told Gemma she had met a beau, a cowboy who was staying in town after a big cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. He was talking about settling down there and had been courting her for more than a week. Gemma met the handsome cowboy, Dallas Avery, and was charmed by him if a little nervous about her dating a cowboy. He seemed really nice and was quite charming, noting he was hoping to settle down so Lily could make an honest man of him. Gemma learned he was staying in one of the boarding houses in town as he didn't think it would be appropriate to stay at the saloon Lily owned. He was about 20 years old and very nice, friendly, and very supportive of Lily owning her own establishment, which was a little unusual. He seemed perfect.

 

Gemma settled into the Gilded Lily, her sister sharing her room with her. Gemma not only sang on certain nights of the week, always drawing a good crowd, but also helped the dance hall girls, Lily, and Simms keep the saloon up while she was there. She also had time to have long conversations with Lily and catch up for the months they had been apart. She told her of some of the strange things that had happened to her and Lily seemed to mostly believe her.

 

While she was in town, she heard a rumor that some people said they had heard the morning train whistle blowing in the middle of the night down at the depot. Nobody was sure what it meant. It was just strange.

 

She also heard about a place called the Whiskey Mine, abandoned back in '64 after the digging turned up nothing. The men who were cutting it didn't like it at all. They said they sometimes heard strange noises unlike anything they'd ever heard underground before. They said they had to take at least one drink of whiskey before entering the mine because it was so strange. Then, one day, they came to town with what little gold dust they'd dug up, cashed it in, and left without another word. It was a few miles south of town.

 

On Saturday, August 14, 1875, the first shipment of supplies to build the new county courthouse arrived. It consisted of lumber, bricks, and concrete powder. Construction hadn't yet begun upon the building.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jerimiah Bowen arrived in Devil's Gulch on Monday, August 16, 1875. He was a crusty old prospector of 61 years who was very friendly. He was also squat and boney with wild white hair and a grin on his face most of the time. He carried a large pack with a pick and a Spencer rifle. From Texas, he had most recently lived in Nevada before striking east in the hopes of finding gold or silver in Colorado.

 

He immediately went to the general store in town and purchased a tent to live in, pitching it on the east side of town. As he pitched his tent, he saw a gypsy vardo driven by a woman who looked half-Indian arrive. She had two horses, one pulling the wagon and one pulled behind it. She set up camp a hundred yards or so from town.

 

Then he went to look for silver.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 17, there was the tinkling of glass from the Gilded Lily Saloon. When Lily and Gemma investigated, they found several rocks in the saloon itself and three of the window panes had been broken.

 

"Damn it," Lily said the next morning as they cleaned up. "Not again."

 

She went to see a man about replacing the panes.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

On Tuesday, August 17, 1875, Dr. Eva Weisswald, Jacali, Lambert Otto, Robert Dunspar, and Ophelia Ethess arrived in Devil's Gulch on the 3:00 train.

 

Brandon Stalloid had left their company in Denver, wanting to take the dinosaur skull back to San Francisco to present it to scientists as the find of the century. He had taken Night Horse with him, telling them he was going to arrange for his transport back to the Uintah Reservation in Salt Lake City before he went on to San Francisco himself. Jack West and Clayton Pierce had gotten separated from them in Denver as well and they were unsure of their whereabouts.

 

Before he had left, Night Horse had asked Jacali to look for him if she was ever on the reservation. She was unsure if he was sweet on her or not but they had hit it off and were friends.

 

On the train, Otto had talked to Jacali.

 

"Do-do your people know anything about curses?" he asked.

 

She frowned.

 

"Well, I mean, I'd say about as much as you know about how much we know about curses," she said. "I mean, there are stories "¦ um "¦ they are tales."

 

"Any of them have to do with scars?" Otto said.

 

"Probably not," she said. "Well, I mean, you know the whole Hansel and Gretel story? It's like that. The kind of curses that I know about. "˜Oh kids, don't go to the candy house or the old witch will eat you.' It's not like adults talking to each other about curses."

 

Otto looked embarrassed and thanked her.

 

"If you want to know more about that, I am not the person to ask," she said. "In case that wasn't clear."

 

Devil's Gulch was a bustling little town and they watched several men unloading lumber, bricks, and bags marked "concrete" from the baggage car. A few people boarded the train and others disembarked and headed into town. They saw a man with a mustache coordinating the unloading and aiding people. An old man with thick glasses manned the ticket booth and a red-headed man wearing a green eyeshade was at the telegraph.

 

They headed down to the town and saw the Gilded Lily Saloon and Hotel on Main Street. A man was replacing window panes in the front of the building. There was a livery and blacksmith across from it and they had brought their horses in the cattle car so Jacali took them there. The building was wide and tall with great open doors in the front and back. There was a corral behind the place and several stalls, a few of them with horses already within. Above the stalls was a hay loft with large bales of hay. She could hear the bang of the blacksmith's hammer in the nearby smithy. She had seen another large negro man working in the smithy when she passed.

 

She met Jeremiah Kerns, the negro livery owner with graying hair, who cooed and talked quietly to the horses as he put them into the stalls and started to rub them down. He was very friendly and helpful. She asked if he sold horses but he said he only boarded them. She also asked if he had heard any rumors about new things in town.

 

"Well, I've heard lots of rumors," he said. "Some people have heard the train whistle in the middle of the night but it's the morning whistle. People have heard it twice so far. Nobody knows what it means."

 

She asked about any weird silver things in the area and Jeremiah had not heard about anything like that. He did know there were some silver mines in the hills that were played out.

 

"Bill Graves and Matt Brady have a mine to the "¦ it's southeast of here," he said. "There's all kinds of old mines scattered around. Back in the "˜60s there was a lot of mining in this area but nobody really turned up much."'

 

"All right," she said. "Thank you."

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Otto had stopped off at the marshal's office, a small two-story wooden and brick building with a tin roof and a covered boardwalk out front. The door and windows were all barred. A couple of wooden chairs were on the boardwalk and a few wanted posters and proclamations were nailed haphazardly next to the door.

 

When he walked in, he saw the ground floor was mostly one large room with a small table and chairs next to a pot bellied stove in the center. A coffee pot bubbled on top of the stove. A roll-top desk was set in the back of the room as well as a cot and a filing cabinet. Another board filled with wanted posters and proclamations was on the wall to the right. To the left were three jail sets set in a brick addition to the building. The cells were mostly simple bars running from floor to ceiling and each held a simple rope cot with straw-stuffed mattress. There was a small, barred window at the back of each cell, looking out into the alley.

 

The man behind the table had a thick mustache and a stern face. He was writing something on a piece of paper as Otto approached.

 

"Hello, marshal," he said.

 

"Howdy," the man said, looking up.

 

"Do you have any bounties for the town?"

 

"Well, there's a wanted board out front and there's a wanted board right here on the wall."

 

Otto went over to the board and looked over the posters. The one that seemed fresh and local was for "Black" Jack McKinney who was wanted for murder, arson, theft, banditry, and the like. The rough drawing on the poster showed a man with a thin beard and mustache holding two pistols and wearing a black hat with a feather sticking out of it.

 

Otto nodded at the posters.

 

"Have you heard anything about McKinney in the area lately?" He asked.

 

"He's around here somewhere," Marshal Bishop said. "Him and his coyotes."

 

"So he has a gang?"

 

"Yep, he has a gang all right."

 

"He been attacking the town lately?"

 

"Attacking the town?"

 

"I don't know. Some bandits attacked a town a few weeks ago."

 

"What? Where is this?"

 

"Hilton Springs, Nevada."

 

"That's terrible. Well, nope, he ain't that dumb but they've been robbing people and such. We're keeping any eye out for "˜em. They haven't hit anything really heavy yet, which is good."

 

"Well, I think I might go look for him, then."

 

"You do as you please. You're a bounty hunter, then, huh?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"All right. I don't want you to cause any trouble."

 

"I won't."

 

"You bring anybody in here that's not supposed to be arrested and you'll be causing trouble."

 

As Otto headed for the front door, the back door open and a chubby man who laughed nervously came in. He wore a deputy's badge and carried a sawed-off double barrel shotgun as well as the revolver on his hip.

 

"I didn't find those kids, Marshal," he said.

 

"Yeah yeah yeah," Marshal Bishop said. "All right, Chubby."

 

"Marshal, have you heard anything some mystical folks in town or something?" Otto stopped and asked.

 

"Some what?"

 

"Gypsies and those sort of people."

 

"I don't know. I haven't. There's some lady who just came in a wagon on the east side of town, camping, the other day."

 

"Really?"

 

"No, I'm lying. Yes, really!"

 

"Well, thank you."

 

"You're welcome."

 

He heard Chubby laughing nervously as he left.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dunspar, Dr. Weisswald, and Ophelia walked down main street to get a feel for the town. They spotted the jail, a town hall with a clock atop it, and noted a library tucked behind that building. They headed that direction.

 

The library was a small building attached to the back of the town hall. Though there were plenty of shelves, there were not a lot of books. A pretty blonde woman wearing glasses and with her hair pulled up in a severe bun on top of her head sat at a table nearby and coached a boy with his reading. When she saw them enter, she told him to continue to the next page and then stood up, straightened her dress, and approached them.

 

"Hello," she said.

 

"Uh, hello madam," Dunspar said. "Would you happen to have any - uh - books on mystical things?"

 

She gave him a look.

 

"We have Treasure Island," she said.

 

"Could you point me in the direction of it?" he said.

 

"Mystical things?" she said.

 

She showed him the small fiction section. It was composed mainly of dime novels and a few classics as well as some Shakespeare.

 

Dr. Weisswald turned to Ophelia and asked if she was interested in anything. The serpent person said "Technology. Your weapons." They went in search of books on weaponry and found some history books with information on cannons and the like. Ophelia looked over the book while Dr. Weisswald looked for medical books. Dunspar sat down with Mysteries of the Worm and continued his painstaking reading of the obscure tome.

 

Dr. Weisswald found a few school primers and learners as well. The librarian allowed them each to get a library card with a one dollar deposit.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jacali had wandered further into town, finding the Bull's Head Saloon further down the street. Though the building it sat within was three stories tall, the saloon itself, with its front door off to the side, was simply a darkened box. Batwing doors led into a dim room with only two windows to the front, leaving it dark and shadowed. It smelled of smoke and sweat, beer and whiskey. A rough-cut pine bar sat on one side and tables filled the room. An older gentleman with a gray beard and mustache and wearing a fine suit sat in the corner. A Colt army pistol was in the holster at his side. A blonde man sat in another corner playing cards with several other gentlemen.

 

She recognized somebody. Sitting in the back corner was Pete Sutter, apparently playing poker with himself. He kept checking the other hand before declaring "Beat ya' again!" A bottle of whiskey was on the table next to an empty glass.

 

Jacali walked up to him.

 

"Pete God-damned Sutter," she said. "I thought you were dead twice now and yet here you are again."

 

"Well, if it ain't injun girl," Pete said. "What're you doing here?"

 

"You know what, Pete, that's good enough from you. I won't harsh you on that one."

 

"What're you doing here? Did they send you? They sent ya, didn't they? I knew that they knew that I would come if they didn't want me to know that they was knowin' I was comin'!"

 

Jacali looked at him for a moment.

 

"I'm still looking at stuff that fell off that train we were both on," she said. "Heard it would end up here."

 

"What?" Pete said. "Train? Oh, I get ya. I know what yer talkin' about. It "˜fell off the train.' I getcha."

 

"You were on that train! You got shot on that train!"

 

"Is Jack West here!?!"

 

"Uh "¦ no "¦"

 

"Good! I hate him! I hate him so much!"

 

"I didn't think to see him either, but all right."

 

"Why don't you sit down and have a drink with me?"

 

"Uh, sure, I can play a hand."

 

She played a hand of poker with Pete Sutter. They both had terrible hands and Jacali didn't know how to play poker, never having learned. She had the worse hand, which seemed to put him in a good mood. Then a crusty old man with gray hair carrying a backpack with camping supplies and a Sharp's rifle walked up to the table.

 

"What're we playing?" the old man said.

 

"This a friend o' yours?" Pete asked Jacali.

 

"No one I've ever seen."

 

"Is it your dad?"

 

"I thought he was yours."

 

"My dad's dead."

 

"Oh. My dad is too."

 

"We do have something in common then."

 

"My dad's dead too!" Bowen, the prospector, said.

 

"Of course he is!" Pete said. "You're old as the hills! Why aren't you dead yet, too?"

 

"I'm lucky I guess."

 

"That's a shame."

 

"What brings you to our card table, sir?" Jacali said.

 

"I saw you were playing some poker," Bowen said. "Thought I'd come over. Try my luck."

 

"You're a card shark, ain't ya?" Pete said. "I know it when I seen ya! You're a card shark! I know a card shark when I see one."

 

Bowen wailed.

 

"C'mon!" he said.

 

"Deny it!" Pete said. "He's not even denying it!"

 

Though they played penny ante, Pete kept flashing money as if showing off. Jacali asked him vaguely about any silver artifacts but Pete hadn't heard of any. Pete also told her why he was there.

 

"Them Secret Service agents are the ones that sent me here," he said. "But they didn't send me here. If you get my drift."

 

Pete smiled.

 

"I don't get his drift," Bowen said. "I thought we were playing poker."

 

"I was hired to go up to Oregon, wasn't I?" Pete said. "Paid me $500. Didn't give me a pardon last time so I didn't trust "˜em!"

 

"They paid you to go to Oregon?" Jacali said.

 

"They paid me to go to Oregon," Pete said. "This ain't Oregon, is it? See how clever I am?"

 

He smiled.

 

"They told me "˜Go to Oregon,'" he said. "Some town, I don't even remember the name. But then I heard "˜em whispering to each other: "˜We don't want him going to Devil's Gulch, Colorado.' Overheard it. So I said "˜I'm going to Devil's Gulch, Colorado!' That's right! Here I am.

 

"I like your thinking, Pete Sutter," Jacali said. "You truly are a man among men."

 

"I hate "˜em!" Pete said. "I'll go wherever they tell me not to! I got $500 spending money. I'm gonna enjoy myself in this pissant little town."

 

Jacali looked around and saw that the other poker players were looking in his direction.

 

"And I saw somebody else I knew too," Pete went on.

 

He laughed.

 

"I saw somebody else first day I was here," he said.

 

"Oh, who was it?" Jacali said.

 

"Oh, that's gonna cost you some money."

 

"Hmm."

 

"It's somebody important. Ha! You double my money and I'll say."

 

"Double your money? You want $500?"

 

"Yes. Yes, that would be double my money. I didn't know injuns could do math."

 

"You think I own five hundred whole dollars?"

 

"Well, you got rich friends, aincha?"

 

"Well "¦ not around here."

 

"Oh well, that's a shame!"

 

Jacali took out the dinosaur tooth.

 

"This is one genuine tooth of a giant lizard," she said. "I can offer you that. There's not another one like it in the whole world."

 

"Why the hell would I want that?" Pete said. "I can't do nothing with that."

 

"I'll take that," Bowen said.

 

"Yeah, give it to him," Pete said.

 

Jacali tucked it back away.

 

"What are you doing here in town," she asked Bowen.

 

"I'm drinking whiskey right now," he said.

 

"No, but what brings you here?"

 

"I came for the silver!"

 

"The silver?"

 

"Yeah, I was told there was silver something. I just heard the word silver and I got going."

 

He cackled.

 

"You didn't hear the words "˜silver horn' did you?" Jacali asked.

 

"No," Bowen said. "I just heard silver."

 

"Where are the best spots to find silver in this town?"

 

"Usually in caves."

 

"Well "¦"

 

"Mines. Other people's mines usually. I like them. They're already dug up."

 

"I was wondering if you had in more specific mines in mind."

 

"I haven't explored yet."

 

"All right. Well, if you're going out─"

 

"Probably tonight. You don't want to go during the day. That's when they spot you."

 

"Who is "˜they?'" Pete said. "Is that Secret Service? Is that who you're talking about? God damned Secret Service?"

 

"I think he was talking about the owner of the mine, Pete Sutter," Jacali said.

 

"Oh, you're a mine poacher, huh?" Pete said. "Maybe you and I can do some business."

 

"I was about to ask if you need a partner for these mines. I do have─"

 

"Oh! She wants to get into the crime gang too!"

 

"Well, I do have knowledge of some weaponry."

 

She gestured towards the quiver on her belt.

 

"Yeah," Bowen said. "You can come with me."

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Weisswald and Ophelia walked the streets of town, getting the lay of the land. They saw Devil's Gulch had a bank, a doctor's office and home, an undertaker, a Chinese laundry, restaurants, a drugstore and barber, and even a photographer right next to the Gilded Lily. It noted he was also a chemist. When they peeked in through the big front window, they saw he had a camera set up to show off.

 

Dr. Weisswald went looking for Jacali and found her almost immediately coming up Main Street. A crusty old prospector with a rattling pack was walking with her.

 

"So, Weisswald, here's an update," Jacali told her. "I found this old man─"

 

"Hi!" Bowen said.

 

"─who's going to explore old caves and silver mines with me and see if the "¦ Crescent "¦ is anywhere nearby in any of those."

 

"Did you say croissant?"

 

"Yes, we're looking for breakfast in the mines."

 

"Nice."

 

They all looked at him.

 

"Also, you'll never guess who I found at the bar," Jacali said. "Pete God-damned Sutter."

 

"Why am I not surprised," Dr. Weisswald said.

 

"Well, I mean, I knew you were good but I didn't think you were that good," Jacali said.

 

They noticed a poster for Gemma Jones in front of the Gilded Lily.

 

"Looks like fate has brought us all together," Dr. Weisswald said.

 

"Looks like it has a tendency to do that," Jacali said.

 

They went into the photographer with Bowen following. They arranged for a photo of Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, and Ophelia, Jacali sitting in front of the other two, who stood behind her. The photographer took them outside to take the photo. He had a backdrop painted on the back of the building and the sun was in a good position. He removed the lens cover and watched his pocket watch for a minute before covering it again. Then they all went inside again. Dr. Weisswald ordered four copies of the photograph and would have it by the next day for $1 each.

 

Ophelia didn't see the point of the entire exercise. Dr. Weisswald pointed out it was technology.

 

They went to the Gilded Lily where they found Gemma Jones.

 

"Oh hello there!" Gemma said when she saw them. "Oh, it's so good to see you made it in one piece."

 

"Yes, good to see you as well, Miss Jones," Jacali said. "This is our friend Ophelia we have met along the way."

 

"Oh, hello," Gemma said.

 

Ophelia stared at her oddly.

 

"This is Ophelia," Dr. Weisswald also said.

 

"She doesn't talk much," Jacali said.

 

Ophelia rolled her eyes.

 

"Hello," Gemma said. "I'm Gemma. It's nice to meet you."

 

"What brings you to Devil's Gulch?" Jacali said.

 

"Oh, my sister lives here. This is her saloon actually."

 

"Oh!"

 

"I'm here to help her out and perform for her in the evenings so "¦ plus we just wanted to make sure. I've heard about Devil's Gulch and I wanted to make sure she's "¦ she's doing all right."

 

Lily came out of the back where she had been doing some bookwork. Gemma introduced her.

 

"This is my sister, Lily," she said.

 

"Oh, hello!" Lily said.

 

She shook each of their hands and got their names. She was pretty and little younger and slimmer than Gemma though Gemma was prettier. She seemed very glad to meet them and Gemma told her they had shared some of her strange adventures.

 

"Oh my goodness!" Lily said. "Oh! Oh."

 

She was very pleased to meet Dr. Weisswald and pleasantly surprised to see a woman doctor. She was impressed with Jacali as well, noting Gemma had told her she had shot a dragon in the eye and killed it.

 

"And you're both women!" she said. "I am so proud."

 

She shook their hands once again.

 

"And who's this?" she asked.

 

Ophelia just stared at the girl.

 

"Oh, I just met her as well," Gemma said. "This is a friend of my friends."

 

"Yes," Jacali said.

 

"Ophelia," Gemma said.

 

"Who we met along the way," Jacali said. "She is "¦ uh "¦"

 

"I haven't heard anything about her," Lily said.

 

"She is wise beyond her years but "¦ not a conversationalist," Jacali said.

 

Ophelia looked at Jacali and then walked away from them, looking around the room at different things by the bar.

 

"So, Miss Jones, have you heard anything "¦ different "¦ showing up in town recently," Jacali said. "We have still been looking for the thing on the train. It escaped us and "¦ we're still looking for it."

 

"Yes," Gemma said.

 

She noticed Bowen. She had thought the crusty old prospector had just come in at the same time as her friends. But he stood near them like he knew them.

 

"Hello sir," she said to him.

 

"Hi!" Bowen said.

 

"Oh, I've seen him," Lily said. "He's been in here."

 

"Oh, you have?" Gemma said.

 

"He was in here the other night," Lily said. "He was drinking whiskey."

 

"Yeah!" Bowen said.

 

"Last night he was in here," Lily said. "He was just drinking in the corner. It was so full, I'm not surprised you missed him."

 

"Oh yes, I do remember your attire," Gemma said. "That hat."

 

"He was carrying everything he's carrying right now," Lily said.

 

"Yeah!" Bowen said. "This is my everything."

 

"Do you need a room?" Lily asked.

 

"I got a tent."

 

"All right. All right. That's fine."

 

"Okay," Gemma said.

 

"I can't afford your rooms," Bowen said.

 

"But as far as any mysterious "¦" Gemma said.

 

"The spooky stuff," Jacali said.

 

""¦ I have not," Gemma said. "Praise be. I've not, thankfully, seen anything of that sort. Why "¦ why do you mention?"

 

"Well, I had a dream one night and "¦ uh "¦ some slug "¦ insects "¦ that I saw there told me to go to Devil's Gulch and that everyone was in trouble," Jacali said. "So, I'm here."

 

"Peyote, right?" Lily said.

 

"Sure."

 

"I've heard of that."

 

"Sure."

 

"Oh, goodness," Gemma said. "That sounds like a nightmare."

 

"I've only heard of it too!" Bowen muttered.

 

"Why would you ever listen to slug-insects that tell you to go somewhere?" Gemma said.

 

"Well, there was nowhere else to go on this spooky trace so "¦ you know "¦" Jacali said. "When a lead comes from weird creatures in your head when you sleep, that's where the lead goes."

 

"I respect your beliefs," Gemma said.

 

Lily said nothing, apparently unsure.

 

"Are you looking for rooms?" Gemma said.

 

"I guess we'll take rooms," Jacali said. "If you want to go on our spooky **** chase, you're more than welcome to."

 

"There's plenty going on around here!" Lily said. "Have you heard about the new store that's coming in? And the courthouse they're gonna build? This is gonna be the county seat. At least that's what Mr. La Forge says."

 

"Well, if it's anything to be there to my close sister to protect her "¦" Gemma said.

 

Lily went over to Gemma and stood close to her, putting her arm around her and smiling.

 

"I think this man and I were going to check out some of the─" Jacali said.

 

"Sh!" Bowen shushed her.

 

Jacali looked at him.

 

"We were going to have a talk about it," she said. "About our next plans sometime tonight."

 

Dr. Weisswald and Lily looked at each other in confusion.

 

"Sure," Gemma said.

 

They arranged rooms at the Gilded Lily. Dr. Weisswald and Jacali decided to share a room with Ophelia and Lily suggested one of the front rooms.

 

Ophelia was examining the stage. She knocked on it and tested its strength.

 

Lily told them there was no food served at the Gilded Lily yet. She had plans for a kitchen house out back at some point, once she could afford it, which would probably be soon.

 

"But I did invest," she told them. "So, that money's going to be coming back once that store comes in. Mr. La Forge says there's going to be all kinds of business. I even bought a little bit of extra property I'm going to sell for a huge mark up."

 

Gemma was obviously so proud of her sister.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Otto went to the east side of town about a hundred feet from the last building just off the road. The vardo was a small caravan wagon with windows in the side and an open door in the back. Two horses were hobbled nearby and tied to a stake in the ground. A small fire had been built not far from the vardo and a cooking pot was hanging from a metal tripod over it. The woman who was tending to the pot had reddish skin and he guessed she was a half-breed. She had dark hair, wore rugged clothing, and had a white hat. She was young and pretty.

 

He approached the camp and dismounted.

 

"Hello," the woman said. "Is there anything that you need?"

 

"Hello there," Otto said. "My name's Lambert and "¦"

 

"I'm Daisy."

 

"Nice to meet you Daisy. Uh "¦ the strangest thing happened back in Denver. I had a strange encounter with someone. She said that the scar I had was cursed. Would you happen to know anything about that?"

 

"I don't really know much about curses or anything like that. I'm sorry. But how can a scar be cursed?"

 

"That's what I was trying to figure out."

 

"It doesn't seem to make any sense to me."

 

"It doesn't make any sense to me either. Maybe she was trying to pull my leg or scam me."

 

"I "¦ I don't know. Is there anything I can help you with? Are you injured?"

 

"I think I'm fine."

 

"All right."

 

"That was mainly why I "¦"

 

"No, I don't know anything about curses. I'm sorry."

 

"Thank you."

 

"You're welcome."

 

"I'll keep it in mind."

 

He mounted back up.

 

"You have a nice day," she said.

 

He tipped his hat and waved to her and rode back into town.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, Ophelia, and Bowen went to the general store, a simple wooden building with glass windows in the front displaying many of the newest goods. There were all kinds of things in the store and she met the owner, Ulysses Mabry, who had a New England accent. He had brown hair and mutton chops and was slim. He wore an apron instead of a jacket and wore a bow tie. He was quite friendly.

 

When she inquired about purchasing a horse, he noted he didn't sell horseflesh. He had plenty of other things though. He didn't know of any facilities in town that sold horses but suggested she try out at one of the cattle ranches in the area. When she asked about the closest one, he suggested the one to the east along the road that ran by the railroad. They were a cattle ranch but might have some horses they would be willing to sell her.

 

Ophelia looked over some of the things on the shelves, mystified. She was surprised by the ladies underwear, unsure what to make of it. She didn't pay much attention to a barrel marked "used" that was full of long johns.

 

They went back to the livery and got their horses, heading out to the ranch that lay a mile or so east of town. They left Bowen, who didn't have a horse, behind, waiting at the edge of town like a lost puppy.

 

One of the hands there warned them to watch out for the Bar-T ranch boys.

 

"They think they own the whole county," he said.

 

He told them the ranch was a day's ride southwest of town and was big enough that it had its own stagecoach stop. He noted they didn't want to go down there as the owner was rich and let his son do whatever he pleased. He thought he owned the county due to his money.

 

Dr. Weisswald found the man at the ranch wasn't selling their best horses. However, he was willing to sell one of the horses for $50. The man warned her the horse sometimes chewed fences so she had to watch out for that. She knew it was not healthy for the horse to chew on fences.

 

She presented Ophelia with the horse, which seemed nervous of the disguised serpent person. Ophelia looked it in the eyes, staring at it for a few moments before mounting it to ride it bareback. She also bought a chicken for Ophelia and she ate it on the ride back, feathers and all.

 

They visited a restaurant for dinner before going to the Gilded Lily.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Gemma saw Dunspar eventually arrive at the Gilded Lily. He talked to one of the dance hall girls and then he got up and left.

 

 

* * *

 


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