|Time:||Wednesday – August 06, 1879 – 07:00 AM|
|Location:||South of Coffin Rock, CO [MAP]|
|Posse Role-Call:||Allen Jabour with his flock (Anne Wilmarth, Bernard Ackeley, Ed Green, Henry Noyes, Nathan Green)|
Sterling Simms (a.k.a. David Davidson)
Tennesy Waya awoke Wednesday morning more rested than he had in a long time. Although he had dreamed, the nightmares that had haunted him for weeks had not come. Instead, he dreamed of a small town in the shadow of a cliff emblazoned with a skull in reddish rock. As he hovered over the town, he noticed a human figure waving at him from the cliff top. He swooped down to see an Indian shaman shouting and gesturing for him to approach closer. When he attempted to do so, a great wind blew him away and down into the town. As he swept past the buildings, he saw a ramshackle sign welcoming him to Coffin Rock before awakening in his bed roll. Tennesy saw the dream as a sign that he should travel with the others to Coffin Rock.
Although Brother Allen was hesitant to travel with an “Indian heathen,” the others did not have the same problem, especially since Tennesy had proven himself handy with a rifle the night before. When the group broke camp and headed off to Coffin Rock, Tennesy went with them. Sterling rode in the wagon with the majority of Brother Allen’s flock and spent his time recharging his various devices.
The posse arrived at Coffin Rock in the early afternoon. It matched the town in Tennesy’s dream and a pall seemed to hang over it. It was obviously a town in decline. Many of the wooden buildings were abandoned and those that weren’t could use a fresh coat of paint. As the posse rode down Main Street and 2nd Avenue, the only building that had any activity was the Six Feet Under Saloon. 2nd Avenue terminated at Daly Avenue, which led to the town’s only hotel, The Crystal River Hotel. The hotel had seen better days. Peeling paint on the hotel’s sign over the door made it read: “Cry a River Hotel.”
While the others checked into the hotel and watched the wagon, Tobias and Tennesy made a quick ride through the rest of the town, noting the businesses that still seemed to be open. Leaving Brother Allen’s flock to watch the wagon, Allen, Sterling, and Yang Li entered the hotel and introduced themselves to the hotel’s withdrawn proprietor, Carl Testeverde. Sterling quickly asked about any messages waiting for him (hoping for something from his patron). He did not have any, but he did notice Carl glance at an envelope in one of the cubby holes behind the front desk. Carl explained that rooms cost a $1 a room, but no meals would be served. When asked about the meals by Brother Allen, he further explained that his late wife, Dorothy, had cooked the meals and she had passed away last winter. Allen expressed his condolences as the group gathered their room keys. He also asked about the livery stable and learned that it had been abandoned. Carl suggested that they simply park their wagon in the empty corral with their horses; no-one left in town would care. Allen also learned from Carl that the town had been founded by John Daly, owner of a copper mine, the Crooked Earth. Things had gone well for a time, with copper and other minerals being found in the hills surrounding the town and the Crooked Earth paying off well. Eventually though, the copper started playing out, even at the Crooked Earth. The town started dying and Daly tried to stop it. He bought the failing mines and even paid miners to continue to prospect in the hills. Daly also brought in a town marshal to add a bit of respectability. Things got a bit better, the town even attracted a preacher and his flock, but then Daly died in a house fire. Without his support, the town went downhill quickly. Carl explained that there were only a few folk left in town along with a handful of prospectors that hadn’t given up on finding a good claim in the surrounding mountains.
When Tobias and Tennesy returned from scouting, they decided to visit the Six Feet Under Saloon for a late lunch. Sterling and Brother Allen would join them after first visiting the assay office. (With so few businesses in operation, they thought the office would be a good place to check on deeds. Brother Allen was curious about the mines in the as well as the abandoned lots in town while Sterling wanted to buy the bluff over-looking the town. He wanted to build a lab in the eye socket of the skull-shaped red rock.) Meanwhile, Yang Li and Brother Allen’s flock would handle the wagon and the horses, placing them in the corral at the livery stable. Afterwards, Yang Li and the Green brothers would stand guard over them while the other flock members enjoyed the simple comforts of the hotel.
As Sterling and Brother Allen approached the assay office, they noticed a man exit the building and begin locking the door. (Very odd since it was the middle of the afternoon. – Ed.) They walked up and introduced themselves, in exchange learning that the man was the town assayer, Ike Turnbull. Ike explained that he had been closing up to go have a nip at the Six Feet Under, but would gladly open up the office for business. He was a bit crest-fallen to learn that Brother Allen and Sterling did not have any precious metals to trade, but was kind enough to explain that he did not keep any deeds for the town or mines. He only dealt with mine production. He believed the deeds would be available at the mayor’s office (which Tobias and Tennesy had already reported as closed). He also mentioned that the mayor himself could be found most days at the Six Feet Under.
Meanwhile, Tobias and Tennesy visited the Six Feet Under Saloon. As they passed the dusty front windows, Tennesy was jolted to notice that for a brief moment, their reflections seemed haggard and angry. As they entered the saloon, they were greeted with a fist-fight directly in front of the door. Based on their clothing, the combatants seemed to be prospectors. As they watched, one landed a mighty right-cross on the other, who dropped to the floor unconscious amidst the hoots and hollers from several in the room (including a man wearing a badge near the wall). The man wearing the badge demanded the winner help him haul the other one to the jail to be locked-up for disturbing the peace. They carried the loser between them and passed by Tobias and Tennesy without so much as a word. (However, Tobias and Tennesy couldn’t help but notice the heavy smell of drink wafting from all three of the men.)
The remaining patrons went back to their drinks and card games as Tennesy and Tobias approached the bar. The barkeep was a surly man who served them their drinks and ham sandwiches with as few words as possible. A piano player with a dirty bandage on his arm played a nocturne to while away the time. A plump, but not unattractive, woman swept and cleaned up the remains of the fight. A haggard drunk sat alone with a bottle of absinthe for company. A group of three ragged men (presumably prospectors from the hills) played a game of low-stakes poker with a pale anemic.
As Tennesy enjoyed the simple fare, he noticed that a small puddle left under his glass had the appearance of the Coffin Rock overlooking the town. Afterwards, the more he looked around, the more the plaster cracks and water stains around the saloon seemed to emulate the cliff as well.
When Brother Allen and Sterling arrived at the Six Feet Under, they noticed the same change in their reflections that Tennesy had. Sterling quickly activated his luminiferous ether detection goggles and although he did not notice any strange auras around the windows, he did notice a man-shaped field of magical energy on the wall of a nearby abandoned building. It reminded him of the energy left by the railyard ghost in St. Louis. However, he and Brother Allen decided to ignore the energy signature for the moment and went inside to meet the others. They enjoyed (or at least consumed if not enjoyed – Ed.) a couple of ham sandwiches with Tobias and Tennesy before they all decided to explore the town.
The group’s meandering path eventually led them to a burned out mansion at the end of town. There was little left of the former building except the remains of a grand staircase and the collapsed walls of the ground floor, strewn with debris. As they examined the charred remains, they were approached by a scowling man wearing a badge. He introduced himself as Marshal Bryce and demanded to know what business they had in the ruins. After hearing their explanation that they were new to town and exploring the environs, the marshal told them that it would be best if they minded their own business while in Coffin Rock and left any exploring to the prospectors in the surrounding hills. Trying to avoid a confrontation, the posse members agreed with the marshal and headed back over to the Six Feet Under for a quick dinner.
Not much had changed during their absence from the saloon. Ike Turnbull had found him a seat at the bar. The deputy and prospector from earlier in the afternoon had returned. Brother Allen spoke with Ike for a few moments and learned that the drunk drinking the absinthe was actually the town’s mayor. Allen then joined the mayor at his table. Mayor Wilfred Hambly had been drinking for most of the day and it showed. During their conversation, he had nothing but kind words to say about the town’s founder, John Daly. He also seemed quite a bit depressed about the current state of Coffin Rock. Brother Allen informed the mayor that he was considering opening a new business or two in town and asked permission to check over the various abandoned lots. Mayor Hambly told him that he could do whatever he wanted (whether the mayor would remember the drunken conversation later is another matter – Ed.).
After dinner, Sterling was interested in seeing a play (hoping for Hamlet) so he and Tennesy headed over to the Jewel Theater. As they passed under the Jewel’s gaily painted wooden sign, they noticed dim silhouettes moving behind the silk-draped windows in a red light. They could already hear the laughter and music inside. As soon as they entered, they were welcomed by the darkly beautiful and sensual Belle Sygrove, owner of the Jewel Theater. She told them that they could take any of the available seats scattered in front of the raised stage. She also asked if either of them would care for drinks. Both Sterling and Tennesy were so inclined so she sent a girl for their drinks as they found some seats. Cherry piano music blared from backstage as a couple of girls danced to the music on the stage. Other girls lounged on a sweeping staircase that led to a balcony where private rooms could be found. The theater was lit by flickering, red, glass oil lamps whose light was amplified by ornate mirrors lining the walls. An odd effect of the flickering light as it touched the dusty windows made them appear streaked with blood. Additionally, Sterling and Tennesy couldn’t help but be reminded of grasping hands by the shadows in the room’s corners. One of the girls on the staircase managed to catch Sterling’s eye and quickly came over to talk to him. Sterling, however, sent her away after only a few minutes of conversation. She kept trying to convince him to go upstairs when he had come to the theater to obviously watch the performance. Unfortunately, Sterling quickly grew tired of the stage performance (not up to his high standards) and the boorish attitude of the theater patrons. (They were seemingly comprised by rough prospectors with no sense of proper theater manners. In fact, some even had the theater ladies sitting in their laps!) He soon returned with Tennesy to the Crystal River Hotel.
Meanwhile, Brother Allen had decided to visit the town’s only church and Tobias wanted to tag along. As the two approached the double doors of the large, white church, they could hear singing coming from inside. They entered and were quickly greeted by Deacon Robert Plume, who was leading the church congregation (15 members) in worship. He and Brother Allen had a long discussion during which Deacon Plume explained that he and the others were members of the Brotherhood of the New Covenant. The group was led by Reverend Cheval, who believed the town was under an evil pall and spent a great deal of time scouring the countryside searching for the source. In the meantime, the Brotherhood prayed day and night for the town’s salvation. Brother Allen tried to engage the deacon in a conversation about the church’s stained glass windows, but the deacon was very evasive. (The windows seemed to depict the final judgement, but a priest sat in judgement instead of Christ.)
Another unusual feature of the church was the copper clad altar. The metal was perfectly polished and provided amazingly clear reflections on its surface. Eventually, the deacon continued the prayer meeting with Brother Allen and Tobias joining in (although to be fair, Tobias spent a great deal of the time slumped forward with his eyes closed “in prayer” – Ed.). After a few hours, the deacon ended the service and asked Allen and Tobias to leave. Based on the bedding material in one corner, it was apparent that the Brotherhood’s followers were actually sleeping in the church at night. The church service over, Brother Allen returned to the hotel while Tobias sought entertainment at the Jewel Theater.
Sterling and Tennesy had left the theater by the time Tobias arrived. He stayed for a few drinks but his interest soon waned without a poker game available. He left intending to return to the hotel when he bumped into a nicely-dressed man on the street who claimed to be looking for a game. They proceeded to the Six Feet Under to test their skills.
Having returned to the hotel, Tennesy and Sterling parted ways. Tennesy wanted to scout around the town more and Sterling wanted the privacy of his room. As soon as Tennesy had left, Sterling stealthily approached the front desk and examined the envelope he had noticed earlier in the day. Surprisingly, it was addressed to a name he recognized: John White! Sterling’s interception and decoding of telegrams to John White in Denver were what had led him to leave New York for Coffin Rock! Sterling took the envelope up to his room and carefully steamed it open. Inside, he found several pages of correspondance that he quickly recognized as being coded in the cypher he had discovered so long ago. He spent many long minutes carefully decoding the contents into the following message:
(The cypher used a King James Bible so the decoded words had to be found in the Bible. Therefore, phrasing for decoded messages may seem odd. Some words could be escaped and written out in plain text. These words appeared in all capital letters above. – Ed.)
After decoding the message, Sterling sealed the letter back in the envelope and crept downstairs to return it where he had found it. He had just placed the envelope back in the cubby hole when Tennesy burst through the door. Apparently, while wandering the town, Tennesy had noticed a figure shambling down Daly Street. He had followed the figure to the charred ruins of the Daly mansion. That was then that the moonlight had broken the clouds to allow him a good view of the figure: it appeared to be a badly-burned corpse! Perhaps John Daly himself! Tennesy stealthily left to find help. However, before returning to the hotel, he passed by the cemetery across the street. The cemetery gates had been left open by someone… or some thing.