The next morning found the Posse in fine spirits, and the Fourth of July celebration going on outside their rooms seemed to fill the Posse with a small sense of pride. They had received no accolades for their work, dispatching the madman known as the Butcher, just a modest day’s pay and a pat on the back from Marshal Wyatt Earp.
Perhaps that is why the Posse chose to meet with railroad owner Mina Devlin, CEO of the Black River company. Her telegram promised fair compensation for the Posse’s efforts, and perhaps the idea of a payday that was wort the risk is what appealed to them. Almost certainly, it appealed to the Nighthawk brothers, who were always on the lookout for the next big score. Dr. Hedgewig seemed intrigued as well, if a little cold about the idea.
First though, a little shopping…
The Posse went out and spent some money, replenishing ammo and weapons, but it was Ruckus who surprised the party the most by spending his hard-earned coin on some fancy new clothes. Ruckus was fully aware of Black River’s reputation for being staffed and owned by some of the most beautiful and deadly women in the country, and he wanted to be sure that he caught a young vixen’s eye!
At Mina’s executive railcar, the Posse was greeted by a trio of beauties; they were the very same ones who had witnessed the Posse’s successful defeat of the ghouls underneath Dodge. The blonde, brunette, and redheaded ladies all carried whips and fine silvered pistols, and they instructed the Posse to disarm immediately before meeting Mina. They complied, but Doc Pinket elected to keep his spring-sleeve dagger contraption on him. However, the trio, known as the leaders of the Wichita Witches, quickly discovered the snake-oil salesman’s weapon and quickly relieved him of it. Clearly, these were not women to be trifled with.
After disarming the Posse, they were escorted into Mina’s private railcar, and were immediately floored by its opulence: Everywhere there was crushed red velvet, and expensive finery. The walls were decked out in the finest Parisian wallpaper, and the furniture looked as though it would have belonged in any French salon or palace. There were cakes and cigars laid out for the Posse, which Ruckus gladly enjoyed along with his brother, Leo. A cappuccino machine piped in the corner, delivering ghost rock boiled brew into fancy china cups. Clearly, Mina Devlin was a woman of exquisite tastes.
Behind a Parisian divider, a womanly shadow greeted the Posse and explained that she would be right out, delivered in a voice that hinted at Southern upbringing coupled with Harvard schooling. The shape behind the divider hinted at all the finest qualities of womanly beauty and sexuality. The voice’s owner was curved in all the right places and perfectly toned in others as she slipped on her clothes. The Reverend averted his eyes, but most of the rest of the party were drawn in by this display. At last, she appeared from behind the divider…
Mina Devlin’s body was put to shame by the dusky beauty of her face. Her skin was an alabaster color, milky and smooth. Her eyes were a smoky almond color, which shone with the light of superior intelligence, and lastly her hair was colored that of the deepest midnight sky. She purred a greeting to her guests, greeting each of them in turn by name. She took particular note of Walks With Moonlight, and noted that her reputation could earn her a post in the Wichita Witches if she so desired.
Mina sat behind her desk, a fine mahogany constructed affair, and set about her business. She handed out a photo to the party, taken with one of the brand new Epitaph cameras:
Mina Devlin said, "This is Dr. Aloysius Trevalyan, late of her Majesty’s United Kingdom. He’s an expert on rare antiquities and ancient cultures here in America. Recently, one of my survey teams came across an artifact of a curious nature, a scroll inscribed with a language that we did not recognize. It didn’t belong to any of the local cultures of Indians, and even more curious is where we found it: clutched in the hands of a dead Jesuit monk. He’d been dead for centuries, weathered to the bone, and yet the scroll remained intact.
I requisitioned the services of Dr. Trevalyan in order to decipher the scroll, as I have an interest in antiquities of this nature. He spent a few days researching the language of the scroll, and finally lamented that he had never come across such a language himself, even in the learned halls of Oxford.
I was about to file the scroll away as another curiosity when Dr. Trevalyan suggested that he be allowed to transport the scroll Salt Lake City to seek one of the libraries in the City o’ Gloom as it is so aptly named. I gave him leave, and sent one of my own “Wichita Witches”, Annalee Ransom, to protect both him and my artifact.
That was two weeks ago, and the last communique I received was from Denver. I have heard from neither my scientist or his protector since. That is why I need you."
The Reverend was about to speak when Dr. Hedgewig piped in:
Hedgewig: “Sounds as if you hired a simpleton to do your work. This man you hired was a fool, and you were a fool to hire him.”
The Posse looked aghast at Dr. Hedgewig, except for the Nighthawk brothers who chuckled with amusement at the scientist’s uncharacteristic brusqueness.
Mina, although slightly ruffled, recovered her winning smile and replied, “If that were so, my good Dr. Hedgewig, you would not have replied to my letter, nor would you still be sitting in one of MY fine chairs and enjoying MY coffee. If I may continue?”
Reverend Dallas: “Apologies for my…’acquaintance’s’ rudeness, ma’am. Please, go on.”
Mina: “Very well. It is quite possible that my employees have fallen victim to one of the many unnatural things that roam this Weird West, and it has come to my attention that your group is experienced in matters most unnatural. So, I propose that you ascertain what happened to my scroll and my people. If you are successful, I will pay you one thousand dollars in whatever currency you so desire. If my scientist is dead, I at least wish you to recover my scroll. However, the reward will only be 500 dollars in that instance.”
The Posse elected to take up Ms. Devlin on her offer, and Mina told the Posse that discretion will be necessary as her competitors in the Great Rail Wars will likely take a dangerous interest into what Mina is paying so much for. She also granted the use of one her trains to the Posse to take them to Denver, the No. 6 Engine, named “The Black Phantom.”
(TO BE CONTINUED)