Pastures New

The Chase begins! And, erm ... stops dead in its tracks.

As the dust settled in the now even-worse-smelling basement, the only sound was William muttering about how has was now officially a “Cat Man”. There was a collective in-taking of breath. What on earth was going on?

Before any of them had time to discuss the strange events Quique’s ever alert senses detected the distinctive sound of someone creeping up behind them – on the corridor outside the door to the cellar! Wary that the cellar door was lockable the Mexican sprang into action, bounding up the stairs to confront whoever, or whatever, it was. On immediately being faced with a wild-eyed old man swinging a club at him the Bounty Hunter did what came naturally… The man’s wire frame was thrown back by the force of Quique’s pistol bullet slamming into his gut and he came to rest sitting against the far wall, his life force ebbing away through clasped hands.

The others spilled up the stairs, William taking a guard position by the lounge door and the others stopping to admire Quique’s “handywork”.

“Good work. You like?” asked Quique as he blew the smoke from the end of his smoking pistol barrel.

Of the group only John and Ebeneezer recognised the good Reverend Owlsley. Ebeneezer crouched next to the stricken priest, laying one hand over the man’s stomach. A suddenly mortal wound became far less grievous, although no one really saw what happened or the slight golden glow before the canny man of god slip the previously stomach-lodged bullet into his pocket. Not a drop of blood had been spilled.

John’s reaction was … more animated, and his rebuke of the Mexican about shooting before asking questions was put to the hispanic hotshot in some detail. A quip by William, something about kettles and black pots was mercifully unheard by the Agent.

With the now critical-but-stable and apparently forgiving reverend urging the group to follow Lady Carstairs and her mob with god-speed the posse set off in pursuit, Sam leading the way with his superb tracking skills making sure they were on the right path.

A narrowing of the road often means chance for an ambush and today was no different, stooges from the Church of The Flame taking pot shots as the group were forced into a tight knot. Fortunately the worst injury suffered in defeating the ambushers was to William’s pride as he took a tumble from his horse whilst trying to climb the steep sides of the gorge.

Things were about to get a whole lot more difficult however as the posse’s next opponent would be their most problematic to date. Never before in the history of human endeavor had a hardened group of adventurers faced such a fiendish, obstinate, down right devilish opponent. Move aside hell-spawns and nightmares from another dimension and meet your superior …. a … wall.

Well, perhaps slightly more than a wall – an avalanche of snowy rocks and debris seemingly caused by a bolt of lighting – the kind of activity that John remembered old, drunk Edgar had suggested Lady Carstairs was capable of creating… The source was the least of the posse’s worries however – scaling the first 10 feet was an effort in itself, even with rope, was. The comedy capers that followed saw John fall to his almost-death and needed Ebeneezers healing hands once again. Eventually it was a combination of Quique’s tenacity and William’s patience which saw the Mexican win the day and arrive at the top of the obstacle, allowing the group to leave the horses (and Bessie!) behind and see what else the mysterious Lady may have in store for them…

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Dog Days...

At last the odd bunch that made such an enemy of the Grainger family could go their own separate ways. Or, could they? A summons that none individually could resist draws the disparate group to Denver, where one Mr Irving Backlund, father of the estranged Christopher, wants a simple Christmas task completing – find his son at a religious retreat, see if he is happy there or wants to come home. Simple enough, although time is tight.

In need of the rich rewards for one reason or another the group head to Derrys Ford where they question the town folk but only really find out that the church – more of a cult, The Church of the Holy Flame , is a bit strange although most of the people in it are an inoffensive old bunch. Investigation at the church compound itself and a meeting with its charismatic leader, Lady Cynthia Carstairs reveals little bar Christopher himself more than happy in his new environs and politely dismissive of any attempts to reconnect him with his father. An in advised sojourn into places off limits sees the group forcibly ejected.

Essentially done, the group can’t help but fall into bad habits and decide on one last visit – this time under the cover of night and in secrecy. Things go well to begin with – Sam and Ebeneezer eavesdrop on a church sermon which makes it clear the cult members are about to go … somewhere. The hitherto unflappable John lands most of the group in trouble by doing his best one-man-band impression which sees him and some of the others held until the local Sherriff can come and pick them up. The undiscovered members of the group are re-united in custody after a trade-mark misunderstanding between John and William.

Faced with jail the law is brought back on-side as John reveals to the Sherriff, and indeed an astounded group, that he is part of the Agency – a secretive branch of the Government with an apparent agenda which to William’s dismay does not in any way include tannin based hot drinks. This acts as a springboard for, one, last trip back to the cult ranch which ends in apparent failure – everybody is gone! As Quique started to track the convoy like only the best Mexicans can (so the says) the rest of the group perform a quick search of the buildings and find little to nothing.

Indeed, the entire search is wholly uneventful unless one counts the foul-smelling secret basement with long-dead mutilated canines which spring back into life, attacking the group. The normally calm and collected William anchors the battle by standing in the middle providing support of the non-existent type despite Ebeneezer’s best efforts whilst Sam and John do what needs to be done, gunning down man’s ex-best friends whilst trying to avoid being squeaky dog-chews.

With the battle won for now, Quique back from the hunt and William back from Rattled City, John makes a random, but entirely correct assumption – the dogs were under the control of lady Carstairs and she was watching them through canine eyes all along…

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I Got You, Under My Skin

William and John head off in separate directions, each looking for a new start after the run in with the Graingers. Fate sometimes has a sense of humour however, and after a hilarious mix up and complete misunderstanding with a group of local religious types, the two end up travelling a road together. Quite quickly. The classic odd couple.

A trackside dinner of beans and barely-veiled insults one starry evening in the desert is rudely interrupted by a a mountain lion (or, Puma Concolor as William points out calmly as it attacks John) stops by for tea also. John’s aim is somewhat off, perhaps understandable given the flurry of claws in his face, but William puts the creature down with one, cool, aimed shot. An apparent pack-mate slinks off into the night.

Approached by one Lance “Potato” O’Boyle who is attracted to the scene by all the noise, the two give in to the promise of proper hospitality at a nearby hamlet. On arrival they are however immediately whisked away on another adventure (despite William’s protestations that sleep, breakfast and tea (not necessarily in that order) should come first) to find and kill the rest of the mountain lion pack that have been terrorising the locals. The promise of a bounty from the local big-wig, Zeke Ritter, an apparent game hunter given the amount of skins and animal trophies adorning his bar is too good to turn down.

A small posse including John and William encounters a strangely silent group of Red Indians before finding themselves a) in a dead end gully & b) in a whole heap of trouble, when the rest of the posse turns on them – the whole thing being a set up and an ambush! Something is odd however, as Zeke makes it abundantly clear that he wants bodies intact and unmarked… Quick thinking from William and quick shooting from John best the bad guys and Zeke flees!

The oddest companions in the West, bickering all the way, give chase and soon find themselves back at the, now strangely deserted hamlet. On sneaking into Zeke’s house they eventually discover the shocking truth – here is a man that likes to kill, stuff and display not only animals, but people too. William is perturbed to find a plaque with “Well dressed Englishman” on it, seemingly ready for a display which was planned to include everybody’s favourite member of the Royal Geographical Society. Finding plenty of distasteful scenes along the way, including the freshly murdered body of a barmaid they had encountered only hours previously, and plenty of humans recently stuffed and put on display the two find Zeke cowering in a corner of the darkened basement. His attempts to reason his way out of trouble end in failure as an unusually cold William shoots him in the stomach in cold blood, mortally wounding the man. As he sinks to the ground however, the odd baby-rattle like effect in his hand smashes on the floor, releasing what can only be described as a whirlwind of screams and smoke. When it clears the stuffed humans attack everyone!

John and William dodge picks, bullets and in one “it would be funny if it were not so serious” moment a well-swung handbag, and cut down many of their assailants whilst slowly retreating up the stairs. The stricken Zeke finds a fitting end at the hands of a group of his own creations whilst William and John start a fire that would ultimately consume the whole ranch and remove any trace of the whole sordid affair. Outside however they find the Red Indians who seem pleased that an evil has been eradicated. John demands answers and gets none really whilst William sits and smokes his pipe, no tea now being available.

The pair are last seen, riding away into the morning sunrise. The acrid smoke of a burning hamlet fills the air whilst the mountain lions (who came out of the whole affair with their reputations relatively intact) looking on from afar can only hear the sounds of more bickering…

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Separate Ways

With Hogan confirming Shepherd was fit to travel, the group took to the trail then the train back to Sweetwater. Arriving late at night they made their way to Grainger’s, open for business and busy as ever.

Directed upstairs they met again with the portly figure of Bailey Grainger. Keen hear of their success, Grainger became frustrated at the groups reluctance to explain what happened. The group trying to extract answers to their own questions first. Slowly, part of the tale unravelled and it became clear to Grainger that the “package” was not delivered as instructed. The conversation began to slide towards anger on both sides and it was at this point that the group became aware of another person in the room. Had he always been there? No one could recall; certainly no one saw him come in if he had not. Masked by the gloom of the corner in which he stood, Grainger introduced this new person as “McClain”, who in turn slowly tipped his hat. A chill ran down the backs of all and unease lay heavy on the heart.

William, ever the inquisitive, decided he needed a better look at this “newcomer” and approached boldly, arm outstretched in greeting. He got within a couple of feet McClain when his feet faltered and would carry him no closer. A cold sweat ran down his back as his arm, still outstretched, began to tremble. If McClain noticed this he gave no indication, simply calmly watching the unnerved Englishman as he backed away. This feeling of unease was sensed by the entire party and, realising that nothing further was to be gained from continuing the “discussion” with Grainger, left the office to gather their thoughts in the street below.

Well, that seemed to be that. They had be brought together by a bar fight, fought off train robbers and liberated a small town. Not bad for 5 men that had never met before. But now their trail seemed to have come to a natural conclusion. They found lodging for the night and in the morning shook hands, bidding one another safe travels as each man followed his own destiny.

Grainger, he was left in his office to contemplate his decision to hire these men in the first place. He did not know where his gun was and he had no idea of his brother’s fate. But surely this news would reach him in time.

A little over a month has now passed…

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Fish in a Barrel

The “young” Wyatt Grainger turned out to be a man probably in his early 50’s. Riding through the center of Privelegio as if he owned it, which it seemed he practically did, he approached John and Ebenezer.

He quickly confirmed with Shepherd that they were the delivery crew his brother had sent and that the box contained his “merchandise”. His tone was neither threatening nor aggressive but the apparent way the villages had been treated clearly affected the groups opinion of him.

John jumped down from the box as Grainger instructed one of his hands to go check everything was “present and correct”. The crowbar easily pried the wooden lid, the party holding a collective breath in full knowledge there was nothing inside. How would this Grainger react?

A reaction was made for him as before anything else could be said Shepherd drew his pistol, pointed it at Grainger and declared “Nobody make a move”.

“Nobody make a move” must clearly mean something else in South Texas as Grainger shouted “It’s a trap boys, Skin out!”. Grainger and his men dashing for cover from the man that had just drawn on them. Shepherd, prepared for this reaction, took aim with his pistol and shot at Grainger as he fled. He could have sworn he hit him in the back and yet the older rancher rode on.

Taking Shepherd’s lead, Ebenezer pulled up his trusty shotgun, Sam and William unravelled the destructive gatling gun, and Quique took aim down his rifle. All hell then broke lose. Grainger and his men scattered in different directions to try protect themselves. John fired off a couple more shots, bringing down a ranch hand. Quique offered his lead to the fray but, above all others, the gatling gun, manned by Sam and William, sang out its song of death. One after another Grainger’s men fell before it like fish in a barrel.

The hail of gunfire was not all one-sided and John, closely followed by Ebenezer, took to the rickety saloon for some form of shelter. Considering the rear door as a strong candidate for Wyatt or his men to enter, John prepared himself. He was correct. One of the hired hands thundered through the door and into the room. Amazingly, despite John being the more prepared of the two, the desperate man managed to react first. Shepherd felt the heat and then sharp pain of the bullet as it entered his shoulder. Staggered and dazed he could no longer react. Ebenezer could though. Levelling his shotgun, he fired and missed. There was no time to bemoan the misfortune though and he reached out a hand for John. Calling on The Lord’s name a new kind of warmth entered the stricken Shepherd’s body and his eyes quickly snapped back into focus, his wounds miraculously healed.
Regaining his composure, John fired upon the man, just as a second entered through the main saloon doors. John’s aim was true and before the first assailant had even hit the floor he had whirled around and shot at the new Saloon occupant. Two more of Grainger’s men now lay dead.

Outside Sam and William continued to have success with the gatling gun. The street of Privilegio now running red with blood, the two men with the monstrous weapon allowing no respite.

Quique, although positioned in relative safety, made the decision to come down from the church roof and get a little closer to the action. Quickly sliding down the ladder he scurried over to take cover behind the well. The street was pretty much deserted now as those not already cut down by the gatling gun had made their way to the side streets. Quique’s keen eye picked out one such individual trying to make his way down the right hand side of town. Pre-empting the route this would take the man, Quique made his way over. Rifle at the ready the Mexican spun around the side of the building and confronted the man.

It was Grainger himself. Quique had the drop on him and offered an ultimatum to surrender. The nervous twitch in Grainger’s eye was the tell tale sign Quique need, this man would not surrender. The mexican’s rifle rang out but incredibly missed. Grainger took his chance and fired back, his shot clipping the side of Quiques head. The pain was excruciating and warm blood quickly flowed down and into his eyes, obscuring his vision. Quique now staggered defenceless.

One shot, then another. John Shepherd walked calmly down the street firing both pistols at Grainger’s back. Again Grainger stood unharmed. Turning to the source of the shots he returned the compliment. One shot fire, one shot hit. Taken clean off his feet, Shepherd lay in the sand, motionless.

Sam and William, who had just finished dispensing with troubles of their own (the Englishman almost taking a man’s head clean off with a homerun from his trusty cain), reacted to the gunshots and headed over at full speed. Ebenezer, recently reappearing from the Saloon’s main entrance, instinctively knew something was very wrong. Cursing his lame leg he put all he could into getting to John’s location as fast as he could. The closer he got the worse he could see the situation was. A battle that had originally gone so well was now turning into disaster. Realising that he would be no help to John if Grainger shot him too, the priest fired his shotgun, narrowly missing.

Grainger stood alone against all these men that seemed intent on taking him down. They had stolen his gun, trapped him and his men and then opened fire. Alone or not he would take his revenge and two of them had already paid for their crimes. The priest was next. Incredulously his aim, that til now had been so true, deserted him. The man of the cloth stood unharmed. “Drop it Grainger. The game’s up”. Another voice. How many of these devils had been sent against him? Turning to his left stood Sam Barnes, his stone face implying there was no room for negotiation. This was so unfair thought Grainger but, nonetheless, he levelled his pistol one more time. “Click” No, that was unfair. There was no time to think about this though as a loud bang rang out and smoke issued from a Texan’s gun. Grainger lay dead in the sand.

Joined by the jubilant townsfolk, they carried their wounded to the saloon. Assisted by a local woman of some minor medical skill, Ebenezer did what he could for Quique and John. Quique was not as badly wounded as initially thought, once the blood was cleaned away. John on the other hand was a different story. The old surgeon come priest stood over the stricken miner, his hands shaking from fatigue. Despite the urgency of the wounds, unless his hands could be steadied, Ebenezer felt he may do more harm than good.

A short rest and perhaps a shot of whisky later, Hogan stepped up. Shepherd was out of immediate danger, though he was due an almighty headache.

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The truth is gonna' come out... in a hail of bullets.

Privilegio. A town with problem. A town of fear. Fear of the Grangers. Our heroes perspective of the job they were paid to do has been changed. And they were none too happy. The Mexicans of the town revealed they were being exploited by the Grangers and their men, riding into town and taking whatever they want. Our heroes had only one side of the story to go on, but it was clear to them that things were not right. But they needed to know where they stood in the eyes of the law, what law there is in the deep south, out in the wastes.

And then there was the package. A Gattling Gun. What were the Grangers going to do with it?

John and Sam took the decision to ride hard back to Odessa , seeking to bring the situation to the attention of the Sheriff. Meanwhile Ebenezer, William and Quique remained with the gun outside the town to consider their options.

After three hours, the riders arrived back in Odessa and got right down to business at the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff was indeed not pleased to hear the report on Privilegio, however he also revealed there was little he was able to do. He was the Sheriff on Odessa, and his authority did not extend far past its borders. Privilegio’s security was down to Privilegio’s Sheriff. No doubt a man already dead, or bought off. Only a Marshal would have the authority to deal with the problem, and they did not come around too often. He could only give advice, and was not too keen on our group taking the law into their own hands. He was more interested in the news of the Gun. What sort of private individual would need, or be able to afford a Gattling Gun. “Look for a mark” was his advice. But he also wanted the Gun brought back… and soon.

It was clear the Sheriff was not going to be able to be able to help, so Sam and John made ready to ride back, after Sam had purchased some supplies and sent a telegram… again. Just who was he communicating with? His Aunt it seemed…

Meanwhile, the others decided to re-pack the gun and move it into town. Upon entering again the real scale of the problem became apparent. The whole town was out to greet them, with an almost carnival atmosphere. To the towns people our heroes represented there only way out of the situation. All the hopes rested on them making some sort of agreement, or stand, again the Grangers and their men. But what to do? Fight? What if they had the situation wrong? What if they were jumping to conclusions without knowing the full extent of what was going on? Many plans were made, mulled over and discarded. They decided to wait to see what information, or help, Sam and John returned with.

And it was some wait. The midnight hour had passed by the time the sounds of horses hooves rang out across the town. And the news was not good. There were on their own. And so they weighed their options. They would try to speak, to find out what was going on. But they suspected it would end in violence. The gun bore the markings of the Confederate Army, and they were not known to go handing out over a thousand dollars of cutting edge weaponry.

And so the gun was set up on a roof, overlooking the town, covered with sack cloth, but ready to be brought to bear. Quique took up a position on the church roof. The gun was manned by Sam and William. Leaving John and Ebenezer at the sharp end. Sat on the empty gun box, outside the tavern, just as the young Granger and his desperadoes rode into town…

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Crossed Lines

Riddled with bullet holes and shattered windows, the delayed 11:54 from Sweetwater limped into Odessa’s station around 9pm. The traumatized passengers wasted no time in alighting and rushing for the relative safety of the small town.

Less terrified, but more exhausted, D’Alembord, Barnes, Shepherd, Hogan and Quineros would have liked nothing more than to kick off their boots and collapse onto even a lumpy mattress into a hard sleep, but first they had to turn over the two surviving robbers to the local sheriff, safely stow Grainger’s precious crate, not to mention actually find somewhere that might even have a lumpy mattress.

The thanks of the passengers gave them a quick lift, as did that of the immensely grateful Station Master. Evidently, train robberies were a common occurrence in these parts; and rarely were they thwarted. The chirpy little man was so happy, he even offered to pay for their night’s lodging at the local flophouse. His offer was readily accepted.
Shepherd and Barnes turned their two glum and wounded prisoners over to the sheriff, then assisted in moving the crate from the train into the station house where they were assured it would be quite safe.

All the while, the same question was burning inside each man’s mind: “Just what the hell is inside that thing?”

Whatever it was, it was safe for now. A hard day was done and the group eagerly headed for Odessa’s saloon. Quique, initially staying to guard the crate, swiftly realised it would probably be all right in the care of the railroad and caught them up, gamely knocking back a sickly green liquor that the bartender appeared to have poured as a dare. Amazingly, the Mexican didn’t even flinch, much to the disappointment of the others.

The glum bartender advised that the village of Privilegio lay some twenty miles away and was populated by Mexicans. It was clear from his tone that the folk of Odessa harbored a fairly low opinion of their neighbors from south of the border.

Somewhat the wiser, the men subsequently retired to their rooms. It was far too late and they were far too weary to care about sharing. Unfortunately for Ebenezer, he discovered in the early hours of the morning that Quique suffered from terrible nightmares and nearly found himself on the wrong end of the confused rifleman’s Winchester.

The rest of the night passed without incident. After a cooked the group procured a wagon and some horses, then loaded their mysterious cargo and set off for Privilegio.
After three hours of travelling through the dusty, unremarkable wilderness, they sighted the tiny village. Erring on the side of caution, they pulled off the road and decided to send a couple of scouts ahead. It was felt that Quineros and Hogan, being Mexican and a man of God, stood less chance of being accosted should the villagers be hostile, so they rode on whilst Shepherd, Barnes and D’Alembord, thirsty for tea as usual, remained to guard the wagon.

‘Impoverished’ was the word that came to mind as the pair trotted up what passed for the village’s main street. Emaciated cattle plodded weakly around a modest corral, and the looks of barely tempered fear on the villagers’ tanned faces made it apparent that there was likely no threat here.

The pair secretly wondered, was it just that they were outsiders or was there something more to it?

Seeking answers, they tethered their horses and entered Privilegio’s lone cantina. The bartender seemed just as nervous as the other folk. Quique conversed with him in Spanish, translating for Ebenezer, yet, even so, the conversation was rambling and confused, the villager seeming to get tongue-tied out of fretfulness.

Suddenly, the doors burst open. The pair whipped about, ready to fight, but paused when they saw a boy standing there, ready to draw down on them.

“We not afraid of you!” he cried, although it was clear from his broken delivery that the opposite was true.

He was hastily ushered out, leaving an older, English speaking, Mexican man to apologise profusely, as though the lad’s life was in jeopardy.

These people obviously lived in terror of someone. The mention of the name ‘Wyatt Grainger’ seemed to prick the man like a needle. He seemed to have taken the two strangers to be members of Grainger’s posse, who apparently regularly descended upon the town like locusts.
Quique and Ebenzer returned to their comrades and reported their findings. Frustrated and thirsty for more concrete information, Shepherd rode in himself, along with Barnes and Quique. Once again, confusion muddied the facts, but there was little doubt that Grainger was bleeding Privilegio dry, taking whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it; women, cattle, anything.

The blood in both Shepherd’s and Barnes’ bodies began to boil. Casting off any cover, Shepherd stated plainly to the bartender they were not in Grainger’s employ, though this too seemed to only confuse the flustered man all the more.

Shepherd looked at his newly found comrades. He had no intention of aiding a robber baron like Grainger, reneging on their deal with the man’s brother in the process, but what of them? What kind of men were they?

Quique pondered the situation for a moment. “No,” he stated at last. “I no do this job for him.”

“He’s a bully,” Barnes growled, his eyes flaring with righteous indignation, “and a criminal. He’s a rustler, a robber, a kidnapper, and Lord knows what else.”

Now they were in agreement, Shepherd asked, “So, what do we do with the crate?”

As he and Quique debated over whether to open it carefully, smash it and claim it was an accident, or take it back to Odessa, Barnes marched deliberately out. A short while later, they exited the saloon and spied him coming from the general store, a hoe, hammer and nails in his hands. It seemed Barnes at least had set his mind on what should be done.

The same conversation resumed when they returned to their companions at the wagon. Different courses of action were suggested, but on one thing all were in agreement: Wyatt Grainger would not receive his merchandise.

Before a further word could be uttered, Barnes dug the edge of the hoe under the crate’s lid and pried it carefully. The wood eased up little by little, yawning to reveal the nails along its length. At length, the men removed the lid and peered into the mysterious box.
None were surprised at what was concealed inside: a brand new, military grade Gatling gun.

Veterans of the war, Hogan and Barnes knew only too well what this mechanical monster was capable of. Two hundred rounds per minute spat from its six rotating barrels. They’d both seen these things take down charging walls of men and horses, turning them all into mincemeat. They dreaded to think what the despicable Wyatt Grainger had planned for it.

Once more, the five were faced with a myriad of options. After some debate, Barnes and Shepherd decided to ride back to Odessa to inform the sheriff of the situation, although they harbored little faith he would care about the fate of these backwater Mexicans, plus there was always the chance he was in Grainger’s pocket. Either way, their consciences spurred them into action, and they galloped away, aiming to return around sunset.

Tomorrow, Wyatt Grainger would be riding into Privelegio to collect his property. The sun already seemed to be making a beeline for the horizon.

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The 11:54 From Sweetwater Is Delayed Due To Problems On The Line...

Bullets continued to fly – mostly spraying out from the passenger car, but some finding their way in from the horse-mounted bandits. It quickly became apparent that the raiders had something on their mind other than the resistant bunch of defenders in the passenger section – their steeds continuing to gallop onwards, towards the engine!

Ignoring the passengers completely was a mistake however, and the blazing guns of William D’Alembord, John Shepherd, Sam Barnes and Quique Quineros claimed numerous riders, seriously reducing their numbers. Quique and Sam in particular were deadly – the Mexican’s trusty rifle claiming more victims, and Sam’s pistol making headshots as if they were going out of fashion. Satisfied the women were safe, Ebeneezer Hogan produced a wicked looking shotgun to add to the general artillery available.

As the remaining riders urged their horses forward they started to fade from view. The posse were not prepared to leave it there however, and the front door of the passenger car was flung open only to reveal two raiders stood on the roof of the mail car, pointing guns right at the door! A deadly short-ranged firefight ensued. Inexplicably out in front at this stage, William turned to one side, presenting a reduced profile, and after ducking and diving like a man possessed he somehow managing to avoid a hail of bullets bar a fleshwound to his hip. At the end of it, the two raiders retreated back down the roof of the mail car, nursing severe wounds from pistol bullet, rifle bullet and shot.

As the posse started to chase after them, the train suddenly ground to a halt without warning, throwing William and John, now both clambering up various ladders, forward. John managed to hold onto the ladder, but William was cast forward, rolling the length of the mail car and nearly tumbling off the side. As he brushed himself off and stood up he found himself face to face with the remaining bandit, the other now laying in a bloody heap some ton of yards behind the train. A short fist fight ensued, but without his trusty hiking cane William knew he was outmatched and took the first opportunity to jump down to the relative safety of the ground. The wounded bandit retreated, and disappeared from view.

John ran to the front of the train, intent of getting to the bottom of it all, and espied two more bandits now tending the engine. William reloaded and waited for the others to catch up. By this point both Sam and Quique had caught up with John. Sam in particular was in no mood for talking by now , and rounded the corner to the cab, blazing away and ending one of the engine bandits there and then with a vicious flurry of hot lead. Quique advanced from the otherside, a gut shot from him ending any resistance from the other.

With that, quietness descended on the desert. There was only one place left to look for the bandit who had mysteriously disappeared and that was the mail car. Finding the “front” door now wide open John took the lead, taking an initial peek before leaping in and finishing off the injured bandit at close range. Suddenly, what had been a battle turned into a hostage situation. With all of the group at the front door, and only William at the rear, John and Ebeneezer tried their own very different ways of talking down the two remaining raiders, who now held the mail car guard they hadn’t already killed at gunpoint. Ebeneezer, seeing that his wise words delivered on behalf of the almighty were getting through to one, waded in to confront him, and the man broke down, releasing the guard. The other bandit, “Bobby”, decided to flee, flinging open the back door only to have it slammed back in his face by William. That gave John, Quique and Sam the opportunity to take their lined up shots, and he fell, his legs almost blown off.

The hi-jack now thwarted, the group quickly organised the remaining train staff and the 08:54 from Sweetwater was on its way again, this time with additional baggage – the lucky raiders who lived in ropes, the unlucky ones wrapped in blankets, their faces covered and their souls delivered up to the mercy of the almighty, or so Ebeneezer said.

“I didn’t shoot no body…. I didn’t shoot no body!” sobbed the remaining hostage taker, all the way to Odessa.

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Mail Cars and Tea Cups

Satisfied that there was not much more to be done prior to their train journey, the group found lodging at the local hotel.

An uneventful night saw them at the train station nice and early where they collected the tickets, paid for by Grainger as promised, and watched the crate loaded into the Mail Car. Entrance to the Mail Car seemingly strictly prohibited by the guards riding within.

The engine began to build a head of steam, whistles blew and doors banged shut, they were on their way. The group’s fellow passengers consisted of a well dressed Englishman, an older woman and young ward, a young mother and infant, and 3 men of no particular note dressed as any other common cowpoke.

Inexplicably driven by an urge for tea, William Fry D’Alembord took it upon himself to exit the passenger car, climb up the Mail car and begin making his way along towards the engine. Shepherd quickly followed warning against this action but the determined D’Alembord pressed on, hot water for his tea had to be obtained. The guards with the Mail car did not share his enthusiasm and, taking exception to an unknown walking across their roof, “offered” him a quick return to the passenger car via the safer route of the Mail car. Despite now being inside the off-limits car, D’Alembord failed to see anything of note.

Back in their seats the monotony of the journey continued. Some dozed off, others took to counting the odd bush that raced passed their window. None managed to spot the horse backed riders until they were well upon the train. Riding alongside with guns in their hands and scarves pulled up around their faces, their intentions were obviously more than just to say “Howdy”. Quique unsheathed his rifle, D’Alembord woke Shepherd, Barnes warned the other passengers, Hogan snored loudly.

Then the shooting began.

The fast firing Mexican’s rifle rang out above all others as shot after shot found its target but he was certainly not alone as all returned fire upon the marauders. All except Ebenezer who, moved into action by a bullet grazing his leg, had dived to the safety of the train floor … to check on the women of course.

Three riders are down but more now ride in their place. Two have moved on past the passengers and are no longer in sight.

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In the Begining
All good things

“What’s that Sonny? You want to hear the tale of how it all began?” the old man said smiling a toothless grin as he rocked back and forth “well, many a story gets started on the floor of a Saloon and so too this one….”

Within the walls of “Grainger’s”, a small saloon in the town of Sweetwater; Texas, a game of poker was playing out. At the table, John Shepherd did not expect to get called a cheat but that is pretty much what James Logan called him that night. Standing to take back all the money he had lost, Logan had not counted on Shepherd not taking too kindly to the insult, nor the fact that four other men in there were also ready to stand up for ‘what is right’.

Despite Logan having a small party of thugs to back him up, Shepherd assisted in no small part by these other yet to be named men, beat down the threat and James Logan was forced to leave the saloon with his tail well and truly between his legs.

Impressed and thankful for the relatively little destruction caused, the owner of the saloon, Bailey Grainger, summoned the men to his office. Somehow a sixth person, who had done all he could to avoid the prior conflict, got caught up in the owners thanks.

Bailey Grainger, thinking the men were already a group working together, offered them a job. To accompany and protect a package that he wishes to send to his brother, Wyatt. They are to travel by train to Odessa, acquire a wagon or coach to transport the cargo to a small village called “Privilegio” (20 miles away), and meet Wyatt Grainger in the center of the village 3 days hence at high noon. They are to be paid a total of $25 each. Half now, half by Wyatt upon completion.

The men agreed and went back to the bar to acquaint themselves with each other.

The already identified John Shepherd spoke first. He is a prospector by trade and clearly capable of taking care of any precious finds he may make, brandishing two revolvers on his side.

Ebenezer Hogan, an ex-confederate army chaplain and surgeon. Now traveling West to spread the good lords word.

The curious Quique Quineros, the sombrero’d Mexican who has travelled here using the rail roads. A bounty hunter. He did not say whether he currently has a target.

Sam Barnes, also an ex-confederate soldier who has been taught to take no nonsense and, during the earlier bar fight, proved to be a proficient pugilist.

Amos Terwilliger, perhaps the most experienced of the group for the task they have been charged with. He has made his living for many years as a Wagoner and this job is right up his street.

And then there was William Fry D’Alembord. This Englishman had avoided the bar fight and seemed hesitant to join on for Grainger’s job, something changing his mind at the last moment. Perhaps not too surprising, the West is no place for a biologist from London.

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