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Monday, 28 August 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: The Royal Gorge Rail War

The latest adventure started out with Bat Masterson putting together a very odd team, something that everyone realized very quickly was not going to be some kind of posse of lawmen. In fact, most of the people he hired were on the shady side: Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Doc Holliday (just returned to Dodge from Las Vegas, where he'd been fined for running a poker table - gambling being strictly illegal in Las Vegas), and John Joshua Webb.  At Webb's request, he invited Crazy Miller too, and Bat brought Kid Taylor with him, the kid being the only Dodge lawman he figured would be shady enough to join in.

Their mission? They had all been hired by the Santa Fe Railroad company to act as strongmen in a dispute that company was having with the Rio Grande Railroad, over a highly-valuable pass known as the "Royal Gorge".

The Rio Grande men had driven out the crew of the main waystation in the gorge, and now Santa Fe hired bat to put together a gang to take the station back and hold it against all comers.

Before they rode off, on Jeff Young and Wyatt Earp's insistence, Bat made Other Miller a deputy Sheriff; mainly in the hopes that it would keep Bat's gun-loving younger brother Jim (the de-facto Sheriff in Bat's absence) under some modicum of control.

The Masterson gang rode off to Royal Gorge, and after some initial uncertainty about how to approach the station (wherein Webb brutally murdered the two lookouts that they spotted coming into the gorge), the party decided on trying something they hoped would avoid any further violence: Bat, using his gift of gab, would claim the group were reinforcements sent by the Rio Grande company, and then capture the real Rio Grande men and the station, hopefully without bloodshed, when they were invited right in.

Incredibly, the plan worked. The Rio Grande men weren't happy, but realized that when the Masterson gang got the draw on them they wouldn't stand a chance in a fight, so they decided to head out. All but one fellow, a mulatto named Johnson, who was the only Rio Grande man to take Crazy Miller's offer to get better pay if they switched sides.  Johnson wasn't being very well treated by the Rio Grande men, and felt quite happy to have been offered an equal stake by Miller and Bat, both of whom were quite progressive for the times.  Of course, some of the others in the group were not quite as pleased, particularly Rudabaugh and Kid Taylor, the two serious racists of the bunch. But they weren't in charge.

Meanwhile, in Dodge, Jim Masterson had started to get buzzed with his newfound authority, in what some players called the Judge-Dread/Officer-Cartman school of policing.  When a pair of slick gamblers approached Jim and Young to offer them a cut of the profits in exchange for protecting their planned crooked gambling operation, Jim made use of the Dodge City ordinance empowering him to (very dramatically, in Jim's case) "Banish" them from Dodge.

This didn't turn out to be the smartest move, because the gamblers clearly felt very humiliated at their public roughing-up at Jim's hands.  So a few days later, they sent a shootist into town with the intention of killing Jim Masterson in a duel. The shootist in question turned out to be Chris Smith, a former lawman himself, and an acquaintance of Other Miller's back when Miller had been a sheriff in the small town of Mancato. Other Miller and Jeff Young intercepted Smith first; on interrogation they found that Smith was apparently motivated by a serious need for money, but he also had a pesky kind of honor code which he felt obliged him to follow through with the contract he'd agreed to fulfill. Other Miller and Wyatt Earp were not partial to interfering, though they didn't like the situation, but Jeff Young was very determined that neither man would die on his watch, so he arrested Chris Smith in an attempt to prevent any duel from taking place.

There was still the problem of Jim Masterson; it was obvious that the second Jim found out about Smith and what he was in town for, he'd demand that Young liberate Smith and eagerly fight the duel, where he'd either end up killing Other Miller's old friend or getting himself killed. So Young came up with a plan: he faked a message from Hays City, claiming that there were cattle rustlers causing great trouble up there, and as Jim was the acting county Sheriff, it was his duty to go deal with it. They sent Bill Tilghman with him, along with orders that Bill slow down and distract Jim for as long as possible; the hope being they could keep Jim going around in circles on a wild goose chase until Bat got back, at which point the whole thing would become Bat's problem.

Meanwhile, at Royal Gorge, Bat's gang end up being visited by a band of 20 men from the Rio Grande Railroad.

The party hunkers down in the stationhouse, expecting that they'll have to face a serious shootout, or at least a siege. But Bat isn't out of tricks yet: he tells the Rio Grande men that if they go to see his contact in the Santa Fe line, he'll pay them more than the Rio Grande is offering, without having to risk their lives.  Some of them are a bit reluctant, having had bad prior history with the Santa Fe line cheating them out of their land, but Bat reasons that this way they're screwing over both railroads, and really what better way is there to get revenge? Certainly a better choice than getting themselves killed for the sake of the rail barons.

Over in Dodge, Marshall Young found himself obliged to let Smith the shootist go free, with no charge to really hold him on; he hoped that the full-day head-start and the fact that Smith didn't know which way Jim Masterson went would be enough to keep them safe.  Chris Smith, for  his part, was too smart to go off looking for a needle in a haystack; he planned to stay right there in Dodge, waiting for Jim to get back.

Other Miller decided to make use of that to have a chat with his old friend. After several drinks while listening to some of Big Nose Kate's stories about Doc Holliday, Smith finally relaxed enough to let slip some of his tale.

He'd retired as a lawman to get married, and started a little farm; but a farmer's life is very hard, and they were in danger of losing it all, so he found himself obliged to take on a job at the one other thing he was ever good at: gunplay.

Other Miller played on their friendship and made Smith a counter-offer, for what was undoubtedly more money than the two crooked gamblers had proposed; and then pointed out to Smith that if he ended up dead, even if the gamblers kept their word and got the money to his widow, what would happen to her and his infant son once those few hundred dollars ran out, with no man to provide for them?

Although he was reluctant to break his contract, Smith realized that his old friend was making a very good point, and was finally convinced to agree.

Through the process of deduction, Other Miller managed to work out that the two gamblers were holed up in Elcadur, so Jeff Young sent Wyatt Earp over there.  He made himself threatening enough to scare the pants off them and send them rushing out of Kansas to less dangerous climates.

As for Royal Gorge, the Rio Grande Railway decided they were not to be outdone. They came back into the gorge with 50 men and a gatling gun, and for a second the party feared they might just end up dead. But there was also a company man with the thugs, and he had another idea: he'd brought with them a carpet bag containing $10000, which he'd give to Bat's gang in exchance for them peaceably abandoning the stationhouse.  Bat and his group didn't need more than five minutes or so to agree. They all decided that the slight shame of giving up their job would be more than made up by a $1700 take each.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Rattray's Bull's Eye Flake

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