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Friday 12 October 2018

Wild West Campaign Update: The Bounty

The city of Tombstone was abuzz with rumours, based on an article in the Tuscon daily, claiming that Billy the Kid, the recently escaped outlaw, had been spotted in the area.  Locals were assuming that Billy might be making his way to Tombstone, possibly to join up with the Cowboys.

And it wasn't just the locals. Tombstone found itself awash with bounty-hunters; mostly amateurs, but a few real professionals. One of them, a serious pro named Jim Wallace, has been on Billy the Kid's trail for ages now, and he presents himself to Jeff Young (as Kid Taylor is out of town). Wallace is a tough mean customer, who has no time for drink, women, criminal types, or "scum" (which seems to include almost everyone, but particularly Mexicans).

And speaking of Mexicans, Jeff's hard-luck Mexican sidekick David had bumped into a pretty Mexican girl coming out of a general store, and suddenly got all googley-eyed. When Jim Wallace suggested to Young that he had a few words to exchange with Doc Holliday, Young decided to follow him to the Oriental, expecting to watch Jim get himself killed. As it turned out, Doc wasn't there; still sore over his break-up with Big Nose Kate, he'd gone off to gamble in Purgatory.  But when Jeff got back to the Marshal's office, he found that David had disappeared.

Meanwhile, it had turned out that Mayor John Clum had offered Wyatt the office of city Marshal (currently Kid Taylor's job). Everyone assumed because he was tired of Kid Taylor vanishing on the job. In any case, Wyatt refused. Clum had also come into the Argent saloon to ask Jeff Young why he wasn't in the office. Being "in the office" was not something the deputy had signed up for, but Clum berated him enough to get off his keister and get to work.

(John Clum with his wife Mary, by then deceased)

While at the Argent, Clum didn't care to drink, but he did accept some water, "unflavored".  But when offered a glass, he expressed (in typical deadpan) that he'd clearly asked for 'unflavored' water. The Argent bartender was perplexed, as this was very clearly what he had in fact given him, but Clum was a man of mystery.

Jim Wallace also visited the Argent, a bit later, making an ass of himself while accusing Crazy Miller of being the leader of the Dodge City Gang, in league with the Cowboys, and a known associate of Billy the Kid.  Crazy couldn't figure out how Wallace knew that last one, given that he'd never told anyone about the one time he'd met Billy, but as it turns out it was Dirty Dave Rudabaugh who'd ratted Crazy out when Wallace visited Dave in prison.

Jeff Young started to get worried about David, so he went looking in the Mexican Quarter. He crossed paths with the Cowboy Indian Charlie Cruz, who spoke Spanish and proved surprisingly helpful, explaining that apparently the young lady David met earlier was named "Lupita", and she was something of a gold-digger, having tried to hook up with various men to maintain herself. Only now, her incensed father (who has no idea Lupita isn't the very picture of innocence) claimed that Lupita had been 'seduced' and 'corrupted' by David who'd run off with her. Jeff Young found out that Lupita and her father had moved to Tombstone relatively recently from a little town called San Luis, and he suspected that they might have fled there to get married. He decided to go after David, and asked the Millers for help. Crazy Miller agreed to go immediately, but Other Miller decided to stay behind; that is, until  he remembered that Billy The Kid had strong connections with the Mexican-American community and became concerned that his two friends might be riding right into the Kid's current hideout. So he raced after them.

When they arrived at the town, they found that Billy the Kid was not there, but they did find David and Lupita. Too late, as they'd gotten married already. The next day they brought them back to Tombstone, and to Lupita's father, hoping he'd be pleased David had at least done the right thing, and made an honest woman out of his daughter.  But the dad didn't see it that way. Lupita expected David to work to maintain her (and for Crazy Miller to pay for that accordingly), and when Dad was not impressed she even claimed (falsely) that Miller had promised to help her start her own shop. But Dad wanted Lupita taken care of in a proper way, and wanted his daughter to marry a rancher or at least a farmer, not a crass businessman (not that David was any of those things, having spent his whole life as the most menial of laborers). Dad demanded that Lupita would stay with him until David could become a worthy landowner.

Leaving David to his misery, Crazy Miller headed back to the Argent, but not before crossing path with Jim Wallace and tell him that Billy the Kid definitely wasn't in San Luis, causing Jim Wallace to immediately rush to that town suspecting that Crazy was lying to him.
Curly Bill Brocius had come to talk to Crazy, telling him that Wallace had been making himself a problem with the Cowboys, and had aggressively threatened Billy Breakenridge for having written news reports that made Billy the Kid out to be a hero. Curly Bill threatened that if Wallace came back to town, he'd probably have to be dealt with.

Meanwhile, the Argent bartender had been so perplexed about Mayor Clum's dislike for their water that he went to Doctor Goodfellow. Doc was perplexed as well, and since he was the designer and majority owner of the aqueduct that brought the water supply to Tombstone (including the water that was sold at the Argent) he tried to take on the challenge, designing a protocol to purify the water. When at Crazy Miller's insistence, Mayor Clum came back to the Argent and tried the new water, he claimed (in total deadpan) to be 'outraged' at this 'prank', since the new water was worse than the old water!

(Doctor George Goodfellow, the biggest mary-sue in the wild west; bigger than Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday!)

David had come the next day to see Jeff Young; asking for a loan to buy a 20-hectare ranch from a miner. Young tried to explain that he didn't have that kind of money, at which point David apologized, expressing that he should never have asked in the first place and that of course even if Jeff had a dollar, David probably wouldn't ever be able to pay it back.
A dollar?
Yes, it turned out that a down-on-his-luck and very drink prospector was going to sell a farmstead that was "useless" to him for $1. Young lent David the money and then they went to check out the place.  It was 20 hectares alright, in the middle of the desert, with a broken-down farmhouse. It looked pitiful, but David was overjoyed. He planned to keep working for Crazy Miller to try to fix up the place, and then become a full time rancher and get Lupita to come live with him.

Meanwhile, Virgil Earp had been given the same offer as his brother by Mayor Clum: to become the new town Marshal. In Virgil's case,  he was already the US Marshal for Cochise County, but it turned out he would be able to take on both roles as long as the US Marshal work took precedent. Clum was willing to give Virgil two deputies, so that he could do so. Virgil talked with both Young and Other Miller about this (separately). He was strongly considering this (not mentioning that in part, he needed the extra money), but wanted to know what they thought and whether they knew why Clum wanted this so badly. Neither of them did know that, but both felt Virgil would be a better town Marshal than Kid Taylor, though at the same time didn't want Kid to have any hard feelings. He told them he'd be happy to have any combination of the three men (Young, Other Miller or Taylor) as his deputies, but whoever he got for the job would have to put in the hours and follow his orders.  Jeff Young decided he didn't want that kind of responsibility; he'd come to Tombstone to be a gambler, not a lawman, and had only taken the job for Kid Taylor because he thought Taylor would need his help.  So he bowed out; while Other Miller agreed, and it remained to be seen what Kid Taylor would think of being demoted rather than just fired.

In any case, Virgil decided, before accepting anything, to demand of Clum just why the Mayor wanted this change.  And finally, he found out the truth: Clum was planning to introduce Gun Control to Tombstone, making carrying guns illegal in town limits, and he thought Kid Taylor wouldn't be the man to be able to enforce it in the face of Cowboy resistance (and keep his head). Virgil decided to accept the job, but it wouldn't be official until next month.

The day after that, Jim Wallace was back in town, and angrier than ever. He hadn't found Billy the Kid, but he did read an article in the Tombstone Nugget (Billy Brekindridge's paper) that presented Wallace as a "thug" and a "menace".  Wallace went over to the Crystal Palace Saloon and started smacking and threatening Billy, calling him an 'effeminate nancy-boy' and a 'degenerate'. Curly Bill Brocius came into the saloon and got in Wallace's way, protecting Billy and telling Wallace to fight someone his own size. Wallace said that Brocius had no bounty he knew of and thus no interest to him. He started to walk away.  Brocius followed him to the door and said "but now you have a fight with me!" and started to draw. But Wallace wasn't one of the most dangerous Bounty Hunters in the west for nothing; he outdrew Brocius and got him with two shots: one to the neck, and the other to face. Brocius fell. Jeff Young had shown up just before the gunfight and everyone could see it was a fair fight. Young and Sherman McMaster stopped the other Cowboys from attacking Wallace in public, while Doc Goodfellow was called. He stopped Curly Bill's bleeding and got him to his clinic. Incredibly, Curly Bill was remarkably lucky; he would survive with nothing more than a couple of distinctive scars to mark his encounter.

The next day passed without anyone catching sight of David, and finally Jeff Young grew worried. He rode out to David's new farmstead, only to find that the entire house had collapsed! David's bad luck persisted. David himself was injured but not badly, and had dug himself out of the wreckage. By the time Young found him, David had been trying to dig a trench to make himself a sod house (something that was a workable idea in a place like Kansas, but not so much in Arizona); but even this had gone wrong. In the process he'd found that his land was nothing but sand over a layer of pebbled rock, and when he dug into that he struck water. Jeff took David over to the Argent and told the Millers about all this misery... but suddenly Other Miller had a thought. It was just a chance, that maybe, that water which David had struck, being filtered out of the pebbled rock, might be the "unflavored" water that Mayor Clum desired.  Other Miller went to the Mayor and invited him to come out to David's farm and try the water; and when Clum did, he was shocked to discover it was the "most unflavored water he'd ever tried". Clum immediately rushed back to to David and offered him $600 for his useless ranch!

David was overjoyed, and immediately accepted. He was sure that Lupita would be overjoyed too, and indeed she was when she found out. David had plans to get a proper farm for them, but Lupita told him she'd find a little shop instead, and asked him to let her take care of the money for now.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys were planning revenge against Jim Wallace. Other Miller realized this would be dangerous, and so he carefully started spreading the rumor that Billy the Kid had been spotted back in New Mexico. Wallace caught on to the rumor and between that and realizing he'd probably bitten off more than he could chew with the Cowboys, decided to skip town.

As it turns out, so did Lupita. She left a couple of days later, with David's heart and his $600, sneaking away in the first morning stagecoach. Once again, David's infamous bad luck had struck true.


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