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Sunday 4 November 2018

Wild West Campaign Update: The Widow's Son

The session began with shocking news: President Garfield had been shot!  He was critically wounded, but alive, his would-be assassin being a mentally deranged disgruntled former lawyer who had come to believe he would be granted a position of influence after Garfield's inauguration and then decided to kill him when that didn't happen.

Right around the same time, a miner near tombstone was shot in the gut with an injury fairly similar to that of the President's. Doctor Goodfellow treated him with a radical new procedure, the laparotomy, which saved the miner's life and would continue to be the standard treatment for abdominal gunshot wounds to this day. It was just another example of Goodfellow somehow managing to be the biggest mary-sue of the historical period, in a town that featured the likes of Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo and Wyatt Earp.

Meanwhile the cowboys had come back in town, and they were none too happy about the new Tombstone Gun Control Law. There had been several encounters between angry cowboys and the lawmen, with the cowboys claiming the gun control measures were an Earp plot.

Crazy Miller was busy with a massive project of building new businesses in the five downtown lots he'd purchased after the great fire of 1881, plus rebuilding over the burnt ruins of the Argent saloon. While the construction was under way, Crazy was spending his time hanging out at he Oriental Saloon. He was probably spending more time there than Wyatt Earp, who had been increasingly spending time outside of town, not very surreptitiously, with the actress/singer Sadie Marcus.

While Crazy was in the Oriental (trying to convince disgruntled part-owner Milt Joyce, who had gotten sick of Doc Holliday's abusive nature and Wyatt Earp taking Doc's side, to sell his share of the saloon), a man came up to him, claiming to be the long-lost son of Crazy's deceased wife, the wealthy widow McKnee. He claimed that, contrary to all reports, he had survived the Civil War, and after suffering many years of alcoholism, was now turning his life around, and he hoped to get his 'fair share' of the Widow's inheritance from Crazy.

Crazy Miller directed him to Doc Holliday, who had been the widow's nephew. Doc, who had been gambling, drinking, and coughing more than usual after breaking up with Big Nose Kate, immediately took this supposed "Henry McKnee" for a fraud. He asked him a question that his real cousin should easily have known, and the man claimed to have forgotten the answer. When Doc stood up menacingly, most likely to gut the man posing as his kin, he was suddenly struck with a coughing attack until he spat out gobs of blood and collapsed face first on his poker table. The man took the only chance he'd have and fled like lightning out of the bar.

Miller rushed Holliday to Doc Goodfellow's clinic across the street, where Kid Taylor (who was on duty at the time) gave him the best treatment possible for an incurable disease. Doc would survive his fit, but it was clear at this point that he was very gravely ill. Having already lived six years longer than the average prognosis of Tuberculosis, there really wasn't much that either Taylor or Goodfellow could do for Doc Holliday. It was frankly a miracle he was still breathing, much less drinking, gambling and still killing people.

Around the same time, Jeff Young was in the pool hall, responding to a tip from a concerned citizen that Ike Clanton was carrying (and stupidly showing off) a concealed gun. He confronted Ike, who went on a typical blustering tirade about the Earps thinking they were going to run the place and that they were all going to pay, and that the cowboys "don't like no law around here". Ike himself was a coward and an incompetent but he was surrounded by Cowboys and there was a tense moment, until Deputy Frank Stillwell proposed to Young that he "arrest" Ike instead.
Things might still have gone south, except at that moment a stunned-looking cowboy came into the bar and announced that the news had just broke that Billy the Kid was shot dead.

Billy had been found hiding in a village near Ft.Sumner by Pat Garrett, who had once been Billy's friend and now led the posse hunting him. Garrett took Billy by surprise and shot him twice before Billy could make a move, killing him.

The Cowboys recognized Billy as a fellow renegade of the West, and spent the night toasting to his memory. Even the lawmen were sentimental about him, recognizing that a legend of the west had just passed.

Wyatt got back from his 'ride', and found out about Doc. He went to check on him in the clinic, and Doc was already prepared to go back to his own room (against the better judgment of his doctors). When Wyatt told Doc the details of Billy the Kid's death, Doc just said "he died wrong".

Later that night, most of the gang were hanging out in the Oriental when they heard a shot coming from the Crystal Palace across the street. The lawmen rushed over, and found that Cowboy Billy Claiborne had just murdered a man in cold blood when he refused to call him the new Billy the Kid. Young was rushing in with his pistol drawn, into a bar with over a dozen Cowboys; but luckily Other Miller made him lower his weapon, or else there would likely have been a bloodbath. Meanwhile, Sherman McMaster quickly disarmed Billy (and palmed the gun), while Curly Bill ordered Billy to turn himself in, promising they'd get him out later.

Curly Bill took Jeff Young aside; Young told Curly Bill that he'd seen Ike with a gun, and that this had to stop. Curly Bill explained that sooner or later, this situation would come to a head and there'd be a bloodbath, and that Young didn't want to be a part of that. Curly Bill had heard that Young had only signed on for two months as Virgil Earp's deputy. He said he'd get his cowboys to play nice for the remainder of that time, and then strongly suggested to Young that he quit while the quitting was good.

The next morning, very early in the day, Kid Taylor was awakened by a knock on his door. It was Kate Goodfellow, Doc Goodfellow's wife (and an heiress of the famous Colt family of gun manufacturers) who was quite troubled by the fact that Goodfellow hadn't come home last night. Kid Taylor quickly began scouring the town for him. He found that there didn't seem to be anything wrong at the office, nor did he manage to find any note indicating that Goodfellow had been called away to some medical emergency. He brought Other Miller in to the investigation, and Miller talked to Morgan Earp, who mentioned Virgil was at the Wells Fargo office on account of the stagecoach having suffered an attempted robbery.

After checking that Goodfellow wasn't at the Water Concern, or at the Gentleman's Club, Other Miller crossed paths with Virgil, and told him what was going on. Virgil immediately formulated a theory: the three men who tried (and failed) to rob the stagecoach had exchanged gunfire with the coachmen. Virgil figured one of the three was shot badly, and one of the other bandits had taken Goodfellow in the night to try to treat the injured man. Assuming the bandits weren't cowboys (and Virgil claimed he had reasons to believe they weren't guilty this time), this meant there was a good chance that the bandits might just kill Goodfellow when they were done with him, to protect their identity.

The lawmen decided to form up a posse to go after the bandits (and hopefully Goodfellow).  Virgil, Young, and Other Miller were joined by Kid Taylor (who insisted on going) and by Crazy Miller (who was brought along on account of being an expert tracker).
They rode out to where the attack on the stagecoach had happened, and found some tracks fairly easily. They led to some hills near the Dragoon Mountains, and while the men were coming down a rocky ridge they were ambushed by a gunman hiding behind a rock. The shooter was firing a rifle from quite a distance, and missed his first shot.  Other Miller and Kid Taylor took cover behind a rock, Jeff Young dived onto the ground, and Virgil Earp got behind his horse. Meanwhile, Crazy Miller was still up on the ridge, out of line of sight of the shooter, and rode around the edge of the ridge to get line of sight. Young had a shot but his rifle got caught on his vest and he missed. The shooter got off another shot which just barely missed Kid Taylor. Then Crazy Miller finally got the shooter in his sights, and blew his brains out with a rifle shot.

They checked out the corpse, and found that he had a patch from a confederate military uniform. Crazy Miller immediately thought of the supposed 'heir' of the Widow McKnee. He wondered if, having failed in his attempt to scam miller out of an inheritance, he decided to try to rob the stagecoach instead. They continued on the trail, and made their way to the edge of a shack. They were staying just out of the visibility of the shack, and while Other Miller and Virgil waited for them at the front, Crazy, Kid and Jeff Young tried to sneak around to cover the back.

Unfortunately, the men in the shack had heard the shots earlier and were watching out, and Jeff Young failed his sneak check. A gunman from the shack took a shot and hit Jeff Young in the chest (the first time in the entire campaign that he'd been injured!).  Other Miller shouted at the men in the shack to drop their weapons, but then Crazy Miller recognized the shooter as McKnee's fake son, and shot him right in the head, killing him instantly just like he had his partner earlier on.

They began to close in on the house, but a voice from inside warned them to stay back or the Doc would be killed. Other Miller tried to intimidate the remaining bandit, who was no doubt the wounded one, to surrender, but in doing so he revealed that they'd killed the lookout, who turned out to be the survivor's father. He was clearly on the verge of doing something very rash, when the PCs heard the sound of a bottle breaking, and then silence.

They busted open the door of the shack and Kid Taylor immediately realized that Doc had broken a bottle of chloroform in the small room, knocking both of them out.  They got both Doc and the young injured man out of the shack, and revived them. Doc thanked them for rescuing him, congratulating Kid Taylor for having spotted the note he'd written in Latin on his notepad. Kid Taylor played along, and reminded himself to learn Latin in the future.

Other Miller, meanwhile, was quite furious at Crazy Miller for his excessive force, having killed two men with a headshot. Virgil agreed that if Crazy was ever to join him in a posse in the future, he'd have to agree to give the lawmen a chance to take their targets alive to face justice.

They got the boy back to Tombstone. He'd stand trial and do time, but Doc was hopeful he was young enough that he might be able to turn his life around.

Meanwhile, Billy Claiborne would end up being set free, when Johnny Behan arranged for a corrupt judge to try the case, and various Cowboys testified that they thought the victim was going for a concealed gun.  The Cowboys celebrated and once more openly mocked the Law.


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