The day began for Rudy, Mirta, Danika their friends high in the nameless pass where they’d caught Kurita fleeing west in the Steel Soldier. The night had passed poorly, with a close-fought encounter with some sort of spiney wall-crawling horror as big as an elephant!
As dawn came to the east-facing pass, Rudy helped Tex McRoss and his cowpokes as they broke camp and aided the McIntyre boys in repairing the damage to the Steel Behemoths as best they could. Danika took her perloined copy of the Ranger’s Bible over to where they had left the body of Kurita hanging and the spiked monstrosity, intent on sketching the beast in to the Bible, when she discovered Kurita’s body gone, and no sign of the horror’s body; in its place, she discovered a huge puddle of an oily, slick tar-like substance. Rudy found Danika poking the puddle with a stick a short while later.
As Rudy was finding Danika, Mirta discovered Nitsa on a nearby rockslide skree-pile, apparently randomly standing still, then striking with a stick at hidden holes and starts around the pile. When Rudy and Danika joined them, Nitsa explained she was trying to whack the jackalope that has seemed to have been trailing them since encountering it a few days ago. Danika joined Nitsa in stalking the wee beastie, but they never got more than a hair’s breath from striking it successfull. The jackalope seemed to revel not only in taunting them for their near-misses, but for remaining out of Mirta’s and Rudy’s lines of sight, making it seem as if the girls were engaged in no more than usual high-jinks of young girls.
Eventually, our heroes joined Tex, his cowpokes, and the McIntyre boys as they road down out of the pass. When the trail allowed for it, Rudy and the women-folk made their goodbyes and headed north towards Loveland. Rudy had spoken with Tex at length, and Tex had advised Rudy of several saloon owners and ranchmen living north of Tex, that might have some insight into this mysterious brand Rudy searched for.
Arriving in Loveland a little after dark, tired from their hard ride to make the town yet that night, they took two rooms in the town saloon. At the saloon owner’s subtle urging, Miss Mirta and the girl took dinner in their dingy small room, and then bedded down for the night; Rudy enjoyed his dinner and a drink in the saloon common room, speaking with the barkeep and locals enjoying drink, cards, and feminine companionship.
Shortly after Danika was sure Mirta was asleep, she cajoled Nitsa in to sneaking out of their room, and down stares. Working her wily charm, Danika quickly talked the locals into allowing her to join their poker game. Nitsa bored of watching her friend and walked over to speak to Rudy and his pretty new friend, Miss Kitty. Nitsa even managed to refrain from asking why Miss Kitty would wear so little clothing on such a cold night, which seemed to be about the only questions she refrained from asking. After a bit, Rudy slipped the pretty lady a ten dollar bill to ‘look after’ Nitsa for a few hours, which the soiled dove reluctantly agreed to – after all, income is income. Rudy returned to casually interrogating the locals regarding his unknown brand, and potential herds of cattle in the area – unfortunately, nobody knew any more than Rudy.
After a few hours, Danika made good money from her gambling companions, made easier only because another local cowhand had one nearly as much. Danika discovered Nitsa had fallen asleep over her game of Old Maid with Miss Kitty, and Miss Kitty had returned to flirting with the laconic Rudy. Danika and Nitsa returned to bed, after a bit of confusion when trying to wake Nitsa; another transaction, and Miss Kitty chose to keep Rudy company for the rest of the night as well.
The day began less auspiciously for Mucky Kinkaid and Chanticler Thompson – they were awakened by buckets of cold water thrown into their jail cell, after which they were soundly lectured by the Police Captain, and then almost physically thrown out of the jail. Mucky drew himself together and quickly reasserted his pride with practiced ease, then walked across the street to the nearest saloon, despite Chanticleer’s best arguments for other courses of action.
Minutes later, braced by the first of many shots to start off the day, Mucky was firmly ensconced in a poker game, with Chanticleer looming threateningly in the background. Three and a half hours later, Mucky had neither increased nor lost his stake, but he was face down, drunk, at the table. Chanticleer withdrew Mucky from his game, pocketed the drunk reporter’s stake, and walked toward’s Mucky’s apartment, now their shared home. He tried dunking Mucky in each horse trough that he passed, but quickly realized that this only made his burden wet and heavier, but had no impact on the man’s conciousness.
Taking Mucky home, Chanticleer was abstractly taunted by the calls of the newspaper boys in the streets, hawking the latest Denver headlines – “Wanted Killer in Denver – Police failed to capture him – His tents revealed to be an aboitare”. Mucky’s paper had failed to even publish a competitive sheet, much less provide information the Denver Free Press could not. Dumping Mucky in his bed, Chanticleer left for a few personal errands, returning only to check on Mucky periodically.
Finally, Chanticleer decided he could put it off no longer, and he walked casually to St. Mary’s. Observing Father Saint-Bueve at work in his office in the front of the Rectory, and Mrs. Johannson in an emotional snit in the back, Chanticleer was struck when he noted that no carnies were going about their daily lives in the nooks and crannies around St. Mary’s, nor were dozens of orphans running riot in the Rectory’s back yard. Chanticleer ventured in to the Sanctuary of St. Mary’s and there he found and approached Father Brooks.
Farther Brook’s day had begun by helping Mrs. Johannson and the other two priests prepare the orphans for their journey and relocation to the remote farm being provided by Pastor Larson. After a hearty breakfast, they helped the children gather their scant possessions, making sure each child had two full sets of clothing, a good bedroll and blanket, and whatever ragdolls, toys or other bits they’d been gifted since the orphanage had tragically burned down. About an hour after sunrise, a wagon with three passengers and two accompanying riders came to the rectory and presented themselves.
Mrs. Quinn introduced herself and her companions, Mrs Grey, Mr. Scardino (driving the wagon), Mr. Shaw and Mr. Osbourne as parisheners of Pastor Larson’s, come to collect the children and bring them out to the new orphan’s ranch. After Father Brooks made introductions for St Mary’s, they took a quick cencus of th children and their preparedness for the day’s journey.
When Mrs. Quinn questioned why two children, one Danika Dark and one Nitsa Pentzicas, were missing, Father Brooks very quickly spun a tale involving Nitsa’s return back East with the Carnival Folk who had departed Denver just the day before, and Danika having been reunited with blood relatives who had miraculously discovered her where-abouts in Denver recently. Mrs Quinn was very disappointed by St Mary’s shoddy record keeping, and questioned the validity of Danika’s ‘relatives’, vowing to bring the matter to the attention of ‘important people’, but persued the issue no farther this morning.
The Children were led to the wagon, and the youngest, incapable of a full day’s walk, were put aboard the wagon’s bed. The rest were instructed to grab hold of the two ropes trailing the wagon’s bed, and to not let go under any circumstances. The two riders, Shaw and Osbourne, would ride to each side, assuring the children would not wander. The sad little wagon ‘train’ rolled off east and north of Denver, to the orphan’s new home on the range. All of St Mary’s peoples vowed to visit the children soon.
Mrs Johannson retreated to her kitchen, while Father Saint-Beauve took refuge in his office, and Father Swinburn fled upstairs to immerse himself in ‘prayer’, probably quite high proof. Father Brooks was considering what to do with himself, when he heard a loud argument break out in the kitchen, sounding as if it would escalate to blows quickly…
Coming in to the kitchen, Father Brooks saw Mrs Johannson and Miss Weiss nose-to-nose, shouting insults at each other freely – Mrs. Johannson punctuating her remarks with slaps of her favorite cast-iron pan on her wood-stove, while Miss Weiss clutched a large pipe-wrench white-knuckled to her side. Father Brooks slowly worked out that Miss Weiss had suggested that Mrs Johannson seek refuge some place other than her kitchen while Miss Weiss worked on the installation of the automated diswashing device; the invitation had sounded to the already-distraut Mrs. Johannson as if she was being evicted from her own domain. Father Brooks did his best to defuse the tensions, eventually asking Miss Weiss to retreat, and do the work another day. She accepted this, though poorly, and disappeared.
Father Brooks fled once again to the front of the Rectory, considering his course for the day. Father Saint-Bouve gave him a gentle smile of thanks, and closed his door once more, while Swinburn, flask in hand, asked what the commotion was, from the top of the stairs. Father Brooks explained while he ascended the stairs, then took a swig from Swinburn’s flask. Whiskey burning a pleasant hole in Brooks’ tension, he walked out into Denver, inquiring near and far for alternative lodging for Miss Weiss – sadly, Denver was so crowded as winter approached, that what few places available were far too expensive, especially when Brooks had no idea what Miss Weiss could actually afford.
Returning to St Mary’s, Father Brooks set about tidying and maintaining the Sanctuary. He was accosted by a huge stranger seeking the solace of confession. Once ensconced in the confessional booths, the stranger suprised Father Brooks greatly by revealing himself to be none other than Chanticleer Thompson! After performing the rites of confession and absolution through assignment of penance, the two friends caught up on what had happened over the last few days since Chanticleer had been forced in to hiding. Chanticleer was comforted somewhat that the Pinkerton, Agent Smith, who had seemed so focussed on his capture, now seemed to be out of the picture in Denver. However, he advised Brooks that he intended to remain with Mucky, and keep his location and identy secret for now, to further confound further bounty-hunters.
Brooks agreed to get Chanticleer’s possessions from where they had been stored in the rectory basement, while Chanticleer performed his assigned penances. When the two friends met in front of the church, Father Brooks quietly showed Chanticleer the fifteen hundred dollars that acounted for Chanticleer’s ‘share’ of their mining shipment heist. Chanticleer, stunned by what amounted to just his share, quickly took a hundred and fifty dollars out, and presented it to Father Brooks, with the explanation “For the Church, Father”. Brooks committed to dropping the donation in the poor box, if not in the collection itself.
With that, the men parted company, the Father committing himself to the church busywork for the rest of the day, while Chanticleer returned to nurse Mucky through a spectacular hang-over.
The next morning, long before dawn, Chanticleer was forced from his habitually deep slumber by Mucky answering a pounding at their door – a large and imposing man, dripping a aura of violence, confronted Mucky.
It was one of Mucky’s father’s men – the elder Kinkaid wanted to provide Mucky with a leg up on a story for his Denver Epitaph – a Pinkerton agent, in a coma at the Denver Hospital for nearly a week (after a close encounter with Chanticleer, no less!) had been found beheaded in his bed during the night. The tough, on behalf of Mucky’s father, urged Mucky to follow up on the story quickly and discreetly, in order to assure the Denver Epitaph the publication edge over the Denver Free Press.
We parted with our heroes as Mucky and Chanticleer prepared to depart into the still-dark streets of Denver, while Father Brooks, Rudy, Mirta, and Danika still slept on…