Crossfire

The Investigation Begins

The Journal of Father Eric Brooks

September 23, 1875. Dinner

After settling into our new accommodations, we joined the good people of St Mary’s for dinner. Aside from Fathers St Beuve, and Swinburn – who was rather worse for drink – there was the caretaker Mrs. Johanson, her son Jamie, and a Northern gentleman who introduced himself as Chanticleer Arthur Thomson. Mr Thompson was a large man – head and shoulders above nearly anyone I’ve ever met – with a thick, full mustache and a preponderance of scars. We were to find out later that the man was a pugilist by profession, and was staying at the church as payment for performing odd jobs.

After dinner and evening Mass, Mr Thompson took me aside to inquire about Danika. He seemed concerned as to her well-being, spending so much time traveling instead of learning proper, ladylike ways. As I was trying to figure out how to explain Danika to him – really, she is something that needs to be experienced firsthand – the child herself came running through the rectory, and headed out into the street.

We were able to catch up with her almost immediately – she was stopping every woman on the street, as though she were searching for someone. When asked, she simply said she “thought she saw someone she used to know”, and would give no more information. The poor child looked terrified – almost as though she had experienced yet another of her nightmares. We led her back to the church, and got her settled in for bed.

As evening wound down, Miss Veila requested a private word with me. As the parlor area was occupied by Mr Thompson and Father Swindburn, we went to the garden out back. Just as Miss Veila was about to speak, I saw something white in the bushes at the same time Mr Thompson came outside. We both headed for the same place, and found Danika trying to listen in on our conversation. Thompson was kind enough to take the child upstairs for us, and offered to read a story.

Miss Veila wanted to let me know that the church seems to have fallen on hard times. She was helping Mrs Johansen in the kitchen after dinner, and said the pantry was nearly empty. We both agreed that we don’t want to strain St Mary’s resources unduly, and agreed that we may need to seek employment if we stay over the winter.

We went back inside to find Mr Thompson telling a rousing story of his boxing days to Danika. After settling the child in, we all returned to our rooms for the night.

September 24, 1875

Whatever sent Danika chasing off into the street last night has apparently stayed with her, as she was very restless the entire night. I know this, because I was unable to sleep due to her crying out.

Just before bed, Mrs Johansen collected our clothes for the morning laundry. This included pretty much everything we own, as it’s been a good long while since we’ve washed our clothes – though I did retain less-filthy outfit for the day. Danika was not so fortunate, and decided she needed a dress right then and there. After breakfast, she scurried up to her room, then came practically flying back down and out the door – all in nothing but a slip. Mr Thompson and I gave chase, and eventually located her in a busy general store.

After failing to get her attention – as she was trying to get the attention of a clerk – I attempted to bodily remove her from the store, and get back to the church. This obviously attracted attention, and I found myself in the middle of a suddenly-very-quiet store, attempting to explain the situation to a large, fatherly-looking gentleman who wasn’t buying the story I was selling.

Mr Thompson quietly defused the situation by purchasing a simple dress for Danika to wear, and using it as the veritable “carrot on a stick” to lead her back to the church, clad by now in a blanket the fatherly gentleman convinced her to purchase.

Back at the church – and all fully clothed – I asked Danika where she got the money she was waving about at the store. Though I expected it to be proceeds from the vocation Calvin Miller taught her, it turned out to be from the belongings of Ranger Lockwood, which were passed to Danika when she departed this world.

After obtaining directions from Father St Beuve, we headed out to the local Boot Hill to begin our investigations. We asked Mr Thompson along, as he seems to be a capable man and another set of eyes is always useful.

The cemetery looks to be doing a brisk business – as it were – and as we arrived there were two men digging another grave. Though they didn’t have any information about unusual occurrences, they were able to point us in the direction of Sheriff McCallum’s grave. Local rumor has it that the sheriff – though he died about a month ago – has not been staying put.

At the sheriff’s grave, Miss Veila noted that the ground had recently been disturbed. As she set to the grave with her hand-trowel, trying to determine if there was indeed anyone buried under the marker, the rest of us kept lookout. At about the same time, Mr Thompson and I both noted that the back of the small Christian shrine near the entrance to the cemetery had been defaced – or rather, desecrated. Maybe it was coincidence that the sun went behind the clouds at that exact moment, but I suddenly had a very strong urge to be anywhere other than that graveyard.

While we were working, a wagon approached the freshly-dug grave further down the row, and a rather harried undertaker began unloading a coffin. The reverend who was to officiate this small funeral noticed us, and came to see why were were there. He introduced himself as Pastor Larson, of the Methodist Episcopal church in Denver – the same one we failed to get directions from our first day in town.

Pastor Larson, it turned out, was there to bury “an unfortunate Deputy of the city, who was murdered in a back alley”, one Theodore Irvings. Largely to keep him from looking too closely into what we were doing at McCallum’s grave, we offered to witness the funeral, and send the man on his way. As Pastor Larson was lauding the many virtues of the late Deputy Irving, Danika was nearly overcome by her own running mouth. I asked Miss Veila to take the child aside, as she was obviously overcome at the prospect of attending a funeral. When the time came we all threw a handful of dirt into the grave, and if I was a little enthusiastic at the prospect of burying this man, I can only hope You will understand, Lord.

We offered Pastor Larson a ride back to town, which he gratefully accepted. On the way, we got into an argument about whether the land surrounding Denver belonged to the Christian settlers by Divine right (as Pastor Larson asserted), or if it was really the land of the local Indian tribes, since they had it first and all. Danika kept asking questions that were clearly annoying the Pastor, but Miss Veila defused the situation handily by challenging the girl to a race back to the church. After they had left, there were a few further words between the Pastor and I, which ended with both of us deciding it would be best if he walked after all.

After we arrived at the church, Miss Veila intended to return to the bank, attempting yet again to locate the wayward Mr. Kinkaid. I offered to accompany her – equality of the sexes aside, I thought perhaps having a man along would ease the way to finding the banker. Kincaid was still not in (or not in again, I’m uncertain which). We left another note, suggesting rather heavily that the Church would greatly appreciate his diligence in resolving this matter with all speed. In other words, I lied through my teeth.

Left relatively unattended, Danika apparently found her way into the good graces of the local children. Upon exiting the bank, we caught a brief glimpse of her leading a pack of young ones, brandishing her throwing knife for all to see. A few hours’ of looking failed to turn up Danika and her new friends, though we did eventually locate a warehouse they appear to be using as a kind of children’s club.

Danika eventually returned for dinner, though before she ate we had a discussion of the merits of discretion. Seeing her waving that knife about, I immediately had a vision of finding the boy Percy inside a scarecrow in Oxford, bleeding like a stuck pig. Followed immediately after by memories of breaking the news to his stricken parents.

The rest of the evening passed rather quietly, though Mr Thompson and Father Swindburn did venture out into the night in search of entertainment.

September 25, 1875

Danika’s nightmares are apparently still with her, as neither of us got any sleep again last night.

Following breakfast, Mrs Johansen did her best to keep Danika busy. I helped out with morning Mass, seeing as Father Swindburn was a bit under the weather from the previous night’s drinking. Following the service, I asked Father St Beuve about this – apparently, it is a rather recent development, starting just in the past few days. I don’t know for certain that it started after he heard Danika’s confession, but the timing seems to be about right. That poor, poor man.

I also asked the father if there were any parishioners I could talk to, as our investigations at the cemetery the day before were largely unsuccessful. He gave me the names of a few who may be willing to talk to me.

Miss Veila has left for the day in search of employment, and Mr Thompson kindly offered to escort her about town. That leaves me to my own devices for the day – I may as well make a start of my questions.

Investigation

I intended to start out by questioning Abner Henday, whose wife’s grave was dug up. However, he was gone to work for the day. I will have to try again this evening, once he has returned.

I then visited Betsy Chapman, a widow in her fifties who lives in a tenement with her youngest son. When I introduced myself and said I was here on behalf of St Mary’s, she assumed I was asking after a donation – not that the church couldn’t use it, but she seems to have little enough. I explained I was looking into her husband’s missing body, and asked for her accounting of the events.

After Mr Chapman’s death in late May, she sent word to her children. Anthony, her youngest, returned to Denver to take care of her. On the way, he was robbed – the thieves made off with everything he had. They went to the mausoleum where Mr Chapman was buried, intending to let Anthony use his suit while searching for a job – no sense in letting it go to waste, after all. When the entered the vault, they found that not only was the suit missing, Mr Chapman himself was gone – as though he had never been laid to rest a month earlier.

I thanked her for her time, and asked if I could return later to speak with Anthony. She said he would be home for a late dinner – he currently works for the Denver-Pacific Railroad as a legal clerk.

My next stop was Calvin Baird – the address I was given for him turned out to be the office of his import and export company. The contents of Mr Baird’s family crypt have gone missing – not simply rings, jewelry or gold teeth, but the remains of his family themselves are all gone. This was discovered last March. At the time, he had told Father St Beuve of the theft, though apparently the father’s reaction was not exactly a helpful one. Baird had the impression the father didn’t intend to do anything about it – though truly, what could he do? In the months since, Mr Baird has retained the services of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to locate and recover his missing family relics.

Baird promised to apologize to St Beuve after Mass this coming Sunday – apparently the two exchanged some harsh words recently, with regards to the Church’s lack of action on this matter.

As I was leaving, I suggested to Mr Baird that the church could use as much support from the congregation as they were willing to give – not overtly asking for a donation, but hinting at it none the less. Baird is obviously a successful man, and it seems a shame that St Mary’s must get by on so little. I thought perhaps he would be willing to help out. He apparently got the hint, and pressed some coin into my hand as we shook upon leaving. I was to discover it was a meager few pennies. Well, every tiny bit helps – I’ll place it in the charity box when I return.

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