Suicide Kings

If At First You Don't Succeed...
Run Like Hell

July 22nd, Midnight, The Broken Oar, a saloon.

Johnnie Landis and Steve Hogan were gamblers. That is to say, they liked to gamble. Two poor ranch-hands who cared less for the daily grind of frontier life and more for the development of the simple slight of hand that could give them an edge at the next poker game. And it didn’t matter, the game of chance of their choice that night. Poker, faro, blackjack; they had worked out signals and tells for everything. And on top of that, they weren’t above giving themselves a little edge either.

One night, Steve and Johnnie went down to the local saloon for a few hours of beer, whiskey, and poker. When they arrived, they noticed the place was busier than usual for a Thursday night. As they made their way to the card tables, they noticed that Hershel “Boss” Jericho was sitting at the poker table.

They had had their spouts with Jericho and his men in the past, as Boss’ property was right next to Old Man Taylor’s ranch that they worked for. Boss didn’t much care for Taylor or the fact that every once in awhile a cow or steer would settle onto his property to graze. Johnnie and Steve, having taken note of the situation, decided it may be fun to pull one over on surly and cantankerous Boss.

They took their seats at the card table and went to work. Card drops, blind tells, one-eye calls; they used them all over the course of several hours, taking Boss for every last Confederate Dollar he had. And with each lost dollar, Jericho’s ire towards the two ranch-hands grew into a rage and fury. After awhile, the banter between card players became a commotion and finally a tumult of bitter rivals. With every snide remark that Boss Jericho would make, Steve and Johnnie each had one of their own.

Five hours and several bottles of hooch later, Boss had enough. He came up swinging at Johnnie, knocking the card table over onto Steve in the process. After a short scuffle, Steve and Johnnie both found themselves in a fistfight with Boss, who despite his age was managing to hold his own quite well. Amidst the tussle, though, a gun discharged, and buried a bullet deep into Boss’s abdomen. It was unclear as to where the shot came from, but what was clear is that Jericho was dying, and the men that had joined him in the saloon that night were suddenly paying close attention.

Johnnie knew that there would be no explanations. Out here, disputes are far too often settled at the end of a barrel, and with Boss Jericho now lying there, bleeding out on the broken, green felt card table, his men were not going to wait around for an explanation. He grabbed Steve and jumped through the nearest window. “Get going! We’ve gotta get back to the ranch before Jericho’s men make it there! We’ve got to grab the others and get gone!” As they made their way back to the homestead, they stopped for a brief respite and checked their guns.

Johnnie checked both of his Colt .45 Double-Action Peacemakers, two guns he had had custom-made which he called the “Suicide Kings”. He had all six shots chambered in both of his guns. Steve checked his revolver as well, and he also had all six rounds chambered. At that point, they knew that it wasn’t possibly for either of them to have been the one that caused Boss Jericho’s mortal wound, but at the same time they knew it wouldn’t matter. Boss’s son Elwood had a worse temper than his father, and would stop at nothing to avenge his father, and wouldn’t think twice about mowing down Steve, Johnnie, Old Man Taylor, and all of the other farmhands back at the ranch.

As they made their way back, Johnnie went off to warn Old Man Taylor, and Steve went to warn the others in the barn where the farmhands slept…

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A Dawn of the West

July 23rd, on the Canterbury Limited from Memphis to Kansas City.

The blood matted his hair and stained his clothes, but there was little he could do about it. He knew enough to bandage the wounds, and bandage them tight to keep up the pressure, but that alone wasn’t going to solve his problems.

He recounted the events that had led him to this situation. A friend’s poker game gone wrong. A barn that doubled as a bunkhouse set ablaze by vengeance-seekers. A brisk run through the pastures under the moonlight as the bullets infiltrated the damp night sky like lightning bugs. He counted himself fortunate that he and his friends were able to make it to the train station. There remains no doubt in his mind that they would have been dispatched six deep if they hadn’t.

On the train, the others had tried to unfold the tale: An accusation of cheating. A gunshot from nowhere that led to the death of Old Boss. The pain was enough to keep him from the conversation, as he slipped in and out of consciousness due to blood loss.

The other passengers could see through the subterfuge; the long overcoat and the others’ attempts to disguise the man’s wounds. They knew better than to say anything; a group of men dragging a sixth, barely making the six o’ clock train to Kansas City, were a group of men not to be trifled with.

The others knew that when they got to Kansas City, they were going to be holed up for at least a few days while their friend recovered. Maybe it was enough time for them to figure out a plan. None of them had ever been to Kansas City, and didn’t right know what to expect. Cow Town was the last vestige of Eastern society before the steep dive off the cliff into Western savagery, but it wasn’t unkind to the dregs from the Sunset Territory.

They had a lot of questions and very few answers: Was Old Boss’s son going to just let them go since they were out of town? Where were they going to go? They had some cash, but it goes quick out West.

Those were concerns for tomorrow. Right now, they were just worrying about whether or not their friend could survive the trip all the way to KC…

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Why was Six Afraid of Seven?...
...Because Seven Shot Eight in the Face

July 24th, The Canterbury Limited, Union Station, Kansas City.

As the train pulled into the station, the six did their best to gather up their things and head towards a door. More accurately, five of them did. The sixth was unconscious and still bleeding from the wounding he’d taken the night before. Hogan and Finn each threw an arm of their wounded friend over their shoulder to carry him out into the Saturday morning light that was just beginning to peek out over the tops of the buildings in the horizon.
“He’s heavier than he looks.” Steve was often fond of stating the obvious.
“Come on. Let’s get him to a doctor.” Jonas Finn was a gruff, one-eyed horror of a man, but he was certainly not short on compassion for his friends.

As they made their way through the crowd exiting the train, they started down Main Street. Several cattlemen were around the depot with herds of their livestock, getting ready to load them onto cars to send back East for slaughter. The market that they could see down the street was full of vendors and shoppers alike. Massive buildings, some as tall as five stories, dotted the scenery, the largest of which was the currently under-construction City Hall, jutting above the others on the distant horizon. On the face, Kansas City appeared to be not much different than Memphis, the city that you used to live near. After walking through the streets for a bit, though, they recognized that there was a different feel to the peoples here. In Memphis, everyone lived in the middle-class strata, but here you were just as likely to see a wealthy man in a tuxedo walking down the avenue as you were to see a leper hacking in an alleyway. Gunslingers seemed to dot the porch of every saloon that they passed, some with affiliations, marked by a unique item of clothing that they all chose to wear.

“Alright.” After walking several blocks, Jethro spoke up to ask what everyone must have been thinking. Everyone, that is, aside from Martin Thorne, who was absent-minded as they came. “Does anyone know where a hospital is?”
“Is there a hospital?” Hogan questioned, to himself as much as to anyone else.
“I guess we need to ask somebody.”
“Good point. How about you go ask those policemen over there?” Hogan said, tilting his head in the direction of the three Irish coppers standing on a porch across the street.
Jethro Boyd had a few apprehensions about approaching them, but necessity overtook his misgivings; his friend needed a doctor quickly. After a quick chat a sideways look from the red-headed bobby, the group made their way off to the hospital. They handed their friend over to the medics and asked for a place of lodging. The nurse recommended the Regent Arms, a saloon back on Main Street. The five left with thanks, saying that they could be reached there for any news on the condition of their friend.

After securing lodging at the Regent, the men grilled the bartender for any places around where they may be able to find work; bounty work in particular. The whiskey-slinger told them they could try their luck at the local law enforcement; both the city police, marshal’s office, and sheriff’s office were located in the city. They split up and went to the various agencies of justice. They were turned away from the police station and told to go seek out the local labor unions if they needed work. The town marshal put them on to a bounty for Harry “Three Fingers” Conklin, a semi-local at-large wanted for theft, assault, murder, and rustling. He had said that more information could be sought out at a local saloon called One-Eyed Jack’s, where Conklin’s men were known to congregate when they were in town. The sheriff’s office gave them a line on clearing out a group of Mexican bandits called Los Renegados from a local fort located not far from the city in a town called Independence. He had told them that they believed there to be thirty to forty men inside, all of which had been involved in raiding wagon trains and other suppliers from back East that were coming into the city.

They decided to follow up on the capture of Three Fingers, who was wanted alive. Hogan and Finn made their way to One Eyed Jack’s, the saloon they had been told about. After gathering some information, they made their way back to the Regent, where they informed Martin of what they had discovered; at midnight, they were going to meet the bartender behind the saloon to gain knowledge of the whereabouts of Conklin and his men. They went to bed early and headed out to Jack’s around 11:00.

Earlier in the evening, Vincent and Jethro returned from the sheriff’s office. Thorne explained that Jonas and Steve were going out later to gather some information on a bounty they had received. The three ate a small meal and headed off to bed, though Jethro asked the whiskey-slinger for a wake-up call at 11:30, to see if he could catch his companions heading out for the evening. Unfortunately for him, by the time he woke up they had already left.

[[To Be Continued]]

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