Boot Hill: El camino del Diablo

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The passengers descend from the coach and stand in the lashing rain while Marcus collects empty whiskey and gin bottles to capture rainwater. Eli and Oliver work on the wheel, hammering the metal tire as flat as they can with a smooth stone and tightly winding some rawhide cord around the cracked felloes. After about half an hour or grueling work in the dim light, you have a trail-worthy wheel in better shape than you expected. Looking at your handiwork, you're fairly certain you can make it to Tucson without the wheel giving out if you don't mind a rougher ride than usual. Alternatively, you could backtrack to Guadalupe Station and lose at least a day or two while Old Earl does his best wheelwright impression and replaces the wheel.
 

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"Friends, how much further to Tuscon? I'm no wheelwright but this is looking sturdy. I believe that we can press on if it's not too far away." says Oliver.
 

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"Friends, how much further to Tuscon? I'm no wheelwright but this is looking sturdy. I believe that we can press on if it's not too far away." says Oliver.

(About 70 miles in terms of distance or a day's travel in terms of time.)
 

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Eli wipes his hands off on his jeans and slowly nods in reaction to Oliver. "I believe you are right. This wheel ought to hold up 'til Tucson. Best we not delay." He asks everyone to get situated to so they can begin the rest of the journey.
 

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'Forward sounds better than back to me. We still may have those disagreeable fellows after us.' Markus says while climbing back into the coach
 

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Eli and Zeke resume their positions at the driver's box and shotgun seat, respectively, as the passengers return to the relative comfort of the coach interior. At the very least, the leather curtains block the worst of the rain. It's slow going with the jury-rigged wheel, but still preferable to walking in the desert mud and being exposed to rain like a whipcord. The stagecoach and Private Anderson's horse plod along in the rain and mud for another half hour before the rain ceases nearly as suddenly as it began. The ride is rough and jerky, but the wheel repairs seem to be holding up. Eli and Zeke are keenly aware that they are well behind schedule, but on the one hand it means and banditos expecting them along the trail will now have an incorrect timetable; on the other hand, the longer it takes to get to Tucson, the more opportunities banditos would have to try to ambush the stagecoach. Mr. and Mrs. Beck snooze aboard the coach as it rocks almost like a cradle over the bumpy trail. Hours pass and fatigue begins to set in. The moon is high and bright in a dark, cloudless sky. Zeke suggests that he could take over the reins if Eli wants to sleep so they can make up for lost time.
 

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Eli isn't sure he wants to fall asleep with the possible danger in the dark, but he figures now is the best time to do so because of that exact reason. "Sure, Zeke, if you wouldn't mind. Any kind of trouble, you give me an elbow." He hands the reigns over and gets as comfortable as he can on the bench.
 

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The longueurs of the night pass without incident as the trail rises among the foothills of the Sierra Santa Rita until the flat, hard report of a rifle smacks the quiet night air, its echo bouncing between the rocks and boulders of the looming mountains on either side of the rough road. Anyone who had been lucky enough to doze off is immediately awakened. Eli, beside Zeke, bolts upright. The ears of Private Anderson's mount prick up as its nostrils flare with nerves. The direction the single shot came from is impossible to place, but it seemed to originate nearby. Nothing can be clearly made out in the jumble of shadows cast by the rocks and plants on the slopes and flats. Private Anderson shucks his rifle from its scabbard and warily scans the lay of the land and looks to Eli and Zeke with an unspoken question on his lips. The moonlight is still bright, but the shadows are deep in all directions, offering plenty of hiding places, if indeed anyone is hidden.
 

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Oliver has been sleeping with his rifle at hand as he has been helping with the watch. Grabbing it, he hunkers down close to a rocky outcrop. He stays still and just listens.
 

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Marcus snaps awake looking around. He looks at the other passengers to see if anyone is injured while reaching for his newly found rifle. Lifting the window curtain just enough to see he peers into the darkness.
 

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(The stagecoach is still moving forward unless Eli tells Zeke to pull rein or does it himself: does Oliver want to exit while it's in motion?)

A few moments pass but there's no follow-up shot and you're unable to tell from which direction it originated, or even what was being shot at. Out in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, in the wee pre-dawn hours, it seems improbable that it's mere coincidence, but then again you're fairly skylined on the trail and relatively easy pickings for anyone with decent aim who might like to snipe from cover. Inside the coach the passengers are on edge from lack of sleep, the long journey, and the knowledge that one attempt has already been made to rob the coach. Everyone who can is peeking from behind the curtains, straining to catch any minute movement or sign of life among the trailside brush and cacti and boulders. Nothing seems out of place; had it not been for the loud report you'd not think anything was amiss.
 

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Oliver is going to sit tight. He's decided to sit up if he can a bit; any muzzle flash should stand out in the darkness, and someone's gotta do something if the coach keeps moving forward.
 

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Up ahead in the darkness, about 100 yards out, you can see a dim yellow light crossing the trail, flickering and no brighter than a firefly but moving less erratically than any insect in flight, and it's too low to the ground to be anything in the sky.
 

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Up ahead in the darkness, about 100 yards out, you can see a dim yellow light crossing the trail, flickering and no brighter than a firefly but moving less erratically than any insect in flight, and it's too low to the ground to be anything in the sky.
OOC who can see it? Specifically can the passengers in the coach?
 

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OOC who can see it? Specifically can the passengers in the coach?
Eli, Zeke, and Steve can definitely see it. Marcus can as well if he looks forward. Oliver, too, if he decides to push aside the leather curtain and look forward. It's far enough away that anyone looking forward can see the light. Reuben and the Becks would probably not see it as they are facing rear.
 

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"Perhaps we should call out to parlay," muses Oliver aloud. "They must know where we are."
 

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Eli pulls back on the reins to stop the coach. "Zeke. Steve. Do you see that light up ahead? I'm sure that's trouble. Let's stay back for a good thirty seconds or so and see what happens."
 

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Oliver moves to peer under the curtains to the rear windows. He wants to keep an eye out where there's no light, in case it's a distraction.
 

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As the light grows nearer it becomes apparent that it's a lanthorn being held by a solitary slow-shuffling figure dragging one leg as though injured. As the figure draws closer, you hear a man's parched voice call out, "Hold up, hoss, I's alone and I ain't got no gun!" Soon he is near enough that you can see his left thigh is poorly bandaged and bleeding through what appears to be a piece of cloth torn from his shirt. Eli and Zeke soon recognize the haggard, battered face of a former Wells Fargo whip, Wiley Wilson, whom they haven't seen in months ever since he lost his position after being found falling-down drunk and unable to account for the whereabouts of his Concord coach or the mail Wells Fargo had been contracted by the U.S. government to deliver. You've heard rumors that he'd stolen a few hundred dollars from a payroll and skipped out to California and found work with a failing competitor company, the Alexander & Banning Stage Line.
2018-05-05-09-40-56--1125096266.jpg
Wilson holds up both hands, his lanthorn high up casting shadows on the underside of his face, as if surrendering. "They kilt 'em all and stole my team!" he croaks. Almost immediately he stumbles and falls face-first onto the ground before you. The tin candle lanthorn shatters as it hits a stone.
 

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Marcus sees the old man fall.
"That ain't right. You cover me. I'm goin to see if he's ok." He says to the other passengers.
Carefully he opens the door to the wagon and climbs out. With his rifle at the ready he scans the area as best he can while proceeding to the fallen man.
 

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Eli jumps off the coach while talking to Zeke. “It’s that old codger, Wiley Wilson. I’ll go help Marcus with him. Keep an eye out.” He looks to Marcus as they approach the fallen man. “If he’s still alive we’ll put him in the coach and take him to Tucson.”
 

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Wilson is alive but out cold. His left thigh appears to have a bad gunshot wound. All he has with him are the clothes on his back, his beat-up old hat, a canteen and a knife shucked down his right boot. If he had worn a gun, it was taken from him or tossed aside somewhere.
 

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Eli looks at the wound on his leg and makes certain Wilson isn’t bleeding out. “If we don’t get held up again, he might make it if we can get him to a doctor.” He motions to Zeke to bring the coach to them so they can load the old man onboard.
 

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Zeke drives the stagecoach closer at a slow walk by the four-horse team. Reuben Sanford hops down to assist in moving the injured man aboard the coach. It's an awkward fit to hoist Wilson through the side door and he lets out a painful groan. Upon closer inspection he looks like he's been out in the sun for a good spell, his face burned a dark pink anywhere his hat didn't provide shade. His lips are cracked and he appears badly dehydrated. His canteen is empty and appears to have been for some time as there aren't even any drops to trickle out when held upside-down.
 

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Markus trys to follow whatever tracks the old man left. 'Either he dropped a gun somewhere or we still have a fellow to deal with. Whatever it is I want to know.' he says to Eli before doing his best as a tracker.
 

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Markus trys to follow whatever tracks the old man left. 'Either he dropped a gun somewhere or we still have a fellow to deal with. Whatever it is I want to know.' he says to Eli before doing his best as a tracker.

% roll, please!
 

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The recent rain and moonlight have made it preposterously easy to trace Wilson's steps along the trail as there are muddy footprints in plain sight out to the limit of your night vision. You can follow it further if you'd like to see how far he walked before stumbling at your feet.
 

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The recent rain and moonlight have made it preposterously easy to trace Wilson's steps along the trail as there are muddy footprints in plain sight out to the limit of your night vision. You can follow it further if you'd like to see how far he walked before stumbling at your feet.
Markus continues on keeping his rifle ready trying to see if he can find a disposed of gun or whoever fired the recent shot.
 

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(I'll wait until tonight to see if Eli or Oliver want to do anything; if not, I'll update what Marcus sees/finds/etc.)
 

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Markus continues on keeping his rifle ready trying to see if he can find a disposed of gun or whoever fired the recent shot.

Marcus follows the tracks of the wounded man. The signs of his passage clearly indicate that he has been unsteady on his feet for some time, his bootprints weaving left, then right, meandering the breadth of the trail. A couple of hundred yards ahead, moonlight gleams on a discarded Whitworth rifle, a muzzle-loading British import best known for its use by Confederate sharpshooters during the War Between the States.
whitworth.jpg
While known for its long-range accuracy and a reputation of "one shot, one kill," it's hardly the most pragmatic rifle to use in a shootout or firefight, with its rate of fire of only two or three rounds a minute, so Marcus' best guess is the owner had a sentimental attachment to the rifle rather than any practical reason to keep it. Judging by the blood staining the ground and the scattering of slender .451 caliber bullets nearby, it would appear the owner of the Whitworth dropped and abandoned it only after having been badly wounded and forced to do so, having barely strength enough to carry his canteen and lanthorn.
intro01.jpg
All signs point to Wilson having been shot and then falling at this spot, probably leading the shooter to believe Wilson was dead. Judging by little telltales on the ground such a bootprints and handprints, Marcus surmises that Wilson went down fast and hard and lay still enough to appear dead from a distance, as there are no tracks to indicate anyone else has approached to check. Wilson must have bled out a good deal but somehow mustered enough of his wits to bind his wound in darkness to be sure his assassin was gone before lighting the lanthorn and staggering a few hundred yards before meeting the Wells Fargo stagecoach. Further inspection shows the rifle is still functional, but most Western men would scoff at its usefulness for anything other than a dirty dry-gulching nowadays. Wilson's tracks continue further up the trail. Does Marcus want to scout ahead to see what else he can learn?

(Also, is the stagecoach following?)
 
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After Eli situates Wilson on board, he hops back up on the stage and follows the lead of Marcus. He looks over to Zeke as they approach. “Even if he finds anything, not much we can do right now. We’ll head off to Tucson momentarily.”
 

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Marcus grabs the rifle and returns to the stagecoach. He puts it in the cab saying "I think we found our gunshot source." Looking at the old man he adds "If he's held onto it this long it must mean something to him. It he a shame for him to lose it now.".
He hops back into the coach looking comfortable that the activity for the evening is over.
 

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The coach continues apace and as the distance to Tucson diminished and the sky lightens, the wounded man sleep restively, muttering about an ambush. The bleeding from his left thigh seems to have stopped but his fevered brow would seem to indicate an infection. It occurs to you that if isn't seen by a doctor in Tucson, he may well die.

(Let me know if there's anything anyone wants to do or say if you just want to continue straight to Tucson, barring any random...or un-random...encounters.)
 

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Marcus hears ambush and starts running scenarios in his mind. He says to the other passengers 'Keep an eye out behind us. I think we're gonna hit a slowdown up ahead.'. He pounds on top of the coach to get the drivers attention.
Once he can talk to the drivers he says 'The old man is talking about an ambush in his sleep. O can't be sure if he's talking about him bein ambushed or plans he heard but it got me to thinking. Somebody ambushin us wouldn't need a coach to cart stuff away. They could just take ours if we're dead. But a coach could he a mighty fine distraction and barrier if pushed over on the road. Maybe come up from behind us while werwe trying to move it out of the way or go around it? I got a feelin if we see something up ahead we ought to have eyes and iron behind us. What all do you think?'
 

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Moving forward warily, not much time elapses before you can see, a stone's throw down the trail, what appears to be an abandoned Concord coach not dissimilar to the Well Fargo coach you're traveling in. It looks to be damaged and is perpendicular to the trail, partly blocking your passage. There is no team of horses anywhere in sight. Abaft the rear boot a scattered pile of mail looks as though it has been rifled through. Luggage that by rights ought to be secured between the top railings is strewn randomly athwartships, laying carelessly open as if ransacked by a group. Articles of clothing and various personal effects of little value litter the trail. As you near the coach, you can see the bodies of the shotgun messenger and several passengers, presumably, lying dead in the dust, dried blood caking purple where they have been shot. There is a noticeable absencs of any firearms among the bodies. Bootprints, likely from Wilson's escape, run from the carnage to the southern edge of the trail. It would seem he attempted to get away by hiding amongst the foliage and boulders and then resumed the trail west, perhaps believing he had eluded whoever it was that later shot him.
 

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I don't think anybody has any enthusiasm for this play-by-post anymore so I think it'd be best to call it a day.
 

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I don't think anybody has any enthusiasm for this play-by-post anymore so I think it'd be best to call it a day.
Understood. I liked it and thought you did an excellent job.
 

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Understood. I liked it and thought you did an excellent job.

It can always be picked up again if people are interested, or a different locale and scenario.
 

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It can always be picked up again if people are interested, or a different locale and scenario.
I'm interested in continuing but I understand if you want more than one player.
 
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