Tales from the Beowulf Saloon

Lovers' Quarrel

Members of the posse were in the saloon one evening when a number of notable events happened.

The first was the arrival of two unusual individuals: one was Kane, the thug who’d killed a fellow card player in a duel over cheating a few weeks earlier. This caused a certain amount of trepidation for both Hampden and Folden, who had faced him in different arenas on that occasion. The other was known to Hampden, a notorious professional poker player named Lambert Connolly. Although he looked likely to bring in lots of spectators and their business, Hampden was worried that he personally could lose a large portion of his income. His fears began to come true as the newcomer won a significant portion of the pot that evening.

Folden, meanwhile, was approached by a seedy-looking individual and asked if he was interested in making some money with his fighting skills. Folden, perpetually broke, was definitely interested, and was told to meet the man outside the town once he’d finished work the next evening. He agreed.

Around 10 in the evening, the banging of a gun butt on the bar brought a temporary silence, as Jenson Sorrenson, the owner of the Beowulf, stood up to make an announcement. Surprising no-one who knew him well, he was getting engaged to be married, to one Magdelene “Maddie” Hayes, newly-arrived in the last month, but frequently seen in his company. There was a round of applause, and of free drinks, before the saloon returned to its normal hubbub.

The next day, Folden discovered that an old nemesis was in town. Chang Tsun-chung arrived in Chinatown and immediately made a name for himself by facing down and defeating half-a-dozen of Kang’s thugs. Although none of the posse had encountered him since his arrival, witnesses said he was a spectacular fighter in the “Chinese manner”.

Hawkeye, meanwhile, found a fresh-ish corpse and a pile of human bones in a narrow gully, with tracks leading up to them. Concluding that they had been dumped there, he headed into town to get the others to take a look. They joined him and they determined that they were indeed brought here by someone else, being flung off the nearby ridge. The bones were obviously months old, the corpse a week or so, and both were of white men. Although they arranged for a decent Christian burial for the bones, there was little the posse could do about them.

That night, Folden made his way to the designated location, where he found a circle of spectators standing around a makeshift boxing ring. It turned out to be a prize-fighting event, currently banned by local ordinance, but the money for the victors was very good, plus he would be allowed to bet on the outcome of his and other fights. Folden decided to give it a try and found himself facing a local bruiser. The fight was very close, but he was beaten in the end. Returning to Deadwood, he sought out treatment from Dupre the following morning, although he wouldn’t say what the cause was.

The following morning, Folden was just turning up for work, somewhat the worse for wear and Hampden was settling in for breakfast when the chef, Fan Xiaowen, came in claiming that Sorrenson was dead. Hampden and Dupre, who had followed Folden in to the saloon, went to Sorrenson’s room to investigate, finding that Marshal Bullock and Doctor Ernest Roberts, a professional rival of Dupre’s, had already removed the body.

They headed over to Roberts’s office and found one of Bullock’s deputies barring entrance. They bullied their way past and found that Roberts had just completed an inconclusive autopsy. He had come to the conclusion that Sorrenson had died of a heart-attack, which was his initial appraisal. Dupre managed to catch a glimpse of the corpse: it looked so dried out that it was practically mummified! Roberts had no answer to this and said he’d seen nothing like it before.

A little later, Pastor Law found Maddie Hayes praying in the unfinished church. She was very upset so he attempted to comfort her, discovering that she did not agree with Roberts’s conclusions, because Sorrenson had been as “strong as an ox”.

That evening, Hampden found that Connolly’s game was going downhill rapidly. After several bets that would have disgraced a newcomer, the pro begged off with fatigue and returned to the Grand Central. Hampden, while grateful for the return of most of his losses, was suspicious at the change in circumstances and decided to follow him back to the hotel. He and Law hung around in the Grand Central’s saloon for a long time that evening, but saw little of interest.

At midnight, Folden had his second fight, this time going up against Kane. He was beaten badly, leaving the good Doctor very suspicious as to what was going on.

At this point, a seedy-looking man approached them, nervously introducing himself as Buck Travis, the former editor of the Deadwood Chronicle (now out of business), he thought they might like to see some useful evidence. They agreed and he took them back to the old newspaper offices, where he produced some photographs of typical street scenes from six months earlier. In one picture, Sorrenson could be seen, accompanied by a woman of Mexican appearance. Travis explained that she was Maria Delgato, the owner of the High Time Saloon. She and Sorrenson were close for most of the year, but that their friendship appeared to have ended about a month ago, when Hayes arrived in town. He then showed them a close-up of the couple, and they were astonished to see that she appeared to have short horns on her forehead and leathery wings growing from her shoulders. Travis was adamant that they only showed up in the picture when he developed it – he’d never seen any sign of them in person.

He also pointed out that five miners had died of apparent heart attacks in the last few weeks. All were examined by Roberts and buried quickly and in private.

Law mused that there are Church books that describe demons who take the form of women and seduce men. He’d never believed writings, but they bore a striking resemblance.

Law and Hampden decided to investigate the High Time. It was a saloon and bordello on the south side of the town, competing with the Gem Saloon (and therefore not popular with Al Swearingen). Although several prostitutes were resident there (something Sorrenson was always keen to avoid), they were loyal and the place had a reputation for looking after them. The first thing that the visitors noticed was that there no external windows or mirrors, and that drinks were served in pewter goblets.

Dupre and Folden joined them a little later, as they chatted to the barkeep, Zeke Clemens (who turned out to be fiercely loyal to his employer). He would say little about her other than that she was a good boss and looked after her girls. He never explained the lack of glass in the building. Around this time, Delgato made a personal appearance, looking every inch the elegant Mexican noblewoman.

Clemens spoke to her and she came over to the posse’s table. The heroes chatted briefly then brought up the subject of Sorrenson’s death and her history with him. While she was happy to admit that she had been involved with him for nearly a year, she denied any connection with his death, offering instead the idea that Hayes was responsible, having stolen him away from her in the first place. Meanwhile, Dupre managed to arrange things so that she could see her in her pocket mirror – finding that she did indeed have wings and horns, as well as an arrow-headed tail peaking out from under her skirt.

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