Jack Kollath, Security Officer for the Union Pacific Rail Road, was assigned to a new post in the town of Smithhall, Arizona and assumed authority on September 17, 1875.
He found the town a contradiction, as most frontier town’s tended to be. It was silver rich thanks to the Moorcock Silver Mine north of town, which flooded the area with prospectors looking to strike it rich. There was also the United Brethren, a fire and brimstone revival church, to the east, and a Chinese shanty village a bit further. Factor in an encampment of Confederate veterans to the west, and both Apache and Navajo within spitting distance and one could understand Kollath’s uneasiness. A feeling exasperated once he met up with Shady McCoy.
Eugene McCoy was a gambler everyone called Shady, a nickname he picked up as a kid. He came from a wealthy lumber family, but after being cheated in a card game by Jian TouMen, called “The Asian Gentleman”, McCoy was deadset on revenge. Or so Kollath learned over drinks.
McCoy came to Smithhall because of its Chinese population, hoping to sniff out the Asian Gentleman’s trail, but as he related this tale to Kollath, the Security Officer sensed trouble. It had been itching at him ever since he came into town.
Kollath wired an old colleague, a sharpshooter named Tausin M. Dice, who had worked the rails with Kollath a few years before. He was good in a scrap and a sure shot, and Kollath figured if things went south, he would be a good man to have at his side once hell was unleashed.
Dice had been riding with the Oak Hill Gang and enlisted his cohorts to take the train west. They were wanted all across Kansas and Missouri and a fresh start sounded good to the lot of them.
Dice’s closest compatriot in the gang was Butcher Cole. Dice and Cole had met in the War, were there together when things went wrong at the Battle of Nashville and the two decided to cut and run for Missouri, where Cole was from.
They hitched up with another Missourian, Beauregard Andrew Jackson, whom everyone called Bo Jack, as they deserted the Confederate Army and embarked on a life of crime. Things were going well and went even better once they met up with Kansas born Louis Toadvine.
Toadvine had been on his own since he was a kid, thieving across the Plains States, and was pleased to be in the company of the deserters. The four men waged terror across the territories, occasionally taking breaks to do honest work for a spell before the lure of adventure and riches tempted them back into the outlaw life.
As wanted men, the Smithhall invitation came at just the right time.
Upon arriving, Kollath caught them up to speed, and it wasn’t long before they learned of the seedy underside of Smithhall. There were two opium dens operating in town, one behind the Chinese Laundry, the other in the Brackett House for Ladies.
The Oak Hill Gang had run afoul of an Opium Crime Lord back in Kansas a few years previous and this had the stink of that operation all over it. At that time, the Oak Hill Gang had saddled up with a US Marshall named Roland Deschain who was hellbent on snuffing out these dens like it was a mission from God himself.
Deschain had been double-crossed by his closest friend, a Chinese immigrant named Jian Chin. Chin had murdered the Marshall’s family when they had found out about his peddling of opium to gamblers at the local saloon.
Dice wired Deschain to join them in Smithhall, and on October 3, 1875, the seven men all sat down together for the first time in the Longbranch Saloon.
Within minutes, the hell that Kollath had feared would be unleashed gave way and it started with a fire at the Brackett House for Ladies.
As they watched the fire unfold from the street a number of curiosities were noted: a wealthy Asian businessman coming out of the bank, a pale and distraught farmer’s daughter clutching her bible in the alleyway between the music hall and school house, a gathering of United Brethren behind Doc Howard’s, and the Mayor and an ex-Confederate Colonel in the street taking it all in.
While Kollath followed the woman back to the Lovecraft Farm, Dice, after picking the Mayor’s pocket, confronted the Chinese businessman trying to rile him up a bit. They suspected this owner of the Chinese Laundry to have been involved in the razing of the Brackett House, perhaps as a means of eliminating his competition in the opium trade. Chow Yin took offense to Dice’s questioning and struck him with his cane sparking a chain of events that left several of the Dice’s compatriots wounded, himself included, and, when Chow Yin’s staff became involved, in the end, four of the Chinese dead, including Yin and his lieutenant, Tao Sung.
While Dice, McCoy, and Cole got patched up at Doc Howard’s, the other three set out to investigate the town in the aftermath of the shootout.
Deschain discovered the Brackett House had most likely been firebombed by the United Brethren.
Kollath sneaked into the Lovecraft Farmhouse where he was confronted by Wilford Lovecraft who denied the girl Kollath and the others had seen by the schoolhouse was his daughter, even though the Security Officer was sure she was in the house.
Toadvine searched the laundry, discovering a secret tunnel system beneath the building.
Gathering at Doc Howard’s, they exchanged information, then had a look at the ledger Dice had lifted off the Mayor. Inside was strange, alien writing, arcane symbols, and the words “the sleeper must awaken”, “Nyarlathotep”, and “Yog-Sothoth”.
The strange had become even stranger in Smithhall.
Kollath made his way to the telegraph office and sent a missive back to the home office.
Returning to his compatriots still holed up at Howard’s, they began to plot their next move, when Cole suddenly looked around and asked, “Where the heck is Bo Jack?”
to be continued