Friday, November 2, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXVI

When last we left our heroes, they buried their dead, found a mysterious connection to a fallen Union officer, and reunited with Ruby O'Flahertie's estranged (and very drunk) husband, Brent Manning.

She is busy confronting him when he gets woozy and vomits.  After some terse discussion, Brent's solicitor (and  presumed lover) takes him away so he can get cleaned up.  The party — David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, Ruby, and Rufina — are invited to stay.  They are led to a sitting room with refreshment for about an hour while the house servants busily clean the aftermath of Brent's rampage.  Given the opportunity to read the paper, there is an article on a Sweetwater, Arizona, which is supposed to be the a model city of the future.  It is apparently about to be opened to the public.

Father Seward is a touch nervous, as he recalls Sweetwater from his dreams in San Francisco.  In his dreams, a man on a sick horse crossed out the "191" on the population sign, replacing it with a big "0."  Did he see the past or the future?  Nobody knows.

There are also some stories on the chaos in Boston and the reclusive actions of philanthropist Brent Manning.

Finally, servants arrive and offer to show everyone to their rooms.  They are welcome to relax until dinnertime.  Most people stay in their rooms and get settled, although Rex goes wandering, much to the consternation of the servants who are still trying to desperately clean.

Eventually, the call to dinner is sounded, and everyone comes down to the dining room.

Brent Manning and his solicitor are present, and after Ruby is seated, everyone sits.  Brent is obviously still a touch unwell, but he apologizes for his earlier behavior.  Father Seward says grace, and everyone starts to eat.  Astute observers might note that Father Seward tends toward the meat dishes and alcohol.

Conversation is relatively light, all things considered, although he does mention to Ruby that he feels the need to atone for many things he has done.  In that vein, he attempted to purchase her family's land.  However, he found he couldn't; a New Orleans-based company  called the Talmud Company (Father Seward informs Mr. Manning of the religious symbolism behind the company) has purchased much of the land in that area.  In fact, through his research and contacts, Manning has determined they're the largest single landowner in the United States.

Brent Manning does note that a single parcel of land is not owned by the Talmud Company; that piece is owned by a Bostonian landowner whom David Hood recognizes as new money who made his money is real estate.  Father Seward, however, notes that Bashiel did take land deeds, among other things, from City Hall in Boston.

Strangely, the purchased land is being guarded by the Union Army.

Brent Manning turns all his papers on the matter over to Ruby for her perusal.

Manning also notes that he wishes them to stay the night as he plans on throwing a party for Ruby's return tomorrow.

After dinner, David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, Rufina, and Brent's solicitor Vincent retire to a sitting room for tobacco and drinks.  Brent wishes to speak to Ruby alone.

Conversation in the sitting room is fairly light, although Vincent is obviously uncomfortable among people.  Father Seward determines his accent to be from Connecticut, although Vincent indicates that he is not native; wherever he came before Yale, he has chosen a different destiny and does not speak of his life before.  Jeb asks for help in researching the letter, and he says he will with Brent's blessing.

Meanwhile, Brent speaks to Ruby.  They speak of their marriage, and he again apologizes for what he has done.  He indicates that he does truly love her, but he is concerned that he cannot provide what she needs, particularly since he is a man of certain...appetites.  He does indicate that he misses her, and that they were great lovers together.  He also suggests that, perhaps, if the party goes well, they could be great together again.

Perhaps.

Ruby finally asks about something that's been nagging her — she remembers someone on his side at the wedding, a fellow named Cobb.  Brent says he doesn't know a Cobb, could she offer any details?  She mentions purple gloves, and Brent pales and leaves the room.  Ruby follows, and finds that he is going to his study.  He pulls out a ledger and flips until he finds a page with a photograph.  The photograph depicts Brent's father sitting in a chair.  Cornelius Cobb stands behind him, with a hand upon his shoulder.  Ruby recognizes the fear in Mr. Manning's face.  Brent tells her that his father was found dead, floating in the James River, the day after this photograph was taken.  Police said it was an accident, but he always had a suspicion the man in that photograph was behind the incident, although he never had a name until now.

When their conversation is finished, Brent takes her hand — noting the stuffed glove, he is about to say nothing when he decides to ask her if Cobb was involved; she says no — to lead her back to the sitting room with the others.

Everyone gathers again.  Jeb's request regarding the letter is noted, although he finds he cannot give it to Brent or Vincent — an attempt to do so opens a wound in his leg, like the wound that became infected on Sullivan — so they decide to translate the letter and give them a copy before they leave.  Brent informs Vincent that he does not have to attend the party tomorrow night, much to Vincent's relief.  Finally, vague plans are made for shopping, tailoring suits, and hunting before the party.  Brent then takes his leave to retire to bed, and says he will see everyone for breakfast tomorrow.

Ruby tells everyone of Brent's connection to Cobb, and they look at the ledger.  Strangely, they see what appears to be Jake reflected in Cobb's eyes.  He appears to be silently screaming, beating on the inner surface of Cobb's eyes as if on glass.  After the image disappears, David catches something out of the corner of his eye, almost as if Cobb smirks at him from the photograph.

The group checks the photograph, and finds it dated July 4, 1873.

There is some discussion of future plans at Rex's urging.  Presently, they are to go to Buena Vista; the current plan is to go to Atlanta, barring any particular revelations in Buena Vista.  Other possible areas of interest include New Orleans and Sweetwater, Arizona, although the last will likely wait, at least for a time.

The next day, they awake for breakfast.  When Ruby returns to her room, she finds a love letter from Brent that quietly suggests a place where fancy prosthetics can be purchased.  As planned, they go into town to get evening wear tailored for the party (and Ruby gets an articulated wooden hand), and they go shopping; Rex buys some dime novels, while David and Father Seward go hunting for occult books.  Jeb finds something that he does not describe, but he evidently went searching for the underbelly of Richmond.  Ruby stays at the Manning house to investigate the ledgers, but she finds nothing else of note.

David, Father Seward, Jeb, Rex, and Rufina join Brent Manning to go hunting; David and Rufina aren't terribly good with guns, but Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex haul back roughly twenty turkeys, and are really only stopped when Manning quietly suggests that he is going hunting with the governor next week, and wishes to have turkeys left to shoot.

Everyone retires to the house to prepare for the gathering.  It is a huge soirĂ©e; the governor and state senators are in attendance, as well as local and noted socialites.  Ruby is introduced to everyone of note.  David, Jeb, and Rex are all found by lovely young women, while Brent sends a woman Rufina's way, apparently having pegged her as a lesbian.  However, Rufina politely rejects the young woman's advances, even if the woman does steal a kiss before the end of the evening.  Father Seward in evening wear and bandages is quite the life of the party, although he does not attract the attention of young women in the way the other three men do.

Finally, the party winds down.  David, Jeb, and Rex all retire with their paramours.  Ruby slips into Brent's room late, after everyone else retires to bed; he does not comment on her hand, although he does comment on her missing belly button.  Father Seward and Rufina both sleep alone, which likely suits both just fine.

Given his proclivities for light sleeping, coupled with the fact that he only sleeps a couple of hours a night, Father Seward is awake to hear doors quietly open and close in the morning, and the pad of footsteps pass his door.  He chuckles every time.

The next morning, everyone breakfasts together and prepares to leave the Manning estate.  Brent welcomes everyone as family, and tells them they are always welcome in his house.  He offers two last items — train fare to Lynchburg, and two dueling pistols.  They are his father's, and he asks that they be used to kill Cornelius Cobb (and not be used in the defense of a Union soldier).  He gives one to Jeb, and after deliberation, the other goes to Ruby.

After fond farewells, the group makes their way to the train station to depart for Lynchburg.

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