When last we left our heroes, they were just getting settled in at Sweetwater, AZ, city of the future!
Ruby, David, Jeb, and Father Seward are in the hotel room examining the "Richmond eggbeaters" from Ruby's husband. They wonder what might arrive next. Jeb, still at it with his new spyglass, sees a zeppelin come in and tie off atop the spire of the central tower. He recognises a figure exiting – the lesbian who had come on to Rufina back at Brent's soiree in Richmond. She exits with a great deal of baggage, but appears to allow no one other than her own porters to handle her belongings. She enters into the tower and is not seen exiting.
Meanwhile, Rex and Rufina make their way down to The Well. Throngs of people in various emotional states await their chance to enter; many are clutching mementos of loved ones, some are silently (or not so silently) weeping. There is only one way in and out of The Well, and Rex and Rufina stroll right in. At the bottom of the broad staircase that descends below the street level, an ornate arch acts as the gateway to the main attraction; on it is written Latin text which Rufina, having been studying, translates as, "Only The Forgotten Are Truly Dead". Laid into the floor in a large ring and on the walls of the space is a shiny green material, likely stone, though none that either can identify. To either side are metal doors, ahead of them is a balcony – empty at the moment – and a platform with a lone grand piano. A mass of people stands within the ring, which is easily larger than the base of the spire at street level. Standing on the far side of the archway, Rex and Rufina are unable to see what has them so engaged. They agree to go one at a time, so Rex enters first.
He can see that every person around him is adorned with glowing green threads, going out in various directions, some connecting person to person, others going back out the entryway, others connected to ghostly green figures that mill about. Oh yes, there are ghosts, or at least what appear to be ghosts. They interact with each other, and sometimes with the living. Rex notes that he also has green threads about him, but also a single golden thread that appears to have snapped off of whatever it had been connected to, and is wafting in an unfelt breeze. When he attempts to touch his strings, his hands pass right through. He sees a man watching him, obviously because of the gold thread. The man parts from the crowd, approaches one set of metal doors, knocks, speaks a few words, and enters. Rex asks Rufina if she'd like to see her children, and leaves the circle.
Rufina notes much of the same, and she has several green threads going back out the door in the direction of the hotel, as well as connecting her to Rex. She also has one off-coloured thread, although hers is not gold but ochre, also going back out the door in the direction of the hotel. Rufina hears faint childish laughter – strange, as none of the other spectres make sound - and sees her two eldest children run through the crowd, holding hands. They do not notice her. She waits, but does not see her youngest child. As she is also starting to attract notice, they leave.
Back in the hotel, Ruby receives a note from Duchess Abigail stating that dinner will be at 7:00 sharp in the penthouse suite, and to bring something nice to share with the other guests. Vexed by this important social responsibility, Ruby writes back for clarification and receives the reply that, if it is "a delicious vice", she should provide for at least twelve persons. She and David send a note to the concierge requesting fine chocolates and liquors.
Shortly thereafter, Rex and Rufina return and describe what they saw in The Well, including the suspicious man. They wonder if The Well (whatever it is) sees into minds and is fueling something.
The concierge arrives to take the order for chocolates and spirits, and divulges that Ruby and David are the only guests – the Duchess is a notorious epicurean (to be diplomatic) and always asks guests to bring ample provisions. Jeb offers his jug of Carolina mountain rotgut, as Ruby had wanted to bring something representative of the South since the Duchess had been so tickled to meet a Southern belle. The concierge is flustered by this, but complies.
As there is a great deal of time to pass before the dinner, David and Ruby decide to indulge their Curiosity and see The Well for themselves. Rex follows, to act as bodyguard. Rufina and Jeb stay with the Father in the hotel room while he takes a nap.
The approach is much the same, and Ruby enters the circle first. She notes that she also has an ochre string, but this one goes straight up, and moves as though connected to someone pacing about the floor above her. Looking around, she sees her parents speaking to her brother John Michael Patrick, no longer the vampiric beast. As with Rufina, she does not hear sound from most of the spectres but swears she hears a murmur of speech from her family. John Michael Patrick looks up, makes eye contact with her, and smiles; her parents take no notice, and the group quickly dissipates. Ruby wanders around, looking for Jake, and at one point turns around to come face to face with her brother, startling her greatly. He holds his hands up and mouths, "I'm sorry," before dissipating. She chokes out a quick, "I forgive you", before making a beeline for David.
Behind Ruby, David and Rex spy the Doctor – the same thin, gas-masked figure from the statue – on the balcony above the circle. The man who had noticed Rex and Rufina before is also present, and he points out the trio before both men leave the balcony. David takes a quick chance to enter the circle himself, noting that he also has an ochre string that goes straight up like Ruby's. Satisfied, he leaves, and he and Ruby walk purposefully back to the just as the Doctor enters the main floor and begins to follow. Rex holds back to confront him. Trying not to be too obvious, Ruby looks up hoping to catch Jeb's eye as he watches through his spyglass.
It works. Jeb alerts Rufina, who attempts to wake Father Seward, but he appears dead, more so than usual, and does not rouse. It is almost as though whatever spirit had been in him had simply left. Only after a lot of shaking and shouting, and Jeb poking him in the leg with his knife, does the Father violently come to.
In The Well, Rex is approached by the Doctor who asks to see his golden thread. Rex obliges, and is alarmed to see that when the Doctor waves his hand at it, it responds. The Doctor notes that another man, also named O'Malley, had been in some days before and also sported this thread, similarly severed. Rex does not betray his relationship to what he assumes to be his late cousin. The Doctor presents Rex with a business card with embossed abstract Grecian columns. It merely reads "The Doctor". He invites Rex and his compatriots to dinner that evening, but learning that there are already plans, says that they will dine tomorrow, but should still try to make it to a very special performance of sorts this night in The Well, referred to only as "The Artifice". Rex is cautioned to take care with the card, as few are privileged enough to have one.
Ruby and David arrive back at the hotel first, as Rex takes a very roundabout way, hoping to throw off any pursuers. He also stops to purchase a knife. Once everyone is back, Rufina and Jeb inform them of Father Seward's disinclination to wake, and wonder if the spirit of Rufina's husband takes his leave of the Father's body occasionally. Ruby and David describe their experiences, and Ruby confesses that she was hoping the ochre threads were to Jake, although she did think also of the spirit within Seward. David suggests it could also be Cobb. At this, Ruby declares that she is going to bathe and get ready for the party.
While she bathes (in lavender-scented water straight from the tap!) and dresses, Rex tells the group about his Doctorly encounter, and the invitations that have been extended. It is decided that he will attend the performance that evening, but no one else will go as they are worried about what could happen if they are all together with their odd coloured threads. Looking outside, they also notice that after sunset no one leaves the well, although many still attempt to enter.
Soon the gift basket is delivered, and Ruby and David ride the elevator up to the Duchess' penthouse, which takes up the entire upper floor of the hotel. The Duchess is as promised, a bon vivant of the highest degree. She is good company, although quickly gets into her drink.
As the evening wears on, the Duchess does state that she is going to a grand show that night in The Well and insists David and Ruby accompany her. The show to be seen is a woman from the East, who was badly burned in the San Francisco fire. The woman is called Mandragora, and it is said that she can manipulate the threads, and that she can make the fleeting spectres remain for a significant time.
While she goes off to dress, Ruby and David send a note down the pneumatic tube to the others, informing them of what they have uncovered (Rufina and Father Seward make note of the connection to the mandrake root and its mystic and symbolic meanings) and let them know that the plan to have only Rex present at the show has changed...