Distinguished German scientist Viktor Adolph Gerhard Von Freiburg has arrived in Colorado to inspect local minerals and ores for potential uses regarding the New Science. Due to its location adjacent to both major rail lines and several well-established mining claims, Dr. Von Freiburg has chosen to base his exploratory operations in the town of Melody, Colorado. During his reconnaissance, Dr. Von Freiburg hears of the recently closed 7G mine formerly run by Hemmer’s Toll Mining and Excavation Co. The 7G was a moderately productive deposit of ghost rock. Official company word is that the vein was tapped out, but a quick canvas of the local mining folk indicates disbelief at this statement; the mine had been open for only a few short months and a deposit the size of the one indicated on the geological survey would take more than a year to exhaust. Some hint at a darker cause for the mine closure. Miners are always an expendable commodity in the Weird West, but folks say more than a usual number have been expended in 7G. Undertaker Silas Hartley reports an increase in closed and empty casket funerals. But still, there is the matter of a mine potentially full of ghost rock, just waiting to become part of an enterprising scientist’s experiments. Curious as he may be, Dr. Von Freiburg is no fool and for protection he has hired a steely-eyed shootist who, at least currently, goes by the name of Willard Keaton. Keaton is a known figure in town, but not a well-liked one; he’s as surly as a rattler and twice as dangerous. The bullets from his Remington revolver seem to spend more time in citizens than in their cylinder. Not a wonderful trait in a neighbor, but a highly desirable one in an armed escort. They are accompanied by the visiting journalist Walter Wilfred Williams, of the Boston Williamses, who “seeks to document the unvarnished truth about the rugged American West.” Williams has been omnipresent around town, jotting notes down at a furious pace while following Marshall Quentin Hoover on his rounds or sitting on a barrel at Zachariah Dolan’s general store listening to the local cowhands take the piss.
Meanwhile, Zhen Zimmerman seeks to continue her quest for revenge against the Hemmer’s Toll Mining and Excavation Co., whom she believes is responsible for the death (and undeath) of her husband. James Zimmerman ran a farm until he succumbed to a hostile land grab by none other than Hemmer’s Toll. After the mysterious blaze which destroyed his homestead he was forced to sell the land at a loss and hoist the pick and shovel for the city’s largest employer: Hemmer’s Toll. The recently closed 7G mine lies on the plot wrested from the Zimmermans. In a predictable twist of fate, James returned to his own former land to mine ore in 7G. Fortunately, after months of back-breaking work, James was able to find a way out of the mines; unfortunately, it was a horizontal exit. Not long after his death and burial, Zimmerman came home, decaying, mindless and raving. Zhen had no choice but to put him down. Since then she has sought revenge against the company who has twice wronged her. She has heard the rumors of the mysterious closing of 7G and wants to return to her former home to investigate her husband’s suspicious demise. Short on firepower, she seeks a hired hand and finds rifleman Roscoe Boggs who is more than willing to trade his bullets for cash. Boggs is new to Melody; if he weren’t then he would know better than to do anything that might cross Hemmer’s Toll. Fortunately for Zhen, Boggs’s knowledge of local politics is as low as his bank account and he agrees to be her muscle on her mission of vengeance.
Another newcomer to Melody is the New York born and bred Sam Beauregard. Mr. Beauregard is here on assignment from one of the larger Eastern investment houses and is brokering deals for local prospectors. Mr. Beauregard has brought an exciting opportunity to Melody, offering shares in these (entirely fictitious) mines to our local residents for pennies on the dollar. Many residents have taken advantage of this opportunity, but some have declined – occasionally violently. When local widow Zhen Zimmerman was offered a share in a mine, she told Mr. Beauregard where he could roll it up and put it. Not only did she not want to invest in a mine, she was fixing to put one out of business. The two got to talking and Zhen revealed she was headed toward an abandoned ghost rock mine. Mr. Beauregard immediately saw the possibilities presented by an actually existing mine. Forged mine shares are an excellent prop for bilking the rubes, but an authentic mine? Like nickels from heaven. Using his prodigious charisma, Mr. Beauregard convinced Ms. Zimmerman that he would be an invaluable asset on her trip to the vacant mine.
As the curtain lifts upon our little tale of the good, the bad, the ugly and the very ugly, two separate groups of Wild Cards head toward the Zimmerman’s former home and Hemmer’s Toll’s former claim. Each has his or her own motivation for the trip, but all are about to share an experience that they won’t soon forget as they plunge into a mine that is in more ways than one, DARK AS A DUNGEON.