Thanks to suggestions from blog readers and offline friends, I finally wrote the mystery for the museum. I still have to list the characters and their movements and motivations on the fateful night, but for the most part, it’s finished. It sounds like a synopsis for a truly interesting novel. This is what I have so far:
It is late July, 1899, on the cusp of a new century. William McKinley is president of the United States of America. The United States, until now uninterested in expansion, has begun to assert itself and has officially become a world power. The first automobiles appear on the roads and the first traffic fatality will occur in a few weeks. Electricity is beginning to light the country.
Locally, horse racing is an important event, and people come from all over Colorado and Kansas to race and watch and bet. Gypsies camp down by the river. The Gardner House hotel is celebrating its seventh anniversary. Cowboys, as always, let off steam and try to shoot out the oil-lit street lights in front of the hotel.
Regionally, there is unrest among the Cheyenne, both the Northern Cheyenne and the Southern Cheyenne. The Medicine Hat Bundle, which included a ceremonial pipe and a buffalo horn, was the most sacred possession of the Northern Cheyenne, but in the 1870s, after a tribal dispute with the Keeper of the Sacred Medicine Hat Bundle, the pipe disappeared.
And oh, yes — a flock of crows is called a “murder of crows.”
Despite the rapid growth of southeast Colorado and the diverse people living there, it’s become a fairly safe place to live.
Until the murder of the Crows.
The Crows were drummers (traveling salespeople). John sold men’s haberdashery, and Abigail sold women’s unmentionables. When they arrived at the Gardener House, they found only one room still available because of all the activity in town. Instead of staying in room #3, which they considered lucky, the Crows reluctantly checked into room #5. Things were fine the first night, but on the second night, Abigail wakes to hear someone in the room. She starts to call out, but a figure descends on her like an immense black bird with wings outstretched. She feels terrible pain, then nothing. When she wakes again, she is dead.
The intruder is desperate. Two weeks ago, the intruder met a fellow traveler who was dying. The traveler gave the intruder a bundle containing an old peace pipe, and requested that it be delivered to a Cheyenne woman called Bright Raven in southeastern Colorado no later than midnight on July 28th or the world would burn in a terrible world war. The intruder promised, but during the journey, the intruder sensed the power of the pipe and figured there was money to be made from such an artifact. Because of the ill fortune that followed the intruder after accepting the pipe, the intruder stashed the bundle under the floorboards in the closet of room #5 in the Gardner House where the intruder was staying, until better plans could be made. But the intruder could find no one who would pay big money for an unlucky pipe of dubious origin. Ill fortune continued to follow the intruder. In desperation, remembering the July 28 deadline, the intruder, disguised in a voluminous black cape, returned to the hotel shortly before midnight on that date to retrieve the item.
It was bad luck room #5 was occupied. Bad luck that the woman occupant awoke. Bad luck that when the intruder swooped down on the woman, the knife the intruder had been using to pry up the floorboard in hand, the woman died. Bad luck that the husband awoke. Bad luck that the cowboys chose that very moment to shoot out the street lights. Bad luck that the intruder had to escape without the artifact.
During the investigation that followed the murders, the artifact was retrieved but in the confusion, the sacred pipe disappeared again. Bright Raven never received the pipe, never got to perform the cleansing ritual she’d needed to do to remove the taint.
Exactly fifteen years later, on July 28, 1914, a shot rang out.
And World War I began.
What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?
A fun book for not-so-fun times