"Some say a stranger came, dealing death before the end..."
So opens the story, as reported in a series of sensationalist articles in 1890's Placerville Banner-Standard, or the "Hangtown Rag," as it was known to staff and readership alike. These tales come to you almost as luridly reported as they were then by editor and chief newspaperman on staff, Hiram Jr Bowles. He'd spent a week's self-paid vacation looking into what became known as the "Tin Rink Massacre" - the rumored abrupt and mysterious end, a decade or so prior, of Tin Rink, Wyoming. A frontier town, once thriving in its vulgar, squalid way; transformed almost overnight into a ghost-town with most of the ghosts yet hovering over their still-warm corpses and the survivors - if there were any survivors, accounts differed - scattered in every direction they could. Fleeing as if from demons. One man, so the legend went, was just about single-handedly responsible.
Or so some say.
The full story of Tin Rink, Wyoming, of what happened there and why, the story of the stranger and the woman of enigmatic repute who was seen riding off with him, away from the bullet-dilapidated wreckage, may never be fully known. But for those of you who have caught at least part of the saga, or who might care to, let me bring you up to speed with where we're at so far!
I went with a pretty straightforward numbering on these. I wanted it to be easy for interested readers to see which episodes were "untold," at least as yet. I wanted it plain where the gaps lie, where you just have to fill in your imagination as to what must have happened during the blackout. It goes 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 13 so far. We see the stranger show up in Tin Rink, Wyoming and meet Rose Althea, get her all huffy and follow her upstairs with his eyes in Pt.1, but we don't know precisely what they did to get the entire town up in arms against them by Pt.3's frantic siege of their by-now well-shared bedroom.
In Pt.5, they've left the town miles behind, into the desert on the stranger's old nag, with Rose Althea's thoughts making it seem likely there hadn't been much town left to leave behind. Skipping ahead to Pt.8, we piece together from later episodes that there's been a recoup in their fortunes, a caper planned and carried out but...something must have gone horribly awry, leading to a terrible taut standoff with Rose Althea holding a worse-for-wear stranger at gunpoint...and pulling the trigger on him, all the way. Cut to pt.10 and then Pts.12-13, we've got ourselves a long, slowly-developing chase scene odyssey with Rose Althea far out in front, and a sense of the stranger closing slowly but implacably behind.
We know the stranger survived Rose Althea's wrath, we pick up a lot of hints and ambience as to the caper they'd tried to pull; not much concrete detail, but we know enough to imagine the rest. We know Rose Althea either failed her attempt or relented, sparing the stranger's life. We don't really know which it was. But either way, she definitely stole his horse (which gave out and died between episodes), his boots, his gunbelt(s), his clothes, and left him with nothing but his hat and her discarded ball gown. We know she was damn sure he was after her, and we know she was not looking forward to the reunion if she could possibly R.S.V.P. her regrets. It seems clear that some near-miss between the two of them must have occurred on or about pt. 11. Somehow the stranger got his pants back, but somehow Rose Althea managed it so that was all he got back.
The gunbelts and guns appear to have vanished from the narrative.
I'm really digging and grooving on this story! I'll be interested to see how the future scenes end up tying in together. I want to see the stranger and Rose Althea in San Francisco, crossing and doublecrossing each other as they vie to prosper in dry goods, dueling proprietors of the well-run general store they'd managed to finagle ownership over. I want to see the stranger, forever unconcerned about the prospect of his deeds catching up with him, Rose Althea forever on the verge of or threatening to turn him in, and any authorities forever adopting the principled stance, "Tin Rink, Wyoming? Never heard of it."
I want to see their comic farce of a wedding! Presided over as a favor by the accommodating jailer slash justice of the peace of a half-built one-cell Nevada hoosegow, where they were being kept on ice until the United States Deputy Marshal got around to finally coming to get them. I want to see the stranger Lido's angry, unwilling return to Tin Rink years later. His furious coming to terms with what was done to him there - and with what he done. I want to see Rose Althea putting her foot down, insisting that if their 3-year old son says he wants to go to college, we are planning accordingly and that's final. I want to watch these two clash and renew enmity, chase each other over all creation, dive out of windows, toss lead and sharper objects, only to swoop back in for each other like mutually guarding avenging guardian angels, jealously beating off every competing threat to the other's life or soul. Each living as if in a competition to save and to betray the other just as many times as you'd care to lose count. Two cheerfully grim rogues, sizing each other's capabilities up forever, coming up with audacious plans suited to each other's strengths and pulling them off; two desperadoes against the world, then each other, then against the world again, then falling back against each other exhausted, in one of those sweet, peaceful moments of truce, where even the world seems agreeable to a cease-fire.
The full, almost-unbelievable story of what happened in Tin Rink and after may never be known. All we know for sure are some of the highlights of what happened. But you know what? Sometimes, that's all you need to know, to be able to fill in the rest. Sometimes, there's just no other way it must have happened, so it must've happened something like this.
Some say a stranger came, dealing death before the end...