A/N: this will include all the Deadwood characters over time.
This is based on the fire of September 1879, which burned down most of the town and is as historically accurate as possible, with a liberty or two taken along the way
All characters and concepts other than historical ones belong to David Milch and HBO
No money getting made here
According to Milch, Season 4 would have included the fire. I have no idea where he would have taken that, but this is my imagining of how it would have gone.
This will be only my stories, but on LJ, I am collaborating with two fine writers who also mourn Deadwood's untimely passing, and there they have added their own chapters featuring the characters I seem to have given short shrift here.
Deadwood: The Day After
Dawn was coming over Deadwood, sun struggling to shine through clouds of smoke down in the gulch. Through the light smoky haze, the smell of campfire coffee made its way through to the milling crowd. General Sturgis had ordered barrels of clean water, coffee, pots and cups be off-loaded first, having weathered his share of disasters from men and nature. He knew the solace and energy a decent cup of joe could bring.
Smoke-stained hands reached for blankets being handed out by the troops from Ft. Meade. A semblance of an order emerged among the town refugees. Previously sorted by occupation, status, or wealth, now groups were formed from the injured, the sick, and the ones with the least on their backs. Men kissed wives and hugged children as they helped them step up into the wagons before the men headed back to town.
The better-dressed whores milled about in some confusion, trying to guess what course would be less likely to get them in dutch with Cy Tolliver. Finally, Joanie Stubbs approached an older, bewhiskered soldier holding wagon reins and quietly told him of the whores' "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma.
Sergeant White nodded gravely, intelligent brown eyes assessing the group. He had known a number of camp followers and whores, past and present, and understood the fear most had of running afoul of their bosses. He began pointing at various women in ripped petticoats and fancy colored satin corsets, making eye contact before ordering them into his wagon. The decision taken out of their hands, the Bella Union girls looked relieved as they were handed blankets and helped up into the wagon bed.
Sergeant White noticed that none of them seemed to be looking through the throngs of men for their pimp. He thought there was probably a story there, as he turned his wagon around to head back to Ft. Meade. He hoped the tents would be up and in place by the time they arrived. No good could come of half-dressed fancy women milling around the parade grounds while officers' wives and daughters began waking to the day.
The men of the Gem followed Al Swearengen down the slope to the streets still hot with embers and slow-burning wood. Tom Nuttall, Harry Manning, and other Number 10 men were already well into town, hooking up the one remaining fire hose to the town water supply. Too late to save anything, they could at least start cooling down the remnants to hasten the work of the day.
As he walked by, Al could see that the Bullock house, Alma's house, and the schoolhouse appeared to be untouched, other than stains from the smoke blown from the blaze. He had seen her and Sofia as he left after speaking to the officer commanding the troops. She had gathered with Trixie and Martha Bullock, and the two or three camp children who had been clutching their teacher's skirts. His girls were gathered close to Trixie, shoulders covered with borrowed blankets. One of his huskier girls stood near Alma, holding Sofia and while Alma handed out coffee brewed by Martha over a small rock-ringed fire.
He motioned the men to stop at a tent that had escaped the flames, rummaged around, and took out a thin tattered blanket. He figured he could settle with the owner later, as he and the others cut it into long strips to wrap around their hands. He added "work gloves" to his mental list of things to obtain as soon as possible.
He saw a familiar figure…two familiar figures, pulling at charred wood with cloth-wrapped hands. It took him a second to recognize they were at what was left of Star & Bullock Hardware. Through the destruction, he could make out the square lines of the store safe, and what was left of ax heads, saws, and a few objects too twisted by heat to recognize.
Al, Dan, Johnny, and Silas stood with Davy and the rest, looking at the ashes left of the Gem. Some of the town water had been sprayed over the wreckage, steam and smoke curling up in the morning light.
"Damn." This, almost reverently from Dan.
"Okay, boys, this ain't my first fire. First, we look for the safe."
Al and the men carefully stepped over cinders and rubble until they could make out where the safe would have fallen when the structure collapsed. A steady stream of weary men trickled past as they worked, a few pulling themselves out of the crowd here and there to start working on a particular mound of smoldering wreckage.
Close to the thoroughfare, charred wood and twisted iron all around, Al spotted his heavy iron safe. He and the others slowly cleared a way, mindful of stepping on hot embers as they went. Eyes watered as the rising smoke stung and made them hack and cough, spitting black phlegm. Johnny diverted for a second to peer into the cellar, now revealed by the burned-out floor. Heavy timbers set in the cellar's earthen ceiling were covered with lighter scorched wood from the main structure, but had held.
Al and Dan pulled the last pieces of the Gem off the heavy Diebold safe. Al waved the rest over to form a screen for his opening the safe. Davy seemed doubtful. He leaned towards Johnny.
"Johnny, you think there's anything left in there besides some melted-together gold?"
Al heard the question and answered as Johnny fumbled for a reply.
"Davy, the…items you mention will be as fully formed as they were when they put in. In fact, I anticipate currency and documents to be intact as well. They sure as fuck ought to be, seein' as how I paid close to a thousand dollars for this cocksucker."
"That's one of the new Diebolds, ain't it? I seen a couple of those up in Yankton, in the courthouse and the tax office."
Al was cleaning soot off the combination dial. "Good eye, Adams. These just came out a few years ago. Has some kind of fireproof shit betwixt and between all this metal in layers like a fancy tea party sandwich." Dial clean, he looked up.
"Uh, gentlemen? Little privacy, please?"
The men turned their backs to Al as he spun the combination lock.
"Now that's what I call a fuckin' safe!"
They looked at their boss, on one knee in front of the huge safe. Door half open, they could see stacks of currency, bags of gold, and a smaller box of papers. Al rummaged through the papers, occasionally glancing up to check who might be near.
Johnny and Davy were visibly impressed.
"Damn, Al, every stack of—"
"Shut up, Johnny."
"I'm just sayin, that's one hell of a safe, all right."
Dan leaned over, blocking the safe's contents with his broad back. "You takin' out some cash for supplies?"
Al kept rummaging through the papers, stopping at a fancy set with an embossed seal and an elegant engraved letterhead: LIVERPOOL & LONDON & GLOBE INSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED
"Yeah, plus something better than cash." He smiled and put the folded set of papers in his inside coat pocket.
He patted his pocket as the men looked puzzled.
"My fire insurance."
He spun the lock closed.
"Johnny, you stand watch here. Dan, take this and start gettin' some local lumber coming our way. Davy, recruit anybody you can find to start clearing away the debris. Tell 'em Al Swearengen will pay top dollar for steady work on my joint."
He handed Dan a small sack of gold, enough to get the first wagons of lumber they'd need. They could barely hear the faint grinding noise of portable sawmills up on the ridge over the cracks and crashes of burned debris being pulled away.
"And a couple of tents, Dan. Find me a large enough tent to get some business going." He grinned and lightly punched Dan in the arm. "Just like the old days, hmm?"
"Boss, they said ain't gonna be no liquor sales allowed for a while. You agreed to the outlawin' of it yourself."
Al raised an eyebrow. "Don't recall anybody outlawing pussy."
Dan grinned, face streaked with soot and ashes. "No, I guess they didn't. I'll find us some tents and start roundin' up the girls."
"Adams, you come with me. We got reconnoitering to do and a telegraph to find."
A/N: Liquor sales were suspended for a week to discourage looting and gun play. Rebuilding started the day after the fire. The morning after the fire, military telegraph operators worked non-stop placing orders for building materials and supplies. Diebold safes had come out a few years before 1879 with safes that were able to withstand fires of this magnitude with no damage to paper contents.