Way back in the war of independence, in late 1782, George Washington personally dispatched Captain Felix Fairweather on the schooner Felicity on a mission to travel to Mexico to bring back a war chest of Spanish gold. On the return journey up the Ohio river, Captain Fairweather’s ship ran aground in a massive storm. That night they were attacked by Old Ezra the bear and all but the Captain died. The Captain was badly injured. He was rescued by the Siwash, halfbreed bear worshiping cannibals who worshiped him as a god for surviving the bear attack. Rather than let the gold fall into enemy hands, he hid it beneath the Siwash shrine.
Captain Fairweather set out, injured, for civilization. He got to the trading post and met Miss Fanny Robbins. She nursed him back to health and as these stories go, he fell in love with her. By the time he was fit to travel news came that the war was over. Realising that he didn’t want to leave Kentucky and travelling overland to Boston with a chest of gold was asking for trouble, he settled down with Miss Fanny (despite already being married, the cad) and never spent any of the gold. On his deathbed he bequeathed his legacy to to his son, the battle flag from his ship. His illiterate son was unimpressed and hung it behind the bar. Little did he realise that Felix embroidered a clue as to where the treasure was buried on the flag.
The unintended consequences of his actions were that Captain Fairweather’s wife and sons, scions of Boston society, were shamed and dishonoured. To this day the Sons of the Fairweather family strive to recover the gold and regain their family’s honour.
Jerusalem Jones is a low-down conman. He knows about the treasure. He’s spent years tracking down the USS Felicity. He’s run all manner of cons and embroiled all manner of people, stitching lie into lie in a massive web. He’s traced it to a plot of land in Kentucky that he’s bought in his Sister’s name (forged her signature) but now he’s found the ship he can’t find the gold. It’s buried somewhere on the land. What he needs to do now is dig it up – but because other folks are sniffing around, he needs to create some distractions. Reasons why people might be digging up the dirt on his worthless land.
January Jones is at her wit’s end. She knows about her brother’s scams (but not the reasons behind them) and knows that he convinced her to invest the last of her money in a worthless patch of dirt in the Ohio river floodplain. She’s signed it “J. Jones” making it vague. With debtors knocking at the door, the bank threatening to foreclose and threats that she will lose all, she finally snaps and hires a bunch of assassins to murder Jones.
But Jerusalem Jones is a con man. A good enough con man to turn the potential murder to his advantage. He convinces the assassins to work for him. Fake his death and carry an empty coffin to his fake wake. As long as they get that coffin in the dirt come Saturday morning, no one will be the wiser and Jerusalem Jones will be “dead”.