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Quentin Cantrell

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About Quentin Cantrell

  1. Quentin Cantrell

  2. The Gauntlet

    A commotion by the entrance to the dining room caught Shade's attention and interrupted what he was about to say to Harriet. A man and a woman entered the room, putting Shade on instant alert. Few people in the west would fail to recognize the man. He was tall with well-groomed dark hair that was beginning to show gray at the temples. He was probably eight to ten years older than Shade and was neither remarkable looking or nondescript. In fact, Shade guessed that many women would find him relatively attractive. The woman on his arm was another matter entirely. She was tall, elegantly slender and simply stunning. Dark gold hair hung in curls and waves to her waist. Large eyes, set aslant like a cat's proclaimed her kinship to the man for they were a light golden brown in color. Her features were delicate with high cheekbones and a small, almost pointed chin which again reminded Shade of a feline. Shade was not terribly surprised when they stopped next to where he and Harriet were sitting. He politely rose to his feet, regarding both the man and the woman steadily. "My younger sister, Leah," the man said in a deep, oddly accented voice. He obviously assumed that he needed no introduction. Twin pairs of golden brown eyes, both devoid of warmth, gazed first at Harriet and then at Shade. The man continued, drawing his words out, "Welcome back, Harper...sorry you won't be here long." Harriet's eyebrows rose, and she stared at their retreating back in consternation. She looked at Shade, "What was that about?" "You just met Case Steelgrave and his baby sister, Leah Steelgrave," Shade said dryly. He kept his eyes on the man and woman until they left the room. He had no doubt about the purpose behind Steelgrave's appearance in the dining room. It just surprised him that there weren't more Steelgraves putting in an appearance. Quentin was finishing putting some sugar in his tea while the confrontation was happening at the table. He turned from the bar, leaving his tea sitting as the Steelgraves had headed for the entry of the restaurant. Case's eyes met Quentin's as they passed, too far apart for words but none were needed in the short interaction. Quentin kept walking and returned to the table as Harriet and Shade watched the Steelgraves' exit. "So what was that all about?" "That was...." Shade started to answer but was cut off by an obviously angry Harriet. Straightening in her seat, Harriet's gray eyes flashed at Quentin, "That man just threatened Shade!" She fairly spit out the sentence. "...Case Steelgrave," Shade finished, an almost amused note to his voice. Quentin glanced back at the now empty doorway. "So that's the man himself...first time I ever saw him in person. He's not like those other idiots in his family..." Quentin looked back around at Shade. "...there any more like him back at their ranch?" "Depends on what you mean by like him," Shade answered. "I never knew any of them well. Old Elias and Elinor Steelgrave have molded the lot of them in their own image. From what I gathered from Chance's letters, Benjamin, the eldest, just wants to run the ranch and the businesses. The problem is, Elias and Elinor still manage the manager." He leaned back in his chair and pushed the tumbler of whiskey away. Suddenly, Shade did not feel much like celebrating. "I will report this to Marshal Cory," Harriet said, her eyes still flashing, storm clouds in their gray depths. "Miss Harriet," Shade's voice was quiet and slightly amused, "just what are you going to report? That Mr. Case Steelgrave stopped by our lunch table in a public dining room to say hello and expressed his regrets that I would not be remaining in the area long?" Quentin glanced back at the door as he resumed his seat. "You know what he meant...I know what he meant....Shade knows what he meant...but it won't carry any weight with the Law." Quentin sat staring off into space, fingers idly drumming on the tabletop. "I have the distinct feeling Case, and I will have an unpleasant encounter very soon." Harriet remained quiet, obviously still concerned and trying to figure out a legal option for dealing with Case Steelgrave. Shade narrowed his eyes a bit and looked at Quentin. He kept his voice neutral as he rose to his feet, "It's not your fight, Quentin." He pushed his chair back under the table. "I need to go check on the horses." Quentin moved closer and rested a hand on Shade's shoulder. "You're wrong there. Maybe because of his brother, you and Case have some kind of personal thing going on, but that whole family has their sights on our whole family, that includes the children, us, and anyone else who is on our side. There's too much at stake for personal vendettas." Shade straightened his shoulders a bit more and gave Quentin a fleeting smile, "You're right there, Quentin. Where it involves the family, the ranch, and the businesses - it's our fight. If it wasn't Case, it'd be another of the Steelgrave brood or they'd hire someone. Just...where it does get personal between me and Case because of Calvin, it's my fight. I don't want someone hurt or killed for something I did." His blue eyes searched Quentin's face for understanding. Tags: @Quentin Cantrell
  3. The Eyes of Justice

    Judge Mandrell made a slight noise that sounded like a harumph. He turned his attention to Quentin. He held up two folders. "This is Mr. Harper's dossier," he said, holding the thick folder in his left hand and lifting it slightly higher. He then raised his right hand. A much thinner folder rested on it. "This is your dossier, Mr. Cantrell. Quite a difference wouldn't you say?" Mandrell laid both folders back on his desk and opened the smaller one. "You had a brilliant military career, received numerous commendations and awards, excellent service record, ended the war as a major. Quite an accomplishment despite the circumstances of the war itself. From there, it gets rather murky. In fact, you seem to disappear from more than a year before eventually resurfacing in San Francisco. Your employment is listed as Troubleshooter. Miss Mercer has done her best to explain that, but I would like to hear from you exactly what a troubleshooter does." Quentin inhaled a moment, letting the breath wash back out slowly as he considered the judge's question. He then seemed to stir inside, his eyes moving up to meet the judge's eyes. "Your Honor, When the war ended, I went home. Honestly, I am not sure why, but it seemed the only place I had left..." Cantrell sat up straighter. "...I am sure you have heard about how things were back then...Charleston was under occupation by the Union army. My father's business fortunes had fallen with the Confederate government and the city was not friendly to anyone who had been on the losing side." His face flushed as he continued with the part he was not enjoying. "I admit I crawled into a bottle...too many nights not sleeping, or when I did sleep I saw too many dead friends. Why was I alive and home and they weren't?...and to be honest, after what I saw when I got home...it would have been easier if I hadn't." Quentin then gave a small, quirky smile. "Suddenly one night, there was Chance. He said he was there with orders to bring me home to Regina. I admit I was not at my best right then, but he persisted, and I finally went with him. It took awhile, but I came out the other side at the ranch. I was me again...well, as much me as I was ever going to get back, I suppose..." Cantrell took a drink of water from a glass on the table. "Anyway, I was asked by an old friend to come to San Francisco and help him find someone who owed him money. I went, and as it turns out, I had some skill, both at finding them and taking care of myself...seems it's the only useful skills I learned in those four years." Cantrell took another breath. "And so that's what I began doing...people would come to me with problems...I would listen to their story and if I believed in what they needed or felt they really needed help...I would help them. Yes, people died at my hand, Judge, so don't bother asking, but I'm no bounty hunter. I never hired myself out to someone who did not need help. I was never just another gunhand or gang member. I killed my share of men in the war, either in battle or sending them to what ended up being their death. I figure any person who lived because I helped them balances each one who did not deserve to die in the war."
  4. All Nice and Legal

    The sun had warmed the morning air considerably by the time Harriet reached the eastern end of the Chogun Valley. She reined Stone in long enough to pull out a small lady's pocket watch. The hour on the dial assured her that she had plenty of time to reach the town. Not only did she need to meet with Judge Mandrell and hand over the documents, but she also wanted to find Fang and see what he had heard and observed since reaching Kalispell. She patted the horse's neck and set him moving forward in a slow but ground-eating lope. Slowing the horse to a trot, Harriet stared in consternation at the ranch's gated entrance. The big golden buckskin horse could not be mistaken which meant the man astride the animal's back was likely the last person Harriet wanted to see. She pulled the Arabian to a stop at the gate, a scowl crossing her face as she stared at the tall, dark-clad man that had sidled his horse around to face her. "What, may I ask, are you doing here?" Harriet inquired with asperity. Quentin smiled and reached a hand up, lightly tugging on the front of his hat brim without actually moving it. "And good morning to you also, Harriet..." He let his hands drop down to rest on his saddle pommel, lightly holding the reins. "...I am getting ready to ride into town...I have some things I need to do there." Harriet regarded Quentin with a stare from her smoke-colored eyes that would rival that of the mythical basilisk. "I guess that your sudden need to ride into Kalispell occurred after breakfast? And Mr. Harper just happened to forget that you had ridden out ahead of me? Then, you had this inexplicable urge to let your horse rest here at the gate while you contemplated the trees or something?" Quentin leaned back in his saddle and visibly recoiled from the barrage of questions. He composed himself and then leaned back into position. "Well, if you want to know so badly...It did...he did...and I did. Does that cover your interrogation?" Quentin started to turn his horse back in the direction of town but stopped and glanced back. "Oh, and contemplating trees in the middle of nowhere isn't illegal. I am enough of a lawyer to know that...now shall we?" Feeling her ire rise, Harriet took a deep breath. To distract herself while she got control of her emotions, she began working a braid into the Arabian's long mane. It took two rounds of mane braiding before she could trust herself to speak. "I am capable of taking care of myself," Harriet finally said, proud of the fact that her voice was calm and cool. Quentin sat serenely and watched her fingers braid. He could see them shaking with her effort to control her obvious anger...a fact that did not bother Quentin one bit. "I don't doubt your ability to defend yourself against any man, but out here it could be way more than one, and also out here you have as much or more a chance of getting eaten by a bear..." Cantrell's mouth curled up into a slight smile, "...Although I would never want to wish that on any poor bear." Harriet made herself stop fiddling with the horse's mane and stilled her hands. This was nothing more than an open-air courtroom and Cantrell was her opponent. Storm clouds gathered and faded in her twilight-colored eyes. Taking a deep breath, she smiled sweetly at Quentin, "Neither would I wish such a fate on one of God's poor dumb creatures." She would let Quentin decide who she had labeled as a dumb creature. Harriet patted the stock of the Winchester tucked in its scabbard, "I am well prepared for any eventuality." Quentin's eyes narrowed as he tugged rein, moving his horse around with a sound as he used a bit more force than necessary. "Complain all you want, but you have a riding companion for going into town. You can like it, you can dislike it...you can do whatever you want. Either way...here I am. I have a vested interest in keeping you alive, and I intend to do that very thing." Pleased that her barb had found a mark, Harriet smiled sweetly and set her heels to the Arabian's flank, moving him out at a steady walk. "I could say the same thing." Quentin glanced back over his shoulder as they rode along. "Can't have that, can we? Your precious legal reputation would be in tatters if I ended up dead...that simply will not do." Harriet moved her horse alongside Quentin's. She gazed at the road ahead as if seriously thinking about his comment. Maintaining the innocent expression was difficult, especially since she was starting to enjoy the verbal sparring session, she said, "My professional reputation has survived worse. But, your demise would be a stain although I'd still have Harper." Harriet paused, then said dryly, "Never mind. Don't get yourself killed until the day after tomorrow." Quentin stared ahead for a moment, then he smiled. "You know...it would almost be worth it to get myself killed to force you and Shade to have to work together..." "I would rather share a bar stool with a rattler," Harriet stated dryly and then she smiled, "Peace? Between the two of you, I may be proved wrong about the strength of my professional reputation." Quentin nodded with a smile in return. "Fair enough. I figure between me trying to keep all of us alive and you trying to keep us at the ranch, we both have enough work to keep us busy without sniping at each other." "At least for now," Harriet said and smiled.
  5. Echo of Another Day

    Quentin muttered to himself. "Well, that's just great. The Steelgraves get legitimacy, a town to call their own, and their own legal tricks department if needed..." Quentin exhaled. "And that new 'ranch' helps them flank us...it keeps us looking in more than one direction all the time now." "And I killed Case's baby brother," Shade said dryly. In his heart, he knew that he had not started the feud with the Steelgraves. That did not change the fact that his actions had escalated it. Harriet leaned forward and placed her teacup on the coffee table which was apparently the signal needed for Josephine to politely excuse herself, pleading exhaustion from the trip. The men all rose to their feet, and Kate made sure the younger woman did not need anything. This gave Harriet the opportunity to get her thoughts in order while they settled themselves again. Her voice was crisp and clear when she began speaking, the one she used in the courtroom. "When Chance and Regina Harper chose to make the long-absent Shade Harper the guardian to their children and to leave him half of this ranch, my associate, Alistair Fang, and I undertook an exhaustive investigation into Shade Harper's life. In the process, we also investigated anyone and anything that could have a future impact on those responsibilities. This included the Steelgrave family who was already a concern due to Carson Tyndall's involvement with them and their antipathy for anything and everything Harper." Fixing her gray eyes on Quentin and Shade, Harriet continued speaking, "Case is a gun-for-hire. He's fast enough to be considered a legend. To date, there are no records of anyone surviving a gunfight with him. Case Steelgrave has never been tied to murder because he's far too clever. Prospective employers take out a personal ad in the El Paso Chronicle that lists a city or town. Once there, he picks up a letter via general delivery, and presumably, his fee. Case then spends as much time as it takes to goad the walking dead man into a fight." Harriet leaned back into the sofa cushions, fixed her eyes on Shade and said in a steely-toned voice, "Mr. Harper, you have not been a target because Case does not pick fights with anyone that he has not been paid to kill. He has never been motivated by revenge. Now that you live in relative proximity to him, family honor is at stake, so this is likely to change. You have too much to lose to let him goad you into a fight. Sticks and stones, Mr. Harper." Shade's lips twitched into a smile. He read equal amounts of dislike and disgust in Harriet's voice. Her personal opinion of him did not bother him overmuch. He wasn't too fond of her either. Shade was confident that once they were in the courtroom, she would do her best to ensure that Chance's and Regina's wishes were carried out. "Miss Harriet, Case Steelgrave isn't the first gunfighter to use bullying tactics to push a showdown, and he won't be the last," Shade allowed the same steely note of disdain to creep into his deep voice. The fact that she had returned to referring him as Mr. Harper indicated to him that the truce was ending. Still, two women could answer to Miss Mercer, so he chose to use the first name in a formal mode of address. Truth be told since she was somewhat older than he was, it was more comfortable for him. Quentin sat up from his position on the sofa and turned to look at the lawyer. "Harriet, I have tangled with those 'professional victims' before. They make an art of making normally sober, calm men lose their tempers. Real life isn't about turning the other cheek, but you can trust Shade to know when he is being goaded compared to someone who really has a quarrel with him. Start judging Shade by what you've seen instead of what you've read about him." Harriet's gray eyes turned stormy, and her lips thinned as she glared at Quentin. "And what have I seen of him, Quentin?" His name came out sharper than she intended. A little voice in her head tried to caution her against engaging a client in a verbal battle. At the same time, a rather dispassionate side of Harriet tried to analyze why Quentin Cantrell grated on her nerves. But, it was far too late. Demon Harriet was taking charge. "Yes, Mr. Harper has proven a reliable scout, leading us safely from Missoula to Kalispell where he almost got into a shootout with Deputy Marshal Cory. Before that, on the train, he drew his gun on me, my associate, and my sister. Although the gunfight in Missoula was technically self-defense, he still settled the situation with a shooting. I have not seen anything that would actually render my opinions and observations invalid." Shade muttered softly under his breath, "Here we go." There was little else he could add at the moment. He was far too tired to take on a character debate with Harriet Mercer, even if the character being debated was his. Hoping he'd derail the impending storm by leaving, he rose to his feet. "Kate," he crossed over and leaned down to kiss her cheek, "thank you for dinner. Ezra, I'll talk to you tomorrow. I'm about beat tonight. Miss Harriet, Quentin, goodnight." Ezra also rose to his feet, pulling Kate with him, "We should retire as well. Good night to you both." Kate gave her husband a look that said she wasn't quite ready to leave the room, but the gentle tightening of his fingers on her hand dissuaded her from comment. "It is getting late. I'll clean everything up before Mary gets here in the morning." She leaned down to kiss first Harriet and then Quentin on the cheek before heading for the stairs with Ezra. Harriet remained quiet until the sound of the Hales' footsteps faded away, meaning they were well out of earshot. On the night before, Harriet had offered a truce with Quentin until after the trial. With the dangers of the trail behind them, she was less inclined to honor the temporary treaty. Oh, she would still do her job to the best of her ability, but she was less sanguine about her clients' pasts now that the immediate danger over. There was no longer the need to cooperate to ensure survival. Admittedly, a small part of her liked being able to needle the cool, debonair Cantrell. "At least the majority of Mr. Harper's misdeeds and brushes with the law are well documented and easy to uncover," Harriet pinned Quentin with her cool gray eyes, "You, on the other hand, have buried your skeletons far deeper. You have left nothing on the surface for others to easily find. On the trail, you told me that your job entailed doing whatever it took to fix other people's problems. What did it take to fix those problems, Quentin? Where are those bodies buried, hmmm?" She almost purred the last question at him. Quentin's eyes blazed, and his nostrils flared as he stood. "We all have skeletons...even you, Counselor..." Quentin moved around to the fireplace and rested his hands on the mantle, head dropping forward a moment as he stared into the fire. "...Am I proud of everything I have done in my life? No. Am I able to live with the choices I have made after a certain point? Absolutely." Quentin pushed up straight from the mantle and turned around to face Harriet. "Perhaps if someone prepared to do whatever it took to help you had found you back before whatever damaged you happened, you might not be the person sitting in front of me today." It took more will than Harriet realized she had to not reveal her alarm at his words. The pounding of her heart subsided as she occupied herself by primly folding her hands in her lap. Her personal skeleton was well and truly buried. Quentin Cantrell could not know about it. He had not even known of her connection to his sister and brother-in-law until they met on the train. No, she was safe for now. Harriet had long ago stopped concerning herself with other skeletons. Frank Mercer's skeletons were not her responsibility. But that damned insufferable man's last statement had hit the center ring on the target. She allowed a touch of frost to enter her voice, "Are all women who manage to have a successful career in a male-dominated profession considered damaged by your standards, Quentin?" She felt satisfied with her response. Deflection was, after all, one of a lawyer's stock tools of his - or her - trade. Quentin smiled. "Harriet, I may be a gentleman, but don't mistake me for the typical vacuous southern gentleman you're used to destroying with your looks and brain. I have been sliced to ribbons by some of the best and have learned my lessons..." Quentin paced in front of the fireplace now. "...You don't wish to talk about your previous problems, fine...but don't go digging for mine." "If I have previous problems, they will not influence the outcome of the hearing. If Carson Tyndall's research was more profitable than mine, despite what I feel is a lack of legal substance, it could see you both lose everything. Worse, it could lose the children's inheritance," Harriet said, watching Quentin pace to and fro, likening his movements to that of a caged lion she had seen at a wildlife exhibit many years ago. "Think about it," Harriet advised in a far milder voice as she rose to her feet. "For now, it is very late, and I have business in town tomorrow." She looked at the coffee and tea service and the soiled dessert dishes and cups, "I simply cannot leave this for Kate to deal with in the morning. Will you help me take the dishes through to the kitchen?" Quentin readily agreed, seemingly ready to let their discussion end for the night. She assumed he felt as she did, tired and worried about the upcoming hearing on Tuesday. Harriet could not help feeling as if Chance's and Regina's ghosts hovered just outside her view. If she felt that way, surely Quentin did too. A good night's sleep was needed by all. She bade Quentin goodnight at the bottom of the stairs, pausing on the first landing to look back and saw him watching her, but his face was in shadow. What his thoughts were had been hidden by the darkness.
  6. Spirits

    Shade remained quiet for several moments after Josephine walked away. Talking to her had been somewhat cathartic, perhaps because she was more of a stranger to him than Quentin. He and the older man had quickly become friends due to their familial connects and shared hardships on the trail. They had shared some of their memories of Chance and Regina and Quentin had told Shade a bit about the older children. In time, they'd probably share more about their late loved ones but, for now, it was rather strange for either man to confide in others. The wind was blowing from the north and, as if thoughts of the man had conjured up his presence, Shade once again caught the distinct aroma of the cheroots Quentin smoked. Shade usually avoided cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke if he could, usually finding the smell unpleasant. Quentin used a mild tobacco that carried undernotes of cherry, sage and other spices which toned down the usual pungent scents Shade associated with most tobacco products. Unusual, but not unpleasant. Walking around the wagon, Shade followed the smell of the cheroot into the rocks of the Devil's Watchtower. The trail into the formation was often hard to see as the larger boulders blocked the moonlight. He'd climbed several feet above the meadow when he spotted the glow of the tip of Quentin's cheroot. It disappeared briefly as the path wound through rocks that had been jumbled together forming a tunnel. Shade exited from that to find himself in a flat area, almost like a small plateau. There, he spotted Quentin seated on a large boulder with another one at his back that he was leaning against. Shade made sure the other man saw him before he approached although it was likely Quentin had heard him climbing up the trail. He'd made no effort to disguise his progress. From this vantage point, one could see the expanse of the meadow, the road off to the west, and the darker shadows of Wadi's Wells to the south. It was hard to see the wagon in the dark, but in the light of day, it would be visible from the edge of the miniature plateau. The wind blowing from the north had brought the scent of the cheroot down to where Shade stood, the elevation keeping it from becoming lost in the tangled rocks of the formation. "Couldn't sleep either?" Shade asked as he dropped to the rock not far from Quentin. He realized the question was redundant considering they were both sitting there with dawn only two or three hours away. Quentin sat still another moment, chewing the cheroot around in a circle as he gathered his thoughts. "Yep..." The sound came out around the cheroot. "Never realized how much actually being here would affect me." Quentin plucked the cheroot from his mouth and held it with finger and thumb in front of him, eyes drawn to the glowing tip. "Seeing the wagon makes it more real for me than the funeral, to be honest..." Quentin's head turned slowly to regard Shade. "Was that Josephine you were talking to?. I only caught a word here and there between the rocks and the breeze." Shade nodded, "Yeah, she had a notion of paying her respects," he said, answering Quentin's question while he thought about the older man's comments about the effects of finding the wagon. Shade understood. He had at first put his inability to sleep down to being anxious about the final leg of the journey. In the end, he'd had to admit that it was finding the wagon. Like Quentin said, it made it all real. "Maybe I should have pushed us on a few miles before making camp," Shade admitted at last. "But, there were things I had to know. I guess I'm lookin' for answers that don't exist 'cuz I'm not even sure of the questions." He gestured toward the meadow where the wagon rested, "That burned out husk brought it all home - not the guilt I was wallowing in on the train ride up here - just the reality of it all. Chance, Regina, and two of their children are dead," Shade's voice caught a bit on the last word before he continued, "and that can't be undone. I gotta do right by the two little'uns that are left. The grievin' ain't done, but it'll have to wait." At a loss for words, Shade stopped speaking for a few seconds. He shook his head, and when he spoke again, there was still a faint hitch in his gravelly voice, "Ain't never felt like this before, not even when Father and Mother passed." Quentin listened to Shade and smiled to himself as he heard the younger man speak. "Your father and mother died...my father and mother died...It's sad, but you and I also understand it's a part of life. People live, and then they die. It helps to handle the loss to understand it's all a part of life..." Quentin waved an arm out in the direction of the wagon. "This isn't life...it's murder. It was the killing of four people who did not ask for or deserve what happened to them. Hell, even in the War, you could come to terms with someone that you knew dying because we all volunteered to be where we were. We might not have deserved to die, but you knew where you were going when you enlisted or got drafted." Quentin stuck the cheroot back into his mouth and sat up straighter. "Do not blame yourself for not being here in the first place or for stopping here now. If you had been here you would have died...don't try and convince yourself otherwise. You saw the numbers, and you have seen the shell cases. You and I are good with a gun but sometimes good isn't enough." Shade stared out into the night for several minutes after Quentin fell silent. He'd told him the same thing about not feeling guilty for not being there for Chance and Reggie back on the train. The older man was right, of course, but it had taken seeing it all to convince Shade of the fact. Second guessing himself, dwelling on the what ifs, and wallowing in self-recrimination served nothing. "I don't feel guilty so much as just regrettin' not comin' home back when Chance asked me to, at least to visit," Shade said, his voice almost a sigh, "but I can't change that either. Made the best decision that I could at the time." He shifted on the rock so he could see the other man although the rocks partially shadowed his features. This time, Shade's voice was stronger, and there was an undercurrent of anger in it, "Quentin, I don't believe for a second that this was done by some band of Indians who just happened to be in the area and itchin' to attack some white folks. That makes no sense. Someone planned and organized the killin'. I want the killers, but more'n that, I want the man or woman behind it. I wanna know why and I want them to pay for it." Quentin nodded. "I agree...and even if we killed everyone who was here, we wouldn't get who was responsible..." His head became wreathed in smoke as he exhaled softly. "...No, this will take some digging...and when we figure out who it is, or they are...they'll pay." Shade looked at Quentin again. He felt they had just made a pact of some sort and it felt right. The red-hot knot of rage in the pit of his stomach subsided to a cold burn. He nodded his head although he wasn't entirely sure Quentin could see that gesture of affirmation. "And if one of us can't finish it, the other one will." Quentin looked at Shade. "They cost us almost everything we had left to care about in this world, Shade...there's no doubt about what's going to happen here. They're not ready for or able to deal with what's coming..." Quentin smiled around the cheroot. "I'm not a religious man, but I suspect it will be Biblical." Shade's answering smile was menacing, and his deep blue eyes were cold. For a moment, he looked every bit as dangerous as his reputation made him out to be. Shade actually preferred walking on the right side of the law. This was one of the rare instances where he felt the situation superseded what law and order could accomplish. The fact that they might be facing off against the United States Army was not lost on him. The wind suddenly rose and howled through the cracks and crevices of the rock formation where the two men sat. In its wake was other sounds, whispers and cries barely heard. Shade sat up straighter, his brow wrinkled as he turned his eyes toward the meadow. Old, half-remembered superstitions surfaced, making him shiver despite his thick jacket. Deciding that they could not leave until the spirits in this place had been set free, Shade said, "Do you have another of those?" He gestured at Quentin's cheroot. It wasn't perfect for what he had in mind, but he thought he'd smelled sage earlier so it would have to suffice. Quentin's eyebrows went up together as his hand went to his jacket to tug out the small leather case he used to keep a half dozen at the ready beside the ones packed in his saddlebag. "I didn't think you smoked..." Quentin tugged a fresh cheroot out and the small round metal container he carried his Lucifers in, handing the cheroot and matches to Shade. Shade took the items and stared down at the cheroot. It was more slender than the more popular expensive cigars and did not taper at the ends, making them somewhat less expensive to roll. This one was a little longer than the average cigarette, leading Shade to believe they were custom-made and cut to Quentin's preferences. Not the most expensive of items, but still a pricey one. The actual ratio of tobacco to other herbals appeared to be a little less too, indicating that the other man used the cheroots for a reason other than a habit he couldn't put away. "I don't," Shade said in answer to Quentin's comment. "Tried it when I first lit out from home 'cuz it was forbidden and because I thought it'd make me look older, more experienced." He'd thought that appearing to have a man's vices would offset the fact he was nothing more than a tanglefoot kid with a really, really fast gun hand. He'd quickly learned that only time and experience would garner him the respect he needed to stay alive. "I smelled sage, cherry, and a couple of other herbs along with the tobacco. In many red-stick cultures, burning sage and other herbs is a way to spiritually cleanse a place. They'll burn it in the tipis and wigwams of the dead. Tobacco is also used in certain cleansing and purification ceremonies," Shade explained to Quentin as he looked around for a clump of grass that he could use to wrap around the cheroot. He found what he was looking for and laid the cheroot and matches down on the rock near Quentin. Shade carefully pulled up the long grass so that it remained intact, he deftly wove it into a slender mesh that he then wrapped around the cheroot. "I was raised Catholic, but those rituals don't seem right in this place 'cuz it's sacred to the Indians." Quentin nodded. "Those cigars are a form of...payment, I guess you could say. I once lent a hand to a man who was running a tobacco shop. Some local toughs had been taking a large amount of his profits as part of a protection racket. He was a retired British Colour Sergeant who came here to enjoy his retirement. I was in his shop one day when they stopped by for their 'tax'..." Quentin smiled in the dark. "...That was a bit of fun. None of them died, but I expect a few will be eating mighty careful for a long time...or limping...or both. I refused any money from him. Hell, That's the whole point of what I did. So, he offered me a trade. He would make me a special blend and have it sent to wherever I wished for free. I agreed since it was from stock he normally kept on hand and was not an imposition." Shade stopped what he was doing and looked at Quentin, shrugging expressively while adding to his mental notes and impressions of the older man's integrity, "I need to do something for them here where they died." He reached into his pocket and pulled out Chance's rosary that Josephine had found beside the wagon earlier. It had become tangled with his, so he handed both to Quentin. "The one made with the blue gems is Chance's. Miss Josephine found it a little bit ago when we were talkin'. He must have dropped it during the attack." Quentin took the tangled chains and held them. The moonlight did not reveal all the details, but he appreciated the weight and sturdiness of the rosaries. "Your mother was right to make them tougher and stronger for the two of you. A regular rosary would never stand up to the normal days both of you have...she was a smart woman." Shade looked at the tangled rosaries, "When Mother gave me mine, Chance said she'd gathered the stones on the ranch. Mine's river rock, Chance's are rough sapphires. The silver came from candlesticks in her dowery. He said she wanted our faith to connect us to the land, to each other, and our heritage. Didn't really take for me, I guess." He finished fastening the woven grass around the cheroot. Taking the rosaries back from Quentin, he entwined them through the fingers of the hand carrying the makeshift smudge stick. He led the way back down to the wagon, hearing Quentin's sure steps in his wake. Shade fumbled a bit as he tried to light the cheroot, and murmured a quiet thank-you when Quentin took it and lit it with practiced ease before handing it back. Shade blew out the active embers, leaving it smoking. He didn't have a feather which was the normal item used to fan the smoke so he would use the back of his free hand to fan the smoke outward. Glancing at Quentin, he shrugged again, "I don't know the proper words, but hoping the spirits of this place understand the intent." Quentin stood quietly as Shade began to speak, then suddenly reached up and yanked his hat off his head with a soft curse for having forgotten. He held it in both hands in front of him as Shade continued with the ritual. One hand came up and pulled the cheroot out to drop it beside his right boot, and he ground it out quietly. "Great Spirit, look upon the spirits of your children, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet. This is my prayer' hear me," Shade said the words with a humble note in his voice, using the back of his hand to direct the smoke in all four compass directions and out over the wrecked wagon. After he finished speaking, he lay the remainder of the smudge-stick in the bed of the wagon, and pulled off his hat, holding it in one hand and the entwined rosaries in the other. Shade bowed his head and spoke again, "Lord, those who die still live in Your presence. Their lives change but do not end. I pray in hope for our family, and for all the dead known to You alone. Amen." It might have been Shade's imagination, but he felt as if the atmosphere lightened considerably. The shadows of the night appeared to visibly retreat and the tension he'd felt ever since spotting the wagon from the road eased. He was still angry, still determined to find and destroy those that had murdered Chance, Regina, and their children, but now he felt as if he could approach it with logic and even patience. Shade raised his head and looked over at Quentin. He had not wanted to force his beliefs on the other man but was glad for his presence. He smiled and said quietly, "We've done all we can here. Ready to go home, partner?" Quentin nodded as he placed his hat back on his head. "Seems strange to call it home even though I have spent a lot of time there, but I guess we both need to get used to calling it that." Shade turned slightly so that he could look out over the night-shadowed landscape, his eyes seeking the direction of which he knew the ranch lay. He'd used the word home on several occasions since starting the journey from Laramie but realized that this was the first time he'd said in that context. It was also the first time that Shade had thought about the fact that Quentin's life was likely changing completely as well. "Yeah, guess we both need to get used to that and a lot of other things too." He tucked the rosaries back into his pocket, placed his hat back on his head, then gave Quentin a gentle, companionable slap on the shoulder. "Let's go...home."
  7. That Woman!

    Originally published on Tue Sep 19th, 2017 @ 3:00pm The dinner dishes were clean and put away, ready for use the next morning. Harriet had set everything up to her satisfaction, ready for her to fix breakfast. Shade had cautioned them not to stay up too late as he wanted to pull out at daybreak. Antipathy aside, Harriet understood that being this close to his destination must be making the younger man anxious. He had gone to check the picket line and offer the horses one last drink of water for the night. Adalwin had rolled into his bedroll and appeared to be asleep. Josephine had taken her birds to the carriage, saying she would get the seats folded out and their beds made. That left herself and Quentin, who had moved to perch on a boulder a little distance away so the smoke from his cheroot would not disturb everyone else. Harriet picked up the second coffeepot that she had been using for tea and shook it gently. There was enough for two more cups. For a moment she glared at the pot willing herself to pour the extra tea out. However, the side of her that was very frugal could not waste the beverage. Besides, there was something she needed to do. She filled two cups, picked them up and headed toward the rocks where Quentin lounged. She made sure to make noise, so he knew she was approaching. Getting shot was not how she wanted to end the day. Settling on a rock opposite him, she held out one of the cups, waiting for him to take it before wrapping both hands around her cup. It might be July but the western Montana nights were quite chilly. Nodding at the tea, Harriet said, "I did not want to waste it. The blend is hard to get." Quentin blinked and sat up from where he had been lounging between two boulder halves. His mouth moved the cheroot to one side as he accepted the cup. "Well, thank you, Ms. Mercer...your tea is quite delicious." Quentin switched the cup to his left hand and used the right to tug the cheroot from his mouth, holding it between two fingers as he sipped at the warm tea. After a moment, Quentin watched Harriet then he juggled the cheroot to his hand with the cup. He reached and lifted his coat from the rock and handed it over. "I know it's not your typical fashion, but it's warm..." Hoping that she had kept her suspicious looks at the coat to a minimum, Harriet gestured at her serviceable riding pants, shirt and vest, "I am hardly a maven of high fashion. Thank you," she accepted the coat gratefully and set her tea mug down so she could pull it on. She refrained from asking if he would not be chilled without the coat since he had not been wearing it to begin with. "The situation we find ourselves in promises to continue for a while yet, perhaps we can dispense with formalities for now? Please call me H.G. or Harriet. I have no doubt we will be at loggerheads again - and often - so there will be plenty of time to resort to more formal means of address." The last was added with a wry note to her voice. Cantrell grinned, shifted his shoulders and nodded. "Fair point...and you can call me Quentin...Mr. Cantrell was my father, or me at West Point." Cantrell took another sip of tea and replaced the cheroot between his lips, drawing on the slender cigar so that the end glowed bright red a moment. "I know that you and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and I also know you think myself and Shade are a couple of unprincipled savages, but you do think enough of us to help us keep the ranch and the children." Cantrell looked at Harriet. "You're a bit of a mystery to me, Mis...Harriet. You are intelligent, sharp, and don't think I forgot about that knife throw in the stable..." "I would not say that I view you and Shade as savages, but you are correct that I view you both as unprincipled. The dossiers I have built on both of you seem to support my conclusions," Harriet remarked. "Gathering information on Shade Harper was not incredibly difficult. He is a gunfighter. Where a person can literally trip over Shade's skeletons, you've buried yours far deeper. This makes you something of a conundrum as well." Harriet shifted her position on the boulder, staring into her teacup as if looking for answers there, or perhaps, just the right words. "Chance and Regina were first and foremost my friends. They meant the world to me and their loss, as well as that of Beth and Grant, is almost incomprehensible to me. I want justice for them and for their children. Whatever I may think of you and Harper personally, I feel that the two of you stand a better chance of securing that justice than anyone else. I objected to them leaving half the ranch to Harper, and I made no bones about that. Their surviving children belong with family, not strangers. I will fight for that." Lifting her eyes, H.G. regarded Quentin squarely, "You do not have to like me, and I do not have to like you. You are my clients as are Cody and Nettie Harper. So too are Chance and Regina as it is their legal wishes I must see carried out. In this matter, neither you or Shade are acting with criminal intent." For a moment she felt at a loss for more words. Finally, she said softly, "Quentin, I do sincerely offer my condolences on the loss of your sister, her husband, and their children. I cannot imagine how hard all this has been. Rest assured that I shall do the job they, and you, have entrusted to me to the very best of my ability." Harriet had not forgotten Quentin's comments regarding her being a mystery to him as well as his pointed remark about her knife throwing expertise. With some luck, he would not steer the conversation back to that point. Quentin leaned his head back and let his eyes focus on the distance. "You are right. Accept my apologies for not thinking about the fact you did know them personally. I let myself consider you as just their attorney, and that was unfair of me." Quentin sat in a decent silence with Harriet and sipped his tea. After several minutes he looked up at the lady lawyer. "They don't teach knife throwing at law school...how did you learn that?" Harriet huffed out a soft sigh. She had hoped her discourse on her association with the case had distracted him. A slight shiver ran down her spine. Quentin's deep voice with its soft Southern drawl brought up memories and longings that Harried would rather not think about. It was rare that she missed the mansion on Telfair Square in Savannah, but hearing the cultured cadence and honeyed tones of a Southern accent always made her miss Georgia. The memories that were also associate were less pleasant. Harriet determinedly locked them back in their mental closet. "When I was a child, my guardian felt bad that I was teased for being horribly clumsy and ungraceful," Harriet said, deciding that the truth was probably best as it would close the subject better than being vague would. "He began teaching me an Oriental form of self-defense and meditation. My ability to calculate angles, speed, the ascent and descent of objects was also noted, so he began teaching me how to handle knives and throwing stars." Quentin looked at Harriet for several seconds then he nodded his head once. "I am sorry if that was uncomfortable for you. I am always very curious when someone shows a skill that doesn't seem normal for them to have. I do not like surprises..." Quentin then held his cup up. "...and I really do not remember if I thanked you for that timely intervention in the stable. It gave us the chance we needed." Harriet shrugged her shoulders, "It is less about comfort and more about preferring my privacy. I dislike being the object of pity as such admissions tend to elicit." She set her empty cup on the rock next to her and pulled the borrowed coat closer around her shoulders. Harriet loved Montana in all her mercurial moods but needed to remember to change into warmer clothes for the evenings. She dipped her gaze for a moment then looked back at Quentin, "I appreciate the thank you although it is not strictly necessary. We each did what had to be done at the time. No doubt, none of us would be alive if you and Shade were less proficient with firearms." She wanted to know more about Cantrell. The dossier she and Fang had on him was, to say the least, thin. Harriet wanted to fill in the blanks. Most men of her acquaintance that had actually fought in the Civil War preferred not to speak of it. She respected that. All wars were horrific, and the American Civil War had been particularly horrible. Besides, she had been able to build a fairly detailed profile on Quentin Cantrell up through the end of the war. There was no need to bring those memories to the surface. Harriet decided to turn the subject back to Quentin's statement about disliking surprises. It might gain her nothing, but it could serve as a notice that she would be pursuing this line of inquiry later. "You said you disliked surprises, Quentin. I feel the same way, especially when I get in the courtroom and learn facts and information from my opposition that I really should have been told by my client. Am I going to be surprised in the courtroom, Quentin?" Cantrell leaned his head back after drawing on the cheroot. He blew out a slow stream of smoke into the air over his head. "I can't speak for Shade, but...as far as I know...I am not wanted for any crimes or being hunted by any other lawyers or law officers..." Quentin tipped his head forward to look at Harriet. "...I'm no saint, Harriet...I am sure that's not news to you. I have been in more than my share of scrapes, and I have some blood on my hands, but I have never killed someone who didn't try to kill me first or didn't deserve what they got because of their own choices. There are a lot of men who live or die by using a gun. I suppose you could say I am one, but I never did it just for money." "There are a considerable number of handbills with Mr. Harper's name on them, but he has been cleared or cleared himself of the charges," Harriet responded although she figured Quentin already knew that his friend was not carrying any current crimes on his head. "As far as being paid for his gun, he's skirted the line in some range wars, but to the best of my knowledge he never hired on for saddle bounties." "Your military record was exemplary, and I do not consider doing one's duty a crime. As you say, you're no saint, and if you were strictly a gun for hire, Fang and I were unable to discover the bodies on your gun. And, so far as I am aware, being a professional gambler is not a crime. However, Quentin, your business cards are rather vague. What exactly does a troubleshooter do?" Harriet tilted her head to regard him steadily. She was not ready to trust him or Harper, but she was adjusting her view of them in light of this conversation and their actions to date. The Harpers' wills left a share of the ranch outright to Shade as well as guardianship of the children. They assumed he was more likely to settle down on the ranch. Harriet felt that after thirteen years of living life on the drift, it was doubtful he would stay in one place. They also knew that Cantrell had a penchant for travel although he had made his home base in San Francisco. Since a great deal of the Harpers' business interests was on the west coast, they made the decision to leave him percentages of those. Should something happen to Shade, it all fell to Quentin Cantrell. Harriet really needed to know that he intended for both of them to be at the hearing three days hence. Quentin looked down and finally looked a little abashed. "Well...to be honest...I found it a good way to let people know I was willing to do whatever it took to fix their problem..." Quentin took a last drag on the cheroot and let the smoke drift from his lips as he looked at the small stub then pinched off the coal and stuck it into a shirt pocket. "...I was usually willing to do more than just be a gun-for-hire, and I was not a fan of being looked at that way if people saw me as one. 'Gentleman Killer' also was not an image I wanted to project. I dealt with more than a few of those over the years. Looking a certain way and acting a certain way can keep a lot of bad things from happening, hence my wardrobe and affectations." Harriet huffed out a soft breath that she had not been aware of holding while the man spoke. She and Quentin Cantrell had far more in common than she would ever willingly admit aloud. She understood a certain need for using wardrobe and mannerisms to sow impressions amongst the people one had to work with or for. She had gone one step further by all but eradicating her Southern accent, purposefully affecting an almost British sounding voice. Harriet had added to that a very clipped and brusque manner, attempting to downplay any semblance of helpless feminism. Despite her effort to keep her facial expression and body language neutral or even aloof, Harriet's face exhibited a certain amount of sympathy. She had also unconsciously leaned forward slightly showing some empathy for what Cantrell said. Her innate dislike for unfairness and lying exerted itself when she spoke. "Your chosen profession has more in common with mine than I anticipated. As long as you remove the gunplay, of course." Cantrell looked up and after a moment smiled. "You use a law book and a pen..." His eyes glanced down toward where the dagger was hidden, "...well, mostly. In the world I move around in, a gun is just another tool. It can be very hard to live with one...but try living without one." Harriet rose to her feet, a genuine smile on her face as she shrugged out of Quentin's coat and laid it neatly on the rock near him. She picked up her cup and took his empty cup too, "Pax then? At least until after the hearing?" "Pax," Quentin agreed, offering a smile and getting one in return. After Harriet said good night, he watched her head toward the camp. He stayed in place a moment longer, then gathered his coat and stood up. After a quick reconnaissance of the camp, he still felt too restless to sleep. Without much thought regarding direction, he walked toward the meadow.
  8. Turn of the Wheel

    Quentin sat his horse, reins held loosely in one hand as Paladin ambled along, easily keeping up with the wagon at a walking pace. He reached and tugged his loose bandana from a pocket and wiped his neck and face. The heat was amazing as always this time of year. After their little skirmish in town, the group had been trying to be extra alert, but the heat and the monotony of the trail could dull the sharpest senses. The thought of not being alert hit Cantrell, and he raised his head, seeing Shade at the top of a rise near the road. He was sitting still and looking off the other side. Cantrell sat up and spurred, sending Paladin loping along the flat ground, then up the small hill toward where Shade sat. He slowed and reined in beside the younger man. Cantrell reached back and undid one saddle bag, tugging out his field glasses. "You see something?" "Not sure," Shade replied, feeling Lakota sidle a bit toward Paladin. He'd heard Quentin cantering up behind him, but had become accustomed to the older man's coming and going as he took Shade's empty canteens to refill and brought him fresh ones or a bit of jerky to nibble on. Overall, they had settled into a comfortable working relationship on the trail. Lakota and Paladin seemed to take their cues from their riders, usually merely touching their noses and inhaling one another's scent to reaffirm a friendly arrival and not something that would eat them. Shade pointed diagonally off to his right toward the farthest of the two substantial rock outcroppings. The heat made the image shimmer, and he narrowed his eyes, "Something...over there maybe?" Cantrell pulled out the sunshades on the ends of his field glasses and raised them to his eyes. His finger turned the focus wheel a few times. "Yeah...there's something...hard to make out...wait..." Cantrell lowered the glasses and looked at Shade. "...I think I saw a broken wagon wheel..." Feeling a cold lump forming in the pit of his stomach, Shade held his hand out for the field glasses. Even after Quentin handed them to him, he hesitated to raise them to his eyes. In his heart, Shade knew what he was going to see. Finally, feeling Quentin's scrutiny, he raised the glasses to his eyes, triangulating in on the rock outcropping in the near distance. Shade took a sharp, deep breath. "It's the wagon," he told Cantrell as he swung his leg over the saddle and dropped to the ground. He handed the field glasses back to his friend as well as Lakota's lead line. Shade prowled the edge of the road, soon finding what he needed in the form of a thin branch from a tree. He quickly stripped it of its dead leaves and tested it against the long grass. Satisfied that it would do what he needed it to do, he signaled Quentin to follow him. Shade walked along the verge of the road for several feet before spotting the signs that someone else had ridden off the road into the meadow. By itself, that meant very little. Many travelers used the rocks as landmarks and campsites. But what he had spotted was the faint impressions of wider than normal wheels. A fairly heavily laden wagon had left the road and made a diagonal route toward the larger of the two rock formations. Shade used the stick to push aside the grass, letting him see the ground. Periodically, he'd stoop to pick up objects, wrap them in his spare bandana and tuck them into the pocket of his vest. Cantrell let his right hand drop and pull his Schofield from its holster. He let the pistol rest across his lap while he nudged Paladin into a slow amble to follow Shade and lead Lakota. His eyes lifted up past Shade to watch the nearby area warily as they moved slowly. "You sure you want to do this right now, Shade?" Shade kneeled to pick up several items hidden by the grass. He handed them up to Quentin; several shell casings, an arrowhead, and two broken arrows. "I have to, Quentin. I have to know." His eyes begged for understanding before he turned to continue along the unseen trail. Although he continued to occasionally stop and pick up items strewn on the ground, he picked up the pace.
  9. Turn of the Wheel

    Cantrell reached out and lightly tugged Shade' sleeve so the two men could back out to the edge of the activity going on while still keep an eye on the area. "It looks like there's more than meets the eye with our new lawyer..." Cantrell cradled the coach gun in his left arm with the barrel pointing up and to the side in a safe direction. He had already decided to keep the weapon...it wasn't like the former owner would object. Shade nodded, but motion at the entrance to the yards heralded the arrival of the sheriff and two deputies. Harriet moved to stand next to Quentin and Shade, "Say nothing, gentlemen." She turned to the tall man with salt and pepper hair and a badge pinned to the front of his tan leather vest. "Sheriff, I am H.G. Mercer, an attorney. These two men are my clients. Can you take our statements here?" The sheriff blinked at the woman who had preempted his plan to ask exactly what had happened at the usually quiet stable yard. He gestured at his two deputies, "See what you can find out from any onlookers, check those two men over there." He spared a brief glance at the man and a younger woman who seemed to be attending to an injured man. "He one of the shooters?" "Mr. Royce would have participated, but I interfered with his plans," Harriet answered. "Mr. Stahl, my driver, has medical training as does my sister, but he will need ongoing care after his arrest. Sheriff...?" She looked expectantly at the man. "Benjamin Gaines, ma'am," the man replied. "Sorry about that, forgot my manners. As for your request to take the statements here, I..." Harriet held up a hand, "Sheriff Gaines, I know my request is irregular, but we have a hearing scheduled with Judge Oliver Mandrell in Kalispell, and it is vital we not miss the court date which could result in contempt charges. I will see that my clients return for any subsequent proceedings here, sir." Her tone was reasonable with the barest hint of urgency in it to reinforce the importance of being allowed to continue their journey. "As you say, ma'am, it is highly irregular," Sheriff Gaines replied, reaching up to run a hand through his thick hair. "Under the circumstances, if you can provide proof of the court appointment, I will allow it as long as I know how to reach you." "I have the letter requesting my presence and naming these two men as well," Harriet answered, turning to lead the way to the porch area. "I just need to get my attaché case from the carriage." Gaines watched the woman walk off and gave another shake of his head. Turning to the two men she had indicated were her clients, he pointed toward the porch, "Maybe we can have a seat?" He grinned at the hovering form of the stable's owner, "Could we get some coffee, Charlie?" Chaffee hurried off while Ben walked to the porch with H.G. Mercer's two clients. By the time they were settled at one of the tables, Mrs. Chaffee was delivering a coffee and tea service, and the female attorney was back with a slim, expensive looking briefcase. Harriet took out a sheet of paper and handed it to the Sheriff, watching him as he read the short missive requesting that she along with Mr. Quentin Cantrell and Mr. Shade Harper present themselves for a hearing regarding the custody of two children and their property. The sheriff read through the letter twice, requested paper and a pencil which she provided and wrote down a few notes. "I'll follow up with a telegram to Judge Mandrell," Ben Gaines said and then took a sip of coffee. He fixed his warm, intelligent brown eyes on the younger of the two men. "I recognize you, Mr. Harper, so that means you must be Mr. Cantrell. I was sorry to hear about Chance, Regina, and the children. Knew them a long time, they were good people." Gaines leaned back in his seat, "I was the deputy that took your and Mrs. Harper's statements when you killed Calvin Steelgrave. Is that what all this was about?" Shade started to answer but subsided when Harriet shook her head at him. "Sheriff Gaines," she said, "there have been attempts to keep my clients from making the mandated court date. Those two incidents and this one could, of course, be bizarre coincidences, and I have no concrete evidence to indicate otherwise. It seems unlikely, however, since the man who has challenged my clients' wills was fired by them several years ago." Harriet went on to repeat Royce's statement to her and what she had overheard of the challenge from "Blackie" to Shade. Cantrell saw the byplay between Shade and Harriet and played along. "She's not trying to be evasive, Sheriff. I have the hole in my arm to prove we've been attacked recently. We are both sorry to have had trouble follow us into your town, but we did not really have a choice. Neither one of us will be hard to find if you need us to return. Too many responsibilities to be drifters." Gaines continued writing for a few moments, occasionally nodding as Harriet Mercer and then Cantrell spoke. "George "Blackie" Calder and Calvin Steelgrave were thick as thieves back in the day," he remarked as he finished writing and laid the pencil down. "In fact, had Calder been in town when Steelgrave attacked Miss Regina, things might have ended very differently. He was always fond of ambush attacks or stacking the odds in his favor, so none of this surprises me in the least." He handed the sheet of paper to Harriet, "Please read for accuracy and if you agree with it, sign it and have your clients sign it. If our prosecutor or the judge thinks we need you back for the trial, I'll send word to you. Good enough?" Harriet read the pages that Gaines handed to her, "I would like to change the verbiage in a couple of places." She took a clean pad of paper and quickly rewrote the pages to suit herself and then handed them back to the sheriff. "If you agree to the changes, Sheriff," she said sweetly, "and once my clients have read it and agreed, we will sign it." Shade watched Harriet Mercer work and had to stop himself from grinning. These types of situations usually found him trying to convince the local law that he had not started the fight and that it had all been straight up and fair. To have someone running interference with the sheriff and actually defending his actions left him feeling a bit bemused. It was evident that Mercer took her duty as their attorney very seriously which, despite the fact that he had not taken a liking to her personally, made him feel better about the situation. Cantrell was also showing his mettle by reinforcing what Harriet was saying to the sheriff. The man was as cool, calm and logical as the attorney in his statements to the sheriff. Shade knew he would not be handling things as calmly. Even now, as his gaze turned back to the small knot of people by the wall where Stahl and Miss Josephine were dealing with Royce, his blood boiled. There was nothing that made his blood boil like a back-shooter, whether it was his back being targeted or someone else's. Shade's thoughts were interrupted as Ben Gaines finished reading the changes Harriet had made and handed the pages back to her, "Looks fine to me, ma'am." He tore up the draft he had written to make sure the pages didn't get confused with the new draft. "Thank you, Sheriff Gaines," Harriet said and quickly set her signature to each page before handing them off to Shade and Quentin to read and sign. While they did that, Harriet rewrote the statements from memory. She then pulled a small leather box out of her case that had an ink-darkened sponge in it. She also took a small tightly stoppered jar of ink out, removed the stopper and poured a little on the sponge. Another tiny case held a rubber notary stamp. She quickly affixed the stamp to each page, wrote the date and her signature again and handed the sheaf of papers back to the sheriff who also initialed each page. "There you are, Sheriff. One copy for you and one for me." Sheriff Gaines folded the signed statements and tucked them into the inside pocket of his vest just as one of the deputies walked up. "Carl's gone for the wagon so we can move the bodies to the doc's place." His expression was full of suspicion as he looked at the two men seated at the table with the sheriff. "Good job. Anything else, Jeff?" Gaines raised his eyebrows at the young deputy. "We didn't find anything other than six-guns on Blackie and the other man and no identification either," Jeff stated, now openly glaring at Cantrell. Cantrell gave a slow smile and reached, scooping the coach gun from where it had been resting on the edge of the table. He brought it up and broke the breech open, and tipped it, catching the two brass shells as they slid out into his waiting hand. "There...all safe, Sheriff. However, I will be keeping this because I plan to give it back to whoever paid these men to try and kill us..." Cantrell's smile was slow to widen and maddening in its obvious malice at the deputy as he set the shotgun on the tabletop while he handed the shells to the Sheriff. "Run along, Jeff. Adults are talking." Gaines rose to his feet, shouldering the glaring boy aside, "Go round up the prisoner before you get into more trouble than you can handle, boy," he said affably to the deputy. The sheriff had not missed the fact that Shade's hand had dropped toward his sidearm. "I think that about does it, ma'am, gentlemen. I'll be in touch." He tugged the brim of his hat and ushered the deputy over to take charge of Royce. Shade lounged back in his chair, watching the two men cross the yard, stopping to take the injured man into custody, before heading out through the side gate. Once they were gone, he turned his eyes toward Quentin and gave the man a long, considering look although he refrained from saying anything. The snapping of the catches on the attaché case brought his attention back to Harriet Mercer. She looked at each man as she smoothed her trousers with one hand, the other closing about the handle of the case, "We should get going. We've lost too much time as it is. Would one of you be so kind as to retrieve my knife? It was a gift." Shade's gaze followed the woman's trim figure as she stepped off the porch and headed for the carriage. "I'll let you retrieve her knife while I saddle the horses. You shouldn't be trying to sling a saddle around yet," Shade told Quentin, rising easily to his feet. "Wonder what we've gotten ourselves into?" He mused quietly. Cantrell stood up and handed the shotgun to Shade. "Stick this in my saddle somewhere while I see about our lawyer's knife..." Cantrell watches Harriet walk away. "That woman..." He snorted to himself and headed to the front fence area toward where Josephine and the newcomer were cleaning up their work.
  10. Turn of the Wheel

    "And while we wait for the law," Shade said, his dark blue eyes cold and menace in his voice, "you can tell us who hired you." He reached down and knotted his fist in the front of the man's shirt, dragging him to his feet. When the man set his lips, refusing to answer, Shade dealt him a backhanded blow from his closed fist that sent him back to the ground, whimpering louder as the knife shifted. Shade's body fairly vibrated from equal amounts of tension and temper as he leaned down, preparing to drag the man back up for another blow. Quentin knelt and pushed his opponent over onto his back. He reached and grasped the shotgun and pulled it from under the body. Cantrell stood and turned, walking back toward the group. "Shade, leave him..." Quentin noticed the man turning his attention to his approach. Cantrell pushed the thumb switch and broke the shotgun open, tugging one of the brass shells from a barrel. Quentin raised the shell to his ear and shook it a few times. "Buckshot..." Cantrell thumbed the shell back into the barrel, and his hands snapped the weapon closed. Cantrell's thumb pulled both hammers back with two clicks that were loud in the quiet stable. "I will be honest...I'm pretty sick and tired of all the effort someone has taken to try and get rid of Shade and me. I would like some information but really...I could care less at this moment..." Cantrell brought the shotgun up with one hand and tucked the stock against his side under his elbow, the twin barrels focused on the man's face. "...You get one chance. Give us something useful with the next words you speak, or I pull both triggers." Harriet watched with interest, noting that Shade stopped trying to pound the information out of the other man when Cantrell quietly told him to back off. It was information that she filed in the back of her mind. Although they had only known one another for a short period of time, Cantrell and Harper seemed to respect and like one another. She had been somewhat surprised, considering how furious Harper was, that he'd backed down. It was well played. The man had three choices: tell the two men what they wanted to know, get shot in the face, or be beaten to a pulp by the enraged Harper. Harriet did not envy him his decision. "I...I," the man shivered as his eyes moved wildly between Shade, Cantrell, and the woman that had thrown the knife that still impaled his hand. "It hurts..." he whined slightly as he spoke, "...get this knife outta me." He tried to reach with his left hand but stopped moving the second Shade started toward him. Cantrell tipped the shotgun up and rested the butt on his hip to keep everyone safe in case it had a hair trigger. "Easy...we don't want him bleeding to death before we can torture him, do we?" Cantrell gaze shifted over to Harriet. "We'll let you save his life...but I can't promise it will be a permanent condition."
  11. Turn of the Wheel

    Quentin watched the newcomer and began to move, taking a direction opposite Shade's path to make the man have to decide which one to shoot at if bullets started flying. Quentin noticed the man's attention was locked on Shade. Well, if this genius wanted to lose a gunfight because of being single-minded, Cantrell was happy to oblige. A sudden movement on the opposite side, between the stable door and coach, made Quentin change his focus. Another man stepped through the gap between the coach's boot and the wall. The coach gun in his hands definitely changed the situations of this face off. Cantrell angled to face him and at least try to keep the odds even. His hand drifted down and floated near his Schofield. Harriet had just set her teacup down when she heard a man's rough voice call Shade's name. She spotted the man that issued the challenge standing between the livery's storefront and the rear of her coach. Almost immediately, a movement on the far side of the coach showed another man easing out of the shadows of the breezeway on the opposite side with a heavy shotgun in his hands. Cantrell turned to deal with him or to keep the fight fair, Harriet wasn't sure which. She leaped to her feet and snagged Josephine's wrist, pulling her wide-eyed sister to her feet. "Stay behind me," she hissed at her Josephine. She moved so that Josephine was shielded on two sides by the building's walls since there was no time to get her to the building's entrance at the far end of the porch. Besides, that would put her sister in the line of fire from both men. Shade's eyes flicked to the man that had just entered the yard carrying the coach gun but kept his focus on the other man, the one claiming to be the late Calvin Steelgrave's best friend. He'd been in enough fights with Quentin on the trail to know the man had his back. He also noted with a mental nod of approval that Harriet had dragged her sister back against the wall at the far corner of the veranda. He was still, his body angled slightly, his right hand appearing relaxed as it hovered near the butt of his six-gun. Shade rarely bothered with all of the fancy finger wriggling movements many gunfighters used unless it was very cold outside and he needed to make sure the blood was circulating good in his gun hand. Instead, he flexed his hand once, then waited, still and intent on the situation. "I promised Mrs. Steelgrave at Cal's funeral that I'd see justice done someday. Appears that day is here." The man's voice held a sneer yet the words seemed to be uttered by rote as if he'd memorized them. Shade wondered idly how the man planned to avoid a murder charge since he did not intend to draw his gun first. Shade was not interested in small talk, "If you're gonna draw, mister, then draw." The man's eyes flickered briefly. Obviously, Shade's response was not what he expected. Had he been told he'd be facing a hot-head, a man that always let his temper get the best of him? A man who settled all disputes with his gun? Harriet watched the scenario unfold, her eyes darting between the newcomer from the stable to Cantrell and then to Shade and the other stranger. Her eyes had just made another circuit when she saw the small door at the far side of the front of the yard ease open. She knew that door gave access to a sidewalk that led along the alley wall and back to the main street. People often used it instead of the main yard entrance since it was safer, less chance of being trampled by horses and rigs coming and going from the barns. She prepared to call out a warning to whoever was entering by the side door to keep them from walking into the middle of a gunfight. She quickly realized that the man sliding in and silently positioning himself with his gun hand raised intended to make sure Shade Harper did not survive.
  12. Next Stop, Missoula, Montana

    After this very long discourse, Harriet leaned back in her seat and picked up her teacup to sip from it. There was more. She had the letter from Judge Mandrell, but she needed to gather her thoughts and allow the two men a few moments to digest the full contents of their relatives' wills. She also did not consider it the proper time to encourage Shade Harper to consider renouncing his inheritance in favor of the Harper twins. Harriet would tackle that in good time. Right now, it was not in the children's best interest that their paternal uncle be maneuvered out of the picture. Cantrell's eyes widened, and he looked over at Shade. "Don't you dare do anything to lose this inheritance...I am no patriarch!" He shook his head. "I can't go from a bachelor to a gentleman rancher and family man in one day's time." Harriet looked from one man to the other. In other circumstances, she would have been amused. This situation, however, was far from laughable. Quentin Cantrell was all good looks and charm in his tailored suit, but something about him set her teeth on edge. Shade Harper looked as if he'd just stepped in off the trail. At least Cantrell gave off some semblance of being civilized. She had her doubts about the younger man. Rising to her feet, Harriet crossed to the sideboard and surveyed the heavy cut crystal decanters arrayed along its top. Frank Mercer had made sure that she knew how to recognize the finer things in life, such as how to tell one hard liquor from another by the subtleties of its color. She picked up two matching crystal whiskey tumblers, selected a decanter and poured the dark honey-colored liquid into the glasses. She carried them back and set them on the table, one in front of each man. "Here, this may help. Bourbon." Shade picked up the glass, his eyes drawn to the rainbow colors of the light being reflected in the crystal. He polished it off in one gulp, grateful for the liquid's fiery burn as it flowed down his throat. He wanted to ask what the hell Chance had been thinking, but there wasn't much point. And, there wasn't anyone else, not that he'd hand off his responsibilities even if there were others able to take them on. "That's more than..." Shade looked at the empty glass, "...more than I expected." His mind balked completely. He'd thought after Quentin had told him about the twins, that he was to be their guardian, that maybe Chance had gone around him and left him the ten acres by the lake. Never could he have imagined that it would be half the ranch. He didn't want it! Not like this! *History Note: In the classic era of the Old West— the 1870s and 1880s—most reward posters were just handbills or postcards sent to law enforcement officials with printed descriptions of the wanted men. No photos—although an exception was made in the case of the assassins of President Abraham Lincoln. For game purposes, we will go with how wanted posters were portrayed on television and in movies, some with images (usually sketches, occasionally a photograph), and some with just descriptions..
  13. Next Stop, Missoula, Montana

    Harriet's eyes surveyed the two men from head to toe, and then her eyes narrowed at the younger one. She tilted her head to one side, lips pursed for a moment as she tried to recall where she had seen the face before. Her gasp was not audible, merely mental as it leaped out at her. "You're Shade Harper! I've seen your face on wanted posters." That also made him the recipient of her services, at least until the issue of the Harper twins' inheritance and guardianship was resolved. Harriet saw no need to mention that at the moment. The legal, mental gears were grinding, and she was considering a compromise although Harriet was not ready to give up on acquiring the private coach just yet. The gun in Shade's hand did not waver nor did he show a reaction to H.G. Mercer's recognition. He shrugged slightly, "None current, ma'am." Quentin looked at the mysterious man Shade was covering and decided his caution was probably not misplaced. "Everyone easy...just take a breath..." His eyes flicked to the lady lawyer. "Keeping up with wanted posters seems like something a lawyer has no time to be doing, and Shade is hardly Jesse James..." Cantrell waved a calming hand in Shade' direction. "...no offense." Shade's lips twitched slightly, "None taken, partner." He turned his deep blue eyes on the woman who continued to regard them both with an unreadable expression on her face. "Does beg the question, though. Like he said, why would a lawyer lady be familiar with an old wanted poster of mine." Harriet looked from one man to the other and made a slight gesture with her hand. It was imperceptible to everyone except Fang. There was no obvious change in his demeanor, but Harriet knew he had gotten the signal to stand down. "Mr. Cantrell," she turned her steel gray eyes on him, "I believe I have a satisfactory solution to our...situation. In fact, you are going to have need of my skills very soon." Cantrell's eyebrows climbed. "We will?...that's not what I expected to hear..." He looked at the group opposite them then reached for the chair he had been sitting in. "Shade...put that away. Would you care to have a seat, Miss Mercer?" Cantrell waved a hand to the two chairs on the opposite side of the table.
  14. Next Stop, Missoula, Montana

    Shade stopped speaking again, turning his attention to the floor of the private train car. His eyes traced the intricate cream and gold pattern on the thick carpet. He finally looked up at Quentin again, "Do you remember the first man you killed outside the war?" Quentin had been in the middle of taking a drink of tea when Shade spoke. The motion had stopped for a few seconds before he set the cup back down. Quentin let his hand rest beside the cup, fingers drummed once before he spoke. "I do...one year after I signed my parole..." Cantrell's eyes got a little bit unfocused as his mind's eye watched the event unfold. "...I was on my way out west after giving up on rebuilding anything in Charleston. I stopped in St. Louis to spend a few days and got into a card game. It seemed friendly enough. The place was as nice as it gets in St. Louis. Anyway...I had made good progress at cleaning two of the men at the table out and one of them...he was already drunk and just got angrier the longer he played. He suddenly stood up and called me a coward. I called him a liar and gave him a chance to apologize. He...decided not to apologize and went for his gun. He probably would have been way too slow sober, but from that distance, he might have gotten lucky." Cantrell smiled "I wasn't wearing this yet..." his hand tapped his Colt under his left arm. "...so I kicked my chair back into the floor and shot him with my pistol that was still in my holster. I never tried to draw it...just shot him down the side of my leg." The ex-soldier exhaled. "It was a little comical. He missed me twice from that distance, and I missed him once. I guess it was just luck that my second shot hit square. He went down, and I was finally able to crawl to my feet. He died...but it took a few minutes. I got to stand there and watch him while someone fetched the sheriff and the doctor." Cantrell reached up and rubbed two fingers at his temple. "He was gone before either man got there...it's funny...I probably killed a few dozen personally during the war, but it was quick. A flashing target pistol shot from my saddle...a saber slash during a melee...a distant form with my carbine. This...this was completely different. I watched him die, and he looked at me as he did. I will never forget it." Shade's eyes studied Quentin's face for a few moments. When he spoke, his voice was a bit distant as he recalled things he wished he could forget. "From the first time Father took me out and started teaching me to shoot and how to handle firearms, I was good with them. The stories of gunfighters, military heroes, all the rest that goes with it seemed so glamorous back then so I practiced anytime I could. By the time I was sixteen, taking down a deer with one shot was no effort." He looked up and smiled, chuckling softly, "It was the one thing I was far better at than Chance was." "Mother, Father, and the nuns and priest at St. Francis made sure I knew killin' was wrong. Father tempered that with unless you're defending yourself or someone else," Shade shook his head. "No one thought there'd be any problem with me escorting Regina to Missoula Mills. She needed to shop for the wedding and..." this time his voice trailed off and stopped entirely. Shade took a really deep breath before going on, "...and I was getting married in just a few days. I wanted to get something really special for Hannah. I spotted a locket in a jeweler's shop and went in to ask the price. Reggie said she'd meet me at the hotel and kept going. I bought the necklace but left it at the shop to be engraved. I walked back outside and heard what sounded like a muffled scream, then heard it again and realized it was Reggie. Calvin Steelgrave had dragged her into an alley next to the shop and was trying to...attempting to assault her. I was so incredibly angry that anyone would try to hurt Reggie that I'd beat him bloody before I realized she was trying to pull me off. She got through to me, and we found a deputy and reported the incident. After that, we went on to the hotel." "The next day, we had a few more errands because it was our last day in town. We walked out of the hotel, and I heard something, a high-pitched whining sound, go past my head. Took me a moment to realize I'd also heard the sound of a gunshot. Reggie was frozen, and there was Calvin waving his gun and screaming that if he couldn't have her no one could and no worthless harlot got away with refusing him. I didn't even think about it. He was bringing his gun back up to fire again. I drew and shot him. Didn't think, didn't even realize I'd done it for a second, and I didn't care. I was so angry. Then Reggie was holding my arm, crying a little bit, more angry than afraid I think. I walked over. Calvin Steelgrave was dead, his eyes were staring at the sky, empty, cold. I remember feeling this weird rush and feeling shaky and sick all at the same time. I've never felt exactly the same way since...when I've had to kill, I mean. Don't really want to, never want to feel that rush, that thrill at having killed a man." "Anyway," Shade looked up to meet Quentin's eyes, "we found ourselves in the sheriff's office again. No charges were brought, but there were Steelgraves all over town promising revenge. I made sure Reggie was sent home safe, then I lit out. Hoped to draw anyone planning on trouble away from home. After reaching Helena, I sent word home. A few days later, Father showed up at the boarding house. He made it clear that I was no longer welcome at home." Shade left out the part where John Caleb had knocked him to the floor and coldly informed him that Shade was no longer his son.
  15. Respite From the Storm

    Originally published: Tue Jun 27th, 2017 @ 11:40am The ride from Crippled Horse Pass to Eagle Rock had been uneventful. However, despite Shade's best efforts at first aid, the wound in Cantrell's arm worsened. By the time they reached Eagle Rock, he was running a low-grade fever, and Shade was getting really worried. Complicating matters was the fact that Eagle Rock was even less savory than it had been the last time Shade was there. Tent cities to house the migrant railroad workers had sprung up around the area, virtually surrounding the town. A sober, reliable and trustworthy doctor was not one of the things the town boasted. Parking Quentin in a room at the cleanest of the dubious hotels, Shade prowled Eagle Rock until he found, surprisingly, a train depot. The service was sketchy, and nothing went exactly where he needed it to go. He finally settled on booking passage to Sacramento. It wasn't the best choice, but beat trying to ride for days hoping to find a doctor. The tracks were rough, and the train itself consisted of livestock cars that had been converted for passengers with hard seats and little protection from the elements. In Shade's opinion, the accommodations for their horses were better. In the end, that was where they wound up. Shade spread fresh straw on the side of the rail car opposite their horses, covered it with blankets and placed their saddles upside down to act as backrests. The advantage of the arrangement was that he could look after the horses which had never traveled by train. Upon reaching Sacramento, Shade found a livery stable that included a blacksmith where he could stow their tack and have their horses taken care of. With Quentin in tow, he headed for one of the better hotels so they could clean up and he could find the city's best doctor. He also wanted to check timetables for trains north to Missoula. He knew there was a railhead there, but he had no idea how often trains ran these days. After settling them into their room at the Misión St. Eligius Hotel, Shade took advantage of their bath and barber. By the time he returned from the train depot, Quentin had also gotten a bath, a shave, and a haircut, but to the younger man's eyes, he looked quite peaked. Shade left him to rest and headed to the hotel lobby to inquire about a doctor. To his surprise, the hotel had one they used on a regular basis. Shade flopped onto the bed closest to the door. He was tired and still felt as if he were being shaken to death by the train ride. He frowned as he stared at Quentin where he relaxed on the other bed. "Hotel is sending their doctor up. Should be here soon. Train for Missoula leaves mid-morning the day after tomorrow. I drew a bit for expenses from the Harper coffers. We have first-class accommodations for us and the horses. I booked a private coach. That way we won't have to stay awake all day and all night. Easy to guard and we'll know who's coming in and out. Even with the delays, we'll make it before the injunction expires." He regarded Cantrell seriously, "How're you feelin'?" His question was punctuated by a crash of thunder. Cantrell lay stretched out on his bed, head propped on both pillows and a glass of water held in his good hand. "Better...arm hurts less..." He took a long drink of the water. "...head still feels fuzzy but not like back on the train." Cantrell lifted the glass he was holding. "Once the doc gets done we should get some dinner. I am starving." "I could go for a good rare steak myself," Shade answered with a grin. "Of course anything not cooked by me over an open fire would be welcome." The sudden sound of someone knocking on the hotel room door startled Shade. His gun appeared in his hand as if mentally summoned and he rolled to his feet, approaching the door with caution. "Who is it?" Shade's hand was on the knob, his entire body tense as a cat's about to pounce, his gun held at the ready. "Doctor Samuel Frasier. The concierge sent me up." The voice was devoid of a regional accent and sounded older. Shade holstered the gun and unlocked the door, but he was still cautious as he opened it. The man on the other side appeared to be in his mid-fifties. He had thick gray hair, round eyeglasses and kind brown eyes that held a humorous sparkle. "Bit nervous aren't you, young man?" "Sorry, sir. Come in," Shade moved back to let the man in, noting that instead of the usual medical bag, he carried a larger case. Cantrell moves to sit up and winced, then finished the motion much more slowly. "Good afternoon, Doctor. I am very happy to see you." Quentin shifted again as the doctor helped him out of his shirt. "Shade there did the initial care for the wound. I probably could not have made it here without whatever he did." "Hmm," the doctor murmured as he gently moved Quentin's arm to examine the injury. After a moment, he looked up at Shade, "You did this? What is the salve?" He peered over the rims of his spectacles at Shade. "Garlic crushed into a paste and blended with wild honey," Shade answered, showing a marked discomfort at being the focus of the doctor's scrutiny, not to mention Quentin's praise. "I can't take the credit. The wife of the rancher I used to work for used it for cuts and scrapes." Doctor Frasier chuckled quietly, "Relax, son. I was merely surprised that you'd thought to apply something that would help retard infection. Unfortunately, if the bullet was handled by someone with a pronounced lack of hygiene, external measures do not always do the trick. Still, had you not added the ointment, this gentleman would likely be very sick. Still unpleasant, heh?" He murmured to Quentin kindly. Cantrell nodded. "I've been pretty lucky and have only been hit by a bullet a few times in my life. I never felt thankful for any of them, but I have had a lot worse..." The doctor had Shade go downstairs to get a pot of boiling water. Once he had it in hand, he emptied in a basin, added a bit of cooler water to it as well as splashing in a generous amount of alcohol. He then dropped several strips of cloth in to soak. "I need to soak the ointment to loosen it so I can clean the injury thoroughly which will be quite unpleasant," Frasier said. "Then, I need to clean away any dead tissue which will allow the wound to open back up so it can be stitched. For that, I have some topical ointment that will deaden the skin a bit. If you're very squeamish, I can offer laudanum?" Cantrell shook his head and held up his good hand. "No thanks, I prefer to keep clear unless I get hurt a lot worse. I am sure you will do an excellent job without any excess pain." Frasier instructed Shade to fix another basin of hot water. While he did that, the doctor laid folded out the case on the bed. Inside was a neat array of apothecary jars and bottles. The top folded down to become an instrument tray. The doctor's implements were already sterilized and wrapped safely in clean strips of cloth. When Shade came back, the Fraiser informed him that he would be acting as his assistant and instructed him to wash his hands thoroughly and then to pour a liberal amount of alcohol on them, then to dry them with a clean cloth. The doctor followed the instructions he gave to Shade, being careful to touch other surfaces. "Now, Mr. Harper, if you accidentally touch any surface that has not been cleaned, rewash your hands and use a clean cloth to dry them." The doctor hummed as he worked. After each step, he once again cleaned his hands thoroughly. The most difficult part of the procedure was the soaking off of the salve Shade had applied, debriding any damaged tissues, and cleaning the wound as well as several inches above and below it. When his patient winced or sucked in his breath, Fraiser would pause the humming, make sure Quentin was doing alright and then resume his work. When he finally had the wound cleaned to his satisfaction, he looked up at Shade who had been handing him instruments as he asked for them, "Tell your friend a story, Mr. Harper."

About Sagas of the Wild West

Sagas of the Wild West is a roleplaying game set in the American Wild West. It is based on the classic television and movie westerns of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. The stories evolve around the women and men in a fictional version of Kalispell, Montana.

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