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Shade Harper

The Gauntlet

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Scene Rating: PG
Scene Type: Joint Scene
Characters: Shade Harper, Quentin Cantrell, H.G. Mercer
Location: Belle-St. Regis Hotel Dining Room, Kalispell, Montana
Timeline: Afternoon, Tuesday, July 13, 1875

 


As Montana was opened up for settlement and people of wealth began flocking to the area for the spectacular vistas, hunting, and other recreation, Kalispell had grown along with it. The Belle-St. Regis Hotel was a three-story edifice that offered various levels of accommodations and services. It was a masterpiece of understated elegance and comfort. The first floor offered comfortable rooms at a nightly rate most travelers, including cowboys off the range, could afford. The second-floor rooms and parlors came at a higher price, and the third floor offered several luxurious suites. Other services included an attached saloon, a cafe, and an elegant restaurant offering fine cuisine. There was also a gentleman's club, a lady's club, meeting rooms. Hot baths, barbers and hairdressers, and a laundry service were all included. The Belle-St. Regis was the region's premium five-star establishment, yet it had taken the course of not excluding the average man or woman.


Shade had been slightly intimidated by the building's elegant brick exterior and more so with its posh interior decor. However, a good meal and the convivial company of his companions had relaxed him. The twins had been well-behaved although excited by being allowed to join the adults in the dining room. After the meal, Kate and Ezra excused themselves saying that Cody and Nettie needed their naps. This left Shade, Quentin, and Harriet to enjoy their coffee and drinks.


Although Harriet still had reservations about Quentin and Shade, she was feeling quite euphoric over the court win. The judge's stipulation that she remain in Kalispell and take on the job of oversight on Lost Lake business, Harriet still felt it was a win. There were so many unanswered questions swirling around the deaths of Chance Harper and his family. Judge Mandrell could have put their entire estate into probate and appointed a guardian for the children. Overall, she counted it a win.


Shade took a sip of his bourbon, enjoying the smooth feel of the liquid and its velvety burn as it slid down his throat. He watched Harriet swirl the contents of her brandy snifter around. The woman had done a great job for them and looked ready to stay for the long haul. It was quite likely she would be needed again.


Holding his cut crystal whiskey tumbler up, Shade tilted it in a salute to the woman seated across from him, "To you, Miss Mercer. Thank you for keeping my brother's legacy intact."


"Please call me Harriet. As I am to be your watchdog for an unknown period of time, formalities will quickly become tedious," Harriet responded. "The Harper Legacy isn't entirely out of the woods yet. There are the conditions the Judge set to be dealt with."


Nodding, Shade grinned, "And one of the first ones is to find a suitable female companion and caregiver for the little'uns. Something we need to do with or without the judge's stipulating it. Kate loves the children, but she has other work that's vital to keeping the ranch running. She can't do that and wrangle the twins too. I'm just not sure where to start."


Harriet smiled at the two men, "I might have an idea on that, but I need to think about it for a little while before presenting a solution."


Quentin smiled. "I am sure it will probably be as creative as whatever magic show you just put on in the courtroom to leave us in the shape we are in..." He then stood, picking up his saucer and cup from the table. "...now if you will excuse me, I need a refill on my tea." Quentin turned and made his way past the tables, heading for the far end of the bar where the bartender had the kettle and items to add to his tea.

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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

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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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