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Longshot

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About Longshot

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    Lost Lake Ranch: Business Mgr.

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  1. Longshot

    Murder Mystery

    Just my two cents, but how about the Old West equivalent of a Jack the Ripper? Maybe a man who rode the train to its end to get away from the last place he hunted, but he can't resist the impulse once he is here. The town is not a bustling metropolis, but there are still a lot of people for that time period and still a decent size transient population. Or, maybe some sort of Mountain Man type who comes into town, kills, then leaves? That way the list of suspects can be the biggest red herring.
  2. Longshot

    Wednesday Afternoon in Kalispell

    Quentin broke his gaze from the cowboys and then nodded at the stranger. "I would be happy to...but be careful. The good deputy can bite, sometimes..." Quentin knelt and slipped an arm under Hannah's closer arm and waited for the stranger to take the other side. "We best get back from the street...I don't care for the fact that those boys haven't kept on going."
  3. Longshot

    Wednesday Afternoon in Kalispell

    Quentin looked up at the sound. He folded the paper and set it on the table while sliding his chair back and moving through the dining room and out onto the wooden sidewalk. He watched the flurry of screaming cowboys and charging horses race past where he stood. Quentin's eyes widened as he looked past them and saw the boy. He broke into a run but knew he could never pass the horses. The running form of the deputy came into his view and Quentin slowed. He let out a sigh of relief at the close save. He was still moving but not at the desperate speed he had been. He saw another man arrive a few steps ahead. Quentin came to a stop and looked down at Hannah as the newcomer helped the boy to his feet. "Good job, Hannah..." He extended a hand to help the deputy up, his gaze lifting to look at the milling group of riders at the end of the street.
  4. Longshot

    Bear Tracks

    ::At Blackbird Lodge (Main Ranch House):: Shade dusted off his clothing as he stepped through the doorway of the ranch's main house. He would need to wash the day's work dirt off before dinner, but there was plenty of time for that. Right now, he wanted to get something cold to drink and go check the gunroom for something big enough to bring down a huge grizzly. From the size of the tracks that he had found, his Winchester would be no match for the animal. After getting a cold glass of water, Shade headed toward the ranch's gunroom. His route took him through the kitchen to the dining room and from there back to the main hallway. The main access to the gunroom was through the main floor's office. He thought that he would need to track Quentin and Ezra down to warn them they had a potentially deadly predator on the ranch so was pleasantly surprised to find Quentin ensconced in an easy chair in the spacious office. "It has been a day!" Shade announced as he dropped into the chair nearest Quentin. Actually, both Monday and Tuesday had been long and tiring thanks to being behind in the ranch's usual work due to the Founder's Day festivities. "We're going to need to check our gun inventory and see the men are well-armed. Found a half-eaten steer in the lower meadow just before quittin' time." Quentin stopped writing and looked up. "You said half-eaten? You mean like a pack of wolves or it's been laying there for a while?" Quentin leaned back in his chair. "...not many single animals can eat half a steer." "Not wolves. A pack won't usually leave good meat behind. Found bear tracks." Shade paused for a moment, aware that his next statements could sound ludicrous. "The tracks indicate a bear of unusual size and if it is killing livestock, it will be back. A grizzly will scavenge, but this looked like a kill - a recent one at that." Quentin leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin. "Couldn't just be a regular bear...nope, we get a Grizzly..." The older man stared into space a few moments as he thought, then he looked up. "We need to see if we have anything big enough to stop a Grizzly. I also think we need to give orders that no one works alone for the next few weeks. I don't want a man on horseback looking too tempting to one of those things..." Quentin drummed the fingers of one hand on the desk. "Did I miss anything?" "I'm dead sure Harriet, Josephine, and Clara will not like this...we also need to mandate they take one of the men with them when out riding or with the twins," Shade agreed with Quentin's plans. He ran a hand through his dark hair, mussing it slightly, "I think that bear may've been what startled the picket line at the dance on Saturday. If that's the case, it ain't too afraid of humans." Quentin stood up and moved around the desk. "I wasn't even thinking about the ladies. Do we know where they are right now?" He walked past Shade and headed for the Ranch Gunroom. He walked past the few rows of normal Winchesters near the door and to the wall farthest from the door. He fished in a pocket for a set of keys and unlocked the padlock holding the two large cabinet doors closed. He tugged them apart and pushed them all the way open and stood back, looking at the two cabinets' worth of special weapons that had been built up over the years. He reached and picked up a Sharps rifle, turning it over in his hands. he slipped a thumb into the loop built into the trigger guard and slid the bold down with a snick, looking at the action and into the barrel. ".45-70 might be a little light, but it handles faster than one of those buffalo guns..." Quentin looked down at the shelf below the rack and saw a few boxes of shells, noting there were four of the Sharps in the rack. He looked over at Shade as he stood behind him. "...You think this will be enough?" "Personally, I would go for one of the Sharp's .50-90s," Shade stated. He shook his head, "Truthfully, Quentin - I have tracked grizzly before. I've never seen tracks like this. With luck they will still be near the carcass tomorrow, not likely to rain tonight. I'll see if I can follow them." Quentin looked at Shade. "Weren't you listening just now? We decided no one goes anywhere alone for the time being..." Quentin set the .45-70 Sharps down beside the cabinet and reached in to pick up one of the beefier pair beside the one left like he had taken. He tugged out one of the Sharps with the longer barrel and handed it over to Shade. He then pulled out a box of shells for each and set them aside before closing the cabinet. "...have you ever fired one that caliber?" "Once or twice," Shade said as he checked the rifle's operation. "Father was insistent that we knew every gun on the place." He paused, "You know I was not in the military? I rode dispatch, worked some as a civilian scout. We used whatever weapon they handed us." Quentin grinned as he walked over to a nearby set of drawers, setting the .45-70 Sharps on a cleaning table. "I can assure you, buffalo rifles were never standard issue in the cavalry." He began rummaging and came out with some looped bandoliers. He tossed one to Shade and then sat down in a chair and began thumbing .45-70 shells into the loops. "I am not going to go any larger than this...nothing I ever got comfortable firing would even scratch the paint on that monster..." The older man held up a shell in his fingers and thumb and wiggled it in the air. "...I will just hope I can hit a sensitive spot."
  5. Longshot

    Could I Have This Dance?

    Quentin ate and enjoyed the food, but he had to do so carefully. His jaw still stung with each chew, the ache moving back through the muscles and into his neck. He had been forced to pick from the less solid options for dinner, although picking something unsuitable was pretty much impossible with the spread that had greeted them on their arrival. Quentin kept chewing as his eyes flicked across at Harriet and felt her looking at him. He had to admit that he didn't mind as he had been looking at her quite a bit for most of the evening. Her outfit was amazing and without all the usual icy walls that constantly drifted between them she was a very entertaining companion, once he finally got over being skewered by her hatpin during the brawl. Quentin let out a snort as he looked over at Shade and did a take. He watched the younger man chewing with a bit of the same deliberation Quentin was employing. The older man lightly nudged Shade with an elbow. "You doing okay?" Shade had been surveying the crowd in the tent. Seemed that most of the town and the people from almost all of the nearby ranches had shown up for the evening's festivities. All of the tables were quickly filling up. One whole side of the tent had been rolled up so that air flowed through and they could see the dance floor just outside. Soon the moon would rise, adding its light to the lanterns and torches set around the dance floor. The night promised to be fair and not overly warm which would help keep the dance floor active. Nodding at Quentin, he grinned around a small mouthful of barbecued beef brisket, "Yeah - could be worse," Shade said to his friend. Like Quentin, Shade had dressed up for the evening in a clean white shirt and narrow western-style tie. He wore a supple leather vest over the shirt and had donned clean, dark jeans for the night. His boots were polished and his thick, black hair clean and brushed back. He had also made sure to brush all the dust from his trusty Stetson and polish his boots. The one thing he had not given up was his gun which he wore as always although it was not tied down and ready for use. Fortunately, Marshal Cory had not banned weapons at the gathering. Harriet glanced around the tent, noting with a slight feeling of concern that the Steelgraves had arrived in full force. They occupied at table set apart from everyone else and occupied by only members of the family, their slimy lawyer, Carson Tyndall, and an unknown man, probably the Evergreen ranch foreman. Case Steelgrave caught her eyes and raised his wineglass in her direction. Harriet nodded cooly and returned her gaze to her dinner companions. The table set aside for Lost Lake Ranch showed a notable distinction over the Steelgraves. Here, the hands, their families and the Thorntons sat in companionable groups, mixing and mingling freely. There were also townspeople and members of other ranches sharing the table. Everyone was having a wonderful time, enjoying life, and companionship. The general bonhomie sharply contrasted with the stilted conversation that drifted over from the Steelgrave table. She also could not fault the appearance of her dinner companions. Quentin Cantrell was drawing his fair share of batting eyelashes and feminine sighs from around the room. He looked striking in his dark suit and tie. His smile and deep voice was the envy of many a young lad as he teased and talked with his companions while the lads' dates hope to have those dark looks turned their way. Shade was also a pleasant surprise, having put off his dusty cowboy garb for a tie and crisply ironed shirt. He was getting his fair share of looks, but with more diffidence. It seemed the younger man's reputation was more a source of speculation than his looks. Harriet smiled at something Kate Hale said and made a mental note to revise her opinions of Lost Lake's men. Shade, and especially Quentin, were worthy of more than her original hasty assessments. The evening promised to be an interesting one.
  6. Longshot

    Let Me At 'em !

    Quentin slowly clawed his way to his feet, laying about with his fists amidst the Evergreen hands. He made good progress with a few well placed punches and knees, even grabbing one hand and using him to plow an opening so he got some space after several breathless seconds. Quentin stood, panting hard, one hand on a knee as he was buffeted by the random struggling men. Suddenly a sharp pain lanced into his buttock and Quentin roared with pain at the unsuspected injury. He spun and grabbed a handful of fabric, fist coming back to deliver a blow before his eyes registered the identity of his assailant. "HARRIET?" Quentin said, voice still up from the pain. Harriet blinked at Quentin as the brawl raged around them. Surreptitiously, she hid the hand holding the dagger-like hatpin in the folds of her gaucho-style riding skirt. "Quentin," she said sternly, attempting to take charge, as usual, "you and Shade should not be fighting. Remember the judge's warning!" After a moment, she added, an innocent look of inquiry on her face, "Did something bite you?" Quentin blinked as the crowd swirled. "We did not start this! We're trying to help Clara!..." Quentin had to pause to catch a stumbling Evergreen hand. He spun the man and then gave him a push, helping him along with a boot back into the crowd of struggling men. He then looked back at Harriet while one hand rubbed back along his rear. "Yes, something did...it felt suspiciously like a needle..." Quentin's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "...or maybe a hatpin." With her free hand, Harriet reached up, pulled her other hatpin free and displayed it to Quentin, "See, my hatpins are in place. Mosquitoes are really bad this year." For a moment, the fact they were having a civil conversation amidst a brawl seemed quite surreal. "Perhaps a particularly large one bit you? Or a bee?" Quentin inhaled and swung a finger up between them to explode in response to her thin defense but was interrupted by noise and motion different than the fight swirling around the two of them...
  7. Longshot

    [Episode] The Bear

    Quentin's expertise is hardly good for the games, unless there's a draw competition. He's a fine rifle shot, but I would think there are men who are better pure shots than him. If there's some kind of revolver contest he might be good. The only other thing would be if there was some kind of...prizefighting? the early kind with a ring and gloves? I know it existed back then. Up for suggestions.
  8. Longshot

    All Work and No Play

    Quentin rode up to the edge of the meadow. He inhaled a deep breath of the air and watched the busy preparations. Quentin had only attended one of these festivals in the past when his time at the ranch right after Charleston had coincided with the occasion. He remembered it had been a great time. One thing he had not had to do before, was the preparations for the Festival and dance...and Quentin had to admit, this past week had worn him out. Ezra had an endless list of things that needed to be done before Saturday. Quentin looked around as he rode across the meadow, occasionally slowing to thread among the groups until he ended up near Shade. Quentin dismounted and sidled over to Shade. "So, have you seen Ezra this morning?" Quentin asked, eyes constantly moving in case the older man was nearby or approaching. Quentin brought his eyes back around to Shade. "What?..." Shade laughed, his deep blue eyes dancing in amusement. He enjoyed working outdoors but had to admit Ezra had worn him to the bone. Quentin was far from lazy, still, the Hales were quite the taskmasters! "Ezra stopped by a little while back, rode off toward town. I figure he's gone to terrorize the town council." Quentin visibly relaxed. "Good. I needed a break after the last few days." The younger man looked around at the busy groups of men and women working around the meadow. Spotting a familiar figure, Shade remembered another task he had in mind. After the incident with the men that had harassed the young Redmond girl, he had talked to Quentin about offering her part-time work as a babysitter and mentor to the twins. Right now, Harriet Mercer's younger sister was filling the role of the governess, but Shade thought she could use some time off or even just a break here and there. The twins were not mean or even badly spoiled, but they were little whirlwinds. "There's Aurelian Redmond. I want to ask him about Clara working for us before I forget," Shade said and pointed to where Aurelian was working with a group of men to unload the last of the lumber from the delivery wagon. Leading Quentin around the edge of the area staked out for the dance floor, Shade walked up to Redmond as he finished laying the last planks on the stack, "Mr. Redmond," he greeted the man pleasantly, "thank you for helping out this week. We could use a few men like you on the ranch." Quentin stood a little behind Shade and to the side. He nodded to the other man while Shade conducted his business. Idly he turned, keeping an eye peeled for Ezra's return. Aurelian wiped his hands on the sides of his trousers as he then glanced at the men, "Mr. Thornton, Mr. Cantrell, pleasure's all mine though my back and hands might disagree by tonight. So....you do a lot of floor laying at that ranch of yours?" It was all said was a grin of course. Shade grinned, "With Ezra, you never know what we'll be workin' on. And please, make it Shade." He nodded off toward the west in the direction of the rest of the ranch. "I was hoping to catch you before we started work here today. I'd like to ask your permission to offer Clara a job two or three days a week babysitting my wards. The judge mandated they be supervised at all times. We have a governess, but she needs time off." "Shade then, I'm Aurelian, but if that's too fancy for you, Aury is fine," Aurelian replied then listened to the man's unexpected offer. "A job? Babysitting for your children? Ahhh yes, I believe I met them at the general store when I met Mrs. Hale. Well, we would have to figure out arrangements as to how Clara would get to your place, but otherwise, I have no objections. Of course, I would like to hear Clara's thoughts on this but knowing her, she will jump at it." He left it unsaid the family could use any extra money they could get, and Clara was well aware of that too. Also, he had every confidence she could do the job properly. "Perhaps, if you can spare her, we can set her work days so she can stay at the ranch?" Shade said, his mind working to think out a solution that would work for the Redmonds and the twins. "Sage Miller's wife works at the ranch house, and they have a cabin not far from here." Shade indicated the nearest foothills. "I'm sure Mary and Sage would be glad to see that Clara gets back and forth safely." "Well..........I do admit, that girl does a lot of work for our family. The laundry, the cooking, the sewing, she is a gem, my Clara. And as you've seen she takes a big interest in the garden too. I do need her but as long as it's not too much time out of the week, I think I can spare her. As long as the Millers do not feel put upon for their part in this too," Aurelian seemed positive to this possibility and imagined Clara would jump at this also. "I figure a couple of days a week if both of you are agreeable. We'll arrange transportation so don't worry on that. In fact, if she rides and you approve, I have a little mare she can borrow. Thank you for considering it. Should I negotiate the rate of pay with Clara?" Shade grinned slightly at that, trying to imagine entering into a negotiation with the teen and figuring he'd lose in the end. "A couple of days.....sounds reasonable unless something comes up, one can never forecast such things," Aurelian nodded, "She does ride, she's actually very capable on a horse, I tease her that the horse doesn't know anybody is even on top. My one worry though is given the situation I am leery of her riding about on her own, you understand I hope." "Of course! All things considered, you're right to be cautious," Shade pulled off his hat and ran his bandana over his hair as he considered. "We'll offer the mare with the condition that she meets up with one or both of the Millers for the ride to and from the ranch house - at least until we all see how it works out." That seemed to be a good compromise. It would give Clara some control yet have her traveling in the company of reliable people. "And yes, you can work it with Clara then about wages.....I warn you, she can drive a hard bargain at times. Don't take it personal though, that's just her personality," Aurelian smiled. Shade grinned, "I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, Mr. Redmond - uh, Aurelian. I'll make the job offer to her the next time I see her and she can talk it over with you." Looking around the meadow, he spotted Ezra riding their way and winced, "Best get on that dance floor. The Old Man's on his way." Quentin's eyes widened. "Well, um...I need to be going. I have that...thing I have to be doing...very important...can't wait..." He then turned and moved around the side of a nearby wagon, glancing back occasionally... Ezra reined his big gelding in and then set him to a trot, circled the wagon and effectively cut Quentin off, "I think you're lost, Quentin. The dance floor is over that way," he gestured to where the men were working of the platform for the band. "Shade, boy! Get a move on or we'll be putting down planks while people dance." Shade's laugh at Quentin's escape attempt was abruptly cut off by Ezra's sharp-voiced order. "Play-time's over," he told Aurelian and grinned.
  9. Longshot

    Neighbors: The Good and the Bad - Pt. 2

    Sage Miller had been an employee of Lost Lake Ranch almost as long as the Hales. He was a man with craggy good looks that had not changed overmuch in more than twenty years. His eyes were the most notable feature. They were a clear deep shade of sage green and the reason for his nickname. Truthfully, it had been so long since anyone had used his real name of Hieronymous that he probably wouldn't answer to it. Sage suited him. Mary, Sage's wife, worked in the main house as the head cook. She also nominally oversaw the cooks assigned to the bunkhouse and chuckwagon. He often joked that their marriage was so good because he worked nights and she worked days. In fact, the schedule suited both of them. Sage had always been a night owl, preferring to sleep during the day. He and Mary had the same days off, and he often had supper in the kitchen at the main house so he could eat with her and his kids. It was a life that suited both of them. The other nighthawks had dispersed to the washrooms to clean up after a long night in the saddle. As was his habit, Sage had waited until they were all ready to head out for their morning meal. He didn't believe in putting himself before his men. Seeing two strangers, Shade Thornton, Quentin Cantrell, and Deputy Marshal Cory seated at the table sent a murmur of unease through the gathered men. Ezra was always there to take Sage's report. Shade and Quentin usually rode out with Nick Hale and the day wranglers. So here was the rest of the ranch crew, the so-called nighthawks. Clara put down her fork and turned her head to watch them come in, sharp eyes taking in each one's face. One by one they all passed her test. She tried not to give anything away though while Shade then spoke to the assembled cowhands. Ezra deferred to Shade as the nighthawks approached the table. The shift in power from himself to the younger man was being done subtly so as not to disrupt the ranch's routines. "Sage," Shade said and nodded to the table, "everyone, please have a seat. No sense in letting your breakfasts get cold." Aurelian couldn't make an identification so he was dependent on Clara to do so but if any of the men glanced his way he simply nodded acknowledgement, not a hint of anger. He was beginning to believe they were not going to find the guilty men on this ranch because they did not work here at all. The one man had lied, more likely to throw off blame. Clara was going to be frustrated but he knew she would never settle for accusing an innocent person. He waited for everyone to settle in their seats before continuing. Shade watched each man for any hint of unease or guilt. He did not know the nighthawks as well as he did the day crew. Although Hannah received a few uneasy looks, the Redmonds only elicited a bit of curiosity on the faces of the men. "Most of you know Hannah Cory. This is Miss Clara Redmond and her father, Aurelian Redmond. They purchased the Sidwell homestead. Miss Clara had a run-in with a couple of men late yesterday. Deputy Marshal Cory wants to eliminate everyone from this ranch before investigating further." Shade's voice was cool and quiet, understated confidence in the innocence of the assembled men in its depths. Hannah gave the Redmonds an encouraging smile. Inwardly, she was impressed with the fact that Shade had not telegraphed anything to the men in his introductions. She had to reluctantly admit that his actions and reactions were not those of a man guilty of ordering the harassment of others. This case was not going to be as easy to solve as she had hoped. There was another large ranch in the immediate area. The Redmonds' property was bordered on the north by the Steelgraves' place, Evergreen Ranch. Explaining to them why she could not simply ride in and do the same thing there as they had done at Lost Lake was not a conversation she was looking forward to. "Miss Clara, are any of these men the ones that threatened you yesterday?" Hannah asked to the accompaniment of low sounds of consternation. It was another good indication that Sage and his night crew had had nothing to do with the incident. Clara didn't need to take a second look at any of them, she'd read their faces in detail upon their entry. She folded her hands and shook her head in the negative. "None of these men were there that day. Unless we have not seen everyone ............well....I was told a lie then," she spoke very calm and in clear tones then looked to Shade. "I apologize. I only went by what I had been told," she declared in all sincerity. "We are sorry we bothered you all," Aurelian quickly added. "There is no need to apologize and you are not a bother," Shade answered both Redmonds. "We try hard not to hire the type of men you were describing but we're not infallible. If a couple slipped by us, we needed to know." Aurelian nodded, those things can indeed happen. When you have a lot of apples in a barrel, a few might be rotten and not noticed til discovered. Quentin stepped over beside Shade. "If you would not mind, Miss Redmond, if you could describe these men we would be very happy to keep an eye out for them. It's possible they might pass through here or even make camp on our land if they are still in the area. If we encounter them I can promise you we will hold on to them until we can let Deputy Cory know they are here and she can bring you over to identify them. Regardless of them claiming to be working for us, I care more for the fact of what they did to you. They might try the same thing with another lady before they decide to move on." "I do not mind. As I told the deputy, I have their faces clearly etched in my mind," Clara agreed. There was a rumble of assent from the men around the table as Quentin raised his voice above the sound. "I mean it, boys...if you find a pair of strangers on our land, you hold them...I don't want to hear any stories of them having any accidents. Any vigilantes will be both in jail and without a job...right, Shade?" Shade nodded in agreement with Quentin, "I will make sure the day riders are aware as well. Once Deputy Cory has the drawings, we will post them here." He looked over at Clara and smiled, "It was very brave of you to report what happened. Not everyone would have. As tempted as any of us might be to deal with these men personally, we will let the law handle it." His voice was calm and adamant. It did not mean that if the scoundrels were found that they would make it to the jail totally unscathed. However, they could not hold a line if they allowed it to be crossed without consequences. Clara nodded, "They think they got the best of me but we will see." She then turned to Hannah but her words were meant for the whole group as she spoke clearly and calmly, rather like she was describing a scene out of some book than an actual incident and one in which she was the victim. "There were two of them as I said. They were nothing alike as far as looks. The younger one, the other called him Billy, he was the one who stole my clothing and the Dragoon. He looked to me at most only a few years older than me. But I realize looks can be deceiving for things like that. He was average height, thin, long face on him, long nose, too far away to see the color of his eyes, brown hair though. He could not grow a beard or mustache I believe. He did not sound educated." "The older one was shorter, stocky with an awful beard, he was possibly in his forties or even fifties. Big thick head, pushed in nose, again do not know his eye color. No woman would marry him for his looks, I can assure you that much," she then finished. "I will bring copies of the drawings here if I can make good enough sketches," Hannah said. "If not, we'll write up a good be on the lookout poster with detailed descriptions." Her earlier anger had dissipated. Everyone at Lost Lake was being cooperative and just as outraged as the Redmonds were. Of course, they could be putting on an act, but that seemed unlikely. She knew that the ranch had always encouraged long-term employment by offering living quarters for married men and men with families. Ezra had always been as discriminating as possible when hiring. Shade and Quentin walked the Redmonds and Hannah out. The goodbyes were far more affable than the greetings had been. Even Hannah seemed to have lost the edge to her anger at Shade over the past. Hannah vaulted onto her horse, reining the feisty gelding in as he jibbed at the bit. "Once the drawings are made, if I can do Miss Clara's description justice, I will send copies here." She paused and looked at both men, "Thank you." Watching the wagon draw away, Shade shook his head. His temper urged him to ride over to Evergreen and demand to see all of their hands. Logic kept him from following his instincts. That and the suspicion that Quentin would find a way to stop him.
  10. Longshot

    [Episode] The Bear

    Introduced in 1872 by The Sharps Rifle Company, .50-90 caliber was created to reliably kill buffalo with a single shot. That should do fine for a bear that big...the problem being that weight and barrel length will be a problem if it has managed to get to close quarters.
  11. Longshot

    [Episode] The Bear

    One thing people will have to keep in mind is the sheer monster size of this thing. Even men who may have encountered bears in the wild before will not be prepared for this thing's size. Most normal rifles of this time period would not penetrate deep enough to hit vital organs and black powder cartridges don't generate enough velocity and power to seriously damage something built as thick as he will be. Killing it will be very hard.
  12. Longshot

    Quentin Cantrell

  13. Longshot

    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, Thornton...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. Quentin looked into Shade's face, the two men's eyes met and stayed steady for several seconds. "You're right...what's between you and Case is personal because of Calvin. I understand that..." The older man dropped his hand from Shade's shoulder. "...I'm just not so sure Case will play it straight with you. If you ask him, I am sure he will admit his dead brother was an idiot, so is this revenge or just an excuse to go for you?" "Who knows? Reputation says he won't kill anyone he doesn't get paid for. Whether or not that extends to someone who killed a member of his family is debatable," Shade answered, dredging up the information he'd heard regarding Case Steelgrave. "Don't worry, Quentin. I know his methods and I now know he and his family intend to kill me or drive me off. I'm not gonna make either one easy for 'em. Won't let Case goad me into drawing on him. If it comes down to a gunfight, I'll play it right." Quentin's mouth was still fixed in a grim line. "That's easy to say but a lot harder to put into practice..." Cantrell exhaled and finally nodded. "Okay, we'll play it your way, but just don't go around being alone too much when you are in town. I don't trust the Steelgraves any farther than I can throw them...fair enough?" "Fair enough," Shade replied affably. "After I check on the horses, I'll stick close to the hotel. No straying since we know they're in town." He smiled and tipped his hat at Harriet before sauntering toward the exit.
  14. Longshot

    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. Thornton'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."
  15. Longshot

    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. Thornton 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 Thornton." 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.

About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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Founders: Stormwolfe & Longshot

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