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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

A Time to Watch and Learn


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Taking his seat outside the front entrance of the hotel he now owned, Matt Wentworth settled down to watch the parade of locals making their way to church.  He had learned that there were two churches in town - one Catholic and the other Protestant.

 

The plan was to watch and learn more about those who lived in this town for another day or so.  Having worked as an agent for the Treasury Department's Secret Service for almost ten years, he knew that making a low-key entrance was a better way of finding out what was what and who was who.  It didn't hurt that the previous owner of the hotel had been very anxious to get rid of it, making it a perfect opportunity for Matt to get into town without any trouble.

 

When he arrived three days ago, he first took time to check how his hotel was running.  Having owned a few hotels in the past, gave him the knowledge of how one should be run, and he could see that there were problems with this one.  Maybe the previous owner, had other concerns, especially about the person who had been planning to buy the hotel - Elias Steelgrave.

 

Elias Steelgrave had caught the attention of the Treasury Department a long time ago.  Steelgrave and his family had all been accused of one thing or another, but no-one could provide any evidence to arrest any of them.  Most of those who had attempted to bring charges had either gone quiet or disappeared altogether.  With Steelgrave, spending more time at his ranch outside Whitefish, the Service had finally decided to send someone in to keep an eye on them and to gather what information they could to bring about a conviction.

 

Knowing, that Matt had the necessary experience for an assignment like this, the Service chose him.  Part of the job would also be to serve a contact for any other agents in the area and owning a hotel would allow him to meet any strangers coming to town without raising any suspicions.  The hotel was legally his so that if Steelgrave or anybody else for that matter decided to check things out they would not find a connection to his government job.

 

Settling into the chair, Matt wondered how those who were caught up in yesterday's brawl were fairing.  Some of them had manage to make it to the dance that was held last night after the fair.  The fair itself had been very enjoyable and he had gone to the dance for a short while before retiring for the night.

 

A man shouting at his children to hurry up, reminded Matt that he would have to introduce himself to the pastor of the Protestant church before joining them next Sunday.  Today, he was content to spend the morning finding out more about this town he would be probably calling home for some time to come.

 

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Matilda was out on the boardwalk that ran past the saloon, HER saloon now, and was busy sweeping it clean with a broom. Her partner, Ralph, was inside the building, doing some work behind the bar, familiarizing himself with the liquor bottles on the shelves and where everything like glasses, beer mugs, extra towels, etc were for the grand opening on Monday. Of course the woman couldn't help but take note of the various comings and goings of what seemed to be a sizeable portion of the town. Some were walking, riding in wagons or carriages to the north, heading for a small whitewashed church there. Others were going the exact opposite way down what passed for Main Street. She remembered seeing what she believed to be a Catholic church on the outskirts of town upon their first arrival.  It all made sense, it was a Sunday, the Lord's day, for those who believed in such things. Matilda was not religious. Besides she had little illusion that a goodly percentage of the church goers would look their noses down on her once they found out she was part of a saloon.  She didn't care, bunch of damn hypocrites!

 

Pausing in her sweeping, she noticed a well dressed man seated in front of the hotel, seemingly watching the same thing she was, the parade of church goers passing the hotel to and fro. She wondered if he could be the owner of that establishment? Although he just as easily could simply be a guest up in the morning and enjoying the weather. It would be a smart business move to know the owner of that place, she figured. If they got along, each might send customers to the other. Mutual profit. Pondering on it for a moment, she decided to take a chance that man was either the owner or at least manager of the business. Setting the broom aside, he called out thru the batwing doors.

 

"Ralph, I'm gonna go across the street, be back in a few minutes."

 

From behind the bar came his familiar voice, "Fine, don't get yerself trampled by the devout."

 

With a chuckle, Matilda turned and then headed straight across the wide Main street, pausing once to allow a carriage to go by, then right up to the man at the hotel front.

 

"Good morning! Fine day out is it not?"

 

Matilda_again.jpg

 

TAG: @Matt Wentworth

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Matt raised an eyebrow in mild surprise.  Most well-respected women wouldn't come up and start a conversation without a proper introduction but then again, this woman had come from the saloon across the road so maybe she was used to approaching strangers.  He had seen her sweeping out front and surmised that she probably wasn't one of the saloon girls.  He smiled, besides most of them would still be in bed at this time of day.  Maybe she was just someone down on her luck and had to take whatever she could get to put a meal on the table.  Jobs for respectable women in towns like Kalispell were few and far between.

 

Nodding, he answered "It is.  Too good of a morning to spend sweeping floors."

 

TAG: @Matilda Devereau

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"Well, if I don't do it, I have to pay someone else to do it then, won't I? I have got enough expenses right now. Besides, what else is there to do on a Sunday? Not everyone is a churchgoer," she shrugged narrow shoulders.

 

"So....pardon the interruption but would you happen to be the owner or manager of this establishment? Or...be able to point me to him?"

 

She had almost forgot an introduction but quickly corrected that, "Sorry, I should introduce myself. I am Matilda Devereau, co-owner of that saloon across the street and new in town."

 

TAG: @Matt Wentworth

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Matt smiled, "I'm new myself.  Arrived the day before yesterday.  As for nothing to do on a Sunday, it depends on how you see it.  As a business woman, I am sure you have plenty to do but sometimes you need to take the time to find out what else life has to offer."

 

Looking up and down the street, he pointed towards the Marshal's office "Take that fellow hitching his horse.  I suppose he has something to do on Sunday.  Now what do you think he could be up to?  Is he there to get a friend out who had too much to drink last night?  Is he there to make a complaint?  Or is there to court the Deputy Marshal?  It doesn't really matter.  My point is that you can be optimistic or a pessimistic about what a day can bring.  I, myself am an optimist and open to all possibilities including inviting you sit with me and asking you to tell more me about how you ended up running a saloon."

 

@Matilda Devereau

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Ahhh, so another newcomer. Well, she supposed that was truly a positive as it was yet another sign the town was growing fast, that could only be good for business. She'd already met a few other newcomers already in her short stay. The man went on to point out someone hitching a horse then something about the fellow's options. But he did finally get around to his point, inviting her to join him and tell him more about herself. He was a confident one might say cocky sort.  What he wasn't though was forthcoming with information, having not answered her question nor introduced himself.

 

"Well well, while you certainly can wax lyrical on this fine morning, I noticed my question hangs there....unanswered. And I am not in the habit of sitting down and joining a complete stranger in conversation, one who has apparently forgotten his manners. Like returning my introduction...Mister....?" she flashed him a smile but there was a barb to the tone.

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"My apologies, Miss Devereau.  The name's Matt Wentworth."

 

Noting the tone of her voice, he continued, "I'm usually not so forthright with strangers myself but you seem to be interested in knowing whether or not I am the owner or if I know of his whereabouts.  From what the desk clerk tells me is that the hotel is currently for sale and that he expects a man called Elias Steelgate to buy the place any day now."

 

@Matilda Devereau

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She acknowledged his introduction with a nod, "Mr. Wentworth then."

 

Now the man was forthcoming with some useful information regarding the hotel and it's owner. Apparently it was about to have a new one?

 

"Now that is interesting indeed. Thank you for the information, I appreciate it. So it seems then I need to wait for a bit and make an appointment with this....Elias Steelgate then?"

 

The name stuck in her memory...........ahh, from the town festival. The Steelgates owned one of the biggest spreads in Montana it sounded like. And now it seemed they wanted to branch out into owning a business in town. Steelgate might be a useful man to know.

 

"Unless there is more than one Steelgate, I  believe him to be a rancher, a big rich one too," she gave him some info then.

 

TAG: @Matt Wentworth

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Matt paused briefly before replying.  She seemed to be satisfied at his answer about the hotel ownership.  He could have told her that he was the new owner but somehow it wouldn't be right to tell others before he informed the hotel employees that they had a new boss.  It also wouldn't fit in his plans of keeping a low profile for another day or two so that he could find out about the town some more.

 

"From what I gather there is more than one of them.  I believe some of them were involved in the fight yesterday afternoon.  Elias is the head of the family and the one who pulls all the strings.  If I decide to stay here and invest in any local properties or businesses, then I have no doubt that I will run into him at some point."

 

@Matilda Devereau

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"Ahh yes, the talk of the dance actually - that brawl. I did not witness it but I heard that a couple of the Steelgate hands were confronted by a farm girl. She was 13, 14, something like that and accused them of stealing from her. Apparently one of them then punched the girl in the face. That started up the whole thing, quite a few men got involved," Matilda was willing to engage in some local gossip. Why not, the lifeblood of a small town afterall.

 

"Being a saloon owner, I've seen more than my share of fights and have on a rare occasion took a punch too so I was more than content to miss that brawl," she smiled, "Of course my partner, Ralph, is the one who then is expected to handle such things. And he does too. Trust me, Mr. Wentworth, you do not ever want to get into a fight with Ralph Flandry."

 

TAG: @Matt Wentworth

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"Thanks for the warning.  I prefer not to get into any fights myself - not that I am coward or anything like that.  I've been in a few over the years but if there is someone who needs help, or I have no choice then I will.  Besides, it's not a good idea to go around picking fights if you want to business."

 

Feeling a bit guilty for sitting while a lady stood, he got up, smiled, and motioned to the chair next him.  "I would like to extend my invitation again; care to join me?  I promise I won't ask about how you got started in the saloon business."

 

@Matilda Devereau

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"I agree, fights are never good for business," Matilda nodded.

 

The man finally got up off his chair, she had wondered if he had forgotten his manners that way also but had already chafed the man for his lack of introduction, no sense being too hard on the fellow. He was rather handsome and, while that shouldn't enter into the occasion, it did. Unfortunately she was not going to be able to take him up on his invite to sit and chat further. She had work to do.

 

"Oh I'm sorry but I really should get going. I have a lot more to do inside the saloon than merely sweep the boardwalk on the outside," she smiled, "I must get back and help my partner. Nice meeting you though, Mr. Wentworth, and thank you for the information about the current hotel situation. Tell you what though, stop on into the saloon Monday and your first drink is on the house."

 

TAG: @Matt Wentworth

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"I may just take you up on that invitation."  Matt smiled, "It was a pleasure to meet you Miss Devereau and once again I apologise for not properly introducing myself."

 

He paused, and briefly looked at the chair he had been sitting in before returning his attention her "And for not getting up when a lady is present.  I've been spending too much time dealing with other men in the last few weeks, that I forgot my manners."

 

@Matilda Devereau

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"Oh in my line of work, I'm pretty much used to it. I trust your performance will improve the next time we meet. Good day to you, Mr. Wentworth," Matilda gave him one last smile and spun about to head across the wide street, watching for a carriage crossing the path of ahead of her.

 

She wondered if he would actually come into the saloon on Monday? Time would tell.

 

ooc: Good place to end I think?

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