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Case was not a fan of riding at night, and the trail to Whitefish was a long one, but there was business to attend to. Fifteen miles at night would take longer than by day. The moon, though not full was his visible light and the sandy color of the dirt beneath the horse's hooves was plenty to see by for both he and the horse.

 

As he rode he thought, the mind always active was crowded with thoughts, and most were of the woman, Katherine Bowen. He wondered what it was about her that had stayed with him, an uncomfortable feeling and if there was one thing Case Steelgrave didn’t like, it was feeling uncomfortable. Who was she anyway, some wisp of a woman from the east who probably wouldn’t last the summer.

 

He spurred his mount to a trot and made a decision, he was going to the hideout where the stolen cattle was being re-branded. There were too many, time to move them out, lay low for a bit, not too long, but long enough for the country to simmer down and ease up on guarding their herds. Case left the trail and headed northeast before returning to a northbound heading.

 

 

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Case Steelgrave pushed on through the night at an easy pace for both him and the horse. It had certainly been an eventful past several hours. He was conflicted about his part in resolving the stage hold up. Not that killing the men bothered him, quite the contrary, it had happened without feeling, much as it always had. There had never been any feelings about killing, it was just part and parcel of who he was.


And what of this woman? Why had he raced to stop the holdup? Why had he intervened, this bothered him, it was not the sort of thing that Case would do as there was nothing to gain from the intervention besides the killing of men he didn't like, and a risk to his own life. So the question of why what was it about her? She was just a woman, granted, a pretty woman, but just a woman none the less. He was a man with no time for entanglements and she would certainly be that if he allowed it.


There were stolen cattle to be moved once the brands were altered, and more to be taken. No, Case Steelgrave had no time to spare on anything, much less a school teacher in Kalispell. He pushed on in the darkness with his thoughts.

 

Leaving Kalispell at night had not been the wisest thing, but he needed to be away and back to what he did best and that was to handle the law in Whitefish, and break it everywhere else. There was land to grab, cattle and horses to rustle, knowing his brand artist was the best rope and ring man in the territory. And there were ranches to take and add to the Steelgrave’s budding empire.

 

The decision to stop sometime short of mid-night was one made out of weariness. It had been a busy afternoon and evening and it took a lot out of a man, what with the killing and all. And, the thought of some coffee and some jerked beef had sounded really good. He’d eat, swallow some coffee then roll up in his blankets and was asleep in moments, but for Case Steegrave, it was a fitful sleep with visions of the Kalispell schoolmarm

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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The easy thing would have been to do this last night, but tracking in the dark can be tricky. Oh, there was enough moonlight that had been a fact, but waiting for daylight was always better, besides, he wasn't in a hurry and the recent tracks were clear and easy to follow, bespeaking a man with no fear of being followed. The words of Linda Everson echoed in his mind as he rode north out of Kalispell.

 

He came on a spot where the man had stopped, built a hat full of fire, made coffee, then pushed on. He'd let his horse rest a mite, the sign of a man good with his animal, also a man to be wary of.  He had no illusions about Case Steelgrave, none at all. The man was as deadly as a rattler that he knew. So He also pushed on.

 

The sun had already reached its zenith sometime ago and Pronto took a pull on his canteen, more to wet his lips and the inside of his mouth, even though water in this country was plentiful, it always paid to not take chances. It was then he noted that the trail veered off north-west and Case had picked up his pace, Pronto did not. No telling where Case was headed but it was not to Whitefish unless he had a reason to go a roundabout way of getting there. Pike pulled up on the rein and stepped down, turning his horse between himself and whatever or whoever was just ahead. He took the time to adjust his cinch, though there was not much slack in it, and his horse did not protest the action.

 

Satisfied he was alone, but wary of a possible ambush, Pronto remounted and followed the new trail wondering where it would lead, and what might happen. He was not looking for a confrontation, though he was looking to talk with the Kalispell Marshal about Texas without accusation, what he would do then might well rest with Case Steelgrave's reaction.  Gunplay was not out of the question, but need not happen unless it was forced on him.

 

TBC

 

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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image.jpeg.8a95a2653c8de562c2da4d0442336b1b.jpeg

“Gawddammitt Robbins will you quit that infernal pacin! Lite an’ set fer Chrissake.” Toole ordered, “oughtta smack ya with this here runnin’ iron!”

 

David Lander Robbins hadn’t started out to become what he was, a gunman and rustler. He had a nervous condition whenever he was without purpose and at present there was precious little for him to do.

 

“Yeah well, hell,! I’m goin’ down’t the herd give Slone a break. Wish ta hell the boss’d ride in an we could get this drive goin’.” He shook his head. “Damned posse could ride in here any time an’ we be caught with, whot, a hunderd head of stole beef?”

 

“Git! An’ tell Slone to get up the end of the valley and let Larson come in!” Toole ordered. He was no boss, but he was pretty close as his talent was respected. “Tell ‘im Guthrie’ll relieve him in a couple hours.” There was always a guard, but Toole was getting nervours, Case was supposed to be there by now, or so he thought.

 

Robbins nodded and stepped aboard his horse trotting off toward the herd. Toole, his work done, looked around and suddenly said; “Larson, ride for town see what’s up with the boss.

 

John Larson swung into the saddle, being the only other rider saddled up, and with a wave took off at a gallop.

 

TBC

 

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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The trail across the open country had been easy to follow, but it had become harder to follow once they were into the trees. Pronto's pace had slowed to a walk as he scanned the ground looking for what had become elusive tracks, and for him, that was unusual. He prided himself on his ability to track, no matter the ground, but this had him scratching his head.

 

Finally, Pronto stopped and dismounted to get a closer look at the ground, holding onto his reins. There was a cat track, plain enough to see from the new vantage point, but no hint of a horse track, so he began a circle search, his next step in locating this trail. It would be a slow process, yet he was aware even in the forested ground, horses tended to disturb the debris on the forest floor.

 

So far there was nothing that was noticeable and the sounds of the forest were clearly audible, his circular approach did not seem to be working, however, there was a break in the trees just ahead, the open ground would make this easier, but he had lost a lot of time with his search. Still, he pressed on.

 

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Case broke out of the trees and spurred his horse to a gallop to cover the last mile or so to the camp. He wanted to get the herd on the move believing there were enough of them. Of course, other than the hands involved, it would be pure profit, at thirty dollars a head, with no questions asked, he'd clear about twenty-five of it. Not bad for doing nothing more than running a gang, any unbranded stuff would have the EG brand and be driven to the Evergreen spread.

 

He pulled up once he was close to the cabin. He could see Toole giving a wave. Looking to the valley he could see the stole herd they had built, and knowing Toole, those brands were changed and the beef ready to move north where they would be met by a Canadian bunch who would move the cattle to the highest bidder on either side of the border. It was a sweet set up, and it had been working well the better part of the year.

 

"Mister Toole, are we ready to move?" He asked as he stepped down.

 

"Ready as they'll ever be Boss, Toole replied. "You come onto Robbins out there?"

 

"No, no I didn't, something wrong?" Case asked suspiciously.

 

"Oh no Boss, I sent him to ride in with you." Came the explanation. "Step inside? Coffee or a drink?"

 

"Sound good." Case responded.

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large.Robbins.jpg.7c465108686cd334b027664b54bbb1f2.jpg

Now Robbins, who wasn't the smartest of the bunch, and some nervous, took his own trail to get to where he figured on meetin' up with the boss. It was a bit longer, but more protected than the straight ride to meet up with Marshal Steelgrave. He figured that it would take him a few minutes longer to reach the destination, but he also believed he had plenty of time.

 

Loping along at a trot he cleared  the trees when to his surprise, he spotted someone other than his boss, a stranger on a roan horse he also didn't recognize, well, to Robbins, he could only mean trouble so he drew his Winchester out of the saddle scabbard, levered in a shell into the breach, and took careful aim. His finger tightened on the trigger as he let his breath out when the rifle exploded with the intended shot.

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And then he was dead...or he felt like it, never having been dead before he might well have been mistaken. his body was moving side to side and his head tended to lurch in all manner of directions. He was aboard a horse, the smell and the movements told him that. And almost suddenly there was a pain in his right shoulder. He opened his eyes, yet all was black. so he raised a bit to see the roan's neck and the brim of his hat.

 

He slowly began to sit upright but the pain was searing, he examined his right side to find it soaked in blood. He did not have a clear view of his shoulder area, but that was where the blood was coming from and if he was not able to stop the flow, he would die. The horse snorted and threw his head, causing Pronto to look up.

 

Kalispell was just ahead, and there were folks straining to see who was coming their way.  He needed the doc real bad, he slumped down again but not all the way, His head was still up as he reached the stage line stables, hoping she would be there.

 

@Bongo 

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The low rays of light streaming in the big double-doors of the barn danced with myriads of tiny particles -- dust, hay, hair -- swirling around Addy as she added to the mix, brushing loose hair and dirt from Duke's back and haunches.  The big Belgium draft horse stood placidly, munching on hay as he was groomed, and Addy was content, humming quietly to herself as she worked.  She enjoyed this time, just working quietly with the horses, alone, and...

 

...and a shadow blocked the sun in the doorway, although she didn't pay attention at first, not until she heard a horse snort close by, and the shadow persisted did she look over and see the rider, there in the breezway.  He didn't look too good...in fact, he looked like he was about to fall out of the saddle, and indeed, he started to do just that. 

 

Dropping the brush, she ran toward him, catching him in time to keep him from hitting hard, she crumpled beneath him, cradling him as she took in the situation.  Blood, pallor...

 

"Pike?"  She didn't know the man well, but she recognized him.  "What happened?  WEEDY!"  She knew the kid was around somewhere, and sure enough, a moment later he ran in, then froze, eyes wide.

 

"He been shot?" the boy asked, but he didn't get an answer, just, "Go fetch th' Doc, hurry!"  And he was off at full speed.

 

"Gonna be all right, Mister Pike," she cajoled, tearing his shirt to look for the source of bleeding, then pressing her hand against the wound to stem the flow of blood.  "Doncha die here, th' horses don't like th' smell'a blood."

 

@Flip

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Pike lay in the arms of the teamster, “ain’t planin’ on it, Ma’am. Not to give a backshooter the satisfaction.” He knew he’d been hit hard, he was not sure the why of it, but there were surely two things he planned to find out, the who and the why of it. “Sorry ta’ bleed all over ya.” His voice was weak, strained, and his words halting when he spoke.

 

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"Not th' first, won't be th' last, I'm certain."  Addy grinned as she pressed harder on the wound, rewarded when the bleeding slowed.  "I'll just expect ya ta come muck stalls when yer healed up!"  Then she glanced toward the doors.  "Shot in th' back, ya say...ya know who?  He still lingerin' out there?"

She hadn't heard any shots, so it hadn't happened right here in town, but that didn't mean that whoever had done it hadn't followed him, and her gun was in its holster, hanging from a peg by one of the stalls.  Hopefully the yahoo...or yahoos...weren't bold enough to follow Pike in here, and she flinched when she heard footsteps nearing, relieved to see Weedy and the doctor trot in.

 

"Go fetch th' sheriff," she told the blonde boy, then she looked up at the doctor.  "Shot in th' shoulder, ain't got a good look at it yet, but I got th' bleedin' slowed."

 

Jonah nodded as he set his bag down and knelt next to the man, noting that there was a good deal of blood, but not so much as to be alarming, just yet.  "Afternoon," he commented with a smile, "I'm Doctor Danforth.  Let me take a look at what you have there...is it just the one shot?"  He didn't want to overlook something that seemed more minor just because this was dramatic.

 

@Flip
 

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"Shot in th' back, ya say...ya know who?  He still lingerin' out there?"

 

“Hard to say, him being behind me an all.” Pronto replied.

 

She hadn't heard any shots, so it hadn't happened right here in town, but that didn't mean that whoever had done it hadn't followed him, and her gun was in its holster, hanging from a peg by one of the stalls.  Hopefully the yahoo...or yahoos...weren't bold enough to follow Pike in here, and she flinched when she heard footsteps nearing, relieved to see Weedy and the doctor trot in.
 
“Was a fair piece from town when I taken the bullet. I slumped for’erd as the hose bolted. I had a’holt of the horn, was all that kept be aboard.,” He exhaled heavily. “Whoever shot me didn’t follow...near as I kin figger.”
 
"Go fetch th' sheriff," she told the blonde boy, then she looked up at the doctor.  "Shot in th' shoulder, ain't got a good look at it yet, but I got th' bleedin' slowed."

 

Jonah nodded as he set his bag down and knelt next to the man, noting that there was a good deal of blood, but not so much as to be alarming, just yet.  "Afternoon," he commented with a smile, "I'm Doctor Danforth.  Let me take a look at what you have here...is it just the one shot?"  He didn't want to overlook something that seemed more minor just because this was dramatic.

 

“Mighty Glad to meet ya Doc, hope you kin plug ‘er up, yep but one’s aplenty.” Was Pike’s response.

 

Tag @Bongo

 

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"We'll see."  Jonah cut away the clothing then finally looked at the woman (?) and nodded.  "Go ahead and move your hand, please."  She complied and he quickly dabbed at he wound with clean gauze, then put Addy's hand back.

 

"Not too bad," he declared, "but I can't work on it here, it's..."

 

"A barn?"  Addy grinned, it was dusty and straw-y and just a bit poopy.  "We can move him ta yer place, or, I got a room in th' back, clean cot, water on ta boil."

 

Jonah looked at Pronto, asking, "Do you think you can walk a few steps if we help?  Otherwise..."  Well, if he had to be carried, he'd need help.

 

"Otherwise we can drag ya by yer heels," Arnie chuckled, "or we'll carry ya."  She had no doubt she could do it!

 

@Flip

 

++++++

Meanwhile, feeling important in his role as messenger, Weedy dashed to the Sheriff's office, bursting in, not sure if he'd find Hannah here, or the new man, Speed.  Didn't matter!

 

"Sheriff!" he called breathlessly, "there'sthismanatthestageliverybeenshotandMissAddy'swiththedoctorthereandtheyneedyou!"

 

@Flip; @Stormwolfe

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Jonah looked at Pronto, asking, "Do you think you can walk a few steps if we help?  Otherwise..."  Well, if he had to be carried, he'd need help.

 

"Walk?  yeah, well...Yeah, I think so." Came a hesitant, and somewhat dubious response

 

"Otherwise we can drag ya by yer heels," Arnie chuckled, "or we'll carry ya."  She had no doubt she could do it!

 

"Oh good, as if my boots ain't down at the heel enough already." The crooked smile belied how weak he was. "Ugh," he ground as he fought his way to his feet. "I'm game if you two are. Reckon I'm a bit light headed, but I kin walk, I kin walk, you just hold tight an' we'll make it.

 

Tag @Bongo

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Jonah frowned skeptically as he took up one side of the man and Addy the other.  "Let's just take him to your room," he suggested, doubting that they would make it to his office on the outskirts of town.  Together, they helped Pronto the short way to the small room at the back of the livery.  It was neat and clean, with a cot covered with a patchwork quilt, a trunk, small table with two chairs and a stove. 

 

"There..."  Addy nodded to cot, pulling off the quilt before lowering the man down.  "I'll get ya some clean rags."  She grinned.  "Ya want a shot or two of whisky?"  She didn't specify which man she was addressing.

 

@Flip

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"Ya want a shot or two of whisky?"  She didn't specify which man she was addressing.

 

“Yeah, believe that’d set real well ‘bout now,” Pronto said haltingly. “Might ease the pain some. That shoulder’s burnin’ somthin’ fierce.” This wasn’t his first go-round with being wounded by gun or knife, and none of it was ever pleasant. "appreciate you takin' me in like this, I got me..." and he slipped into unconsciousness.

 

Tag @Bongo

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"I'll take some of that whisky, too," Jonah commented, then he grinned, "after..."

 

But as Addy was reaching for the bottle, Pronto passed out and she shrugged.   "More fer me."  She grinned at the doctor, then set about helping the doctor as he dug out the bullet, something she could have done herself had she needed to, only it would have been a sight more brutal! 

 

"Thank you for the help," Jonah commented as he finished up applying a bandage to the wound after extracting the wad of lead.  The bullet hadn't damaged any major blood vessels, nor tendons or ligaments, so there would be no loss of function..

 

"Had plenty'a practice durin' th' war," she explained with a shrug.  "Don't mind fer a friend."

 

After Jonah had left she saw to Pronto's horse, then settled in a chair by the cot to wait..

 

@Flip

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He had no recollection of time or of place as he came out of the swirling darkness, but a powerful thirst had overcome him. He groaned and half turned on the cot. His eyes opened slowly and fluttered as the light rushed in.  He lifted half up and groaned,"Water..." He managed, and fell back.

 

@Bongo

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Case swung his mount around at the sound of the rifle shot behind him. Was someone trying to bushwhack him? He couldn't figure it, he was a long ways from Kalispel as well as Whitefish, and he'd watched his back trail, well maybe not as well as he should have. Maybe somebody was savvy enough to stay out of sight, but keep on his trail.

 

He cursed himself! It was that woman, that school teacher that had distracted him from being as vigilant as he should have been. It was then he saw Robbins headed straight for him at a gallop. He reigned in as got Case.

 

"Boss!Some feller on a roan horse was trackin' you." He blurted out. "But I got him! Damn sure did."

 

"Where's the body?" Case asked angrily.

 

"Body?" Robbins asked. "Ain't one. Feller folded over his saddle horn and the roan? It done taken off through the trees faster'n I could foller. Lost 'em."

 

"Damn!" Case hissed. "Well, at least you got lead in him, likely bleed out when he falls off the horse. Let's get to the herd and get it movin, for Christs

sake!"  with those word the two thundered off toward the hide out, and the rustled cattle.

large.Robbins.jpg.7c465108686cd334b027664b54bbb1f2.jpg

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The low rays of the setting sun shone in the single window of the room at the back of the stage barn that served as Addy's home,  and the tiny bits of dust and hay that she stirred up as she puttered at the stove, brewing coffee at the moment.  She wasn't really much of a cook, but there were biscuits as well, and some stew that she'd had Weedy bring from the chop house, so that if Pronto was any condition to eat when (if) he woke up, there'd be something for him.  Besides, she needed to stay here and tend her patient.

 

"Water..."

 

The softly spoken request actually startled her a little, not that she hadn't been hoping for it, but part of her hadn't been expecting it, that he'd lost too much blood and he was just going to quietly die on her cot.

 

"Come back from th' dead, did ya?"  Grinning, she scooped up some water in a ceramic mug and carried it over to him.  "Slow, give yer body a chance ta catch up...don't cotton ta cleanin' up th' floor!"

 

@Flip

 

 

 

 

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With great effort Pronto raised up enough to sip the cool liquid, and then eased himself back down. He looked at the teamster and attempted a smile, something of a rarity.

 

"Th-thank you." He said haltingly. "Hit-hit pretty hard. Ga-good horse." His voice was all but a whisper. He knew that he was in bad shape, and vulnerable. One thing he didn't like. He desperately wanted one of his guns, but he knew he hadn't the strength to use it. "Hell of a thing."

 

@Bongo

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"Smart horse," Addy chuckled, "brung ya right here where he'd get food."  She grinned as she refilled the cup and held it to him if he wanted more.  "He's all set in his own stall with hay an' grain," she assured him, knowing how important a body's horse was to them.  "So, ya got th' energy ta talk to th' sheriff, or ya need a bit more time?  An'...ya expectin' trouble ta follow ya?"

 

She had set up precautions, the doors that were normally wide open were barred shut and she had Weedy up in the loft keeping an eye out for trouble.  The sheriff and deputy were aware as well, and she had her Colt and shotgun near at hand, as well as an archaic LeMat.  She was ready for trouble.

 

"Got food, too, if yer up to it."

 

@Flip

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"Trouble...can't say." He said, his voice a bit stronger. "Willin', yeah, yeah I'm willin' and the food, that sounds real good."

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"Awright, then."  Addy helped him to sit up, slipping a folded blanket behind his back.  "Go slow, no need ta split open them stitches an' start bleedin' over everything."

 

She scooped some of the stew into another mug and called out the door, "Hey, Weedy, go on an' fetch th' law...Pronto's awake now.  An' then come on back fer supper!"

 

As she handed the stew to Pronto, she asked, "Ya good with that, or ya gonna need help?  Oh, an' I didn't cook it, so it oughta be safe!"

 

@Flip; @Stormwolfe

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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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