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    • Justus kept a close eye on the man as he approached, reassured by the fact that he was being allowed to approach, and that there was no sign of aggression.  He stopped a few feet away.   "Evenin', sir."  Justus nodded with an easy grin, relieved that it seemed this was a friendly bunch.  Most men on drives were, but Justus had learned young that it was best to assume the worst, then be happily surprised.   "Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.   "Thank ya, sir, I might do just that."  While he didn't want to seem too eager, there was no denying that he was grateful for the offer.   "You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.   "Yes, sir, I'm alone."  Swinging into the saddle, Justus patted Mule on the neck, then fell into pace beside the man.  "I do appreciate this, sir, I'll work for it, sir, help th' cookie with dishes or some'at."  A thankless job, but it wouldn't do him any harm, and he wouldn't feel so much like mooching.   "Oh, m' name's Justus Wheeler, sir.  I'm headed north, nowhere in particular."   @Flip
    • Mature Content:  Might well be violence.   With: Turk Flagg, Caroline, and who knows else Location: Star Dust Saloon When: Sept/ 1876 Time of Day: Early evening     Now Turk had never been to this part of Montana previously but  seemed like a nice enough quiet town. Actually peaceful towns were not exactly good for his sort of occupation but then he had not ridden in with any specific job in mind.  He was between jobs, just last week he'd delivered a prisoner to a small town south of Kalispell, the man had been a wanted rustler. Fellow whined the whole way back right up to jail that he was innocent. Turk then just pointed out he was neither judge nor jury, tell it to someone who cared. Least he had some cash in his pocket. And where better to spend a bit of it then in the town's only saloon apparently. Least only one he could spot.   Entering into the place thru the swinging bat doors, he took in the joint. Decent enough, he'd seen many worse, some better. On this weekday night it was not crowded but there were a few folks at the bar and some others gathered around tables, most tables holding card games. He didn't go for cards though and on those rare occasions when he had, he usually lost money. Nope, keep it simple, get a drink or two or four.   As he sidled up to the bar, the bartender was presently occupied with another customer so he paused to take a second scan of the place. And who should he see but...................   "Caroline?  Caroline Mundee," he made sure he said those words loud enough the woman could hear him as she  a good distance away, holding a tray of drinks.   Caroline not only picked up on her name but recognized the voice and turned to see just to make certain. The look on her face made it plain she knew the speaker alright as she broke out into a wide smile.   "Well, I'll be !  Gimme a minute," she called back then hurried to finish her on duty errand, duly placing the tray in front of four card players, "Here ya are, boys. Enjoy!"    Turk nodded and just leaned with his back against the bar, watching her every move. She sure was as pretty as the last time they'd seen each other. He never took his eyes off her as she then approached and in a few seconds the two embraced in a quick but heartfelt hug.   "Turk! I had heard rumors you were dead," Caroline declared when they broke it up.   "Nope, I can truly assure you that I am not. Yer lookin' fine as always," he grinned.   Caroline looked past him for a moment, "Ralph, break out one of the good bottles and pour us two shots, will ya, hon?"    "Shit! How much that gonna cost me now?"  Turk knew her routine alright, they'd become friends in Helena when she worked a saloon there.   "Nah! On the house! I'm real glad ta see you again," Caroline then leaned into the bar next to him, they had some catching up to do alright.              
    • Four good men was all he needed, and Granger knew just the men for the job. Men that would kill anyone that threatened the ranch in any way, shape, or form. Of course, that went doe any number of of the Evergreen hands, the men he wanted would be the worst, and most dangerous of the hands Elias Steelgrave employed   The first one he ran on to was the stocky built Dutch, the only name they knew him by, but that was enough. He rode up next to the man, "Dutch, Mister Steelgrave has a job for you."   Dutch looked to him, knowing if the old man wanted him for a job it wouldn't be nurse maiding no cows. "Sure Granger, what's he got in mind?"   "Might be some Lost Lake men trailing Carson, they need to be stopped." It was quick and blunt.   "Right up my alley, Granger. Start now?" Dutch asked.   "I'll Get Treach, Watts, and Deckerd. Mister Steelgrave wants you boys to be sure they start it."    "Easy as pie. If you want I'll go for 'em, know right where they are and well just head that way." Dutch offered with a grin that was far from friendly.   "Sure Dutch, go ahead. Anything happens, you hightail it back here." Granger  replied to which Dutch nodded and spurred his horse.           Dutch                                      Treach                             Watts                       Deckerd
    • The conversation with Misses Thornton-Carlton had been informative, though she had not said when these hands from the Lost Lake would be in town for supplies. In New Mexico Territory they generally went once a month, unless they were in need of something or they got word an order had come in, which was rare, the Apaches saw to that. No one was willing to take the chance . But this here might be different. The Lost Lake was not so far from town as the Lazy S was to Lordsburg, nor as dangerous.   So, the hotel looked to be the place he'd stay until these hands rode in, and it would certainly give him a chance to meet some folks, like she said, see who his allies were. And from, what he had learned so far, the trouble ran deep between the Lost Lake and this Evergreen Ranch, and then toss in the son and his pack of animals. Things could get terminal real quick. This was shaping up to be far more than he had bargained for when he left New Mexico. But he was there now, so he could run, or stay, and Tyrell Thornton was not much for running.
    • Speed took the time to let Alice and her father know where he was going, and why, then mounted up and started out for the fort. He'd not been there, he had seen it in passing, and it was a welcome sight with the Indians out. He understood that the Military had no jurisdiction in town, and likely they might not be willing to help, yet, then again, they might. Protecting citizens was their job. And just because the ones Speed was asking them to protect were in town with active lawmen, A large contingent of outlaws  posed a significant threat.   The outlaws, be it Cases' gang or Elias' riders, or both together, it would be more than a handful lawmen could handle, even with the townsfolk defending their town. True, most had served in the War Between the States, but that had been over ten years ago, and true they had fought Indians and outlaws, yet these men were settled down now and past getting into gun trouble. And maybe it wouldn't come. Maybe Neither Steelgrave wanted to tangle with the town and it's people. Yet going to talk with the Army made sense, even if they couldn't really help out right then.
Franklin Fortner

Big Talk at the Star Dust

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Posted (edited)

Mature Content: No

Author: Preston

With: Franklin Fortner - Judge Priest for starters
Location: Start Dust Saloon
When: September 1876
Time of Day: Afternoon

 

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A couple of weeks had passed since the hubbub caused by Horace Potee's disastrous poker game and the subsequent loss of his homestead and the suicide of his wife, Maude. 

Arabella had left her employment but with a promise to come by from time to time to play the piano --- not too much evidence of that, yet.

 

Business at the Star Dust was brisk.  Franklin Fortner's ownership had not quelled the busy traffic of patrons.  Just he opposite, business was brisker than usual.  A card room had been created in one of the back rooms, -- less noisy interference from drunk cowboys. 

 

Then one day, something happened that would set the direction of things for some time to come.

 

In through the swinging doors of the saloon came two gents -- city slickers, some would say.  They were flinty and hard, not powder puffs.  Loudmouth drunks shied away from them, wisely.   One's name was Luther Cadwaller and the other was Mason Fink.  Cadwaller was tall, chiseled, graying and impressive in his fancy big-city clothes.   Fink was compact, with a close cropped beard and the clothes of a dandy from his shiny shoes to his derby hat.  He proudly proclaimed that his ancestor was Mike Fink the famous roustabout and keel boatman from the dirtiest and most sinful and most dangerous town during the early 1800's:  Natchez, Mississippi. 

 

They were businessmen, speculators and investors, to be specific.  They were called to Kalispell by Franklin Fortner and Hiram Priest (soon to be running for Mayor).  The men were acquaintances and had worked together in the past for "mutual advantages" as they liked to say.   Though appearing friendly to one another in Kalispell, their relationship seemed subdued and not palsy-walsy, just all business.

 

They had an opportunity for the people of Kalispell, an investment opportunity, and when the timing was right, they'd preach that evangel.

 

Franklin Fortner met them at the bar.  He greeted them as if they were important personages and, to Fortner's and Priest's thinking, they were.  They were important because they had roles to play in this carefully crafted scheme.  They were as important to this scheme as Judas was in the promise of mankind's salvation.  He, some would say, that of all the Disciples, he was the most necessary and the most loyal.

 

"What can I get you gentlemen?" Fortner asked the men, but immediately turned to Ralph.  "A bottle of our best whiskey." 

 

Fink reached into his inside coat pocket and drew out some greenbacks.  Two landed on the bar.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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The original idea was for Arabella to come in every evening and play piano for Caroline, with Frances Grimes on the bench for any times she couldn't make it. In practice, it turned out the other way round. Arabella avoided the bar now: both through fear of Fortner and Priest and because of her increasing thespian activities, Mrs Wentworth finally getting her dramatic group off the ground with the help of the dashing Mr Lewis Cass Reeve offering to play any male juvenile leads that were required. 

 

In fact, Miss Mudd, once such an integral part of the Saloon staff, was now more likely to be seen propping up the bar with Mr Jolly and 'the boy' Raymond after a hard day's undertaking with their black garb and their inevitable order of "A double whiskey and two Sarsaparillas" than playing the piano.

 

Frances Grimes was no Arabella, but she had her own impact. For a start, she was the better pianist, who actually listened to Caroline's voice and found suitable keys for her to sing in, neither straining too high or forcing her to sing too low, with the consequent loss of volume. There were no more arguments or temper tantrums and 'tears before bedtime'. And, despite her blindness and her quiet dignity, the presence of Miss Grimes didn't put any kind of a dampener on the fun and high spirit of the place. 

 

Tonight as she walked in, her stick click clacking as she felt out for obstacles inside the swing doors, she heard voices both familiar, Mr Fortner, her actual employer, and two strangers. The fact that they dropped a decibel or two as she came in (everybody assumed that, being blind, she had supersonic hearing) told her that they were probably up to no good. Unfortunately, that was a sad fact about working at the saloon. She couldn't help not seeing any evil; she tried, as ever, to do no evil; but it was very hard to hear no evil in a place like The Stardust. 

 

If neither Fortner, Mr Flandry nor Caroline hailed her, she would make her way to the stairs and call on the singer in her room to see what songs she was planning to sing tonight.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer @Anyone?

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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The Star Dust was unusually quiet that night.  It was so much as it was vacant as the patrons were more quiet than usual.  Maybe it was the weather?  Summer storm clouds were gathering.

 

"All right.  Why are we here?" Began Franklin, rhetorically. "We are going to offer a great opportunity to townsfolk who wouldn't know opportunity if it knocked them on the head.  That's where you guys come in."   Cadwaller and Fink nodded.  They knew the score.   "So what do we have?  We have 200 shares of stock authorized to be sold in the Montana Mining and Mineral Company.  Of course I've got 2,000 shares.  Hiram over there has 2,000, and each of you has 1,000.  It's imperative that these people feel they're getting in on something big.  Of course, we know it's big.  And, do you know what?  They'll all make money on it.  Of course not as much as we will.  But they won't know that."

 

"We have the blank stock certificates back at the hotel," Cadwaller said.  "They look very official." 

 

Fortner was please.  "What I'll do tomorrow is wait until the saloon's packed, then I will introduce you guys and tell them to listen to you because it could be the start of something big.   After all, you guys could sell an Eskimo and snowball in a blizzard.  I'm counting on you to..."

 

They stopped when that girl, Grimes came in, hesitantly.

 

"Who the hell is THAT?" Mason Fink asked.  "I thought Buffalo Bill's freak show's already left town." 

 

They all laughed.

 

Tonight as she walked in, her stick click clacking as she felt out for obstacles inside the swing doors, she heard voices both familiar, Mr Fortner, her actual employer, and two strangers. The fact that they dropped a decibel or two as she came in (everybody assumed that, being blind, she had supersonic hearing) told her that they were probably up to no good. Unfortunately, that was a sad fact about working at the saloon. She couldn't help not seeing any evil; she tried, as ever, to do no evil; but it was very hard to hear no evil in a place like The Stardust. 

 

"She works here, --- sort of," Fortner said.  "Just a minute."

 

"Hey Frances?  You want me to get Caroline for ya?" he called.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Fortner would not need to summon Caroline, the entertainer was there, already on her work shift, sitting at a table with a old gent. He had been telling her all about his adventures in the Mexican War. Caroline didn't know if she believed it all but no matter he was in a good mood and had bought the saloon gal a few drinks already.

 

Caroline noticed her new piano player, the blind Frances, had just come into the saloon. The new men with Fortner also noticed and not in a good way.

 

"Who the hell is THAT?" Mason Fink asked.  "I thought Buffalo Bill's freak show's already left town." 

 

They all laughed.

 

Well not all, Caroline didn't laugh, in fact she glared in the speaker's direction. Patting the veteran on his hand, Caroline  thanked him for the drinks and the fascinating stories. Then stood up. 

 

"She works here, --- sort of," Fortner said.  "Just a minute."

 

"Hey Frances?  You want me to get Caroline for ya?" he called.

 

"No need, boss, I'm right here. Be right with you, Frances, just gimme a minute," Caroline announced. 

 

Then Caroline approached the man who had made the  'freak show ' remark  until she stopped just short of him.

 

"Now I don't know who you are, mister, but you certainly aren't a gentleman, making fun of a blind person. She's an employee here, she works with me. And if you ever make another crack like that, I will have to forget I'm a lady and you won't like what happens," Caroline spoke calmly and clearly and if the man made eye contact, she did not blink.

 

 

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"No need, boss, I'm right here. Be right with you, Frances, just gimme a minute," Caroline announced. 

 

Then Caroline approached the man who had made the  'freak show ' remark  until she stopped just short of him.

 

"Now I don't know who you are, mister, but you certainly aren't a gentleman, making fun of a blind person. She's an employee here, she works with me. And if you ever make another crack like that, I will have to forget I'm a lady and you won't like what happens," Caroline spoke calmly and clearly and if the man made eye contact, she did not blink.

 

"Well now," Mason Fink said softly.  "That sorta puts me in my place.  Don't it?"

 

Fortner stepped forward.  "Leave my crew alone, Mason, or they'll go on strike and leave me high and dry."

 

"Ah sure, Frank," Mason said defensively.  "I was just joshin'.  That's all."  He turned to Caroline.  "Sorry miss, I didn't mean no harm."

 

By now, Hiram Priest sidled over to the group.

 

"You boys look like you're sellin' something," the old codger drawled.  "The last time I saw fellers like you it was at an emporium in Chicago, and they were selling silk ascots."

 

"Well," Cadwaller began. "You pegged us right, Mister.  But we aren't selling ascots, silk or otherwise.  We're selling an investment -- a sure thing."

 

Hiram nodded.  "Well if you can sell Miss Caroline your sure thing, you can sell it anybody in town.  Cause she's no fool."

 

Cadwaller turned to Caroline and removed his hat.  "That right, Miss?"

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"No need, boss, I'm right here. Be right with you, Frances, just gimme a minute," Caroline announced. 

 

Frances smiled and nodded in the direction Caroline's kind voice came from. She took off her bonnet and shawl, there was a coat hook near the door that the customers never used where she could hang them, and leaned her stick to the wall there, where it wouldn't be disturbed. Then she felt for her piano stool and made sure it was close enough to the keyboard before taking her seat there, quietly running her fingers over the keys. 

 

She couldn't help but hear the conversation about her, Caroline bravely confronting the man who had insulted her, the patronising apology, then the sibilant snake like voice of Mr Priest joining the conversation. She said nothing, but joined the conversation in her own way, softly playing a sad little Chopin etude to stretch her fingers. Not exactly Saloon fayre, by now Arabella would have been plink-plonking out The Yellow Rose of Texas, but it was quiet and innocuous, and took her mind off the disturbing conversation at the bar.

 

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Well now," Mason Fink said softly.  "That sorta puts me in my place.  Don't it?"

 

Caroline just glared, she did not like this man. Not at all.

 

Fortner stepped forward.  "Leave my crew alone, Mason, or they'll go on strike and leave me high and dry."

 

Caroline glanced at her boss, if he'd have been a good boss, he'd have snapped at the man right off when the insult was made but Fortner had laughed too.  Caroline silently noted that.

 

"Ah sure, Frank," Mason said defensively.  "I was just joshin'.  That's all."  He turned to Caroline.  "Sorry miss, I didn't mean no harm."

 

"Should be apologizing to the girl," Caroline muttered but why bother, she didn't think his apology even sounded sincere.

 

By now, Hiram Priest sidled over to the group.

 

"You boys look like you're sellin' something," the old codger drawled.  "The last time I saw fellers like you it was at an emporium in Chicago, and they were selling silk ascots." 

 

Caroline decided to let them jabber away, she needed to discuss the night's song selection with Frances. She turned to leave.

 

"Well," Cadwaller began. "You pegged us right, Mister.  But we aren't selling ascots, silk or otherwise.  We're selling an investment -- a sure thing."

 

Hiram nodded.  "Well if you can sell Miss Caroline your sure thing, you can sell it anybody in town.  Cause she's no fool."

 

Cadwaller turned to Caroline and removed his hat,

"That right, Miss?"

 

"That's right. And a wise man I once knew told me that anyone who sez they got themselves a  ..... sure thing ...well, there is no such thing. So leave me outta this. I got a job to do, I'm workin. I gotta do my act so excuse me."

 

She then headed over to Frances.

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Caroline's exited put a hoarfrost on the general good feeling emanating from the four men she left behind.

 

"Brrrr!" muttered Mason Fink.

 

Fortner shook his head.  "She's alright,...just a little on edge lately."

 

Priest hooked his thumbs in his suspenders and got down to business.   "They way I see it is we get a banner made "Montana Mining and Mineral Company"   And beneath that, in smaller letters, there's "Stock Sale".  You two gentlemen can set up shop right here.  We'll push a couple of tables together over there in the corner.  You'll be speechifying about the opportunities that abound."  He drew closer and lowered his voice.  "We'll have a couple of plants seated at a table who'll hop up and ask you for more details -- all interested like.  When you're done talkin' to them, they put their money down and you'll congratulate them as you sign the stock certificates in their names."

 

"Sounds simple enough," Luther Cadwaller admitted.

 

"You bet.  Like takin' candy from babies," Priest assured them.  And just think about how happy our prospective shareholders will be after we find the Kalispell Lode, and they start getting dividends."

 

Fortner smiled with great self-satisfaction.  Things were falling into place better than he'd ever imagined, and that's saying something because he had a canine hunger for riches and fame.  He moved closer to the bar and motioned for Ralph to step closer.  "I gotta question for you," he said to the careful barkeep.
 

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Frances heard the distinctive tap of Caroline's heels as she approached and lowered the volume of her playing so she could speak with her in the hubbub of the saloon. 

 

"It was nice of you to stick up for me." she smiled up at where she imagined the singer was standing. "I'm used to it, though. What is it they say? 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.'" She smiled gently again, displaying those funny cleated teeth as her eyes rolled in her head behind those green tinted glasses. 

 

"I can't imagine anybody's ever rude about you, Caroline. The customers here seem to admire you universally: but if anybody ever did say anything, I hope I would be brave enough to tell them off like you just did to those newcomers." she said "Of course, I'd probably berate totally the wrong person! But it would be the thought that counted." Frances had a gentle sense of humour and was in no way above laughing at herself a little, sometimes.

 

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The next day, as planned, the two tables were pushed together and covered over with a white linen cloth.  Taped to the front of it was a banner that read, "Montana Mining and Mineral Company"  and below it, "Stock Offering".  The organizers pounded on every door in the town before they found a retired school teacher who used fancy, Olde English printing to give the advertisement as much gravitas as could expected such a rural spot Kalispell. 

 

Mason Fink and Luther Cadwaller were impressive in their fancy, back East suits;  watch fobs, cuff links, vests and shiny  shoes.  Luther had a large onyx ring, but not overdone.  Both men stood patiently behind the table, and their host, Franklin Fortner was standing by.  They were waiting for 1pm when they would begin their spiel. 

 

The crowd was so-so in size, but in the afternoon hours usually would up the patronage.  At least that was what they were hoping for.

 

Judge Priest or "Mayor", we answered to both, sat as his assigned table, slowly turning over cards in his perpetual game of Solitaire.  He looked over the top of his glasses at the crowd.  He would be called upon to support the effort to sell shares;   He had a way with words and the ability to inspire motion. 

 

Franklin looked for Caroline.  She had managed to avoid him so far that day.  It was a pattern that was troubling Fortner. 

 

 

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"It was nice of you to stick up for me." the blind girl smiled up at where she imagined the singer was standing. "I'm used to it, though. What is it they say? 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.'"

 

"I will always stick up for you, hon, you are part of our saloon family. No one is gonna give you a hard time or they can deal with me. And if I can't handle it, Ralph will," Caroline was confident she always had the backup of the veteran bartender. Not true about her boss though, he didn't get it or just didn't care.

 

"I can't imagine anybody's ever rude about you, Caroline. The customers here seem to admire you universally: but if anybody ever did say anything, I hope I would be brave enough to tell them off like you just did to those newcomers." she said "Of course, I'd probably berate totally the wrong person! But it would be the thought that counted."

 

"Oh I'm popular enough with much of the menfolk. But not everyone likes me, it goes with the territory. A lot of the proper citizenry, the church goin' types look down on my sort. Oh well," Caroline shrugged.

 

"But please, kiddo, if someone insults me, just don't jump in, don't say a word. I can handle myself just fine. I'd feel terrible if you got hurt..........as a matter of fact, hon, it ever shootin' should break out in here, just as fast as you can, drop straight to the floor and stay there til the noise is over," she dispensed some hopefully never necessary advice.

 

"Now that we got settled, let's figure out what numbers I should do tonight." 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next day....

 

Fortner and his latest cronies had set up a table and were now preparing to sell stock offerings from this new company of theirs. The so called  'too good to be true' offer which Caroline did not believe when Frank' lackey tried to push it on her...right after he had dared to make fun of Frances. His timing couldn't have been worse.

 

Caroline had been in the kitchen, having just finished a bowl of stew which should hold her then for the rest of her work shift into the night. She now entered the main saloon and it didn't take more than a scant minute or two before she was chatting and laughing with some of the customers. It was her job and she was good at it too.

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"Oh I'm popular enough with much of the menfolk. But not everyone likes me, it goes with the territory. A lot of the proper citizenry, the church goin' types look down on my sort. Oh well," Caroline shrugged.

 

"I don't understand it." Frances looked genuinely confounded, not just using a turn of phrase. "Well, I'm a church going type and so is Arabella and we both love you" she added. 

 

"But please, kiddo, if someone insults me, just don't jump in, don't say a word. I can handle myself just fine. I'd feel terrible if you got hurt..........as a matter of fact, hon, it ever shootin' should break out in here, just as fast as you can, drop straight to the floor and stay there til the noise is over," she dispensed some hopefully never necessary advice.

 

"I promise, honest." the blind girl said "Cross my heart and hope to die, but not by getting shot."

 

"Now that we got settled, let's figure out what numbers I should do tonight." 

 

The other girl nodded. 

 

"How about trying that 'Gay as a Lark' number we rehearsed? You sing it so beautifully..." 

 

2352

 

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Fortner and his latest cronies had set up a table and were now preparing to sell stock offerings from this new company of theirs. The so called  'too good to be true' offer which Caroline did not believe when Frank' lackey tried to push it on her...right after he had dared to make fun of Frances. His timing couldn't have been worse.

 

The first man to approach the table where Fink and Cadwaller had ensconced themselves was a tall and somewhat intimidating looking bearded figure with a slightly wild look in his eyes and a whiff of last night's booze about him. He paid no mind to the attractive blonde, he only had eyes for the pieces of paper and their 'get rich quick' promise that the two blow-ins were peddling. 

 

"Fifty dollars! How many shares d'I get for fifty dollars?!!" he demanded, waving a fistful of greenback in the two shysters' faces. 

 

It was Abraham Matthews, the town's erstwhile barber, who had gone off the rails since his wife had got sick and recently died. Where he got the money from, who knew? He hardly opened the shop now, and even when he did, few men trusted those shaking hands holding a cut throat razor near their throats: his son and daughter basically worked to support the father and themselves. 

 

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Frank, at last, saw Caroline visiting with their new piano player, now that Arabella had lit out to the Undertakers.  This never made sense to him.  Why in Hell would she prefer combing dead people's hair and arranging their hands in manners of prayer rather than mingling with living folk, drunk or not?  There would always be a place for her at the Star Dust if she ever decided to return.

 

As for Caroline, she was great at her job.  He'd have to look far and wide to find a replacement if she were ever to skip out.  Unfortunately, she hated him to his core, and he'd come to the conclusion that the gap between them would never be breached.

 

He returned his attention to the activity of the day when Hiram Priest moved beside him and spoke.  "See that feller sitting at the table in the corner by the window, the cowboy with the buckskin vest?"

 

"Yeah.  Sure."  Frank saw the new face come through the doors about an hour earlier.  He'd ordered a whiskey and had been nursing it ever since. "What about him?"

 

Before speaking, Priest spat out a wad of tobacco juice into a conveniently placed spittoon.  "That feller's the plant.  He came from Helena to do his part.  He's a friend of Cadwaller."

 

Franklin nodded.  "Well it's about time, so I guess you're about to say your piece."

 

With that, Hiram Priest stepped beside the two salesmen and began.

 

"Fellow Citizens of Kalispell!  May I please have a moment of your time because I want to share with you a golden opportunity that is being offered to all of us.  Now over here," he pointed to the two men behind the table, "we have Mister Luther Cadwaller and Mister Mason Fink.  They are agents for the Montana Mining and Mineral Company, and they have an offer that they want to propose to you good people.  It's a chance for you all to prosper, for all of us to prosper.  How do you do that?  You put some of your hard earned pay into an investment and not just piss it away like happens so often.  You invest it in M M & M."

 

The place had grown quiet.

 

Luther Cadwaller stepped beside Hiram who then moved away.

 

"Our company is looking for investors to aid in searching for wealth that will benefit all the shareholders.  Our mining engineers have spent months examining the Montana territory for ore producing veins, and we believe we have some good prospects.  But all this means the need for additional equipment and money to payroll some miners.  Now the investment isn't much.  All we.."

 

Before he could finish, there was movement.

 

The first man to approach the table where Fink and Cadwaller had ensconced themselves was a tall and somewhat intimidating looking bearded figure with a slightly wild look in his eyes and a whiff of last night's booze about him. He paid no mind to the attractive blonde, he only had eyes for the pieces of paper and their 'get rich quick' promise that the two blow-ins were peddling. 

 

"Fifty dollars! How many shares d'I get for fifty dollars?!!" he demanded, waving a fistful of greenback in the two shysters' faces. 

 

It was Abraham Matthews, the town's erstwhile barber, who had gone off the rails since his wife had got sick and recently died. Where he got the money from, who knew? He hardly opened the shop now, and even when he did, few men trusted those shaking hands holding a cut throat razor near their throats: his son and daughter basically worked to support the father and themselves. 

 

Mason Fink answered the call.

 

"Well sir, we are offering shares at two-dollars and fifty cents per."  If anything, Fink could calculate money.  "That means you would get 20 shares of Stock.  You would get a beautiful Certificate printed in gold-lettering with your name on it and the number of shares.  And I guarantee you that your original $50 will grow like a .."   he struggle to find an analogy the man might understand .."like a cow on alfalfa."

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"Well sir, we are offering shares at two-dollars and fifty cents per."  If anything, Fink could calculate money.  "That means you would get 20 shares of Stock.  You would get a beautiful Certificate printed in gold-lettering with your name on it and the number of shares.  And I guarantee you that your original $50 will grow like a .." he struggle to find an analogy the man might understand .."like a cow on alfalfa."

 

The wreck of a barber handed over the cash like it was poison and snatched at the nicely produced share certificates, looking longingly at them like a man in love. It was as if he expected them to start dripping gold coins as he held them in his hand. He walked out of the place as if in a dream, a look of rapture on his ill kempt features. Well, that was one satisfied customer. Well, satisfied for now.

 

When Matthews' daughter found out what her father had done, of course, there would be hell to pay, but that was another story for another day.

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"So two church goin' folks love me, huh? Maybe there's hope for my salvation yet," Caroline smiled but thinking of her part in that Potee affair....no, probably not. Besides, she was not truly convinced that Ara did really love her? That girl was complicated. Frances though was a sweet young thing and Caroline was determined that the girl was going to be safe while working in the saloon, if nothing else. And maybe even happy too? Something Arabella had no longer been it seemed.

 

The talk now focused on Caroline warning the girl not to do interfere if ever there was some sort of incident even if it was involving the saloon girl herself. She could take care of herself and besides, there was Ralph.

 

"I promise, honest." the blind girl said "Cross my heart and hope to die, but not by getting shot."

 

Caroline chuckled at that, the girl had a sense of dry humor. Good!

 

"Now that we got settled, let's figure out what numbers I should do tonight." 

 

The other girl nodded. 

 

"How about trying that 'Gay as a Lark' number we rehearsed? You sing it so beautifully..." 

 

"Compliments will get you everywhere," Caroline grinned, "So yeah, let's throw that in.  And then the usuals of course."

 

Meanwhile Fortner's lackeys had apparently made their first sales as the local barber handed over precious cash and got a couple of slips of paper in return. Seemed like a hoodwink scheme if you asked her but no one did. She just worked here she told herself.

 

 

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The wreck of a barber handed over the cash like it was poison and snatched at the nicely produced share certificates, looking longingly at them like a man in love. It was as if he expected them to start dripping gold coins as he held them in his hand. He walked out of the place as if in a dream, a look of rapture on his ill kempt features. Well, that was one satisfied customer. Well, satisfied for now.

 

Cadwaller and Fink stared at each other, mouths slack, then laughed.

 

"Hell! " Luther said.  "That was easy."   Then he raised his voice and spoke to the room in general.  "Now there's a man who knows a sound investment when he sees one.  Now are there any other men on-the-make who want to become shareholders in M M and M?

 

The plant stood up.   "Don't mind if I do," he announced as he walked toward the business table.  "I like doin' business with a big western outfit like yours.  I've been led up the garden path a couple of times by East Coast slickers, and they never pay off.  Tell me, do you fellas think there might be a new gold strike in this territory?"

 

The room fell  silent.

 

"Well sir," Fink began.  "Our engineers have some promising leads - very promising.  What we need is to do some exploration with the help of some backers .. er .. like you."

 

The plant reached into his pocket and produced $250 and slapped it down on the table.  "I'm purchasing 100 shares."

 

Cadwaller sat at the table and, with a quill pen and a year's calligraphy lessons, produced a beautiful Stock Certificate.  "Suitable for framing," Mason chimed in.

 

By now there was a new energy in the room.

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Posted (edited)

By late afternoon the Company had raised a surprising amount of money, at least for a town like Kalispell.  As they removed the table and banner, Luther Cadwaller counted out $620 in cash and coin, and Mason Fink reviewed the stock ledger showing 248 shares. 

 

Hiram stood by, his face creased with a thin-lipped smile, and Frank Fortner sat with his highly varnished shoes up on the table top.

 

It had been a successful day.

 

At the end of the week, mining engineers were examining the gold vein on the banks of the stream that flowed through the former Potee Homestead.  They even were using the Potee cabin as a land office and the barn as an equipment shed.

 

It was all legal -- now.  An many citizens of Kalispell had a piece of the action.  Of course, 248 shares was nice, but others: Priest, Fortner, Cadwaller and Fink had the balance of 1,752 shares outstanding, spread between them.

 

"This calls for a celebration!" Fortner announced, and he, along with the three other members of the Montana Mining and Mineral Company, raised their glasses of whiskey and drank a toast.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

At the same time the conspirators were bathing in congratulations, Horace Potee sat alone in the corner of the livery stable, a living arrangement he'd worked out with the stable owner.  In his poke was an old service revolver from the Civil War.  It was heavy, cold and dangerous.  Someday, those thieves who robbed him would pay for their transgressions.  Someday.

Edited by Preston
typo (see edit history)
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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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