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Fancy Meeting You Here


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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

 

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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.

 

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The swing doors swung: and three sinister figures in black walked in. Well, sinister was maybe too sinister a word for them. Innocuous was maybe a better word. 

 

So it was that the swing doors swung: and three innocuous, but definitely exhausted looking figures in black walked in. Each of them said their part of a conversation as they appeared. Young Ray Matthews was first in with a heartfelt "My GOD what a mess!" Then the elderly Scottish undertaker Mr Jolly, "Och aye, Lad, never seen the like in all my years in the business!" Then the diminutive Arabella Mudd "Oh well, I reckon we got most of the right pieces into the right coffins." she said, trying to remain positive. 

 

The two males slumped against the bar and the young lady slammed the money down with a rapping noise so loud the Fox sisters might have produced it. She knew that Ralph never served booze until he saw the money, even for the wonderful little girl who was just like the daughter he'd never had. 

 

"Two sarsaparillas and a whiskey..." she looked at Ray's pale face "... no, make that one sarsaparilla and two whiskeys!" The boy Raymond usually had a horror of strong drink but ... well, if he didn't need one now, he never would. 

 

"I ken ye'd better make them doubles!" said Mr Jolly, shaking his head at the memory of what they'd had to deal with today.

 

Arabella nodded "An' two straws in my sarsaparilla, please, Mr Flandry." She needed a stiff drink, too.

 

While they were waiting for their beverages, Arabella noticed Caroline talking to a strange man, nothing strange about that: but Arabella knew Caroline intimately: she knew when she had her customer-facing face on and when she was just being herself, and she was so being her real self right now. Caroline must know this feller from someplace.

 

Arabella subtly caught Caroline's eye, by waving furiously at her, and mouthed "Who's he?!" Also, the words "Who's He?!" came out very loudly at the same time. 

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

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The two males slumped against the bar and the young lady slammed the money down with a loud rapping noise.  Ralph waited, he knew it wouldn't be long at all before the young miss would say something, she had never been at a loss for words.

 

"Two sarsaparillas and a whiskey..." the speaker was most familiar of course, she had used to work in the saloon"... no, make that one sarsaparilla and two whiskeys!"

 

"I ken ye'd better make them doubles!" said Mr Jolly.

 

Arabella added, "An' two straws in my sarsaparilla, please, Mr Flandry."

 

"Alright comin' right up........Miss Mudd," Ralph decided he could be formal too and got to work to start pouring the requested libations. 

 

Arabella subtly caught Caroline's eye, by waving furiously at her, and mouthed "Who's he?!" Also, the words "Who's He?!" came out very loudly at the same time. 

 

Caroline had noticed the girl right off when they entered, there wasn't much she ever missed even while on duty or in this case chatting away. She lifted one hand and waved back. Then she returned her focus to continuing the conversation with her old friend.

 

Turk had turned to glance over in the direction where Caroline had waved.

 

"So who's the girl?"

 

"Oh, she used to work here, used to play piano for me. She left to work at the funeral parlor," Caroline explained.

 

"Yer kiddin'?" he raised one eyebrow.

 

"Nope,  soooo, you were about to tell me why yer here then?" Caroline responded with a question of her own too.

 

"Not bounty huntin'...well, unless there is an interestin' poster at yer local law office," Turk answered.

 

"Hell, we're lucky we even have any lawmen in our local law office, hon," she chuckled.

 

@Javia

 

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"Alright comin' right up........Miss Mudd," Ralph decided he could be formal too and got to work to start pouring the requested libations. 

 

"He he, 'Miss Mudd'. You never called me that before!" she laughed. She had always called the tall, commanding barman 'Mr Flandry' except on a couple of occasions when emotion had gotten the better of her: like the time he had gone out amid a hail of bullets to stand up to the bank robbers who had taken Weedy and Wyatt hostage.

 

"Guess I'm a payin' customer now, you got to be all nice andpolite to me!" she smiled, raising her nose in a slightly snooty way. 

 

"Och aye, ye lost a good'n there, Mister Flandry, right enough. She's a good hard worker, this one!"  chipped in old Mr Jolly, and Arabella held her hands together in a prayerful attitude and did her best impression of an Angel. 

 

She waved at Caroline and asked who she was talking to. Her old friend just waved back in a desultory way and then ignored her. Arabella's face fell a little and she caught Ralph's eye again.

 

"Have I done something to offend her? I get warmer 'hellos' from the dearly departed at the funeral parlour." she grumped.

 

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"Guess I'm a payin' customer now, you got to be all nice and polite to me!"

 

Ralph poured the two shot glasses full to the brim, wondering how much that youngster there was going to enjoy this.

 

"I was always nice ta you, child," Ralph pointed out in that droll way of his.

 

"Och aye, ye lost a good'n there, Mister Flandry, right enough. She's a good hard worker, this one!"  chipped in old Mr Jolly, and Arabella held her hands together in a prayerful attitude and did her best impression of an Angel. 

 

"She was a hard worker here too and she always let us know about it," Ralph might have just smiled (a bit) hidden in all that beard. 

 

Arabellas wave and loud question was answered by a wave from Caroline who was busy with connecting with her long lost acquaintance. Ralph did not know the man from Adam but it weren't none of his business.

 

"Have I done something to offend her? I get warmer 'hellos' from the dearly departed at the funeral parlour," Arabella grumped.

 

"Seems to me it was you who chose to work with dead over working with her, kid," Ralph now set a large glass of sarsparilla with straw in front of Ara.

 

"She's not mad at you..least she's never said a bad word about you ta me but you hurt her when you left. You know how it is about women, all those emotions n' all," Ralph was blunt enough when he did speak, which admittedly wasn't a lot.

 

"Alright folks, there's yer drinks. Now............pay up, Ara, you know the prices, they ain't changed since ya left," he quickly reverted to his usual businesslike self.

 

 

 

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"Seems to me it was you who chose to work with dead over working with her, kid," Ralph now set a large glass of sarsaparilla with straw in front of Ara.

 

Ara was about to make a joke but didn't, instead, she nodded. "I'd a stayed here, but, well, you know. Things changed di'n they?" She vaguely wondered what Mrs Devereau was up to: it was when Matilda sold this place to Fortner and high tailed it off to Frisco that the trouble had begun. 

 

"Gee, it makes me sad if she don't like me any more." the girl pouted.

 

"She's not mad at you..least she's never said a bad word about you ta me but you hurt her when you left. You know how it is about women, all those emotions n' all," Ralph was blunt enough when he did speak, which admittedly wasn't a lot.

 

"But... but Frances plays the piana for her real pretty, much nicer than I ever could and... and besides, I always used to get on her nerves with my blatherin'. And... oh well, least you don't mind that I left. That's some comfort." she she managed to raise a bit of a smile. "You ain't all emotional like us wimmin!" she agreed. 

 

Ralph never seemed to mind about anything: except barkeeping. 

 

"Alright folks, there's yer drinks. Now............pay up, Ara, you know the prices, they ain't changed since ya left," he quickly reverted to his usual businesslike self.

 

"Let's see..." she said, looking at the little pile of money piled up on the bar. She made a little grunting noise every-time she pushed forward the requisite amount for each drink toward Ralph like a croupier, and at the end of this little performance she had paid over, by the amount of another whiskey: one from the good bottle. 

 

"And one fer yourself, barkeeper. And make sure you give yourself the good doin's, not that stuff from Caroline's bottle." she grinned up at him, perhaps a little needily, like Caroline's ignoring her had sparked the need for some reassurance that she was liked in her sensitive little heart.

 

@Wayfarer

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"I'd a stayed here, but, well, you know. Things changed di'n they?" Ara defended her choice.

 

Ralph nodded, "It's understandable. We get it."  They needn't say anymore in front of these other two. And Ralph was confident he spoke for Caroline too.

 

"Gee, it makes me sad if she don't like me any more." the girl pouted.

 

Ralph disagreed, telling her she was wrong on that point then gave his view on the matter.

 

"But... but Frances plays the piana for her real pretty, much nicer than I ever could and... and besides, I always used to get on her nerves with my blatherin'. And... oh well, least you don't mind that I left. That's some comfort." she she managed to raise a bit of a smile. "You ain't all emotional like us wimmin!" she agreed.

 

"I said I understood, not that I didn't mind. But you have every right to live your own life, as you see fit," Ralph corrected her on that point.

 

The girl now very carefully (and slowly) proceeded to pay for the order of drinks adding that she would buy him a drink too.

 

"Thanks, maybe later. I'll keep it in mind," Ralph scooped up the coinage glancing over toward his co-worker.

 

"She and that jasper sure are carryin' on. Drink up and I'm sure if you approach her like a lady instead of yelling at her, she'll be more welcoming," Ralph suddenly gave the girl some unasked for advice.

 

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"Thanks, maybe later. I'll keep it in mind," Ralph scooped up the coinage glancing over toward his co-worker.

 

Arabella suspected that Ralph never drank the drinks people bought him and had a vast stash of cash somewhere. The man, who had become something of a father figure to her, whether he knew it or not, now gave her some sage advice.

 

"She and that jasper sure are carryin' on. Drink up and I'm sure if you approach her like a lady instead of yelling at her, she'll be more welcoming," Ralph suddenly gave the girl some unasked for advice.

 

"Hey, I don't yell!" she yelled with a frown, then grinned at him. "You're right, as per usual. I'll just got over there and and have a sensible conversation with her about the whole situation like two grown up people." she nodded. But then came that moment that her ex-saloon colleagues had come to recognise: a sort of misty, trancelike , cross-eyed look that always came over her face when she had an idea.

 

"OR.. I know!... I'll sing her a song!!"

 

Before anyone could rope and tie her, she was at the piano, rendering a sentimental ballad about Friendship in her clear soprano voice. 

 

🎵Friendship true is a golden token
Friendship true is a chain unbroken,
Shaped to last a lifetime long,
Peace and mercy its gold refining,
Love and honor the links combining,
Links forever firm and strong,
Links that bind foreeeeeeeee-ver, ever firm and strong!🎵

 

This might not have been so bad, but then she carried on playing the tune while extemporising a bizarre mid-song recitation:

 

"Don't look at me that-a-way mister!

I know what they say about me.

They say I had a pal,

The best kind of gal,

But that I treated her so dreadfull-y.

 

Say, maybe she'll forgive me, Mister,

Her heart is so good and so true.

Though she was a Queen,

I was selfish and mean.

But now I am just feeling blue."

 

The poor random customer to whom she addressed this execrable doggerel to just looked embarrassed and perplexed. But luckily, she started to sing again, the last two lines again:

 

🎵Links forever firm and strong,
Links that bind foreeeeeeeee-ver, ever firm and strong!🎵

 

Then she span on her piano stool and smiled hopefully at Caroline, while Mr Jolly, who liked Arabella in more ways than one, applauded wildly and Raymond clapped along in a desultory way, out of brand loyalty. 

 

Someone at the back of the saloon shouted "Make friends with her fer heck's sake, 'fore she sings another one!"

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

 

 

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Now most certainly Ralph did NOT mean the girl should charge over to the piano and commence with a song but Ralph knew it was completely futile to call out to stop her. When Arabella made up her mind, that was that.

 

Caroline had just been chuckling at an amusing story that Turk had told her. How much was true....well, that didn't matter, it was funny. Reminded her, if nothing else, of their old times when they saw each other regular. Turk always wondered if he had gone ahead and asked to marry her just what she would have answered but he never ventured the attempt. She had though made it clear marriage was not for her, the saloon life was all she cared to live. Turk had been content with that anyhow, his was not the kind of life to be tied down with a gal or god forbid, brat kids.

 

"Used to play for ya?" he now seem amused to see (and hear) the girl plunking away on the keys and singing her heart out.

 

"Well, yeah. But...." Caroline did not finish the thought but listened to the lyrics especially once they were obviously made up on the spot.

 

Someone at the back of the saloon shouted "Make friends with her fer heck's sake, 'fore she sings another one!" 

 

Caroline glared at the heckler, "Shuttup n' leave the girl alone! She's my friend."

 

@Javia

 

 

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Someone at the back of the saloon shouted "Make friends with her fer heck's sake, 'fore she sings another one!" 

 

Caroline glared at the heckler, "Shuttup n' leave the girl alone! She's my friend."

 

As Arabella had been imposing the ballad on the lugs of the denizens of the saloon, this sentence was music to her ears. She immediately jumped up and fled to Caroline's side, throwing her arms around her. "Oh, I'm so glad you're my friend, Cara', for a minute there I thought you hated me: the way you didn't pay me much mind when I come in and how you just kept on just jawin' to this feller. I mean, no offense Mister, but it ain't like you're handsome or rich lookin' or anything!" she smiled happily at Cabot as she inadvertently, but pretty effectively, insulted him. 

 

She leaned in close to the man and cupped her hand to hide her loud whisper.

 

"To be honest, you're on a hiding to nuthin' with this one, if you're lookin' for female company fer a little bit of spoonin', try Mrs Adams over there. I mean, Sal might be a little up in years, and kinda deaf 'n' shortsighted, but she's ever so experienced and, oh boy, you won't find anyone cheaper in the whole Territories!" Arabella added helpfully. 

 

@Wayfarer

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