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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.

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

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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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.

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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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

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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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

 

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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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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Well, that was one way to stop her singing and piano playing, as Arabella 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!" 

 

"I could never hate you, hon," Caroline assured her but then frowned at the girl's comments about Turk.

 

Fortunately Turk only chuckled as the girl looked up at him, all innocent like. Then glanced at Caroline with a look of  'what in tarnation?'.

 

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!" 

 

Turk now actually laughed, "Well, it's plain enough to see yer pretty enough to be female company but with that mouth, that's no way to drum up customers."

 

Caroline shook her head, "No Arabella isn't a whore. Actually she don't even work here no more. She's the one I said up and left."

 

"Now, Arabella Mudd, meet an old friend a mine, Turk Flagg, from Helena. And bein' a good friend a mine, I expect you to treat him nicely and no more insults," Caroline now made the introduction. 

 

"Hullo there, Arabella Mudd," Turk looked down on the girl with a grin.

 

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Turk now actually laughed, "Well, it's plain enough to see yer pretty enough to be female company but with that mouth, that's no way to drum up customers."

 

Arabella did a number of different jobs these days to supplement her income and add to the bankroll that she and Miriam were accruing for their much talked about relocation to New York (well, much talked about between themselves, if nobody else - and even then, it was Arabella who did most of the talking). But prostitution was not one of them!

 

Still, she liked the bit about being pretty and replied with an open mouthed "I am?"

 

Caroline shook her head, "No Arabella isn't a whore. Actually she don't even work here no more. She's the one I said up and left."

 

"That's right, I ain't no lady of the evening, even if I am pretty enough to be one..." she affirmed "... I'm an actress really, 'cept there ain't no theater round here and I ain't never been in no play. Meanwhile I help out Mr Jolly there in the funeral parlour and give piano lessons, and run a refuge for fallen women, 'cept there's only Sally round here that's fell Oooh! And I take photograph pictures of dead people, 'cept I'm still getting used to the camera and plates and all them chemicals."

 

She looked at Caroline a little sadly "Lorenzo made it all look so easy, but I had the Dickens of a time getting a picture of old Mrs Emery the other day: she kept still nice enough, but I just couldn't get her to smile."

 

"Arabella Mudd, meet an old friend a mine, Turk Flagg, from Helena. And bein' a good friend a mine, I expect you to treat him nicely and no more insults," Caroline now made the introduction. 

 

"Hullo there, Arabella Mudd," Turk looked down on the girl with a grin.

 

"Oh, How-dee-doo-dee Mister Flagg!" grinned Arabella "Pleased to make your 'quaintance and sorry about the smell." she greeted him, shaking his hand. The perfume in question was the engaging aroma of formaldehyde which tended to cling around Arabella these days. "Say, that's a funny name, 'Turk' - that short fer turkey?" she asked.

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"I am?" the girl certainly was surprised to hear the compliment.

 

"Yes you heard the man, I've told you the same," Caroline threw in.

 

Both Turk and Caroline then got filled in by Ara all about her current lot in life. When she ran out of steam, Caroline managed to get in an introduction of her old friend.

 

"Oh, How-dee-doo-dee Mister Flagg!" grinned Arabella. 

 

"You can call me Turk, forget the mister," the veteran gunman suggested.

 

"Pleased to make your 'quaintance and sorry about the smell." she greeted him, shaking his hand.  

 

"Eh, I smelled a whole lot worse in my time, don't worry 'bout it," he seemed nonplussed, "Specially during the war."

 

"Say, that's a funny name, 'Turk' - that short fer turkey?" she asked. 

 

"Actually, Miss Mudd, it sure is. My older sister used to laugh at me when I was a young boy that I would run around like a turkey. It stuck with my family but then when I got older and more dignified about such things I decided to go by Turk instead," the man had no issue answering. 

 

"I always liked the name," Caroline gave the man a squeeze of one of his arms. 

 

"Hey, Miss Mudd, Caroline ever tell you what some of us used ta call her back in Helena?" he grinned down at the shorter woman even while talking to the teen girl.

 

"No, I didn't....and you don't have ta either," Caroline remarked but it was too late.

 

Turk grinned, "Peaches, we called her. Ain't that right, Peaches?"

 

"Oh shuddup," Caroline grumped and punched him playfully on one shoulder.

 

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"I am?" the girl certainly was surprised to hear the compliment.

 

"Yes you heard the man, I've told you the same," Caroline threw in.

 

"Yeah, but you just say it to make me feel happy." countered Arabella before asking Mr Flagg the derivation of his nickname. 

 

"Say, that's a funny name, 'Turk' - that short fer turkey?" she asked. 

 

"Actually, Miss Mudd, it sure is. My older sister used to laugh at me when I was a young boy that I would run around like a turkey. It stuck with my family but then when I got older and more dignified about such things I decided to go by Turk instead," the man had no issue answering. 

 

Arabella looked at the man and imagined if he started goggling around the bar, just like a Turkey. She was almost tempted to try it herself, but then Caroline cut in:

 

"I always liked the name," Caroline gave the man a squeeze of one of his arms. 

 

"Hey, Miss Mudd, Caroline ever tell you what some of us used ta call her back in Helena?" he grinned down at the shorter woman even while talking to the teen girl.

 

Arabella shook her head. "Lazy?" she guessed.

 

"No, I didn't....and you don't have ta either," Caroline remarked but it was too late.

 

Turk grinned, "Peaches, we called her. Ain't that right, Peaches?"

 

"Oh shuddup," Caroline grumped and punched him playfully on one shoulder.

 

Arabella frowned rather than laughed. "Why'd they call you that Cara'? Did folks down there think you had a heart of stone or on account of that fuzz you get on your skin? Cause you can't hardly see that with all that powder and paint you slap on there. Oh, I know, did they call you peaches cause you was always gettin' 'canned'?" she asked in all seriousness. 

 

@Wayfarer

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"Yeah, but you just say it to make me feel happy." countered Arabella before asking Mr Flagg the derivation of his nickname. 

 

"No, I say it cuz it's true," Caroline pointed out. Honestly the girl couldn't even take a compliment.

 

Conversation shifted to Turk's name origin, which he explained to the girl. Then mentioned Caroline had a nickname back in Helena and that opened a chance for Arabella to guess.

 

Arabella shook her head. "Lazy?" she guessed.

 

Caroline frowned, "You know full well I work hard 'round here. I practically live here and work long hours."

 

"Why'd they call you that Cara'? Did folks down there think you had a heart of stone or on account of that fuzz you get on your skin? Cause you can't hardly see that with all that powder and paint you slap on there. Oh, I know, did they call you peaches cause you was always gettin' 'canned'?" she asked in all seriousness. 

 

Caroline glared at the impertinent girl, "I do not have a heart of stone. And I most certainly don't have fuzz on my skin. Now as for bein' canned, I never been fired once in my life. I left Helena for this here job when Lorenzo said there was an openin' for a singer/dancer."

 

Turk tacked on, "Girl, remember what I said about that mouth of yers. Thought Caroline was a friend of yers?"

 

 

 

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Caroline frowned, "You know full well I work hard 'round here. I practically live here and work long hours."

 

Arabella laughed, assuming Caroline was joking; she sang a bit and walzed around getting men to buy her drinks. 

 

Well, if Caroline didn't seem very impressed by Arabella's assessment of her work ethic, she was even less thrilled by the girl's harmless jests about why she might be called 'Peaches'. 

 

Caroline glared at the impertinent girl, "I do not have a heart of stone. And I most certainly don't have fuzz on my skin. Now as for bein' canned, I never been fired once in my life. I left Helena for this here job when Lorenzo said there was an openin' for a singer/dancer."

 

Arabella was chuckling heartily until Caroline mentioned Lorenzo, at that she sobered up a little. "I miss Lorenzo" she said quietly and threw herself into the irate singer's arms again, whether she wanted the hug or not. 

 

Turk tacked on, "Girl, remember what I said about that mouth of yers. Thought Caroline was a friend of yers?"

 

"Yeah, well we're best friends, that's why we can make fun of each other like that and it's just funny. Anyhow, you're probably just stickin' up fer her because you're sweet on her or somethin': don't worry, most of the fellers in this place are." Arabella explained to Flagg. 

 

She wanted to prove this illusion she had was true.

 

"Now look, Caroline, you say something making fun of me, and I'll just laugh and laugh! Go on, worst thing about me you can think of!" she challenged her. 

 

@Wayfarer

 

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Caroline was indeed touchy about Ara's comments in front of her old friend and was not aware they were in jest either. However....

 

Arabella was chuckling heartily until Caroline mentioned Lorenzo, at that she sobered up a little. "I miss Lorenzo" she said quietly and threw herself into the irate singer's arms again, whether she wanted the hug or not.  

 

Caroline accepted the embrace and returned the hug, "I do too, hon. I do too." 

 

Turk brought up again his opinion of Ara's remarks to the saloon gal.  Arabella was not getting it though.

 

"Yeah, well we're best friends, that's why we can make fun of each other like that and it's just funny. Anyhow, you're probably just stickin' up fer her because you're sweet on her or somethin': don't worry, most of the fellers in this place are." 

 

"I can understand why," Turk chuckled but he now changed his tune a bit, "Oh, so you was just kiddin' around. You fooled me and Caroline too it seems."  

 

"Now look, Caroline, you say something making fun of me, and I'll just laugh and laugh! Go on, worst thing about me you can think of!" 

 

Caroline just shook her head 'no', "I don't wanna do that. I can't be mean to people who mean somethin' ta me."  

 

 

 

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"I can understand why," Turk chuckled but he now changed his tune a bit, "Oh, so you was just kiddin' around. You fooled me and Caroline too it seems."  

 

"Well, I told you I'm an actress!" she reminded him.

 

"Now look, Caroline, you say something making fun of me, and I'll just laugh and laugh! Go on, worst thing about me you can think of!" 

 

Caroline just shook her head 'no', "I don't wanna do that. I can't be mean to people who mean somethin' ta me."  

 

Arabella shrugged. These two were no fun. "Oh well! So, what you do fer a crust Mr Turkey? Say, you're not a barber are you, by any chance? Cause this town's in dire need of a good barber: the one we got at present's never there, he's kinda over-fond of the old..." instead of saying booze, she mimed someone glugging from a bottle, complete with "Gluck, gluck, gluck" sound effects. 

 

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Arabella shrugged. "Oh well! So, what you do fer a crust Mr Turkey? Say, you're not a barber are you, by any chance? Cause this town's in dire need of a good barber: the one we got at present's never there, he's kinda over-fond of the old..." instead of saying booze, she mimed someone glugging from a bottle, complete with "Gluck, gluck, gluck" sound effects.  

 

Turk chuckled, despite her mouth, he did like the girl, she had spunk. Something she had in common with Caroline in fact though the saloon gal had learned to be more diplomatic in public.

 

"Barber?" he removed his beaten hat to reveal his rather unkempt chopped up hair, "I do cut my own hair on occasion...would do better if I had me  a mirror though."  

 

"No child...errrr Miss, I am sort of a mix between drifter and bounty hunter. The two careers go quite well together ya know," he grinned showing some real messed up teeth too. 

 

 

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"Barber?" he removed his beaten hat to reveal his rather unkempt chopped up hair, "I do cut my own hair on occasion...would do better if I had me  a mirror though."

 

Arabella peered at the feller's amateurish coiffeur. "Oh Lor' - I thought you'd been scalped by the injuns on the trail!" she exclaimed. "Mind you, this feller once told me that if you go to a town with two barbers, always go to the one with the worst hair-cut!" she let that gem sink in while she frowned at the man. "But you aint no barber then, no."

 

"No child...errrr Miss, I am sort of a mix between drifter and bounty hunter. The two careers go quite well together ya know," he grinned showing some real messed up teeth too. 

 

"Bounty hunter?!" exclaimed the black clad girl "Well don't go bounty hunting Noted Road Agent Thomas Gage Love, he's my favourite outlaw!" she warned him "But what's a drifter, I mean, I know what driftin' is - my mind's doin' it all the time - but, how'dya make money out of driftin'?" she frowned. 

 

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"Bounty hunter?!" exclaimed the black clad girl "Well don't go bounty hunting Noted Road Agent Thomas Gage Love, he's my favourite outlaw!" she warned him.  

 

"I heard of him, never ran inta him though and not chasin' him ....or anybody right now," Turk assured the young miss then turned to Caroline, "She likes outlaws huh?"

 

"Yeah, well she's a bit............different in a lotta ways," Caroline smiled.

 

"But what's a drifter, I mean, I know what driftin' is - my mind's doin' it all the time - but, how'dya make money out of driftin'?" Ara frowned. 

 

"The actual driftin' part you don't even make a thin dime but as you go to different places you might pick up various jobs. I once signed to a ranch to help them shoot a pack of wolves they'd been having trouble with. Funny thing was I never even hit one but still got paid when we wiped out the bunch," Turk grinned.

 

"Things don't always work out though. Like the time I joined another rancher to drive off some squatters on his land. Well, turned out a squatter had himself a family, wife and some young kids. I couldn't do it. I told 'em keep the damn money, I don't shoot wimmen and kids. Rode off," he shrugged.

 

"One of 'em tried ta stop me. I shot him though," Turk finished off his drink then.

 

 

 

 

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Mr Flagg explained to Arabella what a drifter did, and it sounded interesting and exciting: you never knew what might come up next, but you might be faced with a job you didn't like: like she was scared Mr Fortner might make her do: the whole reason she'd left the saloon and the family she had grown to love over the last six months. She would never forgive him for that.

 

"The actual driftin' part you don't even make a thin dime but as you go to different places you might pick up various jobs. I once signed to a ranch to help them shoot a pack of wolves they'd been having trouble with. Funny thing was I never even hit one but still got paid when we wiped out the bunch," Turk grinned.

 

"Oooh, paid a fortune in gold and all for doin' nothin.!" she exclaimed "Just like I will be when I'm a famous actress!" she dreamed out loud. 

 

"Things don't always work out though. Like the time I joined another rancher to drive off some squatters on his land. Well, turned out a squatter had himself a family, wife and some young kids. I couldn't do it. I told 'em keep the damn money, I don't shoot wimmen and kids. Rode off," he shrugged.

 

Arabella frowned and nodded earnestly "Good fer you, Mr Flagg! What did them ornery rounders you was with do, though, when you rode off on outta there?" she asked. He was Mr Flagg now that she was warming to him, not Mr Turkey.

 

"One of 'em tried ta stop me. I shot him though," Turk finished off his drink then.

 

Arabella looked at Caroline and pointed at Turk. 

 

"I like him!" she declared. "My folks was squatters, 'cept the land was so poor, no one never came to claim it back. Pa said you had to sit on a sack of fertilizer just t'raise a umbrella. And it was on the side of this mountain too, everything was so gosh darn sidegogglin you wouldn't believe it. You know Mr Flagg, when Caroline first met me I was still walkin' around like this..." She started to walk around in circles, her body inclined to a 45 degree angle.

 

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"Oooh, paid a fortune in gold and all for doin' nothin.!" she exclaimed "Just like I will be when I'm a famous actress!"

 

Caroline chuckled at that one. Not that there was anything wrong with the girl having dreams. Course dreaming about it doesn't make it come true, she knew that hard lesson alright.

 

"Well...I never was paid no fortune in gold, woulda been nice though," Turk was once again amused.

 

The in fact quite dangerous gunman at times now regaled the ladies with a few example stories of his 'jobs'.

 

"I like him!" Arabell declared. "My folks was squatters, 'cept the land was so poor, no one never came to claim it back. Pa said you had to sit on a sack of fertilizer just t'raise a umbrella. And it was on the side of this mountain too, everything was so gosh darn sidegogglin you wouldn't believe it. You know Mr Flagg, when Caroline first met me I was still walkin' around like this..." She started to walk around in circles, her body inclined to a 45 degree angle.

 

Turk laughed, she sure was a funny little thing.

 

Caroline rolled her eyes, "No she wasn't. She seemed perfectly normal ta me. Til she opened her mouth that is. She hated me."

 

Turk looked surprised, "Hated you? I didn't know anyone could hate you? What the devil, ladies?"

 

He suddenly snapped his fingers, "Oh wait! Besides that one ...Fergus? Somethin' like that?"

 

Caroline shrugged, "Oh yeah, well that jasper....he asked for it."

 

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Caroline rolled her eyes, "No she wasn't. She seemed perfectly normal ta me. Til she opened her mouth that is. She hated me."

 

Arabella nodded her head in complete agreement. 

 

Turk looked surprised, "Hated you? I didn't know anyone could hate you? What the devil, ladies?"

 

"Sure I hated her!" Arabella told Turk "Comin' in here like she owned the place after I'd been queen bee; playin' the piana here for months and months. And there's been other times she's hated me, too, just cause I... well, I can't even remember why, they was such lil ol' things. But we always kiss and make up, don't we Cara'?" she smiled at her blonde friend, with an innocence that Caroline knew for a fact she didn't possess.

 

"We just carry on that-a-way, cause we's both so highly strung is all." she explained to Turk.

 

"Oh, but I bet everybody in Helena was nice as pie to you weren't they, Caroline, and you was nice as pie to them." she guessed.

 

He suddenly snapped his fingers, "Oh wait! Besides that one ...Fergus? Somethin' like that?"

 

Caroline shrugged, "Oh yeah, well that jasper....he asked for it."

 

Ara gasped "Why? What'd he do?" she asked urgently. 

 

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"And there's been other times she's hated me, too, just cause I... well, I can't even remember why, they was such lil ol' things. But we always kiss and make up, don't we Cara'?"

 

Caroline noted that cat who swallowed the canary innocent look, Arabella knew exactly why Caroline had been so frustrated and angry with her those times, this was an act for the newcomer but strangely she let the girl get away with it.

 

"Yeah, we do, hon," she nodded.

 

"We just carry on that-a-way, cause we's both so highly strung is all." the girl explained to Turk. 

 

"That must be it," Caroline commented, personally she did not think she was high strung at all (conveniently forgetting all the times her sudden temper would result in her striking out at people - just ask the newspaper editor or that man who kicked the old dog).

 

Of course Turk would go and bring up that jasper in Helena. Arabella pounced right on that then.

 

Ara gasped "Why? What'd he do?" she asked urgently. 

 

"Oh, Frederick Fergus...horse dealer he was. We talked whenever he'd come inta the saloon, you know how I operate. I'd chat with Satan if he buys me a drink. Not that he seemed bad at all. One day he wanted to show me his new horse, a real special one he sez. Now you also know me, I ain't one for horses.  But he was so insistent, almost begging, and he'd just paid for like three drinks in a row. So I go with him to his stable but I was tellin' him I couldn't stay long, I was still workin' my shift." 

 

Turk chuckled,  "Fergus was quite the horse trader alright, he'd sell you a blind one and if you didn't happen to notice, yer tough luck." 

 

"Well, I wasn't buyin' the fuckin' horse, just agreed to look at it is all. Anyhow, get in the stable and he changed somethin' fierce. Suddenly he was all over me, wanting to take me in his arms and kiss me. I refused but he wouldn't let go, sayin' somethin' about after all the drinks he'd bought me over the past months I owed him this."

 

"Finally I pulled away but in doin' so he tore my favorite dress and that got me mad," Caroline was on a roll now, "I grabbed him right by that long beard of his and then I gave him the hardest kick I could manage. Got him right in the...." she stopped then because Turk was already laughing and thought the location was obvious to her audience.

 

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