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With: Dorothy Parsons, Case Steelgrave, Layton Harris
Location:  Evergreen Ranch to Whitefish
When: Tuesday, September 14, 1875
Time of Day:  afternoon

 

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Less than an hour after her interview with Elias Steelgrave, Dorothy Parsons was on her pinto gelding, riding along side Layton Harris on the way to Whitefish.  Her blonde hair had been washed and neatly combed into a pony tail that curled down over her shoulder.  Her fingernails had been cleaned of dirt.  The only spots that decorated her face were a few freckles and no longer specks of dirt.  A few small, scabbed over scratches still adorned her hands, but there wasn’t much to be done about that.  A rather simple, but well made green dress replaced her filthy clothes.  It was of a fashion now several years out of date.   Perhaps, Dorothy found herself wondering, it was a dress that belonged to Mr. Steelgrave’s daughter.  Even though she’d not yet met his daughter, she suspected the women-folk in households as well to do as the Steelgraves could always have the latest fashions. 

 

All in all, she looked almost… respectable.  Except for the gun belt.  She wasn’t about to give that up so easy.  Dorothy might have rather kept her trousers and white shirt too, but there didn’t seem to be time to launder them and then wait for them to dry.  So, for now, she’d make due with the dress, even if it made sitting in a saddle slightly awkward.   

 

“How long you been workin’ for the Steelgraves, Mr. Harris?” she asked, looking over at her escort, both to make small talk and, hopefully, to get a better feel for what working for the family might be like.  She thought she had a pretty good idea already, both from Billy and from Elias himself.  But another perspective would still be welcome.  

 

@Flip

Edited by Juls
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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Better part of fifteen years. Came with them into this country from Mizzoula. Helped build the ranch, some with Whitefish too." He replied. "Think you'll like Whitefish. Pretty open town, Case, that's Elias' son, the Marshal, he keeps things comfortable, peaceful, well peaceful as can be expected. You'll get on well I think. Just remember, Case runs things, you do as he says, things'll be just fine."

 

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Missoula ...  that's where she, Flinch, and Smitty had actually been heading.  Not wishing to reveal how lost she'd actually been, she hadn't wanted to ask what state she was.  Layton's reply helped convince her that she was, indeed, in Montana.   Maybe once she was settled here, she'd see if she could find a reason to travel there and find Flinch.  Hopefully without Smitty.  

 

She raised a slightly skeptical eye at Layton's other comment.  "What in the world did Mister Steelgrave hire me for if everythin's so comfortable and peaceful?"  

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpgMister Steelgrave offers no explanation for anything he does unless you need to know it." Harris replied matter of factly. "He gave me a note for Case and I'm for bettin' whatever you're to be or do is in that note."

 

He looked at her then, "what I'd suggest is that you just be ready and willing, there's a reason, I'm sure of that. He didn't sign you on to be whorin', got a saloon full in Whitefish already."

 

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"Mister Steelgrave offers no explanation for anything he does unless you need to know it."

 

"That don't surprise me any," she replied, riding with just her right hand on the reins.  She was relaxed, but was taking careful note of the road and the terrain from Evergreen Ranch to Whitefish since she wasn't sure if she'd have an escort next time she needed to travel this way.   She was picking out good ambush spots too.  Not that she had any plans to ambush anyone, but it was a habit she'd picked up from Bobby.  "Man can't be blabbin' all his plans." 

 

"He didn't sign you on to be whorin', got a saloon full in Whitefish already."

 

Dorothy wrinkled her nose slightly in obvious distaste, hoping it wasn't the same type of whorehouse she'd spent time in back in Texas.  The kind where the women didn't usually have the option to quit.  At that point in time, there didn't seem to be a damn thing she could do about it.  But now...?   

 

"Me and him already got that straight," she said, a little more guarded this time.  

 

"Case just like his old man?"

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Me and him already got that straight," she said, a little more guarded this time.  

 

“Well then there’s nothin’ for ya to worry about. One things certain, Elias Steelgrave keeps his word when he gives it.”

"Case just like his old man?"

 

“Case? More so. Driven to prove himself to the old man’s my thought. But driven whether I’m right ‘er wrong on it.” Harris said. “What I like about the two of them is you can count on what’s said to you. Ain’t that way with his other sons, you’ll need to be wary of ‘em, especially Clay. He’s a mean one.”

 

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It was nice to hear Harris claim that Elias was true to his word.  Dorothy had gotten that general impression of him as well, but having it confirmed by someone who'd worked for the Steelgraves for so long was reassuring that she hadn't made a horrible mistake by placing some trust in the man.  Not all of her trust, as that simply wasn’t her nature to let her guard down so quickly.  But she’d never in her life been completely on her own before and found herself grasping harder than she might have cared to admit at this lifeline tossed her way.  

 

Layton’s warning about the other brothers was taken to heart as well.  “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, committing the name Clay Steelgrave to memory.  “How ‘bout their sister?” 

 

 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Yes, Leah. Well, I might be the only one to say this, but that girl's got more sides than a pentagon." He realized she might not know what a pentagon was, so he continued, "that's a shape with five equal sides and there's probably more than that to her."

 

"She had it rough growing up with those brothers, and her father, so shes angry. Real angry, but she don't take it out on everyone, she's real selective about it. I've kept an eye on her since I signed on." He pulled up on his reins stopping in the middle of the trail. "Don't think she likes her father like she puts on, and if you say any of this to anyone, I'll be dead. But you asked, so take care around her and he mother, they're different that any of 'em."

 

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Dorothy started to smirk at Layton's comment about being dead if she repeated his words.  Like it was some over exaggerated school yard gossip.  But he seemed serious enough and she halted Pongo in turn as he'd gone several steps ahead of the other horse. She swung him around slightly so she was looking at Harris and nodded to show she wasn't taking it too lightly.

 

"I wouldn't wanna get ya in any trouble with 'em.  I won't say nuthin'," she promised.   "It's nice to get a little warnin' bout who's who though.  So I don't go stickin' my foot in my mouth right away." 

 

Now she smiled at that to show she was poking fun at herself a bit.  "Not that I still might not manage to get it in there anyway." 

 

She tended to get on alright with most men, at least on the surface level, and she already felt like she was warming up to Harris a bit.  Maybe even him to her a little, the way he'd just confided something that could land him in hot water.  But women were trickier.  And it was hard to guess by Layton's description if Dorothy might get on well with Leah.  Or if she'd be treated like ... well, like some whore trying to stick her nose into their business.  

 

With the short pause, she let her feet come out of the stirrups and stretched her legs briefly before finding the stirrups again.  

 

"Think we'll get to Whitefish 'fore dinner time?"  

 

 

@Flip

 

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Oh yeah, be maybe another fifteen, twenty minutes." He suggested. "You'll find that Whitefish has just about everything one could want, not sure what Elias' instructions to Case say to do with you, but , the town's mostly quiet, except for the Silver Dollar, that's the saloon, and it can get rowdy in there."

 

He stared his horse moving again at an easy pace. He felt he could trust this young woman with what he'd said to her, knowing that she really had no inkling of what the Steelgraves were like, or what they might do in any given situation. He'd managed to be of value to Elias over the years and worked himself into the foreman's job. Some would say the task of delivering this woman to Whitefish was a menial task below his station, and it might be, but Elias always had a reason for what he did.

 

"So I'd take it you're pretty handy with those guns." He mused. "Some of case's men might want to test you on that, maybe not, but be prepared. No killin' mind you, just a handling test."

 

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Dorothy probably should have been most concerned with her upcoming meeting with Case and what exactly she was going to say to him.  But half the day had gone by already with little to eat and she was still running a calorie deficit from the last several days roaming around lost, making it difficult to think hard about anything other than the prospect of a real meal.  So the news that the town of Whitefish had a variety of establishments was welcome.  As well as the fact that they weren't more than 15 or 20 minutes away.  

 

"...not sure what Elias' instructions to Case say to do with you, but , the town's mostly quiet, except for the Silver Dollar, ..."

 

"He said they'd put me up in the hotel.  That ain't one and the same as the Silver Dollar, is it?"  

 

Pongo started moving again alongside Layton's horse without being asked, but Dorothy didn't fuss at him about it.  Poor horse was probably near as anxious for a solid meal as she was.  Though he'd at least gotten some hay to munch on in the Steelgrave stable.

 

"So I'd take it you're pretty handy with those guns. Some of Case's men might want to test you on that, maybe not, but be prepared. No killin' mind you, just a handling test."

 

"Handy nuff I guess," she replied with a shrug.  She'd much prefer to keep expectations low and exceed them instead of the other way around.  In truth, she was a decent shot.  At least when not under stress, she could usually outshoot Smitty and Flinch both when she put her mind to it, even though Flinch had mostly been the one to teach her how to shoot in the first place.  But she also knew men didn't like to bested by a woman... in anything.  So she might have to play that one a little carefully.  Her goal here was to make friends, not rivals.

 

"Might need more bullets though, pendin' on what kinda test they got in mind.  Down ta 7 shots 'tween the 2."  She hadn't been carrying that much extra when she, Flinch, and Smitty ran into trouble.

 

@Flip  

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Hotel's a ways from the Silver dollar, and ammunition's not a problem." He found it annoying that between two pistols she had seven rounds and an empty cartridge belt. "How the sam-hell'd you go about having no ammunition in this country?"

 

There were all manner of things that could happen to a body out in that country, not the least of which were Indians. "Your lucky you still got your hair. Besides, there was a killer grizzly on the lose sometime back, likely not to be only one up here. You surely don't make no sense."

 

Rounding a bend they could see Whitefish, they were almost there, and suddenly it was none to soon  for Layton Harris.

 

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"Ain't like I started out with none.  We runned into trouble on the way," Dorothy said, her own voice taking on a defensive edge as she caught  Layton's accusatory and annoyed tone.  

 

She didn't elaborate on the trouble.  Mostly because he was right that she was lucky to have her scalp.  But did Flinch and Smitty still have theirs?  She didn't want to think too hard about that right now though.  Last thing she needed was to tear up before meeting Case Steelgrave.  

 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Alright, hold up." Harris said. "I got a box I can spare. Best you load both pistols and space the rest in you belt. You want to make a good first impression. Though a letter from the boss should take care of that. Case'll do all the talking, you just play along and answer whatever questions he might ask."

 

Layton Stepped down, went to his saddle bags and with drew a box of cartridges, then stepped over to the girl. "Best step down and load up." In spite of himself, he was taking a liking to this girl and wanted to make sure she hit it off right with Case Steelgrave, thinking,'to hell with them others!'

 

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Harris seemed to soften up a bit, so Dorothy let the defensive attitude drop and swung down off the right side of her gelding, managing not to get the dress hung up on the saddle horn.  Since the pinto had been Sparrow Hawk's horse and the Navajo man had been mostly the one to teach her how to ride, getting on and off the "indian" side came with barely a thought.  

 

"I'll owe ya one then," she said, drawing the nearly empty pistol on the right and moving the hammer back half way before plucking the cartridges one by one, careful to keep the gun pointed away from Layton and the horses as she reloaded it with a practiced hand. 

 

"Ran into some injuns ... " she said as she slid the Schofield back into its holster then added the extra cartridges to her pistol belt.  Not talking about it didn't seem to be helping  get it off her mind, so might as well.   "Maybe a week ago.  They weren't the friendliest cusses I ever met.   Makes a little thing like an interview seem like it ain't too scary after all." 

 

 

@Flip

 

 

 

 

Edited by Juls
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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"I'll owe ya one then," she said, drawing the nearly empty pistol on the right and moving the hammer back half way before plucking the cartridges one by one, careful to keep the gun pointed away from Layton and the horses as she reloaded it with a practiced hand. 

 

"Don't give it a second thought. Plenty of cartridges back on the Evergreen. Fact is I've another box you can have as well though Case has all his people need." Harris responded stepped over to his horse and took a second box from his saddle bags. Walking back to her he said, "here, now you'll be a bit more presentable.

 

"Ran into some injuns ... " she said as she slid the Schofield back into its holster then added the extra cartridges to her pistol belt.  Not talking about it didn't seem to be helping  get it off her mind, so might as well.   "Maybe a week ago.  They weren't the friendliest cusses I ever met.   Makes a little thing like an interview seem like it ain't too scary after all." 

 

"Pesky devils, but they know how to make you shoot up your ammunition." He chuckled at the term 'interview,' since she was already hired. "You don't take no guff from them other ones, case is who you'll work for, none of the others, no matter what line they hand you."

 

Just as he finished Santee raced by at a full gallop shouting at them, "COME ON!" Waving at them to follow, but not slowing down one iota.

 

Harris leaped into the saddle and looked to Dotty.

 

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"Thanks," she said, taking the second box of ammo, thinking that Layton might prove someone to count on.  There wasn't any time to consider the rest of his advice before the stranger came galloping toward them.  Dorothy felt her adrenaline rise slightly, her hand moving back toward the pistol belt in anticipation.  But since Harris didn't seem too worried about the fellow, Dorothy took her cue from him and she quickly mounted back up, again from the right side.  

 

Pongo had been calm up until a moment ago, but with the other horse galloping by and sensing his rider's unease, he was quick to go on high alert.  She didn't even have a leg over yet when he started heading in that direction and she just went with it, willing to let Layton lead the way.  At least for now.  So much for it being such a quiet town... she thought, not realizing that she might be the cause of the disturbance. 

 

 

@Flip

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpgLayton Harris knew there was trouble of some sort when Santee flew by, hell bent for breakfast, and he knew it included him. At a gallop they would be in town in minutes and get the low down on whatever was going on.

 

Looking back he noted Dotty was right on him and suddenly they burst onto the main street, Harris pulling back on the reins. Santee's horse was at the hitch rail in front of the Silver Dollar, head hung low.  He eased his horse  to the rail and stepped down. "You wait here, I'll get Case and we'll see what's up." He said hardly looking back as he spoke, while looping his reins over the rail. He turned toward her. "No sense you going in there and get the boys riled up. Be right back."

 

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If there was something up, she had no reason to worry that it might concern her. 

 

"Do what you gotta do," Dorothy said, reining in her antsy horse, but remained in the saddle as he pranced a bit sideways and turned in a half-circle before she faced him toward the Silver Dollar again.   It was a bit awkward, getting off and on while wearing the dress, so if she might need to mount back up in a few minutes, she figured she might as well just stay on.  

 

She smirked at Layton's statement about getting the boys riled up.  "Promise I won't rile up 'em boys til later then," she said, actually looking forward to meeting everyone.  Greer might have given her a few dirty looks, but even he hadn't been nearly as crude and rude as David Goller had been.  And Billy, Layton, and even Elias had all been nice enough that it gave her hope that she might just find a place for herself in Whitefish.    

 

When Layton went inside the Silver Dollar, she took a look around the town, at least what was visible from here.  "Whaddaya think, Pongo-boy?  Looks kinda nice.  We gonna plunk ourselves here for a bit? " she said to the horse as she gave his neck a pat when he finally settled down.   She looked toward the saloon, keeping an eye out for Layton in case he waved for her to come inside. 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg

 

Layton opened the windowed door and stepped inside the mud room closing the outter door and pushing through the batwings to the saloon proper and there they were, Case, Santee, Latham the lawyer and several others. They all turned when he walked in.


“What in blazes are you wet nursing this woman for?” Case demanded. “There’s a gawddamned Pinkerton in Kalispell lookin' for her!”


“Easy Case, your Pa sent me, wasn’t my choice and,” he drew out a folded note from his pocket, “he give me this for you.”


Case snatched the note and opened it. ‘Case, this woman, Dotty or Dorthy Parsons is on the payroll, use her like one of the boys but no whoring. We can use her. Dad.’ He sighed, “I’ll be go to hell. You read this?” Shoving the paper toward Harris. Old fool’s lost it, a woman! Use her like one of the boys for chrissake.” He paused dropping the note on the table where Cole Latham snatched it up.


“She’s outside, waitin’. Harris stated.


Case had been thinking. “Stash her up to the hotel, no wait, here,” Case handed him a double eagle, “Let her get some woman duds and the mercantile then up to the hotel. I’ll get her lined up with a job, and all but out of sight job. Yeah, we can sure as hell use her, if she’s up to it.”


“On my way, Case.” Harris replied and retraced his steps out of the saloon. He mounted his animal and said, “Over to the Mercantile, Case wants you outfitted with female clothes and out of those guns for the time being. Said he has a plan, so he'll be looking you up before long.”

 

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“Over to the Mercantile, Case wants you outfitted with female clothes and out of those guns for the time being. Said he has a plan, so he'll be looking you up before long.”

 

Had Dorothy been privy to the conversation that had taken place inside, she might have been rather grateful for the way it had gone: that Marshal Case Steelgrave hadn’t lured her inside only to arrest her on the spot so that she could be handed over to the Pinkerton man before she could bring any trouble down on them.

 

But still oblivious to the detective or that any of them knew (rather than simply suspected) that she was on the run, she instead felt rather disappointed that she wasn’t going to meet Case today.   

 

She raised her brow a bit at the comment about female clothes and held her arms out to the side slightly, looking down at the simple green dress she’d been given to wear back at the Evergreen Ranch.  Her own filthy clothes had been shoved into her saddle bags.  “What’s wrong with this dress?” she asked, not overly anxious to get stuck with a fancier, even more constricting one.   “Guess his sister prolly wants it back, huh?” 

 

She wasn’t terribly anxious to give up her guns either, but didn’t say anything about them just yet as they made their way toward the Mercantile.    

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg She raised her brow a bit at the comment about female clothes and held her arms out to the side slightly, looking down at the simple green dress she’d been given to wear back at the Evergreen Ranch.  Her own filthy clothes had been shoved into her saddle bags.  “What’s wrong with this dress?” she asked, not overly anxious to get stuck with a fancier, even more constricting one.   “Guess his sister prolly wants it back, huh?”

 
“Well now, I’ve made it a habit with these Steelgraves not to be questioning what they say. Case wants you to have new clothes, lets go and get ‘em.” He all but laughed, the Leah he knew would not want the dress back, probably didn’t even know she had it.

 

“Dotty girl, he has a plan for you, he knows there’s a Pinkerton looking for you, and he’ll not give you up. You’re on the Steelgrave payroll so, just roll with it and everything will work itself out. C’mon.”

 

Tag @Juls

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“Well now, I’ve made it a habit with these Steelgraves not to be questioning what they say. Case wants you to have new clothes, lets go and get ‘em.”

 

She shrugged and directed Pongo after Layton's steed.  "Nuthin' too fancy," she declared.  But there wasn't time to think much more on the subject of a dress when Mr. Harris dropped the bombshell...

 

“Dotty girl, he has a plan for you, he knows there’s a Pinkerton looking for you, and he’ll not give you up. You’re on the Steelgrave payroll so, just roll with it and everything will work itself out. C’mon.”

 

She stopped the horse and simply stared at Harris for a moment as if he'd grown a second head. There was a heap of information crammed into those couple sentences and it took her few moments to process what all it meant.

 

First... that Pinkerton fellow they thought they ditched all the way back in Kansas, assuming it was the same one, wasn't near as lost as they'd thought.  Had he caught up with Flinch or Smitty already? 

 

Second... that despite giving Elias Steelgrave a fake name, he knew who she was anyway.  How?  Had the detective already been out at the ranch?  And if so, why on earth had he hired her?

 

And third... she finally allowed herself to focus on the part of Layton's statement that tossed her a lifeline... he’ll not give you up.

 

Girl, you don't know these folks from Adam, she warned herself.  

 

"Luddy mussy..." she said, finally nudging Pongo lightly with her heels to catch him up to the other horse again.   "That Pinkerton man close by?"

 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"Luddy mussy..." she said, finally nudging Pongo lightly with her heels to catch him up to the other horse again.   "That Pinkerton man close by?"

 

“Close enough. Kalispell. Shaking door handles looking for you, or anyone that’s seen you.” Harris explained. “He gets no where there, he’ll be headed this way.” He looked to her as he reined in at the Mercantile. “He know you on sight, or is he looking for a description of you?”

 

Tag @Juls

 

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Though she managed to keep up an appearance of outward calm, the fact that Pongo started prancing again and tossed his head nervously a couple times betrayed the fact that his rider had tensed up upon hearing Layton’s news.

 

“I never saw him and he never saw me that I know of,” Dorothy answered cautiously.  She doubted that the detective would know her on sight, but was she willing to bet her life on that?  Up until 2 minutes ago, she would have doubted that he was still on their tail.   My tail… she corrected herself.    The report that he was looking for her explicitly did not bode well for Flinch or Smitty.  Had they escaped the Indians only to get caught by the Pinkerton?   “Thought we ditched him outsida Dodge.”

 

She glanced toward the building where her escort had stopped as she slid down off her Indian pony.  Part of her wanted to skedaddle as fast as she could outta there.  But where would she go?  No, trying to outrun the man was obviously not working.  So, maybe these Steelgraves were her best hope of avoiding the hangman’s knot.  Which meant she’d have to suck it up and play whatever part they wanted her to play.

 

She walked into the Mercantile beside Harris almost as if the two were an item.  “I’ll go take a look at the dresses they got,” she said sweetly, slipping into a bit of play acting for the benefit of the clerk.  There wasn’t a very large selection and she picked out a somewhat plain, but functional brown skirt and a button up shirt with a simple shepherd check pattern.  It may or may not be what Case Steelgrave had in mind, but it was the least objectionable thing (to her) here.   

 

 

large.DressBW.png.63ec3b498e87856200ee34

 

 

@Flip

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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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