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Dorothy Parsons

Settlin' In

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpgHarris stepped to the counter and told the clerk the Marshal was covering the cost of whatever the young woman wanted, to which he received an approving nod. "Thank you." He guessed it was a good thing to be the most powerful man i town, unless of course, Elias Steelgrave was in town.

 

"Get yourself at least two outfits." He called out to her. Once he had her settled at the hotel, it was back to the Evergreen and whatever might might be next. In all his time with the Steelgraves he had never had an assignment quite like this one, and he would just as soon not have another like it. He had spent his life working from the saddle, and this was certainly not work that could be done from the saddle.

 

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"Might help if I knew what his plan was..." she muttered to herself, though not loud enough to be heard by Harris or by the clerk.  She looked over the remaining choices of dresses, shirts and skirts.  Was she supposed to masquerade as a saloon girl?  A simple ranch wife?  Leave it to men to think that "women's clothes" was enough of a description to go on.

 

Maybe it was just the nerves that had been kicked up by learning about the Pinkerton, but now she felt suddenly anxious about picking the clothes.  As if this were some test that she was being given, but without enough information.  Since she'd already selected a plain outfit, she reluctantly explored the fancier ones.  If the conversation with Elias offered any clues, he expected her to flirt her way to information and secrets that he could use.  

 

So she found a light blue dress that was still conservative compared to the attire she'd worn at Donley's, but had a daringly low neckline compared to some of the other dresses in stock and sleeves that came only slightly past the elbows.  

 

Dorothy carried her two chosen outfits up toward the clerk.   "How 'bout a lil' bag a them peanuts too?  And a couple a them peppermints?" Her empty stomach was complaining at the site of the jars of sweets and other food stuffs, reminding her again she'd had nothing but the coffee since last night's beans with Billy and Greer.   And there was no evidence a meal was forthcoming any time soon.   "Sure the Marshal won't mind too much." 

 

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Her empty stomach was complaining at the site of the jars of sweets and other food stuffs, reminding her again she'd had nothing but the coffee since last night's beans with Billy and Greer.   And there was no evidence a meal was forthcoming any time soon.   "Sure the Marshal won't mind too much."

 

“Nope, not at all. Sooner we get you to the hotel and settled in, the sooner we get to the café and eat.” Harris stated. “Likely he’ll meet us at the café an answer all your questions as well as his plan for the Pinkerton and keeping you out of the way. He’s got plans for you that don’t include having him take you back wherever he’s from.”

 

Layton Harris was a cautious man, a careful man, one of the reasons he had lasted as long as he had with the Steelgraves. It was simple, give them what they want when they wanted it, no questions asked. He’d become foreman because he understood those facts about his employer.

 

“Keep in mind, you do what is asked of you when they ask it and you’ll get along just fine.”

 

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Dorothy's eyes flicked quickly toward the clerk as Layton mentioned the Pinkerton right in front of him, surprised that Harris would be so casual about letting another in on the 'secret'.  Did that mean the store clerk worked for the Steelgraves too?   Or that the clerk had reason to fear the Steelgraves?  

 

She found no answers on the clerk's face as he busied himself totaling the items and then wrapping them.  Still, she lapsed into an uneasy silence until she and Harris were leaving the Mercantile, goods in hand, before finally voicing her concern...  "Ain't it... kinda askin' for trouble ta be talkin' bout them kinda plans in a café?"

 

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"Ain't it... kinda askin' for trouble ta be talkin' bout them kinda plans in a café?"

 

Harris laughed at her statement as they reached their horses. “You’ve a lot to learn about Whitefish, Dotty. As far as anyone is concerned Case Steelgrave runs this town, and everything that goes on here. But he keeps the town safe, and people here like that.”

 

He gestured with his sweeping arm up and down the street. “Ask anyone, they’re happy here and want no outsider poking around, or up to no good. And, he has the men to enforce it. Hotel’s right there, we can lead the horse over and get you settled in.”

 

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Something about Layton's statements didn't sit quite right with Dorothy.  Maybe it was simply that he'd laughed at her concerns, but she thought there was something else bugging her, she just couldn't put her finger on exactly what it was.  

 

You're just bein' paranoid... she chided herself, which did nothing to quell her unease at the idea of everyone in the whole ding town knowing she was running from a Pinkerton.   How long until they all knew everything else about her too?  So much for a fresh start...

 

Betraying nothing of these thoughts, she nodded and faked a smile to Harris ...  faking smiles was something she'd gotten talented at back at Donley's ... as she picked up Pongo's reins to lead him over toward the hotel.  "I guess I do," she said, as if in agreement. 

 

For now, she tied her steed to the hitching post outside the hotel.  "Mind holdin' these a minute?" she asked, already handing Harris the two dresses to free up her own hands to untie and collect her saddle bags, which she slung over a shoulder.   "Thanks..." she'd take them back if the man didn't want to be seen carrying the dresses.  Or, if he didn't mind, allow him to carry them into the hotel for her. 

 

 

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Layton Harris took the bundle, not like it was the first time he’d carried parcels for a woman. The mounted the steps, Layton using his free hand to open the door for her and then following her inside.

 

The clerk looked up, taking in both of them. “Ah yes, Marshal Steelgrave made arrangements and paid in advance ma’am. No need of signing in, that’s all been taken care of.” He explained cheerfully, turning and taking a key off of the rack. “Here you go miss, one-oh-three, just down the hall on the left. If you need anything, just let us know.”

Harris was smiling.

 

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"That was fast..." she commented.  The Marshal must have come straight here while she was dress shopping.  

 

Dorothy took the offered key with a smile to the clerk and then took the bundle off of Layton.  "I s-pose I'll be right back then.  Gimmie a jiffy to change," she said, then headed back to the room.  It was surprisingly nice...  at least to someone that had used her saddle as pillow almost every night for the last few months.  And thoughts of dinner almost went out the window as she tested out the edge of the bed.  Almost.  Her stomach growled and she opened the bundle from the Mercantile to find the peanuts.

 

"This is somethin' I might could get used to," she said aloud to no one, looking over the room as she ate a handful of peanuts.  "Just gotta steer clear of the ding Pinkerton..." she added, like it was no big deal.  But she knew it was a big deal.  A very big deal. 

 

She took off the gun belt and went about looking for somewhere to hide the guns and the money.  Under the bed seemed too obvious, but there really weren't a lot of options.  So she stuffed both the guns and the money between the springs and the mattress, so at least one couldn't just see them with a casual glance under the bed.  Later, when she had some time alone, she'd find a better spot.  But she sure wasn't going to take the guns to dinner.  That was just asking to have the Marshal take them off of her.  

 

Some 15 minutes later, she was returning to the front desk.  She'd changed into the light blue dress, combed her hair up into a loose bun and left her brown and black hat back in the room.   She'd even applied a little bit of the eyeliner she always kept handy...  even being lost in the woods she hadn't lost track of her eyeliner.

 

Dorothy did her best to put on a confident air, but it was the first time in a long time she'd been around men without the assurances the guns offered and she felt almost naked without them. 

 

 

 

@Flip

 

 

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Some 15 minutes later, she was returning to the front desk.  She'd changed into the light blue dress, combed her hair up into a loose bun and left her brown and black hat back in the room.   She'd even applied a little bit of the eyeliner she always kept handy...  even being lost in the woods she hadn't lost track of her eyeliner.

 

 Layton Harris was not oblivious to beauty, and it could be argued that the woman he was looking at was not the same one who had ascended th staircase minutes before. He smiled. “A pleasant surprise, I’d say.” He stated approvingly.

 

Dorothy did her best to put on a confident air, but it was the first time in a long time she'd been around men without the assurances the guns offered and she felt almost naked without them.  

 

“So, it’s over to the café and see what Case has to say, and I’m sure he will answer all your questions.” Harris said. “Right this way, Miss Parsons.” He opened the door to let her out ahead of him, as gentlemanly as possible. He offered his arm on the porch to escort her across the street.

 

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"I'd still feel a bit better if it were Miss Jackson instead," she said.  Despite Layton's claim that Case Steelgrave ran this town, and no doubt that he did based on what she'd seen and heard so far, she saw no reason to tempt the fates by letting everyone and their brother know exactly who she was.   There was a ding Pinkerton on her tail after all.  The less folks that knew, the less that could rat her out, intentionally or accidentally.

 

Or was it just that she didn't want the whole town to know she was a whore and a thief?  Probably a bit of both.

 

When Layton offered her his arm, she hesitated only the briefest of moments before accepting and allowed him to escort her to the café, pushing down a small flutter of nerves.  No doubt Case Steelgrave would have some questions of his own he'd want answered... 

 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"The Miss Jackson it is, I don't Case will have any objection to whtever you want to call yourself." He  agreed, guiding her to the front door of the cafe. "Now," he began as they reached the door, "be yourself and don't worry. I guarantee everything's going to be just fine." He reached for the white porcelain knob and turned it. 

 

Case looked up as the door opened and smiled, the bare inflection of a smile. She was pretty, he granted her that. More importantly she moved well, dressed appropriately and, could be used in a myriad of ways.


The door open, Harris let her enter first. the warmth of the room engulfing him as he saw where Case was sitting, at the back of the room facing the door. "This way." As if she could not see the star on his chest. "Case, the woman your father sent. Goes by the name Jackson." He pulled out a chair for her.

 

Case rose to his feet and took her hand. Welcome to Whitefish, is there a first name to go with Jackson?" He greeted.

 

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Dorothy's eyes swept quickly over the marshal as they approached.  The man was tall!  He towered a full foot over her.  And she thought he looked...  rougher than his father. Not that that was a bad thing, of course.  Bobby'd been about as rough as they came, after all. 

 

She returned Case's smile with one of her own: any uneasiness she felt was carefully hidden away.  She allowed him to take her hand as if she were a lady. It was rough, a bit calloused, various scratches adorned the skin and several of her cuticles were ripped ... nothing that wouldn't heal up in a few days or a week now that she wasn't lost in the wilderness.  Her fingernails had been scrubbed clean in the bath earlier, but had needed to be cut very short to even them up again. 

 

"Welcome to Whitefish, is there a first name to go with Jackson?"

 

"Thanks, Mr. Steelgrave.  It's Dotty," she answered.   Maybe he'd want her to change it to something more drastically different than her real name, but for now, she'd leave it there.  It was hard enough getting used to 'Dotty'.  It was not a nickname she'd ever gone by before the past few months.

 

 

@Flip

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"Dottie is it, well, have a seat." Case began. "Have you eaten? If not, please order what you wish. Now, I understand that a Pinkerton is on your trail, so to say. We'll need to figure out how best to secret you from him. I assume he's alone." He exhaled.

 

She was a lovely young lady, and there were ways he would be able to use her, that was certain, but first he'd  need to know what she was good at. What her work history was and that would give him some idea of possibly hiding he in plain sight. If necessary, there was always the line camp, which was empty for now. There were no cattle there, and none of the men, they were all in town or out with his brothers.

 

"So, as far as working, what have you done? Clerking? That sort of thing? I'd really like to keep you here in town, if possible." He continued. "The name Dottie, is the Pinkerton aware of that name? Would you be willing to use a different name for the time being?" He smiled, "I know, a lot of questions."

 

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"Dunno 'zactly what he knows," she said, brow furrowed in slight worry, and took the offered seat, slouching back a little, then sitting upright again.  Acting ladylike required a conscious effort on her part.  She didn't know what Case knew either.  Maybe not quite as much as she'd thought if he was asking about her being a clerk.   "Guess a new name wouldn't hurt 'til he's gone."

 

She met Case's eyes, trying to decide if he seemed like someone she was willing to trust her life to.  Which, if she stayed here, was really what she'd be doing.  At least by her way of thinking.  And he couldn't help her with the warrant if he didn't have the whole story... well, most of it anyway.

 

"Ain't never had much of a real job 'fore," she said, seeing no need to mention the whorehouse.  "You ever heard a Robert Baker?  Some folks called him One-Eyed Bobby."  While the name had gained some notoriety in Texas and New Mexico, she didn't know if anyone this far north would have heard of him. 

 

 

 

@Flip

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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“Dunno 'zactly what he knows," she said, brow furrowed in slight worry, and took the offered seat, slouching back a little, then sitting upright again.  "Guess a new name wouldn't hurt 'til he's gone."


“No, a new name would actually be a good idea, since we don’t know exactly what he knows. And, he can ask around for Dottie or Dorothy and get no where” Case agreed. “So, I’ll trust you to come up with that name, one you like. Makes it easier to remember.”

 

"Ain't never had much of a real job 'fore," she said, seeing no need to mention the whorehouse.  "You ever heard a Robert Baker?  Some folks called him One-Eyed Bobby."


“The name sounds familiar. From my days in Texas.” He said looking at her. “Well then, maybe we could get you trained at a job while we wait out this Pink, before we get you involved in what we are doing.”


He considered her for a long moment. “Yes, that’s what we’ll do. We can either look for who needs the help, or find something where the time taken to train you won’t be a hindrance to the business. We’ve several folks here that are off the outlaw trail for whatever reason, so you won’t be the only one.”

 

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“So, I’ll trust you to come up with that name, one you like. Makes it easier to remember.”

 

"How about Anna, then?"  She said, almost immediately.  It had been the name of another girl, back at Donley's.  One that Dorothy had started to consider a friend before she mixed herself up enough laudanum on Christmas day back in  '71 that she didn't ever wake up again.   An odd choice perhaps, but in some way she thought it might honor the girl that had helped her survive there.  

 

"Anna Jackson...  seems easy 'nuff to remember."

 

“The name sounds familiar. From my days in Texas.”

 

"I helped out him an' his boys," she said, circumventing the fact that she'd shared his bedroll as well, though that probably wasn't hard to guess.  "Some cookin', some patchin' 'em up.  Got pretty good with the horses too," she said.  Then lowered her voice and leaned forward a bit to keep the next part from being overheard by any of the wait staff or other customers, "He robbed some Wells Fargo money in Texas and they got him not too long after in an ambush."  She paused momentarily, her mouth tightening at the memory of the chaos that had been.  Smitty had managed to get some of them the hell out of there, probably because the bounty hunters were only focused on Bobby and Sparrow. 

 

"Didn't think the Pink would follow the rest 'a us this far.  Guess they won't be happy til we're all hung."  

 

 

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"Didn't think the Pink would follow the rest 'a us this far.  Guess they won't be happy til we're all hung."


Case laughed tightly, the smile quickly vanished. “They do tend to hound their prey, as it were.” He paused for a moment. “Sorry about your friends, one needs to consider that outcome before getting into this line of work. There was a hesitation when the waitress came and refilled his coffee.


“You want something to eat” He asked as the waitress paused in her move to leave the table.


“I like the name Anna Jackson, like it real well, now to figure out where to sequester you where you can be of the most help, and in a place this Pink wouldn’t think to look. Maybe with Doc, or the mercantile, something like that. Not the stables and damn sure not the Silver Dollar, too public. Places he’s certain to go when he gets here, and he’ll get here.”

 

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“You want something to eat?”

 

"Yeah," she answered eagerly.  Worries of being hung could only push away the more immediate problems...  like starving to death...  for so long.  "D'jeet yet?" she asked. Even after a few years out of Pennsylvania, the squashed together words still slipped out sometimes.  But she didn't wait for an answer from Case before looking at the waitress.  "Some kinda stew if ya got it?  Not picky, long as it ain't too spicy..." she requested.  

 

She looked slightly surprised at the mention of her working with the doc, though it pleased her at the same time.  That was something actually respectable.  And a far cry better than what she would have expected.  "I ain't squeamish or nothing," she said, hoping to sell Case further on that idea.  "Helped deliver a baby once too," she said, as if those two things alone somehow made her a qualified candidate for the job.  

 

@Flip

Edited by Juls
fixin' typos (see edit history)

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"Some kinda stew if ya got it?  Not picky, long as it ain't too spicy..." she requested.  


“Yes Ma’am.” the waitress said and walked away.
 

"I ain't squeamish or nothing," she said, hoping to sell Case further on that idea.  "Helped deliver a baby once too,"


Case took in the response ad again, a fleeting smile crossed his face. “Whatever we decide now will change what we’ll do with you after the Pink is out of the picture. I think you’ll do just fine. You can use those pistols I presume, as in the future you’ll probably need to, but for now they need to be packed away.

 

The Pinkerton man was, of course, alone, much like the Rangers in Texas, but that fact spoke to their effectiveness. He was of concern to the Whitefish operations, even though he was not in Montana for any of them, he certainly would stall things for a while. Killing him out of hand was not an option, at least for the time being.

 

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Dorothy wasn't quite sure what to make of Case's non-committal response about her (lack of) doctorin' skills.  Maybe he wanted some time to think on it.  That was fine.  She didn't mind time to get settled before they put her to work.

 

She gave Case a sly smile when he asked about her pistols.  It was almost disappointing that the test of skill hadn't happened, but she could give him a different demonstration.  "Well," she began, letting the extra feminine tone come through that she knew men liked.  It tended to put men off their guard and was a trick she'd learned early when she'd come west with James.  That, combined with the pretty blue dress and the nicely combed blonde hair, a man might actually mistake her for just a sweet and naive young woman.   "Won't claim I'm the best ever, Sugar, but I know how to use them and I'm better than most men would guess." 

 

 

@Flip

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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Dorothy wasn't quite sure what to make of Case's non-committal response about her (lack of) doctorin' skills.  Maybe he wanted some time to think on it.  That was fine.  She didn't mind time to get settled before they put her to work.


“We’ll get it sorted out in the next day or two, give you some time to get acquainted here in town.” Case decided. “You needn’t worry, your room and meals are taken care off, same at the Chinaman's laundry. Now, about those pistols.”
 

She gave Case a sly smile when he asked about her pistols.  It was almost disappointing that the test of skill hadn't happened, but she could give him a different demonstration.  "Well," she began, letting the extra feminine tone come through that she knew men liked.  It tended to put men off their guard and was a trick she'd learned early when she'd come west with James.  That, combined with the pretty blue dress and the nicely combed blonde hair, a man might actually mistake her for just a sweet and naive young woman.   "Won't claim I'm the best ever, Sugar, but I know how to use them and I'm better than most men would guess."  


Case’s expression changed, eyes narrowed, jaw line taught. “ Word to the wise girl, you wanna talk like a loose woman, then you’ll get treated like one. I may have orders where that’s concerned, but the old man doesn’t run this town, I do. So knock off the “sugar” talk and we’ll get along just fine.” The look probably would have sufficed, but Case wanted to make himself clear from the start. I wasn’t personal, it was not the way the women in his employ talked to him.


At that moment the waitress came with Dottie's breakfast. “Eat up and enjoy, I’ve business to attend to.” He rose and walked out the door.

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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Well...  he hadn't taken that at all the way she'd intended.   Seemed offended almost, she thought.  Strangely, she didn't get offended in return.  Maybe it was because she'd been called much worse than a 'loose woman' before.  

 

" 'course ... Mr. Steelgrave," she said, though her tone did not suggest she was apologetic for anything either. 

 

Even though it was growing late in the day, it was indeed her breakfast and she started on the stew quickly when Case left, as if someone would take it off of her if she didn't eat it fast enough.  

 

"He and his old man at odds on everything?" she asked to Harris in between bites.  She'd liked Elias.  Wasn't so sure about his son... 

 

 

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894584767_LaytonHarris.jpg.264df16e7b30ef39de7a6557443a2038.jpg"They get along just fine most times." Layton said. "Just understand, no matter what Elias says, this is Cases' town, and he runs it his way. You just struck a nerve is all." Harris knew both men extremely well, and what both were capable of. Case sometimes appeared to be a hot head, but that was subterfuge. Case Steelgrave was his own man and defied even his father to challenge him.

 

"So, I'm headed back to the Evergreen. You've got logging and food taken care of, and like the man said, he'll have it sorted out before too long so relax and enjoy yourself. And Dotty, watch what you say around Case, or his boys for that matter. You'll be alright."

 

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"Thanks for your help today," Dorothy said to Layton, managing to pause eating long enough to reply and gave him a grateful smile.  Half of her stew was gone already, shoveled in more like a cowhand on the trail rather than a lady.   Good table manners had never been drilled into her as a child and they'd only gotten worse living on the run with Bobby, Flinch and the rest of 'em.

 

"Don't worry none 'bout me," she said.  "I'm sure I'll see you 'round, Mr. Harris." 

 

He seemed the good sort, she thought.  A real gentlemen, which was a rarity in her life.  Maybe a rarity here in Whitefish too.  But it seemed they wouldn't be working together much, if he was mainly expected to be at the ranch while she'd be at Case's beck and call doing who-knew-what. 

 

She nodded to his parting warning about watching what she said around Case and his boys.  "I'll try," she promised with a smile and shrug.

 

 

@Flip  End of thread??

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 "Thanks for your help today," Dorothy said to Layton.


“It was no problem, no problem at all. “ Harris relied with a smile. “You’ll do just fine here
 

"Don't worry none 'bout me," she said.  "I'm sure I'll see you 'round, Mr. Harris."

 
“Oh you will, time to time.  I’ll be sure to look you up next time I’m in town and see how you’re doing.” He was confident the girl would workout well once she settled in.


She nodded to his parting warning about watching what she said around Case and his boys.  "I'll try," she promised with a smile and shrug.


At that moment the door opened and a disheveled older man came in looking about and finally focusing on Dorothy, now known as Anna Jackson. He strode to the table, acknowledging Harris as he passed him.


“You Anna Jackson? Doctor Josiah Boone.” He stated. “Spoke with Marshal Steelgrave, seems you need a job and I need an assistant. Finish eating and come to my office, just up the street.”

 

Tag @Juls (continuing on for just a bit)

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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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