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Mature Content:

With: Addy, Jay
Location: Whitefish/Swing Station Barn
When: December/ 1875
Time of Day: Afternoon

 

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With Oleander reunited with her mule, and the Kalispell rescuers getting organized and ready to head back with survivors, Addy decided to quickly check the barn and swing station owned by Millegan Stage Lines that sat at the edge of town.  The small barn and corral held fresh teams that were switched out with the spent horses pulling the stage.  Hopefully, they had been seen to, or had managed to get out, but she had to be sure before they left.

 

Riding one of the spare team she'd brought with her, she was grateful that the animal was one of the big draft horses that could more easily navigate the deep snow drifts.  As she approached the bar, she looked it over, pleased to see it was still relatively intact...later, when conditions were better, she could come back and see if there was any equipment to salvage, but for now, she was worried about lives.

 

It took a few minutes for her to finally be able to yank the big doors open, since drifts had to be dug away, and she was breathing heavily when she was able to peer into the darkness.  At first, of course, she really couldn't see anything more than outlines, and as she waited for her eyes to adjust, she called out, "Any'a ya'll still in here?"

 

@Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After what had seemed like an eternity, thanks to the burning in his side, hunger and the cold, that had crept into every pore of his body, Jay had fallen asleep. It was an uneasy slumber on the bed of hay but it had been long overdue. The winters were hard when you had no steady roof over your head or decent food in your belly. Minutes passed, then hours.

 

It was the voice of a woman, that brought him out of the dreamless sleep.

Disoriented he tried to figure out what was going on. Someone had entered the barn for some reason. Why would anyone come here in terrible weather like this?

 

He could hear the footsteps on the frozen ground of the barn, only blended out by the howling wind outside every now and then.

As he tried to keep as still as possible, the small cat lifted her head and meowed.

 

'Da*n!' Jay cursed in thoughts. That damn little thing!

Under his blanket Jay held his breath, his hand slowly wandering to his belt where he kept his gun. Even the leather felt cold against his fingertips.  He knew that there were no more than two bullets left in the barrel. Enough for just one lady.

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Finally able to see, Addy stepped farther into the big structure, finding some shelter from the cold.  And now she could see a few horses roaming the building, thankfully not stuck in their stalls, where they wouldn't have been able to get to hay.  It would be an easy matter to get them in halters and back to the main part of town, then back to Kalispell where they could have proper housing.

 

"Yer not one'a th' stage horses," she murmured, noticing a saddle horse among the three big draft animals, and she headed for it, her hand held out.  "Hey, fella.  How'd ya get here?"

 

But before the horse could answer, she heard a faint little, 'Mew!' and changed paths.  It wasn't a grown cat, and there was no way that a kitten could survive in this cold!

 

"Kitty, kitty!"  Listening for more noise, she made her way in the direction from which it had come, near one of the stalls...or in.  "C'mon, kitty, I got a nice, warm place for ya."

 

@Jack

 

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Now he was wide awake in a matter of seconds. The voice and steps came closer thanks to the small kitten. 'traitor' Jay thought and tried to get the cat to move away from under his blanket in order to protect his hide away. The animals, that was pushed away, returned right back into his lap. Inwardly Jay groaned about so much bad luck after the raid, that had gone wrong in Whitefish, a cat would give away his presence.

 

The steps were now awefully close and it was only a matter of seconds that he'd be discovered, so he held the kitten in one hand, his revolver in the other and threw off the ratty, old, woolen blanket.

As quickly as his current state allowed he sat up and pointed the barrel of his gun at a lady, who looked like she was about the same age as him. Long dark hair framed her delicate face. Despite her pretty appearance, the robber could tell that she wasn't a fragile girl. No, she looked like she could handle herself.

 

 

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"Whoa there, fella!"  Addy was startled, but she held her ground, putting her hands out in supplication, after all, there was no way she could draw and shoot him before he killed her, and besides, she'd do the same if she were in his boots...er, blanket.

 

"Name's Addy Chappel, there's a group of us, come from Kalispell when we heard about what happened here...come ta help, is all."  She held steady, not moving, hoping this was getting through.  "I got food, an' there's blankets.  We're takin' folks back ta Kalispell, got rooms set up there, if you've a mind."

 

Or, he could just shoot her, and someone else would have to drive the stage back!

 

@Jack

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His grim expression didn't match her firm but still somewhat friendly face in any way. On the contrary. While he was pointing a gun at her, the lady was offering food and shelter, which was something he'd been desperately seeking for a while.

There was a moment, their eyes connected. His cold and weary, hers full of confidence and warmth.

This could be a trap, though. Maybe she knew what happened and belonged to a search party.

That's when he remembered that she'd been talking to the horses, which was very unlikely for someone looking for a robber.

If he understood her right, she was assuming that he'd run away to find shelter, which was at least partly correct.

 

Slowly he lowered his colt but didn't put it back in its holster.

"I'm freezing." His lips had turned blue from the cold. Even without saying anything it was visible, that he was desperate for what she was offering.

He wasn't sure what to tell her yet but he let the blanket slide from his shoulders and stood up so he now was a whole head taller than her, which should be a warning for the lady not to try anything.

He wanted to ask her how many men were out there and why she was being friendly but didn't want to raise any suspicions.

"I could use a meal."

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"Here now..." Addy lowered her hands and started to reach into her coat pocket, but thought better of it, in case he though she was going for a gun.  So instead, she took the heavy coat off and held it to him.  Her pistol was strapped to her hips, over the pants she was wearing.  "There's some jerky in th' pockets, an' take these, too."  Pulling off her gloves, she held those out as well.  For now, she was warm, and he needed the things more than she did.  Besides, if he didn't shoot her, she could warm her hands under one of the horse's manes.

 

"If it ain't contrary, I'm gonna take th' stage company horses an' head back ta th' town."  She gave him a nod.  "I reckon that saddle horse is yers?"  Well, it was now, anyway.  "An' that cat...he yers, too?"

 

@Jack

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As soon as her hand went into the pocket of her coat, Jay's gun was raised again but then he realized what she was doing. Keeping his blue eyes fixed on her he sat the kitten, that he'd been holding in his left hand, down on the straw and reached for the coat to retrieve the jerkey.

In order to take the food out of the pocket and also accept the gloves, he had to make a decision...away with his Colt.

 

So he put it in its holster, that hung on an old worn leather belt on his hips. With stiff fingers he fumbled out the cold jerkey and instantly shoved it in his mouth. The meat was tough as heck but it was food, so who cared. While he chewed  she asked about his horse, so he simply gave her a nod.

 

When she wanted to know whether the cat was his Jay looked down at the small animal, who was still walking around his boots. "I guess now he is. He won't make it through the winter otherwise."

 

He then pulled on her gloves, that he could barely fit his fingers in and picked up the kitten again.

Finally he swallowed and licked his lips. "Thank you, mam. Very kind of you."

He was starting to believe that her kindness was genuine and not a trap.

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"Well, we come here ta help," Addy commented, "I'm just glad I come to check on th' horses."  She took a step closer and held out her hand.  "I drive stage fer th' Millegan Stage Company, these big horses are theirs.  I'll take 'em back, yer welcome ta join me."

 

The horses would be able to pack some gear, too, so there would be more room for survivors in the wagons, and from what she had seen, there was going to be plenty of need.

 

"Ya need help saddlin' yer horse?"  He seemed pretty cold still, and she wasn't sure his hands had enough feeling to work the cinch buckle or buckles on the bridle.  "I can do that while ya munch on that jerky."

 

The activity would help warm her up, and she really didn't mind helping.  "Can make a sling outta that blanket ta carry yer kitten in."  You had to admire a man who was kind to animals.

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The lady, Addy, was incredibly kind to him. Not only did she offer her gloves, food and shelter but her tone was also kind. Despite the Colt, he had pointed at her earlier Addy had remained calm and collected and hadn't lost the warmth in her voice.

She even offered to help him saddle his horse, which would be great because he was weak, hurt and frozen stiff.

"That would be much appreciated." He took her hand and shook it, then introduced himself. "I'm Jay."

 

He slowly walked over to the old leather saddle that he barely had been able to take off. With nimble fingers he tried to lift it up but when he lifted the heavy saddle onto the horses back, pain flared up in his side. So he was thankful that the coach driver was right by his side.

Jay let her do the rest and took a moment to bend down and reach for the kitten again. The blanket was now tied into a sling and the small pet put inside. How a man without any money or a job or home should provide for a cat, he didn't know but maybe Addy would take the kitten in. He'd ask her in town.

 

She knew what she was doing and Jay admired her fearlessness in his presence. Lately he had seen a lot of people, who were afraid of him. It had become a normal state. One without friends.

 

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