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Sagas of the Wild West
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Alone With His Thoughts

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Mature Content: No.
Location: Where Whitefish Once Stood
When: April 1876
Time of Day: Mid-morning.




Still an able horseman, Elias Steelgrave rode over to what had been the town of Whitefish. Granted, his son ran the town with an iron fist, had kept his outlaw friends close, while they rustled cattle from everyone local, including some of his, but he had been paid handsomely to be involved in the ruse, plus the return of his cattle and generally several head of unbranded stock.


It was a sad sight, the utter destruction of both fire and weather had unleashed on the town that was to be the jewel of his empire. Now those that had lived there had moved on, either to Kalispell or Columbia Falls, south to Fort Somers and possibly beyond. Without Whitefish as his centerpiece, the plan for the empire and it’s expansion was now just a painful memory.


Elias considered what had transpired over the past year, he lost both his daughter and his wife, not to mention the crushing blow to his plans. His sons who should be at the home ranch were off somewhere, Clayton who was supposed to be the foreman of the ranch was in and out, working with his underling and acting foreman Layton Harris, who actually ran the place. Clayton, busy with his wife and four children, had lost his taste for blood letting, or so it seemed. And Zeke, Zeke who ran most all of the Steelgraves non-ranching businesses was now in Missoula with Elias’ actual lawyer, Carson Tyndall, and whether or not Zeke was still in contact with his mother was unknown to him. Perhaps, he needed to find out.


The only one of his family he could count on was Case. Yet, could he rely on a man that had his own plans and ideas that most times did not ally with his fathers? That was the question. True, his boys had been there in the beginning, had been willing to use their guns to further their fathers plans, but as he turned his horse for home he wondered if they too had abandoned him.


Well, there was Case, and there were Case’s men. He might just have to cut his other children out, permanently. Elias had become an angry, empty man. And that made him very dangerous.


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  • 1 month later...

He reined in, then turned the horse back toward the rubble that had been Whitefish and galloped toward the only building still standing, the church. Unbeknownst to him the building had been the last refuge for some of the survivors, shelter for those who had been injured during the storm and the fire. He knew none of that, and could have cared less.


He was brooding over his perceived losses within what had been his family, unable to grasp the truth of the matter, he, Elias Steelgrave, had driven them away. It was their fault, they were to blame, if only they could see the wisdom in his plans and the fortune that awaited them. But no, they had abandoned him instead, all but Case it would seem.


He swung down and looked around until he spied what he was looking for, a fallen  branch with plenty of pitch pine. Picking it up he looked at the forlorn structure before him. His mind was a mass of confused thoughts as he drew a match from his vest pocket and strode toward it. It's whitewash faded, one of the front doors hanging by a single hinge, scorch marks from the previous fire visible on the back portion of the structure.


Elias mounted the rickety steps and entered the church proper. The pews were scattered in disarray as they had been used as beds for the injured. The pulpit, nothing more than a lectern on a stage remained. He made his way to it, laid the branch at it's base, ran the match down the side of the lectern until the flame leaped forth. He held it  a moment to ensure it would stay lit, then he bent down and laid it on the branch. Instantly the  branch was ablaze, flames licking at the lectern as well as the plank floor.


Elias stepped back as the fire began to consume the dry wood of the floor and the stage. He found himself backing away more quickly as flames engulfed pews  close to the stage, he began laughing as he tuned and bolted for the door, down the steps and swung up onto his horse who shied away from the fire. He sat there, looking at his fire as if mesmerized by it, the wheeled his horse and galloped a distance away, turning once again to look at what he had done, laughing. At who, or at what? Perhaps at his faded plans and schemes.


He turned the horse toward the direction of the Evergreen and walked the animal into the trees as the church burned behind him.

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  • 1 month later...

There seemed to have been some satisfaction in the burning of the church, and all that was inside. Yet sitting with a snifter of brandy that satisfaction had vanished as quickly as it had come to him. He sat, alone in the big house, where once he had had the company of his wife and his children, now he had bitter memories of how they had left him.


Elinor who had made her usual trip to Helena, is said to have returned but left again. It was rumored she had fled to St. Louis and the high life there, but his hired men could not confirm that. She had effectively disappeared, dropped from the face of the earth so to speak.


The Boys, they had set out to claim the empire for him, but never returned. From what news he had gathered, they had seen the folly in his plan, seen the needless killing that would have to be done at the risk of their own lives. It didn't help that Clay, with his wife and four children had cleared out and left the area. Then Zeke, the most ruthless of his sons, perhaps even more so than Case, had left it was said for the gold fields of the Dakotas, though they were certainly a huge risk especially with the Sioux out.


Benjamin, spoiled by his mother and the outright owner of a huge ranch just past where Whitefish once stood. Ben, the gentleman rancher. Married, two children  and as far from his father as he could get. He wanted none of the Steelgrave plans or spoils,


And then there was Case, Case who had his own plans that didn't include his fathers grand schemes. Plans that only started with the County Sheriff post. Elias believed he was aiming much higher than that. Much higher than anything Kalispell or fledgling Flathead County* could offer. So that left him, Elias Steelgrave alone.


Of course there was Leah. Getting her back on the Evergreen would take kidnapping her and locking in chains, she had made that abundantly clear. He knew that his assault on her had changed everything between them, and even with his justifications, he knew he was morally wrong, not that it actually mattered to him, for he would again bury the truth with dink and self delusion. It was how he had justified everything he had perpetrated on people over the years.


Yet there he sat, alone with his thoughts, his anger, his explaining away and his paltry excuses. Yet, there was a plan forming, not yet concrete, not thoroughly rationalized, just the inkling of a plan.


*(Flathead County was founded in 1893 some17 years on.)



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  • 1 month later...

There came a pounding on the door, loud and continuous. It was enough to bring Elias awake, he was in his chair beside the grey embers of what had been a fire. His clothes in disarray, an almost common sight anymore. The empty brandy decanter lay on it's side on the table next to his chair, and the glass crashed to the floor when he was startled awake by the incessant knocking.


He sat up to gather himself, and his bearings, then managed to stand, swaying a bit in his hung over condition while he made his way to the door. He flung it wide open, "What in God's name, Ashworth? For Christs sake, you'll wake the dead."


"Marshal Guyer arrested Case last night and I'm afraid he's got a good case." Ashworth spewed quickly.


"Slow down, slow down. What about Case?" Elias asked as he made his way back to his chair. "Sit down, sit down."


"Elias, Marshal Guyer arrested Case last night." He said slowly. "Case tried to pull a gun on him as I understand it and got a broken nose for his trouble, but Elias, I'm afraid he's in real trouble this time."


"Trouble, huh. Well, do me a favor and get Harris an' Granger in here."  As he said that there was a knock and both men entered the house.


"Wondered what the rush was. Been here sooner but we ways a ways out." Layton Harris explained. "Didn't think you had comp'ny comin'."


"I didn't! Ashworth says Case in in jail. Well, I want him out! You get some of the boys an go down there an' bring him home. You hear me? Get him outta that jail!. And get me another bottle of brandy!"


Granger cringed, "Elias, uh, Mister Steelgrave sir, that will mean gun trouble. Guyer and his deputy, Pike, they'll not stand for it."


"I give a good Goddamn what they'll stand for! You take every man that can be spared and you get my son out of that damned jail!"


"Yessir!" Was the only reply, it was now just after nine, and it would take time to get the men together, it would be ten-thirty, eleven o'clock pushing hard to reach Kalispell. Almost mid-day and the streets would be busy with people. Neither man liked the idea at all. But they had their orders so they backed away and rushed out the door.


"Well? You done what you came for." Elias barked. "Sad damned day when a an has to get his own bottle!"


Nolan Ashworth left the yard as fast as he had arrived, he could see the activity, men riding out get others for the foray in to Kalispell. He would say nothing, work his way to the post office so as not to be seen, if that were possible.

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Elias got his own bottle, that was the way of it these days. He had fired the chink that cook, told him get back to his laundering. Which he did. But Elias was truly alone in almost every way possible for a man to be alone on the second largest spread in that part of the state.


Ashworth was all but useless to him, running about like a school girl tattling on everybody. On the other hand, the man could be useful at times like this, and that's why he used him. What the hell had happened?


A whole family gone to hell! His wife gone to God knows where, his son's off and away living their own lives, and that snot nosed Leah with her big plans for a hospital that would never get built, not if he had anything to say about it. It was why he had the riders he hired. He burn the thing to the ground as many times as she built it. He'd show her! Hell, he'd show Kalispell, and them Thornton's too!


First though, the boys needed to bring Case home. Which would lead to a bit of vengeance with that Marshal Guyer. That was a dead man walking if there every was one! Lay a hand on a Steelgrave? His brother ought be tearing that Municipal Building down, brick by brick. 


He threw the glass he was using across the room, it shattered when it hit the wall, glass and brandy flying everywhere. With a disgusted look, he lifted the bottle and drank from it, who needed a glass anyhow?


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