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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.

The Quick and the Dead


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Mature Content: No.

Author: Jemima Wigfall

With: Anyone who is passing.
Location: Outside the Old Funeral Parlour.
When: Early July, 1876
Time of Day: After the bodies are brought into town.

 

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Jemima Wigfall could have been a light breeze passing with a whisper through the streets of Kalispell, the amount of attention anybody paid her. Hmmm. Maybe light was an ill chosen word: for she was heavy in body, dark and brooding in looks, and dull in her very nature, unless roused to anger by her twin brother’s merciless prodding or tickled to reluctant mirth by some rare, tittersome event in the vicinity. She hardly even noticed herself: her days passed by in repetitive drudgery and commonplace turgid toil.

 

Thus she was thrilled to see any new novelty to brighten up the soulless days as she dragged herself from one job as a drudge to another. Right now she was heading from her position as a doorstep scrubber in the upmarket part of town to her home, and another job as a general dogsbody in her Mother’s boarding house, and the novelty she espied was enough to bring a wet smile to her slack lips. Dead ‘uns! Three corpses laid out on the boardwalk outside the old funeral parlour and a crowd gathered that would do justice to a lynching or a cock fight. She moved in a little closer, the slow blood in her veins struggling to do a little pounding in her heart, a feeble effort to feel a thrill.

 

Before she could see a body properly, she was treated to the sight of Arabella Mudd being dragged off one of the corpses, covered in blood, moaning incoherently about someone called Billy, and getting more or less carried in a faint back to the Saloon where she cleaned spittoons and wiped up vomit for her keep. Why dead ‘uns was grist to everybody’s mill, and Arabella had sure got her ten cents worth. Another vulture was that Crabbe feller, even now setting up his tripod and camera, ready to take a jolly snap of the stiff stark trio, trying with professional patience to get his own shadow out of the shot.

 

She oozed her way through the crowd to get to the front and stared down with ghoulish delight at the three cadavers. A fat one and a thin one were a nice mess, but the one Arabella had been covering with tears was still handsome, pretty almost, in death. She could certainly see the appeal. They all had their shirts pulled off, no doubt to display where the bullets had entered their torsos and caused their death, their return to the clay. Jemima Wigfall felt her eyes inexorably drawn to the one called Billy, his angelic face, his pale, slightly muscled body, his once pink but now deathly white nipples, his belly button looking like one of the bullet holes, the crease where his loins marked a vee at the bottom of his stomach...

 

She was jealous of Arabella, she wanted to throw herself upon his marble form as well. But she was never able to do dramatic stuff like that. She was just too doggone dull. Well, she couldn’t be romantic, but she could sure be ghoulish. She nudged hello to a boy standing next to her and bend down a little to whisper in his ear.

 

“They reckon you can see a reflection of the murderer fixed in a dead man’s eye. I dare you to go look.” She said in flat tones, but with a flash of horrible delight in her black eyes.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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As the spring months gave way to the beginnings of summer and the days grew hotter, Thomas found himself out in the streets ever more frequently. His newfound duties with the Kalispell parish were keeping him busy, both in visiting outlying ranches and hosting services when Pastor Evans was indisposed, and what time he had away from the pulpit was mostly spent getting to know the townsfolk.

 

Which is why it came as such a shock to the senses when three men were shot down; a rancher the culprit. Some part of the old priest might have hoped that Kalispell would be a quieter chapter of his tumultuous life, but of course, the passions of men were more than any one person carried.

 

He stood off to the side, leaning against the church's wall as the crowd milled around the caskets on the other side of the road. Soon, he would say a prayer over those men, as their bodies were commited to the earth, but for now, he merely watched. A trickle of smoke wafted upward from between his fingers, a cigarette alight, and for all the world he might have simply looked a tired old man, if not for the white collar at his throat, highlighted against the black of his waistcoat. He certainly felt like a tired old man, for as Arabella was drawn, wailing and screaming, from the center of the crowd, he didn't feel pity or sorrow, but a sense of exhaustion. Death was tiring, for none more so than those left behind. One day that girl would forget Billy's voice, his features, the way he moved and laughed, just as he had forgotten Louisa's, but not after years of exhausting sadness.

 

He took a drag of the cigarette, tapping ash out onto the street, and propped one boot up against the church wall behind him. Passers-by still were pausing to get a view of the grisly scene, and under any other circumstance, Thomas might have used the opportunity to get to know them better. Take the brown-haired, brooding girl, for example. He could hardly say that he'd noticed her before today, but she pushed herself to the forefront of the throng with such urgency that he might have imagined her to be family of the deceased, if not for the cold, unforgiving look plastered upon her face. These were his people now, and perhaps one day he would have the words to give them comfort. For now, he merely smoked, watched, and waited.

@Javia

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Speed and Pike mounted their horses, it was walking distance, but like most western men, they preferred horseback. They had decided to ride over to the funeral parlor where the bodies were laid out for everyone’s viewing pleasure. Word had it they weren’t even stood against the wall, just laid out one next to the other.


It was far from a novelty to either of them. They had seen their friends laid out in plain wooden coffins, or on battlefields, left where they lay for the black contrabands to bury. Of course out here, away from the rest of civilization, dead men were a novelty to prove the wages of sin did not payoff. They would not be cleaned up, they would be buried as they looked, dirty, bloody, grotesque. They would be posed with their guns, which would be later be taken and sold to pay for the expenses of the service rendered, such as it was.


Death, no matter how it was reached, was final. Whether good or bad, those who were killed, justly, or unjustly, were a sight people gravitated to. When they arrived at the display, both men remained on their horses. There was no law preventing the display, no reason for the law to be involved. They were just spectators, like the others, except they took no pleasure in the viewing. They knew the men in the pine boxes, young Billy, who they hopped would not end up as he had, and Greer, who ended up right where men of his caliber finished their lives. Black Jack Laine, he was a two-bit gun hand that thought, like a good number of them, that he was more than he was.


Speed looked to Pike, who nodded and they wheeled their mounts and started back when Speed noticed the Catholic priest., he pulled up, “Padre.” The touched the brim of his hat. “Gettin’ yourself settled in, are you?”

@boshmi

 

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Wyatt, like most boys his age, was fascinated with such things as this display of dead bodies. Not that he had ever actually seen dead bodies laid out like this. But he had been present at the bank robbery earlier in spring and a few men died then too. So he did know violent death. As a crowd ogled the corpses, he had to take a look himself.

 

"Why are their shirts off?" asked one girl, a grade ahead of him at the town school.

 

"I guess so they can see the bullet holes?" Wyatt took a guess.

 

"Why?"

 

"I ain't sure," he was concentrating on the youngest of the trio of corpses. Why that young feller wasn't all that much older than he was and now he laid there with three bullet holes in him.  He could hear folks talking about how it seemingly happened. One of the Lost Lake ranchers brought in the wagon with the bodies heaped inside. Seems he shot 'em all. Wyatt had to wonder if that jasper would be arrested for this?

 

“They reckon you can see a reflection of the murderer fixed in a dead man’s eye. I dare you to go look.” some older girl said in flat tones, but with a flash of horrible delight in her black eyes.

 

Wyatt didn't believe that for a minute and his look showed it, "That can't work."

 

Since he was dared and it's not like a dead guy was gonna lash out at him, Wyatt stepped closer then peered into the youngest one's face, the eyes wide open but not looking like ....well, he was alive of course. He locked his gaze with the sightless gaze of the corpse for a few seconds then stepped aback again.

 

"I don't see nothin'," he told the gal with a shrug.

 

Wyatt.jpg

 

 

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It wasn't uncommon for Emeline to make an occasional mid-day run to the mercantile, either leaving the cafe temporarily closed, or in the care of one of the waitresses, and today she'd needed to make a quick run to get some spices, and besides, it was a nice day out, and a good chance to get some air.

 

But as she walked along the boardwalk, she was blocked by a crowd, gawking at something, and at first she was curious.  But then she saw that it was the funeral parlor, and she started around...she didn't need to see bodies, and likely, if they were on display, these were criminals of some sort, no family to protest the obscene spectacle in the victims' last hours before the grave.  

 

She felt no compulsion to look, and besides, she didn't have time to linger on trivialities, but she had only gone a few steps into the street when she heard a familiar voice wailing, rather like a banshee, and then the name, 'Billy', more than once.

 

Billy?  No, not that Billy. 

 

Frowning, Emeline changed course, going to look.  'Billy' was a common name, so the chanced that this was the young man who had given Clara a hard time were small, right?

 

Wrong...

 

She didn't need to look long to confirm her fears, and Emeline turned away, back toward the cafe...spices could wait, right now she just didn't care.  Sure, she didn't really know the boy, but he'd been charming and personable, only laying on the boardwalk because a a few mis-steps along his path, and it was a pity he hadn't heeded her warning.

 

And she had to wonder if he had a mother somewhere who would never know what had become of her baby boy...

 

Edited by Bongo (see edit history)
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Most people saw Lorenzo Crabbe as an oily, untrustworthy operator, but he had his creative side, too. He soon decided that taking pictures of dead outlaws, or whoever these fellers were, was a one-dimensional job. Having missed the opportunity of photographing Arabella lying on top of Billy (damn it) he’d done a couple of straight shots of the bodies, and still had a few extra plates with him.

 

Next, he moved his camera back and got two shots of the crowd gathering round the three stiff and stark forms. He had a feeling that these would be the more interesting compositions, despite – or maybe because – of the inevitable blurring effect of some of the townsfolk’s movements. The bright sunlight meant he didn’t have to open the cap over the lens for as long as usual, so that blurring would be minimised, at least.

 

Hmmm, last plate. He saw one boy come in close and stare into the face of the youngest corpse, either on a dare or looking for the reflection of his killer (that old wives tale!) and then a quite plain older girl come in and do the same. She even stooped and touched the body, morbid bitch, then got out a hanky and dabbed it to the poor boy’s bullet wounds, as if gathering a relic of a saint!

 

Crabbe suddenly had a great idea for his last plate.

 

“All right, let’s have one last shot with all the kids in!” he jubilantly cried, there were certainly enough of them looking on, ranging from a tot of five to the dumpy nineteen year old Jemima Wigfall herself, with her newly sanctified handkerchief. It didn’t take much encouragement to get the youngsters gathered round the corpses and frowning sullenly at the novel camera contraption. Jemima herself, feeling that Crabbe was staring at her through the gun-like camera, crossed her arms defensively. "All right, don't smile, then, y'little bastards." Lorenzo muttered to himself as he opened the cap and the light and dark of the composition streamed into the camera and onto the reactive glass plate.

 

Oddly, it was the postcard of this print which sold the most, and over a hundred years later featured on the cover of the catalogue of a fancy New York photography exhibition entitled “Death In the West: Funerary photography on the American Frontier 1856-1902” in which the artistry of Lorenzo Crabbe was extoled both in written and visual form and which overall gave the impression of a gentle, sensitive soul far from the grasping conman who lived and breathed this fine day in Kalispell in 1876.

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“Padre.”

The Marshal and his Deputy, Guyer and Pike. Two men that had probably seen more death than half this town put together. That's how it was with law-bearing types. Lord, did they look it too; weather-worn, bearded faces below low brims.

“Gettin’ yourself settled in, are you?”

"Something like that, Marshal." replied Thomas, a quick nod of his head in response to the tip of Guyer's hat. "Though I'd have hoped it be under less... tenebrous circumstances."

He walked out into the street, bringing himself to bear with the two riders as a man with a camera attempted to corral the gathered children behind them.

"You uh... making a move on the culprit?" The priest asked, squinting slightly as he looked up.

@Flip

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 "Something like that, Marshal." replied Thomas, a quick nod of his head in response to the tip of Guyer's hat. "Though I'd have hoped it be under less... tenebrous circumstances."


He walked out into the street, bringing himself to bear with the two riders as a man with a camera attempted to corral the gathered children behind them.


"You uh... making a move on the culprit?" The priest asked, squinting slightly as he looked up.


“Culprit, sir? I don’t follow. No law against taking a photograph, with or without children. Chalk that up to poor taste. Now as to the dead? ‘fraid that happened outside my jurisdiction. I’m just the town Marshal, and at present, we have no County Sheriff, though a leading candidate for the job is presently locked up for several charges.” Speed remarked.


“Them that’s boxed up, outlaw types. Known trouble makers. If they was shot it, was with good reason, but there ain’t no badmen out there responsible for this shooting, we can guarantee that. Seems like them Evergreen hands are always on the prod.” Pike added.

image.jpeg.1d2c95e59f4e5f699d6a9873aa543242.jpeg

@boshmi

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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“Culprit, sir? I don’t follow. No law against taking a photograph, with or without children. Chalk that up to poor taste. Now as to the dead? ‘fraid that happened outside my jurisdiction. I’m just the town Marshal, and at present, we have no County Sheriff, though a leading candidate for the job is presently locked up for several charges.”

"Ah, out of your jurisdiction. I see." Thomas nodded along inoffensively, though the little tidbit about the sheriff was interesting news indeed. A tale as old as time; that of the sinful lawman.

 

“Them that’s boxed up, outlaw types. Known trouble makers. If they was shot it, was with good reason, but there ain’t no badmen out there responsible for this shooting, we can guarantee that. Seems like them Evergreen hands are always on the prod.”

Pike added.

This of course raised the question as to how the overenthusiastic but well-meaning Arabella had been tangled up in such business, but that was a line of inquiry for another person, in another time, perhaps. At any rate, Kalispell's violent element had been well and truly borne.

 

"Well, that's certainly good to know." Thomas declared, momentarily glancing over to the crowd, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Apologies." he suddenly said with a smile, as he stepped back. "I wouldn't want to hold you two gentlemen up."

and with that, he moved back to the church wall where he settled back into his watchful state, taking another drag from his cigarette.

@Flip

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"Well, that's certainly good to know." Thomas declared, momentarily glancing over to the crowd, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Apologies." he suddenly said with a smile, as he stepped back. "I wouldn't want to hold you two gentlemen up." 

 

And with that, he moved back to the church wall where he settled back into his watchful state, taking another drag from his cigarette.

 

Jemima had drunk her fill of the dead ‘uns, getting her picture took was an unexpected bonus. She turned away and moved on with her tedious day, eyes closed, trying to imprint the memory of the dead, half naked Billy on her memory. She opened them to be confronted by the sight of a Man of God, imposing despite the cigarette and the slouching posture against the wall.

 

Jemima’s small, slow, brown eyes lit upon him in serious consideration.

 

“They’re going to Hell, aren’t they?” she told, more than asked him.

 

“I’ve seen pictures in a book” she heard herself telling him, some sort of necrophillic excitement at seeing the semi-nude dead men providing an odd impulse of energy to her usual passive demeanour. The pictures in question were Gustav Dore’s engravings in her employer F. Falmer Browne’s folio edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which she pored over whenever she got the chance while working in his house.

 

“Sinners get stripped naked and burned and frozen and stabbed and tortured by demons, don’t they?” she asked the Priest “That will happen to them, won’t it?” she asked, almost licking her lips.

 

dante-and-virgil.jpg

 

@boshmi

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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A figure broke off from the throng and made her way over, though it seemed as though she was wandering blind until she was hardly a few feet from himself. She raised her face to his and Thomas immediately picked out the features of that brooding girl, contorted into an expression that... surely couldn't be delight?

 

“They’re going to Hell, aren’t they? I’ve seen pictures in a book. Sinners get stripped naked and burned and frozen and stabbed and tortured by demons, don’t they? That will happen to them, won’t it?”

 

She spoke quickly, ecstatically, with an enthusiasm that gave Thomas pause. He was no stranger to the bloodthirsty or sadistic, but to come from such an unassuming young woman, it was jarring. The reference to a book too, prompted a raise of the eyebrow. Most religious texts had little, if no imagery, and it may well be that she was getting her ideas from some other, less authoritative source. One of such symbolism too, seemed reminiscent of Paradise Lost, or perhaps the Inferno.

 

"...Should they have unforgiven sins, should they have closed out the Lord, then yes, lass, they will suffer a punishment." he told her, slowly. "A punishment suitable for their trespasses. In which book did you see such things?"

@Javia

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"...Should they have unforgiven sins, should they have closed out the Lord, then yes, lass, they will suffer a punishment." he told her, slowly.

 

Jemima’s eyes were dark yet seemed to glow hot all the same, and she gave a small, but satisfied smile. Whenever she next got the chance, she would have another look through ‘Professor’ Browne’s book and imagine that one of the writhing, agonised, naked figures was Billy. That would be fun. The Prof. had a few other books with good pictures in, especially the anatomical ones, but that one was the best.

 

"A punishment suitable for their trespasses. In which book did you see such things?"

 

She looked up at the tall priest. Sounded like he wanted to have a look, too. Well, occupational interest, she assumed: he was a priest so he wouldn’t be interested in all the naked ladies that were in the pictures, too.

 

“’S a book one of my employers has.” She replied cryptically, suddenly thinking owning the book might get Professor Browne in trouble, or herself for gawping at it. “Daynt” She had never heard the name Dante pronounced out loud and, understandably, her grasp of Italian pronunciation was limited.

 

“it’s called the something comedy, but none of them folks in Hell was laughing.” She added. "But that stuff's all in the bible too, isn't it?"  she asked.

 

@boshmi

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"Well, that's certainly good to know." Thomas declared, momentarily glancing over to the crowd, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Apologies." he suddenly said with a smile, as he stepped back. "I wouldn't want to hold you two gentlemen up."

and with that, he moved back to the church wall where he settled back into his watchful state, taking another drag from his cigarette.


Speed again touched the brim of his hat, as did Pike as they continued on back to the Municipal Building and the office. “Be another quiet day, I hope.” Speed offered. “Doubt we’ll have much to do, ‘cept maybe keep kids away from the Undertakers.”

 

“I’d say that’s a job for the Undertaker hisself.” Pike responded. “He put the damned bodies out, let him deal with the onlookers an’ their childern, How ‘bout a game’a checkers?”

image.jpeg.1d2c95e59f4e5f699d6a9873aa543242.jpeg

 

 

 

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“’S' a book one of my employers has. Daynt. It’s called the something comedy, but none of them folks in Hell was laughing." the girl proclaimed elusively. "But that stuff's all in the bible too, isn't it?"

 

"Well, something similar, perhaps." Thomas started to explain, though there was the feeling that he might be disappointing her in doing so. "Plenty of people have tried to interpret the holy book's words, but we can't say for certain that any man-made depiction is accurate."

 

He paused for a moment, watching her with an expression of mild concern. The cigarette in his hand had burned down quite far by now, and the heat at it's end was becoming uncomfortable.

"This all isn't anything you should have to concern yourself with, though." he said, attempting to lighten the mood. "Er... what's your name, lass? I don't think I've seen you around before."

@Javia

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"Well, something similar, perhaps." Thomas started to explain, though there was the feeling that he might be disappointing her in doing so. "Plenty of people have tried to interpret the holy book's words, but we can't say for certain that any man-made depiction is accurate."

 

She stared at him with those beady brown eyes beneath her thick eyebrows with a sort of uncomprehending but intense interest. She didn’t understand what he was going on about, but maybe she didn’t need to, there was something charismatic about the man which assured her that he knew what he was talking about even if she didn’t.

 

“This all isn’t anything you should have to concern yourself with, though.” He said, attempting to lighten the mood. “Er... what’s your name, lass? I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”

 

“Jemima, like in the bible.” She stated, staring at him in a direct way that would make most people uncomfortable. Indeed, she was named after the beautiful daughter of Job, which had been a case of tempting fate really, for poor Miss Wigfall was something of a byword for ‘homliness’ in Kalispell.

 

“Jemima Wigfall. ‘Cept Wigfall ain’t in the bible.” She informed him. This was talkative for Jemima. “Least not the bits I read. Bet you’ve read it all ain’t ya?” She added, brushing a strand of her messy hair from her brow. She waited to see if he said any more of that charismatic sounding stuff.

 

@boshmi

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“Jemima, like in the bible. Jemima Wigfall. ‘Cept Wigfall ain’t in the bible. Least not the bits I read. Bet you’ve read it all ain’t ya?”

 

"That I have, Jemima Wigfall." Thomas said, matching her stare. The intensity of her look was palpable, as though she was searching for any gratification from his words, but still he maintained his gaze. With the afternoon sun in the sky, it could have been a duel; ready for either side to draw and put the other down.

 

"Though as Paul's epistle Titus tells us, I would advise you to speak evil of no one, and to show courtesy toward all people. For we all were once foolish, and led astray, until the kindness of the Lord our savior appeared."

With that, his expression softened somewhat, and he relaxed his posture, allowing an air of geniality to resume.

 

"Good to meet you, Jemima. My name is Thomas. Reverend, Father, Brother, Pastor, whichever you prefer."

@Javia

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"That I have, Jemima Wigfall." Thomas said, matching her stare. The intensity of her look was palpable, as though she was searching for any gratification from his words, but still he maintained his gaze. With the afternoon sun in the sky, it could have been a duel; ready for either side to draw and put the other down.

 

This was good, perhaps this man could answer some interesting questions that she had regarding some biblical passages that she had come across.

 

"Though as Paul's epistle Titus tells us, I would advise you to speak evil of no one, and to show courtesy toward all people. For we all were once foolish, and led astray, until the kindness of the Lord our savior appeared."

 

The thick bushy eyebrows contracted, and Jemima frowned, her eyes still boring into his unfaltering gaze, which gave an otherwise mundane conversation an odd intensity. “I like the Old Testament better. The folks in it get up to more interestin’ stuff.” She told him. “When they ain’t begattin’ all over the place. Anyhow, I told you my name, what’s yours?” she asked.

 

“Good to meet you, Jemima. My name is Thomas. Reverend, Father, Brother, Pastor, whichever you prefer.”

 

“Like ‘Doubting Thomas’?” she wondered aloud. Well, there were clearly some parts of the New Testament that she was aware of. “Well I won’t call you brother, cause I hate my brother. You ain’t my father, … an’ I don’t like them other two, neither. How about I just call you Thomas?” she asked. Perhaps she was too dull witted to know that one’s elders should be addressed with a nomenclature of respect.

 

@boshmi

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“Like ‘Doubting Thomas’?” asked Jemima indelicately.

"Er- yes, like doubting Thomas, I suppose." the priest confirmed. Daughter of Job and a faithless Apostle, standing meters from three dead men. Religious imagery aside, there was a sense of the macabre about this whole thing.

 

“Well I won’t call you brother, cause I hate my brother. You ain’t my father, … an’ I don’t like them other two, neither. How about I just call you Thomas?”

Thomas chuckled, though it was a forced, throaty laugh. The last time he had really been 'just Thomas' was down in Mexico, fighting for his life. Still, she was bold to say the least, and being accepting of other denominations meant being accepting of none, as well.

 

"Very well, I can be just Thomas." he conceded, shifting his gaze over to the crowd once more. He raised the cigarette to his lips, lowered it, and blew out a light cloud of smoke.

 

"Jemima. Could you tell me a bit about the fellow Arabella was holding?" he asked, eyes narrowing a bit against the sun overhead.

@Javia

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“Like ‘Doubting Thomas’?” asked Jemima indelicately.

 

"Er- yes, like doubting Thomas, I suppose." the priest confirmed. Daughter of Job and a faithless Apostle, standing meters from three dead men. Religious imagery aside, there was a sense of the macabre about this whole thing.

 

Jemima, too, was feeling … something. She might be dull and coarse and lumpy, but she was alive, and those others were dead as the clay. Father Thomas might be old, but he had a vital and charismatic spark to him and Jemima couldn’t but think of all those times in her beloved Old Testament where ancient Patriarchs met young women at the well and started begetting together all over the place with them. To be honest, the state of her love-life at the moment, she couldn’t afford to be too picky anyway.

 

“Well I won’t call you brother, cause I hate my brother. You ain’t my father, … an’ I don’t like them other two, neither. How about I just call you Thomas?”

 

"Very well, I can be just Thomas." he conceded, shifting his gaze over to the crowd once more. He raised the cigarette to his lips, lowered it, and blew out a light cloud of smoke.

 

“Good, I like you.” She said in her emotionless flat voice. “I usually go to the Spiritualist Church, but I might come and hear you preach on Sunday, you’ll be at the Methodist place, I guess.” She nodded to herself.

 

"Jemima. Could you tell me a bit about the fellow Arabella was holding?" he asked, eyes narrowing a bit against the sun overhead

 

“He’s called Billy, worked up at Evergreen like them other two. I heard a feller back there say that Quentin Cantrell and some other feller murdered ‘em all, saw e’m bring them in on a wagon” she answered, glancing back at the delicious white nakedness of the cute young man’s corpse. “Arabella reckoned ol’ Billy kissed her once but I reckon they did much worse than that and that’s why he’s dead now because the Lord punishes them as sins in the flesh. She wa’nt carryin’ on like that cause she loved him, she carryin’ on like that cause she knows she’s next. She seen how the Lord punishes those as gives in to their filthy lusts.” She turned back to the older man, interested to hear his take on the matter.

 

“I think she’d be better off if she got punished for it now by mortal hands, better ‘n waiting for God’s wrath. What you think, Thomas?” She was half looking at him, half remembering the girl being dragged off the body with the sinner’s blood soaking into her clothes like a red badge of shame at what Jemima, in her fevered imagination, imagined they’d done together.

 

@boshmi

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“Good, I like you.” She said in her emotionless flat voice. “I usually go to the Spiritualist Church, but I might come and hear you preach on Sunday, you’ll be at the Methodist place, I guess.”

"Er... yes." Thomas said idly. Spiritualist certainly fit the bill for this one.

 

“He’s called Billy, worked up at Evergreen like them other two. I heard a feller back there say that Quentin Cantrell and some other feller murdered ‘em all, saw e’m bring them in on a wagon. Arabella reckoned ol’ Billy kissed her once but I reckon they did much worse than that and that’s why he’s dead now because the Lord punishes them as sins in the flesh. She wa’nt carryin’ on like that cause she loved him, she carryin’ on like that cause she knows she’s next. She seen how the Lord punishes those as gives in to their filthy lusts.”

For a girl so apathetic and cold to Arabella, Jemima seemed very knowledgeable about her situation. Of course, word probably got around quickly in Kalispell, doubly so among it's youth, and Thomas decided not to pursue the matter.

However, at the decision to consider Arabella's hysterics as that of self-preservation rather than sorrow, Thomas felt a twinge in his stomach. He gave nothing but a low 'hm', though a feeling of concern was beginning to grow at Jemima's impassivity, and was struck by the notion that she'd probably never had a sweetheart of her own. Not for her looks or even her demeanor, but for how cold she seemed to the affections of others, and her justification of the fact by way of the gospel message.

 

“I think she’d be better off if she got punished for it now by mortal hands, better ‘n waiting for God’s wrath. What you think, Thomas?”

The priest was quiet for a time, considering carefully how next to tread. He could not pass judgement on Arabella with so little information, and besides, for as troublesome as she may have been, the girl was outwardly just about as pious as they came. He didn't want to shut Jemima down straight out either, for that could only serve to reaffirm her self-manufactured beliefs. No, it would be better to instead mitigate the entertainment of her agenda, and proceed from there.

 

He took one last drag of his cigarette, before tossing it to the dirt and rubbing it out beneath his boot. "I think... that I'd better see about getting those bodies buried."

 

With that, he gave the girl a look of geniality, and walked out across the road, heading for the undertaker's office.

@Javia

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