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    • "Yes, water. You are buying my land so you can control the water when the railroad shows up. I know you think I'm stupid...think what you will, I am not," he replied then.   Crabbe held up his hands.   “Hey, I never said you were stupid, friend!” he said quickly, like he thought Robert was going to thump him. “I never said friend Bob here was stupid, did I Charlie?”   Charlie shook his head. “No, you just say he illiterate and ignorant, that all.” Said the Chinaman, unhelpfully.   "So how much you offering me?" actually Robert thought the man a bit foolish to reveal this because it seemed he could now ask for a much higher price than he would have just a minute earlier.   “I’m offering the man who owns this land…” because that was the rub, wasn’t it? Who legally owned this muddy patch of Montana. “… $300 down for a 25% share, Charlie there and our lawyer friend the same, so that’s $900 clear for you, with an option to join in any mining and/or water supply developments on consideration of payment of a directly correlating percentage of any development costs. Costs of reclaiming the claim in your name to be undertaken solely by the three new partners. Now… you must admit, that’s a pretty good deal considering, at the moment, you technically own jack shit of a non-paying claim.”   Charle Fa shook his head: Crabbe was making this sound too complicated for the young Irishman, and the boy was starting to look irritated.   “He mean, we get you land back, we give nine hundred dollar, we all invest in mining or water supply, make lot of money, all happy!” he explained to Robert.   @Wayfarer
    • "Well, now Dutton Peabody ain't no judge. Damn fine lawyer, 'scuse me, fergot myself there. But there's ol' Ben Robinson, he's a judge, but I' m thinkin' the pastor'll do, er priest, 'er whatever he likes ta be called. We'll be good." Barnabas commented with confidence, "An' the buggy, not even anythin' ta be worryin' about. Ever'thing's gonna be perfect."   "Best we start thinkin' about headin' back. Not that Speed cain't hold his own, but I like to check in time ta time, jest in case." The he laughed, thouuh he was serious. There was never any telling of what might happen at any given time. Mostly nothing. "Before you start ta thinkin' we could move in taday." @Bongo
    • "Guess if we don't go in they'll get suspicious, and we don't want anyone coming out to see what we're doing."  It was pretty obvious Weedy was not willing to share, Wyatt noted. In all fairness, his sister and that boy of hers found the chest. At times Wyatt could be pretty defensive about his sister, they were family after all.   The boys raced into the farm cabin but Clara never even let them get to the kitchen table.   "Ahhh, ahh ahh! You two wash your hands first. Wyatt you know better," she chided.   As the pair turned back then to go to the well to the side of the building, she loudly added.   "And Wyatt!  Will you kindly put your shirt back on, you are not some Indian savage!"   Wyatt rolled his eyes and glanced at Weedy, "Girls."
    • Suddenly the Reverend was speaking. he had been locked into the eyes of his bride to be, feeling the love that was between them. Their fingers intertwined, their eyes shining, and even he had a mist in his eyes. It was happening right then, at that moment, the words were being said, what they were for a moment, he did not know, but then, he understood.   "... in the presence of God and these people, to declare your intention to enter into matrimony, through the grace of Jesus Christ, who calls you into union with himself as acknowledged in your baptism. Will you give yourselves to each other, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love, honor, comfort, and keep each other, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful, as long as you both shall live?"   He heard her say "I will," and he smiled. There were a thousand other agreements pushing through his brain when he heard himself say, "I will." Like there had been a better one? Not hardly. Both had tightened their grip on one another slightly as they made their intentions know. A thought passed through his mind, 'might not be long enough.' @boshmi@Bongo@Wayfarer@Javia  
    • Now that the man explained it that way, Robert could get past in his mind this was not about any gold but water. Water rights. He slowly nodded but the man wanted him to say it aloud it seemed.   "Yes, water. You are buying my land so you can control the water when the railroad shows up. I know you think I'm stupid...think what you will, I am not," he replied then.   "So how much you offering me?" actually Robert thought the man a bit foolish to reveal this because it seemed he could now ask for a much higher price than he would have just a minute earlier.

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Posted (edited)

Mature Content: Yes, some disturbing imagery

Author: Arabella Mudd

With: Brendan Connolly; Caroline Mundee; Lorenzo Crabbe; Bridget Monahan.
Location: Stardust Saloon and then mostly at the Old Funeral Parlour.
When: July 1876, couple of weeks after the 'big shootout'.
Time of Day: Evening.

 

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She didn’t need her anyway, Arabella had decided. If Caroline wanted to ignore her and not make friends again, that was her loss. She would bear the complete and total unfairness of her attitude with beatific dignity. She’d show her!

 

She tried not to think of the good times, the fun they’d had rehearsing  and making up new words to old songs and chuckling at some of the fellers who came into the bar and tried to get over-familiar with the pretty blonde singer, and how she always cleverly put them off. She was pretty, too. Oh, for those glorious mornings after the busy and late Saturday night, when they could lay in a little and Arabella would sneak into Caroline’s room and softly and silently lay on the bed next to her and just stare in wonderment at her pretty, funny little face as she gently snored her way through who knew what dreams.

 

“Sunday will never be the same.” she thought to herself as she tidied the pots. Hey, that would be a good title for a song! Maybe she and Caroline could get together and … oh. No. They couldn’t. Well, so what? Not going write a stupid song about her anyway!

 

While these guilt-loaded thoughts were battering at her conscience, the letter was burning a hole in her pocket. Lorenzo had given it to her to deliver to Brendan next time she saw him. Well, she had seen him just now, in the saloon, but he was talking to her. Dang it.

 

Still, no time like the present. She would dearly love to know what it said and had even thought of steaming open the envelope to have a peek. But that would only prove what a devious, untrustworthy person she was, just as she had accused her of being.

 

She marched from the kitchen to the bar and made a show of ‘only just noticing’ Brendan and heading across, ignoring Caroline. “Oh, Mr. Crabbe gave me this for you.” She said to Brendan, not daring to act in her usual chummy way with him. They were both cold to her these days. Well, she didn’t need them, and they could just go and leave her alone, they were nothing to her, in fact…

 

Oh no, what was she doing? No no no… too late! She just couldn’t help it, she looked at Caroline, and gave a tight, sad little smile which said ‘I’m so sorry, I am nothing without you: please, please, please forgive me! And then pulled herself away quickly, ashamed at her weakness. To save face, she tidied up the first glasses that came to hand.

 

“Hey, I was drinkin’ that!” complained the old man whose glass had suddenly disappeared from his hand.

 

 “You’ve had enough!” Arabella shouted, not looking back, as she strode back out toward the kitchen.

 

@Bailey @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Brendan had not immediately followed "Bridget's" advice to make friends with Arabella again. Brain fever or not - and he knew Caroline suspected not - the girl had had no call to say things like that. But every time he saw Arabella she always looked at him and Caroline with a hurt expression he had been afraid would haunt him after she found out about Billy's death. But Billy wasn't the thing that was grieving her now.

 

He glanced at Caroline and then back at Arabella, then with a flat stare reminiscent of Jemima Wigfall held his hand out for the letter. But even though his eyes were flat his heart rate was up. Crab was sending him a letter? Maybe Arabella just meant it was from Bridget but was trying to scare him.

 

"Ske-daddle," he said to Arabella with a wave of his hand as he opened up the letter. He didn't wait to see if she actually left, but peered at the writing without any hope of actually reading it.

 

"Well, damn." That was not Arabella's handwriting and it wasn't Bridget's, either. She had told him she couldn't write. "Caroline!" He elbowed her in case she was still paying attention to Arabella and waved the letter. "Read it!"

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Caroline had spared a bit of time from wandering about and flirting with the other customers to chat some with Brendan even though he wasn't really just a customer. She had a feeling the cowpoke wanted to be a lover even though they'd had that little discussion and the saloon girl pointed out she was not going to take such a major (and risky) step. Oh she liked him just fine but not to the point of doing THAT. Her's was not a career for married women or even more definitely a pregnant one. While she would not rule it out some day in the far future, right now she had no interest in changing her life so radically. But she did consider him a friend not a customer. Besides the reply letter she had written for him (but it was his thoughts and words) made it sound like Brendan might honestly be interested in young Bridget. Caroline had been stunned, but had said nothing, it was none of her business. But surely Brendan was aware the girl was a simpleton?

 

Suddenly Arabella marched on in and presented the cowpoke with a letter, at first she would not even glance Caroline's way though - as the saloon gal suspected - the girl weakened and did so. And she dared give a little smile even, like Caroline believed in the sincerity of that gesture ??  Caroline just looked thru her as if the child was not even there. Since the betrayal, literally the only communication they had engaged in was the bare minimum necessary to perform her stage shows to Arabella's piano accompaniment. Strictly professional, that was the way Caroline saw it.

 

Brendan took it and told Arabella to skedaddle which the child did in her usual sour puss fashion, disturbing a customer on her departure by taking his drink and shouting at him. Caroline rolled her eyes and called to Ralph, "Hey, hon! Get Rollins here another beer will ya, on the house."

 

That mollified the man as Caroline had intended. Then she focused on Brendan opening the envelope. He extracted the letter, opened it, but - as she expected - couldn't read it.

 

"Well, damn. Caroline!" He elbowed her in case she was still paying attention to Arabella and waved the letter. "Read it!"

 

"Hey!" she elbowed right back, "I'm right here, ya idiot. Gimme that."

 

She gave it a perfunctory glance, "Well, it's a fuckin' short one at least."

 

"Sir,I seek an immediate interview with you regarding your intentions toward my ward, Miss Monahan.  Yours, etc. W. Lorenzo Crabbe"

 

"He's over at the old funeral parlor. I know him, he's an old friend a mine from some years back. If yer nervous, I can go along with ya. But I don't think he's got anything bad planned, up to you of course."

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The letter was a very short one, but it packed a punch. Most short letters did, though. Brendan's eyes bugged out as Caroline read the contents of the letter aloud. This was completely unexpected. "Shit," he breathed.

 

He hadn't been serious when he'd replied to Bridget and Arabella's letter. Well, not completely serious, anyway. The part about the kisses had mostly been a joke. Not that he didn't want to kiss Bridget, but did she even know what kissing was? Did she even know Arabella had written a letter that was supposed to be from her in the first place?

 

Caroline's knowledge of Crabbe was helpful, even though it didn't completely set him at ease. Crabbe's letter sounded like something a jealous father with a shotgun in hand would say back home. But of course he wasn't going to admit that he wanted Caroline along in case things went sour.

 

"I ain't nervous," he said grumpily. "But if you want to come along and say hello to Crabbe, you're welcome to." He stretched first his legs and then his arms to get his suddenly-abundant nervous energy out, then jumped up.

 

"He said immediate, didn't he? Who knows how long Arabella's been carryin' that thing around in her pocket? I'm goin' now. You comin'?"

 

With that he headed toward the saloon door before he could lose his nerve.

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Posted (edited)

Bridget didn’t understand why she hadn’t been allowed to get dressed up in one of her nice dresses and wander around the town like she usually did all day long. Still, she had stuff to do in her room, look at her picture books and play with her dollies. It was a pity Arabella wasn’t here, she really brought the dolls to life, making them speak and go on adventures together: the three main ones were called ‘Sister Bridget’ – she had brown hair but a leg missing, so that made sense; Sister Arabella, she was the prettiest doll, with black hair and all her working parts; and ‘Sister Jemima’ who was a cheaper, more tawdry looking doll with an eye and a shoe missing, but in the games was immensely strong and defeated all the monsters the sisters met along the way, like the pillow creature or the flying potty from under the bed.

 

Finally, the sisterhood would come up against the end boss, a frigid looking blonde dolly called Queen Cara. She was pure evil, but some how the sisters would trick her and defeat her and all live happily ever after. Bridget didn’t really have the capacity to invent new stories, but she would replay Arabella’s, ad infinitum. She crawled and hopped around the room in her dressing gown quite happily, leg off, being brought food and drink on occasion by Mr Fa or Mr Crabbe, and spent the rest of the day lying on the bed or staring out of the window at that big, big mountain in the distance where, Arabella told her, the Real Queen Cara held her evil court.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"I ain't nervous," Brendan said grumpily. "But if you want to come along and say hello to Crabbe, you're welcome to." He stretched first his legs and then his arms to get his suddenly-abundant nervous energy out, then jumped up.

 

"Alright, if you ain't nervous, you act like it," Caroline shrugged, he seemed grumpy or more likely on edge.

 

"He said immediate, didn't he? Who knows how long Arabella's been carryin' that thing around in her pocket? I'm goin' now. You comin'?"

 

"Yeah, hold yer horses will ya? I was still tryin' ta figure it out if you wanted me to go with you or not. But I'm comin'," Caroline then turned to Ralph, "Hey, I will be back in just a little bit. Something came up."

 

Ralph nodded, since she had arrived the gal had showed up regular and done all her shifts, even put in extra hours on occasion, she never complained so he was more than willing to cut her some slack.

 

Caroline then fell in next to Brendan and the pair of them exited the saloon and headed down the boardwalk in the direction of the old funeral parlor now photography studio or whatever Crabbe called it.

 

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Brendan glanced at Caroline as they walked. It had been nice of her to read and write for him, but he couldn't help wondering whether he should be dragging her into this or not. Of course, he didn't know exactly what "this" was, which was why he was so on edge.

 

"Hope Bridget didn't get in trouble 'cause of what I said." He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced up at the sky briefly. "I kinda thought Arabella would keep things secret."

 

Of course, there was no reason for Arabella to do that after the way he had treated her that day in Caroline's room. But there was no reason for her to tattle to Crabbe, either, as he assumed she had done. He stopped in front of the funeral parlor (not the new one), hiked up his suspenders, and then jumped the steps up to the door. "Here goes nothin'."

 

He knocked on the door, perhaps a little too forcefully.

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Posted (edited)

He knocked on the door, perhaps a little too forcefully.

 

The Crabbe who opened the door in his vest was not the usual oily, slick and loquacious conman that Caroline would have recognised from the good old days in Helena: it was like being welcomed to a wake. And far from aiming a gun at Brendan, he was almost overwhelmingly polite.

 

“Mr. Connolly? Please come in Mr. Connolly, yes, I think I recognise you from the saloon. Er, how do you do? Crabbe, Lorenzo Crabbe. Come in, come in.”

 

He stopped shaking Brendan’s hand and saw Caroline behind him. “Oh, Mundee! I’m urm… glad you could come, too. Thanks for .. urm… coming too.” He said in the same abstracted, hushed tones and led them in offering them both a seat. He produced Brendan’s note written in Caroline’s hand and glanced at it again.

“I, er… I’m sorry I inadvertently read your note to, er, Miss Monahan, Mr. Connolly… she was so thrilled with it she wanted to show me and, well, erm” he scratched his head.

 

“Mr. Connolly, there’s something I have to show you and … say, can I fix you a drink? We’ve got some decent whiskey…” he hurried over and grabbed a bottle from a sideboard and a couple of glasses “Even Mundee’ll drink this, and she’s real fussy, Right, Blondie?” he used the sort of nicknames he applied to her in the past but now...  somehow he seemed to have had the heart kicked out of him.

 

@Wayfarer @Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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It was Crabbe who opened the door, a part of Caroline had been hoping it would be Bridget herself just to see how the girl reacted to the letter writer. But no luck. The man seemed a bit....well, it was hard to read him to be honest. He invited Brendan in then, at least he did not seem angry. He then noticed her.

 

 “Oh, Mundee! I’m urm… glad you could come, too. Thanks for .. urm… coming too.” He said in the same abstracted, hushed tones and led them in offering them both a seat.

 

"I think yer lying but I'm here anyhow, " she shrugged then added, "He asked me to tag along."

 

Crabbe now addressed Brendan, “I, er… I’m sorry I inadvertently read your note to, er, Miss Monahan, Mr. Connolly… she was so thrilled with it she wanted to show me and, well, erm” he scratched his head.

 

"Mr. Connolly, there’s something I have to show you and … say, can I fix you a drink? We’ve got some decent whiskey…” he hurried over and grabbed a bottle from a sideboard and a couple of glasses “Even Mundee’ll drink this, and she’s real fussy, Right, Blondie?”

 

"I ain't that fussy, I just don't like some of the cat piss I've seen passed off as whiskey in some saloons. Not the Stardust by the way," Caroline replied, "You can pour me one, thanks."

 

 

 

 

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“Eh...pleased to meet you,” Brendan mumbled as Crabbe shook his hand too many times. 

 

He wasn’t sure what “inadvertently” was, but it sounded like Crabbe hadn’t meant to read Bridget’s letter.
 

“I’d sure love a drink,” he said as he sat down. If this was a test, he might have just failed. But he didn’t care at the moment because he really did want a drink.

 

He rested the heels of his boots on the rung of the chair and bounced his legs. The waiting was killing him. He wanted to know what was going on in Crabbe’s head. 
 

As soon as Caroline accepted Crabbe’s offer of a drink, he couldn’t wait anymore. “So what’s this all about?” He asked finally. “You said somethin’ about my intentions in your letter.”

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Crabbe poured three bumpers of whiskey and didn’t stint a bit. He’d no sooner handed them out when he took a good swig of his own.

 

As soon as Caroline accepted Crabbe’s offer of a drink, he couldn’t wait anymore. “So what’s this all about?” He asked finally. “You said somethin’ about my intentions in your letter.”

 

“Yeah…” agreed Crabbe, absently “… kinda terse, I apologise for that Mr. Connolly but, er, wasn’t too sure what to say…” He rubbed his chin.

 

“See… I kinda got the sense from your letter to our Bridg’ that you’re… well, you like her. You know, it was, y’know… kind.

 

“The thing is, Mr. Connolly… I, I got a request, or a offer, or a, I don’t know what to call it, a deal I suppose. Something I’d like to propose to you but, …” he puffed out his cheeks as if he’d just run a mile.  “Pheeewww. I think you need to see something first. Would you come upstairs with me, you too Mundee. It errrr… it’d be good if you could come, too.”

 

He put down his empty glass on the table with a clunk, like fate rapping on a wooden door.

 

@Wayfarer @Bailey

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Caroline was happy to accept the tumbler of liquor from her old friend and lifted the glass in his direction, "To old times." Then she downed it in one throw down and set the empty back down again.

 

That left the business at hand although, as Brendan impatiently expressed, Crabbe seemed to be the only one of the trio who actually knew what the business actually was about? And he was hemming and hawing. Was he up to something? Caroline wouldn't put it past him but though she considered both men good friends of hers, she would let Crabbe con the young cowboy. It was why she was even here.

 

“The thing is, Mr. Connolly… I, I got a request, or a offer, or a, I don’t know what to call it, a deal I suppose. Something I’d like to propose to you but, …” Crabbe puffed out his cheeks as if he’d just run a mile.  “Pheeewww. I think you need to see something first. Would you come upstairs with me, you too Mundee. It errrr… it’d be good if you could come, too.”

 

Caroline glanced at Brendan and lightly nodded, a silent but hopefully convincing signal it would be safe enough to accompany the man.

 

"Sure, I can go with ya then. Yer bein' kinda close lipped though, ain't ya?" Caroline prepared to follow his lead though.

 

 

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Brendan followed Caroline's suit and chugged his tumbler of whiskey like it was a life-giving elixir. His ancestors had called it "water of life" for a reason.

 

"See… I kinda got the sense from your letter to our Bridg’ that you’re… well, you like her. You know, it was, y’know… kind.

 

What kind of "like" did Crabbe mean? And was he right? Brendan didn't know. Sure, he liked Bridget, but did he "like" her? He wasn't sure. He bristled a bit at his letter being deemed "kind." Kind was not a word that a cowhand wanted to be associated with, especially at the Evergreen. Maybe being kind to animals was all right, but people?

 

The thing is, Mr. Connolly… I, I got a request, or a offer, or a, I don’t know what to call it, a deal I suppose. Something I’d like to propose to you but, …” he puffed out his cheeks as if he’d just run a mile.  “Pheeewww. I think you need to see something first. Would you come upstairs with me, you too Mundee. It errrr… it’d be good if you could come, too.

 

An offer? A deal? An invitation upstairs? Brendan glanced at Caroline to see what she thought of Crabbe's invitation. Her nod let him know that everything was all right; as least as far as she knew. But Crabbe's behavior was a little odd, even for as scatterbrained of a man as he seemed to be. Of course, Brendan had never met Crabbe before and had no idea that the man was not actually this scatterbrained.

 

"Sure, I can go with ya then. Yer bein' kinda close lipped though, ain't ya?" Caroline prepared to follow his lead though.

 

"Yeah, ain't ya?" Brendan echoed, clomping up the stairs behind Crabbe. How did the man's invitation upstairs have anything to do with Bridget? And for that matter, where was Bridget? His heart skipped a beat. "Hey, nothin'...nothin's happened to Bridget, has it?"

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"Yeah, ain't ya?" Brendan echoed, clomping up the stairs behind Crabbe. How did the man's invitation upstairs have anything to do with Bridget? And for that matter, where was Bridget? His heart skipped a beat. "Hey, nothin'...nothin's happened to Bridget, has it?"

 

“Mr. Connolly, just about everything’s happened to that girl.” answered Crabbe grimly as he reached the top of the creaking stairs. Bridget’s room was the first on the right. He knocked gently, but then went straight in,  holding the door open from the inside to let Brendan and Caroline enter.

 

Inside, by the dying light of the setting Summer Sun and a lamp which had been brought in specially, Mr. Fa had Bridget all ready, lying on her back on the bed, dressed in a light peignoir that folded over at the front, her lonely left foot peeping out at the bottom of the gossamer garment. If you ignored the lack of another foot, she looked perfect, as lovely as any heroine as ever graced a pre-Raphaelite painting. Mr. Fa was standing over her, amusing her with some shadow puppetry from the light of the lamp, but as soon as the visitors entered, she turned her head and shouted “Bren’en!!” excitedly, and started to sit up.

 

Lorenzo shushed her and bade her lay back down.

 

“Now listen, Mr… Brendan and Miss Mundee’s come up all this way special cause they want to see that funny freckle you got on your tummy.” He lied soothingly, “… so don’t be makin’ a fuss. We’ll let him see, then you can come down and we'll all have some cake.” The normally jolly Chinese man, Mr. Fa, stepped back and lowered his eyes, he looked as serious about the whole thing as his partner.

 

Crabbe didn’t give either Caroline or Brendan a chance to back out or object, he deftly opened the front of Bridget’s robe and pulled the two sides apart revealing her completely naked body. The left side was perfect, the model of beautiful, nubile young womanhood. The right, even discounting the shocking bald ‘egg’ of a stump that curtailed her thigh, was grotesque. Livid scars, white with age, marked where flesh had been ripped from her body by the action of the wagon wheel during her accident, and sewn back together, slapdash, by the attending surgeon.

 

There was no right breast, just a deformed lump of flesh where scar material had coalesced. Her whole body seemed to bend to the right, either from the tightening of the sewn up flesh on that side or from the crushed ribcage: for the girl’s ramrod straight appearance when out and about was only achieved by clever, cast-iron corsetry, fashioned by the deft hands of Mr Pettigrew.

 

Bridget was quite oblivious to the upsetting sight her ruined body presented, only smiling up at her friends and laughing “Freckle!!”

 

“Oh, I, er, I just remembered Bridg’, it ain’t on your tummy, it’s on your back!” smiled Lorenzo, not daring to look up at Caroline or Connolly. Unexpected tears  were rolling down his cheeks. Bridget obligingly rolled onto her front and Lorenzo pulled the peignoir off her, so that they could clearly see her back and buttocks, which were covered with ugly scars of another kind, clearly the work of many beatings and whippings over the course of years of abuse.

 

“That’s what the doctor feller did that saved her life, when she didn’t bring in enough money from begging.” Crabbe told them, now looking up at them and having to remove his glasses in order to wipe away the tears with his hanky.

 

“I… I apologise for this unwarranted display of emotion, Mr. Connolly.” He apologised as he blew his nose. “Me and Charlie, I guess we think we’re used to it but … well when you show it to someone who ain’t…” he broke off, unable to speak any more and just shook his head as he stroked Bridget’s mop of fiery orange hair lovingly, as a Father comforting an injured child.

 

“Freckle?” asked Bridget happily, turning her happy pixie-like face on the pillow to face Brendan and Caroline.

 

@Wayfarer @Bailey

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This whole little jaunt up to what was apparently Bridget's room was a bit ...strange, Caroline could not figure what Crabbe was up to. He was a schemer that one. However there was absolutely no way the saloon girl could have ever imagined the scene she was then presented with. She stood puzzled at first, then stunned that the men would reveal a young woman like they did until she got her first look.

 

Some women might have screamed but Caroline had witnessed a whole lot of bad in her young life already. But this was beyond anything she could have even imagined. There was no other way for it, the view was horrific. She knew about the missing leg but the poor girl had suffered far more damage than just that amputation. Half of her was ...well, barely human looking. Her one breast gone. Her back was savaged. The only blessing was poor Bridget was oblivious to it all.

 

Caroline did not cry easily, well almost at all but she teared up this time. She exchanged a quick look with Crabbe and even that man - who had plainly knew this all before - was affected too.

 

There was shock, then intense sadness but now a new emotion elbowed it's way into her consciousness. Anger...no - rage. Whoever did this ...............

 

"Cover her up please, Fa," she commanded then forced one of the most difficult smiles she had ever had to summon up for the girl,  "Yes, nice freckle, hon. You just lay back and relax."

 

Then she turned to Crabbe, "Who did this?  What animal did this?"

 

Whoever it was, she had already made up her mind, she was going to kill him.

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Crabbe's grim response to Brendan's question made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up as he entered Bridget's room. There she was on her bed. He couldn't help smiling even though his nerves were all on edge.

 

"I didn't come to see no freckle," he whispered to Caroline. Anything he might have said next was forestalled by...

 

Great day in the morning, there was no way he could have prepared himself for that. He stared, because how could he not stare? There was a naked girl in front of him. But the beauty of Bridget's left side was overshadowed by the horror of her right side. He couldn't take his eyes off of it. If she had been a horse, she would have been useless. And she would have been dead by now.

 

He was frozen, unable to do anything but stare. He did notice Crabbe's tears, but they only added to the horror of the scene. But when Bridget turned over, that was when he started to be able to think. Someone had beaten her. His Bridget. That protective feeling he'd gotten about her at the dance came flooding back in full force.

 

"I… I apologise for this unwarranted display of emotion, Mr. Connolly. Me and Charlie, I guess we think we’re used to it but … well when you show it to someone who ain’t…

 

"What'd you have to go and do that for?" he demanded gruffly. Part of his anger was at whoever had done this to Bridget, and part was at Crabbe for showing it to him. No one wanted to see a thing like that. And Crabbe had lied to Bridget about it. Maybe she really thought it was a freckle, but he knew she was smarter than she looked.

 

Caroline's question was a better one. She wanted to know who had done this to Bridget. And she wanted Bridget covered up again. She was handling it better than he was. He was just shocked. He crossed the room and shoved Crabbe's hand away from Bridget's hair as he knelt by her bedside. His Bridget, he was thinking irrationally.

 

"Hey, Bridg," he said softly, using Crabbe's nickname for her. "Remember me? Remember how we danced together? 'Course you do." He was just talking to have something to say. She obviously wasn't in pain, but he still felt the need to say something comforting to her.

 

8e1a7235891d0751ef9f5c6d0214d902.jpg

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Crabbe stood, like a man braced against a storm, and took on the full  explosion of shock, horror, outrage, pity… a panoply of mixed emotions, all united by being overpoweringly strong and, wanting any other outlet, aimed at him: he who had shown them what, after all, was just the plain truth of Bridget’s everyday existence. It wasn’t even the whole story, just the visible physical manifestations of her sad tale. The other stuff could wait, until they were back downstairs, at least.  

 

"Cover her up please, Fa," she commanded then forced one of the most difficult smiles she had ever had to summon up for the girl,  "Yes, nice freckle, hon. You just lay back and relax."

 

“She can put it on herself” Crabbe said, perhaps a little coldly all of a sudden, pulling himself together for the next act of this little tragedy.

 

"What'd you have to go and do that for?" he demanded gruffly.

 

Then she turned to Crabbe, "Who did this?  What animal did this?"

 

Crabbe just shook his head and pointed to the floor of Bridget’s over-fancily decorated bedroom, more like a doll’s house than a room in the real world. “Downstairs” was all he would say. It wouldn't do to replay it all in front of Bridget: that usually led to the nightmares returning. Brendan wanted to comfort the poor girl himself first, though.

 

"Hey, Bridg," he said softly, using Crabbe's nickname for her. "Remember me? Remember how we danced together? 'Course you do." He was just talking to have something to say. She obviously wasn't in pain, but he still felt the need to say something comforting to her.

 

Lorenzo wasn’t annoyed about the way the honest hearted cowboy pushed his comforting hand away from Bridget’s red hair. He was glad of it. It gave him hope: hope of a sort he had almost given up on until he had read that letter. The trust in her eyes as she smiled up at him. “Yes! Bren’an. Dance!”.

 

Crabbe moved to the door while Connolly bent over the bed.

 

“Come on Mundee, let’s go down and get another drink while they… talk.” He suggested. “Charlie, you come, too.” The Chinese man hurried out of the room.

 

"You two come down when you're ready." he said to the two illiterate correspondents "no hurry."

 

@Wayfarer @Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Crabbe suddenly didn't want to answer signaling with gestures and his eyes that such a discussion should take place outside of Bridget's presence and thus hearing. Caroline got it even though it did seem like the poor abused girl was oblivious to the sight she presented, yet more solid proof there wasn't much of a mind left in that skull either. Brain damaged of course.

 

"Downstairs."

 

Caroline nodded and moved to depart the room but Brendan went the opposite direction and went right up to the bed and thus Bridget. Caroline paused, he was just trying to be kind to the poor thing. His heart was in the right place.

 

“Come on Mundee, let’s go down and get another drink while they… talk.” He suggested. “Charlie, you come, too.” The Chinese man hurried out of the room.

 

"Alright," Caroline agreed and the trio left the younger pair to some privacy.

 

If even for a moment Caroline had believed Crabbe had been responsible for those horrifying injuries, he'd have already been shot for she did her derringer squirreled in a hidden spot in her dress and she wouldn't have hesitated  using it on him, old friendship or not.  No one would confuse the man for a saint but he also was not a monster.

 

"Now, what happened to that poor child? And who and where is the person responsible for it?" she demanded.

 

 

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Brendan was torn between staying with Bridget and hearing whatever Crabbe had to say. It was clearly something that Bridget didn't need to hear. Maybe it could wait. He made a shooing motion with his hand to Caroline and watched as she and the two men left. He would talk with Bridget for just a little bit and then go down.

 

The first thing to do was to get her covered up, though. For some reason neither Crabbe or Charlie had done that. He didn't want to stare at her anymore than he already had. It was odd how Crabbe's demeanor had changed so quickly, but maybe he just wanted Bridget to do things for herself instead of relying on him and Charlie.

 

Well, Crabbe and Charlie were gone now, so he would do it himself. He reached over and draped the peignoir over Bridget's body. "Hey, sit up so's I can get this back on you." He tapped her shoulder so she would sit up.

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Crabbe didn’t say a word until he got downstairs, and even then only after he’d poured them both another drink. He downed his quickly.

 

"Now, what happened to that poor child? And who and where is the person responsible for it?" she demanded.

 

“Sorry Mundee, you’re a year too late.” He answered dryly, flopping into a chair, and taking his thick spectacles off so he could rub his face and clear his mind. He knew Caroline. She’d be on the warpath: want to shoot, maim and kill someone or something after that little show. He understood that, only too well.

 

“Do you remember, Helena? When I left real quick? Didn’t explain where I was going?” he asked, harking back to the time they’d worked together in the same high-class dive in the territorial capital.

 

“I’d received word from Charlie about a feller I’d been tracking down for, ooh, two years, I'd say. Charlie had seen the critter in Deadwood. William R. Goodrich. A nicer killer and despoiler of women never walked the Earth.“ he said sardonically. He went to take another swig of his drink but, finding the glass empty, placed it down on the table.

 

“I tracked him down one evening, in a filthy side street in that God forsaken town. He had company, his trousers were round his ankles an' he was forcing himself on some poor beggar girl, just a bundle of rags as far as I could see. I wasn’t looking at her right then, though. Just him. They say you shouldn’t shoot an unarmed man: but I broke that rule six times in a row, and for an encore spat on the bastard’s body.” He looked up at Caroline. “Did me a power o' good to see him lying there twitchin’, Mundee. But that twern’t the best bit of killin’ I did that night, not by a long chalk.”

 

@Wayfarer

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Well, Crabbe and Charlie were gone now, so he would do it himself. He reached over and draped the peignoir over Bridget's body. "Hey, sit up so's I can get this back on you." He tapped her shoulder so she would sit up.

 

Bridget sat up and laughed her light gossamer-soft little laugh. Brendan was so silly. She could do that herself. She was good at getting dressed. It was just that tight girdle thing she had trouble with – and once she was in that she couldn’t reach down and put her own boot on. And she couldn’t do her laces and get her dress on by herself, but nighties and things she was fine with. Silly old Brendan. But she let him help her, it was nice, him helping her.

 

He was so pretty and smiley. Usually. Now he looked a little sad. She wondered why.

 

“Why sad?” she asked him, hoping he would say the answer slow and with easy words, or act things out for her like Arabella did. Even Lorenzo and Charlie acted things out sometimes, it was funny when they did that: especially Lorenzo, because he’d get so mad when she didn’t understand what he was going on about. Yesterday he’d tried to explain something to her which seemed enormously complicated about someone called President Grant and whiskey and after half an hour of useless mummery had left the house in a huff.

 

Charlie was better, he only ever told her things it was actually important to know.

 

But nothing was more important right now than knowing what was making Brendan sad.

 

She reached over and threw her arms around him, hoping to cuddle him better. Modesty was an unknown concept to her: but happiness and sadness – those she lived and breathed.

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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“Do you remember, Helena? When I left real quick? Didn’t explain where I was going?” he asked, harking back to the time they’d worked together in the same high-class dive in the territorial capital.

 

"Yeah, of course, I ain't addled," she nodded then downed her drink in a big gulp. But she was all ears to his story.

 

“I’d received word from Charlie about a feller I’d been tracking down for, ooh, two years, I'd say. Charlie had seen the critter in Deadwood. William R. Goodrich. A nicer killer and despoiler of women never walked the Earth.“ he said sardonically. He went to take another swig of his drink but, finding the glass empty, placed it down on the table.

 

"Goodrich? Goodrich....yeah I think I do recall seein' the jasper once," Caroline had encountered so many people by far men too. She could well have been wrong too.

 

“I tracked him down one evening, in a filthy side street in that God forsaken town. He had company, his trousers were round his ankles an' he was forcing himself on some poor beggar girl, just a bundle of rags as far as I could see. I wasn’t looking at her right then, though. Just him. They say you shouldn’t shoot an unarmed man: but I broke that rule six times in a row, and for an encore spat on the bastard’s body.” He looked up at Caroline.

 

"That rule only counts if the person don't deserve ta die," Caroline was more than unphased, she was positively supportive.  She had killed her step-father's murderer with an unwarned bullet in the back of the bastard's skull.

 

“Did me a power o' good to see him lying there twitchin’, Mundee. But that twern’t the best bit of killin’ I did that night, not by a long chalk.”

 

"I always knew you were a decent sort, deep down, granted you gotta look hard and deep for it," she smiled, having calmed down considerably by then, knowing vengeance had been dealt out.

 

"Wait! There was someone else in on it too?" this was a fascinating twist.

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"I always knew you were a decent sort, deep down, granted you gotta look hard and deep for it," she smiled, having calmed down considerably by then, knowing vengeance had been dealt out.

 

“Huh! Well, thanks for the God Damn endorsement, Mundee!” sighed Crabbe getting up and walking over to the whiskey bottle to get them both a top up.

 

“Wait! There was someone else in on it too?” this was a fascinating twist.

 

He poured them both another good glug. They hadn’t got this slippery together since Helena.

 

“Well, see, after I killed Goodrich, who ain’t the feller you’re thinkin’ of, by the way, this bundle of rags starts hoppin’ after me, like a stray dog.

Couldn’t lose her. Eventually, I told her to take me to where she lived, thought she might have a family of one legged rag people to look after her.” He took another swig of whiskey but was drinking more slowly now.

 

“Long story short, when we got there, it was the doctor that’d operated on her. Her family had skipped town years ago, after she’d had her accident, couldn’t pay the bill. He’d had her out to beg fer, ooh, what, ten years, here and there. That’s ten years’ worth of beatings on her back. He started the next round on her as soon as we got in there.”  He gave an involuntary sneer at the thought of it, and then nodded to the lead topped walking stick leaning in the corner.

 

“I beat him to death with that thing. Right in front of her. Shouldn’t have done that.”

 

@Wayfarer

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Brendan couldn't help smiling a little when Bridget laughed, but he was still upset. He slid the peignoir over her hands and arms and was about to pull it closed when she asked why he was sad. What was he supposed to tell her? He was sad because of her "freckle?" That wouldn't do. He didn't want to lie to her like Crabbe did. And then he realized he didn't have to. He wasn't so much sad as he was angry.

 

"I'm not sad." He flashed her a smile so she could see he was telling the truth. Before he could say anything else, she threw her arms around him. She was still naked underneath that silky bed jacket he hadn't had time to tie shut and she was pressed up very close to him.

 

He cleared his throat uncomfortably as he. He had never been in a situation like this before. Bridget was mature enough that the sight and feel of her body should have stirred his desire. But feeling desire for her almost felt wrong. He wasn't sure what he was feeling at the moment.

 

He moved his arms up to pull the edges of her robe together and felt for the tie. He wasn't sure how she would react to him touching her. "Don't want you to get cold," he mumbled. It was July. There was no way she could be cold.

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He moved his arms up to pull the edges of her robe together and felt for the tie. He wasn't sure how she would react to him touching her. "Don't want you to get cold," he mumbled. It was July. There was no way she could be cold.

 

All Bridget knew about Brendan’s touch was that it was different to both Lorenzo and Fa’s. Lorenzo always did things quickly, in perfunctory matter, as if he expected the Vigilance committee to burst in any second and accuse him of interfering with crippled young women, and he punctuated any dilly dallying on her part with grumbles of come on, we ain’t got all day! and well, this won’t get the baby bathed! In other words, he very consciously and deliberately treated her like a busy, overworked mother trying to get a kid ready for school.

 

Fa was different, he did everything with great care and at his own special pace. There seemed to be meaning in every little thing he did, no matter how trivial seeming the task. This was especially true when he used acupuncture to alleviate the phantom limb pain she experienced on occasion. At those times, he seemed to be able to see beyond the physical, like he was carefully tracing the route of the pain in the non-existent leg before slowly and carefully nailing it with the acupuncture needle placed deftly elsewhere, like the back of her hand.

 

As for the men before those two, she didn’t like to remember what their touch had felt like.

 

But Brendan’s touch… this was new. She didn’t understand why he made her feel different, just that he did. It was a funny feeling: not really relaxing, no not that at all, but all sort of excited, like something very, very nice was just about to happen, and floaty: she thought if they could carry on sitting next to each other on the bed like this, then they could float up on the mattress and fly out of the window together: like her dollies did in one of Arabella’s stories.

 

He did her up, but she was totally ‘undone’ by his presence. Knowing why, and what other people did in these situations, was completely beyond her ken: like somebody who was hungry but somehow didn’t know what food was or how to eat, or dreadfully thirsty, with a pitcher of ice cold water to hand but no idea how to drink it. She had experienced something similar when waltzing with him at the dance.

 

So she did the obvious thing. Turning her clear, bright, perfect blue eyes up to his she asked “We can dance?”

 

@Bailey

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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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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