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    • "Wonderful!"  Jonah almost clapped, for this had been going on for so long, that he really expected that this would be some sort of new setback, and Leah certainly didn't need any more complications.  "I'm sure it's going to be a huge relief when they finally break ground.  It's going to be rewarding to watch it take shape, and for you to know you are responsible for it."   He hoped, for her sake more than anything, that the weather cooperated, and that the progress was swift and without complications.    "You'll be overseeing the project?"  He couldn't imagine that she'd step back now, and not assure that every detail was right.   @Flip
    • "Boss, we found us a herd ripe for the pluckin'. Maybe we oughtta move on it afore they change where they're grazin' 'em, an make it more difficult." Toole suggested. "We can take close to a hunderd head easy enough, they move 'em, thet might not be the way of it."   "'Scuse me men, but Toole here is on to something, and cattle is our other business. We've customers waiting up north." Case said, not happy at being interrupted, yet realizing that what he said was true. It was why they were there, and it was what the did. "So go on and make yourselves to home while I get this job situated."   "Oh sure thing, Case, an thanks for the offer. We appreciate it, 'mon boys." Shannon said, and with that they walked outside to find the other building Case was talking about.   "Alright Toole what did you have in mind?" Case asked.   "The place is just at the foothills where they have their cattle. Now any buildin's 'er maybe a mile, mile'n a half away. What we saw was just maybe four riders wit the cattle, may not hav'ta kill any of 'em. We just filter down through the trees and then rush 'em. Maybe eight 'er ten of us, circle the heard an' push 'em back the way we come which was the long way around , and shore they'll be tracks alomst all the way to the dry river bed, maybe  whot, two mile from the tree line. Hard ground to river bed, but they won't catch us, not seein's they're out numbered."   Case gave it some thought, but Toole had been plotting how they would steal a herd for quite a while, and he knew what he was doing. Besides, no County Sheriff, no problem!   "Pick your men, Toole and get it done." Case said, knowing if they got a hundred head, that would be enough to drive north, once the brands were altered.
    • Having a second thought, to bolster the findings he sent for Fairchild before he could leave for New Orleans, and in the vicinity of Elinor Steelgrave, that could be done at another time after this meeting with Elias himself.   It was like hedging his bet on the situation. He wanted Elias to meet the man who could explain what was in the file in detail, much better than he himself.  might be able to. Nothing like being prepared. Elias could be unpredictable when upset, if a man like Fairchild explaining what he had found could manage to keep Steelgrave manage-ably clam then the expense was worth it to all concerned.   He had to congratulate himself on the idea. It just might work!
    • List in hand, they made their way back to town and to the Anderson's Mercantile where they laid out their list of needs. John and Mary Agnes looked over the list and began adding prices, plus shipping where it was warranted.   "So, you're in the mining business Marshal?" John asked.   "We are." Alice replied with a wide proud smile on her face. Speed just looked at her.   "Amos here found a property to good to pass up, so I bought it myself." Speed said, "Actually two properties, the other on is off to the west, but this one is just north of the Evergreen Ranch a couple of miles."   "Ah that would be the Henshaw mine. Sad about his wife passing on so suddenly. Life can be hard out here, it was just too hard for Martha Henshaw, though she tried as hard as anyone could." Mary Agnes said. "Most all of what you have here we have in stock. Most all of this was on Henshaw's list as well, he just quit before he paid for it. I believe we can give you a good price on the machinery out back. Right John?"   "Yes we can, The fact is Speed I'll let you have it at our cost, plus the shipping expenses, of course. Be good to free up that room back there. Let me see here at my cost, yes, well, it looks to be just under three thousand dollars, without the things we have in stock that wasn't Henshaw's."   Fair enough John, and we appreciate it. Now, if you'll let me get up to the bank, we want to use their money until we get started, and then we'll settle up."   "Makes sense to me, it's what we did. Hated those monthly payments, but it worked for us." John agreed.   "We'll be back." Speed promised.
    • The single shot was loud, even with the traffic, the jingle of the trace chains and the people on the boardwalks conversing. It had been some time since that had been gunfire in town,  especially in the middle of the day, he was up, pad in hand and heading for the door. "That was a gunshot!" He said to Sarah. "I have no idea what it's about, but I intend to find out!"   He stepped out the door to see a crowd gathered and Marshal Guyer leading a man away, a man who looked familiar, but one he could not identify right off. He started down the street to see who belonged to the body laying on the boardwalk. There should be a story in this, it would appear someone had been murdered in broad daylight!   When he arrived at the body, it was of a man he did not recognize, not that he was aware of every drifter that passed through town, but the one being led off was familiar enough, he just could not place him at the moment. But clearly Chester and  Myrtle McIneery stood close behind the body, Chester steadying his wife who splattered with blood, no doubt from the dead man.   He then saw Arabella Mudd scurrying across the the street to the Municipal Building. He would be over there in a few moments himself but just then, the slower moving Mister Jolly and young Raymond, his other assistant, arrived on the scene. "Mister Jolly." He greeted, "Raymond. I see Miss Mudd is already at the Marshals office." @Javia

Back In Kalispell

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Mature Content:  Nope.

With: Case, maybe some of his gang
Location: Big Flat, Montana
When: Early July 1876, Not 1896
Time of Day: Not sure yet




Big Flat, Montana. Not much of a town, but then, neither had Whitefish been when he stepped in. This would be the same. Sitting on the Flathead River there were men hard at it panning, and they were showing some color. It really wasn't enough to start a rush, or a boom, but it was enough to keep the saloon, the general store, the hardware store, and even a couple of ladies of the evening busy.


The trial had been a joke, well, as far as he was concerned it was, Goodnight had eared whatever it was his father paid him to get Case off with a genuine slap on the wrists, and, a pocket change fine. He wanted to stay in town, just to rub Guyers nose in it, but that would certainly have gotten him killed. If not by Guyer, certainly by Deputy Pike. Dying was certainly not in his plans, so, he decided to relocate to somewhere that offered possibilities for he and the boys. Big Flat was that place.


The first order of business was to ensconce in the town and get some of the prominent locals, and there were a couple, thinking he was exactly what they needed. A good honest marshal for their fledgling town of four buildings and perhaps a dozen tents. Someone to keep the peace. And that would be  the man that single-handedly ran off the Guthrie Gang. No small feat the town believed. Though the gang had not killed anyone, nor had they beaten anyone, what they had done was intimidate and threaten. They usual tactic in gaining what they wanted. Of course, they were not above killing or beating anyone, there had just been no need. So the blacksmith made him up a star, attached a pin, and presto! Case Steelgrave was Big Flat's Town Marshal.


Slowly the rest of Case's crowd filtered into town as the town itself slowly grew. By the time he'd been in town a month, it had grown to twice it's size, one hundred hearty souls. Men were panning in the Flathead River and show some color, not enough to start a rush, or a boom, but enough to support the saloon, the general store, the hardware store and even a couple soiled doves. Big Flat was beginning to prosper, as was Case and his crowd. And to help that along, Billy Barnes, flush with cash, bought the saloon which had no name, Case fixed that, calling it the Buckhorn Saloon, which had everything, whiskey, women all two of them, card games and card sharps to go with them. And Dyer Howe to ensure everyone behaved.


Case Steelgrave was once again in business.


Billy Barnes & Dyer Howe




Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

Just six weeks later...

It is a fact that no two places are the same, no two places tolerate the same things that another place might just be fine with. Now Whitefish had been a town that Marshal Case Steelgrave could ride roughshod over, rule with an iron fist and do as he damn well pleased. Of course that was before Mother Nature decided she'd had enough of Whitefish and destroyed it!


Big Flat Montana was never destined to be another Whitefish, it was a mining camp more than a town. And like most mining camps of the day it would boom and go bust. Yet while it seemed to prosper under the Steelgrave rule, there was an undercurrent of anger and frustration with Case and his friends. An undercurrent that began to spread and to swell until by mid-August the unrest exploded on the streets of Big Flat, all four of them.


Dyer Howe and several of  the gang could read the handwriting on the wall, the miners and business people had had enough and would take the law into their own hands. They mounted up and rode out as fast as their horses could ride!


Case, being no fool slipped out of Big Flat in the middle of the night, relieving the assay office of a dozen sacks of gold destined for the smelters in Virginia City. Gold he could sell off anywhere in the state. But he was not headed just anywhere, no, he had a score or two to settle up north. He would take his time, there was no rush, he would get there when he did, and then do what he had a mind to do. Simple as that.


With the gang already on the run, Billy Barnes, not the sharpest pencil in the box, stayed a bit to long before realizing the party was over. They came for him in broad daylight, drug him from the Buckhorn Saloon, and promptly, unceremoniously, hung him.


Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Spring Creek Montana, a trading post of sorts, dependent on the local Flathead Indians and occasional white travelers, miners, and trappers for it's survival. There were no rooms, no saloon, no cafe, just a small trading post. There was plenty of ground to set up camp, plenty of game to hunt, and cold water from the creek. It would have to do.


Toole, who never seemed to have another name, either first or last, and Dyer Howe led the rest of the gang north to this spot knowing that Case would be along. For Toole, the destination was fixed, the hide out north-east of the remains of Whitefish, which had served as the gang's headquarters and base of operations. From there they could strike at the smaller ranches and rustle what cattle they could. And, there would be plenty available.


Guthrie was talking stagecoaches and banks but, it was clear, they would need a place to spend the money. They would be marked men in Kalispell unless Case took out the Marshal and his deputy, figuring the rest of the town would just roll over once that happened. Then too, there were the three that watched over Leah Steelgrave, Bannister, McKenny, and Santee. Three tough men, but they had all dealt with tough men before, it was simply part and parcel of the lifestyle.


Worst case scenario, hire on with old man Steelgrave's outfit. They would have a plan when Case joined them, and would be soon.


              Toole                                Guthrie                        Howe

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  • 2 weeks later...

Case, who had left ahead of the others had to double back to meet up with his men. He was angry that Big Flat had fallen apart on them, it certainly was not how he had planned it, but, it was the way it went. He was angry, yes, but he also looked at it as it was what it was and he couldn't change it. Unlike his father who would often try to change the unchangeable.


He was well aware that Toole would see rustling as a way to bring in cash, and supply themselves with meat. He wasn't against that, and there were still the contacts in Canada to buy the rustled cattle with no questions asked. He considered it a good move, and he would see what the laws response was, and thus be able to gauge the strength of law enforcement in the county, if there was any at all. He would reach his men before nightfall.


Then, there was Guyer.




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  • 2 weeks later...

As luck would have it, his horse threw a shoe, forcing him to stop and replace it. Not the toughest job, but on that took time done right, and he was dead against slipshod work on an animal he may have to rely on for his life.  So he took the time and realized he'd be with the men come morning.


He quickly set up a makeshift camp with a a hat full of fire, his bedroll laid out, and a couple of other comforts. He stretched out, considering his dinner option, jerked beef in a tin cup with water and hard tack. Not the best, but it would do.He knew he was low on supplies, and he's have to make that right. He knew the boys were at Spring Creek and there would be the necessities available.


"Hello the camp!" A voice called out, "I'm peaceable."


"Come ahead then." Case called back.


Out of the brush stepped a man he's not seen before, "Names Marley, Dade Marley."


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  • 2 weeks later...

"Dade Marley is it? You got a brother name'a Bill?" Case asked, not bothering to either pull his pistol or get up.


"Do." Marley answered, "Know 'em?"


"Some, watched him swing. Spent time in jail together before the trial." Came the answer.


"Figgered. That was a big'a mistake as we ever made. Got away, but, I'm thinkin' I'm the only one that did." Dade confessed.


"Light an' set. Coffee's on as are the beans. I'm Case Steelgrave. Got some boys back down the trail, but I could use another man, seems we have some common ground. We're headed back north near Kalispell, maybe do some rustlin', got buyers up Canada way so we don't hold 'em long. And from there we can branch out, stage coaches, army payrolls, now that the fort's manned regularly. Banks, but a ways away from Kalispell.  Far as I know they just got Guyer and Pike, town law, no county Sheriff, but that could change." He looked at Marley. "Plenty to do if you want to throw in with us."


"Beats the hell outta what I got goin' at the moment. Believe you just got yourself another man Case Steelgrave. Pleased to make yer acquaintance." Marley agreed with a smile.


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It was the next morning,  which dawned cold and dark, with heavy black clouds hanging over the country. Both men were rolling up the 'soogans' in the tarps that served as the beds ground cover. To roll it up quickly would trap all manner of debris in the 'packers,' which were pants, shirts long-johns, what have you, inside the blankets. That would make for a number of uncomfortable nights on the trail, so slow and careful were the watch words.


Breakfast was coffee and jerked beef as they donned whatever was handy to keep them warm. Both wore chaps, but once the leather got cold, it stayed that way. Neither was talkative as they sipped the hot liquid. There was no telling if rain was coming, if not, it would miss a great chance!


Case got to his feet and kicked dirt on the fire, then dumped what coffee there was left in his cup as he said. "Best we get in the saddle, couple ours back to pick up the rest of 'em."


"Sure thing." Marley agreed, tossing the remainder of his coffee on the now dead fire.  Both men went to saddling their horses, this was not going to be a day for travel, but there would be no place to get inside out of the weather anywhere close by, so riding was what they had to look forward to.


Once saddled they mounted up and headed out to meet up with the rest of the gang, who undoubtedly would be surly on a morning like the one they faced. Maybe a day, day and a half  to get to the hideout outside what remained of Whitefish.



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There was moisture in the air, and that alone made things just a bit more miserable. The leaded clouds hung heavy and dark and though it was not as cold as one might suspect, it was cold enough to make the long ride that much more dismal ride north, and that meant that the men would be sullen and morose. But they needed to move, there could be no doubt about that.


That hideout was big enough to hold he and his men, and it offered refuge against the weather, that is if it followed them all the way there, which it might. Then again it could be nice and sunny in the Kalispell-Whitefish part of the territory. True, Whitefish was gone, which made that part of the country even safer than it had been when Case ruled the town. Weather wasn't always the same everywhere, except come winter and the snows.


The two men rode into the camp, where the men had already saddled up and were waiting by the fire, a good sized one. And, at first sight, they were exactly as Case had thought they would be, sulky. He took a deep breath as The men walked toward him and Marley.


"Who the hell is he?" Toole asked without so much as a 'howdy.'



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"Him? Name's Marley, Dade Marley. His brother swung for the bank job gone to shit in Kalispell. He's with us now."  Case explained.


Howdy," Dade said with that ever-present smile of his.


"Yeah, sure. We're ready for whatever you want to do next." Toole said flatly. "Like get out of the cold if it don't run all the way north!"


"Alright!" Case shouted, "Boys this here's Dade Marley, he's ridin' with us. Now, let's get the hell outta here!" That was all the men needed, shelters came down quickly. The ground sheets that had been pieced together to build their shelter were quickly taken apart and each returned to it's owner as bedrolls were done up and tied behind the cantles on the back housing of the saddles. In a matter of minutes, the camp fire was doused, the twelve men were mounted and riding out, headed north and hopefully clear skies.



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Riding north, a group of angry men looking to continue their life of crime on the frontier, angry at the weather, angry at their lot in life, not that they would admit that to anyone, let alone themselves. They were the dregs, for the most part, but the best of the dregs. The top men at what they did.


Led by Case Steelgrave who was on a mission of revenge, not really sure of who, or what, was the object of that revenge. His father? The town of Kalispell? Marshal Guyer? Even his sister? The fact of the matter was, Case Steelgrave did not even realize he was operating out of revenge. The tenure in Whitefish had seen him as the iron willed leader of  his men, and of the entire town. He did as he pleased. Though it was unheard of for a gang, any gang, to take a town, any town, by force on the frontier, Case simply took it over quietly and effectively, as he had done in Whitefish, and as he had begun in Big Flat.


He was not dissuaded by the recent setback in the mining town, not at all. Sometimes, he knew, things did not go as planned, or as desired. Often, it was simply time to move on and start over.  That is what his plan was. But, there was no Whitefish to shelter him and his men, they would have to rely on the hideout they had used over the previous years. Perhaps build on if necessary. Any plans for Kalispell did not include trying to muscle in, Guyer had seen to that. Exposed him as an outlaw. That was a debt to be collected at some point, carefully, and discretely.


And, there were other communities out there with banks ripe for the plucking, ranches with cattle, ripe for the taking, not to mention stagecoaches to rob. There was plenty to do, and he had the men to do it, all of it, whenever he was a mind to. And, with no county Sheriff, at least not to his knowledge, there would be no posses to contend with. The smaller towns, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Creston, Big Fork, or Sommers, they lay within in Flathead County, appearing to be safe bets.


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His band now numbering and even dozen, would be a formidable gang in almost any situation, committing almost any crime. However, Case was not dumb enough to think they could ride into any town and simply take it over. Too many men in these places had fought in the war, against Indians, as well as other outlaws like his men, and were hardly going to kowtow to a bunch toughs without a bloody fight.


Big Flat had been different, Whitefish had been different. They slowly took over those towns. He no longer had the time to waste easing into anything. Now it was strike hard and fast! In and out quickly, when it involved a town. Rustling was another matter altogether. Perhaps easier that a bank in that there might be one or two riders to deal with instead of a whole town where even the women could shoot.


Toole was still his top lieutenant, and he had contacted some of other men he had met along the way and felt he could trust. That was before he'd been forced out of Big Flat, but he sensed it coming and the would pick them up along the way north. Men on the dodge met men on the dodge, even if Case was free to go wherever he wanted, he had a knack for finding hard men. Once they connected the group would number some fifteen desperadoes. It made Case smile.


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Boyer's Crossing was just that, where two trails intersected and Hiram Boyer thought to establish a saloon with rooms where travelers might spend the night. Hopeful too that the stage-lines might also use the spot to change horses, which would be lucrative for him. That never came to fruition.


The saloon enjoyed a brief success when a small silver strike caused a sort of boom, but it petered out faster than a bottle between two drunks. Waiting for one Case Steelgrave was Walt Shannon, Charlie Whitmore, and Johnny Knox. Three more men to add to the gang but these three were specialists, it there was such a thing. They took banks at night! Although Shannon and Knox were killers, Whitmore could be homicidal at the drop of a hat.


Perhaps Case might have decided against those three at one time, but men who took banks at night, that was all but unheard of, and those assets would add to the men that already rode with him. So, they waited, and Case and company rode toward them as fast as they could.


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  • 2 weeks later...

The folks in Kalispell were going on about their daily lives completely unaware of the storm that was brewing and headed their way, not necessarily their town, although one could never be sure of what Case Steelgrave might do at any given time.


The storm that was headed north was one of criminal intent, of robbing, rustling, killing, mayhem in general. These men were ready to take on the territory as they had not done before, but on a much larger scale. Oh they had stolen cattle, but they had yet to hit a bank, or rob a stage, both these things were on the gangs agenda, now in Cases mental planning stage. Yes, there were a number of smaller towns, plenty of smaller ranches, and of course, there were stagecoach's traversing the territory that would be easy prey.


Of course there was the military, which meant payrolls. The Army presented something of a challenge, but only when they took a payroll from them, rustling, robberies of any kind, all that would be left to the local law. Civilian matters at best, they would say. Not that the military might not intervene if called upon, but as Steelgrave saw it, Guyer was the 'he dog' to be dealt with, him, and his deputy Pike. Though it was certain he had not overlooked Quentin Cantrell or any of the Lost Lake bunch, even if Shade Thornton was out of the current picture.


Lost Lake had cattle, and they had horses, ripe for the taking, Case knew that, but he also knew he could not go at them from his fathers spread without starting a range war, which would defeat his purpose of rustling for profit. he might even go after some Evergreen stock, just to throw off the law, that is if they became a factor. Then again everyone knew, or should have, that Evergreen hands where gunman first and ranch hands second. So that might be something of an unnecessary risk.


Trouble was coming, as sure as the winter follows fall.

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Boyer's Crossing...Mid-day


The tall breed stood at the bat-wings, waiting for the riders they knew would be coming, just not when. His given name was Charles Eugene Price, but everyone called him 'Injun Charlie.' A tall man, distinctive features of his Sioux heritage, long black hair and a top hat acquired somewhere down his back trail, one littered with dead.


Sitting at a table where he could watch the door, Wallace Carl Jordan, better known as Wally. A nasty, murderous, individual known as a back shooter, 'Injun Charlie, however, liked to use his Sharps to take down enemies, and everyone was, from a safe distance.


But Wally was truly a man of value, he was the powder man, 'the cracker,' often called the 'peterman', and you can't blow a safe without a competent powder man. Blowing the safe was simply a term. Wally perfected a way to set small charges at the hinges, cover the door with a mattress, or something of that nature, and light the fuse. The noise was minimal. Loud enough to possibly alert people nearby, but not so loud it awoke the whole town.


At a table away from the door sat Walt Shannon, the leader of the gang of three. Probably the least sane and most dangerous of them, he would kill anyone for anything without a second thought. Much like Guthrie and blade-man Dyer Howe, among others in Cases lot. It could be said he had no conscience, and that would be accurate. Of course the idea of the quick money from the midnight bank raids kept him from just shooting up the place. However, once they had emptied the safe, rode out of the town the hightailed it along a route he had already laid out from investigation, without riding into town, so he nor the others were ever seen, then they would lie in ambush for any posse that followed. Few seldom did.


"Riders comin'!" Charlie stated without taking his eyes off of the mounted group. "Maybe a dozen."



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Walt got up slowly and walked to the bat-wing doors looking out at the cavalcade of rides that approached Boyer's Saloon. 'Injun Charlie' had been accurate, there were a dozen men with Case Steelgrave in the lead, just as he had expected.


He looked at them a long moment, horses nervously moving about, men watching the doorway. Walt Shannon stepped forward, pushing the doors open enough to be seen. "Case, be a long time" He said looking up from under his hat brim, head bowed just a bit.


"Walt." Steelgrave responded.


"Why don't you boys step down and come on in, you an' me, Case, we got somethings to talk over." Walt stepped back letting the door go, but taking the lead with the meeting.


Case stepped down, tied his horse to the hitch rail, one of two, the men waiting a moment then following suit. They streamed into the saloon and sauntered up to the bar where Boyer himself, waited bottle in hand as Shannon had directed earlier.


"You boys drink up. Case, over here, I got us a table and a bottle." Shannon offered. "You know my boys, right? 'Injun Charlie' and Wally."


"Yeah, I do." Case said, as they moved to the table and took their seats across from one another. "Glad to have you boys."


"Sounds like you've a bank 'er two in mind."


"Among other things."


"So, how's the split? I mean I'm sure these other things are profitable."


"I take twenty percent, and then a full share to every man."


"Sounds about right. Cattle, stages that sort of thing."


"That brings us to you three, what'll it cost me?" Case asked bluntly.


Walt Shannon sat back for a moment, then leaned forward looking at Case, "You see, we're kind of a specialty. What I mean is, sure you boys could hit a bank in broad daylight, like them Dalton boys, sure. Maybe somebody gets killed, yours, theirs, you know, risks you take." He paused. "Now us, well, we case the place, slip in, pop the box, and we're on our way. No shooting, no posse, well, sometimes, but we take care of that."


"And?" Case asked.


"Fifteen percent. Five apiece."


"Ten." Case countered.


The men at the bar were stirring, trying to hear what was being said. 'Injun Charlie' and Wally were getting a bit nervous when Walt replied to Cases counter offer, "Ten? Ten percent for the men that do the job, make the get away, handle any problems that might arise, for three percent? You're gonna take twenty, and then give each of these guys a full share, for what? Nothin', that's what." Walt smiled which may or may not be a good sign. "If we hit the bank on our own, well, we keep a hundred percent. And Case, there's a lot of banks in the territory." Once again, Walt leaned back in the chair.


Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

"Now, we' ain't lookin' for no trouble mind you, just a fair shake, Case." Walt began, still sitting back in the chair, "There's a bank up in Polson,  Wally here cased the place, opened an account, he did. So, we thought if we could work this out then we'd ride up and take it. If not, well, we'd ride up and take it." He gave a pause, "Up to you, Case. No hard feelin's, just business."


Case looked at the man across from him, he felt his anger rising. Who was this fool, didn't Walt know who he was? he was out gunned, yet he sat there as if he hadn't a worry in the world.


"Oh, I 'spose you could just shoot us and be done with it. And the bank in Polson'd be twenty dollars richer. You boys could take it if you''re a mind too." He said easily, his voice low, even, non-threatening. Just the way Walt Shannon did business. "Be easier all around with us on board. But that's up to you, ain't like we're holdin' you up at gunpoint."


Case gave himself pause as he thought about what the man said. Case had wanted him in the gang because of their talent for robbing banks and getting away without a lot of gun play. "Five percent a piece, huh? Guess we can make that work, considering what you three bring to the table. And you say we have to do nothing?"


"Just wait on us to get back with the loot. Easy money. In fact, Case, we'll let you count it up and divvy it up when we get back. Hows that sound?"


Case smiled. "Sounds fair enough, guess we should trust one another. But I need to ask, you mind if I send a man along?"


"Nope, not at all. He can come along, right into the bank an' see how it's done. We don't mind, just don't care to have a bunch, being a few is the secret to our success." Shannon replied.


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"Now you know, there'll be no stashing money to pick up later on. That just wouldn't be fair, now, would it?" Case advised.


"Hell Case, we'll be high-tailin' it outta there. Stashin' money? Means either they'd find it, them that was after us, or we'd get killed 'er caught comin' back for it. Shit! We ain't stupid! Maybe that's how you work, ain't how we do things. We either do the job and make the split, or we do it alone and keep the money. Makes no difference to us. Just easier to keep it all." Shannon snapped. "Fact is, it's up to you how this goes. We come prepared to do business."


"Easy Walt. Just makin' sure we were making the same plans." Case insisted. "'side, I could blow you outta that chair, and boys take your two and we'd be done with it!" He was beginning to get angry.


There was the unmistakable double click of a hammer being drawn pack. "Maybe so. Not the best way to begin a partnership. So maybe, we just ride on, or maybe we all take our chances here and now." It was at that moment that Walt Shannon smiled, and his eyes seemed to dance. "Your call."


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Case Steelgrave went cold. Walt Shannon had the drop on him, at a distance of three feet, a pistol slug would cut his spine in half, regardless of the advantage his men had, he would not see the end of it.


"This isn't what I want, Walt. Not at all." Case said firmly. "You got me alright, maybe the boys take care of the three of you, but wait, wait just a damned minute."


Oh hell Case, I'm waitin', but you tell the man with that pig sticker, he pulls it, you're dead. The rest need to get their paws away from them guns. Anybody flinches and you're out of the game. Get me?"


"Dyer! Do it! The rest of you, move them hands!" Case ordered.


"Have them turn around and put their hands on the bar, while we decide how this is gonna go, cuz you got no choice." 'Injun' Charley cocked his Sharps, Oldham drew and cocked both pistols. "I guess we best be independents, wouldn't you say?  I mean, what with all this gun play about to happen, doubt there'd be much trust amongst us." He slipped out of the chair, a second pistol in his other hand. "Tell ya what Case, we could kill most all of you before any of you got a shot off, and I like those odds. But, we'll just ease out the door and you boys can go on about your business." The three side stepped toward the door.


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"Wait!" Case said, raising a hand to stop his men behind him. "Wait, so maybe you don't ride with us, maybe we come to an agreement. One where you and your men heist the banks, take your share and leave the rest somewhere for us, or meet with one man and make the exchange."


"Well then Case, your boys need to head on back to the bar,  wouldn't want a wrong move to get you killed, 'cuz anyone of 'em moves on us, and I'll kill you first. No matter what happens next, you die first." Walt's voice was even, and low, almost cordial. But his eyes told Case all he needed to know. "Need everyone's hands out and away from their  hardware, right now, including you Case."


"We got off on the wrong foot here Walt," Case said complying with the order, "but maybe we can still salvage this to both of our advantages." Case added, also evenly, he was not concerned, but Shannon's threats, they were part and parcel of the situation. Not that he had wanted it to go that way, but he had to try and apply dominance over the deal, now that was out the window. What he was looking at were three hardened killers, with nothing to lose.


"We're all ears here, Case," Walt said. "Tell me just how this is supposed to work, we take the banks and make the split with you. That sounds real interestin', yep, real interestin' indeed."


"I've a list of banks.-"


"I'm sure you do." Walt cut in.


"I give you the list, you just work your way down the list, too much at stake here to fight over it."


"If you have it on you, where on you? You get it out real careful like. Lay it on the table, then back away. anybody flinches, you miss the rest. Clear?"




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Case was stunned by the demand. But looking into Walt Shannon's eyes convinced him he had met his match. The three bank robbers were willing to shoot it out right then and there, regardless of the outcome. He doubted that many of his men were prepared to die that day. Oh they would answer the call for sure, but, was it worth it?


"Look Walt let's us all put the hardware away and get down to brass tacks on this deal." Case said. "Let's come to an agreement on a plan, then you boys take the list and head on out."


"Agreement? What would be the terms of this agreement Case? Just how's this supposed to work if we can't trust one another? And, at the moment, I don't see a lot of trust being built here. You seem to think your boys all lined up there scare us. Hate to break it to you, they don't." Shannon brought both pistols into view. "We ain't figurin' on livin' forever, so if it happens today, well, it was a hell of a ride. If not, we move on with it. You lay that list here on the table and we'll have a look, but I'd say the cost has gone up some."


The was a long pause, neither man moved until Case reached inside his coat and withdrew the paper the list was on, then laid it on the table. "What now Shannon?" He asked.


Walt set down one of his guns and picked up the list, sticking it in his coat pocket without so much as a glance at it. He picked up the gun and got to his feet, the three slowly moved toward the door. Four maybe five would fall immediately if they tried anything, a high cost for Case Steelgrave.


At the door Walt smiled. "You know the list, we'll deliver two miles toward the next one." He said sharply. Wally and Injun Charlie mounted and kept their guns on the door. "Twenty-five percent!" Walt dashed to his horse, holstered his guns and mounted pony express style as they galloped off, rounding the saloon to block any chance of a shots coming their way.

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Case and the gang sat, or stood, wondering what the hell had just happened. They had them, out numbered out gunned, yet three men had them flat footed. They had taken the list of banks and fled, while the Steelgrave gang did nothing. None of them had ever seen the like and certainly were not about to discuss their seeming ineptitude in the situation. It was embarrassing.


So, they drank and ate before the mounted up, each with his own thoughts, mostly about what would happen when next they crossed paths, each promising it would not be pleasant for the three bank robbers.


The ride to Proctor Montana was slow and easy, little conversation even in camp. But they stayed together, no one left the gang as there were other plans, banks had just been one part of the things they were going to be involved with, meaning they would be robbing them themselves. Far riskier, but necessary. Men didn't work for free.


Case sent Toole and Guthrie in to town to see what was up in Proctor, always the safe way to do things, in the event any of them turned up wanted in connection with Big Flat. A stop in the saloon provided all the information that they needed, with the right questions asked about mining, range condition, were any outfits hiring, the coast was clear. But one thing happened they were not prepared for, the bar keep asked if they "knew" a Case Steelgrave, as there was a package for him at the express office.


Two things were possible, it was a set up, or it was on the level. There was just one way for them to find out.

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Ralston Pettigrew stood looking across the counter at the two men who said they had been advised by the bar keep that their boss, Case Steelgrave, had a parcel waiting, but that he was pushing the herd north. They wanted to pick it up.


Well, the name was well known throughout Montana, both the father and the son, as well as the brothers and one sister so it was without caution that he placed a crate of some sort, wrapped in butcher paper with Cases name scrawled on the front. with it an envelope.


Toole took up the weighty package, obviously a box, carefully wrapped, tied with  a cord, the envelope tucked under the cord. They thanked the man, who was equally as glad to have anything Steelgrave off of his hands. Toole and Guthrie mounted up and headed back out of town, have enjoyed a couple of drinks, picking up the package for Case, and finding out none were wanted in connection with Big Flat.


They rode for the camp without delay.




'Case, in the box is your share of the first proceeds. Seventy percent. I took five percent to re-supply.

Total haul from Garnet $1978.00, less thirty percent, $1684.00. We'll be in contact before Trout Creek.'


"I'll be damned!" Case said as he broke in the top of the crate. "Look it that!" A mixture of gold coin and paper money which was quickly counted and totaled as promised. The packaging had been meticulous, the coin wrapped tight so as not to make any noise. Most of the paper was of low denomination, but it would spend just the same, and they had done no work for these proceeds. "So lemme see, reckon we each get one hundred forty dollars, for doin' nothin'!" 


That made everybody happy!




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  • 3 weeks later...

Proctor Montana was fast asleep, a slight breeze stirring the dusty streets. There was a light in the Sheriff's office, the night deputy would likely be sound asleep  at his desk, a good place for him. It hardly ever failed that the night man, deputy or not, ever made rounds much after ten o'clock, there was hardly ever anyone up past that hour on a week night. The saloon was dark, as expected.


While Case Steelgrave and any number of his men were a bit deranged, evil and sadistic, Walt Shannon, Injun Charlie and Wally Oldham were all about the challenge of taking a bank at night, and no one knowing until the morning. They didn't want to have to kill anyone, nor were they especially afraid of dying themselves. It was their ability to get in, empty the safe, and get out unseen.


They had been in luck at the mercantile, the back door was unlocked, the mattresses were staked next to the door as if they had just been delivered. Oldham was working on the back door of the bank while Walt and Charlies went after the mattress, when the two arrived Wally was already at work on the safe. If their information was correct, and it generally was, a payroll sat inside the iron box.


They would have to make do with a powder charge as they had run short of the acid Wally Oldham preferred to use. But they were adaptable to whatever situation they faced. A little noise, muffled by the mattress and they would be in.


Wally was just about ready to light it off when there was a rattling of the front door. Both Charlie and Walt were deep in the shadows, Wally kneeling by the safe when they heard an expletive, the moonlight though the back door was seen and whoever was outside was cussing somebody named Freddy and tromping toward the side of the building, on his way to the back where the door hung precariously from its hinges. Charlie had his pistol out, and was easing toward the door, Wally froze in place. They had been through this before.

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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Temporary Deputy Dawes Richardson cussed Freddy McCorkle up one side and own the other. This wasn't the first time McCorkle had left a door open, not that there had ever been anything to worry about in Proctor. A town where everybody knew everybody, and every stranger was viewed with suspicion. A quiet, no nonsense town, Sheriff Roy Middleton kept it that way.


Richardson came around the corner of the building and stepped inside, seeing the man kneeling at the safe he opened his mouth to speak as he hand went for his gun when the lights went out.


Indian Charley was prepared when the man stepped in the door, he never had a chance to say a word before the barrel of Charlie's Smith and Wesson Russian met the man's skull. He dropped like a sack of potatoes! Without a word he took up the piggin' string he carried for just this sort of emergency. He bound Richardson's hands, took his gun, laid it on the counter, then drug the man outside away from what came next.


Charley hauled in the mattress, holding it until Wally was ready. The 'cracker' nodded, Charlie moved the mattress into position, Walt moved to the door and stepped out. Wally looked up, smiled, touched his cheroot to the fuse made sure it was going good and backed out, then Charlie set the ma tress in place and followed him outside.


The muffled explosions could barely be heard, and that was good. The room was filled with smoke that escaped from under the mattress, and from the fire that had started on it. Charlie drug it outside as Walt rushed in with the saddlebags and he and Wally emptied the safe.


They paused at the horses just long enough to listen, no one yelled, no windows slid up, no doors slammed, they were clear! They quickly mounted and walked their horses about  ten yards before touching spurs to their animals, causing them to leap to a full gallop racing for the dry wash, which would carry them north before they left it for the soft sand, and then into the trees. No shouts, no shots, no posse.

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Daylight found Sheriff Roy Middleton standing in the doorway of the Proctor Bank, the back door where he had just untied Deputy Dawes Richardson who was trying to explained what had happened.


"I started my rounds like always. As I passed the bank I could see the back door was open. Now lookin' at it, well, Freddy McCorkle, you know the teller, well, he's left the back door open afore, so I figgered he'd done it again, so I proceeded to walk around back, there was a man kneelin' at the safe, and that's when the lights went out. Next I knew I was bound, gagged, an' they wuz gone with the safe's contents."


Just then bank manger, owner Dwyer Elllis came in through the front door and surveyed what could be seen, two lawmen and an open back door. "Damn it!" he shouted, both lawmen looking at him. "What the hell are we paying you for, Middleton? My bank robbed! There was a payoll in there, as well as other valuables and important papers, and I assume they are all gone?"


Dwyer Ellis sat on the town board, as they called it, and was almost as unliked as the current mayor Eethan Clark who would be there the moment he heard the news. That would not be long as Edna Whipple had paused at the door eaves dropping, then hurried off. The whole town would know in a matter of minutes.


"What do ya want from us. Dawes here volunteered for the job til we fill it, and a mans gotta sleep sometime. You think there was any warning? Any hint someone was gonna hit this bank last night? Who ever heard of robbing a bank at night? In the gawddamned middle of the night? They blew the safe without so much as a peep that anyone heard!"


Dawes looked from one to the other wondering what was really going to happen.


"Why aren't you after them?" Ellis demanded to know, as if there should already be a mounted posse in pursuit of the desperadoes, obviously there was more than one of them.


"Well, Ellis," The man hated to be called by his last name without a Mister in front of it, "It'd take a good hour 'er better to mount a posse, and by then God knows where they could be. But if you want my badge, you can damn sure have it." He paused, "They're long gone, maybe a couple trackers could pick up a trail, but a trail of how many, and in which direction. If they went to the dry wash? Hell, soft sand, just like what edges the wash for miles both directions? Fat damn chance we find anything!"


Then no one spoke, because what Sheriff Middleton said was true.

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