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    • Justus kept a close eye on the man as he approached, reassured by the fact that he was being allowed to approach, and that there was no sign of aggression.  He stopped a few feet away.   "Evenin', sir."  Justus nodded with an easy grin, relieved that it seemed this was a friendly bunch.  Most men on drives were, but Justus had learned young that it was best to assume the worst, then be happily surprised.   "Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.   "Thank ya, sir, I might do just that."  While he didn't want to seem too eager, there was no denying that he was grateful for the offer.   "You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.   "Yes, sir, I'm alone."  Swinging into the saddle, Justus patted Mule on the neck, then fell into pace beside the man.  "I do appreciate this, sir, I'll work for it, sir, help th' cookie with dishes or some'at."  A thankless job, but it wouldn't do him any harm, and he wouldn't feel so much like mooching.   "Oh, m' name's Justus Wheeler, sir.  I'm headed north, nowhere in particular."   @Flip
    • Mature Content:  Might well be violence.   With: Turk Flagg, Caroline, and who knows else Location: Star Dust Saloon When: Sept/ 1876 Time of Day: Early evening     Now Turk had never been to this part of Montana previously but  seemed like a nice enough quiet town. Actually peaceful towns were not exactly good for his sort of occupation but then he had not ridden in with any specific job in mind.  He was between jobs, just last week he'd delivered a prisoner to a small town south of Kalispell, the man had been a wanted rustler. Fellow whined the whole way back right up to jail that he was innocent. Turk then just pointed out he was neither judge nor jury, tell it to someone who cared. Least he had some cash in his pocket. And where better to spend a bit of it then in the town's only saloon apparently. Least only one he could spot.   Entering into the place thru the swinging bat doors, he took in the joint. Decent enough, he'd seen many worse, some better. On this weekday night it was not crowded but there were a few folks at the bar and some others gathered around tables, most tables holding card games. He didn't go for cards though and on those rare occasions when he had, he usually lost money. Nope, keep it simple, get a drink or two or four.   As he sidled up to the bar, the bartender was presently occupied with another customer so he paused to take a second scan of the place. And who should he see but...................   "Caroline?  Caroline Mundee," he made sure he said those words loud enough the woman could hear him as she  a good distance away, holding a tray of drinks.   Caroline not only picked up on her name but recognized the voice and turned to see just to make certain. The look on her face made it plain she knew the speaker alright as she broke out into a wide smile.   "Well, I'll be !  Gimme a minute," she called back then hurried to finish her on duty errand, duly placing the tray in front of four card players, "Here ya are, boys. Enjoy!"    Turk nodded and just leaned with his back against the bar, watching her every move. She sure was as pretty as the last time they'd seen each other. He never took his eyes off her as she then approached and in a few seconds the two embraced in a quick but heartfelt hug.   "Turk! I had heard rumors you were dead," Caroline declared when they broke it up.   "Nope, I can truly assure you that I am not. Yer lookin' fine as always," he grinned.   Caroline looked past him for a moment, "Ralph, break out one of the good bottles and pour us two shots, will ya, hon?"    "Shit! How much that gonna cost me now?"  Turk knew her routine alright, they'd become friends in Helena when she worked a saloon there.   "Nah! On the house! I'm real glad ta see you again," Caroline then leaned into the bar next to him, they had some catching up to do alright.              
    • Four good men was all he needed, and Granger knew just the men for the job. Men that would kill anyone that threatened the ranch in any way, shape, or form. Of course, that went doe any number of of the Evergreen hands, the men he wanted would be the worst, and most dangerous of the hands Elias Steelgrave employed   The first one he ran on to was the stocky built Dutch, the only name they knew him by, but that was enough. He rode up next to the man, "Dutch, Mister Steelgrave has a job for you."   Dutch looked to him, knowing if the old man wanted him for a job it wouldn't be nurse maiding no cows. "Sure Granger, what's he got in mind?"   "Might be some Lost Lake men trailing Carson, they need to be stopped." It was quick and blunt.   "Right up my alley, Granger. Start now?" Dutch asked.   "I'll Get Treach, Watts, and Deckerd. Mister Steelgrave wants you boys to be sure they start it."    "Easy as pie. If you want I'll go for 'em, know right where they are and well just head that way." Dutch offered with a grin that was far from friendly.   "Sure Dutch, go ahead. Anything happens, you hightail it back here." Granger  replied to which Dutch nodded and spurred his horse.           Dutch                                      Treach                             Watts                       Deckerd
    • The conversation with Misses Thornton-Carlton had been informative, though she had not said when these hands from the Lost Lake would be in town for supplies. In New Mexico Territory they generally went once a month, unless they were in need of something or they got word an order had come in, which was rare, the Apaches saw to that. No one was willing to take the chance . But this here might be different. The Lost Lake was not so far from town as the Lazy S was to Lordsburg, nor as dangerous.   So, the hotel looked to be the place he'd stay until these hands rode in, and it would certainly give him a chance to meet some folks, like she said, see who his allies were. And from, what he had learned so far, the trouble ran deep between the Lost Lake and this Evergreen Ranch, and then toss in the son and his pack of animals. Things could get terminal real quick. This was shaping up to be far more than he had bargained for when he left New Mexico. But he was there now, so he could run, or stay, and Tyrell Thornton was not much for running.
    • Speed took the time to let Alice and her father know where he was going, and why, then mounted up and started out for the fort. He'd not been there, he had seen it in passing, and it was a welcome sight with the Indians out. He understood that the Military had no jurisdiction in town, and likely they might not be willing to help, yet, then again, they might. Protecting citizens was their job. And just because the ones Speed was asking them to protect were in town with active lawmen, A large contingent of outlaws  posed a significant threat.   The outlaws, be it Cases' gang or Elias' riders, or both together, it would be more than a handful lawmen could handle, even with the townsfolk defending their town. True, most had served in the War Between the States, but that had been over ten years ago, and true they had fought Indians and outlaws, yet these men were settled down now and past getting into gun trouble. And maybe it wouldn't come. Maybe Neither Steelgrave wanted to tangle with the town and it's people. Yet going to talk with the Army made sense, even if they couldn't really help out right then.
Case Steelgrave

Back In Kalispell

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They reached the base of the mountain trail somewhere around two that afternoon. They sat at the foot of Ishmael's Gate, and that was the trail to Kalispell, but for most of the afternoon, they had been on Lost Lake Ranch property. There would be no men riding the property line to worry about, not that Case was worried, but Lost Lake Cattle  would be no where near there.

 

The idea of riding into town was not something that Case was interested in doing, instead, they could cross the corner of Lost Lake, pass by the Redmond farm on evergreen range to the Whitefish trail, if it was still called that, cross it and hightail it through whatever range was taken toward the hideout that awaited them.

 

Riding the way he wanted, would pretty much avoid any contact with anyone. Not just those he did not want to see, but being seen by anyone. It was possible, and for Case Steelgrave, and the men riding with him, the chance of riding through undetected would be very helpful to the actions they planned for the near and immediate future. It would mean, they were back in business!

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Now a body might just ride unnoticed by the route Case had laid out, slipping by the Redmond place would be a bit more difficult, especially with he and the others, fifteen men and horses tend to make some noise in their passing. there had been no objections, not that there ever seemed to be to a plan of Cases.

 

The problem with the route was up until that corner of the Redmond place it was all Lost Lake, slipping by the Redmond farm might be difficult, depending on how  deep they rode on the Evergreen, where case may be unknown to any Evergreen riders, but is was possible, and with better than average odds. The plan was to follow Chogun Valley Road, almost to Harper Meadow, then ride north to the Redmond fence line, then northeast, past the small lake that sat on the property line of both the ranch and the farm, then due north again to the end of Redmond's fence and due east to the Whitefish trail.

 

He could deal with any Evergreen riders, if they saw any, which he doubted, by telling them who he was. Not something he wanted to have happen, not just yet. Redmond might see them, that too was possible, but what Redmond might or might not do was the unknown of his plan. So, they pushed on.

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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Because they had not met up with Steelgrave and his bunch, or even crossed paths with them, Walt Shannon pulled the plug on hitting anymore banks, though there were several towns in their path. He had directions to Steelgrave's hideout and figured that was the best course to take.

 

They rode at a steady pace, one that would not raise eyebrows. Three men, now with a pack mule they had bought along the way. In fact, they had bought it with a pack tree, tent, spare canvas, some tools, and a couple spare canteens. This transformed them into miners, at least they now had the appearance of miners.

 

They rode past an Army fort, which they had no name for, or interest in, other than to realize there were soldiers there. They pushed on. Walt was all to aware that Case would not be stopping in Kalispell, which he reckoned was not to far ahead of them. But they could., and would. The hideout could wait, as it was another chance to eat food they didn't have to cook. A bath and maybe clean clothes, even if they needed to buy them first.

 

They would simply be drifters, miners by the look of them and the country was filled with them, and with any luck at all, they would just blend in

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Far as it went, they saw no one as they followed the route Case led them on, They had made camp for the night in the rocks where the fire would be a bit more inconspicuous, visible, but not as easily. yet the question would remain, who would be out looking for anything in the dark. Better safe than sorry.

 

The next morning the pushed on to to what had once been called the North Trail, or the Kalispell trail until it reached the town, and then the Whitefish Trail, but since it's demise, it was likely the North Trail once again. But they would not take it north, they would cut cross country as they had so many times before, yet on this trip they noted new outfits, and several farms that had popped up since they had last been there.

 

But they pushed on, staying out of site when they could, riding easy. They would be far from these new outfits  long before the day was through. But they were seeing new targets for rustling, along some of the older ones which would be revisited. It appeared that life would be good in the near future, and when Shannon and his boys showed up with whatever they had taken along the way, things would be richer!

 

Case Steelgrave smiled to himself, things were working out just the way he planned. Speed Guyer? He was working that out. He would have a plan in no time for the town Marshal.

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Killing the town Marshal would be something that would require a plan that would not immediately shine the light of suspicion on him, if that was even possible. The feud between the two was not a long one, just since Guyer had humiliated him, jailed him and had him bound over for trial, but he had beat him in the courtroom, shown him who was the top man in Kalispell. Yes Kalispell, if thing broke right, he could be top dog in the town. He could be strutting the streets wearing the badge and running things his way.

 

His way, just like Whitefish had been, yes. The businesses that wanted to stay in business would pay for protection, his "Deputies" would see to that, and speaking of Deputies, Pike would need to be dealt with as well. But he could see it all, yes, he could run Kalispell, with an iron fist and there would be no one to stop him!

 

They cleared the ranches and barbed-wired homesteads, which would be among the first to go. The range was no place for sodbusters, and he would see to that. Tilling the soil, rolling under good graze that cattle needed, no, there was no place for farmers out here, so change would have to come to the prairie, as it were. Case Steelgrave change!

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They came into town slow and easy, looking the town over as most travelers would do. They rode past the Municipal Building, the Town Marshal was seated at his desk oblivious to the riders. Across the street several businesses and a hotel, but the saloon, the Stardust, and next to it, the Lickskillet Cafe. They pulled up and stepped down at the cafe, tying their horses.

 

Drinks might be good, but food they didn't have to cook, that took precedence to men who'd been on the trail for sometime, even though they ate cafe food in Rollins, but that was a while ago. There were no words of caution or care to be taken, they knew what they were about. First a meal, then a couple of drinks and some information on mining in the area and then, ride on. The word was, leave the bank alone. Case had been firm on that. So it would be.

 

They went to the door, opened it and stepped inside, removing their hats as they found a table and took seats to wait on the waitress, or whoever.

@Wayfarer(Clara)

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Continued in "New In Town."

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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In a way it was good to be back 'home', if that's what he could call it. Familiar territory, familiar people, familiar law. One might say that that was home. For Case Steelgrave it was about as close as he would get. Whitefish had been home, or the only home he had known as an adult. There was the Evergreen of course, but that was his fathers home. It had not been his since his teen years when he was away at school. He had hated it. Yet now, as a grown man, he was grateful for the education that had to be beat into him.

 

Too many people could not read or write, but that was his advantage. Numbers, words written and read, things many could not do, other than make their mark. One day he supposed all of that would change, as would the country. In the near future Montana Territory would be added to the United States and things would certainly change with the arrival of the Federal Government. But he had little to worry about, the  new state would be a ling way off from changes that would threaten him.

 

True, the army was there, but then, they were  all over the unsettled west trying to keep the peace with the Indians. But they could do very little as far as enforcing local and territorial laws, another advantage for him, and his lawless ways. The red man could be bartered with, the Army or the local law not so much, unless the local law was owned, that was not the case in Flathead County.

 

As the sun faded in the west, they arrived at the old hide out. It was deceptive as there was but a single building visible, in the notch, and behind the hills, were three other cabins, holding pens and a barn. Everything looked exactly the same as when they left. All that was necessary with to clean out the buildings of intruders and move in.

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I suppose you might call them Lieutenants, perhaps something else, but three men met with Case in the main cabin to discuss what they were going to do, and perhaps how. Toole, Dyer, and Sloane. Before them on the table was a hide that had a rough image of the Chogun Valley complete with not only Lost Lake and The Evergreen ranches but every piece land that was owned, from above White Fish Lake south to just above Somers and Big Fork. East through the pass and beyond the town of Coram, and west, well there just wasn't  much cattle raising going on to the west. too mountainous, though there was grasslands, but getting a herd or herds there would be a difficult task as one would need to cross Lost Lake land to get out there.

 

"So," Case began, we get out and see who's who and where they are. We've plenty of men to get the job done. We need to see about fences, if there are any, what ranches there are and how big their herds are. We need to know who and where the sod busters are, Goddamned farmers!"

 

There was a time when may pa wanted to extend the reach of the Evergreen, I don't care  a hoot about doin' that, I like bein' fancy free, able to move when we want or need to, free to come back when we please. That means we're free to hit who we want, when we want, including both Lost Lake and the Evergreen herds." Case now had far different ideas than he had had previously. The boy was not out for land, but for riches gained from others hard work, even his own fathers. Of course with his brothers all settled down he had little worries other than the Evergreen riders.

 

"Lost Lake, well boys that's just something  we can do to put a burr under their saddle. Maybe even shoot up a few of their riders while running off some cows."

 

It was not uncommon that no one spoke while Case was laying out a plan of action, and what he was putting out was a lot to take in. "We'll call the boys together in the morning and start diving up the territory so we know which outfits are where and how big. Comprende?"There were murmurs of agreement. The three standing there looking at the hide liked what Case was planning.

 

"Question boss." Toole spoke up, About Kalispell and about Guyer."

 

"We leave it be for now. Guyer? Well, I want to think on that. Need a new man to drift into town and see what's what there. We need to see how things are being run these days." Case explained. "No sense gunnin' folks down, 'less we have to, I'm none too keen on startin' trouble down there, just yet."

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Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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"So here's what I want done, Slone, I want you to take some men, not a bunch, maybe one or two and start looking over who has what. Take your time,  wait, no, you and one other. Take it east, Dyer, you and one more head south and try not to be seen as looking them over to heist their cattle. And Tool, you're too well known to be riding into town, so pick one no one would know and send him to just look it over, see what, if anything has changed down there.' Those were the orders being laid out.

 

The plan, see who had how many  steers were on the range without regard to who owned them, that was unimportant. He was looking at going back to the same methods as before, cut out the herds, not take them all. That would insure that there would be other cattle to rustle in the future.

 

"But Toole, I saved the best job for you, I want you and whoever you want to take with you, to scout out the Evergreen and maybe, Lost Lake as well. Cattle's cattle, Lost Lake might be harder to move their steers, but not the Evergreen."Case directed. "You can make the call on Lost Lake, cuz drivin' their cows our way, might just be more trouble than it's worth."

 

There were a lot of "Yes Bosses" They knew the bigger picture, hit the herds cut out some, leave the rest then drive a good size herd north to Canada and sell then. Just like they had never left.

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Sizing up what was available to rustle was the first thing to be done, and Case laid that out well, not knowing that his father was already sizing up Lost Lake's cattle situation. But Case realized, because of the way the land was, with its mountainous terrain, that might be more trouble than it would be worth, and he had said as much.

 

As far as outlawing was concerned, Case Steelgrave would be considered a good field general. He liked the risks to be as little as possible. To do what he wanted to do, he needed men, getting them killed, or putting them in harms way was not a good business practice, and it was a business. So they would scout out places, note the size of the herds, the number of men that they could see and so forth.

 

They would only be able to do their scouting once, because once they started, there would be no casual checking the other herds, as all of the ranchers and their hands would be armed and ready for any attempt on their cattle. This would be where men would find themselves in peril, no matter which side they rode for. Case was determined to risk as few men as possible for the most gain. It wouldn't be long now, and where was Shannon and his money?

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With the men out as he ordered, Case decided it was time to pay dear old Dad a visit. Time to set the boundaries of who was doing what when, and, where. Not a threat to the old man, just letting him know what his boys would be doing now that they were back.

 

He knew that his father had been drinking a lot after his mother left him and may well be a drunk with his foreman running the ranch for him while he laid about in a drunken stupor. Perhaps he could just waltz in and take over the place, but then he would be tied down to running the place whether on the up and up, or as a front for his illegal operation. That thought appealed to him, yet, the Evergreen had enemies, he had enemies so the idea quickly lost any luster it might have had.

 

Moving rustled cattle from the meadows hideout would be far easier than from the Evergreen. That was the first thing that came to mind as he considered his options, then, there could always be a fight, and both he and the evergreen would lose men in the ensuing gun battle. Not a good outcome. Considering that he could lose not just the fight, but men as well. So as he rode closer to the Evergreen, he dismissed the idea of taking, rather trying to take the ranch.

TBC

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The ride over to the main house gave case time to think and reconsider any plans concerning the place or it's livestock. The risk would be greater than most other ranches because of the men on his fathers payroll. They were fighting men, and they would pose a real problem and that kind of attrition he did not need.

 

On his way he not accosted by any of the hands which told him Elias was confident that no one would attempt to raid the ranch. Had something happened that perhaps reinforced the feeling of invulnerability his father prided the ranch as being? Good question, but riding in unmolested said something.

 

At the house he stepped down, looking the place over before marching to the door. He was aware that his father killed Layton Harris for not busting him out, so Arlen Granger was now foreman. Senseless killing of a good man, but not one he would have done. He liked both men.

 

He simply walked in without knocking. It was, after all, the house he was raised in, "Father? It's Case." He called out just as his father came into the foyer where Case stood waiting.

 

"Welcome home, son. I had heard you were back in the territory." Elias greeted, extending a hand, which Case gripped firmly, and pulled his father in for a hug, much to Elias' surprise. Seemingly to Cases as well. "Are you here for a while?"

 

"I am. A lot has changed since I was here last. Whitefish is just rubble, a couple places still standing, and, there are squatters there. Might have to do something about that." Case explained. "I thought maybe someone would have started to rebuild the place. Like my sister. She still holdin' out for that hospital I heard about?"

 

"She is. Thought I had that under control, but apparently not like I thought." Elias replied as the two walked into the front room.

 

"You should have paid more attention to her, Pa, she's a canny one." Case said. "Guyer still the law?"

 

"He is, I understand he as a couple of Territorial Marshals to help out And young Charley Wentworth as his deputy while Pike is out of town, maybe permanent."

 

"Really?" case asked, not liking the fact he could not have the two of them together to take them both, and the idea of territorial law rankled him, but he added, "Good to know. I take it Pike will be back then?"

 

"He will, but no one knows when. Seems he's well to do, silver holdings in Nevada."Elias informed him."

 

"Uh," Case grunted.

TBC

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"And my brothers? What do you hear from them? Anything?" Case asked, it had been some time since there was any word from them that he had heard.

 

"Nothing, son, not a peep. Guess they're off raising their own broods. Making their own way. Why do you ask?" Elias quizzed.

 

"No reason, just wondered since I've been away, I thought maybe they had come around. That's all. I mean, they're family and all." Case responded.

 

"Well they ain't showed their faces around here in quite a while, but I wish they would, Case. I wish they would. They'd make a difference in how this country shapes up." Elias said, meaning with his sons he believed his could change the course of things, ride rough shod over Flathead County and have things his way. Yet he had whar=-t amounted to a small army already, just no plans to use them, yet.

 

"Hell, Pa, you could do whatever you want, whenever you want. You've got the men to pull off whatever you're a mind to." Case smiled the smile of a viper, "Me and the boys I've got could throw in with you, if you wanted. I mean, hell, who'd stop us? Guyer?" The idea of hitting the Evergreen seemed to have disappeared and his idea of joining forces with his father seemed to be taking hold. He also thought that perhaps locating his brothers and bringing them home, well that alone could change everything.

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Elias, wary of his son, for good reason, liked the way he was talking. Like the way he was thinking. Yes, it was true that he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, which was part of his plan to attack the herds on the Lost Lake, but Case's arrival, that threw a different light on the subject. His offer to throw in with his father surprised him.

 

"That could work well getting at the Thornton's." He observed.

 

"Sure as shootin' it would. Why we could thin out their hands, take their cows, whatever we're a mind too, and who's to stop us? Not Guyer, his deputies, an' no two Territorial Marshals are gonna have much say about anything we do. To top that off, I've got three of the best bank robbers out this way. If Guyer and them are occupied with a bank job in the county, well, while the cats away, the mice will play, and maybe lay an ambush for them!"

 

"Now where'd you find them?" Elias asked, always ready to make more money by any means possible.

 

"Back south of here, they found me. They hit the banks, keep some and divvy the rest with me and the boys who do absolutely nothing. They take all the risk, and pay us for the pleasure." Case added with a grin.

 

"Now that sounds to be a sweet deal if ever I heard one. There's gotta be a catch though." Elias countered.

 

"If there is, I haven't heard it yet." Case replied.

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TBC

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So , have you been to town, or not? I mean, who's  seen Shade anyway. Maybe, like you, he just sends his men into town for his needs. And Quintin Cantrell, what about him" he was sided up with Guyer there when I was jailed, son of a bitch."

 

"Well no, I haven't had word on either. Some speculation that Shade has left the country along with that lawyer woman, Harriet Mercer, and God knows who else. Odd, but, well folks got a right to move about as they choose. Even old Scott Cory and his daughter Hannah haven't been seen. Guess he's retired." Elias presumed.

 

"Don't seem right, that many pillars of he community not around. You know, I thought sure I would have seen them at my trial, now that I think about it." Case reflected, "Say, you don't think that maybe they're not up at Lost Lake? That they skedaddled and left the place with their hands, now do ya?"

 

"It doesn't seem like Shade to do that, but I suspect it's possible, given a pretty powerful reason." Elias agreed. "I'm not sure what that might be, but I have a couple men , you know Latham and Ashworth, right? If anybody might know it would be them. Hell, I never thought to ask after them, really had no reason to."

 

"Well Pa, time we found out who's up there." Case stated.

 

"I got a man laid up who was just up there and would know where the herds are, maybe a head count on the hands, and if we're real lucky he saw Thornton or Cantrell, if the rumor isn't true of him being out of the country." Elias added.

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"Well now, that's interesting, Shade Thornton away from the Lost Lake? That would leave Quentin in charge and I have a score to settle there too. These nimrods are gonna keep me busy the rest of the summer." Case remarked. "That is, if I was all that interested in dealing with them. Ain't no money in it. so I doubt it's worth the risk, now, was they to come huntin' it, well that would be different."

 

"Yes, the risk might not be worth the cost, whatever that might be, little or nothing. Or, perhaps you get laid up or worse. Not saying you can't beat either one, cuz you're lightening fast, but there is that chance when it's face to face, one on one." Elias offered.

 

"Face to face? One on one? Have you lost your mind? they don't get a fair chance, just a chunk of lead or two for their trouble. I got no reason to try either one, just kill 'em." Case stated flatly. "Sonsabitches don't deserve no better. But, they aren't my prioity, making money is, and that's about cattle and anything else I can lay my hands on."

 

"Then I think we understand one another, there is money to be made, but driving them east is another matter all together." Elias suggested. "I believe we can do some business, if you're a mind too"

 

"Yes sir, I believe we can, I did notice there are a lot of new spreads since I was here last, and my boys are out checking on things." Cased informed his father. "Any chance we could bring my brothers back?"

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TBC

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"Ah your brothers. Well, I highly doubt it, they've moved about and settled down. Haven't heard from them in sometime, like I don't even exist." He bemoaned the situation, "Them and that brat daughter, you're the only one that even comes around. So, I'm particularly glad you're back." Elias admitted. There was a part of him that missed his other children, and another part of him that relished that Case was back, if not home, at least close by.

 

"Dang, we could use 'em, but, we don't really need 'em." Case said confidently. "I mean between us we have the men to pert near do as we damn well please!" Perhaps an understatement, what they could muster was a small army. Then too, should the ranchers get organized, well, that could turn ugly in a hurry, but counting on the ranchers was highly unlikely .

 

"The way I look at it, were we to move on Lost Lake, and take it, we'd be sitting pretty, fact of the matter is we would control a huge chunk of Flathead County. We could then write our own ticket, do as we damn well please!" Elias stated. "There's a plan I had moving east to Columbia Falls, and Coram, and north to the Canadian border, but there's only one thing holding that back, the Army!"

 

"Yeah, I'd think they'd have something to say about that, Pa. Don't believe they'd want anyone taking over that much territory. Of course once it was took it'd have to be held."

 

"Well son, when you have that much land, finding the men to hold it will be easy.

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"Hell Pa, you can't even get your own sons together to take Thornton's ranch, how in hell are you going to raise an Army, and that'll be more than thirty or forty men?" Case wanted to know.

 

"Money son, it speaks when nothing else will." Elias stated flatly, as if everyone knew that. Let's say that we join forces. I figure that's a good forty to fifty men right now. But, we'd have no one to handle the ranch while we were out. But, putting the word out, we could raise a hundred men, fighting men!" Elias smiled, and ugly, mean spirited smile. "Your brothers will com around to our way of thinking soon enough."

 

"And Leah? What of Leah Pa?" Case asked.

 

"Leah? What the hell's she got to do with anything? Maybe we put her out of business." Came the reply.

 

"I'll tolerate no abuse of my sister Pa, none. No by you or any man you hire." Case declared. "I know you're angry with her, but no one touches her, or they answer to me!"

 

"Don't push boy. She stepped away from this family, went against me and I will not have that!" Elias shot back. "We  don't need her to come between us. Together you and I can run Flathead County and everything inside it's borders!"

 

Case looked him in the eye, unsure of what the old man would do, but firm in his resolve. "You do what you want with her project, I don't give a hang about no hospital, but she is not to be threatened or harmed, or there's no deal."

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"I said what I meant to say about my sister. Now we either ride together, or we don't, Pa." Case said sternly. "A man don't lay a hand to any woman, daughter or not. She's well past spanking. She's a full grown woman and she makes her own decision, just the same a me and my brothers!"

 

Elias was no fool, he could use Case and his riders well beyond this hospital business. It was possible to attack the project and not the woman, that was plain as the nose on his face. He could beat her without touching a hair on her head and have Case and his men in the bargain.

 

"Alright, son, you have yourself my word on this. I will not set my men on her, nor will I attempt anything myself against her, but, anyone that is involved with her and the project are fair game, along with the project itself." He offered his hand.

 

Case grasped his fathers hand and smiled, "Your word ain't shit out there, but under this roof it has always been good, so I'll trust that this time is no different, because it better be. No threat Pa, a promise." There was no anger in his voice, it was firm.

 

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"I best be gettin' back, make sure the boys have set up the place properly so we an start building a herd to sell up Canada way. And, while we're at it, see what's available to take from the sod busters. And that one south of the spread? What about him?" Case asked.

 

Like I said, all i good time, but not just yet. Too close to town. We don't want the law jumping the gun on us now, do we? Elias replied. "Like I said, all in good time. Redmond's time is coming, but no need to rush, we've bigger fish to fry, and you've got your own business to attend to. Though I do like the idea of the bank robbers, and how they work."

 

"Yep, it's a pretty sweet deal with them. I suppose they'll find us when they've looked over the country some. I did warn them off of the bank in Kalispell. No need to have a repeat of the last bank job attempt, though they say that's not how they work." Case responded.

 

"Well, you can come back anytime, we'll need to plan and coordinate efforts to maximize our efforts." Elias assured him.

 

I'll do that Pa, I surely will, 'cuz yer right about that. We'll need to plot this out to perfection." Case agreed. "Be seein' you." With that the son parted from the father, plans made, but yet to be detailed.

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TBC

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Posted (edited)

As he rode out of the yard he was smiling, some things never change, but they can and do get better. It would seem that he and his father were getting along again, but then he was the only offspring he had left that was willing to come around, and actually he was both glad and perturbed about that. Those boys owed their father, owed him plenty.

 

But his family was a bit northeast of the ruins of Whitefish, well, as the crow flies, that is. It was not easy to get to, there was a single entrance to the valley and oft times it was chocked with deadfall. Some naturally, some by human had, all set up to be moved aside to allow procured cattle and other livestock to be driven through. It was a sweet setup.

 

Generally the trail in was swept clear of tracks, but for the present there was no need, no one was looking for stolen livestock, at least not yet. But that would not last too long, the boys were out scouting possible herds to procure some or all of. No sense depleting the available stock all at once.

 

And then there was Walt Shannon and his men that should be coming along shortly. They had a map to the hide out, but there was really no telling where they were, or what they were up too. However he felt sure that it would not be too long before they were all together and laying out plans, one of which would include Lost Lake.

Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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He made his way through the canyon which was mostly hidden from sight, though anyone that actually stumbled onto it, the appearance of it being blocked usually turned them away. Of course thew was a second opening which was harder to find than the first, it sat off just a bit and had a camouflaged gate that needed attention on occasion as the fresh cut limbs and brush attached to it died and needed replacing.

 

He rode into the valley thinking all the work of the gate could be eliminated, as no one had even come close to locating this valley  since the man that built the original cabin, and that one fellow that Robbins had shot a good while back The valley, such as it was, was beautiful.There was a good running stream for water, and the hidden cabins behind the hill provided all the shelter and storage they would need.

 

He didn't see Pecos with the Winchester watching him, but then he was not supposed to. A guard that was seen would be disposed of. That would alert the camp, but it would also cost a man, and good ones like Pecos were hard to come by. The guard would use a mirror to signal the lookout back at the camp of anyone riding in, but there was a code for 'friendlies' so they didn't get shot.

 

For case, it was good to be home.

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"Welcome back Boss, we found that while we was in Big Flat more small outfits have moved in and they're thriving, which is good for us." Toole reported.

 

"Any word on Shannon?" Case asked, "Figured he'd be here by now."

 

"Nary a word, Case. Maybe they're casing banks in the area, or maybe a posse caught up with them." Was Toole's thoughts on the matter. "I know they was good at what they did, but maybe something went wrong along the way, you that does happen now and again..

 

Case nodded, "So what was found out? You know with scouting the outfits."

 

"We had a look-see at several, and like Toole said, they have cattle, and a lot of 'em. Prime to be hit." Guthrie spoke up.

 

"And we had a look at you Pa's spread, could be easy pickin's like the rest." Sloan offered, unawares that Father and son had plans which excluded the rustling of his stock.

 

"Well now, Pa and I came to some agreements, so we'll leave his herds alone for now. Our plan is to take the Lost Lake, lock stock and barrel."  The room fell silent. "My Pa has had his eye on that spread for a long time, and with Shade Thornton out of the picture it seems prime for the taking." He was smiling as he spoke.

 

"Well, me an' a couple of the boys here checked on Lost Lake an saw a good sized herd over ta Broken Finger Lake, they call it. But heard gun shots an' lit out. Didn't figger it'd be worth it ta start a fight without you sayin' it was okay." Dyer Howe spoke up.

 

"That was Pa's man and one of the Lost Lake riders." Case divulged. So there might already be trouble. Not sure how many men the Lost Lake has, Pa's got plenty and with us throwin' in with 'em, well, we can sure ride rough-shod of 'em. But we'll see. Probably need to know how many men we're up against."

 

"There was maybe three to five men with the herd we saw, so that's a start." Howe added.

 

"So, that means we need a real good look at the place and get us a proper head count, it's a big spread, but not a lot of flat ground for grazin'. So we lay low for a bit. I'll need a man to ride into town and see what's what."

 

"I'll go, they don't know me there. Never been in this part of the country." Boone volunteered. Let me know what you want to know and I'll find  out for you. Boone was new, he had joined up with a couple others, Whit and Blackie down in Big Flat.

 

"You do that. Find out what's going on, how the law is, I know that Pike's away, but no idea for how long, just get me an idea of how welcome I might be." Case said, "An' we'll go from there. Take your time, buy supplies, take a pack animal if you like, just don't ride out the way you ride in."

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Edited by Flip (see edit history)

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"Good. Fact is, I might not be all that welcome by any of them, but that remains to be seen. As for Guyer, well, he for sure won't be glad to see me, but he's not about to start anything after he lost in court. Besides, he's one of those that don't see to hold a grudge." Case related.

 

"I get it done." Boone stated with assurance, it was a simple scouting mission, find out things that had transpired while Case was away. Which sounded much different than it actually was. What Case wanted to know was if he would be welcome in town, which was the first move in taking it over. Of course, that plan was one that would take time, not as simply as his move on Whitefish which had been almost handed to him.

 

"I'm counting on that Boone. There might be a good deal at stake here, depending on what you find out." Case smiled, there was a lot going on, raiding of ranches, the plot to take Lost Lake, which included working with his father rather than against him as he had originally planned. And that might pay dividends he had not foreseen. "Like I said, you take whatever time you need. You know where we are."

 

Boone nodded and left the room to get his horse and be on his way. He would ride out and around, come into Kalispell from the south and then leave to the north. He knew also that he would become known in town, folks would know which way he came in, then which way he rode out, but not his destination. So he would take the pack animal.

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Once Boone was gone, Case went to his cabin, he had some thing to consider. Plans to be made, maybe not right then, but they would need to be made, and soon. Of course, cattle needed to be taken, that was for sure. Yes, he had money, and more on the way, but more was always better, and well paid men were always happy.

 

If fact, he too was happy since he and his father were on good terms again, for how long? Hard to tell what either of them might do if and when the plan to take over the Lost Lake ranch was over, and Elias was 'King of the hill.' For he surely would be, and then there would be some major changes in Flathead valley.

 

The only fly in the honey was his sister, and whatever plans his father had for her. But he had said it plain enough for the old man to understand, nothing was to happen to her, not a hair on her head was to be touched, and he would kill any man that dared try to hurt her. The hospital, he could care less about it, they could do what they pleased about it, though he did understand the value of it.

 

Value. It may have value to the town, and the surrounding area, but Whitefish had been destroyed and nothing had been done toward rebuilding it, and that should have happened. And for that he blamed Kalispell and his father. Yet the value of a hospital was enormous for everyone concerned from the Thornton's, to the Steelgrave's, to the people of Flathead Valley. But try to get his father to see that may be a chore too big for anyone, least of all his sister.

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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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