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    • "We'll have to get on over to the dinning room them. Afraid it's liable to be a bit more like Kalispell than Frisco." He said. "But it'll be good food, just not what we've been used too. Will be up on the hill, for sure.¬† I was told this is the best hotel because it was a ways out across the river from town, and it was solid built." ¬† "The wealth on the hill is such that all most everything around it is growing at a fast pace. You'll really see that when we visit the Capitol, Carson City. Supposedly discovered by Kit Carson and General John Freemont on their way to Sacramento in. At least Freemont named the river after him back in '43 or '44. Nothin' was there then." ¬† "All that made me hungry too, let's go eat an then take us a walk across the river, or along it, which ever you want." @Bongo
    • That did not take long. Cookie rang the triangle and shouted his best but in the end he sent the kid to roust all but the closest to him. Rance joined young Wheeler in the line, a bit out of the wind, but mostly in it for the moment. It seemed calmer up by the wagon. ¬† "That had ta be bad back there. The wind drivin' the dust an' the smell, but should this wind let up you'll be on flank, left flank, then right, then back to the drag. It'll be me, Dallas, an' Dixie. eatin' dust tomorrow. But at least we got hot grub, won't always be that'a way out here though, every trip is different." ¬† And they moved up steadily. @Bongo
    • "Nothing to discuss? I am surprised, Jonah. Why, if we have time for breakfast, there will be much to discuss regarding the hospital as well as the start of the orphanage. Hopefully that the railroad will be completed, or close to it by then." She smiled brightly. "Things will be different by then." ¬† "My hope is that we get through all of this without my fathers interference causing delays, or real problems with the builders. You know we could get well into October before the snow flies, but I'm not counting on that. The winter will stop construction until the thaw." She stated, but the smile was still there, "But it will be well underway!" @Bongo
    • "Pleased ta meet ya, Rance."¬† Justus gave the man a nod, then lined up with the others for grub.¬† Maybe he could get some sleep despite the wind.¬† He surely was tired enough, and until there was something that concerned him, he didn't need to be concerned. ¬† First, though, a full belly!¬† As the line progressed, he he nodded to the kid who was the cook's help.¬† "Times like this, I bet yer glad ya don't have ta be on th' downwind end of a herd'a cows!" ¬† @Flip
    • "It's good to know you'll have the best working on the project, you've come this far, you don't need to risk the quality with less than the best working on it."¬† Even though he had no doubt that the crew would be excellent, it was reassuring to know that the man hand picked for the job would actually be on site overseeing it.¬† That way, too, he'd be there if Leah needed to discuss anything with him, and Jonah had a good feeling that was going to happen! ¬† He grinned and took a sip of coffee.¬† "Just think, this time next year it will all be over!¬† We'll have a fine hospital with the best equipment...and nothing to discuss over breakfast!" ¬† @Flip ¬†

Solitaire is most certainly NOT the Only Game in Town


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Mature Content: No.

Author: Arabella Mudd. 

With: Hiram Priest plus anyone else who happens to be in the saloon.
Location: Stardust Saloon.
When: July 1876
Time of Day: Afternoon.

 

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ūüéĶ¬†"He taught me to love him,¬†He call'd me his flower
That blossom'd for him, All the brighter each hour;
But I woke from my dreaming, My idol was clay;
My visions of love,¬†Have all faded away."¬†ūüéĶ

 

No boy had ever taught her to love him, nor called her his flower, and far from fading away, her visions of love were as clear as day: but "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets" was still Arabella Mudd's favourite song to sing, in her nice bel canto voice, as the fifteen year old orphan scrubbed the floors, emptied the spitoons and cleared up the empties in Kalispell's only decent saloon: The Stardust. 

 

She was happy in her work, mundane as it was, and come the evening she would put her best dress on and accompany the watering hole's resident songstress, Miss Caroline Mundee, the Chicago Nightingale, on the piano forte. And one day, one day, she would get on a choo choo train and travel far away from Kalispell and be a star herself on the stages of the great white way in New York!

 

But that was a dream for tomorrow. Today's reality was that there was an old geezer in the corner playing solitaire with a worn-looking deck of cards who hadn't bought a drink for some time, and standing orders were to encourage such folks to lay down some coin for another drink and not use the place as a waiting room. 

 

"Howdy Mister!" the Virginian girl beamed and pointed at his almost completely empty glass "This 'n dead? Can I get you another drink? Waitress service's free, by the way, though I do accept tips! See, I'm savin' up to go to New York City and the good book sayeth 'Ask, and it shall be given you' Matthew, Chapter Seven!" she said chirpily.

 

@Preston plus any others!

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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The old geezer was The Honorable Hiram Priest, former mayor of a gulchy town in Dakota Country.  Hiram wasn't full of himself, however.  Not at all.  He knew exactly who and what he was.  So the "Honorable" was dropped.  All that was in the past, though he did have a hankering to once again hang out his Lawyer shingle .. maybe wield his political prowess, run for Mayor or be appointed once again to the bench.

 

"Howdy Mister!"

 

Hiram's hand paused before placing the Seven or Spades under the Eight of Hearts, but he didn't look up.

 

The voice persisted but he continued his game.  "Red Jack on Black Queen," he muttered through a mouth filled with chaw. 

 

"This 'n dead? Can I get you another drink? Waitress service's free, by the way, though I do accept tips! See, I'm savin' up to go to New York City and the good book sayeth 'Ask, and it shall be given you' Matthew, Chapter Seven!" she said chirpily.

 

Hiram made his play then looked up.  It was that young'n' he'd seen scooting around the saloon doing menial work.  She was pleasant enough, and pretty too.   He appraised her with eyes that looked over the top of his spectacles.  "What do you know about the Bible? "  Then he chuckled.  "I guess a lot of folks know the Bible,  chapter and verse, out here on the frontier.  Faith in the Good Book is all that keeps some folks pushing ahead in a place like this."

 

Priest pointed at the glass.  "Sure," he said, indicating with this finger an imaginary line high  on the side of the glass, a "fill line".   But he was intrigued.   "Why New York City?  It's full of city slickers who take advantage of young girls like you, and it's far away from cow country"

 

@Arabella Mudd

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Arabella tipped her head, watching the moves the older man made in the solitaire game. Seemed a boring past-time to her, she much preferred 'snap!' or Old Maid or other such sophisticated card games.

 

Hiram made his play then looked up.  It was that young'n' he'd seen scooting around the saloon doing menial work.  She was pleasant enough, and pretty too.   He appraised her with eyes that looked over the top of his spectacles.  "What do you know about the Bible? "

 

"Oh, I know all about the bible, I read it every night before I go to bed. Out loud, too!" she affirmed, as if reading the holy word merely in your head was somehow less theologically potent. "An' even though Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, I really like the Old Testament times, with Folks begatin' an' gettin' turned into pillars of salt and such all over the place. Thems sounds like real fun times to live in, not like boring old Kalispell."

 

Then he chuckled.  "I guess a lot of folks know the Bible,  chapter and verse, out here on the frontier. Faith in the Good Book is all that keeps some folks pushing ahead in a place like this."

 

"You sure said a mouthful of truth there, Mister." she agreed "Why it's so dull round here: we only had one shootin' last week and nobody's been lynched in a month. Why, it's only the nightly brawls in here that keeps the place tolerable interestin'! Er, so... you want that drink?" she asked.

 

Priest pointed at the glass.  "Sure," he said, indicating with this finger an imaginary line high  on the side of the glass, a "fill line".   But he was intrigued.   "Why New York City?  It's full of city slickers who take advantage of young girls like you, and it's far away from cow country"

 

"Oh, I ain't from round here, I'm from Virginia. And I'm no greenhorn when it comes to big cities, no Siree, I been right into Tannersville twice and I was actually born'd in Monroe!" she told him impressively. "And besides, I ain't as green as I'm cabbage-looking. Why, this feller told me yesterday that I wasn't half as stupid as I look. 'Sides, I'm gonna take my friend with me and she's from New York, so she'll know what to do and, oh, and guess what?..." The girl looked around the empty saloon as if to make sure no one was listening and then told him in a loud stage whisper "SHE'S JEWISH!!"

 

She stood back, to see how shocked the old gent might be that she was friends with a member of the Hebrew race. 

 

@Preston

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"Oh, I ain't from round here, I'm from Virginia. And I'm no greenhorn when it comes to big cities, no Siree, I been right into Tannersville twice and I was actually born'd in Monroe!" she told him impressively.

 

Priest sighed then finished his play; 4-of-Clubs atop the 5-of-Diamonds.  Then, very precisely, he slid his draw pile toward the middle of the table and resigned himself to a "visit".

 

She went on.

 

"And besides, I ain't as green as I'm cabbage-looking. Why, this feller told me yesterday that I wasn't half as stupid as I look. 'Sides, I'm gonna take my friend with me and she's from New York, so she'll know what to do and, oh, and guess what?..." The girl looked around the empty saloon as if to make sure no one was listening and then told him in a loud stage whisper "SHE'S JEWISH!!"

 

She stood back, to see how shocked the old gent might be that she was friends with a member of the Hebrew race. 

 

Hiram Priest,  his mouth awash in tobacco juice, quietly uttered, "Christ killers."  It wasn't said in condemnation, just  matter of factly. 

 

Nothing she'd said shocked him but, to be nice, he raised his brows above this spectacles in a gesture that signaled that he was mildly impressed.   Then, using his long leg, he placed his foot on the wrung of an empty chair and pushed it away from the table.

 

"Why don't you sit down, so long as your boss don't mind?"  he suggested.

 

Now it was HIS turn.


"You know, young lady, a move to New York is goin' cost you a lot of floor scrubbin' and window washin', and what for?  To be singin' on stage? Well why don't you start here in Kalispell?  Maybe I can talk to the owner of this place into giving you a chance to sing right here?  A pretty girl like you, a girl who knows the Bible and understands all that begettin' and our Lord's promise of  redemption, can make a life right here.  Maybe your friend too."

 

As with everything, the "Mayor", as people sometimes called him although years had passed since he was one, had use for the girl.  She was a pursuer, she had dreams, and it seemed as though she loved gossip or, better, chitchat. 

 

"Would you be interested in earning some extra money?" he asked her.

 

 

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"Why don't you sit down, so long as your boss don't mind?"  he suggested.

 

Arabella glanced back to the bar, where Ralph was busy with some barkeepery activity or other.

 

"Oh, Mr Flandry don't mind" she said breezily "He's just about given up mindin'!"


"You know, young lady, a move to New York is goin' cost you a lot of floor scrubbin' and window washin', and what for?  To be singin' on stage? Well why don't you start here in Kalispell?  Maybe I can talk to the owner of this place into giving you a chance to sing right here?  A pretty girl like you, a girl who knows the Bible and understands all that begettin' and our Lord's promise of  redemption, can make a life right here.  Maybe your friend too."

 

"It's funny you should say that" she frowned seriously leaning forward with her elbows on the table "I just did an audition fer a feller who's openin' a theatre right here in Kalispell. Oh, that's a secret, by the way, so don't go tellin' anybody! Course, I used to sing a little bit here, but that was before Caroline came along: she's more suitable, see, she's more kinda..." in lieu of an apposite phrase, Arabella made a sort of curvy shape with her hands in the air, to contrast with her own emaciated and ironing-board-flat figure. 

 

"I am savin' up like mad, though, I also work another job, helpin' this feller what takes photygraphs of dead folk what's passed over: I help make 'em look all nice and alive and prop 'em up next to their relatives fer family portraits. Or sometimes we keep the dearly departed party in their coffin, and I dress up like an angel and sort of stand over it lookin', well, angelic, you know. And Mr Crabbe, he... that's the feller, Mr Crabbe, he does this real clever thing called a double exposure what makes me look all sorta ghostly on the picture!" she added. "Sometimes he takes pictures of alive folk, too. But he don't like that - he says they do fidget so, compared to the dead uns."

 

"Would you be interested in earning some extra money?" he asked her.

 

Arabella's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but not enough to hide the dollar signs lighting up inside them.

 

"That depends" she replied "What kinda business are you in anyway, old man?" Despite his respectable outward appearance, there was some thing about Priest that made her think that it might be monkey business. 

 

@Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Speaking of the devil, who should saunter down the stairs but none other than the just mentioned Caroline Mundee, wearing a fine bright scarlett dress with bare shoulders (gasp!) and a hint of cleavage with it's low neckline. Her hair was up, her eyes heavy with makeup, and fingernails painted like those east coast actresses  (oh and the more high class hookers back there too). It was difficult to tell just how old, or rather at this point in her life still, young she was but a guess of early twenties was probably an accurate enough one.

 

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Ralph glanced her way and nodded acknowledgement, "Caroline."

 

The young woman smiled, "Another day, another dollar huh."

 

Well, the place certainly wasn't busy..........not yet anyways. She would be performing of course in the evening, her usual song and dance routine. Looking about there was Arabella sitting with some old codger at a table, deep in conversation. No doubt the chatty girl was filling him in about all the details of her life.  Whatever.

 

Stepping up to the bar, she leaned against it, "Gimme a shot....real stuff please."

 

Ralph simply reached down below the bar and pulled up a fancier looking bottle than the usual stuff they served to customers then poured her a shot glass of it. She thanked him and downed it in one big gulp, the strong liquor going down with barely a reaction from the petite young miss.

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It seemed to Hiram Priest that little Miss Arabella Mudd was sure enough coming up with every reason not to sing at the saloon. 

 

"Lemme tell you something," he began with a bearing and dignity fit for King Solomon.  "If you think the competition is going to be less in New York City than here in Kalispell, you got another think comin.  So what I'm saying is if you can't step around some hot number like Caroline, you'll be wasting your time and money taking off for the big City .. New York City, Chicago, Saint Louis ..., cause there'll be dozen's of Caroline's just waiting to give you the bums rush.  You'll be left a poor waif a'sellin'  matchsticks on the street corner."

 

"Why there's opportunities right here in this cattle town to make some gelt." He concluded.

 

"I am savin' up like mad, though, I also work another job, helpin' this feller what takes photygraphs of dead folk what's passed over: I help make 'em look all nice and alive and prop 'em up next to their relatives fer family portraits. Or sometimes we keep the dearly departed party in their coffin, and I dress up like an angel and sort of stand over it lookin', well, angelic, you know. And Mr Crabbe, he... that's the feller, Mr Crabbe, he does this real clever thing called a double exposure what makes me look all sorta ghostly on the picture!" she added. "Sometimes he takes pictures of alive folk, too. But he don't like that - he says they do fidget so, compared to the dead uns."

 

It was clear to Hiram that Annabella knew how to hustle.  That beneath that bucolic innocence, was someone willing to take chances.

 

"Would you be interested in earning some extra money?" he asked her.

 

Arabella's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but not enough to hide the dollar signs lighting up inside them.

 

"That depends" she replied "What kinda business are you in anyway, old man?" Despite his respectable outward appearance, there was some thing about Priest that made her think that it might be monkey business. 

 

Hiram moved the wad of tobacco from his left cheek to his right cheek.   He eyed her over the rim of his spectacles but for a pause, remained silent.  Finally he asked her, "Can you keep your mouth shut?"

 

And as he waited for an answer, his baggy eyes spotted what looked like 5 1/2 feet of danger slink over the bar.  This was Caroline, from what he'd gathered from previous short visits to the saloon.  Caroline, Annabella's nemesis.

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Arabella listened to Hiram Priest's serpent-like whisperings with a frown of concentration on her little face. What he said made sense. Just like when another snake, in another time and place, had tempted another person to make a morally wrong decision, she became almost hypnotised by his assured reasoning and smooth voice, his air of sage wisdom and 'kindly intentions'.

 

She was almost gone, nodding in agreement, mouth open (almost drooling) starting to plan whether to push Caroline down the stairs to kill her or whether rat poison in her fig pudding would be the best method of removing the competition, when... He helped her. For some, miraculous reason, she became oddly aware of the plain metal cross she wore around her neck, pressing into her chest. He hadn't spoken to her for some time, but now He did 'and immediately there fell from her eyes as it had been scales: and she received sight forthwith'. 

 

"Well, thanks fer the advice, I'll sure bear it in mind." she replied to his temptations and even reached out and patted him on the hand, smiling that sickly sweet smile of beatific certitude that all good Christians wear when they know that they are in the right (which is to say: all the time).

 

She explained about how she made money to save toward her planned, and according to him, doomed, trip to New York. And the Tempter offered to give her a way of making even more:

 

Hiram moved the wad of tobacco from his left cheek to his right cheek.  He eyed her over the rim of his spectacles but for a pause, remained silent.  Finally he asked her, "Can you keep your mouth shut?"

 

Arabella shook her head and gave the simple and truthful reply.

 

"No, Mister. No I can't."

 

"Oh, I try! Oh, believe me I try! I don't know why people even tell me secrets, but they do, you'd a thought they'd a learned by now not to - cause them there secrets, why they just bubble up inside me and pop out o' my mouth 'fore I can stop them. like that stuff about that there theatre openin' up. Why, the person what told me that, they told me in the most strictest, deadliest of confidence and 'fore five minutes was up I'd told it to some old lady on the street who I didn't even know! Oh don't ever go tellin' me nuthin you want keepin' shady Mister... Mister... say, what is your name anyway?" she asked. 

 

"My names Arabella, Arabella Sumter Mudd, of the Virginia Mudds, but truth to tell, they might as well call me Big Mouth!" she chided herself.

 

And as he waited for an answer, his baggy eyes spotted what looked like 5 1/2 feet of danger slink over the bar.  This was Caroline, from what he'd gathered from previous short visits to the saloon.  Caroline, Annabella's nemesis.

 

Arabella followed his gaze and spotted Caroline.

 

"There's my friend!" she said "The one I ain't gonna poison!" She'd forgotten that that temptation had been completely in her own head - even if Priest was the one who had caused it. "I'll go get you that drink." she said, getting up and dragging herself away from the Serpent's deadly sphere of amoral influence.

 

She staggered to the bar and, tears in her eyes, threw her arms around the sexy singer. "Oh Caroline!" she cried "I love you and I will never put rat poison in your figgy puddin' or push you down the stairs, even if you never let me sing another song again!"

 

She dried her eyes and got Mr Priest's drink and then said to La Mundee "Come and meet this feller. He's sort of fascinatin'" nodding toward the strange old man whom, she was pretty sure now, was The Devil.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Preston was no stranger to "strange".

When she hopped up and staggered over to the bar, he shrugged and gathered up his cards.

"9 of clubs on 10 of diamonds." he muttered.

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Even as Caroline leaned with her back to the bar, here came her youthful accompanist and off and on friend, mostly on. Now what?

 

Ara staggered to the bar and, tears in her eyes, threw her arms around the sexy singer.

 

Caroline hadn't been prepared for that, "What's wrong, hon?"

 

"Oh Caroline!" she cried "I love you and I will never put rat poison in your figgy puddin' or push you down the stairs, even if you never let me sing another song again!"

 

Caroline frowned, "What? Where'd you come up with that nonsense. And what the hell is figgy puddin' anyhow?"

 

Ralph just kept drying shot glasses and rolled his eyes. Wimmen!

 

Ara was mercurial in her moods and behaviors but Caroline could just not believe the odd child was capable of murder. 

 

The teen dried her eyes and got Mr Priest's drink and then said to La Mundee "Come and meet this feller. He's sort of fascinatin'" nodding toward the strange old man.

 

Caroline looked up from Ara over to the old codger fidgeting with cards over by one of the tables, she certainly did not recall seeing him in the saloon ever before.  And was he putting some strange ideas in Ara's head?  And why?  Well, she was not about to rush to any judgements, not when it involved Arabella, the town drama queen.

 

"Sure, fine," Caroline was willing, besides it was her job to mingle with the customers and she was damn good at it.

 

As the pair approached the old gent, Caroline whispered, "He did pay for that there drink I take it?"    Matilda frowned on customers getting free drinks.

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As the pair approached the old gent, Caroline whispered, "He did pay for that there drink I take it?"   Matilda frowned on customers getting free drinks.

 

"Course he did, silly." Arabella confirmed, almost tripping over her big feet trying to walk as slowly as Caroline over to the gent. Arabella was always in a hurry and her usual manner of locomotion was a stiff legged and brisk walk, whereas Caroline's could only really be described as a slow sashay. Arabella tried practicing walking that way once and nearly dislocated a hip.

 

"Here we are Mr Priest." she smiled when they finally got there and gave Hiram his drink. "Caroline, this here is Mr Hiram Priest. Mr Priest, this is Miss Caroline Mundee, the Chicago Nightingale" (she put out of her mind that the last time she had introduced her friend that way, the gent in question had asked 'And who are you, the Kalispell Cuckoo?!')

 

@Preston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiram took out his watch and checked the time.  It was earlier than he thought, so he gathered up his cards and reshuffled them for another game.  His bony fingers were surprisingly adroit, almost like a professional dealer.  In short order he'd set himself up for another game of solitaire.

 

The game required some level of concentration, but it was broken again by the flighty young girl who'd just returned with the femme fatale.

 

"Here we are Mr Priest." she smiled when they finally got there and gave Hiram his drink. "Caroline, this here is Mr Hiram Priest. Mr Priest, this is Miss Caroline Mundee, the Chicago Nightingale" (she put out of her mind that the last time she had introduced her friend that way, the gent in question had asked 'And who are you, the Kalispell Cuckoo?!')

 

He issued a flat, "Hmmm," and continued playing the game as he spoke.

 

"Glad to meet you, young Miss.  "Mundee" you say?  Related to the Mundee's of upper Missouri?"   The name was familiar to him.  In one of his first trial cases as a lawyer, he defended a man was accused of setting fire to his neighbor's barn.. name of Thaddeus Mundee.  Unfortunately, the man was knifed in jail while awaiting his verdict.

 

"You two ought to do some duets around this place.  Have you ever thought of that?"  The "Mayor" was always trying to work out a deal or help someone else work out a deal. 

 

He sipped his drink.

 

"Is there any office space in this town that needs fillin'? He asked them.  I'm lookin' to set up shop."

 

 

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Ara assured her that the drink had indeed been paid for so Caroline wouldn't need to have to collect the money then  (for she certainly would have as she took her job seriously). Ara marched right back to the table occupied by the long gaunt old jasper and did the introduction straight off.

 

"Caroline, this here is Mr Hiram Priest. Mr Priest, this is Miss Caroline Mundee, the Chicago Nightingale"

 

Caroline smiled, "How do ya do, Mr. Priest and nobody calls me that but Ara here."

 

The man issued a flat, "Hmmm," and continued playing the game as he spoke.

 

"Glad to meet you, young Miss.  "Mundee" you say?  Related to the Mundee's of upper Missouri?" the old gent replied.

 

"Yes, Mundee but you can call me Caroline, everybody else does around here," she responded but then added, "Nope, no relatives there I know about. I was born in Chicago"

 

"You two ought to do some duets around this place.  Have you ever thought of that?" the man suddenly asserted out of the clear blue sky.

 

Caroline blinked, not sure she cared for his barging in on business not his own like that but he was a paying customer so.........

 

"Actually she is the piano player and does a fine job of it too. I appreciate her very much. And on occasion she does join in on choruses and such," she answered.

 

"You might wanna be around in the evenin' sometime and catch our act, it's a good one if I do say so myself."

 

He sipped his drink. Caroline noticed he had made no offer to buy her one or even invite her to have a seat while she stood there. Not as much a gentleman as his outward appearance would indicate.

 

"Is there any office space in this town that needs fillin'? He asked them. " I'm lookin' to set up shop."

 

Caroline shrugged, "Real estate ain't my area of expertise. Might wanna go to the courthouse, there's a land office in there."

 

"What kinda shop?" she figured she might as well ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"Actually she is the piano player and does a fine job of it too. I appreciate her very much. And on occasion she does join in on choruses and such," she answered.

 

"You might wanna be around in the evenin' sometime and catch our act, it's a good one if I do say so myself."

 

Hiram nodded.  "Sounds like something I don't want to miss.  I'm certain you two nightingales bring refinement to this wide-open town."

 

He swept his cards into one pile and expertly formed them into a single deck.  Game over. 

 

He sipped his drink. Caroline noticed he had made no offer to buy her one or even invite her to have a seat while she stood there. Not as much a gentleman as his outward appearance would indicate.

 

"Is there any office space in this town that needs fillin'? He asked them. " I'm lookin' to set up shop."

 

Caroline shrugged, "Real estate ain't my area of expertise. Might wanna go to the courthouse, there's a land office in there."

 

"What kinda shop?" she figured she might as well ask.

 

"Just a minute," the old codger said.  "Can I offer you too damsels a drink?  That is, unless you're not allowed to.  Every place is different.  Some saloon owners don't like the help to fraternize with the customers, and other places encourage it.  I'm buyin'.

 

" Oh, and by the way,  I'm Hiram S. Priest Esq..  I'm a lawyer, former Mayor and Judge.  Haven't been in town long but it looks like a place where I might hang up my shingle.  Courthouse you say?"

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"What kinda shop?" she figured she might as well ask.

 

"Yeah" put in Arabella "Kalispell's already got shops selling everything everybody needs; what we want is more stores selling stuff we don't need!" she advised eagerly.

 

"Just a minute," the old codger said.  "Can I offer you too damsels a drink?  That is, unless you're not allowed to."

 

 "Not allowed to?" queried Arabella, for Caroline usually drank more patron-bought drinks than she sang songs on a good evening, and Arabella herself had been known to knock back more than a few sarsaparillas in her time.

 

"Every place is different.  Some saloon owners don't like the help to fraternize with the customers, and other places encourage it. I'm buyin'.

 

"Oh, I'm tea total so I'll pass, but Caroline's pretty much the biggest fraternizer I ever met, ain't ya Caro'?" She jerked a confidential thumb at her friend, "... believe me Mister, this girl'll bleed ya.. er, I mean drink the place dry!" Calling him Mister must have reminded the old gink that he hadn't presented his own moniker yet:

 

" Oh, and by the way,  I'm Hiram S. Priest Esq..  I'm a lawyer, former Mayor and Judge.  Haven't been in town long but it looks like a place where I might hang up my shingle.  Courthouse you say?"

 

"Hey!" jumped in Arabella, excitedly "My friend Jemima says that her brother Hector says that Mr Jolly says that the Mayor's 'on his last legs' an' there's like to be a election soon fer a new one. Maybe if you're some form o' Mayor, you could get that job. Second best, our Post Master Mr Orr's just been burned to a crisp, so that job'll be up fer grabs too. Problem is, there ain't really a Post Office any more, it sorta got burned to a crisp too, at the same time."

 

@Wayfarer or @Preston

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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" Oh, and by the way,  I'm Hiram S. Priest Esq..  I'm a lawyer, former Mayor and Judge.  Haven't been in town long but it looks like a place where I might hang up my shingle.  Courthouse you say?"

 

"Hey!" jumped in Arabella, excitedly "My friend Jemima says that her brother Hector says that Mr Jolly says that the Mayor's 'on his last legs' an' there's like to be a election soon fer a new one. Maybe if you're some form o' Mayor, you could get that job. Second best, our Post Master Mr Orr's just been burned to a crisp, so that job'll be up fer grabs too. Problem is, there ain't really a Post Office any more, it sorta got burned to a crisp too, at the same time."

 

Hiram  removed his hat and waved it, causing the barkeep to look his way.  He pointed to his drink and then pointed to the silent Caroline.  Then he pointed to Arabella and barked, "Sarsaparilla."  After that, the hat went back on.

 

What Arabella just said couldn't have interested the wily Mr. Priest more.  It was exactly what he was hoping for but so surprised that the subject landed so quickly at his table.   He slowly nodded his head and tugged at his chin, affecting a sage and cautious demeanor. 

 

"Mayor, you say?  Well,.."  He picked up his drink and took a sip.  "A Mayor should provide a town's citizens with  moral leadership and help carve a path to future development."   In a sense, he was already making a campaign speech.  "There are railroad companies itchin' to lay down tracks and it's our job to make certain they lay those tracks right through Kalispell.  Just think of the business that'll bring to a place like this.  The saloon owner'll have to hire more ladies like you to help with the overflow."

 

What  the "Mayor" proposed was true, and there were many town's on the frontier making overtures to the powers-that-be at the railroads to look their way.  But there was a more sinister reason that Mr. Hiram Priest was interested in landing on the Mayoral throne, and it didn't have much to do with the prosperity of the town and its citizens as much as lining his own pockets and filling his own coffers.

 

"Please," he continued.  "What do you girls know about the current Mayor?  Is he loose virtued?

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It was going to be a shop like one where a person could buy items such as clothing or food or tools or some such, the old geezer was planning on opening a lawyer's office? Caroline did not much care for lawyers, the only couple of that profession she knew were - in her opinion - no better and actually quite worse than whores.

 

"Lawyer huh? We got us a few in town, one of em is a woman too," Caroline replied.

 

Man also was curious about the mayor but Ara jumped right in in her usual fashion.

 

"My friend Jemima says that her brother Hector says that Mr Jolly says that the Mayor's 'on his last legs' an' there's like to be a election soon fer a new one. Maybe if you're some form o' Mayor, you could get that job. Second best, our Post Master Mr Orr's just been burned to a crisp, so that job'll be up fer grabs too. Problem is, there ain't really a Post Office any more, it sorta got burned to a crisp too, at the same time."

 

"Arabella is right about Mr. Orr being fried alive but there is too a post office, there was some damage but not that bad.......well except to Mr. Orr. Our boss, Miss Devereau, sez 'small loss'.

 

Hiram  removed his hat and waved it, causing the barkeep to look his way.  He pointed to his drink and then pointed to the silent Caroline.  Then he pointed to Arabella and barked, "Sarsaparilla."  After that, the hat went back on.

 

Ralph gave a bit of a smirk and made no move to hop to those drinks. Caroline of course noted what was signaled then shouted by the newcomer concerning drinks. That sort of thing didn't fly here though.

 

"The bartender don't go waitin' on tables, his place is behind the bar. Lucky fer you, I can do this, be right back," she pushed herself away from the table then headed up to the bar. She returned in a short while with a small tray and two filled shot glasses and one sarsparilla.

 

"Here ya go," the saloon girl slid the tray into the middle of the circular table, "Help yerselves."

 

Then she sat back down, taking one of the shot glasses in hand.

 

"What do you girls know about the current Mayor?  Is he loose virtued?"

 

"I only been in town  a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue,  reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass  for a toast.

 

 

"To lawyers, mayors, and loose virtue!" she grinned.

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"Lawyer huh? We got us a few in town, one of em is a woman too," Caroline replied.

 

Arabella gurgled a laugh "Woman lawyer! D'you ever hear o' such a ridiculus notion, Mr. Priest? Ladies should do Ladies Jobs: like washerwomen or saloon singers or glamorous Confederate lady-spies what hide their secret messages in their petticoats!"

 

She then told the new old man in town all about Mr. Orr's fate.

 

"Arabella is right about Mr. Orr being fried alive but there is too a post office, there was some damage but not that bad.......well except to Mr. Orr. Our boss, Miss Devereau, sez 'small loss'."

 

"My friend Jemima really hates him." chipped in the Mudd girl, not to be outdone "You should hear her talk about him, she uses words that'd even shock you Mr. Priest, and you look like a feller what's been round the mountain a few times!" 

 

Caroline up and fetched the drinks, which was nice of her. 

 

"Here ya go," the saloon girl slid the tray into the middle of the circular table, "Help yerselves."

 

"Bottoms up!" Arabella chuckled. 

 

"What do you girls know about the current Mayor?  Is he loose virtued?"

 

"I only been in town  a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue,  reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass  for a toast.

 

Arabella, on the other hand, never let a lack of first hand knowledge about a subject stop her presenting herself as Miss Know-it-all:

 

"Well I never met him neither, but Hector Wigfall growed up here and he told me all about him: He was onct a gaunt steely eyed lawman, his blue grey eyes strikin' terror in every ornery outlaw around ('cept Thomas Gage Love o' Course, he's my favourite!) Marshall Scott Cory, terror of the West! Then some Serpent of Temptation whispered in his shell-like ear... perhaps it was tricky Dicky Orr himself... and this serpent said 'say Marshall, know what would be even more splendid than bein' a lawman? Bein' a Mayor! So he stood for Mayor and it was all downhill from then on in: his teeth fell out, he went bald, and knock kneed, too! In the end he went totally insane and made his daughter ... teenage daughter mind ya... Deputy Marshall!!! And now he's on his last legs." She sat back, arms folded to assess the effect of this story on her audience. "Course, I never met the feller myself, and Hector's always playing tricks on me and tellin' tall stories: but who knows? Might be true!"

 

Caroline erased this whole ridiculous story with a toast.

 

"To lawyers, mayors, and loose virtue!" she grinned.

 

"And Hooray for the Old Dominion!" added Arabella, downing her drink in one.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Hiram noted the stubborn barkeep.  "Hmmm," he said, but not discouraged.

 

Miss Mudd prattled on.

 

"My friend Jemima really hates him." chipped in the Mudd girl, not to be outdone "You should hear her talk about him, she uses words that'd even shock you Mr. Priest, and you look like a feller what's been round the mountain a few times!" 

 

Priest chuckled good naturedly.  There was no disguising age.  Once he'd put some bootblack in his hair but it made his face appear even more lined that it usually presented itself.  So, he abandoned that remedy.

 

Caroline up and fetched the drinks, which was nice of her. 

"Bottoms up!" Arabella chuckled. 

 

"What do you girls know about the current Mayor?  Is he loose virtued?"

 

Getting the lay of the land was important to Hiram. 

 

"I only been in town  a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue,  reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass  for a toast.

 

"A Mayor's fitness for duty is every citizen's business," Judge Priest lectured through a wad of tobacco. 

 

Arabella, on the other hand, never let a lack of first hand knowledge about a subject stop her presenting herself as Miss Know-it-all:

 

"Well I never met him neither, but Hector Wigfall growed up here and he told me all about him: He was onct a gaunt steely eyed lawman, his blue grey eyes strikin' terror in every ornery outlaw around ('cept Thomas Gage Love o' Course, he's my favourite!) Marshall Scott Cory, terror of the West! Then some Serpent of Temptation whispered in his shell-like ear... perhaps it was tricky Dicky Orr himself... and this serpent said 'say Marshall, know what would be even more splendid than bein' a lawman? Bein' a Mayor! So he stood for Mayor and it was all downhill from then on in: his teeth fell out, he went bald, and knock kneed, too! In the end he went totally insane and made his daughter ... teenage daughter mind ya... Deputy Marshall!!! And now he's on his last legs." She sat back, arms folded to assess the effect of this story on her audience. "Course, I never met the feller myself, and Hector's always playing tricks on me and tellin' tall stories: but who knows? Might be true!"

 

Caroline erased this whole ridiculous story with a toast.

 

"To lawyers, mayors, and loose virtue!" she grinned.

 

"And Hooray for the Old Dominion!" added Arabella, downing her drink in one.

 

"Here's to all of that and prosperity for all!" Hiram recited from many of his speeches. 

 

"You know, ladies," the old sinner settled in.  "Golden days are ahead fer all folks out West here.  You can take a town like this and turn it into a ... a....,."  He searched for the right word.  "Into a Metropolis."  Indeed, Hiram was a visionary.  "Why I see a public library, and a decent City Hall, and rotten old boardwalks replaced by regular sidewalks of concrete.  And how's about a town square?  You know!  A park where folks can stroll through." 

 

He took a sip of liquor and then laid his hands flat on the table.   "What you need is the right kind of Mayor."

 

He figured it wouldn't hurt to try out his stump speech on the ladies.  Maybe they'll spread the word?

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"I only been in town  a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue,  reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass  for a toast.

 

"A Mayor's fitness for duty is every citizen's business," Judge Priest lectured through a wad of tobacco. 

 

"You didn't say 'fitness' you said 'virtue' and frankly, hon, the jasper can go fuck goats for all I care if he can do his mayor job properly," Caroline countered.

 

Of course Arabella, being Arabella, had a whole lot more to say on the subject. Caroline listened...well, she did lose the train of thought about halfway thru. Vast majority was nonsense no doubt anyway.

 

"Course, I never met the feller myself, and Hector's always playing tricks on me and tellin' tall stories: but who knows? Might be true!"  she concluded (finally).

 

"More' n likely it ain't," Caroline shrugged then made her toast.

 

"To lawyers, mayors, and loose virtue!" she grinned.

 

"And Hooray for the Old Dominion!" added Arabella, downing her drink in one.

 

"Here's to all of that and prosperity for all!" Hiram recited from many of his speeches.

 

Caroline clinked her glass to the old man's and gave a room brightening smile then drained hers right off.

 

"You know, ladies," it was the old man's trun to wax lyrical,  "Golden days are ahead fer all folks out West here.  You can take a town like this and turn it into a ... a....,. into a Metropolis. Why I see a public library, and a decent City Hall, and rotten old boardwalks replaced by regular sidewalks of concrete.  And how's about a town square?  You know!  A park where folks can stroll through."

 

"I stroll thru town on the boardwalk all the time, quite interestin' it can be too. Don't need a square," Caroline seemed unimpressed. Chicago was a bigger city by far than this place and she found much about that place she had not cared for.

 

He took a sip of liquor and then laid his hands flat on the table.   "What you need is the right kind of Mayor."

 

"Ya mean like one who folks actually see on occasion?" Caroline chuckled.

 

 

 

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"I stroll thru town on the boardwalk all the time, quite interestin' it can be too. Don't need a square," Caroline seemed unimpressed. Chicago was a bigger city by far than this place and she found much about that place she had not cared for.

 

"It's true!" Arabella backed up her friend "Caroline's one o' the most experienced street walkers I know!" she nodded in confirmation. "But I'm right interested in this square thing you're proposin' Mr Priest, cause I'm real good at square dancing. How'd we go about getting one of them contraptions?" 

 

He took a sip of liquor and then laid his hands flat on the table.   "What you need is the right kind of Mayor."

 

"Ya mean like one who folks actually see on occasion?" Caroline chuckled.

 

Arabella laughed, too. "See, that's funny cause nobody ever sees him!" she explained to Hiram, just in case he didn't get it. She figured that Caroline might want to be left with the old man to work her drink-encouraging routine on him, so she jumped up with a cry of "Hey, I'll play a tune on the pianna fer you! What's your favourite tune Mr Priest? Oh, never mind, I'll do The Bonny Blue Flag!" she yelped running over to the piano and tinkling out the tune with some gusto.

 

"I play this to drag the Southerners in from the street when it's quiet!" she shouted across the room "And then I do the Battle Hymn of the Republic to drag in the Northerners. And then I do Dixie and they all have a fight!" she beamed, pounding the ivories.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

 

 

 

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"I only been in town  a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue,  reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass  for a toast.

 

"A Mayor's fitness for duty is every citizen's business," Judge Priest lectured through a wad of tobacco. 

 

"You didn't say 'fitness' you said 'virtue' and frankly, hon, the jasper can go fuck goats for all I care if he can do his mayor job properly," Caroline countered.

 

"The Mayor" did wish to get dragged into a verbal dual with Caroline.  She was entitled to her opinion and, also, why alienate a potential voter?

 

Of course Arabella, being Arabella, had a whole lot more to say on the subject. Caroline listened...well, she did lose the train of thought about halfway thru. Vast majority was nonsense no doubt anyway.

 

"I stroll thru town on the boardwalk all the time, quite interestin' it can be too. Don't need a square," Caroline seemed unimpressed. Chicago was a bigger city by far than this place and she found much about that place she had not cared for.

 

Priest barely shrugged.  She was a contrarian, he determined.

 

"What you need is the right kind of Mayor."

 

"Ya mean like one who folks actually see on occasion?" Caroline chuckled.

 

"Absolutely, Miss  Caroline," Hiram agreed in his most cordial way.

 

Arabella laughed, too. "See, that's funny cause nobody ever sees him!" she explained to Hiram, just in case he didn't get it. She figured that Caroline might want to be left with the old man to work her drink-encouraging routine on him, so she jumped up with a cry of "Hey, I'll play a tune on the pianna fer you! What's your favourite tune Mr Priest? Oh, never mind, I'll do The Bonny Blue Flag!" she yelped running over to the piano and tinkling out the tune with some gusto.

 

Priest laced his fingers together, ready to listen to some music instead of her persistent, inane chatter.

 

"I play this to drag the Southerners in from the street when it's quiet!" she shouted across the room "And then I do the Battle Hymn of the Republic to drag in the Northerners. And then I do Dixie and they all have a fight!" she beamed, pounding the ivories.

 

She played, and Hiram had to admit that the girl had talent.  If only she'd think what she was saying before saying it. 

And, as she played, he leaned toward Caroline so she could hear him over the piano.

 

"This saloon seems like the center of social life in this town. "  He looked around.  "I mean, this time of day things can  be slow, but I've seen it pretty crowded most times.  Do you have any competition or is this the only game in town?"

 

While he waited for her answer, he eyed the doors.  Where the Hell was he?  he wondered, and checked his pocket watch.

 

 

 

 

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Caroline made a face at Ara's choice of songs, there was really no point in riling up the customers with bringing up songs from the past bloody and bitter war. She personally made it a point to never sing 'Dixie' for example as she had strong Northern sympathies. Lincoln had come from her home state and she took it badly when he had been murdered by a southerner, an actor at that! But off went Ara to the piano.

 

"I play this to drag the Southerners in from the street when it's quiet!" she shouted across the room "And then I do the Battle Hymn of the Republic to drag in the Northerners. And then I do Dixie and they all have a fight!" she beamed, pounding the ivories.

 

Caroline rolled her eyes then pointed out to the old gent, "That's not true by the way. We'd never allow her to do that. Fights are bad for business."

 

"This saloon seems like the center of social life in this town. "  the man looked around.  "I mean, this time of day things can  be slow, but I've seen it pretty crowded most times.  Do you have any competition or is this the only game in town?"

 

"Oh we are much busier in the evenin' especially on weekends when we get more cowpokes. Miss Devereau has even considered being open on Sundays but the town folks would probably frown on disturbing the day of the Lord so so far we don't," Caroline was happy to talk about the place, it was her world afterall.

 

"But yeah, this is the only saloon. Kalispell is a small town and a new place opening up would have a hard time making much money. Besides they wouldn't have me for entertainment," she beamed.

 

Well, it might sound like bragging, but the truth was she was an excellent singer and very popular with the local menfolk.

 

"You want another round, hon? I could use one, all this chatting makes my mouth dry."

 

 

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"Oh we are much busier in the evenin' especially on weekends when we get more cowpokes. Miss Devereau has even considered being open on Sundays but the town folks would probably frown on disturbing the day of the Lord so so far we don't," Caroline was happy to talk about the place, it was her world afterall.

 

Hiram nodded sagely.  He'd been in many cow towns and many watering holes.  This one was like so many and, because of that, he felt at home.

 

"But yeah, this is the only saloon. Kalispell is a small town and a new place opening up would have a hard time making much money. Besides they wouldn't have me for entertainment," she beamed.

 

"Seems I need to stick around a spell and hear you warble.  I bet you'd outshine any of the nightingales prancing around on stage anywhere in this territory. 

 

"You want another round, hon? I could use one, all this chatting makes my mouth dry."

 

Mr. Priest reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a shiny silver dollar and slapped it on the table next to Caroline.  "I suspect that'll cover one for me and one for you too, and maybe one for our sarsaparilla girl."

 

Arabella stopped to stare at the keyboard and span her hand across a lengthy cord.  It was not a long pause, just long enough for Hiram to hear foot falls from a new arrival.

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Highly varnished black boots hit the saloon floor for three steps, then halted.  Their owner stood straight and confident, each hand clutching a side of his open suit coat.  It was all there:  silk vest of brocade, watch chain, diamond stick pin, and neat creases  to his pant legs.  Frank Fortner had arrived.

 

He stood and surveyed the interior, looking from one side to the other, and with a look on his face that seemed to ask, What wonderful things are any of you going to do for me?

 

Some girl was hammering away at the piano, playing to a non-existent crowd except for a table where an older man sat with someone who looked like she could put him in his grave if she bothered to offer him any of her charms.

 

Fortner strode to the bar and asked the barkeep, "Give me a whiskey, and don't be cheap."

 

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