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    • "Maybe, fer this special occasion," Addy suggested, "we can try a little'a each?  That way, we can get a taste'a everything, so next time, we know what our favorite is."  It was a plan that appealed to her, so she didn't have to decide which she wanted!   "Never turn down help," she declared, "but seems ta me yer th' one needs help brushin' them horses down."  She glanced at Weedy and Josh, considering for a moment if it was safe to let the boy go up into the loft, but then, his father could stop him, and, after all, he was a Chappel!  He'd grown up around horses, and was of hardy stock!   With them all working together, it wouldn't take too long to get the horses settled, and then they could be on the way to treats!   @MD
    • "We'll get on."  Addy was determined, and once she grabbed hold of the crude rope halter, she had control of the animal.  "Here..."  Cupping her hands, she made a step for Caroline, to give her a boost up.  "Just grab his mane."   TBC   @Wayfarer                    
    • Mature Content: Doubt it With: Tyrell Garret Thornton Location: Add specific location information here. When: Mid-July 1876 Time of Day: Encompasses a couple of days     Place holder
    • Anæsthesia wasn't exactly convinced by all these homilies about falling out of trees, breaking arms, and sleeping in the mud: she smiled politely, if a little tightly. Truth to tell, she felt a little bit 'got at' - the snobby girl was getting a taste of her own medicine in the form of the inverted-snobbery of these rough frontier folk.    She suddenly blurted, rather defensively "I have learned to shoot a gun!"   "I have a 1858 model Lefaucheux double action revolver, and really am rather a good shot with it." she said proudly. Now maybe they'd stop telling her that she needed to fall out of a tree to be able to claim that her life had any meaning.    Of course, the hypocrisy was that she was quite willing to tell others what they should be doing with their lives: like learning to read.      @Bongo @MD
    • Mr McVey was chattering away as Arabella grabbed her non-packable items: two dresses, spare bonnet, basket and three large round circles made of bamboo. These were very hard to carry and to manoeuvre through the doorway.    "You and I disagree on a number of things, yet, we agree on others. Mister Reeve is certainly one to keep an eye on. And I would say, he is dangerous in another way, to the political atmosphere in Kalispell. He is an odd fellow, yet, so is Mister Pettigrew. Perhaps the goal of him running is to slit the vote? I'm not exactly confident on that assumption."   "Now don't you be mean about Mr Pettigrew, Mr McVey, he's been right nice to me: teachin' me all about how to speak proper and act like a lady." she objected. Pettigrew had taught her something else, too, something more important than those surface embellishments, something at her very core.    He hoisted the trunk that was surprising lighter than he would have expected. "As time moves on, we'll have a better idea of Pettigrew's purpose in the grand scheme of the elections this fall." He added, then, "I'm following you, Arabella."   "Hold on, I'm all tangled up!" she yelped, the three bamboo circles seemed to have minds of their own and were doing their darndest to stop her getting through the doorway. "I'm takin' these hoops with me, in case crinolines come back in!" she informed him.    Eventually she got herself through the door and down the stairs, with a shout of "I'm goin' now, I'll be back at seven!" at Caroline's door. When the two of them reached the bar, there was a ragged cheer from some of the rounders who were regulars "Don't worry, I'll be back at seven, boys!" she assured them.   "Oh damn!" one of them joked.    "You movin' in with him?!" another joshed. Arabella laughed and didn't say yes and didn't say no: well, Phin had said he didn't care if people talked!   @Flip
Arabella Mudd

Solitaire is most certainly NOT the Only Game in Town

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It was cinched and, inwardly, Franklin Fortner felt triumphant.  It wasn't that he'd snookered this saloon owner (which he knew he had not).  It was that, after having arrived in Kalispell only shortly, he'd planted himself in a position of some moment.

 

Miss Devereau continued on with some provisions that he wholeheartedly agreed with.   Why upset the dominoes by pushing town folk around?  No.  He wanted to befriend them and gain their support. 

 

So, as he listened, he nodded about the bartender, the "hostess", the piano player and the cook.  These were essential to the operation of a saloon like the Stardust. 

 

"Now, I realize you have every right to bring in your own people but it would be to your benefit to retain these folks."

 

"Absolutely, Miss Devereau," he answered.  "They've done good by you, and I can only hope that they will feel the same loyalty to me, in time."

 

They set about penning the transaction on a sheet of paper.  When it was completed, it was brief and to the point.  After Franklin read it, he reached into this pocket and slipped out some greenback.  He counted the fifties .. six of them.

 

"Three Hundred," he said.  "And, if you'll excuse me, I will secure the balance."

 

He rose and held out his hand.

 

"Let's shake on a job well done."

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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(PLANS COME INTO FOCUS)

While Franklin Fortner was upstairs, The Honorable Hiram Priest esq., continued to play his games of Solitaire.  He enjoyed the card game very much because he could muse about other topics while his hands arranged the cards perfectly, as if they had a mind of their own.

 

Red Queen on Black King, --- Black Deuce on Red Three   It was all very mechanical.

 

Hiram turned over in his mind his current situation.  In his pocket was an assayer's  report on some gold nuggets found in the waters of the South Fork of the Flathead River.  The verdict?   Pure gold.  This was the document that Franklin Fortner had been so anxious to ask him about.  Even the killing of a loudmouth troublemaker didn't upset the urgency Fortner held, hence his whispered query to Hiram even as gunsmoke still filled the air. 

 

Hiram recalled the man who owned those nuggets;  Lester McAndrews.  How he had the misfortune to blab his good fortune to Franklin Fortner as the two consumed a goodly amount of Red Eye in the barroom of the  Bunkhouse Hotel in Bozeman.  Old Lester was flushed with sugared thoughts and plied Franklin for a grubstake.  It was a sure deal.  There would be enough money for all partners --- and why not?  He had the assay report to show him. 

 

But good times never  came to Lester McAndrews.  He was last seen stumbling upstairs to his room at the hotel.  Later, someone reported that he thought he'd heard McAndrews weaving down the hallway and out the rear entrance.   Hotel Management was angry because left without paying his bill.  They were pleased, however, when Franklin Fortner, feeling guilty because he'd liquored up the man, paid the outstanding debt.

 

"Now there goes a fine man," the hotel owner said to the desk clerk after Fortner left.

 

That was a few months back.

 

The assay report was now safely in Priest's pocket, but there was only one hitch remaining that blocked he and Fortner from their chance at a big strike.  The land where the river ran was a homestead belonging to one Horace Potee.

 

"Game!" muttered Hiram after placing the final card.

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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The fellow was fine with her request about the employees. Granted she knew he could change his mind about that once she left town but she was doing all she could for them.

 

"Absolutely, Miss Devereau," he answered.  "They've done good by you, and I can only hope that they will feel the same loyalty to me, in time."

 

It didn't take the two long to draw up a short but clear document putting on paper their business agreement, she would hand over the actual deed to the property upon receipt of the remaining money. He then produced the down payment he had promised.

 

"Three Hundred," he said.  "And, if you'll excuse me, I will secure the balance."

 

"Thank you," she slid the cash into a desk drawer, she'd deposit it in the safe shortly.

 

He rose and held out his hand.
 

Matilda shook it as she now stood up to see him out the door, "A pleasure doing business with you. If you run this place right, it should certainly turn a fine profit. I like dealing with a decisive man."

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Franklin liked Matilda.  She was plain speaking -- no ring around the rosy, but all woman none the less.  He would be sorry to see her leave town.

 

Matilda shook it as she now stood up to see him out the door, "A pleasure doing business with you. If you run this place right, it should certainly turn a fine profit. I like dealing with a decisive man."

 

"My pleasure," he assured her.

 

The deal was done.

 

Franklin left her office and made his way down the dark hallway to where it led to a railing that outlined the second story parapet where one could observe all the activity in the saloon below.  Here, he stopped and let his hand grip the sturdy wood while enjoying the aroma of liquor, tobacco, leather and horses.  He also exalted in the sense of ownership.

 

He saw Hiram Priest as he hovered over his cards, carefully setting one after another on the colorful schematic before him.  Down the solid staircase he went and over to the older man's table.

 

"I want to thank you, Mister, for backing me up earlier," Frank said for all to hear.  My name is Franklin Fortner," he continued before putting out his hand.

 

Priest looked up at him as though seeing him for  the first time. "Howdya do?  I'm Hiram Priest,  lawyer by trade."  He reached out, his long fingers wrapping around Fortner's hand.  "Sit down and set a spell."

 

Frank took him up on it, then voiced the following in hushed, conspiratorial tones.  "Is the bank open today?  You're looking at the new owner of the Stardust Saloon.  But I need some money to close the deal."

 

Hiram was nonplussed and moved a wad of tobacco to the other cheek with his tongue.  "It is.  How much you looking to withdraw?"  

 

The old rogue didn't flinch at the amount.  "Let's step out back in a while and I'll give you the funds."   There was no sense in making a scene by displaying his fat pocketbook. 

 

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With Mr. Grimes' body carried away and in the tender care of old Mr. Jolly, it fell to Arabella, as chief scrubber and pot washer, to tidy up. No chance of doing a proper job now, with the hustle and bustle returning to the place. She had to content herself with fetching a bucket of sawdust and sand from the kitchen - she always had a bucket handy to help soak up vomit - and liberally sprinkle it on the patch of blood and, quite frankly, gore where the dead man had fallen.

 

Least folks wouldn't slip on it. 

 

She would attack the mess properly first thing in the morning with cold water. Cold rather than warm, of course, for blood. Not that she would be able to completely eradicate the evidence of yet another fatal shooting. The stains dotted the wooden planked floor, some more faded than others, depending upon their age. 

 

That done, she returned to the bar room and attacked the piano: banging out a jolly tune of the day, Carve Dat Possum, with a sort of mad passion, shooting looks at Priest and Fortner as they chatted so happily. Death. Another death. She thought of Billy. She thought of her Pa, Mother, brother. All the people who had gone too soon. Grimes was forgotten already; men laughed and joked.

 

Suddenly Arabella found herself coaxing a tune out of the battered piano, one she'd thought she didn't like: a sad, melancholy thing that Mr. Pettigrew sometimes flipped her a nickel to play: Tristesse. Miserable thing it was, but she needed to play it right now. 

 

 

 

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Caroline appeared again to walk the room and do her next shift, drawn as much by the nice piano piece as by the job requirement. She paused for a moment to exchange greetings with a regular customer then moved up to Arabella when she finished.

 

Just then another customer cat called toward the piano, "Hey, missy!  Play something more lively! This ain't no wake."

 

Caroline turned and snapped, "Oh fuck off! She'll play what she wants."

 

Then she wraps one arm around Ara's bony shoulders in a supportive hug, "You alright, hon? Sorry you had to see something like that. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw somebody killed right in front of my eyes."

 

"That was really beautiful by the way. I can't sing to it but I did enjoy it, sweetie," she smiled.

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Hiram and Franklin concluded their plotting for the time being, and their voices elevated. 

 

Priest wagged a finger at his co-conspirator, "You know, if Lee had  only waited before moving into Pennsylvania, then who the Hell knows how the war might have ended?"

 

"That's Blood under the bridge," Fortner concluded.  "Glad he didn't wait, though."

 

It was a touchy subject even though the War ended over a decade before.  Memories were long and minds were filled with bitterness.

 

Just then the place was jarred by a high-brow piece being played on the piano.  It was that Arabella girl.  Some looked on appreciatively while others carped. 

 

"Not bad," the Judge judged.

 

"Where's that girl who...?"   Fortner began, looking around for Caroline, and when he spotted her, he waved her over.  

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Just then another customer cat called toward the piano, "Hey, missy!  Play something more lively! This ain't no wake."

 

Caroline turned and snapped, "Oh fuck off! She'll play what she wants."

 

Arabella appreciated Caroline's protective gesture, though she would've carried on playing until the end of the piece anyhow: she was wilful that way.  She liked the next part even more.

 

Then she wrapped one arm around Ara's bony shoulders in a supportive hug, "You alright, hon?

 

"Just sad for Mr. Grimes." she said in a soft voice, leaning into Caroline's body as she played.

 

"Sorry you had to see something like that. I remember how shocked I was the first time I saw somebody killed right in front of my eyes."

 

Arabella shrugged a little as the last few bars of the lament tinkled to a coda. 

 

"I seen people die before. Just... never seen anyone forgot so quick after." she sighed and, as the last note died put her arm around the singer and in her seated position lay her head against her upholstered chest.

 

"That was really beautiful by the way. I can't sing to it but I did enjoy it, sweetie," she smiled.

 

Arabella smiled wistfully to herself and squeezed into the hug. "Oh, it's got words, but they're all in foreign!" she replied, but even if they were in good old American, she couldn't imagine Caroline singing a dirge like that. 

 

"Not bad," the Judge judged.

 

"Where's that girl who...?"   Fortner began, looking around for Caroline, and when he spotted her, he waved her over. 

 

The Virginian noticed and reluctantly let go of her friend. "I reckon you're wanted!" she nodded over to the old man and then scratched her head with both hands: sending the blues flying like so many nits. 

 

"All right boys, how about this'n!" she yelped, launching into Tin Horn, an upbeat Galop, the old smile plastered back on her face: like the make-up that Caroline wore when she was down in the saloon. 

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Arabella was taking it hard but Caroline was also confident the girl was tough plus young, she would bounce back and the saloon girl stated as much.

 

"He's forgotten because he was a despicable person. No one is wasting time on someone like that. The person to really feel sorry for is his younger sister. But then no one said life is fair. You'll be fine though, hon."

 

Then she leaned down to whisper into the girl's ear, "If yer still feelin' low tonight, you can hop in my bed to sleep but none of that foolin' around stuff. Just to have some company."

 

Both of them noticed that Mr. Fortner fellow beckoning for her to head on over. Oh well, it was back to work for both young ladies. Ara then snapped out of it at least enough to start playing a lighter more popular tune for the customers while Carole sauntered on over to Fortner. She did not hurry though, no, that was not her style.

 

Reaching the table where Fortner and that supposed judge jasper were sitting, she nodded acknowledgement and flashed a personable grin.

 

"How can I help you boys? Need another round of drinks do ya?"  Hey, it was all part of the job.

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"He's forgotten because he was a despicable person. No one is wasting time on someone like that."

 

Arabella looked up almost pityingly at Caroline.

 

"I know someone who is. A very good friend of mine... called Jesus. And every day I try and act just like our Lord. And that is why I can find it in my heart, wicked though it is, to regret the passing of poor Mr Grimes." she waxed sanctimoniously, as was sometimes her wont. Caroline was unconvinced.

 

"The person to really feel sorry for is his younger sister. But then no one said life is fair. You'll be fine though, hon."

 

"Yes, his poor sister. Oh, Cara', how awful for her, and her all blind as a mole an' walkin' around with a stick." the pianist looked sad.

 

Then she leaned down to whisper into the girl's ear, "If yer still feelin' low tonight, you can hop in my bed to sleep but none of that foolin' around stuff. Just to have some company."

 

Ara nodded "I'd like that." she smiled "And don't you worry: I'm true to one; she will not find me wanting." yep, she truly meant and intended to be good. And that is what she would tell herself the next morning: that she had truly meant and intended to be good. But that, dear reader, is a story for another time. 

 

Then Caroline was gone about her nefarious duties, and Arabella was lost in the music.

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Frank succeeded in catching Caroline's attention.

 

Reaching the table where Fortner and that supposed judge jasper were sitting, she nodded acknowledgement and flashed a personable grin.

 

"How can I help you boys? Need another round of drinks do ya?"  Hey, it was all part of the job.

 

Fortner slid his chair away from the table.  "Sure, and bring one for yourself.   On me."

How about you, Mayor?" he asked Hiram.

 

The older man sent a stream of tobacco juice into a spittoon located near his feet.   It hit the vessel with unerring accuracy.   "Sure,"  he nodded in agreement.  "Red Eye is fine with me."

 

After she left, Franklin leaned close to Hiram.  "I think we can recruiter her," he said in a whisper.  To which Hiram nodded and uttered, "Yep."

 

 

 

 

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Her question about drinks was answered in the affirmative and the man also informed her she could pour one for herself. Perfect answer as far as Caroline was concerned.

 

"Be right back with those drinks, hon," she nodded, spun about and flounced off toward the bar, stopping only momentarily to flirt with a young cowpoke making them both laugh.

 

"Ralph, two whiskeys - good quality stuff - and my usual," she leaned up against the bar.

 

He promptly fulfilled that order and the pretty blonde returned to the two mens' table with a tray and three glasses, setting it down with a smile. She made it a point of immediately handing each man a glass while reserving her own for herself then.

 

"There ya go, boys," Caroline plopped herself down in the offered chair.

 

"So, neither of you two look very shook up about shootin' that miscreant? Shoot a lot of folks do ya?  she asked with a grin, it was more of a dark humored tease than an interrogation.

 

 

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"Don't you ever take that hat off?"  Franklin kidded the older man.  "Or is it stitched to your scalp?"

 

"Don't worry 'bout my head gear, and just be damned lucky I'm around to clean up your messes," Hiram muttered  through a lake of tobacco juice.

 

Fortner just shrugged while scanning the premises. 

 

There was  Arabella, black tresses bouncing on her head as she poked at the ivories.  He would welcome her sticking around.  She brought good luck, he opined.  And then there was Ralph -- a good barkeep.  Of course there was Caroline, the kind of girl they named racehorses for, or newly launched ships.  In all, he was quite pleased with himself.

 

Caroline returned.

 

"There ya go, boys," Caroline plopped herself down in the offered chair.

 

"So, neither of you two look very shook up about shootin' that miscreant? Shoot a lot of folks do ya?  she asked with a grin, it was more of a dark humored tease than an interrogation.

 

"I rarely have committed homicide," the erudite, former Judge intoned.

 

"Hangings are his specialty," Fortner followed up.

 

"We must maintain law and order in these territories or all Hell will break loose."  The Judge now speaking as if he, once again, held that office.   "There is too much promiscuous gun play on the frontier costin' many lives from townsfolk to homesteaders.  How are you going to draw business to a place like Kalispell if it's just another wide-open town?"  (Running concurrently in his bicameral mind were  thoughts of Horace Potee's homestead, possibly peppered with gold.)

 

"Maybe you can get a Judgeship here?" Fortner offered.  Turning to Caroline he asked, "Don't you think he'd be a good choice?"

 

"Mayor, maybe," grumbled Priest.

 

"Do you know who you're looking at?" he asked Caroline while pointing himself with his thumb, and abruptly changing topics.

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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"So, neither of you two look very shook up about shootin' that miscreant? Shoot a lot of folks do ya?  Caroline asked with a grin, it was more of a dark humored tease than an interrogation.

 

"I rarely have committed homicide," the erudite, former Judge intoned.

 

"Hangings are his specialty," Fortner followed up.

 

"Oh? How pleasant," Caroline glanced at the tall older gent. So apparently they knew each other prior to today.

 

"We must maintain law and order in these territories or all Hell will break loose."  The Judge now speaking as if he, once again, held that office.   "There is too much promiscuous gun play on the frontier costin' many lives from townsfolk to homesteaders.  How are you going to draw business to a place like Kalispell if it's just another wide-open town?"

 

"We do pretty well," Caroline countered, pretty jaded about the speechifying.

 

"Maybe you can get a Judgeship here?" Fortner offered.  Turning to Caroline he asked, "Don't you think he'd be a good choice?"

 

"Me?" she blinked.  She didn't know him from Adam.

 

"Mayor, maybe," grumbled Priest.

 

"Gotta admit, you talk like a politician," Caroline gave him a compliment (or was it?).

 

"Do you know who you're looking at?" he asked Caroline while pointing himself with his thumb, and abruptly changing topics.

 

"Ummm, gimme a sec...Frank Fortman...no Fortner," the saloon girl snapped her fingers fairly proud of her good memory for names, she was even better at recalling faces.

 

 

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"Do you know who you're looking at?" he asked Caroline while pointing himself with his thumb, and abruptly changing topics.

 

"Ummm, gimme a sec...Frank Fortman...no Fortner," the saloon girl snapped her fingers fairly proud of her good memory for names, she was even better at recalling faces.

 

"Here," Frank began, reaching for his glass of liquor and raising it a few inches from the tabletop.  "Here's to the new owner of the Stardust Saloon,...me."

 

Hiram Priest grumbled, "I'll be go to hell," then raised his glass, too.  He already knew but let on as if it was shocking news.

 

With two glasses raised, all eyes focused on Caroline. 

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"Here," Frank began, reaching for his glass of liquor and raising it a few inches from the tabletop.  "Here's to the new owner of the Stardust Saloon,...me."

 

Hiram Priest grumbled, "I'll be go to hell," then raised his glass, too.  He already knew but let on as if it was shocking news.

 

BLUNK!!!

 

The jolly tune being played on the piano ended abruptly in a discordant crash of horrified fingers on the ivory keys as Arabella, who wasn't just batty in nature but also had ears like a bat, gave a strangulated cry of "NO!!!!!"

 

She scraped back her piano stool and strode over to where Mundee, Fortner and Priest were ensconced and pointed first to the slick moustachioed Fortner and then up to Ms Devereau's room. "You mean that you.... that she.... Oh! This is horrible! I think... I think I'm gonna faint!!" She did so, conveniently in the direction of Mr. O'Toole, a broken down old Irishman who came in daily and tended to nurse a single drink all night long, who caught her deftly in his arms.

 

It was all beautifully dramatic, but she recovered quickly from the swoon.

 

"Oh... the.... horror of it all!" she cried as she recovered her meagre supply of wits "Well, I ain't stayin'! I ain't... all right Mr. O'Toole, you can leave go o' me now..." she interjected, peeling the old man's hands of her chest "... I ain't stayin' with HIM! I'm goin' with her! I'm packin' my grip and going with her, I tell yuh!" she yelped, starting to head for the stairs, before turning around and yelling at the hated Fortner "Where's she a-goin' anyhow?!"

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Here," Frank began, reaching for his glass of liquor and raising it a few inches from the tabletop.  "Here's to the new owner of the Stardust Saloon,...me."

 

"Wha?" Caroline blinked, confused.

 

Hiram Priest grumbled, "I'll be go to hell," then raised his glass, too. 

 

Somebody was even more shocked, make that infuriated than Caroline though, the teenage piano player, Arabella. The song stopped instantly with one loud note followed by an even louder "NO!"

 

The girl tromped on over, "You mean that you.... that she.... Oh! This is horrible! I think... I think I'm gonna faint!!"

 

"She will," came the jaded interjection of Caroline who made no other move to prevent such a calamity (not).

 

Sure enough the overly dramatic girl swooned right into the arms of the closest customer, a bar regular.

 

"She's not unconscious I can assure you," Caroline got in just before, sure enough, Ara was back to say something more.

 

"Oh... the.... horror of it all!" she cried as she recovered her meagre supply of wits "Well, I ain't stayin'! I ain't... all right Mr. O'Toole, you can leave go o' me now..." she interjected, peeling the old man's hands of her chest "... I ain't stayin' with HIM! I'm goin' with her! I'm packin' my grip and going with her, I tell yuh!"

 

Caroline was unphased, so like Arabella to fly off the handle. Not that the news was not upsetting, never would Caroline believed that Matilda would sell the joint, just like that?

 

A few more steps up the stairway before the girl still wasn't quite finished, "Where she going anyway?"

 

Now that question was a good one but Caroline would prefer to hear the answer from Matilda herself and not this ...........new owner. And some more details too.

 

"Alright, lemme get this straight. I took you up to Miss Devereau's office, you sat down to chat with her and she sold you the saloon? Just like that?" 

 

She glanced for just an instant at Ralph behind the bar, if anyone was probably even more taken aback by this sudden turn of events it would no doubt be Ralph for he had came to Kalispell with the Devereau woman, they were partners of sort though apparently never lovers. Ralph just stood there listening but his expression was grim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What started as a pleasant announcement delivered to Caroline, blew up in Fortner's face.   The piano-playing "Laura Keene of Kalispell" flew into hysterics.  She made it plain that she didn't care for the new management, and after swooning at their table, made her way to the stairway.

 

"Where's she goin' anyway?"

 

Fortner bade her return to the table where they  sat, gesturing with his arm and saying, "Please come back.  This concerns you."

 

Caroline  spoke up.

 

"Alright, lemme get this straight. I took you up to Miss Devereau's office, you sat down to chat with her and she sold you the saloon? Just like that?" 

 

She glanced for just an instant at Ralph behind the bar, if anyone was probably even more taken aback by this sudden turn of events it would no doubt be Ralph for he had came to Kalispell with the Devereau woman, they were partners of sort though apparently never lovers. Ralph just stood there listening but his expression was grim.

 

"Just like that," Frank said.  "We had a pleasant visit -- a pleasant business visit, and we came to terms.  Apparently, she has future plans that don't include the Stardust.  But let me have my say before you all get too head up."  He looked in Ralph's direction too."

 

Priest sat back and laced his fingers together across his vest, respectfully.

 

"I'm Franklin Fortner .. please, it's just Frank.  I dropped the Franklin long ago.  I'm who you might say is a businessman.  I've got some irons in the fire, I've owned and managed a few saloons, too:  The Wagon Tongue,  The Red Slipper, and The Jester, to name some.  I've always turned a good profit and my workers benefited as much as I did.  So just to let you know I'm not fresh picked."

 

He laid his hands palm down on the table.

 

"My agreement is that I keep all of you."   He nodded at Caroline and Ralph significantly but only gave Arabella a sidelong glance.  "The pay will be what you're getting now -- good hours too.  And who knows?  In a while, depending on revenues, you'll all be in line for raises.  I'm not hard to get along with.  You might say that I'm a reasonable man."

 

"Sounds like a square deal ," Hiram grumbled into this chaw.

 

"I have a vision of the Stardust being the kind of place where the men ... and some women .. of Kalispell will continue to enjoy patronizing.  We can clear out some backrooms, fix 'em  up so that the town elders can hold meetings -- and we can supply the refreshments.  Upstairs we can make a lodge room for the Masons.  You know a lot of railroad fellas are Masons.  The Cattleman's Club .. if there is one .. might meet here. "

 

Frank flipped his palms upward.   "I think we can all prosper, huh?"
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arabella stomped upstairs to Ms. Devereau's room, but soon came stomping back with a flea in her ear. She wondered how long this had really been in the planning, weeks, months even she reckoned. But she was also sure that Ralph knew nothing of this: he had that look about him he always had when trouble was brewing in the bar: that air of calm but vigilant observation.

 

Fortner bade her return to the table where they  sat, gesturing with his arm and saying, "Please come back.  This concerns you."

 

Arabella came across: frowning still, with arms crossed across her chest defensively (a good idea, with Mr. O'Toole around, as she had just discovered) but willing to listen.

 

Caroline  spoke up.

 

"Alright, lemme get this straight. I took you up to Miss Devereau's office, you sat down to chat with her and she sold you the saloon? Just like that?" 

 

"Just like that," Frank said.  "We had a pleasant visit -- a pleasant business visit, and we came to terms.  Apparently, she has future plans that don't include the Stardust.  But let me have my say before you all get too head up."  He looked in Ralph's direction too."

 

"We're listening." replied Arabella, looking as calm as she could muster, but her head really still reeling at all this surprising news.

 

"I'm Franklin Fortner .. please, it's just Frank.  I dropped the Franklin long ago.  I'm who you might say is a businessman.  I've got some irons in the fire, I've owned and managed a few saloons, too:  The Wagon Tongue,  The Red Slipper, and The Jester, to name some.  I've always turned a good profit and my workers benefited as much as I did.  So just to let you know I'm not fresh picked."

 

Arabella could think of some funny replies to that, but she literally bit her tongue in a superhuman bit of restraint for her. If this slick feller really was the new boss, she'd better keep it buttoned until she knew the lie of the land.

 

"My agreement is that I keep all of you."   He nodded at Caroline and Ralph significantly but only gave Arabella a sidelong glance.  "The pay will be what you're getting now -- good hours too.  And who knows?  In a while, depending on revenues, you'll all be in line for raises.  I'm not hard to get along with.  You might say that I'm a reasonable man."

 

Arabella plastered as decent a smile on her face as she could muster: she reckoned she was an actress, well here was one of the hardest parts in the world to play; an employee who was impressed by her boss's 'soft soap'. 

 

"Sounds like a square deal ," Hiram grumbled into this chaw.

 

The Virginian girl's smile hardened as she suppressed a heartfelt who asked you? for Priest. He was as big a newcomer as Fortner. 

 

"I have a vision of the Stardust being the kind of place where the men ... and some women .. of Kalispell will continue to enjoy patronizing.  We can clear out some backrooms, fix 'em  up so that the town elders can hold meetings -- and we can supply the refreshments.  Upstairs we can make a lodge room for the Masons.  You know a lot of railroad fellas are Masons.  The Cattleman's Club .. if there is one .. might meet here. "

 

"Well, I sure hope them Masons ain't gonna be lodgin' with me, Mr Fortner!" Arabella managed a sickly sweet tone. "I used to know some Masons back in Virginia and they was a queer family. Old Tom Mason used to get out his..." But Caroline was giving her that look and she shut up.

 

Frank flipped his palms upward.   "I think we can all prosper, huh?"

 

"Oh, it sounds just darlin', Mr. Fortner!" the Janus-faced Arabella gushed. She knew which side her bread was buttered. "Now, what would you like me to play on the pianna for you, Mr. Fortner? I reckon you're calling the tunes now!"

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Caroline's question was promptly answered, yes indeed he had what certainly turned out to be fruitful and surprising discussion with Matilda and just like that she sold the place? Caroline certainly did not see that coming.  The woman never seemed fully engaged in the enterprise to be honest but spent a lot of time upstairs. Still, she had run it competently, the place was profitable. Maybe her heart was no longer in it?

 

"I'm Franklin Fortner .. please, it's just Frank.  I dropped the Franklin long ago.  I'm who you might say is a businessman.  I've got some irons in the fire, I've owned and managed a few saloons, too:  The Wagon Tongue,  The Red Slipper, and The Jester, to name some.  I've always turned a good profit and my workers benefited as much as I did.  So just to let you know I'm not fresh picked."

 

"And yet here you are buying a new one," Caroline dryly commented. Actually she knew two of them by name and had heard only good things about the Wagon Tongue. Well, she had also heard it burnt down. Eh, fires happen.

 

He laid his hands palm down on the table.

 

"My agreement is that I keep all of you."   He nodded at Caroline and Ralph significantly but only gave Arabella a sidelong glance.

 

Now that was a key bit of good news. Caroline liked it in Kalispell.

 

  "The pay will be what you're getting now -- good hours too.  And who knows?  In a while, depending on revenues, you'll all be in line for raises.  I'm not hard to get along with.  You might say that I'm a reasonable man."

 

"Sounds like a square deal ," Hiram grumbled into this chaw.

 

Even as Arabella did, Caroline shot the old fella a look only she did not hold her tongue, "Sez one who ain't an employee here."

 

Fortner continued.

 

"I have a vision of the Stardust being the kind of place where the men ... and some women .. of Kalispell will continue to enjoy patronizing.  We can clear out some backrooms, fix 'em  up so that the town elders can hold meetings -- and we can supply the refreshments.  Upstairs we can make a lodge room for the Masons.  You know a lot of railroad fellas are Masons.  The Cattleman's Club .. if there is one .. might meet here. "

 

Given the poisonous relationship between the two major cattle ranches around Kalispell, Evergreen and Lost Lake, the meeting place might be better to be held on a battlefield. But then Fortner didn't know the locality. Caroline did though. She could be real helpful. They were interesting ideas. She noticed he hadn't mentioned prostitutes - yet.

 

Arabella then launched into another one of her off color stories which Caroline doubted were seldom true but fortunately the saloon girl's narrowed glare shut the girl up. At least she was learning ............a little about what to say in public and when.

 

Frank  declared   "I think we can all prosper, huh?"

 

"Oh, it sounds just darlin', Mr. Fortner!" the Janus-faced Arabella gushed, "Now, what would you like me to play on the pianna for you, Mr. Fortner? I reckon you're calling the tunes now!"

 

Well that he was, but Caroline felt this discussion wasn't over yet. She turned to Ralph and he responded, "Handle the bar, I'm goin' on upstairs to have a word with Tildy."

 

Caroline could imagine that was going to be quite some conversation but nodded in the affirmative, "Sure thing, hon."

 

As the dour bartender ascended the stairs, Caroline turned back to Fortner.

 

"Alright then, we ain't quite finished yet, Frank. What about our cook? She makes the stew which folk will tell ya is the best in town maybe in the whole territory. She keeps her job too? She's a negro but that shouldn't enter into it."

 

"And then finally - what about hookers? You plannin' on bringing in some gals for that job? I mean it's yer right and it's yer business but just so you know.  My job is singer, dancer, drumming up drinks from the crowd but I don't do no whorin'. No if's, ands, or buts, I don't do that. Just to make myself perfectly clear."

 

Suddenly she added, "That goes for Arabella here. No one touches her on no account."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frank  declared   "I think we can all prosper, huh?"

 

"Oh, it sounds just darlin', Mr. Fortner!" the Janus-faced Arabella gushed, "Now, what would you like me to play on the pianna for you, Mr. Fortner? I reckon you're calling the tunes now!"

 

Truth to tell, Arabella reminded Fortner of his kid sister.  She was the youngest and she was brash, disarming and funny.  Then, as always when he remember Tess, a pain stabbed at his heart for soon, too soon, typhoid took their gem.

 

"Can you play, OH THEM GOLDEN SLIPPERS?" he asked her. 

 

There was some interplay between Caroline and the Barkeep that ended when Ralph said to her, "Handle the bar, I'm goin' on upstairs to have a word with Tildy."

 

Caroline could imagine that was going to be quite some conversation but nodded in the affirmative, "Sure thing, hon."

 

As the dour bartender ascended the stairs, Caroline turned back to Fortner.

 

"Alright then, we ain't quite finished yet, Frank. What about our cook? She makes the stew which folk will tell ya is the best in town maybe in the whole territory. She keeps her job too? She's a negro but that shouldn't enter into it."

 

"Absolutely," Frank agreed.  "I've promised that I'm keeping everyone who's on the payroll of the Stardust.  The last thing I want to do is cause bad blood between me and anyone in this town."

 

Hiram Priest nodded sagely.  "That's be a good practice, Mr. Fortner.  But hey, since you're making proclamations, can you reserve a table for me?  Something in a corner like there?"  He pointed to a roomy spot that was a bit in the shadows.

 

"Sure, old timer.  What is it they call you?  Mr. Mayor?"  

 

Fortner would have thought of a special spot for Priest, even if the gaunt gentleman hadn't.  He was like the wise, old owl in the oak tree.  The less he spoke the more he heard.  He was invaluable for sensing tides, gathering gossip, and watching,.. always watching.   And,  needless to say, he fronted the money for the Stardust.  Oh, and a damned good shot.

 

"Mr. Mayor .. Hell, I haven't been a Mayor in about eight years, but folks call me that, anyway."

 

Caroline hit on a more touchy subject.

 

"And then finally - what about hookers? You plannin' on bringing in some gals for that job? I mean it's yer right and it's yer business but just so you know.  My job is singer, dancer, drumming up drinks from the crowd but I don't do no whorin'. No if's, ands, or buts, I don't do that. Just to make myself perfectly clear."

 

Suddenly she added, "That goes for Arabella here. No one touches her on no account."

 

"Hostesses?"  Fortner asked.  "That's what we called them back in Silver City.  Of course, you are far too smart and too much of a lady.  It would  never have crossed my mind.  And.. the same for Tess .. er .. Arabella."  He cleared his throat.  "I would like to have a conversation about that subject with you very soon."

 

"Friends then?" he asked her after a pause, holding out his hand.

 

 

 

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The slippery-seeming city slicker Mr Fortner's musical request took Arabella by surprise, but a pleasant one, to be sure. 

 

"Can you play, OH THEM GOLDEN SLIPPERS?" he asked her. 

 

"Golden Slippers?! Sure! It's only about the first song I ever learned to play!" she beamed. Indeed, the negro spiritual was a staple of the camp meetings her Methodist father had taken her to as a child. They had even walked for hours after the War from their mountain home down to Marion to hear the original Fisk Jubilee Singers render their song. So famous was it that, three years later, it would be parodied in a song called "Dem Golden Slippers" by James Bland which would become even more famous than the original. But that was all in the future. Right now, Arabella went one better than playing it on the piano.

 

"That's sorta song's best sung!" she exclaimed and closing her eyes, started to holler it in the style of the Ethiopian minstrels of the Southland. She couldn't sing soft and sultry love songs like Caroline, but for a religious number like this, her raw, pure, strangely mature mezzo-soprano was perfect.

 

🎵What kind of shoes you gwine to wear?

Golden slippers!

What kind of shoes you gwine to wear?

Golden slippers!

Golden slippers I’m bound to wear,

To outshine the glittering sun.

Oh, yes, yes, yes my Lord

I’m going to join the Heavenly choir

Yes, yes, yes my Lord, Soldier of the cross.🎵

 

A few dislocated Southerners in the bar joined in the responses, and the cook Messalina MacMahon could be clearly hear singing along from the kitchen! It was rather ironic that Mr. Flandry was ascending the stairs as the words of Heavenly ascent rang out. With him gone, Arabella rushed over to staff the bar, clambering onto a box behind that noble barrier so she could see properly over the top.

 

Meanwhile, Caroline continued the conversation with the new manager, Priest securing himself a stammtisch, although what he might do at such a regular table, apart from play solitaire and nurse a glass of whiskey, wasn't quite clear at this point.

 

Caroline hit on a more touchy subject.

 

"And then finally - what about hookers? You plannin' on bringing in some gals for that job? I mean it's yer right and it's yer business but just so you know.  My job is singer, dancer, drumming up drinks from the crowd but I don't do no whorin'. No if's, ands, or buts, I don't do that. Just to make myself perfectly clear."

 

Suddenly she added, "That goes for Arabella here. No one touches her on no account."

 

"Hostesses?"  Fortner asked.  "That's what we called them back in Silver City.  Of course, you are far too smart and too much of a lady.  It would  never have crossed my mind.  And.. the same for Tess .. er .. Arabella."  He cleared his throat.  "I would like to have a conversation about that subject with you very soon."

 

"Friends then?" he asked her after a pause, holding out his hand.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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The girl knew their prospective employer's request and not only played it but sang it too if her usual gusto, some folks joining in. When she was done, Caroline smiled, "See, the child has talent. I need her to provide me musical accompaniment."

 

Then she brought up Messalina, the negro cook. Hopefully her employment was to be guaranteed also.

 

"Absolutely," Frank agreed.  "I've promised that I'm keeping everyone who's on the payroll of the Stardust.  The last thing I want to do is cause bad blood between me and anyone in this town."

 

"Oh, well that's good then," Caroline was pleased to hear it. She paused then as the old man brought up wanting a particular table for himself. Fine...whatever...that was no concern of her regardless.

 

The youthful yet veteran saloon girl wasn't done yet though, bringing up the subject of hookers and, crucially, her absolute refusal to do that sort of thing herself. As far as she was concerned his answer on this was critical as to whether she would stay or go. She included Arabella in that too.  She was too young for such a life and yes she knew of hookers even younger but to her Ara was family now.

 

"Hostesses?"  Fortner asked.  "That's what we called them back in Silver City.  Of course, you are far too smart and too much of a lady.  It would  never have crossed my mind.  And.. the same for Tess .. er .. Arabella."

 

"Call it what you like, hon, as long as we keep to that arrangement, that's key," Caroline was relieved.

 

 He cleared his throat.  "I would like to have a conversation about that subject with you very soon."

 

"Umm, whenever then, sure," she was a bit confused as to exactly what subject then but he continued.

 

"Friends then?" he asked her after a pause, holding out his hand.

 

"Little early for friends, friendship is earned on both sides, but I'm open to it. As for staying on, you got yerself the best damn entertainer west of the Mississippi," Caroline broke into a grin and shook his hand with an unexpected force to her grip.

 

"I believe in loyalty, you treat me fair and yer the boss then,  Frank!"  she meant it too.

 

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Fortner was discovering that Caroline was a tough nut to crack.  She had a hard exterior, the kind of exterior one most often saw in older, more bitter women.  He wondered what events in her life had caused this shell  to grow on her?

 

"Umm, whenever then, sure," she was a bit confused as to exactly what subject then but he continued.

 

"Friends then?" he asked her after a pause, holding out his hand.

 

"Little early for friends, friendship is earned on both sides, but I'm open to it. As for staying on, you got yerself the best damn entertainer west of the Mississippi," Caroline broke into a grin and shook his hand with an unexpected force to her grip.

 

"I believe in loyalty, you treat me fair and yer the boss then,  Frank!"  she meant it too.

 

"Me too, Caroline," Frank said in the winning manner of the salesman he could be.  "Golden days are ahead,"  he announced before throwing back some whiskey.  Things were lining up nicely for Frank.  He felt it down to his highly polished shoes. 

 

He had .. quite unexpectedly and certainly sooner than he'd anticipated, landed himself into the town's business life.  This is where he loved to operate from.  Why not start the Kalispell Business Owner's Association?  And then there was his friend, Hiram Priest, judge, lawyer and mayor.  He was on retainer, always on hand to advise him as to the right moves, and disabuse him of riskier ones.  His eyes swept the well built and tidy Stardust saloon ... seeing patrons enter for what he'd learn was the late afternoon crowd.  He caught the eye of Ralph who seemed still unsure about the change in ownership.  To him, he gave a smile, and nod, and a reassuring wink.   And .. to some degree, he'd won the confidence of Caroline - a girl, he bet, who knew where all the skeletons were hidden. 

 

Arabella finished her piece to the cheers of some grateful onlookers.   She was a bit dramatic, but a decent and good soul.  

 

Frank whistled through is fingers, and waved her back to the table.

 

"Can you, please, let Arabella know everything will be all right and above board?"  he asked Caroline as Arabella approached.

 

Hiram stared down at his drink glass, still half-filled with that fiery, amber liquid.  Above board?" he mused.  Yes.  everything would be legal.   The first thing he had to do was find a legal way of getting Horace Potee's  property away from him.  There were several scenarios he continually weighed --- most likely, least likely, most dangerous, least dangerous.  And, to make sure ...again .. he reached inside his suit coat and felt for the envelope that contained the Assay Report.

 

Hiram pushed out a chair for Arabella to sit in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Frank whistled through is fingers, and waved her back to the table.

 

Arabella skipped over to them all. "I ain't a dog!" she muttered under her fixed smile. 

 

"Howdy! What can I do for you Mr. Fortner!" she beamed obligingly. But Frank addressed his instruction to Caroline, not her.

 

"Can you, please, let Arabella know everything will be all right and above board?"  he asked Caroline as Arabella approached.

 

"Huh?" Arabella didn't have a clue what the feller was jawin' on about.

 

Hiram pushed out a chair for Arabella to sit in.

 

"Oh, Mr. Priest, I don't got time to sit down: when I'm not playin' that ol' pianna an pullin' the customers in, I'm helping serve the customers, scrubbin' the floors, emptyin' the spittoons, cleanin' the dishes, helpin' cookie with the food, lightin' the fires, doin' the laundry, ... oh, and polishin' Mr. Flandry's knobs." she took a breath at last... and sat down.

 

"So, you plannin' any big changes, Mr. Fortner?" she asked with a tip of her head and a sort of simpering doe-eyed mushy look on her face "Course, me and Caroline's music and Cookie's food and Mr. Flandy's barman-in' skills is already a big, BIG favourite with them rounders, er, customers, but I think the place lacks a sorta... well.. a sorta genial host."... she looked wide eyed at Frank like a sudden realisation had his her "Oh! Mr. Fortner... I reckon you will be the perfect Genial Host!"

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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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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