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    • Guest Chestermug
      https://t.me/s/alcohol_yakutsk
Arabella Mudd

Solitaire is most certainly NOT the Only Game in Town

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"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.

 

"Sounds just dandy to me..........boss," Caroline sat back, shifting into relaxed mode once more. She'd made her points and asked her questions, got the answers she had hoped for too. Now of course those were all words, it remained whether her new employer would follow thru with actual actions. Fortner wanted Arabella to come on over and whistled for her.

 

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

 

"Sure, but she's sharp, she'll figure that out with her own eyes and ears too," Caroline nodded.

 

Arabella and Mr. Fortner then engaged in a bit of back and forth, with - per usual - Arabella getting in far more words on it. Their new employer would just have to get used to it. By now Caroline certainly was.

 

"So, you plannin' any big changes, Mr. Fortner?" Arabella 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!"

 

Just then Ralph came walking down, he looked unruffled at first but then he was often a hard man to read. Caroline could tell though, he was upset.

 

"Excuse me gents, Ara can keep you occupied whilst I have a little chat with Ralph," Caroline smiled and rose from her seat to make her way over to the bartender even as he retook his usual place behind the bar.

 

 

 

 

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

 

"Sure, but she's sharp, she'll figure that out with her own eyes and ears too," Caroline nodded.

 

"No doubt," Fortner agreed. 

 

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.

 

"Hey," Frank began.  "You don't have to worry about taking a breather when it's  Management asking you to sit down.  Beside, if you do nothing but polishin', scrubbin', cleanin' and helpin', you'll turn into an old lady before your time, and none of us would like that.

 

The bouyant Arabella rush on to the next subject.

 

"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!"

 

Frank never talked down to anyone. 

 

"Miss Arabella.  I think that, in time, we might make some changes, but why interfere with success?  I think the smartest thing to do right now is to leave things running like they are now.  Then, after seeing how things might be improved, we'll set about to make a few changes, but  not right away.   But if you can think of anything, let me know."

 

Caroline spoke up.

 

"Excuse me gents, Ara can keep you occupied whilst I have a little chat with Ralph."

 

Frank nodded, and she rose and glided over to the bar, then drinks seemingly not making a dent in her deportment.

 

Priest cleared his throat and in his best mayoral tones asked Arabella, "Do you know most of the town folk who come in here... I mean by-name?"

 

 

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Caroline reached the bar as Ralph finished pouring a beer for a cowpoke customer and collecting the nickel, they exchanged glances. As Caroline figured, Ralph didn't say anything though so she started up the conversation.

 

"So, is this all for real? Did she really sell the joint or is this some kind of scheme Matilda's got goin'?"

 

"She sold it. It's real, that man is the new owner of the Gold Dust," Ralph shrugged.

 

"Why? You don't think he somehow forced her to maybe?" yet even as Caroline asked that, she knew if that were true Ralph would have came down and killed the man or at the least threw him out the front doors.

 

"He did not. She wants to leave Montana. She's got this plan to open up a place in San Francisco, a high end sort of place. Catered to the rich. She's been saving up and now with the money from the sale, she figures she has enough for the investment," he announced as he wiped the bar. He seemed upset, angry even but was carrying on as normally as he could.

 

"You don't say? I kinda wondered lately if her heart was in it? Guess now I know. So then, you goin' with her?" she inquired.

 

"She asked me to. I said 'nope'," his answer was immediate and to the point.

 

"You don't wanna go?" Caroline was surprised but then this whole thing was completely unexpected to the saloon girl.

 

"I do not," Ralph sounded sure of himself there.

 

"You've been partners for so long," Caroline pointed out.

 

"We've been together for some years now, yeah. But it was always business first, friendship second. And you know that it had never been anything more than friendship.........no romance between us," Ralph admitted.

 

"Mutual? Or was one of you never interested?" she decided to be bold.

 

"Mutual. But I kinda like it here. Small town. Decent enough folk.  I have no desire to start over yet again in Frisco. Hell, I never been that far west. Don't they speak Mexican out there?" Ralph frowned.

 

"Some do, but I'm pretty sure most of 'em just speak English," Caroline smiled then reached out to touch his arm.

 

"Ralph.....I just wanna say I'm glad yer stayin'. I'll miss Tildy of course but I'd really miss you. You're a part of this saloon, I feel safe when yer around. I like workin' with you."

 

"Thanks...this place is my world now. I don wanna go gallivantin' around anymore. Ain't gettin' any younger. And yeah, I like workin' with you too," he actually smiled then, well a little.

 

"That's the way I feel....us against the world. We'll do alright. Our new boss might just turn out to be decent enough, he's off to a good start anyhow. And if it doesn't work out...he turns out to be ....what's the word?  A tyrant I think?" she smiled back.

 

"Yeah, that's the word. Well, then we just kill 'im," he declared and it was very hard to tell if the man was just joking or was dead serious.

 

"You got it, hon. But I'm all for givin' him a fair chance," she met his eyes on that line.

 

"Me too. Me too, kiddo," he nodded then Caroline stood on her toes and gave him a quick kiss on one cheek.

 

91e6713d9a721080f7ec52dd194db07e.jpg

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"Miss Arabella.  I think that, in time, we might make some changes, but why interfere with success?  I think the smartest thing to do right now is to leave things running like they are now.  Then, after seeing how things might be improved, we'll set about to make a few changes, but  not right away.   But if you can think of anything, let me know."

 

Arabella nodded her understanding of Mr. Fortner's reasoning around not making expensive changes immediately, but then completely ignored it, counting out her suggestions on her fingers: "Well, we need a new pianna, and new curtains, maybe red velvet ones with gold tassles, and a new big mirror over the bar and I thought a big muriel [sic] with mermaids on and don't worry if you can see their..." she leant forward and whispered "boobies... because them there mermaids is half fish and they don't mind if no-one sees 'em in the altogether, but I reckon you could always paint some seaweed over 'em but I reckon the fellers what come in here might like to look at them there silkies with their charms on show, an'..."

 

Caroline spoke up.

 
"Excuse me gents, Ara can keep you occupied whilst I have a little chat with Ralph."

 

Priest cleared his throat and in his best mayoral tones asked Arabella, "Do you know most of the town folk who come in here... I mean by-name?"

 

This question completely distracted Arabella from her discourse about mermaids and their mammary embellishments. 

 

"Oh sure, I could name 'bout every feller that's in here right now and what they drink and what sort of tunes they like and how many slugs they can take before they falls over or gets berigilent [sic] or... you know... gets so blind drunk that they wanna kiss me or Cookie or even Mr Flandry sometimes. Ask me one, go on, and I'll tell you aaall 'bout him!" she challenged them.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

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Soon --- too soon, Franklin regretted asking Arabella about possible improvements.  She bubbled up like a coffee pot over a campfire.

 

"Well, we need a new pianna, and new curtains, maybe red velvet ones with gold tassles, and a new big mirror over the bar and I thought a big muriel [sic] with mermaids on and don't worry if you can see their..." she leant forward and whispered "boobies... because them there mermaids is half fish and they don't mind if no-one sees 'em in the altogether, but I reckon you could always paint some seaweed over 'em but I reckon the fellers what come in here might like to look at them there silkies with their charms on show, an'..."

 

"Sounds like a bordello," Franklin muttered to Hiram, and then to Arabella, "the mirror sounds good and maybe a new piano.  We can send for one from Denver, maybe."

 

Caroline scuttled over to talk to the bar keep.  It appeared that they had a pretty close relationship from what Franklin could see.  Maybe just close coworkers, maybe more.

 

Priest cleared his throat and in his best mayoral tones asked Arabella, "Do you know most of the town folk who come in here... I mean by-name?"

 

"Oh sure, I could name 'bout every feller that's in here right now and what they drink and what sort of tunes they like and how many slugs they can take before they falls over or gets berigilent [sic] or... you know... gets so blind drunk that they wanna kiss me or Cookie or even Mr Flandry sometimes. Ask me one, go on, and I'll tell you aaall 'bout him!" she challenged them.

 

Priest looked closely at Fortner, and he didn't say anything to Arabella until the new owner of the Stardust barely nodded.

 

"I believe we gotta old acquaintance who lives here abouts," the judge began.  "His name is Horace Potee.  I think I heard he's got a homestead somewhere north of Flathead Lake.  I figure he might make it to town  every so often for supplies and maybe a snort."

 

Fortner played his part masterfully.

 

"Oh yeah," he said.  "I remember he loves a Poker game.  Maybe we can coax him into town for a game.  I gotta win some of my money back."

 

They both turned to see if Arabella had anything to say.

 

 

 

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"I believe we gotta old acquaintance who lives here abouts," the judge began.  "His name is Horace Potee. I think I heard he's got a homestead somewhere north of Flathead Lake.  I figure he might make it to town every so often for supplies and maybe a snort."

 

"Oh I know the whole family from Church!" Arabella never could resist showing off "Oh, Mrs Potee is such a pretty looking woman, and their little daughter Abigail's like a little curly haired angel. Course, Mr Potee ain't so great lookin', no offence if'n you're his friends, an' I ain't sayin' he's dumb, but folks do say his head's just there t' keep his ears apart, but he means well, I reckon, and that's the main thing." she reported.

 

"And that land they got down by the lake ain't worth a snap: why, soil's s' poor them folks has to sit on a bag o' fertilizer just to raise a umbrella. But yeah, he sneaks in here sometimes for a beer, when he ain't with his pretty little wife. And boy, is he mad about gamblin'!"

 

"Oh yeah," he said.  "I remember he loves a Poker game.  Maybe we can coax him into town for a game.  I gotta win some of my money back."

 

"Huh?! You lost to Mr. Potee?!" Arabella looked amazed. "Why that feller come in here onct and he says 'Reb', see that's what some o' the fellers calls me, 'Reb' he says, 'I wanna a couple o' beers but I just got the money for one, how about we toss for the difference' and I gets out a penny and I says 'OK Mr. Potee, heads I win, tails you lose' and you should'a seen the look on his face when that coin landed! I felt so sorry for him, I give him his money back and stood him a second round."

 

She wrinkled her brow and thought for a second.

 

"I give him his money back and stood him a second round" she repeated slowly, and then laughed "Hey, maybe he ain't so dumb after all!"

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Caroline returned in time to only catch the very last bit of Arabella's latest blather.

 

"I give him his money back and stood him a second round" the girl repeated slowly, and then laughed "Hey, maybe he ain't so dumb after all!"

 

"Hon, what have we said about you givin' out free drinks. You don't got the right to make that sorta call. This is a business, not a charity and we charge for our product," Caroline lectured the girl, not like it ever did any good. But her new boss was sitting right there and it might not have been the best time for the bold teen to share that story.

 

She remained standing this time, "Just wanted ta let you know, boss, that Ralph's stayin' on. He likes it here and does a damn good job of bartending."

 

"Well, I suppose you want me to get back to work? I should be getting  ta minglin' with the customers and then later I got my first performance. Any particular song you want me to sing for you two gents?"

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"Oh I know the whole family from Church!" Arabella never could resist showing off.

 

Franklin shot a look at the Honorable Hiram Priest.  Their communication was a study in subtlety.  No one, unless they were looking for something, could have discerned the tense undercurrent going on.

 

Arabella droned on, offering up interesting tidbits on the family Potee.  But the girl was bright.  She could reason quickly.

 

"Huh?! You lost to Mr. Potee?!" Arabella looked amazed. "Why that feller come in here onct and he says 'Reb', see that's what some o' the fellers calls me, 'Reb' he says, 'I wanna a couple o' beers but I just got the money for one, how about we toss for the difference' and I gets out a penny and I says 'OK Mr. Potee, heads I win, tails you lose' and you should'a seen the look on his face when that coin landed! I felt so sorry for him, I give him his money back and stood him a second round."

 

She wrinkled her brow and thought for a second.

 

"I give him his money back and stood him a second round" the girl repeated slowly, and then laughed "Hey, maybe he ain't so dumb after all!"

 

"That's good.  We don't want to cheat anyone.  But careful with the liquor," Fortner cautioned kindly.

 

Caroline --- to both Fortner's and Priest's relief, returned and took up where Fortner left off.

 

"Hon, what have we said about you givin' out free drinks. You don't got the right to make that sorta call. This is a business, not a charity and we charge for our product," Caroline lectured the girl, not like it ever did any good. But her new boss was sitting right there and it might not have been the best time for the bold teen to share that story.

 

She remained standing this time, "Just wanted ta let you know, boss, that Ralph's stayin' on. He likes it here and does a damn good job of bartending."

 

Franklin looked toward the bar and caught Ralph's attention.  Then he raised his glass and said, "Good!" loud enough for the barkeep to hear.

 

"Well, I suppose you want me to get back to work? I should be getting  ta minglin' with the customers and then later I got my first performance. Any particular song you want me to sing for you two gents?"

 

"Sure.  Do you know "Beware"?  If not, just sing anything you like.  I'm sure the boys will like it."

 

He was hoping that Arabella would be able to accompany her on the piano. 

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"That's good.  We don't want to cheat anyone.  But careful with the liquor," Fortner cautioned kindly.

 

"Hon, what have we said about you givin' out free drinks. You don't got the right to make that sorta call. This is a business, not a charity and we charge for our product," Caroline lectured the girl, not like it ever did any good. But her new boss was sitting right there and it might not have been the best time for the bold teen to share that story.

 

Arabella looked annoyed at this unwarranted censure.

 

"Well I didn't just give it to him, I paid fer it m'self. Caroline, you always treat me like I know darn nothin', but for your inflammation, I know darn all!" she explained further to Mr. Fortner "See, folks round here think I got addleheaded when I was half killt under all the snow last winter, but 's a matter of fact, my brain's as good as new."

 

But Caroline had more important news to impart.

 

She remained standing this time, "Just wanted ta let you know, boss, that Ralph's stayin' on. He likes it here and does a damn good job of bartending."

 

Franklin looked toward the bar and caught Ralph's attention.  Then he raised his glass and said, "Good!" loud enough for the barkeep to hear.

 

All very jolly. But Arabella was worried about Ralph. He was like a surrogate father to her, and despite his aura of taciturn self assurance she worried about him in the same way that she used to worry about her biological Father - worried about him, that is, until worrying became irrelevant. 

 

"Well, I suppose you want me to get back to work? I should be getting  ta minglin' with the customers and then later I got my first performance. Any particular song you want me to sing for you two gents?"

 

"Sure.  Do you know "Beware"?  If not, just sing anything you like.  I'm sure the boys will like it."

 

'Beware'? Then the penny dropped, and Arabella's eyebrows went up and she looked at Caroline "I think he means "Beware, oh, take care" she explained happily. Old folk songs like that had lots of different names in different parts of the country, the words were often changed, too. Arabella liked these ones where she could join in on the choruses and show off her harmonising a little.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

In case anyone doesn't know this song: 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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With the girls entertaining the patrons, and a good job they did, The Honorable Hiram Priest and Franklin Fortner got down to business.  The two men were rarely animated or loud when discussing  matters of import.  An observer would not be able to discern if they were discussing Chicago beef prices or a revenge killing.  

 

"We could maybe get our friend Mr. Potee lassoed into a poker game?" Priest ventured.  It could be arranged, they decided. 

 

Of course, Potee had never met the two schemers regardless of what the two had  said to Arabella.  And, they only knew him from land records. However, after listening to Arabella, he sounded like a rube who could be cheated and not even know it.

 

"We get him liquored up," Fortner said.  "Really stoke him with the hard stuff."

 

Hiram barely nodded.  "Get him on a losing streak .. or maybe on a winning streak so he gets over confident.  We can get him to bet the homestead, then maybe we can plan some ruckus so he looks away, and then swap cards on him."

 

"If he feels cheated, he might pull a gun on us," Fortner countered. 

 

"Too bad for him," Priest said.  "But whatever happens, it's gotta look right to the Sheriff."

 

Fortner sighed.  "I wonder if we can enlist Caroline?"

Edited by Preston (see edit history)

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"Well I didn't just give it to him, I paid fer it m'self. Caroline, you always treat me like I know darn nothin', but for your inflammation, I know darn all!" she explained further to Mr. Fortner "See, folks round here think I got addleheaded when I was half killt under all the snow last winter, but 's a matter of fact, my brain's as good as new."

 

"Do not be so dramatic, hon, I have never thought you to be stupid," Caroline sighed.

 

But she had come back to tell Fortner that Ralph was staying. Arabella should be happy about that too. And so was their new employer. Ralph nodded acknowledgement to Fortner then had to focus on another customer bellying up to the bar.

 

Caroline then declared she really should get back on the job and asked the man if he had any song requests. He did too.

 

"Sure.  Do you know "Beware"?  If not, just sing anything you like.  I'm sure the boys will like it."

 

"Um, yeah I think I know which one ya mean," Caroline started.

 

Arabella looked at Caroline "I think he means "Beware, oh, take care" she explained happily.

 

"Yep, we know that one, boss. You got it then," Caroline smiled first at Fortner then at her piano player, "We'll do it as a duet, right, kiddo."

 

And with that Caroline went back to work, first she would mingle with the customers for awhile before going up on stage. New ownership but it was still the same job, the same work.

 

 

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Caroline and Arabella did a credible and impressive performance of BEWARE.   Those two girls were real assets to the business, and Frank knew it.

 

So, as Frank and Hiram finished their "business", Frank laid his hands on the table, straightened his shoulders and rose.

 

"Can I have your attention?!"  He shouted to the raucous crowd, and when the din lessened, he began.

 

"I have some news you will want to hear.  As of about 3 o'clock this afternoon, the ownership of the Star Dust switched hands." 

 

There was mostly  groaning disbelief;  a cacophony of no!,  what?,  huh? , damn it!   

 

Fortner had to motion for order.

 

"It was a cordial business deal, and now you're looking at the new owner.  My name if Frank Fortner and I've owned a few places like this in the past, so I'm not green at this.  AND .. all the people here, Ralph, the cook, these ladies,"  he pointed at Arabella and Caroline, "are going to stay put."

 

That bit of news brought some cheers.

 

"So, to mark this occasion, help yourselves to a drink on the house, and know that good times and coming here, and you are all an important part of it."

 

There was a movement toward the bar, and Frank sat back down.

 

"Good," Priest muttered into his chaw.

 

 

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Arabella, little creep that she was, struck up "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" on the piano, and a few of the patrons took up the chorus: either in thanks for the free drink or just out of pure habit.

 

The Clinch Mountain girl still had vast reservations about Fortner and could not easily forget what had happened to Mr. Grimes and the ramifications for his poor blind sister, but she knew which side her corn pone was buttered, and would keep on the right side of the new owner until she could see how things panned out.

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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At the close of their musical number Caroline took a bow, beaming at the applause then with a directional wave of her hand toward her young accompanist let her share in the praise.  She noticed of course Fortner seemed quite pleased and right about now his reaction was far more important than the customers.

 

Fortner then stood up and made a full throated public announcement of what the employees already knew - there was now a change in ownership in the joint. Most of the customers, while surprised, honestly probably didn't care who ran the joint as long as they continued to serve drinks, allow gambling, and provided musical entertainment. Matilda had been a good owner but she had not been the reason customers came and enjoyed. Unless Fortner was an idiot, and Caroline did not think he was by any means, success should continue.

 

Caroline dutifully applauded too at the news then joined in with Arabella in the refrain to 'He's a Jolly Good Fellow', a clever touch by the girl. When it was over and things died back down to normal, Caroline placed a supportive hand on Arabella's bony shoulder and leaned over to whisper, "Yer a trooper, hon. A real trooper."

 

Frankly, in Caroline's world, there was no higher praise.

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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