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Mature Content: No

With: Henry S. Guyer II & Hector Wigfall, +
Location: Marshal's Office
When: Mid July, 1876
Time of Day: Late Afternoon

 

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The roly-poly message delivery boy, Roland, had knocked off for the day and Hector's shift was coming to a close, so he decided to deliver these last three messages himself. He'd take the two for the Marshal first and then drop by the diner at closing up time with the telegram for Clara Lutz: with any luck, his friend's wife might have some left-over pie going begging.

 

He strode jauntily along the sidewalk, whistling Nancy Dill with a bird-like trill, and entered Henry Guyer's office with a perfunctory knock and a wave of the telegrams. "Afternoon, Marshal. Couple o' Telegrams!" He whipped out a receipt book and pencil, handing over both that and the two distinctive folded pieces of paper, upon which the words that had crossed the country in electric dots and dashes had been decoded and spelled out in full by his own fair hand. 

 

"Funny to think of Mr Pike and Mrs Blakesley all that way away in Portland, huh?" he wondered aloud, while the town's lawman signed for the telegrams. 

 

His eyes flicked with interest to the Marshall: he didn't expect there would be much of a reaction to Speed Pike's humdrum missive of far away greeting. The other one, though, that was a different matter.

 

@Flip

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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He strode jauntily along the sidewalk, whistling Nancy Dill with a bird-like trill, and entered Henry Guyer's office with a perfunctory knock and a wave of the telegrams. "Afternoon, Marshal. Couple o' Telegrams!" He whipped out a receipt book and pencil, handing over both that and the two distinctive folded pieces of paper, upon which the words that had crossed the country in electric dots and dashes had been decoded and spelled out in full by his own fair hand. 

 

"Well, afternoon Hector. Hope ta heck this is good news." There would be no other reason for the telegrapher to be waving missives at him upon entering if in fact there were not for him. He took the hand written copy and read the words, 'Got us here to Portland. Taking a steamship to San Francisco, then on to Virginia City by train. See you when we get home. Pike.' He sort of shook his head with a smile

 

"Funny to think of Mr Pike and Mrs Blakesley all that way away in Portland, huh?" he wondered aloud, while the town's lawman signed for the telegrams. 

 

"So, Portland, and on to San Francisco, then to Nevada, some honeymoon I'd say." Speed responded, handing the reciept book and pencil back to Hector .

 

His eyes flicked with interest to the Marshall: he didn't expect there would be much of a reaction to Barnabas Pike's humdrum missive of far away greeting. The other one, though, that was a different matter.

 

"Be a whole lot different in San Francisco, and I'm sure it was in Portland. yep, that's some trip." He paused. "So, how's things between you and the young lady, was it Miss Kaufmann?"

@Javia

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"So, Portland, and on to San Francisco, then to Nevada, some honeymoon I'd say." Speed responded, handing the reciept book and pencil back to Hector.

 

"Yes Sir!" Hector agreed, but privately thought that if he was on honeymoon with the attractive Mrs Pike, he would be wasting time sight seeing. Well, there were some sights he'd like to see, but...

 

"Be a whole lot different in San Francisco, and I'm sure it was in Portland. yep, that's some trip." He paused. "So, how's things between you and the young lady, was it Miss Kaufmann?"

 

"M... Miss Kaufmann?!" Hector blushed to the roots of his hair, how the heck did the Marshal know about his infatuation with the little Jewish seamstress? Maybe Jemima had guessed, and was spreading it around town? If so, he'd get her back for that!

 

"Ha ha..." he laughed nervously "Well, Mr. Guyer, you know her Papa's a butcher: he's got a lot of big knives and cleavers, I wanna make sure I get on the right side of him before I ask her to maybe go walking out, one Sunday." He felt he could talk about this subject, man to man, with the worldly wise Town Marshal. He suddenly asked about the second telegram.

 

Now, Hector never did this. There was an unwritten rule: he translated the Morse, he wrote out the messages, and sometimes he even delivered the messages, as today, but he never made any intimation that he knew the contents of those missives. Until today:

 

"So.... Tom Love's heading this way? Wasn't it his gang that set fire to Whitefish?"

 

The message had been from the town marshal of Butte. 

 

"Th. G. Love escaped fm custody. Dp Smith klld, 1 wd, reported hding yr way." 

 

The town marshal of Butte was a little tight with the pennies and tended to try and condense his telegrams as much as possible to save on the expense. In other words: Thomas Gage Love has escaped from custody. Deputy Smith killed, 1 wounded, reported heading your way.

 

@Flip

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Tom Love." He repeated the name.  "Well then, not real sure why Tom Love would be headed here. And Whitefish, that was Mother Nature and an oil lamp that destroyed. It is possible Love rode for the gang that Case Steelgrave supposedly ran. I only say supposedly because he was never rightly connected to them."

 

"They, the gang, were always in town unless they weren't, and that meant they were out rustling cattle, or somewhere else doing something illegal. I've heard Case and some of that bunch were down Big Flat way." He shook his head. "News is slow, unless it comes over the wire, so they, Case and whoever, could be anywhere. Now, as for Tom Love, maybe a week to ten days to get here from Butte." But why would Love be headed there? For what purpose?

 

"Oh, well if you didn't know, there's a rumor mill here abouts. Of course with a butcher for a father, one might be very cautious. They raise pigs if I'm not mistaken, or was it sheep? Sheep might be a real problem for  them. The last thing cattlemen will tolerate are sheep."

@Javia

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"Tom Love." He repeated the name.  "Well then, not real sure why Tom Love would be headed here. And Whitefish, that was Mother Nature and an oil lamp that destroyed. It is possible Love rode for the gang that Case Steelgrave supposedly ran. I only say supposedly because he was never rightly connected to them."

 

Hector listened respectfully to the Marshal's information, and forbore to mention that Arabella had told him that Jacob had said to her that Granny Miggins had been heard to say that she had not only witnessed Love and the Hole in the Head Gang set fire to Whitefish, but that she herself had emptied a shotgun into one of the gang , and would have emptied the varmint's saddle too, if only she'd had the right glasses on.

 

Well, presumably the noted lawman was a sounder source of information on the matter than old mad Miggins.  

 

"They, the gang, were always in town unless they weren't, and that meant they were out rustling cattle, or somewhere else doing something illegal. I've heard Case and some of that bunch were down Big Flat way." He shook his head. "News is slow, unless it comes over the wire, so they, Case and whoever, could be anywhere. Now, as for Tom Love, maybe a week to ten days to get here from Butte." But why would Love be headed there? For what purpose?

 

Hector shrugged. "I don't know, Sir, but if anything new comes through on the line, I'll bring it over straight-way personally." he offered. "Still, I don't like the thought of the young ladies of our town having to walk the streets unprotected. I might offer to walk Miss Kaufmann home after the dress shop closes." he decided out loud: trying to convince himself that he was being selfless. Talk of that young lady reminded the Marshal about her father, and his array of lethal choppers.

 

"Oh, well if you didn't know, there's a rumor mill here abouts. Of course with a butcher for a father, one might be very cautious. They raise pigs if I'm not mistaken, or was it sheep? Sheep might be a real problem for  them. The last thing cattlemen will tolerate are sheep."

 

"I don't know that they raise anything, Sir." put in Hector "Except yardbirds, like everybody else" most folks, even in town, had some. "I mean chickens! Sorry, that's Miss Mudd's influence rubbing off on me. She calls chickens yardbirds and pigs hogs and skunks polecats. Pretty crazy, huh?" he asked, not realising that the Missouri man probably did the same.

 

@Flip

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"All sounds proper to me, but then, I was raised in the south, Missouri to be exact,. and those names are real common down that way. Been a while since I've heard those names. New York, well, a far cry from Cooper County, is a bit more proper about such things, except maybe polecats, doubt any survived and that's an old city." Speed disclosed, a smile forming, then disappearing.

 

"Troubles me about Tom Love and his reasoning for heading this way. I don't have a finger on the whereabouts of Steelgrave and his band of cutthroats, but as my sainted mother would say, 'it is what it will be.' Not sure that's anything I'd care to live by, standing behind a badge." The idea of yet another desperado showing up in the territory, let alone Kalispell was not something to look forward to.

 

"I doubt they got a wire up in Big Flat, but hell, who knows. Maybe you'd do us all a favor and try it. If they do, then I'll have a handle on Case Steelgrave. I've my doubts he'd head back here, but there's the Evergreen, and there's me. So maybe it's a good idea to see what I can find out. If you wouldn't mind. I'll pay the rates."

@Javia

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Hector listened to the marshal wondering out loud about both the lone Tom Love and the more mob handed Case Steelgrave & Co. heading Kalispell way, and whether the two phenomena were related in any way, and exactly where those parties were now and what they were planning. It was a conundrum all right. Modern communications could put you on high alert, but they could do little else to help you prepare, it seemed!

 

"I doubt they got a wire up in Big Flat, but hell, who knows. Maybe you'd do us all a favor and try it. If they do, then I'll have a handle on Case Steelgrave. I've my doubts he'd head back here, but there's the Evergreen, and there's me. So maybe it's a good idea to see what I can find out. If you wouldn't mind. I'll pay the rates."

 

"Where exactly is Big Flat?" Hector frowned. If a place wasn't connected to the telegraph system, it didn't even exist in his mind. "Well, it isn't on the line, I know that for sure. But. still, we could wire through to Missoula. They'd have to come up here through Missoula wouldn't they, Sir, if they're coming from the the South?" Hector was quite enjoying this - playing at detectives.

 

@Flip

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"Could be, but I'm thinking they'd fight shy of a large town. Of course now, that depends on how they left Big Flat. Quietly or in a rush because any number of reasons include some killing." Speed explained. "But you go ahead and see what you can find out, anything is possible I suppose." From what he knew of case Steelgrave, and his men, it was possible they shot up the place, so word might reach Missoula.

 

"Case is canny alright, he boys, not so much. Case may well have read the writing on the wall and got out ahead of the rest, or, they could have left in a bunch, depends on facts we don't have." He added, "But maybe there's something you can dig up on the wire about them. He and his boys could be headed back this way, maybe to old man Steelgrave's place.  See what you can dig up, I'll cover the cost."

@Javia

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The Marshal explained, in no little detail, his thinking around Case Steelgrave's possible movements. To an extent, Hector wondered why he would bother telling all this to a 19 year old telegraph operator, but on the other hand he knew how helpful it was to express problems out loud to find a solution. Sometimes in the very explaining of a problem to an audience, even if it was just the family dog, the solution hit you between the eyes. 

 

"Case is canny alright, his boys, not so much. Case may well have read the writing on the wall and got out ahead of the rest, or, they could have left in a bunch, depends on facts we don't have." 

 

"Well, anything I can do to help, Sir. Just let me know."

 

"Maybe there's something you can dig up on the wire about them. He and his boys could be headed back this way, maybe to old man Steelgrave's place.  See what you can dig up, I'll cover the cost."

 

"Sure thing, Mr Guyer!" Hector replied excitedly. Wow, being an important part of a manhunt! Wait 'till he told... well, anyone who'd listen. "And no cost, Sir. Western union will always support The Law." he added, perhaps little pompously, patting the W.U. satchel at his side like it was some badge of office.

 

@Flip

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Speed smiled, "Now no cost ta me, well I'd say that sounds real good, and my thanks to Western Union."  He sort of shook his head, but you know, now, we may get nothing for our troubles to one or the or, or both show up on our door step, so to speak. But you let me know if anything does come back, like to be prepared, especially this for Tom Love character."

 

"You know there are some stop twixt here and there in both cases, so maybe we get lucky after all and we can track them. Anyway, we'll just have to wait and see." Hector Wigfall was the unexpected ally in all of this, whether he knew it or not. An all important cog in the wheels of justice.

@Javia

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Hector frowned.

 

"Marshal Guyer, well, all this sitting around waiting for them fellers to come here and surprise us, well, why don't you just send a couple of fellers out to scout around for them? I mean, not to ambush them or get involved with 'em or anything, I know that's out of your official jurisdiction..." taking the minutes at the local Town Council meetings had allowed the quick witted lad to pick up such gems of administrative trivia "... just to kinda find 'em and trail 'em." he wondered out loud.

 

"You could send Deputy Wentworth and our messenger Jake Lutz with him, case the Deputy wanted to send back a message. Lutzy knows the county between here and Missoula like the back of his hand." he offered other people's services for the potentially lethal mission with a sort of carefree and airy élan. 

 

@Flip

 

 

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"I could do , well either of those things, but Deputy Wentworth has to survive the fight first. Twenty rounds, that one hell of a beating on wither of them." Speed related. "Now, I do have Marshals McNue and Cook who, have been left to help out, but they are here for Leah Steelgrave's hospital project more than anything, though I could talk to them about it."

 

"But you know, there is a lot of waiting around to see what happens, and are they, Love, and the Steelgrave gang, really headed this way, to Kalispell? And what is their intent? That is if they come here. There are too many questions, too may variables. So we get to sit and wait, and see what happens."

 

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"I could do , well either of those things, but Deputy Wentworth has to survive the fight first. Twenty rounds, that one hell of a beating on wither of them." Speed related.

 

"Oh geez, yeah. Gosh. Poor Deputy Wentworth, huh? Yeah, I've been helping Bobby train, he's er... well, let's just say I wouldn't put any money on ol' Charlie there." shrugged Hector. 

 

"Now, I do have Marshals McNue and Cook who, have been left to help out, but they are here for Leah Steelgrave's hospital project more than anything, though I could talk to them about it."

 

The obliging lad nodded at the names, but wouldn't have known which of the two strangers was which. Oh well, it was just an off the cuff idea, he wasn't heavily invested in it enough to fight for it.  

 

"But you know, there is a lot of waiting around to see what happens, and are they, Love, and the Steelgrave gang, really headed this way, to Kalispell? And what is their intent? That is if they come here. There are too many questions, too may variables. So we get to sit and wait, and see what happens."

 

Hector had to admire the Marshal's sand. Had he been in the man's boots, he would have been like a cat on a hot tin roof awaiting the potentially lethal confrontation that might be heading their way. And whereas Hector might get caught up in the carnage, the Marshal had the responsibility for ending it.

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"So you best be getting back to that key in case anything more comes through, don't you think?" There may be another operator there, he didn't know. He'd put something together for Pike, but he was on his way to San Francisco, so that might be a wasted effort by all concerned.

 

"Guess I'll wait and see if Pike sends word from San Francisco before I try and contact hi, might be a waste to send anything on to Portland."

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It was days later that news came, but it wasn't via the modern miracles of Morse code and the electric telegraph, it was in the form of a dusty rider, days on the trail. However, like the telegraph operator, he toted a Western Union satchel over his shoulders. Jacob Lutz was dead beat, he had almost killed his horse, and himself, trying to get the news back to the Marshal in time for him to do something about it.

 

He was aching all over as he sat slumped in a chair in front of Guyer, telling what he'd seen. 

 

"Been over to Belnap." His syntax was terse and his diction sparse. "Saw 'em about twenty miles west of Proctor heading this way. Must've been heading out of Boyer's Crossing." 

 

"Heck Wigfall said you were looking for a bunch of bandits headed by Case Steelgrave. Couldn't miss him. So tall. Don't think they saw me. They were a ways off." he grunted. Feeling half-dead. He was worried he wouldn't be able to get up from the chair now he was in it.

 

@Flip

 

 

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He was aching all over as he sat slumped in a chair in front of Guyer, telling what he'd seen. 

 

"Been over to Belnap." His syntax was terse and his diction sparse. "Saw 'em about twenty miles west of Proctor heading this way. Must've been heading out of Boyer's Crossing." 

 

"Them? Who's them?" Speed asked.

 

"Heck Wigfall said you were looking for a bunch of bandits headed by Case Steelgrave. Couldn't miss him. So tall. Don't think they saw me. They were a ways off." he grunted. Feeling half-dead. He was worried he wouldn't be able to get up from the chair now he was in it.

 

"Well now, Heck was right. Case Steelgrave and company. Out of Boyer's Crossing? Sounds about right coming from Big Flat and all."  The Marshal responded, not surprised, but concerned because now he knew that Steelgrave was headed their way, whether it was to Kalispell itself, or the Evergreen, or farther north, that remained to be seen.

 

"How many are with him?" he asked followed by, and how fast were they coming, because they're only thirty five or forty miles off, maybe less, but that's some rough country down that way."  But no matter how long they would take to reach whichever destination, they would be in his backyard if not in his town. Ether may not be good news. He sorely wished Pike was back. He would need to alert Cook and McNue, provided they were back in town.

@Javia

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"How many are with him?" he asked followed by "and how fast were they coming, because they're only thirty five or forty miles off, maybe less, but that's some rough country down that way."  

 

"A dozen?" Jacob answered "Hard to tell from that distance with all their remounts, but yeah, about a dozen. Travellin' fast, but not so fast they'd reach here before tomorrow." He felt it necessary to explain how he had managed to get back to Kalispell so far in advance of the marauders. "I took a few risks getting here so fast: cut right over Blacktail Mountain, through Indian Territory." he informed the Marshal, by way of explanation.

 

He looked exhausted, but he was thinking, growing kind of angry, really.

 

"Mr. Guyer? Why'd folks round here put up with 'em?!" he suddenly asked, an accusing note in his voice. "Ever since I was a kid I've been having to listen to it! 'Don't tread on the Steelgrave's patch!' 'Take care not to annoy Elias Steelgrave' 'Better not complain about the Steelgrave's heads tramplin' your corn, they'll have you tarred and feathered and shot' Well, I'm sick of it Marshal!" Despite his fatigue the young man pulled himself to his feet and looked the old lawman straight in the eye. 

 

"I've got a child on the way, and I'm not going to have him or her growing up like I did, living in fear of a bunch of swindling, immoral, no-good bunch of miserable bastards like that: no matter how many hired thugs and gun they've got!"

 

@Flip

 

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Speed looked at the young man. "The old man mostly stays on his spread, send a man in for supplies, so he's pretty much in the clear. We've had no County Sheriff, so jurisdiction becomes the problem. Now when Whitefish was still standing, Case was the law there, and that protected his men and all the things they were doing. It's gone, and so is any protection Case and his gang had."

 

"If they're coming here looking for trouble, then they'll surely find it. I expect Marshall's Cook and McNue today sometime, and there's other's that will stand. But it's possible for them to bypass town, if that's their plan, so we just get to wait some more. It'll sort itself out, usually does. Meanwhile young man, best you get up to the Lickskillet and  let your wife know your back, and then, get yourself some rest. Might have to call on you."

@Javia

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Speed looked at the young man. "The old man mostly stays on his spread, send a man in for supplies, so he's pretty much in the clear. We've had no County Sheriff, so jurisdiction becomes the problem. Now when Whitefish was still standing, Case was the law there, and that protected his men and all the things they were doing. It's gone, and so is any protection Case and his gang had."

 

"Good time to hit 'em then, huh?" Jacob posed the question as if hitting out at the Steelgraves wasn't so much a possible option as a God ordained duty, and in a way it was: the Miggins Clan, of which Jacob was a member, had been feuding with the big cattleman for many a year. 

 

"If they're coming here looking for trouble, then they'll surely find it. I expect Marshall's Cook and McNue today sometime, and there's other's that will stand. But it's possible for them to bypass town, if that's their plan, so we just get to wait some more. It'll sort itself out, usually does. Meanwhile young man, best you get up to the Lickskillet and  let your wife know your back, and then, get yourself some rest. Might have to call on you."

 

"'Might have to' nothing, you call on me Marshal, you do that. I'll be there with a steady aim and a bullet for each of them." he said grimly. This wasn't mere civic duty, this was the blood feud speaking: a red mist before the young man's eyes, ingrained since childhood, that could blind him to all other considerations. "I guess you're right... better report back to Headquarters." he said, grunting as his weary and quickly stiffening muscles fought against the movement. 

 

He gave the lawman a nod and made his way out.

 

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Speed sat back considering the possibilities. None of them good, unless they gave Kalispell a wide berth, which Case might well do. They had had a hideout somewhere  out there in the wild country, a place that no one seemed to know of.

 

Tom Love? There was a question mark. He had already been through the circulars, what some folks called 'wanted posters,' but he had no paper on anyone name of Love. Maybe when the Marshals got back they would know of him.

 

Was Kalispell sitting in the center of an outlaws bullseye, for one reason or another? Time would tell.

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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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