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

All Nice and Legal


Harriet Mercer
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Breakfast had been a lively event. The twins had rebounded from the influx of strangers in their midst and had kept Kate Hale on alert. The conversation around the breakfast table had mainly consisted of everyone discussing the ranch's business and their plans for the day. There had been some consternation when Harriet announced that she was riding into town to deliver papers to the judge's office, especially since she declined all offers to accompany her. Harriet had pointed out with a slight touch of asperity that she had made the ride from the ranch to Kalispell and back quite often. 


After changing from her morning dress into a practical gaucho-style riding skirt, Harriet made sure all of the documents that she needed were in order before slipping the attaché case into her saddlebags. Stepping out of the house, she took a deep breath of the mountain air and smiled. She had lived the majority of her working life in San Francisco. It did not hold a candle to the majestic beauty of Montana. Stepping out from under the covered portico in front of the lodge, she crossed the courtyard and walked the few yards to the barn.


Horses grazed in the large paddock next to the barn. Inside the barn, Harriet stopped by the stalls that held her Gypsy Vanners. Their coats shone from a recent brushing, and they looked to be rested and in good shape, even after the grueling drive from Missoula. She gave each gelding a carrot from the bunch she had carried down from the house. Walking the rest of the way down the barn, she found Shade grooming the dappled gray Arabian that had belonged to his sister-in-law, Regina Thornton. The topic of which horse she should ride to town had also come up at the table that morning. The final decision was that she should have Regina's Arabian.


Shade looked up at her approach. He nodded toward her team, "I wasn't sure you'd want them turned out to pasture."


Harriet decided that there was no point in continuing the enmity with the younger man for now. Whatever his past, he was there and trying to do the right thing. She smiled, "Please do, Shade. They get very little time out of a stable ordinarily. They earned their rest."


"Yes, ma'am," Shade agreed, his deep voice rumbling pleasantly. "It'll be good for 'em. I'll have Stone ready to ride in a couple of minutes."


In a short time, Shade had the gelding bridled, saddled and led outside the barn. He gave Harriet a leg up, helped her adjust the stirrups, tied her saddlebags firmly behind the cantle of the saddle, then handed up a Winchester 1873 carbine. She took the weapon from him and slipped it into the saddle's rifle scabbard. "Just in case?" She asked with a slight smile.


"Just in case," Shade agreed. "You never know what kind of varmint you'll run into."


Harriet acknowledged the veracity of Shade's statement before setting her heels to the gelding's flanks to nudge him into a jog-trot. She was an expert driver but less skilled as a rider. Fortunately, the Arabian had smooth gaits, a good mouth, and an even disposition. It helped that he was familiar. Regina had often allowed her to ride the horse when she was visiting.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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The sun had warmed the morning air considerably by the time Harriet reached the eastern end of the Chogun Valley. She reined Stone in long enough to pull out a small lady's pocket watch. The hour on the dial assured her that she had plenty of time to reach the town. Not only did she need to meet with Judge Mandrell and hand over the documents, but she also wanted to find Fang and see what he had heard and observed since reaching Kalispell. She patted the horse's neck and set him moving forward in a slow but ground-eating lope.


Slowing the horse to a trot, Harriet stared in consternation at the ranch's gated entrance. The big golden buckskin horse could not be mistaken which meant the man astride the animal's back was likely the last person Harriet wanted to see. She pulled the Arabian to a stop at the gate, a scowl crossing her face as she stared at the tall, dark-clad man that had sidled his horse around to face her.


"What, may I ask, are you doing here?" Harriet inquired with asperity.


Quentin smiled and reached a hand up, lightly tugging on the front of his hat brim without actually moving it. "And good morning to you also, Harriet..." He let his hands drop down to rest on his saddle pommel, lightly holding the reins. "...I am getting ready to ride into town...I have some things I need to do there."


Harriet regarded Quentin with a stare from her smoke-colored eyes that would rival that of the mythical basilisk. "I guess that your sudden need to ride into Kalispell occurred after breakfast? And Mr. Thornton just happened to forget that you had ridden out ahead of me? Then, you had this inexplicable urge to let your horse rest here at the gate while you contemplated the trees or something?"


Quentin leaned back in his saddle and visibly recoiled from the barrage of questions. He composed himself and then leaned back into position. "Well, if you want to know so badly...It did...he did...and I did. Does that cover your interrogation?" Quentin started to turn his horse back in the direction of town but stopped and glanced back. "Oh, and contemplating trees in the middle of nowhere isn't illegal. I am enough of a lawyer to know that...now shall we?"


Feeling her ire rise, Harriet took a deep breath. To distract herself while she got control of her emotions, she began working a braid into the Arabian's long mane. It took two rounds of mane braiding before she could trust herself to speak. "I am capable of taking care of myself," Harriet finally said, proud of the fact that her voice was calm and cool.


Quentin sat serenely and watched her fingers braid. He could see them shaking with her effort to control her obvious anger...a fact that did not bother Quentin one bit. "I don't doubt your ability to defend yourself against any man, but out here it could be way more than one, and also out here you have as much or more a chance of getting eaten by a bear..." Cantrell's mouth curled up into a slight smile, "...Although I would never want to wish that on any poor bear."


Harriet made herself stop fiddling with the horse's mane and stilled her hands. This was nothing more than an open-air courtroom and Cantrell was her opponent. Storm clouds gathered and faded in her twilight-colored eyes. Taking a deep breath, she smiled sweetly at Quentin, "Neither would I wish such a fate on one of God's poor dumb creatures." She would let Quentin decide who she had labeled as a dumb creature. Harriet patted the stock of the Winchester tucked in its scabbard, "I am well prepared for any eventuality."  


Quentin's eyes narrowed as he tugged rein, moving his horse around with a sound as he used a bit more force than necessary. "Complain all you want, but you have a riding companion for going into town. You can like it, you can dislike it...you can do whatever you want. Either way...here I am. I have a vested interest in keeping you alive, and I intend to do that very thing."


Pleased that her barb had found a mark, Harriet smiled sweetly and set her heels to the Arabian's flank, moving him out at a steady walk. "I could say the same thing."


Quentin glanced back over his shoulder as they rode along. "Can't have that, can we? Your precious legal reputation would be in tatters if I ended up dead...that simply will not do."


Harriet moved her horse alongside Quentin's. She gazed at the road ahead as if seriously thinking about his comment. Maintaining the innocent expression was difficult, especially since she was starting to enjoy the verbal sparring session, she said, "My professional reputation has survived worse. But, your demise would be a stain although I'd still have Thornton." Harriet paused, then said dryly, "Never mind. Don't get yourself killed until the day after tomorrow."


Quentin stared ahead for a moment, then he smiled. "You know...it would almost be worth it to get myself killed to force you and Shade to have to work together..."


"I would rather share a bar stool with a rattler," Harriet stated dryly and then she smiled, "Peace? Between the two of you, I may be proved wrong about the strength of my professional reputation."


Quentin nodded with a smile in return. "Fair enough. I figure between me trying to keep all of us alive and you trying to keep us at the ranch, we both have enough work to keep us busy without sniping at each other."


"At least for now," Harriet said and smiled.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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