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    • "Just when I was thinkin' this was a cake-walk!"  Justus' grin didn't show under the bandanna, but he was trying to take it all in stride.  But he did realize that either way, it was going to be miserable.  The wind stirring up the dust was annoying at best, but if it got bad enough, it could make vision next to impossible.  But if it started to rain...well, there was a whole mess its own issues, none of them pleasant.   Funny thing was, it sounded like the worse conditions got, and the harder they had to work, the more the chances of a good, hot meal and decent rest went down.   Not much to do about it but take it as it came, unless he just bugged out, but it would take something far worse than weather to get him to quit!   @Flip
    • "Or at least I hope he won't. I hear he's hell on wheels with a gun, and quick to anger. Maybe we best call this off."   "If you insist."  Emeline stuck out her bottom lip in a pout, but then laughed, kissed him and stood.  She was so happy that Barnabas was able to joke and tease with her, and didn't take every little thing seriously.  If you didn't have fun now and then, life could be pretty dull.   She glanced out the window, then followed him to the door, regretting that they were going to lose the luxury of the car, but looking forward to the next part of the journey.   As he helped her to the platform, she took the chance to look around, noting that Reno was much more what she was accustomed to, and it was a bit of a relief after the huge cities of Portland and San Francisco.    "This is nice, and I'm well-rested, ready for supper and that stroll."  She hooked her arm into her husband's.  "Lead on, and I will follow!"   @Flip
    • Reb Culverson had claimed a good sized chunk of land and one corner of it sat on the river, north of Alice Fletcher's land. the rest backed up to low tree covered hills. He was not the type to b;lock off water to any who needed it, it just wasn't who he was. He ran maybe six or seven hundred head on his range. He didn't like the fences any more than the next man but it was a necessity, and ranchers were more prone to fence off their range, it prevented the mixing of cattle, destruction of farmers property, and problems in general. But most had vulnerabilities that rustlers could exploit.   The circle C seldom had more than six to eight hands at any one time, which was far less than the size of the herd needs, but of course, that is on open range where they are able to spread out over many more acres. The other problem that had not been a problem for some time was the threat of rustlers.   Toole and six of his comrades sat in the trees watching. There was plenty of time. The day team of two hands had been relieved as the daylight faded, and were replace by a solitary rider. Just as Toole learned earlier. The law was laid down by Case, no killing, no unless it was absolutely necessary, which with one man it shouldn't be.   The day riders were more than a mile off, the evening man was at the south end of the herd. The plan, simple, four would go to the left, three would pinch in from the right and push the cattle into the trees and then drive them toward the dry creek bed and home. It should work like a charm.
    • Warbow now understood why the young woman was asking him to officiate a marriage between her and her beloved. What she was asking was taboo amongst the overwhelming majority of Anglos. He could see that even Shade was looking uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had gone although he did not wear the look of disgust that so many whites would have. Then again, Shade had grown up amongst the Diné.   "Child," Warbow said, his voice soft and kind although no pity showed in his eyes or on his face, "I am sorry to say that although I can perform a marriage ceremony for you and will be happy to do so if you wish, it will have no legal standing amongst your people. I do not know much about the legal systems of the Anglos, but perhaps you could make a legal document that indicates a desire to share your property?"   @Javia
    • Once they had all eaten, the four sat where there was cover, to the right, up against an outcropping of rock. There were stones so they set a ring and built a fair sized fire and even though there was whiskey, the set a pot to boil, that way they would have coffee, it could get chilly for whoever was on watch, and even if the others decided on a cup, there would still be  coffee for the men on watch.   Maybe the Lost Lake hands had found the body and hauled him off the mountain, it didn't seem like they were looking for any blood trail, and if Carson had managed to control his blood loss, and kept it off of the ground, then maybe they lost interest and just brought the man in. Chances Carson was able to that, were not real good, but he may had been able to manage the bleeding enough that there was no blood trail for quite a ways, and they lost interest.   That could have happened ad it seemed to be a good reason that the Lost Lake riders had not shown up at the fence line. The Evergreen riders would be happy to have that wire down, but until the framer was gone, and Lost Lake was taken, it would remain. It was just the way of it. Evergreen cattle would just keep heading in a southerly direction destroying crops as the moseyed along. but they'd not be looking for grass in the rocky terrain beyond, they would turn back and do more damage.   It didn't seem like Steelgrave was ready to wipe out the sod buster, so the fence needed to be watched and mended when necessary. All four believed their time on the fence would be short lived.    

A New Day - New Challenges


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Mature Content: No

Author:

With: Kalispell Town folk.
Location: Star Dust Saloon.
When: Summer 1876
Time of Day: Morning

 

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Frank Fortner came down the stairway into the heart of the saloon.  It had been a week since he'd bought the place, and all seemed to be going well.  They opened at 10am, less than an hour away, and staff was busy sweeping the floor, polishing the tables, and polishing the glassware. 

He made a mental note to go over the invoices and manifests with Ralph -- making sure they were well stocked and to see what the barkeeper had on his mind.

The piano was silent for now, but before too long Arabella would be pounding out some ditty of the ivories.  She was a big asset to the place -- the girl had talent plus she was a regular town crier of gossip.
There was now a table set up in the corner of the room, the one that was reserved for the Hon. Hiram Priest.  Now THERE was as person who had an ear to the ground.

Fortner took in a long breath and let it out slowing.

Who knew what would happen between then and the close of business at 2am?

 

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Of course, as she never tired of telling people, Arabella had been up ages before everybody else: lighting the stove, fetching water, scrubbing floors - she thought back to that grim morning she'd had to scrub a bloodstain off the planked flooring. That seemed like a lifetime ago now. Mrs Devereau had left them, without undue ceremony, and the still unknown quantity of Frank Fortner had moved in. It seemed odd to think he had lodged last night in Mrs D.'s old room. For some reason, she felt sort of glad that Caroline's room was in between her room and his. 

 

Next up had been Cookie, then Ralph straight behind. The busy girl wondered if Caroline would make a special effort this morning, what with it being Mr. Fortner's first day, and fetch herself up before eleven. La Mundee reckoned she needed her beauty sleep, despite Arabella telling her many, many times that she was already beautiful enough without it. Oh well. She remembered the reception she'd gotten when the singer had first arrived and Arabella had jumped on her bed around 9 O'Clock and shouted "Wake up, lazy bones!" It was an experiment not to be repeated.

 

Well, Mr. Fortner had been spending his morning so far to good effect, he looked immaculate, as per usual, a fact which Arabella acknowledged in her cheery greeting.

 

"Morning Mr. Fortner Sir, now ain't nice and smart and good-lookin' this mornin', and here's me lookin' like Alice off the Pickle Boat!" she grinned. Indeed, she did look pretty rumpled in her workaday smock, stained pinny, hair all escaping from her doodad and one be-holed stocking starting to droop and wrinkle at the ankle. There was also a dirty black smudge of soot on her face from where she'd cleaned out the grate of the stove and then wiped her nose with the back of her hand. The very sight of her looked enough to mess up Frank's fancy clean duds. 

 

"You want us to do anything special all on up here, or should we just carry on with ur normal ol' doin's?" she asked.  

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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The proprietor of The Star Dust Saloon stepped, finally, on the planked flooring.  It was with some satisfaction that he saw that everyone knew their work assignments and were hustling and bustling for their pay.  That was as it should be.

 

It seemed to him that the hardest worker was Arabella.  She had an indefatigable energy and, what struck Fortner as, an endearing eagerness for life.

 

In her telepathic way, she buzzed over to him.

 

"Morning Mr. Fortner Sir, now ain't nice and smart and good-lookin' this mornin', and here's me lookin' like Alice off the Pickle Boat!" she grinned. Indeed, she did look pretty rumpled in her workaday smock, stained pinny, hair all escaping from her doodad and one be-holed stocking starting to droop and wrinkle at the ankle. There was also a dirty black smudge of soot on her face from where she'd cleaned out the grate of the stove and then wiped her nose with the back of her hand. The very sight of her looked enough to mess up Frank's fancy clean duds. 

 

"Nothing wrong with looking like you're earning your pay," he answered. 

 

In some ways, Franklin Fortner could be the perfect boss, the perfect citizen, the perfect friend, the perfect teacher.  If only the greed that consumed him could be put at bay, he could be all those things.  He was never improper with women, especially young women.  He was never lewd or nasty. 

 

On this morning, Franklin felt balanced and good. 

 

"You want us to do anything special all on up here, or should we just carry on with ur normal ol' doin's?" she asked. 

 

"I have all the confidence that you know what to do and when and how to do it.  Hell!  don't let me get in your way."  He chuckled.   Then he thought of something.  "Do you know any Stephen Foster songs?  I was thinking it might be nice to devote some of your talent on "Camptown Races, Old Folks at Home, ..  that sort of song.   Do you know those?"

 

While he waited for her answer, he looked around to see how busy Ralph was.  He wanted to talk to him about the supply of liquor, quality and cost.

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Ralph was at his station behind the bar, checking to see there were plenty of freshly washed, well rinsed at least, shot glasses and beer mugs. Earlier he had brought up some more bottles of liquor to replace emptied ones on the shelf behind him, just below the large mirror. It felt strange to not have Matilda in his life anymore but it didn't mean that he felt he had made a mistake in not accompanying her to San Francisco. Rather he believed she was the one who had made the error, chasing more money and ...yeah, probably happiness in that bigger city.

 

Her only good argument with him that time when they discussed him going with her was the weather was better out there. Matilda had hated the Montana winters. Being a born New Yorker, the weather didn't bother him as such. He liked the size of the town and - frankly - he liked many of the people especially his fellow female co-workers. Bubbly crazy Arabella, the very jolly negro cook who was truly good at her trade, and then Caroline, who despite her youth, was every bit the perfect saloon gal and a sweetheart to boot. Yes, he felt in a way they needed him here - to protect them from harm. Saloons could be dangerous places.

 

Those who might think they could take advantage of the women here, well they would soon find out they would have to deal with him. Since his early years as a member of a street gang in New York City to his bloody experiences in the war to his saloon work, Ralph was no stranger to violence. He'd killed people and if it came to it again, he would not hesitate to add to that total without remorse.

 

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"I have all the confidence that you know what to do and when and how to do it.  Hell!  don't let me get in your way."  He chuckled.   Then he thought of something.  "Do you know any Stephen Foster songs?  I was thinking it might be nice to devote some of your talent on "Camptown Races, Old Folks at Home, ..  that sort of song.   Do you know those?"

 

Arabella just laughed and rolled her eyes "Course I know Mr Foster's songs: why, he even wrote one about me: Virginia Belle!" Well, the girl in that song had left Virginia all right, but for Heaven rather than Montana. Then something else occurred to her.

 

"Oh, and he wrote one about you too, Mr. Fortner!" she cried and then burst into song: 

 

🎵  Your head may be thick as a block,
And empty as any foot-ball,
Oh! your eyes may be green as the grass
Your heart just as hard as a wall.
Yet take the advice that I give,
You'll soon gain affection and cash,
And will be all the rage with the girls,
If you've only got a moustache,
A moustache, a moustache,
If you've only got a moustache
.🎵  

 

She cackled with laughter, for Mr. Fortner had just the kind of moustache that looked like it had been grown to attract the ladies. 

 

She looked over to Ralph and her smile faded: he was carrying on as normal, but she felt sad every time she saw him since Mrs Devereau left, projecting an emotion on him that was probably a product of her imagination. She made her way to the piano and sat down. "I know what song Mr. Flandry likes best." she said quietly, and played it softly.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Arabella just laughed and rolled her eyes "Course I know Mr Foster's songs: why, he even wrote one about me: Virginia Belle!" Well, the girl in that song had left Virginia all right, but for Heaven rather than Montana. Then something else occurred to her.

 

Franklin smiled.  "Fairer than the golden morning, Gentle as the tongue can tell,
Was our little laughing darling;  Sweet Virginia Belle."  He recited the lines like a poem and didn't try to add any tune.  It was a sad song, especially to him, because it reminded him of his dearly departed kid sister. 

 

Arabella's sharp voice shook him out of his reverie. 

 

"Oh, and he wrote one about you too, Mr. Fortner!" she cried and then burst into song: 

 

🎵  Your head may be thick as a block,
And empty as any foot-ball,
Oh! your eyes may be green as the grass
Your heart just as hard as a wall.
Yet take the advice that I give,
You'll soon gain affection and cash,
And will be all the rage with the girls,
If you've only got a moustache,
A moustache, a moustache,
If you've only got a moustache
.🎵  

 

He laughed a little, and then stroked his moustache in the manner of the villains seen so often on the stage.   

 

She looked over to Ralph and her smile faded: he was carrying on as normal, but she felt sad every time she saw him since Mrs Devereau left, projecting an emotion on him that was probably a product of her imagination. She made her way to the piano and sat down. "I know what song Mr. Flandry likes best." she said quietly, and played it softly.

 

This gave Fortner the opportunity to visit with his barkeep, a pleasure he'd long sought. 

 

"Well, Mr. Flandry," he began, once he reached the bar.  "How are things looking for us?  Any problems with supply or quality?"  

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Ralph was listening to the conversation between his new employer and the youngest employee and then the music of course, he liked the girl's talent on the piano. But generally he stayed out of conversations unless specifically addressed. However now Fortner approached the bar.

 

"Well, Mr. Flandry," he began, once he reached the bar.  "How are things looking for us?  Any problems with supply or quality?" 

 

"Nobody calls me that...it's Ralph," he softly pointed out before answering the pertinent question, "Supplies are good. Tildy always did a fine job of procuring the necessary amounts. She dealt with the Zimmern Brothers out of Helena, reliable distributors."

 

"I'm sure she left the books and correspondence up in her office," he added.

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"Well, Mr. Flandry," he began, once he reached the bar.  "How are things looking for us?  Any problems with supply or quality?" 

 

"Nobody calls me that...it's Ralph," he softly pointed out before answering the pertinent question, "Supplies are good. Tildy always did a fine job of procuring the necessary amounts. She dealt with the Zimmern Brothers out of Helena, reliable distributors."

 

"I'm sure she left the books and correspondence up in her office," he added.

 

"Why thanks,.... Ralph," Frank began.  It was his practice to start off in a formal manner until advised otherwise.  "Sounds like you have everything under control."  He slapped his hands down on the polished bar and smiled.  "I'm not about to reinvent the wheel.  So why don't you just keep on with what you have in the past.  When I get a chance, I'll go over the books --- maybe this weekend.  What I want you to know is that if you need any roadblocks cleared or help with problems, feel free to see me about 'em."

 

He lowered his voice.   "What's your pay?" he asked.

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His employer then commented that it seemed things were under control. No argument there.

 

"Yep," Ralph thought so too, not much to add to it.

 

"I'm not about to reinvent the wheel.  So why don't you just keep on with what you have in the past.  When I get a chance, I'll go over the books --- maybe this weekend.  What I want you to know is that if you need any roadblocks cleared or help with problems, feel free to see me about 'em."

 

"Sure, I'll let ya know," the taciturn bartender nodded.

 

"What's your pay?" was the next question.

 

ooc: I have no clue what they made in the 1870s so I'm fudging the answer.

 

Ralph told him then, Matilda paid typical salaries in line with other saloons in the territory. And also...

 

"I get free room and board too, food and drinks on the house," he added.  He lived upstairs after all.

 

 

 

 

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Ralph was a tough nut to crack, in Fortner's estimation.  But, then again, it's better to have someone who is tight-lipped working for you rather than someone who is a blabber mouth.

 

Then he asked him what is pay was, and Ralph told him that his pay was comparable to others who kept bar.  To Fortner, that meant about $1.70 per hour. 

 

But Ralph went on.  "I get free room and board too, food and drinks on the house."

 

Franklin nodded then stood back and crossed his arms.

 

"Whatdya say to $2 an hour?  Let's call it $20 a day.  And, yes .. room and board is thrown in too. AND drinks on the house."

 

It was a generous offer.

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The bar's swing doors crashed open and a woman staggered in with a cry of "Where is he? Where's the feller what killed Frank Grimes?!!!" She looked like she had either been drinking heavily this morning, or she still had a tankful left over from the night before. 

 

"Was it YOU?!!" she pointed to Mr. Flandry, but then screwed her eyes almost closed and leaned forward on the bar, before exclaiming "Oh no, that's Ralph!" She cast her myopic glance around the room. "Where is he? I... I got somethin' to say to that feller." she shouted.

 

Arabella ran up and guided the lady toward Frank.

 

"I think you're looking for Mr. Fortner, Miss Adams!" she yelled. Sal was a trifle deaf as well as being short sighted. "He shot Mr. Grimes. I tried to stop him but, well, you know. Boys will be boys"

 

"Oh! Sweet little Alla... Allabella!!" Miss Adams cooed, seeing who was helping her. She then looked to the front where Arabella was guiding her and saw a tall blurry figure. 

 

"You the feller what shot Frank Grimes?!" she demanded, poking him in the chest.

 

sal1.jpg.e90b5fca9382d5b3d9394ef9d2df6979.jpg

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Before the reticent barkeep could answer, the bar's swing doors crashed open and a woman staggered in with a cry of "Where is he? Where's the feller what killed Frank Grimes?!!!" She looked like she had either been drinking heavily this morning, or she still had a tankful left over from the night before. 

 

This was trouble, and Fortner braced himself.  Man, woman, it didn't matter.  Liquor mixed with guns was trouble with a capital "T".

 

The woman looked much the worse for wear, obviously drunk.

 

"Was it YOU?!!" she pointed to Mr. Flandry, but then screwed her eyes almost closed and leaned forward on the bar, before exclaiming "Oh no, that's Ralph!" She cast her myopic glance around the room. "Where is he? I... I got somethin' to say to that feller." she shouted.

 

Arabella ran up and guided the lady toward Frank.

 

"I think you're looking for Mr. Fortner, Miss Adams!" she yelled. Sal was a trifle deaf as well as being short sighted. "He shot Mr. Grimes. I tried to stop him but, well, you know. Boys will be boys"

 

It was too late.  Arabella had just dosed the fire with gunpowder, despite Fortner's hand-signalling for her to shut up,.

 

"Oh! Sweet little Alla... Allabella!!" Miss Adams cooed, seeing who was helping her. She then looked to the front where Arabella was guiding her and saw a tall blurry figure. 

 

"You the feller what shot Frank Grimes?!" she demanded, poking him in the chest.

 

It was before hours, it not being ten o'clock yet, and the place was empty of patrons.  Only the crew was present, brooms and rags in hand.

 

Fortner moved her hand away from his chest.

 

"We're not open yet", he said quietly.  "As for Grimes, he pulled a gun on me.  He was drunk.  He didn't listen to reason.  He was looking for trouble and he found it.  And get your facts straight.  Two of us shot him.  That's how much of a threat he posed to the law abiding citizens who were gathered here.  The Sheriff said it was self-defense, and he was right."

 

He took a step back from her.

 

"Now .. if you'd like me to offer you a whiskey, I'm certain I can talk Ralph into pouring you one."

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Ralph widened his eyes even if he didn't say anything, that was an incredible daily wage for a bartender. Cowboys only made $30 a month and cavalry troopers $13 a month!  At thirty days of $20 per day he would be making $600 a month!  It was literally too good to be true. And when something was too good to be true then there was usually a reason to be suspicious.

 

He didn't need to answer yet though as none other than one of the town's hookers came barreling into the place full of righteous indignation. Ralph knew her of course. Matilda let some loose women peddle their services inside the saloon but absolutely forbade them to utilize the place to do the deeds. The women had to find someplace else to take their willing customers.

 

She was all upset about Grime's recent death, it figures, he was one of the low lifes who was a customer of hers. Most men wanted nothing to to with her. She was a lush and probably was diseased too by now.

 

First she accused Ralph himself of shooting Frank, to which he replied calmly enough, "No, you idiot."

 

But then she recognized him just as Arabella had to run up and get herself involved, what a surprise there. She pointed out the actual shooter, well one of them. Their new employer. Ralph rolled his eyes then watched the confrontation. That is until Fortner tried to buy her off with a whiskey on the house. Guess he was a gentleman.

 

"If you want, boss, otherwise I can throw her out of here. Grimes was one of her customers, she's one of the town hookers," Ralph now offered.

 

 

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Ralph, it seemed, was all for throwing Aunt Sally out of the place, it certainly wouldn't have been the first time he'd had to do that, although not usually this early in the morning.  

 

"If you want, boss, otherwise I can throw her out of here. Grimes was one of her customers, she's one of the town hookers," Ralph now offered.

 

But Fortner wanted to handle the situation himself.

 

Fortner moved her hand away from his chest.

 

"We're not open yet", he said quietly.  "As for Grimes, he pulled a gun on me.  He was drunk.  He didn't listen to reason.  He was looking for trouble and he found it.  And get your facts straight.  Two of us shot him.  That's how much of a threat he posed to the law abiding citizens who were gathered here.  The Sheriff said it was self-defense, and he was right."

 

Sal looked at Frank for a long hard moment. 

 

"What?!"

 

Arabella intervened again. "She's kinda deaf, you have to shout!" she explained to the Saloon owner, and then started to translate for the aged prostitute's benefit: it wasn't just the loudness of Arabella's voice, it was the higher pitch, Sal's tinitus made it harder to make out the lower rumblings of a male voice, even Caroline's husky tones sometimes eluded her.

 

"He said Mr. Grimes pulled his gun on him when he was drunk, he means Mr. Grimes was drunk, not Mr. Fortner, and we're not open yet and Two men shot him because they couldn't get their facts straight and they was lookin' for trouble and even the sheriff was in the right about the thing and erm... what was the other... oh, yeah it's all a threat to law abiding citizens and, say why you bothered anyway, Aunt Sal?"

 

"He owed me money! Two times he went with me and never paid!" declared the disgruntled lady of the evening.

 

"He owed her a dollar!" Arabella translated for Frank's benefit now, forgetting that she didn't have to shout anymore. 

 

Mr. Fortner seemed to be pleased that the woman was after a few dollars rather than any kind of revenge, or maybe he was just happy at how well Arabella had translated his quiet words so accurately. Also, he now upped his volume.

 

"Now .. if you'd like me to offer you a whiskey, I'm certain I can talk Ralph into pouring you one."

 

Sally cocked her head and smiled. Arabella always thought Aunt Sal had a beautiful smile.

 

"All right, big feller. But I should tell you, I don't usually accept drinks off strange gentlemen!" she flirted, drunkenly.

 

Tess2.jpg.f0c205010d2d424cadc98570f57f6998.jpg

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Sally cocked her head and smiled. Arabella always thought Aunt Sal had a beautiful smile.

 

"All right, big feller. But I should tell you, I don't usually accept drinks off strange gentlemen!" she flirted, drunkenly.

 

Frank's expression didn't change.

 

"Well that makes this a remarkable day because I usually don't offer drinks to strange ladies.

 

"Line 'em up," he said to Ralph.  "Two whiskeys."

 

"So," he continued with Sally.  "Grimes cheated you, huh?  Well, we'll make that right.  They don't call this the Start Dust for nothing."   He then reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out a greenback.  "Here," he said, slapping it into her hand.

 

Franklin didn't want any trouble from anyone.  He need to sow fields and fields of goodwill.  Then, when he pulled a trigger, any trigger, he'll have a lot of support from all quarters.

 

I'd offer you one, Arabella, but you're going to be on the clock pretty soon and we don't want you tipsy.  Do we?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a surprise, Frank Grimes had cheated Sally of money for her services. Or so the woman claimed, not like Grimes could defend that accusation. Ralph didn't really care though, he had no use for either of them, they deserved each other.

 

His employer though seemed to believe her.

 

"Line 'em up," he said to Ralph.  "Two whiskeys."

 

"Alright, boss," Ralph did as was directed, pouring two shotglasses to their rims.

 

Ralph then heard their new employer address Arabella about a drink.

 

"She was not allowed alcohol when Miss Devereau was here," he decided to let the man know, Arabella was still just a kid.

 

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"She was not allowed alcohol when Miss Devereau was here," he decided to let the man know, Arabella was still just a kid.

 

Arabella stamped her foot and put her hands on her hips. "Not that she needed to: I'm Tea-Total, Mr. Fortner, signed the pledge when I was twelve... 'Water Bright is My One Delight!'" she reeled off some Methodist doggerel. Sure, Arabella got up to all sorts of things she hadn't ought to do, but drinking alcohol wasn't one of them. 

 

"It's kinda aggravating' when someone tells you not to do somethin' you wasn't gonna do no-how in the furst place." she further expostulated.

 

Aunt Sally had moved back to the bar, eagerly waiting the free drinks.

 

There was an ominous creaking noise from upstairs and Arabella suddenly shushed them all (although hers was the loudest voice present) "Quiet! All this shoutin's woken Caroline up!"

 

"What?" asked Sal inevitably.

 

"I said be quiet!!" Arabella yelled. She jerked a thumb at the somewhat antiquated strumpet and explained to Frank "She's a lot more easier to get along with when she's got the horn on her."

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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"Line 'em up," he said to Ralph.  "Two whiskeys."

 

"Alright, boss," Ralph did as was directed, pouring two shot glasses to their rims.

 

Ralph then heard their new employer address Arabella about a drink.

 

"She was not allowed alcohol when Miss Devereau was here," he decided to let the man know, Arabella was still just a kid.

 

"Oh?" Frank muttered.   Then he turned to Arabella.  "Sorry kid," he said.

 

Arabella stamped her foot and put her hands on her hips. "Not that she needed to: I'm Tea-Total, Mr. Fortner, signed the pledge when I was twelve... 'Water Bright is My One Delight!'" she reeled off some Methodist doggerel. Sure, Arabella got up to all sorts of things she hadn't ought to do, but drinking alcohol wasn't one of them. 

 

"I had no idea. Maybe Ralph can set you up with some water?"  he queried.

 

"It's kinda aggravating' when someone tells you not to do somethin' you wasn't gonna do no-how in the furst place." she further expostulated.

 

Aunt Sally had moved back to the bar, eagerly waiting the free drinks.

 

"Drink up, Miss," he said to the old strumpet.  One of the house and the memory of the wayward Grimes."

 

Franklin lifted his glass and took a couple of sips.  It was good stuff.

 

There was an ominous creaking noise from upstairs and Arabella suddenly shushed them all (although hers was the loudest voice present) "Quiet! All this shoutin's woken Caroline up!"

 

"What?" asked Sal inevitably.

 

"I said be quiet!!" Arabella yelled. She jerked a thumb at the somewhat antiquated strumpet and explained to Frank "She's a lot more easier to get along with when she's got the horn on her."

 

Frank held up his palms and cautioned her to keep her voice down.  "You never know who's suffering from the hangover, do you?"

 

One attendant across the room reached outside the swinging doors and removed the CLOSED sign.   It was time for business.

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"Yer welcome to a sarsparilla if you want one, Ara?" Ralph now suggested a more flavorful drink choice than water as she seemed upset.

 

Despite all the uproar, mostly caused by the loud voice of Arabella, Caroline was not asleep. It was too close to opening time. She had been getting dressed such as it was, a scandalously low cut bright red dress to go with eye makeup and freshly painted fingernails. Just like those east coast actresses. While she wouldn't be late for work, she was running a bit behind as regards breakfast. Not that it was unusual for her to miss it, she'd just have a bowl of the beef stew later and that would hold her.

 

One last check in the mirror satisfied the saloon girl she was ready and down the stairway she went. That whore, Sally, was in the place early? Oh and the boss was up and around too. Interesting...

 

"Morning, folks!  Gonna be another hot one I'll bet," she flashed one of her light up the room smiles.

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Arabella wrinkled her nose at Frank's 'kind' offer of a glass of water, but 'uncle Ralph' knew what she liked.

 

"Yer welcome to a sarsparilla if you want one, Ara?" Ralph now suggested a more flavorful drink choice than water as she seemed upset.

 

"Oh, yes pleeeeeease, Mr. Flandry!" the girl oozed, giving him a simpering, sickly smile that was a little in-joke of theirs. This is what happened after a while of people working and living together, day in day out, often in pretty intense circumstances: they became a family, as Caroline was so often apt to point out, with all their own jokes, sayings, code words, taboos and traditions. That was the wall Mr. Fortner would need to break through, rather than any disputes about pay or conditions, he had to become part of the family. It was a process that would happen naturally in time.

 

Little funny incidents would happen; in fact, one happened now as Aunt Sally reached for her second glass of whiskey and Frank reached over, picked it up and, to Sal's visible horror, drank it himself. Even 30, 40 years later, if Arabella ever saw someone in possession of two drinks she'd remember that incident and chuckle.

 

As Caroline descended the stairs, more family traditions. As every morning, Cookie McMahon popped her head in the saloon and shouted up "You want toast, Miss Caroline?" and Arabella rushed to the piano and played a sort of rolling welcoming fanfare and announced excitedly "Ladies and Gentlemen, here she is, The Chicago Songthrush, Miss Caroliiiiiine Mundeeeeeee!" In fact, Arabella was always quite put out when the songstress actually did get up early enough to join the rest of them at the early morning breakfast table. It broke family tradition, see.

 

"Morning, folks!  Gonna be another hot one I'll bet," she flashed one of her light up the room smiles.

 

"It's always a hot one with La Mundee in town!" Arabella concurred, before slurping the rest of her sarsaparilla. 

 

"Hey, it's that girl who sings!" slurred Sal, who had now put on her seein' glasses. "...Caroline." Boy, this place sure looked funny in the morning when it was empty and the light was streaming in through the windows. 

 

Arabella jumped up from the piano stool, bashed her empty glass down on the bar like the cowboys did after they'd downed a beer in one and threw her arms affectionately around the old bawd.

 

"Look Caro', Aunt sally's come in to see us!" she beamed, as if some luminary like President Grant or Queen Victoria had dropped by.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)
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Seeing that the Stardust was open, Ben made his way inside.  After hearing the news that the saloon had been sold to one, Franklin Fortner, Ben was doubly surprised.  First that Matilda Devereau sold the saloon when everybody in town thought she would be there for the rest of her life and secondly, the name of the new owner was one that was not unknown to him.

 

He had been to the saloon frequently to play poker since his arrival in Kalispell a few months ago.  These were usually friendly games and he had never been kicked out of the place.  His relationship with Ralph and Miss Devereau was good but it was more of an acquaintance than an actual friendship.  The last couple of weeks he had spent working on getting his theatre ready for its first performance that he hadn't had the time to play cards.  Also, the fact, that he wanted to avoid Arabella and her propensity to audition every time he saw her.

 

As he continued, he hoped that Arabella was out the back somewhere washing dishes or something that would keep her out there but to his dismay he could see her at the bar with Sally, a whore he only knew in passing, Miss Mundee, Ralph, and a man, he presumed was Fortner.

 

@Javia @Preston @Wayfarer

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Things seem to run like a well oiled machine, or so Franklin sensed.  Everyone seemed to have a part that they played, and played well.  For instance, there was Ralph.  He was an old hand at the saloon -- like a foreman on a ranch.  He would be a good candidate to step in as Manager if Franklin had to be away for whatever reason.  There was Arabella.  She played an important part too.  She seemed loved by all, if annoying, and was like a glue that held things together.  Then there was Caroline, young but like Mother Earth to the staff.  They seemed to put a lot of stock in her.

 

All this was good for one Franklin Fortner.  The smoother the Star Dust ran, the more time he could devote to his sidelight.  It stood to make him a rich man if things fell into place like he was hoping and planning. 

 

Everything hinged on Horace Potee ... now there was a character he needed to meet and "work on". 

 

Absently, he stared over to the table where Hiram Priest would hold court.  It was reserved for the old Mayor, Judge, and roué.  Maybe roué was a bit harsh.  There was nothing debauched about the sly, honorable Mr. Priest.  What he had besides a brilliant, calculating, mind was a rapacious heart.  He, most certainly, was a player in his wider drama.

 

Fortner's attention snapped back to the moment when Caroline descended the stairs,  and Arabella rushed to the piano and played a sort of rolling welcoming fanfare and announced excitedly "Ladies and Gentlemen, here she is, The Chicago Songthrush, Miss Caroliiiiiine Mundeeeeeee!" In fact, Arabella was always quite put out when the songstress actually did get up early enough to join the rest of them at the early morning breakfast table. It broke family tradition, see.

 

"Morning, folks!  Gonna be another hot one I'll bet," she flashed one of her light up the room smiles.

 

"It's always a hot one with La Mundee in town!" Arabella concurred, before slurping the rest of her sarsaparilla. 

 

Hot time, thought Fortner.  They don't know the half of it, he mused.

 

"Hey, it's that girl who sings!" slurred Sal, who had now put on her seein' glasses. "...Caroline." Boy, this place sure looked funny in the morning when it was empty and the light was streaming in through the windows. 

 

Arabella jumped up from the piano stool, bashed her empty glass down on the bar like the cowboys did after they'd downed a beer in one and threw her arms affectionately around the old bawd.

 

"Look Caro', Aunt sally's come in to see us!" she beamed, as if some luminary like President Grant or Queen Victoria had dropped by.

 

A shadow fell across the floor as someone, newly entered, blocked the slant of the morning sun.  Frank turned and saw a well turned-out man.  It was unusual for him to see anyone as nicely dressed as he was, and it put him on alert.  So, to show the newcomer who ran the place, he called over to Arabella.  "Play Buffalo Gals".

 

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Mr. Fortner was boss now, so Arabella played Buffalo Girls, well, she knew it as Lubly Fan will you cum out tonight An dance by de light ob de Moon, but it was the same old tune. In fact, it was such a hoary old tune that Arabella was bored of playing it, so she messed about doing a jaunty syncopated version of the tune, which tinkled in the background while the two slick gentlemen had their conversation.

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Caroline remained nonplussed while Arabella did her usual overly dramatic and hyped up routine of her arrival onto the saloon floor. She used to that gushing and knew there was little she could do to stop it. Arabella was a force onto herself.

 

Caroline went up to the bar and spoke to Ralph in hushed tones, he smiled and nodded which apparently was all the answer the saloon girl expected so she turned then to observe the rest of the goings on.

 

Arabella wrapped her arm around the whore, but spoke to Caroline, "Look Caro', Aunt sally's come in to see us!" she beamed.

 

"Ain't that grand," Caroline replied, without enthusiasm.

 

Then Fortner asked Arabella to play a song, an old song. While the girl did that, performing solo, Caroline felt the girl didn't need the help - the man approached their shiny new boss. Again Caroline just watched. Wait, a second look and she knew the gentleman, it was Ben.

 

Oh she had once upon a time been introduced to Ben's full name but she forgot it. Caroline wasn't much on formalities in the saloon (actually anywhere else either). Ben was a gambler who played cards on occasion at the Star Dust. He knew his trade well too. But if he ever cheated, she never noticed and no one else called him out for it. She had stood at his table for a few games and watched the cards being played, she flirted with him, and of course she got him to buy her a few drinks too. He had never caused any trouble and seemed a true gentleman.

 

 

 

 

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Then Fortner asked Arabella to play a song, an old song. While the girl did that, performing solo, Caroline felt the girl didn't need the help - the man approached their shiny new boss. Again Caroline just watched. Wait, a second look and she knew the gentleman, it was Ben.

 

Oh she had once upon a time been introduced to Ben's full name but she forgot it. Caroline wasn't much on formalities in the saloon (actually anywhere else either). Ben was a gambler who played cards on occasion at the Star Dust. He knew his trade well too. But if he ever cheated, she never noticed and no one else called him out for it. She had stood at his table for a few games and watched the cards being played, she flirted with him, and of course she got him to buy her a few drinks too. He had never caused any trouble and seemed a true gentleman.

 

Franklin, each hand clasping a side of his open suit coat, turned and appraised the new comer -- well, at least new to him.  The man was turned out nicely, and his shoes were varnished.  Shoes were important to Franklin's mind.  One could dress up like a one-hundred dollar funeral, but if his shoes were dirty and scuffed, he looked like a bum.

 

He felt he should know the man, or know of him.

 

"You know this fella?" he asked Caroline.

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