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

A New Day - New Challenges

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He smiled.  "It's Ben Simons and I was asking about some of your plans for Kalispell and I'm sure the good voters here would like to know as well."

 

Then he gave a wide sweeping gesture to acknowledge the other people who were there.  It seemed that there were a few who were getting more interested in their conversion as some of them responded with "yeah" and "what he said."

 

Priest didn't like to be pushed, but he didn't let that break his stride.  Except for eyeing Ben Simons up and down, and chomping on his chaw, he remained genial.   But, when he was about to address Simons, that drunken old hag began blathering.

 

"They should have a whatayacallem!" yelled Sally Adams suddenly "A debate! All of them, whatayacallem, Can'idates!" she laughed. "I remember seein' Douglas and Lincoln in Freeport waaaaaay before the war. Douglas whupped his ass. Course, that's before he had that beard. Beard helped a lot, y'know. Much better with the beard."

 

"The lady has a point," Hiram agreed.  "But that's for down-the-road a spell once all the candidates get together."   And then he turned to Ben and said, "Sir, I'm preparing a platform to run on, and I will lay it out for everyone at the rally I'm holding next week down the street."  He smiled and said,  "You don't think I'm gonna steal my own thunder.  Do ya?"

 

A draft swept into the saloon as three rough toughs entered through the swinging doors.  After two steps inside, they looked at Fortner.

 

"Gentlemen," the Proprietor greeted them.  "Welcome to the Star Dust.  Step up to the bar and have a drink."

 

The men grunted and did as he said.

 

That gave Hiram his cue.  "Thanks for your interest, Mr. Simons.  I'm sure we'll talk later."  And with that, he walked over to the corner to where his reserved table was.

 

Hells-a-poppin, the old politician thought as he sat down.

 

"Three whiskies," one of the men said, after reaching into his coat and putting down some coinage.

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"Debate, you dumb bitch, it's called a debate," Caroline mumbled under her breath but the woman figured it out just then too.

 

Priest wasn't going to be rushed though. He would reveal all later was all he would promise. In that way the man was a true politician, promises a whole lot, she'd see if he actually delivered on anything. The politicians in Chicago had been crooked, the mayor of Helena had been well meaning but a bumbling fool, and the one here in Kalispell was ......well, she didn't even know who the hell that was, he was pretty much invisible. The town seemingly had been run by that one council member before he lit himself on fire.

 

Just then they got themselves a trio of new customers, rough looking lot but a customer was a customer. Fortner invited them to have a drink and they promptly bellied up to the bar. Of course Ralph was there, waiting to hear what they'd like.

 

"Three whiskies," one of the men said, after reaching into his coat and putting down some coinage.

 

"Sure nuff, comin' right up," Ralph nodded and reached for one of the cheap bottles, he was a pretty good judge of customers' taste and proclivities. He poured three shots of the powerful liquor.

 

Caroline swung into saloon girl mode too, sashaying up to the one lined up at the bar closest to her, gifting him with a bright smile, "Welcome! Have a long ride, did ya, hon?"

 

 

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"Three whiskies," one of the men said, after reaching into his coat and putting down some coinage.

 

"Sure nuff, comin' right up," Ralph nodded and reached for one of the cheap bottles, he was a pretty good judge of customers' taste and proclivities. He poured three shots of the powerful liquor.

 

Caroline swung into saloon girl mode too, sashaying up to the one lined up at the bar closest to her, gifting him with a bright smile, "Welcome! Have a long ride, did ya, hon?"

 

One of the men, the one most like a primitive Neanderthal, removed his hat off in a gesture that must have been surprising given his otherwise crude appearance.  When he did, locks of brown hair cascaded down toward his eyes.  "Wal  ma'am it's darned nice of you to ask.  We've been hell bent for..,"  He turned to one of his companions.  "Where we at?"

 

"Kalispell, you moron," he said before taking his whiskey neat.  The man's nose was so large that it was a wonder how me managed to get the glass close enough to his mouth to drink.

 

"Kalispell ma'am," the first man answered Caroline.  "We've built up a mighty thirst, too."

 

"And that ain't all," a third man muttered into his glass.
 

Fortner remained quietly occupied, winding his pocket watch and checking its time.

 

"Hey tell me, Miss," the Neanderthal began.  "Is there a lawyer around this town?  We gotta a claim we need to see 'em about.  My partner there,.,"  He nodded in the direction of his companions.  "..won a deed at a poker game in Bozeman.  We need to make sure its on-the-level."

 

Big nose spoke up.  "Well if it ain't, I'm headin' back to Bozeman so's I can run a branding iron so far up someone's ass, it'll come out of his mouth."

 

"Don't pay no attention to him ma'am, Neanderthal soothed.  (In time, she would know him as Jake Parsons)

 

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"Wal  ma'am it's darned nice of you to ask.  We've been hell bent for..,"  He turned to one of his companions.  "Where we at?"

 

An amused Caroline was about to answer but the man's pardner did it first. Yep, definitely not locals. No matter to the saloon girl, customers were customers. Nor did their looks enter into it. Sure handsome men were easier on the eyes but the main thing was did they have money to spend.

 

"Well, then you gents came to the right place, this here is Kalispell's best saloon," Caroline assured them. Of course it was the town's ONLY saloon but she wasn't going to mention that.

 

They claimed they had built up a powerful thirst, more good news. Caroline nodded, "Big strong fellas like you, one shot ain't gonna do it then."

 

They came for more than drinks though, apparently they were looking for.......of all things a lawyer! Here she was expecting them to ask about whores.

 

"Ummm, well yeah of course....we got lawyers. I might even be able ta give you a name but my throat is dry right now. Maybe a gentleman could buy me a drink here?" Caroline did her pitch.

 

One of the trio was quite grumpy but....

 

"Don't pay no attention to him ma'am, Neanderthal soothed.

 

She zeroed in on this one, he was the most likely target, "Oh I don't. I only pay attention to those who treat me nice. You know buy me a drink?"  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ben, for his part, was happy just to step back and watch the goings on.  It was too bad he couldn't get more out of Priest and his plans for Kalispell but that was the way it was especially with men who had something to hide.  Whatever Priest was hiding and why he wasn't forthcoming with his ideas, was a mystery.  Most politicians he knew would be trying to drum up votes any time they could.

 

As for the three strangers, Ben was half a mind to go and get the Marshal or to at least let him know about what was going on at the saloon.  However, he didn't want to cause any trouble, especially if they were only passing through.

 

After getting another whiskey from Ralph, he decided to follow Priest's lead and head for a table.  Seeing someone he was acquainted with sitting over in one of the corners of the room, Ben headed over there to engage the man in a conversation while waiting to see what would happen next.

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Arabella did her job, and kept on playing a jaunty tune in the background to the scene that was unfolding in the saloon behind her. Nothing too loud, she made it as easy as possible for Caroline to do her job, jolly music to put the drinkers in a good mood, but nothing so deafening she had to shout over. It was always a pleasure to hear her plying her craft so skilfully: like in the same way that you could stand for ages watching Mrs Pike making a pie, or Mr Ryker creating something out of wood, or Miriam sewing a garment so swiftly but accurately. Oh, it was just darlin' to watch a master at work. 

 

She noticed out of the corner of her eye Mr Simons move away to another table and even Sally Adams sauntered over to the men who had come in earlier. There was something about these three newcomers that gave her that feeling she got just before someone threw a punch or a bottle or fired a shot on a rowdy Saturday night. She looked down at her fingers on the ivory piano keys, wondering if she could actually see the hairs standing up on the back of her hands.

 

 

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"Don't pay no attention to him ma'am, Neanderthal soothed.

 

She zeroed in on this one, he was the most likely target, "Oh I don't. I only pay attention to those who treat me nice. You know buy me a drink?"  

 

"The lady wants a drink, you moron!" his big-nosed companion interrupted.  "Ain't you got no sense?"

 

Jake Parsons didn't seem to mind.  It was clear that the men had a rough banter not intended for those with thin skin. 

 

"Ah shut the hell up," Jake responded.  Then, "Barkeep!  A drink for the lady."

 

The men were The Three J's.   Jake Parsons, Jasper Ridell (the man with the big nose), and, finally, Jim Craven.  This was what they were called by friends and enemies alike.  Sometimes cowpokes, sometimes rustlers, sometimes troublemakers, often involved with promiscuous gun play, and always dangerous.

 

More money hit the bar and it kept Ralph busy.

 

Frank Fortner was glad when Ben Simons headed for his own table.  There was something about the man that kept him on edge.  What was he up to?  It was a question that Frank turned over and over in his mind.

 

At that moment, Arabella's play went from mezzo-forte to fortissimo.

 

Oh for Chrissakes! thought her boss.  So now he'd have to shout to the cowpokes.

 

"Did I hear one of you ask for a lawyer?"

 

Jasper turned to him in a confrontational manner ... that was his normal attitude.  "Yeah, Mister.  What's it to you?" 

 

Frank smiled and held up his palms.  "Just lettin' you know that the man sitting over there," he pointed to Hiram Priest.  "He's a lawyer.  I hear tell he's even been a judge."

 

The Three J's looked at each other, took their glasses with them and headed to where Priest was sitting.

 

"Hey Bartender!" Jake called over his shoulder.  "Make sure the lady gets all the hooch she wants."

 

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"The lady wants a drink, you moron!" his big-nosed companion interrupted.  "Ain't you got no sense?"

 

"Ah shut the hell up," Jake responded.  Then, "Barkeep!  A drink for the lady."

 

"Sure, you got it," Ralph nodded and reached down for a bottle under the shelf then poured a shotglass for Caroline.

 

"Aww, thanks mister," Caroline slugged it down like it was water.  (Which it was except for the caramel coloring.)

 

The trio had wanted the services of a lawyer which Caroline couldn't help them with but her boss stepped in to steer them over to their newest mayoral candidate.

 

"Hey Bartender!" Jake called over his shoulder.  "Make sure the lady gets all the hooch she wants."

 

Ralph nodded then when Jake turned back to face Priest and he and Caroline exchanged knowing smirks. She'd milk that but good.

 

 

 

 

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[OOC: Arabella is just still playing her piano... quietly!]

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"Hey!  You Mr. Priest?" Jake asked the dignified sage who was seated at his reserved table.  "We need your help 'bout something."  He held out a rumpled document.

 

Hiram looked up at the three toughs while slowly chewing his chaw.  "Sure.  Why don't you fellas sit down so we can talk about it?"  He was thankful for the piano music courtesy of Arabella.  It was sure pretty, plus it supplied some needed background cover.

 

The men pulled out chairs and each sat around, planting their elbows on the semi-polished wood. 

 

Jim Craven was impatient.  "Well show him the damned thing," he growed at Jake, who slid the document across to Priest.  "These fellas charge by the goddamned minute."

 

Once he was ready, Priest held the paper up and read it, silently.   It wasn't a deed or a promissory note, or even a laundry ticket.   It was a narrative of what had happened a few days earlier at the Potee homestead.  One of the men, evidently, had enough schooling to construct a reasonably cogent report.

 

"We got to the Potee place bout supper hour.  Their tweren't nobody there cept his wife.  She was a LOOKER so why the  Hell would she be with an idgit like Potee?"  Priest looked up at the three, eager, sets of eyes, and slowly shook his head.  Where did Fortner dig these guys up? 

 

The story continued.

 

"He came outta his cabin. His wife was standin behind him and they got some little girl who was a'runnin around the place.  Jake told 'em that Potee gotta get off the land before the snow flies, but Potee tweren't having none of it.  He as much told us to go to Hell.  We told him it would be better for his health if'n he left.  No dice.  We told him that we were givin' him fair warning."  Then, on the last line,  "When do we get paid?"

 

Priest spoke up in a lawyerish tone of voice.  "You gentlemen have been taken.  This isn't a bonafide  deed.  It's nothing of the sort.  First of all, it hasn't even been notarized."

 

The men were slacked-mouthed, and they played their parts well.

 

"I told you we couldn't a trusted that slimy varmint!" barked Jake to Jasper.  "Sheeeit!  The best part of you ran down your mamma's leg!"

 

Jasper growled, "You leave my mama outta this!"

 

"Calm down!  We've had enough of that kind of talk in the past few days to last a year.  Now I'll help you out, so listen."    After that, the men huddled closer because Priest lowered his voice considerably.

 

"First thing you're going to do is take this paper and burn the thing, just like you would a worthless piece of paper.  Then camp out to the north of town 'about three miles, and I'll send someone with your money.  But that's just the first part.  Next, you're gonna head back out to Potee's place and rough him up a bit.  Don't, for chrissakes, kill him, just knock his teeth out. Have your horses tear-up his pea-patch or whatever the hell he has growing.  Got it?"

 

The men rose and one of them took off his hat and smacked the other with it.  "No goddamn good!  You oughta tell God you need a new brain."

 

They then sauntered back to the bar to where Caroline lounged, truly a sight for sore eyes.

 

"Another whiskey"  Jake asked  Ralph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ralph and Caroline watched the goings on, the saloon girl on her second shot glass full, and the two of them exchanged almost whispers, no one else could hear what they were saying. Once when Arabella glanced in her direction, Caroline flashed a smile her way. She always tried to be encouraging for the young teen, they were not blood related of course but to Caroline's way of thinking they were family. The kid sister she never had.

 

Oh the cowboys had finished their little meetin' with Priest, it seemingly did not go all that smoothly. Not that Caroline cared one way or the other, none of her business. She smiled at the man who planted himself at the bar.

 

"Another whiskey"  Jake asked  Ralph.

 

Ralph nodded, "Sure......oh you owe for two other whiskeys.......well three now with this one. That'll be three bits."

 

ooc: Many 1870s saloons were known as two bit or one bit saloons. Two bits was a quarter. One bit was twelve and a half cents. No one really used halves though instead you would buy a whiskey for a quarter and the bartender would give you back a dime. It was understood by both customer and bartender, one could then purchase a second whiskey with that dime.

So if Jake pays with two quarters now, he will get a dime back and that would then entitle him to spend that on another whiskey.

This is how the Star Dust Saloon operates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oh the cowboys had finished their little meetin' with Priest, it seemingly did not go all that smoothly. Not that Caroline cared one way or the other, none of her business. She smiled at the man who planted himself at the bar.

 

"Another whiskey"  Jake asked  Ralph.

 

Ralph nodded, "Sure......oh you owe for two other whiskeys.......well three now with this one. That'll be three bits."

 

Jake fished in his pocket and came up with a quarter.  He grunted, then jabbed Jim in the ribs wit his elbow.

 

"Gimme a quarter," he demanded.   Surprisingly, the tough customer who was his companion, slapped a quarter of his own on the bar and slide it over to Jake, who slid them both in Ralph's direction.

 

With the accounts settled, he waited for his next drink and, while he did, he observed Caroline who stood close by.

 

"I swear, Miss, but what's a looker like you doin' in a dump like this?"  He looked around the saloon.  "I guess it ain't so bad, but you look like you could be in one of them emporiums like they got in Dodge City."

 

"Don't listen to him, Ma'am, said Jasper from his spot down the bar.  "Sheeit!  He don't know from Adam 'bout high class places."

 

Jake spun on him. "Shut your yap, Jasper, or I'll kick your ass all the way back to Bozeman."

 

Franklin, who'd heard the exchange, stepped forward.  "Keep it clean, gents."

 

The J's looked at each other, and quieted.  "Yeah Boss," Jasper said.

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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ooc:  Sorry, I missed this. I thought this thread was waiting on someone else!

 

IC:

"I swear, Miss, but what's a looker like you doin' in a dump like this?"  the man looked around the saloon. 

 

"Dump? This ain't no dump," Caroline begged to differ.

 

"I guess it ain't so bad, but you look like you could be in one of them emporiums like they got in Dodge City."

 

"You don't say?" Caroline was used to just letting customers have their say as long as they didn't get personal or nasty. It was all just part of the job.

 

"Don't listen to him, Ma'am, said Jasper from his spot down the bar.  "Sheeit!  He don't know from Adam 'bout high class places."

 

Jake spun on him. "Shut your yap, Jasper, or I'll kick your ass all the way back to Bozeman."

 

Franklin, who'd heard the exchange, stepped forward.  "Keep it clean, gents."

 

The J's looked at each other, and quieted.  "Yeah Boss," Jasper said.

 

Caroline glanced then to Fortner not the three jaspers, "Boss huh? So these gents work for you? What exact kinda work do they do for ya if I might be so curious?"

 

 

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Franklin, who'd heard the exchange, stepped forward.  "Keep it clean, gents."

 

The J's looked at each other, and quieted.  "Yeah Boss," Jasper said.

 

Caroline glanced then to Fortner not the three jaspers, "Boss huh? So these gents work for you? What exact kinda work do they do for ya if I might be so curious?"
 

Quick!  Damned quick, thought Fortner of Caroline's wit.  "Hell no," he assured her.  "These are  cowpokes.  I don't know if I could use them for much of anything except maybe to swamp out the saloon or run errands."  

 

It was a close call.

 

Then Jasper spoke up, trying to save the day.  "Nah.  He ain't my boss .. I mean, I was figuring he was YOUR boss."

 

Jim Craven, the smartest of the three, bolted back his drink and then said, "Come on, boys.  We got something we have to do.  We can't be jawing here all day."

 

Jasper and Jake nodded.  They all gathered their hats, slammed them on their heads and ambled out of the place.  It would turn out to be a fortunate exit for Franklin Fortner.

 

"Well Caroline."  Fortner started.  "Do you go by any other name, like Carrie or anything like that? "  To him, Caroline was about two syllables too many and, while a nice name, was a bit stuffy and formal. 

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Jim Craven, the smartest of the three, bolted back his drink and then said, "Come on, boys.  We got something we have to do.  We can't be jawing here all day."

 

Jasper and Jake nodded.  They all gathered their hats, slammed them on their heads and ambled out of the place.  It would turn out to be a fortunate exit for Franklin Fortner.

 

As soon as Fortner's three stooges left the place, Arabella loosened up. Working in a place like the Stardust, you developed a sort of sixth sense for trouble, and boy had those three smelled like trouble! After playing mechanically and quietly for the duration of their visit, she now burst into a rousing plinking chorus of Dixie on the ivory keys and shouted, with heavy irony, "Hey, Caroline! Caroline! Listen, I'm playin' your favourite!" She knew that Caroline was a 'John Brown's Body' gal through and through.

 

"Well Caroline."  Fortner started.  "Do you go by any other name, like Carrie or anything like that? "  To him, Caroline was about two syllables too many and, while a nice name, was a bit stuffy and formal. 

 

Within seconds Arabella had twiddled round in her seat and leaped of, interspersing herself between the saloon owner and its star singer.

 

"That's a good idea!" she informed Fortner, wagging a finger to his long nose. "Like me, I got lotsa nicknames: some folks call me Arabella, or Ara' or 'Bella or Miss Mudd, or Muddy, or Mugwump, but some fellers call me Reb, or Sessesh, and my dear old Daddy, he called me Sump. But my favorite was this one feller, he come in here one night and we was soooooooo busy, and ever' feller was tryin' to get my attention to get a drink and this one feller, he says 'hey you, Bonny Blue Flag, what does a man need to do to get a drink round here' and I says 'just keep on callin' me that, mister' and I looked after that old feller good all night, believe you me Mr Fortner. Bonny Blue Flag, that just about tickled me pink!" she babbled on.

 

It was like the removal of those three unpleasant hombres had released a cork and she was fizzing out like a bottle of champagne.

 

"Now Caroline, we could call you..." she stared at the blonde with a frown of concentration for a few seconds, and then shook her head "Nope! She's just Caroline!" Then another thought struck the little Virginian. 

 

"Anyhow, what's your nickname, Mr. Fortner?" she asked, cheekily. 

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Hell no," the man assured her.  "These are  cowpokes.  I don't know if I could use them for much of anything except maybe to swamp out the saloon or run errands."  

 

"Arabella swamps out the saloon, ya know," Caroline pointed that little fact out and she could not imagine why you'd want three men to run some silly errand. Well, lest it was to bushwhack someone on a road?

 

The men denied the connection also but were quick to end their little visit as if they couldn't wait to clear the joint. Soon they were gone and just as fast the piano music got lively. Ara was playing Dixie, deliberately trying to get her goat. She ignored the goofy girl. Had it been somebody else trying that though she would have reacted a whole lot more vehemently.

 

"Well Caroline."  Fortner started.  "Do you go by any other name, like Carrie or anything like that? " 

 

The vivacious saloon gal looked up at him rather bemused.

 

"Um, actually..."  and that was as far as she got with her attempted answer.

 

The flood that was Arabella was now in full flow.

 

"That's a good idea!" she informed Fortner, wagging a finger to his long nose. "Like me, I got lotsa nicknames: some folks call me Arabella, or Ara' or 'Bella or Miss Mudd, or Muddy, or Mugwump, but some fellers call me Reb, or Sessesh, and my dear old Daddy, he called me Sump. But my favorite was this one feller, he come in here one night and we was soooooooo busy, and ever' feller was tryin' to get my attention to get a drink and this one feller, he says 'hey you, Bonny Blue Flag, what does a man need to do to get a drink round here' and I says 'just keep on callin' me that, mister' and I looked after that old feller good all night, believe you me Mr Fortner. Bonny Blue Flag, that just about tickled me pink!"

 

That was quite the torrent, even for Ara. Caroline waited patiently though for her chance - hopefully.

 

"Now Caroline, we could call you..." Ara stared at the blonde with a frown of concentration for a few seconds, and then shook her head "Nope! She's just Caroline!"

 

Caroline decided she had her chance, better take it, "I happen to think Caroline is a real pretty name, boss. Don't you?"

 

"Anyhow, what's your nickname, Mr. Fortner?" Arabella asked, cheekily. 

 

 

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"Well Caroline."  Fortner started.  "Do you go by any other name, like Carrie or anything like that? "  To him, Caroline was about two syllables too many and, while a nice name, was a bit stuffy and formal. 

 

It was Arabella's time to shine.  For the past hour or so, she'd kept busy delighting the patron's with a torrent of Americana - finally ending with Dixie.  It was done well and most of them appreciated its liveliness, though a couple of men, hardened Union veterans grimaced into their drink glasses and tried to remember the faces and names of comrades they'd buried.

 

Franklin Fortner was developing a feeling of brotherly affection and protection for Arabella.  She reminded him of his dead sister and it made his heart rejoice.  God help the man who ever attempted to hurt her or trifle with her feelings.  He had the means to make their lives miserable.

 

It was Caroline, who had his immediate attention.  "Well Caroline."  Fortner started.  "Do you go by any other name, like Carrie or anything like that? " 

 

The vivacious saloon gal looked up at him rather bemused.

 

"Um, actually..."  and that was as far as she got with her attempted answer.

 

The little eavesdropper came running up to them.

 

"That's a good idea!" she informed Fortner, wagging a finger to his long nose. "Like me, I got lotsa nicknames: some folks call me Arabella, or Ara' or 'Bella or Miss Mudd, or Muddy, or Mugwump, but some fellers call me Reb, or Sessesh, and my dear old Daddy, he called me Sump. But my favorite was this one feller, he come in here one night and we was soooooooo busy, and ever' feller was tryin' to get my attention to get a drink and this one feller, he says 'hey you, Bonny Blue Flag, what does a man need to do to get a drink round here' and I says 'just keep on callin' me that, mister' and I looked after that old feller good all night, believe you me Mr Fortner. Bonny Blue Flag, that just about tickled me pink!"

 

The stream of words bubbled up like a overflow from a cistern.

 

"Now Caroline, we could call you..." Ara stared at the blonde with a frown of concentration for a few seconds, and then shook her head "Nope! She's just Caroline!"

 

Caroline decided she had her chance, better take it, "I happen to think Caroline is a real pretty name, boss. Don't you?"

 

"It's lovely," he agreed.  "I was just asking about it, wondering if you'd rather be called anything else?

 

"Anyhow, what's your nickname, Mr. Fortner?" Arabella asked, cheekily. 

 

It was Fortner's turn to be silly, "A person can call me whatever they want to.  Just don't call me late for supper."  Then he turned to Arabella.  "Hey!  I've got a good nickname for you, Arabella," Frank began with a twinkle in his eye.  "How about Chatterbox? "

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Outside the doors of the saloon stood Horace Potee.  He'd been Hellbent to go there, but once there, he stopped on the boardwalk, and reconsidered.

 

"You'll lose everything, Horace!" his wife shouted at him.  Her words were like sword points, each one burrowing into this flesh.  "And for what?"  She continued.  "This shack? This piece of ground?  Look.  We can start over.  If this place goes bust we can always move on.  But going into Kalispell to gamble all we have, all our seed money for next year, you're being a fool!  You're just pissing it away."

 

His hands were clammy, and he wiped them on his overalls.  When he looked down on them, he saw that they were still caked with soil from their homestead.  In his pockets were the one-hundred and twenty dollars he'd saved from his last year's harvest.  He needed it to buy seed and supplies for next year's planting.  But what if he could double his money?  Then their troubles would be over, at least for awhile.  The wolf at the door would be at bay, at least for a year or two. 

 

He had to take the chance, and with that, he pushed through the doors and entered the Star Dust.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Hiram Priest observed the stranger who entered the saloon from over the top of his spectacles.  He didn't know the face, so he returned to his game of solitaire.

 

Horace tried to act nonchalantly, but it was difficult.  Everyone looked far more turned-out then he did.  There was no one else dressed in farmery, just him.  He headed to the bar and gripped the edge of it while he ordered.  "I'll take a whisky," he ordered before digging in his pocket for a quarter.

 

Fortner eyed the man from head to toe, then shrugged.  "You know this guy?" he whispered to Caroline.


 

 

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"Anyhow, what's your nickname, Mr. Fortner?" Arabella asked, cheekily. 

 

It was Fortner's turn to be silly, "A person can call me whatever they want to.  Just don't call me late for supper."

 

Arabella screwed up her face and held her nose "Phweweee! That's a stinker, Mr. F." she cried. 

 

Then he turned to Arabella.  "Hey!  I've got a good nickname for you, Arabella," Frank began with a twinkle in his eye.  "How about Chatterbox? "

 

"Hey, I ain't a chatterbox, am I Cara'?" She didn't give Caroline a chance to reply.

 

"Onct upon a time, I used to run on a little, but then one day Mr Pettigrew said to me, he's sort o' my mentor see, he's groomin' me fer higher things, he says 'Miss Mudd, you are a vivacious and talented young woman, if a little rough around the edges, and one day you may well become the proverbial ugly duckling who blossoms into a beautiful swan, but first you must learn to speak less and listen more to what others have to say' and ever since that day I ain't talked half as much as I used to an' I always stop and listen to what other folks got to say even though it ain't usually half as interestin' as what I got to say and anyhow I gotta run along now and peel some spuds fer Cookie, see ya!"

 

She gave them a little wave goodbye and set off to the kitchen, but not before saying a cheery hello to Mr Potee, who was so caked in brown muck that he really did look like a potty, and spying a glimpse of a worried looking Mrs Potee, who she knew from church, standing quivering outside the swing doors.

 

Arabella swiftly changed course and popped her head out into the street.

 

"Oh, Mrs Potee, are you stood standin' out there waitin' fer Mr. P.?" she asked concerned - the woman looked at her wits' end. "Why don't you come round the back and wait in the kitchen while I does ma chores? We can have a nice chat and I'll make you a nice cup of tea and you can take the weight of your dawgs." she offered, for she was a kindly girl at heart.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

 

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Caroline decided she had her chance, better take it, "I happen to think Caroline is a real pretty name, boss. Don't you?"

 

"It's lovely," Fortner agreed.  "I was just asking about it, wondering if you'd rather be called anything else?"

 

"No, not really," Caroline shrugged, "Unless you wanna call me something else, yer the boss."

 

***

Some man now came in, she didn't know him but they'd had a bunch of strangers already this day.  If she had to guess, the saloon girl figured him for a farmer though given his clothing and mud caked shoes.

 

The jasper headed to the bar and gripped the edge of it while he ordered.  "I'll take a whisky," he ordered before digging in his pocket for a quarter.

 

"Comin' right up, mister," Ralph replied and got right on it.

 

Fortner eyed the man from head to toe, then shrugged.  "You know this guy?" he whispered to Caroline.

 

Caroline turned her face away from the newcomer so only Fortner could see her, "Nope, I'm pretty sure he ain't come in here before...less it was before I got the job."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Then he turned to Arabella.  "Hey!  I've got a good nickname for you, Arabella," Frank began with a twinkle in his eye.  "How about Chatterbox? "

 

"Hey, I ain't a chatterbox, am I Cara'?" She didn't give Caroline a chance to reply.

 

"Once upon a time, I used to run on a little, but then one day Mr Pettigrew said to me, he's sort o' my mentor see, he's groomin' me fer higher things, he says 'Miss Mudd, you are a vivacious and talented young woman, if a little rough around the edges, and one day you may well become the proverbial ugly duckling who blossoms into a beautiful swan, but first you must learn to speak less and listen more to what others have to say' and ever since that day I ain't talked half as much as I used to an' I always stop and listen to what other folks got to say even though it ain't usually half as interestin' as what I got to say and anyhow I gotta run along now and peel some spuds fer Cookie, see ya!"

 

Frank nodded wearily; he was exhausted.  How that girl runs on!

 

She gave them a little wave goodbye and set off to the kitchen, but not before saying a cheery hello to Mr Potee, who was so caked in brown muck that he really did look like a potty, and spying a glimpse of a worried looking Mrs Potee, who she knew from church, standing quivering outside the swing doors.

 

Horace Potee didn't acknowledge her.  His mind was elsewhere, and so where his manners.

 

Arabella swiftly changed course and popped her head out into the street.

 

Mrs. Potee, who'd been wringing her hands, gasped.  She hated to be startled.  Oh. It's that Anabel girl!  God!  This is the last thing I need, she thought, dismally. 

 

"Oh, Why don't you come round the back and wait in the kitchen while I does ma chores? We can have a nice chat and I'll make you a nice cup of tea and you can take the weight of your dawgs." she offered, for she was a kindly girl at heart.

 

In truth, it sounded like a nice invitation, and while she  would NEVER grace the threshold of a saloon, a chat with the girl she knew from church might calm her.  It would also give her an opportunity to caution her about employment in Satan's den.

 

"That's kindly of you, my dear," answered Maude.  "That's sounds lovely.  I'll walk around." 

 

Back in the Star Dust, Caroline and Frank were feeling each other out, establishing some sort of rapport.  Frank was anxious to get along with the staff.   In time, he would need all the allies he could handle.

 

Caroline lounged at the bar with in a pose of comfort, as though she was to the saloon, born.

 

Some man now came in, she didn't know him but they'd had a bunch of strangers already this day.  If she had to guess, the saloon girl figured him for a farmer though given his clothing and mud caked shoes.

 

The jasper headed to the bar and gripped the edge of it while he ordered.  "I'll take a whisky," he ordered before digging in his pocket for a quarter.

 

"Comin' right up, mister," Ralph replied and got right on it.

 

Fortner eyed the man from head to toe, then shrugged.  "You know this guy?" he whispered to Caroline.

 

Caroline turned her face away from the newcomer so only Fortner could see her, "Nope, I'm pretty sure he ain't come in here before...less it was before I got the job."

 

Frank nodded while keeping his eyes on the fellow.  He had a look of desperation, a look that could spell trouble.  Not one to be shy, Frank sidled closer to him.

 

"Howdy stranger," he said.  "Welcome to the Star Dust."

 

Horace was instantly suspicious.  In his World, no one peddled soft soap without some ulterior motive.  And since he'd been the victim of swindles and had been hoodwinked by city slickers before, and this man sure looked like a slicker, his answer was guarded.

 

"Tolerable," Horace answered.  "Ah.. you work here?"

 

Frank straighten and griped the lapels of his coat at a spot a bit below his chin.  "I'm the new owner of the Star Dust, and it's my aim to get to know all our customers."  He smiled disarmingly.  "I'm Frank Fortner."

 

Horace looked at the man so well turned-out, and sadly remember his grubby work clothes.  He did everything but offer an outright apology.  If only he'd listened to Maude's advice about his shabby appearance before leaving for town!

 

"I'm sorry," he said as he stood back and pointed to his soiled work clothes.  "I come from my farm in a hurry and ..well .. I had a mighty thirst."

 

"No need to apologize." Frank hastened to assure the man.  "We welcome anyone who puts their money down for a whisky.  Hell, if we only served liquor to men in their Sunday best, we'd be out of business in a hurry.  Isn't that right, Ralph?"

 

Horace offered a quick, half-hearted smile.  "Thanks Mister Fortner,"  he answered.  "My name's Horace Potee.  I have a place north of town, me and the wife and my girl."

 

Fortner's eyes froze, as did his smile.  His heart pounded, thud - thud, in his chest.  It couldn't have been more perfect than if it'd been written in a play.  So this was the stubborn sod buster named Potee, their mark.  Beautiful!  Just beautiful!

 

"Welcome to Kalispell's best watering hole, Mr. Potee!" Frank said grandly, and quickly heard Hiram Priest choke from his table in the corner.  "You have to meet our nightingale, Miss Caroline!  The place wouldn't be the place it is without her."

 

"Howdy, Ma'am," Horace managed.  He didn't know anything about women.  He'd been married for 20 years, and he was quite flustered.

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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By taking a more direct route through the Saloon building, Arabella got to the kitchen quicker than Mrs Potee, of course, and by the time there was a timid knock on the back door she had already gotten the kettle on the range. 

 

"Oh just come in, Mrs Potee, you don't have to knock none!" she chirruped happily as she opened the door to the poor woman. "I got the kettle on, don't mind me if I sit'n peel these spuds. Say, do you want some warmed through corn pone 'n' chitlins? There's only me and Mammy Cookie'll eat it, rest of these yankees here don't understand it." she rattled on, bringing over a bowl of water, a sharp knife and a sack of potatoes. 

 

She took one out to start work on.

 

"Hey, this looks muddier than Mister Potee!" she smiled "... how come he's in here anyhow, Mrs P? He don't normally come in here much, and I ain't just sayin' that because that's what we always tell fellers' wives, cause he really doesn't!" she put the knife and half-peeled tuber down on the table, put one hand on her heart and the other  up in front of her, like she was taking the oath in court. "May my Mother burn in Hell if I tell a lie!" 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Her boss now took up conversation with the sod buster so Caroline just leaned against the bar and listened. When Fortner asked Ralph for affirmation about one of his remarks the bartender had a quick response, "Yessir."

 

Caroline had to give it to Fortner, he was a smooth one, very friendly, just one of the folks sort of way about him. Whether that was all an act, she couldn't tell.........yet. Besides even if it was, so what? She was guilty of the same, constantly having to pretend she liked sometimes dirty, ugly, even unpleasant customers and keeping up that smile of hers. It was the business both she and Fortner were in.

 

"Welcome to Kalispell's best watering hole, Mr. Potee!" Frank said grandly, and quickly heard Hiram Priest choke from his table in the corner.  "You have to meet our nightingale, Miss Caroline!  The place wouldn't be the place it is without her."

 

Oops, that was her cue, Caroline's light up a room smile instantly reappeared as she stopped leaning against the bar.

 

"Howdy, Ma'am," Horace managed. 

 

"And howdy to you, Mr. Potee. My boss is too kind," Caroline started.

 

"Yeah, don't you worry about yer outfit, yer a workin' man, you get some dirt on ya. We don't care around here as long as yer money is good," she added, those big eyes of hers solely focused on his as if he was the only person in the whole joint, "We're a friendly bunch, hon."

 

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Maude Potee made her way along the boardwalk, then took a left turn into the dusty alley between the Star Dust and the grain & feed store.  She lifted the hem of her properly dark and dour dress. 

 

Oh God, she thought.  What if a Church member saw her? 

 

It was hot and the smell of horses and manure radiated upward from the dirt, but she made it to the back door of the saloon without upchucking.  She sniffed and the scent of urine struck her as she passed were saloon patrons relieved themselves when the outhouses were either not functioning or occupied.  There was a block of wood against the back wall of the saloon where people could step up and be able to enter through the door which was about two feet off the ground.

 

She knocked tentatively.

 

"Oh just come in, Mrs Potee, you don't have to knock none!"

 

Maude issued a thankful prayer.  Thank the Lord it's Annabell ... er ... Andrea? 

 

"I got the kettle on, don't mind me if I sit'n peel these spuds. Say, do you want some warmed through corn pone 'n' chitlins? There's only me and Mammy Cookie'll eat it, rest of these yankees here don't understand it." she rattled on, bringing over a bowl of water, a sharp knife and a sack of potatoes. 

 

"Thank you, my dear," Maude said as she pulled a wooden chair from the table and sat down on it.  "This heat can be so cruel!  Especially to women who must stay modestly dressed."  She fanned herself with her hand.  "Oh, and thank you, no.  I have no appetite today but I'll take some water if there is any to be had."

 

The young woman began whittling away on the potatoes like butcher attacks a side of beef.  At least that was Maude's opinion.

 

"Hey, this looks muddier than Mister Potee!" Arabella began.

 

Maude put her hand to her forehead as if pained.  "How nice of you to observe," she managed, before the girl spouted more.

 

"... how come he's in here anyhow, Mrs P? He don't normally come in here much, and I ain't just sayin' that because that's what we always tell fellers' wives, cause he really doesn't!" she put the knife and half-peeled tuber down on the table, put one hand on her heart and the other  up in front of her, like she was taking the oath in court. "May my Mother burn in Hell if I tell a lie!" 

 

"The Lord is all merciful, my dear," Maude replied, comfortable in the topic.  "All we must do is confess our sins, and the way will be opened to us."   She fanned some more.  "I'm afraid that Mr. Potee (she never referred to him as Horace when not with blood family) has been bitten by the gambling bug.  I tried everything to dissuade  him, but alas.  It is the ruination of many a good man.  That, and demon liquor.  Honestly, they should close every distillery in the Country."

 

Her trembling fingers went to her mouth.  "I do hope he will be all right."

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"Welcome to Kalispell's best watering hole, Mr. Potee!" Frank said grandly, and quickly heard Hiram Priest choke from his table in the corner.  "You have to meet our nightingale, Miss Caroline!  The place wouldn't be the place it is without her."

 

Oops, that was her cue, Caroline's light up a room smile instantly reappeared as she stopped leaning against the bar.

 

"Howdy, Ma'am," Horace managed. 

 

"And howdy to you, Mr. Potee. My boss is too kind," Caroline started.
 

Frank, smiling, waved her off as if saying, "Oh please!"

 

"Yeah, don't you worry about yer outfit, yer a workin' man, you get some dirt on ya. We don't care around here as long as yer money is good," she added, those big eyes of hers solely focused on his as if he was the only person in the whole joint, "We're a friendly bunch, hon."

 

Horace looked at the beautiful and curvy woman, and his heart began to thump hard in his chest.  He was always uneasy around women who looked like they possessed magical, erotic powers, as if they knew how to make a man feel better than anyone else in the World.  

 

He swallowed hard.  "Thankee, Miss," Horace said instinctively, and then took off his hat and held it down at his side.  As he looked at her, he compared the luscious woman and his dear wife, Maude.  The contrast couldn't be great without them being from a different animal group.  These observations happened in a split second.  "That's awful nice to say."  And with his left hand he reached for his drink on the bar, while his right hand moved his hat in front of his crotch.

 

Frank was watching his prey carefully, like a lion in the thicket, and while Potee was guzzling his drink, Frank slipped to the far side of Caroline and whispered.  "Be real nice to this one."

 


 

 

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"Thank you, my dear," Maude said as she pulled a wooden chair from the table and sat down on it. "This heat can be so cruel!  Especially to women who must stay modestly dressed."  She fanned herself with her hand.  

 

"Oh this heat ain't nuthin compared to Virginia!" Arabella had to go one better. "Mind'ya, when I lived there, we didn't have too many clothes betwixt us all, so that kept things cool. An' anyhow, since I got buried in all that snow before Christmas, I ain't felt properly warm since. Always cold as the grave!" she wittered on.

 

"Oh, and thank you, no.  I have no appetite today but I'll take some water if there is any to be had."

 

Arabella grinned as this gave her an opportunity to say her favourite tee-totalling saying, "Water Bright is my One delight!", as she fetched a glass of 'Adam's Ale' for the unattractive and much put upon lady. 

 

There was some talk of Mr Potee, his similarity to a potato, and his reason for being in the saloon at the moment.

 

"The Lord is all merciful, my dear," Maude replied, comfortable in the topic.  "All we must do is confess our sins, and the way will be opened to us."  

 

"Oh, I just don't bother sinning in the first place!" Arabella interjected, but it seemed that Maude wanted to get something off her chest. 

 

She fanned some more.  "I'm afraid that Mr. Potee (she never referred to him as Horace when not with blood family) has been bitten by the gambling bug.  I tried everything to dissuade  him, but alas.  It is the ruination of many a good man.  That, and demon liquor.  Honestly, they should close every distillery in the Country."

 

Arabella gasped "OH NO! Not gambling?! Oh, Mrs P. that's the worst thing. All the card games round here are fixed! The fellers got so many Aces stuffed up their sleeves they can't bend their arms, and whenever one sneezes a Royal Flush drops out their trouser leg! I had a friendly game of Happy Families with Mr Crabbe the other day and he'd got Mrs Bun the Baker's Wife shoved down the front of his trousers! I mean, you wouldn't wanna eat her loaves after where she's been a hidin'!" she declared.

 

Her trembling fingers went to her mouth.  "I do hope he will be all right."

 

"Yeah, well... sometimes hope ain't enough. We should pray!" Mrs Potee's fellow church-going nut proposed, and Arabella put down the potato and knife and clambered onto her knees on the kitchen floor, closed her eyes and clasped her hands.

 

"Oh Lord God in Heaven and your son Jesus Christ the Lord! Hear the prayer of your two wretched daughters, Maude Potee and Arabella Sumter Mudd. Yes, it's me again. We beg your help, Oh Lord to save a wretched sinner, Mr Potee, whose first name I don't know, but you do cause you know everything. Anyhow, he is in an awful fix, he has fallen by the wayside, he has obeyed the wrong command, in short, he's took to drink and gambling. Please, please, please God, stop him doin' these awful things, that he may return to the bosoms of his wife and little girl, an' I don't mean them kind of bosoms, and I lost my train of thought there but please, please God, at least make them card sharps fumble up their nasty tricks, like Mr Carbbe did, when Mrs Bun gave him that there paper cut. Erm..." she opened one eye and looked at Mrs Potee:

 

"You got anything you wanna add, while he's listening?"

 

@Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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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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