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    • Justus kept a close eye on the man as he approached, reassured by the fact that he was being allowed to approach, and that there was no sign of aggression.  He stopped a few feet away.   "Evenin', sir."  Justus nodded with an easy grin, relieved that it seemed this was a friendly bunch.  Most men on drives were, but Justus had learned young that it was best to assume the worst, then be happily surprised.   "Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.   "Thank ya, sir, I might do just that."  While he didn't want to seem too eager, there was no denying that he was grateful for the offer.   "You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.   "Yes, sir, I'm alone."  Swinging into the saddle, Justus patted Mule on the neck, then fell into pace beside the man.  "I do appreciate this, sir, I'll work for it, sir, help th' cookie with dishes or some'at."  A thankless job, but it wouldn't do him any harm, and he wouldn't feel so much like mooching.   "Oh, m' name's Justus Wheeler, sir.  I'm headed north, nowhere in particular."   @Flip
    • Mature Content:  Might well be violence.   With: Turk Flagg, Caroline, and who knows else Location: Star Dust Saloon When: Sept/ 1876 Time of Day: Early evening     Now Turk had never been to this part of Montana previously but  seemed like a nice enough quiet town. Actually peaceful towns were not exactly good for his sort of occupation but then he had not ridden in with any specific job in mind.  He was between jobs, just last week he'd delivered a prisoner to a small town south of Kalispell, the man had been a wanted rustler. Fellow whined the whole way back right up to jail that he was innocent. Turk then just pointed out he was neither judge nor jury, tell it to someone who cared. Least he had some cash in his pocket. And where better to spend a bit of it then in the town's only saloon apparently. Least only one he could spot.   Entering into the place thru the swinging bat doors, he took in the joint. Decent enough, he'd seen many worse, some better. On this weekday night it was not crowded but there were a few folks at the bar and some others gathered around tables, most tables holding card games. He didn't go for cards though and on those rare occasions when he had, he usually lost money. Nope, keep it simple, get a drink or two or four.   As he sidled up to the bar, the bartender was presently occupied with another customer so he paused to take a second scan of the place. And who should he see but...................   "Caroline?  Caroline Mundee," he made sure he said those words loud enough the woman could hear him as she  a good distance away, holding a tray of drinks.   Caroline not only picked up on her name but recognized the voice and turned to see just to make certain. The look on her face made it plain she knew the speaker alright as she broke out into a wide smile.   "Well, I'll be !  Gimme a minute," she called back then hurried to finish her on duty errand, duly placing the tray in front of four card players, "Here ya are, boys. Enjoy!"    Turk nodded and just leaned with his back against the bar, watching her every move. She sure was as pretty as the last time they'd seen each other. He never took his eyes off her as she then approached and in a few seconds the two embraced in a quick but heartfelt hug.   "Turk! I had heard rumors you were dead," Caroline declared when they broke it up.   "Nope, I can truly assure you that I am not. Yer lookin' fine as always," he grinned.   Caroline looked past him for a moment, "Ralph, break out one of the good bottles and pour us two shots, will ya, hon?"    "Shit! How much that gonna cost me now?"  Turk knew her routine alright, they'd become friends in Helena when she worked a saloon there.   "Nah! On the house! I'm real glad ta see you again," Caroline then leaned into the bar next to him, they had some catching up to do alright.              
    • Four good men was all he needed, and Granger knew just the men for the job. Men that would kill anyone that threatened the ranch in any way, shape, or form. Of course, that went doe any number of of the Evergreen hands, the men he wanted would be the worst, and most dangerous of the hands Elias Steelgrave employed   The first one he ran on to was the stocky built Dutch, the only name they knew him by, but that was enough. He rode up next to the man, "Dutch, Mister Steelgrave has a job for you."   Dutch looked to him, knowing if the old man wanted him for a job it wouldn't be nurse maiding no cows. "Sure Granger, what's he got in mind?"   "Might be some Lost Lake men trailing Carson, they need to be stopped." It was quick and blunt.   "Right up my alley, Granger. Start now?" Dutch asked.   "I'll Get Treach, Watts, and Deckerd. Mister Steelgrave wants you boys to be sure they start it."    "Easy as pie. If you want I'll go for 'em, know right where they are and well just head that way." Dutch offered with a grin that was far from friendly.   "Sure Dutch, go ahead. Anything happens, you hightail it back here." Granger  replied to which Dutch nodded and spurred his horse.           Dutch                                      Treach                             Watts                       Deckerd
    • The conversation with Misses Thornton-Carlton had been informative, though she had not said when these hands from the Lost Lake would be in town for supplies. In New Mexico Territory they generally went once a month, unless they were in need of something or they got word an order had come in, which was rare, the Apaches saw to that. No one was willing to take the chance . But this here might be different. The Lost Lake was not so far from town as the Lazy S was to Lordsburg, nor as dangerous.   So, the hotel looked to be the place he'd stay until these hands rode in, and it would certainly give him a chance to meet some folks, like she said, see who his allies were. And from, what he had learned so far, the trouble ran deep between the Lost Lake and this Evergreen Ranch, and then toss in the son and his pack of animals. Things could get terminal real quick. This was shaping up to be far more than he had bargained for when he left New Mexico. But he was there now, so he could run, or stay, and Tyrell Thornton was not much for running.
    • Speed took the time to let Alice and her father know where he was going, and why, then mounted up and started out for the fort. He'd not been there, he had seen it in passing, and it was a welcome sight with the Indians out. He understood that the Military had no jurisdiction in town, and likely they might not be willing to help, yet, then again, they might. Protecting citizens was their job. And just because the ones Speed was asking them to protect were in town with active lawmen, A large contingent of outlaws  posed a significant threat.   The outlaws, be it Cases' gang or Elias' riders, or both together, it would be more than a handful lawmen could handle, even with the townsfolk defending their town. True, most had served in the War Between the States, but that had been over ten years ago, and true they had fought Indians and outlaws, yet these men were settled down now and past getting into gun trouble. And maybe it wouldn't come. Maybe Neither Steelgrave wanted to tangle with the town and it's people. Yet going to talk with the Army made sense, even if they couldn't really help out right then.
Franklin Fortner

A New Day - New Challenges

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Hiram Priest kept busy with his game of Solitaire, but he also kept an eye on the progression of things a the poker table.  

 

At the moment, that irritating gadfly of a girl was getting in the way.  The last thing that they wanted was Horace Potee to lose his concentration on his game with his new-found friends.

 

There was something else bothering him.  It was that Ben Simons and his undue interest on the friendly card game that Fortner and Potee were having.  He seemed to view things too keenly and too critically.  Maybe it would be good if he had some liquid refreshment like everyone else was.

 

Laying the cards on the table, Hiram stood up and made his way slowly to where Ralph stood behind the bar.

 

"Here," stated Hiram Priest, slapping a half dollar on the counter.  "Would you please take a shot of Red Eye over to Mr. Simons and tell him that it's compliments of Judge Priest?  He looks like he could use a friend and also a drink.  I would appreciate it if you could do that for me.  You won't find me ungenerous." 

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Horace WAS dizzy.  He picked up his hand and studied them, then set them down.

 

"Hey good Christian girl.   Would you please ask the barkeep for another belt?"  He reached down and sent a silver dollar from his bank skidding over to her.  Get one for yourself if you're of a mind to."

 

"Oh, Mr Potee, do you really think you should drink any more?" She was banned from spreading the temperance message in the saloon, for obvious reasons, but she spoke quietly, so nobody could hear "You look like you need a lie down to me, and a nice drink of cool, healthful water. Listen, Mr Potee, you have a wonderful wife; I know she ain't much to look at, some folks might even call her ugly, but she loves you dearly, and a pretty little daughter, why don't you go home and lie in the bosoms of your family? You know, when Jesus turned the water into wine, he didn't expect... oh oh!!"

 

Fortner and Caroline were coming back, so she clammed up: they couldn't hear her, of course, but she figured the halo shining above her head might give her away. 

 

It was going to be a short game: she had a Jack and a Queen. She held up her hand: he must have a single Jack left in his hand. "Pick a card." she said swiftly - she could only hope he would pick the Queen, that might decide him to call it a night.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

 

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"I got my reasons.  Someday I'll fill you in on them," Fortner started to reply.

 

Caroline frowned, she still was being kept in the dark here.

 

"But, okay.  Tell you what.  If things are looking good for us, that's fine.   No spilled coffee.  There is more than you can imagine riding on this and, I know that this is going to sound strange, but I don't want to leave it to chance.  Look, if you hear me say to you, "I hear you serve the best coffee in Montana," that means I need your help.  Now.. if you don't want to do it.  I will understand and no hard feelings.  We'll still find a way and you'll still be the "Montana Queen".   Okay?"

 

He warmly smiled at her.

 

"More riding on this than a card game? He don't even have that much money, he is some poor sodbuster plus he has a wife," Caroline was so confused. Plus maybe the man had kids too? Most farmers wanted lots of kids, helped with the field work.

 

"You are too valuable to try to get you to do anything you don't want to.  I hope you believe me."

 

"I've always been a good worker, all my bosses would back me on that. I wanna help ya, I do," Caroline was obviously battling with her conscience.

 

Then it came to her, "Hey! How bout this? What if it's just coffee....coffee that's been sitting for awhile and lost all it's heat? Then he would still be startled and wet but he wouldn't be hurt?"

 

The saloon girl never claimed to be a saint but she'd never been needlessly cruel either.

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It looked to Fortner that Caroline was not going to go along with his scheme.  The pride of the Star Dust was deliberating out loud, and, in a way, it touched him.

 

"I've always been a good worker, all my bosses would back me on that. I wanna help ya, I do," Caroline was obviously battling with her conscience.

 

Then it came to her, "Hey! How bout this? What if it's just coffee....coffee that's been sitting for awhile and lost all it's heat? Then he would still be startled and wet but he wouldn't be hurt?"

 

The saloon girl never claimed to be a saint but she'd never been needlessly cruel either.

 

"Not only are you pretty, but you're smart," Frank said.  "That's a good idea.  So, at some point, when I ask if you will clear the table, you can spill it then."

 

They left through the kitchen door and reentered the saloon.

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

"Oh, Mr Potee, do you really think you should drink any more?"

 

"I paddle my own canoe, Miss," Potee stated, still staring at his old maid hand.

 

"You look like you need a lie down to me, and a nice drink of cool, healthful water. Listen, Mr Potee, you have a wonderful wife; I know she ain't much to look at, some folks might even call her ugly, but she loves you dearly, and a pretty little daughter, why don't you go home and lie in the bosoms of your family? You know, when Jesus turned the water into wine, he didn't expect... oh oh!!"

 

This was too much for Horace.  "I don't  need no preachin'!  I need to keep up my winning streak, that's what."

 

Fortner and Caroline were coming back, so she clammed up: they couldn't hear her, of course, but she figured the halo shining above her head might give her away. 

 

It was going to be a short game: she had a Jack and a Queen. She held up her hand: he must have a single Jack left in his hand. "Pick a card." she said swiftly - she could only hope he would pick the Queen, that might decide him to call it a night.

 

The Sod Buster reached across with his hand, his fingers waving over the top of the cards.  Just then, he noticed his playmates coming back from the kitchen.

 

"Oops!   Here they come!" he said with drunk enthusiasm;  the card game with the girl now forgotten.

 

"What the hell were you doin'?" Horace at the two.  "Pluckin' a chicken?"

 

Fortner patted Caroline on the back and answered, "Oh ..just tending to business, Mr. Potee.  Tending to business."

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Her boss seemed to like her idea.

 

"Not only are you pretty, but you're smart," Frank said.

 

"Oh hell, I could have told you that right off," Caroline grinned.

 

  "That's a good idea.  So, at some point, when I ask if you will clear the table, you can spill it then."

 

"Yeah, but only if necessary you said," she pointed out, "As drunk as he is, I don't know why you can't just beat him fair n' square at cards. Cuz he's stupid drunk."

 

With that settled the pair headed back out of the kitchen into the main room. Hell, even the drunk was wondering what that had been all about. It certainly had been awfully suspicious to Caroline's way of thinking, luckily Potee was plastered.

 

"What the hell were you doin'?" Horace at the two.  "Pluckin' a chicken?"

 

"Sorta," Caroline shrugged.

 

Fortner patted Caroline on the back and answered, "Oh ..just tending to business, Mr. Potee.  Tending to business."

 

 

 

 

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  "That's a good idea.  So, at some point, when I ask if you will clear the table, you can spill it then."

 

"Yeah, but only if necessary you said," she pointed out, "As drunk as he is, I don't know why you can't just beat him fair n' square at cards. Cuz he's stupid drunk."

 

"Maybe so, Caroline, but drunks sometimes have inexplicable luck," Frank cautioned as if from a vast experience.

 

With that settled the pair headed back out of the kitchen into the main room. Hell, even the drunk was wondering what that had been all about. It certainly had been awfully suspicious to Caroline's way of thinking, luckily Potee was plastered.

 

"What the hell were you doin'?" Horace at the two.  "Pluckin' a chicken?"

 

"Sorta," Caroline shrugged.

 

Frank issued a laugh disguised as a cough into his fist.

 

Fortner patted Caroline on the back and answered, "Oh ..just tending to business, Mr. Potee.  Tending to business."

 

"Hey Piano girl!" shouted Potee!  "Ain' t ya gonna be my lucky piece no more?"   Forgetting that he'd recently been brusque with her.  "Where's m'little lucky piece?"  He pounded on the the table causing coins to jump.   "Where's m'little angel?"

 

Frank was dismissive.  "She'll be around Horace, so let's get back to the game.  I gotta try to win back some of that money I've lost to you."

 

They soon resumed their places, and Fortner shuffled and fanned the cards with much more than passing experience.  They made clicking sounds like cogs in a sprocket, as he swooped them up, fanned  them out, regrouped, shuffled, and then expertly send them sailing from one had to another until squaring them off and slapping them in a neat stack in the center of the table.

 

"Cut," he said.

 

"OuuuuEEEE!" cried the Sod buster.  "I ain't never seen anything like THAT before!   Have you, Miss Caroline?"  he asked Caroline.

 

It was a quick hand and Potee won;  His seven-high-straight over Fortner's three of a kind.

 

"Pop goes the weasel!" he squealed delightedly as he scoop up the winnings and pulled them over to add to his growing bank.  "This is like takin' candy from a baby."

 

Fortner loosened his tie, and he appeared quite frazzled. 

 

"Ralph!" he called.  "Can you get us a fresh deck of cards?"

 

 

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Frank was dismissive.  "She'll be around Horace, so let's get back to the game.  I gotta try to win back some of that money I've lost to you."

 

Arabella had wandered off when Mr Potee had dropped the Old Maid hand, but drifted back when called. 

 

"What's the matter Mr Potee?" she asked, without rancour. She had done her best to help him, but if he wanted to cut his own throat, what could she do? "You want me to be your 'lucky Blonde'? All right." she said, unconvinced that even a blonde with hair of spun gold would be able to help him, let alone someone with her head of raven tresses..

 

They soon resumed their places, and Fortner shuffled and fanned the cards with much more than passing experience.  They made clicking sounds like cogs in a sprocket, as he swooped them up, fanned  them out, regrouped, shuffled, and then expertly send them sailing from one had to another until squaring them off and slapping them in a neat stack in the center of the table.

 

"Cut," he said.

 

"OuuuuEEEE!" cried the Sod buster.  "I ain't never seen anything like THAT before!   Have you, Miss Caroline?"  he asked Caroline.

 

"Oh, there ain't much Miss Mundee hasn't seen or done, is there Caro'?" Arabella butted in, her hand on Mr Potee's shoulder in true saloon girl style. For a while it seemed to work, Horace was winning hand after hand, until an apparently hot-under-the-collar Mr Fortner called out for a new pack.

 

"Ralph!" he called.  "Can you get us a fresh deck of cards?"

 

"What's wrong with these'uns?" asked Arabella loudly, then to Mr Potee. "Them's your lucky cards: if you swap, your luck'll go to Devil: I'd get out of this game now if I were you!" she advised. 

 

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Sure enough the soon to be plucked Potee won the first hand of their second round and her boss pretended to be frazzled about it, Caroline just watched. She didn't like this much at all but the saloon was her life and she would do as she was told.

 

OuuuuEEEE!" cried the Sod buster.  "I ain't never seen anything like THAT before!   Have you, Miss Caroline?"  he asked Caroline.

 

Before she could answer, Arabella had to make a snide remark.

 

"Oh, there ain't much Miss Mundee hasn't seen or done, is there Caro'?" Arabella butted in, her hand on Mr Potee's shoulder in true saloon girl style.

 

Caroline shot her a dagger look but refrained from a comment. What was bothering the girl now that she was sniping at her?

 

Fortner loosened his tie.

 

"Ralph!" he called.  "Can you get us a fresh deck of cards?"

 

There he went again, their boss still didn't get the boundaries of the people at work in this place. Ralph was a bartender, he worked the bar and if necessary was the bouncer. He did not run out drinks to the tables nor should he be expected to run errands like this.  Sure enough Arabella had to stick her big mouth into it.

 

"What's wrong with these'uns?" asked Arabella loudly, then to Mr Potee. "Them's your lucky cards: if you swap, your luck'll go to Devil: I'd get out of this game now if I were you!" she advised. 

 

Caroline sighed and announced, "I'll get ya another pack, boss." Then she spun about and headed for the bar where they did extra cards in unopened packages.  Miss Devereau never wanted anything to do with marked decks.

 

 

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There he went again, their boss still didn't get the boundaries of the people at work in this place. Ralph was a bartender, he worked the bar and if necessary was the bouncer. He did not run out drinks to the tables nor should he be expected to run errands like this.  Sure enough Arabella had to stick her big mouth into it.

 

"What's wrong with these'uns?" asked Arabella loudly, then to Mr Potee. "Them's your lucky cards: if you swap, your luck'll go to Devil: I'd get out of this game now if I were you!" she advised. 

 

"Oh, I don't know, Arabella," Fortner mused.  "Seems to me they're light a Queen or three.  You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"  It was true.  Fortner, being somewhat of a cardsharp, knew pretty quickly where most of the high value cards were.  He didn't want to make a big deal about it because he didn't want to spook Potee.

 

Caroline sighed and announced, "I'll get ya another pack, boss." Then she spun about and headed for the bar where they did extra cards in unopened packages.  Miss Devereau never wanted anything to do with marked decks.

 

"Thanks, Caroline," Frank said, realizing the position he'd put the bartender in.  "Sorry, Ralph!" he called.

 

Potee, impatient to continue his winning streak, drummed his fingers on the table.  Then, to Arabella, he said, "I ain't superstitious about gambling, so I don't care if'n he gets new cards.  But say, do have a lucky charm on you, like a rabbit's foot of something like that?"

 

 

 

 

 

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"Oh, I don't know, Arabella," Fortner mused.  "Seems to me they're light a Queen or three.  You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"  It was true.  

 

"Uh?" grunted Arabella, and then remembered she'd removed them for the game of Old Maid. "Oh yeah!" she beamed pulling the three ladies in question out of her apron pocket "Three of a Kind! And there's the two kickers!" she added, stomping her heavy boots on the saloon floor. "You know, Mister Potee, some people call me The Queen of Hearts, cause everybody loves me so much, but I'm more like the Queen of Spades, she's a real Femme Fatale!" she informed the simple yokel.

 

Caroline sighed and announced, "I'll get ya another pack, boss." Then she spun about and headed for the bar where they did extra cards in unopened packages.  Miss Devereau never wanted anything to do with marked decks.

 

"Thanks, Caroline," Frank said, realizing the position he'd put the bartender in.  "Sorry, Ralph!" he called.

 

"Yeah, you'll be stompin' on everyone's toes Mr F. if you don't know: Ralph just serves the drinks and thumps the drunks; Caro just sings the songs and drinks the drinks; Cookie just cooks the food; and I do every blessed other thing in this place! And I guess you just sorta watch us doin' it all day long." Arabella explained, helpfully.

 

Potee, impatient to continue his winning streak, drummed his fingers on the table.  Then, to Arabella, he said, "I ain't superstitious about gambling, so I don't care if'n he gets new cards.  But say, do have a lucky charm on you, like a rabbit's foot of something like that?"

 

Arabella nodded, and produced a very disreputable looking handkerchief which bore the evidence off a few years' worth of colds, runny noses, sneezes, nosebleeds and stubborn boogers. "This is my binky, it's the only thing I still got what I brought out of Virginia. It's the most precious thing I got after my bible." she told him. 

 

"But you can't have that. How 'bout this. This French feller from Canada came in one time last month or so and give me this, my binky's good enough luck fer me, so you can have it." she rummaged in her apron pocket and handed him a small silver charm, shaped like a pig with a little heart on it. "He said it was a..." she frowned trying to remember "... a 'porte boneur' and that I was a fille à l'air étrange whatever the heck that means."

 

@Wayfarer @Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Oh, I don't know, Arabella," Fortner mused.  "Seems to me they're light a Queen or three.  You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"  It was true.  

 

Arabella reached in her pocket and retrieved the lost queens, it didn't matter to Fortner.  You couldn't have the miasma of crookedness hovering over a card game --- even if it was crooked.   Everything had to be above board -- sort of.  That's why Fortner asked Ralph for a new deck of cards.

 

It didn't seem to phase Arabella who was never at a loss for folksy bromides that gave the illusion of problem solving.

 

"You know, Mister Potee, some people call me The Queen of Hearts, cause everybody loves me so much, but I'm more like the Queen of Spades, she's a real Femme Fatale!" she informed the simple yokel.

 

"I dunno what that means, Missy," Potee declared, and so loudly that it turned heads at some nearby tables.

 

Caroline sighed and announced, "I'll get ya another pack, boss." Then she spun about and headed for the bar where they did extra cards in unopened packages.  Miss Devereau never wanted anything to do with marked decks.

 

"Thanks, Caroline," Frank said, realizing the position he'd put the bartender in.  "Sorry, Ralph!" he called.

 

"Yeah, you'll be stompin' on everyone's toes Mr F. if you don't know: Ralph just serves the drinks and thumps the drunks; Caro just sings the songs and drinks the drinks; Cookie just cooks the food; and I do every blessed other thing in this place! And I guess you just sorta watch us doin' it all day long." Arabella explained, helpfully.

 

Franklin Fortner nodded but said nothing.  His mind was on some soon-to-happen fleecing.

 

Potee, impatient to continue his winning streak, drummed his fingers on the table.  Then, to Arabella, he said, "I ain't superstitious about gambling, so I don't care if'n he gets new cards.  But say, do have a lucky charm on you, like a rabbit's foot of something like that?"

 

Arabella nodded, and produced a very disreputable looking handkerchief which bore the evidence off a few years' worth of colds, runny noses, sneezes, nosebleeds and stubborn boogers. "This is my binky, it's the only thing I still got what I brought out of Virginia. It's the most precious thing I got after my bible." she told him. 

 

Arabella was no quieter than Potee was, and a voice from the depths of the saloon began singing, "Carry me back to old Virginie." 

 

"But you can't have that. How 'bout this. This French feller from Canada came in one time last month or so and give me this, my binky's good enough luck fer me, so you can have it." she rummaged in her apron pocket and handed him a small silver charm, shaped like a pig with a little heart on it. "He said it was a..." she frowned trying to remember "... a 'porte boneur' and that I was a fille à l'air étrange whatever the heck that means."

 

"Ah Hell no, Lil Darlin'," Horace protested.  "All I gotta do is touch it and the luck will rub off."  He then reached over and rubbed the charm with his grubby fingers.   "I aim to be King of the World after this game is over. Oh, and don't be wastin' yer time with any French fellers.  They're a bad lot disguising their wicked ways with fancy talk."  Then, as if jolted back to reality by liquor driven greed, he asked, "Where the hell are those cards!"

 

 

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Things weren't really like Arabella said but then the girl lived in her own rather slanted little world. Maybe Fortner was catching on to just tune her out like both Ralph and Caroline had quite some time ago.

 

"Where the hell are those cards!" bellowed the drunk, who obviously was in a real hurry to be separated from his money.

 

"Oh hold yer horses, here's the deck, boss," Caroline handed it over to Fortner.

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Arabella had never seen anyone rub silver and make it go duller, but Horace Potee managed to do it to her little pig charm! Oh well, she gave it another rub on her pinny and got it all nice and shiny again, before adding in back into the pile of junk in her apron pocket.

 

Caroline got the cards and she watched carefully as the singer gave them to Mr Fortner. Arabella knew she should really go and get on with her chores, but she was magnetically drawn to watch the match of wits, cunning and experienced sleight of hand on one side against... well, against Mr Potee (and a three-sheets-to-the-wind Mr Potee, at that!) on the other. The only thing the poor ign'rant sod buster seemed to have on his side was a quick rub of Arabella's porc and whatever luck she could bring by standing at his shoulder.

 

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"Where the hell are those cards!" bellowed the drunk, who obviously was in a real hurry to be separated from his money.

 

Caroline got the cards and she watched carefully as the singer gave them to Mr Fortner. Arabella knew she should really go and get on with her chores, but she was magnetically drawn to watch the match of wits, cunning and experienced sleight of hand on one side against... well, against Mr Potee (and a three-sheets-to-the-wind Mr Potee, at that!) on the other. The only thing the poor ign'rant sod buster seemed to have on his side was a quick rub of Arabella's porc and whatever luck she could bring by standing at his shoulder.

 

 

The serpent was about to strike, but there was just one problem:  Arabella.  She saw EVERYTHING, and she had an indiscreet tongue.  Franklin needed to shoo her away before too long.  He would find a reason.

 

 

"Okay, Horace.  Are you ready?" Fortner asked after he took the seal off the deck of cards.

 

"Sure as shootin' Mr. Fortner," answered the sloppy drunk.  "I'm a figuring that after another few hands of this game, I'll catch me the next train to Easy Street.  No more plows, no more chores, no more hard times, no more Maude...  Oops!  did I just say that?"   It tickled him so much that he began to laugh uproariously.  "I'm a new man today!"

 

"Cut!" Franklin said after he shuffled. 

 

Horace obliged ... and then, quite deftly, Franklin cut them too.  There was nothing illegal in that -- not much.

 

The cards flew across the table and landed in front of Potee who clumsily gathered them to his chest.  And what did he find? --- Three fives, two nines and a Jack.  The betting which ensued was furious.  It was obvious that Fortner had  good cards, too, but, in the end, Horace won yet another hand.

 

"Wahoo!" the homesteader cried as his raked the pot over to his large bank. 

 

Fortner looked appropriately disgusted at the events.  That was when he turned to Caroline and asked, "Will you get us some coffee, please.  I hear you serve the best coffee in Kalispell."   He turned to Potee.  "Will you be wanting some coffee, Mr. Potee?"

 

"Sounds good, but," he turned to Caroline, "could you spike it a bit, hon?" 

 

Horace never felt better in his life.

 

 

 

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The cards flew across the table and landed in front of Potee who clumsily gathered them to his chest.  And what did he find? --- Three fives, two nines and a Jack.  The betting which ensued was furious.  It was obvious that Fortner had  good cards, too, but, in the end, Horace won yet another hand.

 

"Wahoo!" the homesteader cried as his raked the pot over to his large bank. 

 

What the hell?  What kind of card sharp was Fortner that he couldn't even beat a drunkard? Caroline was thinking he should just stick to owning the saloon.

 

Fortner looked appropriately disgusted at the events.  That was when he turned to Caroline and asked, "Will you get us some coffee, please.  I hear you serve the best coffee in Kalispell." 

 

He definitely heard wrong there, but of course Caroline merely smiled and nodded. She was roped into this mess and now she'd have to do what her boss wanted.

 

  He turned to Potee.  "Will you be wanting some coffee, Mr. Potee?"

 

"Sounds good, but," he turned to Caroline, "could you spike it a bit, hon?" 

 

"Oh you bet, dahling," Caroline's smile looked heartfelt but that's only because she was such a good faker at it.

 

Caroline then headed for the back kitchen. Her part in this would take a few minutes. For one thing she wasn't about to give the man hot coffee, not the way he was going to get this cup alright. As for wasting booze on it, she could just thin it with cold water.

 

 

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  He turned to Potee.  "Will you be wanting some coffee, Mr. Potee?"

 

"Sounds good, but," he turned to Caroline, "could you spike it a bit, hon?" 

 

"Oh you bet, dahling," Caroline's smile looked heartfelt but that's only because she was such a good faker at it.

 

Potee slapped his hands together and rubbed them;  Life couldn't be better.

 

Caroline then headed for the back kitchen. Her part in this would take a few minutes. For one thing she wasn't about to give the man hot coffee, not the way he was going to get this cup alright. As for wasting booze on it, she could just thin it with cold water.

 

Franklin Fortner gathered the cards and began to shuffle them.  This, he elevated it to a fine art.  In his hands, the cards flashed like the wings of butterflies.  In a series of pirouette-like maneuvers, the saloon owner fanned them and then joined them until he made a neat stack of them.

 

"Cut," he ordered once he'd slid the cards across to Horace.

 

"Yessir, Frank!" Potee agreed with, now, slobbering familiarity and made an elaborate show of cutting the deck - twice.  While he did this, Fortner stared at him with the quiet, steady patience of a cougar ready to pounce.

 

When ready, Fortner dealt the cards with deliberate efficiency.

 

Potee, instead of waiting for all five cards to arrive, picked them up after each one of them landed in front of him.  His delight was manifest in slack-mouthed disbelief.  What he had in his hands before the any draw were three Jacks, a Nine of diamonds, and a Five of clubs.

 

Potee turned to Arabella.

 

"Could I touch that good luck piece again?"

 

Fortner did not register any emotions as he arranged his cards in his hands.  He had three Aces, a Seven of hearts, ... and a Jack of diamonds, just like he knew there would be.

 

"How's that coffee coming?" he shouted to Caroline.

 

"Bet?" he asked Potee.

 

 

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Caroline was going to make coffee?! She certainly drank enough of it, especially the 'morning after': but it was always Cookie, or Arabella herself, or even Mr Flandry, who would make it. Did Caroline even know how to make coffee? Yeah, of course she must, but Arabella was tempted to go with her and make sure she did it right, or even do it for her. Then she remembered that there would a pot kept permanently hot on the hob in there anyway. She hoped Caroline would remember to use a cloth to pick it up, the handle would be uncomfortably warm.

 

All well and good: she could remain and be Mr Potee's black haired 'Lucky Blonde'.Mr Fortner picked up the new deck and did all sorts of leger de main with the deck that made a plain old Riverboat Shuffle look like a Pickleboat Scuffle. 

 

Franklin Fortner gathered the cards and began to shuffle them.  This, he elevated it to a fine art.  In his hands, the cards flashed like the wings of butterflies.  In a series of pirouette-like maneuvers, the saloon owner fanned them and then joined them until he made a neat stack of them.

 

"Cut," he ordered once he'd slid the cards across to Horace.

 

Potee, instead of waiting for all five cards to arrive, picked them up after each one of them landed in front of him.  His delight was manifest in slack-mouthed disbelief.  What he had in his hands before the any draw were three Jacks, a Nine of diamonds, and a Five of clubs.

 

Potee turned to Arabella.

 

"Could I touch that good luck piece again?"

 

Arabella fished out the silver pig for the farmer, but frowned at the hand - three of a kind and a couple of kickers: not bad, and in the normal run of things a probable win. On the other hand, there were a lot of other combinations that could beat it. While Potee rubbed her pig, she frowned at Fortner. Boy, she wouldn't play snap for matchsticks with feller whose moustache was that thin. Mr Potee must be a stupid as he looked.  The whole thing was making the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

 

Fortner did not register any emotions as he arranged his cards in his hands.  He had three Aces, a Seven of hearts, ... and a Jack of diamonds, just like he knew there would be.

 

"How's that coffee coming?" he shouted to Caroline.

 

Yeah, where was Caroline? Even she couldn't take this long to pour a simple cup of coffee and pour a glug of licker into it.

 

"Bet?" he asked Potee.

 

Fortner was so bland, so smooth; Arabella, without even thinking about it, gave a warning squeeze to Potee's shoulder, then, more decisively yelped "Let me give you a kiss fer luck!" and bent down to give him a smacker on his stubbly cheek. 

 

I think you should fold she hissed in his ear.

 

@Wayfarer @Preston (+ @JulieS ?)

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Caroline had entered the kitchen, the place that Mammy normally ruled with an iron hand, she did not like people poking about her kitchen. Caroline got it, anymore than she would like someone other than her performing on stage.  Everyone had their place in the saloon. There was the pot of coffee kept warm on the stove. Well, that wasn't going to work though, that coffee would be way too hot for what she wanted it for. So she reached for a cup and then went over by the water barrel they had in the corner of the room. Using the dipper she scooped a bit of water and put it into the cup. Then went over to the coffee pot, using a thick towel to pick it up and pour just some of it into the cup right into the water. That should help some.

 

"How's that coffee coming?" came the loud voice of Fortner, her boss.  Jeez, already? She had half a mind to yell back, that if he wasn't satisfied with her doing it, he could come in and pour the damn thing himself. But Fortner was the boss.

 

She blew into it now too then waved her hand over it back and forth.  Then with a sigh she headed back out and paused in the back of the bar to reach for a liquor bottle. Ralph noticed her of course and sidled over.

 

"What the hell is up?" he whispered.

 

"Nothin' good, hon, nothin' good and somehow I got roped inta it," it was plain she was not happy.

 

 Ralph didn't press it.

 

She then poured about a shot ful of her own fake whiskey (it was colored water), no sense wasting good stuff for a drink that was not even gonna be drank or drunk or however one said it.

 

Well, it would have to do, the veteran saloon girl then headed for the card table.

 

"Alrighty, here's the coffee, Mr. Potee, and bucked up with whiskey just like you requested."

 

She glanced at Fortner, not quite sure when she was even supposed to spill it?

 

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Things were moving smoothly along.  The cagey Fortner had the mark right where he wanted him.

 

One irritant was Arabella who'd somehow allied herself with the sob buster.  This was quite apparent when, after he asked if her if he could touch her lucky piece again, and she answered him, ""Let me give you a kiss fer luck!"  Fortner couldn't think of anything more distasteful for the girl to do.

 

Potee, on the other hand, relished in the touch of her soft lips.  Maude never felt like THIS! he thought.

But when she hissed into his ear, "I think you should fold", he bristled.

 

"Are you confounded crazy!  Fold?!  You better leave the card playin' to the men, lil' girl."  It was patently patronizing.  "Go on!" he continued.  "Go do yer chores or play the pie-ano.  Git!"

 

The man was doing Fortner's work, and it pleased the saloon owner.  "He's right," he said to Arabella.  "I'm sure there's some things you have to do.  Or, tell you what.  Why don't you play some music for us?"   All this was said kindly.

 

Then, as if on cue, Caroline came along with the coffee. 

 

"Just set it down, please.  I'll let you know when you can clear it."  This last was emphasized and followed by a discreet wink of his left eye.

 

"Bets?" Fortner asked again.

 

Potee grandly pushed a stack of coins and bills to where the ante lay.  "That's about a hundred greenbacks!" he slurred.   After all, he had three Jacks.  The outlook was good.  At the very least he had three-of-a-kind and possibly either four-of-a-kind or a full-house. 

 

"I'll see that, and raise you $50," countered Frank Fortner.

 

This started a volley of betting that only ended when Potee had bet almost his entire bank.

 

"Cards?" asked Fortner.

 

"Two," the sod buster answered, tossing down his two discards.

 

"Horace Potee gets two cards,"  Fortner called out like a croupier.  Then, with the skill of a magician, he took a card from the deck and palmed the Jack from his hand and sent the two in Potee's direction.

 

The sod buster gasped when he saw that he saw that he had the final Jack.  What he didn't know was that Fortner still had his original three Aces. 

 

"Bet?" he asked Potee.

 

Potee made a big show of shoving his remaining bank to join the sizeable pot.  "Pop goes the Weasel!" he cried.

 

"I'll see you and raise you $100,"  Fortner announced. 

 

Potee was out of money and told Fortner so.

 

"What do you mean?" Fortner scolded.  "When you come to a table you bring your money!"

 

This change of tone flustered Potee.  He was about to lose his new friends because he was coming off like a small fry.

 

"Haven't you got anything you can bet?"  Fortner pressed.

 

Horace looked down at the four, gleaming Jacks.  "I got my homestead," he answered even though he felt a stab of pain.  "It's worth at least $100."  He reached into his coat pocket and took out his deed.  He'd had it in his pocket because he'd come to town not only try his luck at the card table, but to also see if he could use it as collateral at the Bank.

 

"I call," he said as a challenge.

 

Now was the time.

 

"Caroline," Fortner called as he studied his hand.  "Will you please clear this stuff," he pointed at he coffee mugs.  "We need more room."

 

 

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Arabella neither went back to her chores nor played the piano as Potee had so short-temperedly commanded her, she just stood back from the game and continued watching, still highly suspicious of the way Fortner and her own friend Caroline were acting. 

 

Sure, Mr Potee's words to her had hardly commended him to her feelings, but after six months working in the saloon, she had become somewhat inured to the way men spoke in their cups. In many ways it was refreshing and illuminating to hear what was really going on in the male mind: for excessive alcohol had the tendency to make them speak it. 

 

Years, decades, later, someone asked her how she knew so much about men, and the way men's tiny minds worked, when she clearly had never been that intimate with any of the species, she had replied "Seeing a bunch of them get drunk every night'll tell you all you ever need to know about fellers."

 

Anyhow: what was about to transpire was to tell her all she ever needed to know bout one particular man, and affect the whole course of her future.

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

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The lanky rancher stood close beside the young girl he knew as Arabella.  When she smooched the sod buster he almost wondered out loud,  What did she see in him?  Takes all kinds, I guess.

 

It was Micah McGregor on his bi-weekly trip to town.  He always stopped at the hardware, the Grain & Feed, and always the Star Dust if only to whet his whistle.  He was about to go up to the bar and order another whisky when the little gal who played the piano and sang, caught his attention.

 

"Hey little Miss!" he said.  "I wonder if I could be asking you something?"

 

Micah.jpg.2b796318705574a0fc247d8725b83f25.jpg

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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The fool drunkard couldn't see what was going on, how he was being set up for a big fall. He was going to gamble away not just his money now but also the deed to his farm. Caroline just stood there watching it all go down, not liking any of this but not about to risk her livelihood for the sake of this idiot. She worried too that foolish Arabella might take a step too far and truly anger their boss. But the time for thoughts was suddenly over. She was being summoned to play her part in this.

 

"Caroline," Fortner called as he studied his hand.

 

"Yeah?" she answered.

 

  "Will you please clear this stuff," he pointed at he coffee mugs.  "We need more room."

 

"Sure thing, boss,"Caroline moved up to the card table, she was standing immediately to the left of Potee but above his left shoulder for he was sitting there studying his hand. Her hand reached for Potee's coffee cup, started to raise it up off the table.

 

That's when she launched into her 'clumsy' act, pretending to stumble then conveniently letting go of the cup handle so the coffee splashed down on the edge of the table by Potee's lap and  a good portion of the at best lukewarm liquid landed down in the farmer's lap.

 

"Oh dammit, so sorry! It slipped..." Caroline cried out in her most convincing performance voice and face.

 

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Arabella was watching the game intently when old Mr McGregor started talking to her.

 

"Hey little Miss!" he said.  "I wonder if I could be asking you something?"

 

"Oh, Howdy, Mr McGregor." she piped up, not taking her eye off Potee and his rival or the suspicious looking Caroline. She knew that girl intimately, and she... well, she just wan't acting right, somehow. On the other hand, Arabella still had to keep the customers happy, and she carried on talking to the old feller as she watched. 

 

"Sure, I'll come over in a second and you can ask me anything you like." she offered: he always seemed to enjoy chatting with the lively girl. He sure did ask some funny questions but he always gave her a big tip. 

 

"I'm just watching this here poker game first. There's something funny about it, I tried to warn Mr Potee but... ooooh! There it goes!!" she exclaimed excitedly as Caroline dumped a mugful of coffee into Horace's lap. She grabbed onto Mr McGregor's arm in excitement, then jabbed her finger in his tummy as she looked up at him and said "I told you they was up to sumthin!"

 

@Preston 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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ooc:  Jugful of coffee?   It's one cup.

ooc: jugful replaced with mugful and toned down Arabella's relationship with Mr McGregor!

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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"Will you please clear this stuff," he pointed at the coffee mugs.  "We need more room."

 

"Sure thing, boss,"Caroline moved up to the card table, she was standing immediately to the left of Potee but above his left shoulder for he was sitting there studying his hand. Her hand reached for Potee's coffee cup, started to raise it up off the table.

 

That's when she launched into her 'clumsy' act, pretending to stumble then conveniently letting go of the cup handle so the coffee splashed down on the edge of the table by Potee's lap and  a good portion of the at best lukewarm liquid landed down in the farmer's lap.

 

"Oh dammit, so sorry! It slipped..." Caroline cried out in her most convincing performance voice and face.

 

The card table immediately descended into chaos.  Potee jumped up and his knees hit the table top causing coins to slide and other cups to tip over.  Hiram Priest could be heard shouting.  "Oh fer Christ's sake!"  Fortner lunged across the table in Potee's direction in order to keep the table steady.

 

"Ya fool!" yelled Potee at Caroline.  His back now to the table.  "Look what you done!"

 

"Lay off of her!" Fortner warned him.  "It was just an accident." 

 

McGregor, who'd been talking to Arabella, knew something was afoot.  He'd been around saloons and card games for many years.  He was a bit too big and too rugged to ever have been cheated, but he knew a swindle when he saw one.  Then there was Arabella whose voice, ever musical to his ear, even when in distressed chimed in, " "I told you they was up to sumthin!"  To this, McGregor each over and yanked her to the side.

 

"Don't say nuthin," he whispered in her ear.  "Leave it alone."

 

So, after Potee brushed off the front of his pants, and Fortner straightened his suit front, the both sat back down.

 

"There's the pot." he said,  pointing to the impressive pile of money with the deed atop it.  "You saw my bet, and I now call."

 

Potee was anxious to win his money and skedaddle. "What ya got?" He asked in an unfriendly tone.

 

Fortner took his hand and laid his hand face-up on the table.  By now, a small crowd had gathered.   He held three Aces, a ten and an eight.

"Three of a kind -- Aces" he said.

 

Potee grinned as he turned over his cards without looking at them.  "Four Jacks!" he said triumphantly. 

 

There was a buzz around the table, and Fortner asked him, "Where?"

 

The drunken sod buster's mouth fell open.  "What a minute!" he began angrily.  "Wait just a goddamn minute!  I had a jack in the hole!"   But he was wrong, in front of him was a deuce,  three Jacks, and nestled among them was a King.

 

The true viciousness of Franklin Fortner was then unmasked.  "Aces beat Jacks.  You lost, Potee!  You are so fucking drunk you don't know a Jack from a King.  So if you know what's good for you, you'll fucking apologize to me and the lady," he pointed to Caroline, "and then you'll back out of here.  Got that?"

 

"You guys are card cheats!  Nothing but card cheats!"    Potee was shouting now.

 

"Watch your mouth," Fortner warned him.

 

"You was drunk, mister!" a patron could be heard saying.  Another voice said, "Yeah. He's right mister.  We could tell you was drunk all the way across the room."

 

Potee knew he was outnumbered.  He looked at a sea of unsympathetic faces,  the card table, Caroline whom he mistakenly thought as a friend, and Fortner, his steal gray eyes, hard and cold.  His voice was shaking.  "I'll be back!  I'll be back!" he kept repeating.   He brusquely pushed past Arabella and headed for the exit.  The crowd gave him a lot of leeway as he stomped out.

 

Hiram Priest who, by then, was standing beside Fortner, said, "He's going to be trouble."

 

 

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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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