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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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"Oh fer Christ's sake!"  Potee was, justifiably, upset as Caroline backed away just in case the drunk decided to take a swing at her, one never knew with drunks. She'd been punched, kicked, even choked in her time working saloons.

 

"Sorry!" Caroline was actually sincere about that apology, this had not been anything she wanted to get involved with but her boss' doing.

 

  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." 

 

Now that was a lie but nothing Caroline could do but let this mess all play out, ashamed by her role in it too.  However there was a lot of money at stake on this hand, plus even that land deed (how could Potee be so stupid!) so the game resumed.  Of course Caroline already knew who was going to win, just not exactly sure  HOW.

 

Sure enough when the hands were laid out, Potee was so cocksure he'd won only to find out he didn't have the four jacks he thought he did. Caroline bit her lip and but kept still. Now emotions exploded. Potee was furious and sure he had been cheated  (which of course he had)

 

Fortner rubbed it in too.

 

  "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?"

 

"I don't want an apology...just leave, mister. Just get out of here before ........." Caroline didn't even want to voice her fears.  Even some of the other saloon goers were against Potee, anyone with any sort of powers of observation knew the farmer was drunk on his feet. That pretty much undercut the veracity of his accusations. At least he had enough common sense left to beat a retreat out of the place.

 

"I'll be back!  I'll be back!" Potee 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."

 

Caroline cast an angry glare at that man then shared that glare with Fortner too. She so wanted to say something but did not. This job was her life. This place her home.

 

"I'm gonna take the cups back inta the kitchen," instead she excused herself, took a cup in each hand and headed out of the room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'll be back!  I'll be back!" Potee kept repeating.   He brusquely pushed past Arabella and headed for the exit.  The crowd gave him a lot of leeway as he stomped out.

 

Arabella's skinny body was pushed easily aside, but that didn't stop her chasing after Mr Potee as the sound of the saloon patrons ganging up on him rang in her ears.  She was halfway down the Main street when she gave up and looked back at the place she had called her home for the last six months. She heard a laugh from inside. 

 

She and Caroline were due to be performing soon, and she couldn't let her down; there wasn't time to go to church and pray and seek guidance from Jesus there. She could only look up at the darkening sky and ask, beg for help. Christ answered her call, His gentle hand touched her shoulder and His strong, reassuring voice told her to remember what she herself had advised Mr Potee, what she had said to him: "I think you should fold"

 

I think you should fold.

 

It was terrifying. God often was terrifying. Very often, she could not look Jesus in the eye: she feared to receive His wrath when all she wanted was His Love. But, He could also make her brave, much braver than her cowardly soul could ever be on its own. 

 

With His help, she walked, not back to the saloon, but on and to the left, to the door of Mr Jolly's funeral parlour.

 

- - -

 

The saloon doors swung open slowly as she re-entered. She looked around carefully. She needed to find Caroline and try and avoid anybody else. She wanted, needed to tell Caroline first; she owed her that. 

 

@Preston @Wayfarer

 

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A calm, if temporary, and settled over the Star Dust.  Customers returned to their tables and some sidled up to the bar where Ralph poured liquor.  By then, Caroline, somewhat grudgingly, took the coffee cups back to the kitchen, and Arabella had flown the coop.  As for Fortner, he sat back down at the table and scooped up the winnings.  There was plenty of cash, certainly, but the real prize was the deed to the Potee Homestead.   Fortner held it in his hands and read the property description that he knew included a vein of gold -- just how rich, he would come to find out in the days ahead.  Maybe it would come to be known as the Fortner Strike?

 

Hiram Priest sat as his reserved table with its superior view of the entire saloon floor.  His arms were folded and his eyes shut.  He was quite pleased when a plan came together and was executed beautifully.  The only thing that bothered him was the homesteader Potee.  It would be just like him to return with a shotgun and start firing at everyone in sight.

 

With eyes shut he thought of his favorite poem:

 

"Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled,
Heavy to get and light to hold,
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled,
Spurned by young, but hung by old
Price of many a crime untold."

 

Priest opened his eyes, raised his glass and took a sip of whisky.  He then closed his eyes again.

 

"To save - to ruin - to curse - to bless - "

 

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

 

Soon, Franklin Fortner caught up with Caroline in the Kitchen.

 

"Let's head to the office.  There's something I gotta tell ya."

 

He bade her follow him.

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)

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OOC: Arabella needs to take a rain-check until Caroline and Fortner are back in the bar...

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Caroline handed over the cups to Mammy, either she or Arabella had the job of washing dishes, it wasn't the responsibility of the saloon gal. She reached into her dress pocket and withdrew her small flask then opened it and took a strong gulp of it. Now she could have went back to the bar and just poured some from any one of the booze bottles there but that would have meant being back out ........there.  And to think, in just a short time, she would have to get up on stage smiling and singing away as usual. She just did not feel like it though.

 

That's when Fortner entered the kitchen and obviously was looking for her. Now what?

 

"Let's head to the office.  There's something I gotta tell ya," the man ordered.

 

She so just wanted to tell him to go to hell but kept her self control and nodded, "Fine."

 

Without another word she followed him into his office then.  As he turned to face her, she stood there arms crossed eying him with simmering anger.

 

 

 

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Ben watched as Potee left the saloon followed soon after by Arabella.  The sting had come quick and fast for the farmer with a little help from Caroline.  Fortner was certainly getting his money's worth out of his star employee.

 

Knowing that there was nothing much else to do, he decided it was time head back to the White Rose to check on how the renovations had been proceeding today.  Besides he didn't feel like watching Fortner and Potee looking smug and he certainly didn't want to be around if Potee decided to make good on his promise to return.  He had had his fill of seeing men seeking revenge after losing badly a few years ago in Abilene, when one poor sodbuster came back with a bottle of whale oil and poured it over a saloon girl, who too, was just helping out her boss.  It had happened quickly, and the sodbuster lit the girl on fire before anybody could stop him.  The girl didn't survive the burns she had received, and the sodbuster ended up getting hanged for murder.

 

The more he thought about it, he came to the conclusion that the Star Dust was a place to be avoided.  From what he had seen so far, he didn't like Fortner's way of doing business.  With Priest as his accomplice, there was no knowing what they would get up to next and he didn't want to be a part of or know about it.

 

Staying away from the Star Dust might put a bit of curb in his poker playing but there were a few possibilities.  His cousin Matt might allow him to host a few games at the hotel and if that failed there was always the White Rose.  He could easily adjust the plans to add a room or two for gambling.

 

With that in mind, Ben said farewell to a couple of his friends who were in the saloon and made his way out.

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That's when Fortner entered the kitchen and obviously was looking for her. Now what?

 

"Let's head to the office.  There's something I gotta tell ya," the man ordered.

 

She so just wanted to tell him to go to hell but kept her self control and nodded, "Fine."

 

Without another word she followed him into his office then.  As he turned to face her, she stood there arms crossed eying him with simmering anger.

 

Fortner walked to a sideboard where a decanter of some of the establishment's best bourbon could be found.  He turned up two clean glasses and filled them half full.

 

"Here," he said to Caroline, handing her a glass;  he kept the other for himself.   "Please sit," he continued, nodding his head to a comfortable club chair against the wall.  He took the other one, opposite her. 

 

"I suppose you're mad as Hell, and I don't blame you, but let me tell you about what we've got here."   He reached inside his coat and removed the Deed to what used to be Potee's homestead.  "Here's the deed to the homestead, and in that safe,"  he pointed to a safe that sat in the corner of the office, "is another document, and do you know what?"  It's an assayer's report on an ore sample from that stretch of land.  I've had that report for a long time, and it cost me dearly to get it.  It's tells us that there is a vein of gold in a section of the stream that runs through that homestead.  Good quality gold -- the best."

 

He looked at her sincerely.

 

"I wouldn't be telling you all this if I didn't have plans to cut you in on the find.  You're smart and you helped us out, and you can be rewarded for that if you want.  It can make you a rich lady, Caroline.  Like I've said, The Montana Queen.  With that money you can see to your own wants, but if you feel the need to salve your conscience, there'll be plenty of money to donate to whatever and whomever you want."

 

She was so pretty and so smart, thought Fortner.  He hoped beyond hope she'd relent a bit.  He could tell she was steaming.

 

"I've been pursuing this site since before Potee got lucky and beat me to the land office.  The strike might put Kalispell on the map.  I mean, really on the map.  And it would help businesses all through town and out of town.  Believe me.  If Potee kept that land he'd never have discovered gold, and if he had, as stupid as he is, he'd squander it.  You saw today.  He's hardly man enough to handle anything like this."

 

He waved the deed in front him where he sat.

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Well, they were now in his office, Caroline and her boss. Not that she wanted to be there but she was told to follow him in and he was in charge. She watched as he pulled a bottle of expensive bourbon from a sideboard and half filled two glasses.

 

"Here," he said to Caroline, handing her a glass;  he kept the other for himself. 

 

She took it, she never turned down drinks, but the anger was still apparent on her features.

 

  "Please sit," he continued, nodding his head to a comfortable club chair against the wall.  He took the other one, opposite her. 

 

 "Alright," she sat down and took a sip of the liquor.

 

"I suppose you're mad as Hell, and I don't blame you, but let me tell you about what we've got here."   He reached inside his coat and removed the Deed to what used to be Potee's homestead.  "Here's the deed to the homestead, and in that safe,"  he pointed to a safe that sat in the corner of the office, "is another document, and do you know what?" 

 

"Nope," Caroline left her answer as brief as possible.

 

"It's an assayer's report on an ore sample from that stretch of land.  I've had that report for a long time, and it cost me dearly to get it.  It's tells us that there is a vein of gold in a section of the stream that runs through that homestead.  Good quality gold -- the best."

 

Caroline huffed, she should have known, then sipped the bourbon. Obviously he wasn't done yet.

 

"I wouldn't be telling you all this if I didn't have plans to cut you in on the find.  You're smart and you helped us out, and you can be rewarded for that if you want.  It can make you a rich lady, Caroline.  Like I've said, The Montana Queen.  With that money you can see to your own wants, but if you feel the need to salve your conscience, there'll be plenty of money to donate to whatever and whomever you want."

 

Aha, the part where the man now attempts to bribe her, again that was what she would have expected, he was quite predictable but then most men were. Caroline let him continue, he had more to his spiel.

 

"I've been pursuing this site since before Potee got lucky and beat me to the land office.  The strike might put Kalispell on the map.  I mean, really on the map.  And it would help businesses all through town and out of town.  Believe me.  If Potee kept that land he'd never have discovered gold, and if he had, as stupid as he is, he'd squander it.  You saw today.  He's hardly man enough to handle anything like this."

 

Yeah, Potee was not a likeable fellow and an idiot on top of it. But it still rankled her, that Fortner had to bring her into this scheme of his. He could have got that damn deed another way. No, instead she got dragged into the mud.

 

He waved the deed in front him where he sat.

 

Caroline downed the last of the drink without even a blink then stood up.

 

"Thanks for the drink, boss. I'd congratulate you for you gettin' the deed but the whole thing makes me sick. Making me even sicker, I played a part in it. And that's on me. But yer happy so enjoy it," she finally spoke, trying to sound measured, calm.

 

"Oh, I ain't gonna perform tonight. I don't feel good. I'll make up for it tomorrow, put on two shows or somethin'. And don't you worry none, if Potee brings in the marshal or somebody about this. I won't say a goddamn thing against ya. I ain't no friend of the law. I told you when we first met, I'm a loyal employee. And I fuckin' meant it."

 

With that she suddenly spun about and headed out the door, straight in the direction of her room.

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"Oh, I ain't gonna perform tonight. I don't feel good. I'll make up for it tomorrow, put on two shows or somethin'. And don't you worry none, if Potee brings in the marshal or somebody about this. I won't say a goddamn thing against ya. I ain't no friend of the law. I told you when we first met, I'm a loyal employee. And I fuckin' meant it."

 

With that she suddenly spun about and headed out the door, straight in the direction of her room.

 

Franklin's eyes followed Caroline's exit down the hallway until she disappeared into her room, and quietly closed the door.

 

Things hadn't quite turned out the way he'd hoped they would.  Caroline was not purchasable, that much was for certain, but the whole episode in his office took some immense joy out of his scheme. 

 

He remained in his chair while he continued to sip his liquor.  The chair was covered in leather and very comfortable, a perfect spot to dwell on what his next steps might be.  Every so often their was a whoop of laughter from the saloon floor, some joke, some winning hand, some rowdy competition.

 

He closed his eyes and remained stock still.   There was much to think about and much to take care of.  Sadly, Caroline would not be a part of it.  She had a sadness about her, but he just couldn't put his finger on it.  Maybe some dude had done her wrong.  Hell!  In his world it was the men who were left to feel sad, not the ladies.  Men were always getting their hearts broken, yes broken like a wheel at a cistern.  The wheel .. the great artery that receives the blood from the left ventricle of the heart, the great  cistern.  No wonder his heart ached sometimes.

 

He was staring into the mill pond, and he was young, so young, just like he used to be.  He waited for her, waited while his hand gripped a bunch of pink daisies.  Time passed yet he waited.  He knew time was passing.  It was marked by the steady drip-drip-drip of water falling from somewhere inside the cavern of an old wheelhouse, almost completely hidden in Morning Glory.  Drip-drip-drip-drip...

 

"Hey Franklin."  

 

Fortner's eyes flew open to find Hiram Priest leaning against the office door frame.

 

"Hey Mr. Mayor," Franklin responded.  "Glad you're here.  We have some planning to do."

 

Priest entered and closed the door behind him.

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Arabella looked in vain for Caroline until Sally Adams told her that the sultry saloon singer had been pulled into the new 'Office' that Fortner had carved out of the old spare downstairs room where they'd used to keep the brooms and mops. Those cleaning implements now joined the other junk piled in one half of Arabella's bedroom. After that, said Sal, she'd walked straight out of the office and gone up to her room "Looking like she'd lost a dollar and found a dime!" in the old prostitute's picturesque phraseology. 

 

The little pianist didn't follow it up there and then. She needed to talk to Caroline when they were alone and the dust had settled. For now, she put on her best smiley face: she would be the happiest, most satisfied employee imaginable... while she planned her escape. 

 

So it was, she filled in the slack by playing tunes on the piano: tinkly, happy tunes that chimed with the atmosphere of alcohol fuelled, frenetic, somewhat forced jollity that pervaded the place after Potee's humiliation. As she knocked out another chorus of Listen to the Mocking Bird she wondered how many others in the bar were disgusted by what they'd seen and were covering it: it was easier to go along with the cruel cheat of a helpless drunk than to oppose it in any way. The last man who had stood up to Fortner... well, his blood still stained the saloon floor. 

 

Yep: Horace Potee, Frank Grimes, Caroline Mundee... Arabella had a feeling that the victims of franklin Fortner's machinations were only just starting to be counted, and she wasn't sticking around to be put amongst their number...

 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Micah McGregor took another swallow of red eye and listened to the young lady tease the ivories.  She has talent, all right, he thought.  In spades.

There'd been such excitement about the sodbuster losing his homestead that he figured Arabella didn't have time to pay any attention to his wish that she visit with him.

 

Maybe now was different.

 

Micah arose, stretched all lanky 6'2" of himself, and then walked over to where Arabella played the piano.

 

"Hey, young Miss," he said when she'd finished a piece.  "When you have a chance will you come by my table and visit with me for a minute?  I need t ask you something."

 

 

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Micah arose, stretched all lanky 6'2" of himself, and then walked over to where Arabella played the piano.

 

Arabella turned as she was playing, seeing the figure of the old man approaching.

 

"Howdy, Mr McGregor!" she smiled, tinkling away.

 

It went against her musical grain to finish a tune in the middle of a phrase, but she finished playing Listen to the Mocking Bird as soon as was decently possible and twizzled round to face him on her Piano stool.

 

"Hey, young Miss," he said when she'd finished a piece.  "When you have a chance will you come by my table and visit with me for a minute?  I need t ask you something."

 

"Oky-dokey, Mr. M." she agreed. 

 

When she could, she skipped over to the lanky feller's table.

 

"What can I do you fer?" she asked jauntily, actually quite glad to be distracted from the thoughts of what had happened tonight and what she was planning to do about it.

 

"You want me to fetch you over a drink or play a special request?" she guessed, picking on the two things that the fellers usually asked her for at work. There was a third thing she was increasingly being asked for as she grew up into more of a womanly figure. She was even thinking of making up a little rosette to wear that said "Please do not ask staff for a kiss, as refusal often offends."

 

@Preston 

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Micah returned to his table and enjoyed the final bars of Listen to the Mockingbird.

 

That girl can sure play the piano, the rancher thought.

 

Finally, the little entertainer flounced over to his table.

 

"What can I do you fer?" she asked jauntily, actually quite glad to be distracted from the thoughts of what had happened tonight and what she was planning to do about it.

 

"You want me to fetch you over a drink or play a special request?"

image.png.78db2ec00a15ea261e820b91c98c9211.png

 

Micah smiled broadly.  "Well, why don't you sit down fer a spell so that we can have a visit?   And don't worry.  I'll fix it with yer boss."

 

Once she was settled, McGregor began.

 

"You know, I got a spread outside of town, one of the biggest in these parts.  My wife died a few years back, and all I got now are my two boys, Jeremiah and Seth, and my darlin' little girl, Rachel.  She's just ten years old, but full of energy and, I think, some talent.   Well,..."  he paused to take off his hat and set it on the table.  "I don't know where my manners have gone.  Anyways, we got us a piano in the ranch house, but, since my wife died, it's just agin the wall, collectin' dust."

 

Micah seemed embarrassed and grinned sheepishly.

 

"I was a'wonderin' if'n you'd consider givin' my darlin' Rachel some piano lessons.  I'd pay you well," he rushed to add.

 

 

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There was big talk in the office that lasted at least an hour.  When it was over, the Honorable Hiram Priest quietly left the room, soon followed by Fortner.

 

It was only about three in the afternoon, but so much had happened already that day. 

 

When he passed Caroline's door, he paused, then knocked three times -- not loudly.

 

"Caroline?  Can you come to the door?" he asked.

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Micah smiled broadly.  "Well, why don't you sit down fer a spell so that we can have a visit?   And don't worry.  I'll fix it with yer boss."

 

"Huh, I don't care 'bout HIM!" Arabella grumped and she plonked defiantly into the empty chair next to the old rancher.

 

"You know, I got a spread outside of town, one of the biggest in these parts.  My wife died a few years back, and all I got now are my two boys, Jeremiah and Seth, and my darlin' little girl, Rachel. She's just ten years old, but full of energy and, I think, some talent.  

 

Oh sweet Jesus, Mr McGregor wasn't about to ask her to marry him and become housekeeper and step-mother to his brood of children was he?! She immediately started to think of ways to let him down gently. She couldn't really tell him that she was more interested in girls than boys, let alone old men!

 

"Well,..."  he paused to take off his hat and set it on the table.  "I don't know where my manners have gone.  Anyways, we got us a piano in the ranch house, but, since my wife died, it's just agin the wall, collectin' dust."

 

Phew! he was trying to sell her a piano! Hold on, where was she going to keep a piano? 

 

"I was a'wonderin' if'n you'd consider givin' my darlin' Rachel some piano lessons.  I'd pay you well," he rushed to add.

 

Ohhhhhhhhh!! That was it. Well that was different.

 

"Oh, Mr McGregor" she cooed "... the idea of being able to nurture the talents of your wonderful little girl and fill your household again with the happy sound of music, and rekindle those happy hours spent with the beautiful and much lamented Mrs McGregor, why, that would be an honour and a privilege!" she smiled.

 

"So, er, how much exactly are we talking here? I mean, if your place is where I think it is, well, that's quite a space to go." she added. Arabella wasn't really a mercenary soul, but she and Miriam were saving up to get to New York, they needed every dollar they could get. 

 

@Preston

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Caroline was lying in her bed, she really wasn't sleeping though, much as she wanted to because being asleep would mean she wouldn't have to be lying there thinking about what had happened. It was summer and the second floor was stifling hot, an open window let in a little breeze but not much help so she had undressed. On the fortunately rare hot nights, she actually slept naked.

 

There was a knock, three raps, not hard pounding but quite audible. With a frown she sat up. It wasn't Arabella, that girl never knocked, just waltzed right in without the slightest concern about privacy. The male voice instantly confirmed it was definitely NOT the girl.

 

"Caroline?  Can you come to the door?" he asked.

 

It was Fortner. Now what? Was he going to tell her he was firing her?

 

"Gimme a minute," she answered and slipped out of bed to put on her robe, as she lightly tied it she then called out, "Come on in, it ain't locked."

 

 

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"Well,..."  he paused to take off his hat and set it on the table.  "I don't know where my manners have gone.  Anyways, we got us a piano in the ranch house, but, since my wife died, it's just agin the wall, collectin' dust."

 

Phew! he was trying to sell her a piano! Hold on, where was she going to keep a piano? 

 

"I was a'wonderin' if'n you'd consider givin' my darlin' Rachel some piano lessons.  I'd pay you well," he rushed to add.

 

Ohhhhhhhhh!! That was it. Well that was different.

 

"Oh, Mr McGregor" she cooed "... the idea of being able to nurture the talents of your wonderful little girl and fill your household again with the happy sound of music, and rekindle those happy hours spent with the beautiful and much lamented Mrs McGregor, why, that would be an honor and a privilege!" she smiled.

 

The old fella was bowled over by her eagerness to take him up on his offer. 

 

"Yer right about that!" He agreed.  "The place is way too quiet, and there's nothing that'd bring a smile to everyone's face like hearing  "Buffalo Gal" or "Listen To The Mockingbird" or even "My Old Kentucky Home".  He was so pleased she'd that a liking to the idea.

 

"So, er, how much exactly are we talking here? I mean, if your place is where I think it is, well, that's quite a space to go." she added. Arabella wasn't really a mercenary soul, but she and Miriam were saving up to get to New York, they needed every dollar they could get. 

 

Micah smiled, a smile as warm and inviting as the territory he lived in.  In truth,  McGregor Ranch ran between one hundred and one hundred and fifty head of cattle at any given time.  So, he had means.

 

"What would you say, darlin'?"  he asked .. the words coming out sincere and not condescending at all.

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"Caroline?  Can you come to the door?" he asked.

 

It was Fortner. Now what? Was he going to tell her he was firing her?

 

"Gimme a minute," she answered and slipped out of bed to put on her robe, as she lightly tied it she then called out, "Come on in, it ain't locked."

 

Frank slowly opened the door, and entered.

 

"Is it safe?" he joked, holding up his arm as if to block an incoming brickbat. 

 

He look around  her room.  Could use a bit of fixing up, he thought.

 

"I appreciated your help earlier and your discretion.  Someday maybe you'll come to realize that, but .. look.  How much do you get paid here?  I haven't looked through the books yet, so I don't know."

 

He kept his professionalism in check, though he had to admit that she was a "looker".   But, in his experience, it was not a good idea to fraternize with the hired help.  One could get his tit in a wringer if not.

 

 

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Micah smiled, a smile as warm and inviting as the territory he lived in.  In truth,  McGregor Ranch ran between one hundred and one hundred and fifty head of cattle at any given time.  So, he had means.

 

"What would you say, darlin'?"  he asked .. the words coming out sincere and not condescending at all.

 

Having never had one herself, Arabella had no idea what the going rate for a piano lesson was. She wished that the classically trained Frances Grimes was on hand, she would likely know. Oh well, she'd aim high and he could always beat her down. 

 

"An hour lesson costs One Dollar, a two hour lesson is One Dollar Fifty. Plus milk and cookies for myself and my page-turner, Miss Monahan." She had to rope Bridget into it somehow, as she would need the ginger-haired girl's little pony and trap to get her out to McGregor's place and back. 

 

"I shall come on Sunday's after Church and I will supply manuscript paper and exercises for dear little Ruth to practice on during the week." She was making all of this up, but it sounded pretty good, she reckoned. 

 

She waited to see if this struck the old timer as too exorbitant. 

 

blog-image.jpg

 

@Preston

Edited by Javia (see edit history)

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Frank slowly opened the door, and entered.

 

"Is it safe?" he joked, holding up his arm as if to block an incoming brickbat. 

 

"Course it's safe, boss. But if you really must know I do have a gun hidden under my pillow. Fair warnin', " Caroline replied.  She really did not think he would do anything violent. He wasn't stupid, it was far too risky. Oh and Ralph would kill him.

 

"I appreciated your help earlier and your discretion.  Someday maybe you'll come to realize that, but .. look.  How much do you get paid here?  I haven't looked through the books yet, so I don't know."

 

"Good businessman like yerself and you don't check yer books?  I'm a bit surprised by that. Tildy kept the books daily,"  the saloon girl commented dryly.

 

So it was all about money again....figured. The man just did not understand her. Probably because for a lot of saloon gals it was about that very thing. But not Caroline, she was already paid just fine and seldom spent it on a whole lot other than nice outfits. And one only needed so many dresses.

 

"Look, boss........hear me out. I don't need no raise. I don't stay here and do this job for the money. I love what I do. I love singing and dancing in front of all those men. It's quite a feeling up there, bein' ogled and hearing their whoops and applause. I'm good at it...and I know it."

 

"But to me my fellow employees.....Ralph and Ara and Mammy .....they're my family. Since I don't have no folks no more and never had any brothers or sisters, they're it. I stay for them. We look out for each other. This is my whole life. And whether you believe me or not - I'm happy here, doing this."

 

"So.....I don't need no...I don't want no raise. Hope that's clear now," she stopped then, having had her say.

 

 

 

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The issue was put squarely in front of Arabella.  How much would she charge for piano lessons?

 

"An hour lesson costs One Dollar, a two hour lesson is One Dollar Fifty. Plus milk and cookies for myself and my page-turner, Miss Monahan." She had to rope Bridget into it somehow, as she would need the ginger-haired girl's little pony and trap to get her out to McGregor's place and back. 

 

She did not come cheap!  That was Micah McGregor's first thought.  After all, he was thinking more like 25 cents per hour.  But, then again, a young girl has to live, and giving piano lessons was one of the nicest ways for a such a girl to make some money.  It was better than taking in wash or baking pies for neighbors.

 

He nodded slowly and said, "All right.  And you'll pay your page turner out of your proceeds?  Oh, and I can have Senora Alvarez, bake up a batch of cookies for you.  She's a good cook who we keep on here.  She was first hired to help my ailing Missus, but she's stayed on."

 

Senora Alvarez was actually part Mexican and part Apache.  The McGregor's insisted she be called Senora to draw attention away from her Apache roots.

 

"I shall come on Sunday's after Church and I will supply manuscript paper and exercises for dear little Ruth to practice on during the week." She was making all of this up, but it sounded pretty good, she reckoned. 

 

She waited to see if this struck the old timer as too exorbitant. 

 

"You are not only a wonderful piano player," Micah began.  "... but also one smart cookie.  My little Ruth is going to take a shine to you."   He reached across the table with his big paw and asked, "Shake on it?"

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Caroline was determined not to be appreciated, or so thought Frank. 

 

"Good businessman like yerself and you don't check yer books?  I'm a bit surprised by that. Tildy kept the books daily,"  the saloon girl commented dryly.

 

"Well, it hasn't been only about 24 hours since I bought this place, so I need a chance to catch up."

 

But she was unrelenting.

 

"Look, boss........hear me out. I don't need no raise. I don't stay here and do this job for the money. I love what I do. I love singing and dancing in front of all those men. It's quite a feeling up there, bein' ogled and hearing their whoops and applause. I'm good at it...and I know it."

 

"But to me my fellow employees.....Ralph and Ara and Mammy .....they're my family. Since I don't have no folks no more and never had any brothers or sisters, they're it. I stay for them. We look out for each other. This is my whole life. And whether you believe me or not - I'm happy here, doing this."

 

"So.....I don't need no...I don't want no raise. Hope that's clear now," she stopped then, having had her say.

 

"Fair enough, but I always try to treat my people, meaning my workers, well.  It's the only way to that I've ever found to attract and keep good people."

 

He leaned back against her door until it clicked shut.

 

"This wasn't an offer for blood money.  I've planned on giving everyone, Ralph, Mammy and Arabella a hike in pay.  You're just the first person I've raised the subject with.  But I hear what you're saying and, for God's sake, I don't want to be on your bad side forever, so just know that the offer stands open."

 

He looked across at her dressing table and the mirror that rose up the back of it.  It was a poor mirror, not ever clear, and it had a crack that ran across the right bottom corner.

 

I would think that a good singer and entertainer such as yourself ought to have a better dressing table.  Tell you what.  The next time my people head to Cheyenne for supplies, I'll have them look for a new table and mirror for you.  How's that?   It's just a capital investment -- nothing more."

 

 

 

Edited by Preston (see edit history)
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Arabella could see from the look on old McGregor's face that she had maybe pitched a little high. She quickly took remedial action. "I mean, just think, a shave and a haircut costs two bits, so that's six days worth of shaves: why if you just grow a beard, that'll pay fer it!"

 

"Oh, and who can put a price anyway, on the wonderful memories that hearing dear little Ruth playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on her dear departed mother's ivories will bring to one and all!?" she further bleated. 

 

He nodded slowly and said, "All right.  And you'll pay your page turner out of your proceeds?

 

"Oh, we won't need to pay her anything, she don't even know what day of the week it is. Dumb as a stump, our Bridget." Arabella assured him breezily. "She will be requiring of the cookies, though, and plenty of 'em."

 

"I can have Senora Alvarez, bake up a batch of cookies for you.  She's a good cook who we keep on here.  She was first hired to help my ailing Missus, but she's stayed on."

 

Ah! The old 'hired housekeeper' routine, eh? Arabella immediately imagined the dark eyed Spanish beauty slipping strychnine into old Mrs McGregor's 'strengthening broth' and then seducing the poor old devil until he became the wreck they saw today, and then getting herself written into his will while the names of dear little Ruth and her brothers were struck out!! Ooh, she liked a bit of melodrama!

 

Of course, it wouldn't be one of Arabella's fantasies if she didn't feature in it strongly herself: yes, that was it, she was the beautiful and clever piano teacher who uncovered Señora Alvarez's evil plan. The Señora would try and poison her with arsenic coated cookies, but luckily Bridget would eat them all first, thus uncovering the plot. Arabella would go to watch Señora Alvarez hang, then... then the fantasy started going a little strange with the dark eyed Spanish beauty for some reason giving her nemesis a passionate kiss on the scaffold and the pair of them shooting their way out of there and escaping in Bridget's pony and trap.

 

Arabella shook her head and was suddenly back in the room. 

 

"She sounds nice, I can practice my Spanish on her!" she beamed. 

 

"You are not only a wonderful piano player," Micah began.  "... but also one smart cookie.  My little Ruth is going to take a shine to you."   He reached across the table with his big paw and asked, "Shake on it?"

 

The Clinch Mountain girl jumped to her feet, spat generously onto her palm and smacked her hand into Micah's. "It's a deal!" she grinned.

 

@Preston (or I'll just start a new thread for the 1st lesson!)

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"Well, it hasn't been only about 24 hours since I bought this place, so I need a chance to catch up," the man attempted to deflect her implied criticism.

 

"It might seem like a day ta you, boss, but it's been a good week," Caroline only smiled.

ooc: I looked up your opener for this thread and you wrote a week had passed since Frank bought the place  😉

 

That was beside the point, there he was trying to bribe her again.  It might be how he was used to doing things and that was none of her business but some folk weren't bribeable and Caroline liked to think she was one of them. Hardly made her a saint though, for she had helped her cheat an old drunk and caused him to lose his farm and he and his family were now going to be homeless. That would never sit well with her.

 

He seemed almost ready to leave but had one last thing to say.

 

"This wasn't an offer for blood money.  I've planned on giving everyone, Ralph, Mammy and Arabella a hike in pay.  You're just the first person I've raised the subject with.  But I hear what you're saying and, for God's sake, I don't want to be on your bad side forever, so just know that the offer stands open."

 

"You give folks you want whatever raise you want, I've never been one to tell my bosses how ta run a place. As for how long you'll be on my bad side....we'll see. Me...I wonder how long Poteet's wife and child are gonna be without a home," she replied calmly.

 

"I would think that a good singer and entertainer such as yourself ought to have a better dressing table.  Tell you what.  The next time my people head to Cheyenne for supplies, I'll have them look for a new table and mirror for you.  How's that?   It's just a capital investment -- nothing more."

 

"That mirror was only recently busted....my fault too. Maybe that means I'll have seven years bad luck. Buy what you want.............just remember this - I never asked for it," she pointed out.

 

 

 

 

 

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Arabella could see from the look on old McGregor's face that she had maybe pitched a little high. She quickly took remedial action. "I mean, just think, a shave and a haircut costs two bits, so that's six days worth of shaves: why if you just grow a beard, that'll pay fer it!"

 

Micah smiled wide.  The girl was a caution.

 

"Oh, and who can put a price anyway, on the wonderful memories that hearing dear little Ruth playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on her dear departed mother's ivories will bring to one and all!?" she further bleated. 

 

Departed?  Micah stirred.  "He needs must think of her once more, how in the grave she lies, and with his hard, rough hand, he wiped a tear from his eyes."

 

He nodded slowly and said, "All right.  And you'll pay your page turner out of your proceeds?

 

"Oh, we won't need to pay her anything, she don't even know what day of the week it is. Dumb as a stump, our Bridget." Arabella assured him breezily. "She will be requiring of the cookies, though, and plenty of 'em."

 

"Ohhh!" Micah chided.  He never spoke ill of anyone.  That was the way he'd been raised.

 

"I can have Senora Alvarez, bake up a batch of cookies for you.  She's a good cook who we keep on here.  She was first hired to help my ailing Missus, but she's stayed on."

 

Ah! The old 'hired housekeeper' routine, eh? Arabella immediately imagined the dark eyed Spanish beauty slipping strychnine into old Mrs McGregor's 'strengthening broth' and then seducing the poor old devil until he became the wreck they saw today, and then getting herself written into his will while the names of dear little Ruth and her brothers were struck out!! Ooh, she liked a bit of melodrama!

 

Of course, it wouldn't be one of Arabella's fantasies if she didn't feature in it strongly herself: yes, that was it, she was the beautiful and clever piano teacher who uncovered Señora Alvarez's evil plan. The Señora would try and poison her with arsenic coated cookies, but luckily Bridget would eat them all first, thus uncovering the plot. Arabella would go to watch Señora Alvarez hang, then... then the fantasy started going a little strange with the dark eyed Spanish beauty for some reason giving her nemesis a passionate kiss on the scaffold and the pair of them shooting their way out of there and escaping in Bridget's pony and trap.

 

"Hey!"  Where'd you go to?" asked McGregor after some time had passed.  Arabella seemed catatonic.

 

Arabella shook her head and was suddenly back in the room. 

 

"She sounds nice, I can practice my Spanish on her!" she beamed. 

 

"You are not only a wonderful piano player," Micah began.  "... but also one smart cookie.  My little Ruth is going to take a shine to you."   He reached across the table with his big paw and asked, "Shake on it?"

 

The Clinch Mountain girl jumped to her feet, spat generously onto her palm and smacked her hand into Micah's. "It's a deal!" she grinned.

 

Micah returned the gesture and the two had become good friends.

 

Then, suddenly, the doors to the Star Dust burst open and Leland Bowerchek came running in all a'stumble.

 

"Is the Sheriff around here?  Anywhere?  He needs to come out to the Potee place, right away!!"

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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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