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Ralph Nicholls

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Saddle Sore
By Ralph Nicholls
Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rated "R" by the Author.

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The continuation of the epic saga began with And the Rains They Came A-Tumbling Down

This story was co-written originally as a part of a play by post role-playing story by myself and an acquaintance of mine named Molly. Heretofore, I did not deem it necessary for me to dissect the story and point out which was purely Molly's invention and which was mine own. Molly was happy enough just to have our story published and desired no public recognition of her own. Ah, but people change and Molly has expressed to me that she feels slighted that she was not cited for being the co-writer. Well, now she's getting her recognition, because though it was always intended to be a collaboratively written piece, my writing is superlative enough to stand on its own two feet. I don't need to plagiarize another's work to write a decent yarn, and im here to tell it like it is. Pleasure to role-play with you, Molly, m'dear. While it lasted.
In addition to Molly and myself, another acquaintance of ours, named "Bob" threw in his own two cents worth of writing/story-telling. I'd assumed Molly had informed Bob he would be contributing to an on-going story which was being published. She did not, and Bob knew it not. As a result the character Bob role-played was written out of the story entirely.

Finally, Bob Gillot was neither Moderator nor Owner of Lone Prairie Western in 2004, which was when i originally joined the club, so he doesn't know what-all permissions i had been given by GW McClintock, founder of Lone Prairie Western, concerning that setting, descriptors or likenesses of it.

The rider was tired and saddle sore. He'd been riding for weeks; months, it seemed, constantly on the move, visiting one dry southwest Texas town and then moving onto another. Visiting; but never staying, regardless of the warmth and hospitality offered him by the many, many widowed and single parent, child raising women farmers and ranchers he met in his travels. Many had been getting on in years, widowed when their husbands and their husbands' brothers went off to fight and die in the great War Between the States. Of those few who'd returned to their homes, some had not returned as anything; or little more than, much more than a shadow of their former selves. Not all, but enough to help keep him hidden safely away, until a doggedly determined semi-retired US Marshall, who went by the name Calvin " C.J. "Jonathan Andrew gave up looking for him; in whatever town the rider went to ground in, and moved on. Sometimes, many days would pass before the aging lawdog would realize that, once again, he'd been hoodwinked by some fawning female or another and he'd circle back around only to find his quarry had only just barely eluded him, once again. The rider was a man of a thousand faces, but always he was quietly, almost unobtrusively, helpful and compassionate towards those he met in his travels; and as such, he seldom found anyone unable, or unwilling, to aid and abet him in evading Olde Johnny Lawman. At night he usually dreamed of being caught and hung from an old knotty pine until his head grew as lividly purple as a ripe plum and the crows came to pluck his eyeballs out of his sun darkened, weather-beaten face. Sometimes he awoke to find himself being physically consoled, by a sweat smelling female with longing embraces and tearful admonitions that all would be well, somehow. But; occasionally he would dream of Addy Chappel and a way station and a town called Lone Prairie, Texas. The rider; whose true name was known by none he'd encountered since leaving Montana wondered just how the feisty female stage driver had taken his hasty, unannounced and sudden leave-taking. He'd taken the lawman's own cantankerous mount and ridden off with it. The beast hadn't liked the looks of the rider from the moment it had first spied him sneaking out from beside the shanty inside the which he'd spent the first restful night he'd enjoyed in weeks. But before expertly mounting it, the rider had pulled the horse's face close to his and stared deeply into its eyes. The look was one the animal would not soon forget; and though it smelled the scent of blood on the rider it allowed him to mount up and ride away with it. But the rider; who'd now added horse thievery to the list of sordid crimes for the which he was wanted, soon enough traded the worthy beast for another; if lesser, beast of burden. He entertained a small hope that the righteously angry lawman might appreciate the fact that he had his trusty charger returned to him in so short a time, well fed and unharmed, but who knew about the way other men thought, really. It sickened the rider to have had to have left his own sorrel roan and monogrammed rhinestone studded riding saddle back at the way station, but there'd been no hope for it. He hadn't wanted to be forced into gunplay and the subsequent killing of a man who'd done him no personal harm, after all. And the crimes which he'd actually committed not nearly so heinous as the ones for which he'd become an irrefutably wanted man. What exactly had become of the woman, Addy Chappel? Had C. J. Andrew, US Marshall incarcerated her for aiding and abetting the rider? The salt and pepper haired lawman hadn't seemed to the type to hold the Chappel woman responsible to her part in helping the rider make his own timely escape for the hangman's noose, but who could say for certain what went through the mind of a disenfranchised lawdog who had the courage and tenacity to ride hard on the back trail of a wanted and reportedly dangerous criminal for weeks on end, never quite becoming so disillusioned and disheartened that he gave up the manhunt; that he absolutely refused to not bring his man to justice. Down from the high mountain ranges of Montana, through the Rocky Mountains and down into the far reaches of southwest Texas, Andrew had ridden. Andrew was a highly skilled tracker and horseman, to be sure, but the rider had more to lose were he to allow himself to be caught. And he was far more skilled at eluding a determined manhunter, than Calvin Jonathan Andrew was good at being one. Lone Prairie, Texas; it was nothing but a name to the rider. But; even though he'd only heard her speak of it the once, it'd seemed to mean much, much more to the woman who'd come to haunt his dreams. She being the first woman to show him kindness since his harrowing, skin-of-the-teeth escape from an upper Montana jail, where he'd been savagely beaten and then just barely escaped a lynching hungry mob-posse, led by the man who'd monstrously used, killed and mutilated another kind and compassion young woman, a schoolmarm, and then had accused the rider of having committed the heinous crime. He'd put on some weight; which hadn't been easy to do, what with being constantly on the move, dyed his raven hair three shades lighter, shaved off his scraggly beard and his begun to sport a short of barbershop quartette handlebar mustache. Gone were the fine clothes he'd once worn, his fancy double gun-belt and the gambler-type hat he'd once worn. Gone, too, was the white gold pocket watch and fob which had borne the telltale initials "H. J. M." He went by the name Pete, now. Though that, too, changed as often as the weather in Oklahoma, where the rider had spent some time hiding out in the foothills of a piece of land near the mining camp town of Wilburton. He'd heard that outlaws; like himself, had made a habitation of the region as it was well defensible and a man could see a posse coming uphill after himself; or his fellow outlaws, for miles around. Some of those the rider had met up with had ridden with Quantrell's Raiders, during the War. Occasionally, even the hardiest and determined of men on the run had to find someplace to roost and try and gather his thoughts. And Robber's Cave had been one place where he could do that; for a time, and be assured that others who were as sought after as he would kind of look out for his interests, so long as they received some kinda gratuity for the doing. The rider had kin all over the Oklahoma Territory and Missouri, so that hadn't proven hard to come by. But the rider soon enough learned there was no honour amongst hardened criminals; or men who'd come to be treated as such, so he'd stolen off in the night, after being forced to kill about a half dozen men. More might've come after him as he rode hard towards Texas, but they'd feared for their own lives. The rider had the eyes like that of an eagle and the night vision of a mountain lion and the shooting accuracy of the famed Annie Oakley. He sat attentively listening to the conversation of the party of men who sat near him, but remained seemingly oblivious to anything; but the steaming plateful of vegetable-beef stew (it was his third helping) which sat right in front of him; and the buxom auburn haired waitress who'd served it to him. The waitress was leaning towards him, according him a double eyeful of her monumental bosom, while she rested her elbows on the tabletop and her double chins on both hands. Her rail-thin, pot bellied brother-in-law and would-be paramour stood aways off and glared daggers at the rider. But of this, too, he remained seemingly completely oblivious. He was not. "So's; anyways, I was tellin' her---" Said the waitress who looked for all the world she had two round flesh colored watermelons stuffed down the bodice of her dress. The rider was only nominally interested in this woman or whatever she had to say; which had long since lost any relativity to ANYTHING that concerned him, his meal or whether he meant to stay the night, in that town, or in that second rate hotel. He watched her lips though; she had a nicely formed mouth, which she'd lacquered a scandalous shade of scarlet, and listened as closely as he might to the men. They were saddle tramps and sometimes cowhands and every so often one of them would say something about Lone Prairie, Texas; which as yet lie in the next county over towards the east. That night as he lie in the bed with the surprisingly athletic, rubenesque redhead straddling his slender muscular hips, the rider peeked out at the moonlight spilling into through the barely parted curtains and reflected on events that had transpired earlier that afternoon. Having polished off his mid-day meal and taken his last sip of cold black coffee, he'd paid his cheque and stepped outside to smoke a cigarillo. His waitress had gone outside to try and catch herself a breath of fresh air. But it was hot, unusually hot for the time of year it was; and though he noticed she'd gone and removed her skirts and petticoats and rid herself of the corset that had helped create that eye-popping cleavage with which she'd no doubt had tried to distract him from his meal; or perhaps only to try and convince him, he'd had enough before he thought he'd had, it appeared to have accorded her precious little relief, and she was leaning up against the porch railing for support. " Shure is hot out, tonight; ain't it? " the rider grunted conversationally as he struck his stick match along the seem of his trousers leg and fetched it up, cupping the palms of his hand over his mouth to cut any wind that might have put the match out. Again; as with his words, the gesture had been unnecessary; there wasn't a breeze strong enough to have put out his match's flame. The waitress turned her head and offered the not unhandsome man a wane, vaguely seductive smile and blew a stray tendril of auburn hair out of her face. "Guess I'll just mosey on down the street and have myself a spot of whiskey overt the saloon. You're more than welcome to tag along and have yourself a drink on me; if you're of a mind,…" Without a backwards glance to see if she could even scrounge up enough strength and motivation to take the short walk, he'd stepped off the porch and started unhurriedly up the dusty hard-packed street. Of course he'd giving up drinking the hard stuff and his real motivation for going to the saloon, was because he'd wanted to see where the cowpokes had disappeared to. He thought that perhaps if he listened most attentively; and played his cards right, he might just get lucky enough to hear even more word of their plans to get to Lone Prairie, Texas supposedly in search of gainful employment at one of the ranches located nearby. His gamble paid off handsomely. The cowpokes took him for a bit of a greenhorn and he'd scarcely had time to finish his first whiskey, when they invited him to come over and join their game of draw poker. And being that he was; or had at least had been a highly skilled professional Mississippi riverboat gambler for a time, he'd known almost precisely how much he could afford to first lose, then win and lose again without drawing any unwanted attention to his gambling skills or pretended lack thereof. He'd learned a long time ago; first by verbal instruction when he was with the Texas Rangers and then later by personal experience that if one wanted to gain information from a certain individual; or parties of individuals, it was far better just to let them speak their peace than to try and interrogate them with pointed fact finding questions. And an occasional round of gratis whiskey lubricated their tongues more than plentifully. By 10:00pm he'd heard and stored away from future reference far and away more than he'd ever thought; or even wanted, to hear about the various ranches, ranch owners, saloon girls and privately bawdy women who were there to be found in Lone Prairie, Texas. Finally he'd used the accommodating buxom redhead and the suggestion that he'd earlier received the promise of a free poke later on that same evening to part way with the bloodshot eyed and slavering cowhands. He'd left the saloon to a chorus of hoots and howls and good-natured if somewhat ribald ribbings, on the arm of the bodacious bodied waitress. Fortunately, she wasn't the least put off of the idea of spending the evening with the rider, even given the fact he'd rudely made public the knowledge of their forthcoming trysting. On the morrow, only somewhat slightly before dawn, the rider would rouse himself out of bed, cleanse himself with a hot water bath followed by a cold water dousing, pack up his clothes and other belongings, stop by the farrier's to collect his horse, and then head down the road towards Lone Prairie, Texas. As he rode along humming the tune to one of the many mining camps he'd worked in, the rider thought about the woman Addy Chappel for perhaps the umpteenth time and what he'd say to her when first they met, again. He'd left her company without so much as a " so long; nice knowin' ya; good-bye "; and he'd known women who'd sworn death oaths on other men for far less than that. Especially women who lived their lives out on the frontier. Women back east might have wept for a day or two, bemoaned their fate and have taken up with the company of another silver tongued handsome fellow. But the women of good wholesome pioneer stock often as not took up firearms when they caught a glimpse of a familiar face on the street and began shooting before a man got in a word edgewise. The rider hadn't particularly wanted to part company with the Chappel woman at the time; or in the manner that he had. But he hadn't wanted to be forced into killing the ornery salt and pepper haired, mustachioed lawdog C. J Andrew, either. And that's what it would have come down to; the rider was sure of it. Andrew was after the rider for a heinous crime he hadn't committed, for which all the compiled evidence; circumstantial though it was, was irrefutable to the citizens and law enforcement officials of the mining town where the crimes had allegedly taken place. Well; not allegedly, they had indeed transpired; but other than defending himself against a lynching seeking mob and severely wounding the actual culprit and fleeing the town and Andrew's "justice", Harold " Harry " James McCurry had committed no crimes; in the state of Montana. Months; or was it years, now, ago he had committed crimes punishable by hanging in New Mexico, near the Mexico border. But there, again, he'd only acted in self-defense. And for many, many months later he'd never enjoyed one full peaceful night's rest. The night terrors and cold sweats hardly ever came around to torment him, anymore; he'd made his peace with God and the poor unfortunate souls who'd needlessly lost their lives "defending" their town against the lightning quick fast draw artist, Harry McCurry and four other US Marshall's whom as fate would have had been mistaken for the very men they'd rode into Purgatory, New Mexico to help the good people of Purgatory to defend their town against. Up until the very day before the day of the Purgatory Massacre, McCurry had been a fledgling member of the famous Texas Rangers, who been sworn in and made a US Marshall. Before sundown that same fateful day he'd left Purgatory, New Mexico upon the bare back of a froth coated Sorrel Roan, a wanted fugitive from New Mexico justice. He was never to know of a certainty what had become of the other four men, but he strongly suspected US Marshall (ret) C . J. Andrew had been a friend or relation to one of them,... The rider arrived in Lone Prairie, Texas just after sundown. Though he'd never actually been there before he could smell the slight taint of sawdust and new paint in the air. Either there'd been recent construction on a new building somewhere close-by; or one of the buildings had recently been renovated. Either way it served as clear enough indication that the town of Lone Prairie was growing. To the rider, new construction; or renovation, meant greater economic growth, which led to a larger population which inevitably meant a stronger; or at least greater presence of law enforcement officials. And this; of course meant his chances of continuing to remain a fee; and perhaps a live man would depreciate greatly the longer he remained, but he was tired of running, fleeing Montana; and for all he knew federal, justice. He longed to return to Missouri and set down roots, again, on the land of his family and the rest of the McCurry Clan, but he feared a telegram might be intercepted by a wrong party. Besides C. J. Andrew, God only knew how many bounty hunters that degenerate, murderously psychopathic Montana lawman had out combing over the entire continent searching for him. Reason said the wisest thing Harry McCurry could do was use an assumed identity and leave the country entirely Take a ship to England or even Australia; the McCurry Clan had people in both countries, and the rider could readily set up housekeeping as a horse rancher, there. But he wasn't prepared to leave the country just yet. And; of course he just had to try and find out if there was actually anything more than purely physical chemistry between himself and that lady stage driver, Addy Chappel. While he'd never actually shared carnal knowledge of her; as he had so many nameless other women, he found his mind flitting back to her and the unspeakably brief time they'd shared in each other's company in that ramshackle way station, the longest. He had to find out,…had to know if his dreams of her were just the stuff of fever induced erotic- romantic fantasies, or the foretellings of a lifelong romance designed by the angels in Heaven. He was young yet; despite the many misadventures he'd experienced, and Addy Chappel had struck him as being young; they still had time to steal away together, marry up and; maybe, have themselves a passel of young-un's. At any rate he was hell-bent for leather to find out. He'd fight Cerberus the three-headed Hound of Hades if he had to, but he meant to find out! Earlier that same day he'd stopped over in another nearby town and exchanged his mount for a fresh horse. The agreement he'd made with the farrier was that he'd ride the fresh horse into Lone Prairie and turn it into the city stables. A hired boy would ride into Lone Prairie later the next day on the rider's horse and exchange one animal for the other. That way the rider could give the appearance of being a man unaccustomed to riding a weathered horse, and thus not likely to have been long for the western united states. He'd chosen a sable colored bowler hat, a ruffled white dress-shirt, a chocolate brown vest and a dove grey waistcoat over a pair of pristine starched and pressed pair of tan colored trousers and English riding boots with no spurs, cobbled to minimise his natural height. He also affected a slight slouch and wore a pair of stage spectacles and an Edwardian beard Over the outer clothes he wore a grey overcoat and for effect he carried a hound headed walking stick, in the which was concealed a razor sharp Toledo steel epee For a sidearm, he wore a single nine shot .42 calibre LeMat 1st Model Two Barrel Revolver. In addition he had a stiletto strapped to his left leg in-step and; of course, his spring loaded scabbarded .41 calibre Remington 2-shot Derringer; which he was almost never without, on his right forearm; a weapon of last resorts. On his saddle he carried a Manton Presentation Double Rifle. The rifle had deep floral engraving upon it, express sights, flip-up moon sight, pistol grip, splinter forend, double trigger, and extractors. He was determined not to be caught flat footed. And when he inevitably introduced himself as a traveling gunsmith and firearms enthusiast he was certain his choice of firearms would bear him out. Of course; he'd have to be careful not to let it be seen that he'd filed off the LeMat's front sights, or it would be a dead giveaway that he was also a quick draw artist and experienced gun-hand. The rider guided his horse, a quarter horse with a trace of mustang blood, up Houston Street to The Livery, fluidly dismounted and began to look for signs of life. From where he stood it appeared to him that Lone Prairie, Texas was the kind of place where the streets rolled up early . Of course, it was only an initial impression. And he'd got similar impressions from smaller hamlets only to be proven wrong,…He cleared his throat of trail dust and affecting a patently theatrical Scottish accent called out, " Hullo! Oh, I say,…is there someone about? I have an animal here whut needs stabling,…" It would have taken a Scotsman just off the boat from the Highlands, or a 2nd or 3rd generationer; or someone with an extremely sensitive ear and a keen knowledge of the Scottish language, to be able to tell that the rider's intonation and inflection did not quite ring true . And unless he deliberately purposed for there so to be, there was scarcely any trace of his native Missouri in his speech patterns, at all. Out of sheer unconscious habit he allowed his gloved left hand stray near the lanyarded butt of his .42 calibre Baby LeMat double barreled revolver. Of course with his overcoat nobody could see that he even had a sidearm holstered there To a casual observer it might well have appeared that he was merely about to stick his hand in the depths of his deep coat pocket. Realizing his actions could be being watched by a party; or parties, unseen he prompt dipped his hands into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweaty brow, and wished he could feel comfortable enough to at least loosen his silken cravat The rope burn marks were scarcely discernible anymore, even for someone with the rider's eagle keen vision. The rider guided his horse, a quarter horse with a trace of mustang blood, up Houston Street to The Livery, fluidly dismounted and began to look for signs of life. From where he stood it appeared to him that Lone Prairie, Texas was the kind of place where the streets rolled up early . Of course, it was only an initial impression. And he'd got similar impressions from smaller hamlets only to be proven wrong,…He cleared his throat of trail dust and affecting a patently theatrical Scottish accent called out, " Hullo! Oh, I say,…is there someone about? I have an animal here whut needs stabling,…" It would have taken a Scotsman just off the boat from the Highlands, or a 2nd or 3rd generationer; or someone with an extremely sensitive ear and a keen knowledge of the Scottish language, to be able to tell that the rider's intonation and inflection did not quite ring true . And unless he deliberately purposed for there so to be, there was scarcely any trace of his native Missouri in his speech patterns, at all. Out of sheer unconscious habit he allowed his gloved left hand stray near the lanyarded butt of his .42 calibre LeMat double barreled revolver. Of course with his overcoat nobody could see that he even had a sidearm holstered there To a casual observer it might well have appeared that he was merely about to stick his hand in the depths of his deep coat pocket. Realizing his actions could be being watched by a party; or parties, unseen he prompt dipped his hands into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweaty brow, and wished he could feel comfortable enough to at least loosen his silken cravat The rope burn marks were scarcely discernible anymore, even for someone with the rider's eagle keen vision. Justus came in from the back paddocks, a little startled at the appearance of the man in his frilly clothes. But that didn't matter, a customer was a customer. "Howdy, sir. Ya say ya want yer horse stabled?" He gave the man a friendly grin. "We can do that...brush 'im down an' give 'im some oats. Be ten cents a day." " Aye,...thet t'would beh grand! Thet is ta say; Aye i do have an animal here as needs stabling. Ten cents a day; eh,...Loverly This one deserves a good brushing down, an' i'm shure he'd enjoy some oats, as well. But, just ta beh clear---this horse ain't mine. I leased this one from from th' next township over. Cannae abide by riding a sweaty animal, y'knows. They tends ta stink. Bloody ghastly stupid beasts, th' whole lot of them! Unfortunately, thare isnae a better way ta get around in this bloody great country of yours. Riding one of your stage coaches is an open invitation ta disaster; worse yet are your trains, an' the cost of hiring a hansen cab bloody unholy---Ahh, but i do go on; do i nae? I suppose it comes from haven ridden all day in your bloody hot Texas sun,...Anyways---Whare was I, naow? " Of course, the rider knew he was laying it on awfully thick, but he was a keen observer of the human nature, and he'd never met a single visitor to his country who wasn't as totally oblivious to local sensibilities as he was now pretending to be. Justus blinked, not sure at all what the man had said. Well, he did catch part of it, and he took hold of the horse's bridle. "I can brush 'im, sir, ain't no problem." He took as step back, toward the hay fork leaning against a stall. He didn't wear his sidearm in the barn...but the man had just confessed that the horse wasn't his. "How long ya reckon he'll be here?" The rider smiled indulgently. The response he'd solicited with his obviously foreign speech and odd manner of dress was pretty much as he'd suspected he'd receive. It was all quite deliberate. Nobody would ever suspect that a man on the run from the laws would EVER go to such lengths to make himself appear quite this conspicuous. People didn't behave the way he'd behaved unless that were extremely poor actors in a vaudeville-type playhouse; or they just happened to be quite genuine. The offending comments he'd made about horses and cross-country traveling he was more than prepared to bear out with his seemingly atrocious horsemanship, when the time came. He took his hound'shead walkingcane off his right forearm and proffered it to the other fellow who was very obviously working his way over to a hayfork leaning against one of the vacant stalls nearest the front of the livery stables. Obviously he'd said or done something to arouse the other man's suspicions, but he was certain he'd neither said or done anything to give his true nature away. " Ahhh t'will just beh til th' morrow, sair. A hired boy will be bring my horse ta your stables and exchange it,again,fer this hired mount, sometime tomarrah afternoon; I suspect. After thet I expect I'll beh in your quaint little hamlet an other four or four days, before I proceed ta push on further east. Won't ye beh kind enough ta take hold upon meh cane? This will free my hands, so I can give you th' money, you will require, both fer the overnight keeping of this beast, an' th' tending to mine shall nae doubt require when it's brought here. It won`t beh biting ye; I beh promisin` " He chuckled disarmingly. Again he made a show of wiping the handkerchief across his sweat beaded brow. The hound's head top of the cane he held in his out-stretched gleamed faintly in the half-light. It was fashioned from genuine platinum. Justus frowned, taking the cane reluctantly. He knew gold and silver, but didn't recognize the platinum for what it was. He just knew that everything about the man was finery. "Ya say ya hired that horse?" He relaxed a little, then chuckled. "Way ya talked, I figured ya stole it. I'll take care'a him, sir. An' yers when he gets here, I'll take care's him. There's a hotel up th' street, sir." He didn't bother mentioning that the saloon had some rooms available upstairs. Man like this didn't stay in saloons... The rider guffawed at the man's remarks ebulliently. " Why on earth would a mahn ever want ta steal one of these bloody creatures? He'd be far an' aways better off stealing a mule. They're smarter than any stupid horse, at rate. A serpent's rattle doesnae affright them, they don't panic should one's barn or stables catch fire, they will nae accidently walk off the edge of a ravine, in the dark, and best of all they're sterile. Would ta God we had more of 'em in th' Highlands; I do. They're strong, dependable and can outdistance a horse, any day of th' week. Or so I'm told. Tis th' bloody English thet have th' burden of owning th' most horses, an' any mahn worth th' name can outrun an' out maneuver a horse in th' highlands. But it's different here, I've seen. Here ye raise `em like we do sheep in the highlands. An' like as nae value them as a man from Eire does his gold. Eh,…but I do blather on a bit; do I nae? " Justus shrugged, then grinned. "Well, honest, sir, ya do go on...Don't know 'bout blatherin', though..." He honestly wasn't sure what blathering was! The rider reached back at the last and pulled the right-hand side edge of his overcoat to one side, showing he wore no gunman's holster; tied down or otherwise (he wore the LeMat on his left side near the small of his back, relying upon the dagger strapped to his left forearm and the .41 calibre Derringer strapped to his right forearm to provide for his defence.), and pulled out his billfold; and opening it, drew out a single crisp "greenback". " This ought to prove sufficient for the stabling of th' beasts. Should ye find thet ye have need-a more beh shure and come tell meh; right, then? Ye did say thet thare was a hotel right down this street; did ye nae? " The denomination of the bill was $io.oo American and there was a five pound note "stuck" to the backside of it. It would no doubt seal in the other man's mind the "fact" that the rider was not one of his own countrymen. The inference that he expected to receive no change back was inexplicable. It would also help insurance speedy aquiessence to any addition service that might be required in the future. The rider had little doubt that if the need arose and he had to make a quick exodus from Lone Prairie, that the ostler would prove undeniably helpful in seeing the rider did not face any too great an impedence. "Ah, sir..." Justus pulled the pound note away from the ten and held it out. "This was stuck t' th' other one..." It looked like money, but he wasn't sure. "An' ten? Ya got anythin' smaller, sir, beggin' yer pardon." He would have to break the ten and put part of it aside as a refund. Certainly the man wasn't going to stay a hundred days... The rider had turned around and was in the act of walking away, when he realized that; one, he hadn't removed his Manton rifle from its scabbard, and two; he hadn't received his hound's head walking cane back from the other man. Turning back, again, he saw that the other fellow had pealed the British five pound note off the back of the American ten dollar note and was gesticulating with it. The rider turned back, again and brought his billfold; which he'd been in the process of returning to his right hip pocket and search for a more appropriate sized denomination. "Haow about a fiver, then? Oh---and I'll beh needin' my cane back and my rifle, which is tied to my saddle; unless, of course, you can hold it til th' morrah; in which case you can keep th' larger bill as both payment fer stabling` th` horse AND keeping` th` rifle in yer safekeeping. Ordinarily, I like ta keep the rifle locked away, fer safe keeping'; but this time-a night, thare's probably naewhares ta keep it, savin' with myself; or with you. Whut say ye? Want ta earn th' extra fiver; or shall I go ahead an' take th' rifle with meh? " "Yes, sir, thank ya." Justus nodded and grinned. The man was quite generous, and he needed the money. He handed him the cane, then took the rifle. He knew the value of a good weapon, and would keep this in the house. 'Scuse me, sir, but that other...that other money...is it real? Ain't never seen nothin' like it." The rider smiled affably. He felt he could come to quite like this other fellow. He was honest and quite unafraid to show his ignorance of a thing. " Aye---It is quite " real " , mate The currency of the Bretons, truth beh told. We Scots arenae much fer Trans-Atlantic sailing, so if one from my country wants ta travel to the Americas he generally travels south ta England an' takes ship from London. I exchanged whut Scots money I had fer thet of Great Britain an' then, again, fer your American currency. But I held back some of the Bretons' money in reserve fer when I leave again, an' go home. Naow, this hotel,…whut sort of people are they whut normally give it its patronage? " "Huh?" Justus frowned, then decided the man must be speaking a combination of Scottish and English, since there sure was plenty of what he was saying that he didn't understand!' "Hotel's just up there." He pointed again. "Nice place, clean'n quiet. Serves coffee an' things from th' bakery in th' mornin'. Has a indoor bath house..." The rider was hot and uncomfortable. It was after dusk and yet it was still extremely sultry. The overcoat he wore only exacerbated the situation. " A bath would feel mighty good, right about naow. I think I shall have ta go an' see 'bout arrangin' ta have myself a bath, sair. I'll see you on th' morrow, then, when I come to check on the condition of my horse I shall beh shure an' tell the innkeep thet you recommended th' establishment at meh. P'raps, they'll feel it mete to recompense you, as well. " "Uh huh..." Justus was completely baffled by the man, but he seemed a nice sort. Shaking his head, he put the horse in a stall then headed for the house to store the rifle before tending the horse. Turning back away, the rider mopped, again, at his brow and started back up the streets. Only when he'd almost reached the hotel did he realize that while he hadn't had to tell the other man his assumed name, he hadn't learned the other's, either. Inside the hotel, Amelia Fitch was bored, thumbing through the register as she recalled different gentlemen who had stayed there. Most were unremarkable, but a few...She glanced up as she noticed someone headed toward the doors. Another gentleman, and an intriguing one at that. Combing back stray locks of hair, she straightened, then brushed out her skirts and stepped around the desk and out the door. No sense letting him get away. "Goodness, it's a warm day," she commented as he neared. "If I didn't know better, I's say there was a storm headed this way." Smiling, she reached for her fan, snapping it open and fanning her face. The rider heard the door open and close and the tread of footsteps on the boardwalk of the hotel's porch. A woman's footsteps. He looked up, but the porch's eaves cast the woman's face in shadow. He got the impression of long hair and a slender body, dressed to suit the weather without sacrificing elegance. She stepped out of the shadows into the moonlight Her posture straightened as she unconsciously pulled in her derriere and pushed her bosom up and out; and a hint of mischief flashed in her eyes. " Goodness, it's a warm day " she said conversationally " If I didn't know better, I'd say there was a storm headed this way. " The woman smiled invitingly and reached down to her side. Her eyes only left his face was the barest moment as she reached down to her side and drew something out of her pocket. The rider caught a fleet glimpse of movement that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up on edge. He could have thrown back the edge of the overcoat and cleared leather with the somewhat bulky Baby LeMat in a heartbeat. Had it been strapped to his side. The mystery woman made a flicking movement with her wrist and snapped open a stylish fan. She smiled invitingly, the fan passing fleetingly in front of her lower face. Her posture shifted minutely according the rider a quick peek down at the top of her bodice. Then she straightened, again, demurely. "Aye,…Thet it beh, mistress. " the rider replied and smiled politely He casually removed his bowled hat and moved it to cover his left breast pocket and bowed minutely. " One would have expected it to grow a little cooler after the sun set, but thet doesn't appear to beh th' case . It is nevuh this hot in my own country. Takes a mahn some gettin' accustomed to; I expect. " "There are all sorts of things a man must become accustomed to." Amelia smiled and moved down one step. She was educated, not in schools, but in the classroom of the world, and she was unable to place the accent. She would have to engage him in more conversation, but she was sure it was forced. "You are not from Texas, there is certainly no doubt of that. Scotland, perhaps? A long way from home, seeking adventure and fortune, no doubt...there is plenty to be had here." She smiled sweetly. Having been a professional Mississippi riverboat gambler and received a formal education in a prominent university the eastern United States of America, where he'd met and for a time ran around with a few aspiring Pinkerton Detective Agency enlistees, and having excellent low light vision, the rider watched the woman's face as she responded to his statement. He watched her whole face, and not just her mouth or her eyes as some men were prone to do. What he saw was that this woman was very much like the so-called high society women he charmed, wooed and bedded almost since he was old enough to lift and carry a fifty pound bale of hay. This one lacked somewhat in having their studied refinement. But what she did have was their woman-of-the world demeanor. Her eyes held cunning as well as intelligence. And the ever so slight pursing of the lips at the corner of her finely sculpted mouth connoted a modicum of skepticism. And the nostrils of her proud even somewhat haughty nose flared somewhat when he said that he was from abroad. He felt she found him attractive, certainly intriguing but not altogether genuine. Perhaps, she; unlike he, had actually traveled abroad. If so it would not have been altogether first class passage, as she lacked for having the air of superiority that the rider found to be common in women who were accustomed to being waited upon, hand and foot. And the fan she held; while pretty, was not made of the shamelessly expensive virgin silk of the Orient, like so many others the rider had seen on either of the continents' coasts. Finally, the tone of her voice gave the rider to believe he was in the presence of another personage with an inquisitive bent. Though whether her investigative probings were an advocation or professionally inspired; like his own had been for so much of his young life, remained to be seen. The rider smiled broadly; like his uncle,Ian McCurry, a genuine Highlander would have and replied, " Aye! Why yes'm; yes I am; indeed, a mahn from th' Scottish Highlands; an' proud am I at beh so! My name is Peter McGuerny an' I've been to this bloody great country of yours, b'fore. I've visited your New York, Chicago, San Francisco, an' Barbary Coast an' even have traveled on your Mississippi River. But nevuh b'fore have I evuh been this fahr inland. An' of all those places, your Texas has GOT to beh one of th' hottest an' driest! " Amelia smiled. *Ah, a player!* And she loved games! "The heat is nothing compared to the savages that run free about the territory." Her smile widened. "And I don't mean the native kind!" Having so said the rider mopped at his brow and replaced his bowler hat upon his head. "An' if you really must know, I'm a-wearing this bloody great overcoat to keep the dust off'n meh clothes as I ride. An' the sooner I see a bath th' better I'll like it! " This last he said and proffered Amelia a sheepishly boyish grin. "Well, I might be able to help you, sir." Amelia smiled and nodded to the hotel. "We have lodgings here, and a bath as well. It's not quite what you'd find in St. Louis, but my partner and I are working on it. And the rates are reasonable. Perhaps I could interest you in a room?" She descended the last step and reached to brush dust off his lapel as she spoke. The rider bowed his head to mask his puzzlement. *What does she mean to say by telling me this?* There could be no denying nor hiding her elevated state of excitation when he told her he'd traveled upon the Mississippi River. Many visitors to his country did as much. And not just card sharps and honest gamblers, though the gambling tables of the steam driven wheelboats had known appreciably increased commerce since the close of the War Between the States. Many came not only to gamble but also the avail to the diverse entertainments offered shipboard that were otherwise greatly frowned upon by the local citizenry. But the rider's knowledge of such affairs was not fresh, as he had not plied his trade as professional gambler on board a Mississippi River riverboat for a few years and local custom can have changed a good deal in that amount of time. There was also the possibility that the woman referred to something entirely different. What this might be the name who called himself Peter McGuerny did not know; and at that moment, could not guess. Nevertheless, he smiled the smile of a co-conspirator and allowed his eyes to fleetingly leave her face as he followed where she pointed as she said, " Well, I might be able to help you, sir. " He looked back, again to find her smiling, again, showing if possible even more of her dazzling white teeth and nodded her head by way of reiteration. " We have lodgings here, and a bath as well. It's not quite what you'd find in St. Louis, but my partner and I are working on it. And the rates are reasonable. Perhaps I could interest you in a room? " That the rider meant to accept that invitation in all that implicitness real or imagined was a foregone conclusion. The scent of her perfume grew strong in his nostrils even before she descended to him, inflaming his libido with her mere proximity. He looked briefly away as she raised a hand and brushed trail dust off the lapel of his overcoat. * Can she feel how much she arouses me with her nearness, alone? * " Aye. Yes; I will have a room an' you have a vacancy. I've had a long, hard trip to your fair hamlet an' would fair find myself a bed fer at lie myself down upon, after a good long bath an' a nightcap fo' at wash the dust from meh palate. I donae beh supposin' thare beh yet some prepar'ed vituals available fo' a poor traveler whose had naught ta eat since breakfast? " As if on cue the rider's empty belly grumbled audibly. "We don't normally serve evening meals, but I'm sure I can find some simple fare, rolls and cheese, and perhaps some wine." Amelia turned back toward the hotel, moving up the steps with poise perfected in years working in brothels. She knew how to move to catch a man's eye. When she reached the door, she paused and stepped back, allowing him to open it for her. "Thank you, sir. Now, do you prefer a room that overlooks the main street, or the back alley? We have suites as well." The rider felt his cheeks grow warm beneath his Edwardian beard when the woman smiled knowingly. He had a distinct feeling he'd be wanting to remove the beard when he got safely tucked away from the public eye. Besides serving to protect his fine clothes fine trail dust, his overcoat also had deep pockets. Pockets in the which he habitually carried a theatrical make up kit, a pocket knife, a shaving kit and a box of ammunition for his Baby LeMat Two Barreled Revolver. The rest of his belongings would be arriving the next day on the afternoon train. He hadn't wanted to risk getting waylaid and loosing his gunsmithing tools and his prototype weapons and his steamer trunkload of alternate clothing. He missed the first part of her response, but forced his attention to return to the present as the woman turned away from him and started back towards the hotel's door. No sooner had she turned her backside to him when he quickly and with a bare minimum of movement reached down and readjusted the postioning of his rapidly lengthening appendage under the coverage accord him by his overcoat. He was right behind her but conspicuously kept her body at arm's length as he reached over and opened the door for her to enter into the hotel. He didn't want to be thought he had so little control over his autonomic responses; and especially not where he risked making a public spectacle of himself. " I'm shure thet whutevuh you have shall beh fine. I donae want at beh an imposition on anyone; y'knows An' if'n tis all th' same at you I'd prefer ta have a room facing th' alley. I'm a light sleeper,…an' I prefer nae at let on thet I have as muche money as I have. Nae sense invitin' trouble by wavin' my wealth about under th' locals' noses. An' doing so would nae doubt only serve as an open invitation ta any would be robbers ta come 'round an' try an' relieve meh of't, in my sleep,…" He trailed off; just like a traveler who feared he might have volunteered too much. "Our establishment discourages robbers," Amelia said softly, "but I know just the room. If you'll sign the book..." She indicated the large tome on top of the highly polished counter. "The bath is under the stairs. Let me know when you'd like it, and I'll have the boy bring in hot water for you. You will find fresh towels and soap in the room." She smiled at him, then handed him a key. "I'll show you to your room. Would you like tea with your bath?" The rider pulled a face at Amelia's offer of tea. " Tea!? Tea's fer th' bloody English. Nae self-respectin' Scotsman would drink it. On th' other hand, if'n you should have any sour mesh whisky on th' premises; I'd muche prefer at have thet, instead. Your countrymen were right at take thet shipment of th' vile stuff an' cast it inta th' harb---" He abruptly broke off and finished his brief monologue saying, " Well, I donae like tea. But if you havenae whisky, a bit of warmed milk with some honey t`would beh moste welcome. " He then crossed to the hotel's front desk and turned the big book around with one hand while reaching for the ink well and feathered quill with the other. Then he signed the hotel's ledger with a bold flourish borne of many countless hours spent practicing forging his many aliases' signatures. It would have taken a handwriting specialist; and one who'd seen an example of his handwriting, before, to unmistakably recognise Peter McGuerny's writing as that belonging to one Harold James McCurry, former Texas Ranger and alleged rapist and murderer. 

He turned to Amelia Fitch. " My legs are `bout at give up on meh. Guess I'll go an' try an' find my room, now. I'm hungry; but tired, as well, and th' sooner I can get thet bath, the better I'm shure thet I'll feel. It'll either refresh me or help meh sleep like a babe. " "Oh, please, allow me."

"Now, Mr. McCurdy, you are just go up the stairs, turn left and you are the third door on the right. If you'd like, I can have some food sent from the cafe, and I'll have the girl draw your bath. And if you leave anything you need cleaned in the water closet, it will be ready by morning."

The rider looked into the woman's eye to see if he could detect any hint of mischief, there. He hadn't missed the fact that she had attributed to him another name besides the one he'd already given. " I beg you pardon, miss. But my name's nae McCurdy; it's McGuerny,…Peter McGuerny. I thank you fer th' directions, though. I'm shure I can manage to find my room on my own. Haow long shall I allow fer my bath at beh drawn? You did say you'd have th' boy; or was girl, draw the water fer it? An' if you could remember to send thet food from your café, I'd beh moste appreciative. Oh,…but as fer th' offer concernin' my clothes,…thet'll have ta wait until tomarruh. My luggage arrives on your noon train. Or so I hope, as I havenae othuh than whut I'm naow wearin'" 

He cut his eyes to Amelia Fitch apologetically. " I shall retire to my room, naow; methinks. P'raps, a night's rest will find meh in better humour. Miss. Fitch, …I bid you a good night an' good morrow. " 

"Don't worry, sir, I'll have food sent over and the bath should be ready shortly." Amelia smiled.  A curious sort of man was Peter McGuerney, to be sure.  Ah, but the Grand Hotel catered to all sorts.  Amelia Fitch had not been born and bred out in the boondocks, somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Reviewed by Robert "Bob" Gillott 4/12/2009
The names of some lesser characters, who were used as little more than window dressing, anyways, were changed to due some expressed dissatisfaction at their inclusion to the storytelling, which was/is based on some play-by-post role-playing at Lone Prairie Western, on Yahoo Groups. I sincerely apologise for any unintended insult rendered to the creator(s) of those original characters. Plagarising their creations was certainly NEVER my intent.

The inclusion of the names of "lesser" characters owned by writers of the Lone Prairie group were used without the consent of those writers. Changing the names after the fact is all well and good. A bit late however.

The use of the names, the town name, descriptions, and events as described, written, or insinuated on the Lone Prairie group is theft, plain and simple.

Plagiarizing an RP of some nine years running is exactly what you intended in this piece. That was why you joined the game, and I suspect other games for other pieces as well.

Bob
Moderatot/Owner
Lone Prairie Western
Reviewed by Ralph Nicholls 4/6/2009
The names of some lesser characters, who were used as little more than window dressing, anyways, were changed to due some expressed dissatisfaction at their inclusion to the storytelling, which was/is based on some play-by-post role-playing at Lone Prairie Western, on Yahoo Groups. I sincerely apologise for any unintended insult rendered to the creator(s) of those original characters. Plagarising their creations was certainly NEVER my intent.


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