Wizards, Whiskey and Wonderful Things - Concluded


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    Wizards, Whiskey and Wonderful Things - Concluded

    This Story Hour is a new module continuing the campaign started in the “Revenge, Renewal and the Promise of a New Year” Story Hour, which can be found at the following link:
    http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=99053


    The story starts on Thursday, March 9th 1882, in the American southwest of an alternative earth, a historically based world that is also populated with D&D races, magic, spells and deities.

    Primary Cast of Characters
    Chester Martin - “The Ex-Soldier”, male human fighter/ranger (SteveJung)
    Ginnie Flaherty - “The Kid”, female human rogue/wizard (Kriskrafts)
    Jake Cook – “The Gambler”, male human rogue/fighter (Baradtgnome)
    Katherine Kale - “The Lady”, female human expert/wizard (Orchid Blossom)
    Ruby West - “The Singer”, female human bard/rogue (Queenie)

    Secondary Cast of Characters
    Nanuet – “The Indian”, male high elf ranger/cleric (Dire Wolf)
    Sonoma – “The Senorita”, female wood elf druid/bard (Kriskrafts)



    Prologue One: "Morgan Earp", Friday, January 27th, 1882:

    Morgan Earp sat on the train, traveling northwest and away from to the town of Tombstone, Arizona. He had settled there with his four brothers, the oldest brother Virgil becoming the town’s Marshall. Brothers James and Wyatt co-owned the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone, which James managed and bartended at. That was where the trouble had started nearly four months ago.

    There had been six of them playing poker in the early hours of October 3rd, 1881. The others at the table had been his brother James, the quick-tempered bartender Buckskin Frank Leslie, the gunslinger Johnny Ringo, a town lay about named Colby Tucker and a newcomer from Massachusetts by the name of Thomas Kale, who sat there with an annoying grin plastered on his face. At one point Kale stupidly insulted Ringo, but James calmed Johnny down.

    At two in the morning James handed Morgan the keys and headed off to bed. By then Morgan had lost all of his money to Kale. Tucker left then too, telling Kale he’d see him back at the boarding house. Kale continued to play with Ringo and Leslie while Morgan sat at the bar emptying a bottle of whiskey. Morgan thought he saw Kale cheating but decided to keep that observation to himself. The game ran for another half-hour with Kale as the big winner for the night. Each man departed and Morgan locked up the saloon behind him. He then hurried after Kale, stopping him in the back alleyway. Grabbing Kale from behind and said, “You owe me my $ 120 dollars back. I saw you cheating.”

    Kale denied it and accused Morgan of being drunk. Morgan answered, “You’re the one who’s drunk. What do you think Leslie or Ringo will do if I tell them you were cheating?” Kale made some comment about how he doesn’t cheat and wouldn’t stoop to being blackmailed. He then turned his back on Earp and began to walk away. Kale was right about one thing, Morgan was drunk, and as a result he was not thinking straight. He was immediately overwhelmed with anger at this cheating upstart Yankee and before he even realized what he was doing he had drawn his knife and plunged it into Kale’s back.

    Kale fell to the ground and died on the spot. Morgan just stood there in shock for an unknown period of time. He then heard someone approaching. He turned and fled, rounding the corner and then hearing Colby Tucker’s voice exclaim “Tom!” Morgan went to the home of his brother Virgil and told him what happened. James Earp arrived shortly thereafter, looking for the Marshall. Virgil told Morgan, “You stay here I’ll take care of it.” Virgil was good to his word. Thomas Kale was taken to the undertaker who was a friend of the Earps' and Morgan’s knife was quietly disposed of.

    Kale had been sickly when he first arrived in town and only recently had he telegrammed Boston for his wife to join him. Virgil convinced Tucker that it would be easier on her to think that Tom died of a relapse of his illness, that story also told to the local newspapers. When Katherine Kale got off the train Tucker broke the news to her of her husband’s death. A funeral service was held at the town’s Boot Hill.

    Morgan expected Mrs. Kale would board a train back to Boston, but she instead moved into her husband’s boarding house. Whenever Morgan saw Mrs. Kale his guilty conscience would tug at him. By mid-December he couldn’t take it anymore, so when his brother Wyatt was offered at job as Marshall in the nearby mining town of Promise City Morgan decided to accompany him as Deputy Marshall.

    Two weeks after that Mrs. Kale arrived in Promise City, getting a job as the pianist at a local saloon. A week later fate put her and Morgan together on a stagecoach that was attacked by outlaws known as the Cowboy Gang. Morgan was mortally wounded and would have perished if not for Katherine Kale’s valiant efforts to save him. This caused his already guilty conscience to really bother him so when Morgan was given an opportunity to return to Tombstone he took it.

    A week later Mrs. Kale made a return trip to Tombstone. She claimed to have come to purchase a stone for her husband’s grave but her real reason was to follow up on rumors concerning her husband’s death. She spoke to both Johnny Ringo and Colby Tucker and Tucker then went into hiding. Whatever she may have discovered was just hearsay but Tucker was another matter altogether. He might have seen Morgan fleeing from the crime scene or recognized the knife in Kale’s body. She may have convinced Tucker to talk to a judge, which could bring harm not only Morgan but the reputations of the entire Earp clan.

    Mrs. Kale headed back to Promise City but said that she planned to return when her husband’s tombstone was ready. Virgil had the newspapers circulate a story accusing Tucker of being a member of the Cowboy Gang and wanted for participation in a recent stagecoach robbery. That kept him in hiding and would also discredit any testimony he might give in the future. Virgil said that if necessary they would accuse Tucker of Kale’s murder and make the charges stick.

    Morgan’s conscience now badgered him even more. Virgil and James were concerned about their brother’s mental state and convinced him to head back to California for an extended visit with their mother. As the train pulled away from the station Morgan said to no one in particular, “I’ll be back, maybe in another month or two. This has to end.”
    Last edited by Silver Moon; Thursday, 19th April, 2007 at 03:43 AM.

 

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    Prelude Two" "The Half Breed", January 31st, 1882

    The room was cramped and old. The wood creaked and cracked when walked on. Luc had rented the room above the rowdy saloon two months ago. He had been working as the bouncer/janitor. The saloon owner was a fat jovial dwarf named Henry Shankstone. He was the kind of dwarf who didn't care where you came from,who you were or what you were. He only cared that you were in the saloon to have a good time. Even if you were a man with a past.

    The bar maid Emma had been sneaking looks at Luc since he had arrived. While working he had kept his guns and weapons in his room. Last thing a man on the run wanted was to be challenged by a drunk to a gunfight. Nothing really bad had happened the past two months. Some old prospector had gotten fresh with Emma and Luc had to throw him out. Luc wouldn't have minded staying here. But as was his life, he could never stay in one place for long. It would only be a matter of time until someone found him.

    So it was on the last day of January he stood in front of the mirror in his room shaving. A basin of hot water set on the dresser in front of him and his gun belt ten feet away hanging on the bed post. He heard the creak before he looked in the mirror to see the man standing in the doorway with gun in hand. " Games up half breed," the man said," time to pay yer dues."

    Luc sighed heavily and placed the razor on the dresser where the man could see it. He was a young man hardened by a life of doing the right things the wrong way. Luc judged him to be no more than twenty five years old. " I'm going to give you one chance to put your gun away, turn around and walk out of this saloon, and forget you ever heard of or saw me."

    " Forget it ya yella bellied traitor," the man scoffed," yer worth too much to let go. Besides what are ya gonna do shoot me wit yer finger. Yer guns are over yonder and you ain't that fast. So put yer shirt on and let's go." The man monitoned the gun belt which was occupied by Luc's
    gun.

    A shot rang out in the room. The smoke hovered like a dark cloud that follows a fella and brings him bad luck. The barrel of a gun stuck it's head out from under Luc's right arm. The man brought his left hand up to his chest and came away with fresh blood. He looked at Luc and began brining his own gun up when Luc unleashed two more shots catching the other man in the heart and neck. The man fell backwards with a crash that seemed as if it would bring the entire saloon down with him.

    Luc walked over and put his shirt on. He strapped on his gun belt, strapped a sawed off double barrel to his back, grabbed his saddlebags from the floor, and replaced his silver Colt in the right side of his two gun holster. The other side held an identical gun, only with a black finish. He put his hat on and walked out of the room stepping over the body of the bounty hunter. The smell of gunpowder hung heavily in the air even when he walked down stairs. Henry stood behind the bar on a booster stool cleaning a glass.

    " Henry.... I'm," Luc began before Henry waved him to be silent.

    " No need son," Henry said putting the glass down," I could smell the gunpowder on ya when ye came in here. It was nice having ye son. When you clear up whatever mess yer in I want you to come back. Maybe make ya a partner. Yer too smart to be sweeping floors and tossing out drunks. Now come here and say goodbye."

    Luc crossed the twenty feet that seperated him and the bar. He stuck his hand out and henry grapsed it firmly. When Luc pulled his hand away he had fifty dollars in it. " Henry I can't." Luc protested.

    " Sure you can," Henry half smiled," you need it more'n I do. And if you even think of leaving it I'll put a load of buckshot in yer ass as a goodbye. Now go. The sheriff'll be here any minute."

    " Thank you Henry," Luc said as he backed away to leave," I'll pay you back one day."

    Henry nodded and smiled in response," Get the Hell outta here a fore I turn you in maself."

    With that Luc ran out of the saloon and to the stable. He gave the stable hand five dollars and jumped on his horse and rode out of town as if he was being chased by demons. Which in a way he was. He would never be able to stop running, and they would never stop chasing. He had named his horse Wanderer. It was an irony he smiled at every time he though about it. He almost settled on Outlaw, but thought that was just too blatant. So he rode on. Hoping the next town he came to would be his oasis, his paradise, maybe even his home.

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    KidCthulhu has just started running a western game, too. I'm enjoying this!
    - Piratecat, EN World Admin. Now writing TimeWatch, an investigative time travel game.

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    Glad you're enjoying it PC. Lots more to come. I hope you're reading my two other western Story Hours as well!

    Prologue Three: "The French Wizard", February 12th, 1882:

    Over two years earlier Ferdinand de Lesseps had first proposed the construction of a fifty-mile wide sea level canal through the Central American land of Panama. He was the same French engineer who had success constructed the Suez Canal in Egypt just ten years before that. Lesseps was confident he would complete the canal which would allow for quick passage from east to west, the original goal of Christopher Columbus. He organized investors for the project, creating the French holding company named Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interoceanique. But political instability in France had deterred investment in new ventures and by late 1881 he only had managed to collect 8% of the 400 million francs that he estimated the project would cost.

    But not to be deterred, he used what he had collected and purchased tons of modern equipment, including steam shovels, locomotive and dredges. He had transported to the site this digging equipment along with 2,000 workers. So on Friday, January 20, 1882, the digging for the canal commenced. Their plan was to cut a broad path through the jungle. In the months and years ahead tens of thousands of working class Frenchmen would have to contend with swamps, pumas, jaguars, ticks, fleas, spiders, chiggers, and several species of poisonous snakes. At the end of 1883 the work force will have grown to 13,000, many of whom would perish from disease in this hostile land. By the time in 1894 when the French company eventually goes bankrupt and the project abandoned it will have cost its investors $ 287 million dollars as well as over 20,000 lives.

    One man who would not lose his life on the project was the grand arch mage Marc Andre Guillieaut. He had been hired to assist with the project but within hours of his arrival on January 20th in the humid, bug infested land he realized that he had made a terrible mistake. Not only was the land inhospitable but there was an absence of magical lay lines in the earth. This location just wouldn't do for him to spend the next decade of his life.

    He confronted Lesseps, who adamantly refused to provide Guillieaut with transportation back to France. One spell that the arch mage had never been able to successfully master was that of teleport, effectively staranding the man. So he arranged transportation for himself onto a ship that was leaving Panama and traveling north to American, unsure of exactly where this new path of his life would take him. The jouney north took several weeks, with him stopping and exploring various places along the way.

    He eventually found himself this day arriving at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana. He felt immediately at home in the French Quarter of the city. Not only were the magical lay lines present here but he was told that this was one of the few places in the United States where magic use was not outlawed. Mages still needed to be discreat, but they did not have to fear being burned as witches or jailed for use of a simple spell. So he decided to make this city his new home. Little did he know that a mere five weeks later fate would have other ideas.
    Last edited by Silver Moon; Wednesday, 2nd February, 2005 at 08:21 AM.

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    Prologue Four, "Grasshopper", February 25th, 1882:

    Kwai Chang Caine was the half-orc son of a Chinese orc woman and an American human sailor. As an orphan, he grew up in a Shaolin temple in the Honan Province of China, taught and trained by Master Po and Master Kan. Then in 1874 a relative of the Emperor killed Po and Caine in turn killed him. Caine fled to America where he then attempted to find his half-brother, Danny, while trying to escape American and Chinese bounty hunters.

    During the next seven years of his life he traveled the American west, with adventures in California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. During these journeys he assisted those in need while continuing his search and sharing his philosophy on life. A quiet man, Caine was also capable of great violence, being a master of the martial arts form known as Kung Fu.

    Caine’s travels have now brought to a location in the Arizona Territory, two days ride northwest of Phoenix. This land was the traditional home of the Yavapai Indians, a tribe of around a thousand who are known as the Sun People, the name Enyaeva for "sun" and Pai for "people" combined into the tribe’s name. In 1875 the United States army had moved most of the tribe to a reservation near San Carlos, some 180 miles away, but a few Yavapai had escaped the forced march and remained in the area, including a proud warrior named Chopido. Chopido and Caine recognized each other as kindred spirits and had befriended one another.

    Two days ago Caine and Chopido were traveling through the town of Gillett, along the Agua Fria River. Gillett had a reputation for its share of lawbreaking. It seems that the town's blacksmith had a side job of robbing the Wells Fargo stagecoach outside of town. He was caught when he used his proceeds of his most recent robbery in a poker game. When asked to name his two accomplices in the robbery he pointed outside to the half-orc and his Indian companion who had the misfortune of just being in the neighborhood.

    When the law came to arrest them Caine attempted to explain that they had never met the blacksmith before and knew nothing about a robbery. The Sheriff did not believe them and attempted an arrest but Caine countered with his martial arts skills and left the Sheriff lying incapacitated on the ground. The two had been running since then although Caine was no stranger at running away from trouble.

    They had considered heading toward the reservation near San Carlos for provisions but changed their mind once they learned that a posse had been dispatched towards there looking for them. At the town of Iron Springs they managed to barter some belongings for two mostly wild mustangs, realizing that they could get much further on horseback than on foot.

    Caine asked for suggestions from his companion as to where to go next. Chopido suggested that they head southeast but not to the reservation in Graham County but beyond it to Cochice County, some 300 miles away. He said that a Yavapai cousin of his named Nanuet had recently headed there on a quest and that this cousin might be of assistance to them.
    Last edited by Silver Moon; Wednesday, 2nd February, 2005 at 08:21 AM.

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    Final Prologue, “The Mysterious Island”, Wednesday, March 6th, 1882:

    The vessel was named the S.S. Jesmond, a British merchant ship of 1495 tons bound for New Orleans with a cargo of dried fruits from its last port of call in Messina, Sicily. David Robson, holder of master’s certificate 27911 in the Queen’s Merchant Marine, captained the Jesmond.

    The Jesmond had passed through the straights of Gibraltar on the 1st of March and sailed into the open sea. When the ship reached the position 31° 25' N, 28° 40' W, about 200 miles west of Madeira and about the same distance south of the Azores, it was noted that the ocean had become unusually muddy and that the vessel was passing through enormous shoals of dead fish, as if some sudden disease or underwater explosion had killed them by the millions. Just before the encountering the fish banks, Captain Robson noticed smoke on the horizon, which he presumed came from another ship.

    On the following day the fish shoals were even thicker and the smoke on the horizon seemed to be coming from the mountains on an island directly to the west, where, according to the charts, there was no land for thousands of miles. As the Jesmond approached the vicinity of the island, Captain Robson threw out an anchor at about twelve miles offshore to find out whether or not this uncharted island was surrounded by reefs. Even though the charts indicated an area depth of several thousand fathoms, the anchor hit bottom at only seven fathoms.

    When Robson went ashore with a landing party they found themselves to be on a large island with no vegetation, no trees, no sandy beaches, bare of all life as if it had just risen from the ocean. The shore they landed on was covered with volcanic debris. As there were no trees, the party could clearly see a plateau beginning several miles away and smoking mountains beyond that. The landing party rather gingerly headed toward the interior in direction of the mountains, but found that progress was interrupted by a series of deep chasms. To get to the interior would have taken days. They returned to their landing point and examined a broken cliff, part of which seemed to have been split into a mass of loose gravel as if it had recently been subjected to great force.

    One of the sailors found an unusual arrowhead in the broken rock, a discovery that led the captain to send for picks and shovels form the ship so that the crew could dig into the gravel. He and his crew soon uncovered crumbling remains of massive walls. They continued to dig near the walls for better part of two days, finding bronze swords, rings, mallets, carvings of head figures of birds and animals, and two vases or jars with fragments of bone, and one cranium. But their greatest find was what appeared to be a mummy enclosed in a stone case, encrusted with volcanic deposit so as to be scarcely distinguished form the rock itself. The spend much of this day getting the rock sarcophagus aboard the Jesmond as dark clouds began to roll in off of the horizon. Robson now worried about uncertain weather, decided to abandon further exploration of the island and to resume his course.

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    Chapter One, “Preparations and Pranks”, Thursday, March 9th, 1882, 3:30 P.M.

    The owners and employees of a particular saloon in Promise City, Arizona situated at the northeast corner of Main and Allen Streets wait in anticipation of the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, scheduled to arrive in approximately two hours. Coming in on today's stage is the talkative Australian halfling by the name of Hezekiah B. Chumbley, a reporter for the Tombstone Epitaph. Normally his arrival would not be so welcomed, but today he is bringing with him the Promise City Edition of his newspaper that features a full-page advertisement placed by Jake Cook announcing the grand reopening of the saloon.

    "Oh I can't wait to see the paper today," Ruby says excitedly. She turns to Kate who is sitting calmly in the Lone Star. "Once it gets here we can check it out, then go pick up our new dresses for tonight. I always like getting new dresses. Did you get one for Ginnie too? A new dress that is?"

    Kate smiled at Ruby and picked out a few stitches in the quilt block she was sewing. Ginnie had been surprised when Kate asked to be taught, but seemed to relish being the teacher as much as being a student. "I had to argue with her about it," Kate laughed, "but I won in the end. She hasn't quite grasped yet the fun of a new dress. I on the other hand.... I'm excited for you about the saloon, but I've always appreciated a reason to buy a new dress." Ruby then turns to Jake, who is also sitting calmly. "Do we have anything else we need to do? Oh and aren't you excited to see your new room?"

    "You two just need to worry about your dresses. That is until you get them." Jake chuckles. "I hope it will be busy." He twirls his hat across the back of his hand. "I'm just biding my time until you show me this fine new room of ours, of course I'm looking forward to anything which improves my standard of living. I am, after all, a creature of comfort." He says with a genuine smile. "It's still a while for the stage, why don't you two get your dresses now, and we can have Maria feed us early here. I'm sure half pint will bring the papers here first. Besides the fact we are the biggest advertiser this time, I think he rather likes being around you two." He chuckles again.

    "And who wouldn't?" Ruby says flipping her hair. "Ok, Jake you ask Maria to get dinner ready and Kate and I will go get our new dresses." Jake replies, "While you're out I'll check with Jeff that all the touch up painting looks good."

    Ruby takes Kate's hand as she hurriedly tries to put away her quilting. Ruby drags her out and they head out to get their dresses. "You know Kate, I haven't been this excited in a while. I'm sure it'll be a fun time. And thank you for being excited about the Saloon, I do appreciate it." They reach Kelly's Dry Goods and head inside. They both pick up their new dresses, and Kate picks one up for Ginnie too. “Alright Kate, go get you and Ginnie ready and meet me back at the Lone Star for dinner, ok?” She gives her friend a hug and hurries back to the saloon.

    Jake has Maria prepare supper for them early. He also does a walk around with Jeff Mills. "Once again Jeff, you've done outstanding work. Like we planned don't put up the new indoor sign until the after dinner and keep the canvas over the main sign outdoors until we come out and see all the touch up." Jeff nods happily and Jake gives him a hearty pat on the back. Nanuet arrives early and wanders in to find Jake relaxing with a whiskey. "Hello Mister Jake, the place looks good." "It does indeed Indian." Jake gets up and shakes his hand. "I am pleased you could join us Nanuet." He offers him a drink and they chat quietly waiting for the others to join them for dinner.

    Ruby takes her time getting ready. She brushes her hair then puts it all up, leaving tendrils hanging all around. She puts on her makeup and chooses a simple black velvet ribbon for her neck. She puts on her undergarments, then pick up her dress. She smiles when she does. The dress is a ruby color, with darker garnet accents on the front. It’s tight, like all Ruby’s dresses are. It has a square neckline, with sleeves that sit on her shoulders but have strings of beads that hang off the shoulder. The skirt just hits the top of her shoes in the front but is longer and drags slightly in the back. She finishes by putting on some of the perfume that Jake gave her. Ruby looks herself over in the mirror and satisfied with what she sees she heads downstairs.

    "Simply beautiful, Miss West." Jake greets her with a whistle, gives her a quick spin and then a hug. Jake, Nanuet and Ruby are waiting for the Chester and Katherine to meet them for dinner at the Lone Star.

    When Ruby sees Chester come in she bounces up and rushes over to greet him. “Hi Chet! So glad you could make dinner tonight.” Ruby takes Chester by the arm and starts leading him to the table. "Thanks Ruby. It's always a pleasure." “Have you had a chance to ask Clarisse out yet? I know you’ve been admiring her.” Ruby gives a little giggle. He replies, "I haven't yet. I don't want to bother her while she's singing. Do you think she's too young for me?" Ruby looks over to Chester. "You're a good guy. She is a bit young but she's not too young. I'm sure you'll be considerate of her youth," Ruby winks.

    They reach the table, where Jake is already sitting with Nanuet. Chester pulls out Ruby’s chair for him and she sits. “Aren’t you such the gentleman,” Ruby says while throwing Jake a glance. “Some men know how to treat a lady….” She leans in close to Jake but says loudly, “Right darling?” and she gives him a kiss.

    When Katherine arrives wearing a dark purple dress with a low, square neckline, the color reminiscent of a rich amethyst. With her is Ginnie, her hair tied simply and neatly, her mint green dress touched off with darker green ribbon. Jake gives Ruby a raised eyebrow and gets up to take Katherine by the elbow. "Good evening Mrs. Kale, my don't you look lovely tonight. Let me get your chair for you." Jake pulls out her chair and helps her into it, every bit the gentleman. He makes a motion towards Ginnie's chair but the girl doesn't wait, Jake just smiles and says nothing about it.

    As Jake seated her Kate whispered, "And what was the eyebrow about Mr. Cook? I'd almost think you didn't approve." Jake whispers back quickly before he pulls away. "Sharp eyes Mrs. Kale, apparently I've a break in my poker face. You DO look lovely, and Silver Jake Cook was never one to complain that a dress should cover more of a woman." A flush crawled up Kate's neck and she became acutely aware of the pendant hanging against her skin, more of which was showing than she was used to. Ruby clears her voice loudly while giving Jake a disapproving glance then turns to Chester. Chester unsuccessfully hides a grin. "Ruby, I don't think you have anything to fear from Katherine." “Hum, I suppose you are right Chester.” Ruby has a devilish little grin on her face. “I know he can’t resist me.” She cocks her head and looks right at him, “Right Mr. Cook?” "The word irresistible just seems so inadequate Miss West." He take her hand and kisses it in formal European fashion. Ruby smiles at Jake’s answer. He always knew what to say.

    Chester tips his hat to Kate and Ginnie. "Good evening ladies. Katherine, you look lovely as always." Jake hands Katherine a folded piece of paper. "Can you please give that to Dorita when you get back to the El Parador tonight?" "Of course, Jake," she said and tucked the note into her handbag. Kate tucked her chair in a little further and raised her voice. "Thank you. Nanuet, Chester, good evening. We should probably enjoy this quiet time, it won't be this way for long.” He replies, "I agree. I almost miss the excitement."

    Kate comments, “No paper yet, Ruby? Don’t worry, "Chumbley'll be along. He's probably just stopped to sell a few papers on the way." Ruby comments to Chet, "I do wonder where Chumbley is with the paper. Chester, do you have the time? I think he's late." "Sure. Let me see." Chester reaches for his pocket watch. Not finding it, he searches his pockets quickly. "That's odd. I though I had it earlier today. Has anyone seen it? Maybe it dropped on the floor." Chester pushes his chair back and begins looking around for the missing watch.

    Before Kate pulled her hand out of her purse she noticed something hard and metallic inside that she couldn't remember putting in it. While she looked at the others, Kate probed in her handbag with her fingers. It was cold metal and disk shaped, and there seemed to be a chain attached. She opens the bag and peers down surreptitiously and sees a pocket watch in her bag. "Ah, Chester?" Kate slowly pulled the watch from her purse, but her gaze fell on Jake. "I think I found it."

    Jake holds Katherine’s gaze with a smile. "How fortunate. What time is it?" Jake holds Katherine’s gaze with a smile. "How fortunate. What time is it?" She dropped her voice and said, "Next time, leave me out." Chester says, "Er. Thank you Katherine. I guess you didn't use your special powers. Right, Mr. Cook?" He replies, "No, no special powers were needed."

    Nanuet watches the exchange between the other four with mild amusement. When he believes no one is looking he casually checks all of his belongings to make sure they are where they belong.


    Flashback to a week earlier, Lazing about their room, Jake takes a sip of whiskey and is looking at Ruby. “Did I ever tell you about Big Abby?" Ruby shakes her head no. "She ran a boarding house in Chicago. She also had a bunch of girls working for her, some soliciting, some scam artists, some both." "I'm not sure I want to know you lived in a house of ill repute." Ruby comments dryly.

    Jake ignores her and continues. "One of their scams was to have one of the girls lift something from one person, pass it to a second girl who would plant it on a different person. They had a number of interesting uses for that little number, none of which made the receiver of the item very happy. If we ever wanted to pull that scam all we would have to do is learn how to pass stuff between us unseen. I know a few ways, I’ll bet you do to. Interested in sharing and practicing?”

    Ruby thinks it over for a moment. “Could come in handy, sure let’s practice that. My skills have been getting rusty lately; I haven’t needed to use them. So first let’s work on that. Give me your wallet.” Jake gives her a funny face. Ruby sticks out her hand. “You know I can just take it, so why don’t you give it to me?” Jake hands her his wallet. “I’m going to hide it and you work on getting it without me knowing.”

    Ruby hides it in a not impossible place. Jake steps towards her and stumbles into her. "Too obvious and you missed, try again." He nods. He turns away before walking past her gently brushing up against her. "Not bad but I felt you take it that time." "No you didn't." He replies. "Yes I felt you take it." she says hands on her hips. "No you felt me put it back." he says waving some cash in his hand. "I guess I'm out of practice." Ruby takes out the wallet and it is empty. “Alright, I’m impressed, but only slightly,” she says kidding.

    They keep working on getting their skills up to par, giving each other tips as they go. They work on this for a few days until they are both confident in their skills and knowing how the other one works. Ruby finally tells Jake it’s time to try it for real. They decide to use their friends as victims, just in case of the unlikely event they get caught. "Do you think they'll mind?" Asks Jake?

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    Chapter Two “Surprises”, Thursday, March 9th, 1882, 5:30 P.M.

    Nanuet asks Ruby, "So, besides for keeping you all company is there anything you need me to do tonight to make this evening a success?' “Yes, actually, loosen up a bit and relax tonight,” Ruby replies with a smile. “Especially you, Nanuet. You have been working hard helping get the third floor done and you never seem to reward yourself. So as your boss I am ordering you to have a good time!” Jake comments, "Thanks for hanging around Nanuet. It is just good to know you are here if something were to go wrong if nothing else."

    They all continue to sit around making small talk. Ruby is fidgety, waiting for dinner, waiting for the paper, just waiting. Finally she blurts out, “Come on Jake, I don’t want to wait anymore, let’s go see our new room.” She practically jumps up from the table and starts dragging Jake. She looks back at the others over her shoulder, “We’ll be back in just a bit!” In a voice just loud enough for Ruby and Jake to hear, Chester says to the others, "Sure, just a bit. They're going to miss dinner." Then he gives the pair an innocent look.

    Chester asks, "So Nanuet, what are you going to do, now that the third floor is finished?" He replies, "Well there is always the ranch for me to tend to, and I am sure I can keep myself busy around here." He says waving his hand in a sweeping gesture around the room. "The last several weeks have been nice, the excitement had been getting a little too much around here. "

    Ruby leads Jake up to the third floor. She makes him close his eyes and he hears her open the door. She takes his hand and guides him inside. Ruby whispers to Jake he can open his eyes and he sees her looking giddily excited. “You let me know if you think you can be happy here…”

    The room is L-shaped, extending across the front of the building on Main Street and coming around the corner onto Allen. Jake is standing in the doorway, which is on the left side of the room. The whole room is painted a deep red color. On the wall to the left is a coat rack and hanging there is Jake’s leather duster and Ruby’s traveling jackets and cloaks.

    To the right of the door, flat against the wall, is a big gun cabinet, stocked with their rifles, shotguns and ammunition for all. There are various dressers taken from the other rooms of the saloon all around their room. There is a small table with two wide velvet chairs in the corner. On the table is a couple of glasses, some fine whiskey and, of course, Kentucky bourbon.

    On the far side of the room there is a huge closet with all their clothes hanging inside and their shoes and boots are lined up neatly. Next to that is a large floor length mirror. On the dresser near the mirror is a basin and new scissors and blade for Jake to shave with and a vanity table with Ruby’s makeup and perfume.

    But Jake’s eye is immediately drawn to the huge four-poster canopy bed in the center of the room. It has sheer white curtains all around that are currently pulled back to each bedpost. It is covered with a huge fluffy white bedspread and piled high with soft pillows. Jake then notices all the windows have the same matching sheer curtains and they are blowing from the windows being open. He notes there are also shades to pull down for privacy. There is a nightstand on both sides of the bed with a lantern on each side.

    On the other side of the gun cabinet is a doorway to the other section of the room. In this smaller room there is a larger table with 4 chairs around it. There is a big chair next to the window for reading and a couch next to that. There is a desk and some cabinets for papers. There is also a safe that Jake locates under the desk. It is a two-foot square Diebold safe. He also notes there is another door out of this room.

    When he walks back out to the big part of the room Ruby is sitting on the bed. “I had my eye on this bed the minute I saw it,” she laughs, running her hand across the bedspread. “Oh one more thing,” she says with a smile. She does some quick hand gestures and speaks a few words Jake doesn’t understand and when she is done she slowly waves her hand around the room lighting candles that Jake hadn’t noticed before. They cover all the dressers and bathe the room in soft light. “So what do you think? As far as I can tell there is only one problem,” the smile gets a little wider on her face. As she wiggles her hips on the bed a few times, “The bed squeaks!”

    "The bed squeaks, huh." Jake laughs, an easy and free laughter. He takes off his hat and looks around the room one more time. "You have thought of everything. It is truly perfect." He fingers the white curtains on the bed, runs his hand over the velvet of the chair and then picks ups the bourbon and places it back down. "Once again Ruby, you have outdone yourself. I like what I see." He pushes down on the soft comforter enough to make the bed squeak. "Heh, we'll need to fix that."

    He puts his hat back on and offers her a hand. "Save those candles for later, I don't want Chester getting too smug, we should to back downstairs. You are spoiling me rotten, Ruby darling." As he pulls her up off the bed it squeaks again and Ruby giggles. "Heh." He puts his arm around her waist and guides her to the door. "Now I feel bad that I don't have a surprise for you." They go back and rejoin the others for dinner.

    At 7:15 PM the Wells Fargo Stagecoach pulls up to the front door of the Lone Star, more than an hour behind their usual schedule. Chumbley comes bouncing off of the stage and Chuck Nevers hands down two bound bundles of newspapers to Jeff Mills who helps Chumbley carry them into the Saloon. The bundles are stacked by the piano and the newspaperman cuts the twice on the top bundle. Complimentary copies of the 12-page paper are handed to the owners and employees of the saloon.

    The front page features a single front page under the headline “Escaped Prisoners Seen in Wyoming”, which is a follow-up to a story in the prior edition about the New Douglas Gang. This story carries the bylines of both Hezekiah B. Chumbley of the Tombstone Epitaph and W. A. Eaton of the Cheyenne Transporter

    The article includes interviews with three Cheyenne merchants, a saloonkeeper, a stable master and a general store owner all describing the mannerisms and visual descriptions of recent guests with comparisons to descriptions provided by Chumbley. The reporters have tentatively concluded that the New Douglas Gang is comprised of Arthur Deadeye Douglas, Mongo Bailey, Pinto Joe Weams, Shotgun Sally Fox, Pamela Yeats, a woman suspected of being the safecracker and former Douglas Gang member Mae Clarke and an unknown elvan Indian whose saddle blanket was of a Navajo design. The remainder of the article gives histories of the former Douglas Gang, the January 13th Promise City bank robbery and the January 24th jailbreak.

    The interior pages include a full-page advertisement for Upton’s Counting House & Brokerage; Half-page advertisements for Lacey’s General Store, the Long Branch Saloon, Kelly’s Dry Good & Tailor, Pierre’s Gunshop & Hardware, and the Bar H Stables; Quarter-page advertisements for Bauer’s Union Market, the Alhambra Saloon, the First National Bank of Promise City, Fly’s Boarding House & Photo Studio, Slade’s Hardware, Cook’s General Store, Drover’s Hotel, and Rixton’s Furniture; and One-eighth page advertisements for the Comique Variety Hall and Saloon, Boyd’s Cigar Store, Mason’s Feed & Grain Store, and Berman’s Mercantile.

    The remaining four pages of content include stories about a shallow grave found in the Dragoon Mountains with four unidentified human male bodies; the Merchant’s Association collecting funds for a town fire wagon; the Promise City Vigilance Committee’s call for a school and a church to be constructed; a profile on Elihu Upton the town’s newest lawyer; a recent altercation at the Long Branch Saloon where gambler Paget Flashman was accused of cheating and barred from returning; and a robbery in the Cochise County town of Bisbee where Mexican bandits Diego Perez and Pepe de Gallego robbed Hawkin’s General Store and then fled back over the border.

    The back page features a full-page advertisement for the saloon, which reads:

    Grand Reopening Under new management The Lucky Lady Dance Hall and Saloon (formerly Lone Star) invites you to enjoy the musical talents of singer extraordinaire Ruby West. Bring in this ad for a 'buy your first drink and get your second one for free'. Only one per person thank you. Your favorite serving staff and dealers that you have come to know are waiting to make your night a memorable one.

    As they are reading the advertisement Jake waves Jeff Mills over and the two of them go outside. Jeff climbs the ladder and pulls the canvas off the sign. Ruby and Nanuet followed the others outside. She watched as Jeff pulled the canvas off the new name. She flipped her head back and forth a few times reading and rereading the sign. The words 'Lone Star' are gone. Replacing them in bright red letters trimmed in black is 'Lucky Lady', with a simple queen of hearts logo in the letter 'a'. Jeff climbs down and stands next to Jake, who has only the hint of a smile on his face as he watches the others come out and gaze at the sign for the first time. "Mr. Jake, I know I have said it before, but I like your style." Nanuet shakes Jake's hand then pats him on the back. "Now where is this dinner I keep hearing about?"

    Jake turns to Ruby, "In case there was any doubt, I never believed it was the hat,” he says quietly. "Mr Cook," Ruby said slowly, turning to face him, "Have I told you lately how crazy I am about you?" She stood on her toes and kissed him, not caring that anyone else was around. "And you lied!" She playfully smacked him. "You said you felt bad you didn't have a surprise for me! You're very sneaky..." She kissed him again and ended it with a big hug. She whispered in his ear, "I'm glad you never believed it was the hat. But it worked, right? And we both got way more than either of us could have imagined." She pulled away from him and smiled.

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    Chapter Three, “The Lucky Lady”, Thursday, March 9th, 1882, 7:45 P.M.

    The newly renamed Lucky Lady Dance Hall and Saloon is the second oldest drinking establishment in Promise City, Arizona. It had been built two years earlier by Tom and Maggie Whipple, who had named it the Lone Star. They began with a singer named Flossie; a combination bartender/bouncer named Jeff Mills and a mediocre gambler by the name Tony Lucky. The business picked up when superior gambler Job Kane started playing there. In January the Whipples were divorced and Tom headed off to Denver with Flossie while Maggie went out to California. Tom sold his half of the saloon to Job Kane and liquor distributor Niles over while Maggie sold hers to gambler Jake Cook and singer Ruby West.

    Hoover handles the daily management operations of the saloon and occasionally tends bar. Jeff Mills is the head bartender with Hoover’s friend Harry Rote as his assistant bartender and Chester Martin filling in on Jeff's days off. Ruby is the primary entertainer with Kate Kale as her pianist. Sonoma Figueres and Clarisse Townsend sing and serve as waitresses along with Mrs. Kale. Maria Fuente is the saloon’s cook and occasional waitress, with Sonoma filling in as cook on Maria’s days off. The Indian Nanuet also helps out as needed.

    Ruby and Jake were still out front when they saw that everyone returned inside. Ruby glanced at the sign one more time, took Jake's hand tightly in hers and headed back inside. Dinner was on the table and everyone was starting to eat. Ruby ran to the bar and grabbed a bottle of champagne, including some glasses. She poured everyone a drink, including Ginnie and held up her glass, "To the Lucky Lady!"

    Kate quietly took the drink Ruby placed in front of Ginnie and moved it out of the girl's reach, replacing it with the glass of water she had been drinking before. She spent a moment looking at each face around the table. Jake and Ruby had been together for nearly two months now, and neither seemed to be in a hurry to move on. Kate kept quiet about the look in Ruby's eyes. She was not as skittish as she had been the first few weeks about getting tied down, but Kate doubted she was quite ready to hear the word love.

    Chester had his interest in Clarisse, and Nanuet seemed to have settled somewhat into life here although she guessed it was still strange for him. She looked fondly over at Ginnie and let out a deep breath. Being quiet and busy suited her, and she was even looking forward to this night.

    Ginnie watched as “Ma'am Kate” moved the champagne glass out of what she thought was her reach. As she was looking around the table Ginnie reached the glass and placed it in front of Kate. Ma'am Kate still looked at Ginnie as a child to be cared for and that suited her fine. There was a comfort in the idea of allowing someone else to think about the day to day food shelter and living things, but Ginnie was beginning to tire of sitting in the room for most of the day reading books and making lace. Hopefully tonight would start making her life a little more exciting again. She missed the adrenaline of always being aware and on top of her game. Ginnie was ready to start living a more exciting life again, the question being what would it take to do that.

    While they were eating Jeff Mills went upstairs and returned with a painted wooden sign that he hand on the wall behind the bar. It was a smaller version of the Lucky Lady sign outdoors. When he's done he looks to Jake who nods back and smiles. "I'm done with decorating." He says to Ruby. "It's all yours to handle that again." "Oh, but you did such a good job," Ruby laughs, "I'm going to have to figure out how you kept that secret from me... but for now let's enjoy dinner." As they eat they chat about the new Lucky Lady and the Douglas Gang in Wyoming, but mostly keep it light.

    After dinner is over Ruby pulls Ginnie aside and tells her, "Listen, I have a proposition to make to you. We both know we have some um, similar talents. And we know those that have those talents find it easier to spot others who have those talents. Hopefully, it's going to be very crowded here tonight. I'll be busy singing and entertaining and won't be able to keep such a close eye on things. Maybe you wouldn't mind keeping an eye open while enjoying yourself? And if you do a good job then maybe Jake and I might have some ways for you to make some money in the future..."

    Tony Lucky arrives and sits down beside Jake. He laughs out, "Nice to see that you decided to name the place after me! But shouldn't it read Lucky's Lady?" "If we want to be accurate it would have read 'Lucky's Ladies'." Jake laughs back with him. "Tell you what. I'll have Jeff get the ladder and give you the paintbrush. Let's see if your feet even get a chance to touch the ground on the way back down before someone shoots you between the eyes." Jake leans in and whispers, "I've seen her shoot, she doesn't miss often."

    Tony laughs in return. "Only kidding Boss man. You're predecessor made me promise to keep my hands off of all the female employees, said if I wanted to play here I couldn't play here. I suspect that was because he just wanted to keep them all to himself! Looks like you're continuing that tradition." "Not me, I got my hands full with one." Jake gives him a wink. "Didn't we just discuss her shooting ability?"

    Tony replies, "Ah, so that new singer is fair game! Nice to know." Chester acts annoyed by that comment and attempts to change the subject by asking Tony, "Will Job be coming? I know he has tonight off but it is the Grand Reopening." Tony says, "Nope, you won't see him until tomorrow. He's got a Lady friend up in Willcox, northern end of the county, who he's been spending his Wednesdays to Fridays with." Tony heads immediately over to his poker table, where three of his regular players are waiting. Listening to Tony talk, Kate suddenly wished she had a shawl to cover herself up with. Thankfully he'd never shown any interest in her and considering the kind of girl he liked, it was unlikely he ever would.

    Chumbley has finished selling papers to all interested customers in the saloon. He then gets a complimentary tankard of ale from Jeff Mills and heads over to the table to join the others. "One for the road before I go sell my other papers!" he says as he climbs up onto a chair. Jake tried to hide his annoyance when Chumbley came and sat with them. The diminutive man then downs the entire tankard in around a minute. It was a relief when Chumbley arrived, and Kate watched amazed as he pulled down his ale. Jake was about to tell the half-pint not to drink himself dumb, but then thought the better of it. A dumbstruck Chumbley might be an improvement. Instead he just smiled and wished him good luck.

    "Where do you put it?" she laughed when he was finished. Chumbley says "And good luck with you're grand reopening." He heads over and picks up the remainder of the first stack of newspapers and bounces out the front door.

    Kate stated, "I should go play, it's starting to pick up in here. I know you don't need any encouragement, but be sure to sell plenty of those papers. We want a good crowd here tonight." After speaking witty Ginnie Ruby walks back to the table. She glances around the room before looking back to a blushing Kate. "It's early to start singing. Kate, why don't you play? And while you do that I'll enjoy this champagne that no one wanted to share with me." Ruby pours herself another drink. "I'll share a little more before my game starts up." Jake goes and sits with her.

    Kate exclaims, "I want to celebrate with you Ruby, but you know it's better if I don't drink too much. And Ginnie is really too young to be drinking. Let's give her some time to grow up before we start introducing her to all sorts of interesting vices." Kate leaned over and kissed Ruby's cheek. "Now, what do you want me to play? Standard songs? I don't know if classical pieces are what you want in here tonight."

    "Kate, you are fooling yourself if you think that kid is too young for mostly anything. She has been living on the street how long?" Ruby pauses for a moment, "Well, let's not discuss it tonight anyway. You can play whatever you'd like for now, but later we need standards and fun songs to make the crowd happy. I guess I'll just see what everyone wants to hear as I go. So for now, just make yourself happy." Ruby watched Kate over to the piano with a smile before turning to Jake.
    Kate decided that she would be playing saloon songs all night, so she’d start with some folk songs. They were light songs, appropriate for the mood tonight, but still something Katherine enjoyed playing. She kept her eye out for Ginnie, making sure Ruby didn't give her any more drinks and that no one bothered her.

    Jake asks Ruby, "Are you ready for tonight? You should have quite a crowd." "Ready, what's ready? A wise man once said to me, 'I'm generally not ready for anything I start' and that's pretty much true for me too." Ruby pauses and smiles. "Then again, I slept with him right after he told me that, so I guess there are some things I am always ready for."

    "All is good in the world then." Jake gets up and gives her a kiss. "I'm going to go earn us some money, I think there are some folks here who want to leave us some. I'll be right back down stairs" He goes upstairs and changes. He comes back down in his white silk shirt and black linen pants nods to Ruby and welcomes his players. Yes, he thinks to himself, for now all is good in the world. "Let's play."

    Back when Job Kane was the main draw for the saloon he wound up playing six nights a week. One of the first things he did upon becoming an owner was decide to take some consecutive nights off during the week, picking Wednesday and Thursday. That had a huge advantage for Jake, as he inherited Job's players on those nights.

    Looking around the table he recognized all five faces currently seated three of whom had been Job's. First there was the tall and clean cut Al Brower, who co-owned the gunshop, cigar shop and the Comique Saloon. Next was Tempel Morand, who managed the Rocking-H Ranch, ten miles southwest of town. He had been spending more time in town in recent weeks helping his uncle Zack with the family's new mining interests. The third of Job's former players was the town's blacksmith, Henry Weller.

    Next was a player who Jake had attracted by the name of Don Wainright. Don and his wife Sandra ran a hardware store in town, which also stocked musical instruments and sheet music. Sandra also knew how to tune the pianos and her skills were greatly needed following the departure of the Whipples. Kate had sparked up a friendship with Sandra as Jake had with Don, who had never played poker before but was starting to get fairly good at it.

    The last player was Alfredo Garcia. The previous owners had enforced a "humans only" policy that the new owners were quick to reverse. Having wood elves Sonoma and Maria helped to communicate that all were welcome. Alfredo was a half-elf who worked at Johnson's Barber and Baths. He didn't consider his poker skills good enough for the weekend crowd but was happy to join Jake's table on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The other Thursday night semi-regular hadn't arrived yet; the prospector Humphrey Lewis who was one of Jake's partners at the Fisk Mountain Mine.

    Ruby drank her champagne and listened to Kate play. The songs she chose seemed to match her lighter mood. She watched Jake get ready to play cards. Ruby planned on "warming up" his table for him when he played, for fun, but not tonight, their grand reopening. Nanuet and Chester were having a lively debate about something and they were laughing and enjoying themselves. It felt good to have a place where they all could come together and relax. When it was time Ruby happily got on stage and sang her heart out.

    During the next hour several new faces showed up at the saloon, many carrying the newspaper ad to get their free drink. Around half of them left after that but others stayed and took in the music. The remaining chairs at both Jake and Tony's tables soon fill up with new players. Jake discovers that the two at his table are a mineworker named Abel Weir and Carl Berman, who Jake has seen around town but never met before. Berman and Don Wainwright happily greet each other and are on a first name basis.

    The offer to watch for others that might be aquisitionists felt right to Ginnie so she let Ruby know that she'd keep her eye out while she bussed tables. The place should be really busy tonight and Ma'am Kate would be busy serving and playing, so that would give Ginnie some real freedom for the first time in a long time. Ginnie scoped out the room seeing where she would be if she was planning to be on the take and marked those spots for "special" watching. The petite twelve-year old girl surmised that this could be a very lucrative night.

    Ruby introduces herself and talks to all the new people in between sets. She'll lightly flirt but generally just try to make them feel at home and relaxed. She sings any requests that are asked for, mostly happy songs with some love ballads thrown in for good measure. As the crowd gets drunker she'll sing some drinking songs to help make sure their glasses stay full. As usual, she'll keep an eye on Kate and Jake, and now Ginnie too as she can.

    Chumbley comes back for another pile of newspapers. The next hour goes well. Jake is having a fairly good night at his table, although Tempel Morand is the biggest winner. Both Weller and Garcia drop out of the game. Humphrey Lewis arrives and joins in, as does a cowhand from Morand's ranch named Jack Stuart. Jake continues to play and gives Ruby a smile.

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    Chapter Four, “"What did I get myself into?", Thursday, March 9th, 1882, 9:30 P.M.

    The last notes of the piano died away just as the last echoes of Ruby's rich voice fell silent. Katherine smiled at her friend. Her happiness shone through her face, her voice, even the way she moved. No matter how many pocket watches Jake slipped into her handbag, she would always be grateful to him for making Ruby this happy.

    She got up from the piano and began helping to serve, making sure she emptied the tip cup before leaving. Ginnie was busy making sure the tables were cleaned up, and Kate noticed that the girl's eyes were busy taking in everything. Maybe Ruby was right, although she wasn't going to be giving the girl alcohol no matter how much time she'd spent living on the streets.

    The time went quickly as she moved from table to table, and thankfully most of the gentlemen kept their hands to themselves. A few admiring glasses made her think twice about the dress she'd chosen, but it felt good to be dressed up again.

    At one point during one of Ruby's singing sets she catches Ginnie gives her a hand signal indicating trouble. Ginnie then moves quickly over near the front door and brushes up against a man who is pushing his way past other patrons to exit. Ruby catches Ginnie brush into him and carefully removes something from the man's coat pocket. Ginnie flashes Ruby an "OK" sign and then heads up to bar and gets the attention of Jeff Mills. Jeff brushes her off.

    She then heads over to the piano and while Kate is playing tells her "A man dressed as a ranch hand just picked the pocket of that man by the bar in the blue shirt and derby hat. I redistributed the wealth. I tried to tell Mills but he just said, "go away little girl"." Ginnie then drops a pile of bills onto the piano bench and says, "Maybe you should return this to that man. And please tell Mills that if Ruby wants me to help with security he should listen to me."

    "They have you helping with security?" Kate was about to go on but paused a moment. They weren't asking her to steal, but to watch out for the patrons here. "Just make sure you don't get caught redistributing. Those who pick pockets don't take kindly to having their own emptied. I'll talk to Jeff."

    Kate walked over to the bar with the cash in hand and approached the man in the hat. "Pardon me, sir. One of our staff retrieved your property from a pickpocket. I suppose under new management the local petty thieves will be trying to find out how good our security is. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, your next drink is on us."

    Jeff is quick to give the man the free drink while giving Kate an odd look. Once the patron is set with the drink he steps over to the side of the bar and away from customers. "Mrs. Kale, next time you might want to get me to help you. I am the bouncer in this place. You shouldn't be putting yourself in danger." She replies, "When are you going to start calling me Katherine, Jeff? I think we've known each other long enough."

    Ruby had seen Ginnie's signal from the stage and then watched her deal with the man at the door, quickly and effectively. As long as there was no danger, Ruby wanted to stay out of it and see what the kid would do. She finished up by approaching Kate, not the best choice, but considering she was probably the only person the kid trusted... Kate headed over to Jeff and Ruby watched Ginnie "disappear" back into the crowd. Ruby smiled knowingly and headed over to Jeff and Kate. "Is there a problem?" Kate smiled at Ruby and said, "No. No problems that weren't easily taken care of."

    “As for danger, I wasn't in any. Ginnie saw the man pick the gentlemen's pocket. She tried to tell you, but you shooed her away. Ruby asked her to keep her eyes open, so if she comes over to tell you something it's probably important." Kate laid her hand on Jeff's arm and smiled up at him. "You know I can handle a dangerous situation, you went with me into one, remember? But if it will make you feel better, I promise I won't try to apprehend any pickpockets without you."

    Mills replies "Yes Mrs. Ka...Katherine. I just wouldn't want you to put yourself into harm without there being a need. The same can be said for your little girl too. If I'm not available ask Mr. Martin to help." Kate widened her smile and patted his arm before she let go. "Of course. It's sweet of you to be concerned about us. The best way you can watch out for Ginnie is to listen to what she has to say. I should get back to the piano. You're wonderful tonight, Ruby," she said before heading back. "It's good to see you so happy. I think this place will work out for you."

    She stopped on the way to talk to Ginnie and said, "He should at least listen to you now, although I think he might pass out if he finds out you've been retrieving property yourself. Just let him think someone got it for you. The girl answers, " I never intended to let him think that I was acquiring the property or redistributing it and I did bring it to you instead of keeping it myself. I kept up my side of the deal and will continue to. I am good at what I do and no one expects it and if worse comes to worse...” Ginnie looked at Kate with a devilish little smile "I can always cry" with that she skips out of Kate’s view to go clear another table and keep an eye on the patrons. Kate just shook her head as she went back to the piano and said to no one in particular, "What did I get myself into?"

    Another hour passes. It is now 10:45 PM and the place is still fairly crowded. Temple Morand continues to have a very good night at cards, with newcomer Carl Berman also doing very well. Jake is down a total of $ 20 for the night when he decides to call for a break. Chumbley returns to the Lucky Lady to pick up his final stack of newspapers.

    A large group of men come in who Chester, Ruby, Kate and Jake all recognize as Wells Fargo Stage employees Kris Wagner, Chuck Nevers, Chandler Wells, Billy Glass, Newton Gilly and the half-orc Coolie Fagan. This is the first time that they've seen any of these six men in this saloon, as they usually drink over at the Drover's Hotel. All of the men have a copy of the newspaper in hand, apparently having been drawn to the establishment by the offer of the free drink.

    "Gentlemen, what a pleasure to see you," Kate said as she came over to greet them. "Why don't you find yourselves a seat and I'll be right over to get your orders. You've taken care of us quite often, I'm glad for the chance to return the favor. Miss West will be singing again soon, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it." The men find a seat at one of the tables. Kate overhears Wagner tell Fagan "See Coolie, I told you there wouldn't be a problem." Ginnie walks by the table paying no special attention to any of the men, including Never's whose wallet Ruby had watched her expertly lift two months earlier in Tombstone.

    With Jake on a break Ginnie goes over to him and gives him a complete description of the pickpocket that she stopped earlier. "Ma'am Kate returned the money to the person it had been taken from and Jeff Mills will listen to me now. Oh and it seems that all of your players are playing a clean game but I haven't been able to pay as much attention to that as I might like. You have some areas that make it easy to acquire things from other individuals but I think I have them mostly under surveillance. It should be easier to catch the individuals that wish to ply their trade here, after a while I think they will realize that it would be much better for them to frequent Mr. Adair's establishment.”

    He replies, "Nice work kid. You're all right. Don't do anything stupid for a couple of dollars though." Jake crouches down and shakes her hand. "Extra sharp eyes are always welcome." With that Ginnie takes the dirty mugs from the table and wipes it down with a clean damp cloth.

    As soon as she spots the men from Wells Fargo Ruby bounces over to their table. She approaches Chuck. "Mr. Nevers, " she starts, "My knight in shining armor, you finally came to hear me sing. How lucky for me. And you brought your friends. I see that Kate is already getting you drinks. Is there anything else I can do for you?" She gives them a smile as they shake their heads no. "Very well, you let me know." She gives Chuck a wink over her shoulder before walking away.

    She sees that Jake is taking a break at the bar so she wanders over to him. "Hey handsome, how is your game going tonight? I can't believe we are still full of people!" She turns her back to the bar and leans her arms back against it, so she has a good view of the room. "I guess I should sing again too, even though it's already around 11:00 P.M." He replies, "I'm not winning tonight, but that's OK. The folks are having fun, I"ll not lose much." He looks around the room. "I'd stretch it out tonight, after all it is the grand reopening." He laughs. "It's not like we have anywhere to go tomorrow morning."

    Ruby laughs back, "But every day we get woken up early! I think we should have later hours anyway, I'm not complaining." Ruby looks around the room until she sees Kate. "Have you noticed Mrs. Kale lately? She seems so much happier since we got back from Tombstone. She's finally gaining some weight. For a while she was getting pretty thin. And showing some neck with that dress of hers. Next time we go to get dresses together I'll get that neckline even lower. Anyway, I'm glad she is feeling better, can you notice the difference too?"

    Kate returned to the table with Mr. Nevers and his friends and passes out their drinks, making sure to make eye contact with each, especially Mr. Fagan so he would be sure he was welcome.
    Chumbley returns, announcing "All sold! I should have printed 100 more! Nothing like a free drink special to sell more papers!" He heads up to the bar and gets another complimentary tankard of ale from Jeff. "And there is nothing like an ad in your paper to bring in the customers," Kate smiled back at him before heading back over to the piano. She played some saloon songs in the background, content with those until Ruby was ready to sing again.

    "Oh, she is playing again, let me go talk to her quickly. We can chat later." Ruby gives Jake a quick kiss and walks to the piano. "Kate, you are playing just wonderfully tonight. And you actually look like you are enjoying yourself, well, minus the work part anyway," Ruby laughs. "It's hard not to when my friends are all so happy. And not too many pinchers tonight, that always improves my mood." Ruby asks, "How have things been? I know it's busy..." "Tonight or in general?" Kate laughed. "Tonight, silly! I just wanted to make sure that you weren't having any problems is all. We did make some changes."

    Kate answers, "It's good that it's busy. And good too that there are some non-humans coming in. It's been busy, but exceptionally friendly. I like it." Ruby glanced around the room and smiled. "I should go sing again. I just wanted to check in with you." She looks back at Kate, and puts her hand on her face. "Just making sure you are happy." "Ruby," she said gently, and a bit surprised. "You're being quite serious. Let's just say happy isn't as far away as it used to be. Happy and I are working on getting reacquainted." Ruby stands up and starts towards the stage. "I just want you to feel happy like I do Kate." With that she climbs the steps and waits for Kate to play.

    Niles Hoover comes over to Jake "That ad of yours sure did the trick. We've already honored ninety-six free drink specials tonight, and that's not counting the last two tables of folks who just came in. This Chumbley fellow says he printed and sold two hundred papers, so we can probably expect more tomorrow. It's a good thing I decided to make the Lucky Lady's beverage prices twenty-five percent higher than the Lone Star's were, or we might have lost money on drinks tonight. As it is I figure we've just about broken even."

    The Wells Fargo table responds well to Ruby's singing as do a table full of miners that came in since her previous set. Kate notices her friend Mr. Austin arrive and take a seat at an empty two-person table over near the stage. He has a relaxed look on his face and after he arranges his tower of coins and then sits back to listen to his friends play and sing.

    Kate looked back over her shoulder and smiled at Mr. Austin as she continues to play for Ruby. It was a good night, and while working a saloon wasn't something that made her happy, seeing her friends happy was. It was easy to let herself smile as she played on.

    Things were getting better. She still missed Tom; but as she built a life here she didn't feel so rootless and lost. The Gonzales' had become a surrogate family to her, and her friends had proven time and again they would be there when she needed them. And once she'd known she wasn't really alone, she could concentrate on starting to live again. And having Ginnie to take care of had forced her to not drink herself to sleep and to be productive each day. Katherine looked around the room that held most of the people she loved and smiled again.

    And the happy and relaxed Kate finishes the current song. In the immediate silence that follows she hears part of Chumbley's conversation to Jeff Mills, the halfling saying "....had to go back to Tombstone then. Marshall Wyatt rode behind the stage while his Deputy brother Morgan came inside the stagecoach with us to made sure that their prisoner didn't try escaping. That's why we were late getting here." Kate's fingers froze over the keys where they had been about to begin another song. Blood pounded behind her ears as her breath hissed between her teeth.

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