"Ballots & Bullets" (TSR Module BH3) Concluded!

Silver Moon

This Story Hour continues our Wild West campaign that uses combined Dungeons & Dragons and Boot Hill rules. This particular story uses TSR's 1982 module "Ballots & Bullets" by David James Ritchie as the basis for the story. The campaign takes place in Promise City, Arizona, a mining town approximately sixty miles east of Tombstone, Arizona.

The first three modules from this campaign (and Story Hour links) are:

Revenge, Renewal, and the Promise of a New Year (January 1882) played Aug. 2004 to Feb. 2005

Wizards, Whiskey, and Wonderful Things (March to April 1882) played Feb. to Aug. 2005

Here there be Vampires (April to May 1882) played Aug. to Dec. 2005

Primary Cast of Characters
Jake Cook – “The Gambler”, male human rogue/fighter (Baradtgnome)
Minerva Florencia - "The Priestess", female human cleric (moon dancer)
Katherine Kale - “The Teacher”, female human expert/wizard (orchid blossom)
Chester Martin - “The Deputy”, male human fighter/ranger (SteveJung)
Nanuet – “The Indian Priest”, male high elf ranger/cleric (Dire Wolf)
Ruby West - “The Singer”, female human bard/rogue (Queenie)

Secondary Cast of Characters
Colleen & Cathleen O'Hara - "The Twins", female humans (Janiru)
Conrad Booth - "The Boyfriend", male human bard (Silver Moon)
George Kilgore - "The Veteran", male human fighter (Snaebjorn)
Ginnie Flaherty - “The Kid”, female human rogue/wizard (Kriskrafts)
Qualtaqa - "The Noble Indian", male centaur fighter/cleric (Silver Moon)
Sonoma – “The Senorita”, female wood elf druid/bard (Kriskrafts)
Thom - "The Hired Hand", male human fighter (?) (Dire Wolf)

The module will officially start in early January 2006 but we have already played out a prelude to it that will be posted as the next several chapters.

Prelude, Part A - "Night with the Girls", Monday, May 22nd, 1882:

Madge Duprey, lead dance at the Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon arrives mid-afternoon at the Lucky Lady Dance Hall and Saloon for a scheduled appointment with her friend Ruby West, lead singer, dance and also co-owner of the Lucky Lady.

Madge has a broad grin on her face and says “Ruby, Great news! We’re having company! The Pauline Markham Theatrical Company played this last weekend again in Tombstone and has just arrived in town for the next day on their way east to engagements in the New Mexico Territory. They’re checking into the Promise City Hotel right now. Josie has asked if the three of us would be interested in spending the rest of today together.”

A huge smile comes to Ruby's face as she claps her hands together. "That would be wonderful! I didn't get to spend any time with Josie at the festival and I'd really like to spend time with her. And I don't have to work so tonight would be perfect." She pauses for a moment. "I should make sure Jake doesn't have any plans..." Her voice trails off. Silly girl, since when do you have to ask permission to go out? "I just have to get ready. What are the plans and when should we meet?"

Madge says, "Well, she's never seen much of the Promise City area so I was thinking of renting a carriage from Drover's Livery and showing her some of the scenic parts of this countryside before it gets dark. Then we can come back to town for supper and entertainment. Since it's supposed to be a night off that should rule out our going to both the Gay Lady and Lucky Lady, otherwise we might end up working. Why don't we start with El Parador Cantina for dinner, make our way over to the Comique Dance Hall and Saloon for a show, then finish off with gambling at the Long Branch Saloon."

Ruby claps her hands together gleefully. "That sounds perfect. I keep meaning to get around to the other establishments but I'm always so busy..." Ruby starts heading for the stairs. "I'll go get ready right now, I'll be down in a few minutes, make yourself comfortable."

Ruby takes the stairs two at a time. She bursts into her room, scaring Jake Cooke, gambler, Lucky Lady co-owner and boyfriend of Miss. West. He is quietly reading the paper near the window. "Hi baby!" She strides over and kisses him hard on the lips. "Guess what?" She continues without waiting for an answer, "Josie is back in town and she wants to spend the day with Madge and I."

She barely breathes as she excitedly rips off her clothes and tears through her closet. She settles on her cream dress with the peach flowers on it. "We're going to take her through the area on a tour then eat at the El Parador and then watch Clarisse sing at the Comique then over to gamble at the Long Branch." Ruby chatters incessantly until she is finally standing in front of the mirror dressed and smoothing her dress.

"Well, what do you think? Did you have any plans for us for today?" He replies, "Beautiful as always." Jake throws the folded paper on the floor. "Ruby, Madge and Josie on the town together? Heh, my plan is to duck." He laughs. "Go have fun. I'll try to get into less trouble than you three."

Ruby carefully sits on Jake's lap, pushing her skirt out of the way, and wraps her arms around his neck. "You are SO adorable. Have I told you that lately?" She kisses him passionately before pulling away slightly. Running a finger lightly over his cheek she continues, "I do so worry that you'd get into trouble without me and I'd miss it." An innocent expression comes to Ruby's face, topped with an angelic smile. "You know how I hate to miss out on fun."

He says, "You could always take me along, I mean there are THREE attractive ladies going out...." Ruby feigns a look of shock before sticking her tongue out at Jake and playfully slapping him. "I thought I was the only girl you had eyes for Mr. Cook." She continues to act hurt as she turns her face away from Jake with her nose in the air and her arms crossed. "I'll just have to make sure some innocent fellow makes me feel better tonight I suppose. An innocent attractive fellow..."

"I do only have eyes, and other parts, for you Ruby dearest." Jake rubs his beard with one hand, "Now I wonder.... just how an INNONCENT fellow is going to make you feel better?" He smirks, "When you get bored with those innocents just come on back I'll be waiting to take care of you."

Ruby suddenly turns back to Jake and throws her arms around him tightly. She again kisses him passionately for a long moment. "Lover, you know you're the only one I want to take care of me. You're the only one who can or ever could." Ruby smiles mischievously as she taps Jake on the nose, "I'll be looking forward to tonight." Ruby giggles as she stands, "Besides, we both know innocent is boring."

She checks herself in the mirror again. She stuffs some extra money deep down the front of her bodice. "Alright, I think I'm ready." She strides towards Jake and leaning forward she kisses him. "I love you baby, behave yourself." Jake just nods and smirks. Ruby gives Jake one final hug and kiss before heading back down to Madge.

Bouncing down the stairs with a smile she says, "Ready when you are!" She takes Madge's arm in hers and they head out the door. Madge drops Ruby off at the Promise City Hotel and says, "I'll be back shortly with the carriage, keep Josie company in the meanwhile."

Ruby enters to see her friend Josephine Marcus sitting with the actor from her company who she had been introduced to only as Mr. Fabian. They are currently both having a piece of hotel owner and cook Melissa Smith's award-winning apple pies. Josie gestures for Ruby to join them.

Ruby hurries over to the table and embraces Josie. "I'm so excited you made it back to town!" She releases her and then extends a hand to her handsome partner, "Nice to see you again Mr. Fabian. I hope you'll find something interesting to do while we steal Josie away for the evening. We plan to keep her out late." Fabian says "Call me Will."

She turns back to Josie. "Madge went to get the carriage, we're going for a ride." Ruby sits at the table with the two actors. "So tell me, what have you been up to?" Josie replies, "Well, last month we finally finished our scheduled performances of 'Stolen Kisses', that was the play you saw us perform in nearby Tombstone. Personally, I hope I never have to act in that one again. Too many bad memories from the night last March when Morgan Earp was shot and killed. That set this whole Cowboy Gang war into motion.

This past month we've been performing Hamlet, with William here in the title role. Tombstone seems to prefer lighthearted comedies to the classics so we did only two performances there this time. We've got a few engagements scheduled in the New Mexico Territory and then it's off to Colorado for the remainder of the summer. In the fall we will return home to San Francisco where we'll stay until next spring."

Ruby says, "Ah, San Francisco. I'd love to see San Francisco. Maybe I'll come and visit sometime. You must be longing for home, these little dirty towns don't quite compare to such a large city." Josie replies, "Well, I grew up in a city. I was born in Brooklyn back in '61. My family moved to San Francisco when I was a young girl. Oh Ruby, I guess it's time I told you my story. William, you've heard it before, why don't you go get us some lemonades." He does as instructed.

She beings, "I always wanted to become an actress, so once I turned eighteen my friend Dora Hirsh and I escaped to join a theatrical company where we were hired as dancers. So three years ago we started to travel with Pauline Markham's traveling theater company. It was in the Territorial capitol of Prescott that I met Johnny Behan, who at that time was the Yavapai County Sheriff. We had a short but intense love affair and he asked me to stay. The company left without me but then I became homesick and returned to San Francisco. Johnny Behan followed me and asked me to marry him, but I declined so he returned to Arizona.

The same thing happened the following year when the Company toured Arizona, and this time I again stayed behind in Prescott with Behan. But I found out that Johnny Behan was seeing other women behind my back so I wrote a letter to my father, who sent me 300 dollars so that I could return to San Francisco.

Both last year and again this year Behan has tried to get me back. I still had feelings for him....that is, until I saw Wyatt Earp. It was love at first sight for both of us. Now Johnny would be just a distant memory if not for his now hunting the man I now love. I've tried to stay friendly with him so that I can pass information on to Wyatt. I don't believe that Behan suspects."

Ruby listens intently to Josie's story, sitting quiet and still as she tells it. Finally she comments, "So you're sleeping with the enemy, so to speak." She places a hand over Josie’s. "What we won't do for the men we love..."

Josie says, "Well no...I haven't been sleeping with him this year, I'm afraid that if I did Johnny might notice that I now react differently to him. But I did spend much of this past weekend socializing with him in Tombstone and talking to him about his bravery and heroics in hunting after the Earps now that they are wanted men.

Ruby says, "I grew up in New York City, well grew up mostly in New York City. And I can't tell you how many times I wished to run away and become an actress." She shrugs, "I guess I still do sometimes, wish I could run away and become an actress, forget who I am and be someone else, or who I was anyway." Ruby lowers her voice before continuing, "Someone else I know believes Behan might be a part of a quickly diminishing Cowboy Gang. So it won't be long now. Have you heard from Wyatt lately?"

Josie replies, "Yes I...I have information to now pass on to Wyatt right now. That's the real reason behind this carriage ride we're about to go on."
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Silver Moon

Prelude Part B, “The Rendezvous“, Monday, May 22nd, 1882:

"Oh?" Ruby is surprised and disappointed at the same time. Madge and herself were only a diversion so Josie could meet with Wyatt Earp. Ruby kept her smile on but a new thought ran through her mind... Jake will kill me himself if he finds out I went freely walking into another Cowboy-Earp situation... Ruby twists a napkin in her hands but realizes she can't get out of it without giving Josie away. So much for a fun night with the girls.

Ruby sits back quietly in her chair as Will returns with the lemonades and she waits for Madge to show up with the carriage. Will Fabian brings the lemonades as well as a large piece of apple pie for Ruby. "So, did I miss anything?" he asks. Josie says, "No, just girl talk. Will, please be sure to drop by the Comique tonight, there will be a trio of ladies there looking for a dance partner." He smiles and says, "I guess I could do that."

Madge enters the room ten minutes later to let them know that the carriage was right outside and they should be on their way. Ruby thanks Will for the pie but only picks at it. Glad that the carriage has shown up she puts a smile on her face and head outside. She climbs into the carriage and then helps Josie up. "Let's be off then! Don't want to miss the sights." She continues to ask Josie about her acting, keeping the conversations light.

They ride south along Pine Creek, turning east as they near Pete's Ranch. Ruby can see the corralled horses, cattle and sheep in the distance. They move east, circumnavigating north around the hill where the Army and Apache had negotiated the most recent treaty in January. From there they move north towards the mountain known as Cochise Head.

As they ride towards it Josie tells Madge "I hope you're not upset by this, but I asked for this ride for a specific reason. I...I need to meet somebody up ahead. It is very important, lives depend upon it." Madge gives Josie an odd look and then brings the carriage to a complete halt. With no attempt to hide anger in her voice Madge says, "What is this about?"

Josie says, "I have a lover, we need to meet in secret." Madge exclaims "I don't like being used." Josie says, "It wouldn't be safe for me to travel alone....and he asked me to bring you, he has a favor to ask of you." Madge exclaims, "And who would 'he' be?" Josie says, "Wyatt Earp." Madge just sits without immediately replying.

Ruby interjects, “"Josie, I am sorry that you are in this situation and you have to meet Wyatt in secret. But we just got out of the situation with the Cowboys, and I almost died. Jake would not be happy to know I was doing this. As much as I do things on my own, I would have to agree with him. Things are finally starting to calm down."

Ruby pauses. "I thought you really did want to spend the evening with Madge and me." Josie replies, "I do and we will, but I have to do this first. This has gone beyond just the Earps and Cowboys. President Chester Arthur has offered to send Federal Troops in to help arrest Wyatt and Behan has decided to accept that offer. Wyatt and his friends have to be warned to leave the Territory while they can."

Ruby puts a fake smile on her face as she nods. "I understand. Let's get this over with a be safe about it, ok? I'm sure your lover is anxious to see you." Ruby glances at Madge out of the corner of her eyes but sits quietly. Madge says, "Fine, but I'm not happy about this. We're only doing this because I owe Wyatt a favor from back when he was Marshall."

They move on toward the mountain. As they near the base of the south side two riders come up from behind. Ruby does not recognize one but the other is Warren Earp. Madge stops the carriage. Warren tells his companion "I'll ride with them, you and Sherm make sure they weren't followed."

They ride forward towards a small canyon. The carriage stops and Warren stops his horse. A man who Ruby recognizes as Turkey Creek Johnson comes out from behind a rock and helps to secure the horses pulling the carriage. Wyatt Earp then comes out from his hiding place and Josie jumps from the carriage, running towards him and giving him a warm embrace. The two of them wander off together behind some rocks.

Warren tells Madge "Thank you for helping out, we all appreciate it." Madge replies with a stern "I hope so, you have no idea how much risk you are putting Ruby and I through." Ruby places her hand on Madge's arm. "Let's take a little walk." They slowly walk off but stay fairly close to the area. Ruby sighs, "Too bad we didn't know about this earlier. I might have worn a different dress." She continues to guide Madge. She whispers, "Why do you own Wyatt Earp a favor?"

Madge replies, "I was careless once last February. I cast a spell in public when I thought nobody was around but turns out he was. He didn't arrest me or even comment about it at the time, but later he made sure to communicate that he clearly saw me. I guess he was filing that for future reference. Time to play the piper, and I guess it really wouldn't have been all that safe for her to ride out here alone."

Ruby nods as they walk. "I understand." Ruby pauses, "But Madge, I can't get myself involved in this stuff again. It's not that I don't want to help, although I barely know her." She sighs, "But yes, it would have been to dangerous for her to come out here alone." She steers them around. "Let's go back. Maybe if we stay close this won't take so long and we can get out of here." She smiles, "I'd sneak out here to see my forbidden lover too." They head back to the spot where they left the carriage to wait.

Madge and Ruby wait for a good twenty minutes before Wyatt and Josie return. Wyatt cups his hands to his mouth and makes a coyote-like sound, apparently a signal to his men. They all walk or ride up from where each had positioned himself. There are now a total of six in his group, namely Wyatt, Warren, Turkey Creek Johnson, Sherman McMasters and two others who are introduced to the women as Charlie Smith and Texas Jack Vernillin.

Wyatt thanks both Madge and Ruby for bringing out Josie to them. He tells his men "Federal Troops will be on their way soon to arrest us, we have to leave Arizona. But before we do we have us some unfinished business back in Tombstone. By my count there are just four Cowboys from Stillwell's faction still there, five if you count Behan." Josie has a shocked look on her face and says, "Don't kill Johnny...he's not a rustler, just an opportunist. And when he finds that you've taken me as your woman that will hurt him more than a bullet."

Wyatt says, "My boys and I may be wanted right now but everything we've done thus far could probably be justified if we ever go to trial. That'll change if I go after a lawman. So Behan's safe for now, Buckskin Frank Leslie is too since he still has a Deputy's badge on. That's no longer the case with Charlie Villiers and Bronco Madson, they gave up on the posse and went back to their old jobs. But it's Hank Swelling who we really need to see. He's the last one still living of those who shot Morgan that night."

He turns to Madge and Ruby and says, "Ladies, I'd like to ask you for one more favor. Please bring Josie out to see me once more before they leave tomorrow. And Miss Duprey, any other assistance that you could give to us would be appreciated. At least two of us will need to get into Tombstone without being seen."

Ruby quickly looks to Madge, knowing she won't be happy. "We'll bring her tomorrow. At least one of us will. We must be crazy but we'll do it." Ruby walks back over to the carriage area. She says to Wyatt, "Take care of yourself." And she waits patiently to get going back to town.

The three women ride back to Promise City. Madge is quiet for most of the ride back. Josie thanks them both for accompanying her and says how much she is looking forward to having fun that night. Madge brings the carriage back to Drovers, letting Austin Blake know that she will be renting it again in the morning. Madge tells Ruby and Josie that she will meet them in a half-hour for dinner at the El Parador. She then walks back in the direction of the Gay Lady.

Ruby tries to decide if she should run back and tell Jake what happened or just head to the El Parador. She decides to go against her instincts and head right over to the El Parador. She says, "Josie, I'm headed to the El Parador now. You may come with me if you'd like or you might want to freshen up then head over, your choice."

She looks out at the direction of the Gay Lady. "She needs some time to cool off, she was really upset about being misled like that." Josie says, "Oh...well, I guess I can understand that. Wyatt should not have asked her to help him out." Ruby then heads over to her old home.

Ruby shrugs off the previous encounter thinking “Nothing bad happened so I guess it's okay.“ She smiles as she enters the El Parador. Right away she finds Dorita and wraps her arms around her. "Buenas noches Senora. ¿Cómo usted es esta tarde fina?" *Good evening Senora. How are you this fine evening? Then she playfully rolls her eyes. "I know, I know, I never come visit and I don't eat enough. Well, I am here to remedy both situations," she laughs.

Dorita looks Ruby over and says, "You skinny as a rail? That Jake not know how to feed you! I talk to Maria about that." Dorita then points to Josie and says "Who your friend? She too skinny too. Me find you some good food to fatten you both up."

Ruby looks down at her curves, raises an eyebrow and laughs. "You think everyone is skinny! Poor Maria. Jake won't mind a couple more curves though," she giggles and gives Dorita another squeeze. "But yes, we are here to stuff ourselves with the best food in town. Dorita, this is my friend Josie. She's an actress with the Pauline Markham Theatrical Company. They preformed here for the festival. You know how I've always wanted to be an actress! And my friend Madge from the Gay Lady is going to join us too. We're having a girls night out."

Madge arrives twenty minutes later, seemingly in a better mood. Dorita has brought a large plate of assorted appetizers for the trio. She also brings a bottle of a white wine. Estaban Fuente arrives and plays Spanish guitar during the meal. The wine helps loosen the women up a little and Ruby quickly forgets about the earlier incident. Ruby asks Josie about some of her acting stories and they are entertained through their meal with them.

After their meal but before dessert Ruby asks, "So how do the two of you know each other?" Josie laughs "We just met for the first time last month, the day before the festival, but found ourselves to be kindred spirits. When Pauline Markham first agreed to come her to perform the Gay Lady was the only Dance Hall in town with a large enough stage for our theater company so we rented it for our performances from Mr. Lumley."

Ruby says, "You're must be kindred spirits then, as I would have never guessed that you haven't known each other longer." She turns to Josie. "It must be very hard on you, being separated like you are, and in the middle of things. I could never be away from Jake now and I would be so worried."

Josie replies, "It's not just the separation...it's that he is being hunted, and by somebody who I once cared for. Wyatt has managed to avoid Johnny's Posse until now, but if Federal troops move in they will be caught. I had to get the message to him, I just had to. I...I don't expect you two to fully understand. But thank you for all of your help."

Ruby places a hand over Josie's. "I DO understand what it's like to have the one you love in constant danger. But next time it would be nice if you told us what you really wanted us for. Now that you've warned him, he'll make the best decision he can for both of you." Ruby gives Josie a dazzling smile. "And you're welcome. Now let's enjoy some of Dorita's pie and have a good time tonight. Alright?"

Josie and Madge both agree, although Ruby senses that Madge is still a bit miffed with the actress. When Dorita is asked about pie she goes into the kitchen and returns with a tray with pieces of apple, cherry and some type of mixed berry pie. She invites the women to have as many pieces as they want, commenting again about how skinny they all are. Madge exclaims, "Maybe these two, who I have a good decade on, but I find it hard enough to keep the pounds off these days. Just a little piece for me please.”

Ruby says, "Well, you know what that means, Madge. You need to get some more men around you!" Ruby smiles innocently. "Or maybe if there is one man in particular..." Ruby shrugs and digs into her pie. "A little sweating does you good you know that." An ashen look crosses Madge's face. She softly says, "One man....you know about him? We've tried to keep things quiet."

Ruby's eyes widen and she exclaims, "Madge!" She stares at her friend then continues, "Why yes, of course, so you aught to just admit it now." Madge says, "Of course I'll admit it, but please keep it to yourself. If Burton Lumley finds out that I'm involved with the owner of another saloon he'll fire me. Please don't take offense at this but I've put too much of myself into building up the Gay Lady's clientele to want to start all over at the Comique or play back-up singer to you at the Lucky Lady."

Ruby says, "I'll keep it to myself. But do you think HE will?" She smiles and says, "Oh, yes, he's been very discrete, he understands my predicament. Just watch, when we head over to the Comique for the show he won't let on at all." Ruby smiles, proud of herself for getting that information. Then she laughs, "Of course you can always do it my way, have the whole town thinking you're sleeping with half the men, when for once it isn't true."

Madge laughs and says, "I know better, Jake has you to himself. I have been wondering though, what exactly is your relationship with Judge Isby? He obviously wishes it to be something." "He's not the only one," she laughs again. "But Jake won my heart first. Anyway, I figured a few dinners with the lonely Judge couldn't hurt. You know, just in case the unlikely event I end up in his courtroom." Ruby gives her dazzling smile as she bluffs her. "Oh so you never believed I slept with all those men? I was under the impression that everyone did."

Madge says, "Well, I've been on the receiving end of the bad reputation. Fifi, Julia and I all have reputations for being prostitutes. That's largely due to Fifi, as she does tend to take money as a gift for sharing her room, but even then she's rather choosey about who she brings there and never actually asks for the money. Over the last few years Julia and I have both entertained select gentlemen as well, but never for any exchange of money, not that anybody in town will ever believe it."

Ruby shrugs, "What do we care what they think anyway, right? Especially since our current lovers know the truth." Ruby enjoys her pie, laughing to herself that Dorita would think she is thin. She asks, "So is the rest of our plan for tonight still the same? The Comique then the Long Branch?" Josie says, "It's your town, you two lead the way."

Madge says "Definitely the Comique, and the Long Branch is a fine place to go to gamble. I was going to go to the Comique tonight anyway even before Josie arrived, this just makes it better." "And not to see Clarisse," Ruby winks at her. She waves Dorita over. "Thank you SO much for another wonderfully perfect meal." Ruby rubs her belly, "You'll fatten me up in no time!" The women finish the meal and leave enough money for the food and a generous tip.

Silver Moon

Prelude Part C, “Evening Entertainment”, Monday, May 22nd, 1882:

They head a block north to the Comique Variety Hall and Saloon which is a 25x30 single-story brick building that is owned by Alfred Brower, Pierre Jaquet and piano player and bartender Warren Watson. It has three gambling tables with both poker and faro and has a reputation for having the most honest gaming in town. The primary entertainment is by Miss. Clairesse Townsend, who on Ruby West's nights off also sings at the Lucky Lady.

Ruby greets Al and Pierre. "Gentlemen, I'm sorry, I can't believe I've never been here for evening's entertainment! Anyway, I'm here now with Ms. Duprey and Ms. Marcus for a little relaxation. Perhaps you'll have a chance to join us for a drink?"

Ruby watches the exchange of eye contact and body language between Madge Duprey and the owners of the Comique. The natural assumption would have been that her secret lover was Pierre Jaquet, who had much in common with Madge. He was of French descent, a wizard, and the same age as her. Instead it appears obvious that they are just acquaintances, with the stolen glances of passion radiating between Madge and Mr. Alfred Brower.

Brower takes charge of the group and ushers the women to one of the tables directly in front of the stage. He exclaims, "Ruby darling, how wonderful to see you here at last. I spend so much time at your Saloon it is about time that you reciprocated. And tonight is a special night for that too, are you here to listen to Sandra?"

Ruby looks to Madge who says, "Sandra Wainright, Don's wife, this evening she's singing for the first time in public." Ruby is familiar with the woman as she is a friend of Kate's and her husband is one of Jake's regular poker players. The Wainrights own a General Store in town that carries a wide selection of musical instruments and is also the only place in town that gets copies of the latest sheet music to sell.

Ruby says, "You are you right! It's bad that Jake and I haven't stopped in sooner. We've just been so busy lately..." All their recent adventures come to mind and Ruby thinks, Believe me, I wish we had been here instead of being chased by Cowboy and Vampires... "I wasn't aware Sandra was singing tonight but I'm certainly glad I'll be catching the show. I wonder if Kate knows she is preformed... Al, will she be singing here on a regular basis?"

Al replies, "One step at a time, she's painfully shy about performing in public. We managed to talk her into playing piano two weeks ago but tonight will be her first attempt at vocals. Getting her up on stage is out of the question but she's agreed to sing while playing piano. According to Don she has a great singing voice."

The opening performance is by Clairesse Townsend who comes out onto the stage, with Warren Watson on piano. She sings a total of seven songs, ranging from simple folk tunes to a finale of a rousing rendition of a rather torrid love song that Ruby often sings herself but would have thought too bawdy for the more prim Caress’s tastes. She tells the audience that she will be back once more later that evening then heads out the door.

Al brings another round of drinks over to the table, his arm accidentally brushing up against Madge as he passes them out, to which he apologizes to her. Al tells Ruby, "She's off to sing at your place for the next two hours. On your nights off at the Lucky Lady we've had to have Warren fill in with just piano tunes. I'm hoping that tonight doesn't scare Sandra off, I'd like to also have some vocals for a change." He glances to Madge as he says that.

She replies, "Don't give me that look Alfred Brower. You know perfectly well that Lumley will fire me if I ever sing a note in another saloon." Al replies, "You would always have a job here Miss Duprey." She replies, "And what would Clairesse do? Stealing her job would hardly be a nice thing for me to do as her surrogate mother. Plus your stage is way too small for what I require." Al laughs and heads back to the bar.

Ruby raises an eyebrow at the little exchange. "Quite the flirt I would say, Miss. Duprey," Ruby says in mocking tones. "Perhaps you should rethink working at the Gay Lady. I'd bet he make a larger stage for you." Ruby smiles mischievously at Madge and raises her glass. "To girl's night out. So far all we've done is talk about our men!"

Josie says, "Well, you could tell me a little more about that Clairesse, her voice is wonderful. And what did you mean Madge by surrogate mother?" Madge explains, "She's the first cousin of my back-up singer Julia. Their mothers were sisters who danced in New Orleans. But Caress’s mother died when she was a baby and her prim and prudish father raised the girl in the Midwest. When he died she came out here, as Julia was her only living relative.

The Gay Lady was an eye-opening experience for her and I realized that I had to step in and take the girl under my wing. Our nightly shows were too much for her, and while she has a fine singing voice she can't dance worth a damn. Burton and I put her to work waiting tables, but she was way too clumsy for that as well, the broken glassware alone cost her a third of her wages.

Then the Lucky Lady's previous owner ran off with the Comique's Saloon girl simultaneous to Ruby heading off for a trip to Tombstone, creating a pair of vacancies for singers. Clairesse stepped in. After Ruby returned she limited her singing there to Ruby's nights off, this being her main stage to sing on. I was still concerned about the girl so started coming here on my nights off, Mondays and Thursday, to listen to her and later offer suggestions. I...um....well, that's how I got to know Mr. Brower better. You may have noticed Ruby that he no longer plays poker at your Saloon with Job or Jake on those two nights."

Ruby laughs, "Well, my mind has been elsewhere lately, so I hadn't noticed. But now that you mention it... I supposed I should be mad at you for stealing business from us! But instead I'm happy that such a good friend is so happy." She playfully clears her throat, "So, any plans to perhaps make things more permanent in the future? Maybe Madge gets her name on a Saloon too?"

Madge laughs and says "Who says my name isn't. You're this town's lucky lady and I'm it's gay lady. And I am now that I've met Al."

Josie glances over to the bar at the young, tall businessman with slightly oversized ears and comments, "Madge, I'd accuse you of robbing the cradle, but Wyatt is twelve years my senior." Madge replies, "Robbing the cradle! My word! I'll have you know that I am only six years older than Alfred." Josie turns to Ruby and asks, "And what is your age difference from Mr. Cooke?"

Ruby says, "Well, Jake's birthday just passed that makes the difference three years. But my birthday is in a couple of weeks so it'll be back to two years between us. He isn't as old as he looks. Sometimes when he's serious, especially when he's playing poker, he does look older than he is." Ruby giggles, "While there are certain benefits to the older man, I need someone closer to my age so he can keep up with me and all my naughty habits!" Madge laughs "As if there is anybody on this planet who could keep up with you Ruby!"

Sandra Wainwright had arrived and took a seat at the rear table when Clairesse finished up. Sandra is dressed in a Sunday-go-to-church formal dress rather than the more practical dresses or even the occasional pants that she wears when working the store. Warren Watson finishes playing and goes over to the table with Sandra and chats with her. She then gets up and sits at the piano and begins to play. Once she is distracted by the keyboards her husband Donald quietly sneaks into the Saloon and takes a place at a table near the rear, a wide grin on his face.

Sandra plays a long piano introduction, essentially an entire verse, of an Arthur Sullivan ballad before launching into song. Her voice is a very melodic alto with wide range of octaves. When she reaches the conclusion of the piece Watson stands and motions for those in the audience to not applaud. He then sits on the piano bench beside her and they begin a two-player piece that she sings to as well. At the end of this he puts his arm around her shoulder and they stand together and face the audience to a full round of applause. Sandra's face turns beet red with embarrassment.

Ruby turns to her companions and laughs. "Well, I might have been worried about the competition if not for the horrific stage fright. Could you imagine? Kate will be mad she missed this though." Ruby pours each of them another drink. "I wonder if she'll get brave and start singing on a more regular basis." Thoughts swirl in Ruby's head about snagging Clairesse exclusively for the Lucky Lady as they had originally wanted.

Sandra Wainwright joins her husband Donald at a table, chiding him for sneaking in to watch her. He laughs and orders them both drinks, as Watson sits back down at the piano to play for the Saloon. Gambler Rolf Larsen has started a game of Poker at one of the larger tables and Larry Freed has started a game of Faro at his table. Other patrons begin to wander in as well, most taking seats on stools at the bar. The women continue to chat about life in general. And while they chat they drink.

Finally Ruby asks, "So Josie, tell us about Wy... Your boyfriend. What's so special about him? I've had dealings with him and he seems protective of his family, and honorable if you're on the right side. But also some not so good dealings too, to get things that he wanted. So tell us why you love him. Do you want to marry him??"

Josie replies, "I...I can't explain it. But marriage is out of the question, he's already married." "Oh yeah, I do think I remember him saying something about a wife. Sorry Josie." Ruby takes a quick drink. "Let's talk about something else then, shall we?"

Josie talks about how much she is the theater company’s upcoming engagement in New Mexico and Colorado. First they will travel to the communities of Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. Having stayed in Arizona the previous two years she missed that leg of the journey as well as the Colorado cities. She adds "Pauline and the rest of the company all say that summering in the higher elevations of Colorado is far cooler and more comfortable than it is here in southern Arizona."

Ruby says, "Yes, I do believe it gets very hot here, although I haven't been through a summer yet here in Promise City. But there is nothing like a cool breeze after a hot summer day." "Now that we've finished dinner are we ready to play cards yet? Or even some dancing? What do you ladies think?"" Madge exclaims "I could use a good poker game right about now, what about you Josie?" Josie replies, "I've played it before but I'm not that good at it, you'll have to help me out."

Ruby says, "Poker it is! I've never played at the Long Branch. Perhaps we should go size up Conrad Booth." Madge gives Ruby a quizzical look and says, "Well, with that comment you have indeed proved that you've never been there before. In all of the other gambling establishments in town each gambler has his own regular players, that's not so at the Long Branch.

Kate Higgin's philosophy is that if you go to play at the Long Branch it is the place that you've chosen not the gambler. She doesn't let you pick your dealer she assigns you one. And it's not uncommon for her to have her dealers swap tables mid-way through the night. Then again, Monday nights are slow so they probably only have one poker dealer."

"Really? How interesting. I was under the impression that someone gambled there every Wednesday night with the same dealer. Strange way of doing things." Ruby shrugs, "It doesn't matter, I don't care who the dealer is, tonight is just for fun." Madge answers, "Well, if she only has one Wednesday night Poker dealer that's possible. It's mostly weekends when all of their dealers would be present. Shall we go?" "Sure let's go." Josie and Ruby give Madge a moment to "pay the bill" while they wait outside on the porch laughing. Then they head over to the Long Branch.

On the south side of Main Street between Allen and Front streets is the Long Branch Saloon, which was the very first saloon in town. This 30x30 foot three-story brick building is rather luxurious, with all-brass bar fixtures and a crystal chandelier. It has four gambling tables featuring both poker and faro and has a reputation for high-stakes games. As they enter there appear to be two dealers this evening, Conrad Booth dealing Poker and a gentleman who none of the girls recognize who is dealing Faro.

Piano player Dooley Wilson is providing entertainment and Hildy Jackson is the only one of the Saloon's four prostitutes who is currently present, with her sitting at the bar with a drink. Owner Kate Higgins work reminds the women that they need to check any firearms that they may be carrying, to which Madge and Josie both tell her they have none.

Ruby also replies she has no firearm on her and enters the saloon. "Well, it looks like Conrad is dealing after all," she grins. "So we WILL be able to check out his poker skills." Ruby approaches the poker table. "Evening Mr. Booth." She waits for him to glance up at her. "I'm here with some friends tonight, we'd like to have a friendly game of cards. Can you let us know when you have three seats available please?"

He smiles and says, "Few more hands and I'll be taking a break ladies, not sure how many of these nice gents will be returning." The reactions on the faces of his players to that comment indicate that unless there is a drastic change at least two of them won't be due to a lack of finances.

Ruby smiles dazzlingly at all around the table. "Well then, we'll be anxiously awaiting our turn over at the bar." With that she turns on her heel and swings her hips over to the bar, where she takes a seat next to her friends and orders a whiskey. "We're up soon. Sometimes it's so nice to have breasts," she laughs.

Conrad completes the game with his current players and calls for a break, during which he invites Madge, Josie and Ruby to join him at the table. Two of the previous players return, one of whom Ruby recognizes as Abel Weir, a miner at the Liberty Hill Mine who occasionally plays with Job Kane at the Lucky Lady. The other man introduces himself as Joseph Hale, but says to just call him Idaho Joe. Josie Marcus explains how she isn’t much of a poker player and Conrad spends a few minutes explaining the rules of the game to her. The game will be standard rules, nothing fancy, and all bets must be made in whole dollar increments with a minimum of $ 1 to be put in the pot per hand.

The game progresses for the next forty-five minutes, playing nine hands. By that point Ruby has won two hands and is ahead $ 29; Madge has won one hand and is ahead by a mere $ 2; Weir has won four hands but most had been small bets so he is only ahead by $ 19; Conrad has won two hands but one was rather large and he is ahead by $ 38; Josie hasn’t won any but also hasn’t bet more than the minimum per hand so is only down $ 9; the remaining $ 79 loss all came from Idaho Joe.

With the gambling loss added to the price of his drinks Idaho Joe declares that he is now broke. He says, “Guess I should be should be heading back to my sweet little Petunia anyway. Goodnight all.” As he exits the Long Branch Conrad decides to call for a short break, taking a small sip from the glass of whiskey on the table before him. Weir excuses himself and heads outside to the outhouse. Madge says she has a quick errand to run as well but will soon return. Kate Higgins stops by the table and asks if anybody else still at the table would like a drink refill.

Josie comments, “I said I wasn’t much of a poker player. I guess I should probably quit while I’m behind.” Conrad says, “Well Miss. Marcus, if I wasn’t the dealer I would offer to help you. But to entice you to stay in the game I am willing to grant you $ 25 in table credit.”

She bats her eyes in his direction and says with a smile, “Thank you Mr. Booth, you are very generous. But seeing as how you’ve already rescued me once before I wouldn’t want it to become a habit.” He smiles back and says, “Ah, I was wondering if you still remembered that little incident. Fear not fair maiden, my days of rescuing damsels in distress are now obligated exclusively to Ruby’s friend Katherine Kale. Extending to you table credit, which I plan to soon win right back, doesn’t fall into the same category.”

Ruby orders a refill from Kate Higgins. Then she raises an eyebrow, "So, you two know each other? I bet this is an interesting story..." She looks at the two of them expectantly.

Booth says, "I'll try to keep it short. I am originally from San Francisco. When I was born my mother was a seamstress at Maguire's Opera House, the most impressive theater in town. It closed down nine years back and we moved on to the California Theatre on Bush Street, which became the new hub of theatrical activity in the city, with that theatre as well as the Alhambra and the Standard. My mother was promoted to head seamstress and assistant set manager for the 'Old California Stock Company'. I began acting with that company, mostly secondary roles and bit parts, but I enjoyed it."

Josie says, "And Pauline Markham's company performs at the Standard in the autumn and winter before we go on the road. One night during my first year with the company a drunk outside the stage door cornered me. Mr. Booth happened to be walking by at that time and came to my rescue. He drew a gun on the man and forced him to leave."

Conrad says, "Actually, that was one of my better performances. I had first yelled for the man to leave and he just ignored me. I then threatened to call for the police and he just laughed. My 'gun' was actually a black tobacco pipe, which I had used as a prop in that night's performance. I cupped it upside down in my hand and made sure that my hand obscured most of it. I then extended my arm as thought I was holding a gun and told him it was a Derringer. He believed me and left."

Josie says to Ruby, "I thanked my rescuer and we then went our separate ways. I actually didn't even know his name until last month at the festival." She turns to Conrad and says, "I meant to talk to you at the festival but never got the chance." Conrad says, "Well, I was a bit preoccupied that night playing the White Knight yet again." "What a funny coincidence, the two of you ending up here together after all these years."

"And funny, Conrad, you've turned into such a hero. Every girl needs her own hero you know," Ruby smiles. Conrad replies, "Oh, I'm no hero, just a man who can't stand by and watch a beautiful woman be accosted. I did learn one valuable lesson on that day though, never go anywhere unarmed. From then on I've made sure that I've always kept a real Derringer and throwing knife where I could get at them." Ruby nods. "Yes, I'm afraid we all have our stories about how we learned to be prepared."

Silver Moon

Prelude Part D, “Worry over the Boys”, May 22nd, 1882:

Ruby states, "But how about a happier subject then? I have a question for you. I need a Romeo." Conrad Booth smiles and says, "Well Miss West, I'm flattered, but isn't Mr. Cook already the Romeo in your life?" Ruby returns the smile, "Oh yes, the part of Romeo in my life has already been taken. But what I'm looking for is a Romeo for the play we're going to be putting on at the Lucky Lady. After the construction is finished. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet."

Conrad replies, "Why, I would be honored. I've been understudy for that part before but never got the opportunity to actually play it on stage. So I already know all of the lines." "Really?" Ruby laughs, "Well, you'll have to help me then, Jake is helping me read through it now. I'm very excited about it, it's going to be wonderful! And maybe you can even help me fill the other roles too. I'd like you to be very involved, as you have the experience. My performing skills are limited to, ah, other areas."

Booth says, "I will be happy to help you out. Spending my entire life in the theatre has taught me a lot. As for filling out the cast, that will depend upon how many characters you want in the play.
Obviously you need a Romeo and Juliet, which I assume we will play. Romeo's closest friend Mercutio is a key part, which I enjoyed portraying in the past. You would need someone handsome who can play a romantic swashbuckler. Based on his costume at the festival I might suggest Mr. Job Kane for that role.

Then there are the parts of Juliet's parents the Capulets and her cousin Tybalt. On the Montague side you have Romeo's parents Lord and Lady Montague and his kinsmen Paris and Benvolio. And you would need somebody to play Escales, the Prince of Verona. Small but important roles are the Roman Priest Lawrence who marries the couple and the Nurse. Not many lines but very fun for those new to the stage.

The play also calls for a priest named John, Romeo's servant Bathasar, Capulet servants Sampson, Gregory and Peter, Montague servant Abram, the Apothecary, and Rosaline who is the woman who Romeo is enamored with at the start of the play. There are versions of the play for smaller casts that eliminate some of those parts. Our company would have all of the party but double up on actors for some parts who were not in the same scene together. That however requires quick costume changes and changes in makeup to change the appearance of the actor.

Ruby continues to smile, impressed. "Well, it sounds like you know you're stuff. Maybe we should have some tryouts to see who would be interested. I didn't think Job Kane was the type to want to be in a play. As a matter of fact, I should have asked Jake, maybe he would want a part." She shrugs, "But I'm guessing he's rather watch than have to practice." She ponders, "I wonder who else will want a part?" The excitement is plain as day on Ruby's face, "It's going to be so successful, I can't wait. And I knew you'd be interested! But are you sure Kate will approve?"

"Why wouldn't Kate approve? She performs with you on a regular basis, aren't I entitled to the same. Hmmm...you may be right about Kane, you know him better than I do. Say, here's a thought. From what we saw at the festival this region has a surprisingly large number of expert fencers. You may want to consider casting several of them in the roles of Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris and Benvolio and we could make the swordfight scene something truly spectacular.

I'm sure that you'll have no trouble convincing Estaban Fuente as he's both the best swordsman in town and also a performer. He'd make a great Mercutio. Hans Schmidt, David Tomlinson if Isby were in town, or Sergeant Ball from Fort Huachuca would also be great for the swordfight. None of them may be able to act but those parts don't have that many lines and if necessary your could probably reassign most of Paris's or Benvolio's lines to Fuente as Mercutio."

"Those are some excellent ideas Mr. Booth. I made a good choice in asking you. I'll get right on asking people if they would like to be a part of this. Course, I needed my Romeo first," she laughs. "As for Katherine, I don't know, it might be all the time we have to spend together working on it or maybe uh... certain scenes in the play?" Conrad replies, "Your gain, her loss."

Josie interjects "Our Company has performed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet on many occasions. It was always one of Pauline Markham's favorite plays. She's been playing Juliet for fifteen years now and still won't admit that she is starting to get a little old for the part now. I've been her understudy and she's let me play Juliet during all of the matinee performances."

Ruby smiles slyly, "Why, I suppose it is then, Mr. Booth." She turns her gaze to Josie, "So maybe you can give me some hints Josie? I know you won't be around town long but I'd appreciate any advice you can give me. I want to be the best actress I can be. And besides, I'll be acting next to Conrad, so I'd better get my skills up to par." Ruby glances over her shoulder at the door. "I wonder where Madge is?"

Josie says, "Well, we could probably head back to your place and spend a few hours going over it, but first I really should spend all of that table credit that Mr. Booth was kind enough to extend to me. Let's play one more series of cards and head out during the next break."

Before the next hand begins Madge does return, with a look of mild concern on her face. She orders a whiskey from the bar and then heads back to the table with the others. Mr. Hale's vacancy at the table is filled by a pair of miners from out-of-town, Crawford Putnam and John Wakelin, who Kate Higgins ushers over to the table.

"I thought we were going dancing toni..." Ruby's thought is interrupted by Madge's arrival. After she orders her whiskey and sits Ruby leans over next to her, "Sweetie, what's wrong? You look upset." Madge whispers back "I went over to the El Parador to try to find our teacher. I wanted to talk to him about tomorrow. I really don't want to see Wyatt Earp again if I can avoid it. But I'm worried that if we don't go and help him Wyatt will retaliate. Manuel wasn't there. Pedro said that he went off somewhere with your Mr. Cook and they haven't returned yet."

Ruby furrows her brows, "Mr. Gonzales and MY Mr. Cook?" Ruby whispers back, "Pedro must have been mistaken. The two of them don't... well, let's just say they aren't exactly the best of friends." Madge's facial expression takes on a surprised look. "Really? I thought that Manuel got along with everybody. Maybe Pedro was referring to Zeb Cook who runs Cook's General Store. When he said Mr. Cook I just assumed that he meant Jake, since you two used to live at the El Parador."

Ruby replies, "Oh they get along alright, usually anyway." A small blush appears on Ruby's cheeks, "Let's just say that Mr. Gonzales doesn't think Jake is good for me. He thinks he'll get me in trouble...or killed." She shrugs and smiles. "What can I say, he's worth the risk.” Madge smiles and says, "He thinks Jake will get you in trouble or killed? Doesn't he have that backwards?"

Ruby playfully widens her eyes. "Oh, so you agree that I'm more trouble for Mr. Cook than he is for me, huh?" Ruby gives a good laugh. "I thought if you put trouble and trouble together maybe you'd get less trouble." She shrugs. "Maybe I was wrong."

Ruby then asks, “Did Mr. G. say where they went?" Ruby asks, now curious. Madge replies, “"Pedro did not know." She furrows her brows,” But I really wonder where they are. Maybe we ought to go over and ask around. The two of them together scares me. They may be having some weird manly duel or something worse. I'd call that trouble for sure."

Josie says, "Oh Ruby, boys will be boys, leave them be. This is our night together. Let's play cards! Mr. Booth has been kind enough to advance me more money to lose." "Oh, but I won't be able to concentrate now..." Ruby realizes her two friends are looking at her funny so she continues, "Alright, I'm sure they are fine. Let's keep playing and then maybe we'll go dancing like we said." She smiles at them and throws her ante into the pot.

With the table credit, essentially "free money", Josie is less inhibited and actually manages to win a hand, but by the end of the seventh hand she has spent all of her winnings as well as the credit and decides to call it quits. During that time Madge has won two hands and is now $ 27 ahead of where she began the night. Ruby has won only one hand but it the biggest of the night and she is now ahead a total of $ 76 for the night.

Crawford Putnam appears to be a good player but is still down money despite winning two hands as he bet heavily in the one that Ruby had won. John Wakelin is a poor player and lost every hand. He decides to quit playing poker and go play at the Faro table instead and his friend Putnam decides to join him. Booth says, "Well, I guess we're at a stopping point."

Ruby says, "But we had a wonderful time, Mr. Booth. I am so glad we came by. I've been wondering what kind of a dealer you are all this time. Maybe one of these nights I'll get Mr. Cook out too." Ruby stands, "Well ladies, now where to?" Madge says, "Well, if it's dancing you want to do I would normally suggest the Gay Lady, but since I work there I'd like to avoid it. How about back to the El Parador? We could probably talk Estaban into playing some good dance music."

"Now that sounds like a wonderful idea!" Ruby stuffs her winnings down her bodice, then gives Conrad a small kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for the fun time." With that the ladies head over to the El Parador Cantina. It is a quiet night at the Cantina with the only employees around being Angelica and her son Ricardo Huseca, Pedro behind the bar, and Estaban Fuente playing guitar. Three male wood elves are drinking at the bar and a pair of dwarven miners are seated at one of the tables.

"Hmmm... seems pretty dead in here. Let's get some drinks." Ruby approaches the bar. "Good evening Pedro. I'd like a round of drinks for me and my friends here. And then I'd like for you to get Estaban to play some fun music for us!" Pedro serves up a round of drinks while Estaban calls for young Ricardo to assist him. Ricardo plans the maracas while Estaban begins to play a faster-paced as Angelica gets one of the elves sitting at the bar to dance with her.

Giggling, Ruby grabs Josie and drags her onto the dance floor for the fast paced dance. "I've been here long enough to have learned their dances!" Ruby laughs as she twirls Josie around. After her dance with Josie Ruby bounces to the bar. "Come and dance with me now, Pedro," she teasingly pleads, "You're the only one who can keep up with me!"

For the next twenty minutes Pedro proves just that, taking her out onto the dance floor and first dancing several that she knows and then teaching her a new dance. The two companions of the wood elf dancing with Angelica approach Madge and Josie and ask them to dance, which both accept. Dorita arrives to take Pedro's place behind the bar so. The two dwarves leave, apparently not fond of Mexican music, but a dozen or so elves and humans soon arrive having been enticed by the lively tunes.

Ruby dances by her friends, "See ladies, the party follows us wherever we go!" She continues to dance with Pedro, with Ruby trying to keep up with the spry elf. "So," she lets him spin her around with a giggle, "Do you know where Mr. Gonzales went tonight?" Pedro replies, "No, he and your man Jake were talking together earlier and then left. At first I thought they were upstairs in his room but when Dorita checked earlier they had gone."

The party continues, with another dozen or so people arriving and the dance floor remaining full from that point onward. Estaban asks Madge and Ruby if they would care to join him with singing the next song, a lively Spanish ballad that both have heard several times before. "I wonder where they could be..." Ruby mutters with a hint of concern but is quickly distracted by Estaban's request. "Of course we'll sing with you," Ruby smiles, "The Spanish songs are beautiful."

The trio sing for the next forty-five minutes while Josie flirts with the wood elf that had danced with her earlier. While they are dancing bank teller Derek Avery enters with his fiancé Liza Brown and start to dance as well. Madge nudges Ruby while gesturing to the pair and jokingly comments "Both dancing and associating with non-humans....that boy is going to find himself booted off of the Vigilance Committee at this rate."

"Good for him. That Vigilance Committee is no good." Ruby ponders for a moment, "Actually, that's not a bad thing, maybe he'll bring some fresh ideas to them and their stingy ways. So...," Ruby leans in and whispers, "Just how serious is this thing with you and you know who?" Madge replies, "Not serious at all as of yet, but that's mostly been because I've been afraid of loosing my job."

Ruby says, "That's silly honey. A woman like you, with your talent, could find a job almost anywhere. Can't say the same about finding a decent man." Ruby shrugs and smiles, "You have to do what you have to do though." Madge notices that Ruby keeps checking the door when someone new walks in. She gazes around the now bustling room, and eyes Josie dancing. "I have to admit, I was a bit peeved at what happened this morning, getting used like that. Didn't expect it from her."

Madge replies, "You're peeved! How do you think I feel! He may have been somewhat polite about it but blackmail is blackmail. And I have no intentions of meeting with him tomorrow until after I talk to my teacher, he'll know what to do, he always does."

"I know... we both got used. But what if... you know Mr. Gonzales... what if he doesn't return tonight?" Ruby continues quickly, "Oh, but Jake wouldn't do that to me, maybe we should check for a note at the Lucky Lady." Ruby's eyes dart again to the door. "I have to admit Madge, I'm nervous. The two of them are like powder in the powder keg, waiting to go off. They don't get along. What could they be doing together but getting into trouble?"

Madge thinks for a minute and says, "Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Manuel knows enough magic to keep Jake from shooting him and I doubt our teacher would do anything to permanently harm your boyfriend. The worse he'd probably do is turn him into a rabbit."

Ruby's eyes widen, "A rabbit?" she coughs out the whiskey that just touched her lips. "Madge, that would be just horrible!" Ruby shakes her head, "I don't want to be in between those two. Jake doesn't take well to," she glances this way and that before whispering, "Magic. He needs time to adjust." She looks down at the whiskey in her hand. "No, there will be no relaxing for me until I know what is going on. Anyone else and I wouldn't think twice about it. But Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Cook..." her voice trails off.

Madge says, "I was kidding, don't worry about them. They're both grown men....what's the worst that could really happen?" Ruby raises an eyebrow but doesn't respond to Madge's comment, knowing how volatile the relationship is between those two men and preferring not to think about the worst that could really happen.

Silver Moon

Prelude Part E, “Boy’s Night Out”, May 22nd, 1882:

It was mid-afternoon and Jake Cook had been abandoned by his ladylove, who has gone off to spend the day and evening with her friends Madge and Josie. He has the night off from duties at the Lucky Lady and wanders over to the El Parador Cantina. The only one present in the room on this Monday afternoon is Pedro Figures, the owner of the establishment. Jake takes a seat at the bar and Pedro pours him a glass of Kentucky Bourbon, Jake’s beverage of choice.

"Gracias amigo, éste es justo qué necesito. Thank you friend, this is just what I need Jake pays him for the drink and sips at it with a satisfied sounding, "Ah." Pedro replies, "And what is new in your life Mr. Cook?"

"Pedro, Silver Jake Cook has had so much new in his life since coming to Promise City that I am relishing the boring and quiet of the last few days. I do have in mind to visit some friends in Tucson soon and while I am there see about arranging a surprise for Miss West. It will be her Birthday soon, and well..." Jake has another sip of the bourbon. "And you, Pedro, how is life for you?" Pedro says, "The same, life does not change much for me. That is how I like it."

Jake notices in his peripheral vision that somebody else is approaching the bar. He turns and sees that it is Manuel Gonzales. "Hello Mr. Cook," the older elf exclaims. "Did I hear you just mentioning something about Ruby's upcoming birthday?" Jake responds, "Si, Senor. Your keen ears did not deceive you." Jake indicates with his hand the spot next to him. "Please join us if you are inclined."

"Why thank you sir, Pedro, a glass of the special red wine if you please." Pedro produces a jug with Greek letters on the label. Gonzales says, "These are left over from the Festival, they are from Athens. It seemed appropriate to have them for the Festival. I have donated the jug of white to the Church but opted to keep the red for myself."

He then asks, "So, do you have a particular present already picked out for the lady? If not I might be willing to offer a suggestion." Jake replies, "I do have a particular present in mind, Senor, but I do not know if it is attainable. I will need to ask a woman in Tucson about it. However, a man cannot give a woman too many gifts can he?" Jake grins at the elder elf. "I welcome your suggestion."

Gonzales says, "Well, what I have in mind is rather complicated to explain. It would be far easier if I could just show you.... But that would require some traveling." "It is mighty late in the day to be starting a journey, how far do we have to go?" Jake sips again at the bourbon and then stops suddenly. "Oh," he says without looking up at the wizard. "Traveling, heh. Using your favorite method I expect?"

"I'm afraid so, but if you would like we could return to Tucson instead of here if you wanted to run that other errand. But then we wouldn't be able to come back to Promise City until tomorrow, I can only use the spell twice per day."

Jake mulls the prospect of being magicked around three times in two days and finds it displeasing. He had also promised to take Ruby with him to Tucson next time he went. "You are very generous in offering to cart my sorry behind all over on my errands. It may take me some length of time in Tucson, so just show me your suggestion. I will go to Tucson another time via a more mundane way of traveling."

The old elf says, "Very well, why don't you go gather together whatever items you might want to bring along to be comfortable and meet me upstairs in my room in a few minutes." Comfortable?" is Jake’s response. The elf explains, “Our destination is a bit cooler than Arizona and we'll probably be there after dark. You'll need a coat."

Jake nods. "I will be right along then." He savors another sip of the bourbon before he downs the rest. With a nod and a smile to Pedro Jake heads back to the Lucky Lady. He gathers his hat and duster, some extra cash from the safe, and a variety of extra ammunition for his Colt. He has long ago lost or discarded any other warm weather gear he may have owned so there is nothing else to bring besides a pair of thin riding gloves.

He eyes his pile of weapons for a moment, weighing whether or not to bring something extra along. It was not that he did not trust the elder wizard, Jake just liked to have options. In the end with one exception he settled for what he was already wearing: one fast draw Colt Peacemaker, one enchanted dagger in a boot sheath, and one derringer tucked into a small custom made holster inside the back of his trousers. The exception was the hunting knife that Jake has carried since leaving Philadelphia. He threaded that through his belt on the way back to the El Parador, it was best not to keep a wizard waiting.

They meet in Gonzales's rather sparse bedroom. The brazier is out but not yet lit and the window is open to prevent the room from filling with smoke. Jake has been through this routine before and stands silently by while Gonzales lights the brazier, adds the pink powder to the flames creating the colored smoke and begins the incantation. The older elf then thrusts out his hands at the appropriate time and Jake grabs them and presses his eyes closed. The incantation continues and their surroundings change.

When Gonzales releases his hands Jake can see that they are standing in a forest and the air is around twenty degrees cooler. The trees around look to be mostly oak, elm and maple, many of them rather thick. He hears distant sounds of birds chirping and also the sound of machinery. Through the trees he can see the sun starting to set and concludes based upon the few hours time difference that they are somewhere in the northeastern United States or possibly eastern Canada.

Jake opens his eyes and then releases the breath he did not realize he was holding. He looks around carefully, taking in his surroundings and being certain there is no one watching them. Jacob Alistair Cooke was a city boy, the desert had been foreign to him when he first saw it much like this forest was now. Satisfied they are unnoticed and not in any immediate danger he nods to Gonzalez. "Lead on."

They travel no more than 200 feet through the woods when they reach a dirt road running northwest to southeast. They walk on it heading southeast until they see a 20x40 foot single story building ahead with a tin roof and wraparound porch with hitching posts out front. The sign outside the building reads "Lakeside General Store - Malachi Haynes Proprietor".

They enter the building finding that it is indeed a country general store. Jake takes a quick glance and sees only standard items for such an establishment but nothing in particular that would justify making such a trip. The man behind the counter waves and approaches them. He says to Gonzales "Ah, Mr. Perez, is this the intrepid young fisherman that you told me about?" Gonzales replies, "Indeed it is, Mr. Haynes, may I present to you my son-in-law Jay Brothers." He then says to Jake, "Jay, this is Mal Haynes."

Jake immediately thrusts his hand forward with an unabashed grin and a twinkle in his eye. "A pleasure to be meeting you Mr. Haynes." He shakes the man's hand firmly. Inwardly Jake nearly bursts out laughing, Son-in-law AND fisherman! Jake then turns his face towards Senor Gonzalez in an expression of admiration suitable for an adoring son-in-law while thinking, “Perhaps I have underestimated the old bastard's sense of humor.”

Gonzales asks "Has there been any change since Thursday night?" Haynes replies, "Yeah, they were working all day Friday and half of Saturday, it's down more than a foot. The searchers are still on the shallow end, ain't none of them made it anywhere near Walter." As they are talking the distant sound of machinery ceases. Haynes says, "Oh oh, you two had better get going along. The workmen always stop off here once they finish their shift." Gonzales asks, "Do you have the equipment?" Haynes says "Yep, follow me."

The walk into the back room and Haynes hands both Manuel and Jake each a fishing pole and a small wood handled box containing assorted fishing gear. Haynes then takes the lid off of a pail filled with dirt and scoops an old tin can into it. As he hands it to Jake the gambler can see worms wiggling inside the dirt in the dirty can. Jake raises his eyebrows and accepts the can. Blech, he thinks but nods and says, "Looks like that will do." Jake then turns to Gonzalez and says, "I am ready when you are, dad." Haynes says, "Just leave the equipment by the back door when you're done Miguel." "Thank you sir," Gonzales replies.

They exit the store and continue down the road. When the sound of approaching horses is heard in the distance Gonzales ushers himself and Jake off the road and into the woods. From there they travel through the woods for around a quarter of a mile. They emerge from the woods at the bank of what had been an oval-sized lake, approximately three miles long by one mile wide. They are now on the western shore about mid-way along the longest section of the oval.

Based upon the cliffside in front of them and evidence of water lines, from where they are northward the lake looks to be around twelve to fifteen feet lower than it normal would be. Looking southward, where the lake had apparently been shallower, most of the lake is gone revealing a dried out bed with sporadic puddles and ponds of standing water. At the furthest end near where the road runs by what had been the southwestern end of the lake, little more than a mile away, are several large metal machines. They look somewhat like oil derricks in appearance. Lanterns have been lit near the machines and around a dozen people are gathered around it.

"Once the water is all gone it will not be much challenge to catch the fish," Jake remarks. He looks about and stands with hands on his hips. "So...." He begins and pushes his hat back at an angle, "Do you mind telling me what in Hades is going on? Mr. Haynes obviously knows we are about more than fishing and you seem to have had some reason to be here prior to today."

"Actually Haynes believes that we're here for fishing. He is under the impression that we're after Old Walter, an elusive and extremely large wide-mouth bass who has been stealing the bait of fishermen in this lake for the last twenty years."

A grin crosses the man's face and he says, "Come along Jay, we've got some work to do." He heads back into the woods, walking twenty feet parallel to the shore of the lake, gesturing for Jake to follow. Jake follows him shaking his head side to side. "Walter is a fish. I should have known, I name all my fish Walter." While following the old wizard Jake mumbles, "And of course, we have work to do."

They go another 200 feet until they reach an inlet that is out-of-sight of the distant machinery. Manuel takes the fishing rods from Jake and says, "I may need these for balancing." He uses them as walking sticks to make his way down the steep banking to the lake and walks towards a towering wooden platform that had apparently been a boat dock when the lake was higher. Tethered to the base of one pole near the edge of the present shore is a rowboat.

Jake has an easier time moving down the banking and follows to the wooden dock. Pointing down he asks, "Do you have in mind getting in that little boat? Would you like me to get in and move it to the shore down below?"

He replies, "Yes, and it's not that little, lots of room for the two of us and the fishing gear." They get closer to the boat and see it is around 10 feet long and four-and-a-half feet wide in the center. It has two oars. On the floor of the center of the boat are two metal buckets, one normal sized the other an oversized oval 3-feet by 18-inches in size.

"Allow me then," Jake says and promptly steps off the dock into the air. However instead of falling he merely floats to the boat, the result of the Ring of Levitation on his hand. Looking up with a smirk he asks, "Did you want me to move it to shore or are you going to make a flashy entrance too?" Gonzales laughs and says, "And she told me you were afraid to use magic. Please move it to the shore, I'm getting a bit old for flashy entrances. And we may have a long night ahead of us."

Once the boat is in the water they load up the fishing equipment. Gonzales gestures for Jake to do the rowing initially and seats himself in the stern of the boat. Gonzales directs Jake where to row.
Once they are in the middle of the northern end of the lake Gonzales takes two wooden three-hooked fishhooks out of his jacket pocket and ties them to the end of the fishing line. He then takes the can of worms out and puts worms onto the end of each hook and drops the lines overboard.

"You are after Walter, are you not?" Jake asks but does not seem all that interested in the answer, leaning back into the bow and putting his hands behind his head. Gonzales says, "Indeed, we certainly are. It occurs to me that there is nothing in the world that Miss Ruby would like more for her birthday present than the large mouth bass by the name of Old Walter."

Jake chuckles. "It appears that I have much to learn about women, Senor. I would have never guessed than an old fat ornery fish would be so desirable by a young lady with the tastes of Ruby. I am in awe of your wisdom garnered through the ages."

"Oh, I'll answer your questions about it but before I do I'm curious what you have deduced yourself." He gestures to the machinery at the opposite end of the lake and says, "Where exactly do you think we are? And what do you think is going on here?" Jake replies, "East someplace by the sun, but other than that I do not know. I had not thought much about the equipment."

Jake shrugs. "Did not seem necessary, we do not seem to be in any danger." Gonzales answers, "Ah, but there you are wrong. We are indeed in danger, we are trespassing upon private property and fishing illegally. And if the new owner of this property should catch us I dare say that he will not be happy. When you last met, Mr. George Eastman, Ruby’s former fiancé, he was not at all happy to see you."

"Let me explain, after hearing about what transpired in March between the three of you I decided to find out where Mr. Eastman had gone off to, fearing further trouble from him. It appears that he came back to New York and purchased this lake and the land surrounding it. He then began draining the lake. According to Mr. Haynes he is looking for a ring, one that a young girl by the name of Constance Grace West tossed into the lake five years ago and declared that she would marry whoever found it."

"I decided that his locating the object would only cause further trouble so I borrowed this," Gonzalez holds up a ring of his own, "from a local miner who occasionally stays at the El Parador. It locates metal. I would check the far shore at night after the workers left but all I detected were old cans as well as fishing hooks and sinkers. Haynes suggested we look further out and began rowing us around at night. I finally detected a ring-shaped object...and it was moving. That's when Haynes filled me in about Old Walter."

Jake's eyebrows shoot up at the mention of danger and a dark look comes across his face at the mention of Eastman. The relaxed and jovial mood is instantly banished. “I should have murdered him.” Jake thinks, “I let him be out of respect for Ruby's wishes. Perhaps it is not too late“... When Gonzalez says the word ring, Jake knew exactly what ring he spoke about, Jake knew the story by heart. A flood of painful emotions washes over him as he sits up. Though still listening to the old wizard tell his story, Jake's thoughts race along.

A sharp tang of disappointment escapes from his subconscious, a desire he tried to deny, a plan for the future he was not ready to admit now forced its way to realization and then was burst. Though terrified of altering their relationship for fear of mishandling the change and alienating her, though terrified of the concept of marriage itself, the little desire told a different story. Jake Cook who claimed he denied hope, who consistently refused hope and preferred action to wishful thinking did indeed have a hope.

In just seconds he recognized that hope, admitted to that hope and saw it shattered like a dropped whiskey glass. When the time came to ask Ruby to marry him, he wanted a quest, needed a quest to prove it was right and he was right for her. It was their fairy tale. He wanted to find the ring, but on his terms, his initiative, his decision when the time was right. Once again he was forced to react to circumstances. The time had not yet arrived for that quest but George Eastman intruded on their relationship again. Once again, he was shown how foolish it was to have hope in fairy tales. Once again, a decision made for him, and the fairy tale stolen.

For a moment Jake was torn. He has an instant where he truly understands and feels the pain of deciding between two evils. The decision is obvious, and he knows it immediately. He could no more leave the ring in the lake than he could abandon his Ruby. Eastman must not have the ring. Jake would risk hanging before he would let that man have that ring. He attempts to put aside his bitterness for now.

Although Gonzalez had only finished speaking a few seconds ago, he was keenly watching Jake for a response. “He does not trust me and treats me like a child“, Jake thinks as he composes himself and prepares his response. He thinks, “It is less complicated to show me? How about, George Eastman is searching for Ruby's ring and we can get it first. How hard would have that been? I try to be respectful of him to no avail. Have I done some harm to him, is there some retribution he seeks from me and has somehow arranged this painful predicament?” Inwardly Jake sighs, more likely he is just a meddling old man and does not trust the scoundrel Jake Cook. So be it.

Jake makes no further attempt to mask the anger, pain and disappointment on his face. "I am once more in your debt, Senor. I regret that I have no fishing skills to contribute. Neither have I brought dynamite to shock the fish to the surface, though while there are other avenues that is probably an ill-advised action all things considered. I know you do not fear Eastman but for whatever it is worth," Jake looks seriously at the old wizard, "I will do what I can to see you come to no discomfort from him or his men while you do this thing for Ruby. It would cause her much suffering if he were to show up in Promise City..." Jake is uncomfortable completing the thought. "You are not one to be unprepared, Senor. I assume you are either a better fisherman than those who have come before you after Walter or more likely have something up your sleeve. You can tell where he is and when he is coming, that is something."

"Oh, I can't fish worth a damn. But my 'Sleep' spell will put him to sleep and he will float up to the surface. Of course, that will also stop his gills from moving so I would have to quickly cancel the spell if we want to capture him alive. That's why we have the buckets, the big one to hold him in and the little one to bail in water from the lake. Hopefully the bait will attract him at some point tonight."

"Capture him alive? Do you think we will need him as a hostage to get out?" Jake rubs the side of his face and looks around the lake. "I expect that we would have to cut him open to get the ring out. Unless you think he is wearing it on his fin or something." He turns to face Gonzalez. "Seriously now, I have nothing against good old Walter and would be happy to let him live to a ripe old age frustrating local fisherman if we could figure out how to get him to cough up the ring."

Gonzales replies, "I never said anything about getting the ring out of him. Goodness, you don't think we're actually going to give Ruby the ring? If we did that then she'd expect at least one of us to marry her! She'd be the death of either one of us. The gift isn't the ring, the present is that we kept it away from Eastman. We can leave it up to Ruby as to what to do with Old Walter. Personally I'd favor just re-releasing him into another lake that Eastman will never find."

"At least one of us to marry her?" Jake chuckles despite his dark mood. "This old curmudgeon I used to know by the name of Caleb White used to say, Bigamy is having too many wives. Monogamy is the same."

Silver Moon

Prelude Part F, “Jay and his Dad go Fishing”, May 22nd, 1882:

Jake says, "I am glad you feel that way, about the gift being keeping it from Eastman. As soon as you mentioned the ring I knew I could not give it to her, at least not now. I am not brave enough to just release it to the wild either." Jake glances about the lake again. "I suppose that is bad news for old Walter, I am going to take the ring and keep it safe. I must ask you to not tell another soul that I have it, at least until I release you from that request." Jake removes his hat and plays with it in his hands.

He says, "I suppose I should agree to that. I obviously wouldn't have brought you into this unless I felt it was very important to you. So I will abide by your request." Jake says, "My feelings on the matter are complicated, but well intentioned. Giving Ruby the ring now without an offer of marriage would not be understood as a gift of freedom, but a rejection. It would not matter if the ring was still in Walter or not," Jake adds with a grin. "I am not rejecting her, nor do I really want to give her freedom, at least not from me. However neither of us is ready to be married now, even if that is meant to be. She would not agree with me on this point though, and when she questioned me about it I handled it poorly."

Gonzales replies, "Ah, but the important thing right now is that I fully agree with you on this matter, as she's not here. And I do, I think that a marriage between the two of you would be disastrous to both of you, as well as to most people you know. Your relationship right now appears to be rather volatile, marriage would just exacerbate that."

He looks back up at the old wizard. "Enough of that lest you start to believe I am a whiner. We have a fish to catch." Jake looks about the lake again. "If we have not found the old boy before dawn approaches, I can move the boat around while you seek him out." Gonzales says, "That's a good idea actually, move the boat every twenty minutes or so until we get a nibble."

Jake nods in agreement and then looks down at his hat still being gently twisted by his hands. "All my other frustrations and disappointments aside, I will for the first time have a secret I am keeping from her. No matter how well intentioned the reason, it still feels wrong."

The old elf replies, "Then don't do it then. Release Walter....but not into the wild. What if I told you there was a magically protected body of water where nobody else would happen upon him. Walter could stay there until you are ready for him."

"I would say that was a bit too convenient and far fetched." Jake then looks off towards the machinery and adds, "Perhaps not any stranger than draining a lake to find a ring or that a fish ate that same ring." Turning back to Gonzalez Jake says, "That would allow me not to lie to her. I believe you understand just how important this is to me. I could not part with Walter and his contents unless I knew for absolutely certain that no other could get to it, intentionally or accidentally."

"Neither convenient nor far-fetched Mr. Cooke. You are already aware that there is a magical location that my little birds and I can access from the El Parador, as that is where all of the books from that cave are stored and my bedroom is obviously a bit too small and sparse for magic lessons."

"The alternate location is only accessible to my apprentices and me, you would not have to fear anybody else ever going there. And it is far more than just a library and workroom, it is an entire mansion. The great hall to the mansion is a vast forty-by-sixty room chamber that includes an elaborate fountain.

Currently the fountain is along the back wall in the shape of a half-circle twelve feet in diameter from the statue that the water flows from in the center, however the fountain's size could be substantially enlarged to fill more of the room and filled with an assortment of fish, of which Old Walter could be but one. I could tell my apprentices that I just decided to redecorate and could change the appearance of the other rooms as well to substantiate the story."

"Impressive." Jake replies. "I only knew that you had a safe place and that magic likely had something to do with it. I did not know any more than that, except for your desire to keep it undisclosed. I respected that and asked no questions about it. I am honored by your confidence and will not reveal this knowledge." Jake then laughs seemingly for no reason.

Gonzalez says, "I know....this conversation was long overdue. Ruby wishes for us to get along with one another so for her sake I hope that we can. In so many ways you and I are almost complete opposites but we have in common that we both wish to be a key part of her life. They speak quietly for a few more minutes and then they are quiet as Gonzalez continues to concentrate.

They continued to row around the lake without much success, several nibbles but none that Gonzales identified as being Old Walter. It was at around 1:00 A.M. local time that there was finally a strong nibble on the line that resulted in a "It's him" whispered from the old elf.

Jake nods and holds the oars still, keeping quiet. "What do you need me to do?" Gonzales says, "Get ready to grab him and drop him into the big bucket in the middle of the boat." Gonzales begins to cast a spell. Jake carefully places the oars into the locks and then positions himself near where the wizard indicates. He prepares to grab the fish as instructed.

A fish quickly breaks the surface of the water, lying on its side and appearing to be dead. It is clearly not Old Walter, as it is only seven inches long. The water then breaks as another ten more fish of varying sizes and type, also looking dead, float up, again no oversized bass. A loud splash then appears three feet out with a twenty-six inch long fish with light greenish to brownish sides with a dark lateral line.

Jake uses an oar to push the boat towards the largest fish. He quickly leans over and before the boat can bump it, cradles the fish in an attempt to keep it sleeping and rests it in the largest metal bucket. "Do we really know that the ring is in this fish?" Jake asks and his hand strays towards the dagger in his boot.

Manuel says "It was as of a few minutes ago" Once Old Walter has landed in the bucket with a loud “thump”. Gonzales then cancels the spell, and all of the fish floating outside the boat come to life again and quickly disappear from view while Walter starts to wiggle and flop inside of the bucket. Gonzales takes the other bucket and begins to scoop up water from outside the boat, which he pours into the middle bucket, continuing this until there is enough for Walter to swim upright. “Why don’t you start rowing to shore now,” he suggests to Jake.

Jake watches as the old elf fills the bucket. "No, I believe you that there is a ring in the fish, but can we know that THE ring is in the fish." He briefly touches his dagger but then puts to the oars and starts the craft towards shore.

Gonzales says, "There's no way to tell exactly but if it isn't then it should have been found on the other side of lake where she tossed it in. Eastman has gone so far as to hire Alexander Graham Bell to help him find it. Last year after President Garfield was shot Bell invented a metal detecting devise to try to locate where the bullet was. He's been using a larger version of that device to look for the ring. And I also checked that area at night using my own ring. No, I'm pretty confident Old Walter here is the answer."

Torn over what to do, Jake rows them to shore quietly and then follows Gonzalez guidance in getting the large fish on its way back to Promise City. The boat is tied back up to the dock. Jake and Gonzales both have to work together to lift the bucket with the fish out, the fish alone weighing over 20 pounds and the water surrounding it at least three times that. Gonzales says "Help me carry him into the woods. I have some devices that will help us carry this more easily but didn't want to activate them out here in the open."

They get around twenty feet, halfway towards the woods, when Jake catches some movement in the trees. "Psst, someone is coming." They continue walking and Jake shifts his weight so his duster covers his Colt. "Dad, I still cannot believe you were able to catch this old grandpa fish. The boys back in Buffalo will be so jealous. Once again you will show them who the master fisherman really is."

Jake hears the quick sound of metal sliding against metal and he and Gonzales are momentarily blinded as light from a lantern shines out from the woods and upon them. As their sight is regained four men emerge from the woods, one holding the lantern. All are wearing regular clothing. Two of the others are holding shotguns in their hands but not pointing them directly at Manuel and Jake. The other has a gun on his belt with his hand near it and a badge on his shirt. "I think you boys are trespassing on private property," the lawman states.

"Holy lord, that is bright! Trespassing?" Jake flashes a worried look towards Gonzalez and then back to the lawman. "We didn't mean no harm, sir. My father-in-law here just has a knack for knowing where the big fish are, we just... I mean... Oh, lordy I am sorry." Jake looks hopefully at the lawman, "You aren't gonna fine us are you? We'll just move along fast an' cause no trouble. That is if you'll let us sir."

The men with the rifles approach, one of them looking inside the bucket "Hey, they've got Walter!" The one with the lantern shines it into the bucket "Damn! It's gotta be him all right!" Jake beams proudly, "Ain't no old grandpa fish that is a match for my Dad here." Jake squirms a bit with the bucket. "Begging your pardon sir," he looks hopefully at the lawman, "would you like to look too? Before we go? This is getting heavy."

The Sheriff says, "Only place you're taking this fish is over to my wagon, then we'll all go and pay Malachi Haynes a visit. And don't even try telling me he isn't in on this with you, that was his boat you were in and his fishing equipment you're using." Jake nods obediently. "We didn't mean no harm..." he repeats like a mantra. "We didn't hurt nobody, can't we figure this out so's no one gets in trouble?" He looks to the sheriff and back to his father-in-law.

The Sheriff takes the gun from one of the men who moves over to help Jake lug the bucket to the waiting wagon out by the road. The Sheriff helps Gonzales with the rods and fishing equipment. The other man just stays near, still holding his shotgun. “Think Silver Jake Cook, what is the angle for these guys“ is what runs through the gambler‘s mind.

After struggling with the heavy bucket, Jake begins a friendly chat with the men as they get in the wagon. "How long have you fellers been having this here drought? A shame having such a pretty lake so short of water. Over in Buffalo it ain't been like this, plenty of water. Funny how the weather can be so different not so very far away." "Shut up boy," the Sheriff states.

The group arrives back at the General Store. The building is dark. The Sheriff raps on the door continuously until a lantern is lit up on the second floor. Malachi Haynes opens up a second floor window and yells, “What do you want down there? We’re closed.” “Not anymore Mal, open up and let us in,” the Sheriff replies.

Two minutes later they are let inside, Haynes wearing a flannel bathrobe over threadbare pajamas. The Sheriff has his two assistants bring in the bucket with Old Walter. “So Mal, I caught these boys out in your boat with your fishing equipment, seems like they managed to finally catch that ornery old bass. It strikes me that you’re in collusion with these boys.” Haynes stands up straight and says, “And damned proud of it too. Come on Cal, it isn’t right that Old Walter should die cause the lake runs dry, he deserves better than that.”

The Sheriff says, “I’ll agree with you on that point, but these boys were trespassing on private property, and you knew it.” Haynes says, “Fine, arrest us then.” Jake's eyes bulge as he feigns surprise and worry over Mal's declaration. He looks back and forth between the storeowner and the lawman but says nothing.

The Sheriff says, "Come on Mal, you know I'm not going to arrest anybody. I'm just miffed that you chose this underhanded way to weasel out of our bet." Haynes replies, "Cal, I wasn't trying to pull anything, this was a humanitarian effort to save Old Walter. How could I involve you in something illegal? That would have been a conflict of interest."

"Uh huh," the Sheriff nods. He looks back at the other men and says, "Mal and I have had this bet ever since we were in school about Old Walter here...now's the time to settle it once and for all." Since the Sheriff's concern seems to be with the storeowner, Jake lets him continue.

The Sheriff goes over to the bucket and reaches in, grabbing the fish. He lifts it up, the twenty-plus pound creature reacting frantically to being out of the water. The Sheriff flips the fish over and points to spot on the bottom. He says, "See, told you Cal. That there is an egg sack. Old Walter's a she, just like I always told you. Male wide mouth bass don't grow any bigger than fifteen, maybe sixteen inches. This fish wasn't any exception." Haynes exclaims, "Fine Cal, but you win, no need to gloat about it." The Sheriff replies, "Pay up." An angry Haynes goes over to the cash register, opens it up, and takes out a dollar, which he then places in the Sheriff's hands.

"How about if we put old she-Walter in that little old body of water west of here we call Erie?" Jake inquires hesitantly but winks at Gonzalez. "Dad here can still get his bragging rights by showing it off, the legend goes on and maybe those little eggs will grow big like their momma?" He looks to the sheriff and finishes, "If we hurry we can get her there still kickin'."

The Sheriff says "That's mighty sporting of you." Gonzales says, "Just trying to be fair. Old Walterette here was probably scared out of her wits at loosing her own lake so didn't give me the fight she would have given the rest of you. Everyone should have the same opportunity. Haynes says, "How about you put her in Round Lake instead? That's only a few miles away, so I'd still be able to maintain my bait business." "Round Lake it is," the Sheriff declares. He then tells his two men "Haul that bucket with her back out of my buckboard."

Jake looks to Gonzalez and catches his attention. The gambler Silver Jake Cook almost imperceptibly shakes his head no, so that only the old wizard can see and while he does so the innocent country boy expression Jake had been wearing was replaced by something more serious and cold. The moment was quickly over and Jake assumed the son-in-law Jay personna again, "What a shame that the folks back west will not get to see you with this big fish after all your hard work, dad."

Jake steps aside with Gonzalez and whispers, "This would be a fine time for a switch scam, but I am afraid I do not have an extra twenty pound bass with me and I have never done a sleight of hands trick with a large slimey fish. If Walter died suddenly, there would be no point in putting her in a new lake. There are always more aggressive ways. Got any tricks up your sleeve? I am fairly good at diversions if needed."

Gonzales whispers back, "Yes, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I can make the fish considerably smaller and invisible. As long as they let us be the ones to put Walter in the Lake we should be okay, but I'm definitely going to need your slight of hand work then."

Jake nods again to Gonzalez and heads out to the wagon. On the way he exclaims, "Darn it all," and limps a couple of times. He pulls off his boot and stocking, removes and tosses an imaginary stone, "that'll feel better." He pulls his boot back on without the stocking, hiding it from view and putting it in his pocket. He helps the his father-in-law onto the wagon and climbs aboard.

On the way Jake leans in towards the lawman says quietly to him, "Would it be alright if dad and I let the old girl loose? I think it would mean a lot to him, especially since he isn't gonna get to show it to his rival fishermen back home. I mean, you know how friendly rivalries can be, don'tcha?" "Yeah, sure," the Sheriff exclaims.

It takes nearly an hour to reach the other lake, not that it was a long distance, but the road was poor and the Sheriff took his time. During the journey the other men with the Sheriff keep watching and admiring the large firsh. They finally pull up to the lake and the Sheriff has his two men haul the bucket over to the water. "Just leave it there, I said these boys could let her go. They've earned it."

Gonzales and Jake head over to the water. Manuel says, "First a prayer for Old Walter, to bless her in her new home." With Jake and Manuel standing so as to mostly block the bucket interior Manuel grabs the fish with one hand and casts a spell. The twenty-six inch animal then begins to shrink in size, until she is only seven inches long. Manuel then casts a second spell and she becomes invisible. "Okay Son, let's dump her out," Manuel states.

Jake sneaks the stocking out of his pocket and over his hand. “Damn“, he thinks, “He could have waited until I had her to make her invisible”. Jake bumps the bucket and splashes some water on his pants and says, "Easy girl, don't be jumpin' out afore we get to the lake." He moves his hand around looking for her and uses the stocking to keep her from slipping away. Once he has her, he drops her in his pocket as naturally looking as possible and leaves the stocking over the fish.

He then lifts the bucket with Gonzalez and make the biggest splash they can. "Woah, look at that fish go," he pretends to strain to see old Walter dart off into the shadows. He turns to Gonzalez, keeping his wet pocket facing away from the others, "Maybe we can come back in a few years and see how those eggs of hers have done. Imagine a lake full of big fish like that!"

The Sheriff has his men go grab the bucket. He asks, "Give you boys a lift somewhere?" Manuel says, "Thank you sir, but we'll decline. Our campsite isn't that far from where we are now, we'll just walk from here." "Oh, Sheriff," Jake says, "Can we have the small bucket? I'll buy it from Mr. Malachi. I accidentally put a hole in ours last night." He does not look at Gonzalez and adds, "Dad gave me what for over that..." Jake scrounges a dollar from his wallet and offers it to the lawman.

The lawman says, "That is probably too much. Four bits should cover it, but I'm afraid I don't have any change." "Serves me right for being such a clod with our bucket," Jake replies and gives him the coin. "You and your friend have a beer on me, it is worth it to put the bucket discussion behind me." Jake makes a quick look out of the corner of his eye to Gonzalez and pretends to wince a bit. He then takes the bucket and waves good-bye as he walks with it towards the lake.

"Good thinking with the bucket," Gonzales states as Jake fills in with lake water, which he puts a grateful Walter into. Gonzales then removes a metal disk from his pocket, which is apparently magnetic as it sticks to the bucket. He states a command word in French and the bucket begins to levitate in the air. He tells Jake, "That should make it easier to carry. We have a few miles hiking back to where I left my magical brazier. I say we skip the road and go overland, that should cut the distance in half."

"Thanks. Lead on." After they walk a while Jake chuckles and says, "Big Abbey, from back in Chicago, would be suitably impressed with that off-the-cuff scam we just did. Not that you are looking for work or anything...." Jake chuckles again and continues to follow the old wizard. "Yes indeed," Gonzales replies, "Your simple-little-old-me routine worked like a charm Mr. Brothers."

Jake says, "Heh, thanks. The most dangerous threat is the one you do not see, eh? Well, nobody got hurt, they kept their legend, the lawman has his dollar plus bragging rights, and we can head home." Jake and Gonzales eventually reach the spot in the woods where the magical brazier had been stowed. The quickly find enough tinder and kindling to get a small fire going inside it. Manuel tosses in the powder and he and Jake grab each others hands. The older wood elf states the incantation. The two then vanish.

Silver Moon

Prelude Part G, “Josie’s Plans”, May 22nd, 1882:

Josie finishes dancing and returns to the table asking, "So, what were you two talking about? You both had serious looks on your faces." Ruby replies, "We were talking about men, Josie, and how they love to break our hearts and make us worry about them. I think it's a plot so when they return we are so very relieved that we forget that they were naughty in the first place. I suppose I could go back to my old habits of not caring, or caring too much and drowning my cares in liquor but alas, I have matured." With that Ruby breaks out into a fit of giggles.

"You seem to be having fun out there, you are a good dancer. I am glad you are enjoying yourself. Perhaps I should follow your lead and find a young and handsome dance partner..." Josie says, "I don't think that will be difficult....at least half of the men in the room seem to be staring at you. Of course, you won't be able to dance with the handsomest man in the room since he's the one making the music. Do you know that Estaban? Wasn't he the one who won the swordfight back during the Festival?"

Ruby glances quickly around the room and laughs, "I hadn't noticed the looks but now that you mention it...," she giggles, "Is it horrible that I am used to it? Yes, I believe Estaban did win at the festival. He's very dashing, no? On more busy nights there are others who play music too, then you could have your chance to dance with him. I do know him, I used to live here, before Jake and I bought the Lucky Lady, or the Lone Star it was back then. I'm going to ask him to be in Romeo and Juliet."

Estaban finishes up his current song and Josie says, "Well, why don't you ask him now?" Not having a shy bone in her body, Madge stands up and yells across the Cantina "Hey Estaban, come join us." The musician smiles, puts down his guitar, and starts to walk in that direction. Ruby stands and smiles, reaching out her hand in a sitting gesture. "Come and join us Estaban, I want to speak to you about something."

The handsome Latin wood elf glides his way over to the table and says, "Ah, my eyes behold three of the loveliest women in the County, all with voices worthy of the gods. Miss West, Miss Marcus, Miss Duprey, to what do I owe the honor of your company?" "Well, I'll certainly take that compliment," Ruby laughs. "Please have a seat." Ruby pulls her skirt our behind her and sits tall. She pours a whiskey and pushes it towards him.

"Mr. Fuentes, I am planning on putting on a show at the Lucky Lady, when our latest construction is done. I was hoping that you would consider joining the production. You are handsome and good with a sword, both skills important to the part." He replies, "Si, I enjoy using a sword. I fought against the Spanish in Mexico several decades ago, but other than last month have not had a chance to do so in the Arizona Territory. What type of show are you planning?"

Ruby's smile grows wider, "One of the greatest love stories ever written. Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare." Estaban replies, "Ah, I have heard of him but have never had the opportunity to read any of his works. What is it about?" "I just told you! It's about love. What greater subject is there than that?" She laughs and sips her whiskey. "I admit, I haven't read much of him either." She clears her throat a little, "Jake and I are reading it together now." She then gives him a short synopsis of the story.

Estaban spends the next twenty minutes asking questions about the play and the role that Ruby has in mind for him. Josie explains in detail the role of Mercutio which Estaban indicates a strong interest in playing. He agrees to the performance under one condition, that Ruby find somebody else to fill in at the Lucky Lady’s kitchen during the opening performance so that his sister Maria can watch the show.

During the break many of the elves in attendance head back to their homes while another group of patrons enter, consisting of fifteen miners, seven human, six dwarven, and two ogres. This appears somewhat unusual, as workers from most of the region’s outlying mines tend to only come to town on weekends.

Dorita approaches the group and ushers them over to the available barstools and a couple of tables. Those at Ruby’s table quiet down to hear Dorita’s conversation with the group’s mining foreman, a dwarf named Svien Tholstad, who indicates that they workers from the Whitewater Mine. That mine is at Whitewater Baldy Mountain, in the New Mexico Territory around 100 miles to the northeast. They’ve been working non-stop for over two months until the mine hit water and flooded. Some pumps had been ordered to fix it but won’t arrive for a few more weeks so the owner gave the group leave. They have stopped off in Promise City on their way to Tombstone.

Hmmm... Ruby thinks... might be a good time to get some business...and keep my mind off my missing partner... "Excuse me ladies, I'm going to greet the newcomers," Ruby says, standing.
She walks over to table with the newcomers. "Evening gentlemen. I hear you're new in town. You've come to the right place, Dorita will take good care of you." Svien looks up and says, "Why thank you Ma'am. We was told that this was the only place in town that'd house non-humans. We've camped outside the last three nights and are all looking forward to a real bed for a change."

"That's true, the El Parador is the only place in town for non humans. And they have the added bonus of having the best food in town too. But..." she smiles, "MY saloon also allows non humans and I'm the singer there. You show try to stop by at some point. You won't be disappointed." Svien says, "Well, if that's true then why are you drinking and hanging out here?" "Because these are my friends too," Ruby answers, "And because I like variety. Plus, I used to live here myself, before I decided to settle down in Promise City."

"What is the name of your Saloon?" Svein asks. "The Lucky Lady Dance Hall and Saloon," Ruby says, her smile widening while she picks up the edges of her skirts, "And I am she," she says with a curtsey. Svien says, "Well, I don't suppose you'd be willing to sing us a song to better entice us to visit there?" Ruby laughs, "You just missed me singing a song so divinely with my friend," Ruby waves towards Madge. "But I do so love to sing and will accommodate your request." She curtsey's again and takes a few steps away from the table.

"Estaban, would you be a dear and play for me? These gentlemen would like a song and I'd like to sing for them. Something dwarvish perhaps?" Given the number of Dwarven patrons that the El Parador gets Estaban is familiar with dozens of their drinking songs and ballads. He runs through the list until he comes to one that Ruby and Madge are both at least somewhat familiar with. He briefly runs through the lyrics with both of them and then begins to play.

Ruby easily sings the dwarven song, adding flair where she can. She wanders around the saloon as she sings, lightly flirting, stealing sips of drinks and sitting on laps as she does. It feels good to be back to her old self, more happy and carefree than a long time. For a moment she even forgets her boyfriend is missing. Madge sits down after the first song, having a limited repertoire of dwarven songs. Ruby knows more of their tunes from her traveling days to various saloons and continues to accompany Estaban for another four songs, all of which are well received by the visiting miners.

When she is done she curtsies again to applause. "How was that?" she asks the miner. The miners all applaud and offer to buy a round of drinks for Ruby and her friends as well as Estaban. The Whitewater Miners get room keys from Dorita and following another full round of drinks head upstairs for the night. Maybe they'll stop by tomorrow, Ruby shrugs. She heads back over to her lady friends. "I think we all need another round of drinks, what do you all think?"

Josie and Madge both agree and another round is ordered. Josie talks at length about the wonders of San Francisco. Estaban returns to the table. "Miss Ruby, I was wondering, when exactly are you planning to put on this performance of Romeo and Juliet?" She replies, "Well, not until the new addition is finished, so we have a much larger and nicer stage to use. Plus we need some time for building sets and making costumes and, of course, practicing. So I don't have a date set or anything, but it'll be a little way off. Why?"

He smiles and states, "I find the idea.... Fascinating. I have always enjoyed performing before a crowd. I have no idea how fine an actor I could be but welcome the opportunity." Josie comments, "Ruby, I have an idea and suggestion if you would want to perform this sooner. Let me direct and help produce the show. I certainly owe you a favor after today and tomorrow and I have far more experience with productions than you or anybody else with the possible exception of Mr. Booth. I could also give you many suggestions about playing Juliet."

Ruby doesn't hide the surprise on her face. "Really Josie, are you being serious? Wouldn't that mean you would have to stay here? Were you planning on staying here?" Josie replies, "Well, I wouldn't mind. Pauline wants to get going first thing in the morning, which for actors tends to be around nine, maybe ten. I have that errand to do in the morning and may not be back in time. I'd really hate to hold them up. They really don't need me for the performances in the three New Mexico communities, nor do I have any real desire to go to those places. It's Colorado that I want to see and perform at. I could stay here for a few weeks and then take the train to meet up with the Company for when they arrive in Denver."

"A...A few weeks? Is that enough time?" Ruby still can't remove the shocked look on her face. "Josie, I am so.. flattered. I think it would be just wonderful. I'm just not sure it's enough time. We don't have seasoned actors like you are used to. I mean Conrad and I could do it, sure...I just... Do you really think we could do it?" Ruby's eyes start to twinkle and a large grin forms on her lips.

Miss Marcus says, "Certainly we could. I've always wanted to direct, but I doubt Pauline would ever let me. The show probably won't have the same polish as a professional acting company, but I doubt any of the locals will mind or even notice. And that idea of playing up the swordfight scenes should work wonderfully if we can talk your town's fencers into participating."

Ruby answers, "But where would we do it? Is the Lucky Lady's stage large enough?" Ruby's grin grows wider and it's obvious she doesn't really care if the stage is large enough or not. "And it would be so perfect for you to direct it anyway, you're right I don't have any experience. With you and Conrad, how could it be bad? This is so exciting, isn't it exciting Madge?" Ruby is practically clapping her hands at the thought of doing her production much sooner than she thought. And taking the parts she didn't want to deal with out of her hands.

Suddenly she stops and the grin fades. "Oh, but I am supposed to go away with Jake for a few days... I can't not go. I mean, I don't want to not go. We have something very important to do while we are away and I can't miss it." Josie says, "So go, we can make the casting decisions before you leave. I can work with the actors individually when you are away and we can hold our first rehearsal a day or two after you return."

The grin immediately returns. Ruby hops out of her chair and practically jumps on Josie, "I am SO excited!" She says, hugging her friend tightly. "It's going to be the best show ever, I can't wait! We have so much to do!" Ruby finally lets go of Josie, then hugs Madge, then Estaban, then Pedro, then anyone else in the general area. "Oh I can't wait to tell Jake!" She stops momentarily, remembering that he was currently missing. But her euphoria won over and she continues to bounce around the Cantina.

Finally she sits and just smiles a goofy smile. She pats down her flyaway hair and smoothes her gown. "So what do we do first?" Josie replies "First we need to make up the cast list and determine a potential person for each part. We should actually make two lists, one for actors the other for swordsmen. Estaban's enthusiasm will help, given that Festival showed that he is the best swordsman in town. We will have him choreograph the fight scenes and he can help to persuade the swordsmen onto the stage. We will then need to pay visits to each actor to convince them to participate. I may need to make a visit to Fort Huachuca as well if we wish to have some of their soldiers participate."

Ruby says, "Well, it sounds like you know what you are doing. I will speak with Conrad and we will get started right away. But why the soldiers from the Fort? Would they also be for the fight scenes? Josie answers, "Yes, of those competing in the fencing competition half were from the Fort. I'm thinking that we should at least ask Sergeant Ball. He was a semi-finalist and with him in the production you can guarantee that there will be several soldiers in the audience of each performance. That would be good for your business, as soldiers do tend to enjoy drink. There being present would also help to ensure that the rest of the patrons will not become unruly." "Josie you are so smart!" Ruby states.

Ruby then exclaims, “Let's have a drink to celebrate our future success." A bottle of wine is soon brought over and Ruby pours three generous glasses. Ruby raises her glass, "To the best production of Romeo and Juliet this town has ever seen!" she says cheerfully, then adds, "Course, it's the only production of Romeo and Juliet this town has ever seen..." She giggles then clinks her glass to her girlfriends, drinking her glass of wine down. "I have not been this excited in a long time!"

Ruby pours herself another celebratory drink. "We must get started right away then. But you should not travel to the fort alone. If I am not here to go with you, maybe Conrad could go. Although I do not know if he can miss work. Someone will have to go with you. Do you have any ideas?"

Josie says, "Okay so you and Conrad will take the two lead parts. We will have Estaban as Mercutio and also have him understudy the part of Romeo. I don't plan to perform but you can consider me your understudy."

She pauses and reflects back upon the earlier conversation with Conrad.
"We will make the assumption for now that among the Festival swordsmen we can find a Tybalt, Paris and Benvolio. We'll start with Conrad's suggestions of Hans Schmidt, David Tomlinson and Sergeant Ball.

We still need to cast Juliet's parents Lord and Lady Capulets, Romeo's parents Lord and Lady Montague and Escales, the Prince of Verona.
Plus the Roman Priest Lawrence, the Nurse. All of those parts are essential. The casting those might also help to improve your saloon's standing in the community depending upon whom you ask. You may wish to discuss that with your friend Jake, he strikes me as one to look for opportunities."

Then also need to decide on how we will do the remaining parts that Conrad mentioned. We could use individual actors or multiple parts for the same actor for the Priest John, Romeo's servant Bathasar, Capulet servants Sampson, Gregory and Peter, Montague servant Abram, the Apothecary, and Rosaline. We may want to eliminate some of those parts entirely, for example the Priests Lawrence and John could be combined into a single role. The four male servants could also be swordsmen as well if we get more soldiers involved."

"Hmmm... that is a lot of players. I have to admit, I'm not that familiar with the play, the minor parts especially. I've only just read it with Jake. But I would think it might be nice to have more people from the community involved. More interest that way. I will speak with Jake and see what he thinks about the other parts. Maybe we could have some try-outs too, then we would see who is interested. But definitely want the soldiers if we are going to emphasize the sword fighting. We don't need anyone actually getting hurt doing the play."

She replies, "Ah, but what a performance it would be if we have eight swordsmen fighting simultaneous, using true fencing moves rather than the standing play acting. The sight of the Montagues and Capulets in battle would be quite riveting. Even if the remainder of the acting is less than stellar the show would still be quite memorable and encourage people to promote attending."

Ruby laughs and raises her glass, "Ah, but I don't plan on giving a less than stellar performance Josie! I can't speak for Conrad but I would bet he wouldn't either. But you are right, the sword fighting would be spectacular. It was very popular at the festival, so you are right to use that angle. Of course, I wouldn't want it to overshadow me," she smiles cockily.

Madge had been silent up to this point and bursts out in laughter. "Oh Ruby, I doubt that anybody or anything in this town could ever overshadow you."

Silver Moon

Prelude Part H, “Where did you go?”, May 22nd, 1882:

"Do you think so?" Ruby laughs. The wine made her happily giddy adding to the effect of being so excited. "But that is a good point. I want people to pay attention to my acting. I think for the sake of the show, while I don't love the idea, I will have to change my hair color. I want to be taken seriously."

"What do you think? About changing my hair?" Madge says, "Oh no Ruby, never. That's your signature look. Without your flaming red hair you wouldn't be the Ruby West that the town would be coming to see." "But Juliet didn't have red hair..." Ruby says, tugging on her long locks. "Well, I guess you're right. I never hide my hair. I hate doing that," she says running her fingers through the wavy mane. "I just want people to come to see the show, not just to gawk at me. I mean it, I want to be known as a serious actress, not just a flake that looks good."

Josie exclaims, "Ruby, the only way to convince anybody that you are a serious actress is by being a serious actress. It does not matter how you look, just how you perform while on the stage." "I know, you're right. And I plan on it for the show." Ruby turns to Madge, "You've been sitting here awful quiet. Do you want a part in the play? I do wish there was some songs and I had considered asking Kate to help write some to truly show off Conrad's and my vocal talents but now I don't think there will be time. So it's just be a boring speaking part," Ruby smiles.

Madge replies, "I'm afraid I can't participate in your play....my employer would not allow it."
Josie says, "As for songs, you can make your next play a musical. Don't try to take on too much all at once."

Meanwhile, much to Jake's surprise he and Gonzales do not reappear inside of his room at the El Parador. Instead they are inside of a great hall made of stone, forty feet wide and sixty feet long with an arched ceiling nearly fifty feet high in the center. The room is lit by magical light. The walls and floor are all made of the finest marble stone while the beams and ceiling are made of the same sturdy oak as the door. Each sidewall has a pair of stone archways with wooden doors.

At the far end of the room is an elaborate fountain made of the same marble. The center of the fountain has a statue of a naked female wood elf holding a pitcher, from which the water flows out and down. The simple furnishings of the room do not match the splendor of the building, consisting of a wooden table and a half dozen unmatched and rather cheaply made chairs. Manuel points towards the fountain and says, "Well, let's get that bucket over there and introduce Old Walter to her new home."

Jake moves to the fountain tilts the bucket towards it, looking up at Gonzalez to make sure this is where he wants the fish. When Gonzalez nods, Jakes turns the bucket sideway. The water and fish splash into the fountain. Jake looks around but cannot see her, "I heard her go in." He looks for a another moment before he shrugs.

Jake stands and clears his throat, "I never formally agreed to this but since we have gone to all this trouble to get Walter here alive, and since she did inadvertently do a great service, seems only right." He sticks his hands in his pockets and says, "So I will accept your generous offer and .... well... what I mean is, thanks."

He then takes off his hat and scratches his head with his other hand while staring at the fountain. He seems to find something very amusing. "I have this image of one of your apprentices, her long red hair nearly brushing the water as she sits at the edge of the fountain and drops chunks of bread into the water while that big old fish gobbles them up." Jake looks over at the old wizard, "Gobbles them up and keeps the secret."

Gonzales replies, "Things will be as we discussed sir. As for secrets, I trust you to not mention this location to anybody other than my apprentices, who obviously already know of it." He moves towards one of the doors, which opens inward into the room. Jake cannot see what is on the other side. Manuel says, "We should go now. It will be around 11:30 P.M. back in Promise City, and people will start to worry about us." Jake nods and hesitantly steps through the door as indicated by Gonzalez.

He emerges inside of Mr. Gonzalez’s room at the El Parador. An elaborate door is now along the northern wall. Gonzales follows him out and shuts the door behind him. Jake looks curiously at the door and his surroundings. He shrugs and walks down the stairs into the common room. From the stairs he sees that there are currently around a dozen patrons in the Cantina, including Ruby and her friends Josie and Madge who are sitting at one of the tables.

Madge's eyes glance towards the staircase and she then catches Ruby's attention and gestures that way. Ruby turns her head to see Jake Cook descending down the stairs from the second floor. When Jake arrives at the bottom of the stairs he notices Ruby, Madge and Josie at a table together. A small smile comes unanticipated to his lips. He pauses only a moment and walks directly to the bar, "Pedro, mi amigo, another one of those fine bourbon's por favor."

Ruby's heart flutters in relief when she sees Silver Jake Cook order a bourbon and take a seat at the bar. Curious as to why he came from upstairs, and even more curious why he didn't come to say hello Ruby thinks, He must be up to something... "Excuse me for a moment ladies, I want to share my good news with someone." She winks at them then bounces across the room. She comes up behind Jake and whispers in a sultry voice into his ear, "Heya Handsome, want to buy a lonely lady a drink?"

"Lonely? You mean THE Lucky Lady, do you not?" He turns and faces her, "What will you have? Some bourbon perhaps? Pedro, mi amigo, uno bebida para mi amor." "I WAS lonely without mi amor," she teases, "But now he is back and I am a chica feliz." She slides onto the stool next to Jake and as she does he notices her coordination is off slightly. "So I have some great news. But first I want you to tell me what you were up to with Mr. G."

"Him? I was sitting here enjoying a bourbon and chatting with Pedro, and happened to mention I was going to do some shopping for someone's birthday...." he raises an eyebrow and continues, "when that meddling old coot manages to hear our conversation. One thing leads to another and he has an idea for a gift I could get for someone...." Jake again raises his eyebrow, "and of course he could NOT just tell me. He had to show me, and of course that gave him an opportunity to lecture me on endless topics. If I may make a long story short, I have much better ideas on what to get this special someone."

Jake takes a sip of his bourbon but keeps his eyes on Ruby's. "His heart is in the right place, it is just that his methods are a pain in the behind. So do NOT embarrass him and tell him I did not like his idea." Jake takes another sip and then says, "So tell me your great news."

Ruby cocks her head while continuing to look curiously at Jake, "So what was his idea, the one you didn't like? And what did he lecture you about?" Jake replies, "Now it would not be fair to the old guy to go around and giving away his ideas and embarrassing him. He has another idea for something he wants to do that I think you will like, but I am NOT telling you about it. No ruining fun surprises. You get too nosey and folks will stop getting you gifts," Jake admonishes her in teasing way.

"Frankly, I do not even remember half of his little lectures," Jake chuckles, "I stopped listening. You know how he gets. Rest assured we did not squabble. I tried hard to be nice and respectful. He is not a bad sort, he just drives me loco sometimes. Now, enough about that, what is your great news. Were you only kidding about that since you are not all that interested in telling me?"

"I do have good news but I'm not done with you yet. When am I going to find out what it is? My birthday is soooo far away," Ruby giggles. "I don't want to wait! I know you two were up to no good. But really, the two of you got along? You were really nice to him Jake? Where did you go?" He replies, "You will find out what I am getting you when I give it to you, no sooner. You think Gonzalez and I were up to no good? You cannot be serious," Jake says with some incredulity. "Do you imagine that if I was running off to get into mischief I would choose him as a partner? Ruby, I told you I tried to be nice, we were civil and did not fight. Do not expect us to start having a guys night out any time soon though,"

Jake rolls his eyes. "I do not exactly know where he took me, some place back east. Like I said before, you know how he is only telling you what he wants you to know when he wants you to know it." Pedro finally delivers the bourbon and Jake hands it to Ruby. "To pleasant surprises," he says and clicks her glass with his without waiting for her and takes a sip. "If you pester me about your present that I have not actually acquired yet, I might change my mind...." Jake leans back on the bar and gives her a smirk. While Jake and Ruby are talking Madge excuses herself from the table with Josie and heads upstairs to see Mr. Gonzales.

Ruby's lips form into a pout over Jake's admonishment of her. "I was just curious..." She stares over at Jake with her big green eyes before looking down at the drink in her hand. Finally she takes a sip and places it on the bar. Suddenly she smiles, "Oh my good news! We're going to do the play soon. And Josie is going to stay in town and direct it! I'm so excited! But she wants to do it in three weeks. I told her you and I were going away soon." Ruby pauses and scrunches her nose, "Do you think it's a good idea?"

He states, "Going away or the play? If the play makes you that excited, then do it. Why not? I would like you to come to Tucson, but if you do not have time in the next couple of weeks we will go another time. We are going to visit there more often anyway, so missing one would not hurt. I still need to go, and if you can come that would be splendid. If not, we will have our little celebration with my friend shortly after your play." Jake drinks again and finishes with a satisfied, "Ah." He pushes his hat back on his head. "It is nice to have nothing more to worry about than making sure there is enough bourbon in stock. What are you worried about, we have plenty of time and you will be a wonderful Juliet. Do it, do the play."

Ruby begins to pout again, "No, you're not going without me. I meant if I should do the play. I don't want you to leave me." Ruby's hand is on her bourbon and she looks down at the floor, "I'm not letting you go without me." Then she looks up at Jake from under her long eyelashes, "Oh, but I will be a good Juliet, won't I?" She ends with a smile.

"You will be a marvelous Juliet," Jake says sincerely. "Enough of the pouting, I told you I wanted you to go with me. I was just giving you the choice. It is settled, we are going to Tucson together in about a week. We could even go sooner if you wanted. No more pouting, the world is a wonderful place." Jake is smiling, relaxed and leaning against the bar.

Ruby pretends to continue pouting, but she can't... her lips turn into a smile without her full permission. Suddenly she giggles, "I can't wait! You still owe me celebrating! But we can go when you are ready darling. I say the sooner the better for a party and I an very excited to really get to know you know who." She hops off her stool and cuddles up to Jake. "Now let me tell you all about our plans..."

Ruby keeps her arms wrapped around her lover while excitedly telling him all about the plans that are being made. She particularly reminds him they need to re-read the book together and that she would like his help with suggestions for the extra acting parts as per Josie's recommendation. "And I can't wait to have our final fantastic show with you sitting right in the front being my biggest fan. Everyone will want to see it because it will be so perfect and I'll finally be like a real actress," Ruby beams. "I am SO looking forward to this. Will you help baby?"

He says, "I will think about who might make good additions to your play. You know I will help where I can. I am quite looking forward to being in the audience as well." Jake looks across at Josie and says, "Madge has run off, is girls night out over?" Ruby sighs. "Well, actually," She looks around the room. "Come here..."

Ruby takes him by the hand and drags him into the kitchen. She doesn't see Dorita so she begins quietly, "Something happened today. You'll probably be mad but it really was not my fault. This morning, when Josie first came..." Ruby fills Jake on the meeting with Earp and how they are supposed to meet with him again tomorrow. "And Madge is very very unhappy and wanted to speak with Mr. Gonzales over what to do. She thinks we are in a lot of danger."

Jake exclaims, "Damn fool, that Wyatt Earp. Behan finds out about him and Josie... well we do not wish to be in the middle of THAT. I can see how Madge would be more than a little upset being dragged into that. It is one thing being dragged into the cowboy war, but it is mighty hard to fight what is left of the cowboys when they are wearing badges." Jake shrugs, "We will do what we can to stay out of trouble."

"But what should I do? I can't help it, trouble always finds me. We got talked into helping her tomorrow. Maybe you should come too?" Ruby plays with Jake's shirt buttons, "Otherwise hanging out with the girls has been fun enough but I can think of more fun things to do for the rest of the night."

He states, "Yes, I will come along. I am not any better at staying out of trouble, but I suppose I can be handy putting trouble in its place." Jake drinks the last of his bourbon and rests the glass upside down on the table in the kitchen. "Enough of all that, let us move on your ideas for the rest of the evening." His nostrils flaring slightly with a deep breath, Jake runs a finger slowly across her lips while looking at her with hungry eyes and the faintest of smiles.

"Ahhh, you must have missed me darling." Ruby leans up against the kitchen table then pulls Jake to her and kisses him passionately for a few moments. Breathing heavily she says, "Alright let's get home." She takes his hand again and they head back to their table. "Josie, has Madge come back yet? I am getting very sleepy and decided to call it a night." Ruby's eyes twinkle with mischief and tell another story.

Before Josie can answer, Ruby strides to the bar and comes back with two fresh glasses. "Sorry darling," she says to Jake, "But we have to finalize a couple of plans so we might as well have another quick drink." She pours one for herself and for Jake. "What time are we meeting?" she says ands sips her drink, "Jake is going to accompany us so we'll be safer."

Josie's eyes light up. "That may not be safe. They will not be expecting Mr. Cook. Ruby, did you have to tell him?" She replies, "Yes Josie I had to tell him, I don't keep things from him, we have no secrets. I don't recall you saying not to tell him." Ruby's eyes narrow slightly but she keeps her temper under control. "It's already not safe to have brought Madge and I into this. Mr. Cook will look out for us certainly more than your boyfriend and his associates will."

Josie says, "Oh, I'm so sorry. In matters of the heart I do not always think straight. I'm just trying to protect the man I love," Josie states. After an uncomfortable silence she says, "I guess I'll call it a night. I will stop by the Lucky Lady between 9:30 and 10:00 tomorrow to collect the two of you. I'll go leave a message for Madge at the Gay Lady to that effect unless you know where I can find her now."

Ruby immediately softens. "It's alright Josie, I understand." She glances around before continuing quietly, "There was a time your boyfriend trusted Mr. Cook and I have no reason to believe that has changed. It'll be alright. I can guess where Madge is. I'll leave her a message right now for you." Ruby stands. "Jake, maybe you can walk Josie home? "If you care to have an escort," Jake offers his arm, "all things considered it is not a bad idea."

Silver Moon

Prelude Part I, “End of the Evening“, May 22nd, 1882:

Ruby tells Jake “When I get back we can go home.” She smiles at him knowingly before bouncing to the stairs. Ruby heads up and knocks on Mr. Gonzales door. She lets herself in while calling out, "Hello? Mr. G? Madge? It's Ruby..."

He opens the door. He and Madge are inside of his regular room at the El Parador rather than inside the mansion. Ruby recalls now that neither Madge or he have ever mentioned her knowing of the mansion, and that while she often refers to him as being her teacher, Gonzales has never called Madge one of his "little birds". Gonzales has an angry look on his face.

Once Ruby shuts the door Manuel states, "Madge has updated me as to the Earp situation. She is afraid of them, with good reason. We have decided that she will not be accompanying Miss. Marcus at all tomorrow. Instead, I will go in her place, as Mr. Austin, and will introduce myself to them as being Madge's instructor. I will provide them with the magic protections they are asking for provided that they first agree to never bother either you or Madge again."

Ruby nods. "I just told Josie that Jake was going to be accompanying me and she..well... got a little mad at first. She is worried about her boyfriend. I suppose I can understand that but I have no desire to get involved in this again either." "But Mr. Gonzales, they don't know you, and you will be in a lot of danger, because they don't know you and won't trust you."

He replies, "I know, that is why I am going as Mr. Austin rather than myself. If the Earps knew about Mr. Gonzales that could put the El Parador and everybody here in danger. Actually, we should probably come up with a French name to introduce myself as. As for trust, what choice do they have if they want the magical enchantments?"

Ruby nods. "You are right, as usual." She pauses. "Do you still want me and Jake to come along?" He says, "That's up to the two of you. I would hate to put you in danger Ruby, but it's not like I'm the one who involved you in this. Most times when I've done anything with Mr. Cook I have come to regret it, but I'm willing to take the change given that Wyatt Earp has always thought highly of your young man."

She says, "I know none of this is your fault. It's Josie's for not even asking us!" Ruby pulls on her hair for a moment. "And I know you don't trust Jake, but you are right, Wyatt has trusted him in the past. If you go alone with Josie they may believe that something else is up, making it even more dangerous for you. I don't want you to go alone teacher."

Ruby pauses, saddened by Gonzales lingering feelings about Jake. "I had hoped you would be over your distrust of Jake by now, maybe even grow to like him eventually. I guess that is never going to happen." She looks at the floor as she kicks some dust with the toe of her boot. "We will go with you, I can't let you take all this on yourself."

Gonzales says, "Well, we can talk about me and Mr. Cook at a later time. Right now we need to get Madge back home, she's had a far more stressful day than she had planned for." Yes Mr. Gonzales," Ruby replies sullenly and thinks “Like Madge is the only one who was caught surprised…” She says, "I'll walk her home. Jake was walking Josie home so I'm sure I'll meet up with him on the way. Come on Madge, let's go." Ruby smiles and nods towards the door. "A good night's sleep will do you well." Ruby waits by the door for her friend to be ready.

Once they are out of the El Parador Madge stops and gives Ruby a big embrace. As she hugs her Madge begins to cry and says, "Thank you....I...I didn't know what else to do." Ruby hugs her friend back tightly while stroking her hair. "It's ok, it'll be alright." Ruby is silent and lets her friend cry for a while before speaking again. "Are you alright? I know there is danger involved, but is there something else I don't know?"

She states, "Yes....back when he was a lawman here we had an affair. I....I don't know what to do. I want to help him....but if he finds out about my relationship with Al....the Earps are not people to cross. I don't know what he'd do. The way he looked at me today...he still has feelings for me, I know it."

Ruby blinks. "You and Wyatt Earp?" She glances around the make sure no one else heard and repeats in a whisper, "You and Wyatt Earp? Madge, I had no idea..." Ruby puts her hand on Madge's arm. "Ok, look. How would he find out about Al? And besides, he's with Josie now. I think he really likes her, so I bet it's all fine. And why would you now being with Al cross him? I'm confused."

Madge stops crying and laughs, "Oh no, silly, obviously not Wyatt Earp. I meant his brother Warren. Do you think I would have even gone on the ride with Josie if it had been Wyatt! Yes, I know I'm a bit too old for him, he's six years my junior, but it seemed a good idea at the time. But he has this jealous streak in him. How would he find out about Al? I have no idea, but you found out didn't you?"

Ruby laughs in return. "I thought you were mad there for a second." Ruby pulls some hair off Madge's face. "And I didn't find out about Al. You told me," Ruby smiles innocently. "I didn't tell you anything you hadn't already figured out for yourself," Madge states. Ruby replies, "Honestly, I didn't know anything until you told me earlier tonight Madge. You know I have a way of getting information from people...So I'd bet that no one else knows either."

"Either way, you won't have to go tomorrow and you should be ok, don't you think? Warren has his own troubles to worry about now." Madge answers, "Yes, I suppose you are right Ruby. Thank you for being a friend." They arrive at the Gay Lady and Madge kisses Ruby on the cheek before heading inside.

"Night Madge!" Ruby calls after her as she watches her friend depart. She begins her walk back to find Jake. The alcohol must be affecting me, I don't remember where Josie is staying... Ruby meanders her way back to the Saloon, breathing in the cool air deeply until she remembers the way Jake was looking at her before they split up. She speeds up and arrives back at the Lucky Lady, making it there before him.

She hurries upstairs and decides to change into something more enticing. She throws her gown to the floor before settling on a black corset and panties, with matching black stocking and garters, covered with her sheer black robe. Ruby lets her long hair all the way down and fluffs it as she admires herself in the mirror. It's been a while since I dressed up for Jake...

Then she wanders over to the window and sits on the ledge, peeking out up at the stars while she waits. Jake leaves Josie at her destination and goes home. When he arrives at his room he stops and just admires Ruby sitting in the window. He lets out a low whistle and says, "Remind me to do again whatever I did to deserve this."

Ruby stands tall and flips her hair from one side to the other. "I guess that means you approve?" she says with a smirk. "Yes," Jake unfastens his gun belt and hangs it on its familiar location on his side of the bed. "Though I would add appreciate, enjoy, admire and some other words too. Now, what were those other ideas and do they involve any dancing?"

"Now darling," Ruby purrs as she slides back onto the table and crosses her legs at the knees, "Are you asking me to dance for you? It has been quite some time after all..." She lets the robe slips off her shoulders as she smiles smugly, "You know my ideas are generally naughty, if you want to hear them you'll have to come a little bit closer." She motions to Jake by curling her finger towards herself, "And I'll whisper them to you so no one else can hear..."

Jake comes forward, doing all he can to keep the small smile on his face from growing enormous too fast. Jake gently pushes Ruby’s knees apart and she responds by throwing her head back and laughing. He wraps his arms around her and placing his hands on her back pulls her straight to him. She wraps her arms and legs around him tightly. Jake pulls Ruby’s hair over her shoulder then kisses her neck slowly as she whispers her naughty ideas of what's to come into his ear.

After tormenting Jake for long moments with her teasing as his kisses get lower she slides off the table and pushes him back into the fluffy chair. She takes her long sweet time dancing for him, continuing to tease him until he can't take it anymore and he carries her to bed, where Ruby makes good on her promises. When they finally finish they fall into a blissful sleep, both forgetting their early morning appointment the next day.

The morning comes and the puppies start yipping to go out. Ruby drags herself out of bed to open the door. The light is bright and as she rubs her eyes she remembers that she is supposed to meet Josie early.

She walks over to the bed and pokes Jake. "Get up lazybones," she says in her deep just-woke-up voice. Then she wanders downstairs to let the dogs out and get some coffee. "What time is it?" She asks Niles, who is dusting off the bar. "Morning Ruby. It's about 9:30am." Ruby's eyes pop open and she starts back up the stairs. "If someone comes looking for me tell them we'll be right down!" she calls back over her shoulder as she runs up, holding down Jake's shirt as she does.

She bursts into their room, "Now you really have to get up and get ready, we're late. I don't like being late for Mr. Gonzales." Ruby begins frantically dressing, choosing a dress instead of her leathers for less suspicion. "Come on Jacob Cook get up!" When Jake just moans from the bed Ruby, only half dressed, walks over then suddenly hops into bed, grabbing the canopy frame and jumping up and down on both sides of her sleepy man. "I...said... GET...UP!!"

Jake squirms around on the bed dodging her feet and covering his head with his arms, "Alright, alright! I am up, I am up." Jake rolls out onto the floor. "I liked the dancing last night better than this one," he says pulling himself upright.

"Of course you did darling," Ruby laughs, reaching for Jake so he can help her off the bed, "That dancing had a very different goal." He grabs her waist and twirls her to the floor. "Now that you're up, get dressed please," Ruby says sweetly while getting herself dressed too. Once they are both presentably dressed and armed they head downstairs to get some coffee and wait for Josie.

After some time goes by and they are both more awake Ruby comments, "You know, maybe Josie said to meet her at the El Parador, I don't remember. Maybe we should go there?" Jake agrees and they head over. Once inside they are greeted by the smell of warm breakfast goodies and are soon sitting with plates piled high by Dorita while they wait for Mr. Gonzales and Josie.

Mr. Gonzales is the next to join them, attired as the human Mr. Austin. He seats himself at the table with Ruby and Jake and orders food from Dorita. "Ah Mrs. Figures, it is wonderful to see you again and to get an opportunity to dine in your fine establishment," he exclaims. She just roles he eyes, deciding to humor her Grandfather and his play acting.

"Good morning Mr. Austin," Ruby says while stuffing a piece of her favorite muffin in her mouth. "Good day to enjoy Dorita's fine cooking. Hope you are feeling well today?" He replies, "As well as can be expected under the circumstances. So, have either of you thought of a good French name I should use as my alias when talking to Mr. Earp. If I'm passing myself off as Madge's teacher it would make since my being French, plus I know the language fluently."

"I forgot you do," Ruby comments, pausing eating briefly. "I should remember, I'm jealous you've traveled everywhere." Ruby looks up briefly before looking back into Mr. Austin's blue eyes. "I don't know much French, only what I have learned from Katherine so far. What about taking the name of that guy she used to work for? The one we met in New Orleans. I forget his name." "A good idea," he states. Ruby comments, "Josie is late, I hope everything is ok." "I'm sure that she will be along soon," he states as he digs into his breakfast.

When the three are close to finishing the meal Josie storms into the El Parador, obviously upset. She notices Ruby and Jake and starts to head towards the table, stopping suddenly when she sees Mr. Austin.

She then continues her approach and asks the man "Are you Madge's teacher?" He looks up and says, "Oui, I am. And I recognize you from the festival. Your acting company did a splendid job." Josie says, "Thank you. Sir, I'm afraid that there is some mistake. You cannot come with us, you are not expected. Couldn't you just convince Madge to do what you have taught her?"

Austin replies, "Madge is going nowhere, and that is final. Personally, I don't think that any of us should be going anywhere. You are putting myself and these others in great danger. Whether I am expected or not you will have to settle for either me or nobody young lady."

"Ok everyone, calm down." Ruby stands and faces Josie. "Wyatt knows you, me and Jake. It'll be ok. Besides, Wyatt will be happy that we have brought Mr. Austin along, being Madge's teacher, he can do what she can do, only better. Plus," Ruby lowers her voice, "It will be safer for all of us."

Josie points to Mr. Austin while still staring at Ruby and exclaims "Do you even know this man." Before she can answer Austin states, "No, not really. I've had a drink at their saloon before but that is the extent of it. But Madge knows me very well and she can vouch for me. As I said before Miss. Marcus, I don't have to go at all and frankly would prefer not to. But if your friend wants magical assistance I'm the only person in this town who will help you. Take it or leave it."

"I trust Madge," is all Ruby says. She looks at Josie and shrugs, before sitting back down to finish the last bites of her breakfast. It was up to her now. Josie reluctantly agrees, stating that she will go rent a carriage. Austin replies, "That is a good idea." She leaves the El Parador. He then signals Dorita to bring him another plate of food and comments, "Nothing like a good debate to build up the appetite."

Silver Moon

Prelude Finale - Part J, “Final Meeting with the Earp Vigilantes“, May 22nd, 1882:

Ruby finishes her breakfast quickly. She had been through enough in the past months to not be nervous about today It didn't have to be bad after all. "I'm ready when you two fine gentleman are. Let's go meet Josie and get this over with so we can go about enjoying our day." Ruby smiles as she rises from the table. Before exiting the Cantina she finds Dorita and thanks her with a hug for breakfast. She waits for the boys out on the porch.

Ruby doesn't have to wait long until Josie pulls up out front with the rented carriage, pulled by a pair of horses. Inside Austin looks across to Jake and says, "Well, now that the ladies are gone, what's your plan? I'm figuring on helping these Earps but making it known to them not to bother any of you folks again."

"Plan?" Jake replies with a look of surprise, "It is hard to plan when you do not have a bloody idea what they are up to. I suppose that is not entirely true. It would make sense that they are trying to avoid Behan and his men, whatever is left of the Cowboy Gang that found its way into that corrupted group. I never did hear what particular service they wanted from Madge." Jake shrugs, "Outwardly, we are just going for a nice ride in the country side and that gallant gentleman gambler, Jake Cook, is along to keep the ladies safe."

Jake smirks for a second and then gets serious again. "I have an ambivalent relationship with the Earps. I certainly had my problems with them, they did not think twice about abusing me to manipulate Katherine. They seem to be using black mail again. Wyatt did cut me some slack on a couple of occasions, though not substantial. It has been said the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Though I think it is quite a stretch to say Wyatt Earp is my friend, we and the Earps certainly both had trouble with the Cowboy Gang. I would hate to lose the option of having them in on any future trouble with what is left of the Cowboy Gang. Instead, why not just tell them to not bother the ladies any more, and say nothing about me. My plan for today remains unchanged, I am along to protect those in the carriage. Beyond that, I will make it up as I go along. If there are any choices to be made, I will certainly discuss them with you if circumstances allow it." Jake hefts the canvas wrappings that hold his two rifles and then his small travel bag. "How does that sound?"

Gonzales says, "Good. I'll continue to play up that my relationship is with Madge and not Ruby. I'll let him know not to bother Madge or her girlfriends. How does that sound?" Jake nods his agreement.

Ruby doesn't have to wait long until Josie pulls up out front with the rented carriage, pulled by a pair of horses. Ruby barely waits for the carriage to stop before hopping up inside. "I hope you're not too angry," Ruby smiles. "Madge was just very frightened." Josie says, "We shouldn't talk about this in public. Where are the men?"

Ruby shrugs, "They're men, how do I know?" Noticing Josie's nervousness and disproval of her comment she gets out of the carriage. "Sorry," she says sheepishly, "They're inside. I'll go get them." She starts in, but turns back, "Really, it'll be ok." Ruby then heads inside and finds Jake and Mr. Gonzales / Austin. She laces her arm through Jake's. "You two boys ready?" Jake states, "Yes. We are coming." Still arm in arm with Jake, Ruby looks to her teacher, "Mr. Austin? Let's go."

Ruby leads them outside to the carriage. Jake helps her up and she deliberately sits in the back seat. While their destination again today is the Cochise Head mountain to the east Josie begins the journey north, turning northeast a mile later and then southeast when the mountain can be seen in the distance little more than a miles ahead. Austin keeps looking back and comments that it does not appear that anybody is following them.

Jake nods and continues to look around as well. Once they are out of town he unwraps the canvas bundle to reveal a Spencer carbine and a Vetterli rifle. He places them at their feet. "It would be pleasant to not need those today." He makes small talk as they ride, but his attention is elsewhere. His hands wander to his pistols to just touch them reassuringly and his eyes scan the horizon.

As they reach Cochise Head Austin whispers to Jake, "Three O'clock, 120 feet away, between the large oak and the shrubbery. Jake casually glances to the right, seeing a rifle barrel sticking out of the bushes. He also notes a similar rifle barrel to the left around 100 feet up the nearest hillside concealed by some high grass. Fighting the urge to duck, Jake casually whispers back, "Yes, what a lovely day to lay down in the grass on that hill too." He nonchalantly buttons his duster.

Ruby chats away with Josie, mostly discussing ideas for the play, trying to distract Josie from her worries as they ride. Ruby stays relaxed, knowing Jake and Mr. Gonzales were on guard. They ride for another 200 or so feet when Wyatt and Warren Earp both step out from behind hiding places behind rocks and approach. Neither man is carrying any weapons in their hands, but Wyatt has two revolvers holstered in his belt and Warren has one.

Josie stops the carriage and runs towards Wyatt. Warren moves closer to the carriage and asks, "Who's your friend Cook?" Jake says, "This would be Mr. Austin. As I understand it, he has come instead of Madge. Mind if I get out and stretch my legs, or are we continuing on from here?" Warren says, "No, we're staying here. Leave those rifle in the carriage, our scouts will give us enough warning if we should need them."

Ruby climbs out of the carriage, followed by Jake. "Good morning Warren, Wyatt. Mr. Austin is here to give you what you have asked of Madge and then we'll be on our way." Ruby stretches and looks casually up to the sky. "Nice day," she comments easily. Austin steps forward. With his usual Texas drawl he says, "Howdy boys. You may have seen me around Promise City before."

Wyatt says, "I don't believe that I have." Warren says, "I have, but we've never been introduced." He replies, "I go by the name of Austin." He then drops the Texas accent and switches to a French accent continuing, "Although my name is really Jacques DuMont. Madge Duprey has been my student for a considerable amount of time. She has told me what you want from her and I have agreed to come in her place to do as you wish." Wyatt says, "Well, I guess that is acceptable."

DuMont/Austin/Gonzales raises his voice an octave and says, "Sir, what is NOT acceptable is your threatening my apprentice." Wyatt says, "I made no such threat." DuMont says, "Oh really? It was clearly an implied threat that you would expose her to the authorities unless she did as you asked. Let me make one thing very clear Mr. Earp. I am not afraid of you and you would be wise to not make an enemy of me. Now, I will do as you ask but first you need to promise me that you will NEVER contact Miss. Duprey and her girlfriends again."

Wyatt gestures to Josie and says, "Now see here. Miss. Marcus and I have a relationship." DuMont says, "Not her. I was referring to that Miss. West over there and Miss. Duprey's dancers at the Gay Lady, Julia and Fifi. If I hear of you contacting any of those four ever again I will not be happy. Do I make myself clear?" Wyatt and Warren exchange glances. Wyatt says, "Yes, you do sir. Warren and I both agree to those terms, as will Sherm McMasters. I wish you to make all three of us invisible."

Jake butts in, "Wyatt, is that to escape from this area, or are you still working on revenge? Frankly I do not care how many more Cowboy Gang members you put in a six foot hole, as a matter of fact the more the merrier. However, if you are using this as a method of surprise attack it might cause whatever is left of the local law to be looking hard for folks that could create that effect."

Wyatt says, "We'll be careful. There aren't many cowboys left and a few of them are still wearing badges. I'm content to let them go for now. But one of the four men who put the bullet in my brother Morgan's back is still walking around Tombstone and I can't rightly leave until he is taken care of." "Who is that?" Ruby asks.

Wyatt replies, "A man by the name of Hank Swelling. That half-breed, Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz confessed to what happened that night. There were four of them there, Cruz, Frank Stillwell, Frederick Bode and Hank Swelling. I've now sent three of them to Hades, only Swelling remains. If Morgan is going to rest in peace I have to see this through."

Ruby nods, "I understand." She pauses. "If it had been any of my friends I would be doing the same thing. I just wanted to make sure who I knew to stay away from in the days ahead. What will you do afterwards?" Wyatt says, "Well, Josie's heading up to Colorado so I guess we'll do the same."

Ruby nods again. "Well, I'll stop with my silly questions and let you get about your business." She stands next to Jake and holds his hand, waiting to see what will happen next. Wyatt gives a signal and the men Ruby and Jake have met before named Sherman McMasters and Turkey Creek Johnson arrive. Wyatt speaks privately to the two. Johnson moves back to watch what happens as the other three men approach Austin. "Okay, we're ready for you to work your magic," Wyatt states.

Austin replies, "It is not that simple, I have some preparations to do first." He heads back to the carriage and removes from his pocket a bag, a metal flask and a book. He reads a few pages of the book and recites an incantation. He then measures out some powder from the bag, which he stirs into the flask. He caps the flasks, gives it a vigorous shake, and then drinks the contents of the flask. He then reads a few more pages before returning to the others.

Wyatt says, "What was that all about? I thought all you had to do was say a spell." Austin gives him a skeptical look and comments "Oh, so now you are an expert on magic?" Wyatt says, "Magic in general no, but I've heard about how invisibility is done." Austin gives him a stern look and states, "Sir, I do not trust you. Up until I cast the spells upon you and your companions then you need me. The is not the case afterwards, so I was protecting myself against the event that you and your companions make the mistake of trying to harm me."

Wyatt remarks, "And could you have placed those same protections upon me and my companions?" Austin says, "No, it is a spell for wizards only." Wyatt glances towards Jake and says, "Ringo had similar protections and Cook managed to get around them." Jake interjects, "How would I know if he is doing the same thing Ringo did? What exactly are you trying to say?"

Wyatt says, "Some of my boys once rode with Ringo, they know that he used wizard magics. Marshall Berg has been telling everyone that it was your shot that brought down Ringo Mr. Cook. Obviously his protections weren't as good as he hoped them to be." "Obviously," Jake remarks. "You will excuse me if I do not understand why you bring all that up." Wyatt gestures to Austin and says, "Just pointing out to the gentleman that magical protections can sometimes be overrated."

Ruby watches silently from next to Jake, hoping there isn't a showdown between Wyatt Earp and Manuel Gonzales. Jake says, "That is a fine way to set him at ease when he is about to provide help to you." Jake shakes his head back and forth. "I suppose you know your business." He takes a couple steps back away from where Wyatt and the wizard are standing. Austin looks to Jake and says, "It appears that neither Mr. Earp or I are very comfortable with each other."

He turns back to Wyatt and says, "Then let's just get this over with. Invisibility is rather overrated, as it does nothing to mask sounds or smells. It can also be detected through magical means. I will cast the spell but do not feel that the spell alone allows you to do anything you wish. My suggestion to you would be to set aside this quest for vengeance and move on before the Federal authorities become involved."

Ruby turns to Austin. "The bargain was for them to be invisible and they would leave Madge alone right? So let's just give them what they want and be done with it so we can get home." Austin replies, "I guess I'll follow the advice of this saloon singer, she seems driven by common sense." He approaches the men and prepares the necessary components and incantations to make the spell work. He casts the spell upon the Earp brothers and McMasters. Austin says, "Well, it's done. Let's leave." He walks back to the carriage and sits in the back.

Josie turns to Jake and Ruby and says, "Give me a few minutes to say goodbye to Wyatt. It may be a while until we see each other again." Ruby nods, "Take your time Josie, we'll be waiting for you in the carriage."

Jake and Ruby hop into the carriage next to Gonzales to wait. Ruby keeps her eyes on Josie to make sure the goodbye's go smoothly. When they enter the carriage Austin is just completing a spell of some sort. Once they are seated he mutter to Ruby and Jake "That woman's boyfriend is a fool." "Besides the obvious," she whispers back, "Is something wrong?"

He replies, "I don't like him. Even though he threatened two of my students I still came here to assist, and he then threatened me. Right now he has a chance to just ride away and be with her but instead he wants to continue with his obsession. That will surely lead to his downfall, how can it not? He's going to break her heart."

"Unfortunately I've seen some of the stupid things obsessed people do. But it's not our business between the two of them. I will say that he," Ruby nods her head towards Wyatt, "Is full of himself and thinks he can do anything he wants. He's threatened me many times. I'm glad he's not the law here anymore."

Jake does not engage in the conversation with Ruby and her mentor. Not fully trusting the Earps either, he is instead listening and watching carefully for any unusual sights or sounds that might indicate they are in danger. He cannot fathom any reason they should be at risk from these men, but there is something uncomfortable about the whole business. He also scans the surroundings periodically to make sure there is not others watching or approaching. Austin taps Jake's arm, having noticed Jake looking around intently. He whispers, "The spell I just cast upon myself was Detect Invisibility. I'm not going to let any of them out of my sight."

They wait for Josie to finish up her goodbyes with her invisible beau. She then walks back to the carriage. Ruby offers a hand down to Josie, "Don't worry, you'll make your self crazy if you do. You'll see him again soon." Josie climbs on board and sits beside Ruby. The first two miles of the journey are in total silence, other than Josie wiping tears from her eyes and blowing her nose into a handkerchief.

As they near the town Austin says, "Drop me off at the Long Branch Saloon." Josie does as instructed. She then rides up to the Lucky Lady to drop off the other two. Ruby hops off the carriage but turns back to face her friend. "I know you are worried Josie, and I can't tell you not to worry or be afraid. But he is just doing what he thinks is right. Can't say I blame him." She squeezes her friend’s hand. "If you need someone to talk to come and get me."

Ruby asks, "Jake are you ready?" "Ready," he says gathering up his guns and following Ruby into the saloon. Ruby waves to Josie and walks back into the Saloon with Jake. "Well, that went smoothly. Too smoothly it seems. Do you think something was up with that whole scenario?"

"Besides all Hades breaking loose if they do what they said they are going to do?" Jake shrugs, "I would not put anything beyond him. What you really want to know is what he said to Josie when she said goodbye. I intend just to keep out of trouble and be very visible here in Promise City so there is no question I was not in Tombstone."

Silver Moon

Between the "Prelude" and "Chapter 1" falls the events from the Arcade's Gang story "Tombstone", which are Chapters 98 to 100 (100 yet to be posted) of that Story Hour.

Chapter One, “Painting”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 7:45 A.M.

Katherine Kale prepares to start the day, dressing and heading downstairs inside her and Ginnie’s home on East Street. She sees that Ginnie has already left for her part-time job over at Mary and Kevin Kelly’s Dry Good Shop. Kate heads downstairs to the nearly barren kitchen and wonders if she will ever learn to actually cook.

She enters the larger twenty-foot square section of the first floor designed as the schoolroom. It had taken far longer to get this room ready than she had anticipated. Originally she planned to retain the original rooms but Meagan O‘Hara convinced her of the practicality of a single-room design. But that meant that walls of the original structure required removal and since some of those were weight bearing then support pillars needed to be erected in their place.

Several men in town had volunteered to help with that, but until Sunday the 14th they had not been available to help, having volunteered to construct the town’s new church as well. Once the church was dedicated and opened they began in earnest, spending that week on the construction followed by a few more days for the walls to be freshly painted and then dry.

Kate had planned to officially begin teaching at the start of this week, on Monday the 22nd even though some of the ordered textbooks still hadn't arrived. But fate intervened once again in the form of red dots, measles, an outbreak of the disease striking several families in town.

To contain the disease Doctor James Eaton quarantined the houses where the disease was and also ordered the school to postpone its opening for a week, fearing that some of the other children might have also been exposed to the disease from their playmates. Doctor Eaton had the proper elixirs to treat the disease, which he shared only with the human families of the town. Father Thomas Valdez, the half-elf Mexican & Celtic Priest, was able to treat the non-human children. The affected children were now all recovering and should be able to start the classes the following Monday.

Kate picked up her handbag and parasol and left the house, locking the door behind her. It occurred to her to go to the Lucky Lady and see Ruby for breakfast, but then she remembered that Ruby and Jake didn't live there anymore, never mind that they wouldn't be awake at this early hour. She turned her steps toward the El Parador. Dorita was already bustling around the Cantina, feeding the breakfast crowd. Kate slipped into the kitchen and asked, "Can I help?"

The middle-aged wood elf Dorita smiles and says "Get some food, go sit down, and eat! You still way too skinny. Never should have let you move out, you not take good care yourself." "I'm taking care of myself!" Kate protested, following the script of their morning ritual. "My face is getting absolutely round!" In the mirror that morning Kate had noticed her face was getting round. Not for anyone else to notice maybe, but there it was. And it was getting harder to pull her corset tight as well.

She filled a plate and was on the way out the door when Dorita stopped her and piled more eggs on her plate. Kate leaned over and kissed Dorita's cheek, "I love you too, Mère de mon coeur." Kate says hello to several of the patrons as she finds an available table to eat at.

The sun was still rising in the sky when Nanuet showed up at Jake and Ruby's new house. She has asked him for a favor, to do some painting in the new house, and he had obliged without hesitation. He was surprised that she asked him to come over so early. I hope she'll be up by now he thinks as he knocks loudly on the door. "Ruby it's Nanuet, I'm here to do that painting we talked about," he yells out after a moment.

Ruby answers the door in a huff. Standing in her white chemise and skirt she rubs her face with the back of her hand, leaving a smear of yellow paint across her cheek. "Hi Nanuet, come in, you're just in time. I'm starting to get frustrated." She points to the stairs and indicates quiet. "Jake is still sleeping. Wait! Don't... oops too late. You got paint on your... oh never mind." Nanuet accepts her invitation and enters the house. "What seems to be the trouble?"

"Don't what?" she asks innocently but is quickly distracted. "It's this place! It's so huge! And it's in great shape but I want it to look nice, you know, like a home instead of a house. But there is so much to do!" She pulls at her long hair. "I don't even know where to start. I thought I would paint but think I made a mess just opening the container."

"Well let me give you a hand. Show me where you are working." Nanuet lets Ruby lead him to the room that she wanted to paint. As they are walking through the house he continues speaking. "Ruby the homemaker huh? I would have never thought it when I first met you. I guess the same for me as well, never stayed put too long myself. Don't worry about it being too much, just take it one thing at a time, and you don't need to do it all yourself."

"This is going to be the living room," she waves around the room. "I thought the golden yellow color would be pretty." She stops and stares at the walls, shaking her head. Ruby sighs, "I don't know how I got myself into all this. You are right. Five months ago I wouldn't have dreamed of this. I mean, I guess I thought this is all what I really wanted..." She leans over and comes up with a paintbrush. "So I just go up and down with this?" She thrusts the brush towards Nanuet and some paint flings off it, landing on him. "Whoops," she says, obviously embarrassed.

"Yeah, up and down, only try and get the paint on the wall instead of the elf." he says with a laugh. "You didn't get yourself into this by yourself, you had some help. Life's best moments are surprises I always thought, it's less fun if you always know the outcome. Here, let's get something to put on the floors and move this stuff out of the way. Then we can work on painting technique. Not sure I know that much, but I'm learning."

Nanuet helps Ruby do the prep work for painting and then they discuss some proper techniques for painting. "Here, not so much paint and hold the brush like this. Try and keep painting in the same direction. Good, that's better." Ruby stands near Nanuet, copying what he is doing, pushing the brush up and down, up and down. "I like surprises. Well, fun surprises anyway." She brushes for a while, trying not to make too much of a mess.

She says, "This is really hard Nanuet." He replies, "Is it? I find it rather relaxing. I like how the paint covers up the old stuff, gives it a new look, and it is so easy for you to see how much progress you are making. Take a step back and see how far you've gotten already."

Ruby steps back and looks at the wall. "I didn't mean the painting. I meant everything else. It's hard staying and fighting for what you want." She looks at Nanuet's section of the wall, coming out much better than her own. "I had to get this place, if I was staying here in Promise City. I was too nervous about Colin to stay in the Lucky Lady." She pauses for a long moment.

She blushes, "It's not the only reason why I wanted this place or even trying so hard to make it nice though." He says, "What? You're still losing sleep over Turner? He's gone Ruby, he can't hurt you anymore. What else do you have on your mind though? I mean if you are buying a house with Jake things must be OK with you two right?" She replies, "No, I'm not losing sleep over Turner. Not anymore anyway. He is gone, that is true, but I am not sure how gone is gone. Living here is better. Him, or others like him, can't get in unless we invite them."

Ruby gets back to painting. "Sure, everything is great with me and Jake. I just want this place to be nice for him so he will be happy. Well, me too, I want it to be nice for me too. We did sorta have a fight, a disagreement, a couple of weeks ago when we got back from Thomaswell." She looks sideways at Nanuet, "But everything is ok now. I guess as long as I give him what he wants," she gives a light laugh and shrug, "Not that I mind it."

"You think that a nicely decorated house is what makes him happy? We both know Jake better than that. I think if he was with you Ruby he would be happy in a tent. I am sure he appreciates the effort that you make, things like the room you decorated in the Lucky Lady and what you are doing now, but that is not what is most important. He loves you for who you are, and he is not looking for a woman that can keep up a nice home. He loves you for your spirit, the way you handle yourself and how you deal with life. He loves you, not any house." Nanuet takes a step back to look at the progress. "See you're getting the hang of it. You don't need to push so hard though, let the brush do the work."

"No," she says, trying not to push on the brush so hard, "I didn't mean the house is what he wants, silly. I meant as long as I stay with him and do the things that make him happy." Ruby blushes and turns her face away from Nanuet. "Actually, I told him I would give him what he wants and I will. I love him more than anything. It's.. well... I never thought this would happen." She paints another stripe on the wall. "We fought about getting married. He doesn't want to. I thought I didn't either but I changed my mind and I did. Or do. Well, did. We decided that was never going to happen so I am trying not to think about it too much. It was a stupid idea. "

"But when we bought the house someone made a comment...about us living together and not being married. I really used to not care what people thought about me at all but it really hurt me. I know I shouldn't let it get to me but I couldn't help it." She gives Nanuet a half smile. "I bet your people don't even worry about such stupid things, huh?"

He replies, "Not that marriage is a stupid thing, but it is certainly different amongst my people. We have courting and weddings, but it doesn't hold as much sway as it does here. Elves tend to be a bit looser with their morals when they are younger, spending time with many partners. When an elf meets their life mate they know. There is no doubt." Nanuet dips his brush and continues painting, pondering his next words before continuing.

"Things don't always go as planned, and people's expectations, wants and desires change as they mature. You were forced to grow up quickly I know, but maybe not all of you matured at the same time and only now do you see marriage as a good option, I don't see that as an unlikely scenario. Also, I know you never expected to meet anyone like Jake, just as I never figured on being a shaman or meeting Minerva. I wouldn't give up on marriage just yet, but be patient. If it is meant to be then it will happen. Jake loves you, that much is obvious. Your bond is stronger than many people I have seen who are married, and that is more important. Hmmm, looks like we might need a ladder after all. Do you have one?"

Ruby smiles and shakes her head. "No, we don't have much except some new furniture. We can steal one from the Lucky Lady I suppose." Ruby steps back again. "Hey, this isn't coming out so bad." She wipes her hand across her face again, leaving another golden streak. "Once you get use to it anyway. As for maturing, I am quite mature." She pauses, "Except when I'm not. Jake and I are perfect for each other in that regard. I suppose that is why we fell in love." Ruby cracks up laughing.

"Well I think you're getting the hang of the painting and maybe even your relationship with Jake. I am going to go grab that ladder. Anything else you can think of that you might need while I'm out?" "Not unless you can find someone else to paint this place," she laughs. "I'll keep going until you get back." She gets back to painting but stops and looks at Nanuet over her shoulder, "Thanks Nanuet, you're a good friend. I tried to talk to the girls but... well, I felt like they didn't understand."

Nanuet stops on his way out "Just being me I guess. It is good to know that you feel you can talk to me. I'm learning a bit about how to be a good listener. All this priestly training I guess. Give me a few minutes, I'll be right back." "Well, thanks. Hey how about some coffee?" she says as she gets back to painting. "I'll need it to get more than this room done." Nanuet leaves the house and heads over to the Lucky Lady in search of a ladder.

Kate is almost done her meal when Mr. David Melany from the Western Union Telegraph Office charges through the doorway. His eyes wander around the room until his eyes stop upon Kate. He approaches the table and states “Mrs. Kale, I have a telegram for you.” He hands it to her and then departs It reads:

Katherine. The Seagrams are now en route to Arizona along with Mr. Pickering, his entourage of six students and the remainder of the books that you ordered. Henri, Phillip your mother and I are all on this trip to see your new home. Our train arrives in Tombstone at noon on Thursday, May 25th. I suspect that your mother will be exhausted from the long train journey and the Wells Fargo Company has also indicated that their stagecoach to Promise City would not be able to accommodate all eleven of us. So Pickering and his boys will take the Coach on Thursday while I have booked rooms for the family at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Tombstone for Thursday night. General Pleasants and his friends will be arriving in Tombstone on the morning of Friday the 26th, so we will meet them and then travel together to Promise City that afternoon. Fondly looking forward to seeing you again. Please inform Mr. Booth that his purchases are now traveling west under my watchful eye. Your loving father, Frederick

Kate jumped up from her table and ran into the kitchen. "Look Dorita," she sang out, pushing the telegram toward the startled wood elf. "They'll be here on Friday! Oh, the house isn't half-ready to be seen, half wall-papered and all the pretty things packed up to keep from getting paint on them. You'll have room here for my family won't you? It's only two rooms, and I think I asked you to keep them, although now I can't remember if I did or not," she laughed.

Dorita replies, "Good you ask before I rent the rooms out to all the dwarven prospectors who come for weekend. Si, I hold two rooms for Kate's family, they always be welcome here." "Thank you, Dorita. How could I be happier? I'll have my human family and my elvan family all together in one place. I was supposed to find someplace for General Pleasants and his friends to live in here, but I haven't seen anything much available. I have to talk to Conrad at lunchtime anyway, I'll see if he knows of anything then. I should talk to someone about boarding Mr. Pickering and his students as well." Kate kissed Dorita's cheek. "I'll be back at lunchtime. Maybe I'll just run by Jake and Ruby's and see if she's awake before I start all this work."

Kate had hurried out into the street and made the walk over to her friend's new home. Her knocking was loud enough to be heard by someone who was awake, but not to wake anyone up. Meeting either of the residents when you woke them up wasn't a pleasant experience.

Meanwhile, Nanuet enters the Lucky Lady. It is a bit after the breakfast hour and there are only a few patrons present. One is Don Wainwright, one of Jake Cook's poker players who owns a mercantile story in town, which specializes in the sale of musical instruments and sheet music. He is sitting at the bar having a mug of hot coffee while talking to Harry Rote, who assists at both the Saloon and the liquor distribution business run by one of the Lucky Lady's co-owners, Niles Hoover.

Lucky Lady Manager and the aforementioned co-owner Hoover is sitting at one of the tables drinking a mug of coffee with Austin Blake, owner of Drover’s Livery and Drover’s Hotel. Nanuet says hello to the men present at the saloon and tells Niles that he will be borrowing a ladder for a little while. "Helping Ruby with some painting, shouldn't be too long." Niles tells Nanuet, "If you see Jake or Ruby please ask them to stop by, Mr. Austin and I would like to have a short chat with them." Nanuet states, "Oh sure thing, I am headed back to their new house right now, Ruby should definitely be there."

A block to the east, It doesn't take long for Ruby to answer the door, covered in paint. "Good morning Kate, come on in. What brings you by so early?" Kate replies, "It's not early, it's nearly nine o'clock. I just wanted to show you this," she smiled and pushed out the telegram. "And ask, since you just looked for a house if you know if there are any others available. I was supposed to keep my eye open for someone, but I haven't seen anything empty. I'm so excited. I didn't realize Maman and the boys would come too."

Ruby chuckles, "It IS early, for people like us anyway. You should know by now we're night owls." Ruby pushes some hair off her face and reads the telegram. "Wow Kate, that is very exciting. Your whole family is coming here, that's great. As for the houses, I had asked Niles and he told me about this one. But he might know of others, being a bartender people tell him all kinds of things. Nanuet is here helping me paint, so if you want to go over and ask him yourself feel free. Otherwise, I could go after I'm done."

"I knew they were coming, but I suppose it didn't seem real. If they stay long enough they could get to see your play, Ruby. And you are covered in paint. I'd suggest skipping the bath and getting the paint off you the easy way," she laughed and wiggled her fingers to indicate a spell. "I need to find a place that can handle Mr. Pickering and his students as well, so I'll go do that first, then I'll head over to the Lady. If you're finished by then I'll see you there, how's that?"

Ruby answers, "You think they are staying that long, long enough to see the play I mean? When are they arriving? I'll give you some advice, don't put them in the Double Eagle. That woman is a prude and obviously a huge supporter of the Vigilance Committee. Don't give her any business.” Ruby looks down at her clothes and laughs. "Hey, painting is hard work! But your suggestion is noted, it's a good idea."

Kate replies, "They'll be here Friday evening. I'm not sure how long they're staying, but it's a long trip to make to just turn around and go back again. And don't worry, I don't plan to give the Vigilance Committee any business if I can help it. I'd sent them over to Dorita, but she's already holding rooms for my family and she's always full up on the weekends. It will probably have to be the Promise City Hotel, I think most of the boarding houses are about full, and they wouldn't want short term residents anyway."

Nanuet then takes the ladder and heads back to the house. He knocks on the door before entering and sees Ruby and Kate chatting. "Good morning Kate.” "Good morning," Kate answered happily. Nanuet says, “Ruby, I'm just going to bring this ladder to the room we were painting. Niles is at the Lucky Lady, said he and Austin Blake from the Drover's Hotel wanted to talk to you about something. I can finish up the painting if you want to head over now and see what they want."

"Oh really? I wonder what they want?" Ruby says to herself. "Well Kate, if you want to go now, I will go with you. I am curious what they want to talk about." Kate almost handed the paper to Nanuet before remembering he couldn't read English. She tells him, "You'll have to come to dinner at the El Parador on Friday and meet my family, Nanuet!"

He states, "Oh really? Your family is coming to visit are they? I'll be there and I'll be sure to bring my best manners. I am sure you are excited about their visit." Kate says, "Just bring yourself, Nanuet, that is all I need. You come with manners all built in." Kate turned back to Ruby and said, "Seems you need to go to the Lady anyway. I wonder what Austin Blake could want?"

Nanuet then turns back to Ruby "Well I'm going to finish up that room now that I can reach. I'll lock up if I finish before you get back." Ruby says, "Thanks Nanuet, that's be great. Although I am sure I won't be too long, I can't imagine what they might want to chat about, so I should be back to help." "Thanks Nanuet, that's be great. Although I am sure I won't be too long, I can't imagine what they might want to chat about, so I should be back to help."

Silver Moon

Chapter Two, “Finding Lodgings”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 9:15 A.M.

Ruby takes Kate's arm and steps out the door. "Let's go find your friends a house." They walk the whole one block over to the Lucky Lady. Once inside Ruby finds Niles and Austin. "Good morning gentleman. I heard I've been summoned?"

Lucky Lady Manager and co-owner Niles Hoover is sitting at one of the tables drinking a mug of coffee with Austin Blake, owner of Drover’s Livery and Drover’s Hotel. Blake states “Good Morning Miss West. I would like to talk to you about a business proposition. Mr. Hoover says I should secure a tentative agreement from each of the owners before we continue negotiations." Niles nods.

Blake continues, “Well, my wife Vera about how the town is becoming frightfully short of hotel rooms, with the Promise City Hotel and El Parador both often finding themselves at full capacity. Vera and I have decided that we would like to add two more floors onto our restaurant to turn it back into a hotel and restaurant.”

Ruby smiles easily at Austin. "I don't think we actually decided yet what we are doing with the renovation Mr. Blake and one of our options was opening as a hotel. We agree with you, this town is very short on hotel rooms. But we are always interested to hear business opportunities. What did you have in mind?" Ruby slides into a chair at the table and indicates for Kate to do the same if she'd like. Kate took the offered chair and listened with interest. General Pleasant's friend would be needing work when he arrived, and a building boom would provide that at least for his first few weeks.

Blake says, “You and I both sell food and drink but our other services differ. Our place doesn’t offer gambling or entertainment while up until now your place hasn't offer lodgings and ours hasn't since our first few months of operation. What we do have that you don't have are a barn, corral or stable. I would also be able to a place for you and your patrons to board horses and house carriages.

Vera has always says that she wouldn’t want gambling on our premises although she is not opposed to our partnering with a gambling establishment. She is, however, adamantly opposed to prostitution, which eliminates our ever partnering with the Long Branch, Palace or Gay Lady. I personally find the Peacock’s all to be small and unappealing so that means either the Lucky Lady or the Comique. I figured I’d start the conversation here since I already have an arrangement buying my liquor from Niles."

Ruby taps her lip. "Do you have experience running a hotel Mr. Blake? And what would you like from us in return?" He replies, "The reason our place is called Drover's Hotel in the first place is that we started out renting rooms. But the restaurant business was more profitable so we knocked out some walls and expanded that room instead. We've been talking about getting back into the hotel business for a while now. We're just looking to rent reasonably priced rooms to the common folk and Niles here seemed to think you were planning to go for a more upscale clientele here, so we wouldn't necessarily be direct competitors.

Honestly though, what we really need is your Mr. Mills. I'd like to hire him for a month or two to manage the construction. I’ve watched how efficiently he's supervised the construction of your top floor and your new addition so I would want him to perform work in a similar capacity at my establishment.”

A look of surprise crosses Ruby's face. "No Mr. Mills? That would be a very difficult thing not having him, he does so much for us here. And I don't know how comfortable he would be with that, we would have to ask him." Ruby again ponders, "I am sure we can find a way to help each other out. We should run all this by Jake and see what he thinks. He's very good at getting the maximum benefits for all involved in every situation. So are you suggesting some sort of swap of services? Any ideas about how we would arrange it?"

He replies, "Well no, that's why I started talking to Niles about it. He said I'd have to talk to all of you. I know that Mills lives here. If he's busy working for Vera and me instead for a couple of months then I'd be willing to pay you for his room and board. I can stop by this evening when Mr. Cook and Mr. Kane are around to discuss this further if you'd like."

She says, "That's a good idea, why don't you stop by later. I will inform Mr. Cook of your ideas and this will give him time to think it over. Maybe we should ask Jeff if he'd even be interested. So, we'll see you later then?" Ruby turns to Niles. "Kate was wondering if you'd heard of any other houses available for purchase. She has some friends coming to town who need a place to live." Kate turned to Mr. Blake and said, "If you're going to build on, he'll be needing work as well. I'm not sure he's ever done construction, but perhaps I could introduce you Friday or Saturday?" Austin Blake says he'll be back later and leaves.

Niles thinks for a minute and says, "Let's see, there's that place on South between Hamilton Fisk's house and the cemetery. Used to belong to Elton Hubbard but he sold it to Fisk not that long ago. I don't believe that Fisk has been using it for anything. Also on South is the old Indian Head Saloon. It's been empty ever since Hubbard evicted Porter Norris from it for housing those criminals who robbed the gun shop.

What else, let me see...Burton Lumley owns a vacant lot on Front where O'Reilly's Cafe used to be. That burned down last December, accidentally lit on fire by one of his patrons, that drunk who published the Promise City Herald. I think I heard about something being available over on East as well, part of the building where those elvan twins live in."

Kate says, "Thank you, Mr. Hoover, you're very helpful. I think we'll avoid the one Mr. Fisk owns. I wouldn't want Mr. Caudell to get fleeced his first day here. I'll speak with Mr. Hubbard about the old saloon, and I have to go back to the El Parador for lunch today, so I can talk to whichever twin happens to be around then. As long as I have your ear, which boarding house would you recommend for a single gentleman?"

He replies, "No question about that, the Double Eagle. That's where Harry and I lived before Ruby twisted our arms about moving in here. Hannah Milford is a great cook, one of the best in town. They provide breakfast and lunch as part of the boarding. They've rented out my old room but still have Harry's available, plus the one that Danby Jones used to rent too."

She says, “Thank you again, Mr. Hoover. Ruby honey, I'm going to run and finish making my arrangements. I'll be at the El Parador for lunch if you're hungry, otherwise I'll see you for work tonight." Kate kissed her friend's cheek, then floated out of the Lady. Ruby interjects, "Kate... you're not going to..." Ruby shakes her head, her friend had already left. What has gotten into that girl? Ruby thinks to herself, “She just told me this morning she wasn't going to give them any business“.

Ruby asks Niles, "So what did you think of his proposal? Having somewhere to put people's horses would be beneficial, but I can't see how we can be without Jeff for a month or two.”
He says, "It's not just the horses but a place for the carriages too. If you're really looking to make the Lucky Lady the draw for the rich and famous that's how many of them will get here.

As for Jeff, well that addition is just about done, he says it will be finished by early next week. As for the other work around here, that new guy Thom has helped out a lot, but even with him things were difficult last week when both Jeff and Nanuet were away. It made for a lot of extra work around here for Harry Rote and me to do.

As luck would have it, we might be able to spare Jeff for a while. My nephew will be coming soon, he'll be spending the summer with me. He's only seven, too young to travel alone, so a family friend named George Kilgore is accompanying him. George is currently between jobs at the moment and I trust him, he could help fill in for Jeff for a while.” She asks, “And how we can make this work to our advantage."

He replies, "I say we leave that aspect of it to our two gambler partners, they make their living by working advantages." She states, "Niles, it sounds like you've thought it out already. I'm not against this, it sounds like it could work out for everyone. I just didn't want to get the short end of the stick, if you know what I mean. But you're right, Jake and Job will be better to make those decisions." "I will head home and tell Jake about it. We'll see you later."

She bids him good-bye and heads back home. "Nanuet?" she calls out, "Are you still here?" "Still here!" he hollered out from the room he was still busy painting. "Just touching up and then I figure I will clean up a bit. You'll have to let me know what other rooms you'll want painted next."

"Nanuet, I need every room down here painted! Thanks for offering," she giggles. "Upstairs was already done so you're off the hook for that." Ruby walks back in and picks up the paintbrush again. "So, Mr. Blake of the livery wants to steal Jeff away from us for the summer. You believe that?" she says with a smile. He replies, "Really? What does he want with Jeff? Are you going to let Jeff work somewhere else? He does a lot of stuff for you guys."

"Well, they want to build a hotel so they need Jeff's expertise. Our renovations are almost complete so in that way we won't be needing him. I don't know what we would do without Jeff. Unless of course someone else wanted to take over his job while he was away..."

Ruby glances at Nanuet with a smile. "I don't even know if Jeff wants to do it." Nanuet says, "What? Why are you looking at me like that. I'm not as smart as Jeff Ruby, I just do the little stuff. I mean if you need me you know I'll do whatever you want but, well I just figure I'm not up to snuff."

Nanuet says, "Oh I know that, not too many people are as good at the building stuff as Jeff. But having someone with brains at the door... you know that is important. Niles says he has someone who also can help so it wouldn't be all on you. Just an idea for you to get some more money is all." Ruby turns back to the wall. "Wow this is coming out great. Your part is anyway," she laughs. "How will I make it up to you? Having your help that is?"

He replies, "Make it up to me? What are you talking about? You don't have to do anything. Did you forget that I work for you? I don't mind doing work, need to have something to keep myself busy. Let me talk it over with Minerva, but it sounds like a good idea and I am honored." "Make up to you helping with the house silly. What? Did you think we're paying you for this?" Ruby laughs. She says, “Well if you insist then I'll have to think about it. I'm sure I can come up with something if I put my mind to it. For the meantime, let's finish what we started here." He states, "Good idea, let's finish."

Kate walked down to the Double Eagle. She went inside and peeked in the dining room looking for either of the Milford's. Hannah Milford is busy in the kitchen. She notices Kate and stops what she is doing. "Hello Mrs. Kale," she states. "Is there something I can help you with? Will you be needing anything for the school?"

Kate replies, "Oh, nothing for the school, but thank you for asking. I came on behalf of a friend, General Henry Pleasants. The Seawell's have hired him to help manage their mining operations, and he'll be arriving on Friday. He asked me if I might look around for a room for him before he arrived. I asked Mr. Hoover where he'd recommend, and he said yours was the best place, hands down. I wonder if you might have a room available?"

Hannah Milford tells Kate, "Oh, we have two. We did have three just a few weeks ago but I rented the largest one out to Mr. Laughton, the new teller at Condon's Bank. I believe I've heard of this Mr. Pleasants before, a war hero wasn't he? Come on upstairs, I'll show you the rooms."

They go upstairs in the three-story brick building. One room is ten-foot square and on the second floor in the northwest corner of the building. The other is slightly larger, ten-by-twelve feet, and on the center of the eastern side of the building. Both rooms are furnished with twin-sized beds, a dresser, corner table, sitting table, coat rack and upholstered chair. She says, "I showed this room to Colonel Michael Seawell. He liked that the windows look down upon the Morand complex. He was eventually persuaded to board at Fly's Boarding House instead, as it was right next door to their offices."

Kate states, "It's a lovely room, and it is a nice view of the complex." As they had mounted the stairs, Kate remembered what Ruby had said about this place, although she herself hadn't heard anything against Mrs. Milford. Ruby must have meant the Great Western. They held committee meetings there. "Yes, Mr. Pleasants was an Union army engineer, which is the capacity in which he's been hired by the Seawells. I don't want to speak for him, but I can certainly recommend the room. Since you have two rooms available there's no rush. I hope you'll let me know if that changes before Friday?"

Hannah says, "Oh I will. And please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with the school. If you'll be needing lunches for yourself and the other teachers you could get them here, maybe send a student over to pick them up for you. I have a similar arrangements with Condon's Bank and Johnson's Barber and Bath shop."

Kate replies, "Thank you. I don't find ready support everywhere, I appreciate the offer very much.
As far as lunches go, all I have to do is walk though a door and I'm in my kitchen," she laughed. "But I must also admit I'm a miserable cook and there may be days when I'd far rather eat someone else's cooking. I'll consider the idea." Kate said goodbye to Mrs. Milford.

She made her way over to Fly's Boarding House, again going inside and looking for one of the proprietors. Janet Fly is around, "Hello neighbor," she calls out to Kate, "Roger's out back in the photo studio if you're looking to schedule a picture." Kate replies, "Hello! I hadn't thought of having my picture taken, but my family will be arriving for a visit on Friday night. We just might want a picture taken while they're here. I actually came about the boarding house."

Kate finally reached the other woman and explained again about Mr. Pleasants. "I'm just looking ahead for him to see where rooms are available and which he might like. You're not full up, are you?" She says, "Pleasants? That name sounds familiar. We still have one open room. He might like it here, what with Colonel Seagram staying here too. The Colonel liked the fact that his office is right next-door and he can watch it from his room window. Some people avoid our places as two of our tenants are not fully human, but if he can accept living under the roof with a half-elf or half-orc he's welcome to stay here.

Our other tenants are very nice as well, you should come by for dinner some time, all four men are single and have good jobs doing honest work. We have staying here Neman Sanders, Roy Ryder and Luis Hodges who all work for Neil Cassidy. Plus Wells Fargo clerk Coolie Fagen. Walter O'Reilly recently came back to town and mentioned being interested in taking the remaining room here but Roger isn't so sure about him."

"Why Janet Fly, are you matchmaking? I doubt any of those gentleman would be interested in me, and I'm really not looking," she said with good humor. "Who's Walter O'Reilly?" Janet Fly replies, "He's a sweet young man who used to own a cafe and restaurant on Front Street. But his place burned down last December and he moved to Tucson. That didn't work out so now he's back, working as a waiter and cook for Alice and Haywood Smith over at the Silver Dollar Restaurant. I like Walter, but Roger isn't sure about having somebody living here who was associated with a fire, even though it really wasn't Walter's fault." Kate says, "Well, I imagine especially with the photo studio attached fire is something he would be nervous about. It 'really wasn't his fault'? I take it he was implicated in it somehow?"

Janet Fly says, "He had left the cafe to go run an errand and asked one of his customers to keep an eye on things. But the customer was that newspaperman, that awful drunkard Parker Baxter, and he was in the worst possible combination, both drunk and hungry. He went to cook himself up something and set the whole place on fire. Poor Walter was heartbroken about loosing everything he owned. Baxter only gave him $ 50 as compensation for the loss. Walter sold the building lot to Burton Lumley and left town."

Kate replies, "The poor man. Although I have to wonder why he would leave Baxter in charge of anything. Still, it's good he feels he can come back. It's hard to live in a place where you experienced a loss." Some of the glow faded from Kate's face for a moment before the moment passed. "Well, could I see the room you have so I can tell the General about it?"

Janet leads up upstairs, which has a narrow central corridor running east to west with three rooms off on each side. The available room is on the southeast corner. It is ten-by-ten feet in size with a bed, side table with gas lantern, dresser and clothing rack. From the south window is an excellent view of Jake and Ruby's new house 30 feet away. The east window over looks the single-story 15-foot square photo studio and then to Kate's house set another 15 feet further back from the studio.

"This is a cozy room. And considering the view is of my house and Jake and Ruby's new house, I think I'd like to know that a friend lives in this room," she laughed. Janet Fly makes a very distasteful facial expression at the mention of Jake and Ruby but refrains from any verbal comment. The two women started back down the stairs. "I hope the children won't bother you too much on school days. One thing I'm missing is a schoolyard. During their lunch and recess I'm sure there'll be a lot of running and shouting."

Janet says, "Children are wonderful. Roger and I haven't been blessed yet, but we are hoping to have a family some day ourselves. And now that you have found yourself an honest and respectable job you will no longer be forced to play piano at that awful saloon. I do hope that you come by for supper some time, the men here are of a much better moral standard that those who you've been forced to associate with until now. I'm sure that when you are ready to be courted at least one of them will show an interest."

A faint look of regret crossed Kate's face and she thought to herself, “Another person who will no longer be a friend once Diana's gift is apparent.” She says, "I haven't associated with anyone I don't wish to, Mrs. Fly," Kate said gently. "Well, that's not quite true, I could do without seeing Tony Lucky again. But I enjoy playing piano, and as I don't have one working at the Lucky Lady gives me the opportunity. I'm sure your boarders are perfect gentlemen and will be excellent neighbors. Perhaps someday soon Ginnie and I will both come for dinner. Thank you for your help. I'll come by next week perhaps about a picture after I talk to my father."

Kate left Fly's with a bit less spring in her step, although anyone who saw her would still only see a much happier woman than they were used to. She returned to her own house and continued unpacking some of the boxes that had arrived from Boston, making the kitchen a much more inviting room with the pretty fabrics for her table and cabinets. Once lunchtime approached Kate left again and returned to the El Parador.

Silver Moon

Chapter Three, “Lunch and Dessert”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 11:00 A.M.

Ruby and Nanuet finish painting the living room and reception area. When they are done Ruby gets him a glass of lemonade that Maria had dropped off with ice from the icebox. They sit together on the porch. "Wow, that was a lot of work, my arm is killing me! But it looks great. Thanks again for all your help. Just two more rooms to go then I can decorate." She sips at her lemonade. "I should wake up Jake. He doesn't normally sleep this late."

Ruby and Nanuet sit and chat for a little while longer. Finally, Ruby stands and places her lemonade on the porch. "I am going to run a do a quick errand. I guess I kept Jake up too late last night," she laughs, "So I don't want to wake him just yet. Feel free to make yourself at home." Ruby gives Nanuet a quick kiss on the cheek before making her way to the intersection of East and South Street, ending her trip at the O'Hara's house.

She knocks on the door, guessing one of the many people who live there should be home. She hears Meagan O'Hara's heavily accented Irish voice say, "Who is it?" from the other side of the door, which remains shut. "It's Ruby West," she calls back, "A friend of Katherine Kale's." She calls back, "Oh yes, I remember. I'm afraid that I can't open the door Miss. West, Caitlin has the measles. We're all taking the medicine and shouldn't be contagious but the Doctor says we shouldn't take any chances and say quarantined until at least Friday."

"Oh my," Ruby comments before she has a chance to catch herself. "Does Kate know? More importantly, do you need anything?" She says, "When I spoke to Kate on Monday that was before Caitlin broke out. We've stayed put since then. We're fine though, Dorita has been bringing food over for us."

"That's good. If you need anything else tell Dorita to tell one of us." Ruby pauses. "I came because I have a job I need filled and thought maybe someone in your household could use one. But this seems like a bad time, talking though the door and all..." "Well, why don't I stop by your place for lunch on Friday and we can talk then," Ruby replies.

"That sounds good. Take care of yourself until then. Try not to go too crazy cooped up with all those kids!" Ruby heads back to her house. Nanuet was still relaxing on the porch. "Now I'm going to wake up Jake," she laughs. Heading inside and upstairs she stands for a moment in the doorway to her new room. She smiles at the scene before striding to and hopping into the bed. "Wake up sleepy head!" she says loudly. "You're late in telling how much you love me today!"

Ruby attempts to wake up Jake mostly unsuccessfully. "Fine, I'm going to have lunch with Kate then. But I need to talk to you today about business at some point so make sure to find me
please." Nanuet finishes his lemonade with Ruby and then when she heads off for lunch he heads to get cleaned up and find Minerva. Ruby cleans the paint off herself and dresses. She kisses a sleepy Jake and heads over to the Cantina for lunch.

Kate waved to Ruby as she came inside and sat down. Her plate was loaded again, courtesy of Dorita and Kate was slowly making her way through it. "How was the morning? Conrad must be sleeping in, since he's not here yet." Dorita brings them both beverages and says "Conrad not here now, he here hour ago then go off with Arcade's Gang."

Kate replies, "Oh. Well, it wasn't very important. My father just wanted to make sure he knew something he ordered would arrive when they did. I hope there isn't any trouble." Dorita says "No trouble, they say they just need his help with something. I'm sure he be back for supper, I tell him you looking for him." "Thank you, Dorita. Just don't let him panic about it," she smiled. "He has a tendency to worry."

Kate says, "Ruby what did Jake think of what Mr. Blake had to say? I'll admit I was a little lost. Beside offering a place for your clientele to stable their mounts and vehicles and getting Jeff for a foreman I wasn't sure what else he was looking for." "I didn't tell him yet," Ruby replies, anxiously looking for her own plate from Dorita. "He is being lazy today and sleeping in."

"Honestly, I don't know how the situation works out for us. We could pay Austin for the ability to stable the horses and such. I don't know if he was referring to sending customers our way for gambling and entertainment. But if he opens a hotel it will be competition for us, even if our place is nicer than his. He didn't seem to have many answers, except what he needs from us."

"Taking Jeff is worth more than room and board, that's for sure. I don't know how we could be without him. Niles said he has someone who could help replace him and Nanuet could also work more but I'm just not sure Jeff is replaceable. Especially during this time we will be so crazy, and we need to hire all kinds of new people... Ugh!" Ruby puts her head in her hands. "It's too much to think about. This is Jake's department."

Dorita brings Ruby her plate of food and asks Kate if she wants any more. While the two women are eating they see Burton Lumley, owner of the Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon, enter the building. He goes over to the bar and speaks briefly to Dorita's husband Pedro. On his way out of the building he notices Ruby and Kate and stops at their table.

He tells them "The Promise City Merchant's Association will be meeting tonight at 5:30 at the Town Hall Building." Ruby replies, "Thank you Mr. Lumley. Is this a scheduled meeting or is something going on?" Lumley replies, "It's unplanned. Judge Isby is back in town with news of the Governor's answer to our petition to incorporate. He's called for a combined meeting of our group and the Promise City Vigilance Committee."

Kate says, "Thank you, Mr. Lumley, I'll be there. This ought to be interesting. We're going to have to work with the Vigilance Committee if it's good news and that will be a challenge." He replies, "We will indeed, we will need consensus from a majority of both groups in order to accomplish anything. Thankfully their two newest members, Derek Avery and Zeb Cook, seem to be more reasonable than the other three so that should help."

Kate replies, "Let's hope so. Everyone's going to have to give a little, even the Vigilance Committee. I'll see you this afternoon, Mr. Lumley." The man tipped his hat and hurried off to continue spreading the word about the meeting. Kate turned to Ruby and said, "I get the feeling it will be a frustrating few weeks trying to deal with that committee."

Ruby laughs, "You get the feeling? I'm pretty sure that is a fact Kate. They are the most stuck-up, prudish people I have ever met. If the answer is yes to incorporate, no one is going to agree on who should run this town." Ruby rolls her eyes, "What a mess it will be. As for myself," she begins digging into her food, "I could care less about it. Although tonight's meeting should be interesting. Sparks will be flying. Maybe I'll come along, should be an open meeting I would guess."

Kate replies, "Even if it's not, you hold a stake in one of the represented businesses. It shouldn't be hard to get them to let you in. I know you don't care whether we're incorporated or not, but if the governor approved the request you'll probably care about who ends up in charge. And as you say, the flying sparks should be entertaining. It's turning out a much busier day than I expected."

"It doesn't matter who is in charge. In the end who's in charge is the person with the most money in their pocket." Ruby shrugs. "So I don't actually care. If whomever it is makes my life hard then I'll leave." Ruby scoops some chili into her mouth. "Which would suck, but that's life and the way of politics."

Kate answers, "Well then I'll care enough for both of us, since I don't want you to leave. I'm selfish that way. I won't let anyone chase me away from the place I chose for my home. You're right, politics isn't pretty, or particularly honest much of the time. But at least here we have a chance to have a say right from the beginning and perhaps keep some of those people from getting too much influence."

Ruby rolls her eyes, "You can try Kate, but I know from personal experience how unlikely that is." She pauses. "And... you're a woman. They don't give you too much say to start. Me on the other hand, I don't really care what rules they put in effect. I generally get my way in the bedroom," she smiles with a twinkle in her eyes. Ruby continues to eat. "So what are you doing today? Besides the meeting that is."

"Just checking with the hotel to make sure they'll have room for Mr. Pickering and his students. Then I'll probably go home and try to get some work done on the house. With my family coming I want it to look nice. I'm afraid Maman is not going to be impressed with my new home."

Ruby replies, "I know about getting work done on a house, though I can't believe I can say I even have a house of my own! As for your family, they'll get used to it. This is your life now and if they love you they'll love all the things about you. I can help you if you want. Although our decorating styles are definitely not the same. I'm sure you have ideas already and I can help. I might complain a little though, my arms hurt from painting," she laughs.

Ruby says, "I should tell Jake about the business stuff at some point, but that can wait." Kate replies, "He's got to wake up at some point," Kate laughed. "As long as he knows before the meeting, and about the meeting, it'll be fine. All that's really left to do is finish the wallpapering in the parlor and then to unpack my packages from Boston. You like opening packages, I know.

If you're about done, let's run to the hotel and then we can do the fun parts of decorating a house. But you have to promise to let me help you with yours in return." "You know Kate," Ruby says while finishing the remainder of her plate, "A little over 5 months ago I wouldn't be getting up for another, oh, two or three hours. We're night owls, what can I say? And sure, I won't turn down a chance to get some help on our house. Although I still have to decide on my decorating scheme. I like that part." Ruby pushes her plate away. "I'm ready," she smiles.

Kate smiled and the two left the Cantina for the Promise City hotel. On the way she said, "I would just have the students stay with Dorita, but she's always full up on the weekends and my family will already be staying there." In what was becoming a familiar routine for the day, Kate and Ruby stepped into the hotel and asked Melissa Smith what kind of room they might have for six students and their teacher.

She indicates that she has four rooms available for Thursday night but only two for the weekend. She does have all of the extra cots that had been at Ruby's new house, so they could double up in some rooms on those if necessary. While Melissa Smith is talking to them both Ruby and Kate take in the aroma of her freshly baked cherry pie.

"I'll let them know, thanks," Kate said. The smell of the pie was tickling her nose despite the fact that she'd just eaten lunch. "I don't suppose you'd wrap up a couple pieces of that pie for us, would you? I just ate, but it smells wonderful." "Yes, smells delicious. Where do you get your recipes from? Everything you make is just fantastic. I love when Jake brings me here for dinner," Ruby comments.

Melissa says, "Oh, they're mostly just old family recipes. Cooking has always been my hobby. Eric has stated several times that he married me for my cooking." She wraps up two pieces of pie to go. "I'm sure it was more than just the cooking," Kate said and paid for the pie. "Thank you. I'll bring the gentlemen by tomorrow when they arrive."

As the girls left and went back to Kate's house she asked, "Ruby, is my face getting round?" "Uh..." Ruby pauses and takes a long look at Kate's face. "I don't think so, why?" Kate says, "I'm just hungry all the time, like I'm trying to make up for all the food I wasn't eating when I first came here. My corset is getting quite tight, and when I looked in the mirror this morning I could have sworn my face was rounder. Silly, isn't it?"

"Well, I'm really not the best one to ask about details like that," Ruby smiles and looks at Kate again, taking her chin in her hand and inspecting her face side to side. "Why would that be funny, you are carrying a brat, right? I can see you being hungry. Although it would be early for the corset getting tight part."

"Dorita's been taking awful advantage of my willingness to eat. She still pokes me and tells me I'm too skinny," Kate laughed. "I'll have to keep an eye on it. But I'm still eating this pie! C'mon, I'll show you all my pretty linens and bric a brac for the house."

"I bet you have some really nice stuff." Ruby follows Kate into her new house. "Yes, Dorita has a way of making us all eat. She thinks everyone is too skinny. I wonder if there is anyone she doesn't think that about?" she wonders out loud. "Skinny is not usually a word used to describe me. So what are we doing today? And how is the school coming along?"

Kate says, "You can peek in the schoolroom if you want, it's all ready. This measles outbreak pushed back the start though. I won't ask you to help me finish hanging the wallpaper since you've been painting all day. But there are curtains to hang, closets to fill, vases and photos and things to put out. You know, the little things that say that Ginnie and I live here."

Ruby says, "Oh that reminds me. I went to see the O'Hara's today, I wanted to find out if any of them are looking for work. Anyway, they are all stuck in their house until Friday because of the measles. Thought you'd want to know that. I asked if she needed anything and she said no, Dorita is taking care of her."

Ruby kneels on the floor next to a box and starts pulling out the contents. "Do you have spots for all this stuff?" Ruby says while carefully studying each item she pulls out. Late replies, "Not specifically. Just which rooms they go in. Poor Meagan. All of them closed up in that little house. But Friday will be here soon, and the little buggies Conrad ordered for Ginnie and her twins. That'll get them out from underfoot for a while."

"Well, I can move them around, that is easy enough." Ruby pulls a few more items out. "Buggies? What's that about?" Kate states, "Getting Ginnie used to horses without her having to ride them, mostly. And to get her outdoors a little more when she's not working. They're little two-wheeled carriages like the ones they use for racing. Very safe though. He ordered one for the O'Hara girls too, thinking Ginnie would be more interested if she had some friends learning too. Conrad thinks they could race them eventually, but I don't see where they would do that. I'm not sure I like that idea anyway, but we can argue about that later."

"Racing buggies?" Ruby raises an eyebrow. "I guess that sounds like fun." She lets it drop after that. Ruby lets Kate direct her what to do. Even though her arms hurt and she is starting to feel cranky at all the work she doesn't complain. Kate keeps talking lightly about things as she and Ruby drop things off in the rooms where they belong. She only has her help with things Kate couldn't do alone, like folding blankets and hanging pictures.

After a couple hours she can see Ruby's patience wearing thin so they went back downstairs and ate the cherry pie they had brought back from the hotel. "Most of the rest is little things I can do myself. Why don't you go have a nap or maybe a bath to relax your arms? I can help at your place tomorrow."

Ruby tried not to be too happy that her work was over or leave too quickly. "Oh, a nap sounds very good. And I have to talk to Jake anyway. I can come back another time to help you too if you need it. As for my house, the bedroom is all set up so there is no rush for anything else," she smiles wickedly. "I'll see you at the meeting tonight." She gives Kate a peek on the cheek and hurries back to her own house and nice comfy bed where she curls up with the puppies and falls right to sleep.

Kate kept arranging her little house, humming under her breath as it began to look more like a comfortable home than a barren house. As the time for the meeting neared, Kate went upstairs to her pleasant room. It was painted a soft white color, and her bed and the vanity were all decorated with a soft green. The pictures Ruby had helped her hand were all pastoral scenes, and the bedside lamp was etched with flowers around the glass flame enclosure. Inside her room Kate changed into her gray dress, fixed her hair again, and headed for the town hall.

Silver Moon

Chapter Four, “The Silver Dollar Restaurant”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 12:00 P.M.

Nanuet heads to the church and finds her hard at work with some weaving. "I think I finished my morning chores, shall we go get lunch?" Nanuet offers. Minerva looks up, a distracted look on her face. "Huh? What? Lunch? Oh, my! Is it that late already? I have been at this since dawn. When I awoke this morning, the gods had planted this idea in my head for an altar cloth. It is a very intricate design." She stands and stretches the knots out of her shoulders and back. "I completely forgot about breakfast. It was so much easier when Bea had it waiting for me. Si, lunch is a fine idea."

Minerva grabs her parasol and allows Nanuet escorts her to lunch. Nanuet says, "I figured we could try the Silver Dollar for lunch today. You know, just for a change of scenery. The altar cloth is beautiful, you really do wonderful work with your weaving." They arrive at the Silver Dollar Restaurant and look to have a nice peaceful lunch.

The Silver Dollar Restaurant has been completely remodeled, with the former Silver Dollar Saloon's bar and barstools long gone. In its place two stoves and a pantry have been added to the far end of the single-story 20x30 foot structure. Eight tables fill the room, one large table able to seat up to eight, four tables of four, and three tables for two. A short balding man with eyeglasses is busy preparing food.

Alice Smith is busy waiting on tables. Her husband Haywood Smith is standing at the door wearing a starched shirt, bow tie and fancy vest. He smiles and says, "Priestess, where would you like to sit." Minerva smiles sweetly in return and gives a little curtsy. "Buenas Dias, Senor Smith! It is a lovely day, is it not? A seat by the window would be pleasant. It smells heavenly in here!" she says breathing in the delicious aromas. "What is that wonderful smell? Senor Nanuet and I are absolutely famished!"

Nanuet and Minerva are seated in a corner table, covered with a nice embroidered tablecloth with matching cloth napkins and fancy silverware. Mr. Smith replies, "What you are smelling is the specialty of our chef, Walter. His world famous beef stew served inside of a hot, freshly baked bread bowl." Nanuet says, "We'll take two please and some iced tea to drink if you have that of course." Alice brings them the food, each served on a nice piece of stoneware pottery. She lights the candle between them and then gets their iced tea, each with a slice of lemon in it.

On the walls is a slate with the desserts listed, namely Apple Crumb Pie, Blueberry Cobbler and Raspberry Bread Pudding. Another sign on the wall lists the dozen beverages available, the only two alcoholic ones being Honey Mead and Apple-Pear Wine. Nanuet digs into the hearty meal. He turns to Alice between bites and says, "I love what you've done with the place, looks really nice! Seems like you've got a good selection too.” She replies, "Thank you Mr. Indian. The Saloon business just wasn't for us and I knew that Hay could give his cousin Eric a run for his money."

He asks, “Any chance I can buy a bottle of that wine? It sounds intriguing." She states, "Oh yes, make me an offer, I'll sell you as much as you'd like. We still have two cases of that stuff. Hay was able to sell the whiskey, beer and other liquor back to Mr. Hoover but he didn't want the wine or mead." He says, "How about $2 a bottle. I'll take two if you're agreeable." Alice replies, Absolutely, I'll have them ready for you by the end of the meal."

Minerva chuckles. "If I indulge in a bottle of wine, I may be weaving instead of weaving. But I believe that I have worked on the altar cloth enough for one day." He says, "Well the wine was going to be for a future occasion, that is why I requested a whole bottle. I figured perhaps we could take it home and store it until an appropriate moment."

Nanuet continues to devour the stew. "There is a meeting tonight, merchant committee and Vigilance committee together. I am pretty sure Jake and Ruby are going, I figure you will probably have to be there as well, I think I'll head over to the Lucky Lady and keep an eye on things there."

Minerva says with a look of distaste. " I am sure that Senora King and her little army of followers will be there." she sighs. " I would much prefer to spend my time with you and this bottle of wine, but I suppose that I should do my duty and attend this meeting. "Perhaps we can share the wine afterwards?" she says hopefully.

Nanuet replies, "Oh certainly, I am most agreeable to that. I just figured that all the decision makers at the Lucky Lady would be involved in that meeting one way or another so I figured I would make sure to be there early tonight to help them out. I hope the meeting is a productive one. Mrs. King will surely be there, and I am sure she has a lot to contribute. Remember to be patient, keep that temper of yours in check."

"That is easier said than done, Mi Amor. Perhaps it would be better if you went to the meeting and I stayed at the Lucky Lady," she jokes. Nanuet chuckles heartily at Minerva's lighthearted jest. "Perhaps, but unfortunately I am not the priestess, just her companion. You'll do fine I'm sure." Nanuet and Minerva finish their lunch, Nanuet pays for the meal and the two bottles of wine. He then heads back to Minerva's house to store the wine and do a few chores.

Ruby slept until mid-afternoon at which point Jake was long gone from the house. She heads over to the Lucky Lady in search of him. He isn't there either, although another man is that has been patiently waiting for Ruby West to arrive. Mr. Kevin Tomlinson, assistant to Judge Isby, is seated there holding a white rose. He hands it to Ruby and says, "Miss West, Judge Nathan Isby requests the company of your presence this evening for dinner."

She states, "Hello Mr. Tomlinson," she says, taking the rose with a smile and smelling it, "You may tell the Judge I would be pleased to meet him for dinner. The Promise City Hotel?" He replies, "Yes Ma'am, at 6:30 P.M." "After the meeting," she says out loud to herself. "Alright, I will be there. Tel him I am looking forward to it. And good luck to you both at the meeting today."

Tomlinson departs. Not long afterwards Sandra Wainwright arrives carrying a stack of new sheet music that she just received which she offers to show to Ruby and play any of them that Ruby would like to hear on the piano. Ruby gladly looks through the sheet music. She asks Sandra to play six or seven songs she doesn't recognize, of all different types.

As Sandra plays Ruby sits next to her on the bench, looking over the sheets. "You probably have the most experience with people in this town who like to sing or play instruments. Do you know of anyone who isn't currently working somewhere who might like to sing or play in public every once in a while? I think with our renovation we might need to add some more entertainment."

Sandra says, "You're only saying that because you were at the Comique two nights ago when I played there. I could never do that here, with the extra part you're adding on it would be way too big, too many people. And who would want to hear me?" A female voice that Ruby immediately recognizes as her friend Josephine Marcus speaks up behind both women and says, "I would for one, you sing wonderfully Mrs. Wainwright. I was glad that I was there to hear it."

"Actually, I wasn't. I absolutely agree with my friend Josie, your singing is beautiful and you should be proud to show off your voice. And I would be thrilled if you wanted to sing here. But I do need someone who wants to do the job, who can be reliable in getting up on stage." Ruby smiles gently at her, "You know, some nights there are smaller crowds and singing in front of people does take some getting used to...

Josie says, "Mrs. Wainwright, perhaps you could help Ruby and myself. We are planning to put on a production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in a few weeks. Well, a small orchestra would really enhance the production, to play appropriate pieces of music at the more dramatic moments, plus pieces at the beginning and end. I saw that your store sells musical instruments, perhaps you could help find us a few musician to play, with you on the piano of course, unless you'd rather play another instrument of course."

Ruby's eyes widen slightly as does her almost ever-present smile, "Hey, that's a GREAT idea! Sandra, I am very excited about the show and you would make an excellent addition." Sandra asks, "What type of instruments would you want for the orchestra? How many musicians?" Josie asks, "What do you think Ruby?"

Ruby momentarily gets a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. She recovers and says, "Well, shouldn't we leave that up to the head of this little orchestra? I think if Sandra is going to help us she should have the special title and be able to choose who she thinks would be most needed."

They hear footsteps on the porch of the Lucky Lady. Standing in the doorway, his flat brimmed black hat slightly askew, black leather duster open and familiar Colt strapped low on his right leg is the gambler Jake Cook. From the stubble on his cheeks it looks like he has not shaved, but otherwise he seems bright eyed and alert. His gaze takes in the ladies before sweeping the room and coming back to them. He is smiling.

"Finally decided to get up today darling?" Ruby calls out across the room. She motions for him to come closer. "We're talking about the play." She turns back to Sandra and smiles dazzlingly. "So what do you think, about the orchestra that is?" Mrs. Wainwright says, "I think it is a wonderful idea. I don't think you'd need me on piano though, you have no shortage of piano players in this town. I should play my cello instead." Josie says, "Well, as you are now the Musical Director of our play that is your decision." Sandra blushes.

"You'll be wonderful, do not worry." Ruby laughs, "We can always put your back to the audience if you prefer. Besides, I plan to stun everyone with my performance so they'll only be looking at me anyway," she laughs again. Jake tips his hat, "Ladies," before he sits down.

Niles Hoover stops by the table and says, "Jake, we've got a meeting of the Merchant's Association tonight at 5:30. I also need to talk to you about Jeff when you get a chance." Ruby says, "Oh, I still need to talk to Jake about some business stuff too. Josie, can you and Sandra excuse me for a moment?" He replies, “Niles, I will find you in a few minutes." He stands and follows Ruby, "Business?"

She replies, “Yes actually business. Probably what Niles wants to talk to you about." Ruby explains the offer from Austin Blake to Jake. She says, "I'm not exactly sure about giving up Jeff, even though Niles says he has someone who can take over for him. And we'd need to ask Jeff if he wants to do it. But of course, I'd leave it to your brilliant business mind to find a way to have this be to our advantage. After all, he would be getting the Lucky Lady and Ruby West. Doesn't quite compare to a place to leave your horses."

Jake replies, "Heh, no that does not seem to be a fair trade. Fine, I will talk with Niles and see what he is thinking. We do have a bigger saloon to fill now, though I am not sure helping the competition is the way to do it. I will be back in a few minutes." He goes to speak with Niles. "Wait!" Ruby calls out after him. She shakes her head and sighs as Jake walks away.

Niles and Jake talk for a few minutes. Niles says, "I honestly didn't get the impression that a partnership is really what he's after, although I'm sure a discount on the liquor he buys from me would enter into the conversation at some point. I think he really just wants to borrow Jeff to build his place for him." "Does he have anything we want?" Jake asks Niles. "Not like he is going to turn down our customers who might want to board there horses there. Do we need to partner with a corral? Lumley is part owner of the Bar-H is he not? That does not seem to give him much advantage, does it?"

Niles replies, "Not a lot of advantage that I can see at all. I know that you and Ruby still board your horses at the El Parador, so a partnership with Blake could give you another place to put them. But honestly, you might be better of with them at the Bar-H instead since it's right across the street from your new house. Near as I can see the only real advantage might be to get the folks in town to better know and accept Jeff. His past seems to have haunted him, but now that he's been voted in as Fire Marshall that alone should get people to warm to him, no pun intended."

"You are a funny guy, Niles," Jake says slapping him on the shoulder. "I will talk to Blake and see if he has anything else interesting to say, but I am not inclined to partner at this time. Is there anything else you needed me for?" He replies, "Nope, I'll talk to Job about it tonight. I will see you at the meeting."

Ruby turns to the actress and says, "So Josie, what else do we need to do for the play right now? I've just been told that the addition will be done, so we'll have the beautiful huge stage to use." She replies, "Well, right now we have to cast all of the parts and get our actors busy reading their lines. We should do that in the next few days, and start rehearsals next week."

Ruby states, "So we already have our Romeo and Juliet and our Mercutio. Should we maybe have auditions or something for the rest? Or try to approach people on our own? I wanted to speak to Mary Kelly about making the costumes." Josie says, "Auditions would help to promote the play, but as small as this town is and with only one newspaper that shouldn't be hard to do anyway. You know the people in town better than I do. You may want to give some small parts to some of your critics to make them allies instead."

Ruby answers, "That IS a good idea. I just have to think of who..." Ruby starts tapping her lip. "I'm not sure who can do it, I'll have to think on it. I don't want to make the wrong choice and ruin the play." Josie answers, "That's why I suggested minor parts. Don't worry about ruining the play, we've got all of the major things covered provided we can find enough swordsmen."

Ruby starts getting slightly flustered. "Yes, swordsmen and small parts, I understand. Let me think about it. I will try to come up with parts by tomorrow. I should be able to find enough swordsmen, how many do we really need anyway?" Josie says, "Well we already have Conrad and Estaban, they're the two main ones. Mr. Booth suggested we get a few more as well. I'm thinking we could go as high as six or eight total given the size of your stage." Ruby says, "I bet Kevin will do it too. I will ask someone who was in the competition, or even Judge Lacey, he was interested and he helped organize. He can get me a list I'm sure. Thanks Josie for the good ideas."

Jake returns to the ladies, "I take it you lovely and talented ladies have this play well in hand? I expect that this town will be remembering this little extravaganza for years to come with fond memories." Ruby wraps her arm around Jake's waist. "There is a lot to do." Jake can tell Ruby is trying to keep her feelings of being overwhelmed under control. "Up, lots to do. Oh I still need to talk to you about something. But that I need to do alone when I am done with Josie. I will work on the parts and try to get some stuff done tomorrow. Anything else for today?"

Josie replies, "Thank you for letting me direct. We'll, I'll see you later, and Julia and I are going to go do some shopping. We may stop by here tonight if you'll be singing." "Yes, I'll be singing, so hopefully we will see you later. Have fun shopping!" Ruby kisses her cheek and watches her friend leave. She smiles fades just a bit.

"So, what did Niles say?" she asks Jake. He says, "Pretty much what you told me. The only thing he can see might be a benefit for Jeff, and even then not much. I will talk to Blake and see what else he offers, but I am not excited by the idea. I just have to not make him angry. What else did you want to talk about?"

"Well, I wanted to go with you to the meeting tonight. I think the sparks will fly and I don't want to miss it. Then after that..." she pauses for a moment, "I, ah, have a date for dinner." Jake raises one eyebrow.

A flush comes to Ruby's cheeks. "Look, I have been really trying to be better these past bunch of weeks, I am trying because I love you and don't want people getting the wrong ideas. Here in the saloon I have been much better about, you know, the way I act sometime, when mostly I don't even know I am doing it because I don't do it on purpose. And in this case everyone already think I am sleeping with him and it's just not a good idea to piss him off. But if you want me to say no I will, I will find him and tell him no. That is more important to me. Even after I said yes I wasn't sure I should have. I don't want you getting the wrong idea. Or him, getting the wrong idea that is."

Finally she stops her tirade of words and looks up at Jake with big green eyes, hoping not to find him angry. Jake looks sternly at her before cracking a smile, "This will be a first, some other guy buys dinner and I get to sleep with the girl." Jake then laughs and says, "Enjoy your dinner, I trust you. Just do not enjoy it too much, OK?" He looks at his pocket watch, "It is getting close to meeting time, and we can talk on the way over if you like."

Silver Moon

Chapter Five, “Incorporation”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 5:00 P.M.

Nanuet and Minerva's had spent the afternoon doing a few chores before. About 4:45 PM they head over to the Lucky Lady saloon. Minerva walks with Nanuet over to the Lucky Lady and kisses him goodbye. "Wish me luck!" she says and heads over to the meeting. Inside, Ruby looks like she is about to say something important when Nanuet comes strolling in. Nanuet says, "Hey everybody, figured I'd come over early and keep an eye on things around here so you all could go to the meeting."

"Uh, sure Jake, let's go." She walks towards Nanuet, "Thanks a lot for all your help today. Hopefully the meeting won't be too crazy. We'll see you later." Jake and Ruby head over to the meeting. Ruby doesn't contribute whatever it was she was going to say.

Nanuet searches out Thom and spends some time in casual conversation with him trying to determine how Thom is adjusting. It seems as though Thom is a bit overwhelmed with the size of the town but nothing that is out of hand. Nanuet works with him tidying up, restocking the bar and kitchen and other menial tasks while keeping an eye on things.

Meanwhile, Chester sits with Marshall Berg in the office. "Hey Mitch. Do we need to be at this town meeting?" Berg replies, "I've agreed to be up on stage with Judge Isby, he wants me on one side and Deputy Sheriff Hunter on the other. Figures the two of us standing there will help keep people in line if the discussion gets out of hand. Helen's a member of the Merchant's Association so she'll be with them, although I may have her stand instead of sit.

I figure you and Eddie should stay slightly outside, position yourselves near the door and get a good look at everybody as they come in. And if anything goes on during the meeting requiring a lawman either or both of you could then just go without making it obvious. " Chester replies, "Sounds good to me. This meeting is about something both the Merchant's Association and the Vigilance Committee can agree on. I don't expect any trouble. By the way, are you a member of the Merchant's Association, being a lawyer here?"

Berg answers, "No, no need. Only folks selling merchandise in town are require to join, not us who just provide services. I think your friend Katherine joined, since her school is a business and I believe she's planning to sell items made by the students to help support it. I could join, but then I'd have to pay dues. Neither of the other lawyers has either, although we all attend the meetings."

Chester says, "Gotcha. Kate likes to get involved, so that's no surprise. Plus it gets the school in the public eye, being that it's new and all. Do you think there's a good chance we'll get incorporated? That way we can get a proper mayor here." "And a real Town Marshall too, so I can get back to lawyering," Berg states.

Chester scratches his head. "I forgot you had to cut back on lawyering to take this job. I guess you'll be glad about that. The pay's better, too." Berg says, "Well, it's not like I ever really wanted the job. I just didn't care for the alternatives presented. I suppose I should probably wait and see who else is planning to run before I totally decide against it. I just hope whomever wins has the good sense to keep You, Helen and Eddie on. You three have done great."

"Thanks, Mitch. That means a lot coming from you. Heck, maybe I should throw my hat in the ring. I don't much like the idea of a Vigilance Committee man in the job." Berg replies to Chester, "Well, someone like Bill Watkins would probably still be better than a cattle rustler. Remember, Fisk proposed that Buckskin Frank Leslie for the job last time. Turning the town over to a criminal would be like asking the wolf to watch the sheep."

"Fisk did what? I wasn't at the meeting, so that's the first I heard of that. Thank Zeus you decided to step in." Chester shakes his head. "Buckskin Frank Leslie. I heard he was a higher up in the Cowboy Gang. That would have been a disaster had he been made Marshall. Is it time to go to the meeting yet?" Berg replies, “Yes, it’s about that time.

At 5:15 P.M. Deputies Chester Martin and Eduardo Rodriguez are standing together near the doors to the town hall in the back of the room. Judge Nathan Isby is standing at the podium on the stage in the front of the room. Flanked on either side of him are Town Marshall Mitchell Berg and Deputy Sheriff Colin Hunter. Seated on the stage in three chairs to his left are Deputy County Recorder Dennis Winston, Deputy County Assayer Joe Reiser and the Judge’s assistant Kevin Tomlinson.

The front of the room is comprised of seventy chairs, arranged with an open aisle down the center of the room with five rows of seven chairs each on each side of the room. The Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon owner Burton Lumley is holding a clipboard and doing a head count of those present from the Promise City Merchant’s Association, as he is the Association’s current President. The Association is comprised of one owner from each of fifty-four businesses selling merchandise in town to the general public. Service companies may join if they desire although mines, farms and ranches are excluded. All of the chairs in the second to fifth rows have been reserved for the Association and most of them are currently occupied. Standing along the side wall beside these chairs rather than sitting is photographer Helen Barker who also serves as a Deputy Marshall of the town.

In five chairs at the right front side of the room in the first row are the members of the Promise City Vigilance Committee, these being Great Western Boarding House owner William Watkins, Condon’s Bank owner Frank Condon, Doctor James Eaton, Zebadiah Cook who owns Cook’s General Store and First National Bank Head Teller Derik Avery. Seated beside them is that group’s chief financial sponsor, rancher Rebecca King and next to her is her adult son Ashley.

Seated in the seven chairs on the left front side of the room are Promise City Mirror reporter Angelica Young, her Editor the halfling Hezekiah B. Chumbley, Silverbell Mining Company owner Elton Hubbard, Attorney Hamilton Fisk, Attorney Elihu Upton, rancher Forest Morand and rancher Emery Shaw.

Chester keeps watch over the crowd. He wasn't expecting trouble, but it had a way of sneaking up on a person. He breaks his job only to greet his friends when they arrive. Ruby takes a seat alone near the back of the room, although she does try to catch the Judge's eye and give him a smile before she sits. There is a chair available behind Emery Shaw, which Jake Cook seats himself in. Jake quietly greets Morand and Shaw, "A pleasure to see you gentlemen. I hope this goes well today." They agree.

In the new town hall, Kate found a seat three rows back next to Mr. Rixton. She smiled pleasantly at him. "Mr. Rixton, how nice to see you. Have I told you have comfortable my house is now with your furniture in it?" Rixton replies, "Anything I can do to help the school. It is a wonderful thing that you are doing." "The children in town have the right to an education, and although I haven't taught before I have had a great deal of learning. Beside, I need something to keep me out of trouble," she laughed. "Just this morning someone was trying to matchmaker for me. So, do you think this meeting has good news?" He replies, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Judge Isby begins the meeting promptly at 5:30. “Thank you all for coming on such short notice. I am pleased to announce that the Governor of the Arizona Territory has accepted your petition to Incorporate as the Community of Promise City. The logistics of this Incorporation are what the meeting today is about. As stated in your petition, this process will be conducted under my direct supervision. A few details still need to be worked out.

Before we get to the matter of an election of a Mayor, Marshall and five-person Town Council we first need to formally map out the boundaries of the Incorporated Town. The town will obviously include the streets and buildings currently falling under the jurisdiction of the Town Marshall. The owners of all outlying ranches, farms and mines will need to be contacted prior 5:30 P.M. on Monday, May 29th, as to their desire to join the community of Promise City. Their decision will need to be recorded at that time by at least two of the three Country or Territorial Officials seated on the stage to my left.

We will reconvene this combined group at that time to finalize the map. We will then start to work on the specific criteria to qualify as a candidate for office and also decide exactly who will be permitted to vote.” Bill Watkins yells out "What's to decide? Male human landowners will serve and vote, they're the ones who do everything around here."

Kate politely raised her hand for recognition, rather than follow Mr. Watkin's example and shout out. Noticing that Deputy Marshall Helen Barker is reaching for her gun Marshall Berg glares at her and shakes his head side to side. Isby also sees this and chooses to quickly recognize Kate. "Yes Mrs. Kale," he says.

Kate stood up and said in a quiet voice that still carried through the room, "I have not shared Mr. Watkins experience. The work on the ranch I own with my partners and the teaching of my school will not be done by any male human landowners. It may be decided at the next meeting that I will not have a right to vote, but I am a member of the Merchant's Association and I do have the right to make my voice heard as we incorporate. Let us make no assumptions.”

Jake is very curious about how Morand and Shaw are taking the conversation and watches their expressions carefully. Kate continues, “Judge Isby, what would be expected of the ranch owners, and what can we expect if we chose to place our land inside the town's limits?" Morand and Shaw both perk up upon hearing that question, apparently curious about that answer themselves.

Isby says, "The main thing would be that you would have a voice in the town's government. You would also have the protections of the Town Marshall and the town would be free to pass and administer its own laws and enforce such laws as long as they don't conflict with those of the Arizona Territory. Given the quantity of cattle rustlers and thefts of mine ore in the past year those extra protections could be helpful." Morand and Shaw both whisper to each other and nod their heads in the affirmative.

Isby continues, "And depending upon the specifics decided those at the ranches should also be entitled to run for office and vote. The negative is that you could be subject to pay town taxes if any are approved by the Town Council." "Thank you, Judge," Kate said and took her seat again. Her real concern was that there were no human males with interest in their ranch. If the right laws were passed running it could become almost impossible if they were in town limits. Jake peers around to see if his partners, Torvald MacNaulty, Ralph Elliott, or Humphrey Lewis are in attendance, seeing that they are not. Both Patrick Seawell and his father Michael are.

Ibsy continues, "Factors to take into consideration are residency, age, race and gender. You can decide that for yourself, the Territory and Country will not impose those upon you when voting for local offices. As per your original charter and the petition to the Governor, a concurring majority opinion is needed from each of your two groups representing the town. If a consensus isn’t reached at that time we will continue to meet here as a group every Monday, Wednesday and Friday thereafter, alternating meeting times between 7:00 A.M. and 5:30 P.M.

Once the criteria are established for both the candidates and voters the election will be set for three weeks from then. The first five days will be for voter registration after which no new voters will be added to the rolls. The next five days will be for candidate registration. Registration will then close although any registered political parties will be permitted to make substitutions up until two days before the election. Days eleven through twenty of this period will be for the election campaign.

Finally there will be the Election Day. No campaigning of any sort will be allowed on Election Day. The three men to my left, under my supervision, will count all of the ballots. Once I certify the election it will be final and the elected officers will then be sworn in for two-year terms of office. Now, are there any questions?”

Jake raises his hand, "Political Parties? Local parties do you mean? How would they be registered?" Isby replies, "Filing as a political party requires a $ 50 filing fee and would require at least two qualified candidates for office and a maximum of one candidate for each office on the ballot. They would register with at least two of the three named officials to my left. Money raised from the filing fee would be used to offset the town's cost of the election. Parties could be affiliated with a National party or be completely independent.

An advantage of a party is that the ballot would permit a vote for an entire slate of candidates with just a single mark instead of having to vote for the individual candidates. That can be an important consideration if literacy is poor. Parties could also substitute candidates as I stated before. A political party would be able to declare a location its formal headquarters and candidates who were not on that party's slate would be barred from entering that building during the election campaign." Chester thinks, “That could get ugly if the place was a saloon.”

Jake nods, "Thanks." The implications of what Isby just said nearly make his head spin. Kate nearly groaned out loud, imagining a party made up of Vigilance Committee candidates being elected with one stroke of a pen. By contrast, Ruby covers her mouth with her hand, trying to stifle a yawn. She twists her hair around her finger, gazing out the window and daydreaming about her play.

Isby takes a few more questions. One asks about the timing of Political Party registration. Isby says they could start to register immediately but are not required to do so until the final day of candidate registration. Other questions are asked about where the three officials will be located for the next few days, each stating that they plan to remain close to their homes.

Somebody asks why Kevin Tomlinson is one of the officials since he doesn't live in the town nor is he a County official, while Deputy Sheriff Colin Hunter is not. Isby says, "I needed an odd number of officials and couldn't include Deputy Hunter as he plans to run for office so that would have been a conflict of interest."

Kate looked at the Deputy Sheriff, remembering how he had followed herself and Conrad out of town during their first picnic. It was likely his interest in office was an interest in finding the gold he believed hidden in the area. Although that did preclude a desire to serve. Her head was busily spinning with everything they had heard. She was fairly certain there would be quite a few meetings before the two groups could agree on much. Hopefully, her sex wouldn't prevent her from making some of these people see sense.

With no further questions Isby calls for the meeting to be adjourned and for the groups to reconvene there at 5:30 P.M. on Monday. "Thank the gods..." Ruby mutters. She notices a few glances her way and adds, "That our fine City will finally be incorporated like it should be." Some heads nod and she smiles fakely, standing and making her way outside before the rest of the crowd.

Chester relaxes when the judge calls the meeting to a close. Of course this was setting up the ground rules. The real meetings are going to be worse. Berg has nothing more for him to do, so Chester heads for Clarisse's home.

Kate made her way to the front of the room through the chattering crowd. She managed to get Judge Isby's attention and said quietly. "I didn't want to change the subject by asking during the meeting, but if we place our ranch within town limits... I'm concerned about the laws that could be passed. You heard Mr. Watkins. There are no human males with interest in that ranch. Could the town pass laws that would make operating difficult for us?"

Isby says, "You put too much stock in Mr. Watkins, I'm personally glad he articulated his position today as that allows for five days for the opposition to mount. You were here the day that Mrs. Barker made herself Deputy, I doubt she's going to quietly see her rights now taken away.

Watkins only has to worry about what his dozen or so tenants think, that's not true of General Store owner Zeb Cook or of the two bankers sitting on the Vigilance Committee. They have to answer to their customers who are of all races and genders. Even if both bankers stick together with Watkins narrow way of thinking that'll just give Elihu Upton the opportunity he needs to open up his own bank and I believe that both of them know it."

Kate replies, "I hope you're right. I'll have to talk to my partners and see what they think. It's not long until Monday so we'll have to decide quickly. Mrs. Barker and I may have to put our heads together and strategize. Thank you, Judge."

Kate again made her way through the thinning crowd to where Helen Barker stood. "We're going to have our work cut out for us, Deputy," she began. "I think I can say we feel the same way about what Mr. Watkins said?" Helen replies, "You wanted to shoot him too?" Kate cocked her head to the side, thoughtfully. "For me, it would be a lot more satisfying to run him down on a horse. We all have our preferred weapons," she said with a wry smile.

Kate continues, "I meant more that neither one of us intends to let people like Bill Watkins walk all over us. If I had wanted to sit lily white and helpless as men decided my future for me, I'd have gone back to Boston. I wish I had more experience in these matter, but I hope we can work together to make sure we keep everything we've gained here."

Helen Barker replies to Kate, "I'm sure we can. I'm not worried about the Merchant's Association, I was able to get enough support from them for Deputy, should be able to do the same for a woman's right to vote. The tricky part will be getting three votes from the Vigilance Committee. I think that your singer friend will be instrumental in helping with that." Kate answers, "Ruby? How so? From what I can tell, she isn't much interested in anything that goes on with the incorporation."

Helen Barker says, "Oh no, not Ruby, that whole Committee absolutely hates her due to the festival. I mean Clairesse. She and Beth Eaton have gotten to be best friends and she also belongs to Peg Watkins sewing circle, as is Helen Cook. You convince her and you're halfway there."

Kate answers, "Helen Cook, hmm? Clairesse and I aren't really any more than acquaintances, but she might be willing to take me along with her on a visit to Mrs. Eaton. I had been thinking of asking Doctor Eaton to give me some further medical training, but I know he doesn't think much of me. A good opinion from his wife might help us there too. I'm a terrible sewer, but perhaps I might even wiggle my way into that sewing circle."

Kate sighed. "I don't feel quite right about it all, but we don't like in a world of black and white. And probably none of these women are really unkind, just unaware." Helen says, "That sewing circle usually meets in the afternoons, so you would probably be tied up with your school. My Stanley participated with them for a while be he found it to be too much gossiping for his tastes, so I doubt you'd care for it."

"You're right, I wouldn't. Gossiping for the sake of gossip isn't my cup of tea. I'm not sure what excuse I can think of to get introduced to Mrs. Eaton, but I'll see what I can come up with. From some conversations I had earlier today, I'm better thought of in town that I'd guessed. At least by some. They seem to be under the impression that my working at a saloon was just what a young widow had to do to get by. Which isn't all wrong. The point being I may have more influence than I thought."

Helen says, "Don't push your luck. Some of the town gossip is about you and that crooked gambler Conrad Booth. As long as you're seen in his company you'll never be accepted by many of the folks in town." Kate answers, "Then I won't be accepted. I don't believe those rumors, and until he shows me he's not worthy of my trust he has it. Since I don't expect that to happen, the wagging tongues in town will just have to keep wagging. Let me guess, either I'm a terrible person for seeing a man so soon, or I'm a naive little girl he's taking advantage of."

Helen says, "Neither, just a bad judge of character as far as they are concerned. Don't worry about what people say, I never have, and believe me Stanley and I have heard it all. But we women need to play this right this weekend to line up the votes for Monday." "I'm not going to worry, but thanks. I'm not used to being on the wrong side of society. As I said, I don't have much experience with this kind of thing. Beside talking with Clairesse, do you have any other suggestions?" Helen says, "Start there, I'll talk to Helen Cook. We'll talk again either tomorrow or Friday."

"Thank you, Mrs. Barker. My family will be arriving on Friday afternoon, so it might be better to meet before then. Although they might have a few ideas of their own to help us out. It's going to be a long weekend." Kate said good-bye to Mrs. Barker and walked slowly from the Town Hall, lost in thought. The task ahead seemed very overwhelming at the moment.

Silver Moon

Chapter Six, “Ruby’s Next Dinner Date”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 6:00 P.M.

Ever since Bill Watkins made his pronouncement that only human male landowners should vote Minerva sat quietly, clenching her folded hands together as she struggled to control Mar's influence upon her temper. She reminds herself, "I told Nanuet that I would be patient and I will, but 'by the god's, that man should be horse whipped!”

She sat for a long time then glanced around the room and noticed that many were looking at her to gauge her reaction to discussion. She was unable to keep the look of distaste from her face but was re-assured to see her feelings mirrored those on many other faces in the room, including Katherine's. She also noticed Helen reaching for her gun and gives a small smile of satisfaction. "It is good to know that other's share my views."

As soon as the meeting is adjourned she plastered a smile on her face and made non-committal small talk with all those that approached her. After some time she is finally able to make her way over to the Lucky Lady in search of Nanuet, a kiss and a good stiff drink. Nanuet is surprised to see Minerva back so quickly. "Well that meeting was much shorter than I figured it would be. Is everything OK?"

"It went as expected." she sighs and gives him a kiss before she tosses her hat on the table and plops herself down on the nearest chair. With quick impatient movements, she peels off her gloves while she continues to vent her feelings to her lover. Her rapid words and thick Spanish accent reveal her disgust and frustration. "That buffoon, Bill Watkin's got up there and started spouting horse manure about how 'male human land owners' should be the only ones allowed to run for office or vote since, according to his snake-in-the-grass view, they are the ones who do everything around here. Can you believe that he had the audacity to say such a thing? It took all of my will and that of the gods to prevent me from leaping up and giving him a piece of my mind and the back of my hand as well!"

She smiles crookedly at him. "You would have been proud of me, Mi Amor. I managed to sit and hold my tongue." But, "she laughs. "Helen Baker on the other hand, would have shot him right between the eyes, if she could have gotten away with it! She looks up at the bar. "I could really use a drink right now... and perhaps that wine that you promised me later?"

Back at the Town Hall, Jake makes his way across the room and to Ruby, going outside with her. "I want to talk with Shaw and Morand before they leave, Seawell too I think." He pulls her aside so they can talk without being heard while he watches for those men. "If you have a mind to use the play to build some relationships that might be used by our Priestess or School Marm to sway some vigilance committee votes I have some suggestions for you for those bit parts. Consider Liza Brown or Derik Avery, just be sensitive that it may make Cole Rixton unhappy if you are too friendly with Derik. Also, Zeb and Helen Cook might be a vote that can be swayed. I doubt that Watkins will change his tune, but speaking of tunes.... if Frank Condon can sing, I wonder if he can act?

I have no idea if Doc Eaton is a lost cause or not, he seems like a tough one and I do not know if he can be gotten to through his wife. Of course, all this would depend on our Priestess or School Marm being involved in your play and helping you out to gain access to those folks." Jake shrugs. "Elections aside, I bet Chet would be happy if you involved Caressed. It might be a nice gesture to include the Gilson woman. That would keep Berg in our camp."

He notices Ruby is giving him a doe eyed look and he says, "I know, that was a bit much to take all in one bite. Lest you think I am interested in a political career, fear not. I just want to help our friends out and make sure we have, if not a friendly town government, at least one that does not hate us." She replies, "I figured on asking Claresse and Laurie, probably her boyfriend Judge Lacey too." She continues innocently, "I don't understand though, why would Kate or Minerva care who I put in the show? I mean, how is that helping them?"

He replies, "Access is the first stage in manipulation, my dear. Once you become a trusted friend, when folks can know you for real, then they are more inclined to listen to your point of view. If they feel good about how you have just made their life better, made their dream come true, improved their standing in the community, then all the better."

Jake grins, "Manipulation is not a bad thing. We all do it. Some of us just do it better than others. Is that not true?" He asks and taps her lips ever so gently. "It is also important to pick the right people to help along in life. So, if our friends want to try and influence the opinions of certain committee members who just happened to be having a great time all working together to bring some culture to this little town....." Jake glances up at the sky and whistles a little drinking tune.

While Jake is looking up Ruby lightly pinches his belly. "So what you are saying is you think that the priestess and the school teacher are going to care about this stupid election? Do YOU care about this stupid election?" He replies, "Just enough to make sure it does not mess with our lifestyle or our investments."

"Ugh Jake." Ruby rolls her eyes. "Have I mentioned how much I HATE politics?" She slides up next to him, "Didn't you say you were going to take me away to celebrate? To Tucson? Isn't it time to go there? Wouldn't that be soooo convenient?" Ruby continues to look with at Jake with big green eyes and a mischievous smile.

He says, "Yes, well that certainly sounds better than worrying about this election. Fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to own a share of a silver mine here, and WE happen to own half of a saloon here, and WE happen to now own a house here, so unless we suddenly do not care about the value of those investments we ought to pay a little teeny tiny bit of attention to all these goings on." He lets her wiggle her way in for a moment before he adds, "On the other hand at some point here I am certain to get sick of this and need a break. I did promise you and Red we would go to visit. We will, let us just see what is developing here first."

"Fine," Ruby says with edge but is still smiling, "I'll just consider it you owing me... something, making me suffer though an election and all. However will you make it up to me?" Her face turns innocent again, although Jake knows it's not real. "Oh! I almost forgot, I have to get to dinner on time, I don't have much time to get ready!" Ruby looks Jake in the eyes and bites on her lip, "You can tell me later how you'll make it up to me." She kisses him on the lips then runs off to their house to dress.

He watches her run, and shakes his head. "No politics, eh, my love? So why are you meeting with Isby?" He chuckles pleasantly and goes about looking for Shaw and Morand, trying to catch up with them before they leave.

Ruby dresses in her mauve gown and quickly does her hair up. She ties a black velvet ribbon around her neck, grabs her shawl and hurries to the Promise City Hotel. Ruby actually arrives before the Judge. Melissa Smith escorts her to the table that has been reserved for them and asks Ruby what she'd like to drink. She states, "I'll take two iced teas please. I'm sure the Judge will be along any moment."

Chester arrives at Claresse's hotel. He sees her and says, “Evening, Clarisse. Do you want to catch some dinner? The meeting went alright. No troubles at all." She says, "Sure Chet. Just let me get my things." Once she's ready. they go to the Lucky Lady and get a table.

Ruby has been waiting for fifteen minutes when Judge Isby finally arrives. He heads directly to the table and says, "Please forgive me darling, I was confronted by a number of people immediately after the meeting and had a hard time getting away. I'll make it up to you." Ruby smiles and stands when she sees him, offering the Judge her cheek. "That's alright, I know you are a busy man. But I will take that promise," she laughs. "Have a seat, I ordered you an iced tea."

The middle-aged Judge says, "Wonderful, you're getting to know me better. Well, you should be seeing a lot of me as I should be here for a solid month. So dearest Ruby, what have you been doing with yourself for these past eight weeks or so that I've been away?"

"But I am sure you'll be quite busy with the upcoming election." Ruby pulls her napkin into her lap and glanced around to make sure no one is nearby. "It's been a busy eight weeks, to say the least." She waits until they order before beginning her tale.

As long as they are alone Ruby proceeds to quietly tell the Judge about the conclusion to the Cowboy Gang story. She elaborates on the section where she was shot by Johnny Ringo with the special bullet and almost died. "So...Mr. Cook shot and killed Johnny Ringo, thank goodness we don't have to worry about him anymore. But the Earps are still on the warpath, I had a visit from them just a couple of days ago." He replies, you did? They're wanted men. You had better tell me about this visit."

She answers, "Well, before I continue I have to make sure we're still on the same terms as before... and what I tell you is confidential. It's really important to me." He says, "Then maybe you'd better keep what you know to yourself. I have an obligation to the Territory to enforce the law, including going after wanted criminals despite my friendship and admiration for Wyatt Earp."

Ruby nods her head. "I appreciate you not forcing me to explain. For being honest with me, I will tell you this and you can take it or leave it. I believe that Wyatt and his companions were headed to Tombstone." Ibsy says, "Ah, then I don't have to do anything, that's out of my Jurisdiction. Now, what else have you been doing with yourself, you look absolutely radiant."

Ruby pauses for a moment, wondering if maybe someone had wandered close enough to be listening in on him or her. A small blush comes to her face, "Thank you Your Honor, that's very sweet," she says while delicately touching her hair. "Well, let's see... We are renovating the Lucky Lady, making it larger and nicer. We're even thinking of turning it into a hotel. I'm very excited about that." She continues excitedly, "And I'm putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet on the new stage in a few weeks. Oh, say you'll come!"

He replies, "Of course I will come. Can I safely assume that you are playing Juliet?" "I'm so pleased you will come! It's really my pet project, I've always wanted to act for real. But it's going to be a lot of work." She smiles and pulls some hair off her face, "Yes, I'll be playing Juliet, our tragic heroine. It's such a beautiful love story, I hope I can do it justice. So what have you been up to these past two months? Staying out of trouble I hope?"

He answers, "Well, I spent over a week in Prescott presenting the town's petition to the Governor. I finally got him to agree, he was hesitant at first because of the expense to the Territory, which he said would take him a month to locate the funding before he could approve it. So I spent that month in the other three communities where I hold trials, taking care of everything up until now and letting the local law know that I won't be back until July.

I've also spent some more time with Kevin, my teaching him better marksmanship with rifle and revolver and having him teach me swordsmanship. I feel physically better than I have in years. I still weigh the same, 171 pounds, but the small amount of fat that I was carrying around my stomach is now replaced with muscle higher up. I've also given up smoking a pipe."

She says, "This election is going to be all the town is talking about for a while. I'm glad you're here to make sure things go smoothly. The potential for scam artists is great, particularly with a last minute "political party" bait and switch of candidates or even as simply as massive buying of votes from the poorer uneducated folks." Ruby lifts her glass of iced tea off the table, cradling it in her hands. A few condensed droplets run down her fingers, dropping into her lap.

"I've also taken lessons with Kevin, although I'm just beginning. Ironically, I find it very relaxing. It IS a good workout and Kevin is a generous teacher." Ruby takes a sip of her iced tea. "So," she continues curiously, "What has brought on your sudden renewed vigor? Losing weight and even stopping your pipe..."

The tall, dark hair, square-shaped face man with a chiseled jaw looks back at Ruby and says, "I feel better." He drinks another sip of tea and says, "I wish I could say it was your influence but I first started to feel this around a week or two after I had seen you last. Perhaps it is Kevin's instruction that has caused my health to improve.

I'm now forty-seven years of age, which is incidentally the average life expectancy in the United States today, but rather than being on death's door I feel again like I did when I was half my age. My limp has also improved. And amazingly, with my latest haircut I've noticed that my graying sideburns have become dark again. Most would suspect that I have been using dye to make myself appear younger, but I have not, it occurred on its own. I have no explanation other than I feel better about myself."

Ruby smiles, "Well, I wish I could take the credit for your turnaround. You do look better, more alive. And actually happy. I guess you just needed a hobby. I suppose you'd better keep up with Kevin, huh?" she laughs. "But it is odd that it started two weeks after leaving here...were you somewhere special at the time?"

"At any rate, take what works. I wish I knew the secret of youth. My birthday is coming soon and I don't like adding the years on." She exaggerates, "One day my beauty will fade and then what will I be left with? I'll be just another old redhead with nothing to do with her time but reminisce about the old days when life was exciting..."

Isby replies, "We were in the town of Clifton at the time, one of my other court towns. We were going to move on to Safford but Kevin insisted that we had to go back to Wilcox instead, even though we had just been there a few days before. Actually, come to think of it, I didn't actually start to feel a lot better until after we were back in Wilcox.

But enough of that, it is good to be back here and with this election I'll finally get to stay put for a change. That will be nice, especially since I now have a nice place to stay at." She exclaims, "I KNOW you're not talking about that old saloon... where are you staying?" He answers, "Oh, it won't even look like a saloon by the time that Kevin and I are through with it. The territory appropriated $ 300 for us to remodel it. We've already been to Rixton's to buy proper furniture and to both Lacey's and Cook's to get curtains, linens and other odds and ends."

Ruby smiles "Very good! If you need help, let me know. I consider myself talented in the art of decorating. So... I was wondering... we started having these dinners to help each other with the Cowboy problem. Now that is mostly taken care of, do you still see a benefit in us meeting like this?" Ruby's smile is easy but she is anxious to hear the answer.

Isby says, "You honestly think the Cowboy problem is over?" She answers, "Well, not entirely I guess...It was just that Ringo was the one harassing us." He states, "And Ringo was financed by Hamilton Fisk, although we were never able to prove it. And Fisk is planning to run for Mayor. I always suspected Deputy Colin Hunter was part of that mess too, and now he's Fisk's handpicked choice for Town Marshall. No Miss Ruby, this is far from over."

She says, "I understand. I wish that wasn't so but I see it is. I quite enjoy our dinners anyway. It's just... you see... well... I am actually very much in love with my boyfriend. People think I am sleeping with you, makes me look like I'm, well, you know what. And even though Jake says he doesn't mind, I just wanted to make sure I could still be of use, you know what I mean? I don't mind it, as long as it's necessary, I want to help."

Isby says, "Well, if you're calling off our heated love affair I guess I'll just have to wallow back home and cry myself to sleep. But I should point one little tidbit to you first though, the Governor put me in charge of all aspects of this community Incorporation. That mean's that for the next month I'm pretty-much in charge of this town and nobody will want to get on my bad side. I'll have the Cowboys, the Vigilance Committee and anybody else looking to run for office being extra nice to me. I wouldn't be surprised if that was extended to my lady friend…if I had one."

Ruby stares at him for a moment than laughs. "How can a lady turn that down? Please don't take what I said in the wrong way, I was trying to break you with you," she laughs again. "Just wanted to make sure I can still be of use."

Isby replies, "We'll probably have to play it differently this time, play up the fact that you're sharing information with me. We may be able to turn this Jake Cooke thing to our advantage as well, make people think this is all some sort of love triangle." He smile and winks adding, "Of course, I guess it really is until he decides to give up." Ruby fakes a blush. "My now, Your Honor, you'd fight over me?" she giggles.

She says, "Alright, whatever you think is best, you let me know and I'll play along. Is there anything I can do for now?" He replies, "I'm sure that there is, but then, we should probably save that for our honeymoon." He laughs out loud and says, "Actually, I believe that I see a couple over there eating an apple cobbler, how do two pieces of that sound."

"My, my Judge... you DO have some new vigor about you," she says with a raised eyebrow. Then she laughs, "Apple cobbler sounds wonderful." After they finish their cobbler Ruby delicately dabs at her lips. "Well, that was another wonderful dinner. Thank you so much for inviting me. I do enjoy it." “It was my pleasure,” he replies.

"Well Your Honor, I should go prepare for the show tonight. The Saloon is always more crowded when something like today's meeting occurs. Everyone like to come out and gossip," she giggles. She stands and offers him her hand. "Thank you again. I'm certain you'll let me know when you want me again," she says, her dazzling smile appearing on her face. The Judge walks her to the door of the restaurant and kisses her hand. He then heads back inside to settle the bill as Ruby scampers away.

Silver Moon

Chapter Seven, “The Cattleman’s Association ”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 6:15 P.M.

Jake sees the ranchers walking together by the intersection of Fremont and South, with them then turning west onto South Street. By the time Jake reaches that intersection they have already walked by the Promise City Hotel & Cafe and are continuing westward on the street. Jake calls to them, "Mr. Shaw, Mr. Morand, hold on a moment!"

They stop at the intersection of South and Allan and wait for Jake to catch up with them. "Walk with us Mr. Cook," Emery Shaw states as he and his companion continue walking westward. Jake nods and follows them, "I wanted to ask you gentlemen about your plans regarding Promise City. If you do not mind me saying so, I rather respect your opinions and judgment. We may not always see eye to eye, but I would rather have you two involved in the running of Promise City than," Jake coughs, "ahem, let us just say a number of others."

They continue on until the pass Condon’s Bank, stopping in front of the former Indian Head Saloon. Emery Shaw gets out a key and unlocks the door, gesturing for the others to go inside. "Welcome Mr. Cook to the new Cattleman's Association," he states. "You want to know our plans for Promise City, we plan to be an active part of this new community."

Jake grins broadly, "That is good news. I hope the association headquarters is a dry location, I would much rather have you celebrating you successes after the meetings at the Lucky Lady.” Forest Morand says, "I'm sorry to say that it probably will be, since our third partner is Anse King."

Emery says, "Yes, it was high time that the Lazy-S, Bar-W and Rocking-H joined forces. If we had done this previously we might have been able to stop with Cowboy Gang on our own instead of having to wait for Wyatt Earp to come to our rescue."

“After all we do have the golden voice of Ruby West." Jake chuckles. "There's that too," Emery laughs, "Quite a looker that Ruby. If you hadn't snatched her up first I would have." "If she turns out to be the death of me then you can have you chance, but short of that I guess I am a lucky fellow." Jake rubs his beard, "Anse King, huh, seems like you men have your work cut out for you. Any chance of someone making trouble or making it difficult for the ranches, mines or other outlying folks to join up or not? Do you expect any problems in this first part of drawing the map?"

Morand says, "Anse isn't so bad, a lot more reasonable than that wife of his. He's concerned mostly about just running his ranch and finding enough things to keep that son of his busy."
Shaw says, "Just so he leaves my daughters alone, something about that boy never sat right with me." Morand says, "I'll have to talk to my brother and Seawell about the mine, but I imagine we'll want to be part of the town too. As for the Cattlemen's association, we'll be happy to let the smaller legitimate ones join up. There are a few however that we suspect were just fronts for the Cowboy Gang to pass off their rustled cattle. Those we won't want anything to do with."

Jake continues to rub his beard, "You had an rustler problems of late?" "Not since you put Johnny Ringo into the grave," Morand states. Jakes says, "All in all I would say the climate is promising. Let me know if I can be of any service, Mr. Shaw, I feel like I owe you one. I have to get to work now, I'm dealing tonight. I hope to see you gentlemen at the Lady sometime soon."
Emery Shaw says, "I'll stop by later tonight. Jake departs, leaving the two ranchers alone to discuss the future.

At the Lucky Lady Nanuet tells Minerva, "I am proud that you held you temper. I know it is a monumental struggle for you to hold your tongue on certain occasions. Sounds like things will remain interesting around these parts one way or another. It will be interesting to hear what the others have to say about this. I figure Ruby won't care one way or another, Jake will be figuring out the scenario that benefits his interests best and Kate will be looking to fight the good fight, make sure that everyone who deserves a say has one. She helped me see that point awhile back when we were buying the property for the ranch.”

She smiles and he says with a wink, “Let me get you that drink. The wine is back at the house, that will have to wait for later for a more intimate moment" as he walks back to the bar. It is still early on the Wednesday night. Job Kane is around this evening. He usually heads up to Wilcox to visit with his lady friend on Wednesday and Thursdays but has stuck around this week for some unknown reason. He and Niles are seated together over at one of the table sharing together a supper made by Maria while Niles updates Job as to what transpired at the meeting.

When her Indian companion returns Minerva states, “I do believe that some of your endless patience is rubbing off on me, Darling," she grins broadly. "See what a good influence you have upon me? Perhaps you would be willing to continue to influence me later on this evening?" she giggles, running her fingers up his arm. "But for now I think that that a little socializing is in order. I would like to hear what opinions others hold about this incorporation. It is prudent to know who our allies are, who remains to be swayed and whom we must oppose."

He says, “Ok, socializing for you, work for me. And yes, we'll save some more influencing for later on." Thom wanders downstairs. "I'll catch up with you later, let me know if you find out anything good with your socializing. I am going to go see what Thom is up to."

Nanuet makes his way over to the giant man. "Hey there Thom, everything OK? You seem lost." Thom smiles his innocent smile. "No, Thom's not lost. I was just looking for the doggies, but I think Thom should be working now. I like working for Mr. Jake and Ruby they are so much nicer than Mr. Greely was. I miss all the pretty girls who worked for Mr. Greely though, they were always nice to Thom too."

Nanuet smiles at the simple man and nods in agreement. "Well Thom you behave and don't do things to make people mad and the nice people will be nice to you. You can't trust everybody, but most people around here are good people. I like working for Jake and Ruby too. They treat me well. Why don't you see if Maria needs more wood for the stove." Thom nods and does as he is told.

The short walk back to the El Parador passed quickly and Kate went inside looking for Ginnie and dinner. Before she sat down to eat, Kate found Pedro and took him aside for a moment. "What did you think of that meeting?" she asked. Pedro replies "What is to think? Even if Deputy Barker does convince the men to allow women to vote they will never allow non-humans to. Right now I am considered an equal with those in the Merchant's Association. After next Monday I will lose my voice."

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Kate said embraced him. "I'm not sure if that's much comfort, but I intend to fight for the right of every person in this town to make their voice heard, human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc or ogre. We have minds to think with and hearts to feel with, what does the package matter?"

Pedro replies to Kate, "I know that is how you feel. That is one of many reasons why Dorita and I consider you family." She replies, "How did I get so lucky as to land here that day in January? Just don't give up hope. We can't let them win that easily. Now I need to eat something, and ask Dorita if Conrad's been in yet. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Pedro says, "Try these". He hands her a bowl of a baked corn chip snack and a small bowl of salsa to dip them in. He says, "Conrad has not been around since this morning. Dorita tells me that your family will be here the day after tomorrow. Are you planning to go to Tombstone to meet them?"

"Mmm," Kate held up her hand as she finished the bite of the snack she'd just eaten. "That's very good. I hadn't thought to go get them, the telegram says they'll take the stage with General Pleasants and Mr. Caudell's family. Did you need something from Tombstone? I have a day to decide if I want to go meet them." Pedro replies, "Oh no, I never go near there. Elves have never been treated all that well there, if I ever do need something I send Grant to get it."

Kate laid her hand on Pedro's arm and was silent for a moment. "I've not been treated well there either. Let us both stay here and make this town one where we're welcome. I think I'll go upstairs and take dinner with Mr. Gonzales. I'll be sure to let you know any tidbits that come my way."

She turned and went up the stairs to her teacher's public room. It was only a few steps to the spot on the wall where she spoke a few words and made a gesture that revealed the door to his real residence. "Grandpere, are you here?" Kate notices that the Great Hall of the mansion has now been remodeled, with the pool and fountain now considerably larger and filled with fish of various sizes and colors.

Gonzales comes out of the library holding a book in his hand, "Hello Katherine, how nice to see you my little sandpiper. How are you today?" "I'm well," she said and kissed him on the cheek. She got out the telegram and handed it to him. "I've been busy making arrangements for everyone's arrival, and then there was a meeting about the incorporation of the town. I'll have a very busy time trying to sway people to my way of thinking. After you tell me all about how you are, perhaps we could have a lesson? Lately I feel as if... well, as if the spells I learn for one day don't fill me up. If that makes any sense."

Gonzales replies, "You and Ginnie appear to have that in common, the lessons never appear to be long enough for her. I am so glad we made that trip to Boston three weeks back, she's been so much happier ever since then." Kate sat down on the edge of the now larger fountain. "This is lovely. She does seem happier. I'm afraid I didn't get to spend the time with her in Boston I'd have liked too, but I think she feels more part of our family now. I don't want the rest of this year to be a hard time for her, constantly doubting her place.

And no lesson is ever long enough. But what I'm trying to say is, I think I'm ready for slightly more powerful spells. The first ones you taught me, even if I exhaust every spell I have for a day, I feel as if I had more energy, where as before I felt exhausted." He says, "Well, I'm really not up to doing a lesson right now. I was working with Morgana for much of the morning and that about wore me out. Why don't we just sit and chat for a while." "Of course." Kate took one of her favorite spots sitting on the floor next to her teacher's chair.

Another half-hour passes as Kate fills him in on the details of the Town Hall meeting. She concludes "I know I'll have allies when it comes to women being able to vote. I'm more worried about being a lone voice in support of all races voting. And I'm not sure how much influence I have or how far I can push it." He replies, “The lone voice? It strikes me that the main voice in town these days is the Promise City Mirror, edited by the halfling Chumbley and published by the half-elf Morgana. You may be less lonely than you think." She says, "I hope so. I'll have to stop by and see Mr. Chumbley in the next couple days and see what we can come up with. I've never met Morgana."

She stopped and laughed. "Janet Fly was trying to get me to come to dinner at the boarding house soon to meet her gentlemen boarders who 'would be sure to take an interest when I'm ready to be courted.'" He states, "Well, that was certainly nice of her. Seeing as how you and she are next-door neighbors you may want to take her up on that. I'm sure that you and the half-orc Coolie Fagan would make a wonderful couple."

Kate kept laughing with the easy laugh that had only returned to her over the last few weeks. "Mr. Fagan is a gentleman, and probably more suited to me than many of the other men in town." Her voice became more serious as she went on. "I intend to take her up on it. She said today too that now that I have a respectable job I would stop being forced to associate with certain people. Since I want to get along with my neighbors, I think I'll just have to make them love me so much that when the little one makes himself known they just can't get on without me no matter how much they disapprove. I don't intend to change for them at any rate."

Gonzales says, "That is wise. It is always good to get along well with your neighbors. I believe that the Condon Brothers could probably use a reminder of that. Two years ago they were close friends with us and all of the other elves who live on this side of town. Their house was right next-door, where your Mr. Booth now lives and they dined here every evening. But as the town grew up they've gravitated towards the more human and their prejudices."

"I don't know them well, but after what happened with Jake and Chester..." She shook her head. "They seem to blow along wherever the wind pushes them, ingratiating themselves where it seems to make their lives easiest. But perhaps inside them they remember their friends. I might have to remind them."

Gonzales comments that he hasn't eaten anything since breakfast so should probably head down to the Cantina. She replies, "I'm hungry, as usual. Come have dinner with me before I run off for work tonight." The two left the fine rooms and went downstairs into the busy Cantina for one of Dorita's good dinners. After the meal Gonzales says that he needs to go take a nap, that the last few days have been long ones for him and that it is starting to catch up with him. Kate said good night to her teacher, then peeked in the kitchen where she'd thought she'd seen Ginnie once or twice during dinner. She was indeed there, and Dorita was glad to let her take the question-some girl with her over to the Lucky Lady.

Following her dinner with the Judge Ruby takes her time walking over to the Lucky Lady. She kept running though their conversations over and over in her mind. She was going to have to speak with Jake to really make sure he was still ok with her seeing the Judge. She enters the Lucky Lady where her puppies greet her at the door. She stops to play with them for a few moments before heading to the bar for a drink.

As she is slowly enjoying her whiskey, lost in her thoughts, a particular thought pops to the front. "Oh!" she says out loud to no one then looks around for Niles. "I quite forgot Mr. Blake was coming back around dinner time. Did he?" Niles says, "No, but the announcements by the Judge seem to have distracted most of the folks in town. I'm guessing that he'll drop by later."

Ruby says, "I know what you mean about being distracted. I guess it's not all that important for the moment. We still haven't even asked Jeff if he's interested. But we should get prepared, I bet we'll be busy tonight. What do you think about all this election stuff?"

He states, "Too soon to say, but incorporation might be a good idea. I was talking Dave Melany over at the Western Union office. He's getting sick and tired of having to have telegrams travel back and forth to Tombstone by stagecoach. He says that it now takes longer to get word from here to Tombstone than from Tombstone Arizona to Paris France. According to Melany there's a Territorial Law that all incorporated towns have to be able to send telegrams to the capital in Prescott. So if this thing passes then the Territory will be required to finally finish putting in the telegraph lines."

Ruby replies, "That's very interesting. Well, I guess it is very interesting to those who would get telegraphs. Eventually progress even has to make it's way here to little ol' Promise City. Did they start bringing the telegraph here already?"

Niles says "Oh, they started to do that a year-and-a-half ago, when they started laying railroad tracks. The telegraph lines were going in parallel the rails. But the tracks only made it five miles east of Tombstone when the railroad changed their mind and stopped.

Western Union had already set up their office here under the assumption that the line would soon be finished, Melany's basically been stranded here ever since with only about an hour's worth of work to do each day, passing out the telegrams that the stagecoach delivers here. Spends the rest of his time helping out Steve Lord at the Alhambra.

"Poor guy, getting stuck like that. Well, maybe now they'll finish it, like you said." Ruby takes another sip of her whiskey. "Hey, do you know why Job is here tonight? Isn't he usually up in Wilcox with his girl on Wednesdays?" Niles replies, "Yeah he is. I asked and he said that he doesn't want to talk about it. I assume that they had some sort of a fight. Ah, young love."

He smiles at two of Tony Lucky's players who have just walked in and sit down at the usual table. He turns back to Ruby and asks, "How many spare rooms do we have available at the moment? My nephew Bert will be here any day now, I could have him share my room with him if necessary. My friend George Kilgore will need a place too, but I suppose I can ask the Milfords to let him stay at the Double Eagle."

She answers, “Well Niles, I think we have at least three. One on the third floor, the one your liquor was in, and my old room. Maybe you want to move in there? We had that space we used for an office, that little separate room, but it would be perfect for your nephew. That way you could be together but still have some privacy. If your friend George is going to help with Jeff's job he should stay here anyway. Of course, the addition will be done soon and then we'll have plenty of rooms."

"Which reminds me, have you thought of anyone who might be good for us to add to our staff, someone who has some idea how to run a hotel?" she laughs. "Plus I've been looking for a faro dealer, have you heard anyone who can deal?" Niles says, "The only one I know of is Mad Dog Mike Moore, but I don't think I'd trust the guy. He used to deal over at the Indian Head, which got shut down for being housing those guys who robbed the gun shop."

She answers, "Well, have to keep our eyes and ears open, we would want someone trustworthy. But we can look, especially now since Jake got that beautiful table for his birthday. At some point I want to go over the schedule for the play. I would like to do more than one performance. I was thinking at least three, maybe Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The evenings could be at 7:00 P.M. so it won't take away too much card time. Maybe the profits from the Sunday show could help benefit the school or something. Don't say anything about that yet though, I'm not sure."

Kate arrives at the Lucky Lady, surprised to see Job Kane there, but it was an odd day all around. She stepped over to the bar. "Good evening, Ruby. Mr. Hoover. I think we're a little early tonight." Ruby gets a little guilty look on her face and her eyes widen slightly at Niles. She turns to her friend and says, "Evening Kate. How did the rest of the house work go?"

Kate replies, "No trouble. It was just little things, mostly. Finishing the wallpapering will have to wait for another day. If I wait until my brothers get here I can probably get them to do it for me. I saw you at the meeting. I was surprised, I didn't think you were interested." Ruby laughs, "Depends on what you're saying I am interested in. If you meant seeing fireworks... that I'm interested in. As long as I'm not the target anyhow. If you mean the completely boring and utterly useless idea of the election then you're right."

Kate says, "We're just going to have to agree to disagree there. But I bet you wish they'd let Helen Barker draw her gun then. There weren't too many fireworks today. Those will come later. Pedro's feeling discouraged. He has a voice in the Merchant's Association and he doesn't want to lose that." Ruby replies, "Agree to disagree on what? As for Pedro, I bet he feels pretty helpless. We already know how a very vocal part of the community feels about non-humans. I don’t' know how possible it would be for him to get a vote."

Kate responds, "Disagree on the uselessness of elections. I'm not sure either, but I'm going to do my best to make it happen. Judge Isby said he was actually glad Bill Watkins opened his mouth today. It will help those less vocal people get motivated to make sure him and people who share his views don't run amok." Ruby says, "Well Kate, how are you going to feel if you do all that work to fight for what is right and Hamilton Fisk gets into office because he has more money than anyone else?"

Kate answers, "Like running him down on my horse. But this is happening whether we like it or not. Ignoring it won't change the outcome. Taking action might. I'll take might over won't any day." Ruby replies, "I'm not ignoring anything Kate. I just don't care. I've had too much of back stabbing lying politics in my life and come to realize that the rich just get their way, no matter what it says on paper. My experience has never been different so why should I think this one would be?"

She then adds, "That being said, I had dinner with the Judge. Actually, I want to talk to you about that but I don't know now is the right time." She glances around the Saloon looking for Jake. "I think I'll have the opportunity to help you in some way with the play. Or at least Jake seems to think so." Kate says, "Just let me know when and I'll be glad to listen," Kate said, a bit confused. "Don't compromise your play though, I know how important it is to you. You're going to have so much fun with that play. I hope you'll let me know if there's any way I can help you with it when I'm not teaching."

Ruby answers, "Of course I will! But I know you are really busy these days so I expect you won't have much time to participate. But we have a musical director now so soon she'll be casting the little orchestra, if you want to play the piano. Of course, you can always give me your opinions on costumes too, although I know we have different tastes in dresses," she says laughing while looking over Kate then looking over herself.

"The other thing, well, it's about seeing the Judge and I don't want to talk about it if Jake is here, you know? I don't know where he is." Kate says, "Well, these dinners with the Judge are more along the lines of business meetings, aren't they? Why would that bother Jake? Now costumes, that depends on whether you want to be faithful to the time period the story happens in, or if you want to go beyond those boundaries some. Remember Juliet is fourteen and the protected daughter of a wealthy family. Her dresses wouldn't look like yours," Kate laughed.

"The dinners... well... they were supposed to be and now I'm not so sure about the Judge... and if Jake is being honest about him not caring. I mean, I know I have to ask him. I just...let's just wait to talk about it. As for the costumes, I mean, they should be close to the time period, right? And suitable for family audiences. i know something about how Juliet feels being all protected and such. I can't stand high necks and all that crap. I have to show off some of my best assets, right?" she smiles innocently. "After all, some customers are coming to see me."

Silver Moon

Chapter Eight, “The Fate of the Earp Vigilantes”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 7:00 P.M.

Clarisse and Chester finish their meal. She says that they have another hour until she has to sing her first set at the Comique. She asks him what his opinion is of this town election. Chester lights a cigarette. Stubbing out the match, he says, "As far as I can see, this is good for the town. We get a proper government, which leads to stability. Of course if the wrong kind of people get elected, then it gets bad. Do you believe women and non-humans should get the vote? It could change who gets into office."

Regarding Ruby’s costume as Juliet, Kate says, "Don't worry, high necks weren't in vogue at that time. In fact, they had a tendency to show a lot more than we do now. You'll feel right at home," she teased. Kate watched Ginnie scampering around the room and smiled. "I feel a little bit like Juliet today; Mrs. Fly was trying to matchmaker for me." She went on lightly telling the story with a laugh. "And here I thought I'd be spared that, being already taken. I have to admit I'm rather curious at to who might have been interested. Vain of me, isn't it?"

Jake walks in to the Lucky Lady and starts to head for the stairs but when he sees Katherine and Ruby he stops and goes to meet them. "Good evening," tipping his hat, "how are we all tonight?"

Kate peeked over Jake's shoulder as she moved between them and the door. "Just fine. My family will be here Friday, I hope you'll stop by the El Parador on Friday night and meet them. Although since I'll be working they might come here afterward."

A tall man bearded man of around twenty years of age enters the Lucky Lady behind Jake. He is wearing a brown derby hat, yellow high collared shirt, dark wool pants held up with brown suspenders and bow tie, plus a big fat canvas satchel over his shoulders.

Harry Rote stops the man and asks him what he has inside the bag. “This“, he states as he thrusts his hand into the satchel. Perennially the distrustful soul, Jake steps between the ladies and the man standing with Harry though the young gambler does not draw his pistol but watches closely.

The man pulls out a newspaper and calls out loudly to the entire Saloon, “Tombstone Epitaph, Special Edition, Ten Cents.” He holds up a copy of the paper with the bold headline covering half the front page which reads: Earp Vigilantes Killed!!!

Kate's face turned pale and she thumped down into the nearest chair. "Jake, would you..." she trailed off, waving her hand toward the papers. Jake's hand falls away from his holster, "Harry, buy a few for us and send him on his way."

All seven of the other patrons in the Lucky Lady rush up to purchase copies as Harry gets three dimes from the cash register to buy thee of them. The man pockets his dollar in change and heads back out the door with his satchel. Harry hands two of the papers to Jake while he begins to read the third with Niles Hoover peering over his shoulder. Kate mutters, "Can they really be gone?"

Jake grabs the two from Harry and noticing Minerva and Nanuet waves them over. He drops a paper on the table between Katherine and Ruby before going around the other side and opening the other copy and placing it on the table so others can see if they are interested. He reads. The story begins on page one and then continues onto the second and third pages.

Earp Vigilantes Killed!!!

During the night of Tuesday, May 23rd, four members of Wyatt Earp’s vigilante gang were killed in Cochise County’s central Dragoon Mountains. The identified dead consist of Warren Earp, Turkey Creek Johnson, Charlie Smith and Texas Jack Vernillin. By all appearances they were not slain by their enemies but died due to their own carelessness as victims of a dynamite accident.

The Earp Vigilante gang has been hunting and killing members of the cattle rustling Cowboy Gang since mid-march when Tombstone’s Deputy Marshall Morgan Earp was shot and killed in town. In the last ten weeks nearly thirty reputed gang members have been slain by the Earp Vigilantes. Ironically, the Earp/Cowboy war began in early March when the bodies of four reputed Cowboy Gang members were discovered in the Dragoon Mountains.

Prospectors Bruce Herd, Theodore Lavoie, Ronald Pierce and Dickey ‘Boom Boom’ Swanson were working a claim at the northern tier of the Dragoon Mountains when they heard the continuous sounds of multiple explosions at approximately 10:30 P.M. last evening. They approached the scene of burning fires and great destruction, seeing from a distance the mangled bodies of four men and six horses. Herd and Lavoie rode to Tombstone to alert the authorities while Pierce and Swanson stood guard.

Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan and Tombstone Marshall Virgil Earp investigated the scene together. It was later discovered that two full one-hundred-stick cases of dynamite had been stolen from Crowley’s Hardware in Tombstone. Sheriff Behan speculates that the Earp Vigilantes stole the dynamite to use in their war against the Cowboy Gang.

Most of the dynamite appeared to have still been inside the saddlebags of the unfortunate horses although it appears that at least Turkey Creek Johnson had some on his person. Johnson looks to have moved too close to the group’s campfire, which caused the dynamite that he carried to detonate. That began a chain reaction of explosions as the dynamite on the horses also ignited.

The present whereabouts of the vigilante leader Wyatt Earp and his associate Sherman McMasters are unknown. Their horses were found among the carnage, apparently brought by the others to help transport the dynamite. There were no tracks indicating that anybody had left the scene of the accident, nor is it likely that anybody else present could have survived the force of the explosions. It is therefore assumed that Earp and McMasters are still waiting at their hideout for their associates to return and may still be unaware of the mishap. Behan has reorganized his posse and has now gone off to search for these two men.

Marshall Virgil Earp is said to be distraught over the death of his youngest brother and is planning to accompany Warren Earp’s body back to the family’s home in California. Speculation is that he will resign his position as Tombstone’s Town Marshall.

Kate let out a long sigh. "So Virgil will leave and none will be left. And I'm still here." Ruby looks under the headline to see if an author is listed. The story's byline is listed as Sam Purdy. He is also listed as being the paper's Editor and Publisher rather than John Clum. She comments “I don't know who the author is. I wonder if this story has any truth to it?" Kate interjects, "You thought it all sounded a bit suspicious too?"

Ginnie speaks up after reading the article over Kate's shoulder "Why don't we talk to Chumbley? It's a newspaper and he's a newspaperman. He has contacts that would get the information quicker than any of us could. And he seems to really like Ruby too. And one thing he's good at is talking.”

Jake snorts a laugh, "Good is an understatement, girl." He then drops his hat on the table and runs a hand through his hair. "I would say that it is pretty likely those four are dead. The bodies will be seen, it will be easy to verify that. Ginnie's idea has merit, who knows if the circumstances as described are true." Then in a low whisper, "Remember when Chester was hurt in the explosion while invisible and we had trouble finding him? There could be two other bodies there and no one would have seen them. Or Wyatt could have simply been somewhere else at the time."

"That's a good idea Ginnie," Kate exclaims as she slipped her arm around Ginnie's waist and leaned her head against her shoulder. "I bet he's fuming about being scooped. It's early yet, we could send someone over to his office and ask him to stop by.” She stops, "Harry," Kate called. "Would you do us a favor and run over to the newspaper office? If Mr. Chumbley isn't busy we'd like to see him. Tell him I'll buy him one of Maria's good dinners for his trouble."

Ruby states, "You're right Jake, they could be there and no one can find them. Although that particular uh, effect, only lasts so long." Ruby pauses and bites her lip for a minute. "Poor Josie, when she reads this she will be frantic. I would be."

The Lucky Lady remains rather quiet. Tony Lucky arrives but instead of starting his usual poker game gets caught up in the newspaper and conversation with his players about it. Nanuet heads over to see what Jake needs. He eyes the newspaper and shakes his head. "Can't read it boss. What's up?" Harry returns with Chumbley causing the quiet to cease. He rushes up to Ruby and exclaims "Ruby! Can you believe it! The Earps blowing themselves to bits!" "Good evening Mr. Chumbley. No," she laughs, "Actually I can't believe it. Doesn't it sound a little... suspicious?"

Nanuet exclaims, "Is that what's in the paper? Something happened to the Earps?" "Oh, right. Forgot." Jake starts to reads the pertinent sections to him but is interrupted by Chumbley who says, "If only one of the lawmen had checked it out I'd say so, but with both John Behan and Virgil Earp agreeing then it's probably true. Sam Purdy isn't one to go make things up either. But I'll find out for sure tomorrow. Angela Young and I will be taking the Stagecoach to Tombstone in the morning."

"Then who will be left to report on the Promise City doings if you two leave?" Ruby pauses. "You trust Johnny Behan?" Chumbley replies, "Oh, I'd just be staying in Tombstone for the hour or two before it heads back here. That should give me enough time to find out some new information for my own paper and also introduce Angela to the people she'll need to talk to. She would come back on Friday. That way I should be able to get papers new editions of the paper out both Friday and Saturday! Ruby, would you care to run ads in either of them? They should be really good sellers!" She replies, "You're right, they probably will be. Sure Chumbley, we'll take some ads. We have a lot of news coming up soon."

Jake looks towards Kate and says, "You still counting Earp heads Katherine? I suppose I can understand that you feel connected to that family. Does not seem healthy though." Jake shrugs and looks around at all the others in the saloon still chatting on about the Earps.

He then asks, "Is that troublemaker brother of yours coming in to town with your family? Maybe I can show him around town." Jake smirks. "I trust they will be here for a bit, I will likely be out of town on Friday. I promised an attractive young lady a visit to Tucson soon, and I might not be back by Friday. Probably not long after though I would be back." "Oh!" Ruby jumps into Jake's conversation, "Are we going now, Jake, are we?" She has a huge smile on her face and looks like she is about to burst waiting for the answer.

Kate says, "Not counting heads so much as counting the days until there isn't an Earp within 100 miles of me. I don't really expect more trouble from them, but some people find protecting the memory of someone just as important as protecting their life. I'll just be easier if they're far away.

And yes, Henry will be here, and my younger brother Phil too. You're lucky Henry isn't bringing his wife, you wouldn't have any fun then. You try all you want to corrupt him," Kate laughed. "I want them to enjoy their trip." Jake says, "Can do, Katherine. I myself do not do any corrupting, I just help folks find their inner truth."

Chumbley says to Ruby, "Good, figure out what size ads and what you want for copy, Josiah Young can get those all typeset while I'm away tomorrow." While he is talking an obviously distraught Josie Markus comes into the Lucky Lady. She is crying and being helped along by her friend and Clarisse's cousin Julia Barbeau. A copy of the newspaper is sticking out of the pocket of Julia's dress.

Ruby doesn't get her answer to Jake's statement before Josie arrives. Ruby hurries over to her and puts an arm around her and moves them away from the nosey newspaperman. "I'm sorry Josie, come on, have a seat." Ruby helps her sit and waves to someone to get her a drink. "Look, we don't really know anything yet and the article doesn't mention Wyatt..."

Josie replies softly, "Virgil will know, Wyatt will have contacted him if he's still alive. I have to get to Tombstone to find out. Oh this is so awful, we saw all of those men just yesterday. How could this have happened?" Ruby shrugs, "I really don't know. But Wyatt was doing something very dangerous and we all knew it. He just wouldn't give up his need for vengeance. But let's not make any assumptions until you know for sure. Are you going to leave tomorrow?"

Jake says across the room to Ruby, "I thought we might leave on the morning stage to Tombstone, if that is any help." Ruby gives Josie a reassuring smile, "We'll take you tomorrow Josie, if that was your plan." She tries to keep her own excitement under wraps at her friend’s misfortune. Seeing that her friend is in good hands with Ruby and Jake, Julia heads over to the table with Chester and Clarisse to join them.

Kate kept herself away from the woman who came in. She had never met Josie Markus, and she wasn't feeling particularly sympathetic at the moment. When Jake went to join Ruby, she followed Julia over to Chester and Clarisse’s table. "Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?"

Chester sees the look on Julia's face. "What's going on? Why was everyone clustered around the newspaper like that?" Julia replies, "Oh it's terrible. Wyatt Earp and a few others were going after the Cowboy Gang. But there was an accident and some of them are... Wyatt's missing, so Josie is worried sick."

Josie says to Ruby that would be wonderful if she could accompany her to Tombstone. She then asks Ruby if there is somewhere that she can go lie down. "Of course, I'll bring you upstairs." She brings the glass of whiskey and helps Josie to the room near the top of the stairs. It was all set up again now that Nile's liquor was out in the shed out back. "You'll feel better after a nap," she says, placing the glass down on the nightstand. "Where have you been staying?"

Josie replies, "With Julia, in her room at the Gay Lady. Now that she's involved with Colonel Seawell she doesn't see other men in her room anymore, so having a friend there isn't an imposition. Thank you Ruby, you are very kind. What time will the stagecoach leave?"

She replies, "The stage leave at 9:00 A.M. I know, it's very early. But the sooner we leave the sooner we get there. You can always sleep on the stage. You take some rest. If you feel like it, you can stay here tonight if you'd rather be alone." Ruby kisses her friends cheek and closes the door behind her when she leaves.

When Ruby takes Josie upstairs, Jake makes his way to Job Kane. "Partner, you are not looking too happy today and your attendance is unexpected." Job says, "I was about to head out of town when I heard about Isby calling the meeting so I stayed to find out what that was all about. Bernice knows that I can't always get away from here, but I do miss seeing her." Jake replies, "Nothing more serious than that? You seem awfully low. What does she do to earn her living, seem to be you could convince her to move here. I am sure we could figure something out."

Ruby heads back downstairs, the smile now growing on her face. She decides not to interrupt Jake and Job so instead she returns back to Kate and Ginnie. "So, I guess I won't be here when your family arrives. I am sorry about that," she says, her smile remaining.

Kate turned from the table where she was sitting with Chester, Julia, and Clarisse and returned the smile. "No you're not. They'll be arriving in Tombstone while you're there. You might even see them and you wouldn't even know it. As long as you're not gone too long, you'll be back before they leave." "I am actually sorry, just not ALL that sorry," Ruby laughs. "You're right, I wouldn't know it, I haven't even seen a picture or anything. Don't worry, we won't be gone too long. I have a play to put on in a few weeks after all."

Conrad Booth arrives at the Lucky Lady. He goes directly up to Chumbley and says, "All set little guy." "Thanks," Chumbley replies as the halfling heads out the door. "Uh, bye Chumbley!" Ruby calls out after him. She turns back to her friends, "What was that all about?" Kate looked at Conrad with one eyebrow raised and said, "I don't know. Care to enlighten us?"

Conrad says, "My friends Morgana and Josiah Arcadiam asked me to go to Tombstone tomorrow along with him and his reporter. Chumbley won't be staying there long and they were worried about their employee Angela being alone in that wild town. They need their ace reporter there to cover the story but that place is still too dangerous for a very pregnant fifteen-year-old girl to be by herself, and sending any of the members of Arcade's Gang along would probably just be asking for trouble."

Kate nodded. "You'll see my family there then. They're arriving tomorrow. Mr. Pickering's students are coming here on the stage tomorrow, and my family with come with General Pleasants and Mr. Caudell and his family on Friday." Conrad says, "And starting tomorrow that place will also be swarming with newspapermen and photographers. When will your family be arriving?"

"Mmm," Kate took the telegram out of her pocket and looked at it. "Noon tomorrow. Then the General and his friends on Friday morning. I hadn't been planning to meet them, but if the town is going to be swarming maybe I should. Oh. Papa said to tell you what you ordered is with them and he's keeping a close eye on them."

"Ah, the buggies. I suppose I could rent a horse from the O.K. Corral to ride one of them back here once Angela is done. That would probably be safer for the buggy than having the stagecoach tow it. Wait a minute, your school isn't opened yet. If you and Ginnie wanted to come along too you could meet your folks and then ride the other buggy back."

Kate stopped and thought for a moment. "I don't like leaving with the election meetings coming up so soon, but I think I can work it. I might just ride along with the stage though, then I'll already have a horse for the buggy. We could bring one for you and Angela, too." He replies, "Good idea, that would save us having to rent them." he states. As Ginnie is running around he asks her and she enthusiastically approves. He tells Kate, "Don't worry about the election meeting, it isn't until Monday. We'll be back on Friday." Kate nodded. "Then it's all settled. Poor Maman, I think life here is going to quite shock her, starting with my riding leathers," she said with a smile.

Ruby says, "Oh, that's going to be one crowded stage. I'll be right back." She heads over to Jake, wrapping an arm around him. "We'd better get our tickets before the stage books up. I wonder if a lot of people might try to get to Tombstone tomorrow? I wouldn't want us to miss our trip."

Jake replies, "I had not considered that. I am overdue to start my game. Maybe you could send someone over to get the tickets if they are still open? If not we can have somebody waiting when they open in the morning." He gives her a squeeze and a kiss. "Oh, and remind me at my first break to tell you and the others about my conversation with Emery Shaw and Tempel Morand."

Job catches Jake before he heads back to his game and says, "Thanks for asking. I've tried to talk my dear Bernice Turner into moving here but she has resisted that idea. As for how she makes her living, she and her late husband had managed to accumulate some savings. Her husband's Uncle Colin also helps to support her."

Jake freezes in mid-step. He slowly and with composure turns back to Job and asks, "Her husbands uncle? Would that be a brother to her late husbands father? I mean to say, is his name Turner too?" Job replies, "Yes, he's a businessman from somewhere further east, West Texas or maybe New Mexico. I've only met him a couple of times. You might have met him, he was in town last month during the festival and I think he stopped by here for a drink."

DM's Note: What actually transpired with the Earps occurred with my other gaming group and can be found in Chapters 98 to 100 of this Campaign.

Silver Moon

Chapter Nine, “Travel Arrangements”, Wednesday, May 24th, 1882, 7:00 P.M.

Kate says to Conrad, "As long as you're here let me ask. Kate Higgins, I'm sure she'll be all for us ladies being able to vote. Do you think she'd be supportive of all races voting?" Conrad replies, "Hard to say. One of her working girls is a half-elf but she generally discourages non-human customers, although she doesn't outright prohibit them like the Palace. But you can count on her spearheading the women's vote movement. And yes, I already got her permission to have tomorrow night off, but I should be heading back over there now." Kate replies, "Let me walk you out." Kate stood up and took his arm, then walked with him out onto the Lucky Lady's porch. "I'll see you tomorrow," she said giving his hand a discrete squeeze.

When Kate leaves, Clarisse says to Chester, "Don't Mrs. Kale and Mr. Booth make a nice couple? I don't approve of how he makes his living, but it's not my place to say." "Kate and Conrad? I knew they spend a lot of time together, but seeing each other? I had no idea." Clarisse giggles. "That's because you're not paying attention. But I could tell from the way they look at each other."

Ruby bounces off to find Harry. "Would you mind terribly running to the Wells Fargo office and picking up three tickets for tomorrow's stage? It's important that we're on it and I have a feeling it will sell out. I have to get singing soon or I'd go myself." Ruby reaches down her bodice and retrieves some money, pushing it into Harry's hands without counting it. "Thank you!" she practically sings.

She starts bouncing her way to the stage, making sure to take the direction that leads her near Jake. "I sent Harry..." she begins but stops short. He had his poker face on and to anyone but Ruby he was his normal self. "Job, we need to talk later in private." He walks towards his poker table when Ruby intercepts him. "What's wrong Jake?" she asks, when she finally looks at his face.

He replies, "I cannot... uh, talk about it right now. We will need to talk later. Nothing to, um, worry about right now but something we just need to think about." Jake blinks a couple of times before he gives her a weak smile. "I have some money that needs removing from some nice people's wallets."

Ruby furrows her brows as Jake weakly smiles at her and sets up at his table. She shrugs. Jake was probably just being paranoid again. She was too excited to let that get in the way of her good mood. Ruby nods to Kate and when she is ready the two of them begin their night of lively tunes. Ruby sings her heart out on love ballads and drinking songs but she stays away from anything sad, tragic or depressing. She weaves her way in and out of the crowd, thoroughly enjoying herself as she entertains.

When the break comes along, Jake gathers up as many of his friends and partners as he can find. He relates his conversation with the Misters Shaw and Morand. "Those are two good men to have involved in running the town, so there is reason for optimism. They seemed to think that Mr. King was a good partner, just his wife needed some handling. Katherine, if you consider yourself a cattle ranch, you should talk to them. They appear open to include the smaller ranches in their association."

Ruby says, "Mr. Shaw is a good man, he's been so helpful to us... except... well, he is prejudiced against non humans. He made some comments about Nanuet on one of our trips. I was surprised to hear it from him actually, he seems so kind, he has been kind, to me."

Niles says, "Well, you can't really blame Shaw for being somewhat prejudiced against Indians, his grievances are legitimate. Twenty years ago his ranch was attacked multiple times by the Apache under the command of Cochise. Cochise declared war on humans. The Shaw's ranch were the only humans to survive that, and I'm sure that there were many times where he thought that he and his family were going to be killed."

Ruby nods. "That makes sense then, must have been very scary. Besides that I haven't found another fault in him yet and even that has an explanation. He is a good man to have on our side, no matter what we do. Kate, you'd do well to join up with them. They could become one powerful force."

Kate says, "And how welcome do you think we'd be, Ruby? Even if it was just me as a representative for our ranch, Nanuet and Sonoma own just as much as I do. And lets face it, Sonoma does most of the work. I'm not saying they wouldn't accept us, but I'm not sure I should approach them without some kind of invitation, or at least being told of their existence by them."

Ruby replies, "Excuse me, Kate, it was just an idea for the future. I suppose you haven't has the same experience with Emery as I have. He would be a good man to have as a supporter is all and I thought it would be good if you figured things out before they approached you. I mean, why wouldn't they, Jake said they were going to ask the smaller ranches. And we, that includes you and Nanuet, helped get some of his stolen cattle back. Emery has promised me he will stop in here one of these days and I am sure he will. It was just something for you and your partners to think about."

"I'm not offended by the idea, Ruby," Kate said gently. "You're absolutely right. I'm just edgy about what Bill Watkins said today. Human male landowners are the only ones who do anything in this town? He should spend a day out at the ranch watching Sonoma work."

"Oh." Ruby ponders for a moment. "Don't listen to that idiot. I bet his wife would have something to say about that, I mean, does she sits around on her butt all day doing nothing? Or does she do his laundry and pick up after him, make his meals... Without her he'd probably be nothing. Please," she rolls her eyes, "I'd like to hear him say that to my face. I could have a line of men out the door vouching for what I do for them." Ruby giggles, "Maybe I don't want to know though."

"Sometimes what you imagine is more fun than the truth anyway," Kate smiled. "I bet in this case, what is real would be far worse than anything Mr. or Mrs. King could imagine." Ruby bursts out in giggles.

Kate says, "I'll talk to Sonoma about it when I speak to her about whether we want to be inside town limits or not. Speaking of.... Nanuet, what do you think? It's our choice whether we want to be city limits or not. If we are, we'll be subject to the town’s laws and any taxes they decide to levy, but we'll also have the protection of the town Marshall and any other benefits. I'm just not sure what to do yet."

Nanuet ponders what Kate says for a moment, a puzzling look on his face. "Well I think if we were one of the only ones who didn't join up we'd be a target for sure. If we do decide to try and incorporate into the town then we would have some protection should something go wrong. This kind of thing is still very foreign to me, so I might change my mind before the whole thing is final, but my initial response would be yes. As far as this whole thing regarding non-humans, we need to straighten some things out. Let me get some numbers together, see how many of us non-humans there are and see how much of an influence we really have. We can definitely shake some things up."

Kate's smile grew wider as Nanuet went on. This attitude wasn't one they'd have seen back in January. "I hadn't thought of the disadvantage we might be at if most others join and we don't.
I'd bet you have a lot of influence if you speak together. Let me know if I can help in any way with the shaking, Nanuet."

Harry Rote returns and gives Ruby the three Stagecoach tickets. He says, "That newspaperman Chumbley bought three as well, and had asked them about leaving earlier that 9:00 A.M. Kris Wagner says he's willing to if they manage to sell all eight seats and everybody is agreeable." Ginnie has caught the conversation and asks Kate, "Won't we be needing those two other tickets?"

"I'm going to ride alongside on Meribel, I don't know if they'll want me to buy a ticket or not as I'll expect them to carry my luggage. We'd just need one for you unless you want to ride alongside as well." Ginnie's face scrunched up in distaste and Kate said, "I didn't think so. She turns and says, “Harry, I hate to ask you to go back out again, but would you? Tell Mr. Wagner we're willing to go early, and just buy two tickets. If for some reason I don't want to ride tomorrow then I'd be able to go inside the coach." Kate dipped into her handbag and gave him enough money for two fares.

Ginnie says, "Ma'am Kate, that would be a waste of money. One-way tickets to Tombstone run $ 3.00. Buy me one but not you if you're riding instead, we'll tell them your bag is mine. If you want to leave early we should just see if anybody else wants to join us." "I suppose you're right, but who else might want to go?" "Kate?" Ruby says in a questioning voice, "Are you going to Tombstone too? I thought your family was coming here?"

She replies, "Conrad is going with Chumbley and his reporter to keep her safe after Chumbley comes back. The buggies he ordered are on their way with my family, so I'm going to drive one of them back. Plus, with the news out Tombstone will be buried in journalists. I thought it might be better if I went to meet my family since it's probably going to be pretty chaotic in Tombstone."

Ruby says, "I didn't know Kate, or we would have brought you tickets too. Sorry about that. Probably a good idea to get your family, Tombstone can be overwhelming. Then again they are already from a big city so it shouldn't be that huge of a deal. Anyway... I'd better get back to singing another set. I still have to get home and pack my stuff after we're done here."

Minerva spends the evening listening in and joining in on other's conversations. Whenever she is asked and even when she is not asked, she voices her opinion that ALL should have a right to vote and run for office. "We are all children of the gods and should be treated with equal favor."

As Chester is walking Clarisse out to the Comique, he overhears the others planning to go to Tombstone. He stops and asks, "Mind if Clarisse take that last seat? We haven't been there together, so now's a god a time as any. With this news about the Earps, I should ask Virgil what he knows. Wyatt may try to come back here after all. Harry, stay here. I'll get the tickets after I walk Miss Townsend over to the Comique. OK?" Harry says, "Sure, Chet."

While the others are discussing Promise City politics and travel plans Jake seems distracted. He looks over a Job Kane a number of times before he finally pushes his chair back and walks over to him. He brings him over to the corner of the saloon where they can speak quietly and alone. "Job, this is going to sound fairly far fetched but here goes."

Jake explains how one Colin Turner came to town and threatened Ruby, how they learned he was actually a monster, and how they went to Thomaswell to find him and destroy him, and finally how they discovered other monsters and destroyed them. "Now we do not know if this Colin Turner was destroyed or not, but he did not seem to be in Thomaswell any more. I was not sure I should tell you, partly because you would think I was a lunatic, and partly because I am afraid you would bring Bernice here and give Colin Turner, if it IS the same Colin Turner and that seem likely, another reason to come back to Promise City. Well, you are my business partner and my friend, and ... well ... I could do no less."

Jake looks down at his feet and shuffles about for a moment and adds, "When we have more time I can tell you the whole story, that is if you do not believe I belong in an asylum." Job says, "What....Turner some sort of monster? I'm confused Jake, what exactly are you saying? First you ask me about bringing her here and now you don't want me to?"

Jake replies, "I am a bit confused myself. No, you should have your woman wherever you feel she is safe. I just had a selfish moment worrying about Ruby. You understand? Bernice is still welcome here. I had no idea that her uncle could have been the same man that became one of those monsters. Colin Turner may be destroyed, and if not he may be too afraid of us to ever come back. I have no way of knowing either way. If she does hear from him, I would greatly appreciate knowing about it."

Rubbing the back of his neck he adds, "The priestess has some books, in them they describe what these monsters can do and how to protect yourself. Perhaps we will never hear from this Colin Turner again, but being a good gambler Mr. Kane you might want to take a read of those books. Like I said before, we can talk more later and I can tell you everything else I know."

Job says, "I'll do that. Just as well that I'm not dealing tonight, I doubt I could at this point. You say he threatened Ruby? Jake, I feel terrible, I was the one who invited him here, last January not long after we first bought this place." Jake startles at that but then says, "Job, how could you have known? Just do not invite him back again, partner." Jake forces a smile at the poor attempt at humor. Ruby eyes Jake speaking with Job, again looking like something is wrong. She gets up on stage minding her own business and sings her set with her mind half on Tucson. Jake and Job speak for minute longer before Jake heads back to his table and an uneventful night.

After he walks Clarisse to the Saloon, Chester visits the Wells Fargo office. "Evening Mr. Wagner. I'd like to buy the last two tickets on the morning stage to Tombstone, please." Kris Wagner hands over the tickets. Chester says, "Thanks. Can we leave earlier than 9:00? We want to get an early start on the day." Wagner replies, "Sure, but you'll need to agree on a time with the Promise City Mirror and the Lucky Lady, they've each got three people going on this run."

"Should have asked before I left. I'll be right back." Chester jogs back to the Lucky Lady. "Kate, what time do you want to leave tomorrow? I got the last two tickets on the stage." He hands one to her. "This is for Ginnie. Clarisse is going to be riding on the coach. I can ride alongside." Kate replies, "I'm agreeable to any time, Chester, I didn't really need to leave early myself. I think eight would be fine."

Ruby finishes her set for the evening. She continues to be excited as she says goodbye to some of her regular customers. Finally she ends at Nanuet. She explains that she and Jake will be gone for some time, going to Tucson to visit a friend. "Will you keep an eye on the place while we're gone please?" Nanuet replies, "Of course. Any idea what some time is? Will your other partners be around?"

She replies, "Oh, not that long I would guess we should be back sometime next week. Today is Wednesday, right? Maybe after the weekend. I don't know for sure. Yes, the other partners should be around, Niles and Job. But I'm not sure about Jeff and Thom needs an eye kept on him. And of course, my beloved puppies and our new house need attention too." Ruby flashes him a dazzling smile.

Nanuet replies, "Let's see, you are going out of town to relax and I get to watch the Saloon, baby sit Thom and the puppies and keep an eye on your house. Sounds like a piece of cake. It will either keep me out of trouble or put me into loads of it. Seriously though, I a honored that you would think highly enough of me to give me so much responsibility. Have a great trip."

"We will. I hope it stays quiet here for you." Ruby kisses Nanuet on the cheek. "You are such a good friend. Thank you." Ruby starts walking away then stops. Looking back over her shoulder she says, "Try to keep you and that priestess out of trouble Senor." With a laugh she bounces away to finish her goodbyes and go pack.

After his game closes up, he finds Ruby. "Nothing really to worry about, but I just learned of a strange coincidence. Actually it is not a coincidence. Remember when I wondered whether that Colin Turner was related to Job Kane's girl up in Wilcox? Unfortunately it appears I was right. He was her late husbands Uncle. I was asking Job about his girl and the name came up."

Jake swallows hard, "I have to admit, at first it bothered me. The more I think about it, I am glad to find out. It explains how Turner wandered through here the first time long ago, and if by some strange twist he was not destroyed and ever contacts his niece we would learn about it through Job." He locks his eyes with hers. "I was tempted to just keep it to myself, keep you from worrying. I do not particularly like thinking or talking about it any more. So there you have it, no secrets. No need to be creating any new worry either."

On the outside Ruby remains relatively calm. But the panic is evident in her eyes as they dart around the room, checking to make sure there is no one there she doesn't want there. She gulps, "Are you SURE it is the same Colin Turner? How can you tell me not to worry?" She continues quickly with an intake of breath, "Forget it, it doesn't matter." She slowly exhales and gets her composure back. Squaring her shoulders, "Does this mean we need to take a trip to Wilcox instead of Tucson?"

"If you listen carefully to me," Jakes says slowly, "I would not insult your intelligence and tell you not to worry. I said, no new worries. Whatever amount of worry you resigned yourself to has not changed. At least I do not believe it has. " He sighs. "No, I do not think this makes anything any different. It just explains some things. And should he ever contact Bernice... well, we have an early warning. We have been all over this. Nothing is different. I can understand your reaction, I had the same one. I have had the benefit of all night to think about it. I think nothing is different. We should go to Tucson and enjoy ourselves. If at some point in the future you think we should go to Wilcox, then we will, but not tomorrow."

Ruby nods, "Yes, let's go to Tucson and enjoy ourselves. And try not to think about this. Is it time to go and pack yet?" she says with a halfhearted smile. Jake nods affirmative, "I will be up in a few moments." "You mean out, our room isn't up anymore baby," Ruby giggles.

She wanders over to Kate and Chester, "I guess we'll see you in the morning?" "Yes, the stage will leave at eight, not nine, so don't be late." Kate say Ruby's too early look cross her face and said. "You can sleep more on the stage, no one will mind. I need to get home and pack myself." Ruby exclaims, "Eight? It's supposed to leave at nine. THAT is way too early as it is!"

Kate replies, "Mr. Chumbley wanted to go a little bit early. Since the stage is full there won't be anyone showing up five minutes before nine wanting a ticket." Ruby narrows her eyes, "They can't just change the time like that! Not because that little half pint wants to!" Ruby sighs. "Well, hopefully we can get the train out of there tomorrow and not have to stay overnight, I guess getting in earlier will help."

Ruby takes a few moments to run upstairs and tell Josie of the change in time, asking her to meet at the Wells Fargo office in the morning. She wishes her goodnight then returns downstairs. She bids everyone else good night or goodbye before heading to the porch to wait for Jake.

Chester walked Kate and Ginnie home, where they packed for one night away from home and turned in early since they would have to leave early the next morning. It would be an especially early morning since she would have to make a trip out to the ranch before they left.

Jake makes his rounds, saying goodnight and making arrangements for things to be handled while he is away. He and Ruby head to their home. Ruby pulls a few dresses out of the closet, laying them on the bed to look them over. Without looking at Jake she begins, "So... you didn't ask me how dinner with the Judge went." "I got distracted with other things." Jake states simply. "So, how did your dinner with the Judge go? If I remember our earlier conversation he was buying dinner and I get to sleep with the gorgeous saloon singer."

Ruby laughs. "Yes, I guess that is true, isn't it? Not a bad deal for you." Her smile fades a bit. "Well, dinner was fine. But something was, oh I don't know, something was odd maybe." "You know, I wasn't even sure I should go, once I thought about it." She stops what she is doing and looks right at Jake. "What do you think about me having dinners with the Judge?" He replies, "Frankly, I would rather you did not. If there is some good reason to keep it up, then I suppose I will just suffer through it."

"Oh." Ruby goes back to distracting herself, pretending to look at her dresses. "Well, I asked him why he thought we should still have dinner. He said there was still more Cowboy Gang problems, that Fisk is going to run for Mayor and Hunter is probably in cahoots with him..." She pauses, pulling on her hair as she ponders. "That isn't why you don't want me to continue, is it?"

Jake stops his packing. "You are my woman, that is why I do not want you dining with another man on a regular basis. I DO trust you, but I do not have to like you sitting with another man. Besides, people talk. Maybe think they can do whatever they want with you and I will not interfere. Maybe they think I can be pushed around on other things too. Leads to confrontations and hot lead flying. It is far safer for you, me and others to think I am perfectly willing to draw this gun and protect my own. Better if they think I am good with this gun, but wonder how good. So I wear it brazenly and provocatively, but draw it infrequently. That way everyone stays alive. Death is a unpleasant thing, even more if it involves you or me." Jake gives her a grin and walks towards her.

"I also did not care for people shooting at us, you dancing naked on Main Street, chasing after Pete's murderer, Nanuet in the middle of negotiations between the Federal Government and some blood thirsty Indian Chief, Katherine giving a book of magic mumbo jumbo to Johnny Ringo, Minerva attempting to gouge my eyes out, or the Cowboy Gang attempting to blow my saloon to Hades." Jake shrugs. "What is a poor saloon rat to do? Jake Cook stands by his friends. Apparently he does some mighty foolish things over being in love, too."

Ruby wraps her arms around Jake's neck. "Being in love is hard work, huh?" She smiles, "I wonder if the benefits outweigh all the work." He says, "So far they do, and the outlook for the future is promising. Keep those benefits coming...," he says while his hands begin to roam and his lips move to her neck. Ruby moans and is distracted from her thoughts as she throws her head back and enjoys Jake's wandering touch. "Uhh.. Jake... dinners... ahhh... packing....oohhhhhhh...," Ruby giggles as she melts and that is the end of talking about dinners with the Judge.

Silver Moon

Chapter Ten, “The Road to Tombstone”, Thursday, May 25th, 1882, 6:00 A.M.

Kate was up with the sun the next morning and on her way out the door as Ginnie was getting ready to run over to the El Parador and get a basket of breakfast for the two of them. At the ranch, Kate picked two harness horses to pull the buggies back and stopped to have a bite to eat with Sonoma and Flint. She filled them in about the incorporation meeting and about the choice they'd have to make. Since she intended to bring her family out to ee the ranch, they could discuss the decision then. She hurried back to town and met Ginnie and the others at the Wells Fargo office around 7:45 A.M.

In the morning Jake packs his final travel bag with his pistol accessories and the pearl handled long barrel. He writes a short note to MacNaulty, Elliott, and Lewis describing what was announced by Isby and makes arrangements to have it delivered to them. In the note he recommends at least one of them come into town and learn more. Once he has all his gear accounted for and is dressed for travel he hauls their gear down to the stage. Grumbling all the way about the time and the diminutive newspaperman.

Ruby barely wakes come the next morning. She throws a few more things into her bag with only one eye open. Practically sleep walking she drops the dogs off at the Lucky Lady, and slips a note under Mr. Lacey's door before she walks over to the Wells Fargo Office. Any 'good morning Ruby' is answered with a grunt. She almost falls asleep standing while waiting for the stage to arrive.

The Wells Fargo Stagecoach is ready to board at a few minutes before 8:00 A.M. An annoyingly awake Chumbley bounces up onto the carriage, followed by the very pregnant Angela Young who Chuck Nevers helps up into the vehicle. A barely conscious Conrad Booth follows and within seconds of his sitting down is sound asleep.

Kate looked from Ruby to the already sleeping Conrad and smiled. She trotted Meribel up to the coach and with an amused glance at Ginnie said, "Mr. Chumbley, perhaps you'd like to ride out here with me for a while. I don't imagine you'll find much good company inside until a more civilized hour of the morning." He says, "That would be fine Mrs. Kale, I would love to talk to you, but could you strap me in well enough that I won't fall off? I've never really taken to horses which is why I ride stagecoaches."

Clarisse and Chester arrive, with him leading his horse. As he loads their bags on the stage, he says, "Morning folks. I guess the last passenger's on his way." Clarisse says, "Good morning everyone. I trust you all slept well?" Ruby gives Clarisse the same grunt she gives everyone else. Then she blindly climbs in the stage and takes a seat near the window, pulling Jake in next to her. Once her head hits his shoulder she falls back asleep.

She exclaims, "Oh!" Chester leans. "That means she didn't sleep well, dear. Not everybody is an early riser." "The question for most of these people, Miss Townsend, is did they wake well?" Kate said lightly. Josie Marcus is the last of the riders to arrive. As anxious as she is to get to Tombstone she still isn't a morning person. She hands her bags up to Chuck Nevers and climbs on board.

Jake looks out of the corner of his eye and says, "Good morning to you Katherine Kale I trust you woke well." Leaning back careful not to disturb Ruby he tilts his hat forward and hides his face. "Good Morning Miss Townsend, a pleasure to be riding with you. I look forward to speaking with you in a couple of hours."

Kate got down and carefully secured the halfling reporter onto the steadier horse. "I'll ride right next to you. Just let me know if you'd like me to take the reins or if you want to return to the coach."

The Tombstone newspaperman rides up on his horse to ride alongside the stage. He sees Chumbley with Kate and opts to ride on the opposite side. Chumbley tells Kate "That's Sam Purdy, he purchased the Epitaph from John Clum at the beginning of the month. Terrible shame that, as he's a Democrat and so is the editor of the town's other paper, the Tombstone Nugget. So the town now has two Democratic voices and the Republicans have lost their voice. I don't support either party, but feel that the town is best served having both viewpoints raised. I guess that may make me a hypocrite saying that, as I'll be running front-page editorials in both of my next two papers in support of non-humans getting to vote and have no intentions of running the opposite view, not that Watkins or Adair will have any trouble voicing that on their own."

Kate says, "I look forward to it. You know of course that my voice will support people of all races and genders having a vote. I spoke to Mr. Figueres last night, and while he isn't hopeful I tried to buoy his spirits. Do you have any other thoughts on how to sway others to our way of thinking?"

Chumbley replies, "Well, I already wrote the editorial for Friday's paper which Josiah will have typeset by the time I return tonight and will have another one for Saturday's. Of course, swaying them through reading what I wrote first entails getting people to buy and read the papers, so my finding enough new information to sell papers both days is essential. Beyond that I'd suggest talking to all of the employers of non-humans in town, that's about one-third of the businesses by my reckoning."

Kate replies, "Well, I think there's at least one thing I can tell you that might help. General Henry Pleasants will be arriving in Tombstone tomorrow morning, and will be moving to Promise City to work for Colonel Seawell. Also, Professor Pickering of Boston will be arriving today with six astronomy students in order to observe an eclipse next week."

Chumbley jots down the information. He continues to prattle on for the next hour. The Carriage stops at around 9:15 A.M. when they are between the intersection to Dos Cabezas and the Shaw's Lazy-S Ranch.

The Stagecoach comes to a halt as another coach approaches. The other coach is from the Lazy-S and is being driven by ranch hand Tim Kilpin. The two carriages stop as the drivers converse. Chumbley decides that he has had enough horseback riding for this month and asks for Kate to help him down so that he can go back inside.

Ruby barely awakens as the stage stops. "Are we there yet?" she asks quietly with her eyes only half open. Chumbley exclaims, "Oh no, pretty Ruby, only about a quarter of the way, maybe a third. I just got tired of riding the horse. So, how is everybody in here?" Ruby groans, then plops her head back on Jake's shoulder, pushing her face into his neck. "Sleepy," she responds to Chumbley. "In mourning for the death of silence," Jakes remarks dryly from under his hat. Ruby pinches Jake under his jacket.

"Oh, I can be quiet, I brought a book to read," the Halfling exclaims. He pulls out a small book with a green leather binding. It is written in a fancy script language that none of those inside the coach recognize. Ruby can't keep the giggle in and it slips out. "That must be some book. What are you reading?" she says muffled through Jake's shirt.

Chumbley replies, "It's an ancient halfling tale from Australia's early years. It's about a halfling who heads off on a great quest. It is titled 'There and Back Again'. Would you like me to read some of it to you?" "Maybe you could read some of it another time." Ruby yawns, "I wouldn't be such a good audience right now." It's no time at all before the rocking rhythm of the coach puts Ruby back to sleep. Her head keeps falling forward and she jerks upright each time, but continues to fall asleep over and over.

Kate rode up close enough to the drivers to catch their conversation. Chuck and Tim chat briefly about Tim taking Ellen Shaw into town to do some shopping and then pick up Emery to come back home. Chuck talks about needing a day off, that the other driver Chandler Wells went back east for a family funeral and hasn't returned yet so it's been nine consecutive days that he's been working. The Shaw carriage gets moving east again and the Wells Fargo Stage heads off west to Tombstone.

Chester rides close to the stage, in conversation with Clarisse. After a while, Chester rides over to Purdy. "So, Mr. Purdy. Was this your first time in Promise City?" "Yes," he replies, "I've had the Epitaph for a little more than three weeks now. Clum no longer had time for it and the job of Tombstone's Postmaster so he accepts my proposal to purchase the paper. I put out my paper in Tombstone yesterday morning but the Tombstone Nugget had gotten out an hour earlier and most people bought it instead so I figured I'd have a market in Promise City for the rest. I got the papers onto the 2:00 PM stagecoach and rode alongside. That worked well, I sold out, but I doubt I'll be making this a regular occurrence." Chester replies, "This kind of news doesn't come by often, so I see why you made the trip. It's hard competing with the local paper on a regular basis."

Kate rode along with the coach, enjoying the early morning air and the quiet ride. Every now and then she was tempted to nudge Meribel into a run and speed away in front of the stage to ride alone, but instead she stayed by the stage. There would be time soon enough for long rides on the ranch with Henry where they could jump and race as they never could in Boston. She kept an eye inside the carriage as they rode, making sure Ginnie was comfortable and waiting to see when and how Conrad would wake.

The Stagecoach continues along at a steady pace, arriving in Tombstone at 11:15 A.M. As they rode into Tombstone, it suddenly occurred to Kate how strange this morning was. Once she had arrived on a train here, expecting to be met. Now she was doing the meeting, and this one promised to be much happier.

Back in Promise City, Nanuet had woken up before the sun like usual. He watched Minerva sleep for some time before heading to the grove to tend to the plants and animals within. Before he knew it the sun was climbing into the sky. "Well, I had wanted to see them off, but I think I missed that."

The lean elf stood up and wiped the dirt from his hands. He walked over to Jake and Ruby's house and checked to make sure it was locked up and that everything seemed to be in place. After that he headed over to the Lucky Lady to feed the dogs and check on things. Once he was satisfied that things were in order for the day and gave Thom some chores to do he headed to the El Parador.

"Good morning Dorita, I'd like some breakfast please. Do you know if your grandfather would be available? I'd like to speak to him sometime soon about what happened at this incorporation meeting yesterday." Dorita heads upstairs and comes back with Mr. Gonzales. He gestures to a corner table at the end of the room and asks Dorita to bring over the jug of Greek wine. He pours them each a glass, drinks his, and then pours himself another one. Nanuet states. "Thank you Dorita, your promptness is much appreciated."

The elderly wood elf smiles at Nanuet and says, "Well, I trust that Miss. Florencia appreciated my birthday present to her." Nanuet picks up the glass and sniffs at it before trying the wine. "I am sure she did, there were so many gifts presented that evening? I must apologize, but I don't remember what you gave her, could you remind me?" Nanuet says taking another sip of the wine.

Gonzales replies, "My present was that I allowed her boyfriend continued life despite the fact that he broke my Great Granddaughter's heart. You do remember that conversation that we had before don't you?"

Nanuet's face drops at Gonzalez's statement. "Yes, I recall the conversation, and I appreciate that you have not followed through on that threat. I am sure a man of your experience realizes that all relationships that start off with the best intentions do not always bear fruit. I have apologized several times to Sonoma and only wish her the best. Is there more you wish of me in regards to that situation or can we put it behind us?"

He says, "Well I can certainly understand why you have become enamored with Miss. Florencia, I find the woman breathtaking myself. And being a short-lived human your relationship with her will probably last for another fifty or sixty years at the most. After the Priestess is gone you can sit down for a long talk with Sonoma and apologize then.

In the meanwhile you might want to consider divesting yourself of your interest in the ranch. Sonoma has been putting her heart and soul into it and resents your lack of contribution to the effort. Finding a buyer should not be hard, I would be willing as would Mr. Booth, but I think the women are trying to be independent of the two of us. If you wish to maintain the Apache connection you might consider the centaur Qualtaqa, I believe he is finding the El Parador barn a bit confining and I know he has earned money from his recent trip to Europe with Arcade's Gang. You should probably discuss the idea first with your partners.”

Nanuet replies, "Minerva is a special woman and it seems the gods themselves have blessed our relationship. I had not dwelt on idea of her being a short lived human, but rather have decided to live in the moment. As far as the ranch is concerned, I agree that seems to be the best idea. Sonoma has done amazing work at the ranch but I have not been able to hold up my end. I will discuss this with Sonoma and Katherine and determine the best course for all."

Nanuet refills his glass of wine and then says "If I may change the subject I would like to ask you what you think about this whole town incorporation thing and about us non-humans making sure we have a say. As far as I understand the idea of females and non-humans being able to voice their opinions on town matters might be in jeopardy and I would like to see that it doesn't happen. I know how Kate feels and I know I would have her support in this endeavor.”

Gonzales replies, "The idea of females having a voice is not unprecedented. The entire Utah Territory allows women to vote and many communities in the other western States and Territories have as well. Other races....that's a different matter. I've heard of places that allow Dwarves and Halflings the vote. And that Civil war guaranteed the right to vote for Ogres. Orcs and Elves, that's another matter. In California anti-orc sentiment is now so strong that they are petitioning the United States Congress to pass laws ending all Chinese immigration. And most people consider elves to be savages out to kill all whites.

You asked my option. Obviously I would like a voice in the community that I live in, but I also realize that fighting for it could have a backlash against all of us regardless of the outcome. Evan Adair isn't the only one in town with a humans-only attitude."

Nanuet replies, "I understand what you are saying, things around here could get ugly I am sure. I personally don't know anything about politics and would be getting in over my head, but it was not that long ago that I didn't know anything about being a shaman either. I would like to ask some of the other non-humans and others who accept us to see what they think. Maybe there are enough of us to make a stand, and if we go about it the right way then hopefully things won't have to get too bad. I respect your opinion so if you tell me not to do it I will listen."

Gonzales says, "The best approach would be all or nothing, if they begin breaking it down into acceptable or unacceptable races then things will get even uglier and the likelihood of you, Cornflower Peck and Qualtaqa being allowed that opportunity will be next to nothing. The other key is to resolve the residency issue first, so that they know that half the Apache from the hills won't be marching into town and demanding a vote."

"OK, so first thing is to figure out is how residency will be determined. I didn't plan on doing things race by race, so we are on the same page there. Any ideas on how to get started first? I suppose a meeting with Judge Lacey might be a good idea."

Gonzales replies, "It can't hurt, mention that you work for Ruby, he's sweet on her. You might also want to wander over next door to Brown's Ice House and talk to Liza, that cute young woman who often dines here with her father and brother. She's engaged to Derik Avery, who sits on the Vigilance Committee. She's always been comfortable with the various races who congregate here."

"I think I will, and uh thanks for sharing the wine with me." Nanuet gets up and offers to shake the elder elf's hand before departing. He stops next door at Brown's Ice House. He knocks and asks to speak with Liza.

Hannibal Brown calls for his daughter. The freckle-faced brunette is wearing a brown dress with yellow gingham trim and a straw bonnet. "Hello Mr. Nanuet," she says, "looking to buy some ice? Did the Priestess buy an icebox for her cottage?" "Oh, just Nanuet please. Sure, I'd like to set up a regular supply if that is OK with you. Do you make regular deliveries?"

Nanuet discusses the particulars of getting set up with a delivery schedule and makes sure the business is done before moving the conversation to politics. "So, did you hear about the meeting they had yesterday? It seems folks like me might have our hands tied around here pretty soon." "What do you mean?" she asks quizzically.

He replies, "Well, if some people in power around here get there way only male land owners will have a say in the new government. People like you and me won't even have a vote. Even some of the business owners will have no say in what goes on. I think that would be a real shame and could cause some resentment." Liza talks to Nanuet for another fifteen minutes about the subject, agreeing with him on many points. She has spent a considerable amount of time at the El Parador and says that she would hate to see nice people like Pedro and Dorita to be treated unfairly.

Liza talks to Nanuet for another fifteen minutes about the subject, agreeing with him on many points. She has spent a considerable amount of time at the El Parador and says that she would hate to see nice people like Pedro and Dorita to be treated unfairly."

Minerva awakens to find that Nanuet has left. She reaches over and buries her face in his pillow, breathing in the memory of his scent. His spot in the bed is still warm, prompting her to stretch and smile as she sighs with pleasure. She daydreams back to the wonderful night before, and how he had fulfilled his promise to exert his influence upon her.

She looks up when she hears the rustling of feathers and greets her feathered companion. "The gods have truly smiled upon me, Luna. I am truly loved and loved truly. Time to spread the word." she says aloud and laughing in delight, she leaps out of bed, energized and ready to take on the day.

Minerva dresses and rummages through the icebox to find herself something to eat. She decides to visit Beatrice for a friendly chat, knowing that she always has her ear to the ground and will be able to fill her in on the local gossip. Most of the morning gossip from Beatrice Lee is about the upcoming Incorporation of the town and the various attitudes expressed thus far by her other tenants. Many of the miners who reside there have concerns about the Vigilance Committee taking over and imposing restrictive laws on the populace.

She says, "Si, I can certainly understand their concerns. I have many of my own. I was here when they tried to vote in that silly law about women having to be covered from neck to toe," she smiles optimistically. "But we must remember that the gods love all of their children. They will show us the way to enlighten the opposition." she sips her tea and thinks aloud. "Perhaps I should pay a visit to Senor Condon to check on the church's money to be sure that it is being kept safe."

Minerva continues to question Beatrice on how she thinks that each committee member will vote and any leverage that she might know of that would help sway them. "You have lived in Promise City far longer than I have, Bea and you are such an observant woman, a thief in the night could not make his way past you." she chuckles and smiles disarmingly. The two women sit amiably and chat for a while before Minerva rises and kisses Bea affectionately on the cheek. Gracias, mi amigo." She hugs her and makes her way to the bank.