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Onyx Landing

OP
xanaphia

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
“Ma’am, I’d enjoy a lot of positions under you.”

Victoria allowed a smirk to crack her features. Maybe it was the heat in her blood, still itching to act upon her own growing frustration and aggression, but Cassie’s words stoked that flame, more than a little. “Yeah, it seems like you jus might be able to handle ‘um, too.”

“But, well, I’m not looking to, you know, earn my living on my back. Not that I’ve got anything against the profession!” she added hurriedly. “Just, well, it... isn’t for me.”

“That’s wasn’t what I was offerin’,” she started to explain, with the wave of her hand. “Not that I’d turn you away if you were. It takes all kinds, out here, and most of the men ain’t too picky. Besides, I’ll bet you clean up awfully pretty.”

“If you need someone looking out for your girls, full time? Well, I might just be the woman for you.”


She nodded, “Yeah, that’s just what I’m lookin’ for. I got six girls, including myself, to handle the hungers of an entire town. And not nearly enough whisky to make up the difference, lately. So how’s three dollars a night, plus room and board?”

Before Cassie could answer, noise from the stairs drew Victoria’s attention. She recognized the man who stumbled out, Jacob Foster, the closest thing Onyx Landing could call to preacher. At least, the sort that spent nearly every night here, drowning his memories or tangled up with one of her girls.

Whether or not his holy book approved of his nightly visits, she didn’t care. After all, who was she to judge people who were buying what she was selling? So long as he left his moral judgments at the church (or at least out of her saloon), so would she. His soul and his sins were between him and his god.

If he ever took his choking further than a game, however, she’d introduce him personally to his maker. Forgiveness was not a word in her vocabulary. “Saloon’s closed early tonight, Jacob. You go on and get along home now.”




The next morning was met with good news. Well, better news, at least, as the mine would reopen. Partially, at first, to reinforce the shaft and keep a watchful eye on the tunnels. No need to trigger another cave in, so quickly. Besides, the dead still needed to be buried, but by the end of the week, the mine should be back to fully operation, and then everything else could go back to normal.

Hopefully.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
The Highest of the States
"In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines
I shivered where the cold winds blow..."


Two women were singing in harmony as the sun came up on Onyx Landing, illuminating their final destination only perhaps a mile off now. They'd been driving since well before dawn, considering the slow pace that had been plaguing them since they had left Kiowa. And no wonder: their chosen vehicle was an enormous logging wagon that had somehow been fitted with a patchwork canvas covering, a sort of bastard offspring between a Conestoga and a garish gypsy caravan. While it did not appear that the women were using the vehicle for its intended purpose (although the one driving the wagon looked large and strong enough to be a lumberjack herself), it was clearly loaded down with chests and boxes, and if one looked closely though the gap behind the driver's seat there was also some rather ominous looking machinery towering in the back. Still, the team of four rather intimidating black drafthorses pulling the wagon kept an easy, leisurely pace, though no doubt they would be happy enough to be set free of their burden once they reached town.

There was a slight resemblance between the singers on the buckboard, particularly in the thin wide mouths and matching sets of dark brown eyes. But the resemblances ended there. The large woman, dressed in men's trousers and shirt with a boss-of-the-plains hat pulled low over her bright red braids didn't sing as loudly as the smaller, darker woman strumming the guitar beside her, and while she seemed at ease driving the team the redhead appeared to be growing more anxious with every step they took towards the town.

"You sure this was a good idea, Jess?" the driver asked finally, glancing over at her blissfully humming companion. "This place is so...isolated." And barren, and sad-looking, and probably a hundred miles from the nearest post office, but she didn't feel the need to spoil her sister's good mood just yet.

"Hm? 'Course it is. No paper around here for miles, and we have a building all to ourselves. Certainly a step up from that stable full of horseshit back in Kiowa, isn't it?" Jess remarked, setting aside her guitar and reaching in to the pocket of her sadly faded black suit jacket to pull out a small packet of papers. "See? It's official and everything. Bob Jakes says we can rent his old barbershop through the rest of the year while he heads out to Californy to try his luck at prospecting. We'll have take out the chairs of course, and probably clean out some of the blood--Bob was such a shit typesetter, I can't imagine he's any better at surgery or teeth-pulling--but there's a stove and bed and everything in the back." The small woman tucked the papers away safely and set her bowler hat more firmly on top of her dark brown hair, a look of satisfaction spreading across her face as she resumed her plucking.

"Yes, my dear sweet Jules, we are going to be living like queens in this bustling little hamlet, I just know it. We set up shop, sell the team and the wagon to the mines, you print us up a couple of samples and I'll start making the rounds to drum up subscriptions. We've got enough ad revenue to hold us over for a few months, and if the mine keeps growing the way Bob says, I wouldn't be surprised if we get even more. Might even be able to hire on another fella or two. We'll need a rider to pick up the eastern rags if the post office won't bring 'em all the way out here. But we'll make it work, won't we?"

I don't know, will we? Jules wanted to ask, but she stayed silent. It was just as well; as she often did, Jess answered her own question.

"Of course we will," the elder sister replied, then started in on another verse.

"Little girl, little girl, don't you lie to me
Tell me where did you get that dress?
From a man in the mines, where the sun never shines
He shivers where the cold winds blow."


Jules was more than a little concerned when the wagon finally rolled into town to fine the streets a good deal less bustling than one might expect a thriving mining town to be. True, there were a few men shuffling about here and there, and a few feminine faces peering out the window of one particularly building (causing the redhead to blush violently when she realized just what sort of an establishment that must be), but it was a far cry from the other mining and logging towns where the sisters had plied their trade.

"Look, there it is!" Jess cried, leaping down from the wagon in front of a dilapidated building that had a faded barber pole swaying drunkenly in the wind over the open door. Her sister realized with some discomfort that it was directly across the street from the brothel, which had probably been intentional when it was built. What man wouldn't enjoy showing off his fresh shave to the pretty faces across the way? But in the months since Bob had lit out for California, the building had fallen into bad disrepair, and Jules was grateful Jess had been the first one to step inside, especially since when she emerged she was driving out a stumbling, cursing man at gunpoint.

"Crazy bitch, who the fuck do you think you are?"

"The new tenant of this establishment," Jess replied, holding a six-shooter in one hand and pulling out the signed lease with the other. "Now get the fuck out, or does my baby sister there need to teach you the proper way to speak to a lady?"

Knowing the cue, Jules stepped down from the wagon, easily standing an inch or two above the stinking, muttering fellow and making the ugliest, most threatening face she could manage while curling her long-fingered and callused hands into fists. She was more than a little relieved with it appeared to have worked, and with only a few more grunts and growl the squatter staggered off down the street looking for whiskey.

"Nicely done," Jess remarked, stepping off the porch and patting her sister on the shoulder. "How about you start unloading the wagon, and I'll see if I can go find a couple of fellas to help with the press? There's gotta be one or two looking to make a buck on their day off."

"Sure, I can do that," Jules replied, hoping the building wouldn't fall down around them in the process. With a grin, Jess scampered off across the street and began to knock on the door of the brothel. After all, if men wanted to spend their money on whores, they needed to make sure they had plenty of it, didn't they?

"Hullo in there! Anyone at home?" she called, peering in through the windows of the Dusky Belle.
 

Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
Jebadiah Morsey arrived in town late, long after dark, and just in time to see everyone evicted from the only saloon in town. He turned to his horse, Billy, who he was leading by the reins, "Fuck, now what're we supposed to do? Bar's closed apparently."

Jeb leads the horse to a trough where Billy can get a drink and ties him off to a nearby post. He looks down the street at Onyx Landing, if this is supposed to be the promised land, God and his apostles are out for the day.
 

TheCorsair

Pulsar
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Cassie bit her lip, both excited and embarrassed at the way Miss Vicky thought she’d “clean up pretty”. But the offer of employment was what really caught her attention. “That’s a fair offer, ma’am, and I’d be glad to take it. When do I...”

Whatever else she might have said was lost as someone stumbled down the stairs. Miss Vickie sighed softly as she saw him. “Saloon’s closed early tonight, Jacob. You go on and get along home now.”

“Guess I’m starting right now,” she grinned, answering her own question. Strolling across the saloon, she caught the man by the arm. He smelled of booze and sex, neither of which surprised her. “Come on along there, Mr. Jacob. Door’s right this way.”

-*-

Tom blinked, rolling onto his side to get the rising sun out of his eyes. Then, groaning, he sat up and rolled his head. It was far from the first time he’d slept rough, with his duster for a blanket and a saddlebag for a pillow, but it was never fun. His neck was always stiff.

Working the kinks out, he splashed water on his face. Then he lathered up and shaved, scraping the straight razor over a day’s growth of stubble. By the time he was finished, his stomach was demanding breakfast. A quick survey of Main Street revealed limited options for fixing that, though.

“Cat house’s a hell of a place for breakfast,” he muttered, sauntering towards the Dusky Belle and the dark haired woman hammering at the front door. “But a man cain’t be too choosy.”

The woman was a curiousity. She didn’t look the part of a soiled dove, or at least not what he assumed they would look like. More like a school teacher. But she seemed awfully insistent about getting in. “Howdy, ma’am,” he said, tipping his hat. No sense in being rude, after all.
 

Dr. Pox

Planetoid
Joined
Jun 18, 2019
Jacob heard the words of the madame. He forced a smile toward Victoria. A lovely lady. She had mother bear mentality. She didn’t like his proclivities, even if her girls didn’t complain. He tipped them. It was money for god, money given by those seeking to pay lip service to their spiritual side. But what was he going to spend it on? His church was still standing. He did his voluteer work, his daughter was- he pushed the thought aside. “Not even for the road? What a shame.” He had a bottle at home. “Wish Miss Diane a good night for me.” He was nothing if respectable and polite. He already knew he was on thin ice sometimes.

Miss Cassie approached. She had the look of a warrior with that height and build. A face that probably saw as much evil in the world as he did. He didn’t like to listen to rumors. Many told him secrets, and many others had gossip and judgement on their tongues. He was a man that didn’t want to add any evil to the world. She seemed to take his arm and there was no way she wasn’t getting her way.

“Evening Miss Cassandra.” He said with a pleasant candor. He stumbled but she caught him. “Oh thank you. Apologies for getting into a state.” He made a comment about what he had heard before they noticed him. “You’re looking for more employment at this fine establishment. Good. Any reason to see more of my friends is a good reason.” It was better to call everyone friend, the old habits die hard. She declared him to leave, he pointed as the coat rack went by. “B-But my hat.”

Once retrieving it, he made sure to tip it when he passed Victoria. “Good evening Miss Victoria. Miss Casandra. I’ll see you both on Sunday I hope.” This was a common farewell he would give everyone, a paltry way to see if people come to church as was his job.

The Nanny had already gone for the night, and little Katie was already asleep when he came in with the candle. He smiled gain. She slept soundly. Thank god. It was the only thing he was thankful for these days. He ran a hand over her hair and kissed her forehead. The only light in the world.

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

Jacob bothered to shave today, a good sign that he was in the mood to atleast look he part. He was to go over the mines, start giving the last rights to those brave men who lost their lives in that terrible accident. It was the least that could be done. He would meet with the undertaker, some of the families of those lost. He had to schedule this. Four funerals a day atleast. It was considered that the sooner Onyx Landing could put this tragedy behind them, the better, now with the mines declared to be opening. He would probably be called, leading the gathering in prayer before the mayor made his political talks.

He was making his way from the church at the edge of town, a satchel around his shoulder carrying the good book for reference and the items for the day. Katie would be with the Nanny who brought her to the school house already, leaving him time to work.

Two things caught his eyes. A wagon infront of the old barber shop, a number of its contents already laid out from the back, a woman nearby in the process of loading up the new building. Finally someone rented it out. Good. The abandoned building added to the town’s dreariness.

There was also a new comer, setting his horse to the trough near the Dusty. Tall feller too. And mean looking. Another gun to the west. Another that life had beaten down and now they crawled to the corner of the desert to lick their wounds or die lonely. He hardly seemed the type to be approachable, but in Jacob’s experience, those were the men who needed most a word. Though he was honestly just expecting an insult. He prepared himself for such.

“Good morning sir.” He said, his shoulders squared, the white collar of a man of the cloth around his neck. “Welcome to Onyx Landing.” He recognized faces, and this was a stranger. He’d offer the man a few simple words of welcome before walking past with a tip of the hat and a smile. The woman needing a hand with her unpacking offered a rare moment where he could actually help someone. Maybe he could get the man’s attention so that he could help as well. One good deed spawns another. It was those moments where he actually felt like things mattered. “A couple of newcomers today, and they look like they need help moving in.” It was an obvious ploy for the gentleman to start off on the right foot, lending a helping hand if he was so inclined.

The Preacher approached the wagon, the boxes, the woman in simple yet professional refinement. His hands free, he tipped his hat, his simple black vestments seen through his open top coat. “Good morning Madame. Welcome to Onyx Landing.” His first thoughts of Miss Jess were that she was a quite handsome woman. Very distinguished features and a hungry commanding look. “Do you need a hand with all this?” His eyes glancing to the crates and boxes, from what he saw, it seemed like the woman collected newspapers
 

Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
"Mornin' reverend." Jeb spoke with a distinctive Missouri drawl. He tipped his hat to the man. Up close, Jeb is weathered and scarred, but he wears the shadow of a smile on his bearded face. "Glad to make yer acquaintance. Heard you folks had some hard times down at the mine."

He listened to the holy man's ploy to help the ladies unpack, and stood up, "Yep, certainly wouldn't be neighborly to stand by and not help out." He followed the reverend across the street.
 
OP
xanaphia

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Victoria groaned as she rolled out of bed that morning. Despite closing early, she hadn’t slept well. Since she was low on whiskey, she opted against drinking herself into a stupor, as she’d done before, when sleep was elusive. But taking care of herself hadn’t gotten the job done either. Mostly because she couldn’t get that job done, and gave up, frustrated with an aching arm.

Maybe she should have found out if Cassie’s teasing offer weren’t just a tease? But the girl worked for her now, and sleeping with an employee didn’t sit well with her. She’d spent too long on the other side of that arrangement, and while this situation was hardly comparable, it still left a bad taste in her mouth.

Besides, wasn’t like she couldn’t get laid, if she wanted. Hell, she might as well get paid at the same time, too. Finding a partner who knew what they were doing might be a more challenging task, but hell, plenty of men actually liked a woman who bossed them around a little, even if they wouldn’t admit it in polite company.

She was coming down the stairs when she heard a knock at the door. Really? Who needed a cat house this early in the morning? But, she reminded herself, she did close early last night, hurrying herself down the stairs.

"Hullo in there! Anyone at home?" A feminine voice called once she’d gotten to the bottom of the stairs. That wasn’t what she was expecting, but if it were someone looking for work, she could used the help.

“I’m coming, I’m coming…” she assured them, keys jingling as unlocked the door. Outside, her gaze spanned from the familiar looking man she had seen last night, to a woman she’d never seen before. Beyond her, there was a wagon parked in front of the old barbershop, and Vickie began to put 2 and 2 together.

“Mornin’. You must be new to town.” She offered a hand to shake. “Victoria Freeman, and this is my establishment. It don’t look like much, but if you’re looking for a cool drink or warm company, you can find it here. Did you need some help?
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
The Highest of the States
My God, barely after sunup and the pigs are already coming to the trough Jess thought as she saw the men approaching the brothel. Well, it wasn't as though there were many other dining establishments in town, and hey, she was looking for a few strong backs after all.

The blonde fellow seemed a friendly sort, and the short woman returned his greeting with a smile and a jaunty little doff of her bowler. "And toppa the morning to you sir. I take it you're the welcoming committee?" she remarked, both to him and the other two men approaching. Near the wagon, Jules quickly raised a heavy crate labeled TYPE to obscure her face, and hurried away into the barbershop before any of the strangers could lay eyes on her. Not that she need have worried; between her sister's fast talking and flourishing movements, it was easy for Jess to keep the attention on herself.

"Well, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, gentlemen. Allow me to introduce myself," she continued, reaching into her coat pocket and pulling out a slightly wrinkled and much-overprinted business card (one that she had filched from Jules ages ago, after having disbursed all of her own). After looking from face to face, she decided to hedge her bets and handed the card to the preacher, believing it would be best to be on good terms with whatever representative of the Lord had wandered into this particular corner of Nod.

J. Barrow
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Assistant Editor

Muscatine Herald
Rapid City Reporter

Kiowa Bugle
"Jessamine Barrow, at your service," she continued, then gestured across the street at the lumbering form retreating into the barbershop. "And that shrinking violet over there is my sister Julia. You'll need to forgive her bashfulness, it takes her a bit to get warmed up to strangers. As for me--"

She was suddenly interrupted by the door of the Dusky Belle, and her dark eyes fell upon a beautiful woman, who spoke and moved with all the authority of a queen at the center of her court. The owner, no doubt Jess thought, and reaching for her dust-encrusted skirts offered the madam a deep curtsy. "Good morning to you ma'am. I was just introducing myself to these gentlemen here, but I ought to have addressed you first. See, I'm your new neighbor," Jess straightened, then held out a hand in greeting to Victoria. "Jess Barrow, pleased to meet ya. Me and my sister Jules are renting that shop across the street through the end of the year, and we're fixing to set up a little business enterprise."

Stepping back so she could take in the sight of all her audience, Jess raised her voice ever so slightly. "You see folks, the Barrow Sisters are newspaper men, if you couldn't tell. We're here to start your lovely town's very first newspaper. But before we can do anything," a playful glint sparkled in her eye. "We need to get that sonofabitch printing press off that there wagon. You see, Miss Vickie, that's the other reason I came to call on you. I was wondering if you had any men around who could help a couple of poor damsels in distress with unloading it. But then again, if there's any lady up to the task, far be it from me to tell her no."

Crossing her arms over her chest, she stepped off of the porch and began to move slowly towards the wagon. "I should let you know each piece weighs anywhere from three hundred to six hundred pounds, so I'm really only looking for some real strong men. But there's gotta be a few of those in a mining town, right?" Turning back, Jess looked over the men much more critically, like a buyer at a stock auction.

"I've got five bucks for anyone willing to help. Any takers?"
 

Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
Jeb watched in interest as the 'newspaper man' flitted here and there like a hummingbird on a honeysuckle, while talking like a gatling gun that had been eating beans. She completely ignored himself until she spoke of moving Gutenberg's matress into the barber shop, and then completely ignored the fact that one of Jeb's arms was left in Texas in 1867. "Sorry Ma'am, I'm only worth $2.50, but I'd be happy to help y'all if I can. I've a can of fuel oil and a match in my pack, we can settle this problem right now."

He was far more interested in the dark beauty that appeared at the saloon's door. Not that he was looking for company [not that he'd refuse it either] but a whorehouse meant cooked food, a bath, and a drink indoors, not necessarily in that order.
 

Praxis

𝓛𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷 𝓽𝓸 𝓼𝔀𝓲𝓶
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Apr 13, 2014
Location
the Neitherworld
Two trains in one morning was enough to cause something of a commotion in Onyx Landing. With word of the mine’s closure only beginning to tickle at the minds of those concerned, few as they were, the regularities of the town had likely started to become irritatingly apparent to who remained. With the first stop of the morning a few hours out, an eerie silence should have settled over the dusty valley. Denizens should have trickled, jobless, to whatever watering holes or structure would shield from the intense, midday heat. So, when the loud, mechanical chugging of another engine and four cars in tow began to scream from an inbound valley, more than a few dirty faces and squinted eyes took notice.

The engine grinded to a halt a quarter mile from the station and a large group of dark-dressed men poured from the second car, swarming the junction. Shouted directions leaped from beneath the boastful idle as a thick, putrid smoke acted as tail to the entire calamity. An auxiliary track was engaged and, slowly, the ebon beast lurched forward. Settling after a very long while with a pent-up release of steam.

A big man, though big would never truly begin to convey it, climbed from the second to last car and was quick to begin shouting directions to the idle men. Whomever he was, he stalked with the confidence of a man who’d orchestrated his fair share of arrivals. Dressed in a dark, knee-length coat and matching dungarees, his ghostly, pale flesh off-set an otherwise midnight appearance that truly had no business in the desert heat. With arms crossed over an expansive chest, he surveyed the work, the land and the station from behind mirrored lenses. Occasionally gesturing to where a crate should be unloaded. Or where stacks of lumber were to be arranged. Never giving even glance to the curious eyes that had begun to form cautiously around the scene. Only turning over shoulder when he heard small bootsteps, descending the car he’d exited.

“Still be a while, Miss.” He said gently, knowing he need not bother offering the girl a hand as she clapped down onto the cracked earth.

“Oh, I know. I simply can’t be locked away in there a moment longer though.” Moving to join him, Missy Huntington stretched as she went, seeming rather pleased with the quick work her father’s men were doing. “So,” squinting around at the sparse locale and its gawking, minimal populace, “this is it then?”

It was a fair assumption that the entire group of them -Missy especially- stood out like the proverbial thorn-pricked thumb in the harsh, dusty basin. Dressed in tan riding pants, tall, suede, riding boots -buckled and strapped from ankle to knee- and a calfskin, corseted vest, nothing on the girl wore a layer of grime or filth the way the entire town seemed to. Glossy, preened and reeking of privilege, the blonde tossed a thick, braided length of hair over her shoulder, adjusted her bush hat and began to work at the cuffs of her blouse to roll them above elbows.

“Onyx Landing.” He paused. “Your father wouldn’t – “

“My father isn’t here, Clint, my dear.” She beamed a smarmy grin at him. “Let Daddy worry about Daddy-problems. Besides, what he doesn’t know has never once hurt him, wouldn’t you agree?”

A snort from Clint seemed to suffice as answer. “And how was your story, Miss?”

She scoffed, gesturing lazily toward the train car and the novel she’d thrown from the window some miles back. Clint had seen this, chuckled, and drifted back to sleep. “Dreadful! Tell me, Clint. If another me showed up, another Missy that is, how would you react?”

He didn’t answer.

“Imagine! Another Missy, only one who’s infinitely more charming, intelligent and capable. Showed up at the villa one afternoon, masquerading as me, using my things in my home. Attending my events and," she cringed, "wearing my face."

Clint smiled plainly. “I’m not sure there is another quite like you, Miss. Even in stories.”

She giggled, seeming unperturbed as simply and quickly as she’d even broached the subject. "Good answer! You're worth every penny, I don't care what my father says." She jabbed at him with an index finger before moving away, toward town. "C'mere," snapping her fingers when something occurred to her.

Clint, without making a sound, leaned down to bring the mirrored lenses more in line with the girl. She peered up at herself, standing on tips of toe and tracing the pert shape of a blood-painted lip with a pointed, lacquered nail. Brushing an imaginary bit of dust from her vest, she seemed to satisfy vanity's plea.

"I'm off. Be a dear and fetch Taggert, would you? He does abhor those crates, the poor baby."

"Miss?" Clint called when she had clicked a short distance toward town proper. She turned on heels, large, blue eyes rivaling clear skies. The big man patted his coat, to the left, where she knew a revolver to be.

She waved a dismissive hand at him. "Oh, I'll be fine! You worry too much."
 
Last edited:

TheCorsair

Pulsar
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Tom took in the rapid patter of the self-proclaimed newspaperman, a mountain of a woman with lots of thick red hair and a no-nonsense air, then scratched his chin. He was hungry just now, and worked better on a full stomach. But five dollars was five dollars after all, and he wasn’t fool enough to turn down paid work.

“Ma’am,” he spoke up, clearing his throat, “betwixt me an’ this fellow-“ he gestured at the one-armed man who’d already spoken, “Ah reckon we outta be good fer six hunnerd pounds, if’n he’s lookin’ ta break a sweat. If not...” he shrugged. “Ah kin manage, if’n y’ain’t in no hurry.”

Course, a big gal like her could probably manage on her own. Newspaperman she might be, but she was tall as him - maybe an inch taller, even - and looked like she could toss him around. Still, five dollars was five dollars. “Whaddya say, sir?” he added, glancing at the one-armed man. “You up ta doin’ this nice lady a good turn?”

-*-

Cassie stomped down the stairs of the Dusky Belle, scowling and buckling her gunbelt on. Life, she decided, was just not fair. Here she was, working as hired muscle in a whorehouse, and she’d managed to go to bed horny and frustrated and wake up the exact same way. “Goddamn rowdy drunks,” she mumbled. “Mighta gotten laid good and hard last night, if they hadn’t butted in.”

And now someone had been pounding at the front door, interrupting as she was getting herself warmed up to take the edge off. Fuck. Especially since Miss Vickie had beaten her to said door. “Morning, ma’am,” she said, joining her employer. “Everything all right? Or do I need to start in earning my keep?”
 

Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
The preacher man spoke up, "Whaddya say, sir? You up ta doin’ this nice lady a good turn?”

Jeb looked sideways at him, still eyeing the dark beauty standing at the door of the Rose. "Alrighty, I'll put in a hand. But, just to point out what maybe nobody considered, has anyone checked to see if this here monstrosity will fit through the barber shop door? And, if'n it do weigh three to six hundert pounds, we don't got near enough muscle to get it there."
 
OP
xanaphia

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
“A newspaper? Well, I’ll be!” Victoria released a good-natured laugh, and placed a hand on Jess’ shoulder. “Onyx Landing is shapin’ up to be a real town after all. You come by, once you get ‘er set up. I think I might like a subscription to our local paper.”

She took a moment to acknowledge the men with a nod, especially the one armed man who was a new face, before turning back to the saloon to face Cassie. It wasn’t quite worth her time to sweat out her hairstyle for five dollars. Besides, she had to get started on the day, and it looked like there was enough help to be had among men outside.

“Mornin’ Cassie,” she greeted, heading for the kitchen of the saloon. “No trouble yet, but the day is young. If you wanna help with breakfast, I can get you one of the first plates out.” Without waiting for a response, she began stacking wood in the stove, and struck match. Once she got a fire going, she started mixing up a big pot of grits, the sort of cheap and filling meal the miners around here could afford.

“I was plannin’ on visitin’ the bank today,” she called to Cassie, while stirring the pot with a heavy wooden ladle, “And I would like you to join me. Don’t usually have much trouble makin’ desposits, but an extra set of eyes won’t hurt none.”

From the kitchen window, she had a good view of the station, and just as she was serving up the first bowl, the train arrived. “Hopefully that’s got my shipment of alcohol.” But as she watched the unfamiliar workers disembark, and unload unfamiliar inventory, she questioned her original assumption. And as the young woman stepped off, she came to another conclusion entirely.

As far as Onyx Landing was concerned, Victoria Freeman was wealthy. Well, perhaps comfortable was more accurate. But she owned the ground beneath her feet, and helped to build up the rest of the town. Why, if left to Grand Ventures Corporation, Onyx Landing would be little more than two score tents set up around the mountain, and not even an outhouse for comfort.

Regardless of her own circumstances, Victoria recognized true wealth. She’d served long enough on a plantation, polishing silverware and laundering linens. Hell, the newcomer might be even better placed than her own former master. After all, miss newcomer had herself some white men working for her. They didn’t come as cheap as the freedmen, after all.

She scooped another serving of grits into a fresh bowl. “Now, now, now. What’s brought big money to Onyx Landing?”




Bodies were carried out of the mine, on cots with canvas covering each one. By all accounts, it was supposed to be a dozen, but only nine bodies made it out, and only six of those could really be called bodies. The last three were just pieces, arranged in the semblance of a human bodies, but ripped limb from limb until they were hardly recognizable anymore.

The injuries were nothing anyone had seen before, and certainly nothing anyone expected. No punctures from pickaxes or blows to the back of the head from a shovel. No, these men had been clawed and torn. By each other, if the blood-stained hands and mouths were any indication.

Nine bodies were arranged in three rows before the entrance of the mine, and gathered around the bodies were the surviving miners, watching with a morbid curiosity and waiting on the arrival of the preacher.
 

Praxis

𝓛𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷 𝓽𝓸 𝓼𝔀𝓲𝓶
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Apr 13, 2014
Location
the Neitherworld
The short stroll from the tracks had proven to be less than Missy had hoped for. Having never actually stopped in the dustier regions between her home in Georgia and her destinations in the West, seeing the ramshackle buildings and curious, grubby people had worked like a thorn under the vest. Pricking her somewhere around the middle and chest, nagging with its unashamed reality and working to undo the buoyancy she usually felt when exploring new regions. Especially those as untamed as Onyx Landing.

She grinned despite this as bootheels thunked hollow on the baseboards of a storefront. Trailing her nail tips against the thin panes of glass, she’d peer in. Finding nothing but the dusty leavings of whomever had given up on the town a bit too early. Unaware that their very own salvation had arrived just that morning in fine leather and belching black smoke Eastward. Pieces of her vanity that demanded a touch more attention than even the small parade of grubby people she'd lead from the station could provide.

Their loss, she’d tell herself, flicking at the residue from where she’d touched decay.

A group of schoolchildren skipped by her; hands linked to that in front and all singing off-key a tune she thought she’d heard before. They eyed her, their small faces lighting up at only a glimpse of the woman. Some dropping their part of the song to turn over shoulder and gawk, tripping as the formation was lead on by a disinterested looking teacher. She waved, beamed a smile, and continued on toward the sound of voices.

~​

She'd find the Dusky Belle and the dilapidated building adjacent the source of most of the town's activity that morning. Moving at the sort of pace that suggested she'd find whatever it was she was searching for right where she'd expected it -and not a second too late- the blonde skirted around the commotion. Curious eyes darting from the place where a few men worked at a rather large piece or equipment she didn't recognize, to the more notable sort. Those missing limbs and vivacious command of voice making the strongest case that Onyx Landing attracted all types.

She figured there was a story there, in the folded section of sleeve where nothing resided. And made a note to inquire about it. Only offering the Newspaper Man the most formal of greetings and remembering lessons imparted from a paranoid if not ruthless father. If she was like any of them -and logic dictated she was- she'd want more than what fit neatly between a handshake and an exchange of names.

The who, what, where and why of it all.

And where did that leave Missy? To expose the entire truth?

That would be absurd.

They'd catch her eyes only briefly as she tipped her hat back and slipped into the cooler interior of the saloon. An empty piano; tucked against the wall and a few wary-eyed patrons greeted her. Some commotion from around the bend of a corner told her that she'd clipped the breakfast rush. Wearing indifference as well as leather finery, she'd hop neatly onto a stool and tuck the point of her chin in open palms, legs kicking from where they very nearly reached the floor. Thus far the Wild West that she'd heard so much about had proven to be relatively tame save for a few good humored shouts and the struggle of man against machine from across the way.

She'd started to daydream, humming what she could remember of the schoolchildren's tune when two women emerged from places unseen. Missy, forgetting herself, straightened and very nearly gasped at the tall woman. "My goodness, look at all of you!" Tactlessly, she'd lean far to one side of the stool to examine the woman's feet. "Tell me, are those lifts? I'd considered those -give me a few inches, make me more intimidating, you see- but could never keep my balance the way I like."

"Oh," she huffed, "where are my manners? Missy Huntington, charmed."
 
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Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
Jeb watched the young lady walk down the street from the train station while they worked to get the massive printing press off of the lumber wagon. Her dress and manner told him everything he needed to know about her. She was eastern money, greedy and crooked, and she was here for one reason. And with her greed and thirst to dominate, government would come with her. Government was a tool of the rich, it did the dirty work for them. He had half a mind to shoot her dead right now. But that would only delay the inevitable, the bureaucrats would strangle the West, just like they strangled everything else. They fought a war over slavery, just to win the right to make slaves of everyone. He spat in the dust in disgust and turned away from her.

"C'mon, let's get this damned contraption inside. I need a drink and some breakfast."
 

TheCorsair

Pulsar
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
While Miss Vickie sorted the fire out, Cassie hefted a sack of cornmeal and carried it into the kitchen. Soon enough, a pot of grits was bubbling away. Not the best of breakfasts, she decided, but certainly not the worst she’d ever eaten.

“I was plannin’ on visitin’ the bank today,” she remarked,stirring the pot with a heavy wooden ladle, “And I would like you to join me. Don’t usually have much trouble makin’ desposits, but an extra set of eyes won’t hurt none.”

“Sure,” Cassie replied, tying the sack shut. “After last night, and what with the mine being closed, people might be a bit desperate.” She let her hand brush the handle of her Colt. “No sense in taking chances, right?”

Accepting the first two bowls, she slid them out to waiting customers. “So. Discouraging poverty-stricken miners looking to make a quick buck, discouraging rowdy patrons be, and serving grits.” Grinning, she looked back at Miss Vickie. “Any other particular duties I should keep in mind?”

-*-

Gritting his teeth, Tom heaved and strained as the steamer trunk came off the back of the wagon. Goddamn but the newspaper-lady hadn’t been kidding about the weight! He could handle it - barely - but he was glad of Jeb’s sure hand keeping it from crashing down on him. Him and the other two layabouts the newspaper lady had managed to recruit.

“Right,” he gasped, straining to keep it up. “Y’all ready? Let’s shift it.”

Swaying a little under the strain, the three men crept towards the door. They’d checked, thank to Jeb’s question, and it would fit. Barely. As he did, he got a look at the latest arrival at the Dusky Belle. Some pretty little thing, tiny and slim and blonde, and clearly rich. What the hell brought someone like her here?

"C'mon,” Jeb growled, let's get this damned contraption inside. I need a drink and some breakfast."

“Sounds... sounds good... to me...”

-*-

“Oh," she huffed, "where are my manners? Missy Huntington, charmed."

“Cassie Turner,” replied the taller blonde. “Likewise.” She shook hands and smiled, just a little. This Missy Huntington might talk like s chatterbox, but there was a controlled strength in her deceptively soft grip.

Stepping back, she gestured at Miss Vickie. “And let me introduce you to my employer, Miss Victoria Freeman.”
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
The Highest of the States
At the invitation from the madam, Jess' expression changed in a most peculiar way, both rapidly and subtly. Surprise, suspicion, curiosity, then finally settling on a smile that was much more satisfied than the false carnival-barker grin she had worn only a moment ago. "Why yes ma'am, I'll be sure to do just that," the dark-haired woman replied. Then her voice dropped to on conspiratorial whisper. "I imagine a couple of captains of industry like ourselves could talk just as much business as any fella in New York, given the chance, couldn't we now, Miss Vickie?" She patted her jacket pocket gently, where the top of a small notebook was just visible.

But if the reporter was watching the madam like a prized milk-cow, when her dark gaze fell on the little blonde coming up the street her jaw was damn-near on the ground. Here was a gal with some real walking around change, a veritable gold mine if Jess played her cards right. While Victoria was clearly a wealthy woman, the reporter saw more value in her as a source of information than investments. Not so with Missy Huntington. Girl looked like she might put two and two together and come up with six, but the short woman hadn't seen a clothes like that since leaving Chicago, when she and Jules had eyed the blue bloods with a mixture of awe and envy that eventually drove them west to seek their own fortunes.

"How do ya do, Miss...uh, Missy." The quick talk, fast hand, and flashing smile had returned as Jess greeted the newcomer. "Jessamine Barrow, Onxy Landing Sentinel. Do mine ears deceive me, or do I detect another daughter of the stately east? I hope the journey was pleasant for you. Lord knows my sister over there and I had a time of it. Come in on the train, did you?"

At the mention of Jules, the elder sister glanced back towards the wagons, where the tall woman was still struggling by herself to carry in all their worldly possessions, then looked back at the small group of men that had gathered around at the promise of a day's work and cash to go with it. The little woman sighed heavily, then touched her bowler in apology to Missy. "You'll have to excuse me a just a moment, sees as I've got some unfinished business to attend to. Real nice making your acquaintance though, ma'am. I'll be sure to come looking for you when we're ready to start taking on subscriptions!"

Without waiting for an answer, she turned back to the men. "All right then laddies, you just go over there and help out Big Red, she'll give you the rundown. Once that wagon's completely unloaded, she'll see you get your pay. But mind your manners, you hear?" Jess' gaze fell in particular on the one-armed man, whose comments she noticeably did not appreciate. "I once saw her damn near take a fella's head off up in Kearney when he got sassy with her. So if you want to finish with the same number of arms you're all starting with today, you'd best act like the nice young gentlemen I'm sure you all are. In the meantime, I need to see a man about selling a horse or four." Jess winked at the men, curtsied to the ladies, and went off skipping like a schoolgirl in the direction what she assumed was the mine.

*****​

Over by the wagon, Jules' heart began to race as the men approached. "Um...hi. I'm Jules," she stammered, heaving up an oilskin-wrapped spool of paper to hide the face growing as red as her hair. "Let me just put this inside, and we can start bringing in the press. That's really the only heavy thing, I think I can handle the rest myself." But at five dollars a head, Jess would probably kill her if she didn't force the men to at least help with some of the trunks as well. If they'd been alone, Jules might have even called her sister out at the extravagance of spending twenty dollars on labor when they only had fifty to their name, but maybe if they were lucky the horses and wagon would get a good price when everything was unloaded.

Inside the barbershop there were still two chairs and a wall of mirrors along one side, but there was plenty of room on the other for the press. They'd have to figure out desks later, but Jules thought maybe they could use the wide counter underneath the mirrors as a temporary solution, especially considering they'd left most of their furniture behind them in Kiowa. There was also one room in the back that had been Bob's living quarters, complete with a stove, wobbly table, one chair, and most foul-smelling mattress the redhead was sure would have to be burned.

Rolling up her sleeves and tying her twin braid together behind her head, Jules went back outside to join the men, counting them off as they lifted the heavy machinery and carried it into the building. All in all it would take six trips to get every part of the press inside, with a few excruciating pauses to assemble the thing in the meantime. But when all was said and done, the dusty black monstrosity dominated the barbershop and left only the smallest path to go through to the back. That left the question of where to store the rest of the equipment--there was still plenty of paper, ink, type, and not to mention an entire barrel full of coal to run the boiler. For now the sheltered back porch of the building would have to do, and Jess only prayed the area didn't get much rain.

"That's the worst of it. Thank you all so much for your help," she said to the men after the press was fully assembled. "I uh...well..." She didn't want to force any of them to help her continue the unpacking, not when she could carry everything else in the wagon herself. But Jess would kill her if she paid them each the full five dollars with still so much work left to do.

"Do you want breakfast?" she said quickly, an idea striking her. "We don't have much, but I can make some panbread and succotash if you want. And coffee, if you can tell me where the well is." That would at least buy her some time while she figured out what to do. Maybe some of then would be willing to help out of the goodness of their hearts if she fed them. Or if not, she could argue that breakfast was payment enough for the relatively quick work they'd made of the move.

Then again, that would require her to argue, an idea in itself which terrified the freckle-faced young woman to no end.
 
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Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
Jeb turned toward the tall woman, slightly amused, but also symathetic to her shyness, "Miss Jules, we'll help you finish the unloading, he & me. Yer payin us to do a job, we'll finish the job. My Mama thought me better than leavin' afore the chores are done." He then hoisted a sack from the wagon over his shoulder and carried it inside. Jeb kept working until the wagon was empty, he was generally a sour, jaded old man, but if he made a bargain, he did his best to hold up his end.

"Miss Jules, you certain you want these supplies out back? Seems we could move the barber chairs out back, and leave your valuables inside where they can be looked after."
 
OP
xanaphia

xanaphia

Philosopher? I hardly knew her!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Victoria found herself standing taller as the newcomer spoke, back rigid and lips pursed into a thin line. So much of her past came back in this brief interaction, and she certainly didn’t have enough whisky on hand to soothe her nerves.

“Morning, Miss Huntington. I must confess, you are a peculiar sight in these parts. Are you quite certain you got off at the right station? California’s still a whiles away.” But she knew Missy wasn’t going anywhere, not if the earlier arrival were any indication. Whatever brought her to Onyx Landing would see her staying, for now.

“I’m awful glad you found your manners. I was worried they was still packed up with the rest of your belongings, and God only knows when you mighta gotten ‘round to unpackin’ that. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” And, without waiting for another word from Missy, carried a platter of bowls away from the bar, to pass out to other patrons. For once, Victoria found herself grateful for the breakfast rush, grateful for the demands of the paying customers, grateful for the excuse to escape the conversation. And yet, her gaze returned to the pretty blonde again and again, worried what Missy might get into if she took her eyes off her.

Once her bartender arrived, Vicki finally felt as if she could breathe a sigh of relief. At least running her errand was another excuse to avoid Missy. Upstairs, she strapped on her .357 colt peacemaker, with the ivory handle and engravings on the barrel. Conspicuously, because she wanted to deter anyone from even thinking about robbing her. Once she had collected up her money box, she tapped Cassie lightly on the shoulder.

“You ready to go, Miss Cassie?”
 

Praxis

𝓛𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷 𝓽𝓸 𝓼𝔀𝓲𝓶
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Apr 13, 2014
Location
the Neitherworld
“I…” was all Missy had managed to get out before the dark women was gone; platter of bowls in tow and attention seemingly with them.

Mouth parted, eyes wide, she might have looked a bit comical if anyone concerned had the slightest idea how difficult it was to render the young Miss Huntington speechless. She’d had most of a speech spring-loaded and ready to fire the instant her hand had left the taller blonde’s. Gussied and polished -like most things the girl spat forth- by the end of it she’d hoped to have every eye and ear on her. Waiting with bated breath to join in the chorus of a new, up-beat tune. The likes of which the town could sorely use.

Assuring them that, yes, while Grand Ventures had left them to twist in the wind in this time of uncertainty, comfort had arrived. Deliverance at last. And in what a pleasing shape, no less. Leaps and bounds beyond whomever “Uncle” Max had delegated to see over the place. He had always been a miserable old fool anyway. His specific relationship to her father was nebulous, like most of his associates who’d been in and out of her life. Always bringing gifts -a finely carved figurine, pieces of silk in this or that shape from lands she’d only read of in books. Pieces of bric-à-brac that she, as the recipient, had cared about as little for as those who’d given them.

A little grease for the wheels is all they’d been. What did one man gift another man who had everything? The joy of his child, perhaps? And how much was a smile from Missy Huntington worth? A contract? A promise? An entire town?

With a frown worked over her pretty face, Missy watched as Victoria and Cassie made their rounds before disappearing again up a stairwell. Releasing a clenched fist, she glanced briefly down at the pressure marks of where nails had bitten flesh. Collecting herself, she’d snort like a frustrated kitten at her lack of rebuttal before addressing the bartender.

“You there, Barkeep.” She said, sweetly enough, even going so far as to douse him with a rather large helping of socialite charm as he turned. She was beginning to enjoy the expression these people wore when meeting her for the first time. That of a tickling awe, daring them to let linger their gaze if only to try and understand this ectopic stranger.

"Get you somethin', Miss?" He asked uncertainly.

Still grinning, she'd tuck her chin back against palms. "Tell me, do you enjoy your work here?"

~​

"Miss Freeman!" She called, excusing herself from a conversation she'd been having with one of the dark dressed men from the train. "Miss Freeman, please."

She'd been joined by a rather massive, anxious-looking canine. The sort more at home pulling a sled through a field of freshly driven snow rather than panting and circling about the dusty streets of Onyx Landing. It eyed Victoria, emitting a low whine, but never skirting beyond Missy's pace to join. Only standing with tense posture at her side.

"Oh!" Noting the pistol at her waist. "Please, I do believe we got off on the wrong foot." She looked sincere enough, hands gathered at her middle and large, cerulean eyes pleading only a moment of her time. "I forget myself sometimes and, truly Miss Turner, I meant no offense in my questions."

Quickly, she snapped her fingers at the dark dressed man, eyes clenched as she reached for a name she probably had never known.

"Um, you..."

"Higgins, Miss." He replied, brow still damp from his struggle bringing the dog.

"Yes, Higgins. Be a dear and have a case of our Gold Label brought to our lovely proprietress here." Still, with dainty hands locked and eyes glued, "My gift to you Miss Freeman. I hope you don't find it improper, but your barkeep mentioned something of a shortage while we had a chat."
 
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TheCorsair

Pulsar
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Miss Vickie and Miss... Missy? That didn’t sound right. But whatever you called her, the two women squared off and traded verbal jabs. Cassie got bored of it all real quick, and wandered off to help with the breakfast rush. That part was easy - hand out food and discourage groping hands. And the Peacemaker strapped to her thigh helped a lot with the discouragement.

Slowly the breakfast rush died down, and Cassie was chatting amiably with an iron-haired old prospector when there was a tap on her shoulder. “You ready to go, Miss Cassie?” asked Miss Vickie.

“Just about,” she replied with a grin. “Be right back.” With that she headed up the stairs two at a time and into her room. Ignoring the Winchester leaning against the wall, she scooped up her sawed-off 12-gauge and slung a bandolier of shells across her body. After a moment‘s hesitation, she shrugged into her canvas duster as well.

“All right,” she called as she came down the stairs. “I’m ready...”

“"Miss Freeman!” It was Missy, and a sweating man, and the damnedest wolf-dog Cassie has ever seen.

“Aren’t you the cutest thing!” Cassie exclaimed as the rich woman and her employer squared off again. Grinning, she squatted down and held out her hand. “Who’s a good boy?”

“Careful, ma’am,” Higgins said. “He bites.”

Cassie grinned wider as the wolf-dog licked her fingers. “I’m sure you do!” She cooed, scratching his head. “You’re just a big old killer, aren’t you?”

-*-

“What Jeb here said, Miss Jules,” Tom added, stretching the kinks out of his back. “A bite o’ breakfast would go down right good, an’ we kin get these chairs out while you get it made.” He flexed his fingers. “Y’all need any help settin’ yer gear up after? Ah don’ reckon Ah knows a printin press from a flat iron, but Ah’m always game ta learn something new.”

As he spoke he tested the weight of the chairs. They weren’t light, but they were nothing next to the crates they’d hauled in. “Jeb? If’n y’kin get th’ door fer me, Ah reckon we kin get these out afore y’kin whistle Dixie.”
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
The Highest of the States
Jules blushed at the insinuation she and Jess owned anything of value. Sure, they each had a piece of Mama's jewelry (Jess had a silver crucifix, Jules had the sapphire engagement ring Fred had given his bride-to-be more than twenty five years earlier) and Jess had her guitar, but all their personal items were packed in a single steamer trunk already safely stored in the back room.

"It's mostly just supplies," the redhead explained. "Ink, paper, type, spare parts for the press...I don't know why anyone would want to steal anything like that. It's the weather I'm worried about, mostly." She pushed her hat back slightly as she glanced up at the cloudless sky. "As for the barber chairs...we're only renting the place, you see. We knew Bob Jakes back in Iowa." They'd employed him actually, but between his horrible spelling and heavy drinking, they were ready to fire him on more than one occasion. It was only due to the man's own whim to suddenly become a barber that he'd left on his own accord, and they'd parted on relatively friendly terms. But Jules didn't believe in speaking ill of people that weren't present, so she kept this little detail to herself. "We promised we'd take good care of his place, you see, so I don't think we should take anything else. It's fine though, we've managed in worse setups than this."

She offered the two men the faintest of smiles, greatly softening her features and making her face almost akin to something pretty. "The press was the heaviest thing, and the only thing we really need to be inside. The rest can go on either the front or back porch, and I'll find a spot for it later. But thank you again, both of you." Jules quickly dropped her gaze and turned her back, feeling her face groing warm. "I...I'd better go get some breakfast started. I'll call when it's ready!"

The woman had already brought in their scanty foodstores: mostly dried beans and corn, some cornmeal and flour, a half-barrel of salt pork and a three-quarters empty bag of coffee. As it turned out, there was a well directly behind the barbershop, and it wasn't long before the scent of cooking began to waft out the formerly desolate little building. And by the time the wagon was finally empty, Jules emerged out the front, carrying plates of succotash and cornbread and tin mugs of coffee for everyone, with all the grace of an experienced waitress.

"Um...here. I hope you like it," she murmured, offering each man a meal.

*****
Outside of town, Jess was not in nearly as high spirits as her sister. She'd greatly underestimated the distance between the barbershop and the mine, and wished she'd had the mind to unhitch one of the damn horses and ride it up to the foreman's office. Or at the very least, get a bite of breakfast before setting out. By the time she reached her destination, she was hot, tired, and cross, and it took all her effort to flash a wan smile at the first man she saw.

"Good morning my good man! Might the boss be around today? I have a bit of--"

"An' who the hell you supposed to be?" the grizzled, long-faced miner snapped back at her. His cold eyes looked her dusty, yet still relatively well-dressed form from top to bottom, and he spat on the ground at the corner of his mouth.

Jess swallowed hard. "Miss Jessamine Barrow, sir," she replied in more reserved tones, her fingers fumbling for a card only to find she hadn't any more on her person. "You see, I'm new in town, and I have some horses and a wagon to sell--"

"So sell 'em back in town. We got real business to deal with here. Ain't you heard we got nine men dead?"

Other women might have frozen at those words, maybe even fainted. But if there was anything to revive Jessamine Barrow after a long hot walk, it was drama, disease, or death. As if by magic her notebook was suddenly in her hand, and a sharpened pencil was gripped between her fingers. "Dead? How? Was there a collapse?" she asked quickly. But the man only spat at the ground again and brushed past her, heading glumly back to town to spread the news no doubt. An angry little twinge of jealously pinched at the woman's heart, but the logical part of her quieted it with the reminder that the press probably wasn't even set up yet. Besides, it was better to get the full story than the fast story, especially when the only competition in town was gossip.

So she quickened her pace in the direction of a small crowd of men at the mouth of the mine. Most didn't notice her, and even those that didn't couldn't be shocked by the appearance of a woman on the scene. Strange as her presence might have been, nothing could be stranger than the condition of the bodies. Blood on mouths and hands; three missing arms, four missing legs; Youngest - 16? Oldest - 50s? #6 - Chest cavity broken, heart missing? Jess filled two entire pages of her notepad with macabre scribbles regarding purely her own observances before she turned to the man nearest to her, ensuring the book was out of sight before she spoke.

"Excuse me sir." Gone was all trace of the fast-talking conwoman. Now her voice was soft, sympathetic, undoubtedly feminine and even a little frightened. "Can you tell me what happened here? My brother...I was told my brother worked in this mine. I came all the way from Kansas City to surprise him..." An ocean of crocodile tears filled her enlarged brown eyes.

"Oh lassie..." the man said gently, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You'd best come see Mr. Jacobs, the foreman. He can tell you the story."

"Th....thank you..." Jess sobbed, allowing him to lead her to the foreman's office.
 

Kilted Pervert

Super-Earth
>>>And by the time the wagon was finally empty, Jules emerged out the front, carrying plates of succotash and cornbread and tin mugs of coffee for everyone, with all the grace of an experienced waitress.
"Um...here. I hope you like it," she murmured, offering each man a meal.<<<

Jeb turned from the wagon at the sound of her voice, "Aw Miss Jules, yer an angel amongst the wicked. My belly has been tryin ta eat itself for the last hour." He eagerly accepts the offered food and drink from her. The lanky old man then sits down on the stoop of the barber shop turned newspaper office and prepares to eat. Jules notices that he treats the succotash and cornbread as if it were a prime rib dinner served on imported china. He sets the tin plate on his knees and raises a spoonful toward his mouth, then pauses, a slightly irritated look on his grizzled face. "Reverend, I suppose you got some words you'd like to say to the Almighty, in honor of this auspicious occasion?"
 

Praxis

𝓛𝓮𝓪𝓻𝓷 𝓽𝓸 𝓼𝔀𝓲𝓶
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Apr 13, 2014
Location
the Neitherworld
Clint and another man had just crested a hill, each mounted on a horse; a Finnish breed, by the look and stature of them, and were carving down a narrow path that would deposit them alongside an access trail at Dead Reach Mine. Neither had spoken in some time, though Miller; a good man who’d been with the Huntington Co. for some years had grown accustomed to this. The big man -as he was so often referred to- hardly bothered with idle chit-chat or comradery. A point more stringently applied to those under his employ.

If the big man, with his mirrored lenses and weathered repeater on his back had friends, Miller couldn’t fathom who they might have been.

Once close enough to see the Mine and the figures milling about near it, he did speak, gesturing with a long arm at a gathering of the men who Jess had likely been gleaning information from. “Go around, find any man you can, tell them we’re paying a dollar a head for their story.” Miller nodded, having to squint for the still rising sun to where Clint had gestured. “Have Hannigan and O’Brien start taking their reports -they’ve got the best penmanship.” Another nod.

“Some of them might get a little squirrely about it. Tell them they don’t have to give their names, just their version of what happened. They’ll probably think you’re with Grand Venture, asking questions and such.

Miller hesitated, glad for the weight of a revolver at his hip. The look of the mine, desolate as it was, unnerved him for reasons he couldn’t identify. Nor was he willing to try. “And if they ask?”

“They won’t.” Clint replied assuredly. “They’ll see the coat, the weapon, they’ll assume. Might even attract a few hangers on, looking to make a quick buck. That’s fine, so long as the town sees those men coming to us.”

It would be enough, to get the town buzzing more than they already were about the newest arrival. Once they had something -anything- to grab ahold of, word would spread. Ears would begin listening for what came next from whichever voice rang loudest.

Miss Huntington, demure as she may have feigned, knew a thing or two about gathering a crowd.

Miller nodded with finality and urged his horse down and toward the gathering of men. Clint remained on the crest of the hill, hands folded on pommel and hidden eyes taking in the scene. Bodies, he didn’t need to be close enough to see their wounds to recognize the stiff posture of sheet-covered death. Terror, it was clear in the air, even back in town. The nervous glancing about from miners only confirmed that nothing had been resolved of whatever madness had occurred.

Spitting, tugging at the brim of a black, felt hat, Clint spurred at the beast and moved off in the opposite direction. Off to find whomever was still in charge of the whole mess.
 
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WaveVelour

Star
Joined
Jun 26, 2016
The eerie atmosphere of the small mining town was quick to rush in through the gap as a young lady opened the door of a modest horse-drawn carriage. The cart she used throughout this unpleasant journey was a lot older and cheaper than what the young woman was accustomed to ride, but so was the small town she found herself in. Her life had changed drastically during the last month. Still, she would have chosen peasantry over her abusive husband any day. The mean businessman, the rich shoe manufacturer whom Grace had murdered during a heated argument. It all had happened too quickly, but the act couldn’t have been really considered an accident. He had always been a resourceful man, a thug even when his business grew bigger. The men loyal to her deceased husband were after her, to make her meet their boss in the afterlife.

The moment Grace stepped out of the carriage, the mud and dirt under her feet one more time reminded the woman of the lowly life style she had to put up with from now on. She still had a long journey ahead, one that the woman had to embark on alone. “Uuh.” Already feeling quite disgusted, but mostly of herself, the twenty five year old woman took a few steps forward to stand next to the exposed driver’s seat. She didn’t blame the man for not helping her out of the cart, the poor guy was in a bad shape. That would be the last time she spoke to her kindly driver. “Thank you for everything.” She offered her gratitude. It was nice to know that she still had friends.

“It was a pleasure Ma’am.” The young man nodded from his seat above the ground. It was his idea to drop the woman in Onyx Landing. During one his many travels, he had stayed here before. Knowing the owner of the brothel to be a trusty woman, he figured his former lady could rest and hide here for a few days without much trouble. As a farewell, the man raised his canteen, his only remaining companion for the rest of the journey. In return, Grace oddly offered her driver an awkward smile. To show her gratification, the woman slightly bent her knees out and bowed a little. Sadly, she was all alone from now on. As a necessary precaution, no one should know her whereabouts. That included the very gentleman who gave her a ride. It would take more or less a day before the poison she poured into the man’s canteen kicked in. Strangely, the necessity of this tasteless act had only occurred to her when her carriage entered the shadow of the nearby mountain in the distance.

While the single horse that drew the cart began to move on cue, Grace strode towards the building. Since she had no business in brothels, she neither knew the place as a house of prostitution, nor recognized the distinct features of one the place might have. Her striped white dress was long, reaching down to her feet. Hem of the garment collected dust and dirt off the floor with the woman’s steps. It was easy to notice she didn’t belong to this place. The town was pretty much wilderness for her. Her hands were used to grab a parasol, and not the grip of a pistol. A black belt that she paired with her white dress helped her to emphasize her waistline, though it was doubtful what would be the purpose of that in such a place. Offering only a subtle cleavage, her garment hugged her chest well, giving more volume to her relatively modest bust. Dark brown strands of her long hair swayed behind her as the woman approached the entrance of the brothel, trying not to look around too much to draw a low profile.

As some helpful folk across the road unpacked and lifted some heavy looking crates behind her, Grace entered the Dusky Belle, the building she actually thought to be an inn. While she tried to draw a low profile, a newspaper wouldn’t have helped her, but if that meant the town’s residents knew how to read, that was a welcoming fact. Stepping in, Grace’s eyes quickly scanned the place and the current visitors it housed. She was yet to know which of them were patrons, and who ran the establishment. However, she could still make guesses. Once inside, only after keenly eyeing the people within the walls, the woman offered a nod as a matter of form. From brute to noble, the brothel seemed to have a variety of visitors in theses relatively early hours of the day. The long trip had made the young brunette hungry. So, she headed towards the bar counter, finding a stool to climb on top to rest her tender rear. “Good morning.” She greeted the bartender with a plain voice. Feeling famished, she wasn’t picky when it came to what the brothel served as breakfast. Upon receiving her plate, her curious eyes darted towards the big dog that accompanied who seemed to be a well-mannered wealthy lady, certainly not the type of person she would have expected to find in such a town. Unlike the armed blonde who petted the creature, Grace wasn’t very fond of these noble beasts, since she was scared of them, especially big ones like the one in the brothel. “Thank you.” She nodded at the bartender. The woman grabbed her breakfast plate and moved to a far corner to sit at a distant table to have her meal. It would also act as a vantage point for the young woman as she not so discreetly gazed the people from her seat.
 
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