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Westward Bound

Splitcreek, Arizona


a part of Westward Bound, by Luv-is-a-Bug.


Luv-is-a-Bug holds sovereignty over Splitcreek, Arizona, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

309 readers have been here.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

loosely based off the movie 1993 "tombstone"


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Splitcreek, Arizona is a part of Westward Bound.

9 Characters Here

Morgan "Doc" Crowe [8] Cool-headed, tough-as-nails Civil War veteran who really wishes he didn't give a damn
Sheriff Clifton Wheelock [6] The archetypal quiet guardian, marked by hardship.
Samuel Cole [6] Some people say you can make a new life for yourself out West. 'Course, some people're full of shit. Me, I just want a little redemption.
Araminta 'Minty' Moses [5] I turn to a black cat in moonlight and sour your milk
Wildcat Kate [5] Tenacious, hard-headed outlaw looking for trouble
Johanna Baker [3] Co-owner of the Silver Spur Saloon
Oliver Hope [3] Barkeep and Co-owner of the Silver Spur Saloon
Nathaniel Clay [2] Local businessman with a mysterious past.
Renard Blanchet [0] A deserter from the French Army, hoping to find a new life in the West.

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Character Portrait: Wildcat Kate
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Every time Kate went riding off into some godforsaken desert, she swore it would be the last time. The last time relentless sun would beat on her back. The last time choking dust would fill her lungs. The last time she’d go without poker and expensive liquor. The last time she’d let her backside go numb from hours in the saddle, or eat nothing but beans on stale bread. But that was the problem with Kate: she wasn’t very good at keeping promises. Not even to herself.

Which is why she found herself in the midst of some hot, scrubby desert yet again, her shirt clinging to her sweat-soaked back. Her bedraggled blonde braid hung out the back of her trademark black Stetson, as limp and lifeless as the tail of a dead rat. The half of her face not covered by her kerchief was caked in dust, and despite her best efforts to keep her vision clear sweat trickled down her brow in grimy rivers. She shifted in the saddle in hopes of finding some respite from her sticky clothing, but the movement only served to make her chaps constrict uncomfortably around her thighs. “Goddammit” she muttered, tugging furiously at the kerchief around her neck. Nothing made Kate irritable like desert heat. Well that, and being stone sober. Even Gunsmoke, her trusty mount, seemed fed up with the heat. Kate had given him a loose reign, and his neck was stretched out long and low, his nose just inches from the scorching desert sand.

Yes, the pair was definitely looking the worse for wear. The triumph of Kate’s last robbery had long since left her, and the high of her fiendish success had been replaced by her usual sour mood. To distract herself from the heat, Kate thought back to her last job, hoping to comfort herself with the knowledge of saddlebags laden with jewelry and cash. After all, things had been going quite well for her as of late. She’d made quite a name for herself in the last year, and was finally gaining the notoriety she so craved. She’d upped the ante from petty theft and fraud to some much bigger crimes, and her descent into depravity had made her bolder and wilder than ever before. She’d caught sight of a “Wanted” poster of herself in the last town she’d blazed through, posted alongside the likes of some of the nastiest outlaws in the West. Sure the drawing wasn’t a perfect likeness of her, but the words “WILDCAT KATE: WANTED for robbery, horse theft, cheating at cards, arson, assault with a deadly weapon” had made her heart swell with a sick and twisted pride.

Her last job had been one of her closest scrapes yet. She’d joined up with the Dalton Gang, a motley crew of 5 nasty, brutish outlaws. They’d had their sights set on the bank in the budding town of Deadwood, and had been bickering quietly amongst themselves when Kate happened across them in Deadwood’s saloon. With a bit more planning (and a lot more bickering) Kate and the gang prepared to rob Deadwood blind. Maybe all the infighting should have clued her in, but the robbery itself had gone far from smoothly. Due to some miscommunication about exactly who would be keeping watch, the sheriff and town marshal had burst in at a most inopportune time. Kate knew when it was time to cut her losses, and while the rest of the gang fumbled to gather as much as they could carry, Kate grabbed what was conveniently within reach and split. It was only thanks to the distraction of the Dalton Gang and Gunsmoke’s fast legs that she had made it out of Deadwood in one piece. In fact, one of her saddlebags now bore the mark of a bullet hole from the trigger-happy sheriff’s gun. She’d ridden hard and fast out into the desert, not daring to look back.

Kate had always liked the idea of having her own gang, but the few times she’d attempted to assemble a crew of her own had left her feeling so murderous and cross she’d nearly set fire to a saloon. The problem with outlaws was they were so damned stupid. And greedy and selfish and dishonest, of course, but Kate could handle all that. (After all, she was plenty greedy and selfish and dishonest herself.) What she couldn’t handle was stupidity. She’d found that her recruits had lacked a certain…focus, as well as the common sense that generally prevents people from making decisions that are just plain dumb. And she wasn’t about to risk her life or her freedom on account of someone else’s bad choices. After 8 years on her own, Kate’s interpersonal skills had dwindled to almost nothing. She was far from communicative, and anyone who didn’t immediately grasp what she needed from them was, in her eyes, as worthless as the dust under her boots. In a high-stakes robbery she hardly had time to sit down and walk her thieving companions through every step of her plan, but that seemed to be the only way to prevent them from getting distracted, lost, or killed. And so Kate had given up on the fantasy of having her own gang of hardened outlaws. Instead she flitted from one gang of outlaws to another, using them for her own selfish plans and disposing of them at her earliest convenience.

Which is how she’d found herself here, alone in the desert once more. And then, just when she was certain she really wouldn’t last another minute in the heat, she saw it. There, on the shimmering horizon, was the faint outline of a town. Kate didn’t know the name of the town, and she didn’t much care. Towns meant food, liquor, and (perhaps most importantly) cash. Kate smiled to herself, her chapped lips cracking in the dry heat. “Well, would you look at that,” she said, watching the town take on a more definitive shape as they rode closer. “Gunsmoke, I think it’s time you and I acquainted ourselves with the people in this fine town, don’t you?” And, with her greedy little heart beating fast in her chest, Kate spurred Gunsmoke towards an unknowing Splitcreek.

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Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe
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It was only midday and Morgan was already exhausted. His day had begun long before dawn, and his tiredness was easily read in the bags under his eyes and the deep lines in his face. It wasn’t the sort of tiredness cured by a good night’s sleep (not that Morgan had those very often) or a hot meal or even a day’s rest. No, this was the sort of deep-down fatigue that becomes as much a part of you as your own skin, a tiredness you drag like a ball and chain wherever you go.

Morgan had started the morning by making a house call to a rancher who lived on the outskirts of town. The rancher, a Mr. John Hooker, had come banging on Morgan’s door at half past four, screaming that his child was dying. Groggy and disoriented, Morgan had grabbed his medical bag and stumbled out into the inkiness of a still-dark morning, where he was greeted by more frantic yelling and pleading from Mr. Hooker. After assuring the man that he would do all he could, he saddled up his tired gelding, Tex, and rode out to the modest ranch house where the Hookers resided. Inside the squat cabin he’d found a young child, no older than 7 or 8, burning up with fever, and a sobbing mother mopping the child’s brow with shaking hands. Now fully immersed in the crisis, Morgan reverted to his war-time calm and set about his work, swiftly unpacking the necessary supplies from his bag. He’d gently but firmly ushered Mrs. Hooker from the room (doting mothers tended to get in the way), and set about examining the feverish child. The infection that had caused the fever was intense and acute, and the longer Morgan worked on the child (whose name, his mother tearfully informed him from the doorway, was Billy), the more apparent it became that he was little to nothing he could do for the suffering boy.

Finally, after an hour of applying salves and administering medicine and feeling generally useless, Morgan stepped back with a grim expression and informed Mr. Hooker there was nothing more he could do. He’d left Mrs. Hooker with instructions to help get the boy’s fever down, and felt a sharp pang of guilt in doing so. He was fairly certain the boy wouldn’t make it to nightfall, but had found it impossible to say so in front of the boy’s weeping mother. Instead, he’d quietly told this to Mr. Hooker in the doorway, before tipping his hat and stepping out into the weak morning light. He’d ridden home with the rising sun, and made it back to his home/office on Splitcreek’s main street just as the last drunken gamblers were stumbling out of the saloons.

The child’s illness weighed heavily on him, and he’d spent the next few hours tossing in turning in a fitful sleep. At 9 in the morning he’d awoken again, this time to make himself some breakfast and tidy up his office, which, with its empty liquor bottles, discarded newspapers, and slew of random items, was looking the worse for wear. Morgan spent many days like this, restless and irritable and feeling guilty for one shortcoming or another. His inability to cure Billy Hooker had left him feeling utterly useless, and he wondered for what must’ve been the thousandth time why he’d taken up medicine in the first place. It was supposed to give him purpose and direction after the war, perhaps even help to clear his conscience, but more often than not his job as the town doctor only served to remind him that there was little he could do to help the innocent.

From nine to noon he’d seen patients in his office, distracting himself with setting broken bones, stitching up wounds from nasty bar fights, and prescribing medicines for sore backs and chronic headaches. By the time the sun was hanging directly overhead, Morgan could take it no longer. He needed out of his stuffy office and away from the nagging patients, whose aches and pains seemed trivial compared to those of the small boy fighting for his life at Hooker Ranch. He’d made his way down the street to the Silver Spur Saloon, the one place he was sure to find respite from his patients’ gripes. Perhaps noon was a little early to be drinking, but Morgan reasoned that his trip to the saloon could serve multiple purposes. The saloon was a good place to catch up on the goings-on in the town, and Morgan could sit and listen to the chatter around him without having to directly engage anyone in conversation.

Morgan was now seated at the worn, vaguely grimy surface of the Silver Spur’s bar, his back to the saloon’s double door entrance. “Whiskey for me, Ed,” he said to the barkeep, a man who looked to be about as old as the dirt of Splitcreek. The bartender, an old friend (if you really want to call Morgan’s acquaintances friends), gave him a curt nod and poured him a whiskey. “Rough day, Doc?” he asked, wiping down the bar’s surface. “You have no idea, Ed,” Morgan said, shaking his head. “You have no idea.”

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Samuel Cole
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The sun beat down above them as Sam wiped the back of his neck with his kerchief for what seemed like the hundredth time. He'd been steadily riding for a few days now, coming in out of Yuma in search of this little town. The gold rush was hitting big here, and he figured he might try making a little money to put in his own pocket. Who knows, the town was growing big with the influx of gold miners. And a fast growing town meant trouble. Maybe he could get work as a sheriff's deputy or some such.

He looked out at the empty desert around him, finally seeing the town in the distance. He pulled out a canteen which held the last of his water. He took a gulp for himself, then poured out a little into his hand, offering it to his horse. The horse was an American Quarter horse, a young gelding he'd had for two years now named Sager. He watched as the horse drank the last of the water greedily from his hands, chuckling a little. "Easy now boy, you'll take my hand hand off." He wiped his hand off on his trousers and put the canteen away.

He eased his horse into a steady trot, only letting up once they'd arrived at the edge of town. He sat up more in the saddle, his back was sore and he was covered in dirt and dust from the few days ride, but at least he'd made it. A new life, a new beginning. Well, at least that's what some would say. For Sam, most of his experiences with moving around some amounted to just a change of scenery and jobs, no new life. Nothing like that. No place where he didn't go to sleep at night and remember that winter.

He finally climbed off his horse, and lead it over to the hitching post closest to the saloon. He tightened up his pistol belt and stretched a little, then loosened the saddle on the horse some before turning and heading inside the saloon itself. He eased up to the bar, largely ignoring the older man a few seats down from him, instead glancing his eyes towards the long mirror hanging along the top of the bar, allowing him to keep an eye on his horse while he rested.

"A beer." He said to the ancient looking bar tender once the man gave him his attention. The man nodded, pouring him a tall beer that Sam accepted, glad for something cool after the heat of the day.

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Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock Character Portrait: Samuel Cole
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#, as written by Coupons
Shortly after the others had settled into their seats at the Silver Spur, the doors swung open for the town sheriff. He stood out compared to the road-worn visitors who sat at the bar, sharp-eyed as he was, bathed, with a trimmed beard, and wearing a clean, pressed suit. He was all in black, but for a white shirt and cravat which were tucked underneath his vest. He strode up to the bar in polished shoes and took a seat a few stools down from the other patrons, where he had a good view of the main entrance. He unbuttoned his jacket as he shifted to get comfortable on the stool, revealing, pinned to his vest, the silver star which was his badge of office; his revolver rested not far below it, in a leather holster on his hip.

He took off his bowler hat, setting it on the surface before him. His brown hair was long, but tied loose in a knot behind his head. He got the barkeeper's attention with a raised hand. “Breakfast for these fellows,” he said, pulling a half-dollar coin out of a vest pocket and placing it on the bar, “if they haven’t already had it.” He offered a knowing nod towards the doctor, along with a brief flash of a comforting smile. “I’ll have some, as well. And coffee, please. Too early for anything else.”

Image was important, Clif knew. It was part of the job, being a spark of hope in an otherwise grim existence. No matter how cynical he’s felt at times, he’s always believed there’s no harm in paying it forward, especially towards someone who might save his life one day. “You look like you’ve seen a lot of shit this morning already,” he said, his tone matter-of-fact. “Have to keep that energy up, for your sake.”

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Character Portrait: Araminta 'Minty' Moses
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The clank, clank, clank of the silver mine, over on the other arm of the river, tapped like a mantra in Minty's subconsciousness. If she hadn't already been able to tell the time of day by the position of the sun, she still would have known it by the different phrases of the mine's machinery, from the coughing, hacking roar of the operation shuddering to life every morning that served as her alarm call to the muscular grumbling of the drills boring through shale sandstone, to the sighs and squeaks of the tortured metal cooling after operations finally shut down after the sudden desert sunset.

But while the sounds of industry and commerce were comfortingly predictable, the inhabitants were anything but, and Minty was glad of the steep, inhospitable bluff that jutted between what she thought of as her river and the mine's river. Exhausted from 15-hour days, exploring was the last thing on these troglodytes' minds. Fighting and fucking was all they were interested in, fighting and fucking and then sleeping, fueled by blindingly strong moonshine brewed up at the camp. To some extent, the camp was a fully functioning settlement; well, functioning on the very limits of what could be considered civilisation. There was a cook who boiled the weekly food deliveries into a seething mush and served it in his mess hall; there was a rough and ready police force, to guard the precious silver more than the miners; and there was an ex-Army doctor, himself a venal alcoholic whose main treatments comprised prescribing moonshine for all ailments, setting bones without any pain relief, and all-too-eager amputations and no aftercare. Deaths were frequent, but Stanley Silver, the mining company trading shamelessly on the Splitcreek founder's name, rarely reported them to the authorities in the town. Too much trouble. But Minty knew; she often saw the bloated bodies floating down the mine river when she foraged for herbs where the two branches met.

Rosie lay on the dead man's bed, waiting patiently as Minty ticked back and forth to the sounds of the mine. Long used to such quirks, she waited patiently for the diminutive medicine woman's to return to the same dimension the rest of the world inhabited. Eventually Minty's eyes flicked open again, and she swayed as her vision readjusted to the muggy gloom of the hut. Smoke swirled up from a brazier, where smouldering herbs filled the room with a tangy, sleepy scent. What little light there was came from a sputtering candle on the bedside table and from the doorway, where slivers of bright sunlight snuck past the heavy layers of burlap Minty substituted for a door.

Minty flashed a grin at the plump prostitute and tugged her ruffled skirts down to her knees again. "Good news, Miss Rosie, it not the clap again. It's only an infection in your bladder."

"Oh, sweet thing, you are an angel," Rosie cooed with relief, clambering upright. Minty grimaced as she turned to the darkest recesses of her hut, rattling through jars and pots by feel and smell as much as by sight. The grimace was only partly for the pain in her back. Rosie provided another vital service at the mine; she was the 'camp wife', and she spoke about the near-savages who used and abused her as if they were wayward children; 'my boys', she called them, even though the bruises and cuts Minty had to patch up told the true story. Not for the first time, Minty wondered whether the rich and powerful men and the high-society ladies who were the final customers for the precious metal dug out of the earth knew the true, sordid nature of its origins.

"A spoon of this, morning and night, Miss Rosie," said Minty, handing over an earthenware pot. Rosie popped off the lid and scrunched up her nose at the smell that emanated from within. "Til it all gone."

Rosie's good-time-gal smile popped back on her weathered face automatically, and she tucked the vial in among her voluminous skirts. From the same secret location, she drew out a leather pouch and handed it over to Minty. "Here y'are, precious." Then she turned to flounce from the dark hut, her dramatic exit spoiled by her flailing at the thick curtains over the door. Minty watched as the surly guard from the mine helped Rosie up on her mount and led her back up the ravine that hid Minty's hut. Rosie could only leave the mine accompanied by one of Stanley Silver's hired thugs, such was the company's paranoia about theft. In reality, she - and the miners themselves - were prisoners, even if they didn't know it.

The rich smell of fresh tobacco added to the potent mix of scents swirling around her hut as Minty opened Rosie's payment. Easing herself gingerly down onto the dead man's bed, she popped a wad of it into her cheek and chewed, sighing with satisfaction as the nicotine ricocheted through her veins.

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Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock
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Sam glanced over to the sheriff, listening to what the man said. He was honestly surprised, the last town he'd spent any time in had a sheriff who'd threatened to shoot him if he did anything that the man didn't like. So to see one dressed like this and willingly buying a total stranger breakfast was... new, to say the least. He nodded to the lawman before taking another sip of the cold beer. "Well, I think I'll take you up on that offer. My thanks to you sheriff." He said, Missouri accent slipping through.

"I'll take an order of egg's, some sausage, and toast." He told the man behind the counter, seeing what they had cooking on the stove. Compared to the clean cut sheriff, and even the tired looking man across from him. He was pretty rough looking. A few days without a shave had left quite a bit of scruff on his face. His clothes were doused with dust and some sweat. He planned to get a room and a bath after this, then change into some fresher clothes.

Sam stretched a little popping his back some after so long sitting in the saddle. He'd need work soon, preferably somewhere he could put his gun to use and actually help people. He glanced back into the mirror, keeping an eye on his horse. He was also slightly worried, wondering what the sheriff would say about him carrying openly in the town. He hadn't seen any signs, but many towns he'd been to were upholding a no guns inside town policy. Soon, the smell of his food cooking hit his nose, and a plate was set before him. Realizing how tired he was of hard tack and beef jerky, he pretty quickly grabbed up his fork and started digging into his meal.

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Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock Character Portrait: Samuel Cole
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Morgan had just taken the first sip of his whiskey when a tall, scruffy stranger strode into the saloon and sat down at the bar. Caked in desert dust and wearing a thin sheen of sweat, Morgan swore that he could smell the man from where he sat. His filthy clothes and half-grown beard told the tale of a hard ride through the desert, and the doctor briefly wondered where the man had come from. Splitcreek drew all sorts, and with the way things were going these days, you could never tell whether the strangers who rode in were friend or foe. Morgan didn't attempt conversation, just kept the man in his peripheral vision and sipped his whiskey, which was just strong enough to dull the throbbing pain that had started up in his head. Morgan was used to these headaches; they tended to pop up when he was feeling guilty or upset, which, due to the shortcomings of small-town medicine, he often was. He took a long drink and stared down at the bar, his mouth set in a hard line.

The saloon doors swung open a second time, creaking on their old hinges. This time Morgan didn't need to look up to recognize the purposeful footsteps approaching the bar. There was a crispness in the way the sheriff walked, a gait that wasn't exactly stiff, but was far from the easy stroll of any old cowboy. He was a big man, but he moved with intention, never expending more energy than was necessary. He was watchful and ominous, a presence that, depending on one's outlook, was either comforting or foreboding, and he had a way of clearing the street when he went walking by. The sheriff appeared in the corner of Morgan's vision, a sharp contrast to the stranger at the bar. Somehow Clif looked more intimidating in a smart suit than any rough-and-tumble outlaw in a filthy bandana.

He watched Clif remove his hat and set it down on the bar, Ed ready and waiting for the sheriff's instructions. Morgan smiled faintly as the sheriff ordered breakfast for him and the stranger and raised his glass in quiet thanks. Morgan and Clif had an unspoken understanding between the two of them, and a mutual appreciation for each other's service to the town. The doctor might have quietly disagreed with some of the sheriff's methods, but who was he to talk when he spent most of his day holed up in his office, trying to forget the last time he'd had to choose sides? War was a terrible thing, and it had scarred Morgan in ways he still didn't fully understand. No, he was thankful for the sheriff- thankful that there was at least one person in this town willing to take action. Things weren't so dire yet that Morgan felt he had to choose a side, and he prayed that day never came. For now the sheriff served as the dam that held back the filthy tide of outlaws from spilling into Splitcreek. How long that dam would hold exactly, no one knew for sure.

"You look like you've seen a lot of shit this morning already." Morgan felt another sharp pang of guilt at the sheriff's words. "Billy Hooker," he began, "John's youngest...he's not well. Infection." The heavy sigh Morgan heaved made it clear he thought the prognosis was grim. "Wish he'd come to me sooner," Morgan muttered. "There was no helping it by the time I finally got round to him..." Another heavy sigh. "Anyway, cheers, Sheriff" Morgan said half-heartedly, raising his glass once more. "And to you too, stranger," he said, acknowledging Sam. "Welcome to Splitcreek. You ought to stay on the good side of this man here." He gave Clif a wry smile. "May look smart in that suit, but he's handy with a knife."

"What brings you to Splitcreek?" he asked Sam, moving along to a lighter topic. The inquiry was innocent enough, but these questions were often telling.

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Character Portrait: Wildcat Kate
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Kate and Gunsmoke came up hard and fast on the town of Splitcreek, Gunsmoke's hooves pounding on the hard-packed desert earth. Kate's braid blew out behind her like a yellow ribbon, the stray strands whipping around her face in a frenzy, and the wind rushing by freed her sticky shirt from her skin. The cool breeze brought by Gunsmoke's speed brought a nice respite from the baking heat, and she found her spirits lifting as Splitcreek drew nearer and nearer. Off to her right, in the distance, she could just make out what looked like a mining camp, and beyond that a formidable bluff, which Kate judged to be one of the town's borders. On the left side of the town was a portion of a snaking river, which wound uphill, presumably into more desert wilderness. The river, Kate reasoned, was probably what had first drawn people to this godforsaken patch of desert. It generally only took one lucky miner to bring in a flood of people hoping to find similar riches, and where there were people, towns were sure to follow.

Expending Gunsmoke's last bit of energy, the outlaw rode up on the town's main street, which was lined with saloons, shops, and hotels. At midday it was fairly busy, bustling with people of every race and creed. Saloon girls stood in the shadows of saloon fronts, simpering coquettishly at any man who walked by in hopes of enticing them in, while more "proper" women strode briskly from storefront to storefront, clutching parcels and shopping bags to their breasts as they held their noses high in the air. A blacksmith stood at the entrance to his shop, banging a hunk of metal into shape on an anvil, and scrubby looking miners schlepped about, toting loads of mining gear. At first look, the town looked like any other Kate had visited, but upon closer inspection, she noticed more than a few unsavory characters stalking the street. It takes an outlaw to know one, and while these men looked insignificant at first glance, a closer look revealed that many of them were armed to the teeth. They watched the street with hard glares, either from shaded porches or the backs of their horses. Some travelled alone, others moved in loose packs, and Kate noticed they were given a wide berth by passersby. So she wasn't the first their to stumble on this little mining town. Not the first, but by far the best and most cunning, she thought self-importantly.

Kate had an ego the size of the whole untamed West, and no amount of failures or setbacks could convince her she was anything other than the most formidable outlaw the West had ever seen. It was easy enough to blend in with all the activity on the street, and she rode Gunsmoke over to the hitching post outside the nearest saloon and dismounted, her body stiff and sore after hours in the saddle. Even a horsewoman like Kate couldn't ride forever, and she was glad to have her feet on the ground again. Gunsmoke lowered his head to the trough and drank thirstily, his sides still heaving after the last gallop into town. "Drink up, fella," she said, patting the large bay's neck, "you earned it." Now that she'd watered her horse, Kate set about quenching her own thirst. She looked up at the saloon before her; she could just make out the words "Silver Spur Saloon" in faded lettering above the establishment's double doors. She guessed that this saloon had been one of the town's first; it was well-built, but it's exterior was already showing wear from the harsh Arizona weather.

The din of clinking glasses and clattering poker chips drifted through the doorway- music to Kate's ears. She'd intended to keep a low profile, at least until she got a better feel for the town and its idea of law and order, but she was itching to take some sucker's money in a game of cards. Just a quick game she reasoned. Afterall, I do need to acquaint myself with the town. She used her kerchief to wipe the worst of the dirt and sweat from her brow, then straightened her stetson on her head and stepped inside. The saloon's cool, musty interior was a welcome change from the dry heat outside, and Kate smiled as the familiar smell of cigar smoke and the strong perfume of saloon girls enveloped her. In her element now, she sidled up to the nearest card table, where, after a few minutes of scoping out the game with a practiced eye, she invited herself to play the next hand.

The three men, already quite drunk, appraised her with lazy eyes. They looked generally unkempt, with large guts and scruffy faces. Kate guessed they spent most of their days in the Silver Spur, drinking and losing money hand over fist. Her presence didn't seem to make much difference to them; no doubt they each thought they might finally have a chance to win some money with a woman now at the table. The intoxicated men were easy prey, and a short 15 minutes later Kate found herself quite a bit a richer. She knew she ought to leave before the men got suspicious, but sometimes she just didn't know when to quit. Her slanted, feline eyes appraised the table...what could one more round hurt? The disgruntled men were growing agitated, but Kate kept up her front, assuring them she'd never been so lucky in her life. Perhaps she smiled a little too wide when she drew the pile of chips and cash over to her when she won the next hand, because one of the men finally snapped.

"Yer cheating!" he bellowed, slamming his fist down on the table. "Yer a goddamned thief! Ain't nobody that lucky!" Kate didn't mind being called a cheater or a theif (she was both, after all), but she did wish he'd do it a little more quietly. He was drawing attention to them; heads were starting to turn in their direction.

"I don't know what you're on about," she said coolly, stuffing a fistful of bills into her pocket. "Tell me, are you as stupid as you are broke?" she sneered. Kate knew she was pushing her luck with the last comment, but she always had been an antagonistic little thing.

"I'll teach you to mouth off to me, you thieving little snake," the man roared, drawing a pistol and training it on Kate.

Now the patrons of the Silver Spur were really looking, and Kate, in typical fashion, only realized she was in over her head after it was too late. She could handle a few drunk gamblers, but if anyone of any real clout was hanging around, she'd just blown any hope of keeping a low profile to hell.

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Character Portrait: Wildcat Kate Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock Character Portrait: Samuel Cole Character Portrait: Oliver Hope Character Portrait: Johanna Baker
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Oliver wiped the handkerchief across his brow, the sweat trying to force its way into his eyes. Shoving the cotton square in his pocket, he pushed his shirt sleeves up to his elbows and out of the way before hoisting the barrel onto his shoulder. Jo's fingers tapped a quick beat out on the railing behind the saloon.

"You could help," Oliver suggested. Jo laughed aloud.

"Now why would I help when I have you to do all the heavy lifting?" she asked playfully. He just sighed and hauled the barrel up the steps. All the other saloons were cutting their whiskey with turpentine or gunpowder, but the Old Man had never done that. So Oliver and Johanna never did it. In fact, they were almost religious about keeping the Silver Spur the same way he had kept it. Very little had changed. Neither sibling could decide if they were honoring the man that helped them when they needed it most or if they just weren't quite ready to let go of the way he did things. Or to let go of him.

One by one, Oliver rolled the barrels onto the back deck. He would load them behind the bar in the evening, but at the moment they needed to get back to the bar. Ed could handle a lot of shit, but leaving anyone alone to run the Silver Spur for too long was just asking for the kind of trouble that brought buildings down in flames.

Jo traipsed through the doors behind her brother. "Late breakfast, boys?" she greeted the men at her bar counter. She stopped in front of the stranger, ignoring the dramatic goings on of those she already knew. There'd be time enough for that any day. "You're new. You should answer him," she said in reference to Morgan's query. Oliver huffed a laugh from where he was cleaning abandoned glasses off the tables, but he didn't say anything to stop his sister from prying. After all, he was curious too. He'd take any way that he could satisfy his mind and still save some face.

"Yer cheating!" Oliver's head whipped around to find the gambler clobbering the table with his grubby fist and yelling. "Yer a goddamned theif! Ain't nobody that lucky!" Johanna's back straightened, and her mouth pressed into a thin line.

"Watch yourselves over there," Oliver snapped, but the gambler pulled out his pistol on the woman anyway. Guns were not something Oliver was really ever prepared to deal with. Drunks, yes, arguments, yes, but guns made him freeze up every time.

Johanna's hand found her own pistol under the bar, the rest of her body not moving an inch.

"You know the rules," she said. "If you're in here, you're pistol's in its holster. I'd hate for something bad to happen, and I'm sure the sheriff here would hate to have his breakfast get cold."

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Character Portrait: Wildcat Kate Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock Character Portrait: Samuel Cole Character Portrait: Oliver Hope Character Portrait: Johanna Baker
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Sam kept eating for a moment longer before wiping his mouth and chin. Cocking an eyebrow a little when more dust came off than anything else. He looked over to the doctor for a moment before nodding and offering the man a handshake. "I reckon I'll be trying my best to stay out of any trouble. 'Specially with the sheriff. I'm Sam, Sam Cole" He said, chuckling a little before eating some more.

"As for what brings me here?" Sam thought for a moment. "I guess it was just time for a change of scenery. Got tired of shoveling coal into a fire box all day, even if it did pay good. Heard about this place and figured I might be able to make a little pay. Might even settle." He told the older man and the young woman who'd joined their conversation, pulling out a simple looking pocket watch with the Union Pacific Rail Road logo on it. He had a little money saved up, enough to buy a plot of land he figured, traveling like he did, you didn't spend a lot of money. He noticed that the young woman seemed fairly interested in hearing what he had to say, figuring that it was just part and parcel since she was working behind the bar. News was news, and a new face showing up in town was always of interest to others.

"Yer Cheating!" Sam heard the drunken man call out behind him. He slipped the pocket watch back into his vest pocket as soon as the commotion started behind him. He turned around in his bar stool, watching as the man slammed a fist down onto the table, staring at the woman across from him. Poker chips and cards clattered to the floor from the force.
The woman looked about as rough and trail worn as he figured he did, her braid had bits and ends sticking out at angles, and her face and clothes were streaked with dust. She hurriedly stuffed the money into her pocket and said something to the man.

As soon as the drunks hand went for his pistol, Sam slipped his hand down carefully, unbuckling his holster to free his gun to draw. He watched the exchange closely, waiting for the sheriff to take action first.

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Character Portrait: Araminta 'Minty' Moses
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Squatting on her haunches by the river's edge, Minty tore off a piece of the snake jerky, chewed a couple of times, and spat it out into her hand. Rattlesnake was chewy and a bit tasteless, but rubbed with enough garlic and chili before it was cured, it make a serviceable snack - and it already came in handy strip-like portions.

"Hee-hee, Mister Snake," she giggled to herself. "It your own fault you jerky-shaped."

She speared the sliver of snakemeat on a barbed fish-hook attached to a longer line and repeated the process several times until seven hooklines, attached at intervals to a main line, were baited. There was a deep pool on 'her' branch of the river here, just upstream from where the two streams came together in the famous 'split creek' for which the town a mile or so downstream was named, and the frothing, turbulent waters there kept more timid fish upstream in the slow-moving current of the pool. Nor did fish enjoy venturing into the pollution that washed down from the mine.

Bracing herself against a rocky outcrop lest the intractable current drag her slight frame away, Minty waded up to her waist in the river and cast out her fishing lines, one end looped around her left arm. She waited patiently for the ripples of her intrusion to fade away, and then waited some more. Hot, dusty air whistled down the canyon carved over millennia by the river and rustled her hair. By contrast, cooling water lapped at her waist, an occasional surge wetting her up to her chest. Wishing not to disturb any fish that might be present, she resisted the urge to wiggle her toes in the mud of the riverbed. Peering past the glare of the sun reflecting off the surface of the water, she thought she spied a pair of catfish - channels or flatheads, it was hard to tell - lolling lazily through the water a few yards from her bait. At least three feet long, they were too big for her lines. A pity, she thought; catfish made a tasty meal. But they could break her line or even pull her off her feet into deeper waters. Reluctantly, Minty smacked the surface of the water; the juicy catfish flicked their tails and disappeared into the murk.

Another hour passed. Minty let the sun bake her, occasionally scooping up a handful of water to quench her thirst. They originated from the same mountain range, so Minty thought of 'her' river and the mine river as equal but opposite twins. The breeze that accompanied this river was gentle and playful; on the other side of the massif, it was thick and thundery. The water in the mine river was sour and ill-tempered; here it was cool and refreshing. Helpful spirits inhabited this stretch, aiding the growth of the precious herbs for her medicines. There was a devil in the water on the other side; nothing but ragged scrub grew there.

Minty was shaken from her reverie by a sharp tug on the line. A stout roundtail chub, about a foot long, thrashed at the end of one of the hooklines about halfway up the line. Minty grinned and, after waiting a moment to make sure the chub was fully caught, began drawing him in, winding the line around her arm.

Suddenly the line drew taut and Minty was dragged off her feet, face-first into the water. She rose again, spluttering and gasping, before another savage tug pulled her down again. She kicked her feet, seeking the riverbed, and a tremor of panic ran through her when she kicked nothing but water. She could just make out the thick form of the catfish at the end of her line as it rolled and bent to try and escape the weight dragging on it. As the air began to burn in her lungs, she again turned her attention to the rope wrapped around her arm, and managed to shuck off a couple of loops. She could hear her pulse hammering in her ears, and purple lights flashed before her eyes as her oxygen-deprived brain struggled to function. The catfish jack-knifed again, and Minty was dimly aware from the murky green all around her that she must now be in the middle of the river, where the current was strongest. One last loop around her wrist tied her to her tormentor, and she fumbled at it with fingers that would barely obey her commands.

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Character Portrait: Wildcat Kate Character Portrait: Morgan "Doc" Crowe Character Portrait: Sheriff Clifton Wheelock Character Portrait: Samuel Cole Character Portrait: Oliver Hope Character Portrait: Johanna Baker
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#, as written by Coupons
The sheriff was calmly eating his meal until the card game went wrong. All of the locals knew him as the quiet type; though usually friendly enough, he was a man of few words. Upon hearing news of the boy, “I’m real sorry to hear about that,” was the only reply which came. Once iron cleared leather, though, Clif put down his fork, turned towards the commotion, stood up from the stool, and spoke some carefully-selected words. “You just put that gun down on the table, now.” His voice was calm, but authoritative. His hands made no motion for his gun, his arms hanging idly by his sides. “If I think you’ve been cheated, I’ll see you get your money back, but you let me get a feel for that stranger first, before you go shooting her. Alright? Whatever happens, your worst choices start with pulling that trigger. I mean, sure, you could shoot her, shoot me, and shoot whoever else you think is a threat, but you ain’t got enough bullets to keep yourself from running, in the end. Nobody wants that. . . Not even you, if you think real hard about it. . . She ain’t worth it, and neither’s that money, so put it down.”

Out of words he thought might be useful, the sheriff just took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His hand drifted slowly to rest on the grip of his pistol as he exhaled slowly, just listening to the quiet stirring of the saloon. He hoped that quiet wasn’t the last he’d hear before his life was snuffed out in a flash of drunken anger. He’d been ready to die for a long time, truth be told. If he went now, he’d be fine to retell his own story on the other side, whether he arrived at the gates to Heaven or Hell. He was content, and he’d lived a good life, and that was all he could have hoped for, until now. Now his only hope was that what he’d said would get that man to put down his gun, and that he’d live to see mid-day.

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Character Portrait: Araminta 'Minty' Moses
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The devil of the mine river had Minty by the arm and roared into her face as he tried to drag her down to hell. Minty screamed but no sound came out. She twisted and jerked but found nothing to brace herself against. "Damnit if Ah ain't just a fish on the line," Minty muttered to herself as the devil's scaly grip bit into her wrist.

Minty knew she must be close to death; this was the first time she'd seen the devil's face - although there wasn't much to see bar a huge black beard, bristly as a cactus, and a battered miner's helmet pulled down low over his eyes. Another roar, making Minty recoil in fear, showed off his craggy rock teeth. She looked past the devil and saw the entrance to hell; it was shored up with rough-hewn logs like a mining tunnel, and the clank, clank, clank of machinery emanated from the pitch-black interior, undercut with moans and groans from the unseen souls within.

Throughout the many hardships of her life, Minty had never relied on anyone but herself. The shocking cheapness of life on the slave plantation, and the ease with which Mother Nature could snatch someone away on the plains, had given her an inner toughness that belied her size. But those moans and groans from the hellish mines made her feel brittle with panic at the thought of never feeling the sun on her skin or breathing fresh air.

"Help me, river, help me," she begged silently.

But she was in the mine's river now, and the beneficent spirits of her own river either couldn't hear her or couldn't reach her.

The devil's teeth snapped closer and closer. Minty flinched and scrunched her eyes shut, bracing for the worst. But suddenly a warm, almost maternal feeling washed over her, enveloping her, and the devil's chopping jaws, hell's clanking machinery, and the groans of torment were drowned out by a cooing voice: "My angel, my angel."

Minty awoke with a start, face down, spitting mud and sand. The pain in her back prompted her to run a hand behind herself and check she hadn't been impaled by something. With a groan, she rolled over on her side and vomited pints of riverwater. Her convulsions finally over, she blinked and shook her head to focus her groggy view and found she was on the mine side of the river just below the rapids where the two arms met. Her left wrist was chafed and swollen from the fishing rope that had eventually slipped free.

Gradually, wincing all the way, Minty got to her feet and looked back up the river. She had been dragged, by catfish or current, some 100 yards from her fishing pool, through the maelstrom where the rivers joined, to wind up on the opposite bank. She could just about make out the rock from which she began her fishing expeditions. She squinted further, trying to locate her little pack. Oh well, she sighed, it would have to wait til she found a way back across the river, which flowed twice as fast below the convergence. It's not like the jackals were going to take it.

Something further up the bank she'd just been deposited on caught her eye - a heap of coral pink that stood out pale and wan against the vibrant red stone of the desert. Minty squeezed the last drops of water out of her tangled mass of hair and trotted warily in its direction. From about 30 yards away, she could identify the shape - human, though sprawled uncomfortably, unnaturally - and slowed her pace, glancing around at the canyon walls for hidden watchers.

The bodice of Rosie's tattered ballgown had been yanked down to her waist, exposing white, pillowy breasts, lightly marbled with blueish veins. But the first thing Minty noticed was the sullen purple hue of the prostitute's swollen face. She crept forward, flicking her eyes around the river with every step, and knelt by the body.

"Oh Miss Rosie, what they do to you?" Minty whispered, even as she spied the dark bruises around her neck. There was no medicine for strangulation. A little fist of anger clenched in Minty's stomach. Rosie had been a fool, but she'd been one of Minty's patients, and that made Minty responsible for her. The miners she'd seen wash down the river had died from gunshot or stab wounds - injuries inflicted in a moment's drunken impulse - but to choke someone to death required determination, especially someone of Rosie's size. To bear down and squeeze the life out of someone, to ignore their flailing arms, to - Minty ran her hands lightly around the circumference of Rosie's neck... yep - to crush their windpipe and crack their vertebrae, took more than anger or drunkenness.

Dashing tears from the corners of her eyes, Minty struggled in vain to pull the ballgown up to cover Rosie's breasts. Her friend lay cold, bloated, unwanted and vulnerable on the bank of the river, murdered by some man who thought of her as just another piece of trash, as little more than property. Glancing up the mine river to where, when the wind blew right, Minty could still make out the hellish clank, clank, clank, she gritted her teeth.

"Ah spose this is a job for the city lawman, Miss Rosie. Ah ain't goin' up that mine by meself."

She patted her belt, looking for the knife she'd left on the bank of her slow-moving fishing pool. Silently cursing its absence, she studied the body before her, then turned Rosie's head to one side and bent down and bit off her earlobe. Chewing the cold, rubbery flesh, she struggled to her feet and set off in the direction of Splitcreek.

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Character Portrait: Araminta 'Minty' Moses Character Portrait: Nathaniel Clay
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They morning at the Greene Ranch always ended in the same manner. After the horses that occupied their pen bordering on the small ranch house were fed and watered and cared for, Nathaniel Clay left to work at their store in town. Henrietta packed lunch in a small knapsack that sat between Nathaniel and the young Noah Greene as they left the ranch by buggy and horse. Nathaniel rarely said no more than two words on their rides into town. Noah would often try to get him to say something, otherwise all that occupied their time was the blistering heat and the unnerving quiet passing through the vacant dusty valley that not even a wind bothered to pick up on today. If Mr. Clay was in a good mood, he might get a huff single word response otherwise general silence. He supposed Mr. Clay used this time to his own thoughts or rather for a man who manages a store that works with a lot of folks every day he was no big fan of frivolous talking.

Still young Noah, balancing the flat cap currently on his head was just passing through the silence when he noticed a figure further up ahead lurching a little. Mr. Clay seemed to noticed it as well, the dapper bowler hat whiskered somber man quietly going for the rifle underneath the wagon seat resting it on his lap. “If I tell you to take the reins. You take them.” Noah immediately regretted wishing for some sort of excitement. He seemed scared, nervous. He would never guess that Nathaniel was feeling the same way at the moment. He couldn’t show it, the boy might lose his nerve entirely and do something foolish. The man’s beady eyes squinted, adjusting to the light. The figure up ahead was lurching her way forward in a long march.

Noah was almost surprised to see it was the wild witch woman who lived somewhere in the Bluffs! He had heard stories from all sorts of folks as he swept the shop. She could kill your crops if you crossed her. Make your babies still born! She danced with the devil every full moon and anyone who witness went insane! Mr. Clay stopped the horse. Noah couldn’t read his vacant expression as he looked at the woman further up ahead.

Nathaniel perhaps out of instinct put the firearm back into its place and without warning he gave the reins to Noah. “Wait here. Do nothing.” He told the young man. “And I don’t want you to say anything rude. You hear me?” He gruff up with an accusing finger. Wha-!? The lack of a response got Noah ‘the look’. Gah! “Yes sir!” he rung out. Good. Hm. Nathaniel chewed his cheek for a moment as he walked and attempted to approach the strangler looking woman wandering down the road looking like she lost the fight with Neptune show soaking wet she was and the look on her eyes registered something in Nathaniel.

“Excuse me ma’am.” He gruff up from behind. “You heading into town?” The General Store owner asked frankly and simply. He removed his hat off his aging head for a moment before he looked at the boy behind him. Noah looked confused for a moment before he shook the hat in his hand. OH! Uh! Noah did the same sort of shaking the mop of dark head growing on his head. That boy needed a haircut.

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Character Portrait: Araminta 'Minty' Moses Character Portrait: Nathaniel Clay
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The red dust rose from Minty's feet as she shambled along the river road to Splitcreek. The pain in the small of her back barked with every step. She fancied she could hear the sizzling as the harsh Arizona sun gradually evaporating the riverwater from her clothes and hair, rising as steam. She sucked on a sleeve to quench her thirst, then spat, remembering that she'd been soaked in the foul miasma of the mine river as well as the clear waters of her own.

The dust rose. The sun burned and the steam sizzled. Her back ached, her feet dragged, and the dust rose. Minty swallowed dryly. A cluster of cacti momentarily offered the prospect of something to drink, but Minty had left her knife far behind. Her breath came in ragged little gasps and her feet thudded in the dust. The repetitive sounds lulled her until she was walking almost automatically. The cry of a buzzard circling overhead split the silence.

'Go 'way, mean ol' crow,' Minty slurred, half asleep. 'Ah'm not for you today.'

A new sound filtered into her subconscious - the proud trot of a well-tended horse, the jangle and creak of a buggy. As she staggered on, the sound neared to within 10 yard of her, then stopped. Someone alighted.

"Excuse me, ma'am," came a male voice. Despite his authoritarian tone, Minty fancied she could detect the tremor of uncertainty she so often elicited in strangers. She turned and glared balefully at the well-built, well-presented man who had addressed her.

"You heading into town?" he continued, seemingly unfazed by her doleful look or scarecrow appearance. Nathaniel regarded the ragged, uneven trail of footprints. Any rancher, or anyone with experience of animals, could tell this woman was lame.

Minty glared at the man, backing up a step or two like a wild animal at bay, caught between fight and flight. Over the man's shoulder, she caught sight of a nervous-looking teen with a shock of dark hair. She hissed between her teeth at him, and grinned her crooked smile as he flinched.

Nathaniel failed to utter a single word. He stood there reserved, patient, giving her a cool stare. She seemed to be in some sort of shock. His eyes squinted in this ungodly heat. Despite being a well put together man, it was apparent as the two were staring at each other that Nathaniel was getting old. The man grinded the back of his teeth and there was a dull twitch and ache, probably one or two of them rotting on the inside. He waited for a simple no or a yes. He figured if he imposed far too much it only frighten her off.

Minty looked him up and down, recognizing him now as the owner of the general store in Splitcreek. Clay, the merchant was named, and aptly so; he was slow-moving, solid, unyielding. A man who held such a respectable role in the town would not approve of her ways, she knew. But the sheriff was another such man; perhaps arriving with one respectable man would make another more willing to listen to her. She indicated her assent with a small nod of her head.

Nathaniel helped her into the buggy, momentarily caught off-guard by how light and fragile the witch woman was. He was used to hauling sacks of grain; this woman's bones were like a bird's. Frowning at Noah's unconcealed fear of the woman sitting between them, Nathaniel cracked the reins and sent them on their way. As much to hide his annoyance at Noah's unmanliness as anything else, Nathaniel went against his ingrained instincts and attempted conversation.

"You’ve got business in town, ma'am?"

"Why you call me 'ma'am', Mr Shopkeeper?" came Minty's reply, in a sing-song, childlike voice. "That ain't what you think."

“You don’t know what I think.” Nathaniel bristled back, his heavy moustache shaking. He looked down into the witch woman's face, and the pock-marked burns on her cheeks and wild light in her eyes gave him pause enough for her to interject: "Ah must see the sheriff, sir."

The horse whickered as Nathaniel pulled hard on the reins. He didn’t question her business with the sheriff. She was entitled to her private affairs and she looked like she could use the help of the law just about this moment. He scooted so that Minty could sit in the nice cushions between the two. He returned the dapper bowler hat on his head and began to move. If there was awkward silence before, it was damn horrible now.

Noah sat there, flat cap returning his head as he shifted eyes back to the Witch Woman. Nathaniel seemed to returned to his own little comfort place of not speaking and driving. “Well… uh. I’m Noah and this is Mr. Clay… but you might have known that.” He expressed for a moment “What do they call you-??” He asked her realizing what he just said “By I mean. What’s your name?”

"They calls me what they wants, Noah," Minty replied, fixing the boy with a piercing stare, "an' my name is what Ah wants."

And then a silent reaction piece from Noah would be a nice way to finish. Something like:

Noah swallowed deeply, nodding his head even though he didn't fully understand the witch woman's reply and wishing he hadn't wished for the day to get more interesting.

The wheels of the buggy constantly turning and bumping on the dirt below was the only real sound, besides the horse continuingly pulling them forward with the small jingle of bells attached to the animal. It was starting to get real dry these last couple of days. Hopefully it would rain soon as the dust kicking up was so bad that Nathaniel rolled a neckerchief over his face and saw that Noah did about the same.

Nathaniel gave the reins to Noah at the moment untying the knapsack that was their lunch - a few sandwiches, peas, potatoes, and some mustard. Putting the assorted things further down, Nathaniel offered the rag to help cover Minty’s face during this really dusty ride into town. The witch woman flinched at his gesture, but then the wary stare was replaced by a nod of understanding. She spat, then tied the rag over her mouth and nose.

Close to an hour later, they began to ride down Main Street. All three were caked in dust and dirt.