Western Fiction posted August 6, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level
Matt and Catherine turns from pleasure to business

Story 14 The Proposition Pt 2

by c_lucas

Story Fourteen
Part Two
Fallen Angel
Narrator - Matt Mathews
Ending of the last post:
(Catherine's speaking)
"Mother has always said that you or Milo would make a perfect husband if I wanted to get married. She did not view either of you as a threat to my independence, or her money. In that Joe was engaged to your sister, she left him out. Mother warned never to lie or try to cheat you. She said if a man was caught lying, or cheating, he was dead. If a woman tried, she would end up with a broken heart."
Pierre stopped the carriage in front of my saloon. Before he could open the door, Catherine was sitting prim and proper. "Matt I have a proposition for you." She smiled at me as she took Pierre's hand.
I was in a daze when we walked into The Silver Spur. Time stood still while I escorted Catherine to my office in the back. The music stopped and most of the people stared. There wasn't even the sound of clinking glasses. I couldn't have made a more surprised entrance if I had entered buck-ass naked singing 'Dixie' to a regiment of Yankees.
It didn't faze Catherine. We might as well have been strolling down a fancy avenue.  She acted right at home.
I opened the door and when she walked past me, I turned over a sign, an outside warning all of the consequences of disturbing me. The skull and crossbones metal sign had a bullet hole in the forehead. Some fool disturbed a kiss by knocking.
Catherine softly laughed at my expression. "That would be Pierre." She opened the door and stepped aside.
Pierre, carrying a small chest, entered.  He placed the chest on my desk and looked at Catherine. "Will that be all, Madame?"
"I'll need an hour." Catherine smiled and Pierre left.
I was getting a little perturbed at that damned Cajun. He always ignored me.  I was ready to say something, but Catherine surprised me again by taking the seat behind my desk, twirling a lock of her hair.
She changed from being my lover into a business woman by asking, "Who did you plan to leave in charge while you're in Devil's Fork?"
"Bart, my bartender, usually watches over things when I'm gone."
"I would like to manage it."
I almost asked her about her qualifications when I had a flashback. It was Stella behind my desk, twirling a lock of her hair, telling us about two horse thieves on trial in a Missouri Court. She was a tremendous help in running down the bastards we wanted and a very level-headed business woman to boot.
Catherine had inherited her mother's characteristics. She broke the spell by playing with her hair. I realized what was going on and all the pieces came together. The name and her behavior fit together like a hand in a glove.
I remembered Stella, in a moment of weakness, had revealed her last name as 'Pershing'.  My hotel was owned by a C. S. Pershing, as was a bank, general store, livery and numerous other businesses as well as a good deal of empty property around town. Catherine admitted that she owned the Pershing Manor.  C. S. Pershing's sitting behind my desk!
I smiled at my pretty visitor and sat on the desk's corner. When she saw the grin on my face, her poker face vanished. Damn it all! The little vixen had the nerve to blush. The fool in me fell for it! I stared at her and she looked me in the eye without wavering. I saw her strength. She knew the game was up and tried to make the best of it.
"I don't plan to end up with a broken heart." She reached into her purse and placed a key onto the chest.
"Seventy-five thousand dollars," I said without touching the key.
She smiled. "Is it enough?"
For a moment, I lost myself in thinking about the money. "The Silver Spur is not for sale."
Her appraising look told me she didn't accept "no" for an answer.
"Would seventy-five thousand buy fifty-one percent?"
I looked at her and thoughts of our bedroom activities flooded my mind. My view began to weaken. "Forty-nine percent."
She studied me for a couple of moments and smiled. "Fifty percent and disagreements will be settled by the luck of the draw." She started playing with a lock of her hair, again.
If I didn't know better, I would have been fool enough to think of her as unskilled in business transactions. I'm a small shark in conflict with a large barracuda. I found out a few minutes later that she could have been rougher on me.
'The luck of the draw' meant any disagreements would be settled by cutting the cards. Highest card wins the argument.
"Neutral dealer." I smiled.
"Neutral dealer," she agreed and reached for my coat lapels as she stood up. Her kiss left me speechless and filled my head with all types of promises.  Her kisses give her the advantage. They're rattling my thinking process. She definitely doesn't fight fair.
"I prefer a kiss to a handshake." Even her smile promised an interesting future.
She didn't get an argument from me. We spent a few minutes sealing our deal until some damn fool broke it up by knocking. That arrogant Cajun seemed to have a knack for interrupting us during negotiations.
This time, I beat Catherine to the door.  Pierre was there with a poker playing friend of mine, Silas Harris, Attorney at law.
Twenty minutes later, I had a partner and was seventy-five thousand dollars richer.
As they were leaving, I shook Silas' and Pierre's hands.
The Cajun gave me his full attention. "Treat her fair, or answer to me."
I nodded. His threat was well heeded. I wanted no argument from him. If he ever challenged me, I would hate to have to kill him. It would upset Catherine and interfere with our new relations.
I counted out twenty thousand dollars, put it in my money belt, locked the box and put the key in my pocket.
"Would you take care of the box until I return?"
"Do you want to leave your money in the box, or give it a chance to grow?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"The way you handled the card cheat made quite an impression. Several people have mentioned your sense of fairness and will only play at the Silver Spur. Your table always made a modest profit. Sometimes a patron leaves a winner." Her smile told me that she knew I helped the winner.
I remembered playing poker with Stella. She didn't embarrass us, but we were always a little bit lighter when we left her table. We learned the hard way about being foolish enough to play strip poker with her. She left the table fully dressed and we ended in our long johns, but she left us our dignity. We took the merciless joking in stride because we couldn't leave the establishment until the next morning if she was of mind to give us our clothes back.
I took the key and placed it on the chest. "In for a penny, in for a pound. Bart will show you my table." We're partners. I might as well trust her poker skills. She had a damn good teacher.
Taking a little break from our unique business negotiations, I stepped out of the office and motioned to Bart.  He left the busy bar in the capable hands of two bartenders and followed me into my...our office.
"Bart, have you met Catherine before?"
"Yes, I have. It's nice seeing you again, Miss Pershing."
His comment surprised me.
He looked at me and grinned. "Miss Pershing is the supplier of our beverages."
She could have damaged my supply line. Not to be outdone, I stated, "Miss Pershing is now half owner of the Silver Spur. I'll be leaving for a few days. If she needs a helping hand, I would appreciate anything you can do for her."
"My pleasure," Bart nodded and left.
Catherine became all business and looked around the room.
"Where is your safe?" 
"The bottom drawer, the lock is on my hip." I adjusted my gun for emphasis.  "No one is fool enough to come into my office without being in my presence. You will be a first in that category. Did you look under the desk? I have a coach gun in a swivel holster on the right side." All I had to do is aim, cock it and fire. The downside was, I would need a new desk front and someone to mop the blood off the floor."

She nodded. "Added insurance?"
"There's an extra safe at the bank. Would you mind if I put it in our office?"
I agreed and she looked at the eight day clock sitting on the bookcase. "Your train leaves in three hours. Why don't we go to the hotel so you can pack?"
"My bag is already packed. It's an old habit of mine. I never know when I might have to leave town in a hurry."
"Let's pick it up and go to my place. We can iron out some of the finer details of our agreement?"
I wasn't a fool. Catherine didn't know how to use an iron. I found out later that Pierre's wife, Sarah, did the ironing. I admit I liked the way my new partner settled the finer details. When she finished, I barely had the energy to move, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
She dropped me off at the railroad station ten minutes before my train was due to arrive. Thanks to Pierre's foresight, my horses and surrey were waiting.  After a goodbye kiss, I was left alone with my memories to wait for the train.
My spirits lifted when a giant of a man exited from a stock car. I hadn't seen that old goat in years. Esther, Billy and his son, Junior, joined us on the platform. We had a short layover and spent it bringing each other up to date on our activities.  Catherine never came up in the family conversation.
Just before the train's departure, I paid for my vehicle and horses which had been loaded by Uncle Sky and Junior. Also, I bought myself a compartment and retired to it. When the train pulled out, I got some much needed sleep. That is, when Catherine wasn't controlling my dreams. Anyone thinking my dreams were about her running our saloon, I have some swamp land in the middle of the Yuma Desert for sale cheap.
A few days later, when the shooting ended and the smoke cleared, I found out about her other proposition.



Thank you, Leeda, for the use of your image, "Old Spindletop Saloon."

Matt Mathews is Esther Thompson's middle brother. He is the owner of The Silver Spur Saloon in Flagstaff, Arizona Territory. He is forty-three, five foot ten, two hundred and ten pounds, with brown hair, a close cut beard and brown eyes. He was crippled when shot in the hip while helping Milo revenge their parents' death. He has a reputation of being an honest gambler and good with a handgun.

Catherine S. Pershing - Matt's mystery woman, five foot six, one hundred and twenty pounds, black hair.

Stella Pershing - Catherine's Mother, mid fifties, plump one fifty-five, five foot-five, black hair.

Pierre Leblanc middle aged - slender, well dressed - works for Catherine Pershing.
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