27th Jan 1857, Fort Smith, Arkansas
Morgan Fogg rode into the busy town, cold, hairy, and tired from the trek as the early morning snow set in. He urged his tired grey mare towards the general store. Fort Smith was a haven for runaway slaves, displaced Indians, trappers, hunters, the occasional Mexican, as well as being a hub for the steamboats that powered up and down the Arkansas River as well as one of the last stops for those venturing to California to strike it rich in the gold fields. Morgan lashed his horse, shook the sleet off himself and entered the store. The proprietor looked up from his bookkeeping as the entry bell rang.
Morgan grunted a reply as he picked up a thick blanket and wrapped himself in it. “How much?”
“That’ll be two dollars,” he answered in almost song. “You get caught in the snow?” Morgan grunted affirmatively as he picked up another, headed to the counter and tossed some coins the Chinaman had given him onto the wooden bench top. “Anything else?”
“Any Chi-nee in town?”
“Can’t say that I’ve seen any for a while.”
Morgan grunted and coughed before making his exit. He tossed the blanket over the horse before grabbing the bridle and making the horse look him in the eye. “Why I’m so nice to you I don’t know.”
And with that Morgan led the horse up towards the bordello.
Morgan exited his room after freshening up from ten days in the saddle. He rubbed his now smooth chin and nodded at the whore who was taking a drunk patron to an empty room. Slowly he headed downstairs. Hatton’s Bordello was a well run house and relatively trouble free due to the four huge Negros who stood like carved statues eyeballing everyone for trouble. The owner, Jeremiah Hatton, liked people to spend money but didn’t tolerate fools which is why he kept his, as he called them Blackouts on hand.
On the small stage was a minstrel quartet harmonising a jaunty tune to the room which was decently full for ten in the morning. Morgan nodded at the Blackout near the bar as he placed his hat down and motioned for the barmaid.
“Hope y’all speak English,” said the barmaid as she looked him up and down.
“Better than you do,” remarked Morgan. The barmaids jaw dropped. To cover her shock at the retort she picked up a cloth and began polishing the bar.
“You want a drink?”
“Actually I want breakfast and some information,” Morgan said as he joined in the audience’s applause as the song ended.
“Grits and whiskey is a dollar,” she said tossing the cloth over her shoulder, making her ample bosom bounce. “Information, depends on what y’all want to know.”
Morgan slapped one of the Chinaman’s coins onto the bar. “I’ll be over there.” He walked over to an empty chair and took a seat as the crowd began clapping and cheering as a woman in black & green lace flittering a large fan glided onto the stage.
Morgan slid the whiskey across the table to the black man opposite him. He picked it up, gave a cheers and downed it in one gulp.
“Much obliged,” he said with a burp. Morgan looked down at the slop they called food and stabbed it with the spoon. He felt like upending but his stomach grumbled.
“Why’d you give me your drink?” asked the man as he sidled over to Morgan.
“I don’t drink horse p!$s,” Morgan stated. “Besides you might be able to tell me a thing or two.”
The conversation was interrupted by claps and cheers as the nearly nude woman shimmered behind her fan and departed behind the curtain as a striking figure in red took centre stage. The crowd went wild and she hadn’t even turned around.
“Who’s that?” asked Morgan.
“TIGER LILY!” barked the black man over the roar of the audience. She slowly turned around and Morgan’s eyes nearly fell out of his head. The small band played up a storm Tiger Lily as she danced and slowly took off her gloves with her teeth. He patted his table mate on the shoulder and headed up towards his room.
“Not enjoying the show?” asked the barmaid.
“Does Tiger Lily stay here?”
“That’s information,” smiled the barmaid smugly. “It’ll cost you.”
“How about I DON’T drag you upstairs and have my way with you!” Morgan stated looking at her with his piercing eyes. “Because if I have to; you won’t like it much.” The barmaids jaw dropped again for the second time. Morgan reached over and closed it for her. “She in house or not?”
“She is,” said the barmaid.
Morgan flicked a coin that landed right down her cleavage. “You come get me when she’s done.”
19th Jan 1857, Jefferson City, Missouri
The German sat as Doctor Jensen looked at the wound. “So you’re telling me you’ve already dug the bullet out?”
“Ya!” The German declared as if the doctor was simple.
“Then what do you want me to do?” Jensen asked scratching his head.
“Morphine,” growled The German.
“I’m afraid I don’t have any left until next week,” Jensen said. “I had to amputate a man’s hand. He has my last two vials.”
The German’s big hand rested uncomfortably and firmly on Jensen’s shoulder as he smiled in his face. “And where iz zis handless dunkoff?”
To be continued...