The Town of Matilda stood on the edges of the Dakota territories, like its sister town of Deadwood, it shared its unique position of not formally being recognised as part of the United States , therefore law and order were a tenuous thing , judgment and execution often were dealt by the same hand , he who drew first.
Gold, the seeking of the color was what made Matilda and drew men in from around the country. Bradley Colbert was a smart man he saw the opportunity for the taking. Men with pockets full of gold and not much to spend it on would always seek what Brad had to offer, comely whores and games of chance and a steady cheap supply of liquor.
Brad treated his working girls well, only taking a small stipend of what they pulled in encouraging them to save what they earned, though with the appearance of opium in the camp this was proving harder than usual. The patrons knew that the girls had to be treated with respect or they would be dealt with in in a calm and violent manner which had earned Brad his moniker of The Iceman
Treat the girls well, no hitting and no trying to rip them off and all would be well and satisfaction at a good rate was ensured.
“Brad, Doc’s here, You want me to send him up “ Rays disembodied voice floated up from the saloon below
Brad stood up from his worn desk striding out to the balcony that looked down on too the saloon below
“Doc look in on Rose , think she might be knocked up, and the new girl check on her too, it ain't the smell of roses that wafts when she walks past “ striding down the stairs to come face to face with Doc Bryan
Doc Bryan’s face was its usual impassive mask, ill humor, and ill temper often the best ways to describe the town's only Doc the man was a curmudgeon but he was a good Doc and treated the girls with respect and kindness, more than they got from there clients.
“What you do with the croaker from last night “ Doc grumbled
Brad looked uncertain for a minute until Ray chimed in “ The Hoople head who was beating on Tracy and then tried to hold up the place Brad, you know the one you shot “
“Oh that one, what you do with him Ray “ Brad spoke as he buttoned up his vest taking a sip of the fresh coffee Trombley handed him
“Put him in the back of Pokes cold room, we were gonna take him to McGraw's pigs tonight, “ said Ray as he attempted to wipe down the dirty bar, Brad noticed the way Ray’s eyes followed the Doc.
“Why are you wanting the corpse Doc?” Trombley's voice cut in
“To further my knowledge, to help me understand the mysterious workings of our bodies” Docs voice was flat like he expected the forthcoming response
“That's nasty Doc, violating a corpse like that “ whined Trombley
“Trombley, you shoot dogs for fun you sick fuck, so I think you can hold off sitting in high judgment of the Doc don't you “ Ray snapped
Brad pinched the bridge of his nose fixing Ray with a stare “Ray take the Doc back to the girls, then send Gabe out with a fresh pot of coffee “
Coming from the bar Ray spoke “On it Brad, you want me to get the cart out and take the body to Docs after “
Sighing “Ray you could stick the body on a pole and leave it in the middle of the Thorofare for all I care “ Brad slumped against the bar, the hangover this morning was a bitch, and everyone kept talking, rubbing his eyes he saw a look of confusion on Ray's face “ Yes Ray”
“So you want me to take the body to Docs or not, “ said Ray petulantly
“Yes Ray, just go do what I’ve asked and let me read my paper and die of this god damn hangover in peace “
Reaching under the bar Brad retrieved a pair of wire-framed spectacles, damn newsprint was so small there was nothing for it but to wear the damn things, Reporter needed to change the size of the typeset make it easier on the eye when reading.
As if summoned by ill thought the double doors of the saloon swung open Reporter with his nose buried in his oft carried notebook entered, well there went Brad's chance for a quiet read of his newspaper.
“Evan you know if you took your nose out of that notebook once in awhile you may actually see the world to pertain to write about “, Brad could not help himself in liking the absent-minded reporter , the man had a nose for a good story and had always been charitable in his praise for the Bravo saloon in his stories.
Evan looked up from his notebook and fixed Brad with a sunny smile “Bradley, I see the goings on in our small corner of the world quite fine thank you, have you heard our new school teacher is due to arrive on the stagecoach today , hails from Virginia so I have been informed and newly appointed to the job “
“The town's children need teaching, that last harridan had them all scared to death with her fire and brimstone stories, this new one cannot be much worse “ spoke Brad over his paper
The previous school teacher had been a disaster she had come to the town full of judgment and a righteous need to right the towns perceived wrongs, even Sheriff Wynn the upright pain in the balls he was found the previous school teacher a challenge.
Brad gave up the pretense of reading his paper dropping it onto the stained bar surface “So what do you know about the new Saloon opening up? , got themselves prime location, lots of thoroughfare traffic “ getting to the crux of Brad’s surly disposition that morning.
As one of the founding fathers of Mathilda Brad felt that he should be apprised of all new businesses opening in town especially if they were going to be in direct competition with his own business interests
“ La Belle, I believe is the name of the new establishment, run by a former Cavalry Captain Schwetje, he has quite the bevy of beauties, the Madam I believe is actually a Sir one Nathaniel Fick I have been informed they cater to a more refined customer” Evan supplied
Brad's eyes narrowed “ Schwetje you say, that name sounds familiar “
Evan made a disgusted sound, “ there are rumors about his treatment of the Sioux, some reports of impropriety.
Brad's lips curled in distaste “Oh he is the cocksucker who was responsible for the Sun Hill massacre, claimed the village was home to rebellious braves when in fact it was just women and children “
Brad looked toward the back of the Saloon , “Gabe, fetch my jacket, I think it's time I paid a call on the new saloon and introduced myself “
Gabe came out carrying Brads charcoal colored Jacket shaking his head, “Brad I know that tone, your not going to start trouble with the newcomers are you”
Brad’s blues eyes glinted “For shame my fine friend, I think it is only right as one of the founding fathers of our fair town to go say a courteous hello”
Gabe smirked not buying Brad's genial tone for an instant, “You want one of the boys to go with you?”
Slipping on his jacket Brad shook his head “It is just a courtesy call and I will have Evan with me to make sure the conversation remains polite, the newcomers will want to put on there best face for a member of the press “
Stepping out of the shaded saloon onto the raised boardwalk Brad turned in the direction of the newer end of town, more and more permanent structures had begun to appear the town was taking on a sense of permanence that Brad approved off. Mathilda still had the feel of a frontier town, and the laws that govern the rest of the country did not hold much sway in their community but slowly things were moving in the right direction.
Evan jogged to keep step with Brad's long strides finding it hard to keep up his usual constant chatter which at this moment Brad was profoundly grateful, crossing the muddy street Brad came to a halt outside Patrick and Reys Hardware store. The tall lithe form of Shawn “Pappy” Patrick was sweeping dirt from the store's porch “He got you sweeping “ Brad snorted,
Pappy's shook his head solemnly “He’s trying to balance the stores books and I thought it was safer for myself and the young un to be somewhere there was a lot less cursing, Brad turned to see perched on a barrel young Annabelle the young ward of the two hardware men playing with a small carved horse , Brad doffed an imaginary hat in her direction,” good morning miss “ the young foundling smiled shyly and gave Brad a small wave .
“So where are the two of you off two this morning, not like you to be up and stalking the town's streets this early Brad” drawled Pappy in his unhurried tone
“Going to meet the new Saloon owners, thought I would give them the town greeting and the lay of the land “ answered Brad evenly
Pappy snorted “By that you mean size em up see if they are going to be a threat to the town and decide if throats need-” Before Pappy finished the sentence he looked down to his young child and then back to Brad “Well you know what I mean”
Brad gave a broad grin “I am just going to say hello, you're more than welcome to come if you feel so inclined”
“No I think I shall leave the greeting to you, Brad , people still seem to get uneasy when they see me think I am going to draw down on them , people just can’t leave the past in the past “ Pappy's warm brown eyes looked clouded for a moment as if caught up in a memory
“Papa “ young Annabelle reached up to her foster father, Pappy smiled warmly, light reaching back into his eyes as he picked up his young foster daughter “Come for dinner tonight, you too Evan, then you can tell us what you think of the newcomers “
“We will see Pappy and tell Rudy I wish him well with those, accounts are the devil's work and that's why I let Ray do them, “ said Brad cheerily, waving a goodbye to young Annabelle as they left.
Brad and Evan continued down the boardwalk past Kocher's freight store and Tony and Ginas Hotel till they came to the freshly painted and refitted La Belle “Let us go make our introductions “
La Belle was a den of opulence rich burgundy curtains hung over large dormer windows, a large mahogany bar the centerpiece of the establishment. Around the large room were several craps tables waiting for there chance to take money from the foolhardy and around the periphery were tables set up for games of poker and floating as if on clouds of seduction were the girls. Turned out in immaculate bloomers and corsets, Hair curled and faces painted, rich lips painted hues of scarlet , promising seduction and want.
Brad took in the scene, oh yes they were catering to a far richer crowd, one with more refined tastes, but beneath the slick veneer Brad suspected a rotten core
A large muscular man stepped forward , fancy overcoat and pomaded hair , a predatory smile in place hand extended to shake Brads “Craig Schwetje, owner, and proprietor of La Belle ,” and this” point to a smaller gibbon face man “ is my right-hand Man Ray Griego “ the aforementioned man gave Brad a flat unimpressed look, Brad smirked the little toad was of no concern to him, turning he shook the offered hand that Schwetje held out
“Brad Colbert Owner of the Bravo Saloon thought I would do my civic duty and extend a welcome to town” Brad smiled his most disarming smile
“Getting a look at the competition mores the like, as you can see we offer a more refined atmosphere, one for a better class of patrons than those that frequent your establishment, “ said Schwetje
Slimy snake oil looking fucker thought Brad all the while keeping his grin plastered to his face, Brad looked around the room “Well I don’t think most of my patrons could afford your rates, nickel blowjobs keep the prospectors happy”
A voice floated down from the balcony above “The closest thing a Nickel will get you here is a glass of water and maybe a quick whiff of bloomer Darlin” a man maybe a few years younger than Brad descended the stairs , rich golden hair carefully curled , immaculate white shirt unbuttoned just enough to show the hint of collarbone, large green eyes stared at Brad in frank assessment. Brad found himself drawn to the man's lips rich ripe and full, sinful is what came to mind. Coming to stand with them the newcomer gave them all a bright smile, Schwetje put a possessive arm around the man's waist “ let me introduce Nathaniel Fick, he runs the girls for me, keeping it all orderly and nice, Quite a head turner wouldn't you say Mr. Colbert “
Brad arched an eyebrow appraising the young man “ Oh I would not say no to fucking him if that is what you're asking “ looking to Nate “excuse my french Nathanial “ with mock solemnity
Nate gave a broad grin “ Oh I speak French and Latin too, you don’t need to worry about worrying my sensibilities Mr. Colbert and please call me Nate, Nathaniel is so formal “
Brad's smile froze in place when he noticed a particularly nasty bruise peeking out from under Nate's shirt and on closer inspection, Brad could see the faint outline of bruises around the young man's throat he could make an educated guess who made those marks on the young man's skin.
Brad turned to notice that Evan stood with his mouth agape a look of abject adoration on his face whilst looking at Nate “ Before I forget let me introduce you to Evan Wright our towns skilled Newspaperman, keep in good with him and he will sing the high praise for your joint”
Brad took one final look around “ Your Grand opening is tonight? well, I wish you luck and I shall now take my leave “ Brad felt the need to exit swiftly the urge to cut the oily son of a bitches throat was strong and he did not need more blood on his hands this morning.
Taking his leave of the Belle Brad walked towards the Stables where he knew Mike would be hiding, he was a pain in his balls but he was also a good friend and something about Schwetje did not sit right with Brad, maybe Mike would have an answer.