Gunsmoke 47: Big Bucks

(draft novel by Kim Reid)

20 August 2012

Matt leaned back, satisfied as he looked across the green felt-covered table at the Long Branch Saloon, "Well, that ends another season for you," he smiled and lifted his beer mug up toasting his long time friend Fred Rutherford.

Rutherford, a cattle baron, smiled and lifted his glass of whiskey, "And without too much trouble at that," he half laughed as he knew that a few of his men landed in jail a few nights ago for lewd behavior and public drunkenness.

"Not to worry," Matt smiled. "There have been worse years," he huffed recalling some of the early years where there was anarchy in the streets and he was virtually the only law in Dodge.

Kitty Russell sat next tot he marshal, "That's for sure," she agreed with Matt. "There were times in the past that I thought for sure I'd lose the Long Branch to fire," she said casting her eyes around the room. "However, business here has been good this year," she joked getting slight smiles from Matt and Rutherford.

"Well, I know a few of my men will be staying in Dodge for a few more days, before they have to head back home," he smiled impishly over his glass. "Although I'd rather see them take their hard earned money at home, but that's just my old fashioned thinking, I suppose," he said with a wink of his right eye and a quick sip of his drink.

"As long as they adhere to the law, I have no troubles with that," Matt stated. "But your men have always been the least of my worries. Over all they seem like a pretty good group this season," he added. Matt paused and an unimpressed look came over his face, "I can't wait to have Morgan Thompson's herd and men arrive later this week," he sighed. Thompson's men were prone to cause a lot of trouble leaving Matt and his deputies on their feet until they would leave in four or five day's time.

"I'm glad to hear that, Matt," Rutherford said. I've heard stories of Thompson's men and I just shake my head. I try hard to get decent law-abiding men but it's getting harder every year. The young ones grow up and get married, and don't want to be away from home, and older ones find it harder," he said ticking his head with a touch of sorrow in his voice. "I suppose one day the whole cattle industry will change and a whole tradition will be lost," he lamented.

"I'm sure there will be many more years for the cattle drive," Kitty said as she sipped on her own drink. "There's no other way to get the cattle here and to market," she added.

"Yet," Rutherford said. "I bet one day the rails will criss-cross every inch of this country putting us old-timers out to our own pastures," he quipped.

"Well, you still have to raise the cattle," Kitty stated defensively. "There certainly will be work in that for years to come, as long as people eat beef," she added.

"True," Rutherford grunted while nodding. "You are a thinker, Kitty," he smiled over to the saloon owner.

"On occasion," Kitty winked back at the cattle baron.

"Well, I best get back to camp and make sure that my men are behaving," the tall older man stood arching his back.

"I haven't heard any thing from Festus or Newly, so I can assume everything is fine," Matt said looking up at his friend.

"You should never assume anything, Matt," Rutherford smiled and tipped his hat, "Good night, Kitty. I'll see you later Matt," he said as he departed.

"He's one of a kind," Kitty said watching Fred Rutherford leave the saloon.

"Yeah, they don't come like that anymore. And he could be right. He might be a dying breed," the marshal said leaning forward, resting his forearms on the table with his beer in front of him with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Kitty was just about to offer Matt another beer, when the swing doors opened into the saloon. Galen Adams stood in the doorway and quickly surveyed the room before he stepped down into the establishment. The doctor crossed the floor and stopped short of the table.

Kitty examined the doctor, "you look like you are fit to be tied," she said.

Doc made a face, "You are very perceptive," he grunted.

"What's wrong?" Kitty asked as she looked over to Matt and back again.

"What's wrong?!" Doc huffed, "Just about every restaurant in town is full and I'm hungry!" he sputtered.

"Oh, that can be a problem," Kitty said.

"Well it is. I've been up since the crack of dawn delivering the Stewart's baby and I haven't had a bite since," the doctor grumbled as he swept his hand across his moustache.

Kitty stood up from the table, "Well, how about you sit right down and let me check to see what I have in the back," she smirked at the doctor who was caught between surprise and half expecting Kitty's offer. He didn't say a word as he slipped onto a chair and waited.

Kitty patted the doctor on the shoulder before she left.

"Long day, huh, Doc?" Matt asked from across the table.

"Yeah, but the Stewarts are very happy parents. That's what makes the difference," the doctor said with a tick of his head. "How's things around here?" he then asked.

"Quiet," Matt stated. "Fred's men have been pretty good this year," the marshal added.

Doc peeled off his black felt hat and placed it on the chair next to him, "Well that's good news for a change," he mused recalling some near riots from other years and other cattle outfits.

Matt nodded, "Brace yourself for later in the week," he said as he picked up his mug of beer and drew a long sip.

Doc looked at the lawman with a puzzled look on his face, "Oh?"

"Morgan Thompson's outfit is due to pull into town any day," Matt stated.

Doc made a face, "Too bad he couldn't find another town to send his herd to," the doctor grunted. "There's always trouble when his men are in town." Matt nodded and was about to comment when Kitty returned from the back of the saloon with a plate of sandwiches that she'd prepared for the doctor.

"These should satisfy your appetite," the saloon owner smiled as she placed the plate down in front of the doctor.

Doc looked at the sandwiches and over to Matt, "Not exactly roast beef," he said.

Matt bit his lip as he noted the look on Kitty's face, "Uh, Doc," he motioned for the doctor to look at Kitty who was now standing with her arms folded tightly across her chest. "Ahem," she grunted.

Doc sheepishly looked up at the redheaded saloon owner, "But they'll do just fine," he said in a meek voice.

Kitty couldn't help but laugh as she watched the doctor tuck into the food. Kitty then crossed the floor and poured Doc a drink; she knew he was tired and hungry. She rejoined her friends at the table, placing the glass in front of the doctor who was busy chewing on a sandwich, "For not being roast beef, these are pretty good," he mumbled, wiping his lips.

Kitty rubbed her hand across the doctor's back, "I'm glad you enjoyed them," she smiled.

"Well, I'm on my way," Matt said standing. "I'll see you later," he said with a tick of his head.

"And hopefully we have a quiet night," the doctor added before he sipped on his drink.

"That makes two of us," Matt added before he left.

"He's not looking forward to Morgan Thompson's outfit," Kitty stated.

"And I can't blame him," Doc lamented, again drawing a sip from his glass.

Jeff Mitchell and Bruce Long sat at the back of the room at the Double Duce Saloon – Mitchell's chair was leaned back against the wall, with his foot caught on the table leg. Bruce sat forward with this hands wrapped around this near empty glass, "How long do you want to stay in Dodge?" he asked looking over his shoulder to his friend.

Mitchell shrugged, "For a few more days, I suppose. I've seen some pretty attractive scenery around here," he smiled, while rolling his empty glass over his bottom lip – his eyes were on one of the saloon girls, who was busy flirting with several other male patrons. Slowly he brought his foot down to the floor and leaned forward, "It sure would be nice to have more money," he said looking over to his friend.

"Well, the cattle drive is over for this year, friend," Long said with a laugh and patting Mitchell hard on the shoulder.

Mitchell shot a hard glance toward Long, "No kidding," he growled. "I meant another way," he stated.

"Well I'm not about to gamble away what money I have," Long said then leaned toward Mitchell, "and I ain't robbing no bank," he looked his friend deeply in the eyes.

"Me neither." Mitchell said leaning back again. "I'm not too bad at cards. I just need to find a game to get into," he said.

Bruce frowned,