1882-11-24: Painting the Town Red


Sarah-Leah_icon.jpg Marlowe_icon.jpg


Masked Bandit

Summary: Sarah Leah runs into a Masked Bandit.

Date: November 24, 1882

Painting the Town Red

Streets of Silver Creek

Sarah Leah steps out of the boarding house with an elderly woman who does not get out much, Mrs. Rosencranz. The pair are smiling, despite the young woman needing to carry two umbrellas in the cool rain, one for her and one for the feeble widow. "I still can hardly believe the chagim have ended. It seems so quiet by comparison. At least it will soon be Chanukah."

The black horse's hooves thunder up the street, throwing dirt clods and striking sparks from the occasional rock, the dark clad rider bending low over the lathered neck. The rider pulls the horse up into a savage rear, in front of the boarding house, the horse pawing the air viciously, snorting.

A dark object sails from the rider's hand, flung at the front of the house, barely missing the two women and shattering on the painted wood with a dull crack.

Red paint sprays from the shattered gourd in all directions, most of it onto the wall.

Sarah Leah jumps at the sound of the hooves as the young woman already steels herself for a second up close and personal encounter with the Masked Bandit. The elderly woman seems strangely unafraid, although irritation tightens her lips and eyes. As the paint bomb is thrown and promptly splatters about, including on the woman's dresses, she shows outright anger for the first time since moving to this small town. "You… you… RASHA!" Yelling, the volume is about as loud as that of most people who are scolding others. But for her, this is a display of near-rage. "What gives you the right to harm innocents?!" The widow puts a hand on the forearm of the exited woman, but it does little good. "No, Mrs. Rosencranz, this has to stop."

Masked Bandit shouts, his voice deep and hard edged, "If you know what is good for you, that paint will stay there until you hear otherwise." The dark barrel of the shotgun comes over the now standing horse's neck to point towards the two women, his other hand reaching inside of his coat ,and tossing a thin wallet over the fence, calls back "A little paint isn't going to kill you, lady, but the lack of it might. Get you and the old woman new dresses with that."

The muzzle of the gun lifts skyward, as he adds, 'I don't recall harming any innocents around here. Just people that needed a comeuppance or three."

"Only G-d may judge in such a manner, -sir-." Sarah Leah is not backing down yet, wonder of wonders. "You are most certainly harming innocents. Mrs. Marlowe's boarding house now looks far less respectable and is less likely to attract business. This is financial harm. What has she done to you to deserve this? What have the boarders here done to deserve the terror you have been causing? If you take issue with specific people, then speak with them about it and settle it in a civilized manner. Do not ruin the town for all because of a few personal grudges." Mrs. Rosencranz bends down to pick up the wet wallet, shaking off the water from the ground. She only tsks at the tirade and murmurs, "This is not becoming of royalty, Miss Cozen."

That makes the young woman pause and even blush in the dark. After a pause, she admits, "You are correct, Mrs. Rosencranz. Sir, I apologize for my tone, but the message behind it - the advice - remains."

The horse dances nervously about as men's shouts come closer, down the street, and the dark rider gathers up the reins in one hand, and gripping the gun tighter with the other. "Sorry I can't stay to take tea with you, Miss Cozen, but I think these men coming down might have an issue they wish to discuss."

His laugh is like his voice, hard edged and bitter, as he wheels the horse towards the voices, "Might be better if you take cover, if they have shooting in mind."

With a wild 'Yeehaaaw' his spurred boots rake the flanks of the horse, sending mud chunks splattering in all directions.

Sarah Leah frowns and lets out a deep sigh at the bandit's words. Not one to test her luck with angry armed men, she simply shakes her head and tugs on the widow's sleeve to indicate they should, in fact, return to the relative safety of the boarding house.

Further up the street, sharp spangs of random pistol fire, and the deep boom of an old Sharps Fifty mark the Bandit's escape. The bark of the shotgun can be heard as well, though there are no screams of mortal agony.

Curses, however echo down the street, "Missed 'im agin!" "What's that red handed summnabitch throwing? PAINT?" The hoof beats fade to the north.

The door to the currently multi-colored boarding house is open. Sarah Leah stands just outside, lighting the evening lamps to illuminate the house's doorway. Her dress also has some of the red paint that has been spread about the outside of the building. The rain plasters her hair to her head, the frizzy parts or curls that simply would not fit in the bun stuck to her face and neck. The stocky woman makes several efforts before getting the first lamp lit, as the rain begins to come down harder than before.

The sodden figure shambles down the street, trying to stay under cover, and avoid the knots of still cursing men, some of who push the slumped, hunched figure aside to return to their pecuniary pursuits. Marlowe seems to just accept the rough treatment, brushing chunks of mud from his buckskins, grumbling, "Gittin' so's a man cain't even walk down no street, thout him gittin' hisse'f runned down."

Coming abreast of the boarding house, he pauses, the rain slicking from his shapeless hat, "Hows thangs a-goin' Mizz Cozen, looks lahk ya bin doin' sum paintin'?"

Sarah Leah spins around with her hand over her heart. It takes a moment for the young woman to let out a calming breath as she recognizes the figure and voice. "Good evening, Mr. Marlowe. Things are wonderful, baruch Hashem." Although the paint certainly indicates otherwise. She is smiling and her tone indicates she is genuinely happy at the moment. "Please, come inside and I will get you some food. Dinner is nearly over, but I always ensure there is plenty left. Do you like brisket?"

Marlowe glances up and down the street, then pushes the gate open, latching it behind him, "Ah reckon, iffen thets ennythang lahk beef. Shore could use a cup uv coffee mo' though, iffen ya got sum." He stops to inspect the paint stain, and sniffs at it, 'Tain't even dry yit! Mebbe ya orta hire sumone ta do the paintin' gonna git streaks laying it on lahk thet."

Sarah Leah's smile lessens for a brief moment. "It was the work of the masked bandit, Mr. Marlowe. I apologize… there was nothing I could have done to stop it. Likewise, my life was threatened should I dare get rid of the paint or paint over it." The moment is gone, then, and she motions for the man to step in out of the rain. "Brisket is an excellent cut of beef, marinated and roasted on low heat for many hours to make it as tender as possible. There are also potates, greens and your choice of cake or cobbler for dessert." Slipping easily into the role of hostess, the stout woman immediately attends to the guest rather than worry about lighting the second lamp flanking the doorway.

He does take off his floppy, wet hat and drop it on the porch, along with his slicker, and carefully, wipes his wet moccasins on the rug. Passing the lamp, he says, "Ya got a dry match? Reckon mahn air dampened."

He makes no comment on the Masked Bandit, except, "Ah figger wuz him whut splattahed mud all ovah me..ridin' a big black hoss, with eyes lahk a divil?"

Sarah Leah clucks her tongue softly. "That would be him. My matches are damp, but one of them worked well enough to light the lamp outside." She opens the box and sifts through them until she finds one that just might light if G-d wants to be really, really nice. Handing it over, she asks, "Where is Mrs. Marlowe? Is she well? The terms of my employment - or rather the sudden nature of it - has me worried."

Marlowe lifts the glass of the first lamp, lighting the match and lets the chimney fall back with a slight clatter. As he lights the second lamp, he replies, "She's doin' fahn, Ah reckon. Settlin' in raht fahn. Ah figgah we'll be back afore long, tain't plannin' on winterin' in no dayamed teepee."

He shakes the match out and fixes you with his one eye, "Whut's got ya worried 'bout yore job, no hows?"

Sarah Leah blinks in confusion, then chuckles softly and shakes her head. "I was not worried about my employment, Mr. Marlowe. My concern was for Mrs. Marlowe. I was worried that perhaps she or a family member had taken ill or worse. It lifts my heart to know all is well. Does this mean you will return permanently?" Warm fills her face as she heads inside and waits for the man to follow.

Marlowe follows, saying, "Tain't nuthin' decided on no permanent..Least out thar, ain't nobody pushin' or shovin' us aside none." His glance takes in the entire room, quickly, and he leans his double barrel gun against the doorjamb. "Keepin' much bizniss heah?" he asks, conversationally, as he hooks a chair out with a sodden toe, "AN' whut's the deal with this hyah bandit, nohows?"

Sarah Leah nods and closes the door behind the man. Without missing a beat, she speaks while leading him further into the house toward the dining room. "There are as many boarders here now as there were when Mrs. Marlowe left. I would like to increase this number, of course." Passing a mirror, she pauses and blinks, then flushes crimson. "Oh dear. I look most… unsavory," she mutters to herself. There is a long silence before she realizes she only answered half of Marlowe's questions. "I know little about this… character."

Marlowe shrugs, "Wal, Ah reckon you know more'n us out thar..Onliest thang we knopw is he runned through the camp one naht, him an' mebbe twenny fellers, hayll bent fer sumplace..looked lahk they wuz a headin' towards the plains." Uncivilized to the last, he doesn't wait to be served, just spears a chunk of the meat from the table and drops it onto a plate, 'Whut ya say wuz dun with theis? Marrynetted? Ain't thet lahk a puppet?"

"True." Sarah Leah goes into the kitchen for a moment, returning with a glass of red wine for the man. Nobody else has this beverage, but he is husband of the owner. "He causes trouble for all because he takes issue with a few. We had a… discussion about that only a few minutes ago, just before you arrived." She takes the liberty of adding some of each side dish to the man's plate, wherever she can find room. "It is marinated." The word is said slowly, to give him a chance to pick up the proper pronunciation. "It was soaked overnight with various vegetables and spices before being baked. This allows the flavors to truly become part of the meat."

"Uhhuh." The word is spoken around a mouthful of meat, and he eyes the glass of wine warily. Swallowing, and looking down at the suddenly full plate says, "Dun mean to sound ungratefulk or nuthin' heah, but slow down thar a mite..this hyars mo' food then we eat all day out thar! Mebbe two days." Jabbing a fork into the potatoes, he shovels them in like a starving man, still talking, "Ah heered he dun blowed up the Golden Nugget Saloon..ya know, they wouldn't let no nigras or chinee or mesicans in thar..me neither. Reckon ain't nobody goin' in thar now."

Raising his eye, "Ya heah iffen ennybody got kilt then?"

Sarah Leah smiles softly and puts the serving spoon down. Her lips curve up higher as she watches the famished man wolf down the food. "Yes, that unnecessary place has been destroyed. I have not heard of anyone dying, but people are saying that the owner of that saloon has not been seen since the incident." With a light shrug, she adds, "I am not one for gossip, making me a poor source of information on such matters."

Marlowe pauses to scratch his jaw, the fork still gripped in his hand, "Wal, thet hussy split town afore the thang blowed up, Ah heerd frum Tristan. Still he hed ta keep up them rules she set down, cuz she still owneed the place." Eyeing the stout woman, "Ya reckon mebbe this heah bandit air lahk Robbing Hood, ovah thar in England?"

With a light cough at the use of such vulgar language, Sarah Leah busies herself with cleaning up after the others who ate earlier. "Robin Hood? It would not seem so. There was one robbery, but the rest of his focus seems to be on vandalism and terror, which was never part of the tales of Robin Hood. Whom, by the way, I do not respect. Theft is theft, even if one's intentions are good." Stacking plates and cutlery, she adds, "But this is only to be expected outside of The Land."

Shoveling more food into his mouth, then sitting back, chewing thoughtfully, asks, "The land? Whatcha mean, the land? Seems lahk he dun picked the land to ride ovah."

"The Holy Land," Sarah Leah replies wistfully. One might expect such a tone from a young girl speaking of the prince who she is certain will one day sweep her off her feet. "Not only the Holy Land, but as it should be. As it one day will be." Immediately, she murmurs, "May Hashem bring Moshiach speedily and rebuild Jerusalem, in our days." There is a warm, open, invigorated smile upon her face. One that almost nobody in this town has seen on the face of the reserved, soft-spoken woman.

Marlowe glances sideways at the woman, and lays his fork across the plate, "Ah reckon," he says, his tone of voice suggesting that he didn't understand a thing of what she said, 'Be a good thing thet feller Hashem fetches thet othah feller 'long to rebuild a place. Mo' hands make it go fastah." His face is expressionless, though his eye glitters a bit with some unknown fire.

Sarah Leah is left speechless for a long moment, trying to determine whether or not the man was trying to be funny. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, she gently explains, "Hashem is a Hebrew word for G-d and Moshiach is the word for messiah. Jerusalem is the holiest place in the world. But yes, the more than participate in honoring G-d's name by helping others and thanking him for all we are given, such as food and drink, the quicker this wonderful event will occur." Eyeing his plate, she asks, "More brisket, Mr. Marlowe?"

Marlowe shakes his head, "Dun reckon Ah will at thet, thank ya jest the same." He stands, and stetches, before pushing the chair back, looking even more bedraggled and disheveled, "Ah dun know nuthin' bout no G-d or no place called Jewrusalam, an' Ah'm too old ta larn nuthin' new lahk thet. Ah kin tell ya 'bout Wankan Tanka an' Iktomi and Pta Woman, iffen ya evah keer to heah it."

"One is never too old to learn if one has the desire to do so," Sarah Leah responds gently. "And yes, I would like to hear about other cultures. I always wish to learn about the amazing world Hashem created." Clearing the rest of the plates, she asks, "Cake or cobbler, Mr. Marlowe?" Apparently, 'neither' is not an option.

"Kin ya mebbe wrap up sum uv thet cobblah? AH kin take it out to Miz Chi an' Pablito, sinct Ah jest comed to town fer some terbakker..Ah figger mebbe they air gittin' consarned 'bout now, 'specially iffen thet masked feller headed thet way."

Sarah Leah nods. "Yes, of course!" Just like that, she scoots out of the room into the kitchen. There are sounds of cabinets opening and closing for a few minutes. Finally, she returns with three large canvas sacks, each containing bundles tightly wrapped in more canvas. "This one is brisket, this contains vegetables, and this is apple cobbler. I do hope there is enough for everyone."

Hefting the canvas sacks, his eyes widens in astonishment , "Heyll! This much food'll last 'em three days Ah reckon..Shore an' they air gonna be pleased about it!" In his slow, shambling gait, he makes his way through the dining room to the front door, and ponders how to carry the sacks and his shotgun, not to mention getting his slicker and hat back on.

Sarah Leah follows the man out, suddenly realizing his dilemma. "Do you have a horse nearby? We can pack these into saddlebags, if you have room for them."

Marlowe finally sets the bags down, "Ah ain't got no hoss," he admits, "Jest got mah feet, an' fifteen mile or so uv walkin' ta git back." Shrugging into the still wet slicker, and clapping the soggy hat on top of his head, picks up the bags in one hand, and the shotgun in the other, slipping it under the rainwear.

Sarah Leah shakes her head and clucks her tongue disapprovingly. "Can I not convince you to stay for the night? There are a few free rooms, after all." Looking into the black of the wet night, the maternal young woman seems less than thrilled at the prospect of Marlowe wandering about on foot alone.

Marlowe shakes his head, "Nope, dun reckon Ah'll melt out thar..mebbe spread out a mite air all." He grins, a flash of whiteness in the light of the lanterns, "Ah'll ax Miz Chiane 'bout whut she wants ta do 'bout thet paint..mebbe she'll come down ta town to see it fer herse'f, but mebbe ya bettah leave it fo' now." Eyeing her still red splattered dress says, "Ya need a new dress? Ya kin chahge it at the Mercantile, ya know."

Sarah Leah flushes again, looking promptly down at her clothing. "Oh, no. I will take care of it. I apologize deeply that you had to see me in such a state. I will do my best to ensure it does not happen again." Looking up the road, she offers a soft, "Do take care out there, Mr. Marlowe, and send my best to Mrs. Marlowe."

Marlowe steps off the porch into the downpour, immediately his form is made dimmer and begins to shamble slowly down the walk, "Ah'll do jest thet, Miz Cozen, an' thank ya fer the feedin'. Reckon she'll be in in a coupla days."


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