Friday evening, first week
Penny and Morgan had just finished a waltz. He was surprised how much fun he was having with her. He had followed Cort’s advise to tone down his personality a bit. Suddenly Penny whirled around.
“Look, there’s Virgil and Chloe!” Well, he thought, let’s get this over with. Morgan put on a big smile and faced them. “Howdy Virgil! Miss Chloe.” Penny was beaming. “Oh, Chloe, your dress is so pretty!”
Chloe turned from watching the dancers swirl around on the dance floor, oblivious to the rest of the revelers. Virgil had already led her in a rather vigorous reel and both of them were catching their breath. She caught the expressions the two men had on their faces – Virgil and Morgan approached each other as if they were in some kind of standoff. They were so different from each other! Morgan was a fine man, as fine as his brother, but much too flamboyant for her taste. Virgil was sedate and subtle next to him. She was secretly glad Virgil was the one who had asked her to the dance. Morgan was fun to watch as he socialized, but she would have felt small and invisible in his shadow.
Giving Penny a bright “hello!” quick hug, she shook hands with Morgan, saying to them both, “it’s good to see you here.”
“Brother,” Virgil said, his mustache twitching in an amused smile. He could see Morgan was holding himself back and wondered how long that was going to last. Morgan glared at Virgil.
“‘Brother‘, yourself. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m having a wonderful time with Penny.”
Penny was too distracted to notice the tension between the two men. “Let’s go visit with Laurie for a minute or two,” she said to Chloe, pointing to the seamstress and her dance partner. “You don’t mind, do you, Morgan?”
Still smiling widely, he waved her on. Chloe locked arms with Penny and they walked quickly across the floor to visit. Virgil and Morgan stared after them.
“Its a wonder you even considered asking Chloe,” Virgil remarked. “We’re having a grand time ourselves.”
Morgan pouted. “Well, then, I guess it all worked out.”
“It did, it did,” Virgil replied in satisfied tones. “Maybe the four of us could have dinner together?”
Morgan knew Virgil was trying to get under his skin. Well, he was determined not to let him. “Yes, let’s have dinner soon. I’d like that.”
Virgil didn’t get a chance to smirk for very long, because a third man interrupted them.
“Have you seen Miss Drake?”
They turned to find George Temple with two tin cups in hand, face glistening with perspiration, and an anxious look.
“We seem to have been separated,” George added.
“They’re faster’n lightening,” Virgil commented, as they spotted the three women, poised near the refreshment table in animated conversation.
“And thicker’n thieves, it appears,” George muttered. Virgil laughed.
“Good luck getting through the crowd with that,” Morgan said as a wave of dancers moved to block their way.
George gave them a desperate look and pushed himself through the crowd, Virgil turned back to Morgan. “You seen anything of that Renn fellow?”
“No,” Morgan answered. “Not him or his men. I guess they’re keeping out of trouble. I hope they are anyway. I don’t think I’d want to mess with him. Cort said he’s good with his gun.”
“Well, hello, brothers!” They turned to see Jim and Mattie. He was all smiles. “What are we discussing so seriously?”
“Oh, just keeping tabs on local gossip,” Virgil grinned from beneath his thick mustache and looked as if he would make a jest, but the expression on his face soured and with an abrupt tip of his hat at Mattie, he gave them all a nod, muttered “excuse me, I have a butterfly to catch…,” and flung himself into the crowd.
Morgan had to laugh. Virgil really did have a way with women and words. “Don’t let us keep you,” he called after him. “Mattie, you look stunning,” he smiled.
“Why, thank you,” she purred. “You look pretty handsome yourself.”
“Hey,” Jim feigned annoyance. “You’re here with this guy.” The three of them laughed. “Is Virgil worried about Renn Frayne?” Jim asked.
“I’m not sure. I think we’ll all breathe easier when they’ve moved on.” Morgan looked up and saw Mrs. Kingsley heading right for them. “Oh, yeah, that was some ‘butterfly’ Virgil saw.”
“What?” Jim asked. But it was too late to warn him or run.
“Mr. Earp,” Viola said as she came within their circle, a feat in itself despite the fact that the group of them tried to crowd her out, but there weren’t enough to make an effective wall. She met each one of them by the eye, her face flushed. She was in a bit of a state.
“Gentlemen,” she said, when they murmured their reluctant greetings. “Why are you permitting your brother the luxury of dancing with our new school teacher? He should be performing his duty to the community by watching for thieves and hooligans!”
Mattie wanted nothing to do with the acid tongue of Mrs. Kingsley. She was here to enjoy herself. “I’m going to get a drink.” Both Jim and Morgan looked longingly at her departing back.
“Mrs. Kingsley, how nice to see you this evening,” Jim began.
“Yes,” Morgan picked the conversation up. “And you look lovely. Did you make your dress? I hear you’re very clever with a needle and thread.”
It mollified the woman not one bit.
“Thank you, but I have a young lady who does that for me,” she replied with cold haughtiness. “Laurie Drake, who seems to have taken our teacher up in her own whims as well. What is Virgil going to do about his watch…and why aren’t you helping him?”
Morgan and Jim looked at each other with trepidation. If they didn’t do something, Virgil could make their lives miserable. Viola gave up.
“Well, if you aren’t going to reign in your brother, I will,” she declared in exasperation. “Good evening, gentlemen.”
“Wait, Mrs, Kingsley,” Morgan called out and Viola turned, her expression stormy. “We weren’t supposed to say anything; but I guess its okay to tell you. Virgil isn’t really escorting her per se.”
Jim glanced nervously at his brother. He had no idea where Morgan was going with this conversation.
Morgan swallowed hard. “Uh….we knew that as the new teacher, and being innocent, she’d be prey to all the eager men in town.”
Jim still didn’t know what Moran was getting at, but he went along with it anyway.
“Yes, we did,” he agreed.
“So Virgil volunteered to protect her from any advances,” Morgan continued. “That’s what he’s doing. Keeping her safe.”
“Yes, ” Jim chimed in. “He’s not really enjoying himself.”
“Oh, really?” Mrs. Kingsley turned with them to see Virgil and Chloe back on the dance floor. They hoped Mrs. Kingsley wasn’t looking too closely.
“So, you see, there’s no need to worry,” Morgan concluded. “He’s watching her and we’re watching everything else.”
Mrs Kingsley hesitated, the hauteur of her expression now a mix of uncertainty and consideration. “Very well then,” she finally conceded, “in that case, I…well…” she fumbled for something to say as a retort, but decided she’d had better things to do and sailed into the crowd without further explanation.
Jim and Morgan both exhaled. “Shoot!” Jim exclaimed. “I don’t feel that much tension in a gunfight.” Morgan nodded, wiping sweat from his forehead.
“That was a close one. Virgil owes us.”
“Where is she?” Jim asked, not convinced that the society busy-body would not redouble her efforts and return to interrogate them more fully.
“I think she’s gone to make her husband miserable for awhile,” Morgan noted. “We’ll clue Virgil in later on.”
Taffey & Sharon
An air of anticipation had taken hold of the town: this much Allie could see as she strolled from her room at the Bright Angel Hotel. It wasn’t a fancy place like the Crystal Palace or as homey as a boarding house, but all Allie was concerned about was a place to sleep. Depending on how things went, accomodations were going to be the least of her troubles. If all went well, it wouldn’t matter. If it didn’t…well, not much would make her feel comfortable anyway.
The band had already struck up its first song for the night. Whoops and cheers punctuated the celebrations. The dance floor was practically stuffed full of people who wanted to kick off the evening with at least one waltz under their belt. Those who didnt care to compete with the crush hovered at the edges.
Allie hovered herself, choosing to stay in the shadows of the porch of one of the buildings. She knew he was here – he’d said it was his destination and there was little doubt he’d wandered far from that mark. He was a man of his word and it took an awful lot to deflect him once he made up his mind. When she had rejected him, it had taken everything within her to do so, and she was still feeling the cost; but it would be nowhere near as devastating if he in turn rejected her. It was a woman’s perogative to change her mind. It was a man’s to accept it.
She’d been lucky enough to spot certain acquaintances that would know her, but they hadn’t seen her. Which was good. There was only one man she’d wanted to see her first. She spent many a sleepless night warring with what was done and how much she had wished she hadn’t gone against her heart. At the time she thought she’d be satisfied with pleasing others. Since then, it had all failed. Surely she could make him see that? She didn’t want anyone warning him, no one to give him cover. He was good at setting up walls as well. She knew how to reach him, but there was too much at stake to let others get in her way.
She had the vantage point of the porch and so watched – there…there he was. She took in a sharp breath. She hadn’t figured on that…how long had it been going on? Had he been so flung out that he sought comfort in another woman’s arms? She looked so young and pretty.
Allie pushed her blonde hair back from her face in self-conscious doubt. It hadnt been that long ago that she was dewey like that – so easily impressed. A dark anger flooded her. By God, she hadnt come all this way just to be replaced by a careless filly. She stepped down from the porch, made sure her dress was neat and becoming, and began to make her way into the teeming crowd of revelers.
“Thanks for coming with me at such short notice,” he said.
Mattie laughed. “Now what girl would pass up the chance to be escorted by one of the Earps?”
“Apparently Lorraine. I just have to realize she’s available and a wonderful woman. Of course there’ll be more than one man wanting to court her.”
“She’s a good person.”
“And so aren’t you. Now, shall we get something to eat before we dance?”
“You read my mind,” she smiled.
Grady followed the music as he walked to the dance. He could see the gas lights around the raised platform the people used for dancing.
There was a large section of seats encircling the platform. Grady walked along the outer edge of the seats and made his way to the table serving beer. He paid for his drink and approached a table in the back. Before he could sit down, he saw Peaches sashaying in his direction. Grady figured she wasn’t coming his way just to say “Hi”. His experience was that a pretty girl approaching him usually had an ulterior motive.
And Peaches was a gorgeous creature. The deep blue dress she chose offset her auburn hair beautifully. Her smile was flirtatious and her green eyes were full of mischief.
“Hello,” Peaches purred.
“Howdy,” Grady replied. “What can I do for you?”
“You can buy me a drink,” she suggested.
“Okay. Then what?”
Peaches was taken aback.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll get you a drink and thoroughly enjoy any conversation we have. But what is the eventuality? What are you looking for?”
She felt a bit nervous and didn’t like it. This gambler was trying to take control of the situation.
“A few dances and some company for the night.”
“Okay. That sounds good to me.” Grady returned with a beer. Instinct told him she was after more than a dance partner. But he guessed he could worry about that later. “I’m not much of a dancer,” he warned her.
Peaches smiled, feeling in control again.
“I’m not either. We’ll muddle through it and have a great time.”
“That’s a nice set of teeth you’ve got there. Not too many saloon girls still have their teeth.” It was one of the more bizarre compliments she had been given.
“Thank you. You have a rather nice set yourself,” she countered.
“Yeah, but mine aren’t real,” he smiled widely. Of course, his teeth WERE real; but he enjoyed seeing the corners of her mouth freeze and the slight twitch of panic in her lovely eyes. He took a few swallows of beer and jumped up, extending his hand. “Let’s dance.”
Tom insisted on getting them something to eat while Ann sat and watch the dance floor. She smiled happily. This was the Tom she longed for, the Tom she married 7 years ago. But even as she felt uplifted she knew it was a momentary joy. Should his good mood last through the night, tomorrow he’d be back working for Mr. Connor and hating it. Ann sighed. Worrying about tomorrow wouldn’t make tonight better. She smiled again, determined to enjoy tonight.
John Baumberger and Lorraine McGintry sat at a table in the middle of the crowd, totally oblivious to all the noise and music surrounding them.
“John, I can’t believe you’ve been to so many places!” she exclaimed with envy. “What was your favorite?”
“Honestly, every one of them has its own beauty, memories, smells, sounds. I don’t think I could choose a favorite.”
“Yet, you keep returning to Old Tucson.”
John smiled. “Yes, I do. As much as I enjoy traveling, it’s always nice to come home where it’s quieter. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I had someone to travel with. I think when you share experiences you get more out of them. You must have good memories with Robert.”
“Oh, yes. And you’re right. Some of the most common place events became memorable because he was with me.”
“I sense we’re getting a bit maudlin. Would you like to dance?”
Lorraine laughed and nodded appreciatively.