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VC Compleat: Horsebreaking And Mysteries

Meanwhile, back at the ranch
Maureen — 11 Sep 1998, 12:23 AM

The rising sun illuminated the spacious range of the Delta Q, as Miss Kathryn savored that first cup of coffee. Though she knew she needed her wits about her, the handsome woman took the time to gather her memories.

Five years since she and her beloved Mark had been forever parted. Five years of loneliness and unending pressure. Knowing that her surviving family depended on her, Miss Kathryn had submerged her own feelings into ensuring the continued fortunes of the Delta Q. There may have been some who doubted that a woman alone could manage, but she now had the satisfaction of proving them wrong.

Light footsteps distracted her, and she turned to look at the handsome face of her oldest son.

"You're up early," commented Miss Kathryn. Then taking in his rumpled appearance, she questioned wryly, "Or are you just getting in?"

That rogue's gleam in his eyes were answer enough, as Tom patted her shoulder and kissed her forehead in greeting. "Morning, Ma," he said, "I was just going to ask you the same thing."

Laughing indulgently, she swatted his hand away. Others might criticize her leniency with this scapegrace, but Miss Kathryn trusted her son. He had been unfailing in his support when she needed it most. And no one else could make her laugh like he did. Besides, he was the best horsebreaker she had ever seen.

A time to remember Pt I
Annie — 15 Sep 1998, 9:32 PM

This part comes right after Maureen's part in the beginning named (Meahwhile back at the ranch...) Basically it is a beginning to the Tom/Mr. Chakotay Torres/B'Elanna Torres history.

Tom had indeed been up all night. He had meandered into town to Quarks to try and give himself a little distraction. Spending time with the lovely Miss Jenny was one of his favorite things to do. In fact, spending time with any of the women at Quarks was his favorite thing to do. Miss Jenny was by far his favorite though.

There he was, shootin' the breeze and playin' a little poker with some of the local geezers. Miss Jenny was diligently giving him her undivided attention as usual. Normally he fancied the attention she bestowed on him, but he found her attentions to be a little annoying tonight. He couldn't keep his mind on the game either. <What was wrong with him he pondered.>

"Tommy boy?" came a voice from one of the geezers. Tom barely heard his name.

"Tommy, yoo hoo," came another voice.

This time he came out of his thoughtfulness and looked up.

"Wha... What?" he said wide eyed.

"Are ya in or out boy?"

He looked down at the cards in his hands, and realized it was the first time he even looked at them. <Damn, he thought.> He threw his cards face down on the table, and scooted his chair back.

"Well, gentlemen, it's been real swell, but I'm out. I'm callin' it a night," he stood, and reached for his unfinished whiskey, and downed it in one gulp. Placing his hat on his head, he sauntered toward the door.

Miss Jenny saw him heading out, and ran over to hook her arm in his before he could reach the door.

"Where ya goin' Tommy?" she smiled sweetly up at him, batting her eyelashes.

Secretely, she fancied herself married to this dashing young rancher. She had given him enough of her time she had. She weren't about to let him leave so early.

"I gotta go Miss Jenny, I got things to do," he said. Paying her little mind, he attempted to unlatch her hand from his arm, and continued for the door.

"Oh Tommy please stay fer awhile. I hardly got to spend any time with ya," she pouted, puffing out her lower lip. This always worked she thought to herself, grinning inwardly.

"Miss Jenny, I truly apologize to ya, but I really have to be gettin' along now," he loosed her hand, and strode out the door, leaving a dejected Miss Jenny in his wake.

Tom mounted his horse, and took off at a gallop from town. He didn't know quite where he was goin' but he was gonna get there fast. About a mile from his homestead, he brought his mount to a halt. He and the horse were both exhausted from the long fast run. He dismounted, and walked over to a large rock next to a watering hole, and let the horse lap up the cool water. He splashed some water over his face, and through his hair in an effort to cool himself down as well. Then he sat, and leaned back on the rock, He looked up at the night sky. The stars were ablaze, and the moon was full and shining. It's light casting a glow on the land. He pondered briefly on what it was like way up there with the stars, away from all the troubles that plagued his mind.

RE: A time to remember Pt 2
Annie — 16 Sep 1998, 12:29 PM

He looked over to his right, and saw the Torres house not far away. There were lights in the window he saw. *I wonder what she is doing* he thought. Ever since Mr. Torres, and his daughter B'Elanna had arrived at the Delta Q, he couldn't keep his mind off her. He had seen her a few times growin' up, but hadn't seen her in a long while before Ma had hired Torres to help her manage the ranch. The girl had gone off to some Academy in Federation City, and come back a woman, and damn good horse trainer. Boy if she weren't a pretty one too, he had to give her that, and sakes alive did she have a temper. Of course, she would have nothing to do with him. Told him one day straight to his face that he was a pig. A pig! Surely her Pa had filled her in on what a bad apple he was. So, he really couldn't blame her. He and Mr. Torres certainly did not see eye to eye, and had had a few scrapes between them since he had been hired on. He knew Mr. Torres didn't like him, and knew he had been good friends with his Pa.

Sittin' there thinkin' all this, he dropped his head to his chest, and shook it from side to side. He knew he had a reputation, a bad one at that, and was none too proud of it. He was always tryin' to live up to his Pa's expectations, and could never quite make it. Everything he did was wrong it seemed. He had gone to gambling, and women to ease himself, but that had only gotten him into more trouble than he cared to remember.

Then he heard a noise, He lifted his head to look around. Coyote were no strangers to these parts. Then he heard a voice cursin'. He tuned his ears in, and perused the landscape. He thought he saw movement to his right. He gingerly drew his gun, and slowly raised himself into a crouch by the rock. He moved slowly forward to the slightly moving heap he saw on the ground ahead. Moaning is what he heard as he got closer. Baffled to be sure, he holstered his gun, and lunged on the heap he saw before him.

"What do you think you are doin'," came the angry reply from underneath him.

He rolled the bundle over, and pinned it beneath him. Realizing it felt like a very womanly figure underneath him, he looked up to see the face of his prize. He gazed into the firey eyes of none other than the object of his thoughts. One B'Elanna Torres.

"Get off me," she spat.

He didn't move. "What are you doin' out here this late at night," he demanded.

"That is none of your business!" she responded, struggling underneath him.

"What's all yer moanin' and groanin' about?" he asked, still pinning her underneath his body.

"I twisted my ankle you pig! Now get off me!"

Tom rolled off from atop her, and pulled her into a sitting position. He immediately reached for her ankles trying to feel for swelling underneath her boots.

"Keep your hands off of me!" she said shoving his hands away.

I'm just tryin' to help. I think you should get yer boot off quick, and put that there ankle in the cool water over here.

"I'm not an idiot. I know what to do," she grumbled, glaring at him.

"Fine Miss B'Elanna," he sighed. "I'll just go back over here and resume my sittin', and let you be."

RE: A time to remember Pt 3
Annie — 16 Sep 1998, 2:50 PM

He sauntered back over to the rock, and sat down. He watched her try to stand, and grimaced a little in sympathy of her pain when she promptly fell back to her knees with a curse. She looked over at him, and even though it was dark, he knew she was glarin' at him. He couldn't help but let a chuckle escape him at her evil look. He wanted to go help her, but he stayed put. She tried to stand again, and actually made it to her feet, but when she tried to step forward, she fell to the ground again crying out in pain. That was it, he could take no more. At this rate, by the time she got to the watering hole, her ankle was gonna be so swelled, she would have to saw that boot off. He stood up, and walked over to her. He leaned down, and scooped her up in his arms, and headed for the watering hole with her squirmin' and kicking the whole way, and demandin' that he put her down. He put her down next to the water, and reached for her boot.

"I can do that," she bellowed at him.

"Woman, quit yer bellyaching, and let me get this boot off yer foot," he bellowed back.

Amazingly she shut up, and he reached for the boot again. Before tugging on it, he looked back at her, and just as he knew, she was glarin' at him real mean like.

"This is gonna hurt, but I will try to be as tender as I can," he said in a soft voice.

She didn't say a word, she just looked at him. He began gently pulling the boot off her foot. He heard her gasp in pain, and turned a worried look back to see if she was okay.

"You all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Just get it off please."

"Well now, you need me, I'm touched," he teased, giving her a little smile. Then he went back to pulling on the boot.

When he finally had the boot off, he pulled her stocking off as well. Taking her foot tenderly in his hand, he examined the ankle in the dim light of the moon, and saw it was swollen. Not too awful bad, but swollen none the less. And the lady was bein' mercifully quiet for once. He looked back at her, and his eyes went wide. She was layin' on the ground, passed out cold. "Must of really hurt," he said aloud to himself. He lifted her, and placed her closer to the water, and pulled her skirt up slightly so as not to get it wet. He put her injured ankle in the cool water, and then rested her head on his legs. Dipping his hand in the water, he brought it to her face, placing his cool wet palm on her cheek, then the wet back side of his hand on the other cheek. Lookin' down at her restful face, he thought he had never seen anything more pretty in his whole life. She was part Klingon Indian, and had the ridges on her forehead to prove it. The ridges just seemed to make her all the more appealing. She started to stir, and he quickly placed his hand in the water again to repeat his ministrations. Her eyes slowly opened, and met his own. Their gazes locked for a few short moments before he broke the spell.

"You feelin' better now?" he asked slowly raising her to sit up.

"Yes, thank you. I guess I must have passed out?" she shifted herself slightly, and lifted the back of her hand to her forehead.

"You sure did," he said, watching her as she then loosed the top button on her shirt, then the next one.

RE: A time to remember Pt 4
Annie — 16 Sep 1998, 2:57 PM

"You want a drink from my canteen?" he asked in wide eyed wonder. <She sure aint shy> he thought.

She looked up at him, and he looked away quickly. His eyes had been focused on the smooth skin of her throat exposed by the open buttons of her shirt.

"Yes, please,"

"Yes what?" he returned. She was makin' him feel like a schoolboy seein' a woman's throat for the first time. Damn her.

"Yes, I'd like a drink from your canteen."

"Oh yeah, right."

He stood up and rushed to his horse, and pulled the canteen from the saddle bag. Returning to her, he knelt down, and handed the canteen over. He watched as she took a swallow, and then sat on the ground next to her. Then, they just began talking. Mostly about the ranch and the horses in particular. Before he knew it, they had decided to work together to run both the chestnut filly, and the bay colt in the upcoming Big Race. They must have sat there for an hour or two strategizin' on the race.

"Listen, I better get you home before your Pa comes out looking for you."

"You're probably right," she agreed.

He stood, and bent to help her to her feet, and to his surprise she let him help her. He wrapped an arm around her waist to hold her steady on her one good foot.

"I take it you didn't ride out here?"

"No, I didn't. I felt like walking. Until I tripped into that stupid hole that is," she smiled up at him.

"Guess I'll give you a ride home then."

"Listen Tom, I'm sorry about earlier. I might have been a little sensitive...about the fall and all."

"Don't worry about it," he gave her a smile, and she smiled back.

He picked her up effortlessly into his arms, walked over to his horse, and lifted her gently on the saddle. Then he walked back to get her boot, stocking, and the canteen which he placed in the saddle bag. Placing his hat on his head, and taking hold of the reins, he hefted himself into the saddle behind her. They had to do a little shifting to get comfortable, but once they were, he took off at a slow trot toward her house. He held B'Elanna close to his chest with one arm around her waist, so as not to let her slip, and he was enjoying every dad blame minute of it.

Once they got to her house, her Pa came out on the porch, looking none too pleased that his daughter was sharing a saddle with his least favorite person.

"Girl, where have you been. I was just about to come lookin' for ya. And what in the holy cow are you doin' with him."

"Don't start Pa, I'm fine."

Tom climbed off the horse, ignoring Mr. Torres, and reached up to take B'Elanna around the waist to pull her down. She put her hands on his shoulders, and he lifted her to the ground gently. Once there, they both lingered a little longer than they meant to, gazing into each others eyes.

"Come on girl, let's get you in the house, and offa that foot," said Mr. Torres as he took hold of her, and Tom reluctantly let go.

"Pa, I'm fine. Actually Tom helped me out there. I fell, and luckily he came by. He got my boot off, and got my foot into the watering hole. The swelling is almost gone already."

Chakotay just grumbled. B'Elanna looked back at Tom, and gave him a sweet smile, and he smiled back. He removed her boot and stocking from his saddle bag, and placed them on the porch. Then he mounted his horse, and rode off into the night. He rode for a long time, just thinkin'. Boy oh boy, he couldn't wait till the next day, when he would start working with her on the horses for the race.

VC: "And So A Stranger Comes"
Janeway216 — 27 Aug 1999, 5:40 PM

And so I make my debut as a Voyager City author. This story is placed early in the chronology of Voyager City, before any main events. Place it in a lull, I guess, but I'll try to have time elapse in the story.

The Delta Flyer pulled into the Voyager City train station with a whoosh of steam. After a minute, the sole passenger emerged: a petite redhead wearing dark glasses. She carried two valises with her. Nobody was there to meet her, but she didn't look like she expected anyone to meet her. She picked up the skirts of the dark green dress she was wearing, and set off for the Ritz-Kradin Hotel.

Within days the entire town was abuzz with rumors about the tiny stranger. Some said she was a long-lost relation of someone or another in the town; after all, that had happened before. Some said that she had come to challenge Carolita de la Vegas as the best singer in the West. Some said that she was from 'back East,' come out to Voyager City for different, mostly nefarious reasons. These people were closest to the truth.

She had been there for two weeks when Marshall Tuvok and Deputy Neelix took it upon themselves to visit her. The two of them stopped at the front desk and inquired as to her name: "Miss Marguerite St. Claire," was the response. Armed with a name, they set off for her room.

Marsh Tuvok knocked at the door, and upon hearing the "Come in," he stepped inside. There Miss Marguerite St. Claire was, sitting by the window and wearing the dark glasses that had aroused so much speculation. "Miss St. Claire?" Marsh Tuvok asked.

She turned toward him. "Yes?" she asked.

"I wished to stop by and welcome you to Voyager City," he said.

"No, you were curious and wanted to meet the newcomer," she said, "but I'll forgive you."

"I am Marshall Tuvok," he said, "and this is Deputy Neelix." He indicated Neelix with a wave of his hand. Neelix wiggled a bit and said, "Pleased to meet you, ma'am."

Miss St. Claire rose from her chair and walked over to Marsh Tuvok and Neelix. "The pleasure is all mine," she said, offering her hand to Tuvok and Neelix. Tuvok frowned and took the hand. "I know," Miss St. Claire said. "It isn't ladylike to offer your hand. But I never said I was a lady."

Tuvok decided to ignore the comment. "May I ask, what brings you to Voyager City?" he asked.

Miss St. Claire returned to her seat. "Would you like the sassy answer or the true one?" she countered. "The sassy answer was that Delta Flyer train of yours. The true answer is ill health."

"Ill health, ma'am?" Deputy Neelix ventured. "I must say, ma'am, you look as well as any other woman I've seen. Well, except for that one Widow Perlman. But she was on her deathbed, so I guess you can forgive her. The poor lady, she fought and fought to stay alive. But she had galloping consumption, and towards the end she got pneumonia, and -"

"Mr. Neelix, please cease your noise," Tuvok said. "Miss St. Claire, please explain."

"There's not much to explain," Miss St. Claire said cheekily. "My doctor decided that I was too pale, so I must be consumptive. He put me on the first West-bound train I could catch, and I just ended up here."

"Why do you wear those glasses?" Deputy Neelix piped up.

"When I was young, I had the fever," Miss St. Claire said. "It ruined my eyesight. I've never been able to see without these."

"Thank you for your time, Miss St. Claire," Tuvok said, elbowing Neelix for the sheer tactlessness of his question. "I hope to see you again."

"Sometime," Miss St. Claire said. Tuvok and Neelix left the room, closing the door behind them.

VC: "And So A Stranger Comes" part 2
Janeway216 — 27 Aug 1999, 5:43 PM

Miss St. Claire removed her glasses and rubbed her temples. The stress of lying had given her a headache. There had been enough truth in the story she told to make it palatable, but some of it was just an outright facsimile. She wished she could just have told them the truth, the whole truth - but they mustn't know who she was and why she really was here. Not yet. The timing wasn't right yet. "Marguerite, you silly fool," she murmured. "You're in over your head, and you're not even sure you're going to find what you're looking for ..."

VC: "By The Pricking Of My Thumbs"
Janeway216 — 28 Aug 1999, 10:57 PM

Another chapter in the Miss St. Claire story, and still subject to the "Tempus non fugit" syndrome (Forgive me for the mauling, but my Latin is bad.) I'll work on making the story move forward, I promise.

Officially, nobody knew how the story of Marsh Tuvok's encounter with Marguerite St. Claire became general knowledge. However, everybody knew that it was because a) Marsh Tuvok had told Miss Kathryn, who told Chakotay, who told B'Elanna, who told Annie, who told the Doc the next time she was in town, and the Doc told everyone he saw, and b) because Deputy Neelix told everyone he saw.

More rumors sprang up about Marguerite. It couldn't be helped: when you had a mysterious stranger who closeted herself in a hotel room and never came out for anything, people started to wonder, and speculation became fact, baited around the town. Anything she did became instant gossip, down to the fact that she went to the Nemesis for breakfast and had toast.

And the town gossips were given even more to yak about on the day that Miss Marguerite St. Claire finally emerged from her hotel room. What Miss Marguerite did was not so unusual; it was simply the fact that people got a good look at her that fueled the fires of speculation.

When Miss Marguerite did come out of her room, she was arrayed in navy blue silk and wearing the little black glasses that everyone had heard about. Her errands were simple. She went to Garak's Millinery and Hosiery and bought a pair of leather gloves, and then went to Larson's Buggy Rental and Chauffeur Service and borrowed Sacajawea for a period of time.

At least, in theory her errands were simple. But in reality, they were much more than that, and they were Marguerite's first steps to being able to tell the truth.

Marguerite's day began early. She put on her navy blue dress, and double-checked her hair in the mirror. Had to look good. Couldn't stand to have people calling her names because she looked bad.

Her first stop was Garak's Millinery and Hosiery, and during the entirety of the short walk she could feel eyes on her. Okay, so maybe the glasses were overkill. But she really did need them; she'd been telling the truth when she said the fever ruined her eyesight.

As she entered the door, a bell rang. A man looked up from a book and looked her over. "Size two," he said.

"Close," Marguerite acknowleged. "Four. But I'm not here for a dress."

"Oh?" the man asked.

"I need a pair of gloves," Marguerite said.

"Oh," the man said. He began pulling gloves out of a display counter.

Marguerite stopped him. "No, no," she said. "These are all lovely, but I need leather gloves. Work gloves."

The man sighed. "What would a pretty lady like you need leather gloves for?" he asked, but he produced a pair of mens' work gloves.

Marguerite accepted them. "So my hands don't get all dirty while I work," she said.

"Why-ever would a pretty girl like you need to work?" the man asked.

"For what-ever reason I please," Marguerite said. "And I'm not going to tell you what my reason is, because you'll blab it to everyone you know."

"Touche, young lady," the man smiled at her. "And the gloves will be a dollar-sixty- cents."

Marguerite frowned. "I didn't come out here with a suitcase full of money," she grumbled.

"Some people think you did."

"Some people think I'm working at Provencal. That's just as false. Never believe what other people say."

"I didn't say I believed them."

"You didn't say you didn't believe them, either," Marguerite said reproachfully.

"Touche, again," the man said, "and you'd best leave before I end up full of holes."

"Too late for that," Marguerite said, "as there's already seven in your head, at least." And with that, she swept out in a rustle of navy silk.

VC: "By The Pricking Of My Thumbs" part 2
Janeway216 — 28 Aug 1999, 11:02 PM

Her next stop was Larson's Buggy Rental and Chauffeur Service, a glorified livery stable. Marguerite entered cautiously, not spying anyone who could help her, but soon someone popped up to meet her.

"Yas'm, can I help you?" the creature said.

"I, ah, need to borrow a horse," Marguerite requested.

"Ah, so you need to borrow a hoss," the man echoed. "What kinda hoss?"

"One that can tolerate someone who's hardly ever ridden before," Marguerite laughed self-deprecatingly.

"Ah, then you'd need Sacajawea," the man said. "Right over here. Got the absolute sweetest temper you ever saw, and don't give a flip about who's riding her."

Marguerite surveyed the strawberry roan mare. "I guess she'll do. Can you have her ready for me here tomorrow?"

"I can have her tomorrow," the man said, "and the next day and the next. Dollar a day ought to do her."

"Thank you," Marguerite said, and then departed hastily, scurrying back to the sanctum of her hotel room. Tomorrow was her big day. Tomorrow was the day everything was going to be set into motion.

Voyager City: The Race
Vickie T. — 11 Sep 1998, 8:10 AM

Before I start the story, let me answer a question and add a clarifying note. Regarding what kind of story I'm expecting (D'Alaire's question), I have no expectations other than that you all will come up with some wonderfully entertaining vignettes. Hey, let the spirit move you in whatever direction it wants to go. Also, it was my thought that anyone could start their own story line, or, if you are inspired by the story started by someone else, just pick up where they left off and run with it. As it happens, the paragraphs that I have ready to post this morning dovetail almost exactly with those Maureen already posted, which I find a little scary, to tell you the truth. What was that crack (D'Alaire?) made about The Stepford Wives? So, here's my first contribution:

"So, which horse are you planning to enter in the big race?"

B'Elanna, standing over the cook stove preparing breakfast for her father and herself, looked up. "Actually, I'm thinking about entering two horses. The bay colt is fast, but the chestnut filly is quick and she has a lot of heart. Tom and I both think it's a good idea to run them together."

"Tom?," Chakotay asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, he is the best rider on the DeltaQ and I'm the best trainer. It makes sense that we should work together preparing the horses for the big race."

"Mmmmm," her father replied, noncommitally. "I'll be away most of the day, B'Ellana. I promised Miss Kathryn that I'd take a look at the north meadow pasture today."

When he stood to leave, Chakotay put his hands on B'Elanna's shoulders and looked seriously into her eyes. "You be careful."

She replied, "Oh, father, you know I'm the best horse trainer in the territory. You don't have anything to worry about."

He sighed and turned to the door. "I'm not worried about the horses," he said, as he headed toward the barn.

Please, anyone, feel free to add on from this point.

B'Elanna's musings Pt 1
Annie — 17 Sep 1998, 10:43 AM

This part will come directly after Vickie's part in the beginning (Voyager City: The Race). I tried to put a little time span in, but I'm not sure it will make much difference.

cont... from Voyager City: The race.

B'Elanna shook her head at her father's parting comment. She knew well that he did not like Tom Janeway. She had heard all the rumors about him, and knew very well he was not the sort of fellow her Pa fancied seeing her with. She also knew that Tom Janeway had done a lot of growing up since she went off to school at the Academy, and seemed like a really responsible guy now. He was still so handsome. She remembered seeing him every so often when she was growin' up, and was always amazed at those blue-gray eyes of his. They had been working with the horses for some time now, and had grown considerably closer to each other. She loved spending time with him, and she was sure he felt the same about her.

She finished breakfast, and hollered out the door for her Pa to come and eat. She sat down herself, and began on her breakfast deep in her memories of the night Tom had come up on her after she had tripped in that blasted hole. She was infernally horrible to him that night, mostly because she was embarrassed to have stupidly fallen in a hole. Most men cringed at her temper, and she had a stubborn streak a mile long (her Pa says she got both those traits from her mother). Her temper didn't phase Tom Janeway, and he hollered right back at her. It was a good thing he had hauled her off the ground, and got her over to the watering hole to get that boot off. She would have struggled by herself all night before she would have asked him to help her. She remembered she had passed out for the pain of him trying to get the boot off her swollen ankle. Then when she had come too, the first thing she saw were those damned blue-gray eyes of his gazing into hers. She realized that her foot was in the water, her head was resting on his legs, and he was gently wetting her face with his hands. When she awoke, he gently lifted her up off his legs, and she was glad it was dark, because the blush that crept over her at his touch had made her whole body flush with heat.

"When are you goin' to town for the supply's today B'Elanna?"


She snapped out of her reverie, and noticed that her Pa was sitting across the table lookin at her. He was almost finished with his breakfast, and she had hardly touched hers. She blushed slightly, knowing her Pa would have her hide if he knew what she was thinkin' about.

"What Pa?"

"I said, when are you going to town for the supply's today?"

"Soon as I get done with breakfast Pa. Annie's due here any time now, she will do up the dishes, and make sure the house is put to straights."

"Don't forget the chicken feed this time."

"I won't Pa," she rolled her eyes at him.

"Don't roll your eyes at me child," he said smiling, and pointing his fork at her in mock seriousness.

"Yoo hoo, where's my little girl," came a shrill female voice from the back door.

B'Elanna jumped up from her chair to open the door for Annie. Annie always had her arms full when she came over.

"Annie, hi." B'Elanna gave Annie a quick squeeze, and a peck on the cheek, then proceeded to help her unload the packages from her arms.

B'Elanna's musings Pt 2
Annie — 17 Sep 1998, 11:26 AM

For her age, Annie was quite spry. B'Elanna didn't know exactly how old she was, but she was old. She had been around as long as B'Elanna could remember. Annie had pretty much raised her, and B'Elanna loved her like she would her own Grandmother. A couple of years ago, Annie had taken a place of her own. She used to come every day, but only came twice a week now. Annie said it was because the time spent at the house takin' care of her and her Pa was cuttin' into her socializin'. But, B'Elanna knew it was because she herself had grown up, and didn't need Annie around as much. And every time Annie came over, she had her arms loaded with homemade foodstuffs for them. If it wasn't leeola root bread, it was canned pleeka rind, or anything else Annie had either grown, or made herself. Annie's gray hair was always twisted up in a loose bun atop her head, and she always had a humorous glint to her eyes. Once she'd unloaded her bundles, she smacked Chakotay on the arm good naturedly.

"So, Chakotay, you got that good Miss Kathryn to your bed yet?" She looked over at B'Elanna and winked.

"Annie!" he said wide eyed in feigned shock.

B'Elanna let out a giggle, and went about clearing the table. Annie loved to needle her Pa, and did so at every opportunity.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Annie continued. "I meant Miss Vickie. No, wait a minute, aint there that new missy Lee-Marie staying over at the big house, and then there's that..."

By now, B'Elanna was laughing so hard, she had to stop what she was doing.

"All right ladies," Chakotay interrupted. "I think that is my signal to get outa here." He stood from his chair, and reached down to grab Annie around the waist.

"Miss Annie, you know I only have eyes for you," he teased. He leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Oh pah," she said pushing him away. "You could never handle the likes of me."

"You're probably right Annie." Chakotay leaned over to give his daughter a kiss on her cheek, and left the two ladies to their giggles.

VC: Keeping you all in suspense (not the title)
Janeway216 — 30 Aug 1999, 9:26 PM

Jules, this is a bit more of where this is going ...

Okay, finally I think time shall move. Or rather, I'll just give this a place in time, and hope to God I get the relationships right.

Tom Janeway was almost on top of the world as he rode out to Ice Box Canyon. That B'Elanna Torres had agreed to partner with him in getting their horses ready for the big race. Sure, B'Elanna was take-your-breath-away gorgeous, but she was also the best horse trainer in these parts, and with her help Tom knew he had a good chance of winning the race. Of course, so would B'Elanna. That's what made this so fun, knowing they were going to be competitors.

B'Elanna had agreed to meet Tom in Ice Box Canyon an hour after sun-up. So he was mildly surprised when he arrived there at fifty minutes after sun-up and saw a horse already there. The rider had dismounted and was walking around, studying something. "B'Elanna?" Tom called. "You're early!"

The figure turned briefly toward him, and in the second that Tom saw the face he knew it wasn't B'Elanna. He caught a glint of light off dark glasses, and then the figure ran and mounted its horse. In a brief flurry of dust, it took off.

Tom immediately spurred Frisco into a gallop, taking off after the rider. He wasn't sure he was going to ride Frisco in the big race, because there were other horses that needed the experience more. But he was glad he'd brought Frisco today, as he needed the stallion's speed. He drew ever closer, and finally he recognized the horse. Sacajawea, from Larson's. Speedy, but low stamina. Also, this mysterious person wasn't a quarter the rider that Tom was, and they looked like they were perilously close to falling off the horse.

The chase continued for another ten minutes, until what Tom had predicted came true. The rider fell off the horse, and landed in a dusty heap. Sacajawea ran a few more feet, then skidded to a halt. Even though he was a good twenty-five feet away, Tom could hear a stream of curse words coming from the rider. They were in a voice that, although deep, was feminine.

"Are you okay?" Tom asked, riding up and coming to a stop beside the mysterious rider.

She glared at him. "Do I look okay to you?" she spat. "I just fell off a d@mn horse, for &od's sake."

"Whoa, little lady," Tom said. "Calm down." He dismounted and offered her a hand. Icily, she refused to accept it and instead pushed herself up and stood brushing her clothes off. "I'm Tom Janeway," he introduced himself. "And who would you be?"

"Miss Marguerite St. Claire," she said frostily. "Nice to meet you." She stalked off towards Sacajawea, and actually managed to mount Sacajawea on the second try.

"Wait, Miss St. Claire," Tom said, "I got some questions to ask you."

"I want a lawyer," Marguerite said.

"Naw, you don't need no lawyer," Tom said. "I just want to know what you were doing out at Ice Box Canyon."

"I was looking for something," Marguerite said stiffly. "Now excuse me." She pushed Sacajawea into a trot and headed back towards the canyon.

Tom rode up in front of her and cut her off. "We are going to ride back to the Delta Q together," he said firmly. "And you and I are gonna have a little chat. And then maybe you and Mama are gonna have a little chat, and maybe you and Chakotay are gonna have a little chat. Cause we at the Delta Q don't take too kindly to intruders."

Re: VC: "Up A Creek Without A Paddle" part 2
Janeway216 — 30 Aug 1999, 9:31 PM

I did tell you guys where this goes, didn't I?

"I wasn't aware that Ice Box Canyon belonged to you."

Tom indicated the surrounding country with a sweep of his hand. "Most of this belongs to us."

"Can we go now?" Marguerite asked, her tone making it clear that she had no interest in what Tom was saying.

"Sure," Tom said good-naturedly, and Frisco dropped into a trot beside Sacajawea. "So, Miss St. Claire, where you from?"

Marguerite sighed. "You all call it 'back East.' I call it home."

"Is that so? You know, Mama's from back East."

"And that means absolutely nothing to me."

"Little town called Al Batani," Tom said.

Marguerite's face remained stone. "Never heard of it."

Another lull ensued, until Tom broke it by saying, "So why do you wear those little glasses?"

Marguerite sighed again. "When I was young, I had the fever. It ruined my eyesight, in that my eyes were too weak to handle much light. So I wear these to make it darker, so I can see."

"Oh," Tom said cheerfully. "What kinda fever?"

"The fever," Marguerite said impatiently.

"Oh," Tom said, subdued. Maybe you could say squelched. The two of them were silent until they returned to the ranch house. Then Tom dismounted, told Marguerite "Wait here", and went into the house, calling, "Mama? Got someone here to see you!"

Marguerite stayed astride her horse, but buried her head in her hands. This was not how she had planned for this to end up. She had only gone out to Ice Box Canyon so she could catch her bearings in this new territory, but then that horrid Tom Janeway had caught her. Okay, so maybe running away made her look guilty. But he'd surprised her, and how was she to know that he was going to be out there? And now she was going to have to lie like a dog to Mrs. Janeway, and there was going to be he!! to pay after that.

Tom reappeared at the door to the house. "Mama says come on in to the parlor," he called. Marguerite dismounted and entered the house.

It was dim inside, and cooler than she expected. She paused in the front hall, getting her bearings, and then she heard a whisper behind her, "Turn left." D@mn. It was that Tom Janeway. She whipped her head around and hissed, "For your information, Mr. Janeway, I'm standing here because I can't see anything yet!"

"Take off your glasses," was his impish response.

"Never," returned Marguerite, and by then her eyes had adjusted and she could see the parlor door, open, and indeed off to the left like Tom had said. She stepped closer and saw Mrs. Janeway waiting for her.

"Miss St. Claire?" Mrs. Janeway asked. "Come in and sit down, please."

Marguerite stepped inside the parlor and found a chair. "Hello, Miss St. Claire," Mrs. Janeway said. "Welcome to Voyager City. And the Delta Q, I guess."

Marguerite blushed at that last part. "A pleasure to be here," she said.

"I'd give you a tour," Mrs. Janeway said, "but you seem to have gotten started on that already. May I ask, what were you doing out at Ice Box Canyon?"

"I was admiring the beauty of this rugged territory."

RE: VC: "Up A Creek Without A Paddle" part 3
Janeway216 — 30 Aug 1999, 9:35 PM

"Tom tells me that you said you were looking for something."

D@mn. She'd said too much to Tom, and now she was paying for it. "Yes, I was looking for beauty."

"Then why did you run away from Tom?" Mrs. Janeway asked.

"Because he had scared me," Marguerite said. "I wasn't expecting anyone to come out there."

"Well, didn't you know that Ice Box belongs to the Delta Q?" Mrs. Janeway asked innocently.

"No," Marguerite said equally innocently, and it was hard to tell which of the two of them was lying.

"I would think the cows would be a dead giveaway."

"I'm not from around here. They could just have been free-range, for all I knew."

Mrs. Janeway surveyed Marguerite with narrowed eyes. "Where did you say you were from again?"

"Back East," Marguerite said.

"I'm from back East myself," Mrs. Janeway said. "And I knew absolutely nothing about ranching when Mark married me and brought me out here. I could hardly tell a cow from a horse. And yet you know about free-range cattle."

D@mn. She'd said too much again. "My brother's a farmer."

"Sure he is," Mrs. Janeway said, and the two of them sat glaring at each other for a second. Finally Marguerite looked away and said, "This isn't getting us anywhere."

"Correction," Mrs. Janeway said. "This isn't getting me anywhere. You, however, Miss St. Claire, are leaving, and I hope to &od that we never find you on Delta Q property again."

"Not even if I ask?" Marguerite sassed.

"Especially not if you ask," Mrs. Janeway said. "Good-bye, Miss St. Claire."

"Fair weather," Marguerite said - where had that come from? - and departed.

She made it as far as the front door, and then stopped short. Growl. That despicable Tom Janeway was propped up next to the door. He'd heard every word. Tom looked knowingly at Marguerite. "The glasses didn't make a very good impression on Mama, I don't think," he said. "I told you to take them off."

Marguerite whipped her glasses off, gave him her best glare (which didn't work very well because she had to squint to see him), pushed her glasses back up her nose, and then stalked over to Sacajawea.

"Nice eyes," Tom said. "Green."

Marguerite growled, and then rode off.

Eventually I will get somewhere with this!

VC: "Something Diff'rent This Way Comes"
Janeway216 — 6/5/00 6:06 PM

Miss Marguerite St. Claire had been in town just long enough for people to get used to her, when she disappeared. Checked out of her hotel room and didn't leave a forwarding address. No one saw her leave, and so even more rumors sprang up. Some were wild and outlandish, some were a little more down to earth, but none of them even remotely resembled what really happened to Marguerite St. Claire.

In the next few weeks, that became a most popular topic of conversation. People dubbed Miss Marguerite "Tornado St. Claire," because she came in, stayed a while, and wreaked a lot of havoc. When people weren't discussing the big race, they were discussing Miss Marguerite. The situation really hadn't changed much; people still talked about Miss Marguerite, but the tone of the conversation was different.

It even affected events out at the Delta Q. B'Elanna suddenly grew chilly, hardly speaking to anyone, and Tom sassed anyone who spoke to him. Frisco languished for a lack of work, and increasingly Kona was spending her time in the stable.

Finally things came to a head. One night, after dinner, Chakotay said to B'Elanna, "How things goin' with them horses of yers?"

"I don' know, Papa," B'Elanna growled.

"Well, why don' you know?" Chakotay asked.

"Cause I ain't been out t' work 'em."

"Why ain't you been out t' work 'em?"

"Cause I hate Tom Janeway."

Chakotay turned an interesting shade of red. "That ain't no d@mn reason t' stop workin' and ridin' Kona! After all the money we spent on her! And plus y'know Liberty needs the work! An' all because y'hate Tommy Janeway! That ain't no dad-blasted reason t' do anything! There ain't no way in hell you gonna do good in that race iffen you don' WORK YER D@MN HORSES!"

"I'M SORRY, PAPA!" B'Elanna screamed. "But part of t' deal is we work Frisco an' Kona an' Liberty an' Intrepid together. An' he ain't doin' his part."

"Then I'll have a talk with Miz Kate," Chakotay said, "an' I'll get her t' get that no-good lousy rotten son of hers to work his d@mn horses. But you do yer d@mn work, er I'm a-gonna bust yer butt! Never mind that yer a grown woman!"

"All right, Papa," B'Elanna said, and the two of them glared at each other for a minute or two. Then Chakotay blinked and looked away. He sighed and held his arms out to B'Elanna. She walked over and stepped into his hug. "Y'know I'm only doin' this cause I love y' so much," he said, holding B'Elanna close. "Well, I love them horses too, but I love y' more. Yer so much like yer mama, an' sometimes - well, yer jus' all I got. My pride an' my joy."

"Yes, Papa," B'Elanna said, but she wondered how much he meant it.


Chakotay evidently had his talk with Miss Kate, and Miss Kate evidently had a talk with Tom, because when B'Elanna went out to Ice Box Canyon two mornings later, Tom was there. With Frisco and Intrepid. "I couldn' decide which one-a 'em I wanted, so I brought 'em both," he said. "I'll take turns or sumpin so's they don' git jellous (sic)."

B'Elanna nodded silently. They rode a little ways before B'Elanna said, "Why'd y' stop comin' out here?"

"I thought you stopped comin' out here," Tom said. "Thought you was mad at me cause I flirted with Miz Marguerite a bit."

"Y' flirted with Miz Marguerite?" B'Elanna asked, incredulous. "Nah, I'm too stunned to be mad. What kind-a reception did y' get?"

Tom chuckled a bit. "She was chilly," Tom said. "'Bout as cold as you were the night y' sprained yer ankle. No, Miz Marguerite was worse." He looked reflective. "Nice eyes, though."

B'Elanna drew in her breath. "You actu'lly saw her eyes?" she asked.

"They were green," Tom said, "an' she squints."

B'Elanna shook her head. "I heard tell she din't have any eyes. Just sockets."

"How in he!! would she see?" Tom asked meditatively, and then shook his head. "No, an' I couldn't pry any information out of her either. She and Mama had a catfight."

Tom's story just kept getting stranger. B'Elanna shook her head again. "What all did she tell y', and why did she an' Miz Kate have a catfight?"

"She din't tell me nothin' that nobody din't already know. Well, actu'lly she tol' me that she was out here a-lookin' fer somepin. But she said that t' reason she wore them little glasses was because she'd had t' fever an' it ruined her eyesight, an' that she was from back East. T' same horse apples she fed Marsh and Dep'ty Neelix."

"Out here a-lookin' fer what? There ain't nothin' t' find out here."

"That's what I was a-thinkin', but maybe Miz Marguerite knows sumpin we don'."

"An' the catfight?" B'Elanna prompted.

"Not really much of anythin'," Tom reported, "but I swear Mama's hackles were raised, and Miz Marguerite looked ready to spit when she came out-a t' parlor."

"What'd they say to each other?"

"Nothin' much, really," Tom said. "Mama asked Miz Marguerite what she was doin' out at Ice Box, an' Marguerite gave her some horse apples, and y' know Mama's too smart for horse apples. Cause she sniffed Miz Marguerite right out, first cause Miz Marguerite said that she din't know Ice Box was ourn, and when Mama asked 'bout the cattle Miz Marguerite said that they coulda been free-range." Shifting his weight, Tom said, "An' that means Miz Marguerite knows more 'bout a farm than she looks like. So Mama called her on that, an' Miz Marguerite said sumpin 'bout her brudder bein' a farmer. Which, I don' know, could be true but sounds an awful lot like horse apples t' me."

"Something Diff'rent This Way Comes" part II
Janeway216 — 6/5/00 6:11 PM

"Huh," B'Elanna said. "She really din' say nothin'."

"Nope," Tom said. "Tol' ya so."

"Huh," B'Elanna said again. Looking up at the horizon, she stopped and pointed. "Wha's that?"

Tom looked where B'Elanna was pointing and saw, about a hundred-fifty yards away, what looked suspiciously like a campsite, tent, horse, fireplace, and all. "Squatter," he said. "Le's git Mama and yer papa."

The two of them rode back to the house at a pretty good clip, figuring that the horses wouldn't mind a little fast work. They didn't, and Tom and B'Elanna made it back to the house in less than fifteen minutes. As soon as they stopped, Tom hollered, "Mama?"

No answer. "I'll check inside," Tom said, and he dismounted and went inside the house. Not two minutes later, B'Elanna, sitting outside, on Liberty, heard Miss Kate bellow, "D@mn! Where's Betsy!"

Betsy being, of course, her trusty 12-gauge shotgun.

Thirty seconds later, Miss Kate barreled out of the house, toting Betsy. Tom followed closely behind her. Miss Kate swung herself up onto Intrepid and said, "Where's that squatter, son?"

"Lock and load," Tom murmured.

Their ride out to the campsite took less than ten minutes, mainly because Miss Kate was riding Intrepid as if her life depended on it. When they arrived again, a neat little fire was burning in the fireplace and a pot was suspended over it. This meant that the person was probably near, so the three of them rode up close to the tent. Tom heard a rustle. "Shhh!" he said. "They're in the tent."

More rustles from the tent, and then the flap opened and out came the mysterious squatter. They looked surprised, as well they had right to be, because they were staring up the barrel of Betsy . . .

"Fancy meetin' you here agin, Miz Marguerite," Miss Kate drawled.

"The pleasure's all mine," Marguerite said, caught off-guard but trying to recover.

"I guess you didn't know this land was Delta Q land?" Miss Kate said, dropping the drawl.

"I don't know what's what out here," Marguerite said. "This could easily be, ah . . . Kaze Ogla's land."

"Miss St. Claire, do give up all the posturing," Miss Kate said smoothly. "What in blazes do you want out of us? Because if you're looking for a place to stay, we've got guest rooms."

Marguerite sighed. "No, that's not it. It'll take a while to explain. I'll ride Sacajawea back to the house with you all and try to elaborate upon it. Give me a second." She inexpertly put the fire out, then walked over to Sacajawea and managed to mount on the third try. Sacajawea plodded over to where the other three stood. "Giddyup," Marguerite said weakly.

Something tugged at the corner of Miss Kate's mouth. "Saddle 'em up and move 'em out," she said.

It got a feeble laugh from Miss Marguerite. Tom, B'Elanna, and Miss Kate started back towards the house at an easy pace, but Miss Marguerite lagged behind. They dropped back to a pace that Miss Marguerite could handle, and Miss Kate said, conversationally, "So Miss Marguerite, where are you from?"

Miss Marguerite sighed. "You might as well know right now. Marguerite's not my name."

Genuinely shocked, Miss Kate said, "Well, what is it, then?"

"Margaret," Miss Marguerite said. "Margaret Andrews."

"Well, Miss Margaret, where are you from?"


"Anywhere I would know of?"

"Probably not."

"What's the nearest city?"


Miss Kate pondered. "No, it's not anywhere that I know. Who are your parents?"

"Robert and Mary Andrews."

"What does your dad do?"

"He's got three hundred acres."

"So you're a farm girl?"

"I guess you could say so. I might as well drop the charade." Miss Margaret shifted position on Sacajawea and moved into a trot. The other three sped up with her.

"So what's a nice farm girl like you doing out here on my ranch?" Miss Kate asked. She wasn't being friendly.

"Would you believe me if I told you I didn't know?"


Margaret sighed. "I don't know what I'm doing out here. I'll give it to you straight. The farm's in trouble. I thought maybe I could come out West and teach, earn a little money for Mama and Papa. But I got on the wrong train, and you all already have a schoolmarm. So I was up a creek without a paddle. Nobody here to take care of me, so I checked into the Ritz-Kradin. Then I heard about the gold in the Mountains of Venus and decided to take a chance at prospecting." Margaret sighed again. "I didn't figure that you all owned the land around as far as the eye can see. So now, here I am, and even without having stayed at the Ritz-Kradin for two weeks or someodd, I still don't have the money to get home, and I don't know where else to go."

Miss Kate considered. "I'm not saying as you can stay with us permanently. But we'll see about maybe finding you a place to stay until you can scare up the money for a train ride somewhere else. I heard they need a schoolma'am a few towns over."

"Thank you, ma'am," Miss Margaret said gratefully.

The posse continued riding towards the house.

The Story of Elaine and Old Mike (Part I)
Mrs. Mac — 1 Oct 1998, 2:02 PM

Elaine hated it when her pa sent her off to do a man's job. As she strode indignantly past the saloons she pulled the pistol closer to her dress and pressed her thumb into the trigger pull. There was always trouble around Quark's and she wanted to be prepared - not that it would do her any good to use this particular pistol. Yesterday pa was out in Coffee Canyon shooting rabbits when the dang thing misfired and sent him backwards, over a rock and down an embankment. He limped back to town with a broken gun, hurt pride, and most importantly, no meat for dinner. Doc Holliday said it was just a sprained knee but it was damaged enough to keep him home and force Elaine off to the gunsmith to get the pistol fixed.

It wasn't safe to walk down the center of the road through the city. Elaine did her best to avoid the patchy mud spots and water-filled stagecoach ruts left by a rare thunderstorm but she favored both over passing too closely to either saloon. It was bad enough that she had to pass Quark's and bear the stench from the stockyards, but she also had to speak to Old Mike, the gunsmith. She had never met him but heard stories about him from the other girls at the opera house. She saw him from a distance once hanging out on the porch of Maxine's Provencal as she and her pa brought the pigs to the Stockyards for slaughter. At the time, she couldn't draw her own opinion of him from such a distance but she had heard that he liked his firewater a little too much.

She drew a sigh of relief as she cleared the saloons and found herself near an empty lot where she heard Maxine was going to build a new home. Elaine's mind wandered as she thought about the fancy dresses the women wore at Maxine's. She only had one dress - the one she wore to church, which was the same one she wore at the opera house to entertain the more reputable patrons of the city with songs of the great composers. She picked her songs carefully so as not to rankle the Reverend Windes. Elaine began to hum a song from "Lily of Killarney" when suddenly the earth near her shook. She was startled out of her whimsy and looked up just in time to see B'Elanna Torres cantering at her on her horse, Liberty.

"Look out!" B'Elanna cried out a warning with time enough for Elaine to step and slide just out of the way. The horse brushed by, spattering her skirt with the mud pitched up by the beast's hooves. Angry, Elaine looked up to give B'Elanna a piece of her mind but the chestnut filly and her rider had already disappeared down the road out of earshot. Elaine groaned as she examined her skirt. Mud was spattered in a neat line from hem to waist. Unbeknownst to her was a small patch of grime that had landed firmly on her forehead. I'm just glad I didn't have my church dress on, she thought to herself as she brushed away as much mud as she could.

The Story of Elaine and Old Mike (Part II)
Mrs. Mac — 1 Oct 1998, 2:04 PM

Damn rabbit hunting. Damn B'Elanna. Damn gunsmith. Damn town. Elaine knew what she wanted to do. The great diva Clara Louise Kellogg was organizing an opera company of Americans. Elaine knew that if she could pass the singer's audition and join her company she could put this town behind her and start a new life with fancy gowns, dinner in restaurants, and handsome men.

Crossing the railroad tracks, Elaine arrived at her destination. The gunsmith's house had a small front porch and 3 large shuttered windows. Evidently old Mike closed them before the rain and never reopened them. Not that it mattered. The thunderstorm did very little to pierce the heavy, stagnant air. There would be no breeze to capture this morning. Thin vines of ivy crept haphazardly up the clapboards surrounding the windows. What was surprising to Elaine was that for a bachelor man, this one kept a surprisingly neat home.

Elaine pushed cautiously on the front gate that yielded with difficulty. As she was to discover, most people visited old Mike via a wagon path, which led directly to the shop. She crossed the sparse lawn and followed the well-used path down to the back. A large brick extension connected to the main house revealed a considerable headquarters suitable for hand machinery and tools. The barn-like door was open and smoke billowed from the slightly crooked chimney. An empty bottle of spirits filled with a nosegay stood on a rain barrel under the nearest window. Elaine avoided the puddles and stepped cautiously near the doorway. It was dark inside but she could see the silhouette of a figure standing near an intense but tamed fire within.

Elaine thrust her neck forward to speak. "Hello? Is anyone there?"

The dark figure turned slowly...

The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part III
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:32 AM

Slowly a man stepped out from the shadow of the Gunsmith Shop. Elaine followed the light as it revealed the man before her. His Levis were tucked into "mule-ear" boots. Kirogen-skin chaps tied at the waist protected his legs from the intense heat of the hearth. Elaine's eyes wandered up and noticeably gasped as she saw his strong bare chest, covered with glistening dark hair that funneled to his waist, emerge from the darkness. Frightened, Elaine raised and pointed the useless pistol at the imposing figure who stepped toward her. Her knees buckled slightly as he paused before her but then quickly brushed past her toward an open rain barrel by the doorway. Elaine followed his movements with the barrel of her gun as he thrust a bullet mould into the water. It sizzled and steamed as it cooled in the liquid.

Propping the tongs on the edge of the barrel, Mike turned toward his visitor to speak. "Now if you go and shoot me, Miz Elaine, your pa ain't gonna have anyone to fix his old Colt anymore." Perplexed, her mouth opened as she lowered the gun. Without offering his hand he introduced himself. "I'm Mike. Old Mike."

" do you know my name?" Elaine studied his features while trying, impossibly, to avert her eyes from his uncovered chest.

Mike stepped toward her and gently took the gun from her hand. His deep, dark eyes twinkled as he spoke. "Your pa speaks of you very fondly and I've often seen you with him - helpin' out with the chores." He was glad his moustache hid the beads of perspiration that formed on his upper lip. He stole a glance at her crystal blue eyes as they moved from side to side to avoid his own. I could get lost in those eyes, he thought. Mike shook himself from his desire and looked up at some gathering clouds as a few drops of rain settled in his dark, somewhat curly hair. "Best you come in ma'am. Looks like we have another storm coming up on us." Mike motioned Elaine inside. As she cautiously stepped up and into the darkness Old Mike reached for a linen shirt that hung on a hook inside the doorway.

RE: The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part IIIb
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:33 AM

Old Mike's Gunsmith Shop was more advanced than anything Elaine had ever imagined - not that she spent any time thinking about shops where men plied their trade. The fire in the forge was still simmering, throwing shadows in all directions. Every caliper, tong and punch that hung neatly from the overhead beams danced like skittish marionettes. There were many tools and machines that Elaine knew nothing of. She knew that Old Mike also crafted spurs and stamp irons, and outlines of them could be seen against the back wall. There was an entire shelf full of carving and boring tools, and the workbench by the window was strewn with etching knives and designs on paper. He was thinking craftsman.

As Old Mike finished buttoning his shirt, he approached the forge. Near the base of the oven there was a pedal that connected to a lever, which he pumped several times with his strong legs. The cord that was attached to the pedal pulled on the giant bellows that hung overhead. It groaned as it forced air down through tubes of leather and clay that lead to the fire, which erupted and crackled with new life. Outside, the skies erupted simultaneously. A rumble of thunder rattled a tin bucket on its hook that startled Elaine. She gathered her shawl and drew it nearer to herself.

Mike held the pistol before the fire and using a fine tool he dismantled the 8472 Army Colt. "I keep telling your pa that this model needs modification but he's as stubborn as they come." He banged the cylinder against his hand to dislodge a piece of the inner mechanisms. "Look at this," he said as he held a small object before Elaine. He looked carefully at her face as she studied the small piece of metal. Damn she's beautiful. "The hook spring is broken again. This time I'm gonna replace it with a latch, which should solve the problem for now. All in all he should let me convert it." Mike had a good business converting the thousands of percussion Colts left over after the war into rim-fires. He was an expert at making metallic cartridges that could be broadly used with all his converted guns - even some rifles. Not very long ago he was paid handsomely for his model of a modified Colt using a longer cylinder and a cartridge with more kick. He had lots of good ideas like that and each time Major Schofield came by for a visit he shared one or two of them for a little piece of the profit. However, Mike kept his best ideas to himself. It could make him a very wealthy man some day.

The Story of Elaine and Mike - Part IIIc
Mrs. Mac — 5 Oct 1998, 6:34 AM

"How long will that take?" A clap of thunder outside signaled a downpour of rain. It pelted the roof with deafening persistence.

Eyeing a line of pistols on a table the thought of an immediate fix was out of the question. "Hopefully by some time tomorrow," Mike answered. "Besides," looking out into the storm, "looks like you'll be stuck here awhile."

"Tomorrow!" Elaine flustered. "How can pa possibly go hunting without his pistol?" As Elaine continued to dismay over the broken gun Mike peered closely at her face. He noticed a streak of mud on her forehead. He knew he didn't have a mirror in the shop and he didn't quite know how to tell her.

"Miz Elaine, I . . . I could . . ."

"But sir, we really must have a gun. The pigs won't be sold until the next auction . . ."

"Miz Elaine . . ."

". . . and we don't have any meat in the house that isn't near spoilt . . ." Mike untied the bandana from around his neck and dipped it in the pail of water that rested on the ledge of the forge. Elaine froze in mid sentence as Mike gently grabbed her upper arm and pressed the damp bandana to her forehead. Elaine immediately recoiled and swung her right hand briskly at Old Mike's bearded face.

Smaaaaaack! Old Mike reeled backwards, and nearly dipped one hand in the fire as he grabbed for the forge's edge to catch himself. "You SWINE! How DARE you touch me!" Elaine shook and began to backpedal toward the entrance.

Rubbing his jaw, Mike righted himself and stepped toward Elaine, "Miz Elaine, I was only . . ."

"If you take one more step I'll scream!" Elaine immediately turned and stumbled outside to be enveloped by the torrential rain.

"MIZ ELAINE, DON'T GO!" Mike started after Elaine but stopped at the doorway and watched her hurriedly slip her way up the wagon path toward the main street. He turned and ran to the back of the shop and quickly yanked a pommel slicker off a coat hook. He shoved his arms through the sleeves, grabbed his hat and vaulted out of the shop and into the angry weather after her.

Elaine was nearly in tears as she ran off of Old Mike's property and onto the main street of Voyager City. That pig! Pa! Pa! The wind and the rain came at her in sheets as she slipped and slid by the stockyard fences. Clip! Clop! Clip! Clop! Elaine thought she heard the sound of a carriage near her. Was she imaging things? She bent her left arm over her eyes to see but the pelting rain blinded her.

"Miz Elaine! Miz Elaine!" She could hear a voice behind her calling her name. The sounds of the horse and carriage grew louder and louder when suddenly, a horse whinnied and reared up directly alongside her. She heard someone yell a frantic, "Whoa!" from the carriage as the horse bucked and strained for footing. The carriage wheels slipped sideways in the mud, caught in one of the many ruts that lined the central road. Elaine gasped as the wheel caught the hem of her dress and pulled her toward the wayward carriage. She tugged on the wet material to release it from under the rim but to no avail. She could see a figure struggling with the reins above her - whistling and cracking a whip to encourage the horse away from her. Looking for balance, she reached up for the stockyards fence but instead grabbed a handful of barbed wire. Elaine screamed as watery blood flowed down her arm and into her rain-soaked sleeve. Darkness quickly enveloped her.