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Everybody Comes To Quark's

Everybody comes to Quark's
Jules — 14 Sep 1998, 8:22 AM

"This is Mr Locarno," announced Megan Delaney to her sister and friends, with just a touch of pride at having spotted him first. "We met earlier. He's a detective."

There were squeals of shock, disbelief, and interest from her listeners. Nick Locarno viewed them with an appreciative eye. He'd thought that Megan Delaney was a pretty girl when he'd met her earlier in the day, if a little overdressed for a town like this. But now, in the opulent surroundings of Quark's bar, with its marbled tables and plush red drapes through to the back rooms where the gaming took place, the silk gowns of his companions didn't look a bit out of place. Even the feathers which Megan and her sister had added to their elaborately coiffed hair for "eveningwear" seemed almost appropriate.

"How interesting," purred Jenny Delaney. She reached along the bar and touched his hand with her own. "You simply must tell us all about it."

"Of course." There was a wry smile on Nick Locarno's lips. He knew as well as the girls did that this was no more or less than a flirtation ritual, and that they had little real interest what he did for a living - other than that it allowed him to pay his bills. But he played along. "But I must ask that you keep the information to yourselves. You see, I'm working undercover. If too many people get to know my occupation... well, it could make my job more difficult."

There were more oohs and aahs at this. "We won't say a word to anybody," declared Jenny, with more enthusiasm than sincerity. After all, it was written into their job contracts that they pass on everything that the customers said to Quark. But Nick Locarno had a detective's trained eye and suspicious nature. He wasn't fooled for an instant. On the other hand, tempting though the prospect of the high rollers' poker game in the back room was, he didn't have enough stake money to buy into it, and the other games were hardly worth the effort. And the ladies were pleasant - if inquisitive - company.

"Perhaps I could buy you all dinner?" he suggested. "And then maybe you could all tell me something about yourselves?"

The dinner was a success, although nobody told anybody else anything of any significance about themselves. With one exception. Nick noticed that one of his companions was rather younger than the rest, and somewhat more demure in her dress. Pretty, although not really his type. He asked Megan, his neighbour at the table, about her.

"Who? Oh, that's Kes Janeway. She and Miss Ruth run the local school, and her ma owns one of the big ranches in the country west of here. Good family, you know? Probably think they're too good for the likes of us. But Kessie isn't like that. She likes everybody, and she likes to have a bit of fun. She quite often comes visiting, like today. Jenny's lending her a dress for the dance after the races tomorrow, so they spent the afternoon trying on everything she's got."

On the stroke of midnight he excused himself, much to the dismay of his companions, who voiced their disappointment. "You're leaving? But the night is still young..."

"Sorry, ladies," he countered, edging his way out. "I have to work tomorrow. But I'm sure that we'll meet again... at the dance, if not before?"

And with that they had to be content. Nick Locarno crossed Voyager City's main street and went to his room in Sandrine's Saloon. The proprietress gave him a sleepy smile of welcome, but merely handed him his key and left him to his own devices.

As Miss Julie had promised, he slept soundly and without interruptions at the Saloon. Well, until the whole town was awakened by the sound of gunfire, that is.