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The Secret Sturm And Drang

The Secret Sturm and Drang
Ginny — 2 Oct 1998, 9:18 AM

Clare allowed herself to be guided through the doors of the Ritz-Kradin Hotel into the cool, pleasant lobby. Cautiously, she removed her hands from her mouth and nose and took a small sniff. Relieved to smell only the hotel's lavender potpourri, she turned to the young man beside her and inquired, "What do you mean, you're name isn't Janeway? Is this some sort of practical joke, sir?"

The man shifted her packages in his arms and replied, "No, ma'am. Just a case of mistaken identity. I'm Nicholas Locarno, from back east." As Clare's forehead began to crease in what he thought was dismay, he hastened to reassure her. "Please don't feel bad about it, ma'am. You're not the only one who's commented on the resemblance."

Clare looked askance at him. "Who said I felt bad about it?. Frankly, it was a perfectly reasonable mistake to make. You look just like Tom Janeway, except that I can see now that your eyes are much grayer, and your hair is longer...and fuller. Now, shall we have our tea?"

The lawyer walked over to the entrance to the Nemesis and spotted Namon lurking among the trees. Before she could call to him, he had turned and moved swiftly to greet her. "Good morning, ma'am. It pleases me to glimpse you here again so soon."

"A table for two, Namon, with some of that lovely raspberry tea, and would you check these packages for me?" she said, gesturing to the boxes that Locarno, who had tamely followed her, was carrying.

"Certainly, ma'am," and the waiter seated the couple at a table and whisked away Clare's purchases.

Clare contemplated the man across the table. "So, Mr. Locarno, you have rescued me from the vile stench of Race Day cuisine. How can I ever repay you?"

Locarno smiled charmingly. "You could call me Nick, for a start. And you could tell me your name."

Clare dipped her head graciously. "Very well, Nick. I'm Clare Darrow, from down south. Explain to me what possesses the people of this town to prepare and eat something as vile as chitlins on a festival day."

Locarno leaned back in his chair. "I'm not a local, of course, but it appears that chitlins are a favorite food of a fierce tribe of Indians called the Hirogen. Native cuisine is very trendy in Voyager City these days, and chitlins are currently in vogue."

Clare made a mouè of distaste. "I find that hard to believe."

Locarno shrugged. "So do I, but such is the case." He leaned forward, obvious interest in his subject apparent on his handsome face. "The Hirogen were a very fierce group of hunter/gatherers, and it was their practice to boil and eat the entrails of any prey they captured, no matter how noxious. It is also my understanding that, in traditional Hirogen culture, those entrails were also occasionally used as centerpieces and wall hangings. Isn't that fascinating?"

Clare, appalled, responded with a polite, "Indeed." Namon appeared, bearing an elaborate tea service in hand. Clare, grateful for the interruption, gave him such a dazzling smile that he nearly dropped the tea tray. The waiter set the tray down carefully and staggered off into the trees. "So, Nick," the lawyer said brightly, preparing to pour the tea. "What do you do for a living?"

Locarno's face took on a look of sly amusement. "In an amazing coincidence, I work for the Hirogen Detective Agency."

Startled, Clare was saved from the embarassment of pouring raspberry tea down the outside of her tea cup by the distraction of a loud crash and angry raised voices outside the restuarant entrance. As the couple looked toward the door, the babble increased, another crash sounded, and a woman screamed. Locarno was up and out of his chair, racing for the door. Clare followed at a more leisurely pace, a speculative look in her beautiful brown eyes.

Hmmmm, she thought. I wonder if I could get a date for the dance out of this?