Excerpt 2—The Dancer Wore Opera Rose
Mysterious Devices Book 2
Copyright 2018 by Shelley Adina
Chapter 1, Part 2
Wednesday, August 21, 1895
The main square looked vaguely familiar, with its deep wood awnings called portals, and the squat golden and Burnt Sienna adobe buildings ranged about it. The Navapai stepped proudly among the Texican men and women, their cream robes and the distinctive double buns of the women’s hair making them stand out from the more subdued leather and calico of the others. The streets were busy with horse-drawn wagons and the occasional steam vehicle, just as Georgetown had been. But the number of conveyances, shops, livery stables, and places of commerce was much larger. Santa Fe was the capital of the Territory.
“Look.” Freddie pointed at a Navapai man cantering past on an extraordinary contraption. “It’s a horse, Daisy. A mechanical horse! Do you suppose he built it?”
“Goodness me. Perhaps he did. Look, there is another. Surely there cannot be a manufactory. How astonishing!”
Only the Navapai seemed to be riding the mechanicals—and doing so with a grace and control that was like watching a real animal under the guidance of an expert horseman.
Someone passing by bumped her shoulder and brought her out of her admiration with a jolt.
“Oops, ’scuse me, ma’am.”
“Not at all,” she responded automatically. Then—“Would you be so good as to direct us to the Ranger outpost?”
He laughed, tipping his enormous Stetson to her. “You’re not far. Just there, across the square. The one with the snakes and eagle flag, and the crossed swords on blue below it.”
“Of course.” She’d been so caught up in the mechanicals she hadn’t seen the all too familiar Prussian Blue field of the Ranger flag right in front of her nose. “Thank you.”
“Anything to help a pretty lady.” He fitted his hat more securely on his head and sauntered off, the spurs on the heels of his boots jingling as they struck the boardwalk.
Blushing at the familiarity, Daisy grasped her valise and Freddie’s more firmly. “Come along, dearest.”
In the vestibule of the Texican Rangers’ headquarters, the air was so much cooler than in the heat of the square. The walls were at least three feet thick, which made for wide windowsills but an oddly telescopic view of the street and square outside.
“It looks like the inside of the Tower of London,” Freddie whispered. “Should one be under siege, the window apertures offer some protection while allowing one to shoot. Although who they would shoot, I cannot imagine.”
“I do not wish to think of being under siege, thank you,” Daisy whispered back, and gave their names to the officer behind the counter.
She was not certain what to expect of the man who was that lieutenant’s commanding officer. Certainly Mama had found no satisfaction in his investigations. It remained to be seen whether Daisy could manage it.
“Ladies, do be seated,” General Van Ness said after the civilities of bow and curtsies were observed. Rather than seating them in the wooden, straight-backed chairs in front of his desk, however, he indicated instead a comfortable sofa, and took a wooden chair facing them for himself.
The officer from outside brought in a tray of glasses and a pitcher of water. They had had tea on the airship, but Daisy was still grateful for the water. She had not forgotten the warning from their erstwhile friend in Georgetown, Hugh Meriwether-Astor, about the altitude in these parts, and what would happen if they did not drink often.
“Miss Linden, allow me to say what a pleasure it is to meet you after having received your letter,” General Van Ness said. “I hope your journey has been pleasant?”
Daisy and Freddie exchanged a glance. “Yes, very much so,” Daisy said, choosing to bypass details altogether. If he had not heard of their involvement in the case in Georgetown, then now was not the time to enlighten him. “This is an extraordinary country, with many beauties.”
He chuckled. “I am glad you can see it that way. We men of the law, of course, take a different view. Nestled in every beautiful vista, it seems, is a clutch of train robbers—a flock of air pirates—a troupe of brujas who’d just as soon everyone in a uniform moved himself back to the Fifteen Colonies.”
“A … brouhaha?” Freddie asked, sounding as confused as Daisy felt.
“Bruja. That is the Californio word for witch,” he said briefly. “They live along the Rio de Sangre Colorado and cause nothing but trouble.”
“Oh.” Freddie subsided.
It was time the conversation was directed into more productive lines. “Since you received my letter,” Daisy began in a businesslike tone, “then you are aware that I am taking up my mother’s quest to find my father. Have you been able to glean any new information since she was here making inquiries last year? Or even since you received the letter?”
“Sad to say, I have not,” the officer said.
Daisy examined his face, with its long, blondish-gray moustaches that drooped on either side of his mouth. She had seen many a moustache in these parts, turned up at the ends in a sprightly, optimistic manner and waxed to within an inch of its life. The general did not seem to follow this practice, instead allowing his to flow down in the manner of the Cavaliers of old.
Was it, perhaps, to conceal the downturn of his lips, the sulky cast to his mouth in repose, the slight overbite visible when he did smile?
…to be continued
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