(Richard, having welcomed his parents to town in time to celebrate the 4th of July, is escorting them around Town Square, introducing them to his vast assortment of local friends. Which includes most of the characters who have featured in the previous volumes.)

The door to the Stein’s Wild West Emporium chimed a musical herald to Alfred’s return, significantly with a wrapped package under his arm, and the three of them moved on, in the direction of the Café, with all the outside tables filled with customers.

Richard said, in the manner of a tour guide, as he waved in the general direction of Araceli and her ever-present coffee carafe. “Now, here is another member of the keen reenactor fraternity…”

“I never would have guessed,” Alf Astor-Hall murmured, for Clovis Walcott was arrayed in all the splendor of 1830s martial glory; a high-collared blue jacket adorned with gold frogs, much braid, and epaulettes, over buff-colored trousers and knee-high cavalry boots. This tasteful ensemble was accessorized with a brace of (replica, or perhaps, knowing Clovis Walcott’s pocketbook and quest for authenticity, they were authentic antique) pistols tucked into a brilliant red silk sash, and a saber belt – with scabbarded saber – buckled over the sash which clanked resoundingly with every stride, which Richard knew well from previous encounters with Clovis in his 19th century persona.

“Colonel Walcott,” Richard replied, as they approached the range of tables and chairs set under an awning under a wide awning over the front of Luna Café and Coffee; an area comfortable only when the temperatures were mild, which in July meant for an hour or so around sunrise before a rising sun baked everything in Texas to a toasty brown. “Who is really a colonel – reserve and mostly retired from active service. He designs and builds things of extraordinary complexity; a refreshing change from his previous career of blowing them up. In is misspent youth, he played in a garage band, and he owns the ugliest MacMansion anywhere in the vicinity. His youngest son – God knows how the kid came to this – is currently working as sous-chef in the Café. I can only suppose that I taught the boy correctly, and that the good colonel doesn’t bear an abiding grudge over that development, proof positive of his generosity and good public spirit. Colonel Walcott is another of Luna City’s leading citizens, all of this, despite the temper of his missus, the fire cat Mrs. Sook Walcott, the tiger mother from hell … good morning, Colonel.”

“Good morning, Richard!” Colonel Walcott looked up from his fruit salad and croissant breakfast. “Ready for the Glorious Fourth – our celebration of the independence which is the rightful inheritance of every man and woman in this blessed land?”

“Yeah, verily and forsooth,” Richard replied, “May I present Colonel Clovis Walcott of the … something-or-othereth. A gentleman of the first water, My parents, Albert and Dorothy Astor Hall.”

Clovis Walcott chuckled. “The tongue and vocabulary of the old century does have that hold on you, doesn’t it?” He stood up and bowed in an exaggeratedly courtly manner over Dottie’s hand, raising it to his lips and kissing it in a way that made Richard’s mother almost simper. “This most handsome lady – hardly to be of a vintage to be your mother, Chef Richard? And the most gallant gentleman – I am most honored in making his acquaintance at long last!”

“How d’ye do,” Albert replied, with a stiff and most formal nod, in the best olde stiff-upper-lip manner. “Albert Astor-Hall, at your service, my good sir.”

“Charmed!” Clovis Walcott responded. “Charmed to make your acquaintance! Are you planning to take up residence in our Texas? I assure you, there are many opportunities for an entrepreneurious gentlemen such as yourself. I can introduce you to my good friend, Colonel Bowie, if you are so inclined as to take up a grant in our fair country.”

“I regret that I am already committed to a substantial property in another land, my good sir,” Albert replied, while Richard goggled at how readily his father fell into this kind of make-believe. He had never suspected his father of entertaining such theatrical leanings, let alone a facility for improvisation.

“Our loss, indeed, good sir,” Colonel Walcott rendered another formal bow, and went clanking off across the street to join his fellows at the reenactor camp, who had been gesturing him from across the pavement for him to get a move on and lend his theatricality to the festivities.

“Oooh, I do like him!” Dorothy sighed and fanned herself theatrically with her hand. “Such a gent!”

“He is, that,” Richard agreed glumly, and encouraged his parental units to move on. Miss Letty, Doc Wyler and Harry Vaughn sat at another table. Richard sighed, upon seeing that trio, for the two gentlemen were looking daggers at each other, while Miss Letty sat, prim and elegant in her shirtwaist dress, wide-brimmed summer hat, matching gloves and a handbag which matched the colors of the modestly flowered summer hat. (Which also matched her dress. Miss Letty had always been detail-oriented.) “Mum – these are some of the people I’ve told you about before: Doctor Stephen Wyler and Miss Letty McAllister; they jointly own the Café and hired me to run the kitchen when I first came here. The two of them are what passes for nobility around here – and what they don’t know about Luna City could be put into a thimble.”

“Know where all the bodies are buried, then?” Alfred grunted.

“Likely, they assisted in putting them there,” Richard acknowledged. “The scowling gentleman with the impressive mustache is Harry Vaughn, another old resident. It was he who insisted that I accompany him in a reckless venture on the river in flood, to rescue some luckless tourists, a couple of years ago.”

“Ah,” said Alfred. “The occasion when your school enthusiasm for rowing finally served a useful purpose.”

“Not quite how I thought of it, Father. All the county river rescue boats had already been called out. I was prevailed upon as a trainee member of the volunteer fire department, and my presumed familiarity with small boats. Harry Vaughn threatening to brutally belt me about the head and shoulders with an oar had nothing to do with it … good morning, Doc, Miss Letty … Mr. Vaughn.”

“Good morning, Chef,” Doc returned, looking over his glasses at them. “I heard that your folks came to town.”

“Indeed. The bush telegraph is as active as always.” Richard answered, and Doc Wyler and Harry Vaughn both grinned; Harry Vaughn a bit evilly, as befitted a former federal marshal, and Richard sighed. “My parents, Albert and Dorothy Astor Hall – Stephen Wyler, but most everyone calls him ‘Doc’, Miss Letty McAllister, and Mr. Henry Vaughn. Father and Mum are here, doing a tour of the wine country, such as it is, and meanwhile have come to observe the rituals of celebration.”

“Charmed, I’m sure!” Dottie trilled, as gentleman half-rose from where they were sitting, while Miss Letty only nodded regally.

“There will be merriment and dancing tonight, before the fireworks display,” Harry Vaughn rumbled, with a significant look at Dottie. “May I claim a dance with your charming mother?”

“Only if you don’t plan on seducing her, afterwards,” Richard replied, rather nettled, while Dottie giggled, and Harry Vaughn settled back in his seat, looking rather smug. Miss Letty frowned – levity regarding sex outside of the marriage contract was a matter of which she sternly disapproved. Meanwhile, Harry Vaughn grinned, under his magnificently drooping soup-strainer mustache, and Richard hurried his parents on. When they were out of earshot of the Café, Dottie remarked, artlessly.

“Oh, was that dear Moira’s gentleman friend? I had no idea!”

“My sister Moira has a finely developed sense of duty,” Albert replied. “I am certain that Mr. Vaughn held information necessary to completion of her mission,”

“No, Father – it was purely a naughty weekend,” Richard answered, and Dottie upheld him.

“Dear Moira is entitled to whatever romantic romps she can indulge – the places that she travels to, the intrigues she encounters – a nice relaxing weekend with a handsome gentleman who isn’t trying to plant a knife in her back! Well, that’s her chosen career, and I do not judge – do I, Albert?”

“No, you do not,” Albert replied, the very image of the austere Englishman. “Much is required of an intelligence operative in their line of duty.”

Richard thought he had better not follow that any further. It was perhaps the closest that his father had ever come to admitting that Aunt Moira was a kind of distaff 007, with an official license to kill, seduce, or subvert, as the specific mission required.

1 Comment

  1. Fun snippet! Thank you.