Annabelle Duniway

Episode 44: Friendship | Scryer's Gulch

Mrs Smith was some cook all right. Annabelle had tried to be ladylike, but sitting through services on an unusually empty tummy had taken the restraint right out of her; she'd eaten herself to within a pinch of her stays.

After dinner Mrs Smith retired to the washing-up, Jamie was sent in to help her, and Rabbit excused himself to the jail: "My, uh, my monthly troubles are coming due. Time I got ready for 'em."

"Going up into the mountains, brother?" said John.

"No," said Rabbit reluctantly. "No, I'm stayin in town. Maybe next month."

His departure left Annabelle and John alone before the front parlor stove. "He goes up into the mountains when he changes? Is that safe?" she whispered.

"No need to whisper, everyone here already knows. Yes. Uh, sometimes he goes hunting then."

Annabelle crinkled her nose. "I am uncertain as to how that might work, I fear. A werewolf, or a mountain lion, yes, but a hare?"

Episode 43: A Prognostification | Scryer's Gulch

Emmy Parsons stood in the Hopewell kitchen doorway, pulling bristles out of the scrub brush in her hand as she stared after the couple going through the front door. She did not like the schoolmarm's visiting over to the Runnels house one bit. But what could she do about it? She knew only one thing. She had that letter the Duniway woman wrote to that other man. John Runnels needed to see it before he did something stupid, "stupid" in Emmy's mind being anything that didn't end up with his loving her.

He saw her back in the day twice--never saw another girl as far as she knew--and was almost the kindest a man had ever been to her in that way, treated her like a real girl and not a girl for hire. Only one nicer was his brother Rabbit, but she didn't want any of that buck-toothed gawk. She wished he'd stop hanging around, and John would start. Why shouldn't he? Emmy wasn't so hard on the eye. Had most of her teeth, was a real hard worker--harder than that Duniway ever worked, she reckoned--and she liked kids enough not to pester them about history and such. She'd make the Sheriff a real good wife. She'd even settle for being his woman if he didn't want to marry again. He'd taken the death of Missus Runnels awful hard. Emmy wondered again what she'd been like; she died before Emmy'd come to the Gulch.

What was the best way to approach him? How should she give him that letter?

A great crash jerked Emmy around. Ralph stood in the middle of the kitchen, slack-jawed; at his feet lay the pot he'd been about to put by the wash sink. He stared off at nothing with eyes as white and cloudy as milk.

"Emmy Parsons," said Ralph, "I have a warnin fer you."

Episode 42: A Reproachful Chat with a Cat | Scryer's Gulch

John and Annabelle reached the Hopewell Hotel's front door, both aware they might be overheard now that they stood somewhat out of the bustle of the road. "I think we should leave the topic of...our man until a more private moment," said John.

"I completely agree," said Annabelle. "Well, then, Mr Runnels. Until tomorrow, dinner? Good night." She shook his hand. He kept it in his just a hair longer than necessary, their eyes met just a hair longer than was proper, and they parted just a hair before more might be revealed one to the other.

Episode 41: A Challenge | Scryer's Gulch

Being late to an event always proved a good tactic, thought Jed. It gave matters a chance to solidify, for patterns to become evident. It served as a reminder of who was in charge. And it angered Charity no end. He chuckled to himself as the piston inside her brassy head compressed her fury down and down. There would be a big bang tonight, but not before their guests had retired--he had that much control over his wife. More than she reckoned he did. He'd let her explode upstairs, and he'd take her in hand as he always did. Let her use up all that anger in his bed, wear her out. Then he'd promise her a trip to Frisco or some such. Not till spring, though. He doled himself out some kind of roast beef from the tray the greenhorn presented.

Apparently he took too much. The greenhorn cleared his throat; to his left, Cherry widened her eyes and jerked her head toward the tray. He ignored them and took a bite out of both pieces. His wife deliberately turned her back and steamed a great cloud of charm in Tony's direction.

Episode 40: Duchess Soup | Scryer's Gulch

The little dinner party was rapidly slipping from Charity's fingers, and they hadn't even sat down to the meal yet. The cook had spoilt the soup and had to make up a new one, the greenhorn--er, butler--was clumsy, and worse, that schoolteacher was monopolizing both John Runnels and Tony.

How could it be? Duniway looked like a blue-eyed crow in that black dress, while she was resplendent in feathers and plum-colored silk that set off the green of her eyes. She'd ordered the feathers all the way from San Francisco--what luck that they matched her new dress so well, even if they were shedding a bit. It was to be expected of ostrich.

And Jedediah was late. Damn him for not even bothering to show for a dinner he forced her to throw!

Episode 39: Indigestion | Scryer's Gulch

There were times Annabelle regretted having used schoolteacher as a cover. Would that there were enough women in town to have come as a dressmaker, or a milliner. If she'd been either of them, she wouldn't have to be at uncomfortable occasions such this one. She tried not to fidget on the horsehair sofa in the Bonhams' stuffy front parlor as they all waited on Jedediah Bonham's arrival to his own dinner party.

Charity had done herself and her household up a little too fine. A down-on-his-luck greenhorn in ill-fitting formalwear had been pressed into service as butler; he presented Annabelle with a glass of sherry she desperately wished were something stronger. Bourbon. She liked that now and again, but wouldn't get any until she went back home. She probably wouldn't need it then. Might she bolt down the sherry? Not here, no matter how tempting. John and Tony looked as if they wouldn't have minded a snort, either.

Episode 38: Escort Service

Tony Bonham walked into the Hopewell Hotel like a man walking into a garbage dump. He looked around the stolid building, built for utility not gentility, and didn't bother to repress a sneer in the direction of the front desk.

Julian Hopewell caught the sneer and its meaning, and came around the desk in a hurry. "What do you want, Bonham? What are you doin' here?"

"I am only here to escort Miss Duniway to dinner at my father's house." He sniffed at Ralph, hovering in the door of the dining room. "I hope to escort her soon to better company and lodgings at the LeFay to boot. Rest assured I will leave this...place as soon as possible." Hopewell gave him the evil eye, but stomped upstairs to get the schoolteacher.

Episode 36: Acceptances | Scryer's Gulch

"You gonna go?" said Rabbit, examining the ornate invitation to dinner at the Bonham house.

John shrugged and didn't look up from the shotgun he was cleaning, pieces laid out in precise positions on top of his jailhouse desk. "Haven't decided yet." Which wasn't at all true. He had decided the minute he got the invitation to accept it--anything involving Annabelle tugged at him with a power he chose to chalk up to her mission.

His brother squinted at him, and left off leaning against John's desk. "Uh-huh. I'm going home to eat some lunch, even if you're not. I'll tell Minnie to set aside a plate, but if you know what's good for you, you'll light along to the house and eat it hot. You're apt to get a wrathy look from Minnie to wash it down with otherwise." He paused at the jailhouse door. "And I'll tell Minnie to make sure your best suit is aired and brushed." He ducked out before John could protest.

"Hmf," John said to himself.

Episode 35: An Invitation | Scryer's Gulch

Tony Bonham's first thought when he woke the next morning was that he'd overslept. His watch, the treasured reminder of his mother, had not chimed the morning alarm as it usually did. He sat up, yawning; something furry had crawled into his mouth to whelp during the night, and he poured and drank a glass of water to drown it. The smell of coffee approached down the hall, probably on his man's tray. Won't he be surprised to see me still abed, Tony thought heavily.

He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. No, he won't be surprised. The morning fire had been lit in the grate, so Graham must have been in already. Disconcerting; the Bonham men had the habit of sleeping with one eye open, and yet Tony had slept through Graham's entry. Had he really drunk so very much last night? But there on his dresser next to the water glass sat the near-empty cut crystal decanter of brandy; it had been full at the beginning of the night. He'd drunk more than he'd thought, apparently. At least it had served its purpose; he'd gone the night ghost-less, or if he hadn't, he'd been too drunk to notice.

Episode 34: The Ghostly Convocation | Scryer's Gulch

"No need fer that, Miss Annie!" whined Aloysius as he apparated by the door. "Point that thang somewhar else! Bad enough to be stuck in the jail--a spirit bottle's worse'n that, by a fair piece!"

"You bet it is, so behave yourself," said the cat-thing.

"It's all right, Misi, it's just Aloysius. He's a friend. Aren't you, Aloysius?"

"Yes'm!"

"Hmf. Did Runnels send you to spy?" said Misi.

"Waal, I never!" huffed the ghost. "I wuz a horse thief, sure, but I ain't never been no kind of spy nor stool pigeon nor any sort'er feller like that. Now, please point that away from me afore it goes off!"

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