Charity Bonham

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 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 27: No Offense Intended | Scryer's Gulch

"I suppose we'd better sit down if I'm going to tell you why I'm really here," said Annabelle, taking the chair in front of John's desk. "Where do you want me to start?"

John kept his seat on the corner of his desk, bracing himself on the desk edge with both hands. "Well, we've squared away your fatherless childhood."

Motherless, too, if it matters, she said to herself; aloud, she said, "I was thinking of a more recent beginning to my life, if it's all the same, though I'm expecting you won't believe me."

"I'm listening."

She straightened in her seat, raising her chin to a proud angle. "I'm a Treasury Agent." John's already intent gaze sharpened further, finally resolving into the incredulity she'd anticipated. "I said you wouldn't believe me."

Episode 21: An Enthusiastic Hour | Scryer's Gulch

Annabelle preferred to sit in the back pew at church; despite her general self-confidence, church always made her feel exposed and vulnerable. She'd been raised both Methodic and Enthusiastic, the product of a rare mixed marriage and a childhood spent bouncing between one set of relatives and the next. She loved the clean formality of the Methodic Church and its emphasis on logic, but when it came down to it, she chose Enthusiasm: the brightly clanging bells, the incense wafting over everything, the exuberantly decorated altar, the music so loud it shook her bones, the shouts of the faithful in response to a good sermon. And the sermons were much shorter.

Her mind was Methodic, but her soul was Enthusiastic.

Episode 18: Servitude | Scryer's Gulch

Mamzelle had a time of it under Charity's orders the next day.

She scrubbed the floors, beat all the rugs, bathed Charity's disgusting little pug dog, shined the copper weathervane atop the gingerbread-encrusted turret, mucked out the stables, and blacked every boot in the house as well as the stoves--all in her best silk dress, now tattered and stained. Blacking smudges covered her face, not all of them self-inflicted, and shoeprints stood out on her dress where the occasional kick had landed.

"Too bad about about the dress. It was so flattering on you, too. I bet you never affront me again!" smirked Charity as the housekeeper fidgeted behind her.

"Oh, no, madame, I wouldn't dream of eet!" said Mamzelle, face downcast; her eyes reflected a dangerous ruby color in the wooden floor she'd polished to a perfect finish; neither human noticed.

Episode 14: Waste Not the Hour | Scryer's Gulch

From the front window of the Hotel LeFay, Anthony Bonham watched Miss Duniway and John Runnels exchange pleasantries. He knew the look on the man's face; Miss Duniway had fallen afoul of the Sheriff's crime-fighting instincts. What could he suspect the schoolteacher of, besides being beautiful, and that was no suspicion. Outwardly, Tony eyed her dispassionately. But within him, he formulated plans. A young woman, all alone in a town like this--she was bound to be lonely. He could use that.

Episode 9: Rabbit's Time of the Month | Scryer's Gulch

Misi had almost fallen asleep in Mamzelle’s lap, when she said, “Well?”

“Well what?” yawned the demon cat.

“‘Ow are we going to keel our masters?”

“Ah. That. Yes.” Think fast, old boy. “Yes. There’s a problem with that.”

“Eh?”

“I’m under orders...general orders...not to kill humans.” It’s even true! he thought, though it hurt his pride to confess to such a weakness. It’s so humilitating, being owned!

Episode 6: One-Way Cat Fight | Scryer's Gulch

While Misi stood on the windowsill at Hopewell's worrying about Annabelle, she herself was still visiting students. She'd met Jamie Runnels and the Prake twins, and the two children of L.L. Lockson, publisher of the Voice of the Gulch. Now she walked back up the boardwalk toward the great mansion on the hill to acquaint herself with Lily Bonham.

Just past Prake's Hardware, her detector bracelet buzzed and pricked at her wrist. She returned to the store, masking her excitement as she pretended to windowshop; the sensation faded. She strolled back up the street until the pricking became nearly unbearable: it came from the ethergraph office.

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