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Hola, faithful readers!

Today's installment of BTP introduces something a little different. Time to change POVs once again. Hope you like it!

Happy Trails!


*****


The last thing Emily Smith wanted to do on Janurary 8th, 1876, was get on board a train for Salt Lake City. Private coach or no, there was no justification for exiling her from Denver, and not even the promise of a visit to her Uncle Jacob could provide her with consolation. Standing on the platform in Denver, she tried once more unsuccessfully to argue with her mother.

“I don’t see why I’m the one who has to leave. It’s not like any of this is my fault!”

Her mother, a petite woman with dark hair who had always lamented the fact that her only daughter resembled her in no way whatsoever, either in looks or temperament, fixed her with a steely glare.

“That’s not what Clayton McNaughton said. You’re no longer at the age where you can eschew responsibility for your childish pranks, Emily. What you did was dangerous, reckless and irresponsible, and has ruined your chance for what would have been a very advantageous match.”

“Advantageous for whom?” Emily muttered under her breath.

“I’ll have none of that!” her mother replied sharply. “Clayton McNaughton is one of the city’s most eligible young bachelors. He’s wealthy and good-looking, and I can’t think what you seem to find so objectionable in him. I suppose this is what comes from my letting your father have too much of a hand in your upbringing. I was far too lax, and now I’m paying for it.”

“I still don’t see why I have to leave so quickly! What is Grandfather going to think?”

“Don’t you call that disgusting old man that name. Do you think you haven’t caused enough of a scandal, without giving more grist for the rumour mill by going and hanging about those awful Chinese? You’re a disgrace, and that’s why I’m sending you to your Uncle Jacob, not just because you somehow managed to rig poor Clayton’s carriage with dynamite.”

“He deserved it,” Emily muttered again, but her mother’s hearing was as sharp as ever.

“I don’t want to hear it, Emily! You’re getting a reputation, my girl, one that does neither of us any credit. I won’t have you hanging about in slums, or in opium dens–”

“–They’re not–” Emily began hotly.

“–Don’t interrupt me! Honestly, I can’t believe the number of ways in which I’ve failed as a mother. You’re a savage. Now, I want you to do an about-face and get on that train, and not another word!”

Fuming, Emily turned on her heel and stalked into her coach where she sat down forcefully, the skirts of her dress giving a satisfying flounce as she did so. It was just so unfair! Not that she ought to expect any fairness coming from her mother, she thought mournfully: the woman was only concerned with her own standing in society (and her family’s to the extent that it affected her own), and didn’t give a damn about her daughter’s feelings whatsoever. It didn’t matter that Clayton McNaughton, upon being told that Mrs. Simon Smith looked favourably on his courting her daughter, had begun acting as though the whole thing was a done deal, and that it was only a matter of time before he and Emily –who was universally if unofficially acknowledged as being the heiress to the Smith half of the Smith & Robards fortune, not to mention the sizeable inheritance she would get from her parents– would be married.

Unfortunately, a “done deal” in Clayton McNaughton’s view also gave him the right to treat her as though they were already married, an attitude to which Emily Smith, of whom it was said that her temper matched her hair, had strenuously objected. He’d made his advances (rather more forcefully than she’d liked) at the New Year’s ball, surrounded by a few of his cronies, who’d encouraged him with jeers and catcalls. Pressed from all sides, she’d kicked him very hard in a place she understood to be very tender, and had bolted away from the balcony where they’d tried to corner her, in order to spend the rest of the evening by the punch bowl, in plain view of a hundred other guests. The following week, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, McNaughton’s carriage had suffered a spectacular mishap when the roof exploded, thanks to some cunningly-placed dynamite, followed by the doors and then the back half, although regrettably the charge placed near the wheel axles had turned out to be a dud. There had been no serious injuries, though it was rumoured that McNaughton (along with his friends) would never live down the ignominy of losing control of his bladder when the blast occurred.

A smile hovered about Emily’s lips as she recalled the incident. It was well worth it, in spite of all the inconvenience she now had to endure as part of her exile to Salt Lake City. Seeing Uncle Jacob would be some consolation, she told herself. She loved visiting him at his compound, watching him tinker with his inventions, and even tormenting the stiff-necked Sir Clifton Robards had its perks. Still, she was leaving behind her adoptive family in Hop Alley without so much as a word, and the thought that they would wonder about her tore at her heart. She chewed on her thumbnail anxiously as she stared out the window at the countryside rushing past in a blur. What would they think? Would they worry? She wondered for the first time if her actions hadn’t been a bit precipitate. Hadn’t Grandfather Mu Tsu warned her about her temper? She sighed heavily, and resigned herself to wait to get to Salt Lake City, when she would be able to send a telegram apologizing for her hasty departure.

Now that she was resolved, she could settle in to enjoy the voyage as best she could. The private Smith & Robards coach was a plush affair, and came with its own small staff of one elderly factotum who was responsible for everything from blankets to pillows to providing steaming coffee at a moment’s notice. He hovered infuriatingly for a while until Emily sent him away with a reassuring smile and an overly generous tip, after exacting a promise from him that he wouldn’t return until the morning. She stretched out on the small bed provided for overnight passengers, and slept soundly through the night.

It was late in the afternoon when the trouble started. She’d been dozing off over a book, when the train came to a sudden and screeching halt, nearly throwing her from her seat. She got up immediately and stuck her head out of the window, trying to see what was happening. Her coach was coupled to the last of the passenger cars, but she could make out the locomotive ahead, steam pouring from its stack with great heaving sighs. There were men already jumping down from the train, clad in the unmistakeable uniforms of the Denver-Pacific Railway Company, issued by Smith & Robards at the company’s expense. They immediately made their way to the front of the train, dragging with them what she thought looked like equipment to clear obstructions from the rails. A barricade, she concluded, feeling at once reassured and alarmed by the prospect.

She sat in her coach as the hours ticked by, hands folded over her small purse, in which she’d taken to carrying a small revolver ever since Clayton McNaughton had decided that her body was public property. There had been no shots fired the entire time, but she could feel in her gut that something was wrong. She had very little experience (in fact, no experience at all) in dealing with train robbers. Would they try to come into her coach? What would they want? Money? More than money? Her heart thudded painfully behind her ribs as she felt the train lurch into motion again, and she allowed herself to relax a little bit, until it became obvious that they were travelling at a speed that was certainly not safe. Soon she could seethe lights of Salt Lake City twinkling in the distance as night began to fall, approaching rapidly. What were they waiting for?

An hour later the train came screeching to a halt in the station, the locomotive jumping its tracks as the conductor applied the brakes too hard. She sat, rigid in her seat, her right hand wrapped tightly about the grip of her little revolver, feeling perspiration trickle down her spine. She heard a gunshot ring out from somewhere near the back of the train which made her jump, her nerves already singing with tension. The door to her coach burst open, and she couldn’t help but utter a scream of fright as a man burst in, an ugly snarl on his features. The barrel of his scattergun loomed impossibly large, what seemed mere inches from her face.

“Don’t move,” he snarled, and she froze in her seat, trembling. A thought rose in her mind, as convincing as it was terrifying.

He’s going to kill me.

*****

Date: 2009-01-28 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elanya.livejournal.com
Wooh, spunky heiress :D

Should be fun ^-^

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