02 – Marshals & Manners (Annie)The Drifter Alpha
I sulk as the uniformed man guides me back to my parlor prison. What were those people doing that he didn’t want me to see? I wonder if he would catch me a second time if I went back there.
When he slides open our cabin door, he gently guides me in. “I will make sure the treat trolley stops by soon, Miss Prescott. Please stay in your cabin unless you are escorted by your brother.”
I fling myself into the chair and cross my arms with a huff, turning from him to look out the window. His chuckle as he closes the door only adds fuel to my defiant fire.
True to his word, the treat trolley comes along a few minutes later, being pushed by a kind-looking old woman. “What kind of treats would you like, dearie?”
I pull myself from the seat and approach the trolley. My stomach is growling as I missed breakfast in my frantic packing. There are pastries and chocolates galore. “What does this get me?” I thrust the cash my brother gave me toward her.
She raises both brows an takes the wadded up paper. I swear she goes slow with straightening it on purpose. “Hrm.. You can take what you like off the cart, Miss. Are you traveling alone?”
My mouth waters as I pick several of the pastries and a few of the chocolates off the cart to set on my tiny table. “Oh, no. I am traveling with my brother. We’re going to Agua Luna.”
“Agua Luna? That is pretty far. What is in Agua Luna?”
“My family’s mine. We are going to investigate miners disappearing.” I pop a pastry into my mouth, and moan. It is the best pastry I have ever eaten.
“Oh, goodness. That sounds far too dangerous for a pretty girl like you.”
I struggle to not roll my eyes at the woman. “I can handle myself.”
“I am sure you can, dearie. You enjoy those pastries. I hope your travels are trouble free.” She slides the door closed and walks on.
I slump back into my seat and enjoy the treats.
The hours pass in boring silence. At some point I fell asleep against the window. The sliding door opening startles me awake and my brother comes stumbling in. It is near sundown. The stench of alcohol permeates my senses, and I narrow my eyes at my brother. “Where have you been? I am starving!”
He grunts at me and staggers over to the beds. He wriggles and grunts more when he works his way into the small hole that is the bottom bed.
“George! Do not ignore me. You abandoned me to this room and I have only had sweet pastries for food.”
He mutters something into his pillow, and I huff. I come over and paw over him until I can retrieve his pocketbook. If he does not intend feed me, I will take care of myself.
“I’m going to find food.” I announce to the lump now snoring in the bed. Honestly, he went on and on about how unsafe it is, and then he acts like a drunkard.
When he continues to snore and not otherwise recognize my presence, I slip out the door and slide it closed. This time I head toward the front of the train. The first car I pass through is the same as my own, the second is a longer car with a bar to one side and tables filled with men smoking and drinking. The chitter chatter of the cabin ceases with my appearance. It takes all my effort to hold my head high, and not bite my lip in shyness. I have never had so many men openly staring at me. I force myself to walk calmly by them and into the next car, thankful that it is what appears to be a dining car. A man sits at the far end, a small piece of pie in front of him and a cup next to it.
I take up residence at a table in the middle of the car. The man that approaches me furrows his brow. “Miss, we stopped serving thirty minutes ago.”
“Oh.” I bite my lip and run my gloved fingers along the tablecloth. “Please. Is there anything still available? I have eaten nothing of substance all day. I can pay you.”
The man eyes me with suspicion, and I retrieve my brother’s pocketbook to show him. His entire demeanor changes and he smiles at me. “Let me see if the cook has anything left.”
I watch him scurry off and pull the pocketbook back under the table to wait.
“Do not pay him more than a dollar for the meal he brings you.” The man in the corner levels his gaze on me.
“Excuse me? Are you talking to me?”
“You are the only other person in here, Ma’am. Whatever that boy puts in front of you is definitely not worth more than a dollar. Hell, I would even suggest you only pay a half dollar and make sure he gives you full change.”
“Oh. Thank you.” I bite my lip and grow shy under his intense gaze. He has the bluest eyes I have ever seen. He is handsome in a rugged way with his big hat and duster. As he shifts in his seat, I see the glint of a badge. “You’re a Marshal?” I ask with enthusiasm. I get up from my seat and quickly come to his table sliding in across from him. “I’ve never met a Marshal before.”
“Are you sure it wise to be fraternizing with a man like this, girl?”
“Fraternizing?” I ask. The confused expression on my face makes him chuckle.
“Fraternizing.” He confirms. “Especially, when you are dealing with a married man.” He waggles his ring finger at me.
“Oh! Well, that is perfect. You are married and will do nothing improper here. Now, back to my original question. You are a Marshal?”
He laughs at me and sets his cup down.
The man comes back with food and stops at my original table before he spots me sitting with the Marshal. “Ma’am,” he sets down a small bowl of stew and two biscuits. “That will be five dollars.”
I look from the man to the Marshal, who is sporting a bemused grin. “You sure it is five dollars. I was under the impression that dinner tonight was a half dollar.”
The man sputters and narrows his eyes at me. “I assure you it is five dollars.”
I falter, trying to figure out how to not pay that much. “Is there a menu with all the prices, so I do not make that mistake again?”
The Marshal beams when I ask my question, and it bolsters my confidence. “Charles, you damn well know that meal is a half dollar. You would not want me to tell your mama you are out here swindling young ladies, now would you?”
“You know him?”
I look between the Marshal and Charles as Charles turns bright red. “You ruin all my fun,” he mutters to the Marshal. “Dinner is only a half dollar, Miss.”
I fish out a whole dollar from the pocketbook and hand it to him. “Keep the extra for making it special for me.” I smile up at him. Charles beams and hurries off, leaving me to my meal. I dig in like a starving woman, momentarily forgetting about the man sitting across from me.
“You got a healthy appetite, girl.”
I turn as red as an apple and freeze, mid-bite. I cross my ankles, sit up straight, and shift the spoon to hold it properly. It’s a bit of a struggle to get the stew to my mouth without dribbling, but I manage it. Then the man across from me rips into a full belly laugh, causing me to startle.
“It is easier if you sop the juice with the bread first.”
Utter confusion hits me, and he must see it on my face as he reaches across the table and breaks one of the biscuits in half to drop it into the stew.
My cheeks flame redder if that is even possible. “Oh, I see.”
I happily devour the rest of the meal in a prim and proper ladylike manner without dribbling on my dress.
He sits quietly, sipping his drink and finishing his pie while I eat.
Charles clears away our dishes and I ease out of the booth to return to my cabin. “Thank you for all your help, Mister Marshal.”
He rises from his side of the booth, revealing just how massive he is. I swear his head nearly hits the ceiling. I thought I was tall, but he makes me look like a doll next to him. Then he takes a step forward, offering his elbow. “I will see you back to your car, Miss?”
“Miss Annie? That is an awfully strange last name.”
I giggle. “No, Sir. Annie is my first name. Annie Prescott.”
He gives me a gentle smile. “Well, Miss Prescott, lead on.” He motions.
I manage to keep my composure until I hear the first jingle from his spurs. My face lights up in a beaming smile, like he just gave me the moon. I take him in from head to toe, and he is everything I imagined for a Marshal from the west.
- 01 – Adventure Awaits (Annie)
- 02 – Marshals & Manners (Annie)
- 03 – Agua Luna (Annie)
- 04 – Pretty Little Bustle (Jericho)
- 05 – Love & Honor (Jericho)
- 06 – Lost & Found (Jericho)
- 07 – And They Took My Hat (Jericho)
- 08 – The Devil You Know (Jericho)
- 09 – A Bone To Pick With You (Jericho)
- 10 – Ain’t No Damsel (Annie)
- 11 – Fire, Brimstone, & Dresses (Jericho)
- 12 – I Hate Agua Luna (Annie)