Episode One - The Opera House
by Camille LaGuire
We pulled up in front of the sheriff's office. I jumped off my horse, but Casey stayed on hers, poking Bad Brachit with her rifle to make sure he didn't get any ideas. Not that he had too many ideas left.
The sheriff came out as I pulled Brachit off his horse.
"Hey, Mick," said the sheriff in greeting. He paused to touch his brim at Casey, and looked at the outlaw. "What happened to his hat?"
Brachit's hat was pretty tattered. The brim, which had been wide, was mostly gone, and what remained was all shot up. So was the crown. What he had left amounted to a headband.
"He pissed Casey off," I said. Casey was a sharp-shooter. She had to be, in our line of work. She was too small and too, well, female to impress people on first sight. So she got their attention in other ways.
I turned toward Casey, but she wasn't looking at Brachit any more. She was looking down the street. She twisted back to look at me, her eyes suddenly wide, and looking more like the seventeen year old girl she was.
"They got an opera house now!"
I looked, and they did. A big one. Well, big for that kind of town. It might even have a stage.
"No shit," I said. "This town is looking up."
Casey reined her horse around and went over to check it out. I went in quick and finished up our business with the sheriff. Brachit was only worth a hundred and fifty dollars, but that wasn't bad. It was plenty to pay off some debts, get ourselves cleaned up and go see whatever was playing.
I really wasn't paying much attention as I headed out from the law office. I was counting our money and thinking about music, and I nearly ran into a fella who was also counting some money. Before I looked up, he had already dashed across the road, behind a moving wagon piled high with barrels. By the time it passed, he was gone, and all I saw was the opera house, and Casey.
"Did you see Rufus Tillet go by here?" I asked.
"We ain't workin' today," she said, not looking away from the poster that was pasted up on the wall. I looked at the poster, and I lost all interest in an old rat like Rufus too.
Tonight Only, said the poster. Madame Olenka Voshnovia, toast of Paris and London, and late of New York, Boston and Chicago, will perform various selections of grand opera for the delight and education of the audience. Mademoiselle Clarice de Moncerf will be featured in duet and solo....
It went on like those kinds of posters do, but Casey's eyes were on those words, grand opera. She grinned at me. I grinned back.
"Opera," she said. "We're gonna hear it."
"Yeah," I said.
You might wonder why a pair of dusty young saddle bums like us wanted to see an opera so bad.
See, when Casey's pa found out she had married me, he expressed the concern that she would never see the inside of an opera house. The way he'd said it made it sound like a real loss, and that it was my fault. It really wasn't, because Casey was considerably less civilized at the time than she is even now, and he was just a poor dirt farmer, and I doubt if she'd have seen much opera anyway.
But it was a concern of his, so we took it as a concern of ours. Since then we had seen the inside of every opera house between here and Kansas City. Every one. And not an opera in the bunch. Plenty of lectures, revival meetings, melodramas. Heard some nice music too, but never an opera.
As we stood there gawping at that poster, we could hear somebody inside playing the piano. You couldn't hear it too well, but then there was another sound, flitting up and down like water over rocks. At first I didn't even recognize it. It sounded like a couple of instruments -- like a flute and a fiddle. Then I realized it was women's voices. Just dancing all over the air.
Casey pushed open the door, and we went in. Unfortunately, the music had already stopped, and now we could hear arguing. The arguing was musical, though, and not bad to listen to.
We stood close to the doors, in the shadow of the narrow balcony overhead. The hall wasn't that big, and we didn't want them to notice us. The floor was bare, except for a single chair, right up front in the middle. A man with a curly moustache and a crystal-topped cane sat in it, while two ladies yelled at each other in French from either side of the little stage. He looked real pleased with himself and with them, and I wondered if the ladies were fighting over him.
The only other person in the room was the piano player, who was just then resting his head against the top of his piano like his head hurt.
We got a clear view of what happened next. They were standing there yelling, and then they all moved at once. The Moustache got up and raised his hands like he was going to make peace. The younger of the women charged to the middle of the stage, waving a sheaf of music. The older woman stepped toward her and shouted "sabotage!" and pointed at the younger woman. The younger woman wheeled around and threw her arms wide. I think she meant to yell at the other woman.
The piano player turned around, looked up, and ducked.
And with an echoing boom, there was a gunshot from the balcony, right above us. A gout of black powder shot out into the air, and everybody stopped talking and looked up. The young woman screamed, and fell to the stage in an elegant heap.
Stay Tuned For Episode 2 - "Herding Cats"
Available after 8am EST, on Thur
If you're enjoying this Mick and Casey Mystery, check out their other stories, such as the first novel in the series: Have Gun, Will Play.
Available in paper or as ebook at: Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobel, as well as these ebook dealers: Kobo, Deisel, Apple iBookstore, Sony eReader, or get it in all formats without DRM at Smashwords.