tagRomanceDream Car

Dream Car

bySpencerfiction©

Authors note

There seem to be a lot of Wild West stories floating around ... this one is a romantic fantasy, with an oddly singular and tongue in cheek look to a version of the Wild West. Enjoy.


*****

Chapter 1

Caroline Bagshaw rested her head on the leather-covered steering wheel and wept. Her dream life, apparently so perfect two years previously, with a loving husband and two successful children. Now she was alone, and dealing with the funeral of Pop, her beloved father.

The wrong side of fifty, she had been betrayed by her faithless husband and disappointed in her two boys, who saw nothing wrong in what their father had done. In fact they followed his example; with both their marriages wrecked on the rocks of serial infidelity.

She was suspicious when Patience Cranshaw and Missy Peach, two of the most boring of her main five friends who she tended to see in twos and threes at various clubs, and other activities, who were trying to keep her at the country club on a particularly cold and wet day when all she wanted to do was go home and long soak in a hot bath. So she ordered all three lunch in the restaurant, before running off to the loo and kept on going, out to the car park and the 15 minute drive home. Patty and Missy must've just realised and tipped the other girls off, as she pulled into her drive, full of three cars and her husband's new Merc, her friends were running to their cars in various states of undress.

Caroline discovered that her wealthy husband had affairs with many of her so-called friends, who covered for him as he regularly shared his remarkable sexual prowess between them. They were very much HIS friends not hers.

Now, a year after the divorce, her father, Sam Pinner, had passed away the week before and the funeral was held that day. All the guests had departed, leaving her alone in his cold, dark terraced house, with his old car parked in the front garden, surrounded by a dark laurel hedge that hadn't been trimmed in years.

Her eldest son, Adam, was curt. "You're clearing Pop's house after the funeral, Mum, at least you could've dumped this old wreck before everyone came back to the house."

"That 'old wreck' you are talking about, was your grandfather's dream car. Just before your grandma passed away in 1980, she spent all the money she'd scrimped and saved all her life to buy this secondhand Jaguar XJ12. A lot of love was poured into that car from them both."

"Yeah, but he never even drove it, Mum!" Adam scoffed, "This car's a joke!" Adam's younger brother Robert Junior joined in the laughter, adding, "I know a guy with a low-loader who could've cleared this eyesore away in a trice."

Their grandfather had a stroke immediately after his loving wife, their grandmother, died and was left paralysed down one side, so tragically he never drove the car, a gift she had arranged for him virtually on her death bed. He was so proud of that car that he could never part with it. Caroline was ashamed at the callous attitude of her offspring.

That's why, after all her grandfather's friends from the Wakefield and District Cowboy Re-enactment Society left, that Caroline sat quietly in her father's dream car once more before finally shutting the house up.

The car's original colour had once been a deep maroon, the paint now dull and faded; rust showed through the wings and door panels and all four tyres were flat to the ground. That car was going nowhere, and hadn't been anywhere for more than thirty-odd years.

Caroline unlocked the driver's side door, which opened on surprisingly well-greased hinges. The internal courtesy light failed to come on, of course, the battery must've gone flat years before. She slid into the front seat, smelling of freshly polished leather. Despite the wreck it looked, inside the polished walnut and tan hide leather inlay shone fresh and dust free. Beside her, on the passenger seat, was her father's old Stetson. She smiled, fingering the soft leather hat, recalling her parents' love of line dancing and dressing up in Western-style clothing; how her father engaged in quick-draw contests with his Wild West enthusiast friends that she knew as ridiculous but sweet "uncles" and "aunts" as a small girl.

She cried, rested her forehead on the steering wheel and closed her eyes.

Next thing she knew, the car seat was bucking, throwing Caroline around wildly. She opened her eyes.

"Don't you cry, now Ma'am, them pesky injuns'll scatter once our lead flies among 'em!" yelled a large, sweating, bald man sitting in a seat opposite to her. She was in a stagecoach! He pulled out a six-gun that had been tucked in his straining leather belt, and pointed his weapon out of the open stagecoach window. "We're only a spit away from Sweetwater Valley. We'll be safe there, Ma'am, don't ya worry yer pretty head about that!"

The noise from the gun was deafening, and the stagecoach filled with acrid smoke. The motion of the coach was wild, like driving over a dried-up river in a four-poster bed. Other gunshots could be heard above her, outside the carriage, and a feathered arrow thwacked into the back of the empty seat opposite her. Caroline's corpulent companion fired off round after deafening round, his unshaven purple face set in a determined grimace.

Suddenly there was a distant fusillade of shots, then another volley, followed by a ragged number of random shots.

"Them varmints is a-running!" yelled the large man in triumph, slapping his thigh with his free hand, "Looks like a posse from town have rid out tah greet us."

He beamed at Caroline and stuck out a large horny hand, "Forgive me mah manners, Ma'am, but yo'll wus fast asleep when I got aboard at Carson. The driver said ya'd come all the ways from Back East and wus plum tuckered out, so I never disturbed yah till that war party welcomed us into the territ'ry. Mah name's Judge Justice Makepeace — yeah, I know, mah Pappy was also a hangin' judge afore me an' I guess he had a weird sense o'humor!"

"Pleased to meet you, Judge, I'm—" Caroline was almost tumbled out of her seat as the stagecoach shuddered to a halt, the man caught her hand and held on, wrapping her in his other arm and whipping her safely into the seat next to him.

"The whole territ'ry knows who you is Ma'am. An' I kin tell from the softness of yar hand that ya're a lady of some quality, worthy of respect, like ya Pa wus before ya," the Judge winked as he held her in his arms, the coach still rocking on its springs, "I'm on mah way now to hang the three gunmen what shot down yah Pa in cold blood."

When Caroline's eyebrow's shot up in surprise at this development, the Judge added, scratching his grey whiskers, "There'll be a proper trial, mind, Ma'am, I'll hold court till I've smoked a four-inch cee-gar all the way down ta the butt, afore I hangs the lot of 'em. Folk cain't say fairer than that!"

He threw open the carriage door and squeezed his bulk through, turning to hand Caroline down to the dusty Main Street. All the wooden buildings were bleached white in the blinding noon sunshine, and the heat hit her like a solid wall.

Looking down at her feet, she saw her sensible-heeled shoes, that she wore for the funeral, had somehow become calf-hugging leather boots and her sombre knee-length skirt had transformed into a black ankle-length silk dress, with a figure-hugging bodice, pearl-buttoned up to the neck. Somehow, the thirty pounds of comfort eating that she'd put on since the divorce, had magically disappeared.

The coach was surrounded by tall, grinning men, all sporting a variety of still-smoking guns, some still holding the reins of their steaming horses. The tallest of them stepped forward, removing his tall hat. He was a handsome young man with long, shoulder-length black hair. Under the bushiest moustache Caroline had ever seen, his blinding white teeth stood out from his deeply-tanned face. He wore a white silk shirt with a neatly-knotted string necktie. His long black coat was speckled with the red dust which hung in the air. A silver star gleamed from his coat lapel, as did the pair of pearl-handled revolvers stuffed into leather belted holsters pinched about his narrow waist. He held out his enormous hand.

"Ah'm Marshal Tom Denton, Ma'am. Yah late father said yah'll'd be the prettiest widder in the territ'ry and, upon mah word, Ah never heard him swear the more honest truth."

As his warm, hard, dry hand engulfed her tiny damp one, Caroline was speechless, conscious that she might've fluttered her eyelids, feeling feint. Before she knew what was happening, the gorgeous Marshal swept her up in his arms as if she was nothing but a duckdown pillow. She rested her head on his broad shoulder.

"Forgive mah manners, Miss Bagshaw, yah father always kept a set of rooms here at the Hotel, where yah trunks that arrived by the noon stage yesterday ha' been stowed."

"Sorry, Marshal, I was overcome there for a moment—"

"Perfectly understandable, Ma'am, yah maid Alice came up from yah late Pa's Lazy-C Ranch this mornin' and is presently in yah rooms drawin' a hot bath fer yah."

"Alice?"

"She's mah niece, mah Sister's young'st. She's onny 14, but she's smart as paint for a' that. Mah Sis thought it'd be good to have a maid that wus closer to yah own age."

"Why, how old do you think I am, Marshal?" Caroline asked coyly, recovering her senses in this bewildering dreamworld.

The Marshal dropped his voice, "Why, Ah have it on high authority that yah're least five years younger than Ah am, an' Ah'm 30 next month. Yah father did say yorn husband was a beast an' yah well shot o' him. Ah fer one don't think yah should be holden to wear them widder's weeds on his account any longer, an' yah father said yah'd brighten up our town no end. Ah ain't about to argue with anyone on that point, if yah beg mah pardon fer bein' fo'ard, Ma'am."

"No offence taken, Marshal," Caroline smiled, "I think I should be able to walk now."

"We're here," he laughed, "The noon stage al'ays stops by the Grand Hotel. At least allow me the pleasure to convey yah up to yah rooms."

"All right, Marshal." It was all Caroline could do to refrain from giggling like the little girl she suddenly felt. Not only that, but for the first time in more than a year, she felt an itch between her legs that she felt an urge to scratch.

Now Alice was a pretty bright and attentive girl, who helped Caroline out of the complicated layers of clothing that she had magically acquired between rotting motorcar and wooden stagecoach, and into her hot bath, fed by buckets of water brought up the stairs by a couple of sturdy girls that looked like they handle anything the Wild West threw at them.

Meanwhile Alice chattering away about the town, its dreamboat Marshal and the newly arrived Dentist who, according to the maid, was another "dish served in heaven". After her bath, Caroline was tucked comfortably onto the chaise longue and, fatigued by all the excitement, was soon fast asleep.

Caroline woke with a start, sitting in that old Jaguar. She shook the sleep from her head as she stepped from the car and slammed the door, with a near silent click. What a strange and vivid dream! She was about to walk back to the house when a smile spread across her face, the first smile that she could remember wearing in a long while.

She spun on her heels, pulled the car door open and slid back inside...

***

"Why, Miss Caroline, Ah declare yo' ain't slept more'n a couple hours, are yo' sure yo're rested enough after yo' journey? Especially after the shock of that Injun attack."

"I'm fine, Alice, it's just that I'd like to get a look at my Daddy's ranch, as soon as possible, how far away is it?"

"About an hour's ride, ma'am, but Ah'd need to rustle up the ranch gig, a driver and a coupla outriders, and we on'y have a coupla hours afore nightfall, there'd be no time fer us to get back into town."

"Could we not stay there the night? How comfortable is the ranch?"

"Why, it's the grandest ranch house in the whole county, ma'am, an' young Samuel helped me get yo' suite there ready for yo' arrival, soon as we heard ya wus comin'."

"Young Samuel?" Caroline asked, her eyebrows raised, her father's little-used first name being Samuel, "who's Young Samuel?"

"Why, yer younger brother, the ranch foreman. He's only fifteen, near sixteen, but he can ride, rope an' brand better'n any whole white man!"

"Whoa, Alice," Caroline cried, "my father rarely wrote to me about his life here and when he did he told me nothing about the ranch or who lived with him. You better tell me everything."

"Okay, yo' get washed up an' ready to git dressed, Miss Bagshawh, an' Ah'll go organise the men an' the gig, an' Ah'll get back to help yo'."

She was only gone a couple of minutes.

"Ma'am, I got Clint go round up the boys, they be hands from the ranch that brung me here this mornin'. I reckon we got maybe ten minutes afore they's saddled up an' ready to go. Let me help yo' on with that dress. Why, yo'll don't even need no stays, Miss Bagshawh, yo's as skinny as a rail!"

"Rail? Have you got the railway running through here then, Alice?"

"No ma'am, least not yet a'ways, but it mus' be comin' soon, the railways company wus a'doin' surveys here on'y las' year."

"So, young Samuel Pinner, huh? Is his mother at the ranch?"

"She was 'til yesterday, ma'am, but Miss Dove Feather high-tailed it back to the Reservation as soon as she heard yo'll was a'comin'."

"She's an Indian?"

"Pure-blood Injun is Miss Dove Feather Pinner, Ma'am Bagshawh."

"Please call me Caroline, Alice," Caroline said, but seeing Alice recoil in shock, continued, "or Miss Caroline if you insist."

"Yes, Miss Caroline, ma'am, pure Injun, Miss Pinner is."

"What kind of Indian, what tribe?"

"Just Injun, there's only one kinda Injun, ain't there? Well, round here, anyways."

"How odd. So, I have a brother, what's he like?"

Alice squirmed and went bright red, "Well, Ah guess yo'd say he wus kinda cute an'all."

Caroline smiled, "Are you sweet on my brother, Alice?"

"Well," the girl straightened up and stuck out her jaw, "Samuel's a fine-lookin' boy, but he kin be downright ornery mos' times, Miss Caroline, an' he's had a fly up the back of his britches evah since he heard yo'll wus a'coming from Back East."

Caroline laughed, but just then a knock on the outer door interrupted them.

"Ma'am, yer gig's ready fer yah, do ya want me ter carry anything dahn?" asked a tall lean cowboy, who had removed his hat, revealing thin sandy hair and a dropping moustache, his face deeply sunburned to polished mahogany. Caroline thought he was 'kinda cute' too, thought it wouldn't do to 'do' the hired help.

"No, Clint," Alice answered for her, "we've everythin' we need at the ranch, an' we'll be with yo', directly."

"Okay, Ah'll wait out front."

"Miss Dove Feather'n yo's about the same size," Alice whispered as Clint turned and left, "an' she told me afore she skedaddled that yo'll could have any clothes yo' want as she only needed to teke her buckskins."

The ride out to the ranch was pleasant enough in the cool late afternoon, leading into a short and rather sudden twilight, when two lamps were lit on the back of the smart, well sprung two seater gig. Clint, a tall young man, drove the two-wheel cart, with Caroline sitting up front alongside and Alice sat on the floor in the back, where there was room for a few parcels, her feet stretched under the seat. Two outriders rode along behind, "for Injuns," Clint explained, "just a few uppity bucks, mind, who needs a good whippin'."

"This is beautiful country," Caroline marvelled at the ranch, perched on the top of a rise, with spectacular views all around. The barns and corrals made the place look well cared for and prosperous, reached by a stout wooden bridge over a crystal clear meandering river.

"Best spread in the county, Ma'am," Clint boasted, "this is the centre of Sweetwater Valley and yah spread goes all the ways up to the mountains in that direction and to the edge of the Injun Reservation thataways."

By the time they pulled up to the house, a fine two storied building made of white painted wood, the house staff and ranch hands were there to greet her. The staff lined up and stood to attention, while the hands stood casually in irregular groups. Caroline counted around ten staff and up to thirty hands. One of the hands moved forward to hold the horses' reins, while Clint dismounted, and helped Caroline down.

One of the domestics stepped forward, a large red-faced woman with red hair.

Alice whispered, "It's Mrs Duggan, Miss Caroline, she's the cook an' the one in charge."

"Is my brother here?" Caroline quietly asked the girl.

"No, ma'am," she whispered back, "he ain't nowhere ter be seen."

Caroline stepped forward, "Good evening, Mrs Duggan, my apologies for arriving unannounced at this late hour. I hope I have not inconvenienced you excessively. Is the er, is the lady of the house in?"

Clearly taken aback by Caroline's directness, Mrs Duggan soon recovered, saying in an Irish accent, "Why, to be sure you are the Lady of ta House now, Ma'am, to be sure. Now, Miss Pinner she rode outta here tis marnin'."

"Is my brother here, then?"

"He's in ta stables, saddlin' his horse," she said, "I packed him a meat pie for his supper to eat on the hoof."

"Can someone fetch him, before he rides off? I wish to speak to him urgently."

"I kin fetch 'im, to be sure, Ma'am." She turned to a boy, smart in his livery, despite tugging unconsciously at his starched collar, and sent him off running, before she turned back to Caroline.

"We have a rude supper of beef stew an' dumplin's, Ma'am, simple fare for ta staff an' chow for ta ranch hands, to be sure we wasn't expecting yus until tomorrer."

"That will do fine, Mrs Duggan, is there anywhere I can freshen up?"

"Aye, Ma'am, Alice can take yer to yer rooms, I'll have someone bring up hot water an' towels, I must get get back to Me kitchen."

"Of course."

Caroline was barely in her private sitting room, removing her hat, when there was a knock on the door, which Alice smartly answered. A tall, gangling youth stepped into the room, holding his hat in his hands, Caroline swore his face was the spitting image of her brother David, who died in an accident when he was 10, when she herself was only half his age. She didn't think he looked Indian at all.

"I'm Samuel, ma'am, I have told Jesse Young that he's the Ranch Foreman now and I've already run him through his list of duties, so I can head out to the Reservation before it gets too dark."

"I'm sorry to hear that you want to leave, Samuel, so soon after my arrival. Don't you want to be Foreman here any more?"

"I er -"

"Alice tells me you're the best man for the job on this ranch. Are you a better Foreman than this Jesse?"

"Yeah, ma'am, but he'll pick it up soon enough."

"I would rather you stayed on here as Foreman, Samuel, would you like to stay on?"

"Well..." the kid shuffled his feet, screwing up his hat and staring at the floor.

"Well, I would like you to stay on, Sam, it would be a great help to me, but only if you want to."

"I, I guess I could do."

"That's great, Sam, maybe you can tell me all about the ranch over supper. I am impressed by what I've seen so far."

"Thank you ma'am. Well, if I'm staying on as Foreman, I'll probably be late for supper, I'll be moving the rest of my stuff out to the bunkhouse."

"Why?"

"Well, you won't want a half-breed in the house, ma'am."

"Mmm, tell me, Samuel, are you really my father's son?"

"Of course I am."

"And you perfectly understand that I am my father's daughter?"

"I figure that's so."

"So, if you and I have the same father, that makes us brother and sister, Sam, yes?"

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