The Crossroads of the Aether
JOHN KENYON, a handsome, athletic man in his early 30’s, rides through the snowy streets of a small frontier town. From the stubble on his cheeks and the condition of his clothes he has been on the trail for some time.
John brings his horse to a good-sized building identified by the sign on its roof as the FANDANGO SALOON. He dismounts, ties his horse to the hitching post and heads for the swinging doors.
John enters the Fandango and looks around, taking in the atmosphere. A motley CROWD of frontier types congregates in a saloon that’s fancily decorated in the best Victorian tradition of shining brass and crushed velvet.
Lovely SALOON GIRLS graciously mingle and converse with the customers while the men drink, carouse, and play at the various gaming tables. After a beat of checking this out John shakes his head and laughs.
Looks like Babylon is open for
John heads for the bar. And passes by a table where FRENCHY LE CLERC, a luminous French-Creole beauty in her mid-20’s deals poker to a group of PLAYERS, including SEAN O’HARA, a handsome young 2nd lieutenant in the US Cavalry.
John and Frenchy barely exchange glances as he passes by. Without batting an eye, she turns back to her players with a charming smile and tosses some chips into the pot with a chipper demeanor.
House sees 20…
She tosses some more chips into the pot.
…And raises 50.
Sean looks nervously at his hand, aces and tens with aces high. Then he stares at his nearly empty chip pile. Frenchy looks at him almost sympathetically.
Raise or call Lieutenant?
Sean tosses his last chip into the pot, and pulls the West Point class ring off of his left hand.
I see your 50…
He tosses the ring into the pot.
Are you sure you want to do that,
He gives her a dirty look.
Yes I do.
Frenchy sighs, rolls her eyes, and shakes her head.
Alright, let’s get this over with…
Sean lays his hand down.
Full house, aces high!
Frenchy lays her hand down, a straight flush.
Sean gasps and stares in shock at Frenchy’s cards. With a graceful sweep of her hand, Frenchy scoops in the pot.
Sorry, Lieutenant…but that’s the
way it goes sometimes.
An elegant female hand tosses a gold piece onto the table.
Frenchy looks up to see the BARONESS LIESL VON HEXENBERG, a very beautiful and elegant woman in her late 20’s smiling down at her.
Give him his ring back, Frenchy.
As you wish, your Excellency.
Frenchy picks up the ring and tosses it back to Sean.
Take better care of this in the
Sean nods graciously at Frenchy as he puts the ring back on.
The Baroness glides over to Sean and places a hand on his shoulder.
Sean, we need to talk.
Sean smiles at her, and rises.
Of course, your Excellency.
The Baroness makes for the back with Sean following close behind like an eager puppy. Frenchy watches them as they go, and turns back to her players.
Another hand, M’sieus?
The Baroness takes Sean into her office. Once inside Sean is grabbed from behind by TOOMEY, a muscle bound goon dressed to the nines. DODD another expensively clad gorilla walks up to Sean grinning in anticipation.
Sorry, mein schatz, but you’ve been
told, no more gambling…
Dodd drives his fist into Sean’s gut. Sean gasps in pain.
…Gambling draws attention, and
makes commanding officers suspicious…
Dodd gut shoots Sean again.
…And we don’t want that, do we?
Dodd slugs Sean again.
…Because that might lead to you
getting reassigned, and then you
wouldn’t be of any use to us anymore…
Dodd punches Sean yet again.
…And you wouldn’t like that, because
then you wouldn’t get the money
to pay off your gambling debts!
She walks over and gets in Sean’s face.
…And then we’d have to do something
awful to that cute little sister
Sean struggles futilely against Toomey’s grip.
You hurt her and I’ll…
Dodd gives Sean a rapid trio of gut shots. The Baroness waves him off.
He’s no use to us crippled.
She nods to Toomey.
Let him go.
Toomey lets go, and Sean sinks to his knees gagging and gasping. The Baroness looks down on him mockingly.
Do you understand, mein schatz?
Sean nods weakly. The Baroness gestures at Toomey.
Take him up the back stairs to
Toomey helps Sean to his feet. The Baroness comes over and strokes Sean’s cheek.
I will come up and comfort you…
Take him away.
Toomey hauls Sean off through the back entrance. Dodd cocks an eyebrow at the Baroness.
He’s had a taste of the stick,
now it’s time for the carrot.
She turns and exits out the front door.