Aunt Theodora’s Diplomacy by goldieasj

Word Count – 7,719

a sequel, of sorts, to Aunt Theodora,

which was a sequel, of sorts, to “Legacy”

.

Harlan Garrett and his younger sister Theodora Garrett had independently been unable to find a way to entice Scott Lancer back to Boston.  First, Harlan was forced to leave Lancer disgraced and Scott-free (so to speak).

Sometime later, Aunt Theodora visited and tried her hand.  Although, frankly, Aunt Theodora didn’t try all that hard.  In fact, years later when Scott thought back on her visit, he almost would bet he could have convinced Aunt Theodora to move to Lancer.

Almost.

(FYI:  he didn’t try.)

–  –  –  –  –

On the fifth day of Aunt Theodora’s visit to Lancer, breakfast was a frustrating affair.  Aunt Theodora, a notoriously late sleeper, was the first at the breakfast table.  In fact, she was the first in the kitchen! Sitting at the table with her head cradled in her hands, she and Maria, who entered quietly to fix breakfast for the Lancers in Teresa’s absence, scared the (pardon the vernacular) hell out of each other!  Maria shrieked.

Madre de dios!  Vienes a robarnos!  Vete, vete!”  Maria grabbed a cast-iron frypan and held it threateningly in front of herself.

Aunt Theodora raised her head from her hands, groaned, and spotting Maria – screamed.  She jumped up and skipped backward, away from the threatening pan.  “What on earth is the matter with you?” she yelled.  “Why did you hit me with that spider?!”  She screamed again.

Maria advanced on her.  She looked closely.  The woman in front of her looked a little like Aunt Theodora, but not really.  Aunt Theodora had a fine pink complexion and her hair was always pinned up neatly and her clothes were always impeccable.  This woman in the kitchen was white as a ghost but had red eyes, wrinkled clothing and hair that had not seen a hairpin for several hours cascading haphazardly on her shoulders.  Also she was screaming.

Maria looked again.  She set down the frypan.  “Tia Theodora?  Is this you?” she ventured.

Aunt Theodora stopped screaming abruptly to look at Maria.  Apparently something registered with her because she said, “Maria?  The Spanish woman?  You’re here to cook?”

Maria smiled and shook her head up and down.  She reached for Aunt Theodora to assist her back to the table.  “Si, si, Tia Theodora!  Maria!  It is me!  Soy Mexicana!  I cook breakfast for you.  Jamon y huevos!  No te asustes!  I am sorry I scare you.  I no expect someone here!  Sit!  Come sit.”  Maria was just as upset as Aunt Theodora and mixed up her languages before she remembered Aunt Theodora only spoke English.

Aunt Theodora allowed herself to be guided back to her seat at the table, holding her head with her hand the whole time.  “Why did you hit me with that frypan?” she asked matter-of-factly.

By this time, Murdoch and Scott, both wearing pants and nothing else, bolted into the kitchen. 

“Aunt Theodora!” Scott called, heading right for his obviously upset aunt.

“What’s going on here?” Murdoch boomed.

“Murdoch, your cook attacked me!  She hit me with that frypan when I wasn’t looking!”  Aunt Theodora held her head with one hand and attempted to remove errant hair strands from her face with the other.

“What?!” exclaimed Scott.

“Calm down, Theodora,” Murdoch said.  “I find that a little hard to believe.  Where did she hit you?”

“My head!”

“Show me where, Theodora.”   Maria was in the background sputtering in Spanish.  Murdoch put his hand out for silence.

“Well, uh . . . . “  Letting her hair drop, Aunt Theodora put her hands to her temples.  “She hit me here on the left temple.  And here – on the right temple.  And in the back too.”

Scott and Murdoch looked at each other.  “Let me understand this, Theodora,” said Murdoch.  “Maria hit you with a frypan. And she hit you three times – once on the left, once on the right, and once in the back.”

“Mmmm . . . “ said Aunt Theodora, thinking about it.

Murdoch turned to Maria.  “Maria, what happened here?”

Maria was very upset and unable to speak English well.  In fact, even her Spanish was threatened.  She responded as best she could.  “Senor Lancer, vengo aquí a hacer el desayuno.  Tia Theodora – no esperaba verla!  No esperaba ver a nadie! Me asustó!   Y la asusté!”

“I see,” said Murdoch.  “And, Maria – ¿La golpeaste?”

Maria was stunned.  She inhaled deeply as she responded.  “Oh . . . no, Senor Lancer!  Oh, Madre Mia!”

“All right, Maria, it’s all right.  I understand.”  Murdoch spoke in a tone of voice that he knew would calm her and pointed her to the stove.  “Just go ahead and fix breakfast now.  But just for Scott, me and yourself.  I don’t think Johnny or Theodora will be eating this morning.”

“Oh?  Is all right?”  Maria looked around Murdoch at Aunt Theodora, who seemed deep in thought as though she were trying to remember something.

Murdoch nodded and waited until she had departed to the stove.  He turned back to Scott.  “I think we know what’s happened here,” he said.  Scott shook his head in agreement.

“Mmmm?” said Aunt Theodora.

“Theodora,” Murdoch said.  “You have a hangover.  A tequila hangover.  Nobody hit you with anything.  Your injuries were self-inflicted, and they will diminish as the day goes on.  I strongly suspect Johnny is suffering approximately the same injuries right now.”

“Mmmm, you could be right, Murdoch,” she said.  “I do remember having a teaspoon or two of that tequila.”

“I think it was a little more than that, Aunt Theodora,” Scott said.  “By the time Murdoch and I got there, you were pretty much . . . gone.”

Aunt Theodora put her finger in the air.  “I think it might have been raining, too.”

“It was pouring.  And when we got there, the two of you were wiggling your toes in the pond in an effort to catch fish.”

She giggled.  “Did we catch any?”

“Uh . . . no.”

“Where is Jonathan?”  She looked around quickly and then decided a quick movement was not a good idea.

“No doubt my son is upstairs in his room,” said Murdoch, “where he will undoubtedly stay until his hangover has subsided.”

“It’s hard to do, Aunt Theodora,” said Scott, “but you – and I think this expression is correct – ‘drank Johnny under the table.’”

“No,” she said slowly, wiggling her finger around, “I believe we were having a picnic.  I don’t recall a table.”

Scott just patted his aunt on the shoulder.  “We’ll have some coffee for you in a minute, Aunt Theodora.”

“No one hit me?” she asked, just to be sure.

–  –  –  –  –

Both Aunt Theodora and Johnny stayed in their respective rooms for most of the day.  Some hours after lunch, Scott went upstairs and knocked on his aunt’s door to check on her well-being, but no one answered.  He knocked again and a female voice called from inside the room, “There is no one in this room right now, so I strongly suggest you leave!”  Scott chuckled and said, “If you need anything, Aunt Theodora, just let us know!”

Then he knocked on Johnny’s door and when no answer was forthcoming, brazenly turned the knob and walked in.  Johnny was partially dressed, sitting up in bed and leaning against a couple of pillows.  He may or may not have been asleep as he had a wet cloth covering his eyes.  “Why were you yelling in the hall, Scott?” he asked with displeasure apparent in his voice.

Scott sat on the bed and laughed.  “I wasn’t yelling.”

Johnny’s muscles stiffened.  “Damn, Scott, can’t you sit on this bed without making me feel like I’m in an earthquake?”

“Nope.  After all that tequila you had yesterday, I’m sure the simplest movement will make you feel like you’re in an earthquake.  Besides, I couldn’t stay away.  I’ve missed you terribly!”

“Shut up, Scott!”

Scott grabbed Johnny’s arms and shook him side to side.  “Of course, I always thought a tequila drunk was more like being in a rocking boat in a storm.  Rocking back and forth . . .”  He continued to shake his brother.  “ . . . Rolling with the waves . . .”

The wet cloth rolled overboard and Johnny opened his eyes wide.  “Damn it!  Stop that!”  Johnny tried to reach for his brother but both his arms were subdued.

Laughing happily, Scott let go of Johnny’s arms and jumped back off the bed.  “Feeling better?” he asked innocently.

Johnny groaned and put his hands to his face.  “I’m going to kill you, Scott.”  He groaned again.  “Not today though.”

Scott sat in the chair.  Out of the gunfighter’s reach.  “There.  That should get your blood flowing.  Get rid of that drunken state more quickly.”

“Something tells me that’s not true,” came from behind Johnny’s hands.

“You want anything, Johnny?  Want me to bring you some coffee?”

Johnny removed his hands from his face and looked at his brother.  Attila the Hun was sitting demurely across the room from him, looking genuinely concerned.  “Why?  So you can spill it on me?”

“Nope.  Playtime’s over.  I know you’ll hate yourself if you sleep all day, so I thought I would get you up.  No harm meant.  Although I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself.”  Scott grinned.

Johnny made a sound that was a combination between a groan and a sound not heard since the Jurassic Period.  “Thanks but no thanks, brother.”

Scott got up and headed for the door.  “All right.  See you around, Johnny.”

“Scott?”

Scott turned back.

“I’ll take that coffee, but I’ll drink it downstairs.”

“I’ll have it ready for you.”  Scott smiled and left.

–  –  –  –  –

Thanks to Scott’s expert medical assistance, Johnny was able to make his way downstairs and drink some coffee before dinnertime.  He nibbled at an apple, and when it proved friendly, determined he would attempt eating real food with the rest of the family.  He made his way into the kitchen, where Maria had bravely returned to prepare the family’s evening meal.

“Ah!  Senor Johnny!  It is good to see you!” she said.  “But you have no color.  You look enfermo.”  She put her hand on his forehead.

“It’s good to see you too, Maria, but please don’t shout, OK?  I’m not sick.”  Johnny crawled onto one of the kitchen chairs, one body part at a time.  He closed his eyes.

“No?” she said.  “Oooooh, I see.  A little too much – how you say? – good times, no?”

“Yeah, a little too much good times.  In the form of a canteen full of tequila.”

Maria’s eyes got very wide.  “Dios te ayude!  You drink all this yourself?!”

“No.  Scott’s crazy aunt drank most of it, I think.  I haven’t seen her today.  Maybe she’s dead.”

“Oh, no.  Tia Theodora is very much alive!  She spent the night on that very chair, I think.  She was here, in this kitchen, when I come in this morning.  She scream when she see me.”

Johnny opened one eye.  “Why?  You don’t look that scary.  Just a little blurry.”

“Oh, no, Senor Johnny.  I scream too.  We not know each other here.”

The eye closed again.  “Oh.  I think I heard that.”

“Tia Theodora think I trying to kill her.”

Now both eyes opened.  “Scott’s aunt thought you were trying to kill her?”

Si.  She think I hit her in su cabeza with pan – this pan.”  Maria picked up the guilty pan for illustration.

“She thought . . . ?  Oh, I get it.  If her head felt anything like mine did this morning, that’s probably why.”

Si.  Exactamente.”

Johnny sadly shook his head.  “I will never ever drink again.”

“Care to place a bet on that?”  Scott’s voice entered the kitchen just ahead of him.  “I’ll give you any odds.”

“Why is everybody yelling today!”

“No one’s yelling, Johnny,” Scott said in a softer voice.  Although the chair scraped a little when he pulled it out to sit next to his brother.  “I hope you’re feeling better now.”

“Yeah, I’m feeling better.  Not good, but good enough to start trying to remember where I hid my gun so I wouldn’t shoot anyone.”

Scott laughed and Maria said a silent prayer and went back to preparing the food.

“Sorry I wasn’t around to help out today,” Johnny apologized.

Scott shrugged.  “No problem.  I drafted Jelly to help me in the south pasture instead.  He’s not a bad worker but he’s an excellent grumbler.”  He laughed, and even Johnny cracked his first smile of the day.  “I told him he could take the day off tomorrow, so he took one of the wagons into town just now and he’s going to stay over at the hotel and pick up supplies tomorrow before he comes back.”

“Thanks, Scott.  I’m not sure I could handle his ‘I-told-you-sos’ at supper tonight.”

Scott smiled.  “Even though he didn’t actually tell you not to drink.”

“Oh, he probably told me last year some time!”  The brothers laughed together.  Maria approached Johnny with a tall glass of something that actually looked inviting.

“Drink,” she said.  “You feel better soon.  My receta.  Spicy.  Good.

–  –  –  –  –

Maria’s secret hangover recipe worked wonders for Johnny and allowed him to actually enjoy the family’s supper.  Afterward, Scott took a tray of Maria’s delicious cooking upstairs to his aunt’s room, only to find Aunt Theodora fully dressed and pinning up her hair.

“That was very accommodating of you, Scotty, but unnecessary.  I am quite ready to join your adopted family at the dinner table.”

“We’ve finished eating, Aunt Theodora, so I brought you a tray.”

“Already?”  She glanced at the clock.  “Oh, my goodness!  I keep forgetting how early people out West tend to do things like meals.”

“Well, it is actually 8 pm already!”

Aunt Theodora put her hand to her bosom.  “Oh, my.  Well, I suspect this may be partially my fault.  I’m afraid I overslept just a bit today.”

“Just a bit.”  Scott set the food tray on a table and drew a chair up to it.  He then courteously seated his aunt and sat with her so she wouldn’t have to eat alone.  He knew she expected it but nonetheless she did express her mild appreciation.

“Aunt Theodora,” Scott said, “you might want to make sure you get to bed early tonight.”

“Yes, I expect you’re right,” she said.  “For some reason, I’m not feeling my usual chipper self this evening.  I’ll try to be in bed by 2 a.m.”

“I see.  Well, perhaps just a little earlier than that.  Johnny and I were hoping you’d accompany us into Morro Coyo tomorrow.  We’d like to show you the town.”

“Yes, that would be nice.  Very thoughtful of you and Jonathan.”

“Jelly has the wagon in town, but he’s returning tomorrow and you can come back with him.  To go to town you can either ride behind Johnny or myself, or we can saddle a gentle horse for you.  You can even ride sidesaddle if you prefer.  We’ll accommodate whatever you want.”

“Yes, of course.  We can leave after lunch then.”

“No.  An early start is best.  Particularly if we’re walking the horses.”

Aunt Theodora sighed.  “Very well.  An early start.  Noon, then.”

“We were thinking right after breakfast.  Eight a.m.”

“Eleven!”

“Nine!”

Aunt Theodora sighed again.  “Very well.  Ten a.m.”

–  –  –  –  –

As pre-arranged, the three of them left at the crack of 2 p.m. 

In all fairness to Aunt Theodora, she was awake in plenty of time for an early start.  However, her usual late arising forced her to have to eat breakfast alone with Maria, who she watched carefully the whole time and kept her pink parasol on her lap in case she needed it as a weapon.

Immediately after breakfast, Aunt Theodora sought out Johnny, who she found talking to one of the hands near the corral.

“Oh, Jonathan!” she called as she approached him.

Johnny acknowledged her with a wave of his hand.  As she got close to him, she heard the ranch hand say, “Johnny, it’s the bay you want saddled, not the gray or the pal, right?”

“Yeah,” Johnny said.  “Unless you can think of a gentler animal we’ve got.”

“Nah.  That’s the best choice for an easy ride.”  The ranch hand tipped his hat to Aunt Theodora and went inside the barn.

“’Morning, Theodora,” Johnny greeted.  “Looks like you got up early today!”

“Yes!  I think you call it ‘the crack of dawn.’”

“Well, not exactly, but I’m proud of you anyway.  You ready to go?  Coop’s saddling a gentle horse for you right now.”

“Go where?”

“Scott and I are going to show you around Morro Coyo.”

“Whatever for?  That can wait.  Something much more important has come up!”

“Oh?  What’s that?”

“I want you to teach me how to defend myself.”

Johnny smiled.  “Against what, Theodora?”

“Vicious animals!  Like that insane horse that delivered me to this ranch a few days ago!  Luckily I am of sound Garrett stock or we might not be having this conversation right now!” 

Johnny smiled as he remembered the horse pulling the buggy she was riding in suddenly bolting because Aunt Theodora snapped a buggy whip at the unsuspecting animal.  The carriage ended up on the Lancer front porch and Fletch the driver and Aunt Theodora landed upside-down in the back of the carriage.  “You don’t normally need to ‘defend yourself’ against animals pulling wagons, Theodora.  Just stay away from spooking them and you’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.  “And what about that vicious serpent we encountered at our picnic?  He would have killed us both had you not been so quick to react and send him to his Maker!”

“Theodora, that was a harmless water snake who was probably trying to get away from us, and when I shot him I was overreacting because you were overreacting.”

“Don’t be absurd, Jonathan!  We saved each other’s lives that day . . . “

“We did?”

“Of course!  I alerted you to the danger and you quickly used your pistol.  I suspect you may have practiced that maneuver in the past and that is exactly what I’m talking about.”

Johnny was lost.  “What are you talking about?”

“I want you to teach me to shoot serpents like that!  I can’t have you around all the time to protect me from these vicious animals;  I must learn to do it myself!”

Johnny sighed.  “What are the chances you’ll run into snakes in Boston, Theodora?”  Then something awful occurred to him.  “You are returning to Boston, aren’t you?”

“Yes, of course.  And soon, most likely.  That is why time is of the essence!  You must teach me to defend myself immediately!”

–  –  –  –  –

BANG!

“Ooooh!”  Aunt Theodora screamed a little.  “I’d forgotten how loud it is!  Can you make it less noisy?”

Johnny twirled and re-holstered his pistol.  “I tried to warn you.  The only way to make it less noisy is to not shoot it!  This isn’t the kind of thing a lady from Boston should be doing.”

“You must teach me to defend myself, Jonathan.  I insist!”

“Theodora, how many snakes do you run across in Boston, huh?”

“Hardly any,” she said truthfully.  “But what if I get accosted on the street?  What then?  People get accosted on the street every day in Boston.  I must be able to defend myself.”

Johnny sighed.  “How many years have you lived in Boston without ever getting accounted on the street?  Your whole life, I bet.”

“We’re wasting time, Jonathan.  How do I hold the pistol?”

“You just don’t have any good reason to learn how to shoot, Theodora.”

“Yes, I do.  Suppose I want to go hunting!”

Hunting now?  Hunting what?”

“Whatever people hunt.  Dinner, I suppose.”

A small crowd had by then gathered by the corral.  Most were pretending to work but Johnny knew they were there for the entertainment.  He vaguely wondered if they were interested in seeing his fast draw or Aunt Theodora’s slow draw. 

Scott had also emerged from the house, drawn by Johnny’s sample gunshot.  “What’s going on?”

“Scott!  Can you talk your aunt out of this silly idea of hers?” Johnny pleaded.

Aunt Theodora turned on Scott.  “You’ll do no such thing, Scotty, or I shall remove you from my will.”

“I don’t want your money, Aunt Theodora, and I would rather see you alive.  I don’t know what you’re asking Johnny to do, but I trust his opinion.”

“Scotty!  Jonathan doesn’t care if I die on the cold snowy streets of Boston!”

“Excuse me?”

“Scott,” Johnny tried to explain.  “Theodora doesn’t understand how dangerous a gun can be.  She wants me to teach her to shoot.  She’s not sure what she wants to shoot – she just seems to want to shoot something!”

“I see.”  Scott Lancer, the Voice of Reason.  “I’m in Johnny’s camp on this one, Aunt Theodora.  A gun is a dangerous thing . . . “

“Not if one is taught proper usage!”  She crossed her arms.

“You see what I mean?” Johnny said to his brother.

Scott sighed.  “All right, Aunt Theodora.  I’ll tell you want.  I’ll teach you to hunt.  Johnny’s fast draw is a remarkable thing to watch but inappropriate for hunting . . . “

“Nonsense!  I want Jonathan to teach me how to shoot like I saw him do.”  Before anyone could stop her, she had pulled Johnny’s pistol from his gunbelt.  Both brothers reacted, quickly checking to make sure the gun safety was on.  The people by the corral scattered.

She held it in both hands and aimed it at a far-off tree.  “Now what?” she said.

Johnny exchanged a look with Scott and then gently removed the gun from her hand.  “No, Theodora.  Turn the gun around.  Let the other person look into the barrel.”

“But why, Jonathan?”

“Just trust me on this.  You’ll enjoy hunting more my way.”

–  –  –  –  –

Anyone could make a simple mistake like that!” was what Aunt Theodora said, but she followed it up with “I strongly suspect you are lying to me anyhow.  Let us drop the subject!”  Her slightly-off aim with the gun was apparently enough for her to change her priority list.  Suddenly hunting for dinner and learning to defend herself were forgotten and it was imperative that she get into Morro Coyo as soon as possible!

“Uh . . . fine,” said Johnny.  “Isn’t that what . . .”

Scott quickly interrupted him.  “I think that’s a splendid idea, Aunt Theodora.  We can leave as soon as . . . “

“Well, what on earth is the delay?  How long could it take to saddle three little horses?!  I must send a telegram, and I must cash a check at the bank.  Please instruct your employees to expedite the preparations!  I wish to leave now.”

“We’ll just check on that.”  Scott motioned for Johnny to meet him in the barn.  Aunt Theodora remained where she was, waiting for the world to come to her.

Johnny said, “I wish her to leave now, too.”

“Relax, Johnny,” said Scott.  “I know she’s infuriating, but she told Murdoch she’d be leaving in a few days.”

“Alone?”

“Yes, alone!  I told you – I have no intention of returning to Boston with her.  Besides, you know she can be lots of fun.”

“When she’s drunk, yeah.  Maybe we should take her to the saloon.”

“No, hardly.  We’ll just make this an easy trip.  Take her to send her telegram, introduce her to Russ at the bank, let her do a little shopping in town if she wants, and then a leisurely ride home.  It’ll be an easy enjoyable day.”

“If you say so.  But don’t let her open that damn parasol, she’ll spook the horse.  That’s the last thing we need!”

“We’ll have her open it before she mounts and we’ll make sure the horse sees it.  Coop’s saddling the gentlest animal we have.”

Preparations were appropriately expedited.   Aunt Theodora, opened pink parasol and all, was lifted onto the horse and given rudimentary riding instructions which she ignored.  The three of them were heading out of the yard when Aunt Theodora asked, “What shall be our first stop?”

“Why don’t we head for the bank first,” Scott suggested.

“No, we will stop at the telegraph office first.  We will head to the bank secondly,” Aunt Theodora corrected, and that settled that.

–  –  –  –  –

Aunt Theodora apparently got the hang of sitting on a walking horse so well that halfway into town she made the announcement, “I think when I return to Boston I shall learn the noble sport of polo.”

Johnny shook his head, but Scott said, “That’s fine, Aunt Theodora.  But polo is a difficult sport to conquer.  Be sure to allow yourself a couple of days to learn it.”

“Don’t be silly, Scotty.  It couldn’t possibly take that long.”

–  –  –  –  –

Once in town, Johnny told his companions that he was going to make a “quick stop” into the saloon to see who was in town.  He gave Scott a look that said something like “Remember I’m a gunfighter and it wouldn’t be wise for you to mention that I recently said I wouldn’t ever drink again” before Scott could say anything.  Scott wisely remembered and didn’t mention.

Johnny took off down the street and Scott guided his aunt to the telegrapher’s office.  As he removed her from her horse, he noticed she had a look of pain on her face and he wisely didn’t mention anything about her backside, also.

He ushered her in to see the telegrapher and watched over her shoulder as she wrote out her message.  She made the telegrapher read it back to her before sending.  “It’s for my friend.  Before I left, we had decided to travel to Europe next month, so I must alert her as to my impending return to Boston so she can start making arrangements.”

The telegrapher nodded.  He read: “Daphne Dupont, etc. etc.  Daphne darling arriving Boston mid-month.  Stop.  Book passage for us next month first class of course.  Stop.  Start with England then France Spain etc.  Stop.  Have learned to shoot.  Stop.  Theodora.”

Scott happily decided this was conclusive evidence that Aunt Theodora was finally abandoning her efforts to get Scott to return to Boston with her.  But he was surprised when she announced this was to be the only telegram she would send.  “I thought you’d want to let Grandfather know you’re returning, Aunt Theodora.”

“Why?” she asked carelessly.  “I didn’t mention to him that I was leaving.”

Scott wrote out a quick note and handed it to the telegrapher.  “Here.  Send this to my grandfather Harlan Garrett at this address.” He handed the note and payment for the telegrams to the telegrapher and the two of them left.

“I feel Grandfather might be worrying about you,” Scott explained to her.

“If you say so, Scotty,” Aunt Theodora said idly, waving her hand.  “We must now visit the local bank.”

An older couple were leaving as Scott held the bank’s door open for Aunt Theodora.  The four of them exchanged niceties.  Once inside, Scott noticed there were no customers.  There were no tellers, either.  In fact, the only other person in the bank was Russ, the bank manager and owner.

“Slow today, Russ?” Scott asked.

“It always is this time of week, Scott,” Russ said.  “Adler and his wife have gone to visit his sister.”  Russ was referring to the assistant manager.

“Russ, I’d like you to meet my aunt Theodora Garrett,” Scott said.

“Charmed,” said Aunt Theodora, and held out her hand to be kissed.

Russ shook her hand.  “Hello, Mrs. Garrett.  Welcome to our town.”  Apparently Russ didn’t realize he was expected to kiss her gloved hand.  Aunt Theodora mentally chalked up another loutish inadequacy of the West.  She also noted that he referred to her as married;  this one she forgave.

“Where’s Margaret?” Scott asked, referring to the teller.

“She hurt her knee yesterday and Doc said she should stay off her feet until Monday.  I s’pose I should be lonely, but I’ve got so much work, I don’t have the time!”  Both Scott and Russ laughed. 

Aunt Theodora wasn’t listening.  “I should like to cash a check,” she said matter-of-factly.  “I will need traveling expenses.”

“Well, certainly, ma’am,” Russ said graciously.  “Come right this way.”  He ushered them to the teller window and handed her a pen.

Aunt Theodora wrote out a check and handed it to him.

A thousand dollars?!” Russ said, in a slightly-more-than-mild state of distress.

Scott stared at his aunt.  “You want to cash a check for a thousand dollars?”

“Yes.  For travelling expenses back to Boston.  Is something amiss?”  Aunt Theodora clearly had no idea what was wrong with everyone.

“But, ma’am,” Russ said.  “I can’t . . . there’s not . . . I may not even have . . . I mean, you don’t even have an account at the bank!”

“My great-nephew will vouch for it!” she said smugly.

“No, Aunt Theodora,” Scott said gently but firmly.  “Lancer can’t possibly vouch for that kind of money.  Nor do you need anywhere near that much money to travel back East!”

“Really, Scotty!  How do you expect me to travel – in a covered wagon?”

Scott decided it would be of no value to point out to Aunt Theodora that wagon trains only traveled west;  he turned to the stricken bank manager.  “Russ, why don’t you cash a check of hers for three hundred dollars, and give her two hundred dollars out of my personal account?”

Russ looked like he was able to drop the heavy load he was carrying and smiled.

“Scotty, I can’t possibly accept money from you like that!” Aunt Theodora said to her nephew.

“Yes, you can.  I’m sure I owe you at least that for all the times you watched over me when I was growing up.”

“Yes, all right,” she said, once again smug.  “Make it a thousand then.”

“I don’t owe you that much,” Scott said.  “You didn’t watch that well and lost me a couple times.”

–  –  –  –  –

Aunt Theodora had just handed her $300 check to Russ when a man entered the bank.  Russ nodded to him graciously, even though he didn’t recognize him.  The man came over to the teller window, close to Scott and Aunt Theodora.

The man drew a gun.  “Unbuckle your gunbelt and drop it,” he said to Scott.  Then he asked Russ, “You armed?”

Russ shook his head no, and Scott unbuckled his gunbelt and kicked it slightly out of reach of the man.  He stepped in front of Aunt Theodora to shield her, but she popped her head out from behind him to see what was going on.

“Now you – teller!  Give me all the money in the drawer!”  The man pointed his gun at Russ.

Russ nervously pulled the cash drawer open.  “There isn’t much!” he said.  “We never have much mid-week!”  He handed the robber around $70.  “That’s it!”

Holding his gun steadily on Scott, the man peeked around the corner at the open drawer.  He saw that Russ was telling the truth.  He also saw the safe.  “Open it!” he directed.

Wide-eyed, Russ looked at Scott, who nodded encouragement.  Russ walked over to the safe and, kneeling down, began to work the tumblers.  His hand shook and it was obvious he was having a hard time trying to remember the combination.

“Hurry up!” the man shouted.

“I can’t . . . I’m nervous . . . just give me a little more . . .”  Scott couldn’t recall ever having seen Russ to jumpy before.  “Take it easy, Russ,” he said quietly.

The robber stepped to the end of the teller counter and pointed the gun at Russ.  Scott looked toward his gunbelt on the floor – just a little too far away to take a chance, especially with Aunt Theodora there.

The robber was becoming nervous.  “Hurry it up, I said!”  He aimed the gun higher.

Aunt Theodora finally saw the weapon.  “Well,” she said, “I do hope you’re not planning on shooting off that pistol inside this building!  The noise these machines make when engaged is loud enough outside – I can’t even imagine what it would be like inside!”

“What?!  Shut up, lady!”

Aunt Theodora looked closer at the man’s gun.  She laughed.  “Oh, no no no!  Even hunting outside, it would do you no good like that!  You’re holding it backward!”

The man actually looked down at the gun in his hand.  Scott thought about rushing him, but it only took the robber a couple seconds to realize that he was, in fact, holding the gun correctly.  He quickly turned the weapon back on Scott.

And forgot about Aunt Theodora, who had approached him from his other side and very nicely and efficiently removed the pistol from his hand.

He made a grab for it, but she held it behind her. 

“Give me the gun, lady, before you get hurt.”

“Now you sound like my nephew.  Before you get hurt!  Don’t be impudent!  I’m merely trying to demonstrate the proper way to hold a firearm.”  She started waving the gun around, and everyone ducked.

“Hand me the gun please, Aunt Theodora,” Scott said nervously.

“I’m sorry if you think I’m impotent, ma’am, but I’m just thinking of you,” the robber said.  “You better give that back to me.  Before you or anyone else gets hurt!”  The man leaned toward Theodora.

Aunt Theodora looked at him.  “Why should anyone get hurt?  I am merely . . .”

But she couldn’t finish her sentence because the man simultaneously removed the gun from her hand and grabbed her around the waist.

“There’s no excuse for rudeness!” Aunt Theodora admonished him.  “Remove your hands from my person at once!”  The man did not remove his hands.

“Take your hands off her!” Scott threatened.

“There’s no need to be repetitious,” Aunt Theodora pointed out to her nephew.  “I’m sure this man heard me and will comply with my request as soon as he is able.”

And, oddly enough, the man complied with her request.  In the process, he shoved her over by Russ.  “Stand there,” he ordered.  “And shut your trap!”

Aunt Theodora stood where she was so nicely asked to stand and looked to Scott.  She was about to ask him what a ‘trap’ was, but Scott anticipated her request and put his finger to his lips.  “Sssh,” he whispered.  

Russ had been watching the goings-on and suddenly realized he was apparently still expected to find a way to open the safe, nervous or not.  He turned back to it.  The robber trained his gun back and forth from Russ to Scott.

Just then, Johnny entered the bank.

The robber looked up and aimed his gun at the intruder.  “Madrid!” he yelled in surprise.

“Why, yes,” Aunt Theodora beamed.  “How nice of you to take an interest!  Daphne and I shall visit London first, of course, then Paris, but Madrid is definitely on our itinerary . . . “

The robber pointed his gun back at Theodora and said to Johnny, “Drop it, Madrid.  Kick the belt over by that other one!  Or this chatterbox gets it!”

Johnny instantly realized what was going on.  He exchanged looks with Scott.  Before Johnny could say anything, Scott said, “Who’s Madrid?”  The signal to Johnny not to show recognition.  Johnny unbuckled his gunbelt and threw it not all that far away.

The gunman smiled ominously.  “Madrid and I go way back, don’t we, Johnny?”

Johnny narrowed his eyes.  “Maybe,” was all he said.

Aunt Theodora clapped her hands.  “Oh, the two of you know each other?  Isn’t that wonderful!  Jonathan, would you please tell your old friend how to properly hold a firearm?  You do it so well!”

“What the hell!  Jonathan?!”  The robber put together the fact that Johnny Madrid and the chatterbox were acquainted.  What luck!  Madrid wouldn’t want anything to happen to her!  He grabbed Aunt Theodora around the waist again and pointed the gun at her head.

“Be careful,” she warned.  “You could get hurt that way.  Best not to point the gun at yourself like that!”

The robber ignored her, not necessarily because he was outnumbered, or because Johnny Madrid was nearby, but mostly because he wished to maintain his sanity.

“Madrid!” the robber called.  “The woman here dies if you make a move!”

Johnny didn’t move, but, eyes like slits, he surveyed  the room.  Russ had backed away from the safe on his haunches and was reaching for an iron bar behind the teller cage.  Scott was inching stealthily toward his gunbelt on the floor.

“You want to make it personal, Hillman?  Drop her and step outside with me.  One bullet each.  I won’t need more and you won’t even need that,” Johnny smirked.

“You’ll get your chance, Johnny.  We’ll have our day.  Right now you stand pat while that bank man opens that safe and gives me all the money in it!”

The meaning of what was actually happening apparently finally got through to Aunt Theodora with that comment from the robber.  “What?!” boomed Aunt Theodora.  “You intend taking my travel money!?  I should say not!” 

And she kneed him in the balls.

Hillman doubled over in pain, relinquishing both Aunt Theodora and his correctly-held gun.  Johnny grabbed the gun and Scott grabbed his aunt and dragged her behind the counter.  “Stay here, Aunt Theodora,” he instructed her.  He headed for the robber and then looked back at her.  “And please don’t say anything!”

And then, while Johnny held the gun on the bank robber, Scott more or less hogtied the poor guy with his own gunbelt.   The robber wouldn’t have had much use for it anyway – he was too busy concentrating on his recent injury.

Scott retrieved his aunt from behind the counter and asked if she was all right.

“Yes, of course, Scotty.  Quite all right.  Although I am mortified that that insidious man could not seem to keep his hands off me!”

Aunt Theodora didn’t look particularly mortified to Scott, or all that shaken up either, for that matter.  Scott, Russ and Johnny watched as she stood over the robber and scolded him.  “Shame on you,” she said.  “If you’d had a grandfather like Harlan Garrett, you never would have chosen this life of crime.”

No one had any idea what she was talking about, but a little thing like that never stopped Aunt Theodora from continuing to express her opinion.  Which she did – until Russ informed her that he had the safe open and her money was ready.

“Finally!” she said.  “The slow service at this bank is deplorable!”

–  –  –  –  –

Russ and Scott volunteered to walk the would-be robber to the Sheriff’s office while Johnny sat with Aunt Theodora on a shaded bench in front of the bank.

“You all right, Theodora?” he asked kindly.  “Quite an adventure for you!”

“That man was a robber, Jonathan!  How on earth is it that you are acquainted with such a lowlife?”

“Well, Theodora, life sometimes . . . “

“Don’t attempt to apologize.  There is no good explanation.  It seems, Jonathan, I need to have a word with you.”

“Dios!”

“I assure you, that is not the word.”

–  –  –  –  –

In a little while, Johnny saw Jelly park the Lancer wagon by the general store across the street.  “Hey, Jelly!” he yelled to his liberator.  Jelly walked over to talk with them.  Aunt Theodora related the bank adventure to Jelly and Jelly was quite sympathetic with what Aunt Theodora had to go through.  “Are you all right, ma’am?” he said, removing his cap and holding it near his heart.

“Yes, yes, quite all right.  I am of sound Garrett stock and ready for another adventure!”

Johnny grinned.  “I don’t think so, Theodora.  Even I have had enough ‘adventure’ for a while!”

At the same time, Scott approached them from the direction of the Sheriff’s office. 

“What took so long, brother?” Johnny called out.

“I wasn’t there long,” Scott answered.  “Well, Aunt Theodora, are you ready to go back to Lancer?”

“Heavens, no!  As long as I’m in town, I have some shopping to do!”

Johnny stood.  “Well, I’m heading back.  Roast beef tonight.  Don’t want to be late for that!”

Scott followed his cue.  “Good!  Come on, Aunt Theodora, let’s get going back to Lancer.  I think we’ve had enough for one day.”

“You speak for yourself!” she said indignantly.  “I have no intention of leaving until I have perused the dress shop I saw!  Don’t worry about me – I’m an experienced rider of horses now, you know!  I’ll get back on my own.”

Scott and Johnny exchanged a look.

“Well, ma’am,” Jelly came to the rescue, “I haven’t done my supply-buyin’ yet, so you’re welcome to ride back with me on the buckboard.  That’ll give you about half an hour.  That way Scott and Johnny can ride on back ahead of us, and they can take your horse with them.”

“Wonderful!  I shall meet you back at this spot in thirty minutes!”  Without waiting for a response, Aunt Theodora began walking in the direction of her dress shop.

Johnny jumped up from the bench, laughed, and headed for Barranca.  “Thanks for volunteering to chaperone, Jelly,” Scott said with a smile.  He ran after Johnny and it was only a moment before the two of them were galloping out of town, Aunt Theodora’s horse in tow.

Jelly scratched his head and put his cap back on.  “Chaperone?” he said to himself.  “What’s wrong with those two?”  He headed for the general store and spent the next half hour arguing with the shopkeeper over prices and how the wagon should be loaded.

–  –  –  –  –

Aunt Theodora, in her usual fashion, was not ready in half an hour, and it was more like an hour before she left the dress shop.  Jelly fidgeted and petted the wagon horses and walked around the wagon and played with stones in the street and unfastened the reins and played with them and finally got so bored that he started heading for the store to get her – but just then she emerged.  He made an unsuccessful attempt to keep his anger in check when he said, “Well!  I hope you got everything you wanted!  You were in there long enough!”

She waved him off with her hand.  “Heavens, no!  Nary a thing.  I tried on every dress in the emporium and not a single one was fashionable or becoming.  Frankly, I’m worn out.  Let us use that wagon of yours to return to the homestead.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jelly murmured.  “I’m worn out, too.”

At the wagon, Jelly noticed Aunt Theodora looking at how high the seat was and apparently calculating a method of boarding.  “Here, ma’am,” he said.  “I’ll just help you up and then I can go around and mount up.” 

“Yes, that would be preferable, of course,” she said haughtily.

He was just about to grab her to lift her up when she suddenly opened her pink parasol.

The wagon horses saw it and panicked at the sudden flash of the attacking parasol.

They took off at a very fast clip down the street, the reins flying wildly and the loaded wagon behind them lurching back and forth with the sudden acceleration.  Some of the boxes and sacks fell off the wagon as it sped away.  A large sack of flour hit the street and split open, scattering flour everywhere.  A basket of apples broke open and apples rolled everywhere.  Two glass bottles of lamp oil fell overboard and, of course, broke, sending slippery oil all over the street.  Jelly yelled, “Hey hey hey!” and ran after the disappearing wagon until he realized it was a lost cause.  Those horses were going to take their partially-loaded wagon all the way back to Lancer, driver or no driver.

Beside himself with anger, Jelly worked hard on controlling his temper as he walked back to Aunt Theodora, picking up apples and broken sacks along the way.

When he reached her, he had a speech all prepared but she interrupted by saying, “You’re quite dirty.  When we return to Lancer, you must wash immediately.”

“Now, doesn’t that just bring up an interestin’ point?  Exactly how do you expect us to get back to Lancer?  Johnny and Scott are long gone.  And our wagon is long gone!  Thanks to that . . . that  . . . bumbershoot of yours!”

“Hrmmph,” said Aunt Theodora.

“You can do whatever you want, but I figure the best thing to do is to start walking right now.  Maybe those dumb horses’ll tire out and I can catch up somehow.”  And Jelly started walking.

Aunt Theodora watched him as he walked out of town, wondering why on earth Scotty would hire such an incompetent driver who wasn’t even able to control the only horses he was expected to manage.  “Apparently I will have to fend for myself,” she said.

Aunt Theodora walked to the livery stable and addressed the livery worker.  “Do you sell horses here?  I need to ride back to Lancer.”

“Sure do, ma’am, but if it’s just a ride you want, why don’t you see Fletch who can . . . “

Memories of her sudden arrival on the front porch upside-down in the wagon mis-handled by Fletch and his insane horse came back vividly.

“No, thank you,” said Aunt Theodora.  “I’ve learned to ride today and will do just fine mounted on a horse by myself.  I would also like to buy a saddle and whatever rigging I shall need for this trip.  Now – as to the horse – I would like a nice polo pony.”

.

The End

August, 2022

.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email goldieasj directly.

12 thoughts on “Aunt Theodora’s Diplomacy by goldieasj

  1. I loved this sequel. Aunt Theordora is a cool character. Prim and proper on the outside but a bit of a vamp underneath. As always your stories are always so visual I could vividly picture every hilarious situation. Hope to see more of her exploits.

    Like

  2. Gotta love Aunt Theodora! Ha, I wholeheartedly agree with Char on that warning! This series is hilarious and I am wanting more! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful character!

    Like

  3. Oh my goodness, this one had me laughing out loud. I, too, agree with Charlene. We definitely need a spew warning. Lol!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: