The dance tunes mentioned in the story can be heard on 'Fandango at Sonoma' by Los Californios - The Alta California Orchestra. I had the good fortune to attend an Old California recreation dance in San Juan Bautista where they played (and yes, I wore hoop skirts!) a few years back. It's an excellent CD.
Series notes and a link to a Queen of Swords synopsis can be found here.
Characters: Dr. Robert Helm, Colonel Montoya, Captain Grisham, Tessa Alvarado, Marta, OFC
Summary: Dr. Helm and Tessa find someone quite unexpected on his doorstep, and Colonel Montoya plots to use her to his advantage.
To Follow the West Wind - Part One: Santa Elena Welcomes You
Santa Elena Welcomes You
“I assure you, Senorita Alvarado, that is a scientific impossibility.”
“Truly, Dr. Helm? I must say I am relieved! I can always count on you to make sense of all these confusing matters.”
“I’m always happy to be of service, Senorita,” he replied, laughter colouring his voice.
“I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you, Doctor!” she said, slightly breathless.
“Oh, I’m sure you would do quite well.”
The two walked side by side down the dusty street towards Dr. Robert Helm’s surgery in the small Alta California pueblo of Santa Elena. The doctor, a transplant from England, was tall and lean, his hazel green eyes framed by long dark lashes and the crinkle of fine laugh lines. His companion, Dona Maria Teresa Alvarado, ‘Tessa’ to her familiars, was tall for a woman, with the lines of a young doe, and eyes just as brown. Her long dark chestnut hair hung loose down her back, kept away from her face with fine Spanish combs.
It was March, and the mid-morning sun had yet to take the bite from the early spring chill that seeped up from the coast. Tessa pulled her heavy shawl a little tighter across her chest, glancing up at the doctor with a look that belied far more intelligence than her companion would have given her credit for.
“You’re far too modest, Doctor,” she remonstrated gently.
Helm laughed outright. “I’m sure I am not, Senorita!”
“Very well! It’s far too beautiful a morning to argue, don’t you think?” Before he could respond, she asked, “You will be attending the fiesta tomorrow, won’t you?”
Glancing down at her, he replied, “I wouldn’t miss it.”
“Then I look forward to dancing with you at the fandango,” she said with more than a touch of satisfaction. Catching sight of something ahead, she tilted her head in curiosity. “You seem to have a visitor, Doctor Helm.”
“A visitor?” His eyes sought out his adobe, coming to rest on a figure in black, sitting on a trunk by his office door. He quickened his pace, the look of confusion on his face replaced by the shock of recognition as he drew closer. “Excuse me, Senorita,” he muttered absently as he practically ran the last few steps.
“Isabelle?” he asked almost to himself, then louder, “Isabelle?”
The figure in black looked up at the sound of his voice, a smile lighting her face. “Robbie?” She stood, looking as if she didn’t quite believe what she was seeing. “Robbie!” she shrieked, as Helm enveloped her in his arms, lifting her off her feet and swinging her around.
Forgotten in the joyous reunion, Tessa looked on, an expression of pain flitting across her eyes.
Gently, he set the woman on her feet, looking down into eyes that matched his. “My God, Isabelle, is it really you?”
The woman blinked back tears, taking a steadying breath. “It really is.”
Even dressed head to toe in black, she was a striking young woman. Shorter than Tessa, with a dancer’s build, her face was framed by softly waved russet hair, tucked up under a black lace trimmed bonnet.
Helm reached out, brushing her fair cheek with his fingertips, momentarily speechless.
“You are very popular, aren’t you Doctor?” Tessa interrupted the tableau , reminding him of her presence. “An old friend?”
Helm shook his head. ‘Yes, no, I mean…” Laughing, he took Isabelle’s hand, turning his attention to Tessa “Senorita Alvarado, may I introduce you to my sister, Isabelle Helm.”
“Sister?” Tessa replied a note of relief in her voice. Relief that Helm didn’t notice, but his sister did.
“And Isabelle, allow me to introduce Senorita Maria Teresa Alvarado.”
The two women nodded in acknowledgement. “A pleasure,” they murmured.
Helm seemed to still be lost in the unexpected arrival of his sister, so Tessa decided to step in. “It’s a cold morning, Doctor, and it would appear Senorita Helm has been outside for some time awaiting your arrival.”
“What? Oh, yes, you’re absolutely correct. Isabelle, how long have you been here?”
“A few hours. Captain Molera kindly brought me into town when it became obvious you hadn’t received the letter informing you of my arrival.” She looked at Tessa thankfully. “I am somewhat chilled and would welcome a cup of tea.”
“Of course! Senorita Alvarado, if you’d excuse us?”
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Senorita Helm,” Tessa said.
“Likewise,” Isabelle responded before her brother ushered her into his office.
“You’re going to love this, Colonel!” The man was practically crowing as he entered his commanding officer’s office.
“You’ll forgive me if I restrain my excitement till I actually know what you’re babbling about, Capitán Grisham,” was the acid reply.
The younger man didn’t seem at all put out by his superior’s response. If anything, his smile grew wider. “No, really!”
Colonel Luis Ramirez Montoya leaned back in his ornately carved chair, his piercing steel blue eyes raking his subordinate. “Very well. What precisely has you in such a state of excitement?”
Tall and compactly muscled, Marcus Grisham, formerly of the United States Army, now Captain of the Guard in the service of his Majesty the King of Spain, tossed an open log book down on the desk in front of his colonel. He slouched negligently, one hand on his hip as he waited for Montoya’s reaction.
“And this would be?”
“The passenger manifest from the Perla de la Noche. She made port early this morning.”
“I’m aware of that, Capitán! But what exactly is it that you believe is worth my notice?”
Luis Montoya was a slender though imposing man, with an aristocratic bearing. His dark shoulder length hair was swept back and tied in place with a leather cord. He had little patience for fools, and this morning, his Capitán was trying what little he had.
Grisham sighed in exasperation. Montoya was always such a killjoy. “Sir, look at the ‘H’s’,” he instructed.
Quirking a brow, Montoya glanced down, scanning the log. The look of impatience was soon replaced by one of anticipation. “Well now, isn’t this an interesting development?” He rubbed thumb and forefinger together, a thoughtful expression on his face.
“I thought so,” Grisham said smugly. “Who knew Helm had a wife? The dog!”
“Wife? No, no, much better than that, Grisham. Isabelle Helm is the good doctor’s young sister.”
“You don’t say?” Grisham dropped into the chair in front of Montoya’s desk, his long legs extended.
“I do indeed! Though, I admit, I am puzzled. She was supposed to have been married this summer past. Yet here she is, sans husband.”
“You seem to be remarkably well informed,” Grisham observed, his lips quirking in a lopsided grin.
Montoya turned his full attention to his subordinate, a self-satisfied look passing across his eyes. “The young lady has had occasion to write to her brother since his arrival last year in our humble pueblo.”
“I see.” Grisham smirked.
“I’m sure you do, Capitán.” Montoya smiled a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Fate seems to have been kind to us once more, Grisham,” he declared. “I’m sure Doctor Helm will be much more amenable now he has his sister to look out for, don’t you?”
“Oh, absolutely, Colonel.” The anticipation in his voice was palpable. “Absolutely.”
Notes and background here.
Part One ][ Part Two ][ Part Three ][ Part Four ][ Part Five ][ Part Six ][ Part Seven ][ Part Eight