Characters: Dr. Robert Helm, Colonel Luis Montoya, Captain Marcus Grisham, Tessa Alvarado, Marta, OFC
Summary: Isabelle does her best to settle into her new life in California, while her brother Robert once more aids the Queen of Swords -- aid that inadvertently places Isabelle in a dangerous situation and puts her squarely in the sights of Colonel Montoya.
Notes: WIP, the second story in the ‘To Follow the West Wind’ series. The first was ‘Santa Elena Welcomes You’. Many thanks to em_kellesvig and ninjababe for their mad beta skilz!
At the Edge of Heaven ~ Part Three
“A word, if you please, Colonel.” Robert Helm strode up to Luis Montoya in the town square. Having just finished his rounds, he had been heading back home when he’d spied the Colonel. Still early in the spring, the sun was already beginning its trip down the western horizon, casting long shadows across his path.
“And how may I help you today, Doctor?” Montoya’s voice held that same half-mocking tone it often did.
“My sister,” he bit out.
“Ah yes, the lovely Dona Isabelle. It is quite hard to believe the two of you could actually be related.” He looked up at Helm with a sly look in his eyes. “She is charming; the epitome of delightful and engaging company.”
“Let her be,” he warned. “I want no more offers of horses or meetings alone in stables.” He was determined in this. If he accomplished but one thing, it would be to keep his sister far away from the malevolent interest of Colonel Montoya.
“Really, Doctor,” he said disapprovingly. “Do you care so little for your sister that you would deny her some small happiness? Anyone can see that she is touched by melancholy and in need of a distraction.”
“That is not your concern,” he replied stiffly. “She is doing her best to adjust to her life here, and you are not helping!”
Montoya’s eyes flashed. “It is indeed sad, Doctor, that you would let our past disagreements interfere with what would bring joy to Isabelle, whom you profess to have such concern for.”
“Past disagreements?” he replied in disbelief. “You tried to have me murdered!”
Waving a negligent hand, he replied, “And yet here you are. Really, Doctor, you must learn to let these things go. It is not good for your health to dwell on the past.”
Laughing with no humour at Montoya’s faux concern, he spat out, “She is my responsibility, and I will do what is best for her.”
“Indeed? I can only hope that is true. Could it be that that the presence of your sister will deter your propensity for adventures with beautiful bandits?” He tugged at his shirt cuff. “After all, what a shame it would be for Isabelle to find herself all alone in a foreign land due to your lack of judgment.” The threat in his words was obvious.
And reply Helm might have made was interrupted by the sound of raised voices and the crash of breaking crockery. Both men turned their attention towards the sound as two men came out through the doors of the hotel.
“Don Isandro, please!” Senor Ramirez, proprietor of Santa Elena’s one hotel, pleaded holding his hand against his cheekbone, blood seeping from between his fingers.
“No!” Don Isandro de la Cruz shouted, stumbling away.
Helm and Montoya made their way towards the two men. “What is the meaning of this?” Montoya demanded. Soldiers quickly made their way to their commander’s side, taking de la Cruz by the arms and shoulders, restraining him.
“It’s all right, Colonel,” Ramirez answered quickly. “Just a misunderstanding, that’s all.”
“A misunderstanding that appears to have left you bleeding,” Montoya observed as Helm pulled aside Ramirez’s hand to get a better look at his wound.
“Honestly, there is no problem, Colonel.” He hissed a little in pain as the doctor put a cloth against his cheek, pressing it firmly against the cut. “Don Isandro just had a little too much too drink.”
“Public drunkenness and brawling will not be tolerated,” Montoya replied firmly.
“Go ahead! Lock me up” Isandro snarled, struggling against his captors. “Why would I care?” He suddenly slumped, nearly unconscious in the soldiers’ grip.
Ramirez’s eyes darted around. “Let me deal with him. I’ll let him sleep it off in one of the rooms. He’ll be fine. Please, Colonel, Senor de la Cruz is having difficulty dealing with the death of his wife and son. He just needs time. I understand what he’s going through,” he finished sadly.
Helm took a butterfly plaster bandage from his medical bag. “Hold still please, Senor Ramirez.” Then he said to Montoya, “Surely you can let it go this once, Colonel? It’s only been a few months since Don Isandro lost his family. Surely some allowance can be made?”
Montoya sighed. “Very well.” He motioned to the guards. “Take Senor de la Cruz inside.”
“Thank you, Colonel!” Ramirez said gratefully.
Finishing with the man’s face, Helm said, “Come by my office tomorrow, senor, and let me take a look at it."
“My thanks, Doctor Helm.”
“Not a problem,” Helm assured him.
“Just make sure there are no more incidents, Senor Ramirez,” Montoya said sternly. “I will not have my town square become a brawling ground.”
“You have my word,” Ramirez assured him.
As the man headed back to the hotel, Montoya said, “I am glad we had this time together, Doctor, but now, if you’ll excuse me?”
“I will take care of my sister,” Helm reiterated before striding away.
A calculating look in his eyes, Montoya replied softly, “You can try, Doctor. You can try.”
It really was like taking candy from a baby, he thought with satisfaction as Robert Helm walked away. He only wondered what Isabelle’s reaction would be if her brother forbade her the offer of his horses. Montoya didn’t know the young senorita well enough to know if she would obey her brother or defy him. Though upon reflection, Helm probably wasn’t sure what his sister’s reaction would be either and would most likely err on the side of caution rather than find out. So much the better for his eventual plans, to be sure.
But those reflections were interrupted. “Colonel Montoya!” he heard the voice of Don Nazario Delgado say angrily from behind him. He closed his eyes, willing himself to patience. Nazario was one of his least favourite Dons and had a constant litany of complaints which he expressed whenever Montoya had the misfortune to encounter him. Fortunately, the man’s lands were far enough distant that he was only in Santa Elena infrequently compared to other of the Dons.
Stifling a sigh, Montoya turned, plastering an insincere smile on his face. “Why, Don Nazario, what a pleasant surprise.”
“It is an outrage!” he exclaimed, not bothering to engage in the usual social pleasantries.
“And that would be?”
“More foreigners settling here in the pueblo! Mark my words, Montoya, there will be nothing but trouble if this is allowed to continue!”
“I assume you are referring to our newest residents, the Carmichaels and the McAllisters?”
“Them; and all the others you have allowed to settle here!”
“May I remind you, Senor Delgado, that it is the express wish of his Majesty the King that settlement is to be encouraged here in Alta California, no matter the nationality of those settlers. I merely carry out those desires as his representative.”
Delgado looked as if he’d eaten something sour. “Spain is very far away, Colonel. You needn’t be so enthusiastic in your duty!”
“Indeed, Don Nazario, one can only hope you never require medical attention. That would be most unfortunate considering your principles, would it not?” As if the man would forgo medical aid even if it were at the hands of an Englishmen; the hypocrite.
Delgado ignored his jab. “When we’re subject to drunken brawls in the town square, there is a problem!”
He shook his head impatiently. “Considering the brawl was perpetrated by one of your fellow Dons, I can hardly see the connection.”
“That is not the point, Montoya!”
“Then what, pray tell, is?” Really, the man was most irritating and a constant thorn in his side.
“What did I miss?” Marcus Grisham, Captain of the Guard asked cheerfully, joining the two men. “A bar fight, and no one invited me.” He seemed totally oblivious to the daggers shooting from Don Nazario’s eyes.
“I rest my case, Colonel!” Delgado snapped, storming away.
“Was it something I said?” Grisham asked his commanding officer.
“Isn’t it always, Grisham? Isn’t it always?”
Helm sat down on the bench next to his sister in the garden courtyard of their home. “How did the lesson go?”
She looked up from the book she was reading. “It went well. Ana brought another girl, Amalia, with her, so it was a lively lesson.” Robert was pleased at the note of happiness in his sister’s voice. He hated to admit it, but Montoya had been right; his sister had been melancholy these last weeks.
He reached up, accepting the glass of Madera wine that his housekeeper brought him. “Gracias, Carmelita.”
“Will there be anything, else, Dona Isabelle?” the woman asked. It had not escaped Helm’s notice that the housekeeper now deferred to his sister in all matters regarding the running of his household.
”No, that will be all, Carmelita, thank you. My brother and I will be dining out this evening, so you may leave early if you wish; I’m sure your husband would appreciate it,” she finished with a smile.
“Gracias, senorita.” The woman bobbed a curtsey.
As the woman reentered the house, he asked, “We’re dining out?” He had finally noticed his sister had changed her dress and that her hair was pulled back in a more ornate style than it was usually.
She gave him a look. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten? You have! We’re dining at Senorita Alvarado’s tonight,” she reminded him with a note of exasperation. At the look on his face, she added before he could protest, “And yes, Robert, we are going. It would be unforgivably rude to cancel at this late hour!”
Robert did his best to look chastened. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, trying to hold back a grin.
“Honestly! Do go make yourself presentable, would you, Robert?” she scolded.
‘I am always presentable!” he protested.
Her raised eyebrows said it all. “Go!” She pointed at the door, the ghost of a smile on her lips. “Now!”
“I hear, and obey.” Draining his glass, he stood, bowing grandly. “I shall even clean behind my ears,” he declared.
“Something for which we shall be grateful for, I’m sure!” This time, she couldn’t hold back the laughter.