The dance at Schieffelin Hall was a glittering affair. Never in my life, outside of London or even Glasgow had I seen so much evening finery. The entire town seemed to be illuminated in a riot of light and colour. It was a fair change from the dusty heat of daily desert life.
As Wyatt and I stepped into the room, a number of eyes went to us. I wasn’t sure if it was because of me being seen in the company of the Deputy Marshal, who indeed cut a very handsome figure, or that somehow I had managed to dress inappropriately here in America. I had followed my instincts and worn a simple green and black gown and a simple black velvet cloak over it. Still, the ladies seemed congenial enough and most of the menfolk in attendance were on their best behaviour, even the ones that my Uncle Angus had warned me about before he went home. Of course, being as I was always so busy in the Hacienda Las Glorias, there were more than a few faces that I either did not recognize, or new faces that I had not been introduced to. Tombstone was such a bustling town now, booming with the lure of easy money won at the various silver strikes in the area.
Wyatt and I made our way through the sea of bodies, and he found us a table. Across the room I could see Wyat’s brothers, Virgil and Morgan and their wives, who were very beautiful. As Wyatt pulled out my chair and offered to take my cloak to the coat check and then fetch us some lemonade, I felt a little self-conscious. I was so very new here. But there was one face across the room that I recognized that I was not expecting to see this night that made me more than a little uncomfortable. And that was the face of Johnny Behan.
Wyatt and I took a couple of waltzes and by the time the second dance finished I noted that Johnny Behan was watching us hawkishly. Wyatt escorted me to the punch bowl. It was then and there that he made his approach. He smiled with what can only be called fake cheer.
“Why Miss McKay, what a pleasure to see you! I had not thought to be here myself as business has kept me out of town, but surely if I had I would have been competing with deputy Earp here for your company,” he said. “At least you might allow me to steal you away for one dance?” Then turning to Wyatt he said in a low voice, “ Wyatt, you don’t mind, do you?” Johnny gave Wyatt no time to refuse and as the music started up for the next dance I was unceremoniously led to the floor.
The dance was not turning out at all how I had thought it would. How much of a fool could one men…no….both men think that I am? Never mind. I should never ask such questions that I don’t want the answers to.
First to be herded like a bit of livestock so that I had to dance with Johnny Behan made me so angry that the back of my neck felt hot and I could feel my ears burn. Oh, to be certain he was ever the slick dandy and did his level best to be charming. I was none too pleased that he decided to show up, contrary to his initial plans of being out of town. His skill at dancing was well enough, but the conversation was not something that I wanted to hear.
“Imagine my surprise to see you here tonight, my dear” Johnny Behan skillfully moved us among the other dancers. I felt my eyes dart discreetly to where Wyatt was dancing with a lovely woman in a purple gown. Johnny noticed my gaze, “I see Marshall Earp is true to form tonight, “ Johnny tutted. “Really, Miss MacKay, you do know he keeps company with the seemier side of Tombstone.”
“I am here to have a good time, Mr. Behan, “ I replied cooly, pretending not to notice how close Wyatt was dancing with the woman, “And who Wyatt Earp dances with or keeps company with is none of my affair.”
“Oh, but my dear it is. You really should be careful lest your own reputation suffer,” Johnny jerked his head hautily at the lilac gowned woman as we passed she and Wyatt on the dancefloor, “ that woman he is dancing with has quite the reputation. She is not just any business owner like many of the respectable establishments here in town, but is in partnership with Wyatt Earp of a bordello. Do really you want to be seen with a man who outside of his office of Marshall is essentially a pimp who consorts with common whores? I thought you were of better stuff, Miss MacKay. Honestly, what would your Uncle….Angus, is it? Yes…what would Angus say about the association?”
I felt my cheeks go hot just as the music stopped and the dance ended. I withdrew my hand and my person from Johnny Behan’s embrace and stared hard at him. “ I suppose,” I said, “ that my Uncle would say that as long as I am not a hypocrite, you never know which angels ye might be entertaining unawares.”
Johnny Behan grabbed my wrist roughly, his fingers biting through the fabric of my evening gloves, he smiled but his eyes were hard and all business. “She’s no angel, Frances. And neither is Wyatt Earp. If you really want to get along here in Tombstone, then you’d best cast your lot with those who can truly help you and who have political pull. Better that than to get the reputation of hanging with the outsiders and the bootblacks that barely do more than grease the wheels to keep things in motion.”
If it had not been a public gathering and if there had not been holy sisters of the Church in attendance, I would have hauled off and slapped Johnny Behan. As it was, I drew myself up and turned slowly, going to the table where we had started off the evening. As I did so, I could see Wyatt making his way back to me.
Admittedly, I was harsh to him, insulting not only him but the woman he was with. I was so angry all I could do was to order him to return me to my hotel. Wordlessly he gathered my wrap and helped me into it. As we stepped into the cool Arizona night, still the feeling of airlessness did not leave, and I prayed that the Grand Hotel was not nearly so far away as it looked from this vantage point. I just wanted to get away from these people and get back to the business of running my ranch. If a woman wants something done then she must do it herself. In that moment I made up my mind that my evening would have been far better spent outside of the company of either Johnny Behan or Wyatt Earp.
Muse: Fanny Fae
Fandom: Original Character / Folklore / Mythology /History
Word Count: 1193