NEW for 2012! A
GHOST AT STALLION'S GATE book 4, a new chapter in the life of Shannon Delaney.
Enjoy this excerpt of the entire chapter 1 and then scroll
below for full excerpts from all the other Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery
4, Shannon Delaney gets caught up in a web of deception, intrigue and a ghostly haunting as she delves into a cold-case
mystery from Hollywood’s glamorous decade of the 1920s:
Good grief, it was as if the sound was immediately
behind me. I turned and was shocked to see that what was making the odd noise was all too apparent and far too close for comfort.
And it was looking down at me.
I looked around for a place to run to. I dashed a few steps to the side and the room’s
atmosphere shifted, causing a rift in the ground. I tripped over my own two feet, crashing to my knees. The thing was hanging
over me. I dared to glance up, discovering that all the color in the room had faded away into a sepia world.
hold," it commanded.
A Ghost at Stallion’s Gate
Shannon Delaney Paranormal Mystery Series, Vol. 4
Stanley Coover’s home was his castle, literally. All three stories of
fourteen bedrooms, ten bathrooms, two grand halls, one reception room, a billiard room, a game room, dancing parlor, gentlemen’s
smoking room, ladies parlor, plus a kitchen and servants quarters at the very east end, adjacent to, but separated from the
horse stables. Add to this floor plan a solarium off the library and a covered patio off the back gallery that ran the full
120 feet of the back of the home. Yes, indeed, Stanley Coover built a Tudor styled mansion the likes of which I had not laid
eyes on since window shopping on the Internet, and coming across the Tudor estate of a billionaire technology guru. That estate
had recently sold for a sum beyond the imagination of ordinary people. I sighed out loud. The crunching sound of footsteps
on the gravel drive caused me to turn around. Zach was here.
"Hey Shannon." He gave
me a hug and then kissed my cheek. "This is some place, huh?"
We gazed up at the mansion,
lost in its grandeur.
"This place looks to be in fantastic condition. What is it you are
hired to do here?" I asked.
"It is in great shape, but not completely up to earthquake
code. I’ll be working on some internal retrofitting to bring it up to earthquake code. Luckily, I won’t need to
do anything to the exterior."
One look at the extensive plaster and halved timber exterior
told me why he was counting his blessings for not having to touch it. "How long will the retrofitting take?" I asked.
He studied the home and then looked down at some plans he had on his clipboard, he flipped through a few pages. "Should
be finished in three weeks, four at the most. And before the job is complete, the Pasadena Conservancy must have it inspected
and receive a final approval before they’ll pay me. It won’t be easy, but the retrofitting that needs to be done
is straightforward. And, I’m not working on the stables, at least not for now."
that because they’re no longer in use?" I asked
"Yeah, and until the powers that
be at the Pasadena Conservancy decide what they want to do with the stables, there’s no need to renovate them."
"I guess that’s why I was told not to mention the stables in the publicity brochure.
According to what I’ve learned, the Pasadena Conservancy plans to advertise and promote this mansion as a rental location
for the film industry to use as a set for movies and television."
"Yeah, it would make
a great set for a mystery or horror film, considering its history, a Hollywood movie company could save money by using the
ghosts that haunt this place." He laughed, but I was not amused.
"What do you mean?
Is this mansion haunted?" I asked.
"It’s just rumors, Shannon. All towns have
their fair share of mythical haunted buildings, this just happens to be one of those places in Pasadena. And the location,
up here in the hills of the Arroyo Seco, adds to the lore. C’mon, I’ve got the keys and carte blanche to the place.
Let’s go in and take a look."
We stood in the middle of the first of the grand halls.
The stone fireplace was large enough for three men to stand in it. "Brrr, even with the summer heat outside, it’s
chilly in here. I guess the chill was a benefit to surviving the summers in Southern California?" I asked.
"Sure, especially when this place was built, back then in 1919 the only relief from summer heat was a few electric
fans here and there. Did you learn much about the original owner?"
"Do you want a full
summary, or a thumbnail version?" I asked.
"Your choice as long as you can walk and
talk, I’d like to be out of here and on our way to dinner in an hour."
I’ll talk and you lead," I said.
In little less than one hour we finished our walking
survey of the interior and were at the back gallery, toward the west side. "And so, after Mr. Stanley Coover made a fortune
in the railroad industry, he came west from Montana and built this mansion as a winter home. Building commenced in February
of 1919 and was finished in September of 1921. The sad thing is that Coover stayed here only one winter. On his return trip
to Montana in the spring of 1922 he died in a railroad crash. Two trains were mistakenly scheduled for the same track and
they collided head on at a blind curve, near the mountains of Coover’s home in Helena."
shook his head quietly, then looked at me with sad eyes. "Imagine being killed by what you built, what you made your
money on, what you spent your life doing? It’s sad, yeah, but it’s creepy, too."
yes, I see your point, but accidents happen and I’m not unsympathetic, it’s, well, it was fate, I guess."
I could see past him and noticed another room, just beyond him was an exterior door. "What about that door a few feet
behind you? Is that a room, too?"
He turned to look at the door and then referred to his
clipboard notes. "Ah, let’s see." He flipped through the pages to the last one. "Bingo! Says here, that
is an exterior room, an addition that was added by Stanley Coover’s nephew, Reggie Coover. The room was built in 1923
to house Reggie Coover’s collection."
"Yeah, I remember something about him from
my research," I paused to collect my memory. "Seems to me that Reggie Coover inherited this place, he’s the
one who gave it the name of Stallion’s Gate. Stanley Coover was a bachelor, his one and only nephew, Reggie, inherited
all of Stanley’s railroad wealth, including this home and the family estate in Helena. I’ve not done too much
research on Reggie Coover, though I know he had a passion for horse breeding and horse racing and he lived here for about
five years, sold the place before the Great Depression in October of 1929. I suppose that room held his racing trophies, and
photos of his horses, maybe a bronze or two." I looked at Zach and an odd, indescribable look passed between us, then
he got a mischievous look and smile on his face. His eyes sparkled.
"A mystery, maybe?"
Then without waiting for my reply, he turned to look at the locked door.
"Unless you have
a key to that room, we shouldn’t go exploring it," I warned.
He held up two keys. "Just
so happens, I do have another key, and I bet this is the one for that room." No sooner said than done. He took three
quick steps over to the room and unlocked the door. He held it wide open. "After you."
stepped just inside the entrance. The room was dark and even colder than the grand hall. I reached out and grabbed Zach’s
hand. "It’s as black as night in an unlit cavernous closet. Where’s the light switch?" I asked.
"I found it, it’s right inside, here." I heard the click of the switch.
stark brilliance of the expansive ceiling crowded with dozens of dazzling chandelier lamps hurt my eyes. I squinted and then
ever so slowly opened my eyes in an attempt to adjust to the brightness. Instantaneously, I wished I had never caught a glimpse
of the room’s contents.
Icy goose bumps sprinted up my back. "It’s horrible!"
I gasped and then choked on the acrid air. Zach held on to me as I caught my breath. I looked at him and nodded okay. Only
then did we dare turn to face the hideous display.
Dozens of dead eyes stared back at us.
Continue scrolling to read more excerpts from other Shannon Delaney novels.
A Ghost of a Chance book 1
Excerpt: A Ghost From the Shadows book 2
C: Excerpt: A Ghost Meets an Angel book 3
|A Ghost Meets an Angel, read excerpt below.
|Pic by Jolene, Innkeeper, Quite the Stir, Gettysburg, PA. See FAQS & FAVORITES on menu
A: Excerpt from book 1: A Ghost of a Chance
Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery series by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
all rights reserved.
sure this is the correct address?" I questioned, not believing what I was seeing with my own two eyes.
"You asked for 571 Yorba Lugo Road. Blackthorne House, right?"
The driver replied.
"Yes, that's it." I
paid the fare and stepped out of the taxi to face my new home.
House wasn't a house, per se. It was a mansion done up in the high-Victorian hues of rose, brown and green. I stared up in
wonder at the home's intricate gingerbread trim and counted seven gables, four recessed porches, three balconies and one turret.
That command scrambled my thoughts. I turned my attention toward the voice to find the
familiar figure of Sister Rosario Santiago waving to me from the mansion's front porch. Not one to disregard sage advice,
I made haste up the front steps and into the inviting warmth of the front parlor.
"Neither this house nor the cold weather is what I expected to find in San Diego," I remarked
as I dropped my luggage and shrugged off my coat.
think the chilly wind followed you in from Chicago," Sister Rosario teased.
"Even for February
this is unusually cold weather for us. As for Blackthorne House, it is atypical of San Diego architecture. However, it is
exemplary of a classic painted lady Victorian house. I'm sure you'll be comfortable here while working on our project."
"House? You mean mansion, don't you?" I teased back. "Does
this place come complete with a hidden stairwell and things that go bump in the night?" I was on a roll; "There
must be some aura of mystery to this mansion."
now," Rosario deflected my query, "enough of this nonsense. Shannon Delaney, you haven't changed a bit since you
were a little girl. Always looking for a good scare. And such an imagination you have, why, it's no wonder you've become a
I couldn't help noticing that
Sister Rosario hadn't lost her talent for turning a chide into a compliment.
"Okay, you've called my bluff. But..." I paused. "There must be some history to this
house, it's just too old not to have a fascinating bit of mystery. And, knowing you, I bet you've looked in all the nooks
and crannies only to discover a back-door story about Blackthorne's mansion."
"Later, Shannon. I promise you can pick my brains over lunch. Which, by the way, is just about
ready. Now, go on up to your room and unpack. It's on the second floor, first room on the right as you enter the corridor.
We'll chat over lunch."
my eyes to heaven, made a funny face at my favorite nun and trudged up the stairs thinking--Foiled, again, by the good
sister's quick draw!
laid out on a small table at a windowed alcove in the front parlor. I welcomed a cup of Sister Rosario's Mexican coffee--brewed
strong with a touch of cinnamon, every bit as delicious as I remembered it. The coffee revived my jet lag and my appetite.
Sister Rosario said a few words of grace and then I dove into the salad and soup. We ate in silence until I looked up and
out the window.
"It's amazing how very different
the outside seems from in here. It's so bright. The only hint of winter weather is in the wind. What a contrast to Chicago!
I've always associated cold temperatures with an overcast sky."
"It's the Santa Ana winds," Rosario offered. "In winter they bring freezing temperatures and
a crystal clear sky. It's peculiar, though, for the Santa Anas to howl this far south. Usually, it's the inland area and coastal
region north of here that gets the brunt of them. More coffee? More soup? Maybe a few more bites of salad?"
"Yes to the coffee, no thanks to seconds of the chowder and salad.
As always with your cooking, everything was scrumptious. I suppose your strategy is to keep me chewing so I won't pester you
about this mansion? But I've had enough, so please ... tell me everything you know about Blackthorne House. How did it come
under the auspices of the local diocese?"
story," Rosario answered. "I'll attempt a Readers' Digest version."
"I'm all ears."
house was closed and boarded up for nearly two decades and prior to that various members of the Blackthorne family lived here.
Last year a relative of Blackthorne's designated the parish as trustee of the estate with the binding stipulation that the
property be put to use to benefit the local parish. After much consideration, it was decided to renovate the mansion and turn
it into a bed-and-breakfast inn. I was put in charge of the entire project."
"I see ... and that's where I come in?"
"Certainly is, what with your writing credentials and passion for history, I was adamant about
hiring you to chronicle the project and design the advertising campaign."
"Rosario, I'm thrilled to be the bard of choice for the Blackthorne House project, but do you
mean to say--you didn't have in mind I needed some place to stay after my home caught fire and burned to the ground?"
"Now, Shannon, I always keep my word and I promised your parents
I would look out for you, to the best that a nun can, that is. The fact that you were living out of a suitcase when this project
came up is pure coincidence and a great amount of faith. God works in mysterious ways, therefore it's not for me to question
the circumstances that made an award-winning writer available for this project."
"Amen to that. I'm thankful for this job and a place to live. Never in my wildest dreams could
I have imagined residing in such a grand dame of a Victorian. But, I'm letting you get off track, let's see ... you were about
to reveal the history of this place and its mysterious owner?"
Sister Rosario sighed and took a deep breath. She met my gaze with the look of a confidant. "Near as
we can discern, this mansion was built in the late 1880's, the same era as the great real estate boom in San Diego. That was
a period of Old West grandeur. Wyatt Earp lived here, so did a dog named Bum. Who, for lack of a better description,
was San Diego's canine mayor. Anyway, the boom attracted people from all walks of life. Americans, Europeans, Asians and the
founding California Hispanics mingled and created their own unique society based on Hispanic and American culture. The original
owner, Eric Blackthorne, fit superbly into the social scene of the time. He was quite a charmer, and wealthy to boot."
"So, he made a killing on the high tide of real estate investments
... Is that how he managed to build this mansion?
not at all. Blackthorne the Magician, that's what he was," Rosario said with a mischievous smile. "Stories
abound about his antics and affairs. Parties 'til dawn with elaborate entertainment, including tables of faro and poker. He
even hosted seances for the traveling circuit of clairvoyants. And then there were the scandalous relationships with San Diego's
most prominent women. Quite a lady's man he was. Of course, there was a respectable side to the man as well. Blackthorne sponsored
numerous charitable organizations and events."
like he was a regular rogue," I surmised. "Is he buried near here?"
"Shannon! Leave it to you to sniff out the mystery in a man. Not a living soul knows where he
is buried, let alone when he died. Blackthorne, the magician that he was, seems to have just vanished from the living."
"Really? No trace of his demise? I suppose his disappearance happened
during one of his magical performances?"
voice fell to a hush as she leaned forward. "It seems that Eric Blackthorne got involved with the wrong woman. He fell
in love with Olivia Pico, the beautiful wife of one of San Diego's most prominent citizens: merchant-shipping magnate Captain
"Besides having a residence in
town the Picos owned a ranch about an hour's drive from here in San Diego's back country near present-day Julian. Olivia spent
most of her time in town so she could be close to her husband when he came into port. Often he docked just long enough to
unload and restock cargo, and then off he sailed. During the winter months the couple would return to their ranch.
"Anyway, at the beginning of 1888, Olivia met Blackthorne through
a mutual friend. They socialized in the same circles; so, it was only a matter of time before their paths crossed. Olivia
was active in many community organizations and shortly after she became acquainted with Blackthorne the two were in the constant
company of each other. Oh, sure, they came and went separately to events and such, but that was just a ruse to fool the prying
eyes of the city's gossip mongers."
did their ruse work?" I asked.
not. Social circles being what they were, the news about the passionate pair circulated quickly and Captain Pico caught wind
of it. Imagine--the captain making dock after weeks at sea and then discovering his wife is in love with another man!"
"Rosario, did he actually catch them together?"
"Oh, dear, that he did and in the worst possible way. It was the
first week of October and due to unpredictable weather, in this case, it was exceptionally fine, Captain Pico's ship came
into port five days earlier than expected. Late one Sunday afternoon--in this very parlor--he saw them together. Blackthorne
had hosted a benefit luncheon for the newly formed San Diego Opera Society, of which Olivia was a founding member and recording
secretary. After the gathering had left, Olivia stayed to tidy up her notes. Of course by this time in the afternoon she and
Blackthorne were alone in the house.
Captain Pico thought nothing of Olivia devoting so much of her time to social causes. He knew about his wife's dedication
to the community and she served on many committees. The poor man suspected nothing. So it must have been a terrible shock
when he stepped up to the porch and through the view of the front window he saw Olivia and Blackthorne clutched in a passionate
embrace. Captain Pico stormed through the front door swearing and damming Blackthorne. He grabbed Olivia and practically dragged
her all the way to their home two blocks from here!"
Rosario, the entire event seems tame compared to the awful news headlines we read today. Though, I guess in the Victorian
era the incident would have deeply humiliated everyone involved. How did all this figure into Blackthorne's disappearance?
The magician didn't turn tail and run, did he?"
In fact, Blackthorne vowed eternal love for Olivia. Of course, her husband made threats against him. Strange thing is that
everything calmed down shortly afterwards. As husband and wife, the Picos returned unseasonably early to their ranch. Captain
Pico didn't go out to sea until the following spring, and even then, he hired a second captain to split sea duty with."
"And Blackthorne?" I asked.
"He vanished without a trace. According to the old newspapers I read, not a
soul ever reported seeing him after the incident. Also, he left a few remarks in his journal ... and then, nothing."
"Rosario! You have Blackthorne's journal?"
"Yes, of course, that's how I know what happened. Furthermore,
his journal prompted me to do follow-up research in newspapers of the 1880's. Blackthorne was a meticulous writer, and quite
a romantic word smith, too. I came across his journal while gathering together his personal items to ship off to his relatives.
What precious little there is of his, I packed into that old steamer chest," Rosario pointed to the opposite corner from
where we sat. "It's due to be picked up tomorrow by a courier sent from the family."
I hadn't noticed the chest before. I couldn't resist the temptation to examine it.
I crossed the parlor and knelt down in front of the chest. "Rosario, what a fascinating piece this is. Do you think it's
part of Blackthorne's original estate?"
certainly it is. His relatives described it perfectly. That chest is some sort of family heirloom. And they are adamant that
the chest is returned. It's quite a conversation piece."
bet it is." Nearly three feet high, wider than my arm span and at least two feet deep, the intricately carved wood chest
was magnificently preserved. "Do you have any idea what all these carved symbols mean? They appear to represent a hodgepodge
of different cultures."
"You know, Shannon,
I was wondering that myself. I recognize some of the Asian Zodiac signs and Egyptian hieroglyphics ... and I think some of
the other symbols might be Celtic. Honestly, though, your guess is as good as mine. Take a peek inside if you like."
"Wow! I'd love to. But it'll have to wait until I get
all my stuff unpacked."
"Do remember to
put the contents back in order before morning. And Shannon, what ever you do, don't try to move that darn thing, it weighs
a ton. It's time for me to go. I must get back to the parish office and follow up on some details of this project. Oh, another
thing I should caution you about, cell phones don't seem to work inside this house. If you stand outside, near the curb, the
cell reception is fine. So, in case you need me, I left my number on the foyer table, there's a landline phone there. I'll
return bright and early in the morning."
I helped Rosario into her overcoat and then we stepped out onto the front porch. I gave her a big hug. My favorite
nun walked down the steps, turned around at the curb, blew a kiss and got in her car. Sister Rosario, what a dear you
***end of excerpt***
B: Excerpt from book 2:
A Ghost From the Shadows
Delaney paranormal mystery series by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
CHAPTER ONE:The taxi pulled up to 2892 Sunrise Drive. I got out, paid the
fare and turned to face what would be my temporary home for the next few weeks. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the bungalow
with its wide porch and heavy broad beam supported by massive square columns at both ends I was in awe of its size. Somehow,
the word bungalow had brought to mind a cottage size home and what I was looking at was a manor house.
I gazed at expansive front steps flanked by river stone buttresses and
immediately fell in love with the MacArdle Bungalow. My eyes pored over the craftsman exterior of dark teal green wood siding
and golden tan trim. Leaded windows divided into small triangular panes lent an unexpected European flare. The second story
was every bit as impressive as the first, practically a piggyback mirror image of the ground floor, except for the steeply
pitched roof. The builders weren’t stingy with the windows on the second floor; they were as plentiful and as beautiful
as the main story. At the very top of the red tile roof my eyes latched onto a glint of sparkling metal. Could it be?
I stepped back about four feet to the curb to get a better look. Yes, indeed, it was a weather vane, slowly rotating
in the island breeze. I laughed to myself. Zach told me the MacArdle family is of Scottish ancestry. But really—the
last thing I expected on Santa Catalina Island was to find a house with a weather vane that was unmistakably a whimsical interpretation
of the beloved water horse, none other than Nessie the mythological Loch Ness Monster. Unable to contain my amusement, I giggled
"Good to hear you laugh, again."That voice shattered my enchantment! "What
are you doing here?" I demanded. I held my head high and stepped up on to the front porch. I stopped within
arm’s reach and stood perfectly composed, arms at my side. I glared at Alex Blackthorne.
"I’m surprised you didn’t see me, it’s not as
if I was hiding from you. Shannon, I was standing right here the whole time. I saw you exit the cab and stand in awe examining
the home. It’s a great bungalow, I guess you just didn’t notice me," Alex said with an awkward smile.
I wasn’t deterred, "You have not answered my question?"
I did not smile. Alex stepped back a little. I could tell I had caught him off guard.
"Uh, the owner, Shelly MacArdle, well actually she is Mrs. Tabor, but for this house, she uses
her maiden name. Anyway, she asked that I stop by and take a look at the layout, ah, inside that is. She wants my opinion
about how to set up the place for the dinner theater she and her husband Roy are turning it into," Alex explained.
He gave me such a sincere look, I was almost taken in. He stepped in
front of me and pushed open the front door and then stepped back and gestured for me to enter first. "Shall we?"
I stepped over the threshold and instantly forgot about Alex, thankfully!
The front door opened directly into the living room: a massive room that took up the entire width of the front of the house.
I guessed it to be about twenty-four feet wide by sixteen feet deep. The ceiling was ample too, at least ten feet high. Light
shimmered in from eight large sash windows, two from the front on each side of the door and three along each side. I stood
in the center of the living room and studied the pencil-sketched floor plan that the owner had mailed to me. Across the expanse
of the living room and directly facing the front door, a double doorway wide cased opening led into a dining room on the left
and a hall on the right that divided the house down the center. I started my tour with the dining room. I guessed the dining
room to be a little more than half the square footage of the living room. Through a pocket door at the back left corner of
the dining room was a large country style kitchen that would be easy to convert for commercial food preparation. On the other
side of the kitchen was an open doorway that emptied into a short hallway that made a right angle and met up with the front
hall. From each end of the hall there was access to the stairs up to the second story.
My notes indicated there’s a full bathroom, four bedrooms, and a small nursery
up there. I gave a cursory look up the broad wooden staircase and then continued on the main floor following the hall to the
other rooms. A large bathroom, a den and a small room, what would have been a sewing room in the era the bungalow was built,
comprised the rest of the main floor. Returning to the center of the living room I turned around and looked at Alex, who had
quietly followed me as I explored the MacArdle Bungalow.
what do you know about this house?"
at me with a sense of relief; evidently the anger had left my voice. "Shelly inherited the place from her grandfather,
it was his father who built it, I think that was about 1924. The MacArdles are members of a Scottish clan that migrated to
America in or about 1900. Angus MacArdle, the builder of this house, made his money in theatre promotions, vaudeville and
that kind of thing. His son Graham, Shelly’s grandfather, was the first MacArdle born in America. Very proud the family
is of that fact, anyway he, meaning Angus, not Graham, came west to vacation here in Avalon and enjoyed it so much that he
built this summer home. Most of the time Angus MacArdle and his family stayed in New York."
I nodded, "Thanks. I know that Zach has the entire history, but it’s
good to get some preliminary information about whom I’ll be working for."
Alex smiled. "Any time that I can be of help, just call," he fidgeted a bit. I stood there
and let him. "Guess I’ll be on my way, for now. How about you?"
I peeked at my wristwatch and nonchalantly replied, "Oh, Zach should be here any minute. Don’t
let me keep you." I stepped over to the door and opened it for Alex.
Was I surprised!
here you tall dark and handsome fellow," I said with great fondness as I knelt down to give my favorite Irish Wolfhound
a big hug. "Atlas, I’ve missed you so very much," I cooed.
"Atlas missed you, too," Alex interjected. "When you arrived, he was sleeping under
that bougainvillea tree over in the side yard. Ever since we got back from Hawaii, he’s been lethargic."I looked up at Alex. "It was seasickness that had him down. Remember
Alex? I l know, I was there. Having a dog on a yacht rolling about on the open sea is not a good idea," I couldn’t
help reminding him that I was right on this issue and I wasn’t budging.
"Yeah, I admit you were right." Alex stepped around us, out the front and onto the porch.
When he reached the bottom of the steps, he turned and whistled for Atlas.
Atlas ignored the whistle and gave me a big sloppy kiss on my nose. Alex whistled a second time and
Atlas obeyed. Wagging his tail he turned and followed the voice of his master. I closed the door and went upstairs to settle
into my guest bedroom.
***end of excerpt***
3. Excerpt: A Ghost Meets
and Angel, Book 3,
Shannon Delaney Paranormal Mystery Series
all rights reserved.
Gazing up and down the
main street of Julian was like taking a look back in time. If ever there was an Old West town alive and thriving in this modern
world, Julian is it. I walked over to my target and stood in front of the Spotted Coyote. The sign up on the tall
false front declared that this was "the right spot for Grub, Spirits and Conjuring!" Stepping up onto the oak plank
front porch, I peeked in the window to the right of the door and spied a man arranging something behind the long mahogany
and brass-appointed bar. Fifteen unoccupied bar stools opposed the bar. Should I tap on the window to get his attention?
"You must be Miss Delaney?"
I jumped and spun around.
now, I didn’t mean to rattle you." The tall, blonde and blue-eyed cowboy tipped his hat to me.
"You didn’t," I stammered, all the while summarizing in my mind that
when Rosario had described Gavin Longstreet as being the reincarnation of how the actor Robert Redford looked as the Sundance
Kid. . . she was on target. I offered my hand, "Mr. Longstreet, I presume?"
"Hmm. . ." He took a long look at me, "I guess I can’t fault Sister Rosario Santiago for sizing
me up, for your sake, anyway." He shook my hand and released it. "Let’s mosey on in." Longstreet stepped
forward and unlocked one of the heavy oak doors to the Spotted Coyote. "After you, miss."
"This venue is much larger than I imagined!" Longstreet said nothing. I looked around
at the spacious interior. "This must be much larger than Old West saloons really were?"
"I’d say so," Longstreet smiled. "Let’s have a seat over here and we’ll
get started." He walked a few paces over to one of twelve round oak tables and pulled out a ladder- backed chair. I took
the hint. He remained standing. "Miss Delaney, would you care for some refreshments?"
"Coffee, with milk, no sugar."
nodded acknowledgment and walked away. I heard him say something to the man behind the bar and then he returned and took a
seat across the table from me. Taking off his hat, he placed it on the chair to his right.
"I’m not related to him," Longstreet announced.
"To whom?" I asked.
Redford, the actor who played the Sundance Kid."
I smiled, "Well,
you have to admit, you do have an uncanny resemblance. And to be honest, I had to rent the movie to know who Rosario was referring
"So, you’re not an Old West fan?"
"That’s not fair," I defended my ignorance. "I’m just not
familiar with the really old western movies. Shouldn’t my coffee be ready?"
He laughed and made a motion to the barkeeper, who made haste to bring my coffee over. "Oscar,
meet Shannon Delaney, our publicity writer and newest member of the Spotted Coyote family."
Oscar set the coffee in front of me, "Much obliged to make your acquaintance miss. I’m
Oscar Altenwald. If you need anything, see me first."
you," I smiled at Oscar, then opened up my notebook and took out my pen. I sipped my coffee, "Excellent coffee."
I gave Longstreet a no-nonsense direct stare. If he wanted to be cheeky about this meeting, then I could be all business.
"Alex said you would be all business like." Longstreet met my look with a
"Oh, and what else did Alexander Blackthorne have to say?"
"He said you’re the best and that I shouldn’t mess with you. So let’s
get down to business. First off, call me Gavin, we use first names around here, if that’s okay with you?"
"Sure, fine by me, call me Shannon." I sipped more coffee.
Aside from Oscar, and myself we have Vera Sheridan, she’s our biscuit shooter.
. . that’s Old West lingo. In other words, Vera is the head chef and she oversees the kitchen. Then there’s Ralph
Gonsalez, he’s the stage manager, and our regular wait staff is cowboys Jack, Sam and Pedro. Also on the wait staff
is senoritas Rosalie, Valerie and Maggie.
I jotted down the names
and looked up at Gavin. "Are these their real names?"
He folded his hands and kept them on the table. Vera’s still in the process of hiring kitchen help, she’ll be
in later today if you want that info. And Ralph has a couple of his nephews who help out with the stage equipment and operations,
he’ll have that info if you need it."
"More to the
point, Gavin, do you want everyone named in your publicity brochure? And what about the performers?"
"Hmm, good point. No, to your first question. ‘Bout the performers,"
Gavin’s attention strayed over toward the stage, he seemed to be surveying the stage with his eyes. Turning his attention
back to me, he said, "For now, we’ll leave that part alone. Other than myself as the Cowboy Conjurer, I’m
still making up my mind about the performers."
"Well, we’ll have magic entertainment,
I do sleight-of-hand, but I wanted some variation, but keep it true to the Old West theme. I was thinking of a mime act, a
juggler, that sort of thing. Some acts are showing up a little later, stick around and you’ll catch them auditioning
on the stage."
"That sounds like fun!" the bright
tone in my voice surprised me. "So. . . you don’t have this all worked out?"
"Gavin unlocked his hands, "No, not quite. But it will get there, that I am sure of."
Some clacking noise sounded from the kitchen, we both turned in that direction. "Must be Vera, she would’ve come
in the back way." Gavin stood up. "This would be a good time to show you around the place."
I spent the next thirty minutes following Gavin around the Spotted Coyote. I met Vera
and was totally charmed by her appearance and manner. I guessed her to be close to sixty, very tall, thin and agile. Her close-cropped
curly hair was a shade of flax blond that made it impossible to tell if she dyed it. Vera struck me as person who led a very
active life. I gathered by the way she spoke of her plans for the kitchen and menu that her retirement was not on the horizon
any time soon.
Next I met Ralph and several of his nephews. They
were so busy going back and forth with equipment for the stage that I had to settle for a nod in my direction. Ralph stopped
very briefly to tell Gavin that a few potential performers would be here within the hour. After a tour of the kitchen, its
storage area, the public bathrooms and the performers’ off-stage dressing room, Gavin led me out to the front to the
table we were at earlier. In the corner of my eye I could see a prospective performer had arrived early and was practicing
up on stage. I gave a quick look in that direction and discovered it was actually two mimes. And adult woman and a child,
or much shorter adult, both were done up in vintage pioneer costume and white-faced mime make-up. I was entranced by their
mimed version of the old parable about a princess and a pea.
knocked on the table with his fist. It startled me, how rude! Then I saw he was signaling to Oscar to bring more coffee. Oscar
poured refills. I looked over my notes.
"Gavin, I think I have
enough preliminary information to start brainstorming ideas for publicity. And as much as I would like to stay and watch the
performers try out, I should be on my way. I have one more question?"
"What’s the story behind the
name of the Spotted Coyote?"
"Emily," he answered
without an explanation.
I could only wonder who Emily is. I took
the last sip of my coffee, gathered my notebook and stuffed it into my tote bag. "This should be all I need, for now."
I stood up.
"I’ll see you out." Gavin stood up and
we walked outdoors. From the porch we said our good-byes. As I stepped off the porch, I caught an idea and turned around,
Gavin did to.
"Anything else?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "I think the mime team that’s up on stage right
now. . . well, they’re quite good, don’t you agree?"
gave me the oddest look.
I stepped closer to him, "I’m
sorry, I didn’t mean to try and influence you. But," I hesitated for a moment, "you seemed to want my opinion,
and well, they are quite good." I smiled, hoping he didn’t think I was trying to tell him how to run his business.
He squinted in the sun’s glare that ricocheted off the front windows. "Shannon,
what did you see that I didn’t?"
Now it was my turn to
look confused. "Gavin, how could you miss them. . . the two mimes up on stage? They were miming a variation of the old
parable about the princess and the pea?"
Without so much as
acknowledging me, Gavin turned on his heels and strode back inside. "Shannon!"
I dashed after him, and to be sure, the mimes were still on stage, repeating the routine. Gavin was
staring at the stage. I stepped in close to him and whispered, "Give them a chance, they are really good."
He looked at me and smiled, "I would Shannon, if they were actually there. That
stage is empty."
I stared at Gavin and then turned my eyes
to look at the stage. Gavin was correct, the stage was bare.
turned to me and queried, "This isn’t the first time you’ve seen ghosts, is it?"
***end of excerpt***