Stuck in a rut

Started by Calixto at Apr 19, 2020 5:11 AM
January 9, 1924
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38 Posts

Calixto

Barón y Tarazona
190
?Years Young
17 Posts

"There are even rumors that we are descended from Hatuey, an early Taíno chief of Cuba, but that, my dear lady, is an entirely ridiculous hypothesis."


1921 Buick Touring

It was a scene that summed up the early age of the automobile; only the details varied a little, each time it was played out. First there was the machine itself, usually polished and immaculate in appearance, but utterly broken down and devoid of motive force.

In our particular vignette, the vehicle in question was a beautiful dark green 1921 Buick Tourer. Like all true beauties, she had one small flaw – the wheel spokes were painted an intolerable yellow, a fact that continued to bother, even infuriate, the man who had hired her.

Then the was the location, the theater scenery if you will. Always somewhere far from a garage or a telephone, or any other source of help, of course. Our dramatis personae were situated on a dusty road some miles out of Miami, uncomfortably close to swamps replete with a plethora of dangerous reptilian life, some of it animal, and noble in its way, some of it human and unutterably degenerate.

Lastly, we see the two actors in the scene. One is always the chauffeur, finely uniformed, begloved and becapped, breeches flaring impressively, black double buttons as shiny as his jackboots adding a military air to his appearance. Our specimen is a Chinese, yet his master speaks to him, when he does speak to him, in Spanish: that language of millions, straddling the globe in a thousand different cities, heir of a fabulous and bloody history of conquest and repression.

But the speaker himself is affable. He sits on the running board of the car, dressed in a light summer suit, the inevitable straw boater pushed forward to shade his eyes as he reads from a small, calf-bound book.

Another vehicle approaches. The sitting figure continues reading without stirring one jot or iota, but a simple uttering of the chauffeur’s name brings the Chinese man forward, away from the open ‘bonnet’ of the Buick and into the road.

Ramon pulled of his chauffeur’s cap and stood in the road waving frantically at the driver of the approaching vehicle, while somehow still retaining an impassive look upon his oriental features.


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Alafair Corbin

Club Singer, ex-Nurse
46
?Years Young
15 Posts

Mondays were great days to just be alive. Except for the contractors that came in to clean the ship, including Club Lorelei, from bow to stern, the employees had the day off. It was one of two rotating days off, along with one weekend a month, which helped make up for the ungodly long hours they worked regularly. This particular Monday was downright beautiful. The weather was warm, and the sun was shining, but the humidity that normally made one feel like they were drowning in wet cotton was absent. 

On top of the beautiful day, Alafair Corbin had talked to the new girl, Gracie Stroud, into going shopping with her. When both had spent as much as they felt they could afford, they decided to drive out to the country, just to get away from the city and enjoy the day. Allie was clad in a pretty navy blue dress with a fashionable drop-waist. White ribbon ran from each shoulder to the waist to form a V, accentuating her tall, willow-slender form. She wore flat-heeled navy colored shoes and had a navy and white silk scarf tied over her hair to keep it from becoming a tangled mess because, of course, she had the top down on her firehouse red 1923 Duesenberg Roadster.

Gracie was having a good time. She had spent some of her tip money shopping, they had a nice lunch at a small diner, nothing fancy but the food had been good. And now she was just lounging in the passenger seat enjoying the weather and the nice breeze created as the car motored down the rural road. She hadn't been in a car since Johnnie had last taken her around. She missed him, she missed all the fun they had.

As they rounded a curve, Allie slowed the car down. There, several yards in front of them, a man stood in the road waving his arms. Alafair immediately felt a bit alarmed. They were far from the city and, she did not know about Gracie, but she had not told anyone of her day's plans.

"Gracie, in my purse, is a god-awful gaudy gold-plated snub-nose thirty-eight special. It was a gift," Allie added, although she felt sure Gracie did not care how she had come by the pistol.

"You want me to get it out for you?" Gracie looked surprised then took a second glance at the men and car parked off to the side of the road. She felt she had a bit of a feel who was dangerous and who was not given her own past.

"I think they look safe enough but if you want it?"


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Calixto

Barón y Tarazona
190
?Years Young
17 Posts

"There are even rumors that we are descended from Hatuey, an early Taíno chief of Cuba, but that, my dear lady, is an entirely ridiculous hypothesis."


At the approach of the red motor, Calixto, Barón y Tarazona, deigned to stand up, somewhat stiffly, it had to be said and, thrusting his half read book into a pocket, brushed down his jacket front. The Chinese, anticipating that the vehicle would stop, ran to his own immobile vehicle and grabbed a dark walnut walking stick, and a pair of fine kid gloves, and virtually thrust them into the other man’s hands.

The European looking man took the proffered items more with a look of resignation than pleasure. European? His hair, eyes and thick brows were black, almost void-like in their effect on this sunny day, but somehow his features seemed too pale to match them. It was a complexion that most native-born Floridians would associate with Spaniards of the old blood, the hidalgos of the upper reaches of Mexico and some parts of the States who were still encountered from time to time in these parts.

He stepped forward patiently, more like someone waiting for an omnibus than begging a lift, for that portion of the scene was appropriated by the chinaman, who scurried forward to almost bodily stand in front of the oncoming car with gauntleted hand raised high. If the red motor had sped past at this point, they would have made a comical pair, left high and dry like that.


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Alafair Corbin

Club Singer, ex-Nurse
46
?Years Young
15 Posts

Alafair shook her head slightly, "Let's err on the side of caution, Gracie. I'll slip it right back into my purse if Joe Brooks and his pal are as harmless as they look." She did not think they were in any danger from the two men, but she had seen harmless go to deadly in the blink of an eye. She did not want to simply assume they were in no danger.

"OK then," Gracie fished out the gun and whistled a little, "Damn, that's the gaudiest lookin' thing I ever did see. You shoot someone with that or just blind 'em?"

Having made her point, she handed it over to Alafair.

She took the revolver and slipped it just beneath her leg, making sure it was safely pointed away from anything vital and hidden by her skirt. Pulling her car over, she raised a hand to shield her eyes and leaned out of the window.

"Good afternoon. You boys look like you've gotten into a bit of trouble," Allie called out, "Need some help?"


Calixto

Barón y Tarazona
190
?Years Young
17 Posts

"There are even rumors that we are descended from Hatuey, an early Taíno chief of Cuba, but that, my dear lady, is an entirely ridiculous hypothesis."


The chauffeur straightened himself up and took a step toward the now stationary Duesenberg, only to be brought to a standstill by a terse order barked at him by his dapper master: “!” The Chinese man stiffened, rage boiling momentarily in his eyes, but he mastered himself and drew himself up to his full height before giving a bow of compliance. Only at that point did his master remove his glare from the silent figure and turn it onto the two charming, contrasting women seated in the bright red car. It was as if God, in his infinite wisdom and sense of balance had placed an innocent golden Angel and a Succubus of infernal dark beauty together in one place.

Juggling cane and gloves in order to raise his hat as he stepped forward to meet them, Calixto rather clumsily groped inside his vest pocket to retrieve his calling card, the better to introduce himself to his nubile rescuers. Perhaps he imagined the flicker of alarm this raised in the two women, but he involuntarily found himself slowing his movement down and drawing out the card gingerly, as if he thought it might bite him. Once out, it proved to be a magnificent example of the printer’s art, with Calixto's name and emoluments listed in prolix Spanish, and the whole overwhelmed by a magnificent coat of arms, reproduced in full color, the dominant shades being the tinctures of Or and Gules, redolent of Spain and more precisely of the old Kingdom of Aragon.

“Ladies, permit me to introduce myself” he began, holding out the card to the Succubus as he spoke in formal tones which, while not exactly accent-less, and clearly not American, were not particularly identifiable as Spanish or Spanish American in origin. “I am Baron Tarazona, and as you so rightly point out we have, or rather my chauffeur…” at this he shot a baleful glance at his manservant “… has landed us in rather ‘hot water’!” This man had a way of hesitating slightly before using anything that amounted to slang, as if somewhat reticent about sullying his tongue by using such loutish speech in polite conversation.

“It would be too forward of me to beg a ‘lift’ of you, Miss…? Er, but if you would be so kind as to forward a message to my financial agent in town, if you are heading in that direction, of course.” he intoned as his puppylike brown eyes flicked dolefully between the two women.


Alafair Corbin

Club Singer, ex-Nurse
46
?Years Young
15 Posts

Alafair took the card, noting that it was of heavy-weight, fine card stock and that the artistry on it was exceptional. She was not an expert on heraldry, but she did recognize what it indicated. Of course, the man's name was something of a dead giveaway as well. The baron's manner of speech and slight accent, while different, reminded her of Lucian. It was formal and distinctive due to the lack of use of contractions and a seeming unfamiliarity with slang. There was the trace of an accent, which was unlike Lucian's faint Filipino inflections. Despite her time in Europe during the war, she could not place it. The name could be Spanish or from any area that had a heavy Spanish influence.

She handed the card over to Gracie and turned her head to study the man a bit more. Allie recognized the cut of his clothing as being first-class. He was the sort that, if he graced Club Lorelei with his presence, would command one of the luxury staterooms aboard the ship. Allie spared a glance and smile for the Chinese man that waited for his employer a short distance away.

Gracie was intrigued by this man, to be honest she didn't give his driver a second glance, watching his approach and then taking the card Alafair passed on to her. Fancy! What exactly she was supposed to do with it was beyond her? So was he a Cuban or something? Gracie was not all that well educated but he was obviously a foreigner, Americans didn't have barons.

"Baron Tarazona," Alafair repeated the name, not bothering to alter her honey-flavored Southern drawl. "I am Alafair Corbin, and this is Grace Stroud. I am not familiar with your model of car, but I could take a look at it if you like." She would leave offering a ride for a bit, make sure they were really in trouble, and that this was not a set-up of some kind.

Gracie gave the man a friendly wave and big smile at the mention of her name, "Hello, hon."

She couldn't help her surprise then when Alafair volunteered to check out their car. Did this woman know anything about cars.... besides driving them of course?

 


Calixto

Barón y Tarazona
190
?Years Young
17 Posts

"There are even rumors that we are descended from Hatuey, an early Taíno chief of Cuba, but that, my dear lady, is an entirely ridiculous hypothesis."


Gracie gave the man a friendly wave and big smile at the mention of her name, "Hello, hon."

Calixto tipped his hat again, in the direction of the angelic, almost translucent blonde, with a formal but friendly “Miss Stroud.” But the darker woman continued:

“I am not familiar with your model of car, but I could take a look at it if you like."

“Model of car?” The Baron looked temporarily flummoxed, but then replied with a helpful “It is a green one, with rather ugly yellow wheels. But, er, yes, please…” he looked understandably surprised at the notion of this beautiful and glamorous woman offering to take spanner in hand and fix his motor, but it was a rather delighted surprise. He grinned with honest interest as he offered a gallant hand to this unlikely mechanic, in order to help her down from the driver’s perch of the Duesenberg. At the same time, the Chinese chauffeur sprang forward to open the driver-side door for the lady, as well he ought.

A slight quandary flickered across the Spaniard’s mind as he ‘handed the lady down’ – would a more charming scene be rendered if she managed to mend the ills of his engine, or would it be altogether more delightful if she failed miserably, after gamely attempting to set things right? Ah, the flip of a coin.

“Ah, such dainty hands” he could not help but exclaim “Clearly, Miss Corbin, you are not a lady-mechanic by profession!”

He was pretty certain that the woman was more likely to be a ‘Mrs’ than a ‘Miss’, but chose the latter form of salutation; laying the flattery on, as per usual, with a magnificently king-sized trowel.


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Alafair Corbin

Club Singer, ex-Nurse
46
?Years Young
15 Posts

Before allowing the man to help her out of the car, Alafair managed to slip her revolver back into her purse and tuck it beneath her seat. Although she had spent time in Europe during the war, she wasn't at all sure of how one addressed nobility. Did a baron qualify as "my lord"? Did it even matter in the United States of America? Was he really titled nobility, or was it an affectation for maximum effect?

Alafair smoothed the skirt of her dress down and smiled. Whatever or whoever he really was, the man was polite and more than a little attractive. If she could discern what was wrong with his car, she would. If not, she and Grace could give him and his servant a lift into Miami.

"My word! Aren't you the charmer?" Alafair said, smiling to show that she was in no way offended. She also noted, now that she was out of her car, that she was able to meet the mysterious Baron eye-to-eye, and he certainly had nice eyes! "No, I am not a full-time mechanic. My pop was, though, and he taught me quite a bit. The rest, I picked up during the war." She shrugged slightly and added, "It's likely I'll only be able to give you an idea of what's wrong. Make sure that a crooked mechanic doesn't take advantage of you later."


Calixto

Barón y Tarazona
190
?Years Young
17 Posts

"There are even rumors that we are descended from Hatuey, an early Taíno chief of Cuba, but that, my dear lady, is an entirely ridiculous hypothesis."


When the woman stepped down from the running-board of her motor, the Baron noted that she was about the same height as himself. He was not overly displeased by this, but as a man somewhat aware of his own dignity and honor, he could not actively enjoy being ‘towered over’ by a woman, for so the matching of their heights seemed to him in his Iberian pride and inbred hubris. He pulled himself together; after all, it would have been worse had she been a dwarf. Still, if they were ever to walk into a room together, he would have to make sure that she was not wearing high heels. Or that he was.

He graciously showed Alafair over to the front of his car, as if she couldn’t have found the thing herself from six feet away, while the Chinese chauffeur hovered around like a wasp interested in a pot of honey at a picnic.

“This is all too very kind, Miss Corbin” Calixto purred, rolling his rrrs ever so slightly “But you mentioned the war? Did you perhaps have to take care of your ‘Pop’s’ garage while he went to the fray?” he guessed out loud, a frown of interest furrowing his brow as asked. Somewhere inside the deeper core of his being, the statuesque woman’s forthright efficiently and no nonsense, practical approach to things made him imagine something quite different; why, he could almost smell the scent of carbolic and hear the rustle of stiff starched white aprons and … yes, even her very gait matched that of those silent goddesses of the wards. He kept his notions to himself, and looked on smilingly as the American woman began her examination of the patient.

"It is probably nothing. Ho is rather a dolt when it comes to engines" he cooed unhelpfully over her shoulder, apparently unconcerned that the stoic chauffeur was stood within hearing distance.


Grace (Gracie) Stroud

Waitress
292
?Years Young
107 Posts

The song is done. The melody lingers on. You and the song are gone. But the melody lingers on.


Gracie had to chuckle when the man answered make of car by describing it's colors, "You know as much about cars as I do, sir. Sorry, no offense."

One thing about this Alafair, she sure knew a lot of things. Singer and a good one, then mechanical expertise - an uncommon skill especially among women Gracie would bet her bottom dollar. And she was in the war too? Or was that her misunderstanding the answer? About the only women who went over to the war would have been nurses, so she had also been a nurse?  Amazing. She supposed people could lead those kind of lives easier though when they were rich.

Gracie followed the pair to the opened hood of the car and peered in, not that she knew what the hell she might even be looking for. How in the devil did one tell a good engine from a broke one? Well, besides the fact the car didn't move.

However this was Alafair's show now.