2) Same Dance, Different Tune
Meanwhile, across the city at the Steam and Whistle, Cooper was sitting at the corner of the bar, sipping at his single malt and trying to relax. He had just returned from a long trip where he had tracked down the last of the rebellious barons that were at large. High Lord Landry didn’t make things easy either. Cooper was forced to wade his way through and around the man’s entire regiment before cornering him in his mountain keep high in the Alpian Mountains to the far north, not far from the artic regions of the North Continent.
He looked around the bar, seeing the regular crowd and he felt almost at home for the first time in months. A motion caught his attention as he looked over to see two diminutive figures behind the bar helping wash and dry the various mugs. Ehawee and Batty had become regular fixtures here at The Steam and Whistle every time Cooper was in the city. They were given special permission to spend time with Cooper every time he was briefly in town. Especially since they were now his daughters by Imperial decree.
From the back storeroom, Elsie came strolling out after completing a brief inventory of stock then she paused, and blew her bangs out of her eyes and looked warmly at Coop. Things had been better between her and him since he decided to change his attitude about opening his heart to others. It would seem that the girls had something to do with widening Cooper’s gaze and attitude about things.
Coop smirked at Elsie and she put her hands on her hips and said, “What?!”
“Oh, just taking stock of things. That’s all.”
Elsie brushed back her long red hair with her left hand and said, “Well, I just finishing taking stock of my supplies and shipments better start back up regular or I’m gonna run out of booze to sell.”
Cooper shrugged and said, “I’ll talk to the new minister of commerce. He’s been trying to get things back to normal around here along with the other new ministers. But you can’t expect an attempted coup followed by a total restructuring of government to go smoothly without a hiccup or two.”
Elsie got an exasperated look on her face and she said sharply, “Colonel Calvin Cooper, don’t try to sell me a big one. You know that your precious Vicky bit off more than she can chew with throwing the baby out with the bath water and dissolving the Grand Council without having something already in place!”
Cooper felt himself begin to close down and become cold. He clutched tightly the black death head cane he held in his left hand. He then closed his eyes and mentally counted to ten to cool his temper. He understood Elsie had a redhead’s temper and he knew that her tongue could be sharper than his black sword at times. He also knew that it was his instinct to protect Vicky and his other adopted daughters first and foremost, but he also realized that he had to make allowances for this woman who, in spite of herself, had come through time and again for him.
So, he cooled his temper and forced himself to shrug and say, “Maybe, but she had little choice at the time.”
Elsie opened her mouth to continue on, but Cooper held up his hand and said, “I know, I know but we have to deal with the here and now. I’ll see what I can do to get your stock delivered.”
Elsie closed her mouth and looked left then right then threw her hands up in the air and turned on her heels and stormed back into the back room.
Batty, seeing what had happened, came bouncing over to Coop and said, “She’ll come around Pops. Just give her a chance.”
Cooper nodded then smiled at her and said, “How come you don’t have a redhead’s temper like Elsie?”
“Oh, I do. You just haven’t seen me mad yet. I’m called Batty not just because of my eyes and ears. My friends say that I get bat sh… I mean batty crazy when I get mad.”
“Well let’s just hope I never see you mad at me then.” He then leaned over the bar gave Batty a hug and kissed her on top of her head.
He then winced as he felt his left hip spasm slightly. Even after two months his hip hadn’t healed entirely. It continued to get better but very slowly. So, it wasn’t just for fashion sake that he carried the black death headed sword cane. He had the roakwood outer cane replaced with a new one that was sized for his height so that he could use it to steady himself when he walked and fought.
Ehawee saw him wince over Batty’s shoulder and asked, “Poppa, is your hip still bothering you?”
Cooper smiled trying to dissuade his daughter’s concern and said, “Only a little bit now sweety. It’ll be better soon enough.”
He knew that it would be better since the other two wounds had healed fully. It must be that size and place of his wound in his left groin that could be the reason that it was healing much slower. Especially since normally he was fully healed from other, even more severe, wounds within days from wounds that weren’t inflicted by this deadly sword.
Ehawee came over to Coop and got herself included in the embrace. She was 13 years of age and Batty was 14. Batty and Ehawee had a sisterly relationship for a few years now because of being part of the same Covey of street orphans. However, now that they shared Coop as their now adopted father there were occasional twinges of jealousy.
Cooper understood this so he made the best efforts to be even with his dealings with the children. So, after hugging his daughters fiercely he leaned back onto his bar stool and said, “I almost forgot.” And he reached into his long black duster and took out two bundles wrapped in silk kerchiefs. One red and one pink.
He handed the pink one to Ehawee and the red one to Batty.
Both girls giggled with glee as they anxiously unwrapped their presents. Both of their faces lit up as they unwrapped the fine Alpian crystal figurines.
Batty got a red colored bat figurine while Ehawee got a pink horse. Both girls squealed, “Thank you Pops!” as they gawked at their new treasures with amazement.
There was open love and pride that beamed in Coop’s eyes as he looked at his newest loves in his life. The look shifted to coldness incarnate at the drop of a hat when he noticed the man who had just entered the bar. Cooper didn’t know the man, but he had seen the type so many times in the past. More so in recent days.
He had dealt with way too many Shadowmen in recent days to not miss the subtle clues about his identity. Coop then quickly scanned the bar for his partner since Shadowmen only traveled in pairs or more. Sure enough, there was the other one entering through the back door.
Cooper said softly, “Bethany, take your sister in back and tell Elsie that things are about to get ugly out here.”
Batty didn’t like being called by her real name but when she looked at Cooper and was about to correct him, she saw the look in his eyes and realized that things were getting serious so she quickly grabbed Ehawee’s hand dragged her into the back room.
Cooper then stood to his feet, limped over to the newcomer and asked, “You here for me?” and then a lively time was had by all.