Vera [part 2]
Sunday, April 23, 2006

More about the flesh and blood woman who gave rise to that name for the gun!


Apologies for the delay - severe case of real life happening and the muse going on strike!


Vera's office building was wooden; nothing particularly unusual there, but it was only fair quality wood at best, with lots of knots in it. However the walls and floor had been sanded and polished to a healthy sheen, which made it look classier than it was. Her desk was equally functional, and the pots holding pens and stationery supplies were made of a spongy-looking brown flecked wood which could almost have been a type of cork. Jayne's bag arrived shortly, carried by one of the big Maori guys. He performed a subtle upwards flick of his head to Vera who responded in kind, then gave a regular firm nod. Jayne's face must have had an unwritted query all over it, because Vera explained when the other man had left. "It's a Maori thing; they nod upwards. I've learned the basics in the differing subtleties of non-verbal communication. He was just enquiring as to whether you'd checked out okay and if I was going to be safe with you here and I told him yes, absolutely. I usually sleep with a loaded gun very close, so you'd better not try to prove me wrong." "I won't." "Good," she gestured towards the door in the rear wall, "Supper?" Jayne nodded and followed her. He hadn't had home-cooked food provided by someone else in a while.

Vera chopped an onion and put it in a frying pan. While that was cooking, she opened a bottle of preserved tomatoes and fetched a handful of herbs from a growing space on the windowsill. The herbs went in with the onions, as did the tomatoes. Some dried pasta shapes went in boiling water, then Vera got out and unwrapped a fair chunk of cheese. "Closest I can get to replicating the cuisine of Italy-that-was." "Smells good." Vera added a few slices of dried bacon cut up small to the tomato mix, then left everything to simmer. "Care to tell me where you're from?" "Farm. Got parents, a sister, some cows." "Not a natural farm boy, though." Jayne shrugged, "Got big early; some rich kid hired me as his bodyguard, and the rest sorta followed." "Bodyguards often to their clients." Jayne's eyebrows flew up and he looked shocked, "Ta ma duh, I'm not sly!" he paused and qualified himself, "Nothin' against those who are; just not my bag, Vera," he grinned a little, "Not sayin' as how I haven't provided...other some ladies that have hired me from time to time!" Vera nodded, "Wasn't accusing you of being sly; just that if times get lean enough, some guys might contemplate it; girls likewise. Wouldn't have judged you if you had." Jayne grinned, "Too good with a gun and my fists to need to go...that way," his grin widened, "Ain't had any complaints from ladies, either!" Vera fixed him with a glance, "I figured that, and stop pushing!" Jayne had the grace to look sheepish, "Yes, Ma'am!" " Well, now weve got that settled, how about some food?" Vera dished up and Jayne tucked in eagerly.

The next morning, Vera was up and about before Jayne, even though he was a fairly early riser himself. He found her packing fruit and beef jerky in a basket, along with a large flagon of beer. Vera caught a subtle change in his expression. "The beer's enough for us tonight; the Maori will be bringing heaps." "And more food?" Vera smiled, "Enjoy your vittals, huh? Well, so do I, don't worry; there will be plenty, plus various places to get food en route. Heck, the sea's positively teeming with fish. We won't starve. Here's your stuff." Vera picked up Jayne's bag which was near the front door and handed it to Jayne. "No breakfast?" Vera grinned, "In a minute, eager beaver!"

About half an hour later, they were on their way, in Vera's mule. An hour or so later, they reached the port where about a dozen large Maori waited on and around Vera's launch. It was one of the older sea-going motor launches, with enough room for about six people to sleep on board. Although not the latest model, it had been well-maintained and recently painted in shades of red and white. Jayne was pleased to find he had his own modest bunk. Once everything had been stowed, they were off. The other Maori were staying behind to continue searching on land.

By day they sailed, checking the bays and inlets for clues. At night, Vera or one of the Maori found a good place to hide the boat; either behind rocks in a bay or in amongst trees similar to mangoes. The weather got steadily hotter. Vera was steering one afternoon, wearing a bikini-like top and sarong. They were about four days in to the search and the sky was looking decidedly brassy. She gestured upwards, "Gonna be a hwoon dahn of a thunderstorm soon. Might bring Redbeard the pirate out into the open if he makes a dash for land. Not good to be on the seas when it hits." "We got somewhere to go?" Vera nodded, business-like, "We'll stay out as long as I dare, but we'll have to take shelter eventually. It'd be suicide otherwise, and that ain't to my liking." Jayne took a bite out of the apple he was holding, "Nor mine." Vera nodded as she kept scanning the sea and the coast, "Storms can come in powerful fierce around this huge continental island, with seas to match. Somehow the trees mostly stand it, but the huge waves prevent most things including humans living too close to the sea. The sheltered inlets will do, but I know a cave or three around here. We'll pick one of those if possible, beach the boat inside and use one of the old smuggler hide-outs. It'll be dry and reasonably warm." "Won't Redbeard have the same idea?" "It's highly possible; better be prepared for a showdown in cramped conditions." "I'll be ready."

Rain began falling in slow, heavy and warm drops about an hour later. Vera tacked around the headlands, keeping an eye on the weather and the waves. The rain stopped, everything suddenly got perceptibly hotter. "Here we go, Jayne; hang onto your hat." There was utter stillness, then the most violent thunderclap Jayne ever recalled hearing. the wind and waves got up, followed by a second thunderclap. Then the rain pelted down, thick, fast and in almost monsoon quantities. Vera kept the boat out in it for a little while, but she was soon making for shore. "Can't see where I'm going in this; gotta hole up." Jayne helped her keep the wheel steady as they battled for the shore. Vera nodded, "Over there, to starboard; see that cave?" "We can make that?" "It'll be tight, but yes." The Maori were busy getting things below deck and taking a turn at helping with the wheel while Jayne got his weapons together. Going down into the boat was a triumph of blind hope and skill over bouncing floors, decks and walls.

When Jayne came back up, they were entering the cave, with Hori helping Vera at the wheel. Hori was one of the big Maori who had dragged him in several days ago. His teeth slashed white in his face as Jayne appeared, bristling weapons as a porcupine might its quills. "One against an army, eh?" Jayne grinned, "Done that in my time." There was a bang from somewhere and Hori fell over, clutching his shoulder. Jayne saw that a boat was trying to follow them. Vera steered around a corner I the cave and there was a rough wooden docking area. she leapt off the boat, and fastened her down. Jayne cocked his gun. Vera grabbed another gun and quickly looked at Hori who was going a little grey. "I'll survive, eh." Vera nodded, and joined Jayne and the rest of the crew watching for their pursuers.

As the other boat started to come around the corner, they laid down a hail of bullets. Jayne even lobbed a grenade. The noise was overpowering; but the other boat retreated. After waiting in silence for some minutes, Vera nodded her head. "Grab what you can; we'll have to ditch the rest, and our boat for now. There's an abandoned hamlet not far away at the top of this cave. It's not much, but it'll do." Jayne gestured with his head, "What about those guys?" "The quickest way to the hamlet is the way we're going; overland from anywhere else takes at least a day. You're going to blow up the far entrance to this cave when we get there." Jayne grinned, "Cut off pursuit, like." "And buy us some time. Hori's hurt."

They scrambled up the inside of the cave, carrying a protesting Hori who claimed he could walk just fine. Vera reminded him of the substantial hole in his shoulder and he shut up for a while. They made it to the settlement amid a fine rain of sand from the explosion. They found an abandoned dentist's surgery and everyone holed up there. Careful hands lifted Hori onto the table. The water wasn't running in the taps any more, but one of the other Maori, Lawrence, found a working pump outside and buckets were fetched so that everyone could at least quench their thirst. Vera washed her hands and found a bottle of whisky. She peeled back Hori's shirt carefully and gently moved him to check his back. "Bullet's still in there. I have to get it out." Hori nodded, "I know." "It's going to hurt like merry hell." "Gimme something to bite on and I'll be fine, eh." Vera found suitable metal dental implements and bathed them all in the whisky. She offered Hori the rest and he took several mouthfuls. "Jayne, Cliff; have we got any more whisky or alcohol around anywhere?" Jayne nodded and went for a hunt around the dentist's house. They found a dusty bottle of brandy. Vera directed them to pour the contents in a clean bowl, just incase. "Waste of brandy." "I know, Jayne, but we have a medical emergency here." Cliff gave Hori a wad of cotton to bite on, "This hamlet used to have a bar; could be some more booze there, eh?" Vera smiled, "Go have a look; I'm gonna need a drink after this. Jayne; might need you to hold Hori still." Jayne nodded. "I'll hold still, eh!" Hori protested, dignity affronted. Vera had a scalpel in one hand and a pair of large tweezers in the other by now, "Ever had a bullet dug out of you before?" Hori's face said everything, Vera smiled, "Not impuning your iron resolve, but once the alcohol hits, you might not be able to stop yourself squirming and I need you rock still, Hori."

She carefully poured a measure of whisky into the open hole in Hori's shoulder. Hori gasped, but held still. "Well done." Vera held the skin back with the scalpel with one hand and gently inserted the tweezers. She probed a bit, then found the blunt end of the bullet and slowly drew it out. After that, she cleaned the wound with more alcohol. Hori kept still. Vera deliberately caught Hori's eyes, "Got to sew you up now. I'll be as quick as I can."

She asked Jayne to pass the first aid bag and got out the sterile needle and surgical thread, "Never thought I'd have to use these, this trip." "Where did you learn...?" Vera put in the first couple of stitches, "I had a surgeon as a lover, before the war. Had to sew myself up a couple of times." Jayne winced a tiny bit, "I've poured alcohol in my wounds before now." Vera nodded, concentrating on Hori's shoulder, "It's a good thing to use, if you can take the major sting." "How did you get hurt?" "Remember I was a bounty hunter and sharpshooter back along? Couple of my 'bounties' got a bit feisty when I was trying to bring them in. It's a bit of a lone job and one has to be self-reliant... There you go, Hori; all patched up. I'll put a bandage on, but the wound'll need checking daily, just to be safe. You can see the Doc when we get back." Cliff returned with some bottles of whisky, a small, sealed tin of biscuits and a handful of eggs. He smiled at Vera and Jayne's surprise, "Couple of chooks nesting in the old bar; thought they wouldn't mind." Vera slumped in a nearby chair, "Can someone else throw an omelette together please; I'm pooped!"


Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:34 PM


I love the reference to being hired as a bodyguard. Hi-larious! Vera is certainly just Jayne's type, isn't she?

Monday, October 9, 2006 5:37 AM


Pushed my schedule back to read #2. Glad I did. Nice work here, Vera. I've enjoyed your knowledge of the landscape and Maori ways. "" is a great touch.

I like how the story's going and where. Feels like a good Louis L'Amour story to me, but with a nice Fireflyesque quality, of course.


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