Tom White meets Jane’s father in The Bartered Bride: Climax, Montana 3
Jane’s father has arrived in Climax to collect her. He stomps up to Tom White…
Tom White kept his head down as he polished his favorite Kiowa. The black dot with the sexy vixen swishing her bushy auburn tail was the only part of the chopper that had new paint. The Black Fox struck terror in the minds of some, but they’d pretty much died out in the twenty-five years since he’d been on active duty.
The key word was active, as in official.
The miniature speaker in his ear reported the target had taken the bait. The only rental vehicle available did not have chains or GPS. the directions to Climax were simple but chains were required for Big Hole Pass. Or so Stark had been informed.
He shifted position just enough to see a furious man in a thousand-dollar suit bearing down at him. A grim smile drifted over his features. Long ago, in another time and place, and with another name, he’d had to duck his head respectfully to men like this, no matter what they did. He did it today to hide the smile.
“I need your helicopter!”
He took his time before slowly straightening. He winced as he did so, and rested a hand on his lower back. Only then did he look up.
“Help ye?” He sniffed with one nostril, pulling up his lip as he did so.
“Fly me to the J Bar C Ranch!”
He frowned and took a minute to think. He shook his head.
“Well, now I cain’t rightly do that. Mr. Keith don’t like strangers visitin’.”
“I don’t give a damn who thinks what! I need to go there, and you’re going to take me.”
Tom straightened, or as much as an old, arthritic man could. He didn’t have to fake the pain in his leg as it was his constant companion. Usually, he hid all evidence of it, but today he was playing a role. He hadn’t had so much fun in too long.
“I don’t know who you think you are, but this here is the only chopper around. Whyn’t you hire yourself a car to git where yer goin’?
Bertram Stark curled his upper lip in a dismissive sneer. He looked at the battered old Kiowa with obvious disgust. It was scratched and banged up from many years defending troops before being decommissioned. The pompous windbag had no idea it was the most up-to-date reconnaissance chopper available to civilians. Or had been, before Tom’d added a few extras of his own. No armament, unfortunately, but there were still a lot of bells and whistles few knew about.
“Will this piece of junk get me to Climax?”
“Yep. And back agin’.” That was if Tom allowed Stark to leave. He had a room deep in the mountain that he’d love to try out on a special guest.
“A thousand dollars to fly me to that ranch, wait for me, and fly me back here.”
“Ye’ll have to do better’n that, sonny boy. This baby cost ten thousand an hour to fly in her prime.”
“That was forty years ago!”
Stark fumed when Tom went back to polishing, making slow circles. Wax on, wax off.
“What do you want, then?”
“The county could use a new search and rescue copter. Rich fella like you ought to be able to afford one of those.”