The tie was a little tight. The drinks were a little watered down. And the conversation was a little boring. At least Omega Six had the luxury of bird watching while he watched the room. The event was the Ohio State Anthropological Society. Experts in the fields of different cultures were in attendance from all over the world. Most chatted lightly with colleagues. For others, it seemed to Monty as though it were like a high school reunion.
And then, there was the woman. Monty knew she was a single mother, the child never left her side. And even with elegant floor length dress she wore, Monty could tell that there was something else about this dark skinned woman than met the eye. Aboriginal, he assumed, possibly from Western Canada or the United States. Tribe ancestry he couldn’t put his finger on. But nonetheless, she still seemed intriguing to him. Strong and elegant, all at the same time. He smiled as he casually walked toward her.
Fifteen steps away, he heard the gruff voice of the old gunslinger in his ear piece. “Just what ‘xactly ya doin’, son?”
“Mingling,” he replied as he moved to make it appear as though he were taking out a kerchief to cough. “It’s what we’re s’pposed ta do.”
“Mingle,” Walker repeated. “Not oogle over the first pretty skirt ya see.” Monty cursed under his breath, mumbling in wonderment how his commanding officer could do that. “Just keep yerself focused, Six,” the gunslinger warned as he cut off the communication. Monty was glad, a good old shindig like this, the old man could end up crampin’ his style by interrupting his good view.
The Aussie moved through the crowd toward the woman, examining her carefully. Her son never let go of her hand, dressed in his own smart looking suit. She was obviously engaged in conversation with an older gentleman, one that Monty recognized. Colonel William Pate, former British army. This alone caused him to wonder about the nature of this woman, if she was conversing with a man such as him. And he drew a little closer.
“…again, my deepest sympathies. I never had the chance to mention that to you before you shipped out,” Pate said with the most polite of gestures.
“I’ve mourned,” came the woman’s reply. “And I’ve learned that he’s still with me. We both knew the risks serving in Afghanistan.”
Monty furrowed his brow. Bloody hell, she’s military. American? He noticed Pate looking his way and he smiled. “Pardon the intrusion,” Monty said as he turned on the charm. “Sometimes movin’ ’round in these gatherin’s takes ya ta the strangest o’ places.”
“From the sound of it,” Pate chuckled. “I’d say your a long way from your home. Aussie, aren’t you?”
“That’s right, mate,” Monty grinned as he offered Pate his hand in a friendly shake. “An’ pardon if I eavesdropped, but the three o’ us ‘ave somethin’ in common.” Pate accepted the offer as Monty introduced himself. “Corporal Malcom Watt.”
“Ah, another from the Royal Service,” Pate said with a smile.
Royal service, Monty mused. Must mean the lady’s Canadian then. “Served for a few years indeed.” He offered his hand to the woman, who accepted it with a smile.
“Niaomi Running Cloud,” she said with a small bow. And now that Monty stood face to face with her, he realized that she wasn’t wearing high heels, and she was still taller than he was.
“A pleasure,” Monty replied and looked to the child. “Somebody looks bored.” Monty smiled and winked to the small boy. “Bet there’s a thousand places you’d rather be, ‘ey mate?” He quipped. Petey hid behind his mother’s leg, still clutching to her hand, then laughed and smiled. Success, Monty smiled back. The tike’s on my side. He returned his gaze back to Niaomi. “So, if I might ask, what’s someone like you doin’ here? I don’t mean ta say ya probably don’t find this int’restin’, but it’s odd ta find more ‘n one soldier ’round a place like this.”
Niaomi smirked and nodded. “The same could be said of you,” she replied. “But in all honesty, I’m here with the tall, dark hair guy over there.” She pointed toward Maxwell’s form, his long hair neatly braided and looking oddly out of place in the tux that he wore.
“‘Usband?” Monty asked quickly, his ego taking a bit of a hit. Pate laughed aloud and looked to Niaomi for a moment, then turned to Monty.
“Oh goodness no, old chap,” he said still chuckling. “Maxwell and Niaomi are brother and sister.”
Monty nodded with the revelation, his bruised ego taking some solace in this new information. He looked toward Maxwell a moment, and then snapped his fingers. “Say, I think I’ve seen ‘im b’fore.”
“I should say so,” Pate quickly replied. “Professor Running Cloud happens to be one of the most highly regarded experts on First Nation culture.” With the last three words he looked to Niaomi and winked. “I told you I wouldn’t have to be prompted.”
Monty simply furrowed his brow, obviously showing some sign of confusion by the statement. Niaomi helped fill in the blanks. “Colonel Pate used to always say Indian. My brother isn’t a fan of the term.” She looked to Pate and returned the wink. “Maxie would be proud of you, Colonel.”
Monty chuckled lightly and shook his head. He looked to his left for a moment, catching sight of a familiar figure. Their eyes met for a moment, and he knew it was time to leave. Besides, Indigo Beta was getting bored in her dress. He smiled to her, making the show look good, and turned back to Niaomi and Pate. “If you’ll both excuse me, I see someone I ‘aven’t spoken with in years.” He nodded to them each, and received a handshake from both before turning to meet with Indigo. Their survey of the room was done. They could leave now.
Niaomi watched the Aussie for a moment more and let out a slight sigh. “Is something wrong?” Pate asked with concern in his voice.
“I don’t know,” she replied and took a sip of her wine. But I plan on finding out.