Excerpt from The Miner's Daughter

   
     With one hand pressing his sore stomach and the other tugging on a lock of hair, Martin Tafft stared at the girl who stood before him He couldn't believe his ears. "But-but—" He swallowed, a sense of unreality creeping over him. "But I thought the mine was abandoned."
     The girl snorted. An interesting specimen, she. Tall and willowy—sort of rangy, actually—she had her dark brown hair pulled back and stuffed under a disreputable old hat that looked as if it had once—say, twenty or thirty years ago—belonged to a cowboy and then been kicked around for another ten or twelve years before she inherited it. She had fine, regular features and huge brown eyes that might have been lovely had she been in a serene mood. At the moment, her eyes crackled fire.
     The most unusual thing about her was that she had chosen to present herself to the world this morning in pair of men's trousers. The trousers were old, stained, and patched, and they were topped with an oversized khaki shirt that looked as if it, too, had been around the world several times before it had landed on her.
     Martin, a natty man who, although not vain, tried to observe the prevailing fashion, couldn't conceive of a lady wearing such an outrageous costume. From this circumstance, he deduced Miss Marigold Pottersby to be no lady.
     "Obviously, you were wrong," she said, contempt dripping from the words.
     "My God." Reginald Harrowgate, who had honed his facial expressions to perfection in the few years he'd been acting in the moving pictures, sneered. "I can't believe this is happening, Martin."
     "I can't, either."
     "You said the matter was concluded and we could begin filming in two weeks." Harrowgate spoke as if he thought Martin had deliberately lied to him for some fell purpose.
     "I thought it was." Martin tried again. "Listen, Miss Pottersby, can't we at least rent the mine for a few weeks?"
     "No."
     Martin's stomach gave a hard spasm. This was terrible. Awful. "But—"
     "No. You're trespassing. Please go away."
     "But..."
     The girl turned and whistled through her teeth. The noise shot through the air like an arrow and stabbed Martin's ears.
     Great. Now his head could throb along with his stomach. He had no idea why she'd done such a thing, unless it was to make herself even more detestable than she already was. Maybe she was calling on a band of wild Indians to stake him and Harrowgate to the floor of this god-awful desert so the red ants could sting them to death. Maybe she was—
     "Good God!" Martin stared wide-eyed at the phenomenon that had popped out of the old mine shaft at her whistle and was now lumbering toward them at an alarming clip.
     Reginald wheeled around, shrieked, "Help!" and started running in the opposite direction. He worked up admirable speed, considering the weather.
     The girl put one fist on her hip and grinned.
     Martin didn't dare move. Finally, after swallowing painfully, he asked in a small voice, "Um, is that a dog?"
     The creature, black as pitch, gleaming like polished onyx in the vicious sun, and with a head the size of a crate, barreled past him—thank God—and the girl and, with a wagging tail and what looked like a good deal of joy, pursued Harrowgate. The actor peered over his shoulder once, shrieked again, and kept running.
     It was no use. The animal overtook Harrowgate with ease. Martin had to hide his eyes when it leaped at Reginald's back and he went sprawling.
     The girl whistled again. With seeming reluctance, the animal ceased washing Harrowgate's face with a tongue the size of Kentucky and trotted back to her. There he turned, sat at her side, panted, and looked up at her as if he expected to be lauded for his performance. Martin would have taken a solemn oath the thing had a grin on its gigantic face.
     The girl laid a hand on his neck. "Good boy, Tiny." She grinned at Martin. "To answer your question, yes, this is a dog."
     Martin drew in about an acre of scalding desert air. "I've, ah, never seen one quite like it before."
     "I'm sure."
     They both heard Harrowgate sputtering and cursing a few yards off. Miss Pottersby said, "Better take care of your friend. I don't think he likes the weather here in Mojave Wells."
     Martin scarcely heard her. His attention sat squarely on the monster dog sitting beside her. "Um, what kind of dog is it?"
     "Great Dane."
     "Oh." Great Dane. Like Hamlet. Only bigger. Much, much bigger. Whatever would Shakespeare have done with a dog the size of a brontosaurus?
 
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