The very eastern edge of Port Dechantagne, just south of Zaeritown, was dominated by many groups of small housing developments constructed by BB&C and other firms who wanted to take advantage of the city’s growth. Most of these consisted of a score or so of small cottages situated around a little park. The area quickly became the most sought after real estate for Birmisia Colony’s burgeoning middle class—those who could afford better than an apartment in the brownstones near Lizzietown, but who were nowhere near affluent enough for the great mansions and estates near the northern central part of town. The main thoroughfare through neighborhood was Victory Boulevard. It was a four lane red brick-paved street, lined on either side with gas streetlamps, and with a broad grassy median that accommodated side-by-side trolley tracks. The west end of Victory Boulevard ended at Victory Park and in the east it, along with its trolley line, extended two hundred yards past the last group of houses. From there it turned into a single lane, winding gravel road that led some eleven miles to the small village of Villa Cochon.
Turning south from Victory on Ghiosa Way led one through one of these little neighborhoods. Five houses sat on the left and three on the right, and then there was a turn west on Dante Street. Around the corner was the park with swings, park benches, and a pond, frequented by shore birds from the ocean several miles to the north. Ghiosa Way itself, ended with a wood fence as a barricade. Though beyond it, the street might some day continue, for now, it was remarkably dense woodland just a dozen feet away. The last house on the left side of the little street, right next where it ended, was a small yellow cottage, with a white railing and posts on the front porch, a white-framed window just left of the white front door, and a similar window looking down from the attic between the eaves. The cobblestone pathway leading up to the front steps was lined with large ferns of the type commonly found in the area, and the yard was filled with several pines and a maple that had escaped the fate of those that had been cut to make room for the comfy little domicile.
Near the back right corner of the little cottage’s yard, about halfway between the house and the nearest trees, was a large barrel in which trash was burned once or twice a week. Though the refuse did not include foodstuffs, it did sometimes contain newsprint that had once wrapped a purchase from the butcher or the fishmonger. It was these smells that sometimes drew animals from the forest to the yard, as it did on this particular day. The animals in question were three velociraptors. They were two and a half feet tall and five feet from the tip of their many-toothed snouts to the ends of their tails. Hairy feathers covered their bodies—yellow near their small arms and green everywhere else, but for a black band around their necks and a black tuft at the ends of their tails. Easily mistaken for a more benign bird from a distance, those familiar with them were wary because of the teeth and clawed hands, but mostly because of their feet, each of which had a three-inch claw curving upward, used to disembowel prey.
One of the velociraptors jumped up onto the edge of the barrel and looked down inside, trying to discover something edible. Before it could learn whether any such thing existed, it was knocked off by another, which then let out a squawk and promptly fell inside. All three began a horrendous cacophony of shrieks and cries, even after the most adventurous of the three had found his way back out and onto the ground. Suddenly the side door of the house burst open and a woman ran out swinging a broom and shouting her own shrieks and cries.
“Get out of here, you horrid beasts!” She made every effort to swat them, but the velociraptors easily evaded her and went running back into the woods.
“I’ve told you before not to do that!” shouted a tall red-haired man, running around the side of the house.
“They’ll make a mess,” she replied.
“Better they make a mess than they injure you, or worse.” He stopped in front of her, looked down into her bright blue eyes, and then kissed her on the lips. “I don’t want to lose you.”
She smiled, and reached up to run her fingers along the line of his square jaw.
“How did I ever get so lucky, Mr. Baxter?”
“I’m sure most would say that I’m the lucky one, Mrs. Baxter.”
“Come inside. I have been slaving all day to have your luncheon ready.”
She took him by the hand and led him into the house. Just inside was the small dining room. Painted yellow with green trim, it was as cozy as one would have expected, having seen the outside of the home. All of the furniture was new and of the highest quality, manufactured locally in Birmisia. There was a flatware hutch, displaying behind the glass doors, a collection of beautiful porcelain dishes, a small table with two chairs, and an occasional table upon which sat two framed pictures.
She pulled out a chair and waved for him to sit.
“Your seat, Monsieur.”
He sat and pulled her into his lap.
“If you’re playing at being a Mirsannan, shouldn’t you be dressed like one?” he asked. “Their women usually wear these gauzy gowns that one can practically see right through.”
“You, sir, are very naughty.”
He admired her very Brech appearance. She wore a pretty white pinstriped day dress, trimmed with white lace and bows. She wasn’t wearing the matching hat and her collar-length dark brown hair was parted on the side and combed over with only a few curls in the back.