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Saturday Evening: much later
Sunday Morning: early
He watched her finger the cuff link on his left shirt sleeve. The diamonds caught the light with vigor. He wondered what Mr. Danforth would think if he knew about them. It was hard not to be aware of the waiters hovering in the background. The smoking room had a quiet, dignified atmosphere and his little outburst of laughter moments ago had put the servers and patrons on alert.
His eyes scanned the room. Dark draperies over floor-to-ceiling windows, dark green walls, copper lamp bases and furniture meant to envelop its occupant did not encourage loud laughter and women with more than a quiet smoke on their minds. He tried to pull his sleeve away from her as her fidgeting with its cuff link was beginning to annoy him.
It was then he realized she’d pulled a small velvet box from her bag and was replacing the Danforth links with a startling platinum pair of a modern design in a plain rectangle with onyx edges.
”What are you doing?” he asked.
She smiled. “Establishing our pecking order to the public.” She replaced the first link, then indicated she wanted his other arm and leaned closer to him to do that exchange.
”Well?” she breathed, smiling up at him in a most beguiling way. The nervous waiters and patrons breathed a collective sigh that all with the DanBois heir was back to normal and returned to their business.
”Clever girl,” he answered.
She smirked at him, swept Mrs. Danforth’s links into the velvet box and snapped its lid shut. She handed it to him with a brilliant smile. “I meant, ‘Well? Will you do it?’”
”Seduce McAllister’s daughter? You’re crazy.”
”An opinion not unshared by others.” She sat back in her chair and indicated he should hold his hands up so she could see how the cuff links looked. “Is everyone suitably impressed?” she asked quietly.
He passed a casual eye over the room. The gift from the lady to the gigolo had been seen, all was well with the world. “Yes,” he said, “I believe so.”
”Good. Now that that ground work has been, if you’ll pardon the expression, laid, let’s retire to where we can pursue this discussion a little more intimately.”
Elliott decided that the Fitzroy Hotel must have some special meaning to the sisters, Beatrice and Lady Charlotte.
”Yes, we do.” Beatrice said as she handed him a glass of sherry.
He frowned, not understanding.
”The fact that I’ve brought you back to the Fitzroy, and the way you were looking around, I assumed you were thinking that Charlotte and I must like this place.”
He took the offered drink and casually walked through the large room. White on white on white, with touches of palest blue to glass accessories throughout the place. The carpeting was so thick an elephant could have charged through and not been heard.
”May I ask why?” He sipped his drink.
”It’s secure. Do you like the cuff links?”
”More than you know.” She poured herself a drink. “If you push the black metal, it’s not really onyx, on the edges you have one minute before a charge sparks a rather nasty acid fire.”
He’d been twisting the left one and stopped. She smiled.
”Don’t worry, there’s a trick to it. I’ll teach you. But first I need your answer about McAllister’s daughter.”
”I should think you’d find it enjoyable, considering…” She left the sentence hanging.
”Considering he’s largely responsible for my parents’ destruction? Sorry, I don’t use a man’s children to get back at him. They’re innocents.”
She drained her glass and went back to the drink cart to pour herself another. When she turned around he was in front of her. He bent his head slightly, his mouth finding hers and in a moment they both stopped, and stepped away from each other with a laugh.
Her hand had found the baby revolver strapped to his forearm and his had found the revolver strapped to her thigh.
”I think we’d better stick to business,” she grinned.
”Certainly,’ he said. “You can tell me all about who you work for, why you want me to seduce someone, and how much you’re really going to pay me.” His hands were on her waist now, sliding across the silk to the lacing on her back. “You can also tell me what that carriage in my stable really is and exactly what do the Danforth’s have to do with this. But first, and only because I find it uncomfortable, let me remove that revolver.”
Young Gary Cooper. Still searching where the photo came from.
Please note, all photos and yes, the story, are copyrighted.
Lydia slid a plate with cheese, sausage and bread across the table to Elliott. She then poured tea for the two of them. Elliott was being extremely patient as she put the kettle back on the stove, brushed crumbs off the sideboard and pulled out tattered napkins with the family crest on them.
She finally sat down and sipped her tea, savoring it a moment. She then carefully placed the cup on the saucer, held her fingers over it for warmth and smiled without any expression at Elliott.
”So the Countess said I knew who was trying to kill her?”
Elliott took a bite of the sausage. He hadn’t realized how long he’d been in the sub-basement working. He was famished and finished everything on his plate, this time making her wait. Finally, after draining his tea cup and watching her refill it he said, “No. She said she was being watched. Then she said, ‘the voman, she says she knows.’ But with an even more pronounced accent.”
Lydia grinned at his imitation. “Hmph. Haven’t the faintest idea what she’s talking about. Is this about Beatrice Prime?”
”No,” Elliott lied.
”You were never a good liar.” Lydia teased.
Elliott took his plate to the sink and rinsed it off, placing it carefully in a rack on the counter. “I’m a very good liar now.” He turned to stare at her and for a moment, a very slight moment, he saw the woman he would run to as a child whenever he’d hurt his finger or his father had yelled at him. It was so fleeting a moment that he didn’t have time to long for it to stay. “What about the Countess, Lydia?”
She was very good. As she took her plate to the sink there wasn’t a flicker of emotion, nothing to give her thoughts away. It hadn’t always been that way. But, they were all changed now.
As she washed and dried her plate he waited, again. Finally she faced him. “Everyone wants to see the Countess dead.”
She sighed, “All right, all right. There are those who want to see her dead. She’s a nasty person who doesn’t care who she uses or who she hurts, and she’s hurt a great many people.”
”Oh, there has to be more to it than that? Any names, any ideas? Why did she kill her uncle?”
Lydia shook her finger at him. “We don’t know she arranged that!”
”Who are ‘we’?”
”You and I,” she shot back.
”But why did she say you knew something?”
”Oh for heaven’s sake.” She marched past him out of the room and he followed her down the hall. As they walked he noticed that the hall was cleaner, less dust, less debris. Her voice drifted back to him. “When she came to me she said she was tired of going out and having men bother her, she needed protection. I told her ‘I know exactly how you feel deary, it’s best a woman alone has an escort.’ I say the same thing to every woman who uses that excuse to hire a gigolo.”
She’d stopped in front of the receiving room door and took a ring of keys out of her pocket.
”You don’t have to clean Lydia. I’d rather you didn’t.”
”I’m not cleaning,” she said, “I’m having other people do it for me. Would you like to come in?”
She held out the key to the door. Her hand was on the latch, the other hand aiming the key towards its little slot. He didn’t want to see the receiving room, he preferred his memory of it in happier times. He shook his head and before she could open the door he grabbed her arm.
”Why did you ask about Beatrice Prime? What do you know of her?”
Lydia shrugged. “She’s Lady Charlotte’s sister. And she’s actually the one that hired you for Lady Charlotte the first time. What is that now? Two years?”
With that she opened the door and Elliott turned quickly on his heel and left.
Figbee fussed about the room as Elliott tried to read. There really wasn’t anything for the man to do. If Elliott wanted a warmer room he simply had to say “fire” and the blaze in the fireplace would intensify. There was electricity now in the Manor and if he wanted the room brighter he simply said “lights”. His clothes were cleaned and pressed. The room was in good order; there was simply no reason for Figbee to be there.
”I’m sure I told you I’m not going out tonight.” Elliott didn’t look up from the book.
”That you did.” Figbee answered.
”Then why are you here? Take the night off. Go find some amusement someplace.”
Figbee stood in front of the fireplace, a black figure outlined by the orange glow. There was something familiar about that.
”Aren’t you even curious?” Figbee asked. His voice brought Elliott back from trying to place where he’d seen that outlined figure before. “I said…”
Elliott waved him off. “I heard you the first time. Curious about what?”
”That woman today. What did she want?’
”We’re dining Saturday night.”
Figbee stepped out of the firelight and poured Elliott a snifter of brandy. When Elliott didn’t offer him a glass he stoppered the bottle and put it down on its silver tray with a very unprofessional thunk.
”I know you’re ‘dining’. I’ll be driving the carriage. But what did she want today?”
”She wanted to let me know that Lady Charlotte was safe and sound and on her way to England.”
Figbee shifted his weight. “She left another calling card. That’s two now.”
Elliott picked up the new card. This one did not have any thin spidery lines on the back of it. “Yes, I’m thinking of starting a collection. Good night, Figbee.”
Figbee strode toward the door. “I’ll be at the local tavern if that’s all right.”
Elliott had opened his book and waved the new calling card at him. “Hoist one for me.” he said, and Figbee was gone. He waited a moment to see if the evil looking little man would come back, but he didn’t.
Elliott held the calling card up again. This one was a little different than the one he’d found in his jacket. That one had been made from a thick, expensive, creamy paper. This one was as expensive looking, but thinner, more translucent and when it was held up to the light the message carefully scratched into the paper, unviewable unless held to a light, said, “Bring a weapon Saturday. Trust only me. B”
photo of young Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. from planetbarbarella.com
Wednesday Morning: After Midnight
The brandy swirled in the snifter, catching the light from the fireplace, each little flash dying as quickly as it was born. Figbee held up the expensive crystal and smiled.
“I see you’ve retained a few things.”
“Odds and ends, here and there, ones that got overlooked by looters, creditors, lawyers and the like.” Elliott’s voice was a monotone. “Are they dead then?” he asked.
Figbee shrugged; not in resignment but more in sorrow of the inevitable. “Your father went into the jungle, your mother followed him.”
“She left you?”
Figbee drained his glass. “You knew she would.” He refilled the snifter. “When you come right down to it, I didn’t mean anything to her.”
“She liked you.”
“And I like plum pudding.”
They sat in silence for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Elliott shifted in his club chair. The well-worn leather sighed.
“They went into the jungle, Denny.”
Elliott nodded. he’d heard Figbee’s explanation the first time. “But you don’t know for sure they’re dead.”
“Oh, you are a DanBois, aren’t you? Ever the optimist.”
Suddenly chilled to the soul Elliott rose from the chair and went to the fireplace. He knew Figbee was studying him carefully, he could feel the gaze. The last time they’d seen each other he’d been tall and straight-backed; fresh out of school with the world in order before him and an hopeful outlook. He was still tall and straight-backed, the slight limp was new and the scars, well, he didn’t plan on showing them off.
“What do you do now?”
Figbee tipped the glass to and fro, side to side, the brandy fell and rolled over itself, frenzied. He took a big gulp. fire and ice rolling down his throat to an empty stomach. He mumbled something and Elliott turned to him with a frown.
“I said I’m a Windrider now. That’s what the natives called someone whose canoe gets caught in the trade winds and can’t control where he’s going, or where he ends up.”
“You can’t stay here.”
“Oh, I dunno, sounds like you need me.”
“What gave you that impression?”
“I overheard the German — Austrian? — woman saying you were going to kill her uncle? You are, and have been, many loathsome things, Denny, but you’re no killer.”
Elliott snorted and turned away from him. “You haven’t been here lately.”
“Some things don’t change. Remember, I’m your best friend, I know these things.”
He knew things. Lydia knew things. Everyone knew things. Elliott stared into the fire. Visions danced among the burning logs: Visions of his mother and father as they danced, fought, kissed, looked directly at him — he shook the visions from his mind and turned around.
He took in the view of his private apartment and what he’d managed to save from his old life. The area was large and uncluttered, with furniture that bespoke of better days. Still, there was a comfortable elegance to it. He’d been satisfied, up until now. He tilted his head at Figbee.
“You can stay in Father’s room.”
Figbee’s sardonic grin was heightened by the ear-to-mouth scar he’d acquired since the last time he’d been home. Elliott decided not to ask where he got it, although he strongly suspected his father had something to do with it.
Figbee scratched at his unshaved chin. “Your Father’s room. Hmph. A fitting punishment, I suppose. And what do I owe you for your largesse?”
“I need a valet.”
Figbee thought on it a moment, then slowly nodded. “Are the son’s appetites the same as the father’s?”
It was Elliott’s turn to grin sardonically. “I should think you’d know, after all, we’re best friends, right?”
He walked back to the little table between the club chairs they’d occupied that evening and refilled the empty crystal brandy snifters. Figbee stood as they held out the glasses for a toast to seal their pact.
“And your first task for your valet, sir?”
“We need to decide what to do with the German woman.”
In the fireplace the flames danced, swirled and spit embers into the room.
photo Lew Ayres from ????
Think you look good in a tux? Think you could be the 1900-1920’s “The Gigolo of DanBois Park”? I want to feature a different picture with every segment of the story that I put up. So, here’s what I need: black and white photo. Style of the 1910’s 1920’s 1930’s. Preferably with an adoring female in the picture, dressed to match. The picture will run on my blog and FB page and website with full credits. And, when I finish the story you’ll get, if you want, a hard copy of the story. Or if you just want to show your friends how spiffy you are, maybe the credits are enough.
If you don’t have a tux, but look like a lady killer in a good suit, and the picture is stylish enough, and your gaze mesmerizing enough… what the heck.
Email them to: email@example.com