While the group was in the kitchen, me and Roark arrived at the front door. I hitched up my skirts to climb the stairs. “You’re wearing your gorram boots!” Roark’s lips barely moved. “Well yeah. In case we gotta run. I’m ready. Got some ChemPlast too. Can’t be too careful when you’re rubbing elbows with the nobs.”
The atrium was lovely. The hub-bub of the party died away as we entered the space. I lifted my face and smiled. “Smells like home.” Roark snorted. “Smells like money. When we get our share, I just might set myself up with something like this. Little piece a dirt to call my own. Strawberries, maybe. Girls like strawberries.”
“You gonna do all this in yer bunk? How much money are you plannin’ on? That little lakeside cabin would cost all the diam–” Roark cut me off. “Not here! Gol bless it, Swei! Not here. Not now. Not the D-word. Alright?”
We turned a corner and saw Miss V in the distance. She was mingling as best she could with the Doc hugging at her elbow like a Great Dane or somethin’. They hadn’t seen us. I wanted to explore the house more. When would I ever be in a place like this again? “Roark, buddy?” Silence. “Roark?” I turned around and he was off a distance chatting with an older lady all in green. Green from her hair down to her feet, with green jewels to match. Hmmm, I can guess why he’s over there insteada over here. As I got closer, I heard him say, “Oh, I’m with the band. I’m head of security for Charlie and the Riders.” I rolled my eyes and turned away.
I saw Maggie in a room with all these contraptions. More my style, these were like some kinds parts off a ship they ain’t invented yet.
She was idly touching one of the pieces as I walked up. “Is this like the Baron’s workshop? Kinda fancy and where are the tools?”
She turned, startled. “Oh, hey Swei. Tools? No, this here is sculpture.” At my blank look she continued. “Art. Right? Like, like make believe but with real stuff.”
I looked around. “Any money in this? I could whip out a few of these in an afternoon. That there is nothing but a capacitor half melted on to a barge cable liner. It looks real nice the way the oils drips and all. Real pretty.” I paused. “I could do that. Hell, anyone could.”
Through the archway I could see the Baron. Had to be him. Who else would be all fancied up with those shoulder frills? And there was a camera crew following around in his wake. Had to be him. He was smiling vaguely watching the people watch the monkey that had escaped from the atrium.
Suddenly Miss V hove into view. She strode right up to the Baron and pumped his hand. That woman ain’t afraid of nothin! I bet if I was close enough to hear, she’d be bending his ear with talk about the children. Blah blah blah blah, children. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for children. Once was one myself, but Lordy can that woman go on about the children.
I sidled up to listen. The Baron roared with laughter. “Yes, I haven’t seen Gordon in a few years, but indeed he does owe me a bottle of scotch! Does your father still get on the links? I’m not quite as active as I once was…” Miss V answered him; I couldn’t quite make it out. The Baron’s big booming voice came through loud and clear. “Oh! The wine! You brought it? You are a fascinating creature, to be sure. A socialite ship captain. Delightful! You know, I own a few production companies. Perhaps a reality show about your travels. Think of the publicity for your worthy cause. You are… quite photogenic. Don’t you think, Dante?” He turned to the camera man. “Don’t you think the camera just loves Brigid?” He grabbed her hand. “Are you on planet long? We should lunch and discuss this. Now. Where’s my wine?”
Miss V smiled. “It’s in the kitchen. It made the trip just fine and I’m sure it is good as gold.” That was the code phrase for the old Alliance to move in. They were right by the kitchen and Miss V motioned for the Baron to come look at the wine. It was a perfect set up.
As the Baron stepped into the kitchen, all hell broke loose. Several of the waitstaff squared off. They all looked alike to me, but Maggie laid a hand on my arm. “Tong.” She whispered. “And Alliance. We don’t have to do nothin’. This ain’t our fight.”
“But Miss V….” About then, Prudence stumbled into sight. She had a woman in a headlock. “All right! Now we got us a brawl!” I ran over to help Prudence. The Doc jumped in front of Miss V with her arms out. “We can leave now, Brigid!”
Miss V nodded. She called over to the Baron. “I’ll be sending you that scotch, Julius!”
And that’s just what she did. We wrapped up a fine bottle of 30-year old McCutheon’s with the diamonds down in the bottom. I sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend, who sent it to a friend, who sent it to the Baron.
Miss V heard back from the Baron just yesterday. His note said “The scotch was worth the wait. Give your Dad my best and we shall keep in touch, my dear.”
Now we got us friends all over the place. High, low and everywhere in between!
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