Steven’s Hall, Saturday, December 29, 2001, 1515 hours.
Linda was in bed, shaking me awake. Correction, Linda was on the bed, not in it.
“Come on Alice, it’s time for the Mad Hatter’s tea party.”
“Huh? I’m sleeping.”
“Nope, time to get up. You will soon have 12 young ladies along with 20 or so, of Annie’s closest friends. Time to get up and shower. Besides, I don’t want you to be up all night, again.”
“Lin, what day is it?”
“Boy, you must have been tired. It’s still Saturday the 29th. It’s just after 3:00 pm. The girls are here. So, Milady, it’s time to begin making yourself beautiful, and I know that’s hard, but you have to try.”
“Hey, did you just insult me?”
“Oh no, I would NEVER do that!” Linda said; laughing like a maniac.
“How’s Carol doing?”
“Well, your mightiness, you seem to have worked a miracle, again. The last I saw she and Leo were sitting in the atrium holding hands.”
“That’s a blessing.”
“I’ll agree with that,” Linda had turned the shower on, warm, which caused me to wonder if she was feeling okay. Normally it would have been frigid. Still, I would take anything I could get.
“Apparently, your impromptu counseling session on the stairs is credited with working a miracle. Her kids, the girls in particular, think you can walk on water. Some of us are still holding out for slogging through the mud.”
“Do I get a vote? I’d vote for wallowing in clay.”
“Sorry, the worst you can settle for is mud.”
I stepped out of the shower, and Lin handed me a warm towel; a BIG, soft towel. “So how many telephone calls do I have to make, and what are the TV’s reporting?”
“Well, it seems the Governor is being credited with the smartest political move in the last 10 years, knowingly and more important, openly appointing the “most fair minded law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth” to investigate Maxwell’s death.”
“FARF! I really hoped something would happen and get me out of the hot seat. How in the hell am I suddenly a “law enforcement officer.” I’m a computer geek; okay geekette, and a businesswoman. I, well my twin, just taught a class occasionally. Anything more is mostly Andy’s fertile imagination.”
“Honey, as soon as you threw that grenade, then charged into that room, you were elevated to near mythic stature.”
“FARF!! I was making a promotional video. Okay, that’s not really true, but all I did was stand around and chat with politicians.”
“You really like that word, don’t you?”
“Don’t change the subject on me! Argh! I hope we sell a bazillion dollars’ worth of business in Alabama. Then it MIGHT make up for the BS. I wish we’d never gone on that cruise!”
“Don’t be an ass! If we hadn’t gone Carol would probably be in casts, again, if not dead.”
“Ouch, you’re right. I hate to admit it, but I’d rather be hurting then have that happen.”
“See, you ARE one of the good guys!”
“What has Lisa decided I’m wearing tonight?”
“You have to look regal for the SCA. Tonight you are wearing a green brocaded overskirt with a cream colored chemise. Your hair will be “normal,” but you will be wearing your coronet. Makeup will be evening subdued.” Linda cackled, “Just wait till you see your Ball gown Cinderella! And if you have a lick of sense you will not make a smartass comment about glass slippers. I do NOT put it past either Lisa or Annie to somehow commission a pair on Monday!”
“I’m doomed. You still haven’t told me what calls I have to make.”
“Hey, since when am I your secretary?”
“Honey, Sweetie, you are not my secretary. I was just hoping you might know.”
“Well, if you put it that way. Jane, but you probably assumed that. An Assistant Attorney General from the Federal Court would appreciate a call, Colonel Kincaid asks that you call, and the Essex county Sheriff really would like to speak with you. You have the personal cell phone numbers waiting for you in the upstairs office.”
While this conversation was happening Linda was “helping” me dress. A “combination” basically a pair of bloomers and a camisole in one, went on followed by a corset, followed by what looked like a roll of fabric padding on my hips, THEN the chemise. A petticoat that enhanced an overskirt which completed my ensemble. If I’ve forgotten something, I assure you, Lisa and Annie didn’t forget. Linda was very quick to point out everything was a faithful reproduction.
I felt like a tube of toothpaste. I was getting squeezed in half, and bulging out the top and bottom of the corset. My cleavage was truly spectacular.
Do my daughter’s REALLY think this was fun? Or was it some sick twisted female rite of passage I’d never heard of? I took scant comfort I was not wearing woolen underwear, nor hand knit stockings.
By the time Linda was done I had truly Barbie like proportions, just Rubinesque (LOTS bigger - think women’s size 26 or larger). I stepped into a pair of black flats, glad I’d put my foot down on having a pair of period shoes cobbled up for me. It felt good down to my sole. It was like taking uppers and I held out hope this trend would last; ‘cause if I disappointed my daughters I’d feel like a real heel, though I feared I’d have to put up with welts through the week (uh, the shoes part anyway).
[[ Dear reader, you probably have NO IDEA just how restrained this description truly is, nor how uncomfortable the clothes were. I invite you to visit one of the many colonial sites on the east coast staffed by volunteer antiquarians for a glimpse into the pure hell of period women’s clothing. Here’s one little hint: Dresses were sometimes fastened with straight pins; we know this from the rust stains on exemplars of Colonial period clothing. The very thought of that scares the living bejeebers out of me. For more information search on the “Costumer’s Manifesto” on-line. This is a site I sometimes visit when I need a good healthy dose of how good we really have it, living when we do.). Oh, and for that very special time of the month the source I read indicated there were no special underwear, apparently is just flowed. ]]
Pretty, powdered, pomaded, painted, pinned, pained, penned and coroneted I was allowed to make my phone calls. I started with the Federal AAG, figuring if anyone had pertinent information it would be him.
I picked up right away, “Bill Franklin.”
“Mr. Franklin, Kate Stevens returning your call.”
“I appreciate it. Please call me Bill. What a mess. I wanted to let you know I’ve spoken with the SAIC, and a packet containing copies of, or reports of the investigation as of noon will be couriered to you this evening. I’ve made it clear to every department the Court touches that you are to be cooperated with in every way legally possible. You have truly been shoved into the hot seat. For your information. I’ve read your deposition. It will be kept confidential. As of 10:30 this morning it was ordered sealed. That’s not a guarantee, but it is my commitment. “
“Bill, I appreciate that. I’d do almost anything to get out of being responsible for it. However, I also understand political expediency. Jane is going to owe me big time for this.”
“Yeah, I can believe that,” he said laughing.
“Thank you for coordinating with the SAIC. Are they sending this to everyone at this morning’s meeting, or only to me?”
“To you only. It will be your decision what to release and to whom.”
“Oh, this just keeps getting better. Okay, to the extent I can, I will be certain you are kept advised of what I receive.”
He laughed, “Very tactful, I wouldn’t dream of asking you send me everything. If it becomes necessary I will see about a subpoena. Holding this together is going to be a nightmare. You should know, now, the Court is taking an active interest in this, after seeing the rated capacity and actual inmate numbers. The Ninth Circuit Court has already ruled overcrowding a violation of civil rights.”
“Really? You mean I might not be the one who has to hold things together? I assume you will see anything the SAIC sends you.”
“Very, very tactful,” he laughed. “Thank you for calling, for what it’s worth, from everything I know, you are the best choice for the job. Enjoy your weekend, Major.”
“Ouch, paraphrasing Forrest Gump ‘tactful is as tactful does.’ Enjoy your weekend too.” One down.
“Sheriff Love, it’s Kate Stevens returning your call.”
“Major, before I blow a fuse, can you tell me why the hell you shut down my jail last night?”
I could see we’re going to get along famously. “Sheriff, in accordance with Federal law, you are hereby notified that any telephonic communication between you and I will be recorded. This declaration is deemed to be full and complete, and satisfies all legal statutes for all future conversations. I started recording after your last words.”
“Sir, respectfully, I didn’t shut it down. As a point of fact I am the one who re-opened it. Can you tell me what happened from your point of view? I’d much prefer we get off on the right footing.”
This man was stoking his own fires. “Major did you or did you not deliver a man to my facility with the instructions he be treated as a suicide risk?”
“Yes I did Sheriff Love, that was based on a conversation with the man’s attorney, and his wife.”
“He was dead less than twelve hours later.”
“To the best of my knowledge that is the case. In answer to the next logical question, yes, both Mr. Maxwell’s attorney and I personally identified the body.”
“Then after his death, you ordered three of my CO’s out on administrative leave.”
“Not quite. Governor Swift called me some time after 1:00 am. I was ordered to YOUR jail. I was told your facility was locked down, and would stay that way until I approved its reopening. The CO’s on-duty in the protective custody module were relieved of duty, with pay, as the minimum I was legally required to do. Putting them on-leave was preferable to the alternative of having them held in the Federal lockup as material witnesses, something I could have done. I could have ordered the entire shift onto administrative leave. Please keep that in mind. Sir.”
“Do you have any idea what that would mean? Do you have any idea what that would cost? How in the hell could you even think of such a thing?”
“Probably because that is part of the Federal Correctional Procedures guides of 1986.”
“And you know that how?”
“Because I’ve read the damn thing. Something I suggest you do. When I finish with you I will immediately request a ruling on that point by the Federal Court. You choose. Today or Monday at 8:00 am. By the way, I’ve already been appraised the Federal Court, on its own initiative, is examining whether any civil rights violations have occurred. I’ve also been told case law from the Ninth Circuit Court already establishes overcrowding as a prima facie case. ”
“I thought I was clear. If there is any administrative problem with my supervision of this case I will immediately seek a ruling, in an emergency filing with the Boston Federal Court. This was not my idea. I don’t want to supervise this investigation. I’ve made that fact known to everyone who will listen. I do not wish to fight with you, but I will not be browbeaten by you. You will cooperate to the fullest extent of the law, or you be placed on leave alongside with your CO’s.”
“Damn Major, I’m just seeking clarification. Don’t get so defensive. What’s with you? Did you get out of bed on the wrong side this morning? Are you not feeling well? Is it just the, uh, wrong time?”
“Actually, I woke up two hours ago, after the first eight hours of sleep I’ve had in four days. I didn’t get that last night because something happened in YOUR jail. Nor is it the “wrong time.” If you are implying I am menstruating then you are in so many different kinds of trouble, starting with violating MY civil rights. You would hope you only lost your job for sex discrimination. So, I’m actually feeling pretty good, thank you for asking. The tone of this conversation began when you said: ”before I blow a fuse, can you tell me why you shut down my jail.” I’ve always adopted the common understanding of the phrase, meaning “before you get angry.””
“You misunderstood me.”
“Sheriff, I have nearly perfect recall. I also wrote down what you said, when you said it, with the date and time. If I misunderstood your meaning, then perhaps you will call me Monday morning, before 8:00 am. If I don’t hear from you by then I will be forced to ask the Federal Court to order your compliance. If that happens, you better hope that is all they order.”
“Major, I apologize. Perhaps I came off stronger than I should have. I would prefer to cooperate with you, and seek your cooperation in return.”
“Then Sheriff, perhaps we should continue this conversation Monday morning, say 0730?”
“Yes Ma’am that would be fine with me.”
“Thank you Sheriff. I will see that you receive all the evidence I am able to provide you. You can expect the first packet of information at the start of business Monday morning, certainly before 10:00. Enjoy your weekend.”
“Goodbye Major Stevens.”
Damn, I did NOT need that. Two down.
“Is this some weird law thing I don’t know about, answering the phone with first and last name? Hi Jim, it’s Kate.”
Laughing, he answered, “No Kate, it’s just how I do it. Why?”
“Well, the Federal AAG, then Sheriff Love, and now you all answered my calls that way.”
At that he laughed again. “Well, I watched the news today, and what do you know, my protégé was again prominently mentioned. Again. This is just a friendly call saying if you get any static, call for help if you need it. Knowing you, you won’t, but don’t feel like you’re all alone.”
“Thanks Jim. Tell me about Sam Love.”
“I wish you’d have called me first. He’s a real piece of work. His heart is in the right place, but he has either 51 or 53 cards in his deck, never the normal 52.”
“So, his being a jackass isn’t personal?”
“No. He usually tries to establish that he’s in charge. He can be a little rough around the edges. I take it he didn’t make a good impression?”
“Nope. I had to play the Federal court card, and the Federal Correctional guideline cards before he saw the light.”
“Good. As long as he knows where he stands he does a great job. You being brought in by the Governor was a real slap in the face, at least to him, despite the Governor meaning no such thing. My offer still stands. If you want me to be the bad guy I can.”
“Jim there’s nothing about this that I wanted. Hell, I complained to Jane, I complained to everyone in the jail this morning. I was ordered.”
“Blame me Kate. Jane called me before she called you. You were my idea, and I stand by it.”
“Does this mean I get to start collecting a salary?”
“I wish. If I could have hired you away from Cendar I would have done so a long time ago. By the way, you made us all look good with the operation night before last.”
“Jim, don’t believe what was on TV. My officers have made it clear to me they are pretty cheesed off. It has been “suggested” that I not put myself at risk. Not that I was.”
“Kate, I saw you toss in a flash-bang and then go into a room with a suspect known to be armed and very dangerous.”
“Jim, Andy went in ahead of me. Do you think there’s any way in hell he would let me be hurt?”
“I don’t know who leaked that tape, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was Hal. We haven’t “talked” about it yet.”
“Don’t bother. You had a ringer. A Birmingham TV station was on-site, with a moderately long lens. The PR people went nuts over it.” Jim started laughing again, “But really Kate, a computer in your Tactical suit? Nice concept by the way. If you do develop something like that for the military I want to prototype it for you.”
“Zing! You got me. They were eating it up by the bowlful. I was just kind of developing a concept as I talked. You can bet we’ll be looking into it. Putting a computer in the TAC suit is easy. Some kind of pointing device is too, so is the facial recognition. It’s the display that’s the problem. The helmet is really pricey. The military spends tens of thousands of dollars on each one; at least according to what I can find out.”
“Well, keep it in mind.”
“You’ll be the first to know, at least as soon as we don’t have a classification problem. Who knows, maybe I’ll see if the R&D guys can take a crack at it. I certainly would love to have something like that. Uhmm, what are you and Stella doing New Year’s Eve?”
“Working, same as usual.”
“Working, working, or working from home?”
“Working from home, why?”
“Why don’t you guys come over here? You won’t recognize the place. I think there’s a couple of things you should probably learn about, from me.”
“The Kate me, or the John me?”
“What did you say?”
There was a very pregnant pause before he spoke again. “To my certain knowledge, outside the Federal Court, I’m the only person in the Commonwealth, elected or appointed, who knows anything about it. When one of my officers, even as one as informal as you are, is deposed by a Federal investigator you can bet I’ve a pretty good idea.”
“Which one of us is underestimating the other? There is one other “Commonwealth official” who knows.”
“How about both of us? Yes, if you’d like, Stella would love to come over, and so would I. You have been completely honest and above board, even to filing with the SEC. Relax. I never would have guessed if not for the deposition, and from all accounts you’re doing one hell of a job.”
“There is one other “official” in the Commonwealth who knows. As of this morning, that deposition was sealed by the Court.”
“I suspected she knew, but I wasn’t going to say anything. Now I didn’t know about it being sealed! In that case it doesn’t exist. The only copy anyone had, apart from the Court, was shredded and burned, by me.”
“Thanks. The I, me, owes you one. Come on over, I’ll tell all, and so will Hal or I’ll have his toenails pulled out some night.”
“If I don’t hear from you before then, Happy New Year’s.”
“Thanks Jim, you too. Bye.”
On the third ring, “Hello?”
“Hi Governor Swift, this is your good friend and political supporter, who sits on the Girl Scout board with you.”
“Uh, oh. Hi Kate, imagine my surprise!”
“I’ve a note to call you, though I would have anyway.”
“That good, huh?”
“Why oh why do I have a communications desk that has you on the speed dial?”
“Because, you are my “good friend and political supporter, who sits on the Girl Scout board with me.” I’m sorry Kate. Jim Kincaid had a great point. If things came out wrong, the fallout to you could have been devastating. I knew you wouldn’t want to. I also knew you wouldn’t say no, and most importantly you would do the best apolitical job anyone could ask for. This way we’ve started an investigation, we’ve insisted on transparency. The one person NO ONE could accuse of wanting to find a scapegoat is leading the investigation.”
“So Jim explained to me. You’re right. I wouldn’t tell you no if there was any way I could help it.”
“I’m sorry Kate.”
“Don’t be. You two are right. By the way, Jim knows.”
“Sorry Kate, maybe I’m slow, knows what?”
“About me, myself, and I.”
“I was deposed by the Feds the day after I regained consciousness.”
“Kate, is there going to be a problem?”
“I don’t think so. The deposition was sealed this morning by order of the court.”
“Good. Is there anything about the investigation to tell me yet?”
“Not really. I’m expecting someone from the FBI to drop off some documents this evening. Mainly copies of evidence collected, reports taken, that sort of thing. Oh, and guess what?? The Federal Court in Boston has taken an interest in the overcrowding. No, I didn’t sic them on the case.”
“I won’t jostle you’re elbow. I neither expect nor want you to tell me everything.”
“Thanks Jane. So far it looks like personalities are going to be the biggest problem.”
“Bingo. He started to read me the riot act, and I kind of tromped on his toes to get his attention. He was wrong and apologized, but he’s not happy with me.”
“Do you want me to call him?”
“I don’t know. I can’t ask you too. If he is afraid I’ll tattle to you, he’ll cooperate, with all the grace of an elephant.”
“Okay. If I call him, it will be because of other sources.”
“Tonight should be impressive. I don’t know why I even ask, but do you have a costume?”
“The proper term is garb.”
“Lisa and Annie have already talked to you.”
“Okay, you might give Jim a call, suggest full formal uniform and evening gown New Year’s Eve?”
“Uniform for Jim or Stella?”
“You are a person with a weird sense of humor.”
“Coming from you I take that as a compliment! See you soon.”
“See you then, bye.”
Who woulda’ thunk it? Me, dealing with this kind of thing. It was 6:30, I wandered into the bedroom, looking for Linda. No luck, so I took the elevator down and went looking for her. Ack! Peeking out, I could see four livered guards. Someone looking important with some kind of staff at the foot of the stairs.
Annie caught me. Rushing over, she does this deep curtsey and holds it. Then she whispered to me, “Mom, tell me to rise, or get up, or something. This is killing me.”
Duh, now it’s assumed I know court etiquette. “Rise My Lady.”
Okay, now everyone is bowing or curtseying, this could get old really fast. “Please, carry on as you were.”
“Mom, you need to go back upstairs?”
It’s been a long, long week. “Huh?”
“You haven’t arrived yet. YOU are the last one to enter, and the first one to leave.” Annie graciously reached over and grabbed my arm in some weird hold and led me back to the elevator. On the way up, she stamped her foot and snarled, “Don’t you DARE embarrass me or Lisa in front of our friends.”
“Honey you know I’d never do that. I just don’t know ANY of this. Leading a commando raid on a Motel is easy, investigating a murder is easy, this stuff…”
“Maybe we need to sit down and talk.”
“It can wait, how are Lisa and her friends doing?”
“They are all here, they’re getting dressed. Sit, so tell me what’s going on?”
“John Maxwell is dead. He died while under a suicide watch. Apparently murdered. Jane called at about one in the morning and told me I had to conduct the investigation, and I was asked to tell Carol. I’m surprised you didn’t hear the helicopter leave. I was at the jail for hours. Then Carol and I talked forever when I returned. It’s been a very long week.”
“Wow! No one said anything, though come to think of it Leo and Carol were holding hands in the atrium. I just didn’t really think of it.”
“I guess that’s my doing too.”
“Carol and Leo. Surely you noticed how he feels for her.”
“Oh no. You TOLD Carol?” Annie is doing this jumping thing while still sitting; immediately I knew she thought it was the right thing to do.
“Yes. I probably saved them HOURS of bliss.”
“You JUST CAN’T HELP it, CAN you?”
“Huh?” I’ve been saying that a lot today.
“I swear. You could see two people in New York City, talk for thirty seconds, then introduce them, and they’d be engaged before your taxi came.”
“Mom, no matter what else I say to you tonight, you are incredible. Both of my other Mom’s would be proud of you. It’s no wonder Dad can’t tell you apart. The longer I know you, the harder it is. I love you.”
“I love you too Princess Annie. I love you as much as any mother could ever love a child. You are my daughter.”
Another thing I never thought I’d learn. It’s kind of hard to hug another woman when you’re both in a corset.
“Don’t you dare make me cry! The first Kate used to say that to me.”
Too late, for either of us. Fortunately there was a giant economy size box of tissues close by. As soon as we could, Annie fixed our makeup. I could have done it, but she seemed to need to. That was where Lisa found us. Teary eyed, and not really certain if we were going to cry more or not.
“What’s going on? Everyone except you is waiting!”
“Just a little Mother-Daughter moment, Sis. Do you have any idea how special she is?”
“Duh, I was her first born child. How much more special could she get?”
“Lots Sis, Lots. One of us will need to stay with her, she’s not really very well versed about how to act as a Queen.”
I wished fervently she had used a word other than “Queen.”
“That’s a good idea. Mom, just remember that YOU are the important one. Everyone else is “less than the dust beneath your feet.””
That was helpful.
“Have either of you seen your other mom or your Dad?”
“Oh they’re both downstairs
“Shouldn’t Hal escort me, or whatever in?”
“Lisa and I decided he was a Baron through marriage. YOU are Baroness Stevens.”
“Can someone tell me why I’m doing this?” I should have known. Rule twenty-seven: Never pose a rhetorical question to your two daughters. It was tag-team time.
“Because it’s fun?”
“Because we get to play dress-up?”
“So Lisa and I can be famous?”
“Because it is SO cool?”
“Because the SCA is THE neatest thing ever?”
“Because it gives us a sense of belonging?”
“Because you love us?”
“Because Mom decided you had to.”
“WAIT, What? Your Mom said I had to?”
“Oh Farf.” That was Annie.
“You weren’t supposed to know that.”
“Annie, don’t steal my made up words. It’s the only defense I have against a cruel and heartless world. Otherwise I might be muttering language that would get my mouth washed out with soap. THEN Linda would get creative. You do NOT want to see Linda get creative. Trust me.”
“She’s right Sis. Mom at her creative best would come up with something, heaven alone knows what, and we’d all suffer.”
“Really Lisa? Wow, that’s almost temptation enough to try it. Just to see.”
“No, no, no, no, no. Do NOT go there! It’s like with Dragons. “Remember you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!”
Annie gave me a look of something, I wasn’t sure what. Maybe hunger? “SEE MOM!! You CAN do this!! THAT’s the spirit that makes SCA GREAT!”
Farf. “Girls, I have decided. It is time to grace the hall with Our presence. Please lead the way.”
Lisa was clapping. I was ignoring it. With my nose up high I made little shooing gestures. “Darlings, please, We wish to join in the jocularity, lead the way.”
The terrible two led the way. At the top of the stairs, we hesitated, allowing each girl time to be announced to the throngs as we were arriving. Finally, I stepped on the stairs, and somewhere downstairs a voice announced me.
“Her Grace, Duchess-Stevens, Countess Williams of the Canton of the Two Towers, Princess and heir presumptive Australicalifornium. Imperious Rex. Lady Williams-Stevens, Queen Mother to Princess Annie of the Canton of the Two Towers, Queen Mother to Princess Lisa Stormhausen of Europa. Grande Dame de la commande Victoria. Defender of the Faith. Grand Dame of the Golden Fleece. By the Grace of God ruler of all She surveys. Fundamentum et imperium. Through adversity Justicar Bostonium, Titular head of the Order Judicium Omnis. Grande dame Victoria Grand-Guides de style. Victore Sceleritas. Grand Order of the Monongahela, Knight Commander of the Order of the Grand Canyon. By right Defensor Omnes, Cautor Omnes, Justica Omnes. Marin Banc de Sable Port. Yngvi est un pou. By conquest Justina Meridies. Donec in augue portu navita. Grand Defender Possiltum. Grand défenseur de la Nouvelle-Angleterre. Numquid morte liberat te. Grand Dame Decendant Victoria Britannia Rex. Fleurs pour Algernon. Fille de l'acier inoxydable Rat. Lady of the Misty Mountain. Knight Triumphant of the Commonweal. Guarantor Bar Sinister. Inquisitor Chad. Lady Eniacosium. Reader Scientium Fictones, Unixorium Datum Thaumaturge. Keeper of the Peace and Champion of all.”
Wow. Even I was impressed. I didn’t understand most of it, but I was impressed. By the time he was done, I’d descended to the first floor. Hal was there, looking magnificent in a scarlet and gold tunic, coronet, and long hose. I almost laughed at his codpiece, it seems my titles weren’t the only thing exaggerated! At his side a gorgeous officer’s sword with the Eagle, Globe and Fouled Anchor of the United States Marine Corps – something I’d not known before, He bowed, “My Lady.”
I curtsied and replied, “My Lord Husband.”
[[Author’s note: Please, be gentle kind reader there may be contradictions within the title. Said statement notwithstanding, There are five science fiction books or series scattered amongst the title and orders.]]
Annie and/or Lisa had found a group of six musician. I recognized only some of the instruments. The music started back up, I took Hal’s arm and began to circulate. Annie and Lisa traded off watching over me. Embarrassment was NOT an option. I can’t even begin to describe the clothes. It was as if some Mad Giant spilled his paint set over the guests. Annie’s friends were marked by the calm assurance of long practice. Lisa’s, on the other hand, were preening, gossiping with each other, and barely noticing their escorts who valiantly continued their Courtly manner.
One person stood out. Probably the one person I least expected, or wanted, to be there. Pastor Johnson of our church in California. He was dressed in the clothes of a priest, complete with cross, authentic to the sandals. He was introduced as “Reverend Father John.” As was appropriate, he gave me a small bow of his head. “My Lady, thank you for inviting us.”
Better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb… I curtsied - deeply, “Father, it is you who blesses this gathering with your presence. Please, when we sit for dinner would you ask the blessing?”
He never broke character, but I could see his eyes widen in recognition. “Thank you Milady, I would be honored. Perhaps we could talk tomorrow?”
“Thank you Father, I would like that. I will certainly be grateful for your counsel, judgment, and advice.” Two can stay in character. “Thank you for escorting such charming young ladies, truly the night would not be complete without them. They have brought great joy to my Daughters, Princess Annie, and Princess Lisa.”
“It is you who have honored us. Your exploits are spoken of far and wide. I’ve yet to meet your oldest daughter Annie, Lisa is of course an old and beloved friend of my daughter Courtney.”
“The Town Criers seldom reflect the truth, the coverage this week has been embarrassing to us. Tomorrow we’ll talk, and any questions will be answered.” I curtsied deeply to him again.
Lisa came to my side, “Momma, I didn’t know he’d be the chaperone till he got here, and then I forgot to tell you before. I’m so sorry.”
“BabyGirl, I think the time for pretense and hiding are coming to an end. It was only a matter of time. After that stupid mess in Alabama it became a certainty, which I would have known had I thought it through. John Maxwell seems to be a mill stone, and he will drag me down if I let him. That’s not going to happen. Dry your eyes. This is your’s and Annie’s party. Enjoy it, as I will. God will bring what He will bring, it’s our job to figure out how it is His blessing. It’s okay. Smile Princess of Europa, in some ways this is your “coming-out” party. In a different way it may be mine.” I smiled at her, willing her to accept my strength and peace.
“Thank you Momma, it’s wonderful to have you in my life. I love you.”
“I know BabyGirl, I know.” Wonder of wonders, she smiled. “How are Maeve and Siobhan enjoying the party?”
“It’s like a game of grown-up dress-up. They are having fun. So are Carol and Leo, she’s hanging on his arm smiling.”
I spoke to her loud enough that others could hear. “Go little Butterfly, spread your wings and fly! See that your friends are having fun!”
She curtsied, “Yes your Grace. Might I introduce my Ladies in waiting?”
This was her cue to introduce each, one-by-one, I smiled, and tried to make each one feel special. Hal had a photographer taking pictures, and I asked that he take pictures of the girl’s, with me, Lisa and Annie. These girls were going to have a good time and take home memories, GOOD memories, if I had any say in the matter at all.
After the introductions were done, the guy with the staff banged it on the floor and announced “Dinner is served. Gentlemen, please line up with your ladies, behind her Grace, and enter to find your place.”
Hal and Linda joined me. Linda had noticed Pastor Johnson, but not been able to tell me before he spoke with me. The two of them looked defiant, and proud. We entered the hall, and after Hal seated me, then Linda, and took his place at the head of the table, everyone joined us. As soon as they were seated, I gently tapped on my goblet and when I had everyone’s attention announced, “I have requested the good Father to ask God’s blessing.”
Pastor Johnson said Grace, and the dinner began. Tonight was like last night. Only more so. Seven courses, half were small, almost bite-sized. Last night I’d had the chicken, tonight the beef. At the end of the meal, I thanked everyone who attended, and told them I would enjoy their presence on New Year’s Eve. The good father dismissed with a prayer. I was ready for bed.
My only regret was I didn’t get a chance to talk with Carol and Leo.
When we finally were behind closed doors, the three of us undressed as quickly as possible. I really shouldn’t have complained. Linda’s outfit was even more complex than mine, but with each other’s and Hal’s help we peeled each of us out of our gowns, corsets, et. al., ad nauseam. Talk about unfair. Hal was ready for bed, in his jammies in five minutes, I didn’t even have the Dress off. Ugh.
You know, almost everything in my life “fit together” better as a woman. But there were a few things, like complicated torture devices disguised as 16th century clothes, that I could do without.
We were all changed for bed, it was still comparatively early, only 11:30 when we finally got in bed, and held a council of war.
Linda asked, “What are we going to do about Pastor Johnson?”
Hal questioned whether he could be bribed.
I spoke up. A voice of dissent crying in the wilderness. “I don’t think we need to do anything about him. The question should probably be how are we going to handle my being exposed as transgendered?”
Hal replied, “Huh?”
I kissed him. I was tired of being the only one who said that! “Neither I, nor either of you two big brains really thought about what we were doing going to Birmingham. I was desperate to deal with his threat, and you two rightfully agreed with me. But, as soon as that damn tape surfaced on the network news it was only a matter of time before I was exposed. We should probably be grateful for the weekend to try and gracefully explain what has happened, our actions, our transparency by doing everything we were required by law to do, and then move forward and let the chips fall where they may. Our stock may take a bit of a hit, but even that will most likely be very transient. Between us we own an absolute majority of the company. That tape says it all. “Yes, Kate died in September. John was transgendered, as attested to by his doctors: Tom, Norma, Saul, and the two quacks I saw in November. Hell, maybe even the doctor on the cruise ship. Yes, John undertook her role after being asked by Hal and Linda. John has physically become the woman he was mentally, legally becoming Kate, and has reinvigorated Cendar, and is damned competent. You don’t like it? One man paid for that with his life.” You’ve seen the tape. End of story.”
Hal looked up in wonder. “You would do that?”
“Idiot, she already has, or didn’t you notice?”
“Yeah, what she said!”
“It might just work,” Hal said, turning things over and over in his mind.
“Uh, if I could make a suggestion? Pastor Johnson has already said he wants to talk. I would enlist his help if he’s willing. He very well may be. He’s a very fair man, and didn’t run screaming into the night. Let’s all get up nice and early, wake everyone up to go to church. Uh, we were going, right?” Hal and Linda nodded. “Good. Then after brunch see if Norma and Saul, probably Erik, certainly Leo and Carol ‘cause they will be effected by this, Annie, Lisa, Tim, Mom, TJ, and Pastor Johnson, and just lay it out, as it happened, though we don’t have to go into all the details, and ask them all to help.”
Linda contributed, “The worst thing he can do is say no, and we understand exposure will happen regardless.”
“Probably should see if Jane could come,” Hal suggested.
We sat there, just kind of staring at each other. “Let’s give it a shot.”
Linda and Hal sat there nodding.
“Then let’s go to sleep. I’m still tired.”
“You have been busy caterpillar. It looks like it’s time to truly become a butterfly!” Linda teased. Hal turned the light out, and we went to sleep.
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