Chapter 12 of
Soft opening was going well. For three days after the first one, camera crews for various media had been seen all around the park. Guests as well as cast were interviewed, especially the princesses. Tessa was indulging in a bit of mischief, frequently in view, but out of reach for the media. She had already given an off-camera interview to them and thought it better that the cast be given a chance at the spotlight. The fact that the media was now being kept at a distance seemingly by chance was a little amusing for her.
Tessa was sitting on a bench hidden in a shady patio, drinking a cold bottle of water when she felt as if someone were watching and slightly turned. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a small head trying to peer around the shrubs.
"Well, who might you be, sneaking around?" Tessa turned to smile.
A little girl, looking no more than seven edged around looking nervous. "I'm sorry."
Tessa beckoned her over. "Let me see you, little one. It's alright."
Once she was facing her Tessa reached out and stroked her hair. "I'm Queen Tessa. Who might you be?"
"Taylor, Ma'am." Taylor said timidly.
Tessa frowned. "I'm sorry young lady. That won't do. The proper way to greet a Queen, is to curtsey and say your name very clear. Let's try that again. I am Queen Tessa. Who might you be?"
Taylor quickly did her best to curtsey. "I'm Taylor, Queen Tessa."
"MUCH better." Tessa smiled and moved her hand. "I'm fairly certain that you are a tad small to be running about all by yourself. Aren't you?"
Taylor looked caught and nodded. "Momma was talking on her phone."
"Queen Tessa?" A Security member stepped around the corner and asked.
Tessa looked over. "Max. Send for my Captain of the royal guard and a Shepherd."
Max was quick on the take and stood at Attention. "AT ONCE, My Queen!"
Tessa nodded and he bowed then left. The position of her hand had been a secret signal to Over-Watch, who then dispatched the closest member of Security to her. Max quietly radioed in for Dave and one of the Shepherds to join her. It took only a few minutes for them to arrive.
Dave bowed and Liz curtsied as they said in unison. "Queen Tessa."
"Ah! There you are. Miss Taylor here, seems to have misplaced her mother. I would like that taken care of by the time Miss Taylor finishes the ice cream we are going to get for her. Captain, escort us please?" Tessa asked.
Dave smirked, she was playing it up for all she was worth for the little girl. He wasn't about to let it go to waste. "Of course My Lady."
As he turned to go out of the patio, he quietly radioed in. Liz came over and held out her scanner.
"Just a wave of my wand and I'll know what I need, Miss Taylor." Lizz said then waited for the information to come up. "Lost sheep, lost sheep. Let me find you, like little Bo Peep."
The data came up on the screen and she nodded to Tessa.
"Come along Taylor." Tessa stood up and held out her hand. "My royal guard will find her while we find ice cream."
Taylor smiled. "Ok Queen Tessa!"
By the time they came out of the patio, Dave and six members of Security were waiting and formed up for an escort detail. Together they all moved out and went to the ice cream shoppe. Tessa took Taylor through the line herself and they sat at a table outside that had been made available by Dave and his impromptu detail.
"YUMMY!" Taylor exclaimed after a lick of the Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy Mixed scoop cone with sprinkles.
Tessa gave her a serious look. "I searched all winter long; every icy glacier and snow covered mountain, to find the best ice cream maker. I finally found him though and brought him back to VentureRealm."
Taylor looked impressed. "WOW! Where did you find him?"
Tessa leaned forward. "I found Casey in a big frozen meadow, trying to teach a mob of snowmen to yodel. Luckily, I was able to get him back to a place that had hot chocolate. When his brain thawed out, he was very confused. I told him what happened and he asked me to save him. So, I brought him back with me, to cook here in SnowyHill and make the ice cream."
"OOH, he got lucky!" Taylor said.
Tessa nodded. "Indeed."
Dave and his contingent were fighting very hard not to laugh. He had never heard Tessa concoct such a wild story to explain something before and he was enjoying every second of it.
"TAYLOR!" A woman shouted as she rushed up.
Taylor looked and smiled. "Hi Momma."
The woman was about to speak, but was cut off, by Tessa. "Just as I said Taylor. My guards can find anyone in my realm, no matter how lost they get."
"Indeed My Queen." Liz remarked then curtsied.
Tessa stood up and held herself regally. "And there you are. Taylor was quite worried; when YOU wandered off. There are laws in the realm. This is a place of fun after all. How can a young lady have fun, when the person she is with just wanders off not paying attention?"
"Pardon me, My Queen." Dave interrupted then leaned close to whisper in Tessa's ear.
Tessa listened and her expression changed and she began to glare at the woman, but speaking more to herself. "Really? Twenty minutes?"
The woman looked mortified. She knew she had been on her phone a while, but not exactly how long. Twenty minutes was a long time to ignore a child in such a place. Though the call had been work related, it hadn't been urgent. To be honest, it was just a co-worker wanting to annoy her because he could and did quite often. She had been irresponsible and knew it.
"I'm very sorry to worry your, uh, people." She replied, embarassed.
Taylor went over to her mother and said, not exactly whispering. "She's QUEEN TESSA, Momma. You have to curtsey to a Queen. Boys bow, girls curtsey. THEN you say your name."
"OH." The mother curtsied. "Paige Hollaway, Queen Tessa. I'm very sorry Taylor troubled you."
Tessa nodded her approval to Taylor then said to Paige. "Taylor didn't trouble me."
'You did' was unsaid, but very much implied to Paige. It didn't go missed either.
Paige nodded. "I understand. I won't let it happen again."
"See to it." Tessa said then looked at Taylor and smiled. "Captain. See to it Young Miss Taylor is put on my special list. I am to be informed every time she visits from now on."
Dave nodded. "Right away Queen Tessa."
Tessa nodded back then smiled to Taylor. "Have fun Taylor. That's why everyone is here."
Taylor curtsied, followed by her mother, as Tessa left with her escorts.
Paige had only been paying token attention when the woman at the gate placed the bracelet on Taylor's wrist and took a picture. Now she understood why. The bracelet was very special. It not only tracked a child, it also could lead them directly to the parent if seperated. She had still been on the phone when someone tapped on her shoulder. She turned to see a woman park employee, she asked the call to hold and was told that her daughter was with a Queen, after being seperated from her for over the past ten minutes of her now marked at twenty minute phone call.
Paige wanted to kick someone, but realized very quickly it should be herself for being so stupid. After the Queen left, she was taking Taylor to play a game to make up for it. Her phone rang and she took it out, showed it to her daughter then turned it off.
"A promise to a queen is important. A promise to a daughter is more important. I won't do that to you again. Let's go have fun." Paige said and led a smiling Taylor to the game she had pointed at.
She remembered hearing something about a daycare center and wondered if it was true and if she could get Taylor into it.
The Wanderer system was quickly proving to be worth every cent it had cost. The Bo Peep platoon as well. Of the twenty members, fourteen were prior military and six had come from Law Enforcement. Three from police departments, one had been a Sheriff's Deputy, one came from a State Police agency and one former Federal Agent. All of them had come from other states and pounced on the 'only the stupid would refuse' offer from Tessa after being scouted by Dave Wells. Liz Clayton was the commander of the unit. She specialized in surveillance systems and had no problem adapting to the system.
"How'd it go?" One of the other Shepherds asked when Liz returned to the monitoring room.
Liz smiled. "First time we tried it in reverse and it worked like a charm, Bev."
"So what happened after that?" One of the others asked.
"Queen Tessa ripped her a good one and made sure she understood the little girl shouldn't be in trouble because 'momma pulled a stupid' and neglected her. One of the guys said they were having a hard time not laughing before that." Lizz started to giggle.
Beverly asked. "Why's that?"
Liz began to laugh now. "Tessa told the little girl some wild, off-the-wall, story about how she found that chef Casey Malorian. Something about him being brain frozen in a snow meadow trying to teach snowmen to yodel. Even the Captain was having it rough trying to stay cool."
"You know, when they first showed us these uniforms, I thought somebody was kinda 'out there'." The other shepherd, who's name was Amy, remarked.
Beverly looked over. "Yeah? And now?"
Amy chuckled. "I like it. They let us wear these sneakers if we want, or dress shoes if we want. Kinda of funny that we all chose the pleated skirts over shorts for warm weather and I like the polo shirts. If you didn't know any better, you'd think we were all on a tennis or golf team."
Liz sipped from her water bottle. "We blend in and stand out from Hospitality. Just like Queen Tessa and Captain Dave wanted us to. I really like our look, myself."
"Well, it's way different from life in the Corps, but I like that we still have that military bearing. I sure am glad I got that call from the Captain. I was getting worried what I was going to do on the outside." Amy remarked.
Bev asked. "How's Bobby handling the change?"
"He's still raw, but making all these new friends makes it hurt a little less. He still cries and feels ashamed for it though." Amy admitted.
Liz nodded. "It's tough on a little boy to lose a Daddy. And a wife to lose a husband. You two aren't alone though. We're all together and Captain Dave formed that group for families that lost service members. Take it as it is Amy, a chance for a new life."
"Thanks L.T." Amy nodded with a sniff.
Liz nodded to the others in the room. "Let's stay on it ladies. We got lambs to watch over."
"Yes Ma'am!" They all replied and went back to their screens.
With Liz, there were four in the monitoring room and four working the gates. Eight that would take over the shift change later and four off. The rolling schedule kept everybody fresh. It was working out just as planned by Dave wells, and better than the Shepherds had imagined. She had been with the Air Force and stationed at Nellis. She'd met the ex-Army Officer through a mutual acquiantance that worked casino security and they had become fast friends.
She had just decided to retire and try civilian life when he called, proposing something new and different. Her background had made her a perfect candidate for command of the electronic monitoring system for children in the park. She agreed to an interview and jumped at Tessa's offer. Liz was fascinated by the platinum beauty and her cobalt eyes that never wavered.
"Dave tells me you're just the perfect person to entrust the protection of the park's most precious treasure." Tessa had said.
Liz was intrigued and asked. "What would that be?"
"The children who come to play and dream. You will be in charge of an electronic system that watches over them. Are you that person?" Tessa asked
Liz had no idea why she felt compelled to say yes, but did it anyway and never looked back. Now she wouldn't have it any other way. She was doing something she enjoyed and growing to love the place and people she worked for. The unexpected that was quickly becoming the life she never thought to dream of. She wouldn't trade it for anything.
Beverly was ex-Navy and a parent herself, married to civilian currently between jobs as an electrical engineer only made sense as he would also be be made an offer to work on the staff as a technician. Being in the Navy had been good, but now as a parent and wife, bouncing around from base to base every year or two made things complicated. She too, had jumped at the offer without hesitation.
Joe Nably slammed the phone down. He had called everyone he knew and was getting nothing. Almost every bank in the state had given him the same thing. 'Tessa who?'
He had tried running a credit report and got nothing. A connection in the police department couldn't even find a traffic violation. The woman was practically a ghost. Before owning the park property, she didn't exist. There were three banks in Bayleston and he only had a contact in one, the one that couldn't give him any help.
The phone rang and he snatched it up. "WHAT?"
"Catch you at a bad time?" The caller asked.
Joe growled into the phone. "Tell me you finally have something Conway!"
"I have something." Ralph conway replied.
"Well?" Joe asked. "WHAT is it?"
Ralph replied. "Tessa Frost, Owner and CEO of Frost Entertainment Properties, banks with Great National Bank right here in Bayleston."
"Why the hell would they float her a loan?" Joe asked more confused now than ever.
"They didn't. She just banks with them." Ralph answered.
Joe had to take a minute to register that, but still didn't understand. "They didn't? Well, who did?"
"No clue." Ralph replied.
"Look Conway, without my contributions, your campaign to stay on the city council would have gone down the toilet. I want answers. Why aren't you getting them?" Joe Nably snarled.
Ralph didn't like being spoken to that way. "You didn't do that much of a favor. A favor that I've repaid many times over. I'm not a financial investigator or any other kind. I asked around and that's what I got. It may not seems like much, but sure sounds like more than what you had before I called."
Nably slammed the phone down again for the fifth time that day. "People don't just pop out of nowhere and plunk down 70 million dollars and open up a park!"
"Not 70 million. More like over 400 million." His secretary said coming in.
Joe's jaw dropped. "WHAT?"
"Over 400 million." She repeated then handed him a page. "70 million to buy the property. All the rides there previously had to be scrapped. I checked the prices of the rides there now, new, and got this. That doesn't include all the construction or food services and other things. It's just the rides. I counted up the buildings there and estimated construction costs for those. The only thing I couldn't figure in was the actual employee wages. Over 400 million is a conservative figure. I'm sure the actual figure is much higher."
"Then WHY is she so hard to get a line on if she has that kind of credit?" Joe demanded.
The secretary shrugged. "She may be actively concealing that. Many with big money do that, remember? She may own multiple corporations and this is the first thing in her own name."
Joe reached over and grabbed his phone and dialed then said when it was answered. "Brad. Joe Nably. I need you to drop whatever you're working on."
"It's a simple adultery case, but not pressing. Why?" Brad asked.
Joe replied. "That amusement park that just opened. It's owned by a woman named Tessa Frost. I want to know everything about her. See if you can get on there as well and find out anything dirty about the place."
"It's going to cost you Joe." Brad cautioned.
Joe kept his temper, barely. "Get me answers Brad."
The line clicked in his ear and he almost went with the urge to slam the phone again, but casually set it back down. Brad Foster was expensive, but had always gotten whatever Joe wanted.
Friday came. It had been announced and posted that the park would be closing early that day, at 6 p.m., to prepare for the official Grand Opening the next day. Everyone pitched in, to clean and add decorations. At midnight they began releasing cast members then staff as their assignments were completed. The princesses made final walk-through and reported they were ready. Tessa walked SnowyHill personally and deemed it ready. With that the final crews left the park to Zeke and his Nightwatch.
Tessa awoke at 6 Saturday morning. She hurried through a shower and styled her hair. In a simple short skirt and halter top, she had a quick breakfast then left for the park. She met in the conference room with the princesses and leaders of park's services for the briefing at 7. The briefing lasted thirty minutes and they broke. Tessa checked her office for anything immediate that needed her concern then went to her dressing room over in SnowyHill.
There had been the offer of a make-up artist to come to the dressing room for Tessa in the beginning, but she declined that. Instead she merely asked to be shown a better make-up scheme than the everyday plan she used. Tessa insisted that the hair and make-up artists focus on the other cast, as they spent more time with the guests. She finished her final hair style then dressed in the white gown and high heeled sandals. Tessa put on her tiara then took up her scepter and began making her way out. The VIPs would begin arriving soon.
Elaine Oberlin thought she had been impressed the day the park opened. Seeing it today, she was stunned. They had pulled out all the stops and decorated the whole park. There were even knights in gleaming suits of armour that took position at the gates and more that had formed an escort around Tessa and her princesses to escort them.
Governor Wayne Thompson couldn't believe his eyes. He had been given day passes for himself and his family for the first day and again for today. That first day had been incredible, today was beyond belief.
"Mayor Oberlin. Governor Thompson. Welcome." Tessa greeted them, backed by the princesses.
Elaine smiled and even gave a slight curtsey. "Queen Tessa. Princess Nicole, Princess Michelle, Princess Danica. Lovely to see you all."
"Welcome." Danica and Michelle replied smiling as Nicole said. "Bienvenue."
They went over the plan for the opening ceremony then formed up under the guidance of Dave. He was wearing an outfit that looked like a cross between a ceremonial cavalryman and a marching band's field commander. Other members of Security were dressed similarly in the colors of the park areas they represented.
Tessa was having fun with this and smiled broadly. "Captain. I believe we are now ready."
Dave let the smirk slip for a moment as he offered his arm for Tessa to take then called out. "Escort Detail; MOVE OUT."
Each Princess took the arm of her escort and followed behind Tessa and Captain Dave. Mayor Obelin also had an escort and no one was more surprised than Governor Thompson, when a female member of security wearing a skirted version of the ceremonial uniform and tall white boots took position by his side. Even the security dogs had been given some form of ceremonial decor. As a procession, they made their way to the gates and a platform just outside. At 9:30 a.m. the last person stepped up onto the platform.
Television cameras turned and focused as the Governor, introduced by Dave Wells, stepped forward and made a brief speech about his impression and experience of the park. Elaine Oberlin was next.
Elaine had felt flattered by having an escort. Even feeling a little like a princess herself. When Tessa had suggested that she present a charming look, she had taken that to heart. Wearing a tea length sundress and high heeled sandals, she did look charming.
"When I heard that the park had been bought and was being rebuilt, I was very excited! I met the lovely owner one day and we had a pleasant chat. When I was invited to a sneak peek, I couldn't refuse! An incredible place with wonderful people was taking shape here. I was fascinated by everything. I'm so very glad a place called VentureRealm and Tessa Frost, its Queen, is here!" Elaine Oberlin announced then clapped, making way for Tessa to come forward.
Tessa looked out to the crowd and smiled as several girls quickly curtsied and nodded back to them. "Thank you Madam Mayor, Governor Thompson, for your kind words. Long ago, a child visited a place made for fun. That child went sleep that night already dreaming of another time. Years went by and even though that dream seemed far away, it was never gone. The chance came and it was taken. That child of long ago, stands here now. A tiara upon her head and princesses standing by her side. Children, enjoy. Have fun and dream. You never know when one can come true! GUARDS. TESSA FROST, QUEEN OF VENTUREREALM COMMANDS YOU: OPEN THE GATES! Welcome to VentureRealm Park!"
On soft opening day there had been some fireworks when the gates opened. Today though, there was close to twenty times that as the green lights lit over the gates and the knights in armour came to Attention and walked through. Music began to play and the gatekeepers waved lines forward. Children squealed in excitement and lunged forward, holding the hands of their parents to go through the gates. Even if they had already been, today was special and they knew it. None were disappointed inside the park. Everything looked completely brand new.
Tessa smiled after her attention was caught by Liz. Standing beside her was little Taylor, wearing a princess play-dress.
"Well now. Look at you! Very charming Miss Taylor." Tessa said.
Taylor gave her a deep curtsey and smiled. "Hi Queen Tessa. Momma brought me back to see the park."
Paige wore a simple sundress and mimicked her daughter. "Hello Queen Tessa. I promise good behavior today."
"Oh? That would be very nice." Tessa remarked, looking at her intently.
Taylor stepped closer and Tessa bent down to listen as she said softly. "Momma turned her phone off before we got out of the car so she won't get called again."
"VERY good. Then I leave her in your care Taylor. See to it she has fun, but doesn't get lost." Tessa smiled.
Taylor nodded. "Yes Ma'am! Come on Momma!"
Paige smiled as her daughter took her hand and pulled to hurry into the first area of the park they could get to.
Children were flocking to the princesses happily. Each one gathered up a group and led them to their area of the park followed closely by their parents or sitters. They danced and skipped along, clapping and trying to sing along with their chosen princess. Some had an advantage as they were the children of the construction workers and had met the princesses in the daycare center.
Tessa turned around and was surprised. She, too, had attracted a following of children. All looked up at her with smiles and adoring eyes.
"You all must be my Ladies-in-waiting! Now that you're here, let's go to SnowyHill!" Tessa said.
Two girls quickly reached out to hold her hands and she nodded to their adults and led them further into the park. The official opening had indeed, been grand.
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