Chickens in a Mood to Roost: Hammersmith (twenty-six)
Chickens in a Mood to Roost
An unusual sight greeted Minnie and Shaw, as they strolled onto Hammersmith’s Main Street. If either had known a family-sized carriage, one confiding wealth—in that its brass lamps shined, their glass intact; the side panels were of a glowing mahogany that, burnished under a coachman’s care, laughed at dust; the spokes of the rubber tires thrust true (and were not a bit rusted, nor especially dirt-caked for their travels)—was an unusual sight, pulled to a standstill before the Main Street Hotel, one or the other might have remarked on it.
Shaw’s state of mind percolated in a way the cautious Medlow’s Detection Agency operative of an hour past would not have recognized. He fell off from laughing at something she’d said to him, to search for the debonair, rueful comeback…and found he’d lost the thread.
Now Minnie did remark the coach.
“There, look! That would be the life. And a private car, like Lillian Russell’s, done up as a boudoir, with a kitchen of its own. Take your sweet time getting ready, send your man to do the dirty work at the station, lounge in a private waiting room if the train’s late…”
“One day,” Shaw said.
“Oh, Bladon. What are we talking about? I’ve been touring since I was fourteen. There’s enough talent out there…real talent…to fill the bill at Carnegie the next twenty years. What a girl needs in her corner is a pistol, a guy who’s heck or high water going to push her to the top. I’ve never had that.”
She looked into his eyes, and he looked back into hers…remembering that this was what they’d been talking about. Shaw felt an urge to say, “I do.”
He said instead, “I wish I…” and was cut short.
Vic Mack had heaved open the hotel door. He was followed onto the walk by Aimee.
This was a rough accusation to fling on the street, but Vic, without turning, flung back: “You come and dictate to me, ma’am, if you’re wanting to speed things along…and I’ll be obliged to you. Otherwise, I’ll sort this out my own way…and in my own time!”
He crossed and heaved a second door, the one to his offices.
“Aimee! You’re back!”
Mrs. Bard turned her head at Minnie’s call, and when she noticed Shaw, her eyes seemed to light. The light was more that of Nemesis closing, than the enchantment he’d have taken as life’s culmination only that morning, when she’d left him.
“Oh…”—he threw this out in a hurry—“your nephew’s up and about, ma’am. And Ruby…”
(copyright 2018 Stephanie Foster)