Archive for November, 2022

Gray Lace, part 50


In my Gray Lace, pages 97-98, my two antagonists, John and Jared Pettigrew, show their wicked sides. If this scene offends, I apologize. Sometimes life does that.

Catherine is hidden in plain sight under a side table as this scene progresses and she must decide when to escape with her proof of her stolen trust funds.

Her childhood memories flashed. This is the spot where she had studied math questions and played paper dolls while her father had worked on his “homework”. Now she waited and prayed and clutched the papers to her chest. She scuttled as far back as she could to the wall, thinking there used to be more room under that table.

John and Jared Pettigrew marched in followed by a wailing Cynthia. “Light the lamps, Jared. And Cynthia, shut up! We’ll handle this. Haven’t we before? Now, sit down and listen. If you can’t stop that ridiculous sniffling, then go to bed.” He threw himself into Peter Randolph’s comfortable leather chair.

Catherine knew he could possibly see her. Her father often had. He would talk her through those enjoyable math questions or ask her about whatever afternoon adventures her dolls were experiencing. However, now, she focused on the tiny objects blocking Pettigrew’s full view of her. A chessboard table had been placed a few feet away. She bent down an inch more and begged the knight and castle to shield and protect.

“That damned overly chatty Englishman kept at us. What’s he after?” Jared jammed his hands into his pockets, stood with his feet apart, and pointed his chin higher.

“Not sure,” his father offered in a mumbled response. In a stronger voice he raised his head and announced, “I have an appointment with him tomorrow. He wants his attorney with him to conduct some business.”

Cynthia timidly asked, “What kind of business?”

“Shut up, bitch! I warned you!” He stood up so fast the chair rolled back and hit the bookcase. The loud slap startled Catherine and her empathy chilled her when Cynthia’s head slammed against the back of her chair. He sneered, “Now, I’ll get you upstairs.” He shoved his face into hers, “I’m feeling up to the occasion.”

“No, John, not tonight, please!”

“Jared, turn down those lamps when you finish swilling my expensive liquor.” He forced Cynthia to her feet and pushed her out the door. Catherine heard her pleading for mercy all the way up the stairs before their bedroom door slammed.

Jared’s sigh was loud, and he restlessly paced around the room after pouring more than a glass of whiskey was meant to hold. He stopped before the chessboard, his feet facing Catherine. He threw back the contents of the crystal tumbler and moved around a few pieces as if he actually knew how to play. Catherine didn’t breathe. She focused on his hands and her skin crawled when his evil laugh accompanied the king and queen battling out a sex scene, similar to what was happening upstairs.

He threw them down on their kingdoms and left the room forcing the doors to slam. His glass tumbler stared back at Catherine. She spent a moment staring back, breathing and listening, then another one to thank her Good Lord for her current safety. Gradually, she dared to move a few limbs at a time as she climbed out of her childhood cave. She stood at the chessboard, listening carefully for Jared’s possible return. She debated about taking the king and queen with her and she allowed one brief moment of sadness. She left the pieces to defend their own kingdom and she quietly opened the hall door. Peering around the corner, she thanked any lucky stars available that no one was around. The muffled cries from above would be ignored, unfortunately.

Her luck, her stars, and planet alignments herded her out the front door and down the steps. The Patteson Hotel waited to warmly greet her, but she would try the back door first since her maid uniform might serve her once more, even without shoes.

Enough! (until later)

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Gray Lace, part 49


I want to write a political essay, but I won’t. This isn’t the correct platform. However, I will write, I thought the fear would not get this close. Threats have been made locally to a friend.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

At this moment it feels to be quite “enough”.

Returning to 1908, Charleston, our Catherine survived the disastrous Stafford formal dinner and is now carefully invading her old childhood home, searching for the proof of her stolen inheritance.

Chapter Nine

“Ouch!” Catherine’s toe sent the expected pain to her anxious mind. In the darkened study, she had quickly covered her mouth from spitting forth further noises. Surely, the few servants hadn’t heard her cry out. Her father’s study with plush heavy furniture muffled most of her racquet. Her nose wrinkled in disgust at the accumulation of dust. When she had visited as a child this room had always been invitingly clean.

The muted light from the hall showed her a path around the ornate wooden ottoman. That monstrosity explained her unhappy toe. Maybe leaving her shoes on the roof wasn’t her best idea.

Lovingly she ran her fingers over the smooth edge of his desk. She couldn’t ignore her stepfather’s overly neat supplies. There were no important documents visible or any papers for that matter. There was a large ink blotter, a leather penholder, and a glass ink bottle. That’s it. Catherine recalled teasing her playful and loving father by rearranging his stacks of books and files. She thought of them as building blocks. Never once had he been cross, upset, or heaven forbid, violent. The faint scar on her hairline begin to throb as she remembered that years later John Pettigrew slammed her into the lamp table for being “caught in his study”.

Urging herself to get on with the task at hand, she knew her minutes were few before the Pettigrews would return from the dinner next door. She smiled at Trevor’s attempt to aide her escape. He’s gone to the entrance hall and spoke to the Pettigrews. “Both of you, come back and rejoin us.” He then escorted them back to the Stafford’s elaborate table. “There cannot be anything as delicious as this feast in your own home right now. Well, not better than our company and our lovely hostess.” He had walked to the swinging pantry door and opened it to speak to the servants. He winked at the cowering Catherine and turning to the two footmen, he asked, “Excuse me, but could we continue with this fine dinner? Take your time. I see that you’re short-handed. Thank you.” Trevor returned to his seat and spoke to the guests, “Shall we enjoy a few hours of fellowship? I’m terribly interested in the investment opportunities you spoke about, Pettigrew.”

Catherine shook away her memories of her close call and get away over the two roof tops. She headed to the far study wall and reached to slide one of her favorite paintings off of its hooks as she’s often done under her father’s keen observation and direction. She fondly remembered Winslow Homer’s “A Visit from the Old Mistress”, but this one felt lighter. The frame was different. She whispered out loud, “They sold it!” In its place was a cheaply made flower print. Sadness tried to stop her progress as she recalled the day her father bought the meaningfully important oil painting from an auction held to raise funds for the orphans and war veterans. It was a scene of understanding and compassion and she had loved it.

She managed to delay her anger and she lifted the poor replacement off its hooks. The small safe welcomed her touch as she tumbled in her birthdate. “Please let it be the same combination”, she prayed. The door swung to the right and Catherine excitedly pulled out papers and several packages of cash. She disgustedly threw the money back and started sifting through the deeds, bills of sale, and insurance policies.

Soft muffled voices from below startled her enough to be reminded of her lack of time. Grabbing the forms, she then locked and concealed the safe. While replacing the cheap painting, she felt a niggling feeling that she had left something, but time tugged at her anxiousness.

Zigzagging among the shadowed furniture, she made it to the door before her mind registered the moving door handle. She stuffed the papers into her blouse, scrambled under the nearby long narrow display table and wished for a plan C. As she struggled for stability of thought, she asked herself, “Where’s the blue ribbon? Daddy had her trust fund tied up in a royal blue ribbon.”

Enough! (until later)

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