Without A Hitch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Penelope is well aware she is the better thief - but will she beat James at his own game and what will become of Mrs. Higgenbottom? Read more to see.

Submitted: March 22, 2020

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 22, 2020



Without a Hitch



“Now are you sure it will be safe in here?” questioned Mrs. Nellabell Higgenbottom, such a ridiculous name that her friends called her Nellie for short. And there were those that called her Higgie, but they were not so much her friends. The bellhop eyed the short frumpy lady, in her pale paisley blue dress with her cockeyed floral hat and her ridiculous poodle tucked under her arm. For heaven sake, even the poodle’s fur was tinged blue. 


“Yes, Mrs. Higgenbottom, The necklace will be fine in the safe.” he said, obviously perturbed that he had to answer the question yet again.


 “Oh, and what about my little Poopsie?” she said, holding the dog in front of her face and allowing it to lick her lips. The bellhop cringed.


 “With all due respect Madame, this is the Athenaeum Hotel in Piccadilly, we don’t usually place our dogs in the safe.” He knew sarcasm was beyond Higgie’s quaint grasp of intelligence.


 “Oh, you retched little man! As if I would ever think of doing such a thing to mummy’s little baby. Would mummy? Oh no I wouldn’t.” She was speaking baby talk to the dog; he did more then cringe, this time he blanched.


 “I am sure Poopsie will find the accommodations of the Kennel Club suit him beautifully.”


“Well I hope you are right young man for your sake. If one thing happens to my dog, I will have all their jobs and yours’s too for recommending the place. I would take him with me but mummy’s wittle baby will have to stay behind today. Won’t you snookums? I have an all-day meeting at the Tate museum. I am interested in buying a collection there. After all what else in one to do with so much money?” Nellie said and did not notice how disgruntled the bellhop was becoming. There was nothing he hated more then rich American women who flaunted the hard-won earnings of their rich but deceased husbands, and Higgie was exactly that. “I won’t be back till much later this evening. I have tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre and then on to Bulloch’s for dinner with my male friend. He is the first I have dated since poor Mr. Higgenbottom passed away. I won’t be able to pick Poopsie up until tomorrow morning.”


“I am sorry, madam, to hear that Mr. Higgenbottom passed away.”


“Hmmm?” she asked absentmindedly as she again kissed her dog. “Oh yes, yes,” she noted with a wave of her hand. “It was all so sudden.”


“Bored to death I fear,” he said under his breath.


“Eh? What was that young man?”


“Oh, I said you must have been in tears.” She eyes him suspiciously but still said, “Yes I was very sad after all.”


“Now please be a good boy and take Poopsie to the Kennel for me. After all I will not be able to see him off. I fear I will cry too hard and make a fool of myself.”


“More like an imbecile.”  She eyed him again. “Eh?”


“I said, that is not possible.” Ever the gentleman, the bellhop bowed and he was off with the ugly blue poodle shoved under his arm.  Of course, the dog growled at him the entire time.


Mrs. Higgenbottom wasted no time in leaving her room to set out for her daily appointments.  As soon as she neared the door, a code began, unbeknownst to her. The bellhop with the poodle nodded to the food service man who in turn nodded to the doorman. The doorman laid a finger upon his nose when the taxi driver pulled up. And the taxi driver upon learning that his services would be in use for the rest of the day, called into his station house and spoke in a code that was foreign to his self-absorbed passenger.


He said, “I’ll be outta commission mates. Me bird is an all day and night pigeon. Her feathers are very elegant, and she left her eggs to nest in the roost.”


Back at the home office of Mike’s cab service two people sat eager to hear that call, one was James and the other Penelope. James’ boss, Niles passed the call to James as he eyed Penelope with disgust. She would not get this call. This was too big a coup to send a mere woman on. This required a man’s finesse. James smiled at her smugly and with a tip of his hat, he was gone.


Penelope was angry. She deserved that call. Niles had said the next one was hers. Well, she thought, she would show him. Knowing now that the calls were done for the morning, or not caring whether they were or not, she arose in a huff and walked out the door and straight to her apartment.


“I am not one to be trifled with am I boys?” she said to her parrots, Jasper and Riggles. They looked at her in certain agreement. “I learned at the hands of the best I did, and I will not be told no!” She went into her closet and got out her most expensive looking suit and the fake fur given to her by a chap many years ago.  She donned her elegant long white gloves and surveyed herself in the mirror. Spinning around to see the back, “Not a bad job eh fellas?” she asked them and as if on cue they whistled simultaneously. She looked at the clock it was of course important to time this perfectly.


Taking the tube to Piccadilly she got off and headed into the Athenaeum. She walkedstraight up to the front desk and assumed her poshest air. “I believe you have a reservation for me?”


The clerk behind the counter looked at her. He was not one who was blind to beauty and this lady was a looker. He would bet his weekly bar tab that she was a wildcat in bed. “And you are? Miss eh?” he said as he looked down at the registry before him. As she did that she reached down and pushed a button on the mobile phone in her purse. It was a button to see if the line was working and in a second it would emit a chirp to let her know it was working effectively. 


“I am MS. Sotherton.” She said.


“I don’t seem to see your name here Ms. Sotherton., I …” but he trailed off with the ringing of her cell phone.


“Oh bloody hell, excuse me,” Penelope said, and reached into her briefcase to answer the call. “I am at the Athenaeum. No, you clod, they cannot find my reservation! I don’t care if your wife is in labor with your fifth child. I will have your job for this Alfred. You were supposed to make the reservations. Well sure you can say you did but they aren’t here are they? Oh, stop blubbering you fool and act like a man. You will surely get by. Tell your wife to go out and get a job then…” she said raising her voice just loud enough to draw some minor attention.


The front desk clerk was turning red with embarrassment and he loosened his tie when the manager of the hotel looked out from his office doorway at the commotion. He had to do something; he didn’t want the poor sap on the other end of the phone to lose his job with another child on the way. And he certainly didn’t want to lose his over the ruckus this lady was creating. It would be his third warning this month, he smiled because the other two were for a little tuck and roll in the maintenance closet with Libby the upstairs maid.


“Oh wait, oh yes, here is it madam. I found it and our bellhop will be glad to show you to your room. So sorry ma’am the other clerk must’ve entered your name wrong, I will have a word.”


“See that you do!” Penelope said in a huff and she told the imaginary Alfred that his job was quite secure for the time being.


“Bags madam?” asked the young bellhop.


“Oh no, I am only staying one night, and I sleep in the nude.” She told him and chuckled with delight as his eyes nearly popped out of his head.


He took her to a room on the eighth floor, which could not have been more perfect because the Presidential Suite was on the tenth floor, at the top of the hotel. She noted the fire escape doors as she left the elevator. There were no cameras in the halls. This would be her easiest job yet. She thanked her bellhop and tipped him graciously. It was going to be expensive making herself noticed in this place, but the pay off would be well worth it.


Penelope looked around her room at the luxurious digs. It was so much nicer than she would be able to afford. And the best part was she would get it all for free she was sure of it. Her ability to con men out of things was what made her so good at what she did. She looked out her window at Green Park below. It was beautiful this time of day. She stepped out on the balcony and inhaled the fresh scent of the potted roses that added ambience to the concrete patio. Casually she surveyed the scene around her. She leaned with her back on the rail and appeared to take in her room, but she was actually gauging the distance from the balcony above her should she get in a jam that evening. It was jumpable. Now she had to go about seeing who was in there.


Penelope shut the balcony doors carefully and went back inside to use the phone. With one gloved hand she dialed the front desk while the other held the receiver.


“Front Desk. This is Rupert. What can I do for you Ms. Sotherton.?”


“Yes, Rupert hello. I would like to know who is in the room above me. They are making an awful racket and my head is splitting. I was really hoping I could lather up in a hot bath and relax in some peace and quiet.” Planting that mental image in his head assured her of getting her information. She was not averse to using the body she had when she needed it.


“I am sure you are mistaken madam. The former occupants checked out this morning and there is no one due in till tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps it is the maid?”


“Well, Rubert,” she said deliberately mispronouncing his name, “If it is your maid, I would appreciate you telling her to quiet down. Or I will have to personally tell Mr. Wallace, of Wallace, Kramden, and Wallace that this will not be a suitable place for our retreat occurring in the near future.”


“Yes madam, of course, I will get on it right away.” And with a gulp as he hung up the phone, he called to the bellhop. “Get me whoever cleaned the Parkview suites on floor nine today and send some aspirins, sandwiches and a pot of coffee up to the suite 809 on the house.”


The bellhop stumbled, “What kind of sandwiches sir?”


“The best that we have you idiot! And get on it now!” This was one time that the problems of this hotel would not be on his conscience.


“Yes sir!” said the bellhop and scurried away to do Rupert’s bidding.


Penelope was pleasantly surprised when she opened the door to the complimentary food, and she polished it off with quickness. She wasn’t sure what were in the sandwiches, but she certainly enjoyed them. Most days she could afford little more then fish and chips. This was a fine difference.


Timing her exit perfectly, Penelope left the hotel at precisely 5:30. She made sure to give a wave, wink and smile to Rupert as she did so. She knew full well that when she came back thirty minutes later, he would be off shift and the new desk clerk would not even notice her. Then all she would have to do was sit and wait.


After a light dinner, all she could manage on her money and her jittery stomach, Penelope headed back to her hotel and deliberately took the elevator on the opposite side. She wandered the long hallways, noting the food trays that laid outside and the “Do Not Disturb” signs already hung on doorknobs. Doubtless they were young couples in love to retire so early, and she wished, not for the first time that a man would come into her life. One that would take care of her the way that she longed to be and the way that she deserved to be. Nearing the middle of the hallway, she moved a table to the center, climbed upon it and unscrewed the light bulb. Then she wandered on to her lonely room and with a sigh opened the door. She watched the telly for a few hours and then began to get ready. She undressed and gently laid her clothes on the back of her chair and removed her black garments from the bag inside her briefcase. She pulled back her auburn hair into a tight twist. She put on her black jeans and sweatshirt. The last thing to come out of the bag was the black jeff cap that was two sizes too large for her and yet she insisted on wearing. She snuck out of her room into the now darkened corridor and walked quickly and stealthfully to the fire escape. She walked up two flights and snuck out into the hall where the Presidential suite was. Luckily, there was no one about. The evening maid had already turned down the bed.


Her timing had to be perfect here. Penelope used her lock pick kit to open the door, though she doubted she needed even that. In these old hotels usually a credit card was enough. It was amazing what lax security measures a hotel could get away with as long as it was historical. Moving inside the room, she quickly went to the painting and popped the latch. She put her ear up to the safe and on three tries she opened the lock as easy as that. She removed the brilliant sapphire and diamond necklace and admired its beauty for just a moment. Then she heard footsteps in the hall outside. Damn! Her first robbery would probably get her sent to prison and all because she took a second to gaze at the bounty she had found. Quickly and quietly, she closed the safe and putting the painting back in place, she moved behind the heavy maroon curtains adorning the window. With luck she would not be seen.


James tried the lock and found it quite easy to open, in fact it already was. He shook his head in disgust. They were just asking for this place to be robbed. In his bellhop suit he moved into the room, purportedly to check on a leaky faucet. At least that is what he told the concierge that gave him the key. He told them what a pistol Ms. Higgenbottom was, going on an assumption that most rich women were. The concierge apparently shared his low opinion as he gave him the service key without a second glance.  It was doubtless that the man would remember his face tomorrow, especially after James had slipped that powder into his drink. The gentleman would be sleeping like a baby in no time at all.


Penelope breathed a sigh of relief when she saw who it was, but she thought it might be fun to wait and see his reaction before revealing her coup. He walked to the safe and cracked the code as easy as Penelope had. From behind the curtain she admired the way he filled out his pants from behind and found herself wondering if the front was near as well endowed.


“Damn!” was the oath that James muttered as he found the safe empty. He almost assumed he had been given false information. Then, he saw the pair of decidedly feminine feet under the curtain in the shadows. Looking down he also spotted a pin used to pick a lock. He was trained to look, or he might have missed her and it. He was about to go and scare the daylights out of her when her heard voices outside the door. He closed the safe quickly and hid behind the other curtain opposite Penelope. There was shock in both their eyes as they connected; his at the knowledge and recognition of his worthy opponent and hers at the noise outside the apartment.


Mrs. Higgenbottom was feeling a little tipsy when she entered the apartment with Mr. Fodderall. She wasn’t sure exactly what he was intending, but she knew he wasn’t going to spend the night. She tried to say goodbye at the door, but the drunken, arrogant, little man pushed his way past her into the room.  Well she would have to use her girth to get rid of him the hard way she supposed. Following him into the room, she asked him to leave yet again. Mr. Fodderall, however, had no intentions of leaving here without a smooch or at the very least a little drink to keep his mouth wet on the ride back to his hotel.


Nellie poured him a brandy and sat beside him as he drank it. He put his arm around her shoulders and tried to grope her chest, but his arm was not long enough to get there. “Alright you have had your night cap, Smidge,” which is what she learned all of his friends called him though she had no idea why, “now it is time to say good night.”


“Well alright Nellie, but I thought we would cuddle a little before we went straight to bed. My, you are a horny little lady, aren’t you?”


Nellie blustered and huffed at his presumption. She grabbed his hand in an effort to propel him to the doorway and tried to reason with him to leave. As the scuffle and commotion took place inside, Penelope moved slowly to the center door and opened the balcony window. Motioning for James to follow her, she stood behind the window where the curtain hid them both well.


“What are you doing here? This was my call.” Said James, his barely controlled anger seeping through his whispered voice.


“Ah yes, your call, but I have the goods, Ducky.” Penelope reminded him gently.


“Look,” he said, and she shushed him by placing a finger over his lips.


“Now is not the time to debate,” she said, and moved to the edge of the railing. Climbing over it, she noticed his skeptical look. “It is not that far of a jump. I checked it out earlier. My father always taught me to have two escape routes planned.”


“What about the people below?” he asked nervously.


“There’s no one there. Don’t look so surprised I do my homework.” she said, and jumped down to the next balcony.


And when James made the leap from one to the next, he felt his heart go with him and leap to hers. It was hard not to love the woman who had out-burgled him. 


With ease she made it from one floor to the next and entered her own room on the eighth floor in no time at all. James soon followed and clapped his appreciation once inside the safe confines of her suite. “May I congratulate you on a job well done my dear.”


“Of course, it was the perfect crime.” She said beaming. Penelope was so proud of herself.


“Well it was almost perfect.”


“Almost?” she asked.


‘Hmm yes, you are lucky I came in after you because you left your door unlocked, a dead give away to the unlucky victim. And you dropped your tool on the floor in front of the safe. Both of those alone could have given the whole operation away. I should turn you into Niles for your carelessness. Not to mention I am pissed that you stole my job.”


Penelope was so embarrassed that she could have made two such stupid gaffes. She owed James. He prevented her from going to prison that night, she was sure of it.  “Turn me in then, he could care less about me anyway. He is never willing to give me a chance.” She said with a stomp of her foot.


“That does it!” he said and he walked deliberately over to her. She backed away not sure of his intentions. But when he brought his lips down in a crushing blow against hers, Penelope melted like ice cream on a hot summer day. In time with each other, they crossed the room together.  They made it to the bed, and he pulled her down on his lap. They sat like that for ten minutes, kissing each other fervently. Reveling in the glory of their new found love.


“Would you try it on for me?” he asked.


“What?” she asked in breathless confusion.


“The necklace.”


“Oh um of course,” she said, and she got up off his lap, all be it reluctantly, to try it on.


“Oh no dear, it is the only thing I want to see on you.”


Penelope blushed but she had fallen under his spell and he would be the first man to claim her as his own that night.


They tumbled into bed together and spent a passionate night rolling around in the pristine sheets. The next morning, he left before her with the other bellhops as they checked off their shift. 


The police arrived shortly thereafter and that was Penelope’s cue to make her exit. She rode down in the elevator and made her way over to Rupert at the front desk. Mrs. Higgenbottom was standing in the middle of the lobby and causing quite a commotion. She was loudly berating the general manager of the hotel and exclaiming to the police that she was robbed, and they best get off their arses and do something.


Penelope played it cool as she confidently patted her briefcase. “What is going on here Rupert?” she asked in alarm.


“Umm it appears that Mrs. Higgenbottom is missing some valuables. I cannot say too much about it. You understand, Ms. Sotherton.”


“Ah you are wise to keep your counsel Rupert but tell me how is it I can go back to the office and tell them that this is a good place to bring our convention and to send all of our influential clients? First you lose my reservation, and then the maid makes enough noise to wake the dead. Last night I noticed it was very unsafe in my hallway; the light was not on. And now you say this poor lady had been robbed?”


“You are right of course madam. Would it ease your mind if I discounted your visit with us and you have my personal assurance that it is not like this, usually.”


“Well alright then. As long as it is your assurance Rupert, I will take it.”


The commotion heightened as the poor hapless bellhop from the day before went out of his way to retrieve Poopsie. He took the animal happily to its owner, so proud was he. Only Mrs. Higgenbottom was in rare form and taking her animal from him, swiftly began to beat the poor boy over the head with her pocketbook. She was yelling the whole time about how he assured her the necklace would be safe. Penelope just stared, and in the confusion, Rupert wrote her out a receipt, forgetting to charge her anything.


She walked out of the hotel happier than she had been in weeks. She was richer, better off and in love. James stood in front of his car a few yards down with a bouquet of flowers in hand. They headed over to home base to turn the necklace into Niles, but they made a quick stop first.


Niles was happy to see James and nodded to Penelope with the same curt, off-handed nod of annoyance that he always did. “How did it go?” he asked James.


“It went off without a hitch,” he replied.


“Well almost,” said Penelope and she flashed Niles the simple gold wedding ban she wore on her hand. And yes, even stuffy old Niles had to smile at that.

© Copyright 2020 Sionna. All rights reserved.

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