Chapter 4: The Party

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 218
Comments: 1

FILM LOVERS WORLD 1ST February 1933

Beverly Oxenbow- What this girl doesn’t know about glamourous lives of the stars isn’t worth knowing!!!

At a loose end this weekend? Looking to let your hair down and swing? Sorry folks but unless you are an extravagantly rich film producer or one of England’s more glamourous film stars you WON”T be at Topsy Drinkwater’s end of shoot party at her Buckingham Mansion this Friday. It’s strictly for 100 of Miss Drinkwater’s closest friends! Regular readers of my column know that Topsy loves to celebrate the end of filming in style and her new talkie “The Mystery of the Lady’s Ruby,” has just been completed. That gal’s got plenty to celebrate: looks, charm talent to spare (not that I’m jealous  gggrrrr!!) If her previous parties are anything to go by all of London will be talking about what went on next week so make sure to read here all for all the gossip after the event.

# # # #

Silky’s cab left the suburbs of London behind and its headlights picked their way carefully along the deserted country road. After a few minutes though, a blaze of spotlights, far brighter than the streetlamps of the suburbs, appeared ahead.

“Cor blimey, Guv’nor look,” said the driver. “It’s a film studio. This must be why Miss Drinkwater has her house out here. To be close to her work.”

The spotlights illuminated several long concrete shed-type buildings, which presumably housed the film sets. But the greater part of the light was directed at a huge billboard facing the road. The billboard was largely taken up by a man’s face: a gleaming dome of bald head, three fat chins, two dangling jowls and the most piercing stare that Silky had ever seen. Next to the huge face, crimson letters proclaimed: “NORDRAGON FILM STUDIOS.”

“Talk about an ego manic. Eh, Guv’nor?”

Silky took a long look at his adversary as they drove passed. “Have you ever had him in your cab?”

“Nordragon? Naw but I heard all about him. He’s like marmite. You love him or you hate him. The old ladies, what who want to connect them what are on the other side- they love him. Can’t speak highly enough they can’t. I heard that’s why he’s so rich. The old ladies leave him all their money.”

They drove through dark country lanes again but soon the sound of raucous jazz music was drifting through the trees with the breeze.

“I recon we are on the right track guv’nor. I told you I knew the way – roughly.”

“I think so my good man – Ah look ahead, a Rolls Royce. It’s turning down that road. I think if we follow that we’ll find the party.”

Silky was right. Following in the wake of the gleaming silver Rolls soon took them onto a long gravel driveway of a large white villa with several equally expensive vehicles parked in front and with music blaring out of the open doors. It was a well-appointed looking place: a tudor style mix of stone and timber. A large statue of Venus stood in a fountain in the driveway. Ivy climbed wooden trellises on the wall. From the size of the place Silky estimated it would have about thirty rooms. And all gained from preening in front of a camera.

Silky whistled. “I think I’m in the wrong business.”

“Blimey guv’nor me too. And it looks like you made the right choice going home to change.”

A lot of people were milling around in front of the house: the women in brightly coloured frocks, the men, like Silky, were in white tie, top hats and tails.

Silky thanked the driver profusely for his enormous help and tipped generously. He stepped from the cab cane in hand. Before the cab left the driver told him. “Thanks awfully Guv’nor. You’ve no need to be grateful to the likes of me. I’m just glad I could help – And if you do get to talk to Topsy, tell her that me and the rest of the lads at the Marlyebone depot think she’s a real peach.”

Silky took a fortifying sniff from the sweet, pink carnation in his buttonhole, before he strode towards the door preparing a story that could help bluff him in. There turned out to be no need. No-one was guarding the door. No-one challenged him as he walked in. None of the other guests glanced at him like he shouldn’t be there. In fact, those who looked over his tall well- formed physique and his immaculate appearance did so with an expression of approval.

He asked one woman, “Do you know where I can find Miss Topsy Drinkwater?”

“Oh it’s far too early for her to appear darling. Topsy likes to make a big entrance, normally around eleven,” she fluttered her eyelashes at him from behind the veil of her wine-coloured pillbox hat. “You’re in films are you? If you’re not you should be. You’re very handsome, dear.”

Silky beat a retreat. He could hold his own in society when it was necessary. He was often called upon to attend embassy balls and dinners held by the powerfully when they wanted to thank him for a service performed for the Empire. It wasn’t his natural habitat, though. He was far more comfortable with a gun in his hand in some far flung outpost facing desperate odds against enemy forces than he was passing the port and making small talk.

And these film people certainly weren’t his type. As he wandered the villa’s sumptuous rooms – gilted décor, glossy new furniture, swirling plaster cornices in the ceiling- he listened in to the conversation for anything that could be useful to his investigation. But the men all just talked about money and the women seemed to endlessly complement each other on their dresses: discussing hemlines, necklines and hair-styles like the world depended on it.

Silky thought to himself, the world must have had a haircut from a drunken barber for everyone to be fawning over these ridiculous people. And to think of all the fine men who lie in unmarked graves all over the world who gave their lives for the Empire. No-one even remembers their name, let alone devotes whole magazines to them.

The raucous music blaring from the gramophone was painful enough to Silky’s ears but then a live five piece jazz band started up in the banqueting room. They played loud enough to make the oak rafters tremble and soon the partygoers were all gyrating enthusiastically. That racket, added to the endless amorous approaches from the female guests led Silky to decide enough was enough. He would step outside and wait for Miss Drinkwater to make her ‘big entrance’.

It was cold out on the long stone veranda but at least he was spared the assault on his eardrums. He rested his shoulder against a the stone urn at the verandas edge and lit up a Chesterfield.  A full moon lit up a rolling expanse of neat green lawns. When the grounds finally petered out they gave way to thick beech and elm woodland. A chill winter breeze wandered through them, eliciting a dark green rustling sound. Then, from the edge of the garden someone started whistling a tune. Silky glanced over and saw the approach of a most peculiar figure across the lawn.

He was a black man. That was unusual enough in the Buckinghamshire countryside. But his clothes were strange too. Silky didn’t keep abreast of the latest fashions but he was sure the man’s ridiculously oversized trousers and jacket weren’t in common currency. The stripy waistcoat was so baggy it hung almost to his knees. The whole outfit flapped like a sail when the breeze blew. Added to that were shoes which must have been twice the size of his feet unless he had some sort of deformity and a pink paper flower the size of a hand in his button hole.

His big shoes stomped forward with a cheerful spring in his step and he kept whistling his happy tune until he spotted Silky. He stopped. The whistling faltered. But then a mischievous looking grin spread over his black face. The whistling started again more cheerful than ever.

As the man clattered up the veranda’s steps Silky tipped his hat to him. “Good evening, sir.”

The negro smirked as if at some private joke, nodded and walked past him, continuing to whistle. Just before he went to go through the door into the house, he stopped and turned around. “Howdee doode Mistahh, could I be-a troubling you for a light.”

Silky couldn’t place his accent. It was a bit like negro-American and Caribbean patois mashed together. “Certainly.”

As the man approached cigar in hand he still had that smirk of someone enjoying a private joke. He put the cigar between his teeth and brought it close to Silky’s light. Close up Silky could see something was off. The skin colour and the features didn’t match. Around his mouth and at the palms of his hands the ebony colour gave way to Caucasion skin. He was a white man in blackface make-up! Presumable one of the entertainers for the party.

Silky chuckled as he lit the cigar. “Very good. For a moment I thought you were a real negro.”

The minstrel grinned expansively through a cloud of cigar smoke. “But I is, sar. The realest negro there is.”

“Hhm.” Perhaps then entertainer felt the need to stay in is stage persona throughout the party. Or perhaps he was just a bit mad.

“I is as real as a real can be,” the man stomped off inside laughing to himself.

Silky sighed. There didn’t seem to be any escape anywhere from these ridiculous entertainment people. He went back inside and wandered around the party again scanning the crowd for any sign of Howard but to no avail. Finally, one of the uniformed staff went around the rooms banging on a gong: “Everyone please, into the hallway. Miss Drinkwater is about to make her entrance- you gentleman of the press especially. Come quickly please.”

The photographers, who Silky had seen prowling and occasionally flashing their huge bulbs at the preening females, rushed through to the hall and Silky followed. Soon the whole hallway was full of guests, even the band joined the crush. Amongst the crowd Silky caught sight of the blackface minstrel, still grinning in private mirth. The hallway was sumptuous. Thick shag carpets flowed down the steps. Ebony and brass bannisters ran either side of the stairs. The lights on a huge French style chandelier went out leaving the only illumination at the top of the stairs. The bands bongo player started up a low exotic beat.

The servant who had called them in began to intone in a low dramatic voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, some believe it to be legend. But its existence is all too true. Its beauty is exquisite. Its value incalculable. But its curse makes grown men tremble. Men spend their lives searching for it..and then spend their lives trying to give it away. It destroys, it ruins, it drives men mad. A monster follows in its wake. What man would dare to brave the curse of the Laurena Ruby?

Silky heard a growling noise from the top of the stairs. It was a sound familiar to him from many jungle exploits. But he must be mistaken.  Surely not here?

The announcer continued: “No man would brave the curse perhaps. But a woman with not only the courage of any man but armed with such beauty and feminine wiles she could only be played by the inimitable, irreplaceable, irresistible – Topsy Drinkwater. Ladies and gentleman please welcome your hostess and the star of Nordragon Film’s new production “The Mystery of the Lady’s Ruby.”

The crowd was electric with excitement. The band struck up dramatically. The growling sound Silky thought he heard sounded again and turned into a roar.  He knew now he hadn’t been mistaken. A woman strutted into view at the top of the stairs. Two white Siberian tigers prowled out in front of her on leashes.

The crowd gasped. Silky was shocked to find himself gasping with them. Even the photographers forgot their duty for a moment but then the hallway was lit by a firestorm of flashbulbs. The crowd heaved and then exploded into rapturous applause. Utterly poised and unphased, Topsy posed at the top of the stairs one hand at her waist the other holding the tiger leashes. An amused half-smile hovered on her lips. She wore a gold silk turban on her head with glinting red stones along its border. A deep-wine coloured gown with gold sequin patterning draped her form; helter-necked and scooped low at the side and back (she turned and posed from different angles), it was mercilessly revealing but her lithe figure and flawless skin begged for no mercy. Standing and staring at her amidst the whooping, ecstatic crowd, Silky’s eyes couldn’t decide what to lose themselves in: her eyes, the perfect shape, the gorgeous gown that’s flawlessness seemed to merge into her own. When he saw her in a rainy London street Silky had thought Topsy the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He felt now that that was an understatement.

“Topsy!” “Topsy!” “Topsy we love you!” wailed the crowd.

The band were in full jazzy swing and the party guests jumped up and down to such extent the villa shuddered as if caught in an earthquake. The lights of the chandelier went up. The announcer tried to be heard above the crowd but was ignored. “The Mystery of the lady’s Jewel will be in theatres in..please listen everyone…”

The two white tigers looked unsettled by the noise. One of them roared loudly. The crowd gasped, this time in fear. Topsy’s flawless poise didn’t waver. She started to descend the stairs and gave a confident little flick on the leashes. The roaring instantly settled and the great beasts meekly followed their mistress. She walked down the stairs with such a wiggle in her hip hips they threatened to bounce off the banisters.

“I want to die,” groaned one woman in a mixture of admiration and envy. As Topsy came amongst the crowd the shocking pink, tangerine orange or virginal white of their own gowns suddenly seemed dull and colourless. Silky saw more than one female guest burst into tears.

As excited as the crowd was to be near her, the tigers did a good job keeping them a respectful distance. Even the photographers kept back whenever the creatures growled or raised a paw. Silky, who had killed tigers with nothing more than a pen-knife came carelessly forward to get a better look at Topsy. The one of the tigers, protective of its mistress, reared up. Emitting a roar that roar silenced the crowd and had them cringing back against the walls. Silky stood his ground.

“Back Kiara- calm down.” Topsy tugged strongly on the leash. The creature settled. The crowd sighed in relief and then began to gush again, their admiration for their hostess increased.

“Be careful, darling. She’s a man-eater.” Topsy winked at Silky. “Like me.”

The crowd howled with laughter. The assistant approached Topsy and Silky heard him say: “I’m going to bring in the jewel now. Get the photographers ready.”

Silky’s senses heightened. The Jewel!

“Make way for the gentlemen of the press, folks- all right boys. I’ve got some pictures for you.”

Silky watched in wonderment as the star worked effortlessly through a gamut of poses each as enticing as the last: hand on hip; slightly turned and pouting over the shoulder; the wide-eyed innocent petting the tigers; delicate pinky at her lips; cringing in faux-terror from the tigers, one hand over her mouth. 

The assistant came forward with a silver platter with a velvet drape over it.

“And now most importantly- you must print this one boys,” Topsy announced. “The fabulous prize that all men seek until they experience the horror of its curse. It has passed from hand to hand around the globe for centuries, destroying everyone who touches it. This year it was found in the lost island of Rangi RuRu in the South Seas. An island plagued by man eating savages.”

Silky’s heart began to pound in his chest. Could it really be true? Could she be talking about the prize that he been about to set out to the ends of the earth to find?

“Some call it The Cursed Stone other call it the Laurena Ruby. But by whatever name it is given all agree it is the both the most beautiful and the most evil object in the world.” Topsy swept back the drape from the platter. A large blood red stone sat in the centre. Its crimson glimmer seemed to fill the room. “Ladies and gentleman, I give you: the jewel from the end of the world.”



Submitted: June 07, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Crowefoot. All rights reserved.

Chapters

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Nikki Evans

Loved the party and all the descriptions of the dress and attitude of the people and period was awesome! Also love the name "Topsy Drinkwater." She may appear to be kind of a phony celebrity but she's more dangerous than her pet tigers and now she is showing off the jewel but I wonder if its real or a fake? Either way Silky better beware. Another great chapter, Crowfoot!

Sat, September 3rd, 2016 4:24pm

Author
Reply

Hi Nikki. Wow you look so different in your new picture. I almost didn't recognise you. Thanks so much for checking out another chapter. Yes, you guessed right. The jewel is a fake- very perceptive LOL. But there is loads more suprises to come. Thanks for reading.

Mon, September 5th, 2016 3:49am

Facebook Comments

More Action and Adventure Books