Chapter 5: The Jewel and the Jester

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

Reads: 294
Comments: 2

Silky stared, mesmerized. He was lost in the glints of the scarlet stone. Could this really be the stone he had promised to find? If this was it then Nordragon was ahead of the game: he had already sailed to Rangi RuRu and collected the stone. If so maybe he already had the other artefact – the book, The Black Bible. And had maybe already been to the temple in Borneo. But if so, why would the stone be in the hand an actress now? Was it possible Mrs Baston-Sharpe had her story mangled maybe Nordgaon’s involvement was confined to needed items for his new film.

Silky was so lost in thought – his mind going in several directions at once- he barely noticed the commotion that was sparking to life around him: the tigers roaring, the crowd yelping and Topsy began to shout in panic.

When he looked up he saw that one of the tigers was rearing up at the actress. The crowd were so used by now to seeing her effortlessly control the animal that some of them laughed. But Silky could see that this time she was genuinely scared: she cringed, her usually urbane voice was quavering. “No Kiara- please stop.”

But the tigers roar was feral. Silky could see the bloodlust in its eyes. The crowd cringed back in panic. Silky stepped forward. His voice firm and calm “Neuare hoota hoota.”

The tiger quietened a little but it was still restless. It turned towards Silky and swiped its claws in his general direction. Topsy had dropped its leash. It could easily launch itself and tear him to pieces. Silky must show absolute control. The tigers were Siberian not Indian but the fakir in Lucknow, who had taught him the charm, had assured him it soothed all creatures anywhere in the world. As long as he showed no fear. He took another step forward. “Hoota Hoota nees tauu.”

The tiger’s roar settled to a gentle mewing. Silky bent down to it and stroked its white fur. The creature responded by licking his hand affectionately. The crowd sighed in relief.

Silky picked up the dropped leash and offered it to Topsy. “Yours, I believe Madame.”

The crowd sighed again and – cautiously- emitted a little patter of applause.

Topsy gazed lingeringly and admiringly at Silky. “Thank you,” she breathed then wiped away a sheen of sweat on her forehead that threatened to run into her perfect make up.

Taking the leash with one hand, she snapped her fingers at the band with the other. “Come on boys get playing. What is this, a party or a wake? Get drinking and get dancing folks, while I take Kiara and Sheera off to bed. They’re a bit over excited.”

As the party started to swing again, Topsy went off out of sight with her tigers; the magnificent self-confidence was back in her strut. Silky looked around for the jewel but it was gone too. Her assistant must have taken it away. Silky went off to get himself a drink and think through a plan of action.

He went through to what seemed to be the villas banqueting room, where a bar was set up. He nursed a gin daisy and tried to puzzle out in in his mind what was going on. While he was thinking he became aware of a murmur of excitement moving through the crowd. He saw Topsy was moving through the room, constantly being accosted by guests, stopping her to fawn sycophantically. He watched the star deal with each one graciously but her attention was clearly elsewhere. She had spotted Silky and was constantly glancing at him as she made her way towards him. Cautiously Silky watched her approach. He wasn’t sure of her relationship to Howard or Nordragon; he wasn’t sure if she was friend or foe yet.

She stopped in front of him dramatically and put her hands on her hips. “Well well, if it isn’t my rescuer.”

Her mischevious smile was beguiling but Silky kept his manner stiff and formal. “It was nothing.”

“Oh yes, any man can tame a wild tiger – are those Chesterfield poppet? Give me one.”

Silky lit a cigarette and handed it to her. Topsy clicked her fingers at an assistant who trailed behind her and he placed a silver cigarette holder in her hand and fitted the chesterfield. Topsy blew a curvaceous smoke ring at Silky. “Since you are such a modest hero, I think you deserve a reward – do the honours please, Simon.”

The assistant came forward with a silver platter and swept away its velvet covering. The Laurena Ruby sparkled on the platter. Topsy declared, “The jewel from the end of the world- It’s your reward for saving me.”

Silky’s cool demeanour crumbled. He spluttered in amazement and joy. “The jewel! Are you sure…you’ll just give it to me? I don’t know what to say.”

Topsy laughed, “Don’t get too excited poppet. It’s only a film prop. It’s toughened glass.”

Silky’s elation deflated. He groaned. “Oh…I should have known.”

“It is pretty though isn’t it – thank you Simon.” She picked up the fake jewel and waved her assistant away. “Put it in your coat pocket and keep it as a souvenir.”

Topsy pulled back his tail coat. Just as she was reaching to put it in his inside pocket her eyebrows shot up as she saw Silky’s Smith and Wesson pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers. “My goodness, you were expecting this to be a lively party weren’t you.”

“Miss Younghusband, you are probably wondering why I am here since you didn’t invite me to your party.”

She dropped the fake jewel into his coat pocket. “I wasn’t wondering any such thing poppet. The studio organized this party not me. I never know half the people on the guest list. But now I’m assuming that Nordragon’s people didn’t invite you either.”

“Angus Nordragon is someone I would be very interested in meeting. Do you know him well?”

Topsy’s charming smile was fixed but she looked carefully around her before whispering. “Let’s go and find ourselves a quiet corner to talk, poppet. It would hardly be good form for me to gossip publicly about my boss.” She took him by the hand and led him away from the bar.”

As they crossed the crowded room, Topsy had to politely bat away the attention of several sycophants until, seemingly out of nowhere the blackface minstrel that Silky met outside suddenly stepped in front of her. This time she wasn’t polite. “Out of my way, Larry.”

Larry’s blackened face contorted in mock horror. He waggled his hands beside his face minstrel style. “But Miss drnkwater. Whadaye do? Whaddaye do?”

“You could have got me killed you clown –And don’t use that stupid voice to me. I don’t find it charming.” Topsy brushed passed him.

The minstrel called after her with comedic pleas and protests, “Budda Miss Drinkingwadda. I dunno wad I do wrong. I be up on stage now, please be cheering for lidddle ole me” Then he dissolved into falsetto laughter.

“I cannot abide that man. It’s bad enough having to work with him without Nordragon inviting him to my party.” Topsy glowered. “That business with Kiara. That was his fault. He flicked a cigarette at her. Did you see?”

“I met him outside. His character seems as rum as his accent,” said Silky.

Topsy was leading him towards a quiet corner of the room. One last admirer waylaid her before they got there. It was a woman almost as beautiful as Topsy but in a less glamourous dress. Her thick Yorkshire accent and her lisp jarred with her attractive appearance as she gushed. “By gum, what grand t’party. I’m tho grateful for t’invite. And for you getting me t’role as t’villianth wife. Your such an thaint Topthy.”

“Not at all darling, thank you so much for coming,” Tospy patted the woman’s arm. She led Silky on to a quiet corner of the room.

“She seems to see you as some sort of saviour,” said Silky.

“Nora? She’s an absolute dear. You know, we both started under contract to this studio at the same time five years ago. Except at that time she was the star and I was the bit player. It was me who was grateful to be invited to her parties.”

“What caused the reversal?”

“Sound, darling. Sound.” Topsy turned her back to the room and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Now what’s all this about, poppet? Something concerning Nordragon I expect. There are always so many stories about him. I hope you weren’t planning to shoot him in my banqueting hall Mr…what is your name, dear?”

“Roger Cotton. But my friends call me Silky, so please do.” He had a good feeling about this lady.

She examined him ruefully. “Silky? Sounds like a schoolboy nickname.”

“It’s a play on Cotton. They started calling me that when I joined the Grenadiers and it stuck.”

“The Grenadiers? And those words you spoke to the tigers- sounded like Indian. I take it you are a colonial adventurer.”

Silky shrugged. “I suppose I’ve done my bit.”

Tospy looked over her shoulder at the crowd of party go-ers in their white tie and tails and their expensive dresses. “And I take it you have rather disdainful feelings towards us trivial showbusiness types.”

Silky watched as, at the other end of the room, some grown men were engaged in a drunken game of blindman’s bluff. Some female onlookers were braying with laughter. Silky sighed. “I suppose it takes all types to make a world.”

A big rectangular ribbon microphone was being set up on the small makeshift stage at the other end of the banqueting room. The assistant who had announced Topsy spoke into it through a gale of droning feedback. “Now folks we’ve got a treat for you. I know you all love him so we’re delighted he was able to make it to the party tonight. Please welcome, your favourite and mine – Larry McLarky!”

The blackface minstrel that Silky had encountered bustled onto the stage, his ridiculous baggy clothes flapping. The crowd was enthusiastic. Photographers rushed to the stage and McLarky struck some clownish poses amidst the bulb flashes.

“Oh good gracious,” Tospy groaned, shook her head, then turned her attention back to Silky. “Now the Mr Silky what is it that Mr Nordragon has been up to.”

“Do you know the man well?”

She shrugged. “Not particularly. He bought the studio less than a year ago. He turns up at parties and hangs around the sets occasionally. He likes to be a - shall we say - hands on employer with the actresses. I gave him short shift but I know some of the girls with more vulnerable careers submitted, poor things. Some find him charismatic. I think he’s a slug – Another Chesterfield please, poppet.”

She handed Silky her silver cigarette holder. As he lit another Chesterfield for her and inserted it he asked, “Has he ever discussed his various interests with you?”

“You mean the occult stuff?” Tospy’s laughter tinkled. “He’s never invited me to a black mass. We don’t have to sacrifice a goat before filming or anything like that. He did get very excited a week ago when he was showing off that jewel. He has the real version of the stone from the film. He gave the impression that he thought that had supernatural powers.”

Silky gnashed his teeth. The Laurena Stone! So Nordragon did have it! Silky was already several steps behind. “Last week? I had the impression he was out of the country.”

“He was but he has back now –unfortunately.” Seeing his frustration she touched his arm in concern. “Is that why you’re here Silky? The stone? Is it stolen?”

“I had no idea the stone was in England Miss Drinkwater. I came tonight on another –but connected – matter. I looking for someone known to you personally.”

Topsy blew a perfectly formed smoke ring. “I have a lot of friend’s poppet.”

He peered into her beautiful features. “I really do hope this particular scoundrel is an acquaintance rather than a friend. I saw you with him in Piccadilly Circus outside the Ritz Hotel yesterday. He said hello to you. And I heard him say he was seeing you tonight.”

Topsy’s eyebrows shot up. “Have you been spying on me?”

“No, I was spying on him. I knew him as Howard. But you’ll know him by something else. It’s him I’m after.”

Topsy looked rather stunned by this turn of events but managed to keep her elegant poise intact. “Goodness, this is a turn up for the evening. When the publicity department told me to make sure the party provided plenty of drama I don’t think they meant this. I don’t know anyone called Howard. But I do remember who I met outside the Ritz yesterday. Definitely an acquaintance- not a friend.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Silky with relief. “But I was desperately hoping to grab hold of him tonight. I have to leave the country in a few hours.”

“And you haven’t seen him?” The trace of a condescending smirk was just discernible on Topsy’s pretty face.

Silky scanned the crowd of faces. “Not a sign. Worse luck.”

Topsy nodded. “Tell me Silky, would you consider yourself to be an observant man?” She looked like she was having trouble controlling her beautiful smirk now. Silky had the unpleasant feeling that he was being laughed at.

“Miss Drinkwater, this may be difficult for someone engaged in your –some might say trivial- occupation to understand,” he bristled. “But in my line of work my life often depends on my observation skills.”

“And the man you came here, armed, to look for - he’s not here?”

“No.”

“As a matter of fact, he is.” Topsy pointed her cigarette holder at Larry McLarky on stage, cradling the huge microphone and belting out a comedic version of Don’t Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away. “That’s him right there.”



Submitted: June 07, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Crowefoot. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Amy R. Beckett

Nice twist! I can't wait to see where this goes. I like Topsy a lot and I hope she's an important character in the story to come. Thanks for the update :)

Sun, July 31st, 2016 1:49pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for checking out another couple of chapters and for your corrections in the text. Glad you are enjoying it. And yes, Topsy stays at the center of the action throughout the rest of the story!

Mon, August 1st, 2016 8:34am

Nikki Evans

I thought that maybe that jewel that Topsy was showing was fake and it was a prop it turns out! LOL! But Nordragon has the real jewel? And Topsy better not make fun of Silky. He, after all, saved her once from her tiger and she may need him to save her again I'll bet!I Also figured that guy in blackface was up to something and guess maybe he was. Another great descriptive period piece chapter, Crowfoot. Look forward to the next!

Sat, September 3rd, 2016 4:43pm

Author
Reply

Yes you guessed right. I'm glad you are enjoying it so far. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Nikki. I really appreciate it. I'll have another couple of chapters up soon which I hope you can check out. Thanks again!!!

Mon, September 5th, 2016 3:51am

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