© 2010 By C. J. Wells
Disclaimers: See Chapter One.
SEIZING THE BARD
It was nearly five o'clock in the evening before Lindsay received a much-anticipated phone call from Betty Shively.
“Please tell me that you've located him,” Lindsay said to her loyal employee.
“I spoke with his assistant for quite some time,” Betty replied.
“He refused to let me speak directly with Sir Malcolm,” Betty continued, “But indicated that you were free to contact him. His name is Paul.”
Betty provided Lindsay with Paul's contact information. Before placing the call, Lindsay called Rejeanne. “Hey Jeannie,” she started. “I have the contact info for Sir Malcolm's assistant. Do you want me to wait until we're together before I call him?”
“Naw, go ahead, babe,” Rejeanne replied. “ Tyler 's willing to give me a ride to my place after work if you can pick me up there.”
“Will do,” Lindsay said. She was curious to learn how Rejeanne decided to deal with her employer and the situation regarding the rumor of their affair, but decided that she could address Rejeanne about that when they reunited. Right after ending her call with Rejeanne, Lindsay dialed the number provided by Betty. There were only two rings before a voice appeared on the other line.
“Greetings, this is Paul,” said the voice with an aristocratic British accent.
“Hello, sir,” Lindsay responded. “This is Lindsay Alastair. I believe that you've spoken with my estate manager, Betty Shively.”
“I have,” Paul said.
“I apologize in advance for calling you so late in the evening,” Lindsay stated. “I appreciate the fact that it's nearly ten o'clock in the evening your time.”
“I won't be retiring for at least another hour,” Paul said. “But even after my conversation with Mrs. Shively, I still do not understand the nature of your call.”
“I'm very interested in speaking with your employer, Sir Robert Timothy Malcolm,” Lindsay replied.
“My employer is very familiar with the diversified Alastair Group,” Paul began. “He has acquaintances who have invested in your family's infrastructure commodities as well as your real estate ventures. But I'm sorry to say that Sir Malcolm has no interest in investing with your firm at this time.”
“Sir, I'm not trying to reach Sir Malcolm for business reasons,” Lindsay said. “This is personal.”
“I beg your pardon?” Paul inquired.
“Sir Malcolm wrote a book thirty years ago about his great-aunt, Lady Harriet Hastings,” Lindsay said. “I'm interested in talking to him about that.”
“What is your interest in Sir Malcolm's book?” Paul asked.
“If you don't mind,” Lindsay said. “I'd really like to speak directly to him.”
“I will relay the message, Miss Alastair,” Paul stated rather curtly.
“Please,” Lindsay said. “Thank you.”
* * * *
Rejeanne opened her front door to see a smiling Lindsay holding a bouquet of red roses and a bottle of '99 Clos Du Bois Alexander Valley Reserve.
“Lindsay!” Rejeanne exclaimed. “You look like you've won the lotto.”
“I have, my love, I have.”
Rejeanne invited Lindsay in and helped her remove her coat. The two women then strolled over to the kitchen where Rejeanne opened the bottle of wine and poured two glasses. “What happened?” she asked Lindsay.
Both women sat at the kitchen table and Rejeanne began sipping the very expensive wine while Lindsay chronicled her day.
“So,” she began, “I get a call from this Paul guy, Sir Malcolm's assistant or secretary or whatever.”
“Uh-huh,” Rejeanne chimed in.
“And he was rather rude saying that he'd relay my message to Malcolm,” Lindsay continued. “I was totally expecting not to ever hear from Malcolm or this nimrod assistant again, but then ten minutes later, Betty calls me and tells me that Sir Malcolm himself is on the house phone. He provides Betty with his direct line and she gives it to me to call him.”
“So you do,” Rejeanne assumes.
“You betcha I do,” Lindsay says, “and the very first thing out of his mouth is… and I quote… ‘Is that a recent photograph of you on your company's website?' I tell him, ‘yeah,' and then there was this pause.”
“Pause?” Rejeanne asked.
“Yes,” Lindsay responded. “This long silent pause on the other end of the line, so I finally said, ‘I look just like her, don't I?'”
Rejeanne beamed. “You were talking about Maggie Needham!” She exclaimed.
“Yes,” Lindsay said. “And so he asked me if there was any relation, and I told him that as far as I knew, there was not family relation, but that my connection goes much deeper than mere ancestry or biology.”
“Wow,” Rejeanne said.
“And the craziest thing, Jeannie,” Lindsay continued, “neither one of us ever mentioned Maggie's name.”
“No way!” Rejeanne exclaimed as she took another swig of the wine.
“Way,” Lindsay said. “But,” she continued as she raised her right index finger, “I then asked him if he had a picture of Bronwyn Forbes in his possession.”
“What did he say?”
“He asked me, ‘why?' and I responded that I'll answer that when we meet.”
Lindsay smiled at Rejeanne and took her hand. “Do you have a passport, by chance?”
“Are we going to England , my love?” Rejeanne responded.
“Only if you have a passport.”
“I have a passport.”
“Well, then, we're going to England .”
* * * *
Rejeanne was frantically looking through her bedroom file cabinet for her passport as Lindsay called her travel agent to secure round-trip tickets and hotel reservations.
“I can't find my fucking passport,” Rejeanne blurted.
“Don't panic, Jeannie,” said Lindsay. “When was the last time you needed it?”
“Last year,” Jeannie replied. “When I went to visit my brother Devin at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany .”
“Okay, and what was the first thing you did when you got home from your trip?” Lindsay asked.
“Smoked some weed with my dad and my other brother Haley.”
"Oh that's right!" Rejeanne exclaimed. "I left it at my dad's. After that last oversees
trip, I decided to leave it there since I figured that for any future trips, I would probably be flying out of Milwaukee anyway."
"So, we'll have to stop at your dad's to get it."
"Yeah, but then you can meet him, Lin."
"I thought that he drives you crazy," Lindsay remarked.
"He does at times," Rejeanne responded. "But he can be a real sweetheart when he wants to be, and his girlfriend Taz makes the best banana bread."
Lindsay's travel agent was able to book a flight out of Milwaukee 's Mitchell airport to JFK, where they would then board a connecting flight to Heathrow . However, the flight out of Mitchell was at 6:20 in the morning. With the newly heightened security at airports since 9/11, the women would need to check in two hours before flight. Lindsay had no desire to drive from Dell Valley at three in the morning. In addition, Rejeanne needed to retrieve her passport from her father. Thus, both women decided to pack and drive down to Milwaukee that evening. Rejeanne called her editor at his home to tell him that she needed to be away from the office for a few days. He was initially upset with Rejeanne for her hastened announcement. But when she told him the reason, describing it as embarking on an investigation with Lindsay Alastair to locate an important ancient artifact, the sheer delight in his voice was not lost on Rejeanne. To further pacify him, she also indicated that she would email him a rough draft of her op-ed piece on her relationship with Lindsay for him to review.
The drive from Dell Valley to Rejeanne's father's home in suburban Milwaukee would take one hour and 45 minutes. Once on the road, the women began debating about their sleeping arrangement for the evening.
"So, I had my travel agent booked a room at one of the hotels at the airport for tonight,” Lindsay started.
"Why?" Rejeanne asked.
"Why not?" Lindsay retorted. "What would you have us do?"
"Crash at my dad's," Rejeanne responded. "That would be far more convenient than staying at a hotel."
"How do you figure?" inquired Lindsay. "When we're in a room at the hotel airport, we're right there. We can have the airport concierge give us a wake-up call, drive to long-term parking and catch a shuttle to the terminal."
"Why spend all that money and be bothered with the hassles of checkout, parking and shuttles?" Rejeanne asked. "Dad lives ten minutes from the airport. He can drive us right up to the terminal in his car. He'll gladly let you park the Hummer in his garage for free while we're gone and he can pick us up from the airport when we get back."
"Do you think that your father will be willing to get up at zero-dark-thirty to take us to the airport?"
"Sure, why not?"
"I don't know, Jeannie," Lindsay said.
"What don't you know," Rejeanne responded, feeling somewhat offended. "Is my dad's place not good enough for you?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Lindsay responded. "That never entered my mind."
"Then, what's the problem?"
"He's your father, Jeannie," Lindsay said. "I mean, what is he going to think about you showing up at his place to crash for a few short hours with me, this uptight thirty-something member of the bourgeoisie ?"
"Trust me, Lin," Rejeanne responded. "He'd be more offended if we just showed up long enough for me to get my passport."
Lindsay sighed. "Don't worry, Lin," Rejeanne continued. "Dad is a neat-nick and keeps a very tidy home. If it weren't for the parade of women he's had in his life, I'd swear he was gay."
"I'm not concerned about that," Lindsay said. "Do you think he'll like me?"
"Dad likes everyone. That's part of his problem. He's actually too non-confrontational. Combine that with the high-maintenance women in his life and you have a recipe for d-r-a-m-a."
Lindsay chuckled. "Sounds like he's the antithesis of my dad."
"Having met you dad, I'd have to agree."
As the evening drive went on, it began to have a southing effect on Rejeanne. She began drifting in and out of sleep until slumber finally claimed her at about an hour into the drive. Lindsay was cocking her head back and forth to the beat of classic Fleetwood Mac when she casually looked over and noticed her snoozing lover. Lindsay could do nothing but smile. The events that had transpired in the last few weeks continued to amaze her. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever picture her destiny being tied to both a beautiful young newspaper reporter and a long dead tyrannical despot. Yet here she was, driving down a dark highway, watching speeding snowflakes fly toward and then dodge her windshield as she prepared to embark on a course that could potentially answer the centuries-long question of what really happened to the both infamous and mesmerizing Xena the Conqueror.
Lindsay allowed for Rejeanne to sleep until reaching the northern outer edge of suburban Milwaukee . Having been convinced that staying at Rejeanne's father's home was the better option, Lindsay now needed her lover to navigate her to the home Augustin Piscard.
“Honey, wake up,” Lindsay whispered as she lightly nudged Rejeanne's shoulder. Rejeanne did not budge. “Wakey-wakey,” Lindsay said a little louder. There was still no movement from the slumbering reporter. Lindsay grinned devilishly. “Get up!” she shouted.
Rejeanne jolted up. “What the fuck!” she exclaimed.
“We're coming into Milwaukee , sweetheart,” Lindsay said. “And I don't know where to go.”
“Well, you didn't have to yell, Lin,” Rejeanne said as she rubbed her eyes.
“I tried to gently wake you, dear, but you wouldn't move.”
Rejeanne looked over at her lover who was still sporting the devilish grin. “Yeah, right,” she smirked before returning her attention to the road. “When you reach the I-43, hit the westbound ramp.” Rejeanne directed.
“And then get off at the first exit on the 43.”
“That's Highway 45. You're going to head south on 108 th street toward Hales Corners. I'll tell you when to turn.”
A few minutes later, the sleek Hummer was rolling down a snow-blanketed village neighborhood. “That's my dad's place over there on the right,” Rejeanne said as Lindsay prepared to pull up into the driveway of the lovely red brick cottage home. “This looks really nice, Jeannie,” Lindsay said.
“Uh huh,” Rejeanne replied. “You were expecting some broken-down white-trash double-wide trailer with a couch on the porch, weren't you?”
“No, I wasn't,” Lindsay said defiantly, “But I have to admit, because your dad is a mechanic, I was expecting something a little more modest.”
“It's modest, Lin,” Rejeanne remarked. “But it's tastefully modest.”
Rejeanne directed Lindsay to pull her vehicle in front of one of the garage doors of the two-stall garage. She then exited the vehicle and went into the garage from its side door to open the garage door from the inside. “Pull in,” she instructed to Lindsay, who drove in and parked alongside a blue 2002 Subaru Forester. Both women then pulled their luggage out of the Hummer and exited the garage. Lindsay followed Rejeanne as she walked up to the side door of the home and put a key in the lock. “Dad, I'm here!” she announced as she walked in. The two made their way to Augustin's family room, where he was lounging on a coffee-colored leather recliner.
“Hey Dad,” Rejeanne said as her father stood up to greet the two women before him.
“Hey Pea,” Augustin replied. “How was the drive?”
“Fine for me,” Rejeanne said. “I slept through most of it; Lin did all of the driving.” Rejeanne then turned to her lover. “Dad, this is my girlfriend Lindsay Alastair. Lindsay, this is my dad, Augustin Piscard.”
“Pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Piscard,” Lindsay said as she extended her hand.
The shorter, somewhat stocky redhead extended his arms and wrapped them around Lindsay, momentarily startling her. “What's this ‘Mr. Piscard' crap,” he said as he released Lindsay from the embrace. “Call me Gus.”
Lindsay smiled. “Pleasure to meet you, Gus,” she said.
“Likewise,” Augustin replied. “Pea's told me a lot about you. Are you girls hungry?”
“Please tell me that Taz baked some banana bread,” Rejeanne chimed in.
“Only for you, dear, would she bake anything on short notice,” Augustin said. “It's in the fridge.”
Rejeanne pumped her fists with glee. “Hell-to-the-yeah!” she exclaimed as she dropped her bags and headed for the kitchen.
Lindsay chucked at her lover before returning her attention to Augustin. “Rejeanne loves to eat,” she remarked.
“Oh yes she does,” Augustin replied. “If she didn't have all that energy she seems to pack, she'd weigh 300 pounds.” Both chuckled. “Please, have a seat. You must be tired from the long drive.”
Lindsay placed her bags on the floor and took a seat on the matching recliner next to where Augustin had been sitting. He then returned to his chair as Rejeanne emerged with two cans of diet cola and a plate of sliced banana bread that she was carrying on an ottoman tray. She set the plate down on the large rectangular leather ottoman in front of the two recliners and then handed to Lindsay one of the two sodas. Lindsay took a swig and set the can on a coaster that rested on a beautiful walnut end table that was positioned between the two recliners.
Rejeanne passed a slice of banana bread to Lindsay. “You've got to have a piece, Lin,” she said. “I spread a little bit of butter on it and then popped in the nuker for 10 seconds. It's to die for.”
Lindsay took a bite. “This is good,” she proclaimed before turning her attention to Augustin. “So Mr. Piscard… I mean Gus… you don't mind taking us to the airport so early in the morning?”
“Not at all,” Augustin replied. “I'm an early riser, and besides, by the time I get back from the airport, Taz should be pretty close to strolling in from work. You two just missed her, actually. She left about a half-hour ago.”
“Taz works the split shift at Rockwell Automation,” Rejeanne chimed in. “Dad and Taz have known each other for, what, twenty years or so?”
“That's right,” Augustin said. “I'm sure that Pea has told you about my rather quirky marital history.”
“Not really,” Lindsay said. “She's only told me that you've been married multiple times.”
“Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit,” Augustin said. “I met Taz when my marriage to my second wife Sokanon was breaking down. I wanted to marry Taz then, but she was in a relationship and, besides, there was the race factor. It was the early ‘80s after all.”
Lindsay cocked her head slightly, bemused. “Taz is African-American,” Rejeanne explained. “Actually, my mom is, technically, the first and last white woman that Dad married. Sokanon Lenoir, Devin and Haley's mom, is three-quarters Menominee. Chelsea 's mom, Rosa Sanchez, is Dominican and his last wife, Lu Nguyen is Vietnamese. Chase's mom is white, though. Right Dad?”
Augustin nodded. “Rosa and I had been married for ten years when I met my youngest son's mother,” he said. “I never meant for things to culminate between her and me, but, you know, I was pushing forty and Glynn was 22 and I guess that I needed to feel, you know, like that young buck that Rejeanne's mom married. Rosa divorced me when she found out that Glynn was pregnant. I wanted to do the right thing, but Glynn's family wouldn't have it, and, well, I started dating Lu instead.”
“Glynn is only two years older than me,” Rejeanne remarked. “Her folks were not happy when she got knocked up by my old fart dad.”
“Thanks, Pea,” Augustin slithered sarcastically.
“You're very welcome,” Rejeanne returned. “And Lu, by the way, is only in her mid thirties. You and Lu were only married for a year, right Dad?”
“No, two years,” Augustin corrected. “But we had dated for almost three years before I popped the question.”
“When did you divorce your last wife?” Lindsay chimed in.
Rejeanne smirked while Augustin lowered his head embarrassingly. “Dad's divorce was finalized just before I met you, Lin,” Rejeanne responded. “But hey,” she continued, “Taz has two grown kids, is Dad's age, very grounded, and won't stand for any drama. She's exactly what he needs in his life.”
“Taz is an unusual name,” Lindsay remarked.
“It's a nickname,” Rejeanne said. “It's short for Tasmanian Devil, because you do not want to piss her off.”
Lindsay chuckled. Rejeanne continued, “Her real name is Barbara Hines.”
* * * *
Lindsay and Rejeanne were walking down the short hallway to Rejeanne's bedroom to retire for the four or so hours that they would have to sleep, when Lindsay thought of something.
“Hey Jeannie,” she started as she paused in the middle of the hallway. “Does the name Claudius Aulus Tacitus mean anything to you?”
Rejeanne looked down, pondering. “Wait a minute,” she mused. “Wasn't he that friend of Xena's who had the seven or so wives?”
Lindsay giggled. “Yeah,” she said. “I'm picturing a short, plump, happy-go-lucky guy with a bad comb-over and a dirty toga.”
Rejeanne looked up at Lindsay. “Ah, come on, Lin,” she protested. “My dad has a full head of hair and is as neat as a freshly minted penny. Besides, didn't Tacitus keep a bunch of ferrets as pets?”
Lindsay was still giggling. “He did,” she said.
“My dad doesn't even own a hamster.”
“But you've got to admit, the multiple multicultural wives is spot-on.”
Rejeanne could not help but to join in on Lindsay's laughter as the two women reach her bedroom door. Opening it, she announced, “Here it is.”
Lindsay stepped into the room and immediately felt like she was struck by lightning. She dropped her luggage.
“What's the matter?” Rejeanne asked as she took the shaking hand of her lover.
Lindsay could only stare in disbelief. “I've been in this room before,” she whispered
TO BE CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 18
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