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Airs and Heiresses
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Molly Maltese
Molly Maltese
Old Shoe

Jul-6-2015 11:19

New York, 1938
St. Regis Hotel
Rooftop Nightclub

"So there I was, staring down a barrel INCHES from death...and I told the man, 'darling REALLY, if you simply must shoot me do allow me to remove my earrings. They are Cartier, you know." Molly Maltese paused to take a sip of her Red Snapper, popping the olive neatly between her cherub lips before gnashing it to a pulp. "And the man was quite flummoxed, he said- I say, is that Riza Hawkeye?"

She rose, the group of rapt men in tuxedos and women in glittering dresses and furs murmuring their protests as she wended through their knees. But the apparition she was quite sure had been Riza Hawkeye had vanished in the crowd of New York socialites populating the exclusive terrace.

"Well, this place is a bit ritzy for Riza." she murmured, fairly certain her old acquaintance didn't make a habit of populating social-climbing fetes. And she reasoned, any time Riza had appeared before it was hardly ever for a pleasant cause. Well, maybe that was unfair. It just seemed she was more the swirl-of-furs-and-stiletto-daggers type than a frothy socializer like Molly herself.

Peering around, Molly saw nothing but the shadowed faces of revelers partially cloaked in the smoky haze. She had just been about to give up and go back to her companions when the most shocking hubbub began. Over on the north part of the terrace, she could distinctly hear the shouts of men and panicked screeching of females. Moving forward, she could just make out..

"Did you see... The Ambassador... who could have... murder! Someone has pushed the Ambassador off the building!" Molly picked up speed, expertly weaving through the crowd of panicked voices. Sirens already began to sound twenty stories below. Just as she grasped the ledge and looked over, an all too familiar voice sounded in her left ear.

"Oh hello there, old friend. Lovely breeze out today."

Before her stood Riza Hawkeye herself, looking utterly unruffled as several ladies fainted behind her.


Arielle Zeo
Arielle Zeo

Aug-19-2015 21:34

"Who are you, biaozi?" Qian was scared now, as she should be, thought Arielle.

In a fluid motion, Arielle stomped hard on the merchant's instep, swirled around, and had the shuriken pricking at Qian's throat.

"It is of no matter who I am," Arielle spoke in perfect Shanghainese. "What is of matter is that you owe whoever wears this medallion," with her free hand, she pulled back her slicker to reveal the intricate bronze piece, featuring a dragon eating a horse.

Qian paled."You can't-"

"I am. And you will help me. Or I will be forced to hurt you."

"But, you are so young!"

Arielle looked at Qian, eyes cold and distant. "Young in years, maybe. Old in experience. Will you help me? Or do I need to find someone else?"

"I will do my duty; I will help you, qing ai de xiaojie," the fear, and awe, in Qian's eyes convinced Arielle that she was telling the truth. Arielle lowered her sharpened star.

"I need Monsouir Messelier. Louis-Philippe Messelier."


Aug-21-2015 19:48

*** In the train towards Shanghai ***

As Vulkie walked back from the dining car to her compartment, she had thought about her dinner. She had ordered the cod with a white wine sauce and a side platter of vegetables. She had played a bit around with her vegetables, before deciding that she was only going to eat the fish. For drinks, she had a nice glass of white wine . She always preferred white wine when it came to fish.

As Vulkie was almost back at her compartment, she passed the conductor. "Pardon me sir, might I bother you for a cigarette? I'm afraid I left my cigarettes at home.." Vulkie asked. The conductor smiled. He produced a small pack of cigarettes, from which Vulkie took one and had it lit by the conductor's cigarette lighter. Vulkie then entered her compartment and sat down.

"Nothing like a good cigarette after such a wonderful dinner.." she thought and she decided to stare out of the window. It was turning slowly into darkness, and by the time she put her cigarette out, the lights in the compartment were already turned on.

"I'd better get some shuteye - It's still gonna take at least a day or more to reach Shanghai.." Vulkie said and she closed her eyes...

*** Dream Sequence ***

... "Victoria... I want you to go to Mr. LeClerc and have him check over my necklace..." Vulkie's mother said. She was lying down in her bed, having her dressing gown on already and having her make-up removed.

"But mother, why on earth would I go to Mr. LeClerc with your necklace, that father gave you on your wedding day?" Vulkie asked. Her mother frowned a bit and beckoned her to come closer.

"Your father... is in some serious trouble. Men have called the house, threatening to hurt him, you or me if they didn't get their money back. Your father... he has a gambling debt. I suspect that the necklace is a.." Vulkie's mother said, before she was cut off by her father entering the bedroom. "The necklace is what?" he asked, looking at Vulkie's mother first and then at her.


Aug-21-2015 20:04

As Vulkie looked surprised at her father, she quickly stood up and said: "The necklace is hopefully safely locked away father? I've heard the most awful stories about burglaries in the neighbourhood. Who knows, maybe our house is next.." Vulkie said. Her father stared at her for a second while squinting his eyes together, but then decided to smile and waved his hands in a dismissively.

"Don't worry, dear child.. I've already taken appropriate caution and measurements to ensure that nothing happens to our most beloved possessions. You can rest assured Victoria; nothing will happen to us, if it's up to me." her father replied. Vulkie quickly looked at her mother, who gave her a nod that she could leave the room...

*** Inside the train towards Shanghai ***

As the train rumbled a bit, it made Vulkie wake up for a small moment. The lights were already out and it didn't take long before she fell asleep again...

*** Dream Sequence No. 2 ***

"Mother... what happened to you?" Vulkie whispered to herself, her face in shock, as she observed her mother lying in her bed. A pillow was lying on top of her face and there was a hole in the pillow - a gunshot had been fired and Vulkie had woken up immediately when she heard it, instantly rushing to her parents's bedroom. "Where's father?" she murmered, but then she realised it. Her mother had been right all along; the necklace was probably a fake and her mother had probably confronted her father, who reached for his gun and silenced the weak link. For all she knew, she could be the next one to die...

As Vulkie rushed to her father's study, she noticed it was abandoned. As she looked around, she saw the safe. It was a Schwab safe that her father had purchased a while ago, which was secured by a tumbler lock. As she got on her knees, she tried to think of a combination.

"Mother's birthday.. no, too easy... father's birthday... also too easy... my birthday? Unlikely... what about... their wedding day!" Vulkie said to herself.


Aug-21-2015 20:19

As Vulkie began to turn the tumbler wheel to the right numbers of the wedding day, she could hear footsteps on the stairs. "Gotta hurry" she said, as she quickly turned the tumbler to the left and selected the number 7 and then turned the tumbler to the right, towards 24 and then finally, she turned the tumbler to the left again and turned it to 95.

As time was pressing, she quickly opened the safe door by turning the handle and saw the necklace, lying in front of her on top of some documents and some bundles of $50 notes. An alarm went off a a few moments later, after she had grabbed the necklace and she ran away, passing her father on the staircase. "Victoria! What on earth are you doing?!" he yelled, but Vulkie kept on running. She had to get away, as far away, before she too would be killed..

*** Inside the train towards Shanghai ***

As Vulkie opened her eyes, she thought about the dreams she was having... Her father had murdered her mother, to cover up an insurance scam. Earlier that day, her mother had discovered that a letter arrived from the Insurance Company and that her father reported the necklace as stolen. To keep her mother in the clear, her father had replaced the real necklace with a fake necklace. When she arrived at Mr. LeClerc's the following day, after being shot and having survived the night out in the cold, Mr. LeClerc simply deduced that the necklace was a worthy reproduction, but it was fake. It was worth absolutely nothing...

Mr LeClerc did gave her a useful tip... the whereabouts of the man to who her father owed a lot of money...

*** A couple of days later ***

As Vulkie entered his office, the man grinned and invited her to sit down. The office was dark, since the blinds had been drawn shut and only a small desk lamp, that was positioned on a cheap wooden desk, lighted the office. It looked as if someone hadn't cleaned the place in a while..


Aug-21-2015 20:32

* Just a sidenote - this takes place in Vulkie's memories, while she's awake in the train to Shanghai *

"To what may I help you, Miss..." the man began, and Vulkie replied: "Lemon... Vicky Lemon. I'm here because of a debt. My sweet, lovely, father's gambling debt.."

The man sat down in his leather chair, which creaked a bit. It had been sat on for a long time, by the sound of it. "And how do you wish to repay your father's debt?" the man asked.

As Vulkie gave a fake smile, she rummaged a bit in her purse and laid out the fake necklace in front of the man.

The man immediately turned forward and reached for the necklace. As he put it in the light, it shimmered. "That is one very nice necklace, Miss Lemon; must be at least worth $50.000. I am sure that this will satisfy me to pay off your father's debt.. May I inquire his name?"

"Yes... Yes you may.." Vulkie said, as she pulled her Colt M1911 .45 with a Maxim Silencer screwed on the gun's muzzle and aimed at the man.

"My father's name was Henry... Henry Nouson. He murdered my mother because of an insurance scam; the money that he gained by pawning off this similar necklace, and this is a fake one by the way, ended up in your pockets.. And I'm here, to settle his remaining debts.." Vulkie said. The man immediately began to sweat and tried to plead for his life.

"But.. Miss Nouson.. You must understand... it's a gentleman's code; once agreed upon, one must pay back his debts.." the man said and he closed his eyes.

"Tell that to my mother; this is the debt that I owe to her and it's time to settle that debt..." she said. Vulkie pulled the trigger. A muffled sound could be heard and the man was instantly dead, being shot straight in the head. His body flinched for a moment, before going numb.

"And that.. takes care of everything.." Vulkie said to herself, as she placed her gun into her purse and walked out of the office...


Aug-21-2015 20:38

As Vulkie looked out of the window of the train, she had remembered a few more details. The newspapers had been full of stories about her mother's murderer; they never caught the person who did it, though Vulkie would take that secret to her grave. The newspapers regaled stories about a burglar, who had murdered her mother first and then stole her mother's necklace from the safe; presumably, the burglar had asked her about the combination before silencing her. The newspapers also mentioned that young Victoria Nouson was missing, seen by her father near the cliffs, struggling with the burglar, as she had pursued him. A gunshot was heard and the body of Victoria, nor of the burglar, was never found..

In the end, Vulkie was fine with it. She had cut off all ties to her family and she was living her own life, with her detective friends. As she looked at her hands, she saw that they trembled a bit.. the closer she got to Shanghai, the more the fury and rage build up in her and she longed for revenge... Revenge, on Hassan...

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Aug-24-2015 10:49

The dimmed down but airy dance hall dressed in mahogany wall panels and dazzling chandeliers seem mesmerized by her soulful expressions. Young Chinese ladies in velvety qipaos endowed with jade and pearl waltzed with men in drape-cut three-piece suits. Zhōu Xuán’s shidaiqu raised above the playful trumpets of the famous Peace Hotel Jazz Band. It was a full house thanks to Zhou Xuan’s special appearance this very night, and those on the dance floor stood shoulder to shoulder without complains. Even popular songs known from top singers to street urchins in the alleys of Shanghai somehow became a fresh tune when her golden voice touched it. A little shy of 18, Zhou Xuan was already a household name much like Ella in America. Her fame was only outmatched by her own youth and beauty, but those were not the reasons why Joseph Zeo finally fell in love again.

The tall, quiet man sat near the back of the dancehall at his usual table, with a glass of Vodka he hardly touched. Over the years Joseph has changed, his shoulders seemed a bit lighter, but the furrows etched between his brows spoke otherwise. Colored lights danced off his well-fitted cream-colored suit, something he would never have worn in the past.

From the center stage, the girl in white gave him a ghost of a wink, hardly noticeable to the crowd but obvious for those who paid particular attention. Her serene eyes reflected wisdom beyond her years, and her quiet demeanor like a fresh breeze amidst the powdery façade of the finely dressed peacocks in the hall. Zhou Xuan was the opposite of Lizette, Joseph’s deceased girl friend from another lifetime, who always craved to be the noticed. She was also the antithesis to the strong & capable exterior called Riza, but with an inner world that could be far more steadfast. Somehow Zhou Xuan’s shadow reminded him of Anais…. and again Joseph allowed his thoughts to stopped there and went no further.

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Aug-24-2015 10:50

“Mr. Zeo.” The wide man with a balding comb over sit down across from Joseph without asking for permission. “Here again to escort Ms. Zhou after show.” Juong stated the obvious with a hint of accusation.

“As the manager of Zhou Xuan, Mr. Juong, aren’t you supposed to focus on her career and singing, not her personal life?” Joseph retorted.

“Oh but Ms. Zhou’s personal life IS part of career. You know, show business.” Juong took out his cigarettes and mockingly offered one to Joseph, who starred him daggers in return. Joseph hadn’t touched a single stick of Chesterfield in 3 years. “Oh I forgot again,” Joung smirked and slowly leaned back, “You try put ‘smoking’ behind you. One thing lead to other, right?” The silence between the two men was louder than the boom band playing.

Juong inhaled deeply through his Lucky Strike and continued, “Ms. Zhou can choose anyone she want. Richest businessmans, ambassadors, foreign dignitaries, famous movie stars… I really don’t see what she see in"“ The ear-splitting applause as Zhou Xuan bowed for her final number for the night saved Zhou from being split in half by Joseph. The man would still look fat half his size anyhow. Joseph stood up.

“Excuse me.” Joseph dipped his head for his exit and headed for the entrance to the dressing room before Juong could follow.

The meticulously groomed dressing room was lined with fresh flower baskets with strips of red cloth banners hanging vertically on them with congratulatory notes from her admirers across the lands. Half the country was starving from invasion and chaos, the Chinese-controlled parts of the city just fell to the Japanese, but the French quarters were still drunk with singing and dancing, all hailing peace with a blind eye. As Zhou Xuan quietly removed the little make up she needed for the stage, Joseph kissed the tip of her ear. Zhou Xuan smiled into the reflection of the man in the mirror, the former police detective from New York whom she had helplessly fallen for.

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Aug-24-2015 10:50

The spell was soon broken by the wide man in a suit too tight for his size. Juong briefed Zhou Xuan in Shanghainese on her next performances and discussed a few advertising deals. When the man finally left, Zhou Xuan couldn’t help but attacked Joseph onto the corner couch. Her own laughter slowly died down as she remembered…

“I need to visit the yan guan tonight.” Zhou Xuan announced in a small voice.

“Is the opium den holding her up again?” Joseph whispered, and his heart went out to her. Zhou Xuan reluctantly nodded. Her mother’s addiction was the link between the two souls outsiders could never comprehend. Joseph distinctively understood Zhou Xuan, as he went through the same hell, and would not judge her to helping her mother in all the wrong ways.

Joseph had once helped Zhou Xuan lock her mother in a room, like what Vulkie once did for him which cleared him of his addiction, but the old woman’s poison ran too deep for too long, and that episode almost killed her. Zhou Xuan had no choice but to continue to pay for her mother’s habit.

The two left the dance hall of Peace Hotel through the back doors. With her make up removed and changed into a non-descript cheongsam worn by commoners, Zhou Xuan looked more like a 16 year-old from the longtangs. She further covered her hair in a dark green scarf. No one can recognize Zhou Xuan as the Star. The girl bade her Western boyfriend goodbye.

“I’ll come with you.” Joseph muttered weakly.

“You should not be there and you know it.” Zhou Xuan’s honeyed voice was soft as steel. They have been through this debate many times over. The opium den still held a dangerous lure for Joseph, and his Westerner features would only jack up the sum of the ‘ransom’ money.

Joseph kissed Zhou Xuan on her forehead and inhaled deeply. “Be careful. Don’t"“

Joseph Zeo
Joseph Zeo
Tale Spinner

Aug-24-2015 10:51

“Remember I was practically raised there.” Zhou Xuan smiled. Her mother sold her to a song master when she was 3 years old, but like a small rat she wiggled her way back to the yan guan day after day. Whenever the little songstress didn’t have to practice or perform in teahouses, she would sneak back to see her mother behind her master’s back. The fact the Zhou Xuan was never addicted to opium said something about her wisdom and will.

Joseph stood on the steps and looked longingly at Zhou Xuan as she disappeared into the cool night air. As he turned around, Joseph noticed two men in black suits standing by main entrance, staring at him.

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