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34

Fleeced

When they werent traveling, or getting ready for an evening out, Archibald and Vernella Enders always enjoyed a cocktail in their living room at 6:00 P.M. They sat in two armchairs by the bay window, which looked out on Gramercy Park. If it was summertime, they would criticize everyone who walked by. As the days grew shorter, they couldnt get as good a look at people, so they had to find other things to harp about. Now that it was March they were pleased that, thanks to the equinox, people were once again becoming identifiable in the twilight.

I made a few phone calls today, Archibald confided to his bride of fifty-seven years.

Vernella sipped her drink. Long ago shed taken on the demeanor of someone with a terminal case of excess stomach acid. Frown lines worthy of Mount Rushmore were permanently sculpted into her face. And?

It looks like the Settlers Club is in worse shape than we dared hope.

How wonderful, Vernella replied in her almost guttural tone. That club has gotten on my nerves ever since the sixties, when they let in those hippies who pranced around the park in their flower-power tee shirts. What ever happened to good breeding? Good taste? Pioneering people my foot! The Settlers Club has been on a crusade to disgrace Gramercy Park for the past thirty years.

Dont worry your pretty little head, my darling, Archibald advised. Down at the bank I was told that the anniversary party theyre having is a sorry attempt to recruit new members. But its a hopeless situation, and it wont be long before I can buy the building.

Buy the building?

Yes. Cousin Thorn needs a home in New York for his butler school. It would be the perfect spot. Then we, along with dear cousin, will help bring about a return of class to New York City. Thanks to Thorns school, good butlers will once again be available. Unfortunately that profession has suffered a sad decline. That needs to be changed.

We need a butler ourselves.

Its so hard to keep help. They always leave. But we will have first dibs on Thorns graduates and, of course, hire the best one. As you know, Thorn will be arriving late tonight.

The guest bedroom is prepared.

Tomorrow night we will dine here with Thorn and toast not only the destruction of the Settlers Club as their party fails miserably, but also the demise of Maldwin Feckless butler school, which is a disgrace to every self-respecting butler.

Vernella giggled, something she rarely did. I wish it stayed light longer, she said. We could get our binoculars out.

You are a devil, Archibald said as he grabbed her bony hand. You are the devil I fell in love with.

Oh, Archie, Vernella said coquettishly. Im not a devil. Ive been saying my prayers.

And just what have you been praying for?

Just that the party tomorrow night over there-she pointed with disgust at the Settlers Club-is a complete and utter disaster.

Archibald clapped his hands. This is going to be such fun.


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