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71

Fleeced

Archibald and Vernella and Cousin Thorn had been enjoying lunch at a portable table by the window in the living room when they noticed Blaise coming out of the Settlers Club and going into the park. Because the Enderses had made it their business to know the names and faces of everyone who had a key to the park, they were immediately outraged.

You see! Archibald whined to Thorn, who was in the middle of helping himself to another piece of cake. The Settlers Club lets anyone use the park. And look at that man in that dopey orange hat, gesturing madly. He looks like a crazy person. Im putting on my coat and going out there!

Jolly good, Thorn said, smacking his lips.

Well watch you, darling, Vernella said, clearly enjoying herself.

Archibald put on his coat and top hat, grabbed his walking stick, and exited the front door. He looked like a man going for his morning constitutional.

This is like live theater, Vernella said, her eyes following Archibald as he approached the park and confronted the man with the hat who had had the gall to admit into the park a man with a video camera.

Four minutes later, Archibald strode back into his living room.

Cousin Thorn, I have good news. That sorry individual was one of Maldwins butler students!

One of Maldwins butler students! Thorn echoed. It shows the caliber of his students, doesnt it? Not such serious competition!

This calls for a glass of sherry! Vernella cried.

I dont know whether we should celebrate so soon, Thorn said with trepidation. It might be a while before we get the butler school out of there. We dont want to jinx our plan.

Believe me, Cousin, we can celebrate, Archibald declared. With all the negative publicity, no one will want to join that club. I will own that building before the buds are on the trees. So bring on the sherry!

Vernella hurried to the sideboard and took out three small glasses. Archibald broke out his favorite bottle and poured it with great ceremony. I propose a toast.

Go ahead, sweetie, Vernella urged.

To the end of tacky days in Gramercy Park and to the fall of the Settlers Club. Let it be swift and sure.

They clinked glasses.

Youd better believe it, Thorn thought. You dont know how swift and sure. He looked across the street and pictured all the emergency vehicles with their flashing lights that would be racing to the Settlers Club tonight.

He couldnt wait.


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