Monday, 22 October 2018

A New Case, Chapter 32


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(Suitable for ages 12+)







Chapter 32

   Up in her office, Ms Harriett was scouring the filing cabinets for facts. Facts were the key to all things, she said, and guesswork and rumour caused all manner of chaos and mistakes. She would not be at home to those whilst she could breathe and tell a supplier his own business better than he knew himself, which she often did. She didn’t make mistakes, but she had a horrid feeling that someone else had, and a very bad one at that.

   She wasn’t by nature a messy person—quite the contrary. But if anyone had entered her office at that moment, they would have thought she had lost either a one-hundred-pound note or her sanity, maybe even both! Files lay everywhere, on every piece of furniture and every available space on the floor. There were files on top of the lampshades, the mantelpiece, sticking out a large copper tea urn. They were even in the jaws of one of a pair of large porcelain growling panthers that sat either side of the fireplace. She muttered and groaned as, bent double, she lifted an old leather briefcase from the back of a cupboard. It had belonged to Mr Ahbutt Ornott-Grey, the personnel manager who had retired on the death of the late Mr Herod.

   Maybe she had been grasping at straws, but she thought not. She knew she had seen what she sought somewhere in this room, and now there was nowhere else left to look. She undid the rather rusty clasp and sat back against the padded leather fender around the fireplace. Pulling out two dozen manila files, she spread them out in a row, like a dealer would his cards, and then scanned the labels on each. Selecting one from the middle, she undid a pink ribbon that held it shut and started to work her way through the single-page documents within. None fitted what she was looking for, and in an unusual show of disgust and despair, she cast them to one side.

   Then, on a whim, Ms Harriett grabbed the case and peered inside. Her eyes lit up like a child’s at Christmas, and dipping her hand in, to the bottom this time, she retrieved a single concertinaed sheet of paper. Carefully, and with an expression akin to that of an explorer uncovering an ancient manuscript, she moved to the desk and sat down. Smoothing the page out, she began to quietly read the contents to herself. After a few minutes, and a further reading, she leant back in her chair, a look of grave concern etched on her face and a few extra creases in her brow.

   Being a woman of action, Ms Harriett took out a pen and a fresh sheet of paper and started to make calculations. Twenty minutes later and satisfied with the accuracy of the results, she picked up the empty manila folder and placed the page and her calculations within.

   As she left the office in search of Mr Herod, she stared momentarily at the mess she was leaving behind. “You can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs,” she muttered to herself. “But that will be one mess that will be easy to deal with tomorrow. For now, I just hope I’m in time.”

   She turned and, having locked the door, marched towards the elevator.

   The general and Mr Herod were busy discussing the closing speeches when Ms Harriett signalled that she needed to have a word with the store owner. He excused himself and approached her, but before he could speak, she grasped him by the elbow and steered him into a small office used by the floor walkers.

   “Ms Harriett, this is all a bit . . . irregular,” he protested. “I was about to give my closing speech. Could we maybe defer this until tomorrow?”

   “This will not wait, Mr Herod. In fact, this needs to be sorted before your guests leave, as it could impact gravely on Herod’s reputation, not to mention destroy any chance of royal patronage and to safeguard the future of the store.”

   “But . . .” began Mr Herod, but was cut short by a withering look from Ms Harriett that told him to stop talking and to keep quiet. A look much akin, in fact, to one Mrs Herod used when he was about to put forwards what would later prove to be an ill-considered plan.

   “There’ll be no buts. Please take a seat and listen carefully to what I have discovered. Then make a decision. I think you’ll agree once I am done that we need to act now and there is only one course open to us. Though to be honest, that course is the only fair one, and will be profitable for everyone too.”

   “Well, if you think it wise, then I shall take your guidance. But please be quick, Ms Harriett. We have little enough time as it is.”

   Mr Herod replaced the silver fob watch into his waistcoat pocket and took out the silk handkerchief and dabbed at the beads of sweat forming on his brow.

   “I do, and I shall,” Ms Harriett said. “But it will take as long as need be to do justice to the matter I have uncovered, a travesty of poor record-keeping by Mr Ahbutt Ornott-Grey.

   Mr Herod merely nodded and fell silent, looking into his lap like a schoolboy being lectured on some indiscretion.

   “To cut to the chase, as the Americans say, it seems like Mr Ornott-Grey hired a certain young lady some years ago to make some sample gowns for the store. If the gowns were approved, they would be sold exclusively by the store, with the designer’s own label. There was to be a trial period of course, and subject to results, an agreement would be drawn up to finalise matters such as pay and staff. I have no doubt, given the results I see here today, that a contract would have been awarded.”

   “Results, Ms Harriett? What do you mean? How do you know what the lady does now? And for that matter, who is she? I don’t recall seeing a seamstress on the staff list.” Mr Herod was most confused, and it looked like his blood pressure was starting to rise, as he repeatedly dabbed the handkerchief at his head and neck.

   “Mr Herod, I have to look no further now than the guests outside to see her creations. Two in particular, in fact, one of whom is also that very same seamstress, Miss Darcy. I thought I recognised her face, and it wasn’t until now that it came to mind. I have seen her and her charming cat leaving here very late most nights. Though she didn’t look as she does now and was huddled in an old coat and hat. At the time, I checked the staff list and confirmed who she was and her position as temporary seamstress. But as security had not raised an issue, nor had Mr Ornott-Grey and she was, after all, his responsibility, I thought no more of it. However, I now guess that he, having set wheels in motion, forgot and let slide the matter of her employment proper. The death of your uncle compounded the error, and here we are now. The poor thing has been slaving away for a pittance for the last few years, without thanks, staff, or proper facilities. No wonder she looked so dishevelled and upset. I bet she hasn’t eaten properly for years.”

   Mr Herod was about to speak but was cut off by a wave of Ms Harriett’s hand.

   “If you would like proof, I have the original contract here.” She thrust the crinkled paper at him, which he took with a slight hesitation and perused. “I have also calculated that Miss Darcy is owed quite a considerable sum in pay, as well as any compensation she may wish to levy on us should she care to take the matter to court. After all, her career has been stifled by this store, and you are now responsible as proprietor of the store.”

   “The store,” Ms Harriett continued, “has also been selling the gowns she made ostensibly as samples and continues to make to this day, all for a profit.” She thrust the other piece of paper at him, which he took with a worried look on his face, his eyes flitting from one to the other.

   “And, if you need any additional evidence, you only have to look at the gown the queen is wearing today and compare it to that worn by Miss Darcy. I believe without an inch of doubt that they are the same and are the gowns she made for your uncle and thus the store . . . and you.”

   “Oh my. This is terrible . . . horrible in fact. What have I done? The store could be ruined. What can I do?”

   Mr Herod’s face had gone whiter than a limewashed wall. As his mind grappled with the problem, his eyes roamed the room as though the answer was to be found nailed to the wall. Oh, if only my dear wife was here, he thought, she would know what to do.

   “You are not to bear the blame,” soothed Ms Harriett, seeing the confusion she had unleashed. “I let this slip by without questioning it. I am as much to blame for not doing anything to retrieve the situation as anyone, and as Ornott-Grey was for not doing it correctly in the first place. We must all now do what is right and honourable and something that should have been done a long time ago.”

   The tone in Ms Harriett’s voice mellowed slightly, and she bent down and touched Mr Herod’s arm to provide a comfort to him. “If putting this right were to break the store, then at least you can hold your head up high. But this has the power to make the store great again. I think you know what is right, and that you can do it. After all, you are a man of your word, and as great in your own way as your uncle—better, if I may say so.”

   She stood up and straightened her skirts and then walked to the door, where she stood with her hand on the handle.

   With some colour returning to his face, Mr Herod got up and looked at the door, then Ms Harriett. She nodded and then opened the door and let Mr Herod through to his destiny and that of the store.


To be continued............

(Chapter 33 can be read HERE.)


I hope that you all enjoyed this weeks chapter. Now the truth is discovered, what will Mr Herod do?
Will he man up and put things right, or will he bury it all under the highly priced Persian rugs they sell? Join me next week for more from the floor of King Herods department store, and a royal visit that isn't going quite as planned!

26 comments:

  1. I'm on tenterhooks and let me tell you, quite uncomfortable, teehee! I can't wait to find out. All will be set to rights, we're sure...- Tom x

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    1. Me too! I missed this bit so nice to see what they were up to whilst I was hard at work ;)
      Toodle pips
      ERin

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  2. Goodness, do you think 12 is saavy enough for Mrs H and her ways? Thank you so much for supporting our Hurricane Cats GoFundMe. Tsunami Purrs coming across the pond!

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    1. Hmm, you have me at a loss as to who 12 is, though I doubt Mrs Hudson has many equals let alone ones she would marry, MOL
      Our pleasure to help you and Hurricane Cats through Go Fund Me.
      Toodle pips
      ERin

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  3. Dang, I don't know where this is going to lead but I'm along for the ride!

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    1. Me too. It looks like it is make or break time, for sure!
      Purrs
      ERin

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  4. jenny.....ewe iz final lee going ta get sum dee sert.....make that just dee sert...noe, we meen yur just dee sertz.....whatz due ewe... tho we due hope ya get a pie ore two all sew !! ;) N we due hope misturr grey just let thiz slip... N himz KNOT inn volved with that bass terd anderz ~~~~ faaaaaaaaaaa ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ :) ♥♥

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    1. Oh heck, I bet there was cahoots somewhere along the line. But like you say, I think it's time that pies and puddings were handed out. Talking of which I'm famished and not a mouse in site where I am!
      Toodle pips and wishful food craving purrs
      ERin

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  5. Is Miss Harriet Mrs. Hudson's sister?!? They both sure know how to make their marks and be indispensable.

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    1. Now theres a thought, they even have the same initial! Hmm, conspiracy time, do you think they are all half sisters, or maybe clones of sorts, genetically engineered to save the world one person or cat at a time?
      Toodle pips
      ERin

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  6. OH my CAT. I hope the young lady gets her money, and recognition AND honours Mr Herod be being a designer for him!

    Now we have to wait and see OOOOOHHHHHH

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    1. Seems like she is owed so much. I wonder if the store and Mr Herod could ever repay her?!
      Tune in over the next four weeks to find out...
      Toodlepips
      ERin

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  7. OMC We’re not sure what you’re plannin’ with miss Darcy, but we’re not sure we’re likin’ it. Shame on that store fur doin’ her wrong in the furst place. And what of the kittens and you sweet Erin? We can’t ‘magine why you’d need to diet. We think you’re pawsitively gawjus.
    Big hugs
    Dezi and Raena Belle

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    1. I know, the store, well it's previous owner, had been very lax indeed. I can only hope that it gets sorted and NOT swept under the carpet!
      Toodlepips and purrs
      ERin

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  8. That Mr. Herod should be ashamed of himself! I hope Miss Darcy gets all of the money she is owed.

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    1. Me too, but it would be an awful lot. I wonder if the store can afford it!?
      Toodlepips
      ERin

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  9. Looks like the big reveal is about to happen. But what happens then???

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    1. Ah-ha! Oh, well I'm not sure myself? Best we both tune in next week to see ;)
      Toodle pips
      ERin

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  10. Just think, that kind Miss Jennifer, Esme and the kittens could've been leaving the dream all this time. Miss Jennifer wouldn't have been penny pinching, tired till her bones ached from working so long of hours, and worrying about where the next meal would come from. Thank the heavens that Mrs. Harriet took the initiative and did some sleuthing. I think she may turn out to be one of the heros in the story? Another fine chapter!

    Paw kisses to you my lil' York Mint Patty. From your Licorice Bit. -Valentine (& Mom) of Noir Kitty Mews

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    1. I do think you are right about Mrs Harriett. From the same cast as Mrs H. Jennifer could have been so much better off, but maybe fate has had a hand in matters, and all to expose the evil Anders.
      Smoochies and nose rubs to my one and only wooly bear!
      ERin
      XOX

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  11. OH my cod, that explains so much... roll on tomorrow and let's find out what happens next! Any chance mew could post a chapter a day Ms. Erin? MOL

    Loving the story, what a great yarn!!!

    Happy Sunday

    Bestest purrs

    The B Team xox

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    1. Thank you, and no. I have to do one a week else everyone will get fat, and Mrs H will put you all on a diet! MOL
      Toodle pips and purrs
      ERin

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  12. It does sound like life will soon be better for Jennie and Esme, at least I do hope so. I have been on holiday for 2 weeks so now I don't have to wait on tenterhooks for a week for the next thrilling episode!

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    1. Ah, well you have come back at just the right point, as we are on the final few chapters. I hopes you'll enjoy the ride to the conclusion, too.
      Toodle pips and purrs
      ERin

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  13. Can it be? CAN IT BE? This is so excitin'. Jenny and Esme's future is at stake. MOUSES!

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    1. I know, but it all hinges on one man doing the right thing and not being ruled by money and history....
      Gentle purrs
      ERin

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