TITLE: Don't Call Me Francois 5/6
DISCLAIMER: Carter & Co. gave them life
I found the herb garden; it's a well-established patch that must have
been tended since the 50s. I wonder how much Mrs. S&M wants for this place?
There was leaf lettuce, pepper grass and salad burnet, lemon balm,
oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary ... white and brown radishes ... fennel
... you name it, it's planted back by a tiny stone cottage hidden away
from sight of the house. I peered in the dusty windows, and tried the
doorknob. It was locked. I think it must be the place the original
caretakers lived. There's certainly nowhere in Shadet House for staff to sleep.
Foolishly I left the house without anything to carry my bounty back in.
I had to use my vest as an impromptu sack. I don't know where the
afternoon went. It's 5:30 p.m. as I speak. I'm trying to decide what to
make for supper ... the steak they've left us really isn't top quality.
I suppose if I slice it very thin, and saute it with some of the herbs
and lots of black pepper, it will do. There's a package of wild rice in
the cupboard. I can throw in mushrooms and extra veg and make a
casserole. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have started dough
rising this afternoon. Oh well ... we're only camping, after all.
Byers left empty beer bottles all over the place, and the guts of his
gizmos litter the floor around the kitchen table. I've been talking to
Jimmy off and on all afternoon. He heard snoring from Byers' com for a
while; all that beer must have gotten to him. Yves and Langly apparently
spent their time discussing fashion history. I'll go check on them after
I put the casserole together.
It's Friday, 8:00 p.m.
We left Byers downstairs, laying on his stomach in the middle of the
glass floor, watching the river. He's got the last six-pack within arm's
reach, and has lost Langly's tee and the jeans. He's wearing a pair of
beat-up old jeans shorts that are ripped nearly to the crotch, and
nothing else. I worried about him getting chilled, but the glass in the
floor seems warm to the touch; maybe the lights underneath heat it. Did
I mention that he's reciting Hamlet? He really does have the most
Anyway, he seems happy and occupied.
(Yves' voice in background: "Hurry up, Melvin. You said you wanted to
Did I say there was nothing personal left of the Shadets? Boy, was I wrong.
We saw it in the floor plans, but it never registered. Yves found
another of those touch panels between the mirrored walls in the bedroom.
One of the mirrors pops open, just like the door to a secret passageway,
and leads to a mammoth closet. You can see it if you look at the
blueprints ... a long stretch of space directly behind, and on both
sides of the stairwell, stretching from the den all the way to the
boudoir's bathroom. There are three hidden doors, one in each of the
main rooms. It's full of the most amazing clothing, shoes, jewelry ...
Does Mrs. S&M know this is all here? I can't believe she does.
There are two portraits hanging inside, between more mirrors. I'm sure
I'm looking at Simon and Simeone Shadet. They're seated, one facing
left, one facing right, so it seems they're smiling at each other across
They must have been a striking couple. Simon has a pronounced, square
jaw, olive skin, and dark eyes that the artist has recorded with fierce,
direct beauty. His black hair is slicked back, and his shirt is scarlet.
I look at him and think of the tango, or perhaps bulls and capes is more
appropriate to the aggression the artist has revealed in the thrust of
his shoulders and the curve of his lips.
Simeone is his opposite. Her face is oval, her hair twining around her
brow and cheeks in honey-colored coils. Her fine blue eyes are marked by
darker brows, and an expression of serenity. In the portrait her lovely
white shoulders are bare, and she's holding a coruscating sheet of ruby
red fabric bunched in one hand, just covering her breasts. She seems to
be leaning toward Simon.
I don't blame Yves and Langly for their interest in this room. The
clothing is awesome, designer quality period stuff. There's a purple
smoking jacket I would kill for. I almost tried it on, but didn't feel
right about it. Yves and Langly have no such hesitation. They're sitting
on the floor in front of a shoe closet, trying on shoes and giggling. I
swear! Both of them, giggling.
I'm going to go back outside near the lily pond, think this over and
talk to Jimmy. It might be smart to have him drive up and take Yves and
Langly out of here. Byers and I can finish this gig.
I think I could sleep outside tonight.
I'm laying on my back in the grass, and it's like being at a planetarium
show. The sky never looks like this in the city, like someone tripped
and spilled a shitload of glitter on a black satin backdrop.
I can hear frogs in the pond, and earlier there were fireflies near the
river. An owl called from somewhere nearby, just minutes ago. It was a
solitary, but companionable sound that seemed to vibrate against
something familiar in my soul. The peace of this place goes beyond
The house is a black, sharp silhouette from this angle, outlined by the
interior lights. There's a brighter glow coming from the side facing the
waterfall; Byers must have all the lights on in the living area. He's
been talking to Jimmy over the com, discussing old movies with Gary
Cooper in them, and books Jimmy's never heard of, and something about
Joe Namath and a pantyhose commercial. This all sounds like Byers, when
he's abnormally relaxed and conversational. It's been a long time since
we all sat down and just shot the breeze. A couple of winters back,
before Mulder's alien scare hit us so hard, we'd spend hours playing
chess upstairs, and talking until late. Byers has an interesting mind.
If you can cut through the anal retentive crapola he's sharp and funny
We've all been blunted by the last couple of years, idling along, going
through the motions, trying to tread water, but not trying to make it to
shore. Why do I think this now? Doesn't the work we do together give us
enough direction and purpose? I know it isn't a traditional life-style,
but then, what is? Even in the heartland things have changed.
Nine-to-five, two cars in the garage, a TV or computer monitor in every
room of the house, kids and dogs and malls ... it's starting to sound as
dated as the 50s. I could make a case for us being a nuclear family. I could.
Jimmy told me that Yves and Langly have definitely gotten strange, but
he hasn't heard anything to terrify him, although he did comment that
Langly knows far more about the draping properties of fabric then he
would have guessed. He said I seem fine, too.
I feel fine. I feel wonderful. The ground is a little cold against the
back of my head. I wish I'd brought that old black leather beret I used
to wear sometimes, in Florida. I can remember wearing it on the beach on
nights like this one, only far hotter, looking up along the full arcs of
Nikita's breasts, along her throat and jaw, upward at the stars framing
her wind-tousled hair. I can almost hear her laugh and sigh "habanero
grande." If I'd stayed, would I have seven kids by now (probably all
daughters)? Would I own a little bistro by the ocean where my daughters
could wait on tables and flash their long brown legs (so much like their
mothers' legs) at the tourista snowbirds and conesuckers?
Tomorrow, for breakfast, I can use the leftover rice casserole to make a
fritatta with those lovely eggs. I wonder if the Browns left any fresh
jalapenos in the vegetable drawer ...
I bet if all those glass monstrosities were taken out of the living room
you could put together a first-class dining room. Maybe I should suggest
to Mrs. S&M that she turn the place into a restaurant. In this setting
she could serve an eclectic mix of ethnic country foods, and probably do
darn good business.
It's Saturday, 2 a.m., and I don't know if I'm awake or dreaming. I'm
trying to rub my eyes into focus. The moon is nearly full, so there's
lots of light, but the garden around me looks stark and unreal in shades
of black and silver.
The com woke me. Jimmy was repeatedly calling my name. I'm damp and
stiff, and feel sluggish, like I've been tranquilized. When he finally
got my attention, Jimmy told me he got up to take a leak and Yves and
Langly were still awake and chattering, in French and English. He
doesn't like the tone of the conversation, and says what they're doing
is just plain wrong. Jimmy didn't go into detail, but he said I should
get into the house and stop them, *NOW*, or he will.
I've got a couple of spare tapes in the kitchen, so I'm going to put a
new one in and let it run. I'm not turning off the com again, either.
Jimmy is nearly frantic. He does say that Byers seems to be sleeping, so
that's one less worry right now. What was I thinking, leaving them alone?
SHADET HOUSE CASE: AUDIO JOURNAL OF MELVIN FROHIKE, TAPE 3
Saturday, 2:10 a.m. I'm in the kitchen. There weren't any lights on when
I got here. The faint sound of music is coming from somewhere.
I'm heading for the living room. There's Byers, curled up on the glass
floor. I'm not sure if I should try and wake him.
... nope. Leave sleeping Byers the hell alone, Jimmy says, and get my
ass upstairs. I'm starting to seriously wonder about Jimmy, he sounds
hysterical. Yeah ... I said that about *you* buddy. Calm down.
The music is definitely coming from the bedroom. Mel Torme? No ... Perry
Como, I think, singing "I've Got You Under My Skin." I don't mind
Porter, myself, but it's difficult to believe Langly's listening to it
without making a fuss. The door is open. I'm going in ...
Oh shit. Jimmy, don't go nuts, you can obviously see them on the
monitor. Why didn't you warn me, you doof?
(Langly's voice in background: "You should knock before entering
someone's bedroom, ma ami. Stardust, we have a visitor.")
Give me strength.
I'm reluctant to describe what I'm looking at ... the equipment in the
van is recording the scene, although I doubt the tape will last long
when Langly and Yves are once again in their right minds. Because I have
to believe they aren't in them now ...
They've found an old record player. It must have been in the closet with
the clothing. Langly appears to be waltzing around the bedroom. Yves is
reclining on the bed. Yeah, Jimmy, I can see Langly's wearing an evening
gown. A nice one, white with emerald green piping, lots of tasteful
drapery going on, and he's dripping diamonds ... chandelier earrings, a
really ostentatious necklace, matching cuff bracelets and several rings
... The heels match the piping on the dress; somehow he got his feet
crammed into them ... I'm dying to know who did his hair -- him or Yves?
It's in a French braid, with little curls dangling around his face. His
glasses have disappeared, and his face looks less angular, his dimples
Shit. Can't stop laughing ... I'm sorry ... he looks really ... pretty ...
(Yves' voice in background: "We didn't call for you, but since you're
up, you might put together a fruit and cheese tray, and bring us some
wine. Moonlight is thirsty.")
Yves has mistaken me for the butler, I think. She's laying on the bed,
watching Langly. She's wearing a man's undershirt and suspenders, and
black tuxedo trousers. Her hair is in a single braid, and it's gleaming
with hair goo.
Langly is going to the bed ...
I can see what he did, Jimmy. I'm going to need hearing aids now, thank
you very much. Yves didn't appear to mind his tongue in her ear ... in
fact she's got her hand up his dress ...
I'm warning you. I'll turn the com off for good if you do that again.
(Yves' voice: "Francois, we'd like the wine now, and perhaps some of
your finger sandwiches. Tomorrow you must have Dalton out here to fix
the bed. Moonlight is distressed that it no longer rotates.")
There *are* cucumbers in the crisper. And tinned crab in the cupboard. I
suppose I could ...
Jimmy ... keep yelling at me please. I just found myself halfway down
the stairs, heading back to the kitchen. I think you'd better bring the
van up here ... but for God's sake, don't come into the house. Just keep
yelling at me.
I'm going to try and wake Byers, and get him outside.
It's Saturday, 2:40 a.m.
I got Byers out the of house. I'm pretty sure he's thoroughly drunk, I
mostly had to carry him. He swore a lot once his bare feet hit the wet
grass. I didn't know the boy had it in him; there's proof of that
remarkable memory again. I think I used one of those phrases back in
1992 after Clinton was elected the first time.
Jimmy manhandled Byers into his own sleeping bag, and told him to shut
up and stay put. Yves and Langly have left the bedroom, and Jimmy can't
tell if they're in the bathroom, closet or den. Their coms are no longer
I'm standing at the bottom of the stairs now, trying to focus on a clear
objective. I'm Melvin Frohike, columnist, investigative journalist,
photographer, hacker, man of distinction ... I ain't nobody's butler or
chef ... and I'm going to get Yves and Langly out of this house *now.*
The record is playing "Mood Indigo," and there's no one in the bedroom.
They've opened the dome above the bed, and I can see the stars overhead
winking down at me. The bathroom door is open, and the sound of running
water, and laughter, makes my arms break out in goosebumps.
Shut up, Jimmy, I can't think when you do that. I'm going to look.
And now I'm backing out. It's okay, Jimmy. They're only splashing around
in the bathtub. I'm going to turn off the com for a minute. I'll be
bringing them out, one at a time, real soon. No -- they didn't bring
bathing suits, but underwear is pretty much the same thing, right? Stay
Okay. I've turned off the com; the last thing I need at this point is a
crazed Jimmy rushing up here. The thing is, I have to figure out how to
extract a totally naked Yves and Langly from the throne room.
Arrrghh. Give me the alternative choice of doing a rectal palpation on a
whole herd of moo-cows, sans glove, and I'd take it right now ... if
only someone else would accept the responsibility for getting Yves off
Langly's lap. They're wrapped up like a couple of eels, and I'm not sure
which of them has their tongue farthest down the other's throat ... I'm
trying not to pay any attention to the various parts of Yves that she
may kill me later for inadvertently ogling ... Hell! I have no choice here.
I've grabbed one of Langly's tees out of the mess on the floor, and one
of the big white towels from the vanity cupboard. I'm definitely going
for Yves first, because she's on top. If I can grab her with the towel,
and yank the tee over her head ...
(Yves' voice in background: "Get the hell out of here, Francois! You
didn't even bring the wine! You're fired!")
Don't call me Francois. I'm very sorry, madam. I have a message for you ...
(Yves' voice: "Madam? You dare to say this?!")
Oh crap, she's off her Langly perch, and she looks furious, like she
plans to do some physical damage. I think the sex problem going on here
is above and beyond the obvious. I try to watch her out of the corner of
my eye, without any direct staring, which considering how great she
looks wearing nothing but bubbles is a major victory for moi.
Sorry! My apologies, but your new client has been waiting. You asked me
to tell you when she arrived.
(Langly's voice: "New client, Stardust? Do we have a new client?"
Yves' voice: "I know of no new client ...")
Oh yeah. That ... duchess ... Gran Fenwick, I think ... she's got a 52
triple-D bust, and a hunchback ... and she's got diamond mines and shit ...
(Yves' voice: "Don't stand there like a dolt, hand me that towel. I must
get dressed. You don't need to disturb yourself, Moonlight. I will
return after I speak with her.")
This may work, after all. Wet toffee and cream skin is disappearing
under the tuxedo pants and one of those crisp shirts. She's blotting her
hair with the towel, and smoothing it back.
(Yves' voice: "You left her in the great room?")
Great room? Ah -- she's waiting in her limousine, mada ... mon ... oh
(Yves' voice: "Don't just stand there, Francois ... we'll need coffee
and a plate of biscuits.")
I am so not going near that kitchen again. I'm following Yves at a
discreet distance ... down the stairs, through the living room, out the
front door ... Jimmy -- are you there? We're coming toward the van.
SHADET HOUSE CASE: AUDIO JOURNAL OF MELVIN FROHIKE, TAPE 4
It's Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
I'm going to wrap this up quick, then hide these tapes. I listened to
them, straight through, last night before I went to bed. I remember all
of it, but some of it seems distant, like it happened a long time ago.
Byers, Langly and Yves may be luckier than me. They've been sleeping
since we brought them back to the warehouse, Saturday morning. Byers
woke briefly last night, spoke a few coherent sentences, then zeed out
again. He may out-sleep his hangover, not a bad thing.
Jimmy has been alternately pacing past the couch, where Yves is
sleeping, and bugging me to repeat my version of what happened. I keep
giving the sanitized version, but it isn't satisfying him. He saw Yves
and Langly necking up on that wretched bed, and won't let go of it. I've
told him the kindest thing he can do -- for everyone's sake -- is just
pretend it never happened.
Stardust was not happy to find the busty client was a crazy man with a
roll of duct tape. When Jimmy wouldn't let her go back into the house,
she took a swing at him; he's got a nice purple crescent under one eye
today. Langly posed no great difficulty. He was already out of the tub,
wearing an ermine-edged dressing gown, doing his nails. Unfortunately
this image isn't the one that's still tattooed on my eyelids. I told him
that Stardust needed him to entertain a client, and he walked right out
of the house into our web. I put him in Jimmy's car, buckled him in,
then fled the vicinity of Shadet House, one eye on my mirror to make
sure that Jimmy was following in the van.
I talked to Giselle Shadet-Melton last night, and the interview was not
a friendly one. All our stuff is still there, the cameras, our clothing,
Langly's laptop, Yves' car ... I asked her to have the Browns return
everything, and Mrs. S&M went into a huff. When she calmed down, she
promised to have our belonging returned ... and also mentioned something
about finding her father's journal recently. I promised her we'd talk
more later today, so I'm going to have to come up with something to tell
her. After all we've been through, I *want* that $10,000. I *want* our
stuff. But I'm not going back out to Shadet House to get it.
And we are never, *never* again messing with a project like this, for
any amount of love or money.
<Part IV - Part VI>