"The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavour upon the business known as gambling." – Ambrose Bierce
Crockfords Casino, Mayfair, London, England, August 2014
"William, I need the front cleared immediately. Lady Mary is ten minutes away," Anna said into her headset, her heels clicking across the polished floor as she headed to the elevator.
"Yes, Miss Smith," came the reply in her ear. "Is Lady Mary arriving in the Bentley or the Mercedes today?"
"The Bentley," Anna replied, hitting the button several times to call the elevator. "He's going to just stop in front to drop her off and be on his way, but I want the kerb clear and the ropes in place all the way to the elevator. If we have a repeat of the coffee incident again, I'll have your ass, William."
"Yes, Miss Smith," William croaked out nervously. "We'll be ready."
"Good. Thank you, William," Anna said pleasantly, ending the call and stepping into the elevator. She hugged her tablet across her chest and took a deep breath as the doors closed.
"Please let her be in a good mood," she whispered.
"I don't fucking care if it's 4 a.m. over there! Tell him that I want to speak to him right this instant," Mary hissed, glancing out the window as the black saloon car crept through traffic past Green Park. "It isn't as if he's asleep, so it's hardly an interruption."
Mary smoothed her hair away from her headset with one hand and glared at her mobile phone held in the other, as though she could command the lackey on the other end of the line to do her bidding through sheer force of will.
"I'm s-so sorry, Miss Crawley," came the frightened answer. "He says he's busy with a game right now and doesn't have time to talk. He also says that he's not mad at you. He blames Mr. Crawley for what happened."
"I am not 'Miss', thank you. I'm Lady Mary Crawley," Mary said, rolling her eyes. "Please tell him that I understand his feelings towards Patrick probably better than anyone else in the world. I would much rather see him at his usual table when he arrives here in October and not have to meet him in a stuffy courtroom. There's a way to sort all of this out amicably but it requires that I speak with him directly."
Mary waited as she heard the flunky relay her message.
"He says that he would love to talk to you in about an hour. Can he call you?" the faceless assistant asked timidly.
"Yes, certainly," Mary smiled, putting her phone back in her Hermès bag. "Tell him that I look forward to speaking to him."
"He says 'likewise', Lady Mary," the assistant answered.
Mary touched her headset and hung up the call without another word. She sighed and shook her head as the Bentley turned on to Curzon Street.
"Shall I wait, Lady Mary?" the chauffeur asked.
"No, thank you, Taylor," Mary said. "I'll be a while. I'll probably end up walking home."
"Yes, ma'am," Taylor nodded.
The Bentley pulled up to the familiar white building, the burgundy flag hanging proudly over the entrance. William stepped forward and opened the car door. Mary stepped out on to the pavement and nodded to Anna standing by dutifully.
"Any reporters?" Mary asked curtly as they passed through the doors being held open for them and into the building.
"None inside, no," Anna said. "The Daily Mail and the Guardian called but I told them that you were in Mallorca for the week. I said if we decided to release a statement, they'd be the first to know."
"That won't stop them, though I wish I really was in Mallorca," Mary rolled her eyes as she took off her sunglasses. "Phil's going to call in an hour. I'm hoping to talk him into dropping his lawsuit if we agree to pay him half his winnings."
"That's almost £4 million. Do you think he'll go for it?" Anna asked as they reached the elevator.
"Not a chance," Mary said sadly as they stepped inside. "But hopefully we can begin negotiating and that will delay the trial and keep the story out of the papers. Papa won't agree to pay him a penny more than half, which is ridiculous, but those are my instructions."
"What does Mr. Patrick say about all this?" Anna asked as the elevator opened on the office level and they walked out.
"I couldn't care less," Mary said dismissively. "I suppose he didn't bother coming in again today?"
"No," Anna shook her head. "We haven't seen or heard from him in over a week."
"Typical," Mary scoffed. She glanced over at Patrick's empty office and shook her head. "If he spent as much time doing his actual job as he did chasing sluts and snorting coke, we all could retire at a young age."
Anna smiled and remained silent.
"Call Edith and ask her to track him down. I don't want him to do anything stupid like try and talk to Phil. I can't clean up yet another one of his messes if he keeps interfering," Mary said.
"Yes, Milady," Anna nodded.
"Anna, what did I tell you?" Mary frowned.
"Yes, Mary," Anna winked, turning away and heading off to her desk.
Mary walked into her office and put her bag down on one of the chairs. Easing into her chair and waking up the two computer monitors, she perused her email inbox and opened several files in preparation for Phil's call. This was such a waste of her time – dealing with one of Patrick's problems that she had nothing to do with. She had her own work to focus on, particularly the ambitious expansion proposal that she wanted to talk to her father about. It was hard enough to catch Robert Crawley in a good mood, and with the trial looming in less than two months' time, he was even more surly and indignant than usual.
Mary opened the most current cash report and smiled as she went over the numbers. Well, at least there was some good news for her today. They expected that the last quarter had been good, but this was beyond even her most optimistic projections. Perhaps she could lead with that when she spoke to Papa. Put him in a better mood by telling him how much money they'd made so far before turning to what she truly wanted.
She did some quick calculations, wondering whether the numbers would be enough to convince him. She knew that her Papa would listen to Patrick more readily, or even the advice of Murray, the family's lawyer. Anything that Mary presented was subject to far more scrutiny. It had been that way since she was a young girl and she stopped being angry or indignant over it long ago. She expected it now; she always had to do better because she was Lady Mary Crawley, the Earl of Grantham's eldest daughter, and a woman in a male-dominated industry. Her youngest sister Sybil was usually bemoaning the unfair double standard. Mary saved her breath and just got on with being better than everyone else.
Mary looked up at the sound of Anna knocking on the glass door.
"Mary, I'll have to reschedule your call," Anna said. "I rang Taylor and he's on his way back."
"What? Why?" Mary asked in annoyance. "It took a great deal of effort just to set up this one call, Anna. I should hate to have to go through all of that again. Is whatever it is truly important?"
"I just spoke with Lady Edith," Anna said, swallowing nervously.
"And? Did she find Patrick?" Mary asked.
"Yes, she did," Anna nodded, looking at Mary with wide eyes.
"And?" Mary asked impatiently. "Where's he pissed off to now?"
"Mary, he's dead."
Executive Box, Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, Old Trafford, Manchester, England, August 2014
The server walked briskly down the quiet hallway, turned sharply and went into the kitchen, the door closing behind her with a firm click. The large room was buzzing loudly with staff calling out to each other, pots and pans clanging around and dishes being moved about the stainless steel counters. The football match between the home side, Manchester United, and the visiting team, Swansea City, was due to start in an hour, and the rich patrons in the fancy luxury suites needed to be fed.
She walked over to one side of the room and fetched a wheeled cart. Turning the cart around, she navigated it over to the pass and waited patiently in line with the other servers and runners as the cooks went about their duties on the other side.
"One steak, one scallop, one Caesar salad, three shrimp cocktails and two meat pies for box 47. Service, please!" the sous chef called out. She reached over and took each of the plates, carefully setting them on the cart. She grabbed bundles of cutlery wrapped in linen napkins and threw them on the cart as well. Turning the cart towards the door, she snatched a bottle of Grey Goose vodka on her way out.
"That's quite a spread," another server noted, glancing at the cart. "Who's having all that?"
"Mr. Crawley in box 47," she answered proudly. "His guests have already finished the two bottles I brought up earlier."
"Hmm, Mr. Crawley, you say?" the other server smiled. "And how's he looking today?"
"Gorgeous," the server winked.
"You lucky bitch. Have fun!" the other server laughed.
She pushed the cart out the door and wheeled it down to the service elevator. When she reached the executive boxes, she smiled and nodded politely to the patrons as they made their way past her to their suites. The cart was brought into suite 47, the dishes and cutlery quickly unloaded on the table against the wall with the rest of the food. The men in expensive suits came over to have their drinks re-filled. She opened another bottle of Grey Goose as she glanced across the suite at the man with blond hair and blue eyes who was looking out at the football pitch below.
"What do you think of the new manager?" one man asked.
"Big personality. Big ego. Big resume. He's a proper United manager, not like the stiff they had in here last season. Anyone would be better than him," another grumbled.
"He'll have them on the right foot from the off, you'll see," a third man nodded enthusiastically.
"What do you think, Matthew?"
Matthew kept his eyes fixed on the pitch below, watching as the players on both teams went through their warm-up exercises. He perused the action with a focused stare, as though he was studying something that no one else could see.
"I think," he answered finally, his eyes still on the players. "That playing a three-man backline is a rather interesting strategy for a home debut that you would expect the new manager would want to win comfortably. We aren't the fastest team in the world. A thin rearguard opens up possible seams for counter attacks."
Matthew's analysis was met by guffaws and passionate rebuttals. He ignored the rest of the debate and made no further comment. After several minutes, he turned and made his way to the bar, greeting each of his guests by name and giving them a polite smile and nod as he went.
"Coke with no ice and a lime, Mr. Crawley," the server grinned, handing him his preferred drink.
"Thank you," Matthew replied politely. He squeezed the lime wedge and dropped it into the drink. Walking off to the side of the bar, he took a sip and glanced at the display on his smartphone intently.
"Most of the betting action today is on Arsenal and United," a voice said quietly beside him. "There's a bunch of money coming in on Liverpool for tomorrow."
"You can always count on Scousers to be optimistic on the opening weekend of the season, Alex," Matthew smiled, looking up at his friend. "I think Southampton is in for a decent run this year, actually, but they probably won't get a result tomorrow."
"Well, I'm glad the season is finally starting," Alex nodded. "We're having an absolute cracker of a year so far and a close title race will make for a very happy Christmas."
"I don't know how close it's going to be," Matthew laughed. "City will push them, but it's Chelsea's title to lose. Having said that, you're right; the more teams that think they have a shot, the better it is for business."
They both went back to their mobile phones, their fingers moving back and forth as they swiped through different screens and applications. Matthew finally put his phone away and took another sip of his drink. Alex soon followed Matthew's lead, putting his phone into the inside pocket of his blazer jacket and taking a drink from his pint of beer.
"So what have you got for today?" Alex smiled, nodding back towards the pitch.
"You know that I don't like to bet against United," Matthew frowned.
"That's because you always bet the favourite," Alex joked.
"Not always," Matthew shook his head. "I bet on the team that wins."
"Then let me take United this time," Alex baited him. "If they win, you won't mind paying, and if they lose, you still win."
"Fine," Matthew said wryly. "100 quid, and I get Swansea at +900."
"+900!" Alex whinged. "We're only offering +600 online!"
"Then go online and hedge, if you like," Matthew smiled. "United is the clear favourite. Swansea have only won here once in their history. If you want me to bet against my own team, those are the odds that I want."
"Fine," Alex muttered, shaking Matthew's hand. "If United lose, we'll take in so much that I'll be glad to pay you the 1000 quid."
"That's the spirit," Matthew laughed, patting Alex on the back as they went to take their seats overlooking the pitch.
The ball sailed up and over the defensive wall and past the Swansea City goalkeeper, bound for the top corner of the net. It struck hard off the outside of the post and careened out of play, the collective groans of over 70,000 Manchester United fans echoing across the field as the players set up for the ensuing goal kick.
"For fuck's sake, Rooney!"
"It's coming. You'll see."
"Come on, lads!"
"Come on, United!"
Alex rolled his eyes at Matthew. It was getting late in the game, the two teams were drawing even at 1-1, and their guests had been drinking for two hours now. The combination of a close game and the alcohol was beginning to show.
Matthew remained quiet.
Minutes later, the visitors bombed up the field, working the ball from one end to the other. A few quick passes sent the attacking players past the United midfield and into acres of space on the wing, where the depleted United defence did not have enough men to cover the overlapping runs of the Swansea players. The ball was crossed from one side of the box to the other, and the United defenders were caught watching as the ball was passed back into the centre, and quickly thumped into the back of the net for a shocking Swansea lead.
The stands erupted in a chorus of groans.
"Oh, come on!"
"There's still time. We've got time to grab an equaliser!"
"Fuck a draw! We should be killing them, lads!"
Alex stared at Matthew in disbelief.
Matthew remained stoic.
As the minutes ticked by towards the end of the game, the fans became increasingly more vocal in their anger and disappointment. Swansea defended gamely and the match ended with a 2-1 scoreline in favour of the visitors. The debut for Manchester United and its new high profile manager had ended in abject defeat and embarrassment.
"I hate you. You know that, don't you?" Alex complained, taking out his smartphone.
"Don't be like that," Matthew said. "Remember, they're my team. I'm right pissed that they lost."
"I'm sure you'll get over it," Alex huffed, tapping the touchscreen of his phone. "There. I transferred the money. I hope whatever you spend it on causes you misery."
"No, you don't," Matthew said, getting up from his seat.
"No, I don't," Alex admitted, following behind him.
Matthew smiled at him as they went back into the suite.
"Vast majority of the bets were on United," Alex said, scrolling through his mobile web browser. "We had a few lucky calls on Swansea, like yours, but it was nothing compared to the bath people took on betting the favourite. Overall, between this result and the Everton draw, we're up a few million quid easily, and that's before the Liverpool match tomorrow."
Matthew smiled and nodded at Alex.
"Thank you for coming everyone. Mr. Lewis will take care of you from here while I go home and have a good cry. Please do try and enjoy the rest of your weekend," Matthew said to their guests as he headed for the door.
"Thank you, Mr. Crawley."
"Thank you, Mr. Crawley."
"You as well, Mr. Crawley."
He nodded to the server, who grinned back at him. He left the suite, buttoning his suit jacket as he went.
Matthew reached the lift and motioned for an older man with two young children to step in first. He followed inside and stood at the back, watching the numbers above the doors as the lift moved down to the ground floor.
"Rubbish start," the man muttered, patting one of the boys on the back. The man turned to Matthew, who shrugged sympathetically.
"I bet the bookies done made a killing today, haven't they?" the man asked.
"Oh, I don't know anything about betting," Matthew smiled sheepishly as the elevator chimed and the doors opened. "I'm just a fan."
Matthew motioned for the man and his boys to step out first. He quickly made his way over to the reserved parking area and went to his car. The car beeped pleasantly and unlocked the doors in reply to his touch. Getting in and sitting down on the leather seat, Matthew pressed the ignition button and the car roared to life. He quickly drove out of the parking lot, a security guard opening a lane for him so he could leave ahead of the mass of people and cars crawling towards the stadium exit.
Halfway down the A56 motorway, his music was interrupted by the robotic female voice of the car's phone system.
"Incoming text from…Lord…Grantham," the voice announced in a clipped British accent.
Matthew blinked at the display screen in surprise. He pressed the button on the steering wheel for the message to be read out loud. The female voice had a slightly cheerful tone, which was morbidly out of place, given the content of Robert's message.
"Matthew, please call me. Horrible news. Patrick's dead."
Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, England, August 2014
"Well, that wasn't entirely as horrid as I expected," Mary sighed as she came into the parlour. "At least it was short."
"I'm pleased that the funeral service exceeded your expectations," Robert said bitterly as he sipped his glass of whiskey.
Mary rolled her eyes as she went to the bar and poured herself a glass of tonic water. She glanced over at the bottle of vodka, but reluctantly decided not to reach for it. She dropped a slice of lime into the glass and stirred it several times before taking a sip and walking back across the room.
"Now that the unfortunate business is over with, I wanted to talk to you about how we move forward, Papa. I just looked at the numbers from the last quarter, and I think you'll be very pleased," Mary said cheerfully.
"That's fine, Mary," Robert answered, staring blankly out the window.
"Yes, I thought so," Mary said, frowning at her father's back. "Since operations are doing so well, I think we should push forward with my expansion proposal, Papa. The more time we lose, the more we fall behind our competitors."
"Mary, I just had to bury my nephew; your cousin, I might add," Robert said tiredly. "This family is in mourning, and that includes you."
"I'll mourn for him in my own way; privately," Mary smirked. "If you expect me to wear black for six months, that isn't happening. This isn't Edwardian England."
Robert looked over at her sternly. Mary lost her smirk and looked down at the floor.
"I haven't had time to properly consider your plan," Robert said, looking back out the window. "It's the weekend, Mary. This can wait until next week, surely?"
"Papa, I know you don't believe in moving quickly on these things, but the rest of the world tends to disagree," Mary said, a note of exasperation creeping into her voice. "Why don't I just go ahead and get started and we can revisit things at year end?"
"No," Robert said firmly, turning and facing her. "I told you that I won't approve your plan until it's been thoroughly reviewed. This is a major expenditure for us, Mary, and I won't just allow you to spend millions of pounds on a whim and see where it leads later."
He carried his empty glass over to the bar. Mary watched him, her eyes narrowing in frustration. She had prepared an entire brief for him, complete with financial projections, mock design plans and comments on zoning issues and employees that would need to be hired. A whim, indeed…
"Besides, don't you think that we should hold off on any major changes until Patrick's replacement is brought in?" Robert asked as he refilled his glass.
"Replacement?" Mary frowned in confusion. "What are you talking about? I thought that I would simply carry on running Patrick's division and merge it with mine. I've already been doing his job for the past year."
"Don't exaggerate," Robert shook his head, still facing away from her. "Patrick did more than you're willing to admit."
"I am quite aware of how little Patrick did, actually," Mary said, arching her eyebrow. "Besides, who would you bring in? No one else is up to speed on our London operations and Edith and Sybil aren't ready for the responsibility. Don't tell me you're actually going to go outside our inner circle to replace him?"
"No, no, of course not. Our code forbids it. I have someone in mind; a family friend," Robert said, taking a sip and turning around to look over at her. "He'll be at our dinner in London on Tuesday, and he's a very quick study."
Mary's eyes widened.
"You can't possibly be serious," she said in shock. "You're summoning Matthew to take Patrick's place?"
"He's done very well for himself in Manchester," Robert said lightly. "Better than you ever give him credit for."
"Taking in the spare change of drunken punters betting on football matches?" Mary exclaimed. "He isn't ready to run an operation like ours! Not by a long shot!"
"That is your opinion," Robert said, walking over to her. "I've looked at the numbers and discussed some ideas with him already. He has a very refreshing way of looking at things that I think you'll find intriguing. For me, he's exactly the right person to come in and shake things up a bit."
"Papa, Patrick's division was always meant for me. You know that I'm the most qualified to take it over. Wasn't that always the plan if something should happen?" Mary pleaded.
"Plans change, my dear," Robert said, stepping towards her and kissing her cheek. "Now, your Mama and I are going to visit your Granny. We'll see you tonight at dinner."
The Earl of Grantham wandered out of the room, his footsteps echoing up to the high ceilings. Mary took a large gulp of tonic water and stared out the large windows across the fields of her family's lands. She let out a long breath, her fury seething just below the surface of her pale skin.
She was barely free of Patrick, only to have Matthew now push into her life.
Grantham House, St. James Square, London, England, December 2000
"I'm bored," Mary sighed.
"You're always bored," Edith noted. "And when we find you something else to do, you'll be amused for a minute or so and say you're bored again. There's no pleasing you."
"Well, the fault must obviously lie with the person finding me something to do then," Mary said archly, quirking her eyebrow at Edith.
"Stop doing that," Edith shook her head.
"Doing what?" Mary said haughtily, arching her eyebrow again.
"That!" Edith pointed. "That thing with your eyebrow! You aren't Granny, you know!"
"I will be, someday!" Mary retorted. "I'll be Lady Grantham, just like Granny and Mama."
"How?" Edith exclaimed incredulously. "Only the Earl's wife can be Lady Grantham, and you'll never marry the Earl."
Mary rolled her eyes and looked away. She closed her book and placed it back on the coffee table.
"Why don't you find another book?" Sybil suggested helpfully. "There's lots here."
"Not nearly as many as at Downton," Mary huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I know! Let's go and find the boys!"
She sat up and grinned, pleased with herself for her clever idea.
"They're downstairs," Edith stated. "Patrick is probably making Matthew do something horrid."
"Even more reason to seek them out!" Mary laughed. She jumped up from the sofa. "Come on!"
"No," Edith shook her head. "Mama said to stay up here. Besides, what fun is it in watching Patrick bully Matthew? I'd rather not."
"Oh, it's just teasing. It's harmless," Mary waved her hand dismissively. "If Matthew was truly bothered by it, he'd fight back, and he never does."
"Maybe he isn't the type to fight back," Sybil said quietly.
"All the more reason to go watch, then!" Mary smiled smugly.
Edith groaned and shook her head.
"Fine, stay here," Mary shrugged. "Sybil?"
"All right," Sybil said nervously. "But just for a moment. I'd hate to have Mama catch us out."
"We'll say we needed to get some air. She knows how stuffy it gets up here," Mary declared, growing more pleased with herself by the second.
"Won't you come, Edith? Please?" Sybil asked. "Just for a little while. Then we'll go right back up, I promise."
"Fine," Edith grumbled. "But only because you asked me to, Sybil."
Mary rolled her eyes at her sister's comment.
The three young Crawley girls scampered out of the room and down the stairs. Mary held up her hand and glanced about, making sure the coast was clear of her parents or Carson or anyone else who would dare interrupt her fun. When she was satisfied they were still unnoticed, she walked briskly through the library and into the small parlour beyond, Edith and Sybil trailing behind her.
"Ah, perfect!" Patrick grinned, looking up as they entered. "The girls are here. They can decide."
"Decide what?" Mary asked as the children gathered around.
"We're trying to decide who is the bravest of us all," Patrick said. "I say it's me and Matthew says he is."
"I didn't say that," Matthew objected. "I only said that there were braver men out there than the both of us."
"Adults don't count," Patrick countered. "Now, the three of you will be the judges. I scored the winning goal last week in the Eton house tournament final."
"That has nothing to do with being brave," Matthew frowned in annoyance.
"Of course it does," Patrick said. "Though perhaps you're braver, Matthew. You do go to public school in Manchester, after all."
Mary giggled, covering her mouth with her hand.
"All right, all right," Patrick said, waving his hands. "Forget about school. True bravery is in doing something that is dangerous, isn't it?"
"It could be, yes," Matthew admitted.
"Excellent. Then go to the kitchens and fetch us a plate of Mrs. Patmore's cookies," Patrick challenged.
"We're not allowed to have cookies in the afternoon. Mama forbids it," Sybil said.
"Which is what makes it dangerous," Patrick replied. "Only the bravest one of us all would be able to pull off such a feat."
"Why don't you go and get them, then, if you say you're so brave?" Matthew asked.
"I stole a plate just the other day. I've already proven my bravery," Patrick shrugged.
"How's that?" Matthew protested.
"It was before you arrived, Matthew," Patrick said easily. "I snatched them right from the counter when the kitchen maid's back was turned. You remember, don't you Mary?"
Mary blinked in surprise, then caught Patrick's subtle glance.
"Oh yes," Mary nodded enthusiastically. "They were oatmeal raisin, my very favourite."
"I don't remember that happening," Edith frowned.
"You were out shopping with Mama and Sybil," Mary said immediately.
"I wanted to save you some, Edith," Patrick smiled at her. "But sadly Pharaoh found my hiding spot and ate them all. I gave that dog a right scolding for it, too."
"Oh, well that's all right," Edith smiled, gazing at Patrick fondly.
"So, really you have to do this just to match me in bravery, otherwise, you're a coward," Patrick smirked.
The girls all stared at Matthew. He frowned and glanced over at them, looking at Mary last.
Mary gave him a brilliant smile and nodded to him.
Matthew swallowed and took a deep breath.
"All right," he said finally. "Wait here and I'll be right back."
"Oh no," Patrick shook his head. "We're all going so we can see you from the stairs. It doesn't count if you walk in there and beg the servants to help you out."
Matthew glared at Patrick, then huffed in resignation and stalked off towards the stairs.
"Come on," Patrick laughed, beckoning Mary.
The girls went after him, all of them following Matthew to the back stairs and down to the kitchens. They all gathered near the doorway, each of them peering into the kitchen.
"There they are," Patrick whispered, patting Matthew on the back. "And oatmeal raisin again!"
"Ooh, I just adore those!" Mary grinned.
Matthew stared at her and swallowed nervously. She smiled at him once more.
"Go on," Patrick whispered.
Matthew took one last look at Mary, then looked left and right down the hallway. No one was about and the kitchen was deserted. Matthew took a small step forward, then another, looking around in fear as he moved towards the kitchen counter. He crept forward as silently as he could, his eyes wide as the plate of cookies came closer and closer. He held his breath and reached for it.
"Mr. Crawley! May I help you?" a booming voice called.
Matthew jumped in terror. He turned around and his mouth fell open at the sight of Carson looming in front of him.
"Mr. Carson!" Matthew exclaimed. "I…I…"
"You were thinking you would come down here unannounced and nick a plate of cookies, were you?" Carson said accusingly.
"No, sir!" Matthew shook his head vehemently. "Well, yes, sir. But, you see, I…"
Matthew's eyes looked past Carson to the stairwell. Patrick and the girls were gone.
"Mr. Crawley, you are well aware of Her Ladyship's rules. No snacks between luncheon and dinner. Now, I have no choice but to report this incident to Her Ladyship and to Mrs. Crawley your mother. Run along now, and hope that the fact you were stopped from actually taking the cookies will help your cause," Carson said in his usual intimidating baritone.
"Yes, Mr. Carson," Matthew nodded. He scampered past the family butler and up the stairs.
Patrick and the girls were waiting back in the parlour. When Matthew came in looking glum, Patrick burst out laughing.
"You should have seen your face!" he crowed. "I think you jumped a good foot off the ground when old Carson caught you!"
"I don't know how he got me," Matthew shook his head. "I looked all the way down the hall before I went in. No one was around."
"Well, you're not a very good thief, apparently, and not very brave, either," Patrick smiled. "Now, who's in the mood for a game of Trumps?"
"Not me," Matthew grumbled. "I need to wait here for Mother. Carson's speaking to her now."
"Well, that's your lot, then," Patrick shrugged. "Come on," he said to the girls.
Mary shook her head at Matthew, then left with Patrick. Edith followed behind.
"Go on, Sybil," Matthew said dejectedly.
"Oh, Matthew," Sybil said sadly. "I'm so sorry. I tried to stop Patrick. I really did!"
"What are you saying?" Matthew frowned. "Stop Patrick from doing what?"
"Patrick fetched Carson, Matthew," Sybil shook her head. "He waited for you to go into the kitchen, then he ran down the hall and knocked on Carson's office door. He ran back upstairs so that Carson wouldn't know it was him. Carson wandered down the hall to see who had disturbed him, and that's when he found you."
Matthew gasped in shock. He looked away, balling his fists and scowling in rage.
"I'm sorry, Matthew," Sybil repeated, before she hurried off after the other children.
"Matthew Reginald Crawley!" Isobel snarled, coming into the parlour.
"Yes, Mother," Matthew sighed, bracing himself for the scolding that was to come.
Salon Privé, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Mayfair, London, England, September 2014
"Mary? What are you doing out here? Are we early?" Sybil asked, kissing Mary on the cheek.
"No, darling, you're right on time. Mama and Papa have already gone in," Mary replied.
She gave Edith a more token kiss on the cheek, then turned and made her way to the restaurant.
"Were you taking a call?" Sybil asked.
"She didn't want to go in because Matthew is obviously already here," Edith smiled. "If Mary had her way, she'd have begged off of dinner entirely."
"I still might," Mary sighed. "Weeks ago, I was happily running my division the way I wanted, and now I must share power with…him."
The host nodded as the three Crawley sisters walked past him and went through to the private dining room.
"Matthew's not as bad as you think," Edith said quietly, shaking her head. "He's very smart, you know. I never understood why you dislike him so."
"You don't dislike him at all, obviously," Mary rolled her eyes. "You think he's wonderful. Both of you do."
"I like Matthew," Sybil shrugged. "He's been nothing but kind to me. When I was at school, he kept in touch with me more often than anyone else, even you."
"I was busy working, darling," Mary huffed. "Besides, just because the man can write a few pleasant emails doesn't make him worthy of inheriting control of Patrick's division. Papa's only doing this to punish me, and because he thinks Matthew's the son he never had."
"Well he's better than Patrick," Sybil said pointedly. "Even you have to admit that."
"I suppose, though that's a rather low standard to meet," Mary grumbled as they reached the dining room. "I'm reserving judgment until I see whether he knows what he's doing or not. He's never shown me he has any talent beyond an above average knowledge of sports, so I won't anoint him the company saviour just yet."
"Ah, girls, there you are," Robert grinned, waving them over. "Matthew was just filling us in on Isobel's latest adventures."
"Sybil, Edith," Matthew smiled, greeting each of them with a cheek kiss. They smiled and hugged him back in return.
"Mary," Matthew nodded, keeping his distance from her.
"Matthew, welcome," Mary said with a false smile. "How is your mother?"
"Very well, thank you," Matthew replied. "I was just telling Robert and Cora about how she's in Singapore now. A colleague set her up with a temporary position at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. She's enjoying it immensely, although she still hasn't gotten used to the heat, I'm afraid."
Robert and Cora laughed. Edith and Sybil smiled.
Mary kept her neutral expression.
"Well, shall we?" Cora smiled, inviting everyone to be seated. Matthew held out the seat next to his for Sybil to sit down. Edith took the chair on his other side. Mary went around the table and sat down across from Sybil, to her father's left.
The waiters came into the room and took their drinks orders.
"If you don't mind, Robert, I've taken the liberty of choosing the wines for the meal," Matthew said.
"Oh, wonderful," Robert smiled. "That will make things easy, then!"
Mary blinked to stop herself from rolling her eyes at her father's exaggerated enthusiasm.
Wine and sparkling water were soon served all around, and the waiters retreated to leave the family in privacy.
"Well, a toast," Robert said, raising his wine glass. "To Matthew finally coming home."
"To Matthew," Cora echoed with a grin.
Matthew blushed slightly as he clinked glasses with everyone, except for Mary.
Mary glared at Sybil in disbelief as she raised her wine glass.
Sybil shot Mary a warning glance.
Mary sniffed the wine for a moment, then took a small sip, sampling the taste. It was quite good, surprisingly. Without having seen the bottle, she didn't know the precise choice that Matthew had made for their first glass, but she recognized it was French, light and slightly bitter. So the man knew his wine, apparently. That didn't qualify him to run Patrick's division – her division – she thought ruefully.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am that you're here," Robert gushed. "I've always thought it was wrong for you to be in Manchester all alone when you belong with us, particularly after Isobel left."
"Thank you, Robert," Matthew smiled graciously. "I'm just sorry for the circumstances that brought me here."
"You're not the only one," Mary said under her breath.
Sybil glared at her again.
"It will take all of us quite some time to recover from Patrick's loss," Cora nodded.
"If we even recover at all," Robert nodded.
Mary rolled her eyes. The only people suffering from Patrick's death were his bookie, his dealer, and the escort service he frequented.
"However, I'm sure you'll pick things up right away," Robert continued. "Patrick's division was turning around, and now it'll be in good hands indeed."
Mary sipped her wine again to stifle the rebuke forming in her mind. Patrick's division was turning around all right, thanks to her, and her alone! Sometimes her father's selective memory was infuriating.
"I hope you won't spend all of your time in London though. When did we last see you at Downton?" Cora asked.
"It's been quite a while," Matthew nodded. "I always enjoy Yorkshire. The roads around Downton are fantastic for cycling. I could get lost for hours out there."
"What a lovely thought," Mary said with a smile.
Edith frowned at Mary. Mary ignored her and finished her wine.
"How is the construction business?" Matthew asked, smiling at Edith. "I read somewhere that margins are drastically low."
"The industry is getting squeezed quite horribly," Edith nodded. "It's obviously not a problem for us. We have enough going on to keep us busy, but you should see some of the bidding wars going on for any commercial project that comes along. Contractors are promising to do the job at a loss just to get the work."
"Which only proves what I've been saying for years. We should consider getting out altogether," Mary said, looking at her parents. "Propping up the construction arm of the Group is becoming more of a nuisance with each passing quarter, to say nothing for the unwanted attention it always brings from the authorities."
"Mary, your great grandfather got us into construction, you know that," Cora replied. "We've been in the construction business almost as long as we've been in gambling."
"Give or take a generation or two," Mary laughed.
"The construction division is vital," Robert said firmly. "It puts our name on a legitimate business and keeps prying eyes away from our other operations."
"The casinos are a legitimate business, Papa," Mary said.
"At least the part that everyone knows about, anyway," Sybil smirked.
"And what about you, Sybil?" Matthew asked, turning towards her. "Have you decided what part of the Group you'll be going into when you graduate?"
"I've actually decided to do a Masters, so I'll be in school for a few more years yet," Sybil smiled.
"Ah, wonderful!" Matthew nodded. "It'll be refreshing to have an honest academic among us."
Mary shook her head slightly in exasperation. Was there nothing that Matthew didn't find wonderful or interesting about her sisters' mundane lives?
"We have a number of functions coming up, Matthew; mainly fundraisers and such. I know you tended to avoid attending such events in Manchester but they're inescapable here in London, I'm afraid," Robert said.
"I feared you were going to say that," Matthew smiled ruefully. "Well, I will do what I must, though I have to say I still don't see the use of attending such things, really."
"It's tradition, Matthew. It's part of our duties – to be seen in the proper circles and with the right people," Mary said as though she were trying to educate a small child. "Don't worry. You'll soon get used to the way things are done here."
"If you mean that I'm accustomed to a very different life from this, you already know that is true," Matthew answered, glancing over at her.
"Bates mentioned something about your luggage not yet arriving at Grantham House?" Robert said, trying to steer the conversation back to neutral ground. "Was there a delay of some sort?"
"No," Matthew said lightly, looking away from Mary. "I'll be staying at the Shangri-la. I prefer it there, actually."
"At a hotel?" Robert frowned.
"They have everything that I require there. I don't cook very much anyway and I like the view," Matthew explained.
"Of course you do," Mary chuckled. "Why bother having a proper house when you can sit up in your glass tower blissfully alone?"
"Mary," Cora frowned.
"Oh, I'm simply teasing, Mama," Mary smiled. "Matthew would be the first to admit that he prefers staying up in his suite, surrounded by computer screens, rather than taking a stroll through St. James."
"I probably would. You'll tell me that's rather unhealthy, compared to a walk in the park, or pressing the flesh and wandering the high limit room at Crockfords?" Matthew asked, watching Mary closely.
Mary held his gaze without flinching. "Not unhealthy. Just unusual. We don't spend our days hunched in front of a computer monitor, Matthew. That's a job for the analysts and IT people, not executives. But, the way you choose to run your small website enterprises don't concern me. I have bigger fish to fry."
"You do, do you?" Matthew smirked.
Mary frowned for a brief second, confused by what was behind his smug expression.
"Have you had a chance to look at Patrick's division yet?" Edith interjected.
"I reviewed the most recent reports before I left Manchester," Matthew answered, pulling his eyes away from Mary.
"Impressive, wouldn't you say?" Mary smiled.
"That depends," Matthew said, looking back at her. "I'd have to know more about the operations in question than what's on the financial reports. I suppose if one is satisfied with mediocrity, then the takings are adequate."
He sipped his water comfortably.
"Mediocrity?" Mary frowned.
"Yes. I don't see anything particularly noteworthy about the division's performance," Matthew replied.
"You didn't see anything particularly noteworthy? So you didn't notice that operating expenses have been reduced by 20% in the past six months and gross revenues are up by nearly 30%?" Mary bit back.
"I did see that, yes. But the peculiar thing about percentages is that when the previous year's figures were nothing to be proud of, a significant increase is still marginal, in absolute terms," Matthew answered with an air of indifference mixed with boredom.
Mary's eyes narrowed as she paused before giving Matthew her answer. She watched him like a lioness contemplating what part of her prey to bite into first.
"Those marginal increases help pay for the lifestyle that you so ungraciously will now be enjoying at our expense, Matthew," Mary scoffed.
"Mary," Robert scolded her.
"This is important, Papa," Mary snarled, keeping her cold stare on Matthew. "Matthew doesn't seem to understand how fortunate he is to be given his position, and I think he should educate himself before making such uninformed statements about the division that makes all the money around here."
"This is hardly the venue for confrontations, Mary," Matthew laughed, tilting his head slightly and smiling at her. "Surely we can have a nice meal together and leave business at the door?"
"That's entirely like you, isn't it?" Mary asked, smiling coldly. "Time obviously hasn't improved your narrow-minded views. Everything is so black and white. Personal and impersonal. Everything left behind at the office when the day is done."
"That policy has served me well thus far," Matthew said, his voice now tightening.
"In Manchester, perhaps. This is London, Matthew," Mary chastised him. "Everything we do is about business. We don't leave work aside when we take coffee breaks or meal breaks and we don't turn off our phones before we go to bed. If there is a matter of importance, we deal with it, anytime, anywhere. We don't have nine-to-five middle class jobs. We're on the clock at all hours if that is what it takes. So no, there is no right and wrong venue for discussions about business, thank you. And seeing as this is a family business, there's no reason to not discuss it at the family dinner table, even with outsiders present. You should try and get up to speed with how things are done here in the big city, otherwise you'll be run over and the rest of us will be left to pick up the pieces."
"Mary, that's enough," Cora ordered.
"It's all right," Matthew said, holding his hand up, keeping his eyes locked on Mary.
"Clearly Mary has a great deal she wishes to say, and I'd like to hear her say it once and for all, rather than listen to her continue to mumble and mutter snide remarks under her breath all through the rest of dinner."
Sybil and Edith glanced at each other.
Mary was unfazed. She didn't care if he'd heard her earlier. A part of her was glad that he had.
"All I will say is that I'm not a babysitter, a nurse, or a purse. I won't carry you while you clumsily try and make heads or tails of the way things are done here. Insulting Patrick's division, and mine, is not the way to get started in the right direction with us. Further, trying to speak knowledgably about things you clearly know nothing about is equally idiotic," Mary lambasted him. "You can't hide behind a computer here, Matthew. This is the real world. We deal with real money and we make real decisions. This isn't playing around with one of your juvenile websites where teenagers bet their allowances on their favourite football team winning a match. The sooner you realize that, the better off all of us will be. And if you can't manage that, then do us all a favour and get out of the way."
A tense silence fell across the table. Mary stared him down, or at least she tried to. Matthew stared right back. He finally smiled at her before responding.
"Mary, I've always appreciated your candour. Your particularly…unique…brand of honesty is one of the many traits that I admire about you. Allow me to be equally honest," Matthew said, still smiling. "Last year your three casinos had total revenues of £347 million, up from £290M the previous year. Your group has approximately 28% of the London market. From your revenues, you paid nearly £242M in expenses, including payouts to customers, servicing your debts, staff costs, the leases on your properties, the gaming duties on reported income and various other charges, leaving you with a profit of £105 million for the year. Does that sound about right?"
Edith and Sybil both blinked in surprise and watched Mary for her reaction.
"Yes, that's right," Mary said, slightly taken aback. Anyone could read financial statements, she reminded herself.
"Last year, a total of £5.2 billion was wagered legally on sports across the United States, Canada and Europe," Matthew said. "All through legal casino sports books and government sanctioned websites. A total of nearly £200 billion was wagered in the illegal market across all sports. Two…hundred…billion. No taxes. No licensing fees. No royalty payments. Two hundred billion pounds of pure, high-margin, high-profit, revenue."
Matthew paused, keeping his blue eyes on Mary while the rest of the family absorbed what he said.
"Would you like to hazard a guess on what percentage of that total my 'juvenile websites' accounted for?" Matthew asked with the hint of a smile. "Or shall I wait while you use the calculator on your iPhone to run the numbers?"
Matthew continued, still staring at her.
"In one decent month, I bring in more profit than you do for the entire year, Mary. All the brilliant smiles, cheek kisses, girlish laughs and free drinks you hand out, all the low cut halters and short skirts that you have your servers parade around in, and all the female companionship services and cocaine care packages that Patrick arranged for, are nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of hits on my websites that happen twenty-four hours each day, 365 days a year. And I don't need to pay taxes, overtime or health insurance for my computers," Matthew continued.
Mary's lips pressed together into a thin line.
Matthew finished with a flourish.
"So, no, I don't see anything particularly noteworthy about your performance, or Patrick's. God rest his soul, but Patrick was a horrible businessman, and you know very well that he was. The mediocre results of his division reflected that, even with all of your efforts to save it. But don't worry, you can carry on and I'll do my best not to get in your way as I try and get up to speed on how you do things here in jolly London."
No one else dared to speak. Mary and Matthew kept staring at each other, neither one willing to be the first to back down. They were finally interrupted by the team of waiters coming in with their first course.
"Ah, foie gras," Matthew smiled, finally turning away from Mary and watching as the food arrived.
"You all can't hide in here for the rest of the evening, you know," Cora shook her head as she came into the women's washroom.
"I can if I want to," Mary rolled her eyes as she touched up her makeup yet again. "I didn't ask Sybil and Edith to stay with me. They can go back in and enjoy Matthew's delightful company if they so choose."
"Were you expecting that he would cower and thank you for your helpful advice?" Cora smirked.
"I know that you and Papa are the co-chairs of the Matthew Crawley fan club, but you can at least admit that I was right. We don't know anything about Matthew's ability to run an operation the size of ours. He's never done it before. My concern is entirely valid," Mary said pointedly.
"Perhaps he lost your point in the vitriol that you were spewing at him?" Edith suggested.
"You can't honestly believe he'll do any worse than Patrick," Cora said patiently, coming over to stand next to her daughter.
"That's not the point," Mary grumbled, frowning at their reflection in the mirror.
"Darling, I think you're just looking to pick a fight with him now," Sybil shook her head. "You wanted Patrick's division for yourself. Say Matthew is rubbish at running it, as you say. Then you'll be no worse off than you are now."
"Sybil's right," Edith shrugged. "You were already cleaning up after Patrick. Having to educate Matthew should be child's play compared to that."
"So now I tutor him on how to be a proper businessman and he takes all the credit and the division as well? I think not," Mary scoffed. "Papa made his choice, and now all of us must live with it, whatever the consequences."
"Suit yourself," Cora said lightly. "But out of all of us, you're the one who will be working closely with him. You can dismiss his abilities if you wish, but in the end, it'll be your division that suffers for it."
Mary rolled her eyes.
"And your Papa wants you to spend time with Matthew at first, show him around and let him see how we do things. So you won't be rid of him so easily, I'm afraid," Cora added.
"God," Mary muttered under her breath, putting her compact back into her clutch.
"Well, now that that's all settled, I'd like some dessert," Edith declared. "Come on, Sybil."
The two sisters left the washroom.
"You shouldn't quarrel with Matthew," Cora said, placing her hand on Mary's shoulder. "You may need him more than you realize. We all might."
"I can't see how," Mary frowned.
She grudgingly followed her Mama out of the washroom and back to the private dining room.
"You're sure I can't convince you to stay in London for a few more days?" Matthew asked Robert as they walked towards the hotel entrance.
Mary rolled her eyes. Was this evening of Matthew and her parents beaming at each other ever going to end?
"I'm afraid not, my boy," Robert smiled. "We're heading back now. But don't worry, you're in good hands. Mary will help you get acclimated as smoothly as possible, won't you, dear?"
"Of course she will," Cora answered for her daughter.
Mary gritted her teeth behind her closed lips.
They came outside into the crisp evening air. Valets and doormen ran here and there, moving cars around and ushering guests and luggage carts in and out of the hotel.
"Can I offer anyone a lift?" Matthew asked, handing his ticket to a valet.
"No thank you, Matthew," Cora smiled. "We're dropping Sybil and Edith off on our way out of the city, and Mary's heading out."
"A date?" Matthew asked, looking at Mary inquisitively.
"An appointment," Mary replied curtly, not looking at him.
"Well, good night, then," Matthew said to Mary.
He shook hands with Robert, nodded to Cora and hugged Sybil and Edith.
A sleek black sports car approached and parked at the kerb, its bright lights casting a blue tinged glow.
"Heavens, what a snappy chariot!" Cora remarked, glancing at the car.
"It's Japanese," Robert said. "Not to my taste, but I'm sure it's quite fast, if you like that sort of thing."
A valet came up to the group as they finished saying their goodbyes.
"Your driver will be here shortly, sir," the valet nodded to Robert. The valet then turned to Matthew and handed him a remote key fob.
"Sir," the valet nodded.
"Thank you," Matthew tipped the valet. He then got into the black sports car and pulled away from the kerb with a growl of the engine.
"My, Matthew has a rather nice car," Sybil remarked.
"Probably compensating for something else he's lacking in," Mary muttered, watching the red tailights disappear down the street.
Author's Note: Many thanks to whatifthisstormends for the lovely cover GIF for this story. Grazie!