Jane looked outside form an upstairs window of Russell Stark's mansion.
The landscape was far from immaculately maintained. The grass had been mowed and obvious weeds had been tended, but the mansion left the impression of slowly going to seed. The terrain looked uneven, as if the primary reason for locating the house in the middle of nowhere was that Stark was looking for the most nowhere he could find. It was not so much a mansion as a rustic lodge grown past its boundaries. Most of the rooms in the house were empty, and aside from the three girls the only staff members were a maid, a cook and an all-purpose butler.
Jane still held Russell Stark's phone in her hands, along with two typewritten scraps of paper. They were a list of phone numbers under various headings – financial, legal, security, computer science, public relations, the heads of Stark's far flung empire. Jane wondered if they knew she might be calling, or what she would say if someone called her on the cellphone. She remembered Daria telling her that Stark was a billionaire, a computer genius of some sort.
Daria, Quinn, and Jane were now heiresses to unimaginable wealth. This wealth was to be put to one particular use, namely the "Legion" that Stark dreamed about. And Jane, Quinn, and Daria were to be Legionnaires – whatever that meant.
Maybe they were the ones who had to decide what it meant.
With a wave of my hand, I can solve all of my family's financial problems. I can bring Trent up here, get him some decent equipment. I would never run out of art supplies. I could have a new computer. Maybe a car if I wanted it.
Jane was embarrassed that with all of this power at her disposal, all she could think of was paint and new speakers for Trent. Maybe a truckload of speakers. Maybe I'd buy him a spot in Radiohead.
This was too much to think about. She needed to talk to Daria. To get Daria's perspective, especially since Daria thought the whole idea patently ridiculous.
Frankly, if they could leave this creepy empty mansion, Jane Lane wouldn't mind it at all. Provided, of course, she could take the water-powered computer with her.
(la la LA la la)
Quinn doodled on a pad in her plain-looking empty room. It smells like someone died in here! Maybe the curtains killed them.
On her pad, she had written:
Shoes, accessories –
whole new wardrobes, London, Paris, Milan
New Italian car – when I can drive (get chauffeur)
Things for the Fashion Club
Subscriptions to all fashion magazines
Learn romantic languages
Plastic surgery (???)
Throw huge parties (invite popular people)
A knock on the door called Quinn from her fantasy world. She threw the pad under the pillow. "Who is it??"
"How many damn people are in this building? Who do you think it is?"
"Oh." Quinn was disappointed. "Come in."
Daria stepped into the room, and before she could say something, Quinn had her speech prepared.
"Look, Daria, your life may be over, but mine is just beginning! I'm going to stay! You can't make me go with you! You just don't know the incredible burdens of being cute and popular! And now that I've finally learned my purpose in life, I have to use that gift Daria!" Quinn looked at Daria, serenely. "I have to bring the message to the world! Like Mother Teresa, only better looking!"
"And what do you think Mom and Dad are going to say about that?"
"I've figured it out! We tell Mom and Dad about the cash and they forgive us!"
"So you think that Mom and Dad will just let us spend this stuff the way we want to? I shudder to think what you've picked out. I'd give up on that baby unicorn if I were you."
"Stark didn't think about one thing. We're still minors, all of us. Mom and Dad come in, sweeping down like parental hawks, end of discussion."
"Yeah," said Quinn. She folded her hands in front of her lap. "I guess it was too much to ask for. Someone else will get all of the money. And we go back to Lawndale. Although…I miss Mom and Dad."
Daria didn't want to admit that she missed anyone. "Okay. But I can't go back there. I don't trust Mom. But…if you want to go back, I guess that's okay."
"Are you going to be okay, Daria?"
"I'm sure I can get enough money somehow before the authorities catch up with me." And before my head explodes like an unwatched pressure cooker.
"Yeah…." Quinn stood up. "Does Jane know?"
"I think Jane has a lot on her mind. I'll talk to her. If Jane wants to go back to Lawndale…I won't stand in her way. Or your way. This is something I have to do for myself."
"Will you come back?"
Daria didn't know the answer to that one. She was really hoping that neither one of them would break down and have one of those embarrassing 'my God, I really will miss you so much' moments. An emotional scene with Quinn would probably be worse than facing her parents again.
Without warning, Jane Lane walked into the half-open door. "We got a call."
"Who?" asked Daria.
"Dawn Hall. Stark's friend. She's been sent here to help us, I think. And the first thing she said was 'don't do a damn thing until I get there'."
"And what did you tell her?"
"I said, 'okay'", said Jane, "I mean, none of us were doing a damn thing anyway."
(la la LA la la)
In two hours, Dawn Hall arrived by helicopter. She did not cut an imposing figure; her might rested in her energy and willpower.
When the three met Hall for the first time, they were surprised at how short she was. She was five feet tall in heels. She wore pink from head to toe, giving the aura of a Mary Kay cosmetics middle manager. Short cut blond hair and blue eyes finished the picture of immaturity, a picture that had deceived many an opponent.
"Dawn Hall, ladies. Let's go up to Stark's room and have a serious discussion of the mess Russell's made of things."
The three followed, glad for the extra motive power. Dawn Hall took the place behind Stark's desk. She was ready to dictate the order of battle.
"Jane Lane, Quinn and Daria Morgendorffer. I'm sure we'll all be getting to know each other very well in the near future. Now, to business.
"My impression is that this is a disaster in the making. Since Mr. Stark is still presumed alive – somewhere – the Quest Corporation takes over as a trustee of his estate. He named the three of you the only heirs in his will. It's all in legal plate with an army of lawyers behind it, so no one doubts your claim to what he wants to give you. My only defense in court would be that Stark was insane when he filled out those documents."
"And you know he wasn't insane," said Daria. She made the attempt to read Dawn Hall's mind.
NOTHING AT ALL. Not a thought. Not even static.
Who are all you weird people? Can't you give me an honest answer about anything? ANYTHING:
Jane and Quinn immediately grasped their ears, with Quinn sinking to her knees.
STOP SCREAMING AT ME
It was Jane's thinking at Daria. Daria tried to control herself. Empty her mind of her anger.
Dawn Hall looked over the other side of the desk. "Are you all right?" she asked Quinn. Hall seemed completely unperturbed, as if Daria had not used her powers at all.
Jane and Daria helped Quinn up.
"Look", sighed Dawn, "Stark and I had a long discussion about you. I know everything…more or less."
"So why can't I read your mind, then?" said Daria.
"You were trying to read my mind? What the hell for? I'm trying to help you and the first thing you do is invade my privacy? Why don't you take some pictures while I'm undressing and sell them on the Internet while you're at it? Or do you just read the mind of anyone who doesn't meet your standards of approval? I'm surprised these two are even hanging around you at all!"
"That doesn't answer the question," said Daria.
"Get used to not knowing everything, then. There are some walls you won't be breaching, and you don't get the keys to my innermost secrets for free." Dawn Hall straightened the papers. "Jane, Stark put you in charge, right?"
"I suppose," said Jane.
"Good. A better class of person to talk to, then." Dawn Hall looked very angry and the three shrunk.
"Now, there is a way out of this. You reject the will, reject the inheritance and Quest takes over everything again. You go back home, try to live your lives, keep your thoughts to yourself, and try not to destroy anything. Like Clark Kent on Smallville."
"And what about my powers? And my blood pressure?" said Daria.
"We take care of that at Lawndale. You get the treatment you need and I repair the mess. We get Jane back to her home and the Morgendorffer sisters go back to Mom and Dad."
"I don't think so," said Daria. "Even if I wanted to go – and I'm not saying that I want to go – two minutes with my Mom will bring my blood pressure sky high. Much less two months or two years."
"What's wrong with your blood pressure?" said Quinn.
"Hey," said Jane, "Stark trusted us with this money and he did it for a reason."
"You'll get enough money to take care of your problems."
"What about the Legion?"
"I'm not interested in the Legion." Dawn Hall rested back in the chair. "Another one of Russell's crazy ideas that never came to fruition. Trust us, when we see him again, he'll apologize for bringing the whole thing up."
"You really want as far away from this Legion as possible", said Jane.
"Tell me about it. I have no intention of babysitting anyone. I don't have any children of my own; I don't need three more. That's your mother's job, not mine."
"I've changed my mind," said Daria. "On second thought, I want the Legion to succeed."
"Why?" asked Dawn.
"To shut you up," said Daria. "And you didn't answer my question."
"And I'm not going to answer it either. Like I said, no free pass into my brain."
"If I had what Stark promised me, I would learn how to control my powers without endangering my health…and I would have a free pass!"
"There's nothing in my head that you're not being told right now. Besides, Ms. Daria Morgendorffer…the Legion is just not for you."
"From what I read, Russell planned this as a youth organization. Public relations. Charity work. Political activism. None of the three of you have the credentials. And as for you, Ms. Daria Morgendorffer…definitely not. I can tell just from your demeanor that the Legion's ship would sink the second you stepped foot on it."
"Wait a minute!" said Jane. "I remember talking to Russell Stark. He put me in charge."
"Why, sure, Ms. Lane. In charge of the Legion."
"That's not how I remember it. Let me put it this way…if Russell Stark told you to do something…would you do it?"
"Because he's your boss? Or for other reasons?"
"It's not mutually exclusive."
"But if he asked you for a favor…you would do it…right?"
Dawn Hall hesitated. "Of course. Mister Stark is a great man, in every sense of the term."
Jane put her hands on her hips. "Then what I'm telling you right now is that Russell Stark wanted to see the Legion happen. He said that we were in charge. That's the way I remember it. If you want to fight the will in court, and go against Mister Stark's wishes, then I guess you have the right to do that. But he said that we were to have whatever we needed."
"We want the Legion." Jane stood firm. "And I say, what we need right now is help with a lot of things. And I want you to help us."
"Get Daria on good terms with her Mom."
"Hey!" said Daria. "Isn't that my business?"
"Not anymore, Miss Mind Reader! I don't want to see my best friend in trouble, and Daria, I know that your Mom can cause trouble. So help Daria patch it up with her Mom."
"I'll see what I can do," said Dawn Hall, "I'm not a social worker."
"I think the two of you are a lot alike," said Jane. "Next, my brother misses me and I miss my brother. So bring him up here to Utah. Get him a room. Preferably on the other side of the mansion – he likes to play guitar."
"Sure…why not add more animals to the menagerie? Another five hundred dollars of Russell Stark's money that he earned out the window. Why not?"
"Next, clean this place up a bit. I mean, if we're going to be staying here for a while, you could turn on some more lights and clean up some of these rooms."
"Ten thousand dollars for cleaning. Got it. Should I buy you the State of Delaware while I'm at it?"
"Nah. Delaware sucks," said Jane, "I would want California. I'll also have a list of art supplies that you have to buy me."
"And I want some new clothes, too!" said Quinn.
"Probably another ten thousand dollars", mumbled Dawn Hall.
"How about some transportation?" said Daria.
"Hell no. That's non negotiable, and I don't care what Stark said. If you young ladies disappear, I answer to him. No."
"Some pizza?" said Daria.
"That I can do."
"Can I invite the Fashion Club over for a slumber party?"
"NO!!" the three of them shouted in unison.
"I might as well be at home in Lawndale," mumbled Quinn. "And by the way, Daria, what's wrong with your blood pressure?"
"Good question, Quinn," said Jane. She turned to Daria. "So, do you care to fess up?"
(la la LA la la)
It had taken several hours, but Dawn Hall had brought Helen and Jake to the Utah mansion. Hall figured that Helen Morgendorffer would be so ecstatic to know that her daughter was all right that she'd leap through the telephone if she had to.
Of course, thought Hall, that would mean that a long plane flight and car trip would give the parents of the Morgendorffers a chance to get their stories straight on the way. Undoubtedly, the Morgendorffers would demand their errant charges immediately, and if Hall didn't act quickly, the Legion would be dead without either Daria or herself having anything to do with it.
From some quick phone calls, she learned that Helen Morgendorffer was a lawyer with some legal firm in Lawndale. Very shrewd, and very intelligent, very forceful, a dominating presence. The husband, on the other hand, ran an unsuccessful consulting business, even though he had done well for a marketing firm several years ago and had a military school background. Jake Morgendorffer would be an X factor. It was best to concentrate on the upcoming clash with Helen.
Jane had explained to Dawn Hall that the Morgendorffers thought their daughter was schizophrenic and wanted her to be put into a mental institution. Dawn Hall found that hard to believe, although nothing could be ruled out.
The pink cell phone rang. Hall picked it up.
"Ms. Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer are coming up the drive."
"Thank you. I'll see them in." Hall, in her immaculately tailored suit, marched down to meet the family. Daria and Quinn didn't even know their parents were there. Hall made sure that the three of them were distracted by bringing in laptops, computers, and other gifts for the girls to be amazed over. While the girls played, the adults would talk.
Helen and Jake Morgendorffer walked into the entrance hall. Both were dressed casually, although it looked like neither of them had gotten any sleep. Dawn Hall smiled the smile of a shark.
"Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer? Dawn Hall, assistant chairman of the Quest Corporation!"
"Are the girls alright? Are they? Are they?!? YOU CAN'T KEEP THEM FROM US, DAMMIT!!" Jake's looked as if he would pass out.
"Jake!!" Helen stared Jake back into submission. "Ms. Hall, I'm Helen Morgendorffer. You'll have to excuse my husband, Jake. This has been very hard on us! All that we want is to see Daria and Quinn again."
"Well, frankly, Mrs. Morgendorffer, that might not be possible."
Helen was confused, then angry. "Why not?"
"I've heard some stories that don't set my mind at rest. Very frightening stories. My lawyer is waiting in another room in the mansion as we speak. I'm very concerned about the safety of your daughters. It would be very negligent of me as a Quest executive to turn minors over to an untrustworthy person."
"Untrustworthy?" said Helen, taken aback. "Why – why what kind of stories have Daria and Quinn been telling you?"
"We would never hurt our daughters! Never!" Jake was wounded.
"Well…" said Dawn Hall, sighing, "maybe it's just been an exaggeration. Perhaps a lawyer isn't necessary. The two of you can come to my office and I can get the stories straight. Just an informal meeting might settle everything."
"Of course!" Helen lept at the opportunity for Hall not to have her lawyer present. "We'll settle this right away!"
(la la LA la la)
"Another martini, Mr. Morgendorffer?"
"Don't mind if I do!" purred Jake.
"Jake! Don't make Ms. Hall go to the trouble!"
"I don't mind, really." Dawn Hall poured the glasses.
"I'm glad you were able to see it our way, Ms. Hall!"
"Call me Dawn!" She hated to admit it, but she did like Mrs. Morgendorffer. "I mean, what I heard about forcibly institutionalizing your daughter, it gave me the chills!"
"Well…Dawn…that's just not the case. We were worried about the source of the voices that Daria was hearing. We wanted her to get help. Daria would have resisted, I know she would have, but I was worried about her health. We would never have forced Daria into anything, and if the staff used any kind of forced drug therapy, much less electroshock, I would have had Daria out of there immediately! I'm not going to beat my daughter into submission, with drugs or any other way."
Dawn Hall nodded. "Yes…it was a hard decision to make. But you know, Helen, maybe you were damned if you do and damned if you don't, so to say. If Daria had serious mental disability, you would have been correct."
"And Quinn told her. Quinn! I had hoped Quinn would have been more mature. Actually, I'm surprised. I'm sad to say that Daria and Quinn don't get along."
"So this is Russell Stark's place? The billionaire?" Jake looked around and gave a low whistle.
"Yes. Stark met them on the plane. He's an eccentric man and he took a shine to your girls immediately. Unfortunately, that turned out to a problem."
"He didn't try to molest them…did he?!?" Jake looked panicked.
"No, Mr. Morgendorffer. He wanted to help them. He wanted to see your family reunited, and he wanted to give the girls some money as well."
"How sweet!" said Helen. "How much money?"
Dawn Hall told them.
She regretted it. Jake had to do most of the heavy lifting of Helen afterwards.