Timing Part 6
The four men and one woman gathered around the conference table in Garrison's office. Goniff was sprawled back in his chair to Craig's left. Casino, next to him, had his chair tilted back on its hind legs and his legs crossed atop the corner of the table. Terry took the seat to her brother's right, with Actor sitting casually beside her, making a pipe. Garrison lit a cigarette and looked at the four.
"Okay, transport in?" he started.
"No problem," said Casino.
"Why can't we jump closer?" asked Goniff. "Me feet got tired walkin' that far."
"Your feet got tired?" objected Casino, "What about mine. All I did was walk."
Craig looked at his two wayward charges. "Maybe you would like us to drop you down the chimney next time?" he suggested with a touch of sarcasm.
"Funny, Warden," shot back Casino. "Woulda been better if the Injun had been with us. We coulda both got a car."
"You could always teach me how to hotwire one," suggested Terry half joking.
Goniff chuckled. "That'd look real good, Love. A bird with 'er 'ead in the engine of a staff car."
Terry shrugged. "It was a thought."
"Speaking of car," said Garrison, pinning a stern look at his safecracker. "That Peugeot was a bit ostentatious."
"I liked it," piped up Terry.
"Wadda ya want I should do, Warden, walk all over France lookin' for the right set of wheels for her?"
"I would like something a little less easily identifiable," clarified Craig. He turned to his sister, "By the way, what exactly did happen to the colonel?"
"Somebody took him out," said Terry. "Not me."
"You're starting to talk like them," noted Garrison without pleasure.
"So are you," she shot back. "I don't know what happened. His car was hit by an empty transport truck. I still don't know if it was an accident or a hit. Whichever, it worked."
"Warden?" asked Actor. "Did Col. Hammond mention if the coordination of the four teams was successful?"
"I didn't get details, but it worked." Craig looked at the pickpocket next. "Any trouble with the communications lines, Goniff?"
"Not a bit, Warden," the blonde man grinned.
"I wish to make a suggestion, Lieutenant," said Actor. "I believe it would be safer if Casino was given all the parts he needs and be allowed to make his own timers instead of relying on unknown workers to build them."
"I hafta agree with him there, Warden," said Casino, uncharacteristically siding with the Italian. "I don't like relyin' on something I didn't make. And you saw why."
"I am just thankful it didn't go off when he set it, with us right on top of it," said Terry.
Craig stubbed his cigarette butt out in the ashtray. "I fully intend to have that looked into." He looked at Casino. "You are okay with the extra work of making your own timer?"
Casino looked back with righteous belligerence. "Unless I know who made it, and I trust 'em, damn right I am."
"Okay," acknowledged Craig. He scanned the group. "Anything else?" There was a unanimous shaking of heads. "Good, we leave for London at 0630."
Terry went upstairs and into Chief's room to check on him. She found him reclined, fully clothed on top of the bed, her sister sitting on the edge, facing him. They were playing cards. Both looked up at her entrance.
"I came up to check on you," said Terry with a smile. "I can see you're doing fine." She perched on the end of the bed and watched the card game.
A light knock sounded at the door and Actor stepped in. He looked at the three sitting on the bed.
"You want to play cards, Actor?" asked Chris.
"No, thank you," he replied. "I suppose you came to change the dressing again," he addressed Terry.
"No," she replied in confusion. "You did this morning."
"I assumed that would mean nothing to you," replied the con man in his normal arrogant tone. "I see Chief is doing well." He nodded to the three. "In that case, I bid you good night."
The three watched him turn and leave and exchanged looks.
"What was that about?" asked Chief.
"I don't know," sighed Terry, "but I better find out."
She got up and went out in the hall. Actor was just going into his room.
"Hey," called Terry.
She followed him into the bedroom, stopping to look up at his inscrutable expression as he faced her.
"What was that?" she asked. "Did I do something to annoy you? I thought we shared the medical duties? You did it this morning so I didn't need to do it again."
"We do," said the con man coolly. "I did and you didn't. You have not annoyed me."
Actually, he was a bit annoyed. He was still tired. He needed some female companionship . . . badly. And the offhand remark at the dinner table that kissing him was business had offended his ego. When he kissed a woman, even Teresa, it wasn't business. Normally, he would not have allowed it to bother him, but at the moment his tiredness, physical needs, and the knowledge he was more worried about her well-being that he should be, cut through his usual restraint. On an instinctual level, he knew the hall was clear, so he stepped forward, cupped the back of her head with his hand, bent his head and captured her lips with his.
Terry was stunned to say the least. This was the last thing she had expected from the man. The kiss was passionate and awakened a response in her. Tired herself and frustrated on several levels, she responded to the kiss, hands grasping either side of his waist. Actor pulled back and released her, satisfied he had gotten a response from the young woman.
Warily, Terry eyed him as he eyed her back. "And just what was that?" she asked.
Actor grinned crookedly without humor. "I believe you referred to it as business."
Terry stared at him. Anger slowly washed over her; anger at him for his vain ego and anger at herself for responding to him and wanting more. "I was joking with Casino."
Actor shrugged a shoulder elegantly. "It's of no consequence, Cara," he said off-handedly.
It was just the nudge she didn't need. She stepped forward on tiptoe, caught the back of his neck in her left hand, pulling his head down and kissing him with the passion he had just displayed to her. Her other arm curled around him, hand gripping his shoulder. In response, one of his arms went around her waist, pulling her in tight and the other hand cupped her bottom.
Chris had been a little worried about the mood both Actor and her sister had been in. She left Chief for a minute and peeked into the hall. It was empty. Cautiously, and silently, she stepped down the hall. Actor's door was open and she glanced in, stopping and staring in shock. She quickly and just as silently backtracked and hurried back into Chief's room, shutting the door carefully and turning to lean against it, eyes wide and breathing rapid.
"Oh, my," she said in shock.
"What, they fighting?" asked Chief, wondering at her reaction.
"I'm not sure if that was fighting or what," the girl said.
Chief laughed, "What were they doin', kissin'?"
"I guess you could call it that," said Chris uncertainly, remembering the possessive way their hands were on each other. She flapped her hand next to her pink cheeks.
There was fire in this man. The thought pierced her consciousness along with the realization that she wanted him. The same realization pierced his mind and brought him back to some kind of sanity. Actor released her and stepped back. The two eyed each other with wary appraisal.
"You really need some time in London," said Terry in defensive anger.
"Oh and I intend to enjoy myself," he sneered at her, trying to cover his emotions.
"Good," shot the girl back at him.
Dio! He wanted her back in his arms. "Teresa, I suggest you leave now."
Terry glared at him, wanting the same thing. "Don't flatter yourself, Actor."
She turned on her heels and stalked out the door.
The next morning, after an early breakfast, made boisterous by the antics of Goniff and Casino, the four men left for London, three with grips. Terry spent her time in the garden and doing the usual household things she did for the men. She was happy to have peace and quiet in the mansion again and she hoped the forty-eight hour leave would cool down both the con man and safecracker. She hadn't been kissed so much in a long time. What was worse is she had enjoyed it . . . from both men. She would just have to be more restrained around both of them.
Craig returned early in the afternoon. Terry joined him in his office. She took two cigarettes from his pack, lit them both, and handed one to him. Instead of the chair, she hiked a hip on the corner of his desk which was one of Actor's favorite spots.
"How come you don't go on pass with them?" she asked. "Seems to me you could use some time off for good behavior."
Garrison shook his head. "I can't socialize with them. I have to maintain command and to do that I can't be their friend."
"Says who? West Point?" asked Terry blowing smoke toward the ceiling.
"Terry, they have to respect me as their superior officer." Inwardly, he wished he could join them sometimes.
"I think you have their respect already," observed his sister.
"Maybe, but I have to keep it," said Craig, leaning back in his chair. He frowned. "What's going on with you, Actor and Casino?"
"Nothing," replied the girl calmly. "They just need some time in London to blow off some energy. When they get back everything will be back to normal." I hope she thought to herself.
Actor returned from his forty-eight hour pass to London six hours early and with a package under his arm. He walked up from the drive after getting a lift from the train depot in Brandonshire, enjoying the spring air. Delightful memories of two wild nights put a bounce to his step. He did not stop in Garrison's office, but continued up the stairs. Terry and Crystal were in Terry's room changing the linen on the bed for the laundry when Actor tapped on the open door and entered.
"You're back early," noted Terry. "Elizabeth?" she teased.
Actor eyed her with a look that indicated he did not appreciate the reference. With a false smile, he taunted her, "No, actually it was Marilee this time."
"Oh, she wore you out," replied Terry knowingly, playing at his game.
"Hardly," replied Actor arrogantly. He handed the box to the older girl.
"What's this?" asked Terry in confusion.
"I bought you some necessary accessories for your ball gown," said Actor. He turned and left without a word, going back downstairs.
The two girls exchanged a dubious look. Terry sank onto the bed and laid the box between her and her sister.
"Who's Marilee?" asked Chris.
"One of his floozies," said Terry.
The younger girl looked at her dubiously, "I didn't think he had low taste in women.".
Terry paused. "As I was told by one of his ladyfriends, if it is female and reasonably pretty, it's his taste."
Cautiously, she removed the lid and opened the covering tissue paper, eyes widening in shock. Across from her, Chris stared and breathed a four letter word.
"Oh – my – God!" whispered Terry. "Is he out of his friggin' mind?"
The two girls gingerly picked up the silk panties that were on top. Terry looked at the tag. "How the hell does he know what size underpants I wear?" she squeeked. "Has he been going through my dresser drawers?"
Chris poked a finger though the contents of the box. "Stockings. Real silk stockings," she breathed.
There was a bit of lace with straps that the younger girl picked up and let dangle from her fingers by the straps. It was a bra, of sorts, all lace and cut wide on the front. Her eyes widened more.
Terry stared. "That is downright sinful," she said.
"I have learned the only time a man gives you silk stockings is when he wants something in return. This is worse. Just what does he want?" asked Chris.
"Whatever it is, he isn't going to get it," said Terry adamantly.
Her ire started to rise at the thought of the man's audacity to purchase inappropriate apparel for her. She snatched the bra from her sister, slammed it into the box and put the lid on. Grabbing the box up, she stormed partway down the stairs, while Chris remained at the top to watch the fireworks.
"Actor!" Terry spouted angrily.
The con man was standing nonchalantly in front of Garrison's office door. Craig, standing in the doorway, looked up in surprise at the tone of Terry's voice. He eyed the garment box curiously. Actor smiled benignly up at the livid woman, not moving away from Garrison thus purposely not affording Teresa the luxury of allowing her to express her full-blown anger .
"Yes?" he said conversationally.
"How dare you!" burst out Terry.
"I told you," said the Italian calmly. "They are accessories you need when we are working a con."
Terry opened the lid and looked down at the wispy lace bra that would barely cover her nipples, not that it mattered because the material left nothing to the imagination. She slapped the lid shut, cheek turning a becoming shade of pink.
"What is it?" asked Craig suspiciously.
"Stockings," shot back Terry. "Silk stockings."
She wasn't about to show Craig the unmentionables that Actor had picked out for her. He eyed the size of the box and wondered just how many pair of silk stockings the con man had bought. Terry looked at the Italian in frustration. He was smiling in amusement at her embarrassment, which only succeeded in making her more frustrated.
"Actor . . .you . . . uh . . .ewwwww!"
"Just say thank you, Teresa and enjoy them," said Actor.
"Thank you," said Terry through gritted teeth. "And don't do it again."
Actor looked at her with raised eyebrows. "If you do not wish me to buy necessities for you, then buy them yourself from now on," he said.
Terry turned and stormed up the stairs.
"Odd," remarked Actor to Garrison, amused the brother did not know the contents of the box. "Women are generally quite pleased to receive hosiery from a man."
Craig eyed the con man thinking there was more to this than there seemed. "You really should not be buying her lingerie," warned the officer.
"I do not believe she has more than one pair of silk hosiery," said the con man with casual observation. "It would not do for her to have to go to a ball with a line drawn up the back of her leg with eyebrow pencil. She seems averse to buying anything decent."
"I don't think she's all that used to fancy dress," said Craig in way of explanation. "She went to the military parties in Washington with Dad, but I don't think they were anywhere near as formal as they used to be, or as formal as the German ones you two have been going to."
Craig turned and went into his office. He still wasn't used to the idea of Actor buying clothing for Terry, but could see the confidence man's point.
Terry strode past her sister and into her room. Christine followed with a grin on her face.
"That was telling him off, Sister," the younger girl said.
Terry slapped the box on the bed, the lid bouncing off to display the contents. Terry stared at it. "Shut the door and lock it," she told Chris.
The younger girl did as told and eyed her sister. "What are you going to do?"
"Try them on. What do you think?" said Terry.
Her clothes flew off of her, landing in disarray on the bed, and she slowed to carefully put on the panties, bra, garter belt, and a pair of the stockings. Turning she faced Christine and watched the girl's reaction. Crystal's eyebrows rose and her eyes widened.
"If you don't want them, I'll take them," said the girl in envy.
"Not in this lifetime, Sister," said Terry.
"Those are positively indecent," said Chris with admiration. They left absolutely nothing to the imagination.
"Maybe," said Terry with a Cheshire cat smile, "but they feel so good . . ."
It was three days later, that Actor and Terry happened to find themselves alone in the upstairs common room. Actor approached the girl and smiled nonchalantly down at her.
"Now, Teresa," he started, "are those garments I gave you not more enjoyable to wear than what you have been wearing?"
Terry smiled serenely up at him. "I wouldn't know. I'm not wearing them. They really are impractical. I would appreciate it if you would not buy me underwear."
"I did not buy underwear for you, I bought lingerie for you." The woman was impossible. She wasn't even wearing them? Of course they were not for everyday, but any other woman would have worn them at least once and expressed her appreciation of the gift. He didn't know why he had ever thought he could teach her sophistication. Actor wasn't about to admit even to himself he was miffed because she was rejecting his gift which in his mind was the same as rejecting him. His kisses were business and his gifts were impractical. To his recollection, Teresa was the first woman to apparently not find him attractive or desirable. Even as he thought this, he wondered why it bothered him.
In Terry's mind it was reversed. The con man had bought her those disgustingly indecent, wonderful, underthings because he did not find her feminine enough for him. Granted, she was no Elizabeth, but she sure wouldn't lower herself to the level of Marilee. That he found that tart desirable did not raise him in her esteem. She could not admit to herself that Actor's apparent rejection of her was painful. Instead, Terry smiled up at the man.
"From now on," she said, "don't waste your money buying clothing for me. I am quite capable of buying it myself if I feel I am in need of something new."
He smiled just as benignly back at her. "Have no fear, Teresa. I have no intention of wasting any more money."
He turned on his heel and walked away. Terry just stood there and watched him leave, wondering why she felt she was in the wrong when he was the one being inappropriate. With a shake of her head, she went back to picking up the common room.