A/N: The songs are "The Mess We're In" by PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke, and "Bodysnatchers" by Radiohead.
Preferred Stock 31
Matthew did show up to Violet Martin's table in the clothes he wore yesterday, and she did not bat an eye. Neither did David Bates, who chose to ignore the less-than-crisp collar as he supervised the serving of flawless poached eggs, petite filets, and fruit by a skittish young woman. "She's not sure of her left and right hands," he murmured to Violet. "But by God, she can poach eggs properly."
Mary grinned across the table at Matthew as the girl retreated into the kitchen. "He trains locals for culinary school. She's off to France next year."
"David thinks she'll be the next April Bloomfield, whatever that means," Violet added.
"Good food is what it means." Matthew poured himself coffee. "I thought an Englishman was never served at breakfast?"
David sighed. "She needs practice and I take opportunity when I can get it. This one is disinclined to throw dinner parties."
"This one," Violet muttered. "This one is indulging your hobby."
"You could have things on a tv tray," he said.
"All right, all right." Violet's face broke into a smile. "Go make sure she hasn't broken the Aga."
"It's lovely, David. Thank you for breakfast," Mary said.
"Thank you," David replied, and lifted two trays as if he wasn't eighty years old.
"Now," Violet said. "When will this be public?"
"Possibly sooner than we want," Matthew said. "A rather good journalist is asking very specific questions."
Mary put down her cup. "Is there a personal relationship between Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley?"
Matthew's eyes flicked to her. "Did she ask you that?"
Mary shook her head. "Jemma. She's not answering, which is as good as a yes."
Violet raised her eyebrows. "You could lie."
"It's never the crime, it's the cover-up," Mary replied.
Violet sniffed. "Your father always said that, but it's clear he didn't believe it."
They were silent for a moment, ignoring both the soft chimes from the hall telephone and the insistent buzzing in first Matthew's, then Mary's pocket.
"Oh for God's sake, someone pick up something. I don't mind," Violet hissed.
Mary shrugged. "Matthew's the busy one today."
He shot her a look, and glanced down at the screen. "I'm sorry. I do need to take this."
Violet watched him leave. "I don't quite understand what the problem is. You're adults."
"It's the company fraternization policy. Technically I reported to him, so that's a violation. Especially egregious since I came up with the damn thing."
Violet snorted. "If we didn't live in a world with Daily Mirrors and Mails, would it matter?"
"It does when the next question is 'if you lied about this, what else did you lie about?'" She sipped at her tea. "I suppose the question, when asked directly of either Matthew or myself, will be answered honestly. Not too honestly," she added. "I'm not going to offer information."
"Good girl," Violet said. "And to hell with those who judge you for it. How was the Abbey?"
"Lovely. Peaceful. I found a note from your father in one of the books. I think it's from before you were born."
"Oh, do show me. We'll go up later today. By the way, Charlotte got a nasty surprise in the Telegraph this morning. She won't be getting her claws into the Abbey or any part of the estate."
"The Telegraph is doing divorce coverage?"
Violet laughed. "They do when it's a family like ours. Your father tied everything up quite nicely without telling her."
"How do you know?" Mary put down her cup.
"I'm assuming his solicitor leaked it, but he's put everything into your name and your sisters' names."
Violet sniffed. "Sybil Maier, whether she likes it or not, owns a great deal of real estate. So do you, and so does Eddie."
"You and Eddie what?" Matthew sat down.
"What was it?" Mary asked.
"Schedule for today," he said. "They're sending a helicopter to the pad outside the village to pick me up. Hour from now."
Mary put down her cup. "So we're not even going to try to hide this?"
"No point," he said. "And you're right. Don't offer information. Let them ask."
"You'll be off gallivanting around the world while I'm stuck with the FT in my face." An edge crept into Mary's voice.
"I wouldn't call trying to unwind a financial disaster in the making gallivanting, but you can go with that if you like." He poured coffee into her cup.
"That was tea."
"I know." He stared at her until she laughed, and both of them could feel Violet relax. "Mary, it's going to come out. Better that it's out of our mouths than Patrick's at this point. I hope to God Dany hasn't gone to him."
Violet shuddered. "Where is Patrick?"
"Home in London, according to Percy," Mary said. "We're keeping an eye on his activities." She flinched, the memory of Percy's discovery striking her again. Matthew reached across and took hold of her hand for a moment before picking up her cup and drinking down the coffee and tea together. It made her laugh again. "You idiot," she murmured.
"Should we tell Mrs. Martin about the photographs?" he asked.
"It's Violet, my boy, and what photographs?"
Sybil fell asleep in Felix's arms, and she was not awake when the phone rang a solitary tone, and so she did not know for some hours that the source, known as Mermaid, was found dead in a ditch outside Tripoli. She did not know for those hours that the woman, a wife of a high-ranking official, had been chased on foot before death.
Sybil did not know that Felix, a relatively talented hacker in a past life, found things on her computer that explained why and how someone was able to find the woman, as well as the kind of things that told him someone else had been here before.
"Will you stay?" They were back in the studio, back on the floor, and naked again.
"Don't you need to work?" He sat up and stared at the small painting of himself and was reminded of the early critics Freud and Sargent and Caravaggio rolled into one.
"Eh," she said, and reached up to drag her nails across his back. "I've done enough work for one day."
He looked down at her, at the smile that bent around the scar on her cheek and felt his heart swell. "We could get some work done."
She grinned. "That wasn't enough work?"
He shook his head. "I mean on your case."
She stood up abruptly, and he cursed himself for wrecking the mood. "Fine," she said. Her hands reached for a remote control and the lights suddenly dimmed, leaving a single work light. She stepped into the pool of light and glared at him. "Question one."
"Not like that, Eddie," he said.
"What is it like?"
"Walk me through the timeline. Tell me everything you remember."
She pulled on an ancient blue silk kimono, the flowers only thready bits, and curled up on the chaise next to the window. "Once upon a time, there were three little girls who lived in a castle."
It was the first time he'd ever taken notes with a pencil in a sketchbook.
"That's the last of it." Greg stood up with a groan. "You are officially moved into your new palace, and I am moved into mine."
Aurelie surveyed the smallish room. "It's not quite a palace," she said.
"You get an assistant. You have a palace."
"So do you."
"Not until I hire one, and that's not happening until I'm back from the Tokyo run." He flopped down on the desk chair and put his feet up, ignoring her hiss of disapproval. "How did you find yours so fast?"
"Summer intern from LSE."
"Not the girl from the Maritimes?"
"Oh, yes." Aurelie picked up his feet and dropped them to the ground.
"She failed spectacularly at the trading game."
"Operative word is spectacularly, Greg." Aurelie turned on the kettle. "She was.. how do you say it? Ballsy. She took risks in ways not a single other one of those little brats was willing to try. Whether or not it worked was irrelevant. No money was at stake and they were still all terrified of putting a foot wrong in case they didn't get a job."
"So you're giving her one?"
Aurelie shrugged. "She earned it. Also, her taste in shoes is impeccable. And not that I did it for this reason, but when it went out on the operations read note, I was informed that others had... dibs? Is that the word? There are no dibs. I made the offer first."
Greg laughed. "Good for you." His phone buzzed and he stared down at it for a second before putting it away. "So is it as odd for you as it is for me?"
"Is what odd?"
"Not having to worry about where they are and what they're doing?"
Aurelie selected a tea canister and held it up. He nodded.
"I mean, that's a couple years of our lives basically living for someone else. Doesn't it feel odd?"
"No. Not really." She swirled hot water into the pot. "I will miss working with him. But it was time to work for myself."
"You work for Mary Crawley."
"You know what I mean."
He watched her make the tea. "I'm glad we both moved on," he finally said. "It was time."
She surprised him with a kiss on his cheek. "Yes it was." Her mobile rang.
"Aren't you going to look at that?"
"I know who it is." She pulled a green and gold box from the shelf and offered him a macaron. "And I imagine Dany's been calling you as well."
"I can't answer it."
"It's not our answer to give."
No one visits on a Sunday.
No one comes to call.
Rob didn't know if he made up the lines himself or if they were from a long-forgotten poem or song, but the rain he can hear outside made him morose. He couldn't bear the papers, even though he's all but gone from their headlines. The books did not interest him, but the rain did as it beat against the glass high above him.
"Il pleut," he muttered to himself, just as a bright red umbrella collided with his black one.
"Oui," a soft voice responded with a laugh. "And you thought it would never be useful." Dark eyes, a fall of nearly-black hair, a tilt to her lips that promised more laughter, and a hand suddenly in his. "I shall get you out of la pluie."
He had a meeting with Monsieur Something-or-Other from Société Générale, but he let this tall young woman lead him into a courtyard, where efficient waiters took their coats and parapluies and seated them at a table in front of a fire. No one asked before bringing warming drinks, and he did not ever remember ordering, but in the time he memorized the line of her throat, and the way her hands spun up in the air as she spoke in both English and French, plates of poulet roti and haricot verts appeared.
"You didn't just find me by accident, did you?"
She smiled. "You mentioned a meeting and I took a chance."
Her eyebrow flicked up. "Why not you?"
"I thought you didn't like me."
"Whatever gave you that idea?" She smiled up at the sommelier, who poured a second glass of wine for Rob.
"You ignored me from the moment we were introduced last night."
She waved her hand in dismissal. "I couldn't be bothered to be friendly at an event like that. You merely have to survive. Here we can talk and learn about each other."
"What should I know about you, Céline Desrosiers?"
Céline leaned forward and put her hand in his. "That I'm worried about our girls. You've lost them, Rob."
He awoke with a start, his head banging against the wall.
He had not dreamed of her in years, not like that, not that day when he was two hours late to the meeting and no one batted an eye, when he brought her flowers and took her to dinner and realized in all his young years he had never laughed like this.
No one vists on a Sunday.
No one comes to call.
They were her words, spun out of pain and illness.
Rob put his head back on the pillow and cried.
She followed his car as far as the village, near the long-idle train station, where he stopped and got out. "Someone will come for the car," he said as she approached. "For some reason, they would prefer this mode of transport."
"Should I start following suit? Chasing you on board the company helicopter?"
"We don't have a company helicopter."
"What's this we?"
He was silent for a moment. "Crawley Martin Thorpe doesn't have a helicopter. Neither does Centerbank, for that matter. They outsource it."
"They outsource a lot of things, I hear."
He took her hands. "So here's where it starts."
"You can't say anything. I know."
He kissed first her right hand, then her left. "I think this is going to be harder. Much harder. But I think we can get through it."
"Even with Dany on our tail? Even when I'm a bank WAG?"
He did not laugh, but looked around carefully before dropping to one knee.
"No," she breathed.
"Really?" He stood up.
"No, no, no." She looked up at the sky, clear, blue, nothing in sight, no cloud, no warning, and her heart beat faster. "Do it."
Violet's hand traced the frames. She could hear her father's voice, her mother's, the differences before and after the war. She remembered when they first mentioned William Thorpe, when he was first welcomed to Downton Abbey, when Alastair and her darling Percival took an instant disliking to his son Will. The father was businesslike, the son greedy and distrusting, and now the grandson...
"What is it they say? Not ready for prime time?"
Violet laughed. "David, I'm sorry. I'm talking to myself again."
"If you don't mind, I'll join in." He stood next to her, and touched a small photograph of a tiny, white-haired woman. "She should have been born at least fifty years later."
"You wouldn't have been here."
David picked it up. "Your mother, too. If any two people could have proven women can have it all, rule the world and then some, it would have been them." He held it briefly to his heart and then put it back. "Baby Mary's nearly proven it."
"She doesn't have to prove anything," Violet said. "And don't ever let her hear you call her that."
"She's Lady Mary reborn," David said. "What else would I call her?"
Violet pulled out a small album and began flipping through it. "Were you ever here when the girls were little?"
"Barely," he said. "Why?"
Violet stopped on a page of faded colour photos. "She's her mother, too," she murmured, and pointed to the tall woman with a curtain of dark hair, draped across a chaise on the lawn. Her hand rested on her eldest's head, and even with the child's goofy, face-scrunching grin, the resemblance was startling.
"I've never seen these," David said and flipped the page.
"My God," Violet hissed. Her finger landed on a small figure in the back of the photo, a teenaged boy taking a photograph. She turned the page again, and again, each time her breath getting shorter, until she stopped at the last page.
"What a little creep," David said. "Is that Patrick?"
"Yes," she said. "The one who's always staring at Mary."
Dany had never been one for pubs, but she appreciated Dead Novelists, thanks to its decent cocktails and unpredictable readings. She read the schedule for October for the third time, Laura Ann Curran: "Sarah Curran and why Ireland dare breathe not her name," Samantha Tarryn and Carmen Cain read from their new erotic poetry collection, "Anger of the Camellias," Julia Maddox: "Financial History for Dummies and Americans: A New Play.."
"Been a long time," Dany said. "Are you drinking?"
"I probably should," Jemma said and waved to the bartender.
"You have a usual?"
"I own the place," Jemma replied. "I assume you were charged for the drink?"
"I'm not allowed to take free.."
"Good," Jemma interrupted. "I wasn't going to offer."
"I know," Dany said.
They stared at each other for a few minutes, and Jemma steeled herself for an interrogation answer only what is asked. A shimmering coupe glass filled with a cloudy liquid materialized next to Jemma's hand, and she lifted the cocktail stick and took down all three olives.
"What is that?" Dany asked.
"Vodka, extra dirty, blue cheese olives." She took a sip.
"May I try it?"
"Are you going to order one?"
"Not now," Dany said. "So do you have an answer?"
"To your one question?"
"To my one question."
"Which is..." Jemma took another sip.
"Is there a personal relationship between Matthew Crawley and Mary Crawley?"
"Yes," Jemma said, and stood up. "I'd recommend the poetry reading. They're a scream."
"Wait," Dany put down her notebook. "What does that mean?"
"There's a dictionary on the shelf. 'Yes' is under Y." Jemma picked up her glass. "I thought you were better than this."
"I thought they were better than this," Dany muttered.
"Why do you want to know?"
"If they'll lie about this, they'll lie about anything," Dany placed her phone on the bar.
"Turn it off," Jemma said. "I mean it."
There was a long silence, punctuated only by both women drinking, before Dany turned off the iPhone and sat back.
"Why are you asking?" Jemma sat back down.
"I just have a hunch," Dany said. "And hunches are what I do for a living."
"I used to deal in hunches," Jemma said. "Had a hunch that housing wasn't going well. Got out of that kind of early. Thought AIG was a bit shady. Freddie Mac, too. Thing is, I don't deal in hunches any more. And I'm not helping you with yours. You asked your question. I wasn't going to tell you it wasn't specific enough, but you know that now. Remember what happened in that bar in 2005?"
"You didn't think he was married. You wanted to ask him 'are you married?' What did I ask him?"
Dany sighed. "You asked him how long he'd been married."
"Exactly. Shocked the cheating pants off him. Little shit." Jemma patted Dany's arm. "Here's what I'll tell you now. You're asking the wrong person." She downed the last of the drink. "Seriously, if you do nothing else, check out the poetry reading."
"Maman," Mary began. "Je l'aime." She touched the letter C on the stone. "I wish you could meet him. I wish you could know him. I wish I could tell you all about him." She propped up a fallen white rose. "All the things I miss and it's this that I didn't know I would want. I want to tell you first." It caught the light, traditional and yet not, a hundred years old. "He bought it in New York," she whispered. "After.. oh, I forget you don't know." She stroked the band with her thumb, the unfamiliar becoming familiar. "And I didn't think we would, not for a long while, but..." She looked up at the sky, where only minutes before he had disappeared. "We are. We will. We'll face all of this together. All of it, including Papa." She glanced at the roses. "Papa's roses," she said. "Every four days. Rain, shine, or jail." She pushed the errant one back into place again. "He didn't do it, Maman. He didn't. I'm going to help him. I promise. I'm sorry. I should have helped him before because I think he's been helping me."
Her phone rang, once, the one she only shared with Matthew, and it did not ring again. "I'll call him back," she said to the stone, just as the sound of a helicopter shattered the calm again. She wondered at first why it was back, and then she realized it was not the same helicopter. It was not the same pilot, nor the same pair of men who exited and looked around for a passenger.
Matthew did not answer his phone.