Flick Sherborne, intrepid photographer, is a new character in the Into Death series. She appeared on-stage without any preliminary plan, and she dominated her early scenes. I hope you like her as much as came to enjoy writing her.
Never fear! She'll have angst!
from Chapter 2
Flick didn’t like cigarettes, but a cigarette in a lacquered holder was de rigueur among the faster crowds. She didn’t have to smoke it. If she waved it around, it might stay lit.
Her flatmates had left an hour ago, both in frocks copied from Lanvin’s newest creation, thin straps and a deep vee, a dropped waist with a full skirt beneath. Millie paired her rose pink frock with a feathery boa from props while Stefa in yellow threw on the glen plaid throw from the couch, wearing it like an enveloping shawl. They had laughed at Flick’s wish they “stay warm”. The rain had been spitting ice pellets when Flick arrived back from Fleet Street where she’d gone to sell her photos.
Alan Rettleston ran London Daily, and on the 16th he bought every photo that Owl had rejected. As he lit one cigarette off another, he said, “I want more. Men only. Women only. Same style. Same factory if you can work it. Come back in a week with all of them. Do that, and I’ll pay a third more.”
Flick wasn’t a fool; she knew what he was doing. He wanted a narrative: the men gone, women doing their work; men returned, pushing the women out of jobs. Since that was the narrative she’d spotted, she’d follow his instructions.
The money from the photo feature would keep her ahead on funds, an entire quarter ahead.
When she returned to London Daily on the next Tuesday at noon, Rettleston set her to work with “Old Pickwick. He’s good at crafting a story after the photos come in.” While the newspaper’s official photographer developed the negatives, she and Pickwick poured over her contact prints, tiny images the same size of the negatives.
This morning Rettleston counted out her payment from his petty cash box. As he handed it over, he talked of a party hosted by Lilibeth Hargreaves.
Lilibeth was a member of the Bright Young Things. At their parties, champagne flowed freely, the music was jazzy or snazzy, and dancers crowded any tiny space. Only the flashiest of London’s ton would be on the guest list. Rettleston promised her dinner with dancing before.
Dinner. Dancing. Millie and Stefa had chattered during their morning cuppa that they had a party in the theatre district. Rather than stay alone at the flat or venture alone to a restaurant, Flick agreed to the evening. She immediately worried at Rettleston’s grin, more lascivious than she expected. “Would you take me to the Fitzwilliam Victoria Hotel?”
“That old dodge.”
“It does lean to the traditional.”
“Stuffed shirts and dowdy women,” he sneered.
“The food is excellent,” she countered, “and they have a chamber orchestra for dancing, not one of the newer brass bands. I met my parents there last month. Dinner, dancing, and Miss Hargreaves’ party. That’s a wonderful evening.”
He let himself be convinced. With dinner in the offing, Flick skipped the late lunch she’d planned and only had tea.
The red dress that she’d bought on a dare from Stefa came off its hanger. A sheath dress, calf-length, demure with its high neck and long sleeves, but the back draped so low it might be called backless. She wore her highest black heels and jet eardrops that she’d picked up at a market stall. The Spanish shawl with its vivid flowers on a black ground was her only concession to warmth. Then she picked up her black beaded purse that held in-case cab fare and ran down the steps to wait for Rettleston in the entrance.
His red roadster surprised her then didn’t, for she was discovering he had more than a bit of flash in him. He had the top up against the weather, thank God. She opened the door and slid in before he had a chance to put a hand to his own door latch.
crowded the Fitzwilliam Victoria’s dance floor, so he didn’t request too many dances. Flick spotted a good-looking man staring at her. She winked—yet he didn’t see. He looked away just as she did.
He was dining with other couples, the stuffed shirts and dowdy women that Rettleston had decried. One woman was flash, though, glittering rings on her fingers, a spandelle in her marcelled hair, an embroidered dress from a Paris catwalk. Handsome looked younger than the woman, an obvious single in the group, and he looked older than Flick’s brother Chauncey but younger than her oldest brother Warren. Her brother Allworthy’s age, she guessed. Then Rettleston demanded her attention, and she stopped speculating if Handsome Is was also Handsome Does.
The party at Lilibeth Hargreaves was wilder than she liked but not as wild as the theatre parties that Millie dragged her to. Lilibeth had hired a jazz band on a promotional tour from Louisiana in the States. The dancing was fast, the drinking faster, and Rettleston kept handing her fizzy cocktails. Conversation was impossible, but people talked louder, creating a din that still rang in her ears the next morning.
When Rettleston suggested breakfast, Flick winced. “I have a long drive tomorrow. I need sleep.”
“Come with me. You’ll sleep after I relax you.”
She groaned. “Take me to my flat, please. I’ve had a wonderful evening, but it has to end. I have to drive. I’m expected.”
Flick let him kiss her in the roadster, the gear shift keeping them apart, then she dashed out and up the steps to her flat. She waved from the door. He revved the motor then sped off.
She’d survived the evening.
Now to drive to Upper Wellsford.
~ ~ ~
Portrait with Death will publish on July 20. Set up a preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0973GVKSQ