Julie had come alone. Having missed her ride with a friend to deal with some pressing servant related issues, she had taken her father’s roadster out and had driven the curving, often bumpy road into the city by herself. Parking it, she had made her way to where the festivities were already in full swing.
She now stood at upstairs entrance, allowing herself a minute to unwind from her driving to breathlessly take it all in. As she stood to one side, allowing the swarming mass of guests to pass uninhibited by her as they headed downstairs to the party chambers below, her eyes grew wide with the splendor below.
Julie still possessed some of the awkwardness of youth, and it showed by the way she carried herself. From her constantly gawking eyes, to her nervously moving hands, down to the high heels on her feet that occasionally still tripped her up as she walked. But despite all that, she still managed to present a total picture of elegance and grace, the result of years of etiquette being forced down her pretty throat.
Now, anyone down below who happened looked up at the entrance, would have given Julie a second look, and they did.
With that second look the following would have been taken in; long brown hair hung down in silken masses past her shoulders. The hair framed an oval face, with large, innocently wide, eyes, heavy with the mascara that always gave her face a perpetually surprised look. Resplendent in a long soft gown that seemed to pour down forever over her quite perky youthful figure, a purple satin sheet of flowing liquid, broken only by the black bolero jacket with its shimmering ornament. The hem of her gown almost covered the pointed toes of her coal black high heeled shoes.
A diamond necklace blazed in rippling fire hung from Julie’s throat, its brilliance matched by the long diamond earrings that peeked in and out as they swayed vibrantly, like a twin beacons. A sparkling diamond brooch with swinging sapphire’s that matched the colour of Julies eyes , had been placed high on one side of her black satin bolero styled jacket. She wore no gloves, and her bare fingers were home to a rather lively assortment of gem encrusted rings.
Soon two ladies also broke away from the crowd and joined Julie in her observation, as they commented to one another about the scene below. They then asking Julie if she agreed, as if the strangers and she were old acquaintances, Julie gave them both the once over as she reluctantly agreed with them.
Both Ladies were red heads, although the younger one, with pretty hazel eyes, was more of a ginger ( like Julies maid), Julie finished giving both a swift appraisal before turning her attention back to the crowd, looking for an opening to make her escape. The ginger, a young miss stunning in a gown of deep green brocaded satin with silken emerald frills, apologized for the intrusion, then let out a small squeal, commenting on how adorable Julie’s jacket was, as she lifted it up, of Jules of Paris( Pariee is how she pronounced it), and your gown, it’s of the house of Yevonne, is it not, the young lady asked? No Julie said, starting to shake her head, which made her earrings sparkle even more erratically, as the other lady continued admiring Julie’s satin jacket, momentarily covering the bright brooch from view. At the same time the other lady, a bit older ,becomingly clad in a fine gown of red wine colured Taffeta, placed a hand on Julies other shoulder, asking the now disconcerted girl if she knew how late the orchestra was playing, Julie continued shaking her head, as she looked into the older lady’s deep green eyes, mesmerized as they just oozed kindness , No, sorry ma’am she answered obediently . The younger one finished her admiration of Julie’s s attire by patted Julie’s shoulder, well nice meeting you, and with a cheerful tootles, both women left, melting ahead into the crowd.
Julie watched them for a few seconds as the pair swished downstairs, straightening her jacket as she did. Suddenly all thoughts of the two ladies were pulled from her mind as she realized something was amiss. It took her but a second to realize the brooch her maid had pinned onto her jacket was now absent. Bother she said under her breath as she looked around her on the empty floor, it must have fallen off in the roadster! Under her breath she chastised both the roadster, and the road, remembering the way the vehicle had lurched to and fro on the bumpy roadway in her haste to reach the city. She must have words with that maid of hers for not fastening it properly, that brooch was simply too valuable for her to be so careless… Julie then puts the brooch out of her mind; she decides she will have the maid search the roadster for it in the morning.
And she makes her way out into the stream of guests and begins her descent, carefully as her high heeled feet negotiate the stairs…..
This was the word that best described the vision enclosed within the massive chamber that evening. Filled wall to wall with a seemingly endless swarm of guests, presenting an endless sea of colourfully be gowned, be gloved, and bejeweled ladies, escorted by a small army of tuxedoed and top hatted male chaperones. The crème del a crème of the huge cities finest citizens were there, displaying a good portion of what their all the hard cold pounds and guineas could buy.
The guests had entered via a large double stair case that led down into the sub street level chamber. On the east end was a mammoth stage, which stood about 4 feet above the dance floor, easily holding the 30 piece orchestra with room to spare. The music that was played was as diverse as the guests in attendance, appealing to every age group present.
Couples and singles milled about talking merrily, just a low murmur heard just below the music. A jazz number was being played and a number of the “young bright ones” were on the floor dancing earnestly with various random moves.
A stream of fresh guests had entered, making their way downstairs, gaining the attention of a few of those already in attendance. Jewels sparkled radiantly as many a satin gloved hand was raised in greeting, many a female head was turned to point out someone they could spread gossip about, and in the process exposing a multitude of jeweles in various sparkling colours.
One of those newcomers, a raven haired, black eyed woman with a dark features, possessing an almost feline like beauty, came onto the upstairs landing. She was probably aged in her mid-twenties, surprisingly alone and unescorted. She was waved to by no one, pointed out to by many. Looking around she suddenly spied something down below that made her smile, a wide Cheshire cat like grin that quickly spread across her wickedly pretty face. She scurried down the stairs, pushing, not gently, a young miss in in a purple satin gown and black jacket, who had been moving slowly ahead of her, wobbling in her high heels, the poor girl fell against the wall, clutching it for support with well ringed fingers.
The raven haired beauty parted several more pairs of guests as she made her way down, moving too slow for her, without a word of apology. At the middle landing, she shoved her way past a pair of ladies, moving slowly as they regarded the pretty scene being played out below in the well lite chamber. One was red head wearing a tailored wine coloured taffeta gown that made a swishing noise as the lady passed, and her companion, about the same age as the intruder, (a kid sister, or cousin of taffeta gown?) was dressed in gown of deep green brocaded satin with silken emerald frills, her long hair done up in a high bun, held by dangling rows of rhinestone ropes. She looked at the lady who was unexpectedly cutting between them, but said nothing; as the lady paid neither one no never mind. The raven haired lady continues down, and still never uttering a word or wearing even the slightest look of apology, trips up yet another lady, clad in a long pure white satin gown, with emerald bracelets dangling from her white gloved wrists, who actually had started to fall, and would have if the pair of red headed ladies in wine and emerald gowns had not caught and steadied her, and in the process an emerald bracelet is lost to sight.
The raven haired, dark beauty finally landed onto the chamber floor and began snaking through the crowd, licking her vibrant red lips as her eyes darted about searching for any distractions to avoid keeping her from her selected designation, (and prey)! Her long thin figure was sleekly covered by a lengthy body-hugging black satin sheath, her heavy mascara, and long flowing hair matching the dress. She wore opera length satin gloves, red as her lips. Her jewels were all white diamonds, earrings, necklaces bracelets, and a large brooch hanging from the low cut of her gowns neckline. She wore a number of fancy rings, one of which was a large diamond cocktail ring on her left hand, while her right, gripping a red satin clutch purse, was home to 3 smaller versions of the same ring. She slowed down suddenly, and opening the purse pulled out a long telescoping holder, and opening a gold (14k) case extracted a long white cigarette and inserted it.
She than bee lined and circled around, flanking a young miss wearing(limply) a long pretty satin dress of pink coral, white pearls hanging expensively down from her ears and neckline. She wore white wrist length satin gloves, with a diamond merrily glittering from a long slender finger on her left hand. She was talking to a rather handsome youth her own age, dapper in his tails and top hat, a precision trimmed Saxon style beard, and a face with solid Welsh features, and hazel coloured twinkling eyes. A long gold chain and fob held a solid gold engraved pocket watch to his chest (all 14 k) and he wore a ruby pin in his black ascot.
As she stole behind the back of the poor princess in coral, she gave her a venomous gaze, which quickly changed as she touched the young man on the shoulder, as he turned to her, the raven haired beauty, whose name was Lilith, eyes were now brimming with contrived admiration.
Hello darlings Lilith said, in a syrupy low voice, addressing them both, although she did not even glance at the girl. Both hoarsely said hello back, and the boy took the offered hand and kissed it, her large ring shinning, blindingly in his eyes. Would you be a dear then? She asked, waving the cigarette holder in front of his face. He obligingly lit it, and she let out a puff of smoke, aimed directly in the girls face, who started coughing Lilith smirked, panting her on the back, sorry dearie, mind if I borrow him for a bit, and she led the young gentleman away, before the pretty girl in coral and pearls could regain whatever composure she had left. Charles! Be a dear and buy me a drink please Lilith asked him, and he (with proper breeding of the titled) led her off without question, abandoning the young miss who watched them trot off with tears brimming in her blue eyes.
The drinks came, and Lilith sat her cigarette holder down next to them, dance with me Charles, and she took his arm and led him off to the dance floor, just as his fiancé in the coral gown and borrowed pearls had managed to catch up.
Charles held Lilith in his arms, as one might hold a cold blooded serpent. She moved close, appropriately hissing in his ear. Why are you wasting time with that silly Ginny creature, don’t you know her parents are about to lose all their money, and that Ginny’s only interest was in his title, and his parents fortune, silly bean. Charles looked warily at Lilith, than over at the forlorn Ginny, just standing there. He genuinely liked , maybe even loved, Ginny, even had given her a friendship ring, signifying his desire to become closer , But there were the rumors of her father being swindled of his fortune, and if his parents ever found out!. He looked back into his dance partners beady black eyes, they held a seductive fire which played immensely to his vanity. She was smiling winningly at him, she had made her selection, and although it would never show in her eyes, in the back of her devious mind, she was starting to think how the letter would go that his parents would anonymously be soon receiving concerning Ginny, the little pipsqueak, Lilith called her silently in her mind.
Meanwhile the pair of red haired ladies who had had the cheekiness to stop on the middle landing of the grand staircase, impeding Lilith’s progress, were now walking the perimeter of the mammoth chamber, meandering, taking in all of the sparkling and shininess of the surroundings, their eyes missing very little as they talked. The young, ginger haired one, pretty in her gown of deep green brocaded satin with silken emerald frills, seemed a little peeved about something, and her companion noticed that her grey eyes had turned a certain shade of green, always a sign of something amiss. She stopped her and asked her to please spill it out.
Oooh how I despise that witch, a seething Lydia said to her companion in the wine coloured taffeta gown, spitting out each word like a hissing cat, even Lydia’s back was arched a little like a feline. Her friend, whose longish flaming red hair was lying over her left shoulder, hanging down in a picturesque manner over her full bosom, was surprised at Lydia’s reaction. Who dear? Asked her friend, Angie. The lady in white satin Angie asked? No, spit out the usually collected Lydia, not her, she was really fuming. Angie continued, I was going to say, if it was, than taking her emerald bracelet should have been revenge enough, Angie stated, then continued. So just who are we talking about Lydia?
That one!, Lydia snarled, nodding her head, the witch in black who rushed through us on the stairs and went that way! Angie stopped, looking off in the direction Lydia had nodded. Oh her, she said, the one in black satin. Lydia just glared, and Angie knew she had gotten it right. She asked Lydia, does this witch have a name? Lilith! Lydia spat it out like a swear word, followed by a gushing tirade. She is a backstabbing creature who can charm any man into submission while making a girl cringe and wince with the merest of glances. She is a gold digger extraordinaire with two ex-grooms who couldn’t see her for her true colours until they had been gutted by her gilded claws!!
Really exclaimed Angie, her green eyes becoming brighter! Two of them? Yes, Lydia went on, both wealthy, both became available when their parents received anonymous poison letters about their then betrothed.
I’d give anything to knock her down a few pegs, Lydia continued through clenched teeth.
Angie mulled it over; realizing anything more she said would just add fuel to Lydia’s fire. She decided to let her simmer down on her own, and then perhaps they could get on to their business. She suggested a drink, and they moved off, passing a forlorn young lady in a limp coral coloured gown, wearing a nice display of pearls, who seemed to be staring off in the distance at something with tear filled eyes.
Skirting the dance floor, they soon attained the lounge and settled in……..
It had now been four years since Angie had taken the charmingly talented young Lydia under her wing.
She had encouraged her blossoming skills, abilities that Lydia herself had self-taught by playing games with her siblings, until she encountered a professional she could learn from. That professional had been Angie. Lydia now possessed the little dog eared ancient pamphlet that had been the secret to Angie’s success as a light fingered lady pickpocket, focusing mainly on the fine jewels worn out and about by rich girls and women in society.
(Please visit our albums section and peruse the various Angie Albums for more background stories on Angie and her “light fingers” the Eds.)
It had cost Angie a necklace to acquire the pamphlet, and it had been worth it. It had cost the younger, ginger haired Lydia her brooch and ring for a chance to do the same. Lydia caught on quickly, mastering certain moves in half the time it had taken Angie, and for which Angie gave her high praise.
But sadly it was now less frequently that they worked as a team, each after a time branching off on their own paths.
Lydia was a different creature than Angie in the respect that coming from a wealthy family she was supported, even though most of the family lands, money and titles would go to the heir, Lydia’s twin brother. For her lifting items from her wealthy friends and relations had started out as an edgy game. Now it had evolved into a challenging pastime, a trophy hunt of sorts where she collected jewels like her father collected animal relics. Some of her lesser trophies were passed onto Angie, who had the connections to dispose of them, turning them into ready pound notes.
Whereas Angie had been born to impoverished English parents who had immigrated to Canada. They made her, their only child, an orphan at age 6 upon their untimely deaths in an epidemic. At the crowded orphanage the nuns taught her a little about manners, how to act properly for a lady, and the rest she had learned on her own, what she needed to say to please them and avoid the “floggings” that they administered to those who refused to “fit” in. She fled the orphanage when she was 14 and forged her own, often lonely path in the years that followed. For her lifting a ladies valuables was a means of lively hood as much as it brought her thrills. And she had accomplished it all without Lydia’s advantages, which had been a pair of a willing accomplices, AKA a sister and brother, to practice on!
But the pair remained in constant touch and it had been at Lydia’s beckoning that Angie had met her in London a few days prior. From London they had travelled by rail to attend this once a year function, and to attend the various balls and other affairs that were the natural outgrowths of the Gala.
It had been an eventful journey, the train ride had proven to be even more profitable than usual for the two light fingered ladies.
Lydia had written Angie a letter (to Angie’s solicitor who she saw at least one a month) telling her about the upcoming gala, and how would she would like Angie to join her in for the hunt. Their plans were to attend the gala and its outgrowths, then spend a few months of the upcoming party season continuing Lydia’s education. They had met at the London station, and after checking their bags found themselves with a little time to kill before boarding. Now outside the station there was a sprawling green where several vendors had set up their wares, a haven for those possess a light fingered touch. The two ladies meandered, catching up on what had been happening in their lives since they last time they had been together.
Now as they walked the green, they also kept their eyes open, and it was the second time they had passed a group of small benches, across a path from where an organ grinder was performing with a pet monkey, which they stopped, giving some serious attention to something they had both glanced at the first time in passing.
There was a trio of young ladies by one of the benches. Later they learned the trio were three sisters awaiting for the arrival of their parents and older brother. All three wore eye catching outfits, the younger 2 siblings in silk dresses of canary yellow and butterscotch, the elder sister was in a long flowing black skirt with a glistening silver coloured ruffled satin blouse. The jewels the three were innocently wearing in public were also worth a second look. The youngest (12) wore a pretty selection of silver, the middle (14) wore gleaming pearls, their older sister and chaperone (19) was wearing gold bracelets, a fine collection of rings and (probably unwisely) an expensive sapphire brooch at her throat.
Now the first time they had passed the oldest was seated at a bench reading a magazine, while her siblings played on the lawn. They had stopped to watch the sisters, under the pretense of watching the crowd around the organ grinder and his monkey. They watched both groups with some interest, but were distracted when Lydia pointed out a pickpocket working the crowd across the way. Angie spotted him immediately, he was chatting to a pair of ladies wearing fashionable day gowns of shiny damask. It looked to be a wealthy mother and her younger sister. As the grey top hated gentleman thief engaged the mother in conversation, he was reaching around and gingerly lifting the silver watch of the younger sister, her attention being paid out to her two young nephews. They watched until he had pocketed the watch, his skill level about average for the type, before Lydia and Angie headed off for the far side of the green.
The second time around they saw that the oldest had fallen asleep, sitting on the bench and the younger two were sitting on the grass, watching the monkey from across the way. The grey top hated man who had relieved the lady of her watch, was now lurking on the scene, eyeing the two sisters sitting on the grass, their dresses splayed out, making the small glistening pools that had probably been what first caught his attention, before noticing their jewels, which were ripe for the picking now that their chaperone eyes were closed.
Lydia and Angie, without a word between them, moved in for the kill. Lydia went straight to the younger sisters, while Angie made a wide circle, cutting in front of the top hatted gentleman, who nodded to the pretty, clever faced, red head. Angie than seated herself on the far end of the bench, primarily to keep the grey top hated man and any other opportunist who may also have designs on the sound asleep older sister’s jewelry, at bay.
Lydia meanwhile had come up behind the younger pair of sisters, laying a hand on the older ones shoulder as she chirped a happy hello to them. Asking them if they would give some coins to the monkey for her, they got up and allowed Lydia to lead them across the path.
The girls called to the little monkey and handed him their coins, while they all laughed at the tricks he performed for them. The younger one was looking up at Lydia who handed her another coin; she scrunched down, and gave it to him, as they waited for him to perform again. Lydia placed her hand on thy older sister’s silken covered shoulder, than her fingers quickly slid up to the necklace of pearl, and with two fingers, flicked open the hook and eye clasp, and pulled away the pearls in one motion. She then moved back, leaving the younger siblings to play with the monkey and melted back into the crowd,
Watching all this, Angie made a noise after Lydia had vanished from sight, waking the sleeping lass, who immediately looked around for her wayward sisters. Spying the pretty red head sitting at the end of the bench, she smiled (girls always felt more at ease around other women), Angie smiled back, and looked towards the monkey, and the sister also looks, and spies her siblings. She calls out to them, and as they come back Angie sees with satisfaction that Lydia had been busy. The sister also notices something amiss; the middle one is missing her pearls.
They begin to look, with the concerned red head kindly offering her” a hand” in their search. After a fruitless 15 minutes spent searching through the crowd of huddled people watching the organ grinder and his monkey, the nice red headed lady gave her apologies’, saying she must leave to make her train. The pretty lady takes her leave, holding the girls hand as she earnestly expresses her hopes that the pearls are found. She holds out her arms, and is given a hug for helping by the grateful older sister. Angie places a hand on her shoulder, looking her in the eyes, as her other hand reaches up and unhooks the sapphire brooch from the sisters satin blouse, palming it effortlessly.
As Angie disappears in the crowd the search goes on in earnest, It is not much after the red headed lady had swished her way through her crowd towards the train, that the older sister discovers she is wearing on less ring! As she in bewilderment places a hand to her silk covered chest, her fingers feel nothing, and start to feel around fruitlessly for her brooch, her sapphire brooch, its gone, not even so much as a tear on her satin blouse where it had been pinned by her maid that morning. The older sister feels a hand placed on her shoulder, she looks up into the smiling eyes of a dapper gentleman in a grey top hat, I something wrong my dear? He asks her, showing genuine concern in his smiling eyes.
As the gentleman in the grey top hat was giving his upmost attention to the young lady Angie had been “helping”, Angie entered the train, and walking to the end of the last passenger car, settled into the seat next to Lydia.
Lydia Turned towards Angie, and speaking in French, Commented:
La levée de suite les bijoux d’une jeune femme est comme une plume prise !
Dear, Angie said in an almost motherly tone of voice, I really wish you would not go about quoting that Arsène Lupin wretch, as a pickpocket the man is a butcher.
Angelica, Lydia teasingly chided, you say that about all men with light fingers, like our gray hatted friend back there.
Honey, Angie smiled, most men like that are serpents, and Lupin is still a butcher.
Lydia watched Angie settle back in her seat with a secret smile. She did not know too much about Angie’s past, but there was something there about Monsieur Lupin, (whose exploits had been made into print, tickling her young girls fancy, as she poured over them), that seemed to get at Angie’s goat. A lot about Angie’s past life was a secret to Lydia, but she knew well enough when to let sleeping dogs lie..
Lydia than settled in as the train lurched forward, taking them safely away from the London park, along with the sister’s “trinkets “the pair had obtained.
A little later, it became Lydia’s turn to show her mettle.
An hour after leaving London Station, the train stopped at a fashionable suburb. Lydia watched with half opened eyes, the disembarking passengers, and the new arrivals now walking to and fro along the wooden platform. Suddenly her eyes opened wide, and she made a small noise. Angie looked up from her book with interest, immediately spotting it too.
A young couple was walking past their window. He was wearing a 3 piece suit, walking stick, a silver timepiece, and a small brown derby. It was his wife, though, upon which the ladies interest lay. She was sporting a slinking satin frock, pretty in itself as it lay along her voluptuous figure, but it was her necklace that stole the show, and as she walked it was noticed by more than a few of the people she passed. It was a buoyantly bright gold drop necklace that encircled her neck, with a large stone ruby in the center of the drop that lay along her bare throat. The necklace really vexed Lydia’s interest and she watched it, and the lady who wore it for as long as she could before finally losing sight and settling back in the seat with a long sigh.
Only a few short minutes later she her heart leapt in her throat. The couple had entered their car, probably heading for one of the private cars at the end of the train she reasoned, as her eyes took in every detail. But no, the couple stopped at the empty seat just before the one Angie and Fiona occupied.
Now Lydia and Angie had the end seats in the car, their back was to the cars wall, and directly across from them was a small storage room, , so the seating across the aisle started up about three rows, which meant that basically no one could see them unless they were walking past. Lydia continues to watch with interest as the couple settled in, the wife taking the window seat, in front of Lydia a. Angie just kept her nose buried in the book she was holding; this was all Lydia’s show. Lydia watched the lady as she sat back, her and her necklace reflected in the windows, The ladies shoulders were just above the seat, and after she had settled in, she made a show of doing up her long hair in a bun, giving Lydia ample time to study the valuable necklaces gold box clasp, and plan her way to it.
After listening to the few sharp words the lady gave her husband, Lydia decides this elegantly coiffured lady was somewhat a prima donna. Her husband tries to place his arm around her, but is chased off. They both finally fall off to sleep, and as the twilight outside takes over, Lydia sees her chance and seizes it. Lydia reaches over, and after licking her fingers, plays with the man’s ears. He groggily wakens, still aroused now that he thinks his wife is also now amorous, he reaches over and pets her affectionately. She wakens, angry and pushes the husband away. But Lydia is prepared, as the wife leans towards her husband, and away from the window, Lydia’s fingers have already flicked open the box clasp and whisked of the gold necklace from the opposite direction, towards the window, where she catches its reflection as slips over the back of the ladies seat and curls up in Lydia’s open palm.
Lydia and Angie now had private, “front” row seats for when the wife’s loss was discovered. It was always a performance that Angie never tired of watching when she could chance it. And Lydia? Sticking around and watching her victim’s reaction at being pickpocketed was one of the reasons she started lifting jewelry in the first place. Neither of them was disappointed on this occasion.
Now wide awake, the wife settled back down to read her book, playing with a strand of her hair that had fallen while she was chastising her husband. As she did her fingers brushed her neck, she stopped reading, and carefully felt around her throat, before letting out a yelp that woke her husband, and several of the other passengers ahead of her. She cried out (in a heavy Italian accent) my jewels, La mia collana , è svanito, it is gone? In panic she rose and started to look around, her hand to her throat, giving everyone watching a nice display of her pretty figure in its shiny dress and of her remaining jewelry. Angie, Lydia, a Stewart and the couple two seats ahead got up and helped in the fruitless search. Her necklace had somehow mysteriously vanished.
After things finally settled down Angie and Lydia made friends with the husband, but his wife remained angry and distant….
The rest of the trip had been uneventful, mainly because Angie and Lydia had had their fill of their appealingly pretty little games for the time being.
Angie suddenly perked up, letting go of her thoughts. She looked over at Lydia who was nursing her drink, her eyes looking a little less peeved. Did you see her, she asked? Who? Answered Lydia, Lilith? No answered Angie patiently. Not the Girl in the coral gown and pretty pearls, that one looked miserable enough without our help, stated Lydia? No, not her, but Angie reflected, Her pearls were nice, I almost suggested a go at them, but glad we didn’t, your right she did seem sad enough as it is. No, I mean that one over there, and she threw her eyes over to the entrance of the lounge.
Oh, Lydia exclaimed, I see what you mean. In the corner just outside the enclosed lounge area stood a lady in teal velvet, carrying a purse, her silver satin gloved wrist and fingers, home to a rather nice set of blazing emeralds and diamonds, matching those around her throat and hanging from her ears. Lydia looked over the situation.
The new mark wearing the teal velvet, was idling looking around, obviously trying to spot someone. Lydia looked at Angie, her Hazel eyes turning green with anticipation. Who gets her, she asked sweetly. Angie nodded,( wanting something to take Lydia mind off …..) she is all yours princess ( a nickname that Angie sometimes used on Lydia, and about the only person in the world Lydia could tolerate calling her that).
And watch her movements, added Angie in an instructing tone, See how she jumps up to peer over the crowd? Try and use it to your advantage. Lydia smiled and watched, licking her lips in anticipation.
Now Lydia’s forte was lifting necklaces, so that whenever it was Angie’s turn to be the spotter, she would always be on the lookout for Ladies wearing necklaces that would be within easy reach of Lydia’s talented fingers. Likewise Lydia, when spotting for Angie, kept an eye out for brooches. So, when Angie told Lydia the mark was hers, it was her emerald necklace that received close study first.
Lydia waited until the lady had her back to them, and she rose and carefully threaded herself through the maze of tables to the entrance of the lounge, her gown rustling against any object it touched. She came up on the lady in teal. Violet she cried out, as she raised one arm, wrapping around it around the girl’s back, while the other gripped the girl’s arm as Lydia drew the lady up against her figure in an embrace..
The girl tried to turn, squirming in Lydia s clasp, and as she did so, Lydia’s hand had already snaked up to the studied necklaces clasp, popping it open. I’m not Vio…. the startled girl tried to say, but as she turned around, Lydia exclaimed, you’re not Violet, oh I ‘m so sorry she said, asking for forgiveness sweetly,( undoing the clasp of the necklace and lifting up one end) I thought you were my cousin violet, Lydia apologized profusely, while her one hand squeezed the girls arm, finger bails digging in, as the other one holding the end of the necklace on her shoulder, moved down behind teal velvets back, slipping away the fiery necklace with it.. As Lydia balled up the necklace in her hand, she begged her leave, expressing regrets that she did not have time to chat with her new friend, have to find where Violet wandered off to she explained, squeezing the girl’s arm.
The mark was only too glad to accept the pretty stranger’s apology at not being able to stay and chat. The lady watched Lydia swish off into the swarming crowds. Her eyes slightly puzzled, before she remembered that she was also looking for someone, and went off, soon forgetting the entire incident ( and later, when the loss of her necklace was discovered, her brief encounter with Violet’s confused cousin was not even thought of)!
As Lydia sauntered off she stowed away the emerald necklace, and then meandered about the chamber, taking her turn to spot fresh victims, whose jewels were doomed to disappear under Angie’s talented fingers.
Meanwhile across the Ballroom another scene was being played out…..
Lilith was now holding court at the edge of the dance floor; her second straight dance had ended with the young gentleman she was leading to believe fascinated her. She was busy continuing chatting him up, expressing her utter delight at the wonderful dancer he was, when Ginny timidly approached. She drew near her erstwhile boyfriend, asking him for their dance, as she desperately tried to keep her lips from trembling. Lilith’s eyes lit up in false apology (Ginny could see that all too well), darling! Lilith exclaimed, could I borrow your young man for a bit more, he promised me a drink. She placed her arm around him, isn’t that right darling? The overly polite boy, choked up a bit, unsure of what to do, his breeding not letting him wanting to hurt either Ginny, or Lilith, despite what his true desires actually were, and that was to be alone with Ginny! Although the seeds of doubt that had been planted in his mind by Lilith were beginning to take root and he was starting to have worries about what if future with Ginny would become an actuality.
Ginny, Charles started, faltered, than tried again, Ginny, the band is going to play The Charleston, you know how you like to dance to it, why don’t you go and I’ll catch up with you soon, promise. Yes darling, Lilith chirped maternally at poor Ginny, It will be just a quick one darling, and taking Charles by the arm, led him off, leaving Ginny standing there, wilting away as the Lilith’s words and actions burned through to her very soul. The music stared, and she reluctantly, if not a little obediently, did as Charles wished. Three dances later, he still had not shown up as promised, and Ginny danced on, a burning hole opening ever wider in her heart.
Meanwhile, as poor Ginny started dancing to her second of three solo dances, we visit another end of the chamber, where Lydia is found talking merrily with three girls around her own age that she had collected around her. She had lured them into her web by engaging the considerable charm, elegance and sophistication that had been bred into her by her parents pretty much since birth.
Three pretty maids all in a row, overloaded with a multitude of dripping jewels, and Lydia was waiting for Angie to make an appearance and lighten their load! A blond haired lady in shiny red satin, a brown haired maiden in bright blue, and a tow headed damsel in silky gold. As Lydia was chatting up the three girls, her eyes, discreetly and unobtrusively, take an account of their jewels, their placement and their value.
Amongst the jewels the lady in red is wearing the most valuable is a necklace of small diamonds and a ring around her right hand’s pinky that is a large diamond cluster that shimmers spectacularly as she plays with a locket of her lion’s mane like blond hair.
The pretty maiden in blue was displaying a nice collection of gold jewelry, braided chains with small flecks of silver woven in. But above her left breast, was her only jeweled piece, pinned with a simple c-clasp, a gold brooch with a center stone of blue topaz surrounded by dazzling ½ caret diamonds.
Then there was the damsel in the pretty gold coloured gown, woven of some type of exotic, overly expensive, material that just shimmered in the massive chandelier’s light. She was also wearing opera length gold satin gloves, from which were dangling a pair impressive jeweled bracelets, their stones a multitude of rainbow coloured gems. She also wore a long pair of dangling diamond earrings, held loosely by rather ancient hinge clasps. Although her many other jeweled pieces were pretty valuable, these two twin sets were by far the most valuable pieces that anyone in the group was wearing.
Lydia feasted on the show her three marks jewels were displaying as she won them all over, soon bringing them into fits of giggling and laughter as they started to talk about the things most groups of women by themselves talk about, men! Out of the corner of her eye Lydia spied Angie coming up and around to see what’s up. She circled past each of the girls, slowly, nonchalantly, attracting no notice from the others in Lydia’s little group.
As Angie passed behind the blond in red satin, Lydia adjusted one of her rings, like it was bothering her, the motion caught Angie’s eye. Then Angie passed behind the gold gowned miss, and her eyes darted to Lydia, who lifted up her hair, exposing her ears, than absentmindedly started playing with a bracelet. Then Angie went behind the little blue gowned miss, and saw Lydia suppressing a cough, patting her chest to stifle it, her fingers splayed just above her left breast. Nodding, as much to herself as Lydia, Angie melted back into the crowd, and made a wide circle before approaching Lydia’s side.
Angie touched Lydia on her shoulder and she swirled, delighted that her “new friend” had shown up. (for whatever the reason, it always makes the mark(s) more comfortable when a pair of newcomers are related or are friends, Gaston Monescu, page 15 paragraph 2), Lydia excitedly introduced Angie to her three new chums, explaining to them how Angie and her had met on the train and had bonded, and how nice Angie was, and how very interesting a life she had led, along with other bits of flummery.
Angie’s first formal introduction was to red satin, Jessica. Whom Angie took by the hand, then reached around and hugged her, receiving a warm embrace in return. After the embrace, Angie clasped Jessica’s right hand in both of hers, praising Jessica on her pretty gown. As Jessica looked down, lifting a portion of the gown’s skirt with her left hand to show it off better, all eyes looked down. As everyone’s attention was diverted for that fraction of a second, Angie released Jessica’s right hand, slipping off from Jessica’s satin clad pinky, the large diamond clustered ring. Angie discreetly passed off the ring to Lydia, who was standing close to one side.
Then Lydia introduced Angie to the elegantly gold gowned young lady, Abby. Angie raised one arm, wrapping it around Abby’s back, while the other gripped her wrist, flicking open the jeweled bracelet‘s safety chain, as she drew the gold gown wearing Abbey up against her figure. The girl tried to turn, squirming in Angie’s embraces. Angie’s hand patted the girl on the back as the girl halfheartedly did the same, feeling Angie’s face bury itself in her shoulder. Effectively blocking from view the hand the held her wrist, which was picking open the bracelets clasp. Angie pulled away, looking the young miss in the eyes, everyone else eyes were also on Angie, which is what she was aiming for. And as she told the sweet young thing that it was her pleasure, she patted the ladies wrist, squeezing open the bracelet, slipping it off and into the slightly open purse at her side. As she does, her other hand goes up to the lady in gold’s dangling earring,( all eyes follow this movement) admiring the earring openly, taking its clasp into consideration for possibly an attempt later if they meet somewhere outside after hours. One never knows.
The last one to be introduced was the pretty Miss wearing the blue gown, Meria. Lydia, laughingly teasing her about being last, led her by the elbow and pulled the Meria towards Angie, and while she was turning, Angie took a small step forward and made sure her left side would bump against her. As Angie drew her in for an embrace, her right hand right hand was on the brooch while Angie’s left was grasping Meria’s left shoulder. Performing a move so familiar and well-practiced it was almost second nature, her middle finger pushed the c clasp out of its hook releasing the brooch into Angie’s palm. Pulling her hand down, she deposited the brooch into her purse, as she enveloped the girl in a hug. Then she stepped back, and began chatting with all three, soon winning them over like Lydia had done, keeping them distracted from themselves and their missing fine trinkets. Angie told them a quick, funny story about a man she had met on the train recently, which soon had them all giggling.
Angie took her leave after about 5 minutes, making an excuse that she needed to freshen up, she again took each ladies hand in goodbye, including Lydia’s, whom Angie slipped off a ring from her finger, so if things got sticky, she would be one of the victims also.
Lydia stayed behind to keep the three darling ladies occupied. She noticed one by one the missing jewels of each girl. The three shimmering silken lambs had been most professionally sheared, the most expensive of their jewels disappearing in such a manner that requires a ladies touch, no mere male, not even the talented Arsène Lupin, could have done better in the same scenario. As she looked them over, Lydia mused that with the mass quantities of jewelry each of the three were wearing, it would be some time before any of them realized some were missing.
Meanwhile across the ballroom, as Angie had been introduced to her last of the three ladies and their jewels that Lydia had lined up; another scene had started being played out…..
Lilith had just finished her second drink with Charles, while the third song of a five song set had just started, fast and one meant for singles (favored mainly by the ladies, one of who was the wretched Ginny). Lilith looked at Charles, and suggested he should join the gentlemen up in the smoke room (she had seen him watching them mass exodus of gentlemen heading that way when the current set of songs had started). Charles hesitated, I should really see about Ginny, he cautiously stated, not sure of Lilith’s reaction. Lilith smiled, licking her re lips, don’t you worry yourself over the poor dear, I will go and keep her company until you return, she promised happily.
Defeated, Charles wearily accepts her suggestion, and Lilith watches him depart, then smugly looks in the direction of the dance floor, and exultantly plucking the fag from the gold holder, squashes it down quite hard in an ash container. She snaps closed the telescoping holder, and with a positively wicked grin, leaves her seat with a pounce and heads onto the dance floor, her hips swinging her black satin gown with a fluid motion, not unlike like a black cat making a move against a frightened mouse, or perhaps a snake slithering towards its victim.
It is a known fact that in the wild herding animals will avoid any member who is ill or dying. This may explain that, with Ginny’s 3rd dance of the 5 song set, she was still alone. It was like her wretchedness was felt by others and so kept their distance, leaving poor Ginny alone in her own empty circle, dancing at a far end of the chamber. This is also why she was not hard to spot by one who was now specifically seeking her out.
Ginny jumped as a hand grasped, not softly, her shoulder, and a voice said her name, with an evil hiss into her ear…
Ginny turned to face Lilith, whose look of utter hatred made that she gave the poor girl, made Ginny cringe as she backed away, dancing was now the last thing on the poor girls mind.
Darling, Lilith said spitting out the word as she looked around to make sure no one else was listening in, I have some very bad news….
Lilith launched into a tirade filled litany of reasons of why “Her” dear Charles would simply never be able to have anything more to do with her. Starting with her jewelry( really dear, you had to borrow them?) jumping to her moneyless parents( penniless in-laws, really darling it just isn’t done ), her now lowered position in society, (not to worry though , after she(Lilith) and Charles were marred she would find Ginny a maids position somewhere). And finally, that Charles was leaving because he was angry with the jealous way the sniveling Ginny had been acting.
With each sentence that was thrown in poor Ginny’s face she stepped back, the hateful words (some of which she knew had truth in them) slicing like a knife into the already tormented girls soul.
Finally she could take it no longer, and openly weeping she turned and tried to flee, looking fruitlessly around for Charles, but Lilith was quick, and grasped the poor girl before she could make good her escape..
Oh, you poor darling, I haven’t hurt your feelings have I spat Lilith in mocking tones, her , and she drew Ginny to her in a tight embrace, feeling the girl squirming in her arms, much like a mouse would squirm under a cat’s clawed paw, or perhaps wrapped in a serpents coils( both scenarios fit Lilith). Lilith finally released the poor thing, who fled recklessly away.
Lilith stayed and watched Ginny bolt, an indulgent smile creeping upon her face. She started to move in rhythm with the music, extremely pleased with herself, her sleek, slinky black gown and gloves flowing down along her devastatingly pretty figure making her appear like some slithering serpent rising up from the bowels of some glittering hell….
It was no more than 2 minutes later that a hand was placed from behind on Lilith’s shoulder.
As Charles headed off to relish his cigar, and Lilith headed off to relish tormenting Ginny; Lydia was continuing to entertain the three young ladies, while biding her time until the next conquest of the evening.
Suddenly Angie appeared from the crowd, again behind the three unsuspecting girls still under Lydia’s spell. Angie gave her a subtle signal, indicating that she has spotted fresh prey in dire need of being shed of her jewels, and needed Lydia’s help with the shearing. Lydia encourages the three ladies to meet her a little later, she sees a gentlemen (winking) whom she had promised a dance. They let their friend go, thinking she should wait for a slow dance, the music being played now was no way to dance close and personal, but they unknowingly were quite wrong.
After leaving the 3 young ladies, Lydia soon reached Angie’s side by the edge of the dance floor. Angie turned and nodded her head indicated one side of the floor, is that Lilith? She asked Lydia’s eyes followed Angie’s nod, soon eyeing the solitary lady in black standing at one end talking with the girl in coral and pearls.
Yes it is she answered, why? Attend, said Angie, and Lydia listened as Angie laid out her plans before her, as Lydia watched her witch, and the diamonds she wore that flickered around her black encased figure like so many evil tongued serpents. Suddenly she saw the girl in coral whose pearls the ladies had admired earlier, suddenly turn and flee, crying. Still up to your dirty tricks, are you Lilith!, Lydia thought spitefully.
Ready, the pair of scheming red heads than made their move.
Lilith turned to see whose hand it was, half expecting to see Ginny, she checked herself quite nicely when turning, when she saw Lydia’s beaming face.
The two ladies dance in step for a few seconds, than Lilith gushes, why Lydia dearest, I hadn’t noticed you were here. Perfectly lovely darling, then Lilith added, but who brought you this evening? She asked, appearing very casual.
Lydia stayed silent on the subject; she wouldn’t give Lilith the satisfaction of knowing that she had not found anyone since Lilith had stolen Lord St. Claire, her longtime Beau, from under her nose.
Instead, Lydia praised Lilith, her lovely figure and gown, false praise, and Lilith knew it. They both continue dancing, almost sparing like a pair of fencers, with sharp eyes, and tongues rather the swords.
Having been pre-warned by Lydia that the situation would become volatile very fast, Angie had come up behind Lilith very quickly, and started to dance behind her, coming ever closer, unnoticed by Lilith whose guard was totally centered on Lydia.
Angie saw her chance and tripped on Lilith’s Gown, sending her into Lydia’s waiting arms. Angie’s hands at the same moment had flew up to clasp of Lilith’s diamond necklace, unsnapping it, and sending the necklace falling into Lydia’s hands as she pushed away Lilith, who was in the process of turning and rounding on the person who dared ruin her expensive gown. As she spat at Angie, reprimanding her for her careless ness, Lydia moved in between, flicking the clasp of Lilith’s diamond broach in the process. Pushing the pair apart, Lydia apologies, as her right hand neatly slipped of the opened broach from Lilith’s satin gown, saying it was her fault for dancing so close to Lilith that she had backed poor Lilith into the lady.
Lydia took Angie’s hand, apologizing, slipping her the necklace and broach into Angie’s half open purse in the process. And with that, Angie turned and went on her way, never looking back, Hearing Lilith saying something to Lydia about the clumsy bitch, as she left.
Later that evening found Angie walking through the lounge of an upscale hotel, having joined in with the spillover from the fancy dress ball that had gathered there. She had stashed in her hotel room the shimmering collection of purloined jewels that Lydia and her had lifted while attending the Ball proper.
For the past half an hour she had been having an enjoyable conversation with the sparkling (both in personality, and attire) tow headed lady in silky gold that Lydia had introduced her to at the ball, and who still had not noticed she was shorn of a one of her bracelets from her gloved wrist,. Angie had come across the damsel sitting alone by the bar, her friend (The pretty maiden in blue who had been displaying the nice collection of gold jewelry- less one brooch) had left her to party on with a male friend of hers.
Angie had just left the pretty ladies side, also leaving her without the bother of placing her earrings and one of her twin bracelet in the hotel safe that evening. She as of yet failed noticed that now her dangling diamond earrings that had been loosely held by their ancient old fashioned clasps, had gone the same route as her Bracelet. Angie had slipped off the earrings while giving her a generous hug of greeting after watching and waiting for her to be alone.
Lighting a cigarette Angie left through the lobby and headed into a late night pub. As she nursed her first scotch, neat over ice, a familiar figure approached and slid onto the empty stool next to her. Thought I’d find you here, chirped a much happier Lydia. Just wanted to pop to give you an update, She waited and made small talk until after the bartender had taken and served her drink (a whiskey Soda) then began to fill in Angie.
So what was her reaction when you pointed out her jewels were missing, Angie asked Lydia with great expectations of what had happened? Well when I pointed them out, instead of thinking you (Angie) had been the culprit, Lilith assumed they had been taken by” Ginny” (the sad one wearing the coral gown and pearls) when Lilith had been hugging her. That little toad, Lilith had spat out to Lydia, and turned to hunt Ginny down.
Poor dear, said Angie, felling a small pang of sorrow for the little Ginny creature. No, answered Lydia, not really, and she continued…
Lydia had followed, realizing that Lilith was out of control, worried that someone innocent may be hurt.
And she was correct, because Lilith approached Ginny and lit into her something fearsome.
Lilith literally grabbed Ginny and started shaking her, demanding that she give them back. The girl was petrified, and Lilith started calling her some pretty nasty names.
A crowd started gathering.
Then all of a sudden this bloke wearing a gold pocket watch, cuts through the crowd and rescues the poor girl from Lilith’s clutches. Like a white knight Angie commented. Well he was in black tails, and boy was he angry with Lilith, he held the girl in coral tight as he looked at Lilith lividly, his face the reddest I have ever seen on an angry young man.
Lilith finally, collected herself, and I saw all fire drain from her face, and she turned around and stormed out of the chamber. I don’ know, nor care what became of her, stated Lydia.
Feel better now, princess? Angie asked Lydia.
Lydia smiled perking up, actually for the small bit of solace it may have been worth, it had made her feel better now that she had thought about it.
She smiled at Angie, producing a necklace of pearls, it seemed easier to do when she was so happy, Lydia confessed. So you do feel better Princess, Angie stated happily.
Lydia smiled, and the pair finished their drinks in thoughtful silence.
Lydia was the first to leave, smiling she bade Angie a good night, and began walking away.
Lydia had only gone a few feet, when she turned, and looked at Angie who had been watching her.
Lydia, a sly smile brightening her face and eyes, happily quoted “Assistez à un oeil de demoiselles dans vos s , chatouiller les dames de fantaisie avec une main”
Angie finished Lupin’s quote quote with a faraway look in her eyes
“tout en soulevant ses bijoux avec l’autre”
Till the morrow, Princess, Angie said in parting.
Till Tomorrow answers Lydia, turning with a skip, her gown flowing out behind her as she, now in very good humor, leaves into the smoke swirled darkness of the city to walk the few blocks to her hotel.
Late afternoon of the next day, after attending an early afternoon Garden Soiree, Lydia and Angie are strolling through a park, both still dressed in their party dresses, both still wearing their fancy day jewels, (worn so they would fit in with the well to do female attendees), and both with secret pockets holding jewels lifted from some of said female attendees.
Lydia looks back at Angie, Lifting that silver dragon brooch with the ruby eyes and diamond scales was a nice move on your part Angie, she praises.
It was a lot easier with your help Lydia, Angie responded.
Lydia turned her head back onto the path, her pony tail whipping around, the pearls she had woven into it shining a bright white.
Angie said to Lydia’s back, that girl in the crème satin dress, you know I was going to go for her gold braided necklace, then you came out of nowhere and beat me to it.
Lydia just smiled satisfied to herself, I know she responded,, I wanted it to be my coup, she did not turn back to look at Angie’s reaction., but continued.. you laid down the gauntlet ,(or in this case satin glove) Angie when, as you commented on how pretty the necklace looked as it slithered along the front of her crème satin dress, you said it would take extremely deft fingers to slip it off her throat. Although I though her sisters pearls were a better score.
Angie, still walking behind her now had a secret smile on her face, and her eyes had glazed over as if her mind was drifting a million miles away from that quite park in the English countryside where the pair were now walking.
The two pretty red heads continue to walk on a bit, both in the silence of their thoughts.
Angie, Lydia asks, plopping down on a bench.
Yes dear, Angie says, her train of thought broken.
Lydia pulled out a long her gold braided necklace and was admiring it. The lady in the Crème satin dress who wore this lovely thing,; her sister, the one wearing the emerald silk gown and the pearls I fancied, you said she reminded you of a story you promised would tell me sometime? Could you tell me it now?
Angie smiled, Princess, you certainly are an inquisitive one! Let me think a minute…
Angie settled down next to her, and after mulling it over a bit, finally began…
It was during my first time in Monte Carlo, I had left the states soon after I had scored a major haul, and decided to ply my trade in new waters. It was during the fall of…
Lydia interjected, It was because of your haul at that politicians daughter’s wedding, (see album Angie being receptive)
Yes princess, that and a few other functions helped fund that trip. Angie confirmed, then went on…
I had met this pretty young like in an emerald silk gown, positively dripping in gold jewellery with rubies and emeralds…
Lydia cut in again, please start at the beginning; we have the rest of the day all to ourselves.
Angie smile, very well, I will start at the beginning: …….
( We will post in the album’ Angie “holidays” in Monte Carlo’ the rest of the tale stated in the epilogue. Once the story we recently unearthed in previously unknown chronicles of Angie’s life have been modified …The eds)
The lifting away a young lady’s jewelry is as a feather taken
La levée de suite les bijoux d’une jeune femme est comme une plume prise
Our Thanks to Mr. J. Gardner for pointing out the existence of Mr. Monescu’s 1826 guide
If you enjoyed our little story, please like and leave a comment.
And if you wish, describe what intrigued you the most about it…
And last, but not least,
Kudos to the Light Fingered Lady who planted the seed of the flower that became Lydia
Courtesy of Chatwick University Archives