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  1. #1
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    History 101 - Revised

    “Yes, Boss, I saw the movie. So What?” Lucas Crown sat in a very comfortable leather chair situated to his boss’ right front but he was far from comfortable. Every time he sat here, he remembered, something bad happened to him, always in the form of an assignment he did not particularly wish to pursue. His boss, McCallum MacKenzie MacWhirter, known to his college friends as “Three-of-a-kind,” sat on the other side of the his desk in a straight backed chair equipped with pillowed seat and lumbar support on its spine. In the other chair, the one on Lucas’ right, was Herman Piltz, the Editor-in-Chief of the New York newspaper that “Three-of-a-kind” owned and for which Lucas reported.
    “Good movie, that Calendar Girls. I thought so, anyway,” Piltz offered.
    “Forget the movie,” MacWhirter said. “Concentrate on the organization it depicted.”
    “Some women’s group, right?”
    “The Women’s Institute, to be precise.” MacWhirter’s identification seemed to carry more than a hint of disapproval but whether it was of the organization or women in general, Lucas was not prepared to say.
    Whatever it was MacWhirter was driving at, Lucas Crown did not get it; he told his boss so.
    Instead of answering, MacWhirter lifted an 8x10’ paper from the center of his desk to peruse whatever was waiting him on the page. He read for fifteen or so seconds, then sighed, then extended the paper to Lucas.
    “This is an e-mail I received today,” MacWhirter explained. “I’ve printed it out for you. Please take the time necessary to read it. Herman already has.”
    Lucas Crown accepted the page and followed his boss’ instructions. He read:
    “FROM: Anancient@fakeaddress.com
    TO: McMacMac@TheNYPlanet.com
    SUBJECT: Chain Reactions
    Organisations arise every day, some open, some clandestine. Organizations that increase in numbers and last for more than a century are rare. Usually, such organisationa have more going on than is presented to the public eye. History books have little to say about such organisations for reasons both open and clandestine. In the case of one particular organisation, it is because history books are generally written by men and men have no clue.
    That organisation is The Women’s Institute. A connection runs through it, you know, from London to Stoney Creek to Paris to Argos to Cairo to somewhere earlier than that. There are currents and cross-currents eddying across the world. And yet, we still have no clue, do we?”
    When he finished reading, Lucas could not resist asking if the author had been wrong about our having a clue. He thought from the expression on his face that “Three-of-a-kind” was about to throw something at him.
    “You’re not taking this seriously, are you?” Lucas asked. “Hell, it doesn’t say anything. No facts. No hooks. Just an accurate observation that we have no clue. That’s generally true for just about everything, isn’t it?”
    “That was my first reaction,” Herman admitted. “My second reaction came after my eyes drifted across my bookshelf. Humor me for a moment, Luke. Name a female historian.”
    “Ariel Durant,” Lucas responded immediately
    “Precisely,” MacWhirter said. “Now, name another.”
    “Off the top of my head, I can’t.” Lucas said.
    “Ariel Durant is known because she joined her husband in his work. She is an anomaly. In this day and age, there are many female historians doing credible work but none acquires the reputation of a Churchhill or a Schlessinger or – for that matter – a Gibbon. Men write the most noted history books.”
    “And they are generally on the winning side,” Lucas added.
    “Stuff your snide remarks for a moment, here.”
    “Yes, boss,” but Lucas was grinning.
    “And wipe the silly grin off your face. Pay attention. Here’s a list of rights that women might enjoy. You tell me when and where they were in effect.”
    Looking at the new page, Lucas read:
    The right to keep anything they inherit from their parents when and if they marry.
    The right to share equally with their husband any wealth both partners acquired within their marriage.
    The right to conduct business on their own.
    The right to own and sell property.
    The right to be a witness in a court case.
    The right to represent themselves in court.
    The right to make a will giving their wealth to whomever they might choose.
    The right to adopt children.
    The right to go out in public and be in mixed company with men.
    The right to keep their own name after marriage.
    The right to be supported by their ex-husband after divorce.
    The right to work at occupations other than housewife.
    The right to seek any employment for which they are qualified.

    Lucas grinned again. “That’s easy. The U.S. in the last 40 years. Great Britain as well.”
    “Wrong, Lucas. You didn’t study enough history. That was Egypt close to 1500 years before Christ.”
    Lucas took that in but failed to see where the conversation was going. “What’s the link to your e-mail?”
    “Why did those rights, that kind of thinking disappear for 3500 years?”
    Slightly exasperated, Lucas responded with customary brusqueness: “How the hell should I know?”
    “Again,” MacWhirter said but he was grinning now, “precisely. You shouldn’t know and I shouldn’t know and no man in the country should know because – as the letter says – we are clueless. Answer another question, Lucas. Are you smarter than your sister? Is your sister smarter than your mother?”
    “Better educated,” Lucas said, “but not necessarily smarter.”
    “Well, is today’s woman smarter than her predecessors?”
    “Same logic, I’d think. Better educated; not smarter.”
    “If we are no smarter now than we were 3500 years ago, how and why did women suddenly disappear from the world’s stage?”
    “Because men wrote the history?”
    “You think your mother would let you get away with a column she found objectionable?”
    Lucas laughed. “I wrote one once about the glass ceiling and why I didn’t believe it applied. Heard from her and my sister for weeks. Inundated with articles and data. Finally wrote another column where I presented their side.”
    “So, why did the history change? What happened to keep it that way for close to 3500 years? My gut says there’s a hell of a story there.
    Suppose the WI has a hidden agenda, Lucas. What would it be and how could we prove it?”
    Lucas sat forward in his seat, genuine interest now blossoming in his mind. “Your serious, aren’t you? You really suspect there is something going on. Okay, I’ll bite. How would we do that?”
    “We take the hint Anancient sent us. We discover the link between Stony Brook and Cairo and wherever else it leads. That’s your assignment.”
    “Stony Brook is on Long Island and that’s where you graduated, boss. Anancient was talking about Stoney Creek. War of 1812. They stopped us cold.”
    “The War of 1812 has something to do with this?” Herman asked.
    “Guess that’s what I’ll have to find out, isn’t it?”
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; April 27th, 2005 at 04:35 PM.

  2. #2
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    FROM: Anancient@fakeaddress.com
    TO: MalcWulf@BritishInterpreter.com
    SUBJECT: Chain Reactions
    Organisations arise every day, some open, some clandestine. Organizations that increase in numbers and last for more than a century are rare. Usually, such organisationa have more going on than is presented to the public eye. History books have little to say about such organisations for reasons both open and clandestine. In the case of one particular organisation, it is because history books are generally written by men and men have no clue.
    That organisation is The Women’s Institute. A connection runs through it, you know, from London to Stoney Creek to Paris to Argos to Cairo to somewhere earlier than that. There are currents and cross-currents eddying across the world. And yet, we still have no clue, do we?”

    Malcolm Wulf sat at his desk reading the e-mail over and over. It didn't make sense and yet it did. Outside the rain attacked his fourteenth story window with increased venom. London in february was akin to pulling teeth except it went on a damn sight longer. The war of 1812 and Stoney Creek he knew from his worthless history degree were a blemish on the American military record, coming so close to defeat that Washington was burned, 'those damn Yanks' were saved by the incompetence of Pakenham's assault on New Orleans and the small fact that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed weeks earlier in Europe.
    "Those damn Yanks!" he said outload for no particular reason.
    Malcolm didn't mind Americans at all, in fact he quite liked the few he knew - the fact that they all happened to be tall, busty, leggy blondes was neither here nor there. But occasionally enough patriotism rose in his breast that he needed to throw a few vehement curses around, just to clear the air. Patriotic moment over he would then go back to writing tales, although he told his editors to called them 'news stories', about how bad the current government was. This e-mail had him piqued though.
    Malcolm didn't remember a lot about the battle of Stoney Creek, which was apt given that the battle was one of utter confusion. Quite by luck two American generals were captured, but beyond that Malcom's mind balked. He was impressed it had remembered that much. As intriguing as Stoney Creek, Paris and even Cairo was, the name that stood out for Malcolm was Argos. Not because it had anything to do with the store of the same name, although it made him chuckle, but he actually knew something useful about Argos. The Heraeum temple.
    "Lois!"
    "Yes boss, I want all information about Argos ..."
    "What the store?"
    "No not the bloody store you dingbat, the town in Greece and don't interrupt me again."
    "Sorry boss, anything else?"
    "Yes I want a history of the Heraeum temple and a cup of tea, two sugars."
    "The what?"
    "Cup of tea, a warm drink that I like sweet."
    "No the temple thingy, how do you spell it?"
    "H-E-R-A-E-U-M, ok?"
    "Sure boss, bit high brow for us though ain't it?"
    "You worry about the tea, I'll worry about the stories, how's that?"
    "Ok, boss."
    "Good answer. Oh and send Mike in here would you."
    "Mike's on assignment boss."
    "Where?"
    "Jamaica."
    "Jamaica?"
    "Jamaica."
    "Did I sign off on that?"
    "Guess you must have done."
    "Well bugger me."
    "I'd rather not, lunch is in five minutes - unless you want to give me a pay raise afterward."
    "What?"
    "Nevermind."
    "Send in Ed instead then and hurry up with my tea."

  3. #3
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Hilary Jones walked across the lawns of Deman College, well run actually, the April shower was turning into a flood. Her assistant Debbie trotted her words going out in time to the thump of her flat soled shoes on the grass.

    "The email has gone to various tabloids worldwide, also a few broadsheets. We have eyes and ears in a few of the major ones, seems its fashionable to see conspiracies where there are none. "

    "Or seems to be none." Hilary replied as she changed pace as she hit the gravel path leading to the arch of the seventeenth century doorway into the collage building proper.

    "As far as 99.9% of our membership and the outside world is concerned we are just jam,Jerusalem and good causes. Oh and middleaged ladies getting there kit off."

    "That was an un-official Calendar I would have you know..." Hilary hid a smile as she shook her damp skirt and wiped her feet. She straightened her shoulders and entered the warm college, making for her office.

    "According to official sources." Debbie remarked tucking her folder tighter under her arm. Hilary glared at her assistant. Debbie was needling her; did she have further information.

    "So what have you got for me?"

    "According to our eyes and ears in the NYplanet they are looking into Stoney Creek."

    "What?" Hilary felt suddenly cold.

    "Stoney Creek, War of 1812..."

    "Good God, " Hilary burst out laughing, "half a century and a few thosuand miles out"

    "Indeed, but we did have some people caught up in that war."

    "Working behind the scenes, no trace on the surface."Hilary let herself into her office.

    Debbie followed closing the door behind her. "The eyes at the British Interpreter reports she has been set to googling Argos."

    "Huh?"Hilary said and sat down, she so wanted a cup of tea with scones and good homemade jam.

    "Not the store... The Heraeum temple."

    "Well won't come up with any link, any links that far back won't make sense if you don't where to look, bit like sticking Dr Who in, you come up with a lot of strange nerd sites. Take hours to shift through to anything worthwhile.

    "So you think we have nothing to worry about?"

    "I did not say that, I want that what's his name"

    "Anancient"

    "Balls on a plate, I am not going to have nearly 4,000 years of hard work messed with."
    Last edited by Holbrook; April 28th, 2005 at 05:40 AM.

  4. #4
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Internet research is much quicker than the old days working the stacks at the public library, painstakingly going from card file to book and back again, meticulously locating and following threads. The library felt more like learning but the internet educates faster. Lucas Crown appreciated the speed while deploring what he called “the sound bite school of education.” He admitted that library searches tended to focus on a paragraph here, an article there, and then on to the next book. He had not read every book he peered into, had been content to peruse only the information pertinent to his investigation. But, he could have read every book because every book rested in his hands for a minute or two or thirty. With the internet, all he had in his hands was his fingers tapping instructions on a keyboard. All he saw was the reference he sought, the info bite.
    Start with The Women’s Institute. What are they all about? Lucas’ memory of the movie hints at horticulture, pottery, knitting, home ec kinds of things. Their motto is certainly innocuous: For Home and Country. Could well be a female version of Confucius’ five relationships. Another statement: FWIC aims: to promote an appreciation of rural living, to develop informed citizens through the study of national and international issues (particularly those affecting women and children) and to initiate national programs to achieve common goals. Some portent there? National and international programs to achieve common goals. Right out there in black and white and photons. A hidden agenda displayed for all the world to see? Can they have that much gall?
    Lucas taps the Origins link to find Stoney Creek straight away. Adelaide, Erland, Janet and Laura jump off the screen at him. “Hi, there! Here we are. We’re what Stoney Creek is all about. Nothing mysterious about us. We’re right out here in the open. See?” It’s only when Lucas starts his search with Stoney Creek that he gets routed through Hamilton and side tracked by the War of 1812. Nothing there at all to do with the Women’s Institute. Except that Erland’s ancestors were available for 1812, his grandfather John having built the family home in 1790. John’s daddy had come north from the colonies after the Revolutionary War, a loyalist not wanting to get caught up in the new government’s mess. Seems as if they ought to have been involved. Lucas decided he’d come back to that if necessary.
    Staying with The Women’s Institute entry point, Lucas finds that Erland and Janet’s home is now a museum dedicated to Erland. Kindergarten teachers evidently do not rate equal billing with their spouse in terms of national historic sites. Reading further, Lucas discovers it is Erland and not Janet who is credited as co-founder with Adelaide. The organization attributes its founding to a male. Lucas puts a memo into his palm machine: “Check make-up of Canada’s National Historic Site committee membership. See if hunch that it is all male pans out.”
    Laura Rose and Adelaide drift away into history, Initial searches produce only identification of Laura’s book, Farm Dairying, published in 1911, 52 chapters that "…aim to present the dairy industry in a simple, practical manner, in the hope of benefitting those desirous of improving and succeeding in their chosen occupation."
    Lucas Crown sits back in his chair, puts his feet on desk, and fantacizes lighting a cigarette. The NYPlanet is a politically correct establishment. Smoking is allowed only in the Board Rooms.
    “Promote an appreciation for rural living” In the heart of London, they are promoting an appreciation for rural living? Why? Why not promote an appreciation for better living in the big cities? That’s where it’s most needed, isn’t it? Better living through chemistry, that’s the ticket. DuPont is on to something there.
    An appreciation for rural living. The thought takes him back to the calendar. The theme even carried into the infamous calendar.
    His feet drop down as Lucas turns back to his computer. The Canadian Encyclopedia: Entry for Adelaide pretty much dismissing her. No entries for Erland, Janet, or Laura except for the mention in the articles on the FWIO. A National Historic Site with no entries? The fact sends a chill of apprehension through Lucas’ mind. There’s a reasonable explanation, he is certain. But still….

  5. #5
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    "Lois where's that information I asked for an hour ago? And why haven't you sent Ed my way yet."
    Lois popped her head around the door to Malcolm's office.
    "Sorry boss, I forgot and went to lunch early."
    "Some days I think your intentionally trying to ruin me."
    "Wouldn't dream of it boss."
    "You bet you wouldn't, otherwise I'd fire your pert little behind before you could say lecher. Where would you be then, huh?"
    "Tahiti?"
    "Ha, knew there was a reason I hired you. Now then do you have the information I asked for?"
    At that exact moment Lois's phone played out the first few bars of God save the Queen, signalling a text message had been received. Quickly flipping the phone open she scanned the message and flipped it closed.
    "That's a nifty phone, am I really paying you enough to afford one of those?"
    "No, I took out a personal loan."
    "Ha, good. I'd hate to think I was being generous."
    "No chance of that boss."
    "Damn right, now can I have printouts of the information you found and Ed in my office pronto."
    Having received orders informing her to allow Wulf to have what he wanted, Lois obligingly did so.

    "So Ed, been very impressed with your work of late and so I'd like you to take on a very special assignment."
    "In other words Mike is still in Jamaica."
    "Yes. What do you mean still? How long has he been out there?"
    "Two months give or take."
    "Give or take what?"
    "A month?"
    "A bloody month, when did this happen? Am I the last one to know everything around here?"
    Malcolm's room and indeed the whole building fell suspiciously quiet at this point.
    "Sod off the lot of you! Lois!!!!"
    Lois's head appeared around the door to Malcolm's office.
    "Yes boss?"
    "Recall Mike now, I don't give a rats furry bits what he's doing, I want him in this office tomorrow morning or his ass will be on permanent vacation, get me?"
    "Yes boss. Right away."
    Having reasserted his authority sufficiently, Malcolm turned on Ed with a smile that was in keeping with his surname.
    "So this special job Ed...."
    "Not Prince Charles and Camilla boss, anything but that."
    "No not them, they're old news. What do you know about Hera?"
    "Who?"
    "Bloody marvellous, with all that space for rent between your ears you should be able to find out something useful that isn't influenced by what you know."
    "But I don't know nothing."
    "The phrase is I don't know anything Ed and before your reaserch is through, you will. Or you'll be joining Mike."
    "In Jamaica?"
    "No in the dole queue. Here's Lois's notes of enquiry for you to start looking into. Try and find famous women or women's groups to come from Argos - don't even think about saying 'the store?' - and any links to the Heraeum temple. Got it? Good. Off you go."
    "Lois."
    "Yes boss."
    "Cup of tea if you would please darling."

  6. #6
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Hilary turned on her computer and opened a folder. Quickly typing in a password she watched as the files contained flashed up on the screen.

    She was convinced that even if a person spent days searching the net or trawling through any library they would find nothing, because nothing had been committed to paper or even electronic files. All the files before Hilary contained were memberships, past and present. Simple normal memberships, which listed interests, branch membership, course undertaken etc. Only if you knew the oral codes could you begin to decipher what that person had done and even then it was only a glimpse. You see there was no personal desire for individual glory or recognition so the details of how something had been done did not exist. Only the result was plain to see in the fate of the women and the society that came after. The root was more important than the branch. Keep the root intact and protect it, more branches would grow higher and further.

    Immortality came from the achievements of the daughters that followed. It was a battle to be self-aware and to have self-determination. To be all you could be.

    Anancient had stumbled on something, perhaps part of the oral code, perhaps he gotten close to a senior member of the WI or one of its sister groups. The network was wide spread, ranging from ladies that lunched, through all female professional business women groups, through youth groups and even fan clubs of everything from actors to the latest boy band. Where ever there was a large membership of women there was a trail that led back to the root.

    He must have tapped in somewhere. “Oh…” Hilary sat back in her chair. Was Ananicent a “he”…

    “Debbie,” Hilary called through to her assistant.

    “Hold on…” Debbie called.

    “What is it?”

    “Sorry,” Debbie came in with one of the standard issue mobile phones clamped to her ear. “That was Lois seems they are recalling Mike and given the job of looking into the Heraeum temple to Ed, who ever he is.”
    “Mike…. That’s the one that was trying to link the decrease in male fertility to rum, brought about by the increase in consumption of cocktails instead of ale by men below 35.”

    “I think it was an excuse to spend a month in Jamaica.”

    “Not very original, about this Ed.”

    “Lois said he could not find his arse with both hands if you guided them”

    “Ouch he must have upset Lois.”

    “Yep… you were saying.”

    “Anancient, could it be a woman?”

    “Possible, I suppose, the more women are encouraged to be “like a man” Damn men for that bit of propaganda. The more chance some woman is going to be brainwashed into doing something like this because she thinks she has too, to be like a man.” Debbie snapped and tapped her mobile phone cover with her index finger.

    “Indeed, or it could be we have a case of a woman in love.” Hilary said softly.

    “I would prefer one thinking like a man. She would be easy to track, one of our own in love and on the hunt will be difficult to get. We know it has happened before, look at the hell Anne Boylen put us through, we lost years of progress; she was one of our best too”

    “Then let us “get” a man or men to find Anancient for us.”

    “Debbie, lets drop a few red herrings into the false web site.”

    “Oh…how about some quotes from some of the speeches from the early days of the movement, will frighten the pants off the Yank…

    “Do it, Hilary said. “Oh Debbie you want a cuppa?”

    “Could murder one.”

    “I will go get us one and see if they have any samples in from the cookery courses.”

    Debbie meanwhile set about uploading the various quotes.

    The success of an institute must depend on the inclusion of women of all ranks in its scope. Their aim of mutual help and combined effort can only be achieved by a better understanding of each other's needs and interests and the points of view from which these are regarded.

    ……were sisters the moment they entered the Institute room whether duchess or sweeper's wife, they were out to help and encourage each other no matter what religion - churchmen or nonconformist.

    Housing is essentially a woman's question. Bad as may be the effects of present housing conditions for the man, they are worse for the woman, since she has to endure them the whole day long........ With the extension of the franchise to six millions of women, for both parliamentary and local government purposes, it is to be expected, and indeed highly to be desired, that in future women should take a much larger interest and much more active part in public affairs.

  7. #7
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    Lois found a quiet little corner of the office, not hard on a Monday, and quickly dialled the number she had memorised six years ago.
    "Agent number and password please," came an affable, middle-aged female voice.
    "Agent number 58008 - 'Thank god for periods.'
    Lois knew the password didn't matter, that a sophisticated computer was actually using voice recognition software right now to matche her voice print to the one stored in records.
    "Voice print accepted, welcome Agent Neal. For reception press 1, to record a message press 4 and for an already known extension press the relevant numbers now."
    Lois pressed extension 4 2

    "Hello?"
    "Debbie, it's Lois I have news."
    "That's rare considering where you work dear."
    "Quite. They've .... they've," she could barely get the word out without spitting it, "they've put a man on the story."
    "Golly, do you think he knows?"
    "Wulf? No my cover is safe but if he pinches my bum again I'm going to deck him."
    "Calm down dear. Ok so it's just a lucky assignment then?"
    "I think so, he's given it to Ed our second most talented male reporter."
    "What happened to the first one?"
    "I don't know, he was supposed to be in Jamaica but I can't get a hold of him."
    "That's a good thing surely?"
    "No that man is lazy and incompetent..."
    "Aren't they all."
    "Quite but Ed is actually average ay his job."
    "Could he be a plant? 'THEY' have been snooping around much more recently. Increased activity all over the world as best our analysts can make out."
    "If he's a plant, he's very good for a man .... I'll look into it more closely and keep you apprised. God save the Queen."
    "God save the Queen."

    Lois flipped her phone closed. Could he be a plant? If so he'd pulled the wool over her eyes for two years now. Could he really have done that? After all he was only a man. The thought was a chilling one.

  8. #8
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Spring in New York state rarely satisfied Lucas Crown. Winter carried such a weight that he believed Spring ought to come in with bells and whistles, angels blowing horns, and mild weather but, rarely, in his years there, had it done so. This year was no exception. Snow and freezing nights continued in the city. He suspected it was worse in the country and rued the fact he was making the trip anyway.
    If he must travel, he’d do it his way. He rented a sedan, big, powerful, with CD player that allowed him to indulge his worst vice, a love for country music. His daughter-in-law had sent him George Strait’s 50 Number Ones to which he added The Dixie Chicks On Top of the World CD and Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Live album. On a whim, he took The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Live Two Five as well.
    He left the city across the GW and took the Palisades Parkway north. The trees wanted very much to be green but the snow still hanging on their limbs reined their enthusiasm. Still, despite the remants of winter and the terrible ratio of patrol cars to actual traffic, it was a pleasant drive.
    When not singing along with the CDs, Lucas thought over the purpose of this trip. A visit to the Erland Lee Museum and Battle House, the Gage family homestead converted to a museum, ought to produce some lead to continue. What he was interested in was origins. He accepted the Women’s Institute was founded in Stoney Creek but what he wanted to know now dealt with the historical pinnings behind that founding.
    Just before he left, talking to Herman Piltz, he’d learned that the British web site had posted more information, quotes from their early history. Listening to Herman read the quotes, listening to the emphasis Herman put on the phraseology, Lucas had laughed, loud and heartily. Herman was offended, of course, believing Lucas to be laughing at him but the latter had cleared that misconception. “Why now?, Herman, and why those quotes? Don’t you feel the manipulation? I do. More mis-direction if I ever heard it. Makes me more anxious to get to Hamilton and find something to go on. Hang in there and keep watching the Women’s Institute. If they stumble onto our investigation, they ought to get even more interesting before we’re through.”
    Now driving north, he thought about those new quotes. Emphasizing the international and activist nature of the organization at this stage in their development had a purpose but what it might be he could not fathom directly. If Three-of-a-kind was correct, then the heart of these women’s tactics had been subterfuge and passive pressure. For 3500 years, women had remained passive knowing they could do better. To suddenly reverse that modus operandi made little sense.
    Take the U.S., for example. Over a century, women had battled for and won equal legal status. The more outrageous of their generals had come and gone. These days, there were no Gloria Steinems running around shouting on the ramparts. My God, these days the most famous woman educator is Martha Stewart. Now there, thought Lucas, is a woman who’d fit right in with the Women’s Institute’s ideals.
    He made no further progress analyzing the WI’s motives. He did, however, get a glimmering of what he was looking for which constituted a giant step forward in his investigation. He wanted to know what he could about Janet Lee, where she got her ideas.

    Two days later, Lucas, driving south on the New York State Thruway, smiled at the Dixie Chicks' introduction to Truth No. 2. Natty Means felt that one, didn’t she? “You don't like the sound of the truth commin' from my mouth.” I can sympathize, Natty, Lucas thought. People rarely enjoy the sound of the truth. For example, the dichotomy resident in the Lee museum’s presentation. First, they say : “The constitution for the organization was drafted to allow the women to meet and discuss social, and domestic issues. The constitution for the organization was written out by Mrs. Lee on the walnut table that is still housed and displayed here in the Erland Lee Museum.” But on the plaque affixed by the Candian Government to the exterior wall, the message is “The World's first Women's Institute was organized at Squire's Hall, Stoney Creek, in 1897. Erland Lee, a founder of the Framers' Institute, assisted by his wife, arranged the meeting. About 100 women from the Saltfleet district attended and were persuaded by Mrs. Adelaide Hoodless, to form an organization of their own to improve their skills in the arts of homemaking and child care. Here, in the Lee home, Mr. Lee subsequently helped to draft the constitution of the new society. Mrs. E. D. Smith of Winona became the first president of the Mother Institute. The Women's Institute movement has since become a worldwide organization.”

    Well, one explanation is that poor ole Erlie couldn’t write so his schoolmarm wife was pressed into service. That would pass superficial examination even though it ignored most of what the world understands about the marital relationship. But, why wouldn’t that same woman hold office in the newly formed organization? By the KISS principle, she elected not to do so. Why? In her library there was a copy of Baron de Grimm’s memoirs, an inscription to Sir George Prevost from his Swiss mother inside the cover. In Battle House there was a display on Sir George, a fluent French speaker, who had been the governor responsible for the defense of Canada in 1812. Discovering she was familiar with Grimm's work, Lucas surmised Janet Lee had subscribed to the school of indirect influence much as Julie de Lespinasse had. She and the incipient WI organization innocently laid their founding at the footsteps of a man and then made certain that the fiction would be continued through official histories and documents, even through Government actions. It certainly fit old Three-of-a-kind's thesis.
    Lucas left Hamilton in high spirits, having located what he’d made the trip to find: a link from Stoney Creek through the War of 1812 to Paris. Lucas was looking forward to the next trip, this one across the pond.
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; April 29th, 2005 at 10:59 AM.

  9. #9
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    There was only one way to find out if Ed was cleverer than he seemed. Lois would have to get closer to him. She shuddered at the thought.

    So for the next two days as Ed ploughed through books and web sites on Hera Queen of the gods (he even sent Lois out for copies of Hercules and Xena for research purposes of course, not to add to his collection of tacky Sf and Fantasy DVD’s, I mean Lois shuddered who actually owns up to having to actually paid for copy of Red Sonja.) Lois smiled when he pinched her bottom. Made him tea, fetched his suit from the cleaners and a hundred other small tasks. This sacrifice for the betterment of her fellow women had reached its climax when she had said yes to an invitation to dinner.

    Lois now found herself in a small Chinese restaurant awaiting the dim sum ordered by the dim son of a B opposite her, if he was anything else he was putting up a damn good act. But she was determined to get to the bottom of it as long as her bottom stayed firmly on the seat.

    #

    Meanwhile the aircraft Mr Crown was on was preparing to land at a small emergency airstrip in wilds of Ireland. Hilary had pulled in a lot of favours to get this aircraft on the ground where she wanted it to be. The man had been nosing around far too much in places he shouldn’t be.

    A taste of the Irish branch of the organisation should confuse him, they were famed for their hospitality and handling of the male of the species. In fact the ladies there could trace their roots back to the Temple of Hera, they were formed as special unit then to make sure it took the men of Greece ten years to conquer Troy. This had given the women time to get as many of their people out of the city as possible as well as the library which had been moved there from Egypt some hundred years earlier. Helen of course from the very beginning had been in command of this.
    Last edited by Holbrook; May 2nd, 2005 at 09:49 AM.

  10. #10
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    British Airways, New York to London, 1st class, bed no 1K. Lucas slept the entire trip. There was nothing to see anyway and he needed the rest. Waking from a sound sleep with good dreams involving dancing girls and water beds and a bottle of a good red wine, the news that greeted him seemed more like a nightmare. For some fool reason, the powers-that-be wanted this plane out of the air as soon as possible. No, they couldn’t finish their flight even as far as Heathrow. No, they couldn’t get into Dublin. Yes, they could sit down in the wilds of Ireland, at least that’s how the lead stew (Lucas Crown at 42 was old enough to remember stewardesses before they became flight attendants) referred to it. The 777 actually sat down at Galway airport.
    Lucas’s first move was to obtain from the Information Desk a username and password to permit wifi access to the internet. Sitting in the AV8 Bar, sipping a glass of the bar red, he checked his e-mail and then sent a brief note to his office informing them of the delay. With the social amenities performed, he became interested in where he was. For the next ten minutes, he surfed the Galway area, taking a mild interest in the Sky Road and Coral Strand Beach. From his memory came a war story from a cousin about a pub off the beaten track that wasn’t really a pub but was someone’s home. He could not remember the family name and was not interested enough to inquire at the Information Desk.
    Lucas had yet to worry about his progress to Paris. He supposed it was British Airways’ problem, not his and was content to wait for them to muster up the resources to act.
    He was not disappointed. Before he completed his glass, a young lady in British Airways uniform approached him with a quizzical expression as well as a broad smile. She stood about five-four, blue eyes, brunette hair worn entirely too short for such a young woman, and trim figure. Would never be described as ample but certainly sufficient. Her name tag identified her as Tizzie.
    “Mr. Crown?” she asked with the confidence that, of course, he was Mr. Crown. Who else could he be?
    “Yes,” Lucas admitted.
    “I have the information on your travel for you. May I sit down?”
    She wanted to sit down? This seemed out of character for a BA employee yet Lucas could find no reason to object and she appeared pleasant enough company. “Certainly,” Lucas said, ‘Can I get you something?”
    Tizzie grinned as she took a chair. “No, not while I’m working, thank you.”
    “That sounds like an opening for some time when you are not working.” Lucas said.
    “Why, Mr. Crown. You are a one, aren’t you?”
    “Never mind,” Lucas laughed, “what have you got for me?’
    “We’re going to bed you down in Brennans Yard Hotel tonight. Tomorrow, BA is bringing in some small planes that can hop you over to Gatwick and from there to Paris. An extra day on your journey for which BA apologizes.”
    “Can’t be helped, I suppose. Why was it necessary to set our flight down?”
    “Something about the cargo, I think,” Tizzie said, “but I’m not certain. I’ve been in a fuss just handling you passengers. As first class, of course, we settled your business as priority.”
    “Well, thank you. I don’t envy you dealing with the rest of the passengers.”
    “Oh, tush for that. My responsibility has been the first class passengers and you are the last of the lot. I’m finished and heading home.”
    “You’re from around here, then.”
    “Born and bred, I am. Why, I even attended school here, you know.”
    “Really? Where was that?”
    “Kylemore Abbey, a more beautiful setting you’ll not find in all of Ireland.”
    “Beautiful settings make for good educations, then?”
    Tizzie giggled as if she were still in her teens: “Ah, them Benedictine’s are serious about their educatin,’ you know. The good lord may provide you a place to appreciate his work but that does na mean you are permitted to na do your work.”
    Lucas laughed at the image. “Well, then, ma’am, how is it that I am to make my way to this Brennans Yard and what of my luggage?”
    “We’ll take a cab. That is, if you don’t mind some company. I have a flat in city center and thought I could fill you in on the sights as we go.”
    “Part of your official BA duties, I imagine,” Lucas said.
    “Nay, good sir,” and Tizzie actually smiled coquettishly. “Just a wee favor I’m asking, a free ride to town to save me the cab fare.”
    “At my age, ma’am, I never turn down such offers. They are too few and too far between.”
    “Aye, and the Blarney Stone’s a good 150 kilometers as the crow flies south and east to Cork.”
    ”Be that as it may, ma’am, you’re certainly welcome to brighten my trip to Galway.”
    “And the name is Tizzie. My mother had a thing for the Muses, you see, and each of her daughters is burdened with such.”
    “There are others like you, then. Ah, I knew the world was a good place.”
    “Enough, now. Are you ready to go or do you wish me to take you up on the offer of a glass?’

    They had that glass and another before they hailed a cab and made their way to City Centre. Tizzie dropped off at her flat but not before agreeing to an evening on the town, Lucas needed a guide after all. The evening passed in pleasant conversation, she recalling her days at the Abbey, he talking of his own education at a military school in New Mexico and college at West Point. The conversation naturally tended towards where he was off to and why to which Lucas responded: “Paris to learn about salons.” Then, he changed the subject.
    Nothing happened that night. He dropped her off again at her apartment, did not receive an invitation for a nightcap and felt no disappointment that he had not. It had been a pleasant evening and a man cannot always ask for more than that. Tomorrow, he could get back to business.
    In his hotel room, Lucas went back on line, checking e-mail, responding to his sister that he was fine and he’d be on the way again in the morning. While on the web, he looked up Kylemore Abbey. Just as Tizzie said, the setting was spectacular and the Benedictines looked forbidding. The fact that the Abbey is an all-girls school failed to register in Lucas’ imagination as anything more than confirmation of Tizzie’s tale.
    The next morning, the planes were there to be boarded and he was off to Gatwick.
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; May 3rd, 2005 at 10:10 AM.

  11. #11
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    New York... London...

    205122 emails had actually arrived. 187312 had hit an e-mail program with activated html and bypassed the firewalls, on account of the included tag. 32412 had not been designated as spam. About 500 might have lead to marginal research. 2 had garnered deep interest.

    This was unusual.

    Alexandra Davenport squinted at the screen before him. The Anancient account. Re-reading what he'd written, he wondered what had made that one special. Could he have hit bulls-eye this time?

    He composed another text, carelessly, merely to test the channel. Would the e-mails be bounced?

    “FROM: Anancient@fakeaddress.com
    TO: McMacMac@TheNYPlanet.com; MalcWulf@BritishInterpreter.com

    Jeanne d'Arc. Guy Fawkes.

    Burning human beings is a nasty thing to do. And for once in history women have had equal treatment throughout history.

    I'm your Venus. I'm your fire. Your desire. (Shocking Blue)"

    Alex hit send and switched off the screen. Turning around in his swivel chair he glanced at the copy of Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. Patterns began to emerge on his mind, but he couldn't bring himself to read. Instead, he walked towards the panorama window of his chateau and looked out at the Fjord. The glass reflected his breasts, flat for a female, but decidedly to big for a male. 12 years on, and he still couldn't come to terms with his condition.

    He remembered little Sandy. How her Mommy told her, that she was named after Alexandra the Great. It had pleased her no end, to be named after someone Great. Until she found out there was no such person.

    Alexander, the Great, however, existed.

    She'd confronted Mommy with the confusion, but all she'd received was a wink and a "Wait until your first period." And little Sandy had smiled conspiratorily, and had waited for her first period.

    It hadn't come.

    Several years and doctors later, she learned about the reason. Ambiguous Genitalia. And a Y chromosome.

    She... no... he was devastated. She... no... he stopped playing with the other girls. Stopped going to school. Demanded home tuition.

    And when his... yes... his confusion finally settled, he'd confronted his Mother about Alexandra the Great. But his mother pretended not to know what he was talking about. She was a bad liar, but a dedicated one, and eventually Sandy gave up.

    12 years on. Both parents dead in a car accident. No friends, no relatives. But a steady and not insubstantial income from a double life insurance on his parents side, and a small and compentently run business somewhere in New Zealand (sheep) had got him his present lodgings. If you were a misanthrope with a secret to uncover, a Norwegian Fjord was the place to be.

    The placid waters calmed him, as always. His boyishly feminine male body was forgotten, Alexandra the Great nothing but a name. It was a gender thing. Let those with a functional Y chromosome fend for themselves. It had nothing to do with him.

    Which is what Alexandra had told himself every day for the last 12 years.

    Curiosity's a bitch.

  12. #12
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Two hours to kill before checking in an hour before flight time. Three hours in an airport no better and no worse than any other airport and they are all quite miserable places to spend time. Lucas Crown opted for the Red Lion thinking to attempt an English ale while he read his book. He’d brought with him Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. God and ale ought to make a decent relationship, he thought, but then changed his mind. The pub offered U.S. beer and that gentle reminder of home appealed to Lucas. He order a Sam Adams to go with his fish and chips.
    Karen writes a good book, entertaining, page turners. Even so, pub chairs and lighting eventually argue against reading so Lucas returned the book to his briefcase. He contented himself with people watching.
    A woman entered, professionally dressed, towing a case on wheels. Behind her followed a young man who could not seem to take his eyes from her. She seemed to Lucas to be in her late thirties though he freely admitted to himself that his estimation of women’s age always carried a plus/minus 30 years. She had auburn hair all tucked up nice and neat off her neck, piled high on her head. She wore spectacles of the type that old men used to wear for reading, very wide but very narrow in elevation, the kind that could slip down the bridge of the nose to allow one to gaze over their top. They come with a chain that goes around the wearer's neck assuring that when they fall - and they will fall - they will not hit the floor nor will they be lost.
    She found a table, settled herself and her bag, and placed an order with the waitress. He found another table with a perfect view and, it seemed to Lucas more to rid himself of her attentions than to require any refreshment, also placed an order with the waitress.
    The woman spent her time perusing her surroundings, noting with obvious displeasure the young man’s presence. She spied him, then moved on, examining other pub patrons, including Lucas Brown. Feeling recklessly confident after his recent encounter in Ireland, Lucas smiled brazenly. She deigned a brief smile in return but shifted her survey to the next party in line.
    “Now, this is a classic case of unrequited love,” Lucas thought. “There he sits, a puppy dog kept at distance while the object of his affection ignores his existence. He will not move without encouragement and she will not offer the encouragement. How, then, will she disassociate herself?”
    Lucas broke off his own examination of this couple to sweep the pub for other points of interest. Thus it was he missed the abrupt movement by the young woman who gathered her suitcase, stepped to the waitress for a few words, and the proceeded in Lucas’ direction. His first intimation that she had moved was the ambiance of her perfume which drew his attention to the woman standing before him. She smelled of Cachet No. 5, a favorite of Lucas from his younger days.
    “Could you help a woman in some distress, sir?” she said in a voice soft, creamy, almost inaudible in the pub’s wash of sound.
    “And how might I do that?” Lucas asked.
    “Allow me to join you while I wait for my flight. You see the man over there who will not remove his gaze from me? I need to discourage him. Another man such as yourself ought to do the trick.”
    “Well, then, please be seated. He’s not dangerous is he?”
    “No, just infatuated. One night and he now believes he owns me or has right of first refusal on my soul or some such rot.”
    “One night?” It was rude question, Lucas knew, but it burst from his mouth before he realized it had.
    “Overnight, Toronto to Paris. Got bored. Drank more than I should. A routine but unflattering story, I know.”
    “Paris? You’re on your way to Paris?”
    “Yes, I am. You?”
    “Also Paris. BA in two hours.”
    “Coincidence is too much. I’m on the same flight.”
    “Lucas Brown,” he said offering his hand.
    “Aberewa Katzen, Abby to my firneds.”
    “Then I’ll be your friend. I’ll never remember Aberewa.”
    The waitress brought Aberewa’s order, a gin and tonic, as well as her own order of fish and chips. Eating diluted the conversation, permitting only “business, museums, ancient history” to pass between them. It made for a pleasant, time-cos\nsuming conversation, as well as affording plenty fo time for each to study the other.
    She was mature, confident, and a little more aggressive than Lucas was comfortable with. Her suit was conservative, the blouse hiding more than exposing breasts Lucas thought might be on the smallish side. She wore a spray of color at her throat, a blue scarf that performed the transition from deeply tanned skin to white blouse and silver gray suit.
    Lucas watched her perform a similar assessment. He had on slacks and a sweater, no tie. Lucas hated ties, wore them only circumstances refused him any other option. Flying to Paris was not such a circumstance. Lucas was pale in comparison to Aberewa. He didn't get out much except for an occasional round of golf and he tended to burn quickly and fade just a quickly back to pale. He had brown eyes, brown hair with the first hints of gray rearing their ugly heads. He was no more a male model than she was a female version. Both carried more weight than the runways approved but she carried it better than he did.
    When the last chip disappeared from Lucas' plate, BA was announcing their flight. As they strolled together to their gate, Lucas noticed the young man followed them but at a reasonable distance.
    “Is he going to Paris as well?”
    “He said that he was going to the south of Spain, I forget where.”
    “Good. Would hate to have him breathing down our necks on the flight to Paris.”
    Aberewa laughed at the thought as well.

  13. #13
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1, was its usual madhouse but, then, all airports seem madhouses these days. Increased security simply compounds an under-funded, overworked global transportation system. Lucas fantasized again on the need for teleportation. Forget about stars being our destination, how about fixing this New York to Paris trip first?
    Customs with Gallic charm and no choice in who pats you down. Another area open for improvement. If someone must put their hands on his body, why couldn’t it be an attractive someone instead of this ninety-year old refugee from the Foreign Legion?

    Passing through to the central elevators, noticing the sign for the McDonalds, Lucas amused himself thinking that if the U.S. was going to export something from the its culture, we could not have made a better choice than hamburgers. What else is more American than hamburgers? On the other hand, this being France, Lucas was reminded of the marketing disaster McDonald’s had experienced when they first penetrated the Quebec market. Seems Big Macs has another meaning in Quebec.
    Abby had experienced her own discomfort in the customs ritual so that she was late joining him as he descended to the baggage claim. Seems there had been a small army of volunteers willing to pat her down, admirers from both sexes. Lucas didn’t blame them but refrained from telling Abby his opinion.
    “Where did you say you were staying?” Abby asked.
    “On the Left Bank, a small hotel, on an expense account you know.” Lucas grinned at the paradox of flying first class while staying at lesser hotels. “It’s the Saint Thomas D’Aquin. How about you, where are you staying?”
    ”With friends in the city,” Abby answered. “How are you getting there?”
    “Cab. I loathe trains and buses. Want to have time to think and not bustle with crowds.”
    “Good. Would you care to share the fare or would I make too many people in one vehicle for your tastes?”
    Lucas grinned at the sarcasm. “Would love your company,” he said.
    Baggage retrieved, cab engaged, the two rode the 60 minutes into central Paris in relaxed comfort, the cab driver affording them privacy, a tribute more to Abby’s presence than usual custom. Abby guided the conversation, finally exhibiting natural curiosity in what brought Lucas to Paris.
    “Chasing a story,” Lucas said. “Seems to be a connection here in Paris. I have a name from the 18th century, a Julie Jeanne ElEonore de Lespinasse, as a matter of fact. How she fits into the real story is a mystery that I am just beginning to get a feel for.”
    “Real story?”
    “Not yet. Let me finish the piece before I tell you about that. Am never comfortable talking about a story in work. Don’t know why. Superstitious, I guess.”
    Abby let it go, returned to Lespinasse. “What are you looking for with this 18th Century Julie?”
    “Not real certain,” Lucas admitted. “Found a lead that pointed to her and thought it worth investigating. You know anything about her.”
    Lucas was watching the scenery more than Abby so he missed the grin that struggled to remain hidden. “Oh, a bit,” Abby said. “She was one of a long line of ladies who involved themselves in the ideas of their day.”
    That reply moved Lucas attention away from the window to Abby. “Ideas of their day?”
    “They ran salons, you see, where the great and powerful dropped in for conversation. They’d discuss work in progress or ideas for work or just ideas. The more successful the salon, the more prestigious the clientele.”
    “And you said there was a long line of such ladies?”
    “I seem to remember it that way. It’s been a while since I studied the subject, you know. It was just a week or two in my third year in college and that has been a while.”
    “Couldn’t have been more than five years ago,” Lucas smiled.
    “Ah, the gallantry of the French is already rubbing off on you, I see.”
    “Simple honesty, ma’am.”
    “Anyway, I think the roots of the salon phenomena go back quite a ways from the 18th century.”
    “How far back?”
    “A century or two, I think.” Her brows knitted in the concentration of retrieving specific tidbits of data from her memory. In a bit, she shook her head as if to clear that search engine. “Sorry, can’t remember more specifics than that.”
    The conversation drifted from that topic to the scenery around them as they moved into central Paris. Abby seemed familiar with the place, was able to identify many places they passed as well as pointing out a restaurant here and there that she would recommend.
    “How many years have you lived in Paris?”
    “No you don’t, sir. You don’t determine my age by clever subterfuge.” Abby laughed as she answered.
    “You see through me again,” Lucas laughed with her. Inside, he came alert. That was an innocent question, yet she dodged answering it. Lucas’ reporter’s instincts kicked in. Here was a woman with something to hide?
    “We’re nearing my destination, “ Abby said. “Another few blocks and we’re there.”
    “Can I see you again?” Lucas said, more interested now that he thought he was on to something than he had been when she had been a possible sightseeing companion. Ruefully, Lucas admitted to himself that the thought of progressing to another level had occurred to him but he had dismissed it. A simple meeting of travelers did not require assignation except in mystery novels.
    Abby seemed genuinely taken aback as if the idea had never crossed her mind. “Well…” she stammered, “I’m quite busy the next day or so. How long will you be in Paris?”
    “Don’t really know. A day or so for certain. Depending on how things go, could be longer.”
    The afternoon sun lowered in the west casting intriguing shadows in the cab. Lucas could barely make out Abby’s eyes but they seemed to be rapt in rapid calculations, pros and cons appearing to be accepted and or rejected in world-record time.
    “You say you’re staying at the Saint Thomas D’Aquin? How about if I call you tomorrow evening and let you know my schedule?”
    “I cannot complain at that,” Lucas said. “I understand you have a life. I enjoy your company is all. Just hoping to talk to you again.”
    “I’ll try. I’ll really try,” she said. “I just do not want you to have too high expectations.”
    As she left the cab, she handed Lucas $25€. “My share,” she said. Lucas’ first inclination was to decline the offer but he quickly overruled his impulse. When treating folk equally, it’s best to accept them on their terms, not yours. If she wished to demonstrate personal responsibility by offering to pay her share, it would be unforgivably rude to not accept. He would have paid for a male guest as well as a female but that wasn’t the issue here. The issue, he suspected, was independence.
    Lucas watched Abby tip the driver after he had retrieved her luggage from the boot. This was France, you know. They don’t have trunks like good U.S. cars do; they have boots. She moved away into her apartment building, he supposed, and he wrote down the address. A woman with something to hide, eh? Sometime, when he had an hour or so to kill, he’d try to unravel this mystery.

  14. #14
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Lucas spent the next day in research, wandering for an hour the Musee D’Orsay not because it might contain something to do with Julie Lespinasse, (it did, a water color portrait) but because of its proximity to his hotel. He took a cab past the Louvre for the same reason but declined the opportunity – no, he declined the effort of examining that landmark despite the curiosity generated he experienced from reading The DaVinci Code.
    He traveled instead to Rue de Belle Chasse to walk the street where Julie Lespinasse had lived, her apartment secured by Jean d'Alembert and furnished by the Marechale de Luxembourg. Here in the 1760s her salon had flourished emerging as a venture in free thought and expression with its gatherings of wit, artistry and intelligence. Not merely a site for the exercise of freedoms independent of the State, or for the sheer entertainment of her guests nor for the opportunity to arrange academy membership and sponsorship, nor for the perfecting of the art of conversation. Her salon provided all these ends as well as setting the stage for social and political gain. More importantly, her salon functioned as an arena for the bringing together ideas and people, a common ground in which projects and works were not only displayed but seriously contended for change and implementation.
    All this information sits available on the internet; Lucas had perused it on his flight from New York. What he hoped to find here in the real world remained only the vaguest notion hidden deep in his subconscious.
    He grinned to himself as he “sashayed” down the Rue de Belle Chasse thoroughly enjoying the feel of the English derivation of its French root. His grin produced empathetic grins from fellow ambulates so that even the overcast day could not dampen his spirits. The grinned faded as he passed 45, Rue de Belle Chasse. His expression now reflected the rapid fire associations flitting through his mind. What was it that had mystified him so in Canada? The school of indirect influence, that was what he had called it. It made sense. It made so much sense that the course of his investigation became even more clear. From the salons of France to where next? He did not know the answer but it would not be difficult to learn. The internet is an amazing reference library.
    On his journey back to the hotel, Luca pondered the coincidence. It was coincidence, of course. Nothing more. It could not be anything more, could it? The Rue de Belle Chasse serving as a constant in the millennial exercise?

    It was a day of contrasts. Lucas walked the hall to his hotel room diverted by the fact that Aquinas had also lived and worked on the left bank, half a millennium before Julie Lespinasse, to be certain, but still he had lived and worked here. Half sarcastically, Lucas wondered for a moment if there was something in the earth that stimulated reason. Aquinas’ work influenced the logical underpinning that supported the Catholic Church up until 1962 when the Vatican Council did it in. Well, they’d thought they’d done it in but Aquinas would not go softly into the night. John Paul II brought him back loudly and resoundingly in 1998 with Fides et Ratio. Lespinasse’ influence was so much more difficult to identify yet the fact that men such as Diderot, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau joined d'Alembert in her salon spoke volumes of the influence of which she was capable. .Again, the geographical co-location of Aquinas and Lespinasse perplexed Lucas’ thoughts.

    Then, as he entered his room, his phone rang. Abby called to say she was free and what would he like to do? His mind put the day’s information on a back burner to percolate as it might while he concentrated on the more decipherable mystery of Abby Katzen. “Dinner?” he suggested. She agreed. “Where and when?” he asked.

  15. #15
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    4,696
    “I believe this place must have begun life as a residence. The growth and popularity of the Left Bank forced it into manual labor and now it serves as a fine little restaurant.” Abby played the tour guide as they disembarked from the cab. Lucas paid the fare as the official host for the evening’s affair though Abby had selected the destination, the Restaurant Vueve Noire. “A friend brought me here one night when I was feeling homesick. The cuisine satisfied my need for familiar things and helped me to perk up again,” she explained.
    “I don’t know which question to ask first,” Lucas laughed. “The one about the cuisine or the one about your current state of nostalgia.” “Oh, I’m not nostalgic at all. In fact, after today’s headline, I’m less homesick than ever. But, I do like the cuisine.”
    Passing through the front door into what must have once been a grand entryway but was now the bar, Lucas managed to ask: “the cuisine?” to be answered by a female maitre d’: “Afrique.” It was apparent that Lucas did not hear the woman clearly and Abby laughed at his muttered observation that this would be his first experience eating freaky food. Abby assumed control of the conversation realizing Lucas spoke no French. A quick exchange sent the maitre d’ ahead leading the way through the former living room, now host to six tables, down a small hall into a former bedroom where five tables presented themselves. Four were small, capable of providing for parties of four or less while the center table currently accommodated a party of seven. It was capable of serving eight.
    Led to the far corner, Abby took the chair with her back to the corner walls which placed Lucas with his back to the room at large. Abby grinned as he took his chair. “Now, my friend, you must concentrate all your attention on me while I can peruse the room at my leisure.” When Lucas was settled, the maitre d’ handed both menus, said something formulaic, and retreated from view. She watched Lucas’ quick glance confirm his suspicion the menu was in French and then he placed it atop his place setting and smiled back at Abby.
    “You order, please,” Lucas said, “but, I’d appreciate some warning of what I am in for.”
    Despite herself, Abby smirked. She had the advantage and knew it and could not refrain from enjoying it just a bit though she thought herself a bit rude to do so. “It’s what comes from being escorted by arrogant men,” she thought, “an urge to retaliate. But this one has not been arrogant, does not deserve the treatment.”
    “We’ll start out with hors d’ oeuvres, a sampler plate of Biltong, boerewors, and droewors. From there, we’ll have a lentil soup and then, we’ll finish with cassavas and a chicken stew. To make it just a little bit more different, from the land of milk and honey we’ll have some Tej.”
    “Will I be able to stomach this Tej?” Lucas asked, his expression cast on doubt on the answer before it was rendered.
    “You Americans are terrified of anything different, aren’t you?”
    “I don’t know that it’s a cultural trait; I think most folk get a little apprehensive when faced with new foods.”
    “An argument that supports your current feelings, yes?”
    Lucas grinned ruefully.
    “At any rate, it is a honey wine and very good and will not twist your tender innards. Now, tell me about your day.”
    So Lucas told her. She listened attentively as if his words were the most important event in her life, as he described the things he discovered and the thoughts they produced. He seemed to hesitate as he reached the conclusion of his tale as if there was more to tell but he was choosing not to tell it. Before Abby could phrase her question, Lucas ended his story with a question to her: “Enough about me,” he said, “your turn arrives. Tell me about this headlines that makes you less nostalgic.”
    “It read ‘South African woman killed by partner every 6 hours: study.’ The article described a study recently completed that showed 1,349 women murder by an intimate partner in 1999 and that 40% per cent of the cases never made it to trial.”
    The hors d’oeuvres arrived, delivered by a young man with hair flying in dread locks in all directions, a ring on his eyebrow, and the broadest smile the world has ever seen. Neither Abby nor Lucas attempted to talk as he arranged the plate, moving the floral centerpiece off the table to be whisked away by his smaller twin, re-settling water glasses. He was fussy but courteous and very thorough. At length, he satisfied himself with his preparations, bowed, smiled even wider than before and departed.
    “You’ll have to forgive me, please,” Lucas began, an impish smile lurking around his eyes. “Did you say the headline read ‘woman killed by partner every six hours? Wouldn’t once have been enough?”
    Abby laughed despite herself. But the laugh disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. “Almost I went to graduate school to study these kind of things,” she said. “I chose not to and, today at least, I am happy with my choice.”
    “Where’d you got to school?”
    “The University of Cape Town. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities. They have a fine graduate school with a program on Gender Studies that I seriously considered trying. At the last moment, I balked.”
    “And did what?”
    “I took a job with a travel agent. My specialty is large groups touring exotic places. The perks are great. They get me to exotic places. For example, I am here on the bonus earned from send a group of ninety-year old widows off to Club Med.”
    “You didn’t!” Lucas gasped, nearly spitting out the bite of boerewor just inserted into his mouth.
    “I did. I truly did. They indicated they wanted something young-at=heart so I gave them their fantasies.”
    “You are a vicious person!” Lucas said but his tome said just the opposite.
    “They will have more fun then they may have experienced their entire lives. When they arrive home, they will have more lies to tell than ever before and their conversations will no longer be restricted to health and dying. What more could they ask?”
    Abruptly, Lucas changed the subject, returning to the earlier topic. “Why did the article upset you so?”
    “The men and women aspect, why I was attracted to the Masters Program in the first place. What is it that makes it so contentious? I truly want to know.”
    “Most of us would like to know the answer to that. I know that I would.”
    “Why murder? Why kill your wife?”
    “It said ‘intimate partner,’ right? So, it’s more than just wives.”
    “Yes, and the article did say it was more common in the working classes.”
    “You know,” Lucas said, “it fits in a weird sort of way with things that have come to my attention. There’s a book I read trying to understand the Middle East. It was written by Geraldine Brooks and it’s called Nine Parts of Desire….”
    “I’ve read it, too,” Abby interrupted.
    “The upshot of that book is that women are the root of all evil. Your headline implies the same thing, doesn’t it?”
    The thought hung between them as the waiter re-appeared. He and his aide removed the hors d’oeuvre plate replacing it with a tureen of soup. The waiter ladled two bowls presenting the first to Abby and then serving Lucas. With their plates before, he bowed and disappeared.
    “It does, doesn’t it?” Abby agreed. As if the problems the partners face became so unbearable they required action, any kind of action. Mostly, they required someone to fix the blame upon. The women were the handiest excuse.”
    “That’s my story,” Lucas said. He said it so softly that Abby wasn’t certain she heard him correctly. She raised an eyebrow in query.
    “That’s my story,” Lucas repeated, then added: “That’s the story I’m working on. How did it come to this?”
    “You’re writing a story on the war between men and women?”
    “No, I’m writing a story on why things changed.”
    “I’m not certain that I am following you.”
    She listened while Lucas explained the e-mail that triggered his assignment, the facts he had discovered since, and the implications he had begun to draw. Then, he shocked her.
    “I was beginning to believe there is a conspiracy operating and that you are part of it.”
    “A conspiracy? Me? What kind of conspiracy?”
    “I don’t know. Talking to you now, I am less certain than I was. When you avoided answering my question about how long you had lived in Paris, I didn’t interpret it as a coy refusal to tell how old you are. I took it as you had something to hide. I wanted to know what that was.”
    Abby laughed a little loudly at the thought of her being part of a great conspiracy. Some folk at the cter table turned to consider her. Finding nothing too interesting in the couple in the corner, they quickly returned to their own dinners, their own conversation.
    “Why a conspiracy?”
    “Coincidences pile up. Take for example, I came here because of Julie Lespinasse. I told you that. She lived on Rude de Belle Chasse. I told you I walked that street today. Do you know what I found?”
    “I have no idea,” Abby answered.
    “The United Nations Development Fund for Women’s National Committee for France.”
    “Interesting.”
    “You know of it?”
    “Had to know of it. Would know more if I had pursued my Masters Degree.”
    “What do they do?”
    “It’s a central funding agency for financial and technical assistance to women’s programs.”
    “What kind of women’s programs?”
    “Social programs, human rights, political participation, economic security. That kind of thing.”
    “Building women’s influence then?”
    “Exactly.”
    “Curious isn’t it? What a wonderful coincidence that an organization dedicated to increasing women’s influence is sited on the street of one of history’s more influential women.”
    “You’re thinking it isn’t a coincidence, aren’t you?”
    “And you’re trying to read my mind.”
    The main course arrived necessitating a break in the conversation. Abby used the time to organize her thoughts. She concluded that Lucas was on to something. What it might be she didn’t know. But she was developing a certainty she wanted to be involved.

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