October surprise on Halloween?
This surprise in the theme of this chapter of Book 4, Rainmaker, in The Commander and the Chief series.
This year, the Duke and Duchess of Yorkchestershire were throwing a costume party at Barrett Manor. And Nova and Reggie arrived a few days early to help with the decorating. A pleasant break in the English countryside from the hubbub of London.
Nova wore baggy sweatpants and a loose T-shirt as she helped alongside the servants. All under her mother-in-law’s supervision.
But Nova needed more rest than usual. She didn’t want to admit anything was wrong. Though memories of her dad haunted her. Especially during his last year on earth, before he had succumbed to cancer.
Dad had needed a lot of breaks. Tired easily. And Nova tried to put Dad out of her mind as she joined her mother-in-law for tea.
Regina looked over Nova. “Is everything all right, dear?”
“I’m fine,” Nova lied. Then changed the subject. “But, hey. It’s the end of October already. And this time in America, we brace ourselves for the October Surprise.”
Regina set down her cup. “What surprise is that?”
“When a scandal is leaked in the media,” Nova said. “Especially during an election year. With little time for the political target to recover from the allegations.”
“Oh, that.” Regina waved a hand. “Politics as usual. Like over here, they’re all crooks.”
Nova sighed. “I need to take something for my stomach.”
Regina returned a skeptical look as Nova dismissed herself. The Duchess had her ideas as to what was going on with her daughter-in-law. But kept her thoughts to herself.
* * *
Anton Orlovic had been at Barrett Manor for the last month, after he got back from the States. He was the nephew most like Nova’s dad. He could fix most anything. The Barrett Great House was in fine shape. But maintenance was ongoing. And Anton had critical skills. He knew what he was doing and cared to do a good job.
Before long, the outside was encompassed by lit jack o’ lanterns. Trees strung with cobwebs and bats and orange and white lights. Inside, the trappings of a haunted mansion.
After sunset, it was party time.
Alfie Dawkins greeted the precession of guests. Dressed in a black mask like a highwayman from the Regency Period.
Jane Meyer saw to the refreshments. She wore an owl mask. Her favorite bird. And she perfected her hoot so the guests knew she was coming. And gave a hoot.
Sir Robert Barrett, the host, dressed as Henry VIII. Pumpkin pants. Royal robes. Tudor flat cap. His hair and beard tinted red.
Dame Regina, in red hair and wide dress, made a convincing Queen Elizabeth I. She said, “Off with your heads!” like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.
Reggie morphed into a convincing Nikola Tesla. Dark hair with the part in the middle and fake mustache. Dressed in a dark jacket, white shirt, waist coat. Holding a model of a sparking Tesla coil. And he had perfected that wild mad scientist look.
Nova made her entrance downstairs as Wonder Woman. Her favorite female superhero. Twirling her golden lasso of truth. But she had to alter her costume. And discreetly, Jane had helped take out parts of the suit so it would fit.
Anton dressed as a cowboy and brought his rope. And Anton and Nova demonstrated their lassoing skills. Nova caught Reggie a few times.
“You’ve branded me already, darling.” He showed her his wedding ring. “Now, let me go,”
“But I don’t want to let you go.” She drew him to her and they kissed.
Halloween was also Reformation Day. It was Halloween night of 1517 that Martin Luther had nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
And Lord Fredrick Wise reminded everyone that it was the German Prince, Frederick the Wise, who had protected Martin Luther and made the whole Reformation thing possible.
Wise was tempted to come as Frederick the Wise. But it was like coming as himself. So he came as Martin Luther. Dark cap and robe. Holding a copy of the Ninety-five Theses.
And his wife Sharon dressed as Martin Luther’s wife and former nun, Katharina von Bora. Ivory wimple, black dress, white apron.
Jasmyn took little Elijah Rainmaker Barrett down from the nursery a few times. The baby wore a beaded head band with a small eagle feather and colorful streaks of war paint on his cheeks.
Elijah was quite the scene stealer. The Duke’s second grandson. The last of the Rainmaker line.
One of the guests looked over Jasmyn’s torn jeans, tie dyed T-shirt, tattoos, spiked hair streaked with purple, orange, and pink.
“I love your costume, Nanny,” she said.
“What costume, ma’am?” Jasmyn answered with wide eyes.
Eventually, the guests settled for a big screen showing of the old cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Center stage was that sweet transvestite. Dr. Frank-N-Furter. From Transsexual, Transylvania.
Many at the party knew all the movie lines and sang along, like:
Let’s do the time warp again.
The scene came when Dr. Frank-N-Furter, off stage, hacked Dr. Scott’s nephew Eddie to death with an ice pick. When Frank-N-Furter came out of the freezer with blood on his gloves, Nova threw up.
That stopped the show.
At least paused it and sent the servants scrambling for cleanup. After which, the show would go on, so they could party into All Saints Day.
* * *
Reggie instructed Jane to make a special purchase at an all-night chemist. And Jane did not seem surprised by this request.
Then he escorted Nova upstairs and helped her undo her costume. Unzipping the back. Tugging off the suit.
“I see you’ve been putting on a little weight, darling.”
Nova spun around with a look of murder in her eyes. Like if she had an ax, she’d give Reggie forty whacks.
Reggie snapped open his eyes. Backed away. Raising his arms in self-defense. Then Nova sunk into the bed and broke out into heaving sobs.
“Oh, God.” Reggie waited for Nova to calm down some.
He shook out his handkerchief and dried her tears. Slipped a robe over her. Then he took off his jacket and fake mustache and got comfortable for a long night.
Reggie rubbed Nova’s back. “What’s troubling you, darling?”
“I miss my dad.” She blew her nose.
“What brought this on?’
“Halloween. The pumpkins. My dad grew the biggest pumpkins. He used to take Nick and me down to the river and suck up water into his sewer truck. Then irrigate his gardens with it.”
Reggie widened his eyes. “I can imagine what came out of that thing.”
Nova wiped her tears. “We always got the biggest corn and the biggest pumpkins. And Dad was the one that carved the jack o’ lanterns.”
Eventually, there was a knock.
“Enter,” Reggie said.
“Is everything all right, Commander?” Jane asked.
“We shall see.” Reggie received the goods. “Thank you, Jane. I’ll call if we need anything else.”
Jane responded with hoots.
Reggie coaxed Nova into the loo to pee on a stick.
He looked at the results on the indicator and arched a dark eyebrow. “No more strong drinks for you, darling.”
“Now it makes sense what Kaya told me.” Nova let out a breath. “Elijah’s not the last of the Rainmakers, is he?”
Reggie chuckled. “Surprise.”
Happy Reformation Day
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