[center [font "Calibri" When desperation hits, there is no telling what one might do. In 1920s America, two strangers find desperation leading them to the theft of The Cullinan Diamond. Belonging to one of the richest families in America, worth $2.360.000, this diamond could change their lives.]]
[center [font "Calibri" While they have both been tasked with stealing this diamond for very different reasons, neither one of them realises that one of their biggest obstacles will be a thief that wants the diamond just as much as them. How will they overcome the obstacles before them?]]
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Lillian was laughing so hard that she let go of the bed and allowed herself to sit on the floor, completely unaware of the fact that only moments ago she was so concerned with making sure that Frederick could not see her in his shirt. While her dignity was something she wanted to keep, she also had scars that she intended to keep hidden, mostly because she did not want to answer any questions and she certainly did not need him to pity her. She was not the only one to endure hardships and she certainly didn’t need to be reminded of her own. The decision to pretend that Frederick had killed her was supposed give her the opportunity to move on and forget about it all.
Either way, she was not thinking about that now and even though the hem of his shirt had uncovered the scar upon her thigh, he would not see it in the dark at least. Her laughter had been deepened by Frederick’s over-exaggerated reaction to his foot colliding with his stomach. Either he was a lot more sensitive than he liked to make out, or he was trying to make her feel guilty and it wouldn’t work. Her laughing began to calm but they did not subside completely but her eyes did come to settle on Frederick’s form now that he seemed to prop himself up on the floor.
She was glad that it was dark because it meant that he could not see how her cheeks blushed at the sudden realisation that he was looking at her. Suddenly the laughter stopped and she found herself swallowing hard as he leaned in close to her, close enough that his cologne filled her senses. For a moment she wondered if this closeness would lead to something else; something reminiscent of the time they spent getting to know each other earlier that evening, instead he seemed to use the opportunity to move passed her.
Relief swam over her, mostly because she was unsure that she would be able to stop herself should he suggest they pick up where they left off. It seemed that he had decided that he was now going to sleep on the bed as a way of punishing her for kicking him and not even apologising for it. Lillian sighed softly and shook her head, knowing that he must have expected her to simply take her place next to him on the bed but she was not about to give him the satisfaction.
Lillian watched him get comfortable on the bed and chuckled to herself slightly before setting herself down in the place where Frederick had intended on sleeping only moments before. It was not as though she had not slept on a floor before now. “And [I this] is a really comfortable floor dear husband of mine. This will do nicely.” Lillian adjusted herself slightly so that she was lying on her side and facing away from him but before she lay her head down she made sure that the shirt he had made her wear was positioned appropriately. When she was satisfied she lay her head down onto the pillow and closed her eyes. The events of the day had truly exhausted her and it did not take long for her to slowly start to drift off.
Freddie could hear her moving and when Lillian blew the candle out and darkness cloaked the room he wondered if sharing a space with her was a good idea at all. He had tried to do the right thing by sleeping on the floor and yet even the sound of her changing in the bathroom, the whisper of her dress falling to the floor, the image of her in his shirt, her hair fanned out around her shoulders, it was almost too much. Reaching up he put his hands over his eyes and silently let out a string of curses, awful enough that his mother would have washed his mouth with hand soap.
Divorce! Ha, she would be so lucky to be married to someone like him. Divorce would not be on the cards if their charade hadn’t been just that. Freddie replaced the fears and anxiety with daydreams of what it would be like to be married, not just to Lillian but to anyone. A proper housewife who was polite and could host the most wonderful parties, she would have to be beautiful and well dressed. Such thoughts were not necessary truly for Freddie was a playboy and unlikely to marry until he had no other choice.
His thoughts of a perfect wife were ripped from his head when a small foot came into contact with his stomach. The wind was knocked out of him and his hands flew to his stomach, hunched over. He heard Lillian fall to the floor and then after a second of silence she began to laugh. It was such a lovely sound and if he hadn’t been withering in pain, he might have even told her how lovely it was. He kept his hands on his stomach whilst he made groaning noises. Making it seem so much worse than it actually was. Finally, his eyes adjusted and he propped himself up on his elbows to look at the blonde who was still laughing.
“If you were truly my wife I would make you kiss it better until the pain stopped.” He said, his voice more of a reprimanding tone, though still soft enough that she knew he was teasing. Suddenly Freddie was very aware of Lillian, on the floor next to him wearing his shirt. She looked more tempting that she had in her expensive dress and jewels and Freddie’s throat went dry making anything he was about to say more effort.
“Laugh all you want, there shall be no divorce for you, young lady.” He said as he reached over and tapped her nose gently. “Whilst you may think it’s funny to kick a gentleman who has selflessly offered to sleep on the floor to retain your virtue, I do not.” He was smiling as he spoke his words and sat up and leaned in, close enough that he could smell her shampoo.
“Big mistake kitten.” He whispered and then, as if he had never been hurt in the first place, jumped up. “Huge mistake.” He continued, dragging out the word huge.
He climbed over her carefully, not offering to help her up off the floor, and threw the cover back on the bed. Freddie looked at her and grinned. “Ginormous mistake.” He said and climbed into the bed, sighing with relief in an overly dramatic way.
“Now I am too injured to sleep on the floor. There's a pillow next to you if you wish to remain down there, however, this is a really comfortable bed.” He teased, moving about to get comfortable.
While it was clear that a ‘married’ couple would have been given a room with only one bed, she wished that they would have taken more time to think of a better excuse because there was clearly an issue that would not be so easily solved around their sleeping arrangements. No matter how much she had been willing to flirt and seduce him she would not have taken it further than she had and this was making her feel uncomfortable. Frederick apparently knew how to press her buttons and that was exactly what he was doing and although her back was turned towards him she was sure that she felt his eyes watching her, judging what to say and how he can tease her further.
Although he had a point about her dress, she was not about to give in to him just yet, besides it was not as though hotel rooms usually had spare clothes in their wardrobe should anyone need them and if she had to wear this dress again tomorrow, sleeping in it did not seem like the best idea. Lillian let out a frustrated sigh as he continued to joke and simply shook her head. His ego was almost too much to handle but she would have to get used to it for now. The room seemed to dim slightly then and she detected movement from behind her where Frederick seemed to prepare himself for bed. Lillian genuinely expected him to climb into bed and expect her to do that same but surprisingly he took hold of a pillow and place it on the ground and for a moment the room went silent when he seemed to get comfortable.
“How long do you expect to keep up this charade of husband and wife? Tomorrow I would like a divorce.” She sassed, keeping her arms folding over her chest and maintaining her stance until she eventually gave in. His shirt would have to do but she was not about to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was changing in the same room as him. Lillian stepped over him and moved towards the bed to pick up the shirt, not saying a word to him before making her way towards the bathroom, but not before blowing out of candle so that visibility would be even more difficult.
Once she was in the bathroom Lillian slipped off her dress and let it fall to the floor in a pool of silk material and pulled on the shirt, buttoning it up once the material covered most of her modesty. Lillian closed her eyes for a moment, trying not to let the scent of his shirt distract her and before long she was telling herself that she just needed to get the night over and done with. Tomorrow they would move on. Lillian picked up the dress and walked back into the room carefully, not to make too much noise in case Frederick had managed to fall asleep in the short time that she had been gone and draped her dress over the chair sitting near the dresser.
It was dark in the room now and she had to really steady herself so that she did trip over anything but as she neared the bed she misjudged where Frederick had set up camp on the floor and before she made it to the bed her foot collided with his stomach and she tripped. Luckily Lillian was able to catch herself on the bed before she fell to the floor completely and rather than apologising to him she simply let out a laugh. “Well, at least we have grounds for divorce now. That’s twice I’ve abused you this evening.”
Freddie almost laughed as she stood and told him she would be sleeping in her dress and not sharing a bed with him. It was as though he was a naughty child that she was scolding for suggesting something outrageous. Her blushing cheeks only made his smile widen. Though his hands didn’t move to unbuckle his belt he kept them there, enjoying how she had huffed and turned her back to him. He did not have any real intentions of taking his trousers off, in fact, if she hadn’t reacted in such a perfect way he possibly wouldn’t have even bothered to joke about it but Lillian responded with confidence and immunity to his attempts at charming her and it only made Freddie want to do it more.
It was forgotten that she had used him only hours ago, pretended she was attracted to him and then dumped ice water on any fantasies he may have had about the two of them when she had tried to cross him. Whether it was the completed exchange or the fact she had given up her freedom for him without really knowing his situation, he had pushed the whole experience from his mind. That did not mean he trusted her, by any means. He was certain that given the opportunity she would stab him in the back, but that was what was expected from a fellow thief.
“You’re being ridiculous. You cannot sleep in your dress it’s filthy and you need to wear that dress tomorrow. I can’t have my wife leaving a hotel in a dress that’s been slept in.” He picked up his shirt that had been placed on the dresser and threw it onto the bed. Freddie walked over to the side of the bed closest to him and blew out the candle, leaving on the one close to Lillian left. The room was darker and Freddie finally took his hands off his belt.
“Fine, I’ll leave my trousers on. Probably for the best anyway, I tend to have an irresistible effect on women.” Although the room was dark he could still see her enough to see her defiant stance, arms crossed and turned away from him. What a strange evening it had been. Freddie couldn’t imagine what the next day was going to bring, they had the task of hiding Lillian, finding a new life for her somewhere and before that, he needed to return home to see his sister. There was no chance in hell he would leave the city without ensuring the girl he had been fighting for was safe. Deal or not, his sister came first above the stranger he was to share a room with.
Letting out a loud and rather fake yawn, Freddie stretched his arms above his head and then sighed. “Blow the candle out and put the shirt on. Don’t argue just do it. My eyes will be closed the entire night and I won’t come near you. I promise.” He grabbed a pillow from the bed and dropped it onto the floor then sat down. He didn’t wait to hear a reply from Lillian before he laid down, ignoring the hardness of the floor and closed his eyes.
The room was silent for a moment and thoughts of the night started to fill Freddie’s mind. The severed hand, the lies, the stealing. All things that were threatening to never let him sleep again. He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed softly. Sleep would likely not come that night.
Lillian could see the anxiety that Frederick felt but she did not ask any questions about the exchange. When he was ready to talk he would. Even though she had not been there she was sure that it wasn’t exactly and ideal situation and knowing her employers they were likely to make it more difficult than it needed to be. At first Frederick continued to stick to his flirtatious mocking and she figured that this would be a regular occurrence with him. It was clearly part of his personality and it was something she would have to get used to until they were their separate ways.
Her eyes rolled at his comment. To her Gladys sounded far too sophisticated and old to be associated with her. While her clothes might have suggested she belonged amongst those who were considered sophisticated, that was far from the truth. Lillian resorted to shaking her head in response to him. She then moved towards the dressing table and leaned against it and nodded along as he spoke. “That’s good. It’s almost over then.” She said through another yawn although she had tried to stop herself from showing her exhaustion.
Frederick seemed to notice and simply pointed out the fact that she was tired and she laughed. “Well thank you captain obvious.” She said with her usual sarcastic tone as she looked down at her hand. The pain had dimmed over time but he was right about needed to get it cleaned as soon as possible. The last thing she needed was an infection because then she would need to go to a hospital and their cover would be blown straight away. She followed his gaze to the bed and wondered what was going through his mind and when she finally looked back up at him and noticed him getting undressed her eyes widened and the heat rose to her cheeks, making them turn a light shade of pink.
He raised his eyebrow and smirked towards her, clearly registering the shock upon her face. Within an instant she averted her gaze and turned away from him so that she didn’t have to watch him undress any further. While she had seen the body of a man before it wasn’t exactly by choice and she did not feel that it was appropriate to watch him undress. “I [I can] and I [I will] sleep in my dress and we will not be sharing the bed.” She said with a confident tone, knowing that her confidence was wavering slightly at his suggestive behaviour. She should have known that he was purposely making her feel uncomfortable but his personality had changed so much in the short space of time that they had known each other that she would not put this passed him.
She turned her head slightly. “Jesus, leave your trousers where they are! You’re not taking them off.” Lillian turned away from him again before letting out a frustrated sigh and crossed her arms over her chest. The situation was most definitely not ideal.
Freddie closed the door behind him, locking it shut again. The curtains had remained closed and the room was lit by candlelight. In another situation, he would have found the setting almost romantic, but his heart was still racing from the exchange. Releasing the diamond to his employers should have filled him with a sense of relief and yet he still could not shake the anxiety that caused his stomach to turn every time he heard a noise or saw a shadow. He would return home the following day and ensure that his sister was home. Perhaps then, he would feel some closure on the situation.
Of course, he still had Lillian to deal with. His eyes found her in the dim lit room and he forced himself to smile. “I rather like the name Gladys. I think it sounds sophisticated.” Freddie walked into the room leant against the window frame for a moment before he straightened up and started to pace the room with a restlessness.
“I told them you were dead, in the river, just like you said. They believed me. They took the diamond and said they would keep up their end of the bargain.” His thumb absently found the wedding ring that was on his right hand and twisted it around, subconsciously checking it was still there, that he hadn’t imagined the whole thing. The thought of the severed hand conjured up in his mind and he bit back nausea that rose in his throat.
“You’re tired,” He said registering her yawn, “You should sleep. We will need to get you clothes and some alcohol for that hand tomorrow but we can deal with it in the morning.” Freddie glanced at the bed and then back at Lillian, seeing the obvious problem. When they had arrived at the hotel he had been so hurried to get them somewhere private that he used the ‘marriage’ card. Now, for the first time in his life, he felt unsure about sharing a bed with a woman. Realising that she would probably feel much more apprehensive than he did, Freddie decided he would sleep on the floor. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t tease her before that.
Freddie started to unbutton his shirt and shrugged it off, placing it on the small dresser. He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
“Come on kitten, you can’t very well sleep in that dress now, can you? I promise to try to keep to my side of the bed.” He smiled at her, pure charm, and moved his hands to his belt. It shouldn’t have been appropriate to make such jokes at a time like that. He wouldn’t have been Frederick Lester if he hadn’t used their sleeping arrangement as an opportunity.
Frederick wondered if it hadn’t been Lillian, would things have worked out the same way that night. She had been the one to give up the diamond, she hadn’t attacked him or ran to tell the police about him. His sister was safe because of her, because she gave up her chance at freedom, believing that Freddie could help her.
Lillian’s expression was nothing but amused at the reaction Frederick had to her cutting open her hand. “Be careful, it almost looked like you cared.” She said with a smirk as she watched him take the shoe from her hand. She might have guessed that he would come out with something wildly inappropriate and in true Lester fashion he did there and then. “Oh Mr Lester, the [I last] thing I want to do is take my dress off around you.” She said with a smile just as he inspected her hand. It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation to be in. They were in an unfamiliar hotel with only the clothes on their back and now she had a cut on her hand that they had no way to properly clean yet. It could wait a while because now they just needed the exchange to be done.
Lillian nodded as he began to make his way towards the door and she followed him so that she could lock it as instructed. When his form disappeared out of sight she closed the door and made sure that it was locked before turning around and pressing her back against the door. She was filled with nerves now. Something could go wrong and they might not believe him if he was not convincing enough but then he had been so convincing around her earlier that night. She could only hope that their employers would stay true to their word and that Frederick’s payment, whatever it may be meant that he could help her now.
She had thought about using this time to disappear now. Lillian had wondered whether she needed Frederick’s help at all since she would have to survive on her own at some point. However, she knew that realistically she needed a little more than to just disappear into the night and she would not get very far on foot and for her to disappear she needed to go far away from here. She pushed herself away from the door and made her way into the bathroom so that she could start to clean herself up. She was still covered in dirt from throwing herself from the window. After she washed herself down she took the hair grips out of her hair and let if fall in loose curls to her shoulders.
Now she made her way back into the bedroom she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror and for a moment she stood and looked at herself. She was no longer the same person and she wondered how long it would take her to get back to the woman she was before all of this happened; before she was forced to work for employers who had asked her to do unspeakable things. Lillian forced herself to look away from the mirror and started to make her way towards the bed, laying down on it and staring up at the ceiling. Exhaustion was taking over but she could not go to sleep yet. She might even have to sleep in the car if Frederick decided that they should go the minute he returned. That is, [I if] he returned.
The exchange did not take as long as Lillian expected and shortly there was a knock at the door causing her to sit up straight but she did not approach the door until she heard Frederick’s voice through it. Even though it was an involuntary response. She felt relief swim over her as she made her way towards the door and unlocked it. Lillian almost laughed at his greeting but shook her head as she opened the door. “We really should think more carefully about our names.” She said as a yawn escaped her.
Freddie’s smile only widened as she complained about her fake name. It was the name of his childhood horse and in a way, Lillian reminded him of her. Pretty to look at but willing to kick you hard enough to crack a few ribs. He would not tell her that, despite being willing enough to walk into a fight with a group of armed men, he did not fancy getting on the bad side of the little beauty in front of him. Instead, he focused on her name.
“Lillian, that’s pretty. Like the flower or the actress.”
It was almost too quick for Freddie to register, one moment she was suggesting that she hit him multiple times and the next her fist came into contact with his face. He took a staggered step back, more from the shock than the force of her hitting him. Freddie had not believed she would actually punch him and she was much stronger than he had anticipated. He lifted his hand to his face and rubbed his jaw, wiggling it a bit to check she had not done any damage more than the red imprint that would soon turn into a bruise.
“I think just once will be enough. Let us not get carried away now, kitten.” He said and walked into the joining washroom to check that she had done enough to seem convincing.
His jaw was red and only getting darker by the second. His hair was a mess and his shirt had a few tugs and dirt smudges from their window jumping activities anyway. Freddie turned to walk back into the room just as she sliced her hand open.
“Christ woman! What the heck do you think you’re doing?” He walked over to her about to drag her to the wash basin but she was letting the blood stain her shoe. He caught on quickly what she was doing and as she spoke it made sense. Dumping her in the river meant they would not have to produce a body and the shoe covered in her blood would be enough proof without giving away too much. After all, they were not supposed to know they were employed by the same person anyway.
He watched her rip the bottom of her dress and he shook his head, rolling his eyes.
“If you wanted to take your dress off you should have just said, you didn’t need to cut your hand over it.” The corner of his mouth turned up, a playful comment again to take the edge off. He took the shoe from her and took her hand in his own, turning her palm up to check her mishap bandage. He would need to get something to clean the wound with otherwise it would risk infection, especially as her dress was far from clean. She would also need new clothes if she were to get away without drawing suspicion.
“I won’t be long, hopefully.” He lifted the shoe and waved with it then picked up her purse, tucking it under his arm. “Wish me luck, don’t miss me too much and lock the door behind me.” He said and left the room. Getting out of the hotel was easier than it should have been and Freddie couldn’t help but wonder how many people had left the hotel with bloody shoes undetected before? He drove the short distance to the meeting and could see someone waiting for him by the docks.
The silhouette turned out to be the person he had spoken to once before, a young man with a more than sinister look to his face. Freddie walked over to him but stopped keeping a distance. He threw the shoe at the man, watching him watch it without flinching. Clearly, blood didn’t bother this man.
“She got in my way.” He said, watching the other male eye him with a distrust. He took in the bruising red mark on his jaw and his state of dishevelment. Freddie inhaled slowly trying to remove the fear in his voice. “I don’t take kindly to people who get in my way. Nor do I appreciate you sending someone to take over if I messed up. I’m a freaking Lester, we don’t make mistakes.” He said and held out the diamond that had been moved from the purse to his pocket, for the man to take.
“Where is her body?” He said simply, checking the diamond over in his hands. Freddie thought back to what Lillian had said and he rolled his shoulders, trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. “I dumped her in the river. I couldn’t have someone finding her, it would look bad for me.” He paused and then decided to push the boundaries. “Why? Was she important to you?” He said, narrowing his eyes at the man. The man put the diamond in his jacket pocket and raised his hand in a strange motion, signalling for the boat to collect him.
“She owed us a debt but that’s been paid in blood. I should thank you.” The man said, smiling at Freddie with a cruel smirk. If he had less patience, less self-control he may have hit the man, but the deal was almost over and so he said nothing, only put his hands in his pockets.
“We are done.” The man said and nodded to Freddie. It was that easy? The months of fear and anxiety all washed away with this man’s say so?
“My sister?” Freddie said, keeping his voice even. The man nodded again and threw something wrapped in brown paper at Freddie. He hesitated a moment before moving forward to pick up and open the parcel. It was a severed hand, one wearing the wedding ring that belonged to his sister’s husband. Freddie swallowed the bile rising in his throat and took the ring off the hand, loathing the feel of dead skin against his own. He slid the ring onto his right hand and dropped the parcel onto the deck.
“I didn’t pay for the hand, just the ring and my sister. I expect her to be home tomorrow, unaware of what has happened. That was our deal” He said and turned away, making his way back to the hotel.
Once back he knocked on the door and pressed his face close to the wood so he could call through. “Gladys my love, it’s your husband”
Within a matter of minutes the car started to move again now that they had some kind of solution. They just had to figure out the details now and they were running out of time with every second they spent sat stationary in the car. Lillian kept hold of the diamond and they drove and they remained in silence for the rest of the journey. He seemed to settle on a hotel quickly but she barely took notice of the kind of the place they were staying at. She had stayed in her fair share of questionable establishments and this would not phase her. Perhaps this would be her life now and she would have to get used to it anyway.
When they stopped she looked towards him and watched as he face changed from serious to cocky. His smile alluded to the Frederick she had met in the first instance; the Frederick who might have seduced her successfully if the two of them did not have ulterior motives. Lillian let out a frustrated sigh and she shook her head towards him as he helped her out of the car. “Oh no, I’m so disappointed.” Her tone was laced with sarcasm and her expression echoed the same. They walked arm-in-arm towards the hotel. “Is this really necessary?” She asked before she understood that the only way they would be getting a room was if they fabricated a relationship. Why else would a man and a woman need a hotel room? Any other excuse would have looked suspicious so she simply had to play along. When he referred to her as his wife she plastered on a fake smile and told herself that she would just need to get through the night.
Before long the two were being handed the keys to a room and they disappeared quickly. To an outsider they simply looked like a tired couple who just wanted to sleep when really their urgency was due to something else entirely. When they were inside he shut the door behind her and she rolled her eyes.
“Gladys, really? I do [I not] look like a [I Gladys].” She said as she turned to face him and watched as he prepared the room. “My real name is Lillian.” She sighed in frustration. “You’re right it is going to be hard to make them believe that I am dead. They will want proof and the story needs to be clear.” Lillian watched as the man took off his jacket and watched as his expression changed into something entirely different. For what he asked next seemed to humour him deeply. Luckily, Lillian was not opposed to hitting him and she actually smiled towards him. “Of course you can’t.”
Lillian thought for a moment before moving towards him, dropping the bag on the bed and clenching her fist. “I might have to hit you more than once to leave a mark on the [I perfect] face of yours.” She said just as she allowed her fist to collide with his face. This was not the first time she had hit someone but usually it was on the order of those who had taken control of her life. It felt good to let out some of her frustration and she did not shy away from letting the pleasure spread across her face in the form of a smile. Lillian looked him over and saw that his jaw was beginning to redden. “Do you think I need to hit you again or will that do the job?” She laughed slightly before starting to think about how they might prove she was dead.
She reached into her bag and pulled out and knife and sat down on the bed. “You should tell them you dumped my body in the river. That way they won’t look for me.” She said as she pulled the blade over her hand, clenching her teeth slightly to stop herself from crying out in pain. When there was enough blood she reached down to take off one of her shoes, knowing that the blood would stain the silk material of it. Lillian held her hand here for a minute, trying to ignore the throbbing that came from the cut on her hand and when she was satisfied there was enough blood to constitute a murder she ripped off the bottom of her dress and wrapped it around her hand.
“Here, this might go some way to proving you killed me.” She said as she rose from her bed and held out the shoe for him to take.
Freddie let his hand drop from her face and placed it on the steering wheel. He didn’t take the purse from her, instead, he started to drive again. Though he had made up his mind to help her, after all, hadn’t be been the one to suggest them working together, he still needed to think things through properly. He was still aware of the time that was getting close to his deadline. He drove a short distance and pulled up to one of the better-looking hotels in the small village. It was not the sort of place he was happy to leave a lady, but their situation did not exactly allow for him to be picky.
Turning the car off, he waited a moment before getting out. He had so many questions but it would be better that they spoke inside the hotel. Freddie went around to open the door for her, letting her keep the purse until they were inside.
“We will get a room here.” He paused and looked at her, a smile breaking out on his face even though it was a most inappropriate time. “Don’t get any funny ideas, I know I’m irresistible but we have a murder to commit and as much as I wish we could pick up where we left off, we are on a tight schedule.” His words were playful and came so naturally to him that for a moment he forgot their circumstances.
Taking her arm in his, once again, he led her into the hotel. He hoped he would not be recognised and as he rarely ventured to this part of the area, he prayed they would not draw suspicion. Freddie walked to the front desk where an older man was sat, half asleep. The woman was still on his arm and as he spoke, the lies came far too easily.
“I’m going to be needing a room for tonight. My wife and I have just come in on business and I’m not up for driving to the city so late at night.” Freddie silently cursed himself as he looked down at the woman on his arm. They were dressed far too lavish to have been on business and he looked like he had jumped from a window – which he had.
The man barely looked at them as he picked up a set of keys off the side and handed them to Freddie. “What’s your names?” The man said as he opened the ledger. Freddie flashed a wicked grin at the woman and then looked back to the man.
“ This is my wife, Gladys and I’m Norbert.” He said with a feigned seriousness to his voice that seemed to make the man opposite them nod and scribble their names. Freddie reached into his pocket and handed the man paper bills before walking up the stairs to the room.
Freddie ushered her inside the room and pushed the latch shut so that no one could get in.
“Now, dear wife, I suppose I should know your real name before I tie my fate to yours and yours to mine.” He went over to the windows and pulled the curtains shut then lit the candles next to the bed.
“I’m going to give them the diamond and tell them you died. I don’t think they will believe me easily so we need to think and quickly as time is running out.” Freddie shrugged off his jacket and placed it over the edge of the bed before turning to her. His father had always told him that desperate men do desperate things and Lester’s were never desperate. Freddie almost chuckled as he said his next words, thinking of how his father would react.
“I’m going to need you to hit me, just enough to leave a mark.” He said, tapping the edge of his jaw. “I can’t turn up unharmed, they will expect you to fight back.”
She didn’t expect Frederick to understand her position, nor did she expect him to understand that this really was the only way out for her. There were three options for her really, Lillian needed to die, she needed to give them the diamond or she could try and pull this new plan off. However, Frederick did not owe her anything. He could take the diamond and leave her to fend for herself. She could do it if she really needed to but this way was easier and it meant that they both got something out of the deal. Her eyes widened slightly at the car came to a stop and she detected the hesitation from him way before he started to talk. Perhaps she would need to tell him more about her situation to convince him to help her but the last thing she needed was his pity. Lillian needed his help and nothing more.
Lillian avoided looking at him when he spoke. She knew that she was asking too much of him but this [I was] the only way they could both walk away from this situation with what they want. She looked down at her hands. They absently played with each other as she let out a sigh. “I know I am asking a lot of you. I…I just…don’t see any other way.” Lillian had spent years fighting and to finally have a chance to be alone and live a simple life seemed to give her hope. The silence between them lasted some time now, both of them lost in thought until Frederick broke the silence.
He reached out towards her and lifted her chin so that she had to look him in the eye now. She listened to every single word he said carefully and when he finished she nodded to show that she understood. “No one will even know I’m gone. Not one person at that party knew my name, my real one at least, and I do not have a family that would notice I am gone. You help me disappear and I really do disappear. I never existed and I will never exist again.” Lillian let out and sigh once more. “I will not get caught. I have too much to lose if I do.”
Lillian looked away from him now, looking down at the bag she had clutched in her hand so tightly and offered it to him. Lillian could only hope that he would remain true to his word and help her but there would be nothing she could if he decided to cross her now. “Take it.” She said softly, trying not to show the fear that she felt. “You can drop me off at one of these hotels and we can figure out how we can make it look like you killed me.”
Freddie kept his eyes on the road as she spoke. He could not quite understand what she had meant by her words. Their property? Surely that couldn’t be right. He had seen the way she had held herself, the clothes she wore the jewels around her neck. She did not look like she was anyone property. It was due to a sheltered upbringing, a life of riches and lavish parties that made Frederick struggle to understand her situation. His family had servants, but these were people employed to do a job and they were paid well in return. His family did not own them, despite how they acted sometimes.
The car came to a sudden stop. “You can not be serious?” He asked, facing her now. Was she completely mad? It was not just the idea of lying again, adding another crime to his ledger. Nor was it the possibility that someone would overhear his story and run to tell people. What a scandal, the Lester playboy killing one of his conquests. He could see the headlines now. No, that was not what had caused him to slam hard on the break. This lie, what she was asking him to do, would end both his life and his sisters if he were ever caught. His employers would want a body or blood. They would need proof.
“What you are asking of me. It’s too much.” Freddie rubbed his forehead with one hand, the other staying tightly on the steering wheel. If it worked, which would be a miracle in itself, his debt would be paid, and his sister would be untangled from the messy web she was in and never know otherwise. If it worked then Freddie would be free to go about his life and forget the night had ever occurred. He would forget the stealing and the acting, forget the woman next to him who had used him and then asked him to help her vanish.
“Disappearing is not an easy thing to do. You will have to go away, far away. You will need a new name, a new life. You would spend your whole life in fear of someone recognising you.” Freddie looked at her, trying to judge any emotion in her face. If she was not strong enough to survive on her own, in a new life, she would get caught and his employers would know he had lied. It was risky.
Give her the diamond or take it. The first was not an option and the second came with a twisted deal. Freddie reached out then and lifted her chin so that she could not look away from him. He had made his decision.
“I will help you in return for the diamond. I will do everything I can, providing it does not risk me or my family. One step out of place and you get caught. You will deny everything if that happens. Once I’m sure you will not be found, we forget tonight existed. You never try to contact me, you never mention my family or my name. Do you understand? I’m not saying this to just cover my own back, this is for your protection as well.”
Lillian started to regret speaking almost instantly. Of course, she could not trust a man like him. Not because he was a Lester, but because he was like her. Someone who was simply in this to save themselves or someone they loved. Surely someone like that would do just about anything and would cross just about anyone. However, he had to be smart enough to make a deal when it meant that both of them could get out of this situation with whatever they desired, or whatever they were being promised.
As he spoke she could not detect his emotions. It was something she had learned to do over time too. Detach yourself from your emotions and that way no one could exploit your weaknesses but she understood why he was stealing the diamond now and as long as he was telling the truth, it meant that he had something to bargain with.
She had barely even noticed that he had slowed down but when she looked out of the window she recognised the village near the docks. He was stalling for time and he was intrigued by her words and he occasionally glanced in her direction. It was now or never.
“I will not go into specific details but I will tell you what you [I need] to know to understand why I would be willing to give you the diamond and walk away. The people I work for…they are not good people as you are aware. I do not just work for them, I am their property. It does not matter why but I am sure that part of the reason we were both sent to do this was because they do not intend to keep their promises to both of us. You…you clearly have someone else’s life to consider here. Me; well I just want to get out from under them. Some of the things they have made me do…” She stopped, not wanting to give away too much and not wanting to make him feel like she needed saving. Lillian cleared her throat. “I wonder if I would even get my freedom if I gave them the diamond. What if you gave them the diamond and traded it for whatever it is that they promised you and when you do so, you tell them that you killed me.”
Lillian waited for a moment and read the expression on his face to gauge if he understood where she was going with this. “If they think I am dead…surely I am free. You help me disappear, I give you the diamond.”
Freddie slowed the car slightly as she spoke. He had turned off the road leading to the docks and was now heading towards the fishing village. It was walking distance from the docks but far enough away that he could drop the woman off somewhere safe until he had completed the exchange. She was probably right, working together had not been his employer’s plan, otherwise, he would have paired them up – or at least warned them of the other's existence. Freddie could not see any other option. He would not kill her or let her be killed but he wasn’t going to let her have the diamond, leaving him empty handed.
Trust him? Why in heavens name would she trust him? He didn’t even know her name, her family, she could have been a known criminal, a killer even, for all he knew. He certainly did not trust her. How could she ask to trust him? Her next words only confused him even more. What would he be lying about … Freddie slowed the car further so they were crawling along the road in time with the other cars.
Whatever her idea was, it looked like he was going to get the diamond. He could lie, tell her he would help her, take the diamond and never look back. It would be easy enough and it wouldn’t be the worst thing he had done in his life. Freddie looked over at her and chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, the silence extending longer than he should have allowed. This would have been much easier if she hadn’t looked at him in such a way.
“I have nothing to offer you to make you trust me, however, if you give me the diamond you will be saving someone very dear to me. Someone that I would happily trade lives with if it were an option.” Freddie swallowed back the emotion, keeping his voice detached from his feelings. “I will make no promise to help you until you tell me what your idea is but if it means we can both walk away from this then I am willing to make a deal.” Lord! How he sounded like his father. Freddie had never pretended to be a knight in shining armour and he wasn’t about to start now but to turn such a dire situation into a deal, he truly was as awful as his father.
The first few houses of the fishing village appeared, scattered apart with their lights off. It was late and a village like this didn’t have a nightlife like his own city. Whilst his car would normally draw suspicion in a place with such a low population and lower class atmosphere, many people used to docks for trading and the few bed and breakfast hotels that sat in-between desolate shops would not blink at a wealthy man needing to spend the night.
Whatever she was thinking had to be right. Her employers with vindictive and it made complete sense for them to send two people after the same thing. That way they were pretty much guaranteed to get what they wanted. It was quite clever when she thought about it. She did not know what this man had been offered to do the job but she was offered money and freedom. If they offered him anything similar then the perfect way to clean up after themselves and save resources would be to send two people to the same place. One of them would make it out alive and they would only have to keep their promise and make their payment to one person. Very vindictive. Very clever.
Frederick began to use his commanding voice again, claiming that it was too dangerous for her. He clearly did not understand how much danger she was already in or had much she had experienced in the last year or so. Lillian shook her head, knowing that his solution would not work.
“[I If] I am right, making the exchange on my behalf simply will not work. I think that only one of us was supposed to make it out of this alive and if we say that we worked together and you are handing it over for both of us…well…I cannot envisage both of us getting what we have been promised.”
As silence filled the car once more as she returned to her thoughts. Perhaps she could make something work for her. All she wanted was her freedom and she was being presented with a way out but she could not do it alone. Whether or not her brother was freed did not matter to her anymore. It had not for a long time. It was time for her to start thinking about herself and making decisions of her own.
“I have an idea but I need to know I am able to trust you. I will not simply hand over the diamond to you. I am going to need your help and if you agree to do this you will likely put yourself in a dangerous situation with our employer. If they found out you were lying…” Lillian shook her head. “Maybe it is a bad idea.” She thought out loud. “But…one of us needs to deliver this diamond and it looks like this might be your only way out. Me…I might have another way.”
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