Off With Their Heads
"Kathryn dear, do hurry. We don't want to be late. This is the first time Anne has invited us to dine, at the main," Tiffany called out from the living room.
"I'm coming, Mother. I just had trouble with my earring."
"Well, you ladies look lovely. Aren't we lucky, Sebastian, escorting these two beauties to dinner?"
"Yes, lucky," Sebastian deadpanned.
Sebastian was thankful when they finally arrived. He thought he might tear out his hair if he had to listen to Kathryn a minute longer. She kept trying to guess what tonight's dinner was about. He wanted to scream that she should save her breath. She would never see it coming.
Jean-Pierre let them in announcing, "Madam and Miss Lizbeth are waiting for you in the front salon."
Leaving their coats, only Kathryn kept her bag. They walked into a beautiful room done in blues and creams.
, everyone, I hope this evening finds you well," Anne said from her seat. It resembled a small throne with gold gilding and scrollwork.
Kathryn moved forward, bending down to kiss Anne's cheek. "Bon jour
grandmother, you look enchanting as always." She smiled her best smile.
"Thank you Kathryn. Please everyone have a seat. Dinner will be ready soon." Anne gave an elegant wave of her hand to indicate the various seats around the room.
Sebastian made his way over to sit beside Buffy on the settee positioned closest to her grandmother. "You look beautiful." He kissed Buffy's cheek.
"You can kiss me properly later." They smiled at each other intimately.
Kathryn's eyes shot sparks, at the two young lovers. Why, the hell, hasn't he bought me the proof? I know he wants me. He never stopped wanting me. Now, he can finally have me. What's stopping him?
Dinner was a stifled ordeal for everyone. Buffy and Sebastian kept the conversation going, but Kathryn shut down any attempts they made at being civil to her. Tiffany tried to talk to Anne, but one of Madam's famous looks stopped her quickly. Anne spoke with Edward, which left Kathryn and Tiffany with no other choice but to speak to each other.
"Let us take our coffee into the study. I have some family business to discuss with you."
Eyebrows rose as they all moved to follow. Kathryn went to freshen up so the others patiently waited on her return.
"What's this about, Madam?" Tiffany tried to get Anne to tell her what they would be discussing tonight before Kathryn joined them.
"Patience is a virtue," Anne answered, cryptically.
Kathryn entered to hear Anne speak about virtue. This should be fun. At least I have a nice buzz going.
"I have come across some disturbing information," Anne stated.
Kathryn perked up. Tonia must have decided to feed the info to her source. Oh, this should be good. Princess is about to fall off her throne. Long live the new princess - ME!
"Edward, I know this is a delicate subject. Do you remember sleeping with my granddaughter?" What! When did he screw, Buffy?
Kathryn looked from Buffy to her stepfather to her grandmother and back.
Sebastian's father shook his head looking away. "I woke up in her bed and there were pictures, scattered about."
"But you don't know how you got there or anything that occurred before or during the events?"
"This is outrageous, Edward, how could you?" Tiffany shrieked as tears came to her eyes.
"Sit down Tiffany," Anne ordered. The bleached blonde sat but her eyes darted about the room as if looking for a way to escape.
"Wait a minute you mean me, not Buffy? I never slept with him," Kathryn yelped, jumping to her feet.
"All will be explained, Kathryn, please sit down. Now, what do you remember last, Edward?" Anne watched the older Valmont try to get the scenes straight in his mind. Anne had always liked Edward in business and as family.
"I drank a glass of scotch in the study."
"You understand now. Kathryn, do you remember a night where Tiffany bought you something to drink?" She watched her granddaughter start to put the pieces together and turn to glare at her mother.
"No, wait a minute, yes. It was so weird at the time but I called for something to drink. Mother said Mai-Le wasn't feeling well. Why?" Kathryn didn't like where this was leading.
"I took my daughter a drink that isn't a crime," Tiffany protested. She worried her wedding band. Her long nails clicked against the gold band.
"It is if you drugged it first," Buffy answered.
"What I never! Where's your proof?"
"Well you see Tiff, seems you're not the only one who likes to take pictures. Kathryn has a camera in her room. It shows you giving Kathryn the drink then coming back to undress her. About ten minutes later you led Eddy in, and you can hear him asking what's going on. You're a great director Tiff; maybe it could become your new career. We're guessing Roofies with something else because they did whatever you said. They even posed for you to take the pictures. Your voice is on the tape, telling them what to do. Have you always got off on feeling up your daughter?"
"Stop it. This is outrageous. Edward, you aren't going to believe this white trash over me." She batted her fake lashes at him.
"How do you explain the pictures, Tiffany?"
He looked at her, hoping she would tell him something different; anything that didn't make him look the foolish older man.
"Don't ask me; ask Kathryn."
"What?" Kathryn spun on her heels to look at her stepfather in astonishment. "You bitch. I didn't even know about it. If I'm in them, how could I possibly take them as well?"
"Well, you're the one with the hidden camera. Who's to say you didn't make them from that or have Sebastian help you?"
"That's enough Tiffany. Sit down and shut your mouth. I've seen the evidence myself to know it's you. There's nothing you can say. Edward, how much money have you paid?" Anne looked at Sebastian's father.
"Over a million dollars at the last count."
"Do you want to press charges?" Anne asked quietly, watching Kathryn's face the entire time. Her 'daughter-in-law' was beneath her notice. She'd have handled her long ago if it weren't for the young girl beside her.
"What? You can't! I'll be ruined." Tiffany shrieked, as she wiggled to get off the couch.
"Lizbeth, dear, if she talks again, how do you say it? Oh yes, pop her one."
Buffy grinned brightly. "Gladly, Nana." She went to stand directly behind Tiffany and placed one hand on the older woman's shoulder.
"No, it would be just as bad for me."
"Very well, Edward. I'm sure you want to dissolve the marriage. Why don't you consider it your settlement to Tiffany? She'll sign any papers you send to her."
Anne bowed her elegant gold and silver head. Edward admired the way she handled herself, no matter what was happening, Madam remained in control.
"No, I…" she groaned when Buffy applied pressure to her shoulder.
Buffy leaned closer. "This is quiet time. Nana is going to tell you what's going to happen. I know you're not too bright so I'll break it into small words for you. You-have-no-choice."
Tiffany leaned back, her mouth snapped shut and she locked her arms across her chest.
"The evidence will be destroyed." Edward ignored his 'wife' and talked directly to Madam.
"Consider it taken care of Edward, do not worry. I'm sorry you were involved in this mess. Your marriage wasn't based on love but you still deserved her respect. If you' like to leave, you may." Anne bowed her head in a queenly dismissal.
"Fine, come along Sebastian."
"No, I'm staying with Buffy. I'll talk to you later, Dad."
Edward stopped in his tracks, Sebastian hadn't called him that in a long time. "I'll be checking in at the Four Seasons until I can make other arrangements. Thank you, Madam. Elizabeth, always a pleasure." He kissed Buffy on the cheek but didn't say a word to Tiffany or her daughter as he left the room.
As soon as Edward left the room, Anne looked at Buffy. "You may let her speak, Lizbeth."
Buffy stepped away from Tiffany and resumed her seat next to Sebastian on the couch.
"You have ruined everything, like always. You were supposed to let Philippe take over the holdings but you held on so tight until he lost interest. He wouldn't have gone on that trip if not for you. Now you keep hanging on, Kathryn should be the heir and you bring in this, this…" her hands flew into the air in frustration. "Now, you have destroyed my marriage and left me with nothing. How am I supposed to live?"
"Ah, that's the real question. As for my dear son, he was no more interested in Merteuil Industries than he was in you after Kathryn's birth. He was on the trip with his mistress. The accident was just that, an accident. Several other people died as well, including the young woman he took with him. As far as Kathryn being my heir, it simply was never true."
"What?" Kathryn shrieked, staring straight into her grandmother's eyes.
"You and your mother assumed it was so. It didn't matter that I have never said or done anything to make you believe it. Lizbeth has always been my heir. She has known it since she was a child because I told her. If for some reason, she were unable to inherit the holding would have gone to a third cousin in France. He's a fine young man but not my first choice."
"Even if she wasn't here, I wouldn't have gotten everything," Kathryn asked, bewildered.
"You have a respectable inheritance from your father, Kathryn. But to answer your question, no, you wouldn't have inherited. If you had shown some better qualities, I might have offered you a seat on the board. But your actions have made that impossible."
"But I didn't do anything. You said so yourself. Mother set Edward and me up. What have I done, grandmother?" She blinked rapidly causing tears to pool in her eyes.
"You're very good. I'm not what is it you called me, ah, mai oui
, a doddering old cow." Kathryn glared at Sebastian. "Do not blame Monsieur
Valmont. He has been a perfect gentleman throughout this whole ordeal."
Kathryn laughed, "Gentleman, oh, really. Did he tell you why he is dating you precious Lizbeth?"
"Yes, Kathryn, I did. All of it, your part and my part," Sebastian answered her.
Her face lost all color and she went still as she looked at him and the rest of her audience. "I was just upset and angry, grandmother. I never thought he took me seriously. He even forced himself on me." There was a small quiver in her voice now.
"Give it up Kitty-Cat," Buffy said in a bored voice.
"You shut up. This is your entire fault. She never would have known anything if you hadn't showed up. I hate you."
Anne looked at her granddaughters and wondered how they could look so alike and be so different. "I already knew, Kathryn. The drugs, the men, the women and the lives you have destroyed. I've tried to help the ones I could along the way."
"What do you mean? How? I don't understand."
Kathryn felt her whole world tilt on its axis. She thought her heart stopped beating a time or two as she listened.
"You can't do the things you do so blatantly and think no one notices. Do you think I don't know what goes on in my own home? Whenever you would visit, I knew everything you did. If it happens on Merteuil properties, eventually, I will learn of it. All Merteuil properties." Her voice stressed her point causing mother and daughter to become even paler.
"Do you think I didn't know what you went to Europe for, especially Switzerland? Unfortunately, your mother is as inept as always. She chose clinics more like spas than treatment facilities. If you had gotten some real help, you wouldn't be so far out of control as you are now." Anne shook her head. She picked up a magazine from her desk and thumbed through it. "A friend at Vanity Fair provided an early copy of an article about Manchester. It's centered completely on you. Imagine my surprise, dear girl, when instead of reading about your scholastic achievements, it was about your peccadilloes, I mean, really Kathryn, grooms." Anne put a note of scorn in her voice.
Kathryn assumed it was her choice of partners and the bad press. "Grandmother, it was just one time and I was vulnerable." She tried to make her voice sound meek.
"Dear girl, no one can be vulnerable that often and with that many people." Anne shook her head and Buffy gave a soft snort. "Let me see, I have them marked. Here it is - Ronald Watson, Stephanie Palmerson, Court Reynolds, Sven Haroldson, ah too many to read. Do you recognize these names? Oh, here are the grooms from the school, Tim, Scott and John. Here you can see the article yourself."
Kathryn's hands shook as she took the magazine from her grandmother. Her eyes skimmed over several names and places. Her heart pounded in her ears as she read the first paragraph.
The caption read in bold letters - 'THE PRINCESS BITCH
' and a picture of Kathryn had a caption following it.
She looks sweet and innocent but lock your doors people. Kathryn Merteuil is one of the cruelest women in New York, possibly anywhere and she is only 17. Imagine what she can do when she grows up.
She blackmailed teachers, brutally beat her Arabian mare with a whip, then had sex with three stable hands at once, and all this before 3:00 pm.
She looked at the byline, there it was - Tonia Stevens. Kathryn quickly skimmed the article but everything was there. All the schemes, drugs, everything she had done for the last four years. When it got to the part about her with the three grooms and then her exploits with Sven and friends, she thought she was going to be sick. Tonia called her the Gotti of the Silverspoon Set. That Kathryn used sex and drugs interchangeably for power and amusement.
"You can't let them print this. Think of the Merteuil name. It will reflect just as badly on you and Buffy," she reasoned. Kathryn's eyes filled with real tears but they were from anger and fear.
"Ah, but I can. There isn't a door in the city that will close to us. But you, chère
, that's a different story. Especially, since your mother will no longer be welcomed anywhere."
"What! Why not? I'm still a Merteuil," Tiffany blustered.
"No, you are not. You will return to your maiden name or choose another. I care not which but you will trade on my name no longer," Anne's voice was hard and quiet.
"How are you going to get me to agree to that? It will take a lot of money." Tiffany's eyes gleamed thinking about getting her hands on a real hunk of Merteuil money.
"No, it will cost me nothing. If you do not wish to go to jail, you will sign whatever papers I give you."
"What do you mean? Edward isn't pressing charges."
"But, I can and will; if not for this, then for your thefts from my homes. I have all the documentation I need for that, Tiffany." Anne's voice raised only a small amount but it sounded more like a booming voice that vibrated throughout the room.
The older blonde wilted at that. How could the old bat even notice she has so much stuff what's a few baubles here and there?
"How am I supposed to live?"
"I don't care. Go back to what you were before you married, although you're a little long in the tooth."
"But, I have nothing. No money, nothing."
"That isn't my concern. You shouldn't have gambled if you couldn't afford to lose, Tiffany. Now, leave my home. Go to the town house and start packing. Don't even think of taking anything but your clothes. You will be watched. Papers have already been drawn up for you to sign. My lawyer is waiting for you in the other room. Sign them before you leave."
Tiffany stormed out of the room slamming the door behind her.
"Do I have to change my name too, grandmother? I won't go down without a fight. All those people in the article will go down with me."
"If you mean your sordid little pictures and movies, chère
, they are no more. They were delivered just after you arrived here tonight. Now, sit down and listen to me carefully. You are going home to pack. You will not be returning to the city. I've found a clinic for you in Germany. They will help you to get clean. Once you do, if you would like to attend university, we can arrange that for you. If not, you can try to find something to do in one of the European branches of the company."
"I'm banished from the city, never to darken your door again, because of her," Kathryn sneered.
"Get over yourself, Kitty-Cat. You did all those things not me. If you weren't high as a kite right now maybe this would get through."
Kathryn moved to strike Buffy, who spun and punched the other girl in the face. "You just don't listen do you, Kitty-Cat. I've warned you several times, I hit back."
"Grandmother, did you see what she did to me?"
, Kathryn, you might want to get some ice before that swells shut. If you don't do as I say I can make sure you don't come into your trust until you turn thirty. As it is, your behavior will determine how soon and how much of the funds are within your control."
"You can't do that. Daddy left that money for me. He wanted me to have it. To have what's mine." Kathryn's voice shook for real this time.
"You're mistaken. Your father did not provide for you. You're merely inheriting what your grandfather and I set up for him. But of course, if you do not want it," Anne left the subtle threat linger in the air between them.
"No! I mean, no, I want it. I will do what you want. I never liked the city anyways. Europe is more my style. People are more chic, more accepting."
"Very good, chère
. There are some papers for you to sign as well. If you go against this agreement, the trustee can either revoke the trust or extend its maturity date. Do we understand each other, Kathryn?"
"Perfectly, grandmother." Kathryn turned and left the room.
"Nana, how does it feel?" Buffy looked at her grandmother. Now that it' over, she worried it was too much for her.
"I feel, how they say it? Oh yes, I feel like I'm walking on air. I'm sorry about Edward. Something tells me that he'll attend the holiday gatherings as well. I'm happy for you and Sebastian, ma petite
. What are your plans for the holiday break?"
"He has some delicious plans for making up for any time we've been apart." Buffy smiled a dreamy smile. "Nana, I think we should sponsor scholarships to Manchester. There are two brilliant minds in Sunnydale we should help nourish. Plus, don't you think the Smithsonian could do with an expert from the British Museum? I know with all the artwork we own personally and the charities we support. I think that someone with such an eye for detail and a wealth of knowledge at their fingers would be an asset to the museums but also to Merteuil Industries."
Anne looked at her granddaughter closely then slid a glance over to her lover. She saw that he already knew which pleased Anne immensely. "Ma petite
, are you perhaps thinking about a small red-headed girl and her boyfriend whose hair color depends on the day of the week. And oh say, perhaps a British Librarian at your old school?"
Buffy nodded, "I hope you aren't angry with me, Nana. I already sent the paperwork through for Willow and Oz. Everything is almost ready for Giles to have his own branch with the Museum."
Anne started laughing which startled Buffy and Sebastian. "Nana, are you okay? Are you upset with me? I can undo anything you want. I'm sorry; I know I should have asked."
"Hush, I only laugh because we think so much alike. Your friends have already accepted their scholarships and will live with us. Mr. Giles also has accepted his new appointment as the head of antiquities for the museum and should be here before the holiday season begins in earnest."
Buffy squealed and ran to her grandmother to hug and kiss her. They mumbled to each other in French.
She walked back over to slip her hand into Sebastian's. "I believe someone promised me his undivided attention for the entire break. So, buddy you had better pay up, or I am going to sick my Nana on you."
Sebastian glanced over to Anne who only winked at him. He smiled at her charmingly and threw Buffy over his shoulder. "Well, I'm trying to improve my reputation, I wouldn't want anyone to say I lied to you."
Buffy's laughter rang down the hallways as Sebastian carried her up the stairs.
"Ah, ma petite
, you're ready to share your heart again. Enjoy, my love, enjoy all that life and love has to offer you." ~ The End ~