Today's Reading

"I just needed the opportunity to serve you the papers, given you people have layers of protection. I would have preferred not to have done it at a funeral, but...I had no choice." She looked at me as if that were apology enough.

"Constance, don't you think that Josephine anticipated you would come?" I said, withdrawing another crisp envelope from my pocket. "We are countersuing you, your company and also personally. You do know now if we win, you have to also pay all our legal fees."

"Well, we shall see who pays whom." She was caught off guard by the counterattack, so well planned and perfectly executed.

"Constance, if you pursue this action, we will have to call CeeCee to the stand," I said, delivering my final chess move. Checkmate.

She reddened. "What do you know about CeeCee?"

"Everything," I said. This was the final hand that Josephine had dealt for me. The rip cord, if you will. I had pulled it.

"Leave it to Josephine to play dirty, even in death."

"You're wrong. Her business is very much clean and her family is very much alive."

"Miles." Constance eyed Josephine's son and her handsome grandson, Jonny.

"Yes," Miles said.

"I may have hated your mother, but she was indeed a worthy opponent." Her voice cracked before she turned on her Chanel slingbacks and disappeared into the throng of mourners and hangers-on.

"Bobby, you did very well." Miles patted me on my back. Even Jonny smiled at the exchange. We glanced at one another, our strange little tribe, and turned to attend to the long line of friends and business associates waiting to be received.

Later, as I walked outside past the flashbulbs toward the waiting cars, I looked up to a parting sky. The sun had broken through the film of grey clouds, casting a lovely and unique pink glow. Pink, of course! The exact hue of the Lashmatic package. I smiled, knowing that Madame had found a way, as she always did, to break through.

And, better yet, to get her way.


1

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS

New York City, 1933

A Technicolor sky hung over the city even though it was only early May. At times, even New York City seemed to have caught the bug. The pear trees that bloomed like white fireworks every April may as well have sprouted palm trees. Everyone, it seemed, had just stepped out of a Garbo movie, and Josephine Herz (née Josiah Herzenstein) would be damned if she would not capitalize on this craze.

A young, well-kept woman was the first to grace her newly opened, eponymous salon on Fifth Avenue. With bleached-blond "marcelled" hair, a substantial bust, and a mouth that looked as though it had been carved from a pound of chopped meat, her new client had all the ammunition to entrap any man in the city, to keep him on the dole, and her cosmetic hygienist, in this case Herz Beauty, on the payroll. She lowered herself onto the padded leather salon chair like a descending butterfly and batted her eyes as though they too might flutter from her face.

"I want thickah," she whined. She said this in a Brooklyn accent that would have killed her chances had she been an actress transitioning from silent to talkies.

Josephine nodded and reached into her arsenal, procuring the favored Herz moisturizer for a dewy complexion. She removed and unscrewed the glass jar, leaned over her client, and began to apply it to her cheekbones in soft, round swirls.

"No!" The client swatted her hand away as though to scold and dispose of a landed bug. "Not my skin," she said. "My lashes."

"Oh." Josephine withdrew her hand and held it, poised high above her client's face, as though hovering a spoon over a boiling pot.

"I want thicker lashes," said the blonde. "Like Gloria."

"Gloria?" Josephine was perplexed.

"Swanson!" the client said, shaking her head, miffed that she was not understood.
...

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