NOTE: I began writing and submitting my first Associates story, "The Case of the Mayan Treasure" to the Tuxedo Jarod site in the fall of 1998, which is when I imagined it to be taking place. Since it took a while to get posted in it's entirety, it wasn't finished until well after the time I envisioned "The Pearl Peril" to be taking place. Just as Drea and Anne had an adventure (perhaps misadventure, in Anne's case) during a certain Halloween Party in their undergraduate days, so in between tangling with the Bikini Bandits in Mexico and Tahiti, they encountered a mystery on:
Three figures came down the slope on skis. As they reached less steep portion of the course, one went into a tuck position and gained ground on her companions. The taller of the two behind her contemplated going into the same position when two figures flashed beside and in front of her, missing her by only a few feet. "Anne, look out!"she cried.
Two snowboarders, who had passed on Drea Rodgers' right hand side before cutting her off were now drawing even with Anne Thorne on her left hand side. Anne rose out of the the tuck on hearing Drea's warning. The subsequent loss of speed caused the two snowboarders to cross in front of her at a greater distance than they had when passing Drea. Unfortunately, Anne came out of the tuck too quickly. She flailed a bit before falling to the slope.
Fortunately, the spill wasn't too serious. Anne was on her feet again when Drea and their friend Lucy Chesterton arrived. "Bloody snowboarders," Lucy said. "Don't they know that skiers can't turn as quickly or easily as they can?"
"They know," Anne said. "They just don't care."
"We'd better report this," Drea said.
"I don't think anything will come of it. I didn't see much of them, just a flash of color."
"One's wearing orange, the other a darker color."
Anne glanced upward. "Low clouds moving in," she said. "More snow coming."
"We're on a mountain," Lucy said. "All the clouds look low."
"It's well past Noon," Drea said. "How about a late lunch?"
Drea and Anne were in agreement. Lucy pulled out her cell phone made a call. "Jenny, how are you about lunch?" A pause. "Oh, you and Sarah are eating at the time share?" Another pause. "No, we're eating at the lodge's restaurant." A third pause. "Okay, I'll let them know."
"What did she say?" Drea asked.
"Save some room for some hot cocoa."
The three young women went to the restaurant and enjoyed the soup and salad combo. Drea and Anne were private investigators, but had no cases at the moment. This second day of 1999 happened to be a Saturday, and since no cases loomed for Monday, the two had been able to accept the invitation of an extended weekend ski trip presented by Lucy and her step mother Jenny. The resort consisted of a a tradition lodge with rooms and suites like an ordinary hotel, but had small chalet like structures as time shares for those who wanted a bit more intimate stay with families and friends. During the meal, there was a bit of a commotion. They couldn't make head or tails of it until the server came by with their bill. "One of the suites was robbed," she said. "The couple in there had their cash and jewelry stolen and were left tied up and gagged."
Drea noticed the look in Anne's eyes. "Don't you start!" she warned. "We only take the cases Jack assings us."
"No harm in asking if we can help," Anne said.
They sought out the lodge's management, identified themselves, and were politely turned down, much to Drea's relief. As they left the office, they noticed it was completely cloudy. By the time they reached the timeshare, a few flakes were falling down. On entering the chalet, they encountered a diminutive woman, all of five feet tall. She wore black knee length boots that hugged her calves and met the hem of a pleated gray skirt. She also wore a dark blue pullover which revealed the starched collar of a white blouse. This was Jenny, known to millions as the actress Jennifer Bently. "Come on into the kitchen," she said.
The three followed Jenny into the kichen. A coffee machine was sitting on a counter, but the brown liquid in the pot was not coffee. Jenny poured the contents into each of three mugs. The trio accepted the drinks and Drea took a cautious sip. She was pleasantly surprised by the beverage. "I know," Jenny said with a broad smile. "It actually tastes like chocolate and not hot brown water."
"How do you do it?" Drea wondered.
"Simple. Unsweetened baking chocalate and evaporated milk. It's the way it's been done in the Royal Navy for decades."
One of the things Hollywood had never taken out of Jenny was her upper crust British accent. "How does the daughter of an English earl learn how to cook?"
"Like many other things, the English aristocracy isn't what it used to be," Jenny said. "I always wanted to go into acting, so I left home at eighteen to try my hand on the London stage. I shared a flat with two other girls who graciously and patiently taught me how to cook. I actually find it satisfying in a way. Taking a bunch of disparate ingredients and putting them together for a tasty meal gives me a sense of accomplishment. Minor, I'll admit, but satisfying. Anyway, what have you three been up to all day?"
"We had to talk Anne out of taking a busman's holiday," Lucy said and related what they had heard.
"Did you have a real adventure?" nine year old Sarah Chesterton said. The previous night, she had been spellbound by Drea and Anne relating a recent case of involving as search for an ancient Mayan treasure in Mexico. Though the two omitted some of the more frightening details, they conveyed enough the two had encountered more than their share of danger on the case. Despite Jenny's fears, Sarah had slept well that night.
"Oh no, nothing like that," Anne said.
"I doubt there's any danger lurking out there," Jenny said.
It was an uneventful afternoon and evening. Eventually, the five went to bed. Anne woke up around two a.m. to answer nature's call. Ordinarily, she slept in undergarments -if she wore anything at all- but tonight, she needed a bit of warmth so an old pair of sweatpants and t-shirt were the order of the night. As she had staggered to bathroom half asleep, the flushing awakened her to some degree. On her way back to the bedroom, she became aware of some activity. "Jenny?" She enquired. No response.
"Lucy?" The moving figure was to big to be Sarah. Still no response.
"Dre--mmph!" She was seized from behind. One powerful hand was clamped over her mouth and a thick arm pinned her arms to her side. The hand was removed only long enough for a piece of cloth to be crammed into her mouth. This was secured in place by another piece of cloth. By now Anne was fully aware there was something wrong, but she was pinned to the floor. One of the attackers sat on her legs while binding her wrists. Once the wrists were bound, Anne was yanked to her feet. She tried to struggle, but all she seemed to be able to do was slow down the two more powerful intruders. Slowly, they approached the balcony. It was covered with fresh snow and as one of the intruders opened the door leading to it, she noticed the snow was still coming down in thick flakes. Unceremoniously, Anne was pushed out into the snow and door closed behind her.
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