About The Empress
Written by Lucius Parhelion
Five years ago, Catherine Hughes was a high-class Broadway chorus girl, intent on making her own way while evading the clutches of the stage door Johnnies. Five years ago, Mabel Helen Waldrope Williams was the youngest and richest of maverick millionaires, busy seeking revenge against Manhattan 's Robber Barons. But all this was before Cat found a job with Mrs. Williams, and both of them discovered that there were goals more fascinating than an interesting job or a well-considered vengeance.
I -- Winter
When your chosen role in life is the Countess of Monte Cristo, the last thing you want to do is run low on the vengefulness. Too bad that Mrs. Williams seemed to be motoring into 1929 with the needle falling toward empty.
I discovered her difficulty one morning in February, thanks to reading the Times during breakfast in her penthouse suite. Lowering the paper, I said, "Oh, gee. I see here that Mr. Samuel A. Moorehead has returned from his tour of European beaches just in time to be honored as Man of the Year by the Loyal Fraternal Order of Polecats. Or maybe Porcupines. Some outfit like that, anyway."
"Hmm," was her response. She had propped her chin on her interlaced hands. The look in her gray eyes was wistful as she gazed past my ear and out the window. Uh-oh: the so-called Empress of Wall Street looking wistful after hearing Moorehead's name was like an alley cat reaching for a ball of yarn after a sewer rat had sauntered by.
I was not kidding when I asked her, "Are you okay? I can telephone the hotel doctor if you are running a fever."
Her gaze shifted to me but stayed wistful. She moved her fingers to tuck back some chestnut hair. "No, I'm fine."
"That is good, because you have a crowded schedule today. Mr. Harper is coming up from Washington, and you promised to meet the new vice president from the bank. Also, you wanted to dump those radio shares."
"Ah, radio. Yes, I suppose. They are badly overvalued, after all." Her gaze left mine and headed toward the window again.
I got up. I went to look through the window in question. Down below us, there was dirty, slushy snow, lots of pedestrians, and taxicabs. As far as up above us went, I saw concrete parapets, rooftop water tanks, and huddled pigeons. It was a normal view for Manhattan in late winter. Returning to the table, I said, "I expected a zeppelin, at least."