Crowning Achievement
Part 5
by Jan Hedblom

As always, this story is dedicated to Irish Dreamtime, Inc. I'd like to bestow a belated dedication on Alan Trustman, without whose long-ago efforts Thomas Crown would not exist. All quotes used in the movie are the property of their respective authors and are used here only to further the plot of my story. This is being written for entertainment purposes only. I'd also like to thank my Brazilian TCA fan, Caroline, for all her help and suggestions. Some artistic license was necessary to further the plot. All references to locales, customs, people, security or police procedures are mine, and are not intended to reflect actual people, places or situations.

"And I just KNOW we'll have the best time tonight! I mean, I feel like a schoolgirl, what with all the music and the sandy beach. It feels just like California!" Gladys was on auto pilot.

"You've never BEEN to California, Gladys," Marty sighed.

"Well it WOULD feel like California if I HAD been there!" she said defensively. "I watch those travel programs on TV. Just last week they had one on about the ocean!"

"And that makes you a world authority on the habits of the local flora and fauna."

"Oh no! They've never had a program about those."

Catherine looked skyward. It was all she could do to keep from screaming. They'd been mired to this same spot for fifteen minutes. "I get it. I'm in the Twilight Zone and this little episode is entitled "Gidget Goes Goofy". If we stay here much longer roots'll sprout from our toes. It'd be worth it if I grew palm fronds and they stopped up my ears!"

She was just about to seriously consider jumping into said ocean when Sir Galahad, in the form of a very amused billionaire, arrived on the scene. She glared at him. "Whadda you lookin' at!"

Much as he would have enjoyed needling her, he was aware of the need to keep a low profile. He stifled his grin, secure in the knowledge that his shades hid the twinkle in his eyes. Striding over to motor mouth, he deliberately stepped into her path and turned on the charm. "Good evening. Thomas Crown," he said, extending his hand. "I do hope you're enjoying yourselves. I trust your suite is satisfactory?"

Being in close proximity to the man himself rendered Gladys temporarily speechless. Marty and Catherine could only watch in amazement as her eyes glazed over and her jaw dropped. She struck a mannequin-like pose, arm outstretched stiffly and fingers splayed. Grasping the proffered paw Tommy thought, "If I pump hard enough, maybe she'll gush fresh water."

Catherine locked visual horns with Tommy. Her eyes bore into his. "THAT'S all it took to stop her? I'm standing here for twenty minutes getting calluses on my eardrums, you just SHOW UP and she quits? She not only quits, she goes catatonic!"

Tommy returned her gaze without flinching. He gave her an ain't-nothin'-but-a-thing shrug.

"Gladys, Mr. Crown asked you a question," Marty encouraged, clearly embarrassed by his wife's sea saw personality. Living with her was like being on a perpetual teeter- totter.

Tommy was about to snap his fingers in her face when she gurgled a response. "Aaaaaaa." She blinked twice quickly and shook her head. "Where was I? I mean, where were we?" she spluttered.

"You were right the first time.," Tommy sighed. "I was just wondering if your suite was to your liking?" he repeated.

"Oh! Yes! It's really the most beautiful room! We can see the beach from our window. And we don't even have to ask for room service. They're always coming and going."

"Naturally lady. That's what I pay them for. Three grand a night and she calls it a room."

"And we can swim in the pool anytime we want. And this afternoon we went fishing on a big boat."

Tommy smiled indulgently. "How come there's never a shark around when you need one?"

"And tomorrow we're going on a tour of downtown and then at night we're going to the casino!

"Hang onto your balls mate. Poor bastard." Reaching up with his left hand, he whipped off his shades.
Smoothly extricating his right hand from her clamp-like grip, he turned his head and looked out to sea.

Marty sensed his host's growing impatience. The audience was over. Unwilling to piss off the goose that was currently laying all these nice fat golden eggs, he took the bull by the horns. Grabbing her shoulders, he turned her to face him. "GLADYS! ENOUGH AREADY!"

Shocked, she shut up in a hurry. "You've NEVER talked to me like that!" she started to blubber, tears running freely down her cheeks.

"Maybe it's about time I did!" He puffed up his shoulders like a peacock spreading its tail feathers.

"Yeah well, mother always warned me about you! She said you had a temper!" She threw out her chest, bent forward and started talking with her hands.

"Shut up! For once, just SHUT-UP! Why is it every time you're losing an argument, you drag your mother into it? She's got a bigger mouth than you do!"

"Don't you talk that way about my mother!" she yelled, gesturing wildly.

"Why not!" came the hot retort, "your father always does!"

Taking advantage of the momentary break, Tommy took Catherine's hand and pulled her out of the fray. Flipping her husband a quick salute, he smiled. Marty smiled back and winked an "I'll-take-it-from-here", then leaned in for the coup de grace. Now nose-to-nose with his wife, he pointed an index finger in Tommy's direction. "You see that man over there?"

Gladys attempted to back away but was stopped by a convenient palm tree. She pulled a hankie out of her pocket and dabbed at her eyes. "Of course I see him, you big jerk! Wasn't I just talking to him?"

"Yes Gladys, YOU were! But didn't you notice HE wasn't?"

"Wasn't what?"

He gave her an "I-rest-my-case" look and slapped his thigh in frustration. "TALKING! He stopped cold after you got started. You monopolize every conversation you're involved in!"

"He asked! And I was just trying to be friendly!"

"NO! You were TRYING to be a pain in the ass!"

"I just thought they'd like to know.."

"There you go, thinking again!" He continued to sweep an arm toward Tommy and Catherine's retreating forms. "You offended them! They're leaving! Think about THAT!"

"I did NOT!"

"You DID!" On a roll, he spat the words, then gave them a beat to sink in. When he continued, his voice was quiet, every syllable measured, "HAVE you enjoyed yourself Gladys?" She shook her head in the affirmative. "Well, I suggest you make nice for the rest of the trip, `cause he's one man you DON'T want to offend. You mentioned my so-called temper. Which by the way, you never mention unless I try to stand up for myself. I'm a rank amateur compared to him!" He swept the landscape with his arm. "He'll pull all this faster than you can sing "California Hear I Come", and I sure as hell can't pick up the tab! He gave her a full minute to think it over. "So, if you want to get BACK to that milk of human kindness you call your mother, KNOCK-IT-OFF!" Having said his peace he turned and strode off in the opposite direction.

Tommy heard Marty's parting salvo and smiled, a faraway look in his eye. He rather liked that bit about the California song. He'd have to remember that one. Catherine picked right up on his mood. "What?"

"Just thinking."

"Spit it out."

"Got a nice touch, that Marty."

"Much as I appreciated getting out of there, aren't you being a little harsh? She's really a nice lady, just LOUD. And PERSISTENT. And"

"Obnoxious?" he ventured.

Catherine flashed back to the previous twenty minutes and swallowed her next sentence. Weeeell, yeah. But I really wouldn't wanna feel responsible for their divorce!"

Tommy chuckled and folded his arms across his chest. "Don't worry. I have a feeling that little tiff was a long time coming. Hadn't been us, it would've been somebody else. They'll land on their feet." No, I wasn't talking about their argument per se. I'm more interested in the way he handled himself. Diplomatic when he had to be, forceful when he sensed it was in his best interests. But it was a CONTROLLED forceful."

"So?" Catherine said absently. "All this fuss over an argument?" She could almost see the gears spinning in his brain. He was about to go corporate on her.

He'd reached into his shirt pocket for his cell. Punching in a slew of numbers, he waited impatiently for the connection to go through. He practically pounced when his party answered. "Daria? Yes, we're fine. Yes, it was quite a coup. Yes, I'm sure they are. No, we'll be away indefinitely."

Catherine strained to hear, but he'd turned into himself and covered his right ear. All she could catch were the remnants of a professionally friendly tone on the other end. "What's that? Sorry, this connection's bloody awful. No, filter everything though the team for now, Wallace is here with me. Just keep me advised. Listen, is John still tied up? Well, give it to Jimmy, he likes crunching numbers. I want John to do a full background on a Marty," he rested the phone on his shoulder while he fumbled his wallet out of his back pocket and found the Rio flight manifest, "make that MARTIN Feldman. F-E-L-D-M-A-N. Yeah, the works. I wanna know what he had for breakfast on his third birthday. John can get the particulars off the manifest. And Daria? This is eyes-only. Have him FedEx it to me here at the condo ASAP. What? Don't know yet. Maybe. Right. You too. Bye." Popping the antenna down, he closed the phone with an authoritative snap and stowed it back in his jeans.

Always the investigator, Catherine was dying to be let in on the gist. "What was that all about? And who was that anyway? Jimmy? I thought he was with us? Since when does he crunch numbers?"

Tommy held up a hand. "Never try to listen to one-sided conversations my sweet. One tends to miss vital pieces of information that way."

Catherine swallowed hard. "Does he know I heard him at the condo this afternoon? But how could he? You know the answer to that one genius! He's got eyes in the back of everybody else's heads."

Tommy noted her discomfort, but decided to let it go for the moment. There was something she wasn't telling him but then, they were even. There was something he wasn't telling her. "THAT was Daria. My personal secretary. Or is it administrative assistant these days?"

"Will you FORGET the PC! I'm sure she doesn't care what you call her, as long as you don't call her late to the bank when she cashes her paycheck. Besides, she's not here. Pray continue," she gestured.

"Seems we've still got star status in New York. Whole financial community's buzzing about our little flight of fancy."

"OUR little flight of fancy?"

"OK, MY little flight of fancy."

"Buzzing? Swarming's probably more like it. Wanting to know how they're gonna divide the spoils."

"There's no spoils to divide. CA is, and shall remain, MY baby."

"Famous last words."

"I assure you, the last word will be mine," he said firmly.

"What else did you two talk about? How can Jimmy be in New York, did he fly back?"

"Not our Jimmy. Office Jimmy. Junior exec. Best in the business if you want blood squeezed out of a turnip."

"Oh. Who's John? Why's he running a check on Marty?" A sudden horrible feeling crept up on her. "You're not thinking of..?"

"Burying him? Relax. I told you, I like the guy's style. He could be useful."

Catherine breathed a sigh of relief. "Doing what?"

"Oh, this and that."


"Here and there."

"My we're certainly a wealth of information tonight, aren't we?"

"I always play my cards close to the vest remember? Besides, I won't know until I see his dossier."

"Give Gladys a little taste of the high life?"

"Why not? At least he'll be able to afford the trip home." They both laughed heartily.

Tommy heard Catherine's stomach growl. He decided to remedy that little situation. "I see the party's in full swing. Let's GO!" He grabbed her hand, pulling her along with him as he raced across the sand. He snapped his knees and pumped his free arm in the style of a trained runner.

The short but vigorous sprint turned Catherine's legs to rubber. "Whoa big boy! This isn't the Olympics!" Stopping abruptly, she clutched her side, breathing heavily.

The loss of momentum nearly pulled Tommy off his feet. He turned to her, a devilish grin planted firmly in place. "If I'd known all I'd had to do was RUN to keep you off my tail.."

"You'd have run right into a cross town bus and dotted the landscape with various body parts!"

"But just think of the fun you'd have had, getting me back into.condition, " he said slyly.

"You son of a bitch, you're not even breathing hard! I'M the one that should be in intensive care!" she panted.

"Then allow me to care for you . . . intensely," he said, covering the space between them in two quick strides. She drew back, arms raised at shoulder height. He stopped short. "Wait a minute. You're not gonna hit me again, are you?"

"If I was gonna hit you . . . " She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eye.

"Yeeess?" he said, drawing out the word.

"You'd be on permanent display in one of those museums you're so fond of."

"As what?" He couldn't WAIT to hear this one.

"The world's first living Picasso! I'd take you apart and put you together wrong!"

"Why the sudden interest in advancing the cause of evolution?"


"That's definitive. Care to elaborate?"


"Good idea." He didn't know what was up, but wasn't sure he wanted to. "DAMN she's touchy tonight! Switches moods faster than a chameleon changes colors." He did a quick mental sift though the night's events, trying to put a handle on the source of her pique. The conversation of the past few minutes replayed through his mind. "Ah, so that's it!" The pieces began to fit. He knew what he had to do, but now was not the time.

He tried a soothing tone, "I know you're cranky when your tired."


"Could've fooled me!" Holding up a hand to head off her next blast he continued, "Some good food, fun and fellowship and you'll be good as new." He'd managed to get them to the buffet table. He handed Catherine a plate, then picked up one of his own.

"You sound like a travel brochure," she said, filling her plate with seafood and salad.

Inspiration struck. Balancing his heaping plate in his right hand, he wrapped his left arm around her waist. "See those peaks over there?" He nodded toward the distant section of coastline.

"Um hm."

"That's Sugar Loaf and Unca Hill. They've got a cable car that runs between them and you can tour the area. Would you like to go sometime?"

"Are you trying to change the subject?"

"Only if it's working."

"Whadda you think?"

"I think . . .", he stopped mid-sentence. "Bandit at 3 o'clock," he muttered.

"What ARE you talking about?" She studied the intense expression on his face. He'd set his full plate back down on the buffet. "Now I KNOW you haven't lost your marbles, so what gives?" He hadn't heard her. She trained her eyes on his line of sight. A uniform stood at the edge of the picnic grove. Medium height with just a touch of middle aged paunch, regulation-cut black hair, trousers creased along the seam, shoes spit-shined and captain's stripes on both sleeves. Whoever he was, he had Tommy's full attention. "Friend of yours?" she asked.

"Passing acquaintance." Tommy stood his ground. He was making deliberate eye contact with the mysterious flatfoot. They stood like that for some minutes, sizing each other up like two heavyweights before a title bout. It seemed as though they were playing a visual game of chicken. At last the cop turned smartly and began walking away at a fast pace. Catherine knew there was more to this than a simple check of the perimeter. The man had left because he's gotten what he'd come for.

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