Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. They fight over her.
Cecelia walked over to Inspector Tent and extended her hand so he might steady himself and finally make it to his feet. Once he was eye to eye again, Lady Snob-Johnson withdrew her hand and spoke in her haughtiest tone. “Excuse me, Chief Inspector Tent, but I wish to speak to my daughter and Prince Edward in private. So will you and Miss Smart-Astin kindly leave the room?”
“But of course, kind lady.” He gave her his best deep bow with a flourish, although by the time he reached the nadir of his gracious genuflection he observed her well-endowed posterior heading for the ballroom door.
As Cecelia opened it, a blast of tango music invaded the library which caused both Tent and Bedelia to brighten significantly. They quickly assumed their dance positions and proudly spouted in unison and slithered into the ballroom.
Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!
Cecelia closed the door and crossed to the lounge. “My dearest Millicent, I owe you an apology. I let my emotions carry me away.” She stopped abruptly when she noticed the writhing on her furniture. “What on earth are you doing?”
“Oh, um. I was just giving Eddie a massage,” she explained as she leapt to her feet, straightening the wrinkles on her lovely gown.
“Is thut whut you wuz doin’? I thought you wuz tryin’ to turn me on. And you wuz doin’ a good job of it too!” Eddie raised himself on his elbows and displayed a crooked grin.
Millicent cut him off and turned to face Cecelia, feigning interest in her comment. “What were you saying, Mother?”
Cecelia looked back and forth from her daughter and Victoria’s grandson and decided discretion was the better part of valor; therefore, ignored the embarrassing activity on her chaise lounge. “I was apologizing for putting you in that unpleasant situation earlier this evening.”
“Think nothing of it. I found it quite exhilarating.” Millicent smiled as she attempted to return her hairdo to its proper manifestation.
“No, I shan’t forget it. I shall try to redeem myself. And I know exactly how to do it. I overheard something you might find interesting.” She took her usual posture when about to impart a particularly juicy bit of gossip. “Well, do you remember when that awful William Canine-erel came in to see Chief Inspector Tent? He was that terrible, dirty, hulking man.” She seemed to be fading into her own realm of erotic fantasy. “You know, just like those hairy, muscular animals that work on the streets. Those ignorant, filthy, sweaty, gorgeous men with their bulging muscles—“
Her daughter’s shocked admonition brought her back to reality. “Oh. Well. Yes. Anyway, he spoke to the inspector and I happened to hear him say that a merchant in Soho—“
Millicent turned sharply to look at Eddie at the mention of the site of the recent crime wave. “Soho!”
“Ho ho!” Eddie stood as a flash of recognition crossed his dull face.
“–was going to make a payment to the inspector tonight and Mr. Canine-erel would bring the packet here.”
Millicent grabbed her mother’s hands. “Mother, this is very important. You must swear yourself to secrecy.”
“Swear on your picture of Lily Langtry.” Millicent looked at the mantle and frowned when she saw that the picture was missing. “Where’s Lily?”
“The Man in the Red Underwear took it away so that nasty Malcolm Tent couldn’t steal it, “Cecelia explained. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll return it.”
“I know he will.” Millicent nodded knowingly. “But for now, swear on the memory of the autographed picture of Lily Langtry that you will keep what I tell you a secret.”
“Is it that serious?”
“Yup, it’s thut serious,” Eddie assured her.
“Very well, then. I swear on Lily Langtry. So ahead.” Cecelia was almost drooling in anticipation. “What is it?”
“Queen Victoria has commissioned Eddie and me to investigate the recent robberies in Soho.”
“Ho ho!” Now why Prince Eddie thought it clever to repeat his nonsensical rhyme no one will ever know. It wasn’t important anyway.
“We have reason to believe Chief Inspector Malcolm Tent is forcing merchants to pay to keep his henchmen from robbing them,” Millicent pronounced.
“I knew there had to be a good reason why I didn’t like that man.”
“And Andy is helping us,” Millicent continued in a whisper.
“Him! I don’t believe it!”