DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
SERIES: Part of the Post Peekskill Series; sequel to Openings
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Thanksgiving Episode
The Prisoner stood in the middle of the room, trembling.
"I d-d-demand to see my lawyer," the beautiful blond stuttered.
"You demand, do you?" The Interrogator circled her predatorily. "I don't think you are in much of a position to demand anything," the Interrogator said with an evil smile. "Take off your clothes."
"You heard me Blondie. Take off your clothes. Slowly."
"Please. My father's very rich. I 'm sure we can "
"Do it!" The Interrogator snapped angrily.
Closing her eyes, the Prisoner unbuttoned her Anne Klein silk blouse, pulled it off her arms and let it drop to the floor. She then unzipped her Brooks Brothers wool skirt, pushed it to her ankles and stepped out of it.
The Prisoner, her body flushed, stood silently, donned only in a lacy pink bra and matching bikini underwear.
The Interrogator circled again. "Nice. Expensive stuff." The Interrogator flicked at the bra strap. The Prisoner flinched. "But they're going to have to come off too."
"Please. I'm begging you."
The Interrogator glared. "You don't want me to call in the other guards to do it for you, do you?"
Visibly shaking, the Prisoner removed the last two garments and tossed them aside.
Chest heaving, she stood and faced her tormentor.
"Ooh, Baby." The Interrogator laughed cruelly. "Are they gonna love you in Cell Block H."
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say that Big Bertha and her gang will form quite a welcoming committee."
"Don't send me there, please." The Prisoner begged.
"Hmm. Maybe I could arrange a private cell. In exchange for certain considerations." The Interrogator lightly ran the police baton over the Prisoner's breasts.
Jerking at the contact, the Prisoner gasped, "I'll do anything."
The Interrogator's eyes gleamed. "Anything, huh? I have a few ideas. But first I'm gonna have to cuff you. Security reasons, you know."
The Prisoner moaned as her arms were pulled behind her and the cuffs were attached .
"Blair, Jo, are you home?" A voice called from downstairs.
"Shit!" The Interrogator, also known as Jo Polniaczek, blurted. "She has a key!?"
"I gave it to her for emergencies," Blair whispered frantically.
"Darlings, I'm coming up. I want to show you the fabric samples for the guest room curtains. They are divine."
"Just a minute Mother," Blair called out. "Get these things off of me," she hissed.
Jo fumbled with the cuffs. "Hurry," Blair muttered.
"I'm tryin, goddammit. Hold still. Fucking latch." They heard Monica's steps on the stairs.
There. The cuffs came off and Jo fled to the en suite bathroom while Blair hurriedly put on her silk bathrobe.
"Mother! What a pleasant surprise," Blair gritted out as her mother entered the bedroom.
"It's nice to see you too, darling. My, you look a little flushed. You aren't coming down with anything are you?"
"I don't think so. So, you came to show us fabric samples?" Blair asked brightly.
"That and to discuss Thanksgiving. I was wondering if you and Jo were planning on hosting a dinner here."
"Well, we haven't talked about it," Blair replied, as her heart rate started to slow. "But now that you mention it, that's a wonderful idea. We can show off the new dining room furniture."
"That's marvelous," Monica said. "I was planning on taking Bailey to Acapulco but she would much rather spend the holiday with her big sister and Aunt Jo. "
"So Bailey will be staying with us?" Blair inquired.
"Whatever for, Blair. I'll be here too."
"Let me get this straight, Mother, you are actually giving up your annual Thanksgiving visit to Mexico to be with your family?"
"Don't be snide, darling, I am trying to do better, really I am."
Blair sighed. "I'm sorry, that was a mean thing to say. Jo and I would love to have you and Bailey spend Thanksgiving with us."
"Wonderful. Where is Jo, by the way?"
The toilet flushed and Jo emerged sheepishly from the bathroom. "Hello, Monica."
"Hello, Jo," Monica said, giving her a peck on the cheek. "You look well. How is the new job?"
Jo shot Blair a look. "It's fine. I'm just getting my feet wet." Jo had no desire to relive the gut wrenching "discussions" that she and Blair had had when she told Blair that she wanted to accept an appointment to the Special Cases Unit.
"Explain this to me again, Jo. I am supposed to accept the fact that this promotion, which we had always thought would let you have some semblance of a normal life and allow me to sleep a little better at night actually means that it is more likely that you will be shot, stabbed , blown up, chopped, up, incinerated, eviscerated, mangled, pureed, blanched, sautéed, deep fried "
"Jesus, Blair, I get it. You have got to stop watching those cooking shows before bed. It is just that it is an important job and a big honor and I would really like to give it a shot. It'll probably only be for a few years. Captain Chow says that most of the Special Cases guys tend to burn out after a while."
"Or die." Blair said.
"Thank you, Miss Sunshine." Jo turned serious. "Blair, if you really don't want me to take the job, I won't. You come first. You know that."
Blair looked at Jo and bit her lip. "Jo, I am with you because of who you are. Unfortunately who you are is a risk taking, inconsiderate, self righteous megalomaniac who has the demented belief that she is under some obligation to change the world for the better. It is very irritating. Take the job."
Jo grinned. "Thanks, gorgeous. I promise it'll just be for a while. I mean at some point we do have to think about you know..."
Blair smiled. "Jo, there is nothing I'd rather do than to raise a child with you. But it has to be our main focus. Right now, it can't be yours and frankly, with the Foundation and the house and Bella and everything, it isn't really mine either."
"Bella, Blair, really?"
"You have a point. Anyway, we have plenty of time." Jo declared.
"I certainly hope so, Jo, I certainly hope so."
"The job sounds just fascinating Jo." Monica purred. "Blair said that one of your first cases involved counterfeit goods?"
"Yeah. Some gang was bringing in knock off versions of Hermes scarves, Louis Vuitton bags and Chanel perfumes." Jo explained.
Appalled, Monica said, "That's absolutely horrible. They should bring back the death penalty."
"I agree Mother, I totally agree." Blair chimed in.
"Anyway darlings, I should be going. The samples are downstairs when you want to look at them." Monica stood up. "By the way Jo, next time don't forget to take the handcuffs off your belt loop. You girls are just so naughty. Ta, ta." She left the room.
Groaning, Jo sank to the couch and put her head in her hands.
Stunned, Blair just stared at the empty doorway.
"Guys, I really appreciate it. Are you absolutely sure it's not an imposition?"
"Tootie, we would be honored. In some small way we would be contributing to American theatrical history." Blair enthused. "To have you actually stay here why you rehearse for your role as the first African American to play 'Anna Christie' on Broadway. It almost brings tears to my eyes."
"Why, thank you Blair." Tootie glowed. "Some consider it a brave casting choice, but I think I can pull it off. My Swedish accent coach says I am improving a lot."
"Of course you can pull it off," Blair declared confidently.
"Plus," Jo added. "Bailey will go nuts when she finds out you're here."
"And why is that?" Tootie asked suspiciously. "I didn't know that seven year olds were big Eugene O'Neill fans."
"Well," said Blair nervously. "I may have mentioned one of your more off-beat career achievements."
"Noo, you didn't," Tootie moaned.
"What's the problem Tootie? I thought you were excellent in the role," Jo said.
"As the Yellow Mighty Morphin Power Ranger? It wasn't Shakespeare, Jo."
"It was sort of like Shakespeare. Good, evil, interplanetary lasers. Anyway you were much better than your successor," Jo assured her.
In a hiatus between Broadway roles, Tootie, in a desire to stretch her acting range and to pay for kitchen renovations, had accepted a job on the childrens' action adventure series. After six weeks of filming and 15 episodes, she had been replaced.
"Why did you leave the show, Tootie?" Blair asked.
"I didn't feel that they were developing the Yellow Ranger's inner life enough. Her motivation was lacking. There was no character growth, no evolution. Morphing, yes, but no evolution. Also, they wanted an Asian actress for the Japanese syndication market."
"That's show biz." Jo said.
"Anyway," Tootie said, eager to change the subject, "Jeff will drop off my stuff tomorrow. Blair, Jo, I can't tell you how grateful I am. The rehearsal schedule is going to be brutal and with Jeff off on his marine biology expedition for a month, it would be too depressing to go out to New Jersey every night."
"I am sorry he won't be home for Thanksgiving," Blair said, putting her arm around her friend.
"I know, I'll miss him. But this will be fun. All of us together again, just like at Mrs. Garrett's." Tootie smiled broadly. "I just hope Jeffie the Fourth and Bella will get along."
"Of course they will," Blair said cheerily.
Jo kept her doubts to herself.
"You're kidding, Nat. You really have to evacuate?"
"Jo, apparently normal extermination techniques do not work on these creatures. I mean some of these roaches are bigger than Bella. Which isn't hard, but still."
Natalie's apartment, often neglected while she was on assignment overseas, had developed a severe pest problem during her latest visit to Bosnia.
"So how long do you have to be out of the apartment?" Jo asked.
"They are supposedly smuggling in some highly lethal material from North Korea to deal with the problem. It may take a couple of weeks."
"So you'll stay with us."
"Isn't it getting a little crowded?" Natalie inquired.
"Nah. The third floor guest room has twin beds and a separate bath." And new curtains, Jo thought to herself, shuddering. "Assuming you and Tootie don't mind sharing?"
"I think we will be able to cope," Natalie said dryly.
So it happened that a few days later, Jo, on the phone with her mother in Florida, looked at the breakfast table and was struck by a distinct sense of déjà vu.
"It's freaky, Ma. Nat and Tootie are giggling over the funnies. Blair is admiring her reflection in the back of a frying pan and I am munching on a bowl of cold cereal in my PJs and sweat socks."
"The familiarity must be comforting, Jo," Rose said.
"Comforting or pathetic. Take your pick. I just wish you could be here for Thanksgiving, Ma," Jo complained.
"I know, dear. But it is a busy weekend at the restaurant and flying is such a horror show."
"I understand, but I really miss you." Jo's mother had shocked everyone by moving to Florida the year before. She was tired of the cold and too old to schlep cocktails she said. With the help of a loan from Blair's father, Rose had opened a pizzeria in Naples with one of her cousins. It was doing very well.
"I miss you too, Jo."
"Excuse me. Let me speak to her for a second." Blair gestured for the phone impatiently.
"Just a minute Ma, you have an audience with the Empress."
"I could send the jet."
Rose laughed. "Thanks anyway, honey, but I really need to stay. You girls have a great time."
"OK, if you are sure, but plan on us for Christmas. We are coming down there."
"We are?" Jo mouthed.
"Yes, Jo we are," Blair said holding her hand over the mouthpiece. "You need to see your mother."
"Fine by me. Thanks," Jo said, grabbing the phone.
"So how are Bella and Tootie's cat getting along?" Rose asked.
"You know, I expected World War III. But it's a more subtle form of loathing. They either deliberately ignore each other or give each other these disdainful glares like the other one is lower than dirt. It reminds me a lot of my first term at Eastland."
"We heard that," Natalie yelled from the table. "That's not true Mrs. Polniaczek. We were really nice to Jo, even though she threatened to park her motorcycle on our friend's face."
Rose chuckled. "It sounds like you are having fun. Tell everyone hello and tell them to be thankful that you are all together. Have a great Thanksgiving, dear."
"Bye, Ma. You too."
Later that evening, after a long day at work for all four of the women, Blair was sitting up in bed reading a grant application. Jo was curled up next to her, half dozing. Blair flipped the pages and idly stroked Jo's hair.
She heard Tootie and Natalie giggling as they came up the stairs. "Good night guys," she called out.
"Night, Blair, Night, Jo," they replied, heading up to the third floor.
Jo murmured. "I like those reading glasses. They're sexy, in a repressed librarian kind of way."
Blair grinned at Jo over the half frames. "Just let me finish this, and I'll show you how sexy."
"Mmm hmmm," Jo mumbled sleepily.
"Jo, you seem exhausted."
"It's this case. The letter bomb guy. It's a hard one."
"You'll figure it out."
A little while later, Blair finished her reading. She looked down at Jo. "Now, about that repressed librarian"--but Jo was sound asleep.
Blair smiled. The sound of Jo's light snores were echoed by the even lighter snores emanating from Bella's dog bed. Blair heard the faint noise of Tootie and Natalie moving around upstairs.
Blair closed her eyes. "Thank you," she whispered to the night. She reached over and turned out the light.
Inspector Samuels looked around the conference table. "All right what do we know? Lieutenant Polniaczek?"
"Well sir. The bomber apparently plants the device personally as opposed to sending it through the mail, although the bomb is wrapped up to look like it came from the Post Office. His targets are headquarters of major institutions like banks, insurance companies, foundations, advertising agencies and the like. After he plants the device he makes a warning call from a pay phone. He apparently likes to stay around to watch the commotion. Based on descriptions and an image caught on a video camera, he is a white male, brown hair, 5'10'', 165 pounds wearing a black trench coat."
Jo continued. "The device is set on a timer. The lag between the call and the explosion has ranged between 45 to 20 minutes, although it seems to be getting progressively shorter. The device is relatively easy to disarm, although excessive jostling may set if off prematurely. There are two wires, black and gold. One disarms, the other detonates."
Samuels interrupted. "Thank you, Lieutenant but you can skip this part. It is highly recommended that we let the bomb squad do the disarming."
"OK sir," Jo said. She had found the bomb squad's presentation interesting, although some of her peers had nodded off.
Jo went on. "There have been seven incidents, three false alarms and four actual bombs. In two cases the bomb was disarmed in time. In one case, we were too late and a receptionist was killed and in the last case, a member of the bomb squad was critically injured while attempting to disarm."
"Good summary, Lieutenant, thank you."
"You're welcome sir." Jo regarded her commanding officer, the head of the Special Cases Unit. Inspector Samuels was an unprepossessing figure, short and overweight. But he was smart, insightful and a good boss. Jo was also pleasantly surprised to find out that he didn't harbor a trace of sexism. He told Jo when she joined the Unit that the best detectives he had ever commanded had been women.
"All right everyone," Samuels announced. "This guy has to be stopped. The last thing this City needs is a bomber running around on Thanksgiving weekend. Go pick up your assignments from Marcie and we will meet again tomorrow."
Jo wearily opened the front door of the brownstone. It has been a long day. Bella's barks greeted her. "Hi, girl." Bella chased her tail for a few rapid rotations and then fled. "Nice, love you too."
"Aunt Jo, Aunt Jo"
"Hey, Bailey. How'ya doin? Are you here by yourself?"
"No silly." Bailey giggled. "Aunt Tootie is here. Aunt Jo, did you know Aunt Tootie is a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger?"
"I'd heard rumors."
After hanging up her coat, Jo walked into the living room with Bailey. "Hi Tootie, where is everybody?"
"Nat and Blair went to Zabar's to order the turkey. Monica left Bailey here for a few hours, while she is getting her facial."
"Whew, whatta day," Jo said. "I need a drink. Do you want something?" She went to the hidden bar and refrigerator, with which Blair had surprised her by including in the elegantly designed living room. Blair said she knew that the only way Jo would use a room is if it had access to either TV or beer. Although insulted, Jo had had to agree.
"Gimme a vhisky, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby," Tootie demanded in a Swedish accent.
"Whisky, really? I think Blair bought some scotch. Let me look."
"It's a line from the play, Jo," Tootie said with irritation. "They were the first words that Greta Garbo ever uttered on screen. Keep up."
"Sorry," Jo said.
"Aunt Tootie, if you have a baby will it be able to morph into a Power Ranger too?" Bailey asked.
"A more pressing Dorothy Ramsey career trivia question." Jo laughed. "Power Ranger sex," she muttered under her breath. "That's sort of hot."
Tootie gave Jo a frosty look. "I don't think so, honey. I wasn't really able to morph. It was just pretend."
Bailey looked disappointed. "I want a Mommy Ranger and a Daddy Ranger and a Baby Ranger," she said firmly.
Jo decided to do a little cultural enlightening. "You know Bailey, there are all kinds of families. It isn't necessarily just a mommy and daddy and baby."
"I know that Aunt Jo," Bailey said, sounding offended. "My friend Evan has two mommies. My friend Rachael has two daddies and my friend Raul has a daddy who became a mommy."
God bless New York City, Jo thought.
"I was talking about action figures," Bailey clarified. "I want a mommy, daddy and baby action figure."
"I'll see what I can do," Tootie replied.
Blair and Natalie walked in.
"Guys," Natalie declared. "We have pizza."
The group gathered around the big kitchen table and Jo distributed the plates and slices.
"Ladies," Blair announced. "The children's party for Warner Foundation employees is next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Bailey is coming, aren't you pumpkin?"
"Yes, Blair," Bailey said with a big smile.
"Now, we have a face painter and a musician but it would really be special if we could have a celebrity guest as well. Tootie?" Blair queried hopefully.
Tootie groaned. "I could come as Anna Christie," she suggested.
"Good idea Tootie," Natalie said. "A woman abandoned by her father and forced to become a prostitute. The kids will eat it up."
"Oh, all right. I know where I can get a costume," Tootie said resignedly.
"That's wonderful, Tootie. Thank you so much," Blair said.
"How many kids are coming?" Natalie asked.
"Twenty two. Actually twenty two and a third. Boots is three months pregnant."
"Boots is spawning?" Jo uttered in horror.
"Yes, and she is being insufferable about it," Blair complained. "It's 'future Gamma' this and 'future Gamma' that and every time she sees me at a board meeting she makes this big ticking clock sound. It is incredibly annoying."
"Let me get this straight," Natalie said. "Boots is bringing her three month old fetus to the children's party?"
"She says is it never too early to learn the right social skills," Blair replied.
"Oh Lord," Tootie said.
Tootie, resplendent in her yellow and black Power Ranger regalia, came up to Blair.
"You know, Blair, this isn't such a bad gig after all." Tootie's voice was slightly muffled by her helmet. "They are a very responsive audience."
"I've noticed, Tootie. All you have to say is 'Go Go Power Rangers' and they go wild."
The other components of the party were working well too, Blair thought. The musician had Raffi's material pretty well down and the face painter was very versatile. Along with the usual kitties and tigers, he was able to honor the request of Devon, the son of Ralph in data entry, to be painted like Marilyn Manson. It was pretty striking, Blair had to admit.
"Blair, I have to say for someone who is, how shall I put it, childless, you have managed to put on an excellent event."
"Thank you, Boots."
"Perhaps I will consult you when Baby St. Clair-Perlmutter has her first birthday." Boots declared.
"So you know it's a girl?" Blair asked.
"Well, not officially. But as she has already been admitted to Gamma Gamma's Circle of Honor for the class of 2015, we must assume so. You know, Warnsie, all the studies say that fertility drops off precipitously after the age of thirty. I know that for you and your 'lover'," Boots air quoted, "the mechanics are a trifle complicated, but you might consider making the effort soon. Despite the little tiffs we may have had, I would be tres distraught if a Gamma Legacy ended up, how should I say it, barren."
Blair internally counted to ten. "I appreciate that Boots. We will keep you advised."
As Blair went to check on the food, she noticed a package sitting on the counter in front of the reception desk. That must be the report from Mrs. Garrett's African relief project. I'll look at it later.
"Jo, I'm surprised you have the time to do this, what with the letter bomber and all."
"Natalie, I need to clear my head for an hour or so. My leads have all petered out and I have to come up with some new perspective. The break will do me good. Anyway, I want to see Tootie in her morphed state."
Jo and Natalie were walking up Sixth Avenue towards Warner headquarters to pop in on the party, when Jo's special work phone went off.
"Polniaczek here." Jo paled. "Yes, I am nearby. I understand. Right."
Natalie looked at Jo, who was white as a sheet.
"What is it?"
"Listen carefully, Nat." Jo put her hands on her friend's shoulders. "They just got a call from the bomber. He said he has planted a bomb on the 29th floor of the Warner Building. That's the Foundation's floor, where Blair, Tootie, Bailey and the rest are. I am going there now to warn them. The bomb squad is on its way."
"What we are waiting for," Natalie said.
"You don't have to come. It's risky."
"Jo, these people are my whole life. Let's go."
The two women ran into the Warner Building and as Jo flashed her badge, commandeered the freight elevator. They were silent as the floors numbers lit up.
The elevator opened and Jo and Natalie ran to the reception area where the party was in full swing.
"What a surprise. The two musketeers." Blair laughed delightedly.
Jo took a deep breath. "You know, Blair, how you wanted me to be more involved in your work functions? Well, that is why they say be careful what you wish for."
"What do you mean?" Blair asked
"Stay calm. But you see that package on the desk there. We think it's a bomb."
Blair looked at Jo with widened eyes. "Tell me you're kidding."
"No, now listen to me," Jo said.
"OK, for once, I will," Blair replied.
"We need to get the kids out now. Take the stairs, an explosion could screw up the elevators. Don't let them panic."
"I understand," Blair said. "Listen, everyone," she shouted, clapping her hands. "Listen." Blair beckoned to Tootie, who had just entered the room, and murmured in her ear. The yellow helmet nodded and gave an acknowledging wave to Natalie and Jo.
"The Yellow Power Ranger is going take us on a big adventure," Blair said. "Doesn't that sound fun?"
"Yea!" The children shouted.
"We are going to go through the tunnels of the planet, what?" Blair turned to Tootie in desperation.
Tootie blanked for a second. "Zentor!"
"Right, the planet Zentor. To find what?"
"A megazord!" Tootie cried. The kids cheered.
"Great, let's go." Blair instructed. "Stay behind the Yellow Ranger."
Tootie led the children to the stairwell. The musician and face painter followed behind.
"Blair, what is going on?"
"Boots, apparently there is a bomb threat. We need to evacuate."
Boots turned green. "Is there a private express elevator? Get me to the private express elevator. Please, Warnsie, I need a private express elevator," she pleaded in a desperate tone.
"Boots, I'm sorry, you can't take the elevator. It isn't safe," Jo said.
"Blair, I'm scared for my baby." Boots started to hyperventilate.
Natalie came up to her. "Hey Boots, remember me? It's Natalie. I was your personal slave for a semester at Langley. Good times. Listen, take my hand. We'll go down the stairs together. I'll fill you in on the Royal gossip. No really, CNN put me up in this wonderful hotel near Hyde Park where Prince Charles and his mistress used to carry on. You could apparently hear the screams, well screams is too strong a word, the arch tones of passion through the walls. Come on, I'll give you all the sordid details."
Boots calmed. "Really, it doesn't surprise me. I always thought Diana was a little common." Natalie and Boots entered the stairwell hand in hand.
"Good for you Nat," Jo murmured. "Now you go Blair," she ordered.
"I don't want to leave you," Blair said fiercely.
"Blair, we don't have time for one of our frisky little arguments. I can't focus if you are here. I gotta focus."
"Babe, you need to help the others get out. You have to make sure they are all OK, Bailey, the other kids, Boots' Gamma Gamma fetus, all of them. Please?"
"Oh, fine. You are such a know it all." Blair took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a second. "Jo, I "
"I know, Princess, ditto. I'll be OK. Just go!" She pushed Blair to the stairwell door.
Jo turned to the package. All right. There was no time to wait for the bomb squad, she decided. She had to try to disarm it herself. What had the bomb squad said? Two wires, one black, one gold. One detonated, one disarmed. Which was which?
Sweating, Jo carefully undid the wrapping and slowly lifted the lid of the box. She grimaced. No false alarm here. A timing device, faintly beeping, was attached to a jar of what looked to be plastic explosives. Connected by two wires, one black, one gold. Which was fucking which? Jo closed her eyes and tried to visualize the bomb squad leader's presentation. She remembered thinking .Jo smiled. Thank you, Tootie and Nat. Gold. AU. 'Hey you, that thing is going to explode!' Jo pulled the black wire and the beeping stopped. She slumped in relief.
A few moments later, the bomb squad rushed through the door. "Everything OK, Lieutenant?"
"I think so. Go check it out."
The squad leader examined the package. "Yeah it's dead. Nice job Lieutenant. You got it just in time. Twenty seconds later and kaboom!"
Thanks for sharing. Shit! Jo thought. The lowlife may still be around. "Guys are there cops in the lobby?"
"Dozens. They evacuated the whole building."
Jo ran to the stairwell and flew down the twenty nine flights. She burst out into the building lobby, and scanned the milling crowd.
The Yellow Power Ranger's group, standing near the building entrance was easy to spot. She waved and, catching Blair's eye, and gave the AOK sign. Blair smiled broadly, crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Jo shook her head and held up her hand to stop her from approaching.
She looked around some more. There. In the corner. A white man in a black trench coat.
Jo approached a uniformed cop, flashed her badge and whispered in his ear. He nodded.
Assuming her patented Polniaczek slouch, the one that drove Mrs. Garrett crazy, Jo casually walked up to Mr. Trench Coat. "Yo. What a fucking madhouse."
"Yes, it is," he whispered creepily.
Jo leaned over and said quietly, "I'm with the police and I need to speak with you. If you could just come with me for a moment."
"Sure," the man said, and then punched Jo hard in the stomach.
"Fuck," Jo expelled, doubling over in pain.
Trench Coat turned to flee and ran straight into the arms of five officers of the NYPD.
"That was well done Lieutenant Polniaczek," Inspector Samuels declared. "Not only did you disarm the bomb but you effected an arrest without making a scene and endangering civilians."
"Thank you, sir."
Samuels and Jo were standing on the stairs in front of the Warner Building, which was buzzing with activity.
Frantic but grateful Warner Foundation employees had picked up their children. Boots had been taken to the hospital to make sure that all was well with the St Clair-Perlmutter heir. Natalie had called in her CNN crew and was in the process of getting an exclusive on-air interview with the Yellow Power Ranger.
Jo looked at the scene and winced a little. Her stomach still hurt where Trench Coat had slugged her.
Samuels turned to leave. "Take the rest of the day off, Lieutenant. See you on Monday. Have a nice Thanksgiving."
"You too, sir."
"We are glad to have you on board."
"Hi, Aunt Jo." She looked over to see Bailey, holding Blair's hand and contemplating her seriously.
"Hey, Bailey. Did you have fun at your party?"
"Yes, the tunnels of Zentor were really neat. We never did find the Megazord though. There were too many people around."
"That is too bad. Maybe next time," Jo said.
"Do you have a tummy ache?" Bailey asked.
"Yes, Jo, do you have a tummy ache, perhaps one that requires a trip to the hospital?" Blair repeated.
"No, Bailey, I'm fine," Jo said. "Anyway it's nothing compared to how I'm gonna feel after your sister's oatmeal stuffing tomorrow. I'm just warming up."
"You are a riot and a half, Jo," Blair said. "Let's go home."
"I am so on board with that," Jo replied, taking Blair's other hand and bringing it to her lips.
"Everything smells simply divine," Monica said to Blair as she and Bailey entered the brownstone. "I still can't fathom that you are doing this all yourself, without a chef or caterer."
Blair sighed. Blair's three years of cooking for 200 students and two years running a gourmet food shop never seemed to have quite registered with her mother.
"We managed. Would you like a drink, Mother?"
"I would love one dear."
"Hello Bailey, all recovered from the party?" Blair asked.
"Yes, Blair. It was really fun, thank you."
"A barrel of laughs," Jo said, walking up to the pair and handing Monica a scotch. "Happy Thanksgiving you two. Bailey, why don't you go into the living room? Bella and Jeffie the Fourth are there and Tootie has a surprise for you." Bailey skipped away happily.
"Bella and Jeffie the Fourth?" Monica asked. "Is it safe?"
"It's the oddest thing, Mother," Blair said. "Normally the two of them slink around each other like gunfighters in a Clint Eastwood movie but they both just fawn over Bailey. You never saw such purring, wagging of tails, and flopping on the back for belly rubs."
"Except when Blair dated Langley boys," Jo interjected.
"Could you possibly be any less amusing?" Blair intoned icily.
"Seriously girls." Monica's voice trembled a little. "I just want to thank you both for yesterday. I don't know what I would have done "
"Don't think about it Mother," Blair said. "Everything turned out all right. Besides it wasn't just us. Everyone stepped up to the plate. Tootie, Nat, Bailey and even Boots, sort of."
"Is everything all right with Boots' baby?" Monica asked.
"Yes, I spoke to her last night," Blair said. "I got a long lecture on the heartiness of the St. Clair genes. The courage that the St. Clair's have shown throughout history, at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Normandy "
"The Delta Phi toga party," Jo chimed in.
"Well that's a relief," Monica said as she walked with Jo and Blair into the living room.
"Look Mummy, look at what Aunt Tootie got me!" Bailey exclaimed.
"Let me see dearest. Oh Tootie, they're beautiful." Monica examined the three finely detailed wooden figures, a man, woman and child, with movable arms and legs, all hand painted in yellow and black Power Ranger garb.
"Wow, Tootie, where did you get those?" Jo queried.
"Lars, the prop guy at the theater. He is a master carver. He did all the ship models for the play."
"So basically you got him to hand carve beautiful reproductions of cheaply made, overpriced plastic toys based on an exploitative, excessively violent and painfully simplistic children's television show?" Blair asked.
"You are going to be a wonderful mother someday," Blair declared, giving Tootie a hug.
"Guys, come out to the garden. You have to see this." Natalie's voice called from the kitchen.
They all went outside and looked up.
"Look Blair!" Bailey exclaimed. "It's Garfield!"
"This is so cool." Natalie enthused. "I didn't know you could see the Macy's balloons from here."
"Makes sense," said Jo. "We are only a block away from the parade route."
Bella started barking furiously and repeatedly jumping straight up into the air.
"What is she doing? Natalie asked
"She is either trying to attack Garfield or hump him," Jo said.
"Jo, please. There are children present," Blair scolded.
"And Bailey's here as well," Jo retorted. "Sorry, I'll go inside and start the mashed potatoes."
"I will join you," announced Blair formally.
The two of them stood by the sink and started their long familiar potato peeling routine.
"Blair?" Jo asked.
"I know that Boots has been giving you a hard time. Do you want to accelerate the process?"
"The process of starting a family."
Blair looked out the kitchen window to the garden. Her mother and Bailey were pointing at the balloon, as Jeffie the Fourth curled around their legs. Natalie and Tootie, with their arms around each other, were laughing at Bella's frantic leaps.
"I think we have all the family we can handle at the moment," Blair said.
"After everybody is asleep, do you want to play Interrogator and Prisoner?"
Blair smiled. "Sure."
"Excellent, but I want to be the Prisoner this time."
"Sounds good to me, Jo, sounds good to me."
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