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21 Questions

Title: 21 Questions
Fandom: Remember WENN, Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 3715
Summary Steven goes to visit a friend who was now working at a radio station in Pittsburgh
Author's NoteThe time-frame was right plus I thought that Scott and Steven could've been pals, perhaps having met in London. Everything just kinda went from there. (Originally posted on FFN 3/3/00)




21 QUESTIONS


Gertrude Reece sat at her switchboard nibbling on peanut brittle and listening to The Hands of Time. The stories have improved so much since Betty started. Maybe I should have her look at my script. She heard the door to the station. "May I help you?" she asked as she looked up. She found herself looking into the face of a movie star. His coloring reminded her of Tyrone Power, yet his build was more athletic and he had a healthy tan.

"Yes, I think you can." He removed his hat. "I'm here to see Scott Sherwood."

"He's at lunch now but he should be back soon. Would you care to wait?" She motioned to a group of chairs.

"I guess I'd better. That's the reason I'm here." He smiled and took a seat.

Oh, that smile. It's a good thing I'm sitting down. I think my legs have turned to jelly.

An elegant woman came down the hallway from where the studios were located. She was dressed in top-of-the-line fashion. She spoke like one accustomed to being center-stage. "Has the mail arrived yet, Gertie?"

"Yes, Hilary. Already in your box."

Hilary looked at her personal mail box. "It's empty."

"Is it? I hadn't noticed," said Gertie in a tone that implied otherwise.

"And Jeffrey has five?!"

"He has a much wider appeal," commented Gertie.

"We all know the type he appeals to." She grabbed the letters in question. "Ugh, cheap perfume." She held the offensive missives at arm's length. She then noticed the man sitting down. It was time to extol the virtues of her favorite subject: herself. She walked over and introduced herself. "Hello, I'm---"

"Hilary Booth," he said, standing. "You must be." He kissed her hand Continental- style. "Allow me to introduce myself. Simon Townshend."

Flattered by being recognized, the diva was almost at a loss for words. "You recognize me from Broadway, perhaps?"

"No, I unfortunately never had the pleasure. It was your voice. The cabbie had WENN on the radio. Hands of Time, I believe it was."

"Ah, yes. One of my better rôles."

A younger woman with red hair came strolling in. She was dressed in a simple dress in vibrant colors. She checked her mailbox. "Hello, Gertie! Anything happen while I was out?" Her voice announced she was from Brooklyn.

"No, nothing earth-shattering." The phone rang. "Hello, WENN," she answered.

The woman saw Hilary and Simon. Knowing a good-looker when she saw one, she sashayed over. "Why, hello." She pushed her way in front of Hilary. "I'm Maple LaMarsh." She held out her hand. "Some people say 'Mabel' , but no, I say 'Maple'--"

"Like the syrup," they finished in unison.

"And pouring it on thick," muttered Hilary.

The station door opened once again and Simon looked to it as his salvation. In walked an elderly man carrying a brown paper bag. "Here's your lunch, Gertie. I hope it's right."

"I'm sure it is, Mr. Eldridge." She opened the bag and took out two wrapped packages. "Just right."

Mr. Eldridge looked over and saw the trio. "Who's that?"

"Said he's an old friend of Scott's."

"Doesn't look more than 21 to me." He headed down the hallway.

Simon Townshend--whose real name was Steven Taylor--found it amusing to have two grown women fighting over his attentions. And both from two opposite worlds. Funny thing was, he could probably blend in with either of them. He wondered which would surprise them most; the fact that he was an international jewel thief or that he was only 20.

He had met Scott Sherwood at a pub in London and the two had got to talking. He learned that Scott was a bit of a con-man himself--an opportunist who took advantage of a good situation when it presented itself. Steven had let slip a few things about himself but without actually telling the full truth. When he had returned to New York from London, he heard that Scott had gone to Pittsburgh to work at a local radio station. Steven was curious as to why.

He looked over at Gertie to find her staring at him. Realizing she had been found out, she immediately swiveled about to face the switchboard. Steven grinned at her discomfort. The door opened once again and Scott breezed in. "Hey, Scott!"

Sherwood turned around and saw a familiar face. The name kept changing so he didn't try to remember one. "Hey! How've you been?" He walked over and pumped Steven's hand. "It's been a long time. Excuse us, ladies, but we have a lot of catching up to do." he took Steven by the arm. "Hold all my calls, Miss Reece." He took Steven into his office. "We should be all right in here." He closed the blinds to his window that faced the hall.

"Nice office. Yours?"

"For now." Scott took a seat behind his desk. "What brings you to Pittsburgh?"

"You do."

************************************************

After Scott had escorted his guest away, the three women looked at each other and heaved a collective sigh. "Isn't he just dreamy?" uttered Gertie.

"I'd pick him over Errol Flynn any day," declared Maple. "And believe me, I know of what I speak."

"Imagine Scott knowing someone like that," reflected Hilary. A slow smile spread across her face. "If he truly does know Scott, perhaps it would be a good idea to get to know him better."

Gertie looked at her, realization slowly dawning. "We could get to know more about our fearless leader through him."

"Exactly."

Hilary's husband, Jeffrey Singer, came down the hall from the studio. He was the leading man of most of the programs, but could just as easily portray the goofy sidekick. He found his wife and the other women gathered at Gertie's desk. "What are you three grinning about?"

"Jeffrey, dear, we may have found a link to Sherwood's murky past," Hilary told him.

"What missing link is this?"

"A friend of Scottie's just arrived. They're in his office," answered Maple.

"So, if we can get close to him, we can learn a few things," added Gertie.

"You'll have to wait, I'm afraid. We're due in the studio. Mackie's almost done with the news." He put his arm around his wife's waist as they walked down the hall.

"So, what's this guy like?"

"Oh, nothing special, pumpkin. Just some friend of Scott's." She looked over at the covered window to Scott's office. She couldn't wait to put her plan into action.

******************************************************

They entered the studio where a short, balding man was finishing a commercial for Parsons' Pets. Upon seeing them, he introduced them before making a quick getaway.

Knowing he had a bit of a break, Mackie left the studio and headed across the hall to the Green Room. He collapsed onto the sofa and let out a sigh. "What a day." He saw Mr. Eldridge preparing two cups of coffee. "Hard day, Mr. Eldridge?" The old man looked at him, puzzled. "The two cups of coffee."

"Oh, one is for Betty. She's still in the writer's room."

"I'll take it to her. I wanted to ask her something anyway." Mackie took the cup and headed down the hall to the writer's room where he could hear Betty's fingers clicking away at the typewriter. "Brought you some coffee, Betty."

"Oh, thanks, Mackie. I'm trying to work on the cliffhanger for The Crimson Blade."

"As long as you don't have me hanging over a vat of boiling oil."

"We just did that. No, I think this is a good one."

"Have you had anything to eat yet? I was going to head for the Buttery while I have a chance. Care to join me?"

"I'd love to. Let me just finish this and hand some papers to Scott and then we can go."

"I'll wait in the green room."

On his way back to the green room, he passed Gertie who was standing outside Sherwood's office. "So, Gertie, what's going on? Hilary and Maple seemed to be on good terms when they entered the studio. And we know that's no small feat."

Gertie shushed him before beckoning him to follow to her desk. "An old friend of Scott's has dropped by for a visit." She told Mackie how Hilary and Maple fawned over the young man. "I was listening to try and find out what they were talking about."

Mackie thought this over. "I'll try from the green room. Less conspicuous than a hallway."

"Give me a full report," she said as he headed down the hall.

Mackie re-entered the green room, found an empty glass, and then went to the wall that it shared with Scott's office. He had acted in enough of Betty's scripts to know this was the thing to do.

He placed his ear to the glass just as Maple came in to tell him he was needed in the studio. "I'll listen for you. I know all about what's goin' on in there."

"Thanks, Maple," said Mackie as he handed her the glass. "I think we all want to know what's going on in there."

Once she was sure Mackie was in the studio, Maple slipped out of the green room and knocked quietly on Sherwood's office door before stepping in. She smiled in Simon's direction before looking at Scott. "I just thought I'd warn you that Hilary has plans to use Mr. Townshend here to find out more about you."

"Great, Mapes! Thanks!"

"I gotta get back to the studio. Just thought you ought to know." With a last glance at Simon, she left.

"Hilary could provide quite a challenge," said Scott.

"She seemed rather, well, self-centered to me."

"Oh, she is. But when she sets her mind on something, she can be very determined and ruthless."

"I'm sure we can think of something to keep her occupied." He settled back in his chair. "You still haven't told me what brought you here."

"Well, it had to do with--" There was a knock on the door. "Come in."

Betty walked in and Steven was struck by her appearance. She wasn't a beauty, exactly, or even glamorous. Wholesome seemed to be the best word for it. "Oh, I didn't know you had company, Mr. Sherwood."

"Betty, this is an old friend of mine, Simon Townshend. Simon, this is Miss Betty Roberts, an indispensable part of WENN."

"I only write the scripts," clarified Betty. "Hardly indispensable."

"A delight to meet you, Miss Roberts. I like your work," he said as he shook her hand.

"Oh, really?" She could easily be flattered by this man, but since he was a friend of the mysterious Mr. Sherwood, she had some reservations.

"What I've heard has all been top-notch," he answered honestly.

Betty kept staring at him until Scott cleared his throat. "Was there something you wanted, Betty?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes. I've got most of the scripts done for tomorrow and here are those write-ups you asked for--though I don't know why."

"Very exciting stuff, Betty," he grinned. "Very exciting."

"I'm sure." Betty gave him a look that said she thought otherwise. She looked towards Scott's friend. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Townshend."

"Call me Simon, please."

"Simon." With a quick smile, Betty quit the room.

"Her," said Scott.

"What?"

"You asked me why I came here. The reason I'm staying. It's her."

"C'mon. Spill."

Scott settled back into his chair. "I met the former station manager, Victor Comstock, at the George & Dragon. I think you met him, too."

"Tall guy who spoke with multi-syllabic words? Needed a dictionary to follow his conversation?"

"Yep, that's the guy. Anyway, we got to talking one night and he spoke a lot about the station and Miss Betty Roberts. Made me wonder what it would be like to have someone like that waiting for me. I told Victor I was on my way here and he gave me a book to deliver. I forged a letter of recommendation using his signature from the book. And here I am."

"Well, men have been known to do strange things over women. But for one you've never seen? I think that's something new."

"You have anything planned for the rest of the day?" Scott asked.

"No. Why?"

"Thought you might want a little tour of the station."

"Plus give them all a chance to grill me for your sordid past?"

"Of course. Do what you can to impress without going overboard."

"I've been known to embroider a bit, but was never any good at tapestries." Scott looked at him a little puzzled. "The more lies you tell, the more they unravel."

"Sure, everyone knows that," said Scott even though he knew it was one of his major failings.

***********************************************************

Scott took him to the control room from where Steven could watch the actors. The engineer behind the panel looked up. "Hey, C.J., this is an old friend who dropped by for a visit. Just showing him around."

"Do you know anything about radio?" C.J. asked him.

"Enough to make it sound like I know more," commented Steven. "What show are they doing now?"

"Valiant Journey. One of the more popular ones. Though why, I can't understand."

"Who are the actors?"

"The tall one is Jeff Singer, Hilary's husband."

"Someone actually married her?"

"She probably has some good qualities that we have yet to see," answered Scott with a smile.

"I'm sure. And the other?"

"Mackie Bloom, Man of a Thousand Voices. He can do everything from heroic leads to clowns."

"That's some repertoire."

"If Mackie ever went, it would be like losing half our characters." Scott looked at his watch. "After this is a ballgame, so everyone will be free. You can meet them in the green room."

"And put our plan into effect."

The two men walked out of the control room and were preparing coffee in the green room when the others entered. They were talking animatedly about the program. They stopped when they saw Scott and Steven. "Mr. Townshend, how wonderful to see you again," Hilary purred.

Jeff was surprised at the age of the man in question. At least he knew Hilary was only acting to get information. "Ah, so you're the friend of Scott's my wife was talking about. Jeff Singer." He held out his hand.

"Simon Townshend," said Steven as he took Jeff's hand in a firm grasp.

"Not the Simon Townshend who sent reports from occupied Paris?" said Mackie in awe.

"Guilty as charged." Steven managed to look guilty as well.

"But what are you doing here? In Pittsburgh?" questioned Jeff. "Surely you'd want to be reporting from New York or London."

"As a matter-of-fact, I just got in from London last week."

"But we haven't heard any more of your reports," put in Mackie.

"That was just a one-off thing. I happened to be in Paris on business when the Germans invaded. A friend at The New York Times arranged for credentials."

"But how did you get your articles past the Nazis?" questioned Jeff.

"I wrote two of them. One for the Nazis to approve and the other to switch it with."

Scott looked at his watch. "Oh, will you look at the time. I have a few important phone calls to make. You'll be okay here?"

"Oh, we'll look after him for you," said Hilary as she laid a hand on his arm in an almost possessive gesture. After Scott had gone, she took control of the conversation. "So, how did you and Sherwood meet?"

Not one to waste time, is she? Steven removed her hand with a look at Jeff. "We met up in London last year, just in passing. We saw each other again a few months ago and got to talking."

"So were you there when he met Victor?"

"I wasn't there when they actually met, no, but I did meet Victor myself."

"You met Victor?" Betty had arrived in the green room.

Steven looked at her and knew there had to have been something between her and Victor. "Yes. At the George and Dragon with Scott."

Betty sat down. "How was he?"

"Oh, he was in good health, though perhaps he was wishing he was here."

"Tell me about him."

"Betty, I thought we were going to the Buttery," said Mackie.

"Why don't we all go?" said Hilary. "Have you had lunch, Mr. Townshend?"

"No, I haven't. A good meal would be welcome about now."

As the group was leaving they met a man with a pencil-thin mustache in the hall. "Mr. Foley," called Mackie. "We're all going to the Buttery. Care to join us?" Mr. Foley opened his mouth to answer but Mackie cut him short. "Before you answer, let me just warn you that you'd better not monopolize the conversation like you usually do."

Foley simply nodded in agreement.

Betty took up position one on side of Steven so she could hear about Victor. Hilary walked on his other side so as to pump him for information about Scott.

The three other men walked behind them. "How is it," questioned Jeff, "that in the space of less than a few hours he has all the women at the station drooling over him?"

Foley merely shrugged.

Mackie, on the other hand, had a few ideas. "Well, he's someone new, good looking, with a somewhat mysterious past. Who wouldn't fall for that?"

"Yes, but one of them isn't your wife." Mr. Foley opened his mouth. "I know what you're going to say. She's just doing this for information. Doesn't mean it hurts any less seeing it."

**********************************************************************

An hour or so later they all returned to the station. Positions had changed, however. This time it was the men who were clustered together while Hilary and Betty tagged along. Gertie looked up at their entrance. She watched as the men went down the hall deep in onversation. "Looks like he was a success," she said.

"It was a complete waste of time," declared Hilary. "Whenever I tried to ask him about Scott, he somehow turned the conversation to another topic altogether."

"I thought him very charming and considerate," said Betty.

"Yes, I will agree to that," said Hilary grudgingly. "However, I think he did it on purpose."

"He knew you were trying to get information on Scott? Do you think they're in on this together?"

"Your perfect paragon planned this perfidious plot to purposely play on our perceptions."

"You can't be serious, Hilary. What reason would he have?"

"Believe me, Betty. When a man seems too good to be true, he usually is. I'm sure our Mr. Townshend has some dark secret."

Betty turned to Gertie. "Is Scott here?"

"No. Said he was going out to drum up some sponsors."

"Coward."

She followed Hilary to the green room where they found Steven giving Mackie tips on his accents. "Yes, that's it. Remember, German is a very guttural language, so you have to try and bring that across."

Mackie beamed. "Betty, see if you can write me a German character."

"As soon as I can fit one in," she smiled in return.

"So, Simon," asked Maple, "how did you get so good at accents? Did you ever act?"

Steven smiled. If you only knew. "No, I just have a knack for languages. It's helpful with all the traveling I do."

"How many can you speak fluently?" asked Jeff.

"Including English? About five. And enough to get by in a few others."

"I'm surprised the diplomatic corps hasn't snatched you up-or even Intelligence," said Mackie.

"I was never one for diplomacy. Kinda have your hands tied. As for working with the Intelligence community, I've never really been much of a team player."

"Even for your country?" demanded Betty.

"Oh, if we ever became involved with this war--and I don't doubt that--I would. A bit more exciting than slogging about in the trenches."

CJ came into the room. "Game's almost over. Time to get ready. I'd say about five minutes."

"Thanks, CJ," said Betty. She looked at the actors. "I think that's our cue." She turned to Steven. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Simon. I'm sorry we have to leave you so suddenly."

"Don't worry about me. I'm going to have to be leaving anyway." He stood. "I'd like to thank you all for a wonderful day."

"You're not heading back to New York tonight, are you?" asked Betty.

"No, I have a hotel room for the night."

"Which hotel?" questioned Hilary.

"Hilary, I don't think that's something you need ask," said Jeff, a little worried that his wife would take this too far.

"Let's just say it's local and leave it at that. Tell Scott I'll give him a call." He put his coat over his arm and put his hat on at a jaunty angle. "I wish you all the best. No need to show me the way out." Steven waved them all goodbye and left the green room.

The women just stared after him and the men wondered if Townshend even knew of his power over women. "I guess we'll never know his secret," said Mackie.

**************************************************************

Later that evening Scott was in his office when his phone rang. "Scott Sherwood."

"Hey, Scott, it's me. Just wanted to thank you for today. Had more fun than I thought I would. Too bad you were too busy or else we could've talked more."

"Yeah, sorry about that. You didn't feel left out?"

"No, your friends took care of me. I'll keep in touch."

Scott hung up the phone and smiled. If anything, Steven probably left them with more questions than answers. There was a knock on the door. "Come in."

Betty entered. "Just getting ready to leave."

"Yeah, me too."

"Your friend seemed really nice."

"Yeah, Steven's a nice guy."

"I thought his name was Simon."

Scott grimaced at this mistake. "Yeah, well, I've known him by quite a few names, to be honest."

"That's a word I never thought I'd hear you say."

"What?"

"Honest."

"Betty, I'll admit it's something I'm not exactly good at, but I'm working towards it."

"We all should have something to strive for. Good night, Mr. Sherwood." She left.

"Good night, Betty," he said softly.

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