Chapter 13 of
Tessa sat at the head of the conference table looking at her department heads and princesses.
"Jill, were you able to get those figures?" Tessa asked.
Jill, from Park Accounting, sighed. "I have some figures. No way for sure if they're true. They'll have to do, though."
"Go ahead Jill." Tessa said.
Jill nodded. "The figures from Soft Opening Day One exceed the original park's Grand Opening Day One. In terms of guests and monies collected, we exceeded the previous by three times."
Low whistles were heard around the table.
Dave looked over. "Anything odd about it?"
"Yes Sir. On Day One, teens outnumbered children four to one. By teens I mean ages between 14 and 17, children between the ages of 6 and 9. Pre-teens, 10 to 13, were close to the elder teens. Adults to pre-teens was close. Day Two, things changed. The ratio of children and pre-teens surpassed the number of adults and teens. If the records are true, both days exceeded the original park's grand opening Day One and Day Two." Jill reported.
"That's awesome!" Danica remarked excitedly.
Nicole looked over. "The old park, it have show like us?"
Jill shook her head. "No Princess. The old park did not have dedicated shows such as ours. Only temporary limited performances by medium range entertainers. No real Headliners."
"So they just had like mini-concerts?" Michelle asked.
Jill nodded. "Yes Princess. Please understand, the original park didn't actually have a single theme, much less four like we do. To be blunt, it was more of a permanent carnival. The food services were that expected at a carnival and most of the games as well. The rides was where they spent most of their money. From all I could learn, the cast was cobbled together and they improvised the characters. To the small children, it seemed great, but to the adults, it was lacking."
Tessa seemed unsettled by that. "Jill. The last week the park was open, how were they doing?"
"They were deep in the red. I found out that the tornado solved a problem. The park was failing so badly that it was going to close at the end of summer. If it hadn't been for the insurance money, the previous owner would not have been able to pay off everything when the park declared closure. He did sell whatever he could after that, because he personally was deep in debt." Jill said heavily.
Jennifer shook her head. "That's really rough. Now I understand why Bill and his guys kept saying that the park would at least be built right this time. Does the previous owner still live around here?"
"Dave." Tessa prompted.
Dave looked over to Jennifer. "He doesn't. After he literally sold off everything he owned, except his car and clothes, he joined a traveling carnival. That was only for a year. He discovered he had cancer. Police reports state that he did leave behind a note, a crude will and enough money to be cremated. He overdosed on a prescription pain-killer and alcohol, in a police station parking lot. He also included the title to his car, so it could be sold to cover any remaining cost of his final expenses. He last request was that his ashes be scattered into a river not far from here. Those wishes were carried out."
Tessa sat looking very sad. "This is the part where callous comments about mismanagement or lack of vision would be made. I'll not have any of that. The old park did something for me and I never forgot it. I had a dream as a child. Now that I'm an adult, I got a chance to make it real. Then I learned that I can do better than my dream. I will. WE will. The old park gave me a dream. I want this park to give others their own dreams. Maybe even make a few real. If we can do that, it's enough for me."
Danica sniffed back her own tears. "You already gave me mine."
"Me too." Nicole added. "Live better any dream now. Just wish Mama see me now."
Tessa gave a soft smile. "Ladies, let's not linger on that. I'm happy that you are enjoying yourselves. I think it would be nice if you turned that into a gift for the guests, especially those that will go home and dream. Let's move along."
With smiles, the other departments reported in. The meeting broke and the princesses went to get into costume while the department heads reported back to their sections. Tessa, had paperwork to deal with. It was fast looking like a busy indoor day for her. That was to be expected. Unlike the princesses, she wasn't just cast. Still, she did change into her gown and tiara then made three quick appearances for the guests. Even winning a stuffed animal for a lucky child.
Elaine Oberlin had seen the report. The Sheriff's office had placed traffic counters on the road leading to the park. The numbers were staggering. Reports from the Tourism and Commerce commissions had also grabbed her attention. Currently the the hotels and motels were holding steady, but Tourism reported that they suspected that after summer there would be more going to be built, and closer to the park.
"This just came in." Chet said coming into the office and handing over a single page.
Elaine read then commented. "Well with the good Congressman, that's all of them. Every politico in the state visited the park and had a blast."
Chet nodded. "Yes. Well, now that you've spent more time around her, would do you think of Miss Frost?"
"Don't you mean Queen Tessa?" Elaine corrected with a sly smile. "She's a great person. A lot braver than I've ever been. Blunt too. I wish I had her sense of freedom. She says what's on her mind and means every word. I wish I could do that."
"What about the possiblity of running for an office?" Chet asked.
Elaine sat back. "I asked her straight out."
Chet's eyes widened. "Yeah? What did she say?"
"I thought she'd never stop laughing." Elaine replied.
Chet's jaw dropped. "Wait! Are you serious? She laughed?"
Elaine chuckled. "She sure did. Then asked me why would anyone give up being a queen for an office job? Two seconds later, I was laughing too and almost had an accident. The Governor almost drowned in his lemonade."
"She does have a point." Chet said and began to chuckle as well. "I've heard that the Security there is remarkable."
"Oh that's only what you've seen! Every member of her security force are either former military, former law enforcement or both. She has a security force and emergency medical response teams. We've only seen the face. There are forces within the force, some in plain sight and others behind the scenes. Oh, and I found out that Captain Dave was in Intelligence in the Army. He really was a Captain." Elaine informed her assistant.
Chet looked impressed. "That makes sense. He would make a great head of security. Ever find out why they call her Queen Tessa?"
"Yep. Two reasons. She is the Queen of the park and she takes care of her people. From what I understand, they want for nothing." Elaine said flatly.
"That's a bold statement." Chet edged.
Elaine shook her head. "It's an accurate one. If they live in that dorm, they have no housing expense and it's not deducted from their pay either. Meals in the dorm are free as well. The only expense they have, are personal. Even the make-up they wear on duty is provided by the park. Uniforms or costumes as well. Right down to socks and shoes."
"Wow." Chet said. "Does anyone else do that?"
Elaine shrugged. "Maybe for major characters. Something else too. She has an in-house health inspector. Concessions and so on are checked daily. Before the official inspector even shows up, that place has been checked out and kept ready to pass any inspection. I told you about the medical teams; she has four teams of a Paramedic and EMT. The teams' leader is former Navy corpsman that served SEAL and Marine units in combat. And if that weren't enough, there are two full time registered nurses at the medical station. Queen Tessa isnt playing around about safety and security in her park."
Chet looked astounded by all that. "All that's not common knowledge, is it?"
Elaine shook her head. "Nope. And there's more, but they are keeping alot of that information restricted. I can understand why. I don't think there's a safer place in the state."
The phone rang, interrupting them. Chet ran to answer it. Elaine could hear him talking. Apparently a reporter had called and wanted an interview with the Mayor.
Brad Foster had been going over every database he had access to. Tessa Frost was an interesting read, in the fact that not much was there. Someone was pretty good at keeping her under the radar. She had an excellent credit rating, but it wasn't being used. It seemed that nothing she had was being financed at all. No loans, no debts, not even a credit card. Only a bank issued check/debit card. There were seven cellphones for her Frost Entertainment Properties and they were paid like clockwork. Every member of her security force were licensed and bonded, all medical personnel were licensed. The legal department was licensed as well. It seemed the main attorney for the park was a civil and criminal defense attorney named Trent Valen.
"I guess I'm not really going to get any further without getting in there and digging around." Brad said to himself.
He grabbed a ball cap, sunglasses and headed out. It was a nice enough day, spending it wandering around an amusement park wasn't a bad idea. If nothing else, the newspapers had raved about the foods there. An hour and half later, he paid his entry and went inside.
The first thing Brad noticed were the wristbands. Every little kid he saw had one on their left wrist. He loitered around the gates and saw those bands being placed on the kids' wrists by women working certain gates. At first he thought they were some kind of pass, then realized the only people coming through those gates were those with children under a certain age.
"Excuse me." Brad called out to a woman with a little boy. "Is that like some kind of VIP thing?"
The woman shook her head. "Oh, no. It's a child locator, like at Playtime."
Brad nodded. "Right. I've heard of those. That's a good idea. Sorry to bother you. I thought it was a kid pass thing."
"Oh, no. They do have multi-visit cards though. I got one of those the first time we came. You can pre-pay and add visits as much as you like. It even comes up with your picture when they scan it, just in case it gets lost or stolen! You can also get prepaid cards for the shops and food. They sell those and multi-visit cards at the main shoppes. It's really nice. Not even Disney has that!"
All that did sound rather impressive to Brad. "Cool. I'll check into that. Thanks and sorry to hold you up."
With that he wandered on. The first thing he noticed were the cameras. They seemed to be everywhere. He counted more cameras in thirty yards than down a whole Mall concourse. It was like being in a casino in Las Vegas. He had seen free maps and took one. On it he began marking off camera locations. In the Main Shoppe of Bayou Storm he made enquiries about the passes and cards. He bought a pass and loaded it with three visits then a park charge card and pre-paid fifty dollars on it. He was careful to use cash since he used a fake license.
"They don't have to worry about shoplifters in there for damned sure." Brad commented outside.
He had noted the cameras inside there as well. Out of curiosity he looked around in other shops nearby and saw they too, were well covered with cameras. Back outside, he continued to mark off locations on his map. When it was showtime, he went into the theater for the Cajun show. Afterward, though he'd never been to the state, he thought it seemed authentic enough. He had visited Branson before and the show seemed better than most he'd seen there.
In the Mermaid show, it seemed the front rows were dominated by females of all ages. He had to admit, it was a show worth seeing. The girls were beautiful and the guys looked attractive as well. He swam for exercise at a health club and knew it was demanding. The people of the show, however, looked like true athletes. The red-head being referred to as the princess was the obvious star and it showed. What surprised him were the lack of Disney references. It looked like it was all its own theme.
Next up was SnowyHill. He could tell it would only take a change of costume to switch it over to a Christmas show. Again, the whole area was saturated with cameras. He'd never counted so many before. Just to try it, he stopped at the ice cream shop. It was better than the national chains he'd been in. From there he went into WildForest. It had a Western theme to it. The show was good. Real hunger finally caught up to him there though.
Brad had a real problem now. It seemed there were a lot of food options that appealed to him there. Finally he decided on the barbecue. He ate there and loved the Beef long ribs. They were better than any he had ever had. The baked beans and potato salad were excellent as well. The only complaint he could think of, was the lack of beer. To him, and a few other diners, the thing missing was ice cold Corona and Budweiser. Understandable though, it was meant for families. He had ordered a raspberry iced tea and it was fine. He couldn't say no to the blackberry cobbler and even had another serving of it.
Outside again, he saw several Native Americans performing some kind of dance while an older one was talking. A woman behind him was also talking. Then Brad's attention was diverted. A woman in all white was talking to people in suits.
"So, she's Tessa Frost." Brad commented to himself.
He took note of her. She wore a full white ballgown and a tiara on her head of light hair. He wondered if the platinum hair was real and then decided it had to be real hair, even if the color wasn't. She had no guarded movements, in fear of a wig slipping, and even ran her fingers through it before adjusting the tiara. The gap between the dress and ground revealed she looked to be wearing sandals with a high heel. The star of the Saloon show joined them after a curtsey to her and the discussion continued.
He wanted to get closer to hear what was being said, but the four men in black shirts, hats and khaki BDU pants had taken notice of his interest in the group. The embroidered badges made it clear who they were. Security. Brad decided it would be better to move on and did. Coming back on the gates, he finally found an answer to a question he had. There was a small building that had three computer terminals. It was the on-site applicant kiosk. After looking around at the employment posters, he sat down and filled out the application. Finally he left the park.
"Miss Frost, I look forward to a continuing good relation. Miss Hamilton, it's been a pleasure." One of the suited men said.
Tessa smiled. "I'm sure VentureRealm and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are going to get along just fine Director Black. I do appreciate you taking the time to come see us personally."
"Not at all. To see Native American culture being proudly displayed not only as entertainment, but also in an educational light is something all Nations can agree on. I thank you for the respect you and your people here have shown." Michael Black replied. "I know Mike feels the same."
Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Director Michael Smith nodded. "You're right Michael."
"Two Mikes make it right?" Tessa snerked.
Both men groaned in response as everyone else in the group chuckled. It had become a running joke as the Director and Deputy director were both named Michael. Yell 'Mike' in a meeting and multiple voices would answer.
"All puns aside. Your request will be decided in a week. I understand why you filed. I just hope that problem doesn't present itself." Michael Black remarked.
Dave nodded. "We hope so too Sir, but it pays to be ready in case it does."
Tessa smiled. "All that now aside, would you care to take lunch?"
Janet Wintersky nodded. "That does sound good. I've never eaten with a Queen and Princess before."
Princess Michelle smiled. "Right this way Miss Wintersky. WildForest has alot to offer!"
At the back of the procession Dave smiled at Tessa. "You really are sneaky. I'd have never thought of this."
"I got the idea after talking to Linda JumpingDoe. When I told her what I thought of, I thought she was going to pee herself into a flood, laughing so hard." Tessa smirked. "I want to be ready for idiots before they figure out they should come here."
At seven that evening Jennifer went over to the Park's Daycare to get Bethany. She found her sitting with three girls her age playing with dolls. Watching them for a couple of minutes, it seemed like they were using the dolls to put on a show for themselves.
Jennifer knelt down by her daughter. "This looks fun! What are you girls doing?"
Bethany looked up. "Hi Mama! We're rehearsing."
The girls took turns introducing their dolls then began to tell her about the songs they were coming up with. Other parents began to come in and collect their children. Jennifer began to walk Bethany out.
"So what should we have for dinner?" Jennifer asked.
Bethany looked up. "Can we go to SeaSide? We can have spagetti!"
Jennifer laughed. "Alright Bethy. If Chef Joann weren't so good, I wouldn't go for it. I'm glad all the meals here aren't junk food."
Bethany was holding Jennifer's hand, but still skipping along then stopped to walk. "MAMA! I forgot to tell you!"
"What honey?" Jennifer asked encouraging her to continue walking.
Bethany smiled big. "Day after tomorrow they said we could bring swimsuits. If it rains as bad as they think, then the park has to be closed, but we can still come since everybody still works."
Jennifer nodded. "Yes. I'll be here working, but why the swimsuit?"
"Cause Princess Danica said we can come to SeaSide and they'll let us swim in the lagoon with them!" Bethany said excitedly. "They'll even teach the ones that can't swim, too! And the next day, if it's still raining, Princess Michelle will teach us how to dance. Queen Tessa promised to read us a story both days, too. Princess Nicole said she was going to teach us songs."
"Well, hello there." Princess Danica greeted them.
Bethany ran the short distance and hugged her. "Hi Princess Danica! I just told Mama about day after tomorrow!"
"Hi Jennifer. You don't mind if Bethany comes to play in the lagoon with us do you?" Princess Danica asked.
Jennifer laughed. "I guess it'll be ok. If you're going to play in the water, what could be safer than with the princess and her mermaids and mermen."
Bethany was still a ball of energy. "We're gonna go eat spaghetti!"
"Enjoy, but be careful not to get any on you." Princess Danica smiled and gave her another hug.
Jennifer had to smile. Her daughter was happy and finally stopped crying herself to sleep every night. For the first time since her husband had died, it hurt a little less for Jennifer. There was a group of single parents among the park staff. Mostly of the prior service and law enforcement members. Simple but plain fact was, the military frowned upon being a single parent in the service. They would even promote to encourage retirement. At a higher rank, the benefits increased.
The familiar face of Mark waved them over to a table in the Bistro and Bethany rushed over. He invited them to join him at dinner. Jennifer liked the SARC and was starting to find him charming. By the time they had finished eating, Jennifer had the mad urge to invite Mark to dinner the next night and did. Mark was surprised, but readily accepted.
Tessa stood in the Over-Watch control room. "What do you have Dave?"
Dave looked over to one of his men. "Bring him up Jake."
Jake typed and a face appeared on a single screen. "Yes Sir. That's him."
Tessa studied the face and shook her head. "Don't know him."
"He was in the park today. He bought a multi-visit pass and pre-paid a charge card using cash. All his details are bogus. He used a fake ID." Dave informed her.
That didn't set well with Tessa. "Not good. Ok, so who is this guy, what's he doing in the park and why?"
"I ran him. One: Bradley Foster. A private investigator. Not local, but in a city about an hour and half away. License is up to date. Concealed carry permit. A few Restraining Orders against him, probably work related. Two shootings, no deaths, self-defense. One was actually an attempted mugging. Miscellaneous traffic violations, a few misdemeanors, all paid; no time served." Dave listed, consulting a single page.
Tessa was taking all that in. "Sounds run of the mill to me. Aside from the bogus info, what's wrong with him?"
Dave turned around. "Ok, John. Bring it up."
A video began to play on the screen. Brad Foster was seen entering the gates, talked to a woman and boy then wandered on. He took out a map and regarded it for a long time, walking around. Suddenly the operator zoomed in. Markings were being made on the map.
"What is that?" Tessa asked.
John looked over. "He's marking camera positions Queen Tessa. All the cameras he can spot, are being marked on the map."
Tessa's expression hardened. "I don't like this."
"Neither do we Ma'am. With permission, let me fast forward. I'll show you what made us pay attention." John said.
The video sped forward then resumed speed. Brad was staring in a direction.
"What's he looking at?" Tessa asked.
John looked over. "You Ma'am. He's staring at you. Your escorts noticed him and called in. Ma'am he was very fixated when he saw you. Only after he saw that your escorts took notice did he hesitantly moved on. His body language says that he did not want to disengage. We don't like this Queen Tessa."
"We don't like it, at all." Added Jake.
Though he approved of their attitude, Dave did have to call them down. "As you were."
"SIR!" Both Over-Watch operators replied as they sat at Attention. "Apologies, Queen Tessa."
Tessa walked over to them and kissed each one on the cheek. "Your loyalty is a treasure, Gentlemen. Thank you for never wavering."
"I'm going to ask Trent for some assistance on this. He knows where to look for things on this guy not in the usual places. Jimmy Sloan was off today, but I'll talk to him tomorrow morning to see if he knows anything." Dave informed her.
Tessa nodded. "Bring him up again."
"Yes Ma'am." Jake answered and did so.
Tessa stared at the man's face. "Brad Foster. What are you doing in my park?"
"One other thing Queen Tessa." Jake added. "He filled out an application. Different information. It's been flagged by us. His face, passcard and information have been flagged as well. If he comes back, we'll know immediately."
Tessa nodded. "Stay on this. He does not roam around the park unchecked."
"MA'AM!" The two replied.
Dave led Tessa out. In the hallway he said. "He comes in the park again, I'll have him brought to me. I'll find out what he's up to."
"No. Bring him to me. I will find out what he's doing here, Captain. I'll take no chances with my people. He is to be brought before me and kept away from the cast." Tessa said firmly.
Dave smirked. "By your command."
Tessa chuckled. "You found that classics channel. Battlestar was popular at the group home I was in."
"Dirk Benedict was cute, back in the day." Dave commented.
Tessa shrugged. "No argument there. Not my type though."
"Lautner, Pattinson or Radcliffe?" Dave asked, curious now.
"Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom." Tessa replied.
Dave gawked. He hadn't actually expected her to answer and had to look to see if she was smiling. She wasn't, she had been honest.
"Wow. Never thought you'd really say. I'm surprised." Dave remarked.
Tessa smiled. "I thought about saying you, but I don't want my head of security in the hospital for a heart attack over a joke."
"Oh, now that's just MEAN." Dave retorted, but smiling and kissed her hand. "Zeke is waiting to take you home, My Queen."
"Thank you, Captain." Tessa smiled back then went out.
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