This story takes place between Lingerie Wars and Goody Two Shoes.
“I’m designing my own knickers,” Betty announced to the Domino Boys as she stalked into the community center.
The old men were gathered around their usual table, pretending to play dominoes. Really, their games were just an excuse to get together and gossip. It was pathetic. Betty didn’t gossip. That was nothing more than spreading other people’s news. Betty preferred to make her own.
“Is there a reason you’re telling us this?” Archie McPherson said as he reached for the chocolate biscuits.
Betty shoved his hand out of the way and nabbed the last two. “I figured if Kirsty can design underwear, then so can I. I’ve got a lot more experience than she does and I’ve discovered a gap in the market. There’s no sexy underwear for your discerning oldie. I’m making knickers for people our age.”
“Still no’ sure why you’re telling us this.” Archie scowled at the biscuits in her hand.
She took a bite of one and grinned while she chewed, thankful she’d remembered to put her teeth in this time. “I’m starting with designs for men because their underwear is less complicated. And I need models,” she said with her mouth full. “That’s why I’m here. To ask if you want to model my underwear.”
Hamish spat his tea over the table, and James thumped him on the back. Findlay looked like she’d asked them to lay an egg.
“You’re aff yer heid if you think I’m going tae strut around in my underpants for you,” James said.
Betty nodded sagely. “That’s what the Drymen Domino Team said you’d say.”
“Drymen?” Hamish sat up straight. “You’ve been talking to the Drymen men?”
“It just so happens I bumped into Charlie MacDonald at the post office a couple of hours ago. He’s up visiting his nephew. He thought the underwear was a great idea.” She rubbed her chin. “He even mentioned making a calendar and raising some money for their club. Of course, I said that I needed to offer the option to the Invertary team first. To keep it local, you understand. But he said you lot were too scared to pose in your underwear.” She shrugged and turned away. “Nae skin aff ma nose. I’ve got my models.”
She’d barely taken three steps when Archie piped up, “Now wait a wee minute. You can’t get the Drymen boys to model underwear designed in Invertary. We keep that stuff in-house. After Kirsty and Lake’s fashion show, people expect the folk of Invertary to know about underwear. And we’re no’ ashamed to be part of a local endeavor, are we boys?”
There was a chorus of agreement. Swallowing her smile, Betty turned back to them. “I don’t know. The Drymen boys are a wee bit younger. They’ll probably sell more underwear.”
James frowned at her. “I thought you said this underwear of yours was aimed at folk our age. Ones in their seventies and eighties?”
“Aye,” she said.
“Then what the hell are you doing going after younger models?”
“To be fair, the Drymen boys are only in their sixties. Which means they can probably pull off sexy a wee bit better than you four can,” Betty said.
“I can do sexy.” Findlay struck a pose that she assumed was meant as proof of his claim. It just looked like there was something stuck in his dentures and his tongue was working it out.
“You’re right.” Betty kept a straight face. “You’re definitely what I need. And it would be good to keep it local. Those Drymen boys are awfy full o’ themselves anyway.”
“Wait a minute,” Archie said. “How do we know you’re telling the truth about Drymen wanting to model for you?”
The men nodded in agreement.
“If you don’t believe me, go catch Charlie. He’s at the pub. He’ll tell you.” There was no need to pull off another innocent look; for once she was telling the truth. Charlie would indeed back up her story.
“She wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t true,” James said.
“You really do have Drymen interested in this?” Hamish said.
“Well,” Betty conceded, “they’ve no’ signed on the dotted line because I wanted to ask you lot first.”
They shared a look.
“We cannae let Drymen best us,” James said.
“No,” Archie said, then looked at Betty. “You’ve got yourself some models.”
“Great,” Betty said, “I’ve got a photographer all lined up. Be at this address at seven tonight.”
She put a piece of paper on the table in front of them and Archie picked it up.
“That’s the cemetery,” he said, looking even more confused than usual.
“Aye, what better place for a fashion shoot aimed at oldies than their next destination?”
“I don’t see what’s sexy about a bunch of graves,” Findlay said.
“Just be there on time. I know what I’m doing, and I brought in some experts to help.” With that, she tottered out of the room.
As soon as she was through the swing doors and out into the street, she spotted Charlie MacDonald.
“How’d it go?” he said.
“Mission accomplished. Got them all signed up.” Betty grinned at him. “Guess that means I owe you a pie and a pint.”
“That you do.” He chuckled.
It was dark in the cemetery, but you wouldn’t have known that from the amount of light coming from Betty McLeod’s memorial statue. The one she’d had commissioned for when she died. It showed Mel Gibson from Braveheart carrying a replica of Betty in his arms. The statue had cost an arm and a leg but was worth every penny.
“Is this what you wanted?” Claire Donaldson said as she finished setting up the lights they’d hired in Fort William.
Betty cast a critical eye over the scene she’d paid the teenagers to set up. With strategic lighting and the fog coming from the dry ice machine, the graveyard looked like a movie set.
“What’s the name of that singer,” she said. “Could only afford one glove. Sometimes he was black. Sometimes he was white.”
“Michael Jackson,” the twins said at the same time.
“Aye.” Betty nodded. “This looks like that video he did. The one with Vincent Price talking at the start of it.” She let out a dreamy sigh. “Now that was a sexy man.”
“Michael Jackson?” one of the twins asked.
“Don’t be daft. Vincent Price.” Kids these days didn’t know anything. “Have you got the sheep?”
Megan pointed toward the fence where five stolen sheep were tethered. The sheep didn’t care that they were out of their usual paddock, or that it was dark, or that they’d been dyed pastel shades for the event. No, all the sheep cared about was that the grass was nice and thick and there were plenty of flowers on the graves to munch on.
“Once we start shooting, we’ll let them go so they can wander in amongst the graves,” Betty said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Megan said. “Sheep are pretty dumb. The chances of them staying where you want them are slim. And I don’t want to chase them down again. It took ages to catch them.” She looked at her twin. “I think they’re on to us. They see us coming and run. It’s like they know we’re going to dye them.”
Claire nodded. “We need to keep them tied up.”
“No.” Betty was adamant. “I need them to wander. It’s going tae add atmosphere.”
The young lassies didn’t look convinced, but this was her photo shoot, not theirs. And she knew what she was doing.
“Are you sure this is legal?” Claire said.
Betty cocked an eye at her. “More legal than stealing Kitty Baxter’s sheep.”
“Borrowed. We borrowed them. You said you wanted sheep. How else were we supposed to get them?”
“We’re not getting paid enough for this,” Megan added. “If our brother finds out we’ve been dying sheep again, he’s going to lock us up in his cell. And this time, he won’t let us out.”
“We need to move to a town where we aren’t related to the local cop,” Claire said.
“Amen sister,” Megan muttered.
“I’m here, I’m here,” Jean called as she rushed into the graveyard. “Sorry I’m late. The Knit or Die meeting ran over time. Now what am I taking photos of? Oh, look at the pretty sheep.”
Betty fought the urge to roll her eyes. Jean was a dippy as a bag of squirrels, but she owned a good camera.
“I’m waiting for my models,” Betty said. “You can aim your camera at my memorial statue. We’ll start taking photos there.”
“What models?” Jean pulled her camera out of her bag.
“I’m designing underwear. This is the photo shoot for my interweb shop.”
“Oh.” Jean looked around her. “Does Kirsty know about your designs? This isn’t another one of your schemes to put her out of business, is it? I’m not allowed to get involved with those anymore. The doctor said my nerves can’t handle it. And even if I was involved, I wouldn’t be on your side. I owe my allegiance to Knit or Die and they’re run by Kirsty’s mother. Margaret would kick me out of the club if I helped you interfere with her daughter’s lingerie business. And I’m halfway through a blanket. On top of all that, is it even legal to have a fashion shoot in a graveyard?”
Betty held up a hand to stop her talking; otherwise, Jean would just keep going until she ran out of breath. “This isn’t illegal.” Mostly. “And it’s got nothing to do with Kirsty.” Mostly. “And nobody’s going tae kick you out of your knitting group.” Probably. “Now, I thought you wanted to practice taking professional photos. Are you here to do that, or no’?”
Jean nodded. “Okay. As long as you swear this isn’t some evil scheme.”
“Cross my heart.” Betty went through the motions.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the twins roll their eyes. At least they were smart enough not to believe a word that came out of her mouth. But then, Jean wasn’t known for her brains.
“Good.” Jean nodded.
Under Betty’s direction, the twins had strung up a curtain between two trees so that the men could go behind it to change.
“I’m no’ wearing this,” came the shout, about ten seconds after she’d handed them the underwear.
“Fine,” Betty snapped. “Don’t wear it. Twin? Hey, you? Aye, whichever one you are. Hand me my bag. I need my phone if I’m to call the Drymen Domino Team and tell them the modeling is back on.”
“You can’t just call us twin,” Megan told her as she handed Betty her bag. “We have got names.”
“You wouldn’t dare call Drymen,” Archie shouted before his head popped out from behind the curtain.
“Aye, I’d dare.” Betty clasped her bag in front of her and glared at him. “If you’re no’ man enough to model my underwear, then I’ll find some men who’re up to the challenge.”
“These underpants aren’t right,” he argued.
“They’re the latest fashion. I’ve done my research, and I know what people want. I sold knickers for thirty years. On top of that, Kirsty’s Scottish underwear is her best seller. This ties in with that. Now, am I calling Charlie or are you going to man up and come out from behind the curtain?”
He glared at her, and the curtain dropped.
“Fire up the fog,” Betty called to Claire. “Get ready with that camera,” she told Jean. “Let the sheep loose as soon as the boys appear,” she said to Megan.
They were ready. Holding her breath, she waited for the men to come out from behind the curtain. The material twitched. There was muttering. Someone cursed. And then the curtain was whipped back. Three of the four old men, who called themselves the Domino Boys, stepped out into the graveyard.
Claire gasped. Megan sounded like she was choking. And Jean’s jaw dropped.
The men were naked except for the underpants she’d provided, and their socks and shoes. But it wasn’t the wrinkles or the pasty white skin that had the women stunned—it was the underwear.
“This looks daft,” Archie said, pointing at the sporran stuck to the front of his tartan briefs. “And it’s no’ very practical.”
As a pink sheep wandered past him, Betty remembered the camera. “Get snapping, Jean. We don’t want to miss any of this.”
“Aye.” Jean sounded a bit stunned, but she took the photos.
“The underwear isn’t supposed to be practical,” Betty told Archie. “It’s supposed to be modern and sexy. And it is. Isn’t it twins?”
“Oh, aye, dead sexy,” Claire said in a high-pitched voice.
Megan just kept on choking.
“At least you’ve got a sporran,” James complained. “All I’ve got is this patch of tartan to cover my goods, and my arse is hanging out.” He turned around, and sure enough, his bum cheeks were bare, and there was a string up the middle of his backside. Well, two strings.
Megan made a strangled noise while her sister just gawked.
“It’s called a jock strap,” Betty told him. “I looked it up. But you’re wearing it wrong. Those straps are supposed to go around your thighs, not up your backside.”
“Then there would be nothing there at all.” James sounded affronted. “This is indecent. I could get arrested flashing my arse like this.”
“It’s supposed to be sexy,” Betty reminded him. “For the boudoir.”
“Even if I was inclined to get frisky in this thing, by the time I got it off, the mood would have passed.”
“Just go drape yourself over a gravestone while Jean takes photos.”
“I’m no’ sitting on one. No’ with my backside hanging out.” James stomped over to a headstone, followed by a pale blue sheep.
“What’s this thing?” Hamish said and pointed at the little tartan apron covering his privates. Under it, he had on white Y-fronts.
“It’s a loin cloth,” Betty said. “And why are you still wearing your underwear?”
“I’m no’ wearing this thing on its own.” Hamish stared down at it. “This is very wrong.”
“No’ as wrong as this,” Findlay said as he came out from behind the curtain.
At the sight of him, Megan let out a high-pitched whine and clutched the fence. She kept her face averted, but her shoulders were shaking.
“That’s no’ technically underwear,” Betty said. “It’s part of my swimwear line. That’s a mankini. In Royal Tartan.”
“I don’t care what you call it,” Findlay said. “It looks like a G-string with suspenders attached. No self-respecting man would be seen dead in this.” He tugged at one of the straps that ran from the pouch covering his privates, up his chest, and over his shoulders.
“He’s got a point,” Archie said. “I don’t see your designs selling. And they’re nowhere near sexy. In fact, you could market them as birth control. One look at your man in these and you’d never want to do the deed ever again.”
“Stop whining and pose. We’ve no’ got all night. I’m hiring that fog machine by the hour, and the twins here need to get Kitty’s sheep back before she notices they’re missing.” Although, their dye job might clue the woman in that they’d taken a wee trip away from her farm.
Hamish shook his head. “I’m no’ doing this. I look like an idiot. I’ll never live it down.”
The other men nodded, and Betty knew she was losing them.
“Just give me one minute,” she said. “I’ve got a photo of a runway show on my computer phone that will prove this is the height of fashion.”
She dug her phone out of her massive black handbag and started pressing buttons. While the men complained, Jean took photos, and the twins tried to hide their laughter, Betty muttered at her phone. The thing was damn hard to work, and the buttons were fiddly, but she eventually managed to call the number she was looking for—because there were no fashion show photos on her phone.
“I’m freezing my balls off here,” Hamish said. “Literally. I don’t have a minute to give you.”
“I cannae find the photos anyway.” Because they didn’t exist. “How about you just do a couple of poses, and then we’ll call it a night?” She stuffed her phone back into her handbag.
“No,” Archie said. “I don’t want my photo out in the world dressed like this. Get the Drymen boys to model your stuff. They deserve it. And make sure to delete all the photos you’ve taken tonight.”
He turned toward the curtain.
That’s when the flashing lights hit the graveyard entrance. And then the siren wailed.
For a second, nobody moved.
And then it was pure chaos.
The men ran every which way. Hamish hid behind a gravestone, and Archie tried to climb a tree. The scared sheep darted about in confusion, baaing continually. The yellow one knocked James off his feet, and he landed on his back in front of a headstone, flowers around his head. Megan jumped the fence and ran for it. Claire dithered, first running for the sheep, then running to help James, then deciding it was better to scarper. She was too late. Her brother’s police car screeched to a halt in front of her, blocking her escape. In the midst of all this, Findlay had pulled down the curtain and wrapped himself in it. And Betty hadn’t moved.
Because she’d been the one to call the cops.
With clear resignation, Matt Donaldson climbed from his police car. “Please tell me this isn’t some weird geriatric Satanic ritual,” he said.
“I think I slipped a disk,” James said from the grave. “I can’t move.”
A green sheep stopped in front of the cop car and peed. Matt looked at the sheep, then at his younger sister who was looking anywhere but at him. Then his eyes landed on Betty.
She lifted her hands, palms up. “What?” she demanded. “Whatever it is, it wisnae me.”
And then she threw back her head and cackled. The underwear she’d purchased from that dodgy sex clothes catalog that she’d found stuffed into her letterbox had been worth every penny.
Quickly, before Matt could confiscate it, she snatched Jean’s camera from her hands. “I’m going home,” she announced. And then, she headed out of the graveyard.
“Get back here, Betty McLeod,” Matt shouted. But he had his hands full, so he wasn’t going to chase her down anytime soon.
Betty pulled her phone from her bag and hit the button to call Harry—the computer genius who was old enough to buy beer, but still liked playing with Lego. For some reason, Harry always assumed the best about Betty. It was weird. But he was in town visiting his mother, which made him the perfect choice to help her.
“Harry, son,” Betty said. “I need to get some photos off a camera and put them on the interweb. Can you help me with that? It has to be done straight away. I’m on a tight schedule here.”
“Of course I can help,” Harry said. “What website do you want to put them on?”
Her smile turned evil as she stared out across the black waters of the loch.
“The one Kirsty has for her lingerie shop,” she said and then she started laughing.