Sneak Peek: “An Ounce of Protection…”

I have to apologize once again to everyone expecting a new issue of Marvellous Adventure this past Sunday. I wasn’t able to get the third Emily Monroe story ready in time. But the good news is that there is now a pretty-much-final-except-for-the-last-line-which-I-still-don’t-like-very-much draft. And that Marvellous Adventure will be returning to this space on Saturday, October 6th. Mark your calendars, and remember that a new issue is an excellent way to introduce friends to Emily Monroe and her adventures. Especially in these early days with only two stories needed to catch up. You can find links to the first two issues at the “Marvellous Adventure” tab above.

The third instalment of The Adventures of Emily Monroe is titled “An Ounce of Protection Is Worth A Pound of Flesh”. It begins in a crowded theatre…and ends in a claustrophobic apartment. This could be Emily Monroe’s most difficult challenge yet: protecting the people she loves. Here’s a little bit to whet your appetites.

***

Emily Monroe and Stephanie Norton, dressed in their finest, were spending the evening in Venice.

They were watching a trial between an indebted merchant on one hand and his Jewish creditor on the other. The woman disguised as a lawyer was arguing desperately with the Jew, but only won by legal semantics. Then she worked her trickery on her overly flattering fiance, unveiled her disguise, and three couples waltzed happily into the sunset.

The curtain dropped, the house lights brightened, and the spell was broken to thunderous applause. Few could have claimed to clap more exuberantly than Emily and Stephanie, especially for the actress playing Portia—whom Emily knew better as Aunt Marie. They waited several minutes in their box seats while the rest of the audience filed out into the street, then made their way backstage to Aunt Marie’s dressing room where she had invited them after the premiere performance.

Their knock on the door was greeted with a call to enter. They found a woman in her late 30s sitting at a makeup table in the process of transforming herself into a middle-aged lady, from an heiress of Belmont to a career actress of Aurora City. A layer of cold cream was stripping away the rouge and concealer leaving behind the subtle crow’s feet at her eyes. Portia’s brilliant auburn, almost bronze, hair was piled on top of a cardboard bust on the side of the makeup table. Marie Monroe’s natural brown was the same shade as Emily’s, but with a touch of grey here and there. She turned to the open door, saw the two women, and her face broke into joy.

“Why, Emily!” she exclaimed while crossing the room in a flash and pulling her in for an embrace. “You look more ravishing every time I see you. And this must be the girl you’ve told me so much about. Stephanie, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, ma’am. A pleasure. But what has she told you about me?”

“Everything. All your love affairs, all your secrets, all your cross-indexed business files.”

“Don’t buy her gas, Stephanie. I only told her you were my secretary.”

Emily and Stephanie settled down on the small sofa while Aunt Marie poured the brandy, then sat in her makeup chair across from them. “So tell me, Stephanie,” she said, “how did you like the play tonight?”

“It was wonderful,” Stephanie said with a thick smile.

“You like Shakespeare?”

“Every now and then.” The smile got thicker.

“When she can drag herself away from the radio thrillers, comic books, and trashy dime novels,” said Emily.

Stephanie flushed with embarrassment and Aunt Marie laughed. “No need to apologize, dear, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.”

“I truly did enjoy tonight, though.”

“Thank you. It’s nice to have a more honest and balanced opinion.” She gave a significant smirking look to Emily.

“I was always honest with you,” Emily protested. “You’re a fabulous actress.”

“You see?” said Aunt Marie to Stephanie. “The glow-eyed admiration she had for me as a little girl has never really left. And when she came to live with me it got even worse.”

“And you loved every moment of it.”

“I did at that. Especially when you started begging me to let you onstage.”

Stephanie had been about to sip her drink, but on hearing this she stopped and lowered the snifter. The beginnings of a smile began to play over her mouth. “You wanted to be onstage?” she said to Emily.

“More than that,” said Aunt Marie, “I actually let her. And she wasn’t half-bad either.”

Emily was a touch embarrassed to have this part of her life suddenly discussed, though she had prepared herself for it and now felt foolish for being embarrassed. Stephanie looked at her with wide eyes. “I never knew you acted,” she said.

“I was never a professional.”

“You did take the lead once, in that youth production of As You Like It,” said Aunt Marie.

“Oh, Emily. The lead. How exciting. Which Shakespeare play is that again?”

“I’m glad you at least know it’s Shakespeare,” joked Emily. “It’s the one where the heroine Rosalind disguises herself as a boy to be near Orlando the man she loves.”

“And was it hard playing a woman playing a man?”

“I wouldn’t know. I played Orlando.”

Stephanie laughed and Aunt Marie joined in. Emily enjoyed making people laugh, mostly because she wasn’t able to do it that often. But the enjoyment was slapped away when Stephanie said through the chuckles, “So this is where you learned to be a mistress of disguise.”

It was an innocent enough comment, all things considered. As long as it was only made around people who knew that just a couple of weeks ago Emily had ended a stint as a secretary to a mob boss, in disguise as Miss Lydia Sparks. It hadn’t ended as well as she had hoped; both she and Stephanie were fortunate to still be alive. Needless to say it wasn’t a situation she wanted to discuss in front of Aunt Marie.

In a few very short moments Stephanie realized her faux pas and quit laughing; her eyes became the size of dinner plates. But before she could even begin to stammer some sort of explanation that would take away Aunt Marie’s confused expression, there was a knock at the door. Aunt Marie called out, “Come in,” and two men did as they were asked. One was short and slight of build, but the other was a gorilla with the predatory gaze of a vulture.

In an instant Emily had recognized him as one of the Brynn mob’s muscle men. Specifically, one of the muscle men who had led her out of the casino the night they were going to kill her. The one Stephanie had left-hooked into the side of a car.

***

Check back here this Saturday for the rest of the story. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this!

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