I returned from the holidays with still no idea what we were going to do about the periodical. We’ve limped along in the hopes that the Author would somehow get in touch — or better yet, send a manuscript. I spent much of December being not very hopeful about January. So you can imagine what I felt when I noticed a strange bottle on my desk, with no label and a very tight cork. Through the brown glass I could see paper rolled up and stuffed inside. I managed to pull off the cork after a lengthy struggle and then came the question of how to get at the message inside. This accomplished, I spread out on my desk a few sheets of foolscap covered in a scrawl that could only belong to one writer I know of. The scrawl contained the following message.
I do not know how much time I have here, before they find me.
When you last heard from me, I’d arrived in Aurora City at the request of a note signed only with the sigil of the Whitehawk Legion. I was given no further directions and decided to find a hotel. No sooner had I done so than the agent who had previously met with me came to the door. He told me we were going somewhere and I didn’t argue.
He drove the plain black car while I sat in the passenger seat, the tension winding up inside me like a spring. Questions about what was going on proved fruitless; when he answered at all it was in monosyllables. So I set myself to looking out the window at the city. I had studied maps both old and new of Aurora City, but had never seen it with my own eyes. I was disappointed to discover it was just like any other big city: all lights and noise and busyness, even at this hour of the night.
For another twenty minutes we drove on through the streets, until I realized we were on a road heading out into the suburbs. A further twenty minutes and the city streets had been replaced by a highway. “What’s out here?” I asked. But questions were still fruitless. We drove on for ages more, the headlights cutting a short swath of yellow brightness through the gloom.
I was close to falling asleep when we turned into a smaller road and I could see the dim outline of some large building just ahead. As we pulled up to a wall with an iron gate, the beams of light fell on a plaque that read
All fatigue melted away to be replaced by nothing short of excitement. Emily Monroe’s own childhood home, which she later restored and lived in again. The agent retrieved two flashlights and handed me one. The darkness was absolute except for the stars overhead—the moon was a thin sliver and helped not at all. My unusual guide opened the iron gate and we made our way on foot up the drive. The house loomed above, at the top of a small hill. The click of our shoes on the stone steps was a resounding din in the heavy silence.
It wasn’t until the door of the house opened that I realized I had been holding my breath. Reminding myself to both inhale and exhale, I stepped for the first time into a place with a direct connection to Emily Monroe.
“We don’t have much time,” said the agent and he took me to what had been a sitting room. But it was full of boxes and inside the boxes were papers and files and notebooks. “You’ll need these,” he continued. “Now I’m afraid I can’t give you anything more than tonight with them, so you’d better get studying.” I didn’t protest, just took out my research journal and began to take notes on everything I read.
And what a hoard of wealth it was! Virtually everything I examined answered some question or mystery I had been left with after exhausting the records in the Agency’s library. Holes in my understanding were filled in only a handful of hours.
The entire time I sat with the documents, the agent took up a post at the window which looked out onto the front drive. He peered intently through it as if keeping watch, only allowing me a single candle for light so that he could still see out. Absorbed as I was in my research I soon forgot about him and took little notice.
Until a noise came from deep inside the house. As if someone forced something open.
The agent was at my side in a heartbeat and blew out the candle. Thick blackness smothered us. He whispered straight into my ear. “They’ve come in from the back of the house. Didn’t bring a gun?”
“No,” I whispered back.
“Too bad. Stay absolutely quiet.”
I obeyed. Soon there were footsteps and I thought I could make out some quiet whispering. Then footsteps grew louder, and then I saw through the open door of the sitting room a beam from a flashlight shine down the hallway. The beam narrowed. The footsteps loudened. A shadowy figure stepped into the doorway. Then the beam fell on us.
There was a sharp pop and a flash of light like a camera taking a picture, and the stranger fell to the ground.
The agent, without my hearing or knowing, had taken out his gun and put a silencer on it. Waiting a moment to see if there was any instant reaction from the others that must have been searching the house, we went to the front door and gingerly but quickly ducked outside.
I was terrified during that escape, running faster than ever to the car outside the gate. I have since had moments to surpass it.
The agent explained that there were people who did not want the story of Emily Monroe published, for obscure and complicated reasons, and they were determined to stop my work at all costs. “But what about the documents in the house?” I asked. “We can’t let them fall into their hands.”
“They already know everything you just learned. This isn’t about gaining information, it’s about containing it.”
So these enemies were not after the documents. They were after me.
We went on the run instantly. I insisted on collecting some things from the hotel; pieces of research which meant I could continue working even on the move. That made it worth the risk, though we were fortunate to make it out alive. It meant the last story I sent to you was able to be written.
Two days ago the agent who became my bodyguard was killed in the bathroom of a movie theatre. But I have made it to a safe place—safe at least for the moment. And when I think of the work I’ve left unfinished I wonder if my enemies haven’t succeeded. It’s a horrible cliffhanger to leave on.
But hope is not lost yet. There’s still a chance of defying them. It will take a little time, though, and it will need to be more dramatic than just finishing the story of the Battle of the St. Julian Mission. It will mean bringing these chronicles of Emily Monroe to a wider audience.
I have plans. I have schemes. All I need from you is patience.
You will hear from me again.
The Author says he has plans. My staff and I are having meetings. We don’t know yet what the future of Marvellous Adventure will be, but you can bet that you’ll find out as soon as we do.