Friday, January 5, 2007

For Jennifer

Nurse Laura placed her dissertation down on the end table and wrinkled her nose. The air had not smelled quite the same in her favorite sitting room since she had rid herself of the dead rat left by her phantom of a visitor. She had sent her Andrew to investigate the intruder, using the carefully placed GPS locator chip she had slipped onto his--or her--person during her feigned swoon. She hoped the intruder, almost certainly, she deduced, a music major with nothing better to do with her--his--time, had not the presence of mind to remove it before Laura's beau traced the location of the hiding place to whence the criminal had skulked.

"Breaking into the mansion," muttered Laura, lifting her finely-crafted hand knitted sock from her work basket and beginning to cast on for its companion. "Really, how 19th century.

As she uttered her complaints, Lady Hannerstien, Jennifer to her friends, flounced into her room, cheeks aglow with youthful passion and energy, bouncing blonde curls trailing behind her.

"Have you any news?" Laura asked. Her friend had insisted upon allowing her time to rest, but Laura's natural curiosity had grown to such levels that she was no longer able to abide in her sitting room, leaving the investigations to the "stronger sex" and the trained professionals. She could not stomach simply waiting about for her companions to dole out handfuls of information as they pleased.

"I don't really want to talk about that right now," Jennifer replied.

What better time, thought Laura, was there to talk about such things? The sunlight played across the keys of the pianoforte. Laura, upon seeing the state of the long-forgotten instrument, had insisted that it be removed from the dank quarters it had inhabited and had instructed the finest craftsment to tune and clean it. Unable to play herself, she had asked good friends from Manchester's Conservatory for the Arts to enter her home to entertain her during the evenings as she knitted. Lady Rogers, away on an expedition to the south, had promised to play for the party upon her return.

Kindly, Laura allowed the subject to drop, as Jennifer regaled her with tales of romantic events occurring throughout the land, the stories of her family home, and the trauma of the bitter land Gre'valu.

But as her friend, blue eyes glittering with hidden light, left as suddenly as she had come, Laura resolved to do something about her assailant. She drafted several letters, smiling to herself as she thought of what would ensue.

The best way to catch the fiend, she thought, would be to play at his own game. Laura used the glory of Bluetooth, a magic taught to her long ago, to contact Andrew. He would need to help her draw the villain into the trap she was to set.

As darkness fell over the mansion, Laura descended using a passage of which only she knew into the heart of the building. She brushed cobwebs from her eyes, unafraid. Deep within the mansion, she opened an abandoned trunk she had placed there long ago, when she had left her former life for the one she now lived. Opening it, she pulled out a cloak, woolen breeches, a linen shirt. Laura carefully dressed herself, then took the sharp dagger from beneath the clothing. She cut her long, luxurious maple hair, keeping the strands together. Alone in the candle light, she began to sew.

By the time the black-dressed intruder returned, Laura would be ready for anything.

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