Chapter 5d

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This was a long chapter--and this is the final section. It's a KEY SCENE--the entire rest of the story hinges on what happens in these next pages. I think you might be surprised! 

I'm dedicating it to GreenEyedBeauty because she liked my hair color. :-D 

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When I arrived at Master Fenrey’s large study, Delphine was already there, along with Nadine, Master Fenrey himself, Sir Ebenezer Black—the president of the Theatrical Guild, a rozzer—

And Dietrich Wolff.

Master Fenrey ushered me into the room and showed me a chair. Nadine’s face was red and swollen, like she’d been sobbing. Delphine was as pale as a sheet of paper. Presul Wolff looked grim. Sir Black stood by the window, his arms crossed and a mulish expression on his face. I ignored the rozzer. They always looked the same—sour and grumpy.

This was nothing like I’d expected. I didn’t even have to pretend to be confused. 

Master Fenrey kindly explained the situation to me, and I gasped and looked frightened in all the right places. 

“So what are you going to do?” It was an authentic question—I couldn’t come up with any reason why we were all gathered. 

He gestured to the rozzer. “Inspector Whitley is in charge of the Peacock case. They’ve studied it for weeks. If Dame Fairchild is indeed the next target, the most likely timing of another attack is four weeks from now.”

My eyes widened. “That’s opening night of A Captain’s Courage. Empress Antonia will be in the audience.” 

“Exactly,” said the rozzer. “We’ve noticed a pattern with the previous attacks. All three murders have been during an opening night when Her Majesty has been in attendance. The bodies are hung from the catwalk with a peacock feather stuck in them. The problem with stopping the Peacock has been that the Empress attends an opening night somewhere nearly every week. Obviously, an attack doesn’t occur at each one. We’ve discussed putting a security detail backstage at every theater the Empress attends, but that’s not a long-term solution because it would only alert the Peacock and force him underground for a time. We need to catch him, but it’s difficult when we know so little about him or where he will strike next.”

“So why doesn’t the Empress stop attending performances for awhile?” Presul Wolff asked.

Sir Black turned a baleful glare his direction. 

The inspector looked insulted. “Her majesty does not bow to the schemes of a murderer.”

Not even to save the life of a performer. It figured. Theater might be the highest expression of Empire culture, but the most famous stars ranked far under even the lowest aristocrat in the nation. The ones with magic were only slightly less disposable than those without. If it were nameless stagehands being murdered, chances were good that there would be almost no investigation at all. 

So much for the Jewel of Society.

I shuddered. No wonder the others all looked ill. I couldn’t even let myself think of Nadine being murdered. I’d lose my mind. I looked at Master Fenrey. “Maybe the Empress won’t bow to the schemes of a killer, but you could cancel the performance.”

He glanced at Inspector Whitley and Sir Black again. “Both these gentlemen have been in communication with the empress, and her wish is that this threat be treated seriously and every effort made to capture the murderer. This tip is the first break they’ve had in the case, and if it proves to be accurate, it could be a huge step forward. The show is going on as planned. Only we will be working with the police force to set a trap for the Peacock.”

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