Chapter 6b

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I really hoped it would be the last time I’d be so glad to see Delphine Birdwell. Presul Wolff gave her the same gentlemanly greeting he’d given me, offered her tea, and showed her to the second chair next to mine. I took the opportunity to regain my composure and pull my sketchbook out of my bag so I looked businesslike and ready to work. I forced the disturbing conversation with the presul out of my mind. I had to concentrate—keeping Delphine safe from the Peacock was all that mattered right now.

Presul Wolff set his desk chair in front of us, a pile of documents in his hand. He gave Delphine and me each a copy of a booklet. “This is the script for A Captain’s Courage. Dame Fairchild’s part is Julia Donovan, Captain Moffett’s love interest, who ends up captaining the ship when Captain Moffett and his crew are injured during a kraken attack. Miss Birdwell, obviously you will need to learn her lines. But Miss Mellor, I want you to memorize them as well.”

I shot him a suspicious glance. “Why?”

He sat in his chair, looking very serious. “You and I have to know her part thoroughly so we can spot the moment something starts to go wrong. We also need to study the whole play, especially the second act, to see where the most likely point of attack may be.”

I felt foolish for being so quick to challenge him. “I see.”

He turned his attention to Delphine. “You and I will rehearse the part of Julia Donovan privately, with you impersonating Dame Fairchild, so that your portrayal of Julia and hers are as identical as possible. Dame Fairchild will continue rehearsing with the rest of the company. The three of us will sit in on some of their rehearsals, but we won’t make the switch between Miss Birdwell and Dame Fairchild until the dress rehearsal. We don’t want the rest of the company to know about any of this until it’s all over.”

“That means I won’t have any experience rehearsing with the company until the dress rehearsal.” Delphine bit her bottom lip, frowning.

“That’s correct. Not an easy prospect for you, but we can’t risk you being discovered.”

“But surely,” I interrupted, “the Guild members could be trusted.”

“We would hope so,” he replied evenly, “but we don’t know how or when the Peacock is getting backstage or if he has accomplices. We don’t know who his eyes and ears may be. The fewer people who know about this, the more chance of success we have.”

 Delphine leaned back in her chair, her face pale.

“Scared?” I said, sneering.

“Of course,” she snapped. “I have to face a murderer with only your silly toys to protect me.”

“My ‘silly toys’ got us away from the—” I slammed to a halt and clamped my mouth shut. 

Delphine looked disgusted at my near slip.

“Both of you, stop it.” The presul’s expression turned severe. “Let me make one thing clear—I don’t care what your personal feelings are for each other. You can hate each other all you want. But when I run a rehearsal, I expect you to leave that outside the door. Here—” He gestured to the room, to the three of us, his eyes stern and commanding. “—we are a team. No matter how you feel about it, you will treat each other civilly. Miss Birdwell’s life depends on it, and possibly others as well. Understand?”

God, he was so hot when he was being all take-charge. Scary, but hot. And he was right, of course. Very well. No bitch-baiting for me for the next few weeks. “I understand.” 

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