The following night Marissa stared at her image in the mirror. It was kind of frightening to see the dark clothes with the hooded cloak and no face. She smiled even more pleased with how well she could work. At this rate she could go anywhere in London and no one would ever know she was there, just a Shadow.
She removed the cloak and stared at the floating trousers and shirt. Then she carefully took off all of her clothing. Not one bit of her body was visible. Like this she wouldn’t be seen by anyone no matter where she was.
Her thoughts drifted to the Minister who had been murdered. She was burning to know who had done this. Scotland Yard wouldn’t let a noble woman in on their investigation, so going there as Lady Marissa Edgington would not do any good. She stared at the blank mirror. Like this she could visit the Minister’s home and see if there was anything that could tip her off, but she hadn’t gone in the house. Her message had been given on the back step.
She thought about Dr. Bering and John. She could go there and polk around. She shivered at the thought of being naked in their house. She wished she could keep her clothes on and still be invisible, but this way no one would know she was there. The possibilities were endless.
Tonight would be the test to make sure she could stay invisible throughout an entire message pickup and delivery. She put her clothes back on leaving the black gloves she usually wore in her bureau drawer. She wanted to make sure he hands remained invisible as she worked.
Donning the hooded cloak she quickly made her way to the servant’s entrance and left her beautiful house near the park and flitted into the shadows toward a nobleman’s home. She had accepted this delivery from one of her contacts from her factory days.
She smiled wryly thinking about how she had gone from poor factory worker to fabulously rich overnight when her father, a London noble bachelor, had died and left his entire fortune to her. The particulars of the transaction still bemused her and she had wondered if it was some horrible joke, but Lord Edgington had all the particulars about her childhood, youth and young adulthood.
Apparently he was planning on claiming her when she turned twenty-one, but he fell ill on a trip abroad and never recovered. He lived long enough to draw up the paperwork proving her noble birth and setting her up for life as Lady Edgington. Marissa was grateful to the father she had never known and she tried every day to be the Lady he wanted her to be.
She had spent the first few years trying to locate the mother who had given her up as a baby, but the woman had disappeared. Marissa smiled at the thought of her mixed heritage. It gave the ladies of the court enough to gossip about, yet Marissa had kept her behavior above reproach from the day that the lawyer took her from that horrible factory to today.
The years that had passed since had been wonderful, full of adventure and excitement, or as much of it as Sean would allow. Her thoughts turned to Sean. He was so worried about her nocturnal expeditions, but he didn’t stop her from going either. She wondered at his motives.
She would always remember the expression of wonder and distain on his face when the lawyer brought her to the mansion on Warwick Square. She could tell he was just as surprised by the turn of events as she was. She also thought, with satisfaction, how that smug look of superiority had disappeared when she fell easily into the role of Lady Edgington like she really had been born to be a noblewoman.
It had been difficult at first, but her best friend had been her father’s library. The first few days she had spent hours devouring books on the aristocracy, nobles, etiquette, and anything else that would allow her to mesh into her new world. She hired tutors and assistants that taught her what to say and how to act.
It took less than six months for her to win Sean over completely. He could see how badly she wanted to fit into this new world that had been dumped in her lap and that she would do anything to gain the respect and trust of her peers at court. Marissa smiled. She still felt it had been the fact that she finally went to Sean with her hands in the air and asked him to teach her how to manage the vast estate properly.
Sean had looked at her with surprise and said, “You amaze me Marissa Edgington.”
“Why?” Marissa had replied.
“Because you act more like a noblewoman than most of the noblewomen I know. You have outdone yourself trying educate your mind for your new world and done it beautifully. And just when I thought you might stop you go one step further and ask how to manage an estate that even your father didn’t know everything about.”
“I see no reason why I can’t be involved in everything,” Marissa had replied a little snippily. “I do own it all.”
Sean had smiled. “Yes, and yet your still humble about it.”
His comment solicited a laugh from her and to this day she still smiled when she recalled the conversation.
She paused in the shadows of a building near the river. She heard footsteps coming toward her, so she slunk back into the shadows. The late night walker passed her unaware of the invisible observing eyes and moved on down the river walk. Marissa waited a few more minutes then continued down the street to the appointed house.
The house belonged to one of the wealthier patrons of the arts. She had delivered messages for the owner before. She dashed across the street and slipped around to an atrium door and tapped four times, paused and then tapped twice. The man must have been waiting for her because the door opened almost immediately.
“Ah my shadowy messenger,” the man whispered cheerfully. “Tell the master of the theater that I have a new name for him to consider. I’ll meet him at the same location at the same time on Tuesday.”
“Any reply,” Marissa asked huskily.
“Only if he can’t make it,” the man said thoughtfully.
“No that is everything.”
“So I am to tell the master of the theater that you have a new name for him to consider. You’ll meet him at the same location at the same time on Tuesday,” she repeated back word for word.
“That’s correct. Thank you my dear Shadow.” He held out a bag of coins.
Marissa reached out to take the bag noting with satisfaction that her hands were still invisible. She took the bag and left just as quickly as she had come. She made her way through the streets to the large theater that commanded the attention of most of the downtown traffic and headed for the rear entrance.
The man watching the back door saw her and nodded. She flipped two of the coins from the bag into his outstretched hand and slipped inside. This routine was completely familiar to her. She delivered her message and promptly left the theater.
She slid into the shadows and paused. She didn’t have any other messages and the night was still young. She longed to go to Dr. Bering’s house and see what she could discover. They weren’t expecting her for a few more days, not that she planned to return, but she was dying to know what they were working on so secretly and if they really did have something to do with the Minister’s murder.
Without realizing it she found herself moving toward the house in Cheapside. She shrugged and continued until she reached the back door. She hadn’t heard from any of her contacts that any messages were to be sent, but she also knew she wasn’t the only midnight messenger that worked in the city.
She slipped around to the back of the house and scanned for any possible openings that would hide her approach and entrance. There was a window on the second floor that would take a bit of doing to reach, but she could try. She was about to make the attempt when the back door swung open and John stumbled out followed by Dr. Bering.
They each carried a box and headed toward a small garden area.
“I still can’t believe they died,’ John said sadly.
“Perhaps it was too much. We can try a lesser dose on the next group,” Dr. Bering replied.
Marissa’s heart dropped as she listened.
“We have to start all over again with the first round and then move to the second,” John answered annoyed. “It will take another two weeks to get back to this point.”
“I still want to know what happened to that messenger we dosed a few days ago,” John wondered.
“We should have given the first and then the second. It was a gamble, but we haven’t seen or heard of anyone turning up dead with the symptoms,” Dr. Bering replied. “Maybe she’ll be luckier than Minister Herring.”
“I do hope so, but do you think she’ll come back?” John said cheerfully.
“If she wants to understand what’s happening to her, she will,” Dr. Bering said matter-of-factly.
Marissa held her breath as the two men started digging holes in the dirt. A split second later she had shed her Shadow clothes and stood invisible in her skin. Now she was determined to find out what was going on inside that house. She made sure she couldn’t be seen and walked toward the door. The men’s backs were turned completely away so she flitted to the door and slipped inside before they could notice.