The cool air wafted around her body making her skin tingle uncomfortably and she knew she had to figure out some way to overcome the sensation of nakedness or she would never survive this night. She stepped into a shadowed corner and closed her eyes. She pictured the invisibility as another skin on top of her own, like a skin tight suit.
The exercise worked and she relaxed. She opened her eyes and looked around calmly. The room was exactly as she remembered it down to the decanter of wine. She examined the serving table and realized what her mistake had been two night’s ago: there was no cup. The men must have dosed the cup before they brought it in, clever.
She stepped into the attached hallway and moved lightly toward the next hallway. She could feel the dust on the soles of her feet and realization gave her a bit of a shock. She hastily glanced back at where she had stepped looking for footprints in the dust, but noticed none. Next she looked at the soles of her feet and brushed any accumulation off.
She would have to be very careful if she didn’t want to be caught. She continued down the hall and came to an open door. She glanced in and discovered an empty bedroom. The next three doors proved to be the same. With annoyance she started down the hall again, but stopped with the sound of the back door opening.
She ducked back into one of the empty bedrooms and waited. She heard the solid footsteps of Dr. Bering and the shuffling clunk of John. She held her breath as they came into the hall and moved past her. She waited until they were well past before she began following.
“Well, whoever she was she might be too scared to come out in public,” John was saying.
“If you can’t see her what does it matter. What we need to be listening for is reports of things disappearing where they shouldn’t,” Dr. Bering countered.
Marissa smiled. They had no idea what they had done to her and no idea that it wasn’t a permanent solution, but one that could change with a thought. Her smile faded as she kept her thoughts firmly on the invisible skin and Shadow persona.
“Well I guess I’d better get started with the first dose again,” John said with a sigh.
Dr. Bering stopped in his tracks and Marissa held back.
“Do me a favor and keep a few of the mice aside. I want to try giving them just the second dose,” he said excitedly.
“Skip the first? Are you sure?” John questioned.
Dr. Bering nodded. “Call it intuition. I just want to try it. We having nothing to lose except a few mice and it might answer some questions.”
“All right. Are you coming down?” John finished.
“No I have some work to finish. We need to find a new contact, remember?”
John nodded and turned right down a hall. Dr. Bering went straight and then entered another room and shut the door. Marissa frowned. She wanted to know what Dr. Bering was up to, but she couldn’t go through a closed door without arousing suspicion.
So she ended up following John. He went down the hall and then through a door and down a flight of stairs into what must have been a basement room. He left the door slightly ajar and she slipped in after him. The dimly lit room was filled with glass vials and flasks. There was a type of burner with liquid boiling on it and several vials filled with a reddish substance or a greenish substance.
Marissa scanned the room for John. He was on the other side facing a series of cages. Each cage contained several mice and some had rats. Marissa shivered. The room was cool making bumps rise on her bare skin.
John reached into the open cage and pulled out a white mouse and then stopped.
“I know you’re there,” he said softly.
She froze in place. Was he talking to her?
“I smelled your perfume in the hall,” he said aloud.
Her perfume. She wanted to smack her forehead. She used scented oils and soaps when she bathed. She was certain he had smelled that. She would have to use more common scents when she bathed from now on. These thoughts coursed through her mind in an instant, but their progression stopped when another voice sounded in the room.
“You aren’t very good with your locks, John,” a seductive female voice said from near the vials.
Marissa watched with surprise as one of the vials moved as if on its own and danced in front of John’s worried face. If she hadn’t watched her own body disappear then she never would have believed it possible.
“I thought you were working on the antidote,” the voice said with a touch of annoyance to her tone.
“We are,” John replied shaking.
“I don’t believe you,” the voice whispered angrily. The vial snapped in two and for a brief moment Marissa saw the outline of a slim-fingered hand. “ This is not an antidote, but more of your cursed potion, John.”
John stood trembling against the cages. Marissa watched the whole scene play out from her spot in the corner, not knowing what to do.
“I gave up a lot to help you and Jarvis, John. You promised when I couldn’t change back that you would fix it. It’s been almost a year, John. A year that I have been invisible.” A knife appeared from the shadows.
Marissa almost gasped, but bit her tongue.
“We promised you an antidote if you performed some duties for us,” John countered, desperately watching the knife as it moved in the air.
“I have performed your duties,” she spat. “Now I expect payment.”
The knife tapped against an invisible hand.
“If I don’t receive payment soon then I will have to eliminate the problem.” the woman pressed the knife against John’s trembling chest. “Don’t think I won’t, I’ve gotten used to not seeing myself.”
“You know what Jarvis will do if you harm me,” John countered desperately.
The knife trembled slightly. “You leave my daughter out of this or you’ll regret it,” she threatened.
“But the Lady is so accessible, Sarah,” Dr. Bering said from the doorway.
Marissa’s head snapped over to the corner where he had just entered. She silently moved out of his way as he strode over closer to John.
“Ah, Jarvis, nice of you to join us,” Sarah said playfully. “We were just talking about the antidote you promised me.”
“You haven’t finished everything we asked,” Jarvis said simply, “and now our contact at the palace is dead, by your hand no doubt.”
She snorted. “He was already dead, Jarvis, I just put the knife in his chest and made it look like a robbery. You really should be more careful with your test subjects. I’m guessing the mice and rats died too?”
Her words had a double meaning that all present understood. John nodded, sweat dripping down his face.
“Pity, I liked the rats,” Sarah answered nonchalantly. “Where is the antidote, Jarvis?”
“It isn’t finished yet, Sarah, I thought you had already figured that out,” Jarvis said snidely.
“I am tired of this game Jarvis,” Sarah threatened.
“And I’m tired of sending the same message each week that keeps your daughter alive,” Jarvis answered brusquely. “I have one more task for you, Sarah and then we’ll talk about the antidote.”
Sarah sighed. “What this time?”
“Find the woman they call the Shadow,” he said simply.
Marissa cringed back. It was time for her to leave. She inched toward the door.
Sarah sighed again. “There’s a reason she’s called the Shadow, gentlemen. That is like trying to find a vision or hallucination.”
“That’s a pity, your daughter is starting to shine like a beautiful star in Victoria’s court,” Jarivs said simply.
Sarah let out an explosive breath. “Fine, I’ll find her, but then I want your word that my daughter will be left alone.”
There was silence as Jarvis pondered the scenario. “Deal.”
Marissa slipped out. As she made her way back up the hall she heard Sarah’s last response.
“One more thing, gentlemen,” she paused and Marissa stopped on the steps. “I don’t wear perfume,” Sarah finished with a note of smugness.
Marissa dashed up the stairs and back through the house. The back door was thankfully unlocked. She hurried out and into the shadows where she stopped panting from her mad dash. She found her clothes and hurriedly put them on. Behind her she could hear the sounds of the men moving through the house.
She pulled the hood over her invisible head and slipped into the shadows and down the street.