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Excerpt from "Watch City: Waltham Watch" by Jessica Lucci

 “Now, Creampuff, don’t be such a gnashgab.  Come, let’s go join the gents for a game of charades.  We can take our ales, and that which ails us, along.”  Martina coaxed Bashelle from the bar and with one hand around her shoulders and the other hand holding two brimming mugs, escorted her to diversion.

        Verdandi waited until the bar cleared, although she was beyond tired and fantasized of sleeping on her workshop cot.  Tess seemed to instinctively know that Verdandi was purposely stalling.   The professor politely forked the last of her peas (Neviah had been kind enough to prepare a Frankenstein shepherd’s pie, with no meat) and excused herself to her regular table.  She asked Verdandi to join her, and the child’s face brightened in relief.

        The two scientists sat across from each other: one famous, elegant, impeccably dressed; the other one unknown, poor, yet decked out handsomely in tinker’s attire.  Neviah glanced over at them from behind the bar, and marveled at how alike the two women were.

        Verdandi and Tess spoke in low tones, maintaining inconspicuous conversation.  “I believe that is why Ziracuny invited herself to escort me along the wharf.  She was checking on the progress of her power among the Subtonians.  I didn’t want to believe it, but it was awkward, and chilling.”

        “I yet do not understand why Ziracuny would accompany you all the way to the inn,” said Tess.

        “She said she had business to deal with here.  I expected her to take tea with me after the lengthy walk, but she ignored me once she stepped through the door.”

        “You mean she actually came in?” asked Tess.

        “Yes, she did, but I lost sight of her when an older gentleman took me by the elbow and asked me what meals I would recommend,” she shuddered at the memory of the big fingers, like bat wings, that had clutched her arm.  “The last I saw of her, she was at the base of the landing, looking up the stairwell.”

        Now it was Tess’ turn to shudder.  She imagined her young friend being accosted, then the idea of anyone, no less the mysterious Ziracuny, skulking about by the stairway to her own room, sent a chill down her arms. 

“It was me,”  she breathed out in quiet realization.  “Ziracuny and Nero,” she focused her eyes and looked deeply into her sweet friend’s face, “they were using you to get to me.”

        “But why?” asked Verdandi, the fear pulsating in her heart thumping the truth of Tess’ words.

        “The Waltham Watch.  There are sinister notions ticking through this city, I see it now.  We must be on guard.”  Tess glanced around the bustling dining room cautiously.  “We must meet again, with fewer ears catching words in the air.”

        Yes,” agreed Verdandi, at once understanding and not understanding.  She knew in her gut that there was a morbidity shrouding her boss, and her lifetime of being tricked and turned away had taught her to seek the implications of a person’s motives.  She had no doubt that Tess wanted only the best for her.  And so she trusted her.  More than she had ever trusted a person in her life.

        “Tomorrow morning?” Tess suggested.

        “On the bright,” answered Verdandi.  “You will see a summer rose on my threshold.  Then you can know I am alone.

        “A summer rose,” Tess trailed off, almost falling into blankness.  She caught herself before dreams and memories encompassed her mind.  She took a deep breath and let it out, clasping the cold glass of lemon water in front of her with two hands.  “Tomorrow then.”  She took a sip of refreshing liquid, and smiled in reassurance at her protégé.  She reached over and neatly wound an escaped lock of crimson hair behind Verdandi’s ear.  Rising from the table to adjourn to her room, she said, “Goodnight, may time serve you well.”

        Verdandi looked up and smiled back at her.  “May time circle around and serve you back.”


Excerpt from "Watch City: Waltham Watch" by Jessica Lucci

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