Free Reads: Agent for the Orchestra Rough Draft Pages
Agent for the Orchestra is the new, free podcasted sci-fi romance by M. M. Genet coming in July 2019.
Following are the free rough draft chapters. The story, once edited and re-written, will be broadcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. Get a sneak peek here as we meet agents Yvonne and Jack as they travel thru time; chasing down musical compositions that wreak havoc in the multi-verse. They just might be saving each other as they save the world!
Chapter 1 Rough Draft
Yvonne swept the stone chimney with careful, methodical strokes of her broom. The motion was nearly meditative as the bristles drew faint lines in the grey ash. Her shoulders ached, but she pushed the discomfort out of her head. The fireplace hadn’t been swept in what appeared to be months and she couldn’t have the room clogging with smoke due to ashes. The composer who lived in the room was far too brilliant to lose a life to choking and smoke inhalation. He had music to write that would last through the ages.
Andre, the Master’s personal assistant ran up the stairs and paid her no attention. He went in to the bedroom, found what he was looking for and returned back to his hurried and purposeful gait, nearly knocking Yvonne over. He gave her a sneer as he sidestepped her presence and continued gracefully down to the first floor.
That was one of the setbacks of working in different versions of reality. In this Vienna, men commanded a certain ability when it came to manipulating sound. Women were considered second class because they couldn’t. It had taken her a while to land a maid’s job that would act as cover in such a prestigious house. A job in service was the only available work for women. After spending so much time in this world, she wondered if given the chance, women could prove they did have the same magical abilities as their male counterparts; but society and the established ruling power had convinced them otherwise. Sadly, she wasn’t here to raise the status of all women. She was here to save the life the reputation of only one.
She checked her pocket watch. She calculated the routine of her employer and knew she had roughly a half an hour before he would leave to take his late night supper in his room. She’d been watching Beethoven for months and learned his habits; from early morning practice of various instruments to late night dinners; eating whilst he composed, followed by a walk in the moonlight and more composing at bedtime.
She had half of an hour enter his bedroom, steal the opera he had been secretly composing and leave the village. Simple. ‘Right,’ she thought.
Yvonne stood upright and stretched the aching muscles in her lower back. After this mission, she certainly had far more respect for Europe’s service class. Being an agent for the orchestra meant she had to take on various roles in society, no matter the year or version of reality she’d entered. While she much preferred the clothes of upper class women, posing as a servant and making herself invisible to most people worked much better.
For months, she had worked as Beethoven’s house maid, cleaning out his fireplace, scrubbing his floors and helpfully carrying his dinner tray to him in the evening for the old cook. All the while, she watched and waited until she found what the Orchestra had sent her to find. History, or at least the several versions of reality she had studied, found that just before Beethoven had fallen ill towards the end of his life, he had written an opera entitled, “My Immortal Beloved.” In those versions of history, the score of the opera was found; revealing the true identity of Beethoven’s one, true love. The end result was that the woman’s life, an important figure in history, was ruined by intrusion and unceasing scandal.
In a few other worlds in time, where the manuscript of the opera had been lost, the identity of his love had remained secret and she had gone one to make significant contributions to the political stability of all of Europe. Sometimes, it was unfathomable how one piece of music could change the world and all of history. As an Agent, Yvonne had been given the heavy burden of finding the earliest time that Beethoven had taken to writing the piece, stealing it and returning it to the archives of the Orchestra. She could set history strait for the better, at least in this world.
As she returned the broom and shovel to the mantel, she was sure to go over her back up story in her head in the event she was caught. She mentally noted all of the windows and doors within walking (or running) distance from Beethoven’s bedroom in the event that she needed a quick escape. She walked calmly and confidently to the hall and slipped into his room, holding her breath, she waited and listened. She was safe for the moment.
Beethoven and his assistant were still working away downstairs. The upstairs bedroom chamber and dining room remained silent as the tomb. Yvonne tiptoed her way to Beethoven’s desk and scanned the scrolled pages for the opera. She flipped through invitations for appearances at royal court, requests for apprenticeships from students all over Europe and notes in a leather bound book that looked like a personal diary.
‘Wait,’ thought Yvonne. ‘If all those pages hadn’t been his diary that he was working on while he laid in bed at night, then,’ she thought it through. ‘Of course! What better way for a great composer to dream of his lover than to write her an opera from his very own bed.’
Yvonne stepped lightly and quickly across the stone floor to the bed Beethoven’s personal assistant had made early that morning. She pulled back the covers slightly. No sign of the piece. She pulled down the stack of pillows. She saw nothing until she noticed the metal tip of a quill glimmer in the candle light from under the last pillow. With it was a large scroll of parchment, a second quill and a bottle of ink with a large cork sticking out of the top. She let herself breathe a short sigh of relief at the discovery.
She tucked the scroll into the slightly loosened bodice of her dress and covered the edges of the parchment with the lace from her blouse. Her mind snapped to procedures for leaving but her heart pulled at her, making her take notice. She looked longingly for a moment at the place where Beethoven had poured his heart out to a love that, up until now, he had painfully yet protectively kept secret. He would hold the hearts and minds of millions of people in the future, captivating them and putting them under his musical spell. As an Agent for the Orchestra, she had the advantage of wielding her own kind of magic.
Yvonne pulled at the chain tied up around her neck revealing an ancient amulet nestled under the fabric to the bodice of her dress. The green stone had been ornately carved to form two symbols. A treble clef and the seal of eternity intertwined. As she held it in the palm of her hand, she hummed quietly, directing the tiny points of light from the amulet to Beethoven’s bed. Closing her eyes, she imagined the composer, sick with grief and a broken heart, falling into a deep sleep where music inside his head brought him solace, despite losing his tome to his Immortal Beloved.
The sound of steps coming up the hall broke Yvonne from her spell. She spun around to take a better listen. A small crash near her feet made her jump. Beethoven and his assistant heard the crash as well. Their footsteps on the stairs quickened as they ran up towards the bedroom. In her clumsiness, Yvonne had knocked over the glass bottle of ink that had been hidden under the pillow. Her back story certainly wouldn’t work now. With few options left, Yvonne hiked up the layers of her dress and petticoat and leapt from the second story window to the courtyard below.
Landing in a hedge of prickly holly bushes, there was no time to curse her luck. Someone from the staff would be there in seconds. Running to the stables, she heard Beethoven’s assistant yell from the window, “The master’s work has been stolen!” Delivery men with carts of produce and wood cutters ran towards the window as Yvonne walked, invisibly towards the stables.
Yvonne breathed a sigh of relief. Pretending to fetch water in a pail for washing the stoop, she was invisible to most of the servants gathering in the courtyard. She cringed as a group of stable boys ran in and called out to her. “You! There is a thief on the grounds. Have you seen anyone come this way?”
“It’s nearly evening, my lords. I’ve been here pumping water in the dark. I’ve seen no one,” she lied.
A young man, older than the teenagers and clearly the leader stepped forward and held his torch higher, glimpsing into her bucket. He eyed her suspiciously. “What you plannin’ to wash at this time of night then?” he cocked his head, questioningly.
“Not that any of you ever pay me any mind,” she spat back. “You lot, always sneaking into the kitchen for scraps and tracking god knows what all over the stoop. The Master’s assistant stepped in the remains of your boots twice this week and I’m the once catching hell for it!”
He handed the torch to the boy standing closest to him and walked towards Yvonne. His grin was malicious and made her nervous. “Actually,” he cooed, “I have noticed you.”
It may have been dark, but Yvonne could see his hooded eyes. Her heart raced and her face flushed with anger. As he took a step closer, she tightened her grip on the rope of the wooden bucket, partially filled with water. She let him get closer, her stomach turning as she waited for her one shot.
As he reached out to touch her, she swung the bucket from out of the darkness and hit him on the side of the head. One more swing as she ran made the boys in the group jump back. The boy holding the torch lost his footing and fell backwards. Yvonne saw a flash from the torch to the hay in the barn. The distraction gave her enough of an opening to make run for the forest.
As the boys scrambled to get to their feet, she threw the bucket at them, pulled her dress up to her calves and ran as fast as she could towards the nearly pitch black tree line of the forest. Behind her, she could hear the assistant still shouting from the windows of the house, “There! Stop her! She’s got the manuscript!”
‘What an idiot. He’s still shouting orders from the safety of the house? Come and get the opera for yourself if it means so much to you and your master,’ Yvonne thought angrily.
She soon realized how wrong she’d been for thinking it. Nearly to the trees, she could hear a low rumble, like distant, rolling thunder. The deep, monotone bass grew louder with each, frantic step she took. By the time she reached the low lying ferns of the forest, the sound shook the ground and vibrated under her feet. Yvonne struggled to keep running. The sound rose up from the ground creating a shimmering wall of sound that blocked Yvonne’s path to the heart of the forest.
The wall of sound was thick. It was simultaneously solid and moving. Unfortunately, it was also impenetrable. She might try to go around it, if only there was time. It was unlikely she’d find the edges and escape before the mob was on her. Better to just face the creator of the wall.
Leaping gracefully from the branch of a tree, Andre landed on his feet like a cat with his arms outstretched. ‘What on earth?’ Yvonne struggled to make sense of this magic. ‘Where is the sound coming from?’ She squinted as the clouds overhead passed slowly. In the faint moonlight, she could make out the ghostly silhouettes of a dozen men playing cellos. The translucent cello section played with increased vigor as Andre conducted them.
The throng of staff and merchants from the courtyard would be on her in moments. She closed her eyes and held her amulet in her hand. She visualized her reservoir of music projecting from it and piercing the wall like a sword. The wall merely absorbed her attack. There was no breaking through the wall of sound. Instead, she’d have to fight the source.
Holding the green stone in her hand, she started to sing. As she did so, she mentally summoned the good, living things that inhabited the forest to hear her plea. The first to answer was the wind. He joined her with his howl. The trees joined in, shaking their limbs and offering some of their leaves. The wind scooped them up and began to dance to the cadence of Yvonne’s song. She stood tall, taking deep, long breaths and projecting her voice, envisioning that all of Venice might hear her.
The leaf-dense wind blew against Andre. The edges of the dry leaves whipped at his fingers, gouging them and making them bleed. He gritted his teeth, holding on to a tree trunk with one hand as he fought to conduct the wall of bellowing cellos with the other. Soon, the rocks answered her call and gave themselves to the wind. Andre fell to the forest floor as rocks pelted his head and face, one after the other. The wall broke with a monstrous deflation of sound; as if the entire bass section had been sucked into a vacuum. Yvonne jumped to her feet at the first opportunity and ran as the tunnel of wind surrounded her with protection. The portal back to the orchestra was more difficult to find in the dark of night. She summoned the wind to change course, hoping that her pursuers might follow it.
In the moments of stillness that followed, Yvonne’s eyes searched for the marker. Clutching the opera manuscript at her chest, she dodged trees and searched frantically. She caught a glimpse of flickering gold as the clouds broke away from the moon. Her amulet began to pull towards the secret door that opened to the Orchestra.
As the sliver of light grew to a doorway, a voice called out to her from behind. “I only wanted to show her how much I truly love her.” It was Beethoven. His face was sweaty from the chase. He was out of breath and he gasped as if to have a moment to plead his case. Yvonne took one step closer to the door but hesitated. Beethoven held himself up with one hand against a tree. Leaves were intwined in his already wild hair. She loved his music but there was no way to explain to the great man. Yvonne set one foot over the portal threshold and stopped as he spoke again.
“Please! It means nothing to you,” he insisted. “It means everything to the woman I love!”
She looked at him with gentle eyes. “I know. But this opera will only ruin her life. I’m sorry. You just have to trust me.” Yvonne forced herself to go through the door and heard the familiar crack of the portal sealing off the world behind her. She slumped to the floor and leaned her head back on the solid door of the Orchestra and closed her eyes.
“If only I could make him understand,” she thought to herself.
“Some assignments are tougher than the rest.”
Yvonne’s eyes sprang open. “Maestro, Sir. I’m sorry I didn’t see you there. I mean..” Yvonne stammered. The Orchestra’s conductor, Maestro Genoa offered her his hand. She took it and stood, nearly to attention. “I have the opera right here, Sir.” Awkwardly, she pulled the paper scrolls from the casement of her blouse and handed it, sheepishly to him.
“No need,” said the Maestro. “Just turn it in to the archives on your way back to your quarters.” Yvonne relaxed slightly and nodded. “I only came to find you to see if you are available this afternoon? I know you must be tired. Once you’ve had a rest, please send a messenger for me. I want to talk with you.” He gave her a smile and didn’t wait for a reply.
Yvonne stood without moving for several long minutes. The Maestro, the conductor was the highest ranking member of the entire orchestra. In the career of an agent, maybe one was fortunate enough to meet him once, maybe twice in if they were lucky. Now, Yvonne was going to meet with him twice in once day? Possible reasons for wanting a meeting with her burst into her head like fireworks. The possibilities were too many to even consider. Now that she was in her own world, she realized how very tired she was. Time travel was funny that way.
A bundle of flying chaos made of strings, wires and piano pegs that somehow formed the cutest little mechanical bird made its way to Yvonne. Half flying, half tumbling through the air, Pizz collided with Yvonne’s shoulder and clung to the strands of her long hair. He shook his stringy feathers and cocked his head. “Chim chim, you’re home!” chirped the little bird. He nestled himself into her hair and nuzzled her neck. It tickled, making her giggle.
“Yes, Pizz. I’m home. But there’s no time for cuddling today. The Maestro is coming for a visit this afternoon. Better tell Leg and Stack to get our place ready.”
Pizz ruffled and shook his whole body, making him look like he’d just been zapped with electricity. “Chim, chim, Ma, Ma, Maestro? See us?!” Pizz squinted his eyes suspiciously. “Chim, chim, what did Yvonne break?”
“I didn’t break anything, Pizz. Now go ahead and tell the others. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Pizz leapt off her shoulder and nearly hit the floor before the momentum of his tumble flying lifted him above the heads of the bustling music hall. She smiled as she watched her little bird flit his way back to her apartment.
“I didn’t break anything,” she told herself. “Nothing but Beethoven’s heart.”
Chapter 2 Rough Draft
Yvonne took a deep breath and cleared her head. Transitioning from one reality to another took focus. She made her way to the archives room and handed in her manuscript for authentication and confirmation. Conductor Edwardo, an ancient looking man, unfurled his bony, arthritic fingers and pulled gloves over his shaking hands. He shot Yvonne a scour as she handed in to him. Her arms and hands were covered in dirt and grass stains from falling to the forest floor. Her eyes met his narrowed, judgmental gaze. She refused to buckle. She merely shrugged and pushed the parchment into his hands.
Returning to her apartment, Pizz flitted around the room, picking up mismatched socks and a plethora of abandoned teaspoons from hundreds of cups of tea that Yvonne had picked up and taken to any number of reading spots, nooks or corners of a room where she was inspired to play one of her instruments. Stacks, one part salvaged cello, one part cleverly engineered robot stood frozen in the middle of the room with several tea cups and saucers balancing precariously in his hand..
Yvonne sighed. She opened the door to her desk and took out a fresh candle. Lighting it , she placed in in the copper door, just at the small of his back. Then, she carefully took the cups from his hands and waited patiently for Stacks to awaken.
“Well, it’s about time you got home! I can’t replace my heating element myself, you know,” he scolded. “It’s really unfair how you expect me to do everything!”
Yvonne shrugged guiltily. “I know. This assignment took a bit more time in the field than I had planned.”
“For weeks, all I’ve done is pick up after that silly bird of yours. He’s always dropping his wires everywhere, you know. I don’t know how he hasn’t gone bald or just molted into oblivion!”
“It’s nice to see you too, Stacks!” Yvonne shouted as she carried the cups to her tiny kitchen and set the tea stained china to soak in a bit of hot water and soap. “By the way,” she continued to her steam powered assistant, “the Maestro is stopping over in a couple of hours. Think you can whip up some sandwiches or something?”
Stacks rushed to the kitchen and cornered at the sink before she could make her escape. “The Maestro?”
“Yes,” Yvonne confirmed.
“The Maestro?” Stacks was bubbling with steam now.
“Is coming here, in a few hours?!”
“Yes,” Yvonne tried to sound calm. She was nervous as well, but panicking never really solved anything.
Stacks turned a small valve in his neck to release a bit of steam as he frantically leapt forward, knocking Yvonne out of his way. He frantically started washing the cups in the sink. Happy to be out of the cramped confinement, Yvonne leaned in the doorway of the kitchen and smiled back at him. “The Maestro won’t be expecting much. He just stopped me at the arrival gate and said he wanted to talk.”
“What does he want to talk to you about? What have you done this time?” Stacks snapped.
“Nothing. As a matter of fact, he smiled at me when he said it,” she tried to sound as reassuring as she could; for both of their sakes.
Stacks whipped his motorized head around and this time, his expression had completely flipped. He lowered his voice as if the walls had ears. “Oh my gosh, are we getting a promotion? Do you think he might make you a department chair? You know, Gretto, Alicia’s assistant?”
“No,” Yvonne confessed.
Stacks rolled his eyes as he began to dry the cup in his hand with a cotton towel. “I forgot. You only make friends with annoying little fluffs of flying piano and guitar strings.” He sighed. “If you paid attention at all to how things run around here, you’d know Alicia was a field agent like you but she just got a promotion. She’s now head of student outreach.”
“What’s that?” Yvonne asked, wondering how much time they were wasting talking about Orchestra politics.
Stacks released a bit more steam from his valve. “Who cares what it is! It’s a promotion. That means more pay, more entertaining since Alicia doesn’t have to travel anymore and you should see the new apartments on the fifth floor!”
Yvonne internally cringed at the sound of all of it. She liked working in the field. She liked her cozy apartment. How Stacks had been commissioned to her was a mystery. Never the less, she tried to be patient with him. She nodded, “Well, this is our first time entertaining in, well, ever. I bet Gretto has to throw together snacks for visitors at the last minute all the time. Think of this as your audition.”
Stacks spun around on his tail pin feet with enthusiasm. Yvonne smiled. “I’m going to go file my report and take a shower. Pizz, why don’t you come with me and leave Stacks to it.”
Yvonne closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief; taking in the silence. When she finally opened them, Pizz hat tumbled through the air and landed on the highest shelf of her wall of bookcases. “Chim, Chim, Chim, Chim!” he squawked.
“Oh stop!” Yvonne scolded. She plunked herself down in a large, oversized chair in the corner of the room and opened her small computer. Yvonne had always preferred to work from her chair than a table and desk. Posing as a servant for the last few weeks, plush, cushioned chairs had been merely a memory to her. She let her tired muscles begin to relax as she pulled a blanket across her lap.
She logged in and waited for the page to load. A large treble clef spun as her password was verified. She typed her report about the confiscation Beethoven’s manuscript.
To: Agent Matheson
The manuscript, My Immortal Beloved has been successfully retrieved and is presently undergoing confirmation of its authenticity. Please let me know when it has made it to your office. I am available to answer any questions you may have about its acquisition.
The screen lit up the increasing darkness of the room. A low moan muttered from her bed across the room. “Are you quite finished with that nonsense, darling? You really are disturbing my nap.” The huge, orange cat stretched revealing his white tipped paws as they reached for Yvonne from under the covers. “Doesn’t curling up in bed with your Legato sound so much better?”
“Leg, I just need to finish this up and take a shower.”
Legato’s eyes were suddenly wide like tea saucers. “Why on earth would you do a ridiculous thing like that? I’ve gone over this with you before.” Legato rolled over from his back to his belly so as to stare directly into Yvonne’s eyes. “Once you step foot into that shower, I can’t,” he paused dramatically, his white tipped paw wiping away an imaginary tear. “I can’t save you,” he finished, his voice breaking as he said it. His shoulders heaved in panicked breaths.
Yvonne bit hard on the insides of her cheeks. It was this very kind of feline theatrics that made her love the cat more than she could logically describe. She set the laptop down and walked over the edge of the bed.
Yvonne stroked Legato’s head. “I’ll be fine,” she reassured him.
Legato looked up into her face. His put both of his front paws on her hand, leaning all of his weight on theme, creating a uniquely piercing effect. “What if you’re not fine? What if the evil water droplets unite in a moment of unprecedented shower revolution and decide to take you captive? What if you never come back?”
“Perhaps I should make out my will before I go to the bathroom?” Yvonne asked sarcastically.
Legato brightened slightly. “If you don’t make it out of that thing alive, can I have your bed?”
“Sure,” Yvonne replied, getting up to make her way to the bathroom.
“And the pillows and comforter? And your fuzzy sweater socks?”
“Will you leave written instructions that Stacks is to take care of me forever?”
“I’ll get right on it,” Yvonne shouted from the bathroom. She gasped in surprise as Legato sprang through the crack in the bathroom door. “Legato, what are you doing?”
“Look, I love you and I appreciate you leaving me all of your best things but I can’t just let you go in there.” He sighed deeply as if to muster his courage. “I’m here, as your friend, to talk you down off the ledge.”
Yvonne reached into the shower stall and turned on the water, adjusting the temperature. “Why don’t you just go back to bed, Leg. I’ll be out in a few minutes.” She hated to worry the poor cat, but she’d been in a highly classical world for weeks. She’d been washing up from a basin with lukewarm water and wearing her hair in a bun to avoid getting her hair too dirty. A stampede of wild boars couldn’t have stopped her from taking a long, hot shower.
She stepped in and Legato screamed. Within seconds, his little paws were pressed against the fogged up glass. “Are you ok?” he shouted.
“Glorious!” Yvonne declared.
“Are you sure? I mean, are you checking to see if the water droplets are forming a coup da ta?”
“All water seems to be operating for their own separate factions. I think we’re safe.”
“I really hate how you don’t take into consideration how all this trauma is effecting me.”
“Go ask Stacks for some salmon. That should help calm your nerves,” Yvonne suggested, her voice echoing off of the tiled, shower walls.
“So you’re turning me into an emotional eater?”
“Legato!” Yvonne shouted in exasperation. She whipped open the door and flicked her wet fingers at the cat. He screamed, running head long out of the room in horror at the droplets of water as they touched his fur. She shut the shower door and breathed deeply. For a brief second, she considered turning down any fritter worlds that didn’t have hot, running water and then quickly dismissed it from her mind. Letting the steam and water unfurl her tied and twisted muscles, she tried to clear her mind; imagining all of the water and soap washing away the stress of her up and coming meeting.
She reluctantly turned off the water when it started to run cool. It was funny how grateful one could be for a mere modern convenience. Wrapping herself in a bath sheet, she headed back to her bedroom. She scanned the room but Legato was no where to be found. He was probably off sulking somewhere, cleaning himself profusely. She vowed to herself to buy him some milk to make it up to him.
As she made her way back into her bedroom, she opened her armoire cabinet and plopped on her bed. She stared blankly at the sparse choice of clothes. The problem with hopping from one world and time period to another is that she was never really sure what the current fashion was when she re-entered Orchestra Hall.
A loud knock made her jump. “Should I send world to the Maestro?” Stacks asked.
Yvonne thought about it. The clothes weren’t going to leap out of the closet and dress her. Staring at a nearly empty closet was just prolonging the inevitable. While she was grateful that Stacks had such confidence in her promotion, she could just as likely be called upon due to some grave break in Orchestra policy while out in the field. She often broke protocol. While she there wasn’t anything she could think of that stood out lately, her nerves were beginning to chip away at her confidence.
“Could you send Pizz with the invitation to come in an hour? I still need to do my hair,” Yvonne pulled the towel from her messy locks.
Stacks sighed dramatically. “I suppose the endive canapés won’t be too wilted by then.” He shut the door behind him.
Yvonne threw herself backwards on to the bed.
There’s nothing quite like having your boss over for lunch to make every dust particle and thread bare piece of furniture stand out. Yvonne had always thought of her apartment as a sanctuary for herself and a comfortable place for Stacks, Pizz and Legato. Although, Legato and Stacks would have said their accommodations were lacking, if they were ever asked. Yvonne was suddenly flushed with a wave of insecurity.
Maestro had taken a seat in a blue armchair in what was conceivably the living room. Stacks graciously set out plates, appetizers, tea and cakes. For such short notice, the table was beautiful and the food was delicious. She smiled gratefully up at him as he placed extra napkins next to a vase of flowers. She had to admit, she was good at a lot of things but hosting an impromptu lunch for the high-ups wasn’t one of them.
She offered the Maestro a plate but he declined. “I’d rather wait until our last guest arrives, if you you don’t mind.” His eyes were kind but cautious as he said it.
Yvonne sat back in her chair slightly. “We’re expecting someone else?”
Maestro sighed, “You’ve proven yourself to be a rising star in the field. All of your successes on behalf of the Orchestra haven’t gone unnoticed. Stacks silently did a little victory dance behind the Maestro’s back and Yvonne had to bit the insides of her cheeks not to laugh.
As if appearing from nowhere, Legato slid out from under the coffee table with the food on it and sauntered up to the Maestro. He rubbed his long haired, orange furred face on the man’s navy blue suit pants before Yvonne could reach across the table to catch him. The Maestro shooed the cat away.
“Yes, yes, lovely to see you too, Legato. Nothing personal, but I really don’t like cats,” he said as he shook the cat from his leg.
Legato jumped in the Maestro’s lap and plopped down. He purred in reply, “That’s because we’ve just never really spent any time together, darling. If you knew me, then you would discover how irresistible I truly am.” At that, the cat shot Yvonne a stare full of daggers as he stretched his body completely across the man’s lap. As if on command, large clumps of orange fur fell away from Legato’s body and clung to Maestro’s suit jacket.
Yvonne blushed with embarrassment. “Legato, that’s enough! Maestro doesn’t like cats.”
Legato stood up abruptly with a look of sheer defiance. “I know, darling.” He leapt off of the man’s lap with the grace of a dancer and made his way to the kitchen.
Cat 1. Yvonne 0, she thought to herself and smiled nervously. Thankfully, the bell rang at the door and Yvonne nearly toppled over the table to answer it. Yvonne swung the door open wide. She would have welcomed a flesh eating tarrasque at that point; anything to save her from dying of embarrassment.
She stood there staring at the guest in the doorway. From behind her, she heard Stacks drop a dish of some kind. It crashed to the ground as she heard him let out a small gasp. Legato strutted past the gawking Yvonne and lay at her feet as if presenting himself as a gift to royalty. The cat looked the guest up and down. “Well hello. Won’t you please come in.” The cat paused. “Or leave now and take me with you.”
Chapter 3 Rough Draft
“Right,” Maestro stood up and shot Yvonne a less than pleased look. He waved for the gentleman standing awkwardly in the doorway, to come inside. Yvonne stepped backwards, her foot landing on Legato’s tail. Yvonne contorted her body to avoid landing in the endive boats and tea cakes when a hand reached out and caught hers. The gentleman smiled politely as she regained her balance and gave him a nod of gratitude. Stacks scowled at her from his hiding place behind the couch where he pretended to prepare more tea and rearrange the sugar cubes in the bowl for the third time. Yvonne met his gaze and her expression suggested he make himself scarce. Stacks stuck his tongue out at her behind the Maestro’s back but did as he was silently told. With a forced smile and a flush of embarrassment on her cheeks, Yvonne sat down in a chair across from the two men and waited for an explanation.
Maestro cleared his throat and restarted. “Well, as I was telling Yvonne, I have been impressed with her excellent field work.” Clearly, thought Yvonne. Just as long as there aren’t vengeful cats in the field, I’m you’re girl.
Stacks inched his curved, cello body out ever so slightly from the kitchen door, followed by his head. He stood silently and listened closely. “As we all know, for musicians, as well as agents of the orchestra, successful performance under pressure is one of our greatest strengths. Some of us are born with it and for some, it is taught. For clear protocol, every agent must be trained to adhere to our strict rules of conduct to survive in the unpredictable spectrum of worlds in which we work. It is easy to become accustomed to the order and mathematical timing of a classical world only to lose all sense of purpose when one is suddenly thrown into the chaos of a jazz world.”
Yvonne narrowed her eyes. Where is he going with this?
“It so happens that you, Yvonne have proven well in both variations of reality and therefore, it’s time you passed on your knowledge. Would you care to share your philosophy about being a top agent for the Orchestra?”
Yvonne paused and thought. I’m a top agent? Since when? She really hated being put on the spot. Never the less, she straightened her back and squeezed her fingers as they neatly sat in her lap. Taking a deep breath, she answered, “Well,” she started slowly, her mind searched for the words, “quite simply, an agent of the Orchestra attempts to obtain musical compositions that have historically proven to change that world for the worse. We bring them here, into the relative safety of the Orchestra in the hopes of righting history in that particular world as well as studying and learning what aspects of the music might have inspired the destructive human behavior that followed it.”
Maestro nodded for her to continue, adding, “Jack has been with the Orchestra for a while but he’s never done any field work.”
Yvonne’s eye caught Stack. He was dramatically feigning a silent yawn and pretending to faint into the kitchen from boredom. Her stomach tightened. How could he add to the weight of the pressure already.
Her logical self reprimanded in her head. Right, he doesn’t need a textbook answer. I don’t need anyone to tell me how terribly I’m screwing this up, thanks.
She continued explaining aloud, “For example, if I can go back in time to a high jazz world and steal the original version of ‘Die Fahne Hoch’ from Horst Wessel, then a huge part of the Nazi campaign of World War II could be weakened. Nothing bonds strangers together better than an anthem to sing as one. If I could steal Wessel’s original before copies could be made, perhaps it would be one simple way to set history in a more positive motion.” She shot Stacks a sharp glance to confirm she’d given a much better answer this time.
Maestro laughed nervously. “Of course, Yvonne isn’t suggesting that infiltrating Nazi Germany is a simple assignment, or one the Orchestra could even fathom assigning. Nor that the holocaust could have been avoided by the extraction of one anthem. Never the less, she brings to light the heart of the reason why the Orchestra and field agent work exists. We aim to lead all of humanity in a more positive direction towards peace and betterment.” Yvonne felt her ego deflate completely. The Maestro turned to the man seated next to him. “Yvonne, this is our newest agent, Jack Stewart.”
The man reached across Stack’s cakes and tea and shook her hand. “Hello.”
Yvonne smiled, feigning confidence. “Pleasure to meet you.”
She gave the Maestro a sideways glance for a brief second. Musicians might be good under pressure, but they also were a cutthroat and political bunch. She’d never heard of anyone having a student or charge-in-training in the field. She, herself had passed the required tests within the Orchestra’s walls. She’d been recruited, had a few on-site training courses followed by being metaphorically thrown into the deep end of the pool.
More specifically, her first assignment had been to pose as a voice student to an eccentric teacher named Marcinda Fairchild. In Fairchild’s jazz world, she had been known to have secretly stolen the blues ballad, “Good Morning Heartache,” from it’s rightful composer, Irene Higginbotham. Yvonne was assigned to pose as a wanna-be starlet who sang poorly. She was to beg the help of Ms. Fairchild, all the while, searching through the woman’s ramshackle of a house while the elder woman napped.
It took Yvonne three weeks to successfully find and then return the manuscript to the true composer. Rightfully recognized for her work, Higginbotham went on to write forty more award winning pieces which set into motion many other successful careers. The point is, no one helped me or mentored me, she thought to herself. This whole thing smelled of political maneuvering. It was best to do as she was told and ask questions later.
Jack was handsome and from where Yvonne was sitting, out of her league with no hope of a romantic possibility. Jack could have been anything; a movie star, a British spy, an All-Star athlete, a politician. He had classic, chiseled facial features and thick, wavy hair that made her check her hands in her lap so as not to give into the temptation of touching it. He was wearing a charcoal grey suit with a vest. Either his girlfriend dressed him or he had his own impeccable taste.
Her stomach leapt at the thought of either of the two extremes. On the plus side, Yvonne would enjoy watching Jack do just about anything. He probably made filing paperwork look sexy. On the down side, Jack would have zero chance of blending in and disappearing when they went under cover. Why on earth was he training to be an agent for the Orchestra? she wondered.
Jack smiled warmly. “Your reputation precedes you. I look forward to our first assignment together.”
Yvonne smiled politely, thinking to herself, You’ve got to be kidding me. Even his voice is attractive. But maybe that was a good thing. Extracting information from informants might get a whole lot easier if the sound of their interrogations was velvety.
She confessed, “I’ve never trained anyone before, so please bare with me. I’m sure we can figure it out one step at a time.” Yvonne glanced nervously from the Maestro and back to Jack. She was trying to sound like a leader and not like a woman thrown a curve ball from the highest ranking boss in the Orchestra.
The Maestro got to his feet and breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll let you two get ready. Yvonne, if you check your email, I’ve had my secretary send you the assignment. You two leave in the morning.” Without hesitation, he stood up and brushed off clumps of cat fur, shooting Yvonne a sharp look of disapproval albeit with his kind eyes. He shook Jack and Yvonne’s hands and left.
With the click of the door mechanism, Legato appeared out of no where and immediately took up residency in the Maestro’s newly abandoned seat. Within seconds, the fluffy cat belched and heaved a fur ball with theatrical skill. He looked over at Jack, who watched, slightly horrified. The cat licked his chops and looking at Jack yawned, “Welcome to the family.” Yvonne cringed and rubbed her temples.
“Right,” Jack said awkwardly, rocking on his heels. “Well, if it’s not too forward, I’ve got the details of our assignment for tomorrow.” He rummaged through his messenger bag and handed her a very thin file. “I wanted to be prepared,” he cleared his throat awkwardly.
Yvonne sat back in her chair, taking the file and sending a silent ESP plea for Stacks to come and clean up the mess. She thumbed through the pages of the file silently, while Stacks returned with more tea and pretended not to notice Legato. Yvonne took a long drag of tea, set the cup back down and stared, engrossed in the paper work.
Jack waited. He tapped the tips of his fingers together. Eventually, he cleared his throat. “Care to share?”
She looked over the file in her hands as if she had forgotten the room surrounding her. “Oh sorry. Of course.” She began to read aloud, “It looks like we’re heading to a moderate level jazz world, 1913 Paris.” Stacks froze mid-pour of tea. His eyes practically bulged as he listened to Yvonne say the word Paris aloud. “Our assignment is to acquire ‘The Rite of Spring’ before it debuts. In this reality, several artistic icons are killed in the riot that historically followed the opening night.
Jack sighed. “Opera and dance really aren’t my forte. I imagine that neither of those typically incite riots in a moderate jazz world though, do they?”
“Not usually. While a jazz world is unpredictable and most of the residents of that reality are improvising moment to moment, the Orchestra has it classified as moderate, meaning there are enough elements of classical music to make the world’s reality stable. Aside from that, no one really knows why a piece of music has a great opening in one reality but causes a riot in another.”
Stacks set the tea pot down on the table so abruptly it made Jack jump. The two agents stared up at him. “What?” snapped Stacks. “Just because you two get to go to Paris and I’ll be stuck here in this dive, listening to this ungrateful excuse for a feline complain the entire time you’re gone. I’m not upset. Why should I be upset? I’ll just spend my time, picking up tiny wires from the molting, flying modern art over there and picking up a thousand tea cups that you’re sure to leave around before you leave. I mean really, I may be half machine but the other half of me was once a beautiful cello. My heart. No, my soul longs for beauty in this stifling prison you call an apartment.”
Yvonne was embarrassed but Jack couldn’t hold back a smirk. Clearly, he’d read the file ahead of time.
“Stacks,” Yvonne interrupted, but the musical assistant only continued, dramatically.
“Stacks!” Yvonne shouted.
“What?! What could you possibly say that will prevent my heart from shriveling up from lack of culture?” he shouted back, venom spewing.
Yvonne fought hard to suppress a smile as she lowered her voice. “It’s a family assignment.”
“Pardon?” Stacks asked.
“It says here that Jack and I are to pose as a couple newly arrived in Paris. One or both of us is to apply to be one of the handful of musicians that Stravinsky uses during his composing sessions. Stacks, if the only opening in the ensemble is for cello, you’ll have to talk me or Jack through the finer points of the instrument.” Yvonne paused and turned to Jack. “Unless you’re a cellist. I’m sorry. I should have asked.”
Jack shook his head slightly, “Percussionist. You?”
“Singer,” Yvonne answered, flatly. “We’ll observe Stravinsky when we get there. Won’t hurt to ask our contact in that world either. Maybe they know something about him as well.”
Jack stood but hesitated to leave. “Yvonne, can I ask you something?”
“A field agent for The Orchestra….it’s not a typical calling for someone like you.”
“Someone. Like. Me.,” she tried not to take it as an insult as she repeated the words back to him.
“I mean a beautiful young singer? Rumor in the Performance Department is that you could have hit celebrity status is your world.”
Yvonne shied away slightly and looked ate Pizza who had been sleeping under the coffee table the entire time. He’d made a nest in one of her shoes. For a split second, she also wished she were a sleeping bird hidden away from the world. It was strange to share any of her personal life with anyone outside of Stacks and Legato. She could see this mentoring thing might be tougher than she’d anticipated. She sighed. “It might have happened. So much of success is mere chance and blind luck. The Orchestra recruited me because of abilities I didn’t even realize I had at the time.”
“You mean projection.”
“Yes, while it can be taught here at the Orchestra, I seemed to have an instinct. I could control parts of the natural world with my voice without any training at all. I never understood it as a child. The Orchestra gave me a purpose that was higher than celebrity or money.”
Jack smiled at her in a way that made her stomach tighten. She could feel fear heart skip a beat but she couldn’t explain why, save no man had ever looked at her quite the way Jack was at that moment. Stacks broke the silence. “Well I for one would like a little less of the high road and a little more of High Street. Paris shopping, here we come!”
They met the next morning at Jack’s apartment. He was waiting outside in the hallway, one suitcase at his feet. Yvonne exhaled and blew a stray curl from her face; exasperated with a suitcase of her own, a handheld crate with a very disagreeable Legato inside, followed by Stacks spewing a running river of complaints and concerns. When they had fully assembled at the door, Jack could hear Stacks puffing steam as he exclaimed “If you would just let me go back for my sunglasses. For God’s sake, who goes to Paris without proper eyewear!?”
Yvonne closed her eyes, drawing a deep breath and summoning patience. When she opened her eyes, a kind expression was staring back at her. “Sorry,” she apologized. “I’m accustomed to packing much lighter than this.”
Jack gave her a wink and pulled a pair of Chanel glasses from his inner jacket pocket. “Here Stacks, try these.”
In a flash, Stacks began to ooh and aah. “Of course, I didn’t bring my compact mirror. I bet these look fabulous on me and I can’t even see my reflection. Wouldn’t you know it?”
Yvonne whispered, “Thank you,” as the party set out for their gate. Yvonne shared the latest update with Jack as they walked. “Our contact is Madame Giblen. She’s the headmistress of the Paris Music Conservatory for Children. Her post was assigned to her five years ago and she works as a permanent field agent for the Orchestra in that world. She hasn’t sent in a report in the past few weeks but she’s been sent word that we are arriving today.”
Jack slowed his pace and leaned in to Yvonne. “Being a novice, I’ve never been to a jazz world.” His hesitation was genuine. “I mean, you’ve never taught a student and I’ve never been to a jazz world. How insane is this as a first mission?”
Yvonne’s eyes sparkled and she laughed. “Welcome to the world of a true field agent. You never know what kind of adventure is just around the corner.”
“Oh Gawd..” sighed Legato from his carrier. “Let me throw up now.”
A thought prickled at the back of Yvonne’s brain. “You know, Jack, you never told me how you got recruited.”
Jack stared straight ahead and was silent. The sound of his leather jacket brushing against his jeans seemed to take up the silent between them as they walked to the gate. A smile slowly found it’s way to his face as he deliberated the wording of his answer. “When I said I was a percussionist, I might have given a slightly more high brow title than I deserved.” Yvonne kept walking but couldn’t pull her eyes away from his face. “What comes to mind when I say drummer in a band?”
Yvonne laughed slightly. “What kind of band?”
“Punk, speed metal, rock.” He gave her a sideways glance. “Imagine all the things that go along with that kind of music. Drugs, bar fights, chasing managers down in an alley for money, running out into the same alley and skipping a steep tab. You might say that not getting caught by authorities is my natural gift.”
“I’m beginning to see why they sent you on this mission with me.”
Chapter 4 Rough Draft
“Leaving so soon?” came a velvety voice from behind them as they prepared to walk through the portal.
Yvonne withheld a groan but it came out as a sigh. The sunglasses on Stack’s nose slid down his slender face as he peered over them. Jack watched in bewilderment as he noticed the look of disappointment wash over Stack’s face. Legato merely began screeching and howling in protest at a hairball that threatened to erupt with a particularly juicy amount of ferocity.
Yvonne pressed her fingers behind her back in the attempts to appear calm. “Why Lily, it’s very kind of you to see us off like this.”
Lily smirked. “Is that what I’m doing?”
Legato’s bellowing turned guttural as Lily dared step closer. Her features were long and lengthy making Yvonne look practically mousy by comparison. Her beauty had been a useful tool in the field but the practice of casting her spell had become a habit. Lily had grown accustomed to getting what she wanted. Question was, what did she want that was so pressing it needed to impede Yvonne and Jack’s departure.
Jack held out his hand and introduced himself. Lily returned the gesture with a dramatically graceful hand as well as an alluring smile. “How on earth do you have such a catch for a friend?” Lily cooed.
So maybe she hasn’t heard about my new ‘teaching’ position. That eliminates one possibility for this unpleasant visit, thought Yvonne.
“I’m just lucky, I guess,” replied Jack before Yvonne could answer. He sent a lightning flash glance from the corner of his eye to Yvonne.
“Aww, you know that question wasn’t aimed at you handsome boy.” Lily leaned in to Yvonne as if speaking into her ear, “and he’s loyal too. How interesting?” Lily giggled, inching her way closer to Jack. “I’m so glad I caught you. You see, I’m just here to make sure there wasn’t a glitch in the assignments. Let me see your file.” Lily extended her hand and flashed a brilliant smile at Jack.
Yvonne held her ground. She stood still as a stone. “No.”
“No?” Lily questioned.
“I said no,” Yvonne spat.
“I assure you. There’s been a change in field assignments. You know the biz, honey. We’re just all at the whim of whatever the Maestro sends down the pipeline,” Lily shrugged innocently.
“The Maestro assigned this directly. As in, he placed the file in my hands himself,” she emphasized through gritted teeth.
“Oh please,” Lily rolled her eyes. “Who in Orchestra is going to believe that?”
“It’s true,” Jack piped up.
“I mean,” Lily pressed. “You’re a good field agent, Yvonne, but you’re not perfect.”
Yvonne forced a smile. “Thanks for the vote of confidence but I really don’t want to disappoint the boss.” Calm, she chanted to herself. Just stay calm. Don’t give Lily the satisfaction of losing it in front of everyone.
Lily hissed. “The Maestro’s opinion of your work is your problem.”
Yvonne put her hand on Jack’s arm and started to move the group closer to the portal area. “Which is why we’re off.” Yvonne answered.
Lily jumped ahead of the slow moving, unlikely collective. She stood face to face with Jack. “She’ll screw this one up, I promise you. Then, you’ll wish you could come back to this moment and choose to work with me.”
“Yeah,” Yvonne laughed. “It’s gone so well with your assistants, why not take on a student too?”
Lily stepped back with her mouth gaping in shock. “That was just a huge misunderstanding. You take that back.” But she didn’t wait for Yvonne to utter another word. Instead, she turned towards the crowded station of portals, jammed with field agents arriving and departing, and disappeared in the throng.
“If only she would have gotten a little closer,” Legato complained. “I really wanted to throw up on her perfect shoes.”
Staccato gasped, “Savage! I really don’t know why we even keep a cat.”
Yvonne closed her eyes to collect her sanity. When she opened them she was calm and clear. “Ok. Since there are so many of us traveling together, I reserved an echo chamber near the portal staging area. A portal is fine for one person, but too unstable for all of us together. Stacks, release a bit of steam and pressure. We don’t want you exploding on the way there. Legato, you did this as a kitten when you arrived at the Orchestra but just in case I suggest you eat this.”
“Catnip? Oh my. We have thought of everything. It’s been years since I’ve had any, I just hope it doesn’t make me paranoid.”
“Last I recalled, it just made you instantly fall asleep.” She slipped a treat through the waffle bars of the cat carrier. The band of them found their echo chamber and opened the door.
Jack looked inside with a smile. “It’s a sound booth.”
“Of sorts,” Yvonne reassured him. The two helped Stacks inside followed by the luggage and cat carrier. Jack held the door for Yvonne. She looked for an acceptable space to stand but instead found her body awkwardly pressed against Jack in the snug echo chamber.
She felt her face blush as she attempted to remain in the command of the situation. “Honestly, this sort of accommodation in travel is totally unacceptable. I mean, are we agents or cargo?” Staccato complained.
“Everybody ready?” Yvonne sang as her hand hovered over the button. A loud snore erupted throughout the chamber as Legato unconsciously gave his answer.
The chamber shuddered slightly, light entering and exiting as if there were speeding cars racing by. Jack talked over the whirring of the chamber. “What do you think that was all about back there?”
Yvonne held a finger to her lips. Then she pointed at the speakers within the traveling box. She hated to be paranoid, but she was also careful. As the vibrations began to smooth, light passed by slower and slower. “Looks as if we’re about to arrive.”
Staccato squealed, “Macrons, petit pan au chocolat, champagne,…”
There was a light ding as the echo chamber came to a stop. Yvonne turned the handle inside and opened the door that was disguised as a broom closet as they stepped into the new world.
Children signing and instruments tuning in various keys echoed off of the painted, cinder block walls off of the school hallway. Brightly colored paper flags with black musical symbols hung from the ceilings and concert posters for various recitals were taped to the walls. Pictures of children playing cellos and violins were pasted inside glass display cases.
Jack looked around uncomfortably. “Is the headmistress waiting for us? We don’t exactly look like the average music student.”
Yvonne lead the group to the end of the hall and exhaled as she read the printing on the office door, “Madame Giblen.” Before she could reach the door to knock, Yvonne felt her greenstone begin to quiver against her collar bone. The door gently opened and standing there was the headmistress.
Without saying a word, she stepped past Yvonne and Jack to peer into the hallway. She gave them a chaste smile and then ushered the group into the office. “Pardon,” she smiled once the door was shut. “Anglais? ou Francais?”
Yvonne blushed. “Anglais, ci vous plait?”
Ms. Giblen nodded, “Bon. Welcome my friends. I see from your amulet that you need no introduction. You are Yvonne, yes? The Maestro said that would be arriving soon but I had not planned for so many. I am also surprised to see that you entered through the school entrance. I sent portal directions that would lead directly to your apartment.”
“This is a family assignment,” Yvonne confessed. “Hence, we needed to take the echo chamber.”
“Travel by resonance is exhausting. I’m sure you would like to get settled and have a rest. Allow me to finish one last task and then I will take you, myself.”
“Staccato might stand out in this world, I fear, but the rest of us can walk,” Yvonne offered. “Is there a safe form of transportation here for him?”
“Absolutement! Une minute.” Ms. Giblet left the office. Jack and Staccato exchanged glances but Yvonne couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. She loved discovering new worlds and their individual forms of travel.
When the headmistress had returned, she wrapped herself in a silk scarf, applied red lipstick while staring at herself in a compact mirror and turned to the group with a look of determination. “Allons.”
She took several high heeled steps to her desk, pulled a key from the drawer and handed another to Yvonne. “Your file said you are a singer correct?”
“Yes,” Yvonne confirmed, curious about the key she’d been handed.
“My most comfortable key is A minor.” The elegant woman held the key several inches from her face, opened her mouth and hit a perfect A. As she held the note, she dipped it into a delicate china cup. “There, now you try.”
Yvonne her own golden key before her face, opened her mouth and confidently sang a confident D note. As she did so, she dipped the key into a cup of what she could see now was cold coffee.
“Very good. This key is set to your individual key and timbre. It isn’t fool proof of course, but it does provide a certain level of safety.” Ms. Giblen turned to Jack. “And now you. I see no amulet of the Orchestra around your neck. So, aside from whatever it is that you obviously do for Ms. Yvonne, what is your talent?”
Yvonne’s face blazed red. A fit of uncontrollable laughter erupted from Legato’s cage. Jack cleared his throat but remained ever the gentleman. “Percussion.”
Ms. Giblen gave a wry smile looking him up and down. “But of course you are. We will set your apartment door when we arrive. That will be your way. Until then..” The headmistress went to the office window facing the school courtyard. She help her key as before but this time, directed her singing directly towards the glass. As the glass of her office shimmered, becoming more and more faint, the glass of another window great brighter. The room from where it belonged came into full focus. Jack took the lead and carried Pizz and Leg through the shimmering light, followed by the headmistress. Yvonne repeated the process effortlessly as Staccato moved the rest of belongings through. When they were all safely in the new location, the two women stopped singing and the portal closed behind them.
Less than an hour since their arrival in the echo chamber, Jack, Yvonne, Staccato, Legato and Pizzicato were in their new Paris apartment. “My apologies for such humble accommodation,” Ms. Giblet confided. “Will this be suitable? Again, I thought the housing was for a single agent.”
Yvonne walked through the apartment. It was far more elegant than her place back at the Orchestra, still, she counted only one bedroom. She bit her bottom lip, not daring to look in Jack’s direction. “It’s lovely. Thank you for all of your trouble.”
“Bon. I will return this evening to take you for dinner. We should talk about your assignment in greater detail after you’ve rested.”
“Why don’t we stay in? I’m sure Staccato would love to make us all meal,” Yvonne smiled.
Stacks said nothing, peering over his sunglasses.
“Very well. I will return at seven. I’ve withdrawn a bit of funds from the Orchestra bank account. It’s there with the caffe. I will see myself out.”
With the click of the front door, Staccato flopped on to the ornately carved couch and complained, “What a horrid woman. I mean, really. There’s a bit of money near the caffe in the kitchen. I’ve heard Parisians are snobs but what about hospitality? No aperitif to serve the guests as they arrive? This is ridiculous.”
Yvonne had also taken the opportunity to sit in a high backed chair in the living room. Jack followed her gaze that went down the hall, through the double doors and on to the room with only one bed.
“Uh, has anyone forgotten something?” Legato asked dubiously from his carrier. Pizz sprang from his hiding place in Jack’s jacket pocket and flew to the lock mechanism. Legato stretched the length of his body, exiting the carrier one graceful paw and then the other.
Yvonne smiled at them both and stood to make her way to the bedroom to have a better look. Jack followed her. She stood in the room, staring at it’s four posters and for a split second, she let her mind drift to the possibilities. Jack put one arm around her shoulders, making her jump in surprise. He whispered so the others couldn’t hear, “I know it wasn’t in the plan, but we could just share it. I mean, we are under cover as husband and wife.”
Yvonne craned her neck and stared at him incredulously.
“Or I could take the couch,” Jack conceded.
“Did I hear you say you two were taking the couch? Good. I call dibs on this room,” Legato declared as his long white fur gave him the illusion of being a cloud and floating up onto the bed and its thick duvet.
“Aren’t we getting little ahead of ourselves?” Staccato interrupted, making Yvonne realize that she still hadn’t pried her eyes out of Jack’s stare. “If Madame Haughty Pants is coming back at seven, someone needs to do the preliminary walk through the area. I mean, can I shop without someone calling the cops or not?”
Jack squeezed Yvonne’s shoulder and gave her a wink. “Right. I’ll go. Although, someone will have to let me in since she left before showing me my secret handshake,” he added sarcastically. “Why don’t you and Legato grab a nap. Stacks, you let me in when I get back.”
“Oh sure, forget that the assistant has feelings too you know.”
But Jack was already out the door. Yvonne stared down the hallway for a long while after he left. Pizz tapped her on the head and flew to the bed where Legato was already lying on his back with his paws in the air.
“You know,” Legato purred as she climbed into bed, “I think I love Paris already.” Yvonne didn’t hear him. She was already asleep.