The Web We Weave

Hello Readers! I’m back again. Sorry for my absence! I hope no one has been wasting away waiting for an update.

I’ve decided to return to writing Friday Fictioneers as individual little stories (keep an eye out for a new story soon!). But for those of you still interested in Nick and Emmeline’s story, I will try to keep up with it with its own little posts here and there. To prove it, here is a little update after our last adventure with the estranged couple, which can be read here.

Constantine is really shaking up Emmeline’s world, it seems.

Via Pinterest.

 

The Web We Weave

Emmeline’s silent shock and look of fear vanished the instant the policeman turned away to keep other bystanders from advancing too close. Nick winced at the sound of breaking glass behind them as one of the windows in the apartment building burst and half a dozen firemen rushed forward, yelling as they attacked the flames. But Emmeline didn’t even turn around.

Nick studied her, tension radiating from every angle and in every line of her face. She was frowning and worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. He wanted to say something, but despite the multitude of questions that had plagued him since her declaration – “I’m a spy, Nicholas” – he could find nothing to say. Instead he just stood there on the sidewalk, watching her think.

At last she seemed to come to a decision. She released her bottom lip and her whole face relaxed into an emotionless calm. It was a look unlike any other he had seen on her lovely face, and it terrified him. “Em?” he said at last, still having nothing else to say.

She turned her cool gaze onto him. “I’ve been compromised,” she said in a tone of voice that matched her expressionless face. This terrified him even more. He didn’t know this cold, detached woman. This woman, he realized, he could easily believe to be a spy. “I need to return to my apartment,” she continued, seemingly oblivious to his inner turmoil.

“But Constantine already found you there!” said Nick with alarm. He had not forgotten her injury either, and anxiously looked to the place where he knew she was still heavily bandaged. “And you’re still hurt!”

Proving his point, a grimace of pain broke through her calm face. She quickly masked it again, but there was no hiding it from Nick. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Constantine proved his point. He can get to me. He’s isolated me. Now I just have to find out what he wants.”

“Well you’re not going alone,” Nick said firmly.

Emmeline looked at him in surprise, and for a brief moment he imagined her eyes softened when looking at him. He stepped up next to her and decidedly linked her arm through his. She leaned on him gratefully, and they set off back down the sidewalk at a much slower pace than they had come, looking for all the world like any other couple out for a walk.

They said nothing the entire way back to her apartment building. A brief wave of the hand was all they spared when Mary Ann loudly hallooed them from across the lobby before stepping into the elevator. Inside, ritzy jazz music playing over the speakers was jarring in Nick’s ears, but Emmeline appeared not to notice it. She stepped instantly forward the moment the doors opened onto her floor and made for her door.

Nick hastily moved up beside her to help her inside, but she entered before he could do anything.

The flowers were gone.

Nick’s eyes widened upon seeing the spotless apartment, not a single trace of the dozens of bouquets that had filled it earlier, not even a faint smell in the air. He glanced at Emmeline, who showed not the slightest surprise at the missing flowers. She grimaced again and limped forward towards the table. Instantly Nick was there to pull out a chair.

“For God’s sake, Em, sit down and let me help you.” He helped her gently into the seat.

“Don’t swear,” Emmeline scolded, suddenly sounding like her old self. It was such a welcome change that Nick smiled.

“I’m sorry, Emmeline.”

Suddenly recollecting the prescription he had picked up earlier, he pulled the crumpled bag out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, breaking the seal and twisting off the cap. “Take some for your pain. And don’t tell me it’s not bad, because I can see that it is. I’ll get some water.”

Emmeline said nothing. Obediently she swallowed the two pills, gulped down with a glass of water.

Constantine’s messages were still on the table. With a grim air, she leaned over and picked them up and immediately noticed a new one tucked into the middle of the pile.

Nick was hovering anxiously at her elbow. There would be no way to read it without him seeing. “Nicholas?” she said.

He was instantly attentive.”Yes?”

“Could you…” she trailed off for a moment, unsure what request to make. “Could you go into my room and get my tan sweater? I’ve got a chill. All this excitement hasn’t been good for me, I think.” She blushed, as though she were embarrassed to send him into her bedroom. Nick said nothing, just moved towards the hall to her room. Inside, Emmeline cringed at the blatant lie and wondered at his quiet compliance – the day had been nothing but a whirlwind of strange events and her behavior, she knew, had been completely out of character.

The moment he disappeared in to her bedroom, Emmeline pulled out the new message. It was in a pale blue envelope. Without hesitating, she broke the seal and pulled out the card inside. It was a thick heavy paper. Her heart leapt to her throat despite her efforts to remain calm.

The only thing written on the card was an address, and below that the words, “When you’re ready, my dear.”

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Compromised

Happy Friday Readers! I’m popping in to give you a long overdue Friday Fictioneers! We’re returning to the present with Nick and Emmeline and the startling revelation that Em is a spy. The tensions are only going to keep building for now. Enjoy!

Friday Fictioneers prompts are provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Copyright J. Hardy Carroll

Compromised

Nicholas’s mind was reeling.

“I’m a spy, Nicholas.”

It didn’t compute. The sweet, kind, adorably girlish at times woman he had come to know and love could not be a spy.

She’d take him to meet her CIA contact, she told him.

They rounded the corner. Emmeline froze suddenly. The street was covered in firetrucks, ambulances, and police. An apartment building was engulfed in flames. “Stay back!” ordered a policeman in a bright vest.

“But my uncle lives in that building!” Emmeline said with real fear in her voice.

“I’m sorry Miss,” he said. “No one made it out alive.”

The End Justified

Happy Friday, Readers! Sorry to leave you hanging with my last story (Emmeline is a spy? Who knew?) but we’re making a jump back in time this week with Friday Fictioneers. We’re visiting a scene from Emmeline’s past. But don’t worry, I’ll return to the present soon. Enjoy!

Thanks to Rochelle and Sandra Crook for this week’s prompt and photo.

Copyright: Sandra Crook

The End Justified

July, 1996

“Aren’t you hot?”

Emmeline tugged at the sleeves of her sweater which hid the fingerprints her father had left on her arm. “No,” she lied.

Leann sighed dramatically and fell backwards onto the grass. “Well I’m boiling.” When Emmeline remained silent, she changed subjects. “Why can’t you come to my birthday party?”

Emmeline shrugged. “My dad said no.” Truth. “We’re visiting my grandma or something.” Lie.

“That sucks.”

“I still got you a present.” She pulled out a Polly Pocket from underneath her oversized sweater.

Leann’s squeal of delight banished any guilt she had for her light fingers.

 

 

Price, Emmeline Price

Happy Friday, Readers! We’ve made it through another week! Now it’s time for Friday Fictioneers (which again, I am so sorry for skipping last week). Back to Nick and Emmeline’s story. I am sorry (not sorry) to say the cliffhangers are just going to keep on coming. Special thanks to Rochelle for providing the prompt, and to J Hardy Carroll for this week’s photo. Enjoy!

P.S. For those of you who celebrate it, Happy Michaelmas!

Copyright: J Hardy Carroll

Price, Emmeline Price

He’s a what?”

Nick stared at Emmeline, mouth open. She squeezed his hand again. “Stay calm, dear. Whatever I tell you, just react as if we were having a normal conversation over breakfast.”

He took a large sip of his coffee and scaled his tongue. Wincing, he said in lower tones, “How the hell did you get mixed up with an Armenian weapons dealer?”

“It’s a long story.”

“We have time.”

“Then I guess I’ll start at the beginning.” She gazed at their entwined hands, but didn’t say more.

“Well?” Nick said impatiently.

Emmeline looked up. “I’m a spy, Nicholas.”

Lingering: Continued

It’s taken me a little while, but here is the first installment of December Story Time! If you remember, we had a tie between Lingering and The Exchange. Hopefully I’ll have the second story to you soon, but until then, enjoy this extended version of Lingering.

copyright-ted-strutz

Lingering

Verity surveyed the empty diner as she sipped her scalding coffee. It was completely clean, no sign of the violent struggle from the night before. If she left now, it would be like she’d never been there. A bitter taste rose up in her mouth that had nothing to do with her black coffee.

“You’re lingering,” said a smooth voice behind her. “Thought that was one of your rules?”

“Never linger,” she said, beating him to the punch. “What brings you here, Agent Mirran?”

“Gulliver was a good agent.”

“He was more than an agent, Mirran. He was a friend.”

A cruel smile spread across Mirran’s mouth. “More than a friend, I’d say.”

“What would you know about it?” snapped Verity.

“Judging by the way you just snapped at me, quite a bit.” He ran a finger down the side of her cheek and under her chin. “You and I worked together too, once upon a time.”

She smacked his hand away. “Don’t touch me again.” She glared at him as he took the seat across from her.

“Now is that any way to talk to your new partner?” Mirran said smoothly.

Verity gaped at him for a few seconds before pulling herself together and pushing back from the table. “You’re out of your mind. I will never be your partner.”

Mirran chuckled. “You don’t have a choice, sweetheart. The Director assigned you to me himself.”

“No.” Verity stood and stormed away from the table, her hands shaking as she clenched them into fists at her sides. She spun around on her heel. “You’re out of your mind, Mirran, if you think anything would possess me to work with you, even for a minute. You are slime. I want nothing to do with you.” With that she stormed away, straining to keep her breathing under control.

Mirran waited until she was almost to the door to speak. “Even if we’re going after Gulliver’s murderer?” Verity froze. Behind her, Mirran smiled, certain he had her at last.

Slowly Verity turned around, carefully schooling her emotions as she did so. “Listen here, Mirran. I had a partner, and we had a mission. Gulliver might be gone, but our mission isn’t over. And I’m going to finish it, without your help. So get lost.”

Mirran lost his smile. “You don’t have a choice, Agent Peach. I’m your new partner, whether you like it or not. I suggest you learn to like it. Shouldn’t be too hard for you.”

“Go to hell,” Verity spat.

“As you wish,” Mirran responded coolly. He reached inside his jacket for something and Verity again turned to leave, but this time she found her way blocked by an impossibly tall man whose black suit against his dark skin made him appear like a shadow in the room. A large, impenetrable shadow.

“Back up, Mirran? This is hardly necessary.” Verity attempted unsuccessfully to push past the large man, but he reach out and held her by the arms to keep her still. “Take you hands off me!” She fought against him, but he held her fast.

Mirran watched her struggle with a smirk on his face. “Of course it isn’t, Verity.  And do call me Derrick. Partners ought to be more familiar with each other.”

“I keep telling you, we aren’t partners, Mirran.

His smirk deepened. “That delusion isn’t going to change matters, dear. Mr. Larson, please release Agent Peach. She isn’t going anywhere.”

Mr. Larson let go of Verity, who immediately jerked her arm out of his grasp and threw Mirran a hateful glare. “Alright. What’s this about?”

“You need to be debriefed,” Mirran said shortly. Irritation flickered across Verity’s face, but she said nothing. Mirran continued. “The weapons deal you and Agent Ridley, ah…interrupted, was a set up. A trap.” Verity stared, stunned. “Harrison was on to you. He set up the deal to lure the pair of you in and eliminate you.”

Verity shook her head, hardly believing what she was hearing. “That can’t be true. We were tailing his man Marcus for three weeks before last night. His information was solid. Harrison couldn’t possibly have been setting us up for that long…” she trailed off, her mind working furiously.

“Perhaps not,” conceded Mirran. “But he certainly found out about it sometime before last night.”

“How could Gulliver and I have missed that? Our sources were too good to miss something like that.” Verity was pacing now, one hand on her holster.

A knowing look appeared on Mirran’s face. “But you didn’t miss it, Agent Peach.” Verity stopped pacing.

“What do you mean?”

“Information regarding last night’s set up was relayed to your team from Headquarters yesterday.”

Verity shook her head. “We never received any new information.”

Mirran shrugged. “Maybe you didn’t, but Agent Ridley did.”

“Gully would never keep something like this from me,” Verity said at once. “Headquarters has it wrong.”

“Or maybe you didn’t know Gully as well as you’d like to think.”

“Shut up!” snapped Verity, pointing a finger at him. “How dare you accuse Gulliver of withholding information and knowingly putting me in danger?”

Mirran spread his hands out on the table in surrender, but the smug look remained on his face. “I’m only debriefing you on the facts, dear.”

“No!” Verity walked up and slammed her fist on the table. “What you have, maybe, are some of the facts. The main fact is, Gulliver would never withhold this kind of information from me, and he would never lead me knowingly into a trap. Headquarters may say they told Gulliver about the trap, but he obviously didn’t get it. So there is either a severe communication error in the agency that cost a good man his life, or someone was paid to give us or not give us the information.”

Mirran listened impassively, not even flinching when she again slammed her fist down on the table. “So what do you suggest we do, Agent Peach? Surely you don’t mean to go up against the agency?”

Verity scoffed and pushed away from the table. Mr. Larson watched her carefully from the doorway. She ran a hand through her frazzled dark hair and gnawed her lower lip. She straightened when she came to a decision and faced Mirran with a small smile on her face. “I don’t suggest we do anything, Agent Mirran.”  She batted her eyelashes. Mirran’s eyes narrowed. “What I’m going to do is get to the bottom of this so-called trap. I’m going to find Gulliver’s murderer, and I’m going to bring down Harrison Monroe.” She sauntered up to Mirran and ran a finger down his cheek, just as he had done to her minutes before.

She bent down. “And I’m going to do it without your help.”

As she stood up, Mirran snorted. “You’re deluding yourself if you think…” He was cut off my Verity suddenly slamming his head down against the table. Instantly Mr. Larson moved forward but Verity had already pulled out her pistol and had it aimed at Larson’s head.

“I wouldn’t,” she warned. Quickly she made her way to the door, keeping her eye and gun on Larson. When she reached the doorway, she flashed the groaning Mirran a smile. “Sorry Derrick. But this concludes our partnership. Thanks for the debriefing.”  Then she was gone.

Larson started after her, but Mirran waved a hand. “Don’t bother. Let her go. I’ll have Gibson keep an eye on her, and we’ll have her back soon enough.” He rubbed his forehead, where a bruise was already starting to show. “Damn impulsive woman.”

Lingering

Hello and Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve all had a marvelous week. It’s been a short week for me – I only had to work two days! Hooray for the holidays.

Also, before we get started, I’ve had a request to remind everyone: If you like reading my Friday Fictioneers and other weekly posts, you can have them delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing to my blog! Just punch in your email in the little box at the top left of my blog (under the banner) and hit “Follow!” You’ll be sent  confirmation email. Just follow the instructions in the email and then you will start getting my posts. Easy as that!

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Now it’s time for the best part of the week…Friday Fictioneers! My thanks, as usual, to Rochelle for providing us with an interesting prompt. See my take on it below! I could have easily made this one longer…hope I was still able to convey everything going on in my brain in just 100 words.

copyright-ted-strutz
Copyright Ted Strutz.

Lingering

Verity surveyed the empty diner as she sipped her scalding coffee. It was completely clean, no sign of the violent struggle from the night before. If she left now, it would be like she’d never been there. A bitter taste rose up in her mouth that had nothing to do with her black coffee.

“You’re lingering,” said a smooth voice behind her. “Thought that was one of your rules?”

“Never linger,” she said, beating him to the punch. “What brings you here, Agent Mirran?”

“Gulliver was a good agent.”

“He was more than an agent, Mirran. He was a friend.”