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The Shadow 2
Pain interrupted Marissa’s comfortable sleep and she was jolted out of her soft, downy bed and fell in a heap on the carpeted floor. She felt like someone was raking knives across her skin cutting her to the very bone. It was early in the morning, but she wasn’t surprised to hear the light knock on the door.
“My Lady are you all right?” the concerned tones of her maid Eliza called through the closed door.
“Eliza, come in,” she called.
The door opened and a tiny gasp accompanied the footsteps. “Lady Marissa what happened?” Eliza asked.
She ran over and helped Marissa to her feet.
“I don’t feel well, Liza, I hurt all over,” Marissa replied. She knew if she went into detail Eliza would probably faint.
“Do you want a tonic or should I fetch the doctor?” Eliza questioned.
“No, just help me back into bed,” Marissa answered. “I’m certain it was something I ate.”
“Are you sure you don’t want the doctor, My Lady?”
Marissa opened her mouth to speak and the pain came again. This time it was like a thousand needles jabbing her all over. She cried out unable to stop herself. Eliza dashed out of the room and hollered for one of the servants to fetch the doctor.
She came back in pale and fearful. “Oh Mistress, what is wrong?”
Marissa gritted her teeth from the pain. “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”
Other than the pain she felt fine and when this wave passed she lay back on the pillows, perspiration trickling down her forehead. She felt absolutely exhausted. A knock sounded on the door and her steward Sean Doveday entered. He nodded to Eliza and the young maid left the room.
“You’re not well, My Lady?” Sean asked with a bow.
“Don’t patronize me, Sean, you know very well I’m not well otherwise I would never have let Eliza call the doctor.”
“What seems to be the problem, My Lady?” She could see the concern in his eyes, but his tone spoke volumes to her.
She glared at him. He had often warned her that her evening escapades might someday cause her problems. Apparently he was having a thorough ‘I told you so’ moment.
“If you’re going to stand there and gloat then you can very well leave,” she challenged.
Sean’s face became penitent immediately. He sat on the edge of the bed. “Marissa what have you gotten yourself into now.”
“I don’t know,” she gasped as another wave attacked. The pain was much less this time and it felt like needle pricks all over. “But I think it’s going away.”
“Why?” he asked, reaching out and taking her hand.
“It doesn’t hurt as much, that’s why.” One more wave came and this time it was like someone scratching her skin, relieving an itch that she didn’t know she had.” “Perhaps we can call off the doctor now,” she suggested hopefully.
“There’s no need for that now, Lady Edgington, I’m already here,” the doctor said from the doorway. He came in and set his black bag on a chair and got his stethoscope out to examine her. “I was just down the street. You were feeling pain, Lady?”
“Yes, but I’m certain it is gone now,” Marissa replied.
“Where was the pain?”
She sighed. “Everywhere.”
“Everywhere? How deep did it go?”
“I felt like it was going right through me.”
“What did you eat yesterday evening?” the doctor continued his examination.
“Roasted duck with baby potatoes and candied carrots. It was a special of the cooks. She’s made it many times before and most of the staff had some as well.”
As soon as Marissa finished speaking she remembered the wine from her previous evening. Surly that couldn’t be affecting her like this, but what if it was? The whispered conversation between the two men made her uneasy now. Did they use her to test some new poison?
Her stomach dropped into her toes and she broke out into a cold sweat. Sean was right after all. She was foolish to take on these jobs. She stopped herself. These jobs weren’t foolish, taking anything from anyone was foolish, pure stupidity.
“Well Lady Edgington, you seem to be in perfect health,” the doctor said as he finished his exam. “Your heart is fine, pulse is accelerated but that is common after experiencing pain. I would take it easy today, no strenuous exercise until you’re certain the pain won’t return.”
“Thank you doctor,” she said calmly.
The man put his instruments away and left her alone with Sean.
“You remembered something,” Sean said matter-of-factly.
Marissa thrust her lower lip out in a pout. “Perhaps,” she replied petulantly.
“Marissa what happened? I don’t usually pry into your night life, but this could be serious,” Sean said anxiously.
“It doesn’t matter now,” she answered brushing him off.
“It matters if I have to bury you tomorrow. I shall be very put out with you if you’ve gone and gotten yourself poisoned or something of that sort,” he stated angrily. “I went through too much trouble for your father to get you here and I won’t see it wasted.”
“I suppose we’ll have to wait and see then,” she said simply.
Her tone was a dismissal and she knew he knew better than to prod her further. He bowed in his usual stately manner and left, shutting the door just hard enough for her to know he was unhappy with her.
Dear Sean, she thought. She would be simply lost without him. He had watched over her since her father’s death ten years ago and she was closer to him than any other person on earth.
She leaned back against the pillows thinking about the previous evening. What had those men done to her? She was now deeply grateful that she had followed Sean’s advice and kept her face hidden. No one knew who she was; she was the Shadow.
Marissa spent the rest of that day relaxing in the conservatory with a book, but her thoughts were not with the story. She didn’t even argue with Sean when he announced he had canceled her evening social activities. She was more than willing to lay low, but one thing she wouldn’t give up was her night time job.
She had only one message to deliver that night and there would be no response. At the appointed hour she changed into her trousers and cloak and slipped out the servant’s entrance. Anyone who saw her would think she was a late working serving man.
She passed silently into the shadows and became a part of the darkness. The evening was particularly gloomy as the threat of rain hung heavily over the city. The house she went to was very familiar. She went there every Thursday at the same time to deliver the same message of hope and love to the same old woman.
She had never been asked to change or stop the message in the three years since she had started this work. It was her favorite delivery and the one that made all the others worth it.
It came from a young gentleman who had been forced into servitude to pay a debt incurred by his mother’s ill health. The creditor was an austere man who had a gentle heart, but he didn’t want anyone to know it. He was well known for his firm hand at business and most men were loath to do business with him despite the fact that they had to.
The young debtor had been sent to the wealthy man’s country estate to work and the message Marissa took each week was how much the young son had paid off and that the boy was well. The old woman looked forward to hearing these messages as much as Marissa enjoyed giving them.
When her task was complete she returned to the house. As soon as she was in her room she pulled off the cloak. Catching a glimpse of her image in the mirror she gasped. Her skin was translucent, almost transparent.
She closed her eyes, not believing what she saw and reopened them. Everything was normal. She shook her head certain it had been a trick of the light, but a nagging thought that it wasn’t remained.