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Writing Process Tutorial, Part 1

April 25, 2010

In a previous Tuesday entry, I described my process for how I work up ideas from the rough notes to the outline and finally to the story.  Since I’m moving this week and don’t really have time to devote to blog entries, I’m going to give you a more in-depth tutorial of this process with my current WIP:  Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Vol 5:  They Stood Up for Love. So to begin, today you’ll see how the prologue and Chapter 1 developed from rough notes to outline to the actual first draft.  This should give you a great idea of how everything flows together.

And since this is Volume 5 of the series, you can catch up on Volumes 1-4 here.

#

Phase 1:  Rough Notes

Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Vol V:  They Stood Up for Love

Rough Story Overview (v2.0)

Big symbolic thing is that sometimes in love you have to make sacrifices or something.

OK, so start out with a prologue.  Harry Ward is a weapons dealer kind of like Nic Cage in “Lord of War” in that he’s slimy and cunning.  He usually sells to both sides to make even more money though sometimes his weapons don’t work or don’t show up.  The only obstacle has been Sylvia Joubert, who often sells to one side for prices lower than his and with weapons that work and show up on time and who sells only to one side, which is usually the victorious side.

Anyway, Harry shows up at some European house to meet Eileen, who sent him an Email a few days earlier.  He’s surprised to discover that Eileen is actually a two-year-old girl.  A very well-spoken and intelligent two-year-old whose parents treat her like a goddess (for obvious reasons) and who tells Harry how to get the biggest payday of his career and to get back at the great-great-great-great-grandmother who abandoned his great-great-great-grandmother centuries ago.  All he has to do is ignite a world war.  Simple enough.

#

Phase 2:  The Outline

Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Vol V:  They Stood Up for Love

Rough Story Outline


Big symbolic thing is about the power of love and the choices we make or something.

Prologue:  Harry the arms dealer gets an Email and goes to a villa in Spain, where he meets a 2-year-old named Eileen who is very advanced for her age—because she’s thousands of years old!—and tells Harry that if he wants to make a big deal and get revenge on Sylvia, who’s thwarted his deals in the past and who gave his great-great-great-grandmother up for adoption then he needs to do what Eileen says and start a world war!

Chapter 1:

  • Emma is teaching a class when she realizes that a student named Megan has been absent all week.  No one knows who she is.
  • Emma checks some records and then goes to see Megan’s roommate, who claims not to know anything, though Emma is sure the roommate is lying.
  • When she gets home, Becky is packing for a trip to Chicago and says goodbye to her.  Emma contemplates that Dan is also in Chicago…hmmm.

#

Phase 3:  First Draft

Prologue

The house overlooked the Mediterranean and was visible from miles down the winding road.  Harry Thomas stared at it for a moment; he had often dreamed of owning such a house beside the sea, but had never been able to afford one.  The best he could do was to visit one as he was doing today.

Harry checked the directions again as he neared the front gate.  Whoever this Eileen was, she was loaded.  He couldn’t imagine what she would want to buy from him, unless she was one of those dictators in exile hoping to stage a counter-revolution.  Or maybe she just wanted to equip a private army to protect her mansion from attack.

Reaching the gate, he saw an intercom and pressed the red button.  “Can I help you?” came a pleasant female voice.

“My name is Harry Thomas.  I’m here to see Eileen.”  Eileen had not given a last name in her Email, only a first name, an address, and the promise of a substantial payday.

At another time Harry might have blown it off as a probably trap by Interpol or another law enforcement agency, but he couldn’t be too choosy at the moment.  Ever since 9/11 the arms business had been booming and yet Harry hadn’t seen any benefit from it.  If anything it had been a disaster for him as too many sellers flooded the market and cheap Chinese-manufactured weapons had brought prices down.

Eileen’s message had come to him in Grakistan, where he’d had a line on selling to a splinter group of Grakistanis.  He’d worked for two months on the deal to sell them a bunch of used AK-47s, RPG launchers, and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles.  He would have made a killing on the deal—except someone beat him to it.

Sylvia Joubert.  That fucking old, dried-up dyke.  He’d never met her in person, but he knew her well.  She was one of those rare arms dealers with morals.  She refused to sell for a side she didn’t believe was fighting for a worthy cause.  There were stories that if someone tried to use her weapons unjustly they’d refuse to work—some stories indicated they would even turn against the owners.  Harry discounted these stories, but couldn’t discount that she was a nuisance to him, undercutting him at the last moment.

The woman’s voice startled him as she said, “Oh, you must be the friend Eileen mentioned.  Come on in.”

The gates parted to let Harry inside.  He drove his rented Mercedes up a steep driveway, past a lush yard populated by palm trees.  The trail wound enough that he lost sight of the house for a few moments.  Then it popped back into view, its white façade and orange tile roof filling the front windshield.  If he weren’t driving he might have rubbed his hands together with glee in anticipation of a sizable transaction.

He stopped in front of the house, noticing no other cars in the driveway.  They were probably back in the garage.  He tried to imagine how many there would be:  Ferraris, Mercedes-Benzes, and Land Rovers line up in neat rows, at least one for every day of the week.

Climbing up the front steps, he expected a butler or maid to let him in.  Instead, there was only a middle-aged woman in a sweatshirt and jeans, her blond hair in a sloppy ponytail to give the overall impression she’d just been cleaning in the attic or painting the kitchen.  When she spoke, it was in the same cheerful voice he’d heard at the gate.  “Hello, Mr. Thomas.  I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding the place?”

“No, no trouble at all,” Harry said.  “Are you Eileen?”

“Oh heavens no!  I’m her mother.”

“Her mother?”  Unless she’d discovered some kind of Fountain of Youth, there was no way for this woman to be over forty.  For her to be Eileen’s mother meant Eileen was in her early twenties at most.  A rich princess or duchess maybe.

“That’s right.  Her father is out back, tending to the garden.”  Eileen’s mother motioned for Harry to come inside.  He found the interior as lavish as the outside of the house with paintings and sculptures along the main hallway, a living room appointed with expensive leather furniture, and a dining room that could see two-dozen.

“You have a beautiful home,” Harry said, his estimation of Eileen’s net worth increasing with every step.

“It’s not really ours.  It belongs to a friend of ours.  Really this place is a bit much for us, but Eileen seems to like it.  It’s done wonders for her disposition.  She used to be so cranky, but now she’s happy as a lamb.”

Harry resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow at this.  Cranky, especially bothered him, though he couldn’t be sure exactly why.  What else troubled him was Eileen’s mother seemed so Middle-American, and yet here she was in a villa along the sea in Spain.  Something didn’t add up here.  Again he considered the possibility of a trap; certainly there were enough places for government agents to hide until he incriminated himself.

Eileen’s mother motioned to a white door at the end of the long hallway.  “She’s in the nursery, having tea with her other friends,” she said.

Nursery?  Harry retreated a step even as Eileen’s mother opened the door.  Once she did, he saw his worst fears realized.  “Is this some kind of joke?” he said.

Harry gaped at the nursery with its pastel blue walls decorated with cheerful clowns and balloons, stuffed animals on the floor, and porcelain dolls on shelves near the ceiling.  His gaze turned to the center of the room and a round wooden table.  Four tiny chairs sat around the table, one occupied by stuffed unicorn, another by a large baby doll, both with plastic teacups, saucers, and plates of cookies in front of them.  A third place was set in an identical fashion, though at the moment no one sat in the chair.

At the fourth chair sat a little girl.  She looked nothing like Eileen’s mother with glossy black hair bound into pigtails and the olive skin of someone from the other end of the Mediterranean.  She wore a pink dress nearly identical to the ruffled and lacy one worn by the baby doll at the table.

Eileen’s mother paid no attention to his question.  Her body had turned stiff, moving with a jerky gate as if she were a life-sized marionette.  “Eileen?  Mr. Thomas is here to see you.”

Harry hoped he had missed someone else in the room, someone considerably older who might be hiding in the closet.  Instead, as he feared, the little girl spoke.  “Thank you, Mother,” she said with the grace of a queen.  “You may leave us to talk privately.”

To Harry’s surprise, Eileen’s mother gave a short bow and then backed out of the room like a servant.  She closed the doors behind her with a barely audible click, leaving Harry with the strangely well-spoken toddler.

The little girl turned to face him.  He told himself that it must be a trick of the light that her irises appeared to be as black—no, blacker—than her pupils.  She smiled at him, revealing dimples that would have been adorable on a normal little girl but on her gave him a cold shiver.  “Have a seat, Mr. Thomas.  We have much to discuss.”

Though he wanted to run from the nursery and its creepy occupant, he found himself squatting to sit on the open seat at the table.  To his surprise there was actually tea in the cup.  “I had Mother put on a fresh pot before you arrived,” Eileen said.  “I trust you don’t mind Earl Grey?  It’s my favorite.  Reminds me of England.”

“You’re English?” Harry asked.  The little girl spoke with no accent that he could trace.

“No.  I come from someplace much farther away.”

Harry sipped the tea, trying not to make a face; he had always preferred coffee.  “I could have Mother bring you a cup of coffee.  Cappuccino, perhaps?”

“I’ll be fine,” he said.  He nibbled at one of the almond cookies, trying to think of a polite way to ask how the hell a girl so little could speak so well.

Once again, though, he didn’t need to ask.  “Do you believe in magic, Mr. Thomas?”

“You mean like Houdini or David Copperfield?”  Harry shrugged.  “Yeah, I guess.”

“No, Mr. Thomas, I speak of real magic, like you read about in fairy tales.”

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“You should, Mr. Thomas.”  Eileen took a dainty sip of her tea.  Harry glanced over his shoulder at the door, wondering how quickly he could get out of this madhouse and back to the main road.  She again read his thoughts.  “That would be foolish of you.  You would miss out on a tremendous opportunity.”

“What kind of opportunity?”

“One beyond your wildest aspirations.”  Eileen smiled at him again.  “But then you haven’t ever aspired for very much.  You’re a petty, fourth-rate arms dealer selling to the third world.  Any day now you’ll wind up lying facedown in a desert to feed the vultures.”

“Now listen you little brat—”

He raised his hand to smack her upside one of her adorable pigtails but found he couldn’t move his hand.  “You don’t want to do that,” she said.  “You would make me very upset.”

Harry lowered his hand as jerkily as Eileen’s mother had left the room.  “Why don’t we get down to business?” he finally said.

“Very well, Mr. Thomas.  I will give you the guidance and means to cash in on the greatest weapons deal of any death merchant’s wildest dreams.”

“You?  You’re just a kid,” he blurted out before he could stop himself.

“Perhaps I’ve misjudged you.  That’s unfortunate.”

Though he knew it was ridiculous, Harry felt his body stiffen in anticipation of something he couldn’t name.  She was just a little kid, even if she was a creepy, well-spoken one.  Still, one look into her black eyes prompted him to shiver again.  In those eyes he saw a deadly abyss, one from which he would never return.

She didn’t do anything to him.  She merely motioned to the door with her teacup.  “You are free to go, Mr. Thomas.  I’m sorry we couldn’t reach an agreement.”

A stiffness Harry hadn’t noticed released him.  With a wince he stood up from the tiny table and then hurried towards the door.  As he reached for the handle, she said, “Before you go, Mr. Thomas, what do you know of your family?”

“Not much.  My dad and I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye about my career choice.”

“Then I don’t suppose anyone ever told you about your great-great-great-great-grandmother Cecelia?”

“Who?”

The little girl shook her head sadly, as if she were the adult and he the child.  “Perhaps you are more familiar with her mother—Sylvia Joubert?”

Harry’s mouth fell open.  He made a series of nonsense sounds before finally gathering the wherewithal to say, “You don’t mean—”  He stopped as he saw the smug grin on her face.  “That can’t be.  She’d have to be over two hundred years old!”

“Five hundred seven to be exact.”

“But that’s impossible!  No one could live that long!”

“All things are possible with the right magic,” Eileen said.  She patted the place setting he had abandoned.  “Sit down and I will open your eyes to everything that is possible for you.”

Harry didn’t need her prompting to sit back at the table and listen to what the little girl said.  When she finished, Harry again wanted to rub his hands together with glee; he was going to make far more from this than he’d ever imagined.

Chapter 1

Dr. Emma Earl liked the morning session of Geology 101 the least of all.  It wasn’t the course material or even the students that bothered her.  The problem was the nine o’clock starting time.  After nine months of unemployment and sleeping late, it had taken her a full semester to get used to running on three hours of sleep.  Even then she struggled to keep from yawning every three minutes.

She would have preferred to teach the afternoon and night sessions, but as the newest member of the faculty at Rampart State, she didn’t have that luxury.  She reminded herself she was lucky to have a job at all.  If Dr. Maxwell hadn’t thought of her when an opening became available, she’d probably still be sweeping up hair in Sylvia’s salon.

This particular morning she felt more sluggish than usual, downing a can of Red Bull before class and pouring another into her coffee mug to drink while she lectured on the basics of plate tectonics.  She hadn’t fallen asleep until five in the morning, when she had passed out in the Sanctuary, still wearing most of the Scarlet Knight’s armor.  If Marlin hadn’t woke her up two hours later, she might have slept all morning.

Examining her face in the mirror of the ladies room, she had done what she could about the bags beneath her eyes.  More troubling were the bruises on her left forearm from when she’d awkwardly landed after being thrown from the roof of the Plastic Hippo.  She hadn’t had time even to use her cape to slow her descent, landing on her arm in the alley, where a dozen nasty-looking men had waited for her.

If not for the armor they would have torn her to pieces.  Instead, she took down half of them hard enough that they would require a trip to the hospital before being taken to jail.  The rest had retreated to the relative safety of the strip club.  She might have gone after them, but she had completed her test of the modifications she and Sylvia had made to the Scarlet Knight’s armor.  She could now definitely say their attempts to make her invisible to cameras and other automated sensors had failed miserably.

Had it been successful, getting into Don Vendetta’s headquarters might have been much easier.  Ever since Becky—who at the time had switched bodies with Emma—had raided the Plastic Hippo in a violent raid, the don had quadrupled her security.  Besides video cameras, the don’s people had installed motion detectors, infrared scanners, and even X-ray machines to make sure the Scarlet Knight couldn’t infiltrate the club.  A concoction of several plants Emma never knew existed spread on the cape and armor was supposed to have phased her out of reality so that nothing could see her.  She got as far as the club’s side entrance, where the dozen goons had been waiting, before she knew the experiment was a failure.

Resisting the urge to let out a tired sigh, Emma sat at her desk to open her grade book.  The mundane procedures like taking attendance had come easily to her after years of disciplined study and as head of the geology department at the Plaine Museum.  She scanned the list, easily putting the names with faces in her classrooms.  That was until she came to Putnam, Megan.

Emma looked around the classroom, searching for the missing student.  “Megan Putnam?” she asked.  The other fifty-five students in the class stared down at her blankly from their seats in the lecture hall.  “Megan?”  Emma waited a moment before putting an ‘X’ besides Megan’s name in the book.

It was the third such ‘X’ this week.  Before that, Megan Putnam had never missed a class.  In fact, she had always arrived before Emma, standing nervously at the door until Emma opened it for her.  The girl would then whisper, “Thank you, Dr. Earl.”  She would then take her customary seat in the fifth row, squarely in the middle.  Once other students arrived, Megan would hunch down in her seat, as if trying to disappear under the table.

This week, Megan finally had disappeared.  She had not shown up Monday or Wednesday for class.  She had not phoned Emma’s office or left a message with any of the department secretaries.  Emma found this third absence disconcerting.

At the moment, though, there was nothing she could do but finish the roll.  After a hearty swig from her coffee mug full of Red Bull, she began her lecture on the basics of plate tectonics.  As she spoke, she couldn’t help looking at the empty seat in the middle of the fifth row and wonder what had become of the girl who had occupied that seat.

#

An intern in the registrar’s office with an artificially pale white face and far too much black makeup around her eyes handed a thin folder to Emma.  “Here you go,” the girl said, the chain in her nose jangling as she leaned forward.  “Just don’t leave the building with it.”

“I won’t,” Emma said.  She took the folder to a vacant conference room, spreading the contents onto the table.

There wasn’t much in the file of Megan Putnam.  She was a freshman, in her second semester at Rampart State University.  Before that she had attended Wallace High School in the upscale west side of the city.  Her grades there were mediocre at best, as were her grades at the university.  Young Megan seemed destined to graduate with a ‘C’ average and then disappear into some menial office or retail job.

The work Megan had turned in for Geology 101 supported this trend, but something about the girl’s consistency didn’t sit right with Emma.  Whenever Emma had looked directly at Megan she would look down at her notebook, a wave of white-blond hair obscuring her face.  A few times, though, Emma had managed to sneak a peek of the girl unawares.  In those instances, she had seen Megan following along with an intensity Emma knew well from her days in college.  There was an intelligence in Megan’s pale blue eyes that for whatever reason she tried to keep hidden by doing only enough not to stand out.

For that reason, Emma had taken it upon herself to find out why Megan had missed the last week of class.  She wrote down the number for Megan’s parents in their upscale neighborhood and the location of Megan’s dorm room on campus.  These would be the most obvious places to begin her search.  It might be as simple as an illness or family emergency, but Emma suspected it was more than that.

She returned the folder to the pale intern, who only grunted an acknowledgement.  Then Emma set out across Rampart State’s campus.  The unusually warm October weather had prompted a number of students to spread out on the grass, catching those last fading rays of sunlight.  Others tossed around Frisbees and footballs.  One of the footballs would have hit Emma in the ribs if not for her well-honed reflexes.  She skipped out of the way so that the ball landed harmlessly at her feet, bouncing away a short distance.

“Sorry, dude” a student in a red-and-white letter jacket said.  One of his friends elbowed him in the ribs.

“That’s Dr. Earl, dude,” he snarled at his friend.

“Oh.  Really?”

Emma picked up the football, tossing it back with her right hand in a tight spiral.  Throwing a football wasn’t that difficult after seven years of throwing the Sword of Justice—and other objects—at criminals.  “Holy shit,” the young man in the letter jacket said.  “You should be on the team.”  His friend elbowed him in the ribs again.

“Thanks,” Emma said before hurrying away.  She had gotten used to people mistaking her for a student; the first day of her classes, most students didn’t realize she was the teacher until she wrote her name on the board and started taking attendance.

The dorms were clustered on the other side of the campus, a group of anonymous brick rectangles not much different from the rest of the buildings at Rampart State.  If not for the signs reading, “Ash House,” “Birch House,” and so forth no one would have recognized them as dorms.  Emma steered around a group of sunbathers and more football players as she wound her way up to Maple House, where Megan Putnam lived.

Thumping bass greeted her as she entered the house, followed by giggling and snoring.  She detected the scent of marijuana—and possibly other narcotics as well—in the air.  As a teacher and the Scarlet Knight she was obliged to report this to campus security, but at the moment she had greater concerns to deal with.

Megan’s room was on the third floor, near the end of the hallway.  Emma had to knock three times before the door opened.  A disheveled girl peered out through a crack; the bags under her eyes didn’t look much better than Emma’s.  “Yeah?” the girl said.

“Is Megan here?” Emma asked.

“Megan?  Oh, her.  No, she’s not here.”

“Do you know where I can find her?”

The girl opened the door wider and brushed back a veil of dark hair so that Emma could see her brown eyes glaring angrily.  “What’s it to you?  You a cop or something?”

“No, I’m Dr. Earl, her geology teacher.  She hasn’t been in class.  I thought maybe she was sick.”  Emma opened her briefcase to remove a sheaf of papers.  “I brought her homework assignments so she won’t fall too far behind.”

The girl snatched these from Emma with an annoyed grunt.  “I’ll be sure to give these to her,” she said in a tone that indicated otherwise.

“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but is she in some kind of trouble?”

“Look, I’ve got things to do—” the girl tried to slam the door shut only to find one of Emma’s size-11s in the way.  “I told you I’d give her your stuff.  What else do you want?”

Emma looked the girl in the eye.  “Do you know where she went?”

“No.  Wheezy left for class one morning and never came back.  Didn’t say a word.”  Subtle twitches in the girl’s cheeks indicated that she was lying.

“Wheezy?”

“That’s what some people call her because of her asthma.”

“Did you ever call her that?”

“No.”  This time there were no twitches; the girl was telling the truth.  “Is there something else you wanted?”

“Look, I know she’s your friend and you want to protect her.  I just want to know that she’s not in any trouble.”

“Why do you care?”

“I told you, I’m her teacher.”

“Yeah, well, Wheezy wasn’t the type to talk about her plans.”  Again the girl was lying.  “You had to practically yank every word out of her with pliers.”  This was not a lie.

“Maybe I could have a look at her things?  She might have left a clue—”

“Hey, I’m a law student so I know my rights.  You can’t just come in  here and start rummaging through our stuff without a warrant.”

Emma put up her hands in surrender.  “I’m sorry.  I only want to help.”  She reached into her briefcase again for a business card.  “If you do see or talk to her, have her call me.”

The girl took the card.  “Yeah, I’ll do that,” she lied.  Emma removed her foot so the girl could slam the door in Emma’s face.

Emma walked back to her office, which was more like a closet with a desk and chair stuffed into it.  Dr. Maxwell assured her they would find her a bigger office soon, but Emma didn’t really mind.  It only became a problem when students dropped by during office hours.  At the moment there were no students waiting for her, so she could drop into her chair and lean back a couple of inches—the most allowed in the tight confines of the office.

She asked herself why she had become so concerned about this.  A student missing a week wasn’t that big of a deal.  But after speaking with the roommate, the situation struck Emma as even more wrong than she’d first thought.  A shy young girl like Megan, especially one with bad asthma, didn’t just go off on a sudden vacation.

Leaning forward again, she took the slip of paper with Megan’s home number on it out and then dialed the telephone.  A woman’s voice, colored by a thick Latin American accent, answered the phone.  “Mr. Putnam no is here,” the woman said.

“I’m trying to reach his daughter, Megan,” Emma said in flawless Spanish.  “I’m her geology teacher and she’s missed several days of school.”

“Megan has not been here since school began,” the woman answered back in Spanish.

“Does anyone there know where she is?”

“No.  Is she in trouble?”

“I’m not sure.  Could you have Mr. Putnam call me when he gets in?”  She left her number with the woman, who promised to give it to Mr. Putnam when he came home, which might not be for some time since he was on a business trip in China.  “What about her mother?”

“Her mother is dead.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“I will let Mr. Putnam know you called.”  The woman hung up the phone.  Emma couldn’t be certain if the woman was lying or not.  She checked her watch and saw her next class didn’t start for another hour.  That would give her time for a catnap; it was going to be another long night.

#

Emma came home that evening to find Becky’s suitcase in the living room.  Her friend soon appeared on the stairs, dressed in casual business attire and with a large purse on her shoulder.  “Oh, hey, there you are,” Becky said.  “I was starting to wonder if I’d miss you.”

“You’re going somewhere?”

Becky came to the bottom of the stairs and then rolled her eyes.  “Chicago?  The urban development conference?  Any of this ring a bell?  I told you about it two weeks ago.”

Emma scanned her memory and then sighed.  “Sorry.  I’ve had a lot of other things on my mind.”

“Sure.  Maybe you should start keeping a planner in your armor.”

“So how long’s this conference going to last?”

“Until Tuesday.”  Becky sighed dramatically.  “Three days of boring speeches on renaissance zones and urban blight.  So much fun.”

“I’m sure it won’t be that bad.”

“You probably would enjoy it.”

Emma blushed at this, as she always did when Becky teased her about her bookishness.  “Urban planning is an interesting subject.”

“Well, maybe could have the witches switch our bodies again so you can go to the conference for me.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Emma said.

“Yeah, you’re right.  Then I’d have to teach geology.”  A horn sounded from by the curb.  Becky checked her watch and winced.  “Oh shit.  I’ve got to go.”  She leaned forward to wrap Emma into a bear hug that sucked the air from Emma’s lungs.  When Becky finally let go, she smiled at Emma.  “No wild parties while I’m gone, young lady.”

“I won’t.”

“And try not to get into too much trouble.”

“I know.”

The horn sounded again.  “I’ll see on Tuesday, kid.”  Emma stood aside so that Becky could wheel her suitcase out to the waiting taxi that would take her to the airport.

Emma stood in the doorway, watching as the cab pulled away.  Becky turned back in the window to wave at her.  Emma held up a hand in farewell.  She left it in the air until the cab disappeared from view.

It wasn’t until she closed the door that she sagged to the floor, barely holding back a violent sob.  There was a conference in Chicago, but Emma knew the real reason Becky wanted to go:  Dan Dreyfus was in Chicago, doing some work with the Field Museum as part of a joint venture with the Plaine Museum to share exhibits and research.

It had been over a year since Emma had first caught a glimpse of Dan and Becky outside a restaurant, kissing in the rain.  She had not told them of her discovery, nor had they come clean about their relationship to her.  Since Emma wasn’t around most evenings and nights, it wasn’t difficult for Becky to engage in a covert relationship.  She would sometimes make an excuse about working late at councilwoman Napier’s office, especially with an upcoming election.  By the same token, Emma doubted Becky had been Napier’s first choice to go to a relatively meaningless conference with only a few weeks before the election.  More likely Becky had begged her boss to let her go so she might have a weekend alone with Dan without the fear of Emma discovering them.

It wasn’t the relationship itself that bothered Emma the most.  Becky was her best friend who had come from a broken home and then had her husband assassinated before they could seal their marriage with a kiss; she deserved to find happiness.  As for Dan, his wife Isis had died—or at least so he thought—so Emma could see the common pain he shared with Becky.  No, the most troubling part was that Becky had still not told her about it.  Growing up they had been like sisters, trusting each other with almost everything.  Emma in turn had entrusted Becky with the greatest secret in her life:  her identity as the Scarlet Knight.  Despite all this, Becky still tried to pretend there was nothing between her and Dan, sneaking around behind Emma’s back under a cloud of half-truths and outright lies.

Emma took a few deep breaths to keep herself from crying over this most recent deception.  Then she slowly got to her feet and went into the kitchen to make herself dinner.  She ate alone in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the wind rattling the old house’s shutters and trying not to think about what Becky and Dan would be doing together in the Windy City.

The Tutorial continues on Tuesday with Chapter 2.

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