Harlequinade Book Two-Theater of Deception
coming March 15, 2018

Alistair and I began work on a new show. We were fortunate, more
fortunate than most. We had a backer—David Hicks believed in our company
and was willing to produce any show we came up with—we had the trilogy and
the sole rights to it, and ceaseless calls about mounting a national tour. We had
options and could do what we liked.

What we wanted was a new play.

Stupidly optimistic, we booked the Eugenia for a two-month run. For
three weeks, Alistair and I wrote and shouted and fought and discarded seven
horrible script attempts. Nothing worked. Anything set in contemporary
America wouldn’t suit the company’s old world allure. The period pieces we
tried sounded too much like the Carnival plays. We spent long afternoons at the
Trolley, debating plot options. As the long cold Ohio winter melted into the
fresh breath of a glorious spring, we started to think we couldn’t do it. Alistair
was frustrated and I was getting anxious.

But then—

I had the dream.

Paris in the late eighteen hundreds. A café teeming with life. Artists
along the Seine painting Notre Dame and its legendary buttresses. The smells
of flowers and horse manure and bread baking mingled with the taste of the
glass of wine in my hand. A luxurious carriage pulled up and Dominic
descended to the street, clad in the formal splendor of a wealthy man in the
age of the robber baron. He brought my hand to his lips and I smiled. As he
settled at my table, I glanced up.

A mime stood not two feet away from me, peering at me from over the
café’s wrought iron fence. I reached back into the foggy recesses of my mind to
my studies in theater in college.

No, not a mime. A harlequin. The red, green, yellow, and blue diamondshaped
patches of his costume reminded me of the character’s name. The
harlequin was a character from commedia dell’arte, the Renaissance pantomime
with a wildly exaggerated performance style. The harlequin character was a
mischievous acrobat and sly servant, the prototype for the romantic hero of
the modern-day theater, and a wielder of arcane powers that could affect the
world of the play. Eventually, the harlequin devolved into a clown…a fool,
which was why his distinctive costume was now referred to as fool’s motley.

This harlequin was different. He wore a half-mask of black, revealing a
strong jaw and a sensual mouth and eyes the same color as the grass atop Irish
hills. That extraordinary emerald gaze met mine, and the harlequin smiled. He
turned his back on me, gesturing to his right with a flourish. Mesmerized, I
looked in the direction he indicated.

A horse was pulling a carriage down the street toward us. For no
apparent reason, the horse screamed and reared, its front legs flailing in the
air. The hitch splintered behind him, driving a sliver of wood into the horse’s
back right leg. He screamed again and fell backwards, landing on the carriage
roof. Now more screams punctuated the sunset-gilded air…human screams. I
looked back at Dominic in horror, only to find him smiling at me.

“How unfortunate,” he murmured without much interest.

I glanced back at the harlequin. He had remained in the same position:
his back was to me, his right foot extended to the side with his heel to the
ground and his toe pointed in the air. His left arm was akimbo while his right
hand, palm up, indicated the carriage accident. As I watched, he turned his
head and regarded me over his right shoulder. A small smile curved his lips—

—and I woke up.

The image of the harlequin bothered me all day. When I met Alistair for
our daily brainstorming session, I was sandy-eyed and grumpy. I told him
about my dream and his eyes lit up.

“Wouldn’t that be marvelous?” He took a drink of his beer, his eyes
looking past me at something I couldn’t see. “A whole play based around a
harlequin who serves as the indicator for a tragedy?”

“Indicator and instigator,” I amended. “Otherwise it will just look

“A harlequin no one can see.” He glanced at me, his eyes sparkling with

“No one but the victim?”

“The ultimate victim.” He pulled out a notepad. “The harlequin’s plot is
against one person only. He appears to him or her regularly and every time he
does, something dreadful happens. But at the end, it’s obvious that in order for
the victim to survive, the harlequin must be destroyed.”

We were sitting on the outdoor patio, at our favorite table near the big
fireplace. The first hardy pots of pansies and tulips brought splashes of
summery color to the red bricks and faded wooden fence that belied the
lingering chill in the air.

“We’ll need a storyline to build around him.”

“And a technical effects specialist,” he added, making notes. “If we’re
going to show accidents on stage we’ll need someone who can do that.”

“And a director.”

“I was hoping you’d hire me for that.”

I laughed. “You? It’s almost impossible to direct and act at the same

“I don’t want to be in this show. I want to try my hand at directing.”

I stared at him dubiously. Alistair seemed sincere. His dark eyes were
sparkling with hope and ambition and just a little twinge of fear.

“You really want your first directing gig ever to be a brand new show?
One destined for Broadway?”

“It’s not like I haven’t got ample theatrical experience,” Alistair drawled.
“I’ve been watching a master at work for over two hundred years.”

The waitress came to the table just at that moment. She dropped off our
drinks and laughed. “Alistair, you’re full of shit.”

“I know.” He smiled up at her and unleashed a blast of pure sexuality.

She staggered, almost leveled by the blow.

“Alistair,” I murmured reproachfully.

“That’s why Nic and I keep Cat around, Julia. She calls me out on the
bullshit and then he beats me until I act normal.”

“He must beat you a lot,” she commented, taking our empty glasses. Her
eyes looked a little vacant as she leaned across the table in between us and
swiped the top with a damp towel.

Alistair grinned impishly at me. “Julia is a nice girl.”

“What makes you think I’ll buy into you as a director?” I went on, using
what my husband jokingly called my ‘lawyer’ voice, an attribute I’d picked up
from my father.

“I’m the one who worked with Phillip the longest and I know all of his
techniques. Our company needs a director who can do that. Besides, we’ll
always need to find a director from within. We can’t trust anyone else to come
in and gain that much power over us.”

“Then who will play the harlequin?”

“We’ll cast someone. We’ll audition in New York. David can set it up for
us. Finding the right actor shouldn’t be too hard. We can develop the show the
same way we did the trilogy. We’ll start off here in Columbus then move onto
Chicago before we debut on Broadway.”

“And the storyline?”

“I like the setting in your dream. Paris in the late nineteenth century was
a fabulous place to be. All of the Victorian nonsense was going on in England
and the States, but in Paris people had fun like they always had.” He took
another drink, savoring a local microbrew stout. “A high-priced courtesan and
her lover would be fun to play around with. We’ll make Dominic the wealthy
English lord who can’t tear himself away from his mistress and go home to the
life he’s expected to lead. She’s madly in love with him and harbors wild
dreams of marrying him and living happily ever after. So when the harlequin
enters their lives, they’re at a crisis point in their tragic romance. The
harlequin will either bring them together or force them apart.”

Alistair already had a distracted look on his face. His knuckles whitened
as he made a few notes. Excitement swelled inside me and I downed my martini
in a couple of gulps.

“Better finish up your beer then. We’ll order out and start working on
the script at the house. In the mood for Chinese?”

“Indian. I’m craving curry.”

I wasn’t fond of Indian food. Alistair only suggested it to annoy me. He
grinned and bent back to his notepad.


“Guilty. Our lovers will be in conflict. They’ll have a tug-of-war
emotionally as they try to find a way to arrive at a compromise in their

“What year are you thinking about?”

He thought for a moment. “How about 1889? That’s the year the Eiffel
Tower was built and there was a huge festival…the Universal Expositions. Now
you call them World’s Fairs.”

“Oh, that’s good. That would explain the harlequin’s presence there.”

“We need some names.”

His gaze followed the busy waitress, who caught him watching and
promptly ran into a chair. Glasses tumbled from her tray, soaking two men’s
backs on their way to shattering on the courtyard floor. They jumped to their
feet with yells while the poor girl tried to clear everything up and apologize at
the same time.

Alistair shot me a humorous look. “Remind me to tip her extra. That was
my fault.”

“You’re so mean.” I tapped a pen against my chin. “Why don’t we name
our poor courtesan Julia? I’m almost as graceful as she is.”

Alistair’s face blanched. “No—”

I could have kicked myself.

Dominic hadn’t discussed his previous life with me much, only rarely
telling me about an event or person. But one night while he was gone on one of
his mysterious trips, Alistair and I had gotten drunk over a fifth of vodka and
Red Bull, and he’d told me the whole story. Julie was Odette’s aunt, who’d been
murdered by the Duc d’Orléans when he’d burned the family home in Paris
down. All of Odette’s family had died then except her grandfather, and he
passed not long after. Odette and Julie had been close, and both Montesquieu
men had adored Odette’s affectionate young aunt. Julie had a particularly close
relationship with Alistair, who’d loved her as an older sister or younger aunt.

“Yeah, I’m an idiot. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” His voice was clipped.

“I am really sorry, Alistair. You’re surrounded by thoughtless assholes,
and I’m one of the worst.”

“I hope you’re not talking about me.” Dominic leaned down and kissed
me before he settled in the chair beside mine. I hadn’t even realized he’d come
into the bar, and just the sight of him knocked the breath from my chest.

“No, I was talking to your brick-headed brother.”

Dominic looked amused and took a look at the notepad Alistair pushed
toward him. “Another play idea?”

“The play idea,” Alistair corrected. “You are witnessing the birth of

My husband winced. “Oh no. We’re doing a Punch and Judy show?”

“Only if you play Punch.” Alistair gestured Julia over and held out his
credit card. “Bring us another round, Julia, and cash me out. Nic, this is the
idea we’ve been waiting for. We’re going to create something better than
Phillip’s ceaseless mimicry of life. The Harlequin is going to set New York on its

“You don’t say.” Dominic wasn’t as enthusiastic about the theater as we
were. Although I’d been surprised by the amount of money he’d squirreled
away over the course of two, almost three centuries, Dominic was thrifty and
liked to work for his living. In a world he once could never imagined, he was
sorely ill-equipped to do anything but continue the profession he’d been forced

“You’re such an enthusiast.” Alistair killed off his beer and picked up the
second pilsner.

“I’ll be enthusiastic if this one gets written. I promise.” Dominic took my
hand and we smiled at each other.

“This one will get written,” I heard myself say. “This is the right story.”

“What do you mean ‘the right story’?” Dominic asked curiously.

“I mean, it feels right. You know—like it’s meant to be.”

“Far be it from me to fight against destiny,” my husband said lightly. We
all laughed and went back to our drinks, putting the topic of the new script
idea aside for a few minutes.

I had no idea that Dominic’s last comment held such horrific import for

I was stupid.

I thought he was being funny.