Sometimes, when you're looking through page after page of Royalty Free photos, one or two will suddenly start to wave flags, even if they aren't at all like the images you're searching for. So you snaffle them and tuck them away in a folder for future reference. But the image won't let go.
That happened to me with some pictures of cards from the turn of the century. I spent a little while on possible titles, wanting something that would be both of the picture, but hinting at a twist. Then put them aside to work on my current WiPs.
But the one image and title would not stay away. So I sat down and just wrote whatever appeared in my head. I have no idea where this is going, my knowledge of the time period is best described as ephemeral, and I'll need to do some intensive research on what I suspect will be an alternative reality. Oh, and it's potentially a mainstream mystery which may or may not have much in the way of romance...
Velvet And Steel
"Amelia! Amelia Wendington!" She turned at the first sound of her name and saw a familiar young lady waving to her across the Rue Chambiges. Lucinda Belmonte.
"Lucy!" she cried in perfectly portrayed delight. "What a wonderful surprise!" That was all Lucinda needed to plunge into the traffic and cross the boulevard with unseemly haste and not a little risk to life and limb.
"Oh, I knew it was you, Cousin!" she cried and enfolded Amelia in a lilac-scented embrace. "It's been simply years!"
Since their last meeting had been the previous month, and Lucinda was not a relation, Amelia took the hint and ran with it. "Well, four at least." She laughed and hugged Lucinda again. As she did so, the two men who had crossed the road in Lucinda's wake, suddenly developed a deep interest in the window of Madame Jolie's millinery shop. "Look at you! So much the grand lady! Miss Potterton-Smythe would be proud."
"Proud?" Lucinda giggled. "Amazed, more like. Poor old Miss Potty had washed her hands of both of us, if you recall. 'The Potterton-Smythe School For Young Ladies does not turn out hoydens'," she pronounced in the acerbic tones of their erstwhile head mistress. "Oh, we have so much gossip to exchange! Is there somewhere you have been be, or can we drink tea and chat?"
"Nowhere important. I can buy new gloves whenever I wish." Amelia linked her arm through Lucinda's. "And Le Jardin de Roses is the perfect place." It was also a highly respectable establishment much frequented by ladies, and should the two burly men attempt to enter, they would stand out like bulls in a garden of fragile flowers. Not that either girl was in any way fragile, appearances to the contrary.
Arm in arm they strolled slowly along, talking of their old finishing school and class friends, the Channel Crossing - by dirigible in Lucinda's case, and schooner in Amelia's. The two men trailed along behind them, close enough to overhear, and Amelia thought longingly of her fashionable parasol's steel spike. And Lucinda usually had a pair of finely balanced knives tucked into her garters. Then there were the fine silvery threads that ran through certain of their ribbons... Garrottes were useful additions to their armouries in difficult circumstances.
The small procession reached the tree-lined expanse of the Avenue Montaigne, and there parted company as the two girls entered the tea house. Most of the tables were taken, but few remained unoccupied towards the rear. They took over one that afforded clear views of the wide windows as well as the street and kitchen doors.
"Who are they?" Amelia asked. "Do you know or should we lure them into an alley?" She patted her reticule, a sweet smile lifting her lips. "I have a few surprises."
"Great Aunt Wilhelmina wouldn't like it." Lucinda shook her head sadly. "At least, not yet. They're two of the lesser minions of a certain Professor Mondragore, who is seeking to overturn the French government and restore the monarchy."
"Oh, dear... Surely not the Bonapartes?"
"Indeed not. The Capets."
"But the last Capet went to the guillotine." Amelia frowned. "Though heaven knows they produced enough illegitimate offspring, so I suppose..."
To Be Continued... [possibly] [the Gods only know when...]
~ * ~