A/N: Again - sorry I've been M.I.A. for like years - enjoy this updated version of Chapter 1 - stay tuned.
Dressed impeccably, Sethos lounged on a soft, cushioned divan, carefully handling the newspaper in his hands, as to not transfer the ink onto his white shirtfront. His dark hair was combed back with pomade and in his current guise as a well-to-do intellectual, eyeglasses were perched jauntily on the end of his aquiline nose. With a light chuckle, he set the paper down on the table in front of him, fondly eyeing the article he had just finished. The narrative style of the author amused him greatly.
Kevin O'Connell wrote with such a panache, Sethos could almost envision the young man typing out a sentence and then crowing with the cleverness of it all. It was almost as if Amelia had encouraged the journalist to be as outrageous as possible in his interpretation of the events of the past winter. Yes, this was the interview with that illustrious lady about her adventures in the Sudan and Sethos did not put it past her to have chosen O' Connell specifically for the publicity his article would receive – in order to disguise the lies she'd blatantly told. It was the second, or perhaps the third time, Sethos had read it and it was definitely the criminal in him that made Sethos not trust the account. It was too…perfect. Amelia had been very careful, weaving a believable story out of a fairytale. Kindly missionaries were a convenient fabrication, but a fabrication nonetheless.
Languidly standing, he walked to the window of his flat and smiled at the chaos along the streets. Then he remembered the invitation sitting on the tea table under the discarded newspaper.
He mused about how finding proper fancy dress would be an enjoyable outing for the morning – a pleasant interlude between fahaddling with forgers and striking terror into the hearts of any who'd betray him. He sighed. "A full day," he noted to the window.
The ballroom at Shepheard's was positively glittering. Elegantly attired ladies and gentlemen whirled gracefully around the dance floor, or else, loitered around it, sipping champagne and socializing.
Sethos had spotted Emerson, dressed as Bedouin sheik, he supposed, exit the room almost the instant after he had arrived. It was for the best though, as he was able to watch Amelia exclusively.
She had entered the room conspicuously dressed, in trousers no less. But Amelia was always the center of his attention, Sethos thought, and then cursed himself for his sentimentality. As she passed him, he appraised her form stealthily and noticed that several other gentlemen had turned to gaze, astonished, at her too, as she blazed a path across the dance floor. Sethos imagined she had gone for the 'young gentleman explorer' look, but the tailored jacket and fitting trousers did nothing but amplify her lovely figure. Sethos noticed that those other gentlemen had shifted their expressions from flabbergasted to appreciative. He scowled.
He observed that she too, had passed an eye over his costume. He had come extravagantly dressed as a bishop of the Eastern Church. It had taken him a devil of a time to find a miter. But Sethos quite enjoyed the attention he received in his costly vestments. The jewels on his fingers were real of course, and glittered handsomely in the electric light. His cask and robe had been sewn with thin gold threads that gleamed just as bright as his rings. Although basking in the attention due his costume (and in the limited time he'd had to acquire it, people should damn well stare), Sethos could not feasibly partake in the dancing part of the activities as the confounded hat kept falling off his head and the crook would have undoubtedly wreaked havoc on the dance floor. So he settled for the time-honed craft of observation.
The night passed slowly, to him at least. Though to others, he surmised, the evening passed far too quickly. Feigning fatigue (with an allusion to the heartache of a love who'd passed far before he time), he left a less than scintillating conversation with a couple of ladies (who'd sighed over his faintly disguised false emotion) and skulked over to the bar. He ordered whiskey and sipped it pensively, watching the dance floor.
A bar stool scuffle alerted him to a presence next to him. Emerson had ventured back into the room and ordered a whiskey and soda, then sat heavily down to Sethos's left. Sethos turned slightly toward the man and saw that his face formed a characteristic scowl as he watched his wife dance with a tall gentleman dressed as a pirate. Within a minute or two, his whiskey was drained.
"Another drink seems to be in order," Sethos said to his rival. Emerson turned to face him and raised his eyebrows at his empty glass.
"It would seem so," he said gruffly. Glancing over at Sethos's costume, he smirked. "Humph. You look like a right idiot. What possessed you to dress like that?" He gestured sneeringly at the miter.
Sethos shrugged. Gesturing to the bartender the number two, he stole a glance over at Emerson who was again looking over at Amelia. He looked wistful.
"I don't suppose I can complain about my costume with you looking like the bloody archbishop."
Emerson bit back a bark of laughter as he looked over Sethos's costume again. "Although I don't know why I keep consenting come back to this damnable dance. Bloody torture. Your wife make you come too?"
"Widower," Sethos said shortly, calling upon the backstory he'd thought up for the evening. He took another sip of his drink. "Which one is your wife?" But, Sethos's eyes had already been drawn back to Amelia, as if by a magnet.
"The only woman wearing trousers," he said with a small grunt. Emerson pointed at Amelia who was chatting with a couple of women. She was showing off her costume proudly, a smug smile on her face as she fingered one of the pockets on her jacket.
"A little unorthodox," Sethos said, and then thinly grinned at his terrible pun, but his eyes lingered on the sight of Amelia, head thrown back in a laugh, hand clutching at the pith helmet on her head. Emerson must have noticed his admiring look. His lips became a hard, thin line and he downed the last dregs of his drink with a grimace.
"It's her confounded self-confidence," Emerson growled, and slid from his stool and landed heavily on the floor. "I'd best be leaving this idiot display of extravagance." Another contemptuous look at Sethos's outfit. "I'm off to find some intelligent conversation." With that, he stalked off.
Sethos watched Emerson stomp his way out of the ballroom, and then his gaze shifted true north, to his beloved. Her face was flushed flatteringly and little tendrils of her dark, heavy hair had escaped her pith helmet. She gaily bowed back to her partner who gazed down at her with respect and a hint of amusement. He led her off the floor and to a chair where she collapsed gracefully with a laugh.
Turning back to his drink, Sethos imagined that despite all of Emerson's grumblings and insults, seeing his wife pleased and joyful and in her element completely would give him a little satisfaction. But Emerson was a quantity that Sethos did not much like to mentally entertain at all and if the inner bitter part of his ego was to be believed, Emerson was a stubborn mule of a man that had no business with Amelia. Sethos did not like to listen to that part of his brain as it gave him ideas, like the idea that turned into the abduction fiasco that weighed heavily on his damaged ego.
Looking back toward the still crowded ballroom, he caught a glimpse of a form that looked like Emerson's winding its way toward Amelia. Sethos was surprised, but perhaps the stupid man had decided that he was ready to up and leave and had come to drag his wife away from her fun. Amelia was talking animatedly with a distinguished older lady at the time when the man who looked like Emerson stopped behind her, his tall imposing form throwing a shadow over her face. Sethos could not see her expression before the moment when his heart stopped.
The man who could no longer be believed to be Emerson had swiftly taken Amelia into his arms. The touch was not gentle or loving; it was rough and mechanical. Sethos had risen to his feet as shrieks from the surrounding ladies resounded loudly in the ballroom, loud enough to make the whole crowd stop and stare at the spectacle.
Judging by the way Amelia struggled against his broad chest, she was also not fooled by the disguise her attacker had assumed. Sethos pushed through the people frozen in place by the scene, trying to get to her. The abductor was fast though, and with his long skirts and cumbersome staff Sethos could not keep not keep up with him. Amelia's struggles had started to decrease and her pith helmet clattered to the floor.
Some idiotic woman cried out, "How romantic!" and Sethos was really inclined to slap her and the people around the silly woman who murmured in agreement. He heard a couple of more excited twitters that indicated to him that the kidnapping was not being taken seriously. Still struggling with the people around him to at least try to help Amelia, he heard a thundering voice exclaim, "HELL AND DAMNATION!"
Emerson stood in the doorway directly in front of the abductor's pathway. Sethos noted that he had blood trickling from his forehead and a bruise on his temple. The man stopped and seemingly gave up, tossing Amelia into Emerson's hard body; he sprinted away in the other direction and disappeared through a crowd of people.
"Damnation!" Sethos heard a roar, "can't I leave you alone for five minutes, Peabody?" He watched as Emerson, still tightly clasping Amelia to his chest for fear of her disappearing again, walk purposefully from the room. His face looked worried, furious, and exasperated. They vanished up the stairs a few moments later and everyone in the ballroom continued with their gossiping.
Sethos, feeling positively drained, left the party, unable to hear any more theories about the supposed abduction. His heart still hammered. It was a near thing, that abduction. Sethos pondered the reasons behind the attack. Was it due to Amelia's incessant meddling in something new? Or was it a product of her latest adventure in the Sudan? He was inclined to believe that the event was related to the latter.
Arriving at his flat, Sethos stripped off his heavy costume and put on another disguise. A few minutes later, a disheveled, disgusting man crept out of the back door of the flat. The man took all the back ways to a dirty café in the heart of Old Cairo. Drawing a chair up to the nearest table, Sethos started digging for the answers he knew he would only receive from one source: Amelia.