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Observing the man at the piano, his carefully averted eyes and stiff posture, Elizabeth felt a rising need to somehow get him out of here… But she took a breath and reminded herself why they were there: the girls.
Her pleated skirt swirled around her as she turned on a heel, looking into the glassy, piercing eyes of Cohen. “I implore you to choose, sir. Inspire me,” she prompted, and he hummed in return.
“You are one to challenge me, aren’t you? It’s perfect,” he said, patting the pianist’s shoulder absently. “Simply perfect! Why not…” He started, weaving in a lazy circle to side of the piano opposite her. “Rise, Rapture, Rise! We all know the words, now don’t we?”
The musician at the bench just nodded, his fingers leaving their place above the keys only to nimbly turn the page of his music book. There was no time for panic; her mind whirled ahead of all that. This was her battlefield – years of observing and studying and learning while trapped in her tower, this was where Elizabeth shined.
The song was commissioned by Ryan, so it had to be grand, and Cohen would never relinquish his piano. “Ah, of course!” She beamed, continuing as she took a seat beside the pianist – where she could see the sheet music.
Booker and Cohen both watched her, she could just feel it prickling at the back of her neck, but… Soon, they’d both understand exactly what she wanted them to. “The rise of the music with the lyrics… So elegant, masterful.”
Looking to Cohen again, she made her first request. “Might this gentleman have a guitar?” Booker bit back the scoff, but a quick glance at him showed tensed shoulders, locked knees… He was going to give her an earful later. She smiled.
“As my muse, it would make it easier for me to feel the music if he were to play.”
“Yes, yes, of course! Brilliant!” He clapped twice, voice dropping to an impatient sneer. “You there!” The man in the bunny mask jumped, rushing over. “Fetch the guitar for my songbird’s muse, and be quick about it.”
He was only two steps away before Cohen lashed out again. “No, no, no, not that way! You idiot, they’re in the gallery!” The pianist nodded to the hallway behind them, and the attendant took off in that direction without a word.
“Hurry! Fools,” Cohen muttered, straightening his vest for emphasis.
Booker looked on as the staff turned into a doorway near the far end of that hall, and he thought aloud. “New staff, is that–”
“No excuses!” Cohen shouted, his voice straining and escalating as he went on. “I’ve had this staff for years; years, I tell you, and he knew, he knew, he knew!!” At the last scream, he slammed his open palm on the piano, getting a faint echo of notes from the instrument.
“S-sir?” Guitar in hand, the attendant approached Booker and gave Cohen a wide berth. “For you.”
“Thanks,” he grumbled, ducking through the guitar strap as he raised it over his head.
“Now,” Cohen chirped, standing over her and the musician beside her. “There’s no need for guitar in our fine city’s anthem, but he’ll have his chance. Fitzpatrick!”
As easy as that, the pianist began. While they played through Rise, Rapture, Rise, she caught glimpses of Booker’s gaze drifting from the guitar to her or Cohen or the attendant on loop… Almost as if he were one of those people trapped between times. Almost.
What do you want to do, Elizabeth?
Read the next chapter.
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