Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene I (Michael)

   
Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene I (Michael)

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“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.”

Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1

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December 8th, 2006

"Hey Mike! Finally found you." Irina came jogging up as the rehearsal ended. "I've been looking all over. Some rich lady said she wanted to talk to you."

It was late in the evening, long past the setting of the sun, as the rehearsal for The Kiss of the Spider Woman ended at the Shaftesbury Theatre. It had been Michael's biggest break to-date, a chorus part, but nevertheless a part in an award-winning musical in a respectable theater, even if the Shaftesbury was off the West End. It was a stepping stone, and from the sounds of it, someone had noticed.

"Very posh, has a pair of big fellows in suits with her." Irina said, huffing and puffing lightly. "In the top box, you know, the one with the curtains. She said that she'd make it worth your while."

Michael grinned at Irina, face still flushed with excitement. Sure, it hadn't been much, but it was closer to the front of the stage than he had ever been. His heart still thumped hard in his chest, as it did every time that he was on stage. That was where he was born to be. His heart belonged to the theater. Even in rehearsals, he put everything he had into whatever role he was playing. Start as you mean to go on, they said - and so Michael did.

"Thanks Irina!" he answered, beaming at his roommate and throwing an arm around her. "When she takes me out to Holywood, I won't forget the little people. I'll send you a postcard. Maybe two," he added, grin getting brighter as the after-show adrenaline rush showed no sign of dissipating yet. Ducking away to avoid the ineviable swat, he laughed and headed off towards the top box, calling over his shoulder; "I'll see you back home - your turn to cook, remember!" After the minute or so that it took to get up to the top box, Michael took a moment to take a deep breath and steady himself. Whatever this woman wanted, he'd dazzle her. So, full of confidence, he knocked politely three times on the box door.

There was the sound of movement inside, and the door was opened by a slender, red-haired man with a dusting of freckles, clad in a neat grey suit, one hand casually inside his jacket. He looked Michael over, and there was something predatory in his gaze which the wolf inside of Michael noticed. But then the young actor must have passed muster, as the red-haired man stepped aside, letting Michael into the box.

The box was one of those antique things, with curtains and chairs, for when the richest and most connected patrons came to visit. The curtains were drawn, so that no one could see inside the box, and the heavy fabric muffled sound quite effectively. Someone had arranged this meeting for privacy.

This someone, standing beside a second man in a grey suit (this one tall, dark-skinned, and with short-cut hair), was a woman. She was, without a doubt, one of the most elegant women Michael had ever seen. She was beautiful, without a doubt, but there was more to it than that. She reclined in a large, over-stuffed arm-chair, casually disregarding the theater's No Smoking police to drag on a long cigarette in a holder. She was dressed in a crisp, black-grey gown, and there was jewelry of pale metal upon her throat. Not silver, though, but platinum.

"Mr. Oliver." She said his name softly, sweetly. Honey would not have melted in her mouth. "Come, have a seat. Let's talk... business."


As the red-haired man looked at him, Michael gave his best disarming smile. That was one good part of being an actor - even if someone was creeping him out a little, he didn't show it. As for his wolf instincts telling him something was up, Michael hadn't been a werewolf long enough to trust them completely... but the feeling did put him on guard. If something was up, he'd be out of there, even if this woman offered him a starring role in the next sure-hit action blockbuster.

As he entered the box, Michael hardly noticed the fancy trappings. He'd been in enough theaters that it didn't phase him anymore. Rich, poor, they were all audience members to him. He was there to entertain everyone, regardless of how much their ticket cost.

The second guard didn't phase him either. The woman, however, caught his attention. He couldn't put his finger on what it was about her, but she held his attention without saying a word. She'd be a perfect news reader, he thought - she'd hold the attention of the audience, but without leaving them so spellbound that they'd miss what she was saying. He sat in the chair she offered, giving her his most winning smile. "Certainly. What business are you in, Miss ... ?" he asked, letting his sentence hang in the air for her to fill in.

"My name is Sophie Penrose."

There was a sudden jolt as Michael realized he did know who this woman was, by reputation if nothing else. Sophie Penrose was what the modern world called a 'celebutante', a socialite in the old phrasing. It made sense, of course. She was wealthy, she was beautiful, and she was famous. Michael had seen her name in supermarket-aisle tabloids, but they failed to capture her raw presence.

"I have many businesses, Mr. Oliver, but for the evening, you may consider be a collector of curiosities." Penrose said, her perfect lips curling into a silken smile. "Curiosities such as, but not at all limited to, yourself. You may consider me... an angel, in theater parlance."

"Nice to meet you, Miss Penrose," Michael said, still beaming out his brightest smile. Inside, he was shocked - he was in the presence of someone famous enough for him to have heard of. Not that fame was intimidating, it simply wasn't what he had expected, not at all. He had thought perhaps some investor or a writer looking for an actor, maybe a director or talent scout. But this... well, it was unexpected, but Michael wouldn't let such an opportunity pass him by.

"So you consider me curious, Miss Penrose?" Michael asked, his smile changing to a teasing one. Maybe it wasn't the best tactic to get her on his side, but if she wanted to work with him then Michael would be himself. After all, acting was his profession - as much as he enjoyed it, he didn't want to have to do it in his personal life, too.

"Very curious." Penrose said, blowing out a slender stream of smoke. She favored Michael with another silken smile, regarding him for a moment through the smoke. "It's unusual for someone such as yourself to take to such a public career. Unusual, curious... daring, even. And yet, you show great talent for it. I was here during the rehearsal, I heard you sing. You show promise, certainly."

"In fact, pretty boy, I feel curious enough to try and add you to my collection." Penrose said, her smile growing sharper. She had grey eyes, and they seemed to swirl like hypnotic mist.

Someone such as me... she is talking about me like I'm an object, Michael thought, more than a little disturbed. And I think she knows what I am. Dad had always said that there was other stuff... but he'd never encountered anything but Azlu and Beshilu. But he wasn't going to be the first to say anything - if he was wrong, she'd think he was crazy. She was a rich celebutant, after all, so maybe being a bit eccentric was part of the deal. So he'd act like nothing was wrong.

"Thank you, Miss Penrose," Michael said, smiling even wider at the compliments - he'd have a sore jaw tomorrow, but hopefully it would be worth it. "Tell me, is your collection large?" And what the hell did she mean by collection? He couldn't help but hear creepy overtones to the statement, but he wasn't sure if they were really there, or if he was just imagining them.

"Sizeable." Penrose said, and then she laughed, a musical sound. When she looked at Michael again, there was something in her gaze. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be so mysterious, but old habits are hard to break."

"I represent a... club, we'll call it. We've rather diverse interests -- medical, exploratory, financial -- but they include an interest in the Arts." Penrose said, steepling her fingers together as she regarded Michael. "Your... unique circumstances... and your choice of career came to the attention of one of our members."

As Sophie spoke, Michael listened intently, trying to gauge her sincerity and mood. She was a difficult woman to read, but he thought that she was being honest with him. Honest about what she said, anyway - but Michael wouldn't be surprised if what she had told him so far was just a tiny corner of the picture. "I'm sure there is a good reason for being mysterious," Michael answered with a smile, his tone diplomatic - he wasn't accusing her of lying to him or demanding more information, but he clearly wanted to know more.

"I see. May I ask who this member is?" he asked, curious. Michael wondered if he had ever met this person - since Sophie appeared to be talking about someone other than herself - or if they had just been in the audience during a performance he'd been in. Either way, Michael felt that delicacy was the key here - he had to be interested without committing to anything, polite and honest without agreeing to anything. Michael had heard horror stories of actors being taken advantage of, and it wasn’t going to happen to him. But at the same time, if it was on the level, he’d jump on any opportunity.




 

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