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Vera has a new assignment. She has been hired to pose as a friend of a guest at a murder mystery party. Readers voted that the party theme be a masquerade ball.
“It’s a masquerade party.”
“Wonderful.” Vera looked up from her phone to see Greg Goodman standing in the front yard with a bouquet of flowers. One of the biggest Loan Some rules was “no dating people you meet on assignments,” and since she had met Greg at a party where she was a loaner, technically, their relationship was illegal.
“Boss, can I call you back?” she said.
“Sure. You can just stop by later to sign the agreement.” And he disconnected.
“And who would that ‘boss’ be?” said Greg. Vera had kept her job pretty vague, causing Greg to ask a lot of questions.
“What are you doing here?” she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“Brought you these,” he said, handing the bouquet of white lilies to her. “Wanted to congratulate you on your first house.”
“Thank you.” She gently placed her nose in the collection of flowers, sniffing the sweet scent.
“Can I help carry stuff in?” Greg picked up the handles of a white lidded box marked “Books,” one of the many the movers hadn’t gotten to yet. “Where can I drop this?”
Vera forced a sweet smile, knowing the prolific writers in there wouldn’t appreciate that.
“Sign here,” said Bruce. “And here.”
This was Vera’s first confidentiality agreement, and it looked like it was going to be the norm going forward with new assignments, since Bruce had a lawyer on retainer just for this. With each signature, Vera promised that she’d never reveal she was not an actual friend of Marta Petrou’s. Seemed simple enough. The first rule of Loan Some had always unofficially been “keep it quiet.” As much as their clients weren’t eager for the secret to be revealed, neither were the loaners working for them.
After the last signature, Bruce handed Vera a masquerade costume: a black ball gown and mask.
When Vera arrived at the house, a brownstone connected to a slew of others just like it, she grew jealous. She had always wanted to live in a brownstone like the ones you see in New York City, and this one felt like it was plucked from the Upper West Side.
Clad in her white blonde wig and themed garb, it soon became easy to forget she wasn’t Marta’s real friend because she wasn’t even really herself.
A butler let Vera in through the front door where Vera was soon greeted by Marta Petrou, a lanky brunette whom she recognized via Bruce Kitchen’s photographs.
“Amy!” said Marta, bee-lining for Vera and half-hugging, double-cheek-kissing her. She turned to the party guests to introduce the new acquaintance. “Guys, this is Amy Dunne. Amy, this is everyone.”
Marta didn’t waste any time. She went down the line introducing the guests. There was Celeste, her sister who had a permanent scowl on her face, despite her beautifully elaborate cerulean gown. Celeste’s equally disinterested husband, Heron, whose only visible association to his wife was his cerulean tie. Cliff, Marta’s ex-boyfriend in a white phantom mask, who looked a little too happy being at this party. Fern, Marta’s 50s-ish neighbor who was the shortest one there, with his masquerade mask being the only thing Vera could see at first. And finally, Lillian, Marta’s tennis partner, who shyly shrugged in her off-the-shoulder yellow gown upon being recognized. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.