The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans returns!  We’re excited to present the next episode in the serial novel that Mid-Continent Public Library is hosting on their Grandview Branch Blog!  Read on to find out what library page Sally S.’s heroines are up to next in this time-traveling romp through New York City.

Need to catch up on the story?  Click these links to learn more about the art of serial fiction, and to read the first six installments of our story: Resurrecting Serial Fiction:  “The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” (Parts One & Two),  “The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” Part Three and Part Four: Funny Money , and “The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” Part Five: Busboys & Broadway and Part Six: Of Doctors & Deloreans

And don’t forget to leave comments for our lovely author as she forges ahead with the story!  What do you think should happen next?  Why do you think Rachel & co. landed in NYC?  Which literary references have you enjoyed in the story so far, and which books would you like to see referenced?  Tell us what you think in the comments!

 

“The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” Part Seven: Nights on Broadway

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, January 11, 2012.

“Rachel.” Leigh poked her shoulder tentatively. “Rachel. Are you okay?”

Rachel shook herself. “Yeah, fine. Need coffee.” Understatement.

"Paramount Moon and Venus" by Flickr user picturing_it via Flickr's Creative Commons.

“Come on.” Leigh took her arm. “Maybe we can get Joe to give us some before we go to the theater.”

Joe was, in fact, easily persuaded to get them both coffees at the diner. They drank it quickly while he finished the last of his kitchen duties. Rachel was still savoring the caffeine high as Leigh quizzed Joe on the way to the theater.

“So tell us again why you think they’ll hire us? You don’t even know if we’ve done any acting.”

“You don’t have to know how to act to just stand in the background,” Joe said impatiently. “Look, just trust me on this. They’ll want the pair of you,” he grinned at both of them in a manner that he probably considered quite charming.

Leigh raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think we’ll actually get roles, do you?” She muttered in an aside to Rachel.

“Anything is possible in New York.” Rachel stared up at the skyscrapers looming above their heads. “That’s what’s so great about it.”

“If you start singing anything from Newsies, I will stab you and leave you in an alleyway.” Leigh stuck her hands in her pockets.

“Newsies?” Joe inquired.

“A grand musical. One set right here in New York about the struggle of ordinary paperboys. It’s not really well known yet,” Rachel added hastily. She had to remember what not to mention. She didn’t want to mess up the future so that one ofChristian Bale’s few singing ventures never happened.

“Never heard of it.” Joe shrugged. “Here we are.” He led them around the back and held the stage door with a flourish. “Ladies, welcome to our theater.”

Rachel nudged Leigh with her elbow, unable to suppress a grin, and Leigh nudged her back warningly.

To Leigh’s surprise and dismay, and Rachel’s delight, the director took one look at them and said, “Get ‘em into costume,” before stalking off to yell at some stagehands who were mishandling the fake race horses.

“That was it?” Rachel looked around. She’d thought they might have to sing a little something, and was fully prepared to keep hold of Leigh so she couldn’t bolt, while singing ‘Make ‘Em Laugh,’ which for some reason was the only song she could remember at the moment.

“That was it.” Joe grinned. “Come on, I’ll take you to costuming. When they’re done with you, I’ll introduce you to Amanda; she’s one of the chorus in the first act, and the racetrack number. Maybe after rehearsal we could all go out for a nightcap?”

“Sounds good.” Rachel said cheerfully. They didn’t have to audition, which was better in the long run anyway and now they were going to be on Broadway. She pinched her arm, just testing herself. This might have been a really good dream. She couldn’t remember the last time she fell asleep. She pinched harder.

“Rachel, stop pinching yourself. It’s real.” Leigh turned to Joe with an air of resignation. “Now, costuming?”

Costuming was a well-organized madhouse. People wandered in and out, in varying degrees of undress, mostly from the opening London street scenes. A lady in an austere black dress with a high bun eyed Rachel and Leigh critically. “I have no idea what you’re wearing, but take it off. Take it off now.”

Rachel complied hastily, ducking behind the screen an assistant pointed her to. Leigh was sent behind a similar screen, muttering to herself. Rachel undressed, slipping the PD into the pocket of the dress they handed her. It wasn’t safe there, but she disliked the thought of leaving it in the pile of clothes. They were fitted with dresses and bonnets and ridiculous shoes. Leigh just stared at the assistants until they gave up trying to do something with her hair and just put the bonnet on top. Rachel eyed herself in the mirror dubiously. She did not belong in the time period of Eliza Doolittle at all.

When they were presented at last to the costumer, she just nodded and sighed. “You’ll do, but try to stay in the back, girls. Honestly, I don’t think they would have even hired you two if they weren’t already having so much trouble with the production.” She went off to deal with an actor who was complaining about his top hat.

The assistant sighed to herself then and just shook her head at them. “‘Trouble’ with the production, my foot.”

“Trouble?” Leigh glanced at Rachel with a ‘What-Did-I-Tell-You expression’.

“Trouble?” Rachel inquired in a perfectly innocent voice. “What sort of trouble?”

“The funny kind.” The assistant leaned over the table in a conspiratorial manner. “Lights flickering. Strange noises. The whole shebang. I tell you, kids. I think the place is haunted.”

“Really…” Rachel said casually.

“And not only that, but things keep happening to the cast. One girl nearly broke her neck tripping on some stairs.” The assistant pursed her lips significantly. “I’d watch my step if I were you.”

As soon as the assistant was gone, Leigh grabbed Rachel’s arm and dragged her around behind a rack of dresses waiting for the racetrack scene. “We need to leave. Now. I am not dying for My Fair Lady.”

“Calm down. We’re not going to die.” Rachel patted her shoulder soothingly. Out of the corner of her eye she was already looking for signs of ghost activity. The room was cold, but then it was a large theater so that was to be expected.

“You keep calm!” Leigh hissed. “Seriously, Rachel.”

“What would Sam and Dean do?” Rachel hissed back. This was a frequent question they asked each other, even if the situation didn’t entirely call for it. This was the first time it actually did.

“They would advise us to be sensible and get the hell out of Dodge,” Leigh countered. “Considering we’re merely civilians, not demon or ghost hunters, and we don’t have any salt or iron or weapons of any kind.”

“Well, yes, they probably would…” Rachel conceded. “But Leigh, there’s no concrete evidence that the theater is actually haunted. As far as we know it’s just something happening in the collective consciousness of the cast. I mean, look, what else are they going to talk about?” She leaned in. “They don’t even have the internet yet.”

“Believe me, I know.” Leigh murmured. “And as long as we stay here, neither will we.”

That was a terribly good point. Rachel had to admit it. She did miss the internet.

“Can we at least stay for the opening performance?” She pleaded. “It’s the day after tomorrow. We can stay that long. Come on. Please, Leigh. It’ll make up for…my birthday.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“I should have known you’d play that card.” Leigh sighed. “Fine, all right. We’ll stay until then, but if this place is truly haunted, we are leaving immediately. I’m not dying in 1956.”

“Words to live by.” Rachel held out her hand and they shook on it.

To be continued…

 

“The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans” Part Eight: The Phantom Playwright

Originally published by Sally S. on the Mid-Continent Public Library Grandview Branch Blog, January 18, 2012

An hour later

Rachel shifted from one foot to another, heartily grateful for the fact that she wasn’t truly a lady of the time period and that at some point these shoes would finally come off and never return to her feet again. The director was running through something she couldn’t quite hear, and she sidled forward a little bit until she was standing next to a street vendor, leaning against a cart.

"George Bernard Shaw" by Flickr user gtall1 via Flickr's Creative Commons.

“You two don’t look like sisters.” The street vendor extra glanced from Leigh then back to Rachel.

“Oh, we’re not.” Rachel told her. “We met when we were in school.” Apparently theater work made her chatty because she went on. “We were the only ones who cared that the Spice Girls were on indefinite hiatus. We bonded. It was not a good time. We had vigils and,”

The street vendor extra clearly thought Rachel was nuts, because she started to back away.

“It was a totally valid response.” Rachel muttered. “We were fans!”

She decided this would be a good point to explore the rest of the theater. Leigh was deep in a discussion with the actor playing Freddie about whether or not this was really the right time to invest in Shell Oil.

The Mark Hellinger Theatre had always been someplace Rachel had dreamed of going to when she visited New York, but seeing it now in its heyday was glorious. She traipsed up the back stairs, avoiding various people and snapped a few shots surreptitiously from the balcony. The theater was a sight to behold as the cast moved to and fro on the stage. The props people were fixing the cart Eliza Doolittle would eventually sing her way across. Rachel leaned on the balcony, sighing happily to herself. This was a good moment and she would treasure it forever.

Next she slipped out into the lobby and studied the ornate murals on the ceiling until a stage hand came up to her and told her she wasn’t supposed to be wandering around while in costume. He directed her back to the stage where the other extras were gathering in little groups, still waiting. Joe waved at her. He brought over a dark-haired girl that he introduced as the aforementioned Amanda.

“Her roommates are out of town for the week so if you and your friend need a place to stay tonight.”

“That would be really nice. Uh thanks.” Somehow the reality of the idea of staying here for a day hadn’t really sunk in. What if they couldn’t make it back in time? What if the book didn’t work? What if they were stuck here forever?

Breathe, Rachel told herself firmly. Breathe. There are worse things. Floods. No internet. Dead puppies. No internet.

The PD would work. They would be on Broadway and then they would go back home and they would have internet again. Simple as that.

“Places, people! Come on!”

They were about to do the opening scene, the tech people were still fiddling with the lighting, when Rachel first spotted the man. He looked perfectly in keeping with the scene, dressed in period costume. Except…he was slightly translucent. Apart from that, completely normal.

It was then, that Rachel realized, she really should have known better than to think that they could go home just like that. Adventures were never that simple.

“Psst.” Rachel inched closer to where Leigh was standing.

“What?”

“Do you see that transparent sort of dude over there?”

“Where?” Leigh looked around.

“Over there.” Rachel poked Leigh in the stomach.

“Ow, yes.”

The man in question was simply standing there at the side of the stage, glaring at the various actors and stage crew, even though they didn’t appear to be doing anything horribly offensive. They didn’t pay him any attention at all.

“Leigh…” Rachel hesitated, “Do you think he’s not all there?”

“I hardly see how we can jump to any conclusions. We haven’t talked to him. He’s just wandering around and muttering to himself. *I* do that.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you’re not all there.” Rachel said impatiently. “No, I mean he’s not all there as in he’s not a corporeal form.”

Leigh eyed her, and then looked back at the man. “He does seem a little insubstantial.” She admitted. “But why would a ghost hang around the set of My Fair Lady? For that matter, why is there a ghost here?”

“Unfinished business, who knows?” Rachel shrugged. “I want to get a closer look.” She maneuvered her way behind two set pieces until she was only a few feet away from the possible ghost. The man, if he was a man and not a ghost, was tall and bearded and looked, she decided, rather like a playwright type.

“So?” A voice whispered over her shoulder. Rachel jumped. “Don’t do that.” She hissed at Leigh. “I could have knocked over the columns.”

“Beg pardon, but come on.”

“I think it’s George Bernard Shaw.” Rachel announced. “Just a hunch, mind you.”

“What?”

“Well, he looks vaguely like the pictures I’ve seen. And what other ghost would have a better right to hang around this set?”

“That may be, but why is he here?” Leigh peered speculatively at the transparent bearded man. “Maybe he just wants to see how it will go.” It was an optimistic thought, but Rachel was willing to give it a shot.

At that moment the ghost of George Bernard Shaw, for that was exactly who it was, opened his mouth and sighed dramatically. “How will they think to ruin my play next?” He hovered behind two stage hands before brushing through them quickly, causing them to knock into each other, falling straight into the set pieces they were working on.

“Or he’s another vengeful spirit seeking to wreak some havoc on the theater world.” Leigh observed.

“I’d say that was spot on.” Rachel sighed again.

To be continued…

 

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