MERRILY, MERRILY, MERRILEE©2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Martha S. Robinson
It was Murphy’s Law in action, thought Merrilee as she stood considering
the current state of affairs. If something could go wrong, it would, and it
appeared that it had. Very wrong. But, taking the chance that she could
bluff her way through what was becoming an extremely sticky situation, she
asked, "What scene?"
Come with me," Drake said, leading her from the snakeroom, and back into the
greenhouse. She tried to pull her hand from his, but he held it tightly.
Now, she sensed, wasn’t the time to give him a martial arts demonstration.
"Come on, Marilyn," he said in a strange tone that raised the small hairs on
the back of her neck. "I want to show you something."
"No more snakes," she smiled, trying to keep it light. Drake was on the
edge, and she was worried about Bran. "I’ve had enough snakes to last me
for a while."
Drake said nothing, just led her though the greenhouse, past the pool of
piranha, and to the door where they’d entered only a short time ago. She
followed, for she couldn’t do anything else, short of giving her special
skills away, and it was too soon for that. At this point, she had no idea
where Bran was, nor was she certain that Drake was onto them. For all she
knew, he might be planning something strange. The man was kinky, after all.
"Let me go," she protested, finally. "Please, Drake. Have I said something
to offend you? Really, I don’t mind snakes that much."
Drake said nothing, jut pulled her back to the house. "What happened to the
rest of the grand tour?" she asked, still playing innocent. That was, still
playing Marilyn. "I really wanted to see the rest of the house."
"Shut up." His words were curt, and it was then that she was fairly certain
that things were past salvaging with lies. It wouldn’t stop her from
trying, but she’d have to be more inventive, at least until she knew Bran’
s status. Drake pulled her into the house, and then pushed her down in a
chair in his study. "Now, Miss MacKenzie, or should I say, Miss Jones, what
are you really doing here?"
"I was invited," Merrilee said, summoning up as much indignation as she
could muster on short notice. If that was all that was worrying the man, she
’d lie her way out of it. "Marilyn MacKenzie is my pen name. It sounded
much more romantic than Merrilee Jones."
"I don’t believe you."
"Call my agent," she spat. "Really, Drake, if you don’t want my company,
all you have to do is tell me."
"Oh, I want your company, Miss Jones," he sneered. "I also want the company
of your secretary for a while."
"I told you that Bran isn’t into that sort of thing," Merrilee told him,
deliberately misunderstanding his words.
"I know what he’s into, and I know where he’s been this morning."
"He’s been typing my manuscript," she told him. "I gave him careful
"Miss Jones," Drake drawled, eyes no longer lazy but a very icy blue. "I’m
not a fool, so don’t treat me like one."
Suddenly, the door to the study was thrown open, and Aaron and Thomas pushed
Bran into the room. He stumbled from the force of the shove, but he
recovered to stand before Drake. Pushing his glasses up, he tried to appear
the indignant secretary.
"Mr. Elliot?" Drake asked calmly. "So nice of you to join us."
"Bran," Merrilee spoke quickly. "What’s going on?"
"Tell her, Bran," Drake said, silkily. "Tell all of us what you were doing
in my room, breaking into my computer."
Bran looked quietly at Merrilee, then at Drake. "I was trying to find out
what tapes you had stored in your collection."
"Come now, Bran. Surely you can do better than that." Drake lit another one
of the thin, dark cigarettes and inhaled deeply. His expression was one of
"That’s the truth," Bran told him. "Marilyn, that is Miss MacKenzie, told
me that you filmed your guests, and I was trying to make sure that there
were no secret films from last night."
"Yes," Bran invented. "I was afraid that the mirrors over the bed concealed
cameras and that you’d filmed us. That sort of thing can be damaging to her
"Try again," Drake instructed as he looked from Merrilee to Bran. "I doubt
that anything could damage that career." Merrilee stood uncertainly, trying
to look as indignant as possible, all the while aware of the danger of the
situation. She restrained herself from looking at her watch, knowing that if
the trouble they were in wasn’t enough, there was more on the way.
Nervously, she reached up and fiddled with her pendant. In a moment’s
desperation, she pressed on the large stone, praying that the transmitter
Bran, meanwhile, was set on his current lie, bound and determined to make it
believable. He looked at Merrilee, saw the furtive movement with her
pendant, and mentally crossed his fingers. "I told you what I was doing.
Marilyn has a reputation to maintain, and being filmed with her secretary
might not be a good idea."
"I might believe that from anyone else, but you see, I know that Marilyn
MacKenzie is really Merrilee Jones, a computer expert. Do you really expect
me to buy the story that one of the best computer people in America is
"I don’t give a damn what you believe," Merrilee blazed. "I’m doing just
that, and I enjoy it. The money is good, and I’ve met a lot more
interesting people, present company excepted, since I began doing it than I
ever met when I was programming."
"That’s interesting," said Drake, amused by her outburst. "According to my
sources, you worked at Chandler Electronics until about thirteen months ago,
and have been consulting ever since. All this and romance novels, too?"
"I like to stay busy," she countered.
"Miss Jones, if you were with any other individual than this gentleman, I
might be willing to believe you. However, considering your companion, your
story is a total waste of your fictional talent."
Damn, thought Bran, with the sinking feeling that Erika and Enrique weren’t
the worst of his problems. Merrilee was looking at him with confusion in her
lovely hazel eyes, and he knew the desire to protect her from this mess.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t even protect himself.
"My story stands," Merrilee stated, boldly declaring her innocence. It
certainly wasn’t the time to confess all, and throw herself on what she
suspected was Drake’s nonexistent mercy. "I came here at your invitation,
and since you’ve obviously withdrawn your offer of hospitality, we shall
Drake crushed out the cigarette and shook his head. His blue eyes were
blazing with a curious light, and he smiled broadly. "I think not, Miss
Jones. You see, if I let you go, you’d feel the need to share the events of
the house party with the authorities, especially when your boss disappears."
"My boss? Please explain."
"Quit bluffing," Drake told her. "I’m aware of who you are, and just for
the record, I know that you’re still working for Chandler Electronics."
"I am not. I quit there as you well know."
"You are beginning to tire me," Drake said, and Bran spent the next few
seconds wondering if he could overpower the two men flanking him and take
out Drake in time to allow Merrilee the chance to escape. He knew that the
thought was futile, and so stood still a bit longer. "You see, Miss Jones,
it’s useless to tell me that you don’t work with Chandler when the man is
standing in the same room with you, when I knew that you’d spent the night
"With Chandler?" Merrilee was incredulous as she looked from Drake to Bran.
"Chandler?" Her mind was processing the information at lightening speed as
she suddenly realized that Bran Elliot was in reality B.E. Chandler. How
could she have been so blind? So gullible? But, still she had to try. Seized
by an inspiration, she turned and accused him, "Damn you, Bran. You lied to
Bran looked guilty as hell, and Merrilee continued her tirade with heartfelt
anger. "I refused all your requests for an interview. I told your secretary
that I was no longer in the job market. Couldn’t you leave well enough
alone?" Taken by her line of fiction, she manufactured lie after lie, with
enough truth to her tale to lend her conviction. "No, you have to try to
seduce me away from my writing to return to your damned company."
"So what if I did?" Bran shot back following her lead. "I needed personnel,
and I knew that you’d worked there before, that your record was the best. I
figured that I’d get to you any way I could, and when I found that you were
Marilyn MacKenzie, I decided to go for your weak spot. Romance."
"You’re fired," she shouted. "Fired! Pack your things and get the hell out
of my sight. I wouldn’t work for you if I was starving, which, I assure
you, I’m not. And, thank you, Drake, for telling me." She pulled herself up
to her full five foot six inch height, and looked positively imperious, in
spite of her ludicrous outfit. "Now, I have had enough of this affair, and I
am quite out of the party mood. If you’ll call me a cab, I’ll be going."
She started for the door, but Martin stepped into her path, effectively
blocking the exit. Turning to Drake, she ordered, "Call off your gorilla."
"Not possible," Drake told her. "We are still in the same quandary."
"You know entirely too much."
"About the disappearance of Chandler." Drake looked at Bran and then nodded
to his men. One of them produced a cord from his pocket and was preparing to
tie the unwilling guest when Bran turned quickly and lashed out with fists
and feet. Thomas fell without a word, and Aaron followed in short order.
Merrilee, unfortunately, was too far from Drake to do any good. Drake,
however, had been prepared, and simply removed a very businesslike gun from
his desk drawer, leveling it on Merrilee. "Neatly done, but too little, too
late. Unless she means less to you than I think she does, you’ll remain
Bran remained still, as he saw the gun trained on Merrilee. He knew that it
was pointless to argue with Drake, and he cursed himself for ever bringing
her in on this fiasco. From the beginning, apparently, their mission had
been doomed to failure, and now he stared at the woman he loved and realized
that it was his fault that she was in mortal danger, or worse, considering
Drake and his activities. Even knowing her background with Mike, or Jake,
didn’t lessen his concern for her, outnumbered and outgunned as they were.
No, he’d botched it badly, and seeing the look of betrayal in her eyes only
made it worse.
Meanwhile, Thomas crawled to his feet and with one swift move, brought his
own gun down across the back of Bran’s head. Bran pitched to the floor
without a sound. Thomas rubbed his jaw tenderly and scowled at Drake.
"Easier to tie him up this way."
Merrilee was aghast. A sharp horrible pain had gripped her when she’d seen
Bran crumple to the floor, but she knew that their best chance lay in being
calm. So, she began her hardest role to date. Inconspicuously pressing the
large stone on her pendant, she turned wide, hazel eyes on Drake and
demanded, "What have you done to Bran? Is he dead?"
"No," Drake assured her. "Not yet, anyway. I’m not going to do anything but
keep him safe for a little while. I have some guests arriving later today
who are interested in renewing their acquaintance with him." Drake motioned
to her to sit down as Thomas finished with Bran. Aaron was beginning to
regain consciousness, and began to get mean. "Get Aaron out of here," Drake
ordered Thomas who was rubbing his jaw again. Martin, you help him. Now,
Miss Jones, we are going to have a little talk."
"I’ve had all the conversation I can stand with you," she informed him. "We
have nothing more to say."
"Oh, but we do. You see, you have a choice in what happens to you."
"Then you can let me go."
"That isn’t an option," he said, regretfully. "I’d been looking forward to
this party, and to meeting Marilyn MacKenzie, but when Chandler showed up, I
knew that things weren’t as they appeared. It is a pity, though."
"What are you going to do with us?"
"Bran I’ll leave as a gift for my guests, and you, well, like I said, there
are choices." Drake sat stroking his gun, giving her lazy looks that were
decidedly kinky as far as she was concerned, and she longed for the privacy
of her old jeans and tee shirt instead of the ridiculous outfit she was
wearing. "I know what Chandler was looking for, or, should I say, whom? And,
had he been successful in breaking into my computer, he’d have found the
information he sought. The missing programmers are here, on this estate,
waiting transportation to their new employers." He paused here, and informed
her, "That may be one of your options. Would you like to go with them?"
"No." She realized that working for Drake’s people would only be postponing
her death. She’d rather face it head on.
"You’d prefer to stay with Chandler? Really, Miss Jones. His options are a
great deal more limited than yours." At Merrilee’s questioning look, he
nodded, "Yes, he had the misfortune to run afoul of my business associates a
while back, and they wish to repay him for his troubles."
"They’re going to kill him?" Merrilee recalled the troubled look from Bran’s
face, and she inwardly cringed.
"Eventually. Personally, I’d prefer to die a little quicker, but one seldom
has the choice."
Merrilee sat for a moment, realizing that unless her transmitter was
working, there was little hope that she and Bran would escape with their
lives. Still, there was a chance, and so she decided to learn all she could
about Drake’s plan, just in case. "And if I decide to take employment with
"Miss Jones, I’m not certain that you’ll do that. You see, knowing what
you know, the names, the places and so on, you present some greater
difficulties than the others. And, knowing your association with Chandler, I
believe that you are too dangerous to release."
"Then what the hell are my options?"
"You can trust me to be mercifully quick, or you can go with Chandler."
"I appreciate your concern," she snapped sarcastically. "What will you do?
Allow me a session with your precious snakes, or a swim with the piranha?"
"Would you prefer a bullet to the head?"
"I’d prefer to get out of here."
"Oh, you will, Miss Jones. You will."