We apologise for the spontaneous intermission but traveling has overwhelmed our ability to publish. Please accept this holiday snap as an apology, enjoy the over-priced ice cream and normal service will resume shortly…
We apologise for the spontaneous intermission but traveling has overwhelmed our ability to publish. Please accept this holiday snap as an apology, enjoy the over-priced ice cream and normal service will resume shortly…
Sir John and Emile pushed through the drunks and raucous groups spilling from bars, theatres and clubs of the most dubious kind.
“Are you looking for a good time?” said one hideously painted lady to Sir John as he walked passed.
“Not especially,” said Sir John and hurried away. “You know, I thought it might be useful to have Marie or Miss Henderson with us, but I do believe you are right. This place is the worst kind of sordid hell hole. What kind of lascivious swine would gain pleasure from being here?”
“Hey Emile, are you coming in tonight?” shouted a barman as they strolled down Rue Lepic.
Sir John looked shocked at Emile.
“Mistaken identity,” shrugged Emile. “It’s a common name.”
“Hey Planquette!” shouted the barman. “Are you deaf, man?”
Emile looked unmoved.
“That’s a common name as well,” he said. “Half of Paris is called Emile Planquette.”
They stopped in a square and looked around.
“We are pretty much out of Montmartre,” said Emile. “And no sign at all.”
“Hey,” shouted a large man with a red face and big beard, surrounded by a group of men. “What are you two looking for? A woman?”
Sir John scowled.
“Ignore him,” said Emile. “We must have missed something. It seems like we’ve been down every street, though.”
“A boy?” shouted the man. Sir John glanced over, but Emile was impassive, facing away from the man.
“Has the topography changed recently?” said Sir John. “Some change of energy perhaps, to make the map wrong?”
“A sheep?” shouted the man to howls of laughter from the group. Emile pivoted round.
“Monsieur!” he shouted. The man smiled back at him.
“It’s just the lamb here is delicious,” he said.
“Look out,” said Sir John and pushed Emile into an alleyway. The bearded man and his entourage laughed even harder. Emile was about to speak when Sir John put a finger to his lips. Clackprattle and Pook walked by the alleyway. Emile gasped then put his hand over his mouth. The men hid as the two walked down the road a little. Sir John looked at the building their adversaries had emerged from.
“A windmill?” he said.
“Tsch, of course,” said Emile. “The Moulin Rouge. I assume that’s the famous Clackprattle and Pook.”
“Indeed,” said Sir John “and moving with some purpose. I suspect they’ve found the elemental. We should go in at once. I hope we’re not too late.”
“You think they may have completed the challenge?” said Emile. “A physical challenge? But… one is so fat and the other so scrawny…”
“Then there’s no time to lose,” said Sir John. ”Let’s go in there and find out what it is.”
Sir John and Emile strode out of the alleyway. The group around the bearded man regarded them with curiosity.
“You know,” said Emile, “on reflection we probably should have brought the maid.”
Sir John’s response was lost in gales of laughter.
Sir John reflected that it was the second time he had found himself inside a Parisien house with his wife looking disturbed and confused. Like before, a stranger had let them in, this time the neighbour, without quite knowing why they had done it.
“I am sorry madame,” said the neighbour, an elderly lady with a face mapped with wrinkles, “we found him a few days ago. He must have died shortly before.”
“But I just found him…” whispered Marie, staring into middle distance.
The neighbour looked on awkwardly for a moment, hovering in the door.
“I’ll… I’ll leave you,” she said and hurried out. Sir John held his wife’s hand. She barely registered his touch, but looked up at his face.
“Did I do this?” she said.
“Do you mean…” said Sir John, lowering his voice, “…magically?”
“No, no.” she said. “I mean, the shock of seeing me, of finding out I was alive. Did it kill him? Did I kill him?”
Sir John squeezed his wife’s hand.
“Marie, he was a very old man, you said yourself,” said Sir John. “More likely, he felt happy he knew you were alive than shocked.”
“You mean, he felt that he could die because he knew there was someone left behind,” she said.
“I mean…” said Sir John. “I mean I don’t think you killed him. It’s just a coincidence.”
Marie walked away from her husband and her hand slipped from his. She wandered around the room looking at the furniture, the decrepit armchair, the table next to it. Her shoulders shook a little and she absently brought a handkerchief to her face.
“Excuse me, madame,” said a woman at the door. She was young and her face was set firm. “But who are you? We don’t know you, or what you want.”
Marie turned round to look at the woman, tears rolling down her face. The other woman looked surprised and went to speak.
“Aller,” said Marie quietly and the woman withdrew.
“Marie,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we should go. We can do nothing more here.”
Marie nodded silently and walked toward the door. She glanced down at the cupboard beside her then froze.
“Marie?” said Sir John.
Marie picked up a pendant from the cupboard and held it to the light, its green jewel sparkling. She looked confused at it then turned to Sir John.
“This was my mother’s,” said Marie.
“Are you sure?” said Sir John.
“She wore it when we were in the village. Mon cher, this is what my uncle wanted to give to me. Not the broken sundial.”
Marie put the chain over her head.
“Um… perhaps we should leave it?” said Sir John. “That could look a bit like stealing.”
Marie frowned at her husband.
“It is my mother’s pendant in my uncle’s house” she said. “It is not stealing.”
There was some noise outside and Sir John glanced outside.
“Ah” he said, “there seems to be rather a crowd there. I really think we should take our leave.”
Marie sighed and walked to the door. She opened it wide and the group murmured louder.
“Madame…” one of them started.
“Arrêter!” said Marie and they all froze.
Marie glanced at her husband.
“First trick I ever learned,” she said and left the house.
The sun had set and the interior of the art church was lit by candles. The near constant construction work had finished for the day. It had produced some small cubicle-like rooms made from ornate, organic panels. A huge table had been placed where the altar had once been and scattered on it were many pieces of paper covered in symbols. Around the table stood Emile, Sabine, Marie, Sir John, Miss Henderson, Morag, Phlebotomus and Osvold.
“So” said Emile, “we have good news and bad news.”
“What’s the bad?” said Sir John.
“The bad news is that we have two murderous swine loose in Paris searching for a weapon of immense power. The weapon is in four parts, we think, and they have a map to the parts,” said Emile. “And we do not.”
“That does sound rather bad,” said Sir John, “put like that. What’s the good news?”
“We have the notes that Dinard made when he acquired and studied the map.” said Emile.
“And… they tell us the location of the four parts?” said Sir John.
“Possibly…” said Emile. “We have a small problem with the notes.”
Everyone looked down at the table and the pages covered in symbols.
“It looks Greek to me,” said Miss Henderson.
“It is Greek,” said Emile. “I’ve been translating the notes with Osvold’s help, but it’s a slow process and its hard to be sure we have it right. It seems like either a dialect or…”
“Ancient Greek,” said Sabine. Everyone looked at her.
“How do you know that?” said Emile, looking flabbergasted.
“Because I can read Ancient Greek,” she said, “and Latin for matter. I am quite the scholar of antiquities.”
Miss Henderson rolled her eyes.
“Then what does it say?” said Emile.
Sabine picked up a piece of paper.
“The four pieces are represented by four elements, each one kept safe by a guardian who will set the seeker a task. The task will conform to the element in question, so physical for earth, intellectual for air and so on,” she read. “The elements must be acquired in order, beginning with earth.”
Emile looked shocked.
“It has taken the two of us all week just to decipher one page,” he said.
Sabine shrugged and picked up another.
“Ha! That pompous ass will be back in the shop within the hour when he sees the map. Whoever designed it is a true genius. It is a map of mind states not places. Only someone who has walked and knows the streets of this city can use it,” she read.
There was a murmur from the group.
“Then maybe it is not too bad,” said Marie. “Maybe they cannot read it.”
“They will just hire some urchin,” said Sabine. “For a centime they could crack the code. Dinard was a fool to let them have this map.”
Osvold made a whimpering noise and Phlebotomous patted him on the shoulder. Miss Henderson looked pityingly at the small vampire then shot a look at Sabine.
“Still,” said Marie, “it is some hope. Did Dinard find where the earth part was kept?”
Sabine riffled through the notes reading then rejecting several before reading one in detail. She gave a short high laugh.
“Yes,” she said, “he found it. He says that he didn’t even need to walk the street to find this place. He says it was almost too obvious, stuck between the palaces of desire and consumption.”
“Where is it?” said Sir John.
Sabine looked at all of them and smiled.
“The first element is to be found,” she said, “in Montmartre.”
The noise of construction was quite constant in the church interior, and despite Sabine’s intentions, Sir John felt sure the only artistry was the colourful language coming from the workers. He was near the entrance and had taken to pacing and glancing occasionally out the front door, interspersing this with comments like “she doesn’t know we’re here” to anyone passing. When he finally saw Marie returning with Miss Henderson and Morag his heart leapt with joy.
“Marie!” he called as his wife arrived in the church and gawped up at the decoration. “You have returned.”
“Oh mon cher, I am sorry I left so suddenly, but I felt sure I could find him,” said Maire.
“It doesn’t matter my dear,” he said, then added, “Find who?”
“My uncle, look he gave me this,” said Marie holding out the compass.
“Oh,” said Phlebotomous, coming to see what the new commotion was, “it’s a sundial!”
“No Mr Bosch,” said Miss Henderson, carefully and slowly. “It’s a compass. See the little needle moving?”
“Oh that’s just to calibrate it,” said Phlebotomous, taking the device. “See I lift up the latitude arm here, open up the gnomon thus and…. Well perhaps you could check it Miss Henderson. I can’t really go out. But make sure it points north, that’s what the compass is for.”
“What a jolly good idea,” said Miss Henderson. “Morag, why don’t you accompany me? Mr Bosch, I expect your little friend needs you.”
“No Osvold is fine,” said Phlebotomous, “I can wait here until you get back.”
Miss Henderson’s eyes rolled up, then shot sideways at Sir John and Marie, who were looking awkwardly at each other. Finally she nodded vigorously to where Phlebotomous and Osvold were hiding from the sun. Phlebotomous looked confused at her then suddenly a surprised look spread across his face.
“Oh!” he said, “I’ve just remembered something very important that I need to do over there.”
He started to walk over to the little hideaway he had built for himself and Osvold.
“It’s best that I don’t tell you what it is,” he said, and walked on a little further before adding, “It is however completely safe.”
Miss Henderson sighed and walked out of the building with the compass, Morag following after her.
A silence grew between Sir John and Marie.
“My dear wife…” started Sir John, his voice a little hesitant.
“Oh mon cher, I am sorry for running off and how I have been lately,” said Marie. “Things have been so strange for me.”
“…you seem as if something in the diary has upset you…” continued Sir John, barely registering what Marie had said.
“Yes and…no,” said Marie. “It was not the diary itself but the memories it provoked. I had thought all my life my childhood was a sad one, filled with rejection and alienation. But the diary reminded me I was someone else back then, someone more confident than I am now. And it made me wonder who the real me was.”
“…would you like to talk about it…” Sir John said.
“I should have from the start I suppose, but I started to think that if I wasn’t who I thought I was, who would know the real me. I suppose I closed down a little. I started to think about my uncle, that he would know me better than I knew myself. So I started to search for him in my memories, but I couldn’t see where he was. Then it came to me, I should use my powers to find him. I wasn’t sure how, but I felt sure if I walked the city I could walk my way to him. And it worked and I found him. Oh mon cher, we talked for just a little while, but it made me realise that I am not this girl anymore, that she was the seed of who I am. And then I realised I needed to be who I am now, and be with the people I know now and be…”
“…with me?” said Sir John.
Marie’s face softened and she gazed at her husband. She took his face in her hands.
“Yes, mon cher, with you,” she said. “I need to be with you.”
Marie kissed Sir John and smiled.
“I should find Emile and we should get everyone together,” she said. “We need to find these things that Clackprattle and Pook are searching for.”
Marie went looking deeper into the church and Sir John stood stunned.
“I’m getting rather good at this husband lark,” he whispered to himself.
Miss Henderson walked in just then.
“Mr Bosch, this sundial thing doesn’t tell the correct time,” she shouted across the church. “I think the gnome is broken.”
Marie sat in the old man’s living room as he brought a coffee pot into the room with some old looking biscuits. He served Marie then sat down, barely taking his eyes off her.
“I can’t believe it’s you!” he said. “All these years… and you were alive.”
“Uncle, I am so sorry,” said Marie, “I had no idea we were really related. I thought… you were a family friend.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Uncle Thierry. “All that matters is that you are alive. Have you been in Paris all this time?”
“For a while, but I live in London now, I’m married to an Englishman,” said Marie.
Uncle Thierry snorted.
“Well, each to their own,” he said, “but how can you stand the food?”
“You get used to it,” she said.
Thierry laughed long and hard. Marie thought how she had forgotten his laughter. How it had brightened up her home as a child.
“Uncle,” said Marie. “I wanted to ask you some things. Something about my mother.”
“Of course,” said Thierry, “but in truth I didn’t know her so well.”
Marie looked puzzled.
“But, you are her brother?” she said.
“Ah,” said Thierry, “I know why you are confused. No, I am your aunt’s brother, yes, but your aunt was not your mother’s sister. It was her husband that was your blood relative, Marie. He was your mother’s brother.”
“But… I thought,” said Marie.
“Yes, I think they told you the other way round,” said Thierry. “I don’t know why. Your mother was… well, she was… different you know. Had some unusual ideas.”
Marie looked at the kind face.
“How would you say she was different?” said Marie.
“Well she never stayed still for a start,” said Thierry. “First she came to Paris, then moved to that village when you were born…”
“She was in Paris?” said Marie.
“Yes, yes,” said Thierry, “That’s where she met your father. He died of cholera you know, in the outbreak, when you were still inside your mother. It was a miracle she survived, that you both survived. I guess that’s why she wanted to go back to the countryside.”
“So she came first from the village?” said Marie. “The one where I grew up?”
“No, not at all,” said Thierry, “She came from somewhere South I think. I never knew where. As I said, I didn’t know her too well, Marie. Your uncle didn’t talk much about her either.”
There was silence then as Marie looked into her coffee cup.
“Here,” said Thierry, “I have something for you to cheer you up.”
The old man rummaged about in a big cupboard, grumbling and cursing. Marie smiled at this, remembering other times.
“Here it is,” he said at last and brought forward a small brass object. He gave it to Marie and she stared down at it. It looked like a compass but with other gauges and attachments.
“What is it?” said Marie.
“No idea,” said Thierry. “It belonged to your uncle. He said it was special somehow. Never explained why. Come to think of it he was a little different too. It’s no wonder you’ve run off to England!”
Marie smiled again.
“Thank you Uncle,” she said and started to stand.
“Are you going already?” he said sadly.
“I should get back,” said Marie, “People will wonder where I am.”
“Well, come see me soon,” said Thierry. Marie gathered her things and pocketed the compass.
“By the way.” said Thierry, “How did you find me in the first place? I’ve only lived here five years.”
“It was… a bit of luck,” said Marie. She hugged her uncle and then left.
He pottered a bit around the room, then looked in the cupboard again. Inside he found a small piece of jewellry and held it to the light.
“I knew you were in there somewhere,” he said.
There was a knock at the door and so Thierry dropped the jewelry on the side and went to answer it.
“Marie?” he said, as he opened the door, “Did you forget something?”
Outside stood a short thin man and a larger fat man with a glove on one hand.
“I wonder sir,” said the thin man, “if we may possibly come inside for a short moment to discuss a matter of no small importance.”
The fat man took his glove off and Thierry stared at the strange green colour of his hand.
“It’s slightly larger than I imagined,” said Sir John looking at the building interior.
Emile walked in behind Sir John, stopped and stared.
“Meeeeerdre!” he said, drawing out the word.
“Indeed,” said Sir John.
The building had seemed impressive enough from the outside. It had once been a church and Sir John had imagined it had been converted into apartments. He hadn’t expected that the interior was one vast vault. Nor that it had been decorated in this Art Nouveau style. Large green whorls and arches looped everywhere, the whole thing appearing to be a vast metal forest.
“It is intended to look like the Garden of Eden,” said Sabine as she walked in. “I had hoped to attract artists and intelligencia to create a commune of creators building a new paradise.”
“What happened?” said Emile staring in awe at the vast organ dominating one end of the room.
“It was not to be,” she said. “Everyone wants to be north of the river. Time will tell, though. I feel I may win in the end.”
“It will probably need dividing up into… rooms… or something,” said Sir John, “if we are all to co-exist here.”
“A very good point Sir John,” said Sabine. “I know just the man. He is quite the expert but is not cheap. I shall call him at once?”
Emile smirked and sat on the edge of a nearby table, whose legs looked like upturned ferns.
“Is it safe?” said a voice from outside. “Can we come in?”
Sir John looked back at the carriage. Inside, shying away from the light was Phlebotomous.
“There’s a little sunlight coming through the stained glass,” said Sir John, “but I see some screens you could use to shelter behind.”
A large blanket with two humps underneath came out from the carriage and made its way to the church. Once inside it walked to the area that Sir John indicated. One hump sat down and Phlebotomous emerged, pulling a nearby screen to block out the sun before pulling the blanket down over Osvold’s head.
“Do you think we shall be safe, living with two vampires?” said Sabine.
Sir John watched as Phlebotomous carefully tucked Osvold into the blanket and then moved another screen to make sure he was fully shaded from all angles.
“I’m not terribly concerned about that,” Sir John said.
Sabine made a small noise and headed out the door.
“I suppose we had better get our things,” said Sir John.
Emile looked up from the paper he was reading.
“Eventually, I imagine,” he said. “Good Lord, Pascale is dead now!”
“The head of that skeptic research order?” said Sir John, absently.
“The same,” said Emile. He looked up and saw Sir John staring into space.
“Are you alright my friend?” he said.
“I was just wondering if I shouldn’t be out looking for Marie,” said Sir John.
“I’m sure Miss Henderson and the talking dog will be fine,” said Emile. “They rescued her in the first place, after all.”
“It’s not her physical safety I’m worried about,” said Sir John. “She’s been… preoccupied for days. Since she found that diary, she’s barely left the hotel room.”
“Did you talk to her about it?” said Emile.
Sir John looked uncomfortable.
“It seemed like a private thing,” he said.
“She’s your wife!” said Emile incredulously. “You can talk about private things.”
“I just… wasn’t sure how to broach the topic really,” said Sir John.
“My God, you English,” said Emile, “you drive yourselves round a wall. It’s perfectly simple.”
There was a pause and Sir John looked at Emile.
“How might one… do that?” said Sir John. Emile rolled his eyes.
“You would say something like, ahem, my dear wife, you seem as if something in the diary has upset you, would you like to talk about it with me?”
“Won’t she think that’s a bit… pushy?” said Sir John.
Emile strolled over to Sir John and placed his big hand on Sir John’s shoulder.
“Sir John, my friend, I think of you like a brother,” Emile said. “But sometimes, in sheer frustration, I used to hit my brother. Talk to your wife.”
Emile smiled broadly at Sir John who nodded and looked worried.
Sabine came back into the room and walked up to the two men.
“Good news,” said Sabine, “the artisan can start work at once. Sir John, I’ll need you to write me a cheque for 1,000 francs.”
*The Pipe Organ of Notre Dame du Travail, a Creative Commons photograph by Mbzt, modified.
Marie meandered through the city as thoughts meandered through her mind.
I remember the running, she thought. I remember the running, but never the walking.
Walking first to meet the city, the sprawl and noise of it, the colour and aroma, meeting it wide-eyed. The country girl in the big city, holding her aunt’s hand as her aunt looked for clothes and food in the myriad of shops. Then later, older, looking herself for clothes to define her. The young lady about town, strolling around her city, heavy lidded and sharp tongued. Always something clever on her lips.
Then later again, in the siege, despite the madness, a walk of defiance, of pride. Having nothing but being everything, being, still, part of that city. The only city that mattered. Its streets her streets and its sights hers to see. Even when the shelling came and then…
And then the running. And the fear. And the remembering of a past she had forgotten.
So why did I remember only this, that I tried to forget. Fear and running? How had she forgotten the days walking in the sunshine and the rain, in all the seasons and feeling alive, fearless and above all, Parisienne?
She clutched the diary tight to her, afraid that if she lost it again, she would lose the memories it had brought back to her. She found she was walking by the river, by people dancing, by boats passing by.
Where am I now? she thought.
She turned left on instinct, up a street she had never visited but knew every inch of. Felt the strange tidal pull of something, someone calling her. Past the coffee and smoke of a café and the old guy on the corner sitting alone. He called something out as she walked into the road and there was a screech of machinery. Someone shouted at her and she glanced and moved on. Right, left, along.
I shopped there once didn’t I? That little boutique where she bought a hat newly made that morning, newly designed. The very height of fashion. Now right down this alleyway, a shortcut, but to where? Ah, of course, this little café where she had met her friends, now all, now all what? All elsewhere, all abandoned by her. She felt an ache then and headed across to the confectionary shop, lingered a moment looking at the artistry before the tug of that tide came again.
Left, left and over this square, past the lady in the shop eyeing her curiously. What is she calling out? Marie didn’t know as she went down the street and along the boulevard, listening to the tide, the call, his call.
And who was he? Not who I had thought. Not who I had thought at all.
Not far now, she thought. Right, left and up to this door. She knocked and waited, still and quiet, until the door opened up. An old man looked out at her, his expression of confusion.
“Hello Uncle,” said Marie.
The man’s eyes grew saucer-sized and his smile broke like a wave.
*Artwork by Jean Béraud, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1350726 (modified)
Chaos reigned in Emile’s apartment. As he watched it unfold, Emile considered that whilst this was not a new phenomenon, the circumstances were somewhat unusual. There was a knock at door and Emile opened it a crack and looked out. Sabine glared back at him.
“Do you have a woman?” she said.
“No!” said Emile, “why would you say such a thing?”
“Then let me into the apartment!” she said.
Emile opened the door and Sabine breezed in dramatically. She went to speak then looked at the scene in front of her.
“What is happening here?” she said. “Are you having a party?”
“Well,” said Emile, “it’s like this: The two pale gentlemen over there are apparently vampires. One came from England, although I don’t think he’s English, and the other worked in Dinard’s shop. We have just worked out that the Clackprattle man and his pookah side-kick are in Paris, looking for a weapon, and probably killed Dinard.”
“Mon Dieu!” said Sabine, “Sir John I recognise, but the other lady and the dog…”
“The dog is called Morag and is the daughter of the alchemist Sir John told us about. For a set of reasons I have yet to grasp, she is in the body of a dog. The tall lady is their maid.”
“And she has supernatural powers?” said Sabine looking in awe at the group.
“No,” said Emile, “but she is an expert in Kung Fu and other martial arts. They went to the hotel of Sir John and interrupted Pook who had mesmerised Marie. Marie is having a little lie down after that.”
“Of course, of course” said Sabine absently, then walked into the room.
“Allo one and all,” she announced. “My name is Sabine Bellevoix and I am here to help.”
The assembled cast looked around and the flamboyantly dressed lady smiling broadly at them. Miss Henderson sniffed.
“Ah, you must be the maid,” said Sabine. “How fortunate that you happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
“I’m not sure I like your inspiration,” said Miss Henderson with a frown.
Sabine’s smile froze and she looked a little confused.
“As I’ve explained to your… gentlemen friend… I was showing Miss Henderson how to use alchemic powders for fortune telling,” said Morag. “We divined there was danger for the family and came as soon as we could. We were waiting in the lobby for Sir John when Pook arrived and so we followed him up.”
“Of course, of course,” said Sabine, “forgive me, I didn’t mean to sound critical.”
“I am uncomfortable when people cast excursions,” said Miss Henderson looking down.
“Oh dear,” said Sabine, “we seem to have got off on the wrong foot.”
Miss Henderson muttered something also that maybe included “off” and Sir John coughed.
“We do need to understand why Morag was unaffected by Pook’s influence,” said Sir John. “It may help us overcome his power. We should try some experiments, perhaps.”
Emile, Sir John and Phlebotomous all looked curiously over at Morag.
“Ye can get that idea right out of yon heads!” she said.
“If I may be so bold,” said Miss Henderson, “I would suggest that our biggest problem is one of location. Clearly Clackprattle and Pook know about the shop where Osvold lives and the hotel where Sir John and Mrs Jennings are.”
“Well you may stay here of course,” said Emile. “It will be a little cramped but…”
“Nonsense,” said Sabine. “I insist everyone stay in my rooms in Montparnasse. They are more than adequate.”
“You have rooms in Montparnasse?” said Emile incredulously.
“A girl has to have secrets,” said Sabine. “We are closer to the life here, it is too quiet there.”
Sir John stood up.
“I’ll go and wake Marie,” he said, “and let her know we are likely to be moving.”
“It is perhaps 20 minutes away!” said Emile. “I slept on the sofa… for weeks… to save you 20 minutes?”
“It was very noble of you,” said Sabine, “and quite unnecessary.”
Emile started to speak when Sir John ran back into the room.
“Marie!” he said. “She’s gone!”
“Well hello Mr Pook, why don’t you come in?” said Pook. “That’s what you’re supposed to say, Marie.”
He walked into the room while Marie stood by the door, dumbfounded.
“It’s been such a long time and so much has happened, Mr Pook,” Pook continued. “Do tell me all your news.”
Pook looked at Marie and smiled.
“That would be the civilized thing to say Marie,” he said. “But you wouldn’t say that, would you? And now, indeed, nor can can you. That must come as a little bit of a surprise, I imagine. To learn that I have acquired a more… persuasive ability since last we met. You may close the door now.”
Marie absently pushed the door shut and stared aghast at the creature in front of her.
“Oh Marie, if only you’d seen things my way from the start. We could have ditched Clackprattle and that buffoon you’re married to. We could have fleeced Anglestone of that marvellous little stone. We could have danced around the world with the power of life and death in our hands. What a most wonderful adventure we could have had,” he said, then looked down.
“Instead, you mocked and insulted me, rejected me. But Marie, you see, I don’t mind all that. See where I am now, don’t you want to come with me? That’s better than being stuck in here reading all day,” he said, glancing at the book she had.
“Oh my,” Pook continued, “a diary. How utterly fascinating. What wonders are in there, I can barely imagine.”
He moved towards her and there was a knock at the door.
“Room service,” said a lady’s voice.
Pook look annoyed then saw the dishes on the table.
“Wrong room,” he said, ”you brought food already.”
“It’s, er, dessert,” said the voice. “It’s prophet-a-holes.”
Pook walked to the door and opened it a little.
“Now look…” he started but the door crashed in on him. A large woman barged into the room and punched Pook in the face. Behind her came a large dog that growled at Pook as he lay on the floor.
“Mon Dieu,” gasped Marie, “Miss Henderson and… Morag!”
“Silence!” said Pook sitting up and clutching his nose, blood seeping between his fingers. Everyone else in the room stood stock still.
“You see now, the importance of good manners,” he said. “My dear ladies, I’m afraid I have the upper hand now.
“Ahm afraid that I’m no lady,” said the dog with a deep Scottish brogue, “and if you don’t get your upper hand out of here now, you’ll be picking it out from between ma teeth.”
Pook smiled graciously.
“Touche,” he said. He looked at the frozen women.
“Let’s not say goodbye,” he said, “Let’s say au revoir.”
Pook left the room and both Miss Henderson and Marie unfroze.
“What a bleeding cheek,” said Miss Henderson. Marie collapsed and was caught by the maid, just as she burst into tears.
Miss Henderson looked at the untidy room, the dishevelled look of Marie and finally caught sight of the French cuisine on the table. She sighed heavily.
“We shall have to find you some proper food, Mrs Jennings,” she said.