Lucienne shivered as she looked down upon the broken body of Justine Rouergue below. Despite the backwards bent of one of her legs, and the bone poking through the skin of her arm, the girl still struggled to move, to get up.
The crash of glass drew the attentions of those downstairs. No one would be helping Justine, however. She lay just beyond the metal grate that prevented anyone from leaving the hotel. Though guests pounded at the glass doors and shouted for help and, once they had broken through several of the glass panes, gripped the metal grate and rattled it, no one was going to be helping Justine.
It took several minutes for Justine to stop moving, and several more beyond that for her screams to turn into moans, until finally she breathed her last, shuddering breath.
Lucie watched it all from above.
She had hoped, in watching Justine's agony, she might feel as if she could take some credit for her death. Instead, Lucie felt emptiness inside.
The cold night air coming in from the broken window made her shiver, and she turned to Olivier for comfort.
"It was as you said," Olivier whispered into her hair.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"In the gardens. When you described her death... this is how you described her dying. How you imagined it."
Lucie had not forgotten, but she had imagined it so differently. She had imagined somehow being out in the gardens and watching Justine fall toward her, because at the time she said it she had been out in the gardens. She hadn't even imagined herself being the one to shove Justine through the window, and stand over her as she fell, a silhouette framed by the broken glass to those watching below.
"I cannot even imagine revenge correctly," she said, sagging against Olivier's support. "And now we are trapped here, and I do not even have revenge to keep myself from going insane."
"We may be trapped here, but you still have opportunity for vengeance. Nicholas Lamoignon, that bastard, he may still live."
"I have not seen him since the Danse Macabre took him away," Lucie moaned. "He is likely dead already." She felt her legs begin to give way. Rather than hold her up, Olivier lowered her to the floor and pulled her onto his lap.
"If we stay up here, all the rest will kill themselves in the rooms below," he said into her hair.
"What do you think is in that room, the one Justine emerged from?" Olivier asked.
Lucie shuddered. "I entered that room for only a few moments, much earlier tonight. After I found Jeanne-Baptiste's body. I cannot say I was in my right mind; it was the second body I had found who had been murdered in the fashion I had imagined. I ran, believing that somehow the killer was targeting me, or somehow reading my mind."
"And what was inside the room?"
"The room is painted red, a deep blood red."
"Do you think... it was actual blood, and not simply paint?"
She shook her head. "I caught only a glimpse. The room was empty."
"A red room," Olivier mused.
"There were some candles on the floor," Lucie said, remembering. "And a mirror on the wall." She shook her head. "I did not get a good look. It seemed like something demonic and I could not bear to hide in such a room. I imagine Justine was as frightened by the room as I was."
"Perhaps we should look. Just to see."
"Please do not go in there," Lucie begged.
Olivier was already rising, and lifting her alongside himself. "We will just look, quickly, to see if our host is there. I cannot fathom Justine's behavior. She looked at you as if you were a ghost."
"I promised to kill her earlier. Perhaps she was simply afraid that I was there to do it."
"She seems quite sure of herself downstairs that you would never catch her. To do what she did..." Olivier shook his head. "She was frightened of you, but not because she was afraid of what you would do."
"Go then, and look in the room. I will not go," Lucie said stubbornly.
"You would not even take the opportunity to have the both of us in the same room with our host, to trap him and kill him?"
Lucie folded her arms and looked down the hallway toward the stairs. She could hear voices approaching. Someone must have figured out that Justine jumped from this floor and come to investigate. "No."
Olivier moved toward the black door. His feet were silent upon the thick carpet that lined the hallway.
Unable to stop herself, Lucie crept a little closer as well. She kept one hand on the wall to steady herself as she limped along.
First, Olivier put his ear to the door. Then, slowly, he turned the handle.
Two things happened at once. A quick footstep on the stair drew Lucie's attention. A dark figure stood there, his face dark without a lamp to light it. Lucie gasped; she had the Reaper in her sights! He saw her in the same instant, and turned, but more people were coming up the steps behind him, and he darted into the room where Chretienne had been murdered.
At the same time, the black door slammed, and the light Olivier had been holding was gone.
YOU ARE READING
The Victim's BallHistorical Fiction
HER REIGN OF TERROR HAS JUST BEGUN... When Lucienne Reneault receives an invitation to a Victim's Ball in honor of those aristocrats who have been guillotined, she believes it must have been a mistake. Of two things she is certain, however: she wil...