Chapter 34: Le Choix

26 4 4

Lucie backed away from the suddenly closed door, her heart hammering. She did not stop until she had hit the wall behind her.

She could not go in. She could not enter that dark room, with the strange symbols painted on the walls. Strange that only now she had recalled seeing symbols. She shook her head. The door must have closed on its own, for the Reaper was in the sitting room. She would kill him for the stolen opportunity to kill Justine herself.

Dagger held out before her, Lucie limped her way into that room.

The Reaper stood before one of the windows, the curtains opened wide so that the moonlight streamed in. Her limping did not make for a soundless approach. She was still too far to stab him when he turned to look at her with the hollows of his skull-mask eyes.

"Who are you?" she asked.

Her voice did not sound as forceful as she intended. She advanced another step. "Tell me your name," she commanded. This sounded better.

The Reaper cocked his head, then looked to the second doorway, the one closest to the stairs. Several guests were in the hallway now, and they had seen him.

"Tell me," she demanded.

"There he is!" a man shouted. "In here!"

"You know who I am," the Reaper said.

As the men rushed into the room, bearing lamps and candelabras and light, the Reaper ripped away his mask. Lucie gasped.

"You!" she cried, and pain in her foot forgotten, she crossed the next few steps and jammed her dagger into his side.

Nicholas Lamoignon barely looked at her. He threw the mask down and reached out one hand to ward off the approaching men. "Please! She made me wear this!"

"Who made you wear it?" the first man said, grabbing Nicholas by the lace about his throat.

"She did!"

He pointed straight toward Lucie.

The men looked at her, at the dagger in her hand.

"No!" she said. "I did nothing of the sort!"

"She is a witch. She prays to the devil! She told me that if I put on this robe and mask that she would let me go free!"

Two of the men set down their lamps so they could properly restrain Nicholas, despite his pleadings.

As Lucie backed away, the third man grabbed her up. "You're not going anywhere, lovely."

Lucie slashed at him with her dagger. "He lies! He is a master of lies! His falsehoods condemned my father to death!" The man caught up her wrist and twisted the dagger out of her grip. Tossing it to the floor, he wrapped both arms around her ribcage so tightly she could barely breathe. "Please!"

"I am rather inclined to believe the lady rather than silly accusations of witchcraft," said the second man.

"In putting on this robe, did you then agree to become a murderer?" the first man asked Nicholas. "Or did she promise you that none would be hurt in your little game of guillotine?"

"What?" Nicholas asked.

"You killed Helene Villeneuve!" the man holding Lucie said.

Henri entered the room then, and all heads turned toward him. He had found a sword somewhere, perhaps as part of an ornamental decoration, though Lucie could not recall having seen one. Holding out the sword, Henri spoke in commanding tones. "Is this our villain?"

The Victim's BallRead this story for FREE!