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Days later found us lounging amid our quarters once more, several more bottles of the Bordeaux empty upon the floor. Since the duel, lethargy had weighed on us.
I stood and ambled about the room, searching for yet another bottle. It had been a long day, and now, almost midnight, we lay about chatting. It was shocking how despondent our social revelation had turned us. It consumed our thoughts and conversations. Had the noble classes always just ignored their privilege?
My fingers closed on the glass neck, and I hauled it from its display case. Uncorking it, I brought the wine to my mouth.
Suddenly the glass window nearby shattered as a rock flew through the pane.
Logan leapt up from his stupor, apathy abandoned. Without a thought, he dived towards his trunk, and rifled through it frantically, finally appearing with a pistol in each hand. He brandished them towards the door.
"They're not loaded, Logan," I chided. A sheepish grin crept his face as he dove again towards his trunk. Instead of hurrying for my own weapons, I walked over and picked up the stone. "Besides, I don't think weapons will be needed."
The rock was wrapped with a small slip of paper, a leather strap holding the message in place. My fingers nimbly undid the leather and unraveled the paper. The scroll was in French and barely legible. The language was no problem. We spoke French, Italian, and German well. And I couldn't remember how many times I'd conjugated a Latin verb or desired to ram The Oxford Compendium of Passive Verbiage in the Classical Language of the Romans down the throat of Dr. Bidwell, our mousy tutor. Now though, my eyes tracked the words before I tossed the thing towards my friend.
While he read it, I went to the window, but the street below was empty.
"'Get out tonight. Fuchs has friends. Signed, Your friend' . . . And what're we to make of that?" Logan said, staring at me.
"The meaning's rather stark, isn't it?"
"Well yes, but do we leave Paris? Or just these lodgings? Or do we defend ourselves? And who is this friend?" He ticked the questions off one by one on his thin fingers. I shrugged my shoulders.
We hypothesized on it endlessly but came to no conclusion. Our evidence was limited all things considered.
"We've been here only a month. Think of all we'll miss," I said finally.
"Like the chance to kill more dandies and witness human suffering at its best?" he muttered.
"You know the second part won't change. At least, not until we go back to England. Maybe we can make a shift there."
"It's easy to dwell upon, isn't it? But that's all beside the point. Do we leave and if so, where to next?"
"I think Rome. Maybe a ball or two will lighten our mood," I said. Logan's father knew several important business contacts in Italy, and he had assured us we would be well entertained there. Personally, I was all for traveling to Rome. The wonders of that city had long fascinated me.
Logan bounced the rock in his palm several times."That all leaves this unexplained."
"Just be thankful for now, and maybe we'll discover everything later." There really wasn't any other option.
His brow remained furrowed, but he tossed the rock into a trunk. It was followed by the clothes from about the room. I busied myself with the same task, and we soon had our lodgings back into some semblance of cleanliness. Together, we hauled our trunks down the stairs and deposited them upon the landing. We took to the streets to find a carriage to drive us and our luggage to the train depot.
"What are you looking for?" Logan asked. His voice in the darkness surprised me; the moon was a sliver.
"What do you mean?"
"Ever since we left our rooms, you've been jerking your head about, looking over our shoulders."
I smiled. "I hadn't noticed." Come to think of it, I felt wary. My palms dripped in clamminess, and every sound sent me looking about. "It couldn't be a trap, right?"
"Of course not," he said. "Besides, we took care of them last time, didn't we?"
"If by 'take care of them,' you mean 'barely escaped with your life as a result of a lucky shot,' then perhaps."
"Oh come off it! Luck had nothing to do with—"
Before he could finish, a carriage came bolting around a corner in the street, and we threw ourselves aside to avoid the madman behind the reins. "Fool!" Logan yelled after it as the vehicle raced down the street, kicking up puddles of water from the recent rain.
"Wait a moment," I started. Turning, I made my way back down the street towards our rooms. Logan protested but followed in my wake.
The carriage had pulled to a stop in front of the building we'd just left.
"Any chance of it being a coincidence?" I asked.
Logan chuckled. "Not likely given everything."
Figures jumped out of the waiting coach and crept towards the building. Without knocking, they cracked the door and strode inside. I heard a muffled cry.
"They tripped on our trunks," hissed Logan smiling. Of course. We'd left the massive things at the foot of the stairs. Given the hour, it hadn't been likely that many travelers would come to the building, so we hadn't bothered to shift them.
"Is there anything important in your trunk?" I asked.
He smiled. "Nothing that I'd die to keep." Throughout our whispered conversation, we could see a pair of our suspicious intruders pacing outside, keeping watch. Inside, the group would be making its way to our rooms, hoping to catch the two of us asleep.
Not wanting to press our luck, we abandoned our goods and our pride to the villains and dashed away into the night. We each had a bit of money on our person, and given the Harlings' contacts, cash would not be difficult to procure. In spite of all this, I still felt a bit ridiculous leaving our trunks behind.
Ducking through various alleyways and backstreets, we paused to take stock of our position. Droplets of rain pattered down around us, and Logan looked miserable. Noting my questioning glance, he spoke. "If I hadn't acted so damned foolish at that cafe, we wouldn't be stuck in this."
"What's a Grand Tour without a bit of adventure?" I asked back.
"If you call shooting a threatening oaf, abandoning all of our current possessions, and fleeing from murderers in the night 'adventure,' then I suppose this is rather grand."
It was too much, and I let out a chuckle."You do have a point," I conceded.
Our feet had carried us along for some time. I was starting to question our paranoia. Of course, the cloaked men had been seeking us at our lodgings. The chain of events was too connected for coincidence. But how far would these ruffians go to exact their revenge? Would we need to travel from city to city, watching over our shoulders? To be honest, I doubted it. Regardless of his aristocratic manner and shady friends, the death of this Fuchs character wasn't likely to cause an international chase. The idea seemed ludicrous.
When I mentioned it, Logan mirrored my thoughts but raised a valid point. "They have two options really. First, they could wait for us at our rooms, hoping we'll return. Or second, they might try to find us at the train station. If they choose the latter, which I think is more likely, what do we do?"
"There won't be a train to Rome at this time of night. They'll have the entire night to set up any ambush they want."
"Their main problem is spectators though. I doubt any group would be brash enough to commit such a crime in this climate."
I nodded. We both recalled the riot from Le Moniteur. The Parisian police were becoming more intrusive in order to prevent similar incidents. During our stay in the city, we had seen quite a few patrols to that effect. "It wouldn't hurt to be ready for an attack though."
"How's this," he said. "We board the train at the last possible moment, making a dash towards it. We'll be conspicuous as we run, but they'll have no chance to even see us, let alone snatch us."
"If they're even there."
"If they're even there," he repeated. "Any suggestions?"
I had none, and as the rain continued to pour over u
s, we walked the streets of Paris, avoiding all contact with others, and staying alert to prevent an ambush. We came to the station at last. Unsurprisingly, it was nearly abandoned. However, a few snoring beggars littered the platform.
I pointed towards a public placard listing certain train times, and our luck held. A train was indeed traveling to Rome the following day. Noting the time of its departure, a fortuitous half-past seven in the morning, we moved away from the station. We nestled down under a lonely birch tree nearby. It provided a wide view of the area, as well as being withdrawn and out of notice from the street. Even so, we kept watch, alternating sleep for the rest of the night.
As the minutes dragged by, I kept wondering what might have happened had our mysterious 'friend' not intervened on our behalf. The prospects weren't pleasant. However, they did manage to keep my mind occupied through the long watch just before dawn. The sun's welcome rays warmed our hideaway and scattered the worries from the long night. Although jarred, we would be fine, and as the miles fell behind us on our route towards Europe's Holy City, the entire ordeal would be forgotten.
I roused my friend as our train moved into position, its engine bellowing steam and smoke like some foul creature. A small group walked towards the waiting locomotive, and the city woke around us.
Passengers began boarding the train. Logan scanned the group, hoping for a glimpse of someone nefarious, but our assailants, whoever they might be, never presented themselves. The whistle blew, but we didn't move. The last few passengers ducked aboard, and still, we remained. At last the locomotive started rolling, gaining momentum as it lumbered out of the station. I stood, Logan beside me. Sucking in one last breath, we dashed, all the world like champion athletes. Throwing ourselves up the platform, we hurtled towards our departing train.
Suddenly, men were shouting.
Logan glanced behind him and redoubled his pace, outrunning me towards our escape. Heaving in another breath, I renewed my own efforts as we ran, parallel to the lumbering vehicle. Behind me, I heard the footfalls of several more runners, but I gave them no thought. As the last car moved away from the platform, we threw ourselves across the gap and onto the train, grabbing a rail to keep from plummeting onto the tracks.
Whirling about, I saw three men shaking their fists, almost comically, as we made our getaway. They all wore the strange bowlers with the cross-emblazoned medallions. Among them was Fuchs' second from the duel as well as a willowy man, scowling with a heavily scarred face that I would not soon forget.
Clapping my friend on the back, we shouted an exclamation into the wind as the train picked up speed, propelling us towards Rome.
Back to The Faith: Book I of the Uprising Trilogy book
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