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The Romantic Strangler IV
The Romantic Strangler
“It’s just your imagination,” she told herself “No one is following you.” But the feeling grew stronger and the fear continued to build. Then she thought she spotted some of the cast up ahead, en route for Brodie’s Inn . She thought she could slip in and join the group for a sherry. She needed something to calm her nerves. “Maybe,” she thought “I’ll be fortunate enough to find Hunter or someone there who might offer to escort me home.” The presence remained with her right up to entering the building. She felt safe once she entered the room full of people. Her relief, however, was only short lived as the feeling returned moments later. She desperately searched for someone she knew, finding no familiar faces she decided to get a room for the night.
Safe at the Inn
“Wut ken I git cha?” The voice startled her but she looked up at the clerk. Lars was his name, she had met him a couple of times before but didn’t really know him. He was an odd man but seemed harmless enough.
“I’d like a . . .” she began.
“A brandy, my lady? You look to be in need,” François interrupted holding out the snifter for her. “The name, my lady,” he bowed slightly, “is François. Would you be so kind as to join me in the sitting room?” Cassandra didn’t know what to say but he was so gallant and she was in no shape to head back out into the dark night so she nodded her head in acceptance. He guided her to a plush chair in the sitting room where other couples sat discussing their journeys and how exhausting their trips had been. François placed a snifter on the end table beside Cassandra then took a seat near her. He stretched his long legs before him crossing them at the ankles. He sat thoughtfully swirling his brandy, watching the play of light it cast as the firelight refracted. When the others turned their attention away from the new couple he casually lit his pipe then leaned forward.
“You appeared to be in a bit of distress a moment ago. May I be of some assistance?”
“I just need to relax awhile, thank you,” she replied. She wasn’t certain she wanted to encourage him but she didn’t want him to leave her alone either. He made her feel secure somehow. Cassandra looked him over. He was wearing white knee breeches with silver stripes down the length of them, and a silver waistcoat over a white ruffled shirt. He wore black top boots with a large brown leather turn down and an “orientale” cravat. His top hat, like his boots, was black. Blue-gray was the color of his tailcoat and ebony his cane.
Cassandra’s face went flush when she realized that not only had she looked him over so closely but he watched her as she did so. In her embarrassment, without thinking she grabbed her glass and took a quick gulp of the fiery liquid. Unexpectedly she gasped. The brandy had taken her breath away. François slipped out and returned in minutes with a glass of water. When Cassandra regained her composure she turned to François with red watery eyes and a sweet smile, “It is very good but quite strong I’m afraid. Of course even sherry makes me light-headed.”
“Brandy--is meant to be sipped--slowly .” François teased.
Cassandra couldn’t help but notice the tender smile and wicked twinkle in his eyes.
She began to feel warm and intrigued by this man who seemed familiar yet so diverse. ‘Of course it must be the brandy,’ she thought, she couldn’t feel this way about someone she’d just met. Or could she?
“Have we met before?” she suddenly queried.
“I don’t believe we have been introduced but I have seen you perform and you are a most wonderful actress.” His smile broadened. “I have been fortunate enough only for bit parts, and some walk-ons, but never a speaking part for François Robiboux.”
“Well, Cassandra Falconer is very disappointed. I believe that is most unfortunate for everyone.” He thanked her and they sat quiet for a moment.
Cassandra didn’t really know what to say but she hated saying something stupid only slightly less than dead silence.
“Did you come here with anyone from the theatre?” she finally blurted out.
“Non, Ma Cherie Mademoiselle. I am afraid I have only the acquaintance of a few.”
Chivalry is not Dead
“I can not believe the girls haven’t been all over you by now,” Cassandra teased. He smiled and winked at her, “It must be the beard.” They both laughed. They discussed acting, plays and costumes. They chatted about the weather and even talked about their favorite food. This went on for what seemed like hours before Cassandra realized it was getting late and she still needed to get home.
“Oh, dear!” she looked at the beautifully ornate grandfather clock that was chiming the hour. “I guess I had better get going home it is midnight already.”
“Must you leave Mademoiselle? I have enjoyed your company so much that I hate to see you go,” François paused and looked around, “And where is your escort? I cannot allow a lady to walk these dark streets alone, especially at this hour. I demand that you allow me the pleasure of escorting you home.” François stood and offered her his hand.
Taking the Risk
“Well, it would be nice to have a big strong man by my side. I must admit I was quite frightened when I left the theatre alone. I had the feeling someone was following me the whole time.” Cassandra accepted his hand and François lead her to the door. She was a little concerned about her reputation, leaving an inn with a man she had just met and all. But since she didn’t know anyone else there, she decided that there was little risk of scandal.
They walked arm in arm along the cobblestone streets. François tapped his cane against the stone casually every now and then. The sound it made was a relaxing, almost hollow beat, like he was playing a percussion instrument to accompany the rhythm of their feet as they shuffled along. François carried the cane only for an accessory it was not a necessity but he enjoyed rapping it on things because of his love for music and of sounds. Once they reached Cassandra’s townhouse she thanked him.
The Romantic Strangler
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