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The Key (Midnight, Christmas Eve)


Blackguard
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At midnight a place such as this was quiet as a tomb. Fortress-like painted walls and pointed arches of the early Gothic style adorned the round nave. Stone effigies of knights grasping swords stood silent vigil in a place where an Order had perished 350 years prior.

 

No services were held, even on this holy night, though a single candle burned; a signal to a meeting in the making. Reduced to a mere oddity hidden just off the Strand in London, the Temple was but a shadow of glory long gone.

 

In the darkness a figure moved towards the candlelight, drawn as the proverbial moth. The man was surprised to find no one near the candle, causing him to nervously look around the chamber.

 

"If only these walls could give up their secrets," came the deep melodic disembodied voice from the dimly lit perimeter. The man turned to face the sound with an uncomfortable look. "I am here as you requested." The dimly lit figure advanced three steps. "So you are Monsieur d'Agir."

 

"You said something ... about a book, monsieur ...."

 

"Balthasar."

 

""Monsieur Balthasar."

 

"Yes, I have the book I mentioned, but you have a book I desire as well."

 

A nervous tension filled the space between the two men. "Why the secrecy Monsieur? We could have met in my bookshop?""

 

"I thought the setting apropos. I am here about the Key to Acre and I know you search for it here in London, perhaps in this very chapel." Even in the dim light, the Frenchman could sense danger in the eyes of the man who wrapped himself in the name of a Magi.

 

"I-I don't know what you speak of," came the feeble protest. Already the man was glancing towards the nearest exit, sensing a trap.

 

"Then allow me to refresh your memory," came the voice full of menace. The candlelight caught the glint of steel easing from its sheath.

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Christmas Day

 

Two matronly women were walking away from the Temple, happy to be on their way home. "What a way to spend Christmas Day," exclaimed the first, head shaking. "I never did see so much blood. Such a shame that," came the reply. "That's what happens when someone done cuts off yer head."

 

"Aye, but on Christmas?"

 

"It were a Frenchie, so no loss, least that's what me Oliver would tell me."

 

"Didn't the man say he done owned a book place?"

 

"He did. Shames as I can't read, nor anyone I knows. I bet ye could get a book for a farthing."

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  • 1 year later...

New Years Eve

 

"I know nothing, I swear Monsieur," came the pitiful wail, tears rolling from her eyes. The large man had pinned her against the wall and she struggled feebly,

 

"What did your brother say about the Key?" came the muffled question almost drowned out by the revelry in the streets.

 

"The only key I know is the one to his shop. Take it and leave me in peace," the middle-aged woman begged.

 

"The Key of Acre. What do you know of it?" the man asked menacingly.

 

"Nothing, I swear. This is the first I have heard of it. My brother never spoke of it!"

 

"Truly?"

 

"I swear by all the holy saints," she pledged.

 

"Then you are no use to me," came the reply as a flash of steel appeared in one hand.

 

A woman's scream would ordinarily draw some notice, but not on this evening. Women in the streets screamed at men taking liberties with their clothing, though mostly in good fun. Inside this London abode, the killer took liberties with the dead woman's skirt, drying his blade thereon.

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