Monday, August 24, 2009

Danse D'écarlate

Arnaud Devaney swept into the dingy room, distracted by the bundle of papers he was shuffling through. He stood briefly just inside the doorway, until he had found the sheet he was looking for, whereupon he tugged it slightly out of place to mark the spot, then deposited the lot on top of a precarious stack of crates.

"Monsieur Foulis," he said, now able to give his full attention to the man tied to a chair, by a table in the middle of the room. "So good of you to spare me a moment of your precious time." He looked askance at Foulis. "May I?"

Arnaud strode over and reached for the wig perched unevenly on Foulis' head. The bound man shied away as best he could, attempting to pull his head into his shoulders like a tortoise, but with scant success. Arnaud let his hands drop instead to the other man's shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze, married to a sympathetic nod. His right hand rose to Foulis's cheek and rested gently upon it, his thumb lightly rubbing where the tracks of tears had met the frothy mix of blood and saliva that had leaked from the corner of his mouth when Foulis had been frantically chewing on his gag. Foulis' bloodshot eyes gaped at Devaney, but he appeared to become calmer. Deftly, Arnaud adjusted the wig. "Much better. Gentlemen, such as ourselves, must attend to our appearances if we are to be treated with respect. Yes?" He took a seat at the other side of the table.

Arnaud motioned for his servant, and the giant, Gustav, placed a parcel, wrapped in brown paper and bound with twine, on the table.

"Respect," said Arnaud, "Respect is something which has been lacking in our relationship up to this point. I blame myself, of course, for I had obviously failed to impress upon you the critical importance of meeting my terms of business to the letter. But, I hope we can now put that behind us."

He made as though to push the parcel across the table, but something about it caught his eye, and his brow crinkled in consternation.

"But no, this is too awful. Monsieur Foulis." Arnaud said. "Please excuse Gustav's shoddy wrapping. He is a barbarian." He shrugged his shoulders extravagantly, clearly at the limits of his patience with his massive servant's parcelling abilities. "Ah, but no matter, eh? You will take this in the spirit intended, and when the time comes for your other daughter,young Celeste, to marry, you will come again to your dear old friend Arnaud for a loan." He leaned forward and stared intently at Foulis. "And, most importantly, you will pay me back promptly." He shoved the parcel to Foulis' side of the table.

Arnaud, leaned back in his chair, and let his gaze un-focus. "It will be magnificent. The elegant dress, as beautiful as your dear daughter. The Comte de Pevensey's summer house hired for the reception. The finest food and wine from that rascal Gaston. Monsieur Perry and his orchestra in the ballroom, playing jaunty tunes while the newly-wed couple dance..."

He stretched his arm across the table and, daintily, tapped on the yellowed toenail protruding from the brown paper wrapping.

"Alas, no more dancing for you."

No comments:

Post a Comment