The Masque of the Baron
EPISODE THREE: in which the plot thickens a bit
“Adam, that was seriously weird,” said Terri, leading the way back towards her car.
Adam nodded in response. “I only wish that Baron fellow . . .”
“What?” she said.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” he said, shrugging. “Let’s just get back to headquarters for now.” And he picked up his pace, taking the lead. They walked in silence for about two hundred yards.
“Hello?” said Adam suddenly. “What’s that?”
“What’s what?” asked Terri. For answer, Adam turned and headed off across the street in the direction of an alleyway. “Oh,” replied Terri as she noticed the flashing blue lights. “Police.” And she followed him towards the alley.
The flashing lights shone on the walls surrounding the alley, turning it into a gruesome ballroom where shadows danced the foxtrot, endlessly repeating the same move over and over and over and over . . . There was something wet and red underneath a cloth in the middle. Men and women in uniforms were circling around it, taking photos, writing notes, speculating about how the wet something got there.
It took Terri a few seconds to realize that the the very dead wet something was a corpse. When she did, she felt her gorge rise at the thought. Blood had seeped through the white cloth in many places, pooling in depressions in the cloth.
“Are you all right?”
Terri jumped, turning to see Adam staring at her with some concern. “Yeah,” she replied unsteadily. “I’ll be okay.” She swallowed carefully.
“Are you sure?” Terri nodded. “Good.” Adam turned back to watch the police poking about the alleyway. Swallowing again, Terri followed suit.
Calmer now, she was able to follow the policemen’s French. As she listened, she was able to piece together their picture of what happened. The victim, an elderly man, had entered the alley and met his killer. The killer had stabbed the old man in the leg, then slashed open his stomach with a sword. Then things got tricky. There were five more stab wounds, probably made after death (they had not bled much), and inexplicable second- and third- degree burns, all made around the time of death. Oddest of all, the dead man’s thick wallet had not been stolen.
Terri shuddered at the inevitable thought. The killer had been armed with a sword. The killer could well have been an Immortal. And it was not without reason that most Watchers feared Immortals.
She turned and looked at Adam. His eyes were fixed upon the corpse and a grimness had come over his features. “Well, Adam,” she said. “You know as well as I do what this looks like.”
He smiled sardonically and turned to face her. “Well, Terri, it certainly seems . . .” and he trailed off, looking over her shoulder.
— Oh no, thought Terri. Not again. “What is it?”
“It’s him,” replied Adam. “The Doctor.”
She turned and, sure enough, there was the diminutive Immortal. He was standing just behind the police line, frowning pensively at the corpse as he tapped his curious umbrella on the pavement. With a start, Terri realized that he might be the killer. A chill went down her spine.
“So,” she said, turning back to Adam. “What now?”
He shrugged. “You tell me. You’re his Watcher.”
She frowned back at him. “Oh, you’re no help,” she said, exasperated, and turned back to watch the Doctor.
Who wasn’t there anymore.
“Oh, great,” she said. “Just great.” She bowed her head, fed up with the afternoon’s events.
“If I might ask, Miss Johnson, . . .” began a polite, Scottish voice. Terri started and spun around. It was the Doctor again. Since she didn’t answer, the Doctor continued. “If I might ask, do you happen to know if I might get a look at the body?”
Terri drew her face back in an astonished expression. “You . . . want . . . to look at the body?”
He stared at her as one would at an ignorant child. “Yes, of course! That is what I said, isn’t it?”
Terri laughed shortly in disbelief. “You seriously expect . . . no. Look, I’m not with the police. Just . . .”
“No,” he interrupted. “I must know. They,” he said, gesturing to the policemen, “don’t have the first idea what happened. But you do.”
Terri grew very worried at this. But she was determined not to show it and laughed in the Doctor’s face. “Look,” she said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And she looked to Adam, who nodded in support.
“Look, Doctor whoever-you-are,” Adam said, “we really don’t know anything about this. So please, just leave us alone.”
The Doctor turned to face Adam, looking up to do so. Yet it somehow seemed that Adam was the smaller of the two, for such was the intensity of the Doctor’s gaze that Adam shrank back from it. “And pray, Mr. Pierson, could you tell me why in the name of Rassilon you followed me about all afternoon?”
Adam was dumbstruck. So, for that matter, was Terri. Neither of them were new to the art of following people. He shouldn’t have noticed them. But he had.
The Doctor sighed. “Look,” he said. “I don’t know what you two are about, but trust me, you’ve no idea what you might be getting into.” He looked into each of their eyes in turn. “I have seen things that would cause each ‘knotted and combined lock to part/And stand on end like quills on the fretful porcupine.'”
He turned his intense gaze to Terri, and she felt herself shrink back in fear before she’d really thought about it. He didn’t say anything, but she slowly got the feeling that he didn’t mean them any harm. She started, and the Doctor broke the contact, turned, and walked away.
Terri and Adam stood there for some time in silence. Unnoticed, an ambulance arrived and took away the body. After a time, the two Watchers slowly turned and continued on their way to Terri’s car.
The darkness moved around Michel with a materiality that did nothing to reassure him. The dank air didn’t help either. Nor did the chill in his bones, the chill that reminded him of his master.
Ah, yes. Son maître, le dieu des drouges. His master, the god of drugs. –Mon dieu, he thought, if only I could have them, I would live in this pit of despair for all eternity. If only for fifty milligrams, if only for ten, if only for a grain of anything at all . . .
Like so many, Michel would do — and had done — absolutely anything to acheive his worldly nepenthe. Lethe’s waters, alcohol laced with morphine. That was his nightcap. And with breakfast, pretty capsules, filled with all sorts of things to infuse his body with energy. (Those he met frequently, in a bold but futile effort to shake off the everlasting cloud under which he lived.) And for special occasions, in the company of what passed for friends in his life, were hallocinogens. Many different ones, each with flavors all their own.
Right now, Michel didn’t care what kind of nepenthe he got. He just wanted something. Now.
The dark man knew all this. It was he that moved in the dank darkness around Michel. He did not need the light. He knew where everything was. He had lived here, a fant=F4me not of the opÃ©ra but of Paris herself, for a very long time.
He considered telling Michel just how long he’d been there, but decided that the twenty-two year old boy had few enough nerves left as it was. And he would need them soon enough, to begin le masque de la terreur noire.
Ah yes. The masque. It had been — how long? — just over two hundred years since the last proper masque of black terror. Yet the dark man remembered it as clearly as if it had been yesterday. La Semaine sanglante — the Bloody Week — had not been so successful. But there, circumstances had played against him. The dark man had not counted on the effectiveness of the new artillery.
But the last really glorious terreur noire had followed on the heels of the revolution, in that beautifully violent year, 1793. And that young fool Robespierre had followed the dark man so easily, despite his noble title of Baron. And, unlike la Semaine sanglante, he’d gotten his sacrifice then. On his dear Madame Guillotine . . .
“Yes? May I help you, Monsieur?”
The rather smelly secretary behind the rough desk had to repeat himself twice before the foppish – but distinctly alarming – gentleman would deign to answer. He was clad all in black velvet, with an elegant saber at his side. Upon first seeing him, the secretary’s first impression was of a nobleman of the worst sort. The sort that still believed in noblesse obligé, despite having seen his king’s blood spilling into the streets around Madame Guillotine and into the gutters of the Place de la Révolution. Despite having seen the fall of the Bastille and the burning of the Tuilleries, the sacking of Versailles, the mass destruction of anything of value to those of name, . . . And, of course, the wooing of those of name by that most persuasive of mistresses, the one over which all suitors completely lost their heads, Madame Guillotine.
But when the dark man introduced himself as the Baron Lucien Noir d’Enfer Profond — Lucien Black of the Deepest Hell — the secretary felt his superstitious innards curdle. And he froze, stuttering badly as he asked the dark man what he wanted.
“I want to speak with Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre,” he replied, with formal precision. To the secretary, this made sense. If this demon of hell had come for Monsieur Robespierre, then he would call him by name, now wouldn’t he?
“And I shall speak with him now,” said the Baron d’Enfer, pushing past the unresisting secretary with ease. The terrified young man did not stay to warn his employer, but fled into the streets, warning all he met that the judgement had come at last.