Just Whistle While You Work

Just Whistle While You Work


Lord Dresden Stonebridge was being quite jumpy this night, he mused. He was walking just a little bit too fast to seem quite relaxed as he strolled through the darkened streets of the capital. And it was without mentioning the occasional glances at dark corners and over shoulders. Unfortunately the deserted pavements and moonless sky were surely not helping to soothe the nerves of the man. He was a truly provincial noble, after all he didn’t like very much the city’s agitation and was known to fear the uncontrolled masses always crowding the metropolis. Or really any form of situation where he wouldn’t be the one in power, in true Stonebridge fashion even though his uncle would disagree. It was another open secret that the two didn’t get along. The fact that he was being followed since he arrived at the train station was probably just another reason for him to hate the bustling chaos always animating the capital.

With his own steps as only company, he picked up fairly easily the distinct noise of rustling clothes. Stopping he spun around and scanned the obscurity before him. All breathes were held. One, two then three seconds passed. Nothing happened. With the sigh of a person convinced of their own paranoia, Lord Dresden turned back and continued on his merry way. The relief of a false alert probably softened his sense as he never picked up on the approaching silhouette. He also didn’t notice he wasn’t alone until he felt the edge of a blade tearing through his throat. The confirmation that he had been right to fear the shadows of the silent buildings must have been the only satisfaction he took in his own death.

Observing the new corpse idly and pondering such thoughts were some of the only pleasures the murderer had during the accomplishment of this otherwise dull task. There was too much blood, he mused. The blood was spreading bright scarlet everywhere. The reddening of the previously white clothes generated a frown on the hidden face. With the same noise that alerted the now dead lord, the man took off his black and newly blood-sprayed cloak, revealing immaculate noble clothing underneath.

Covering the cadaver with the cloak, he first bent over to take the pocket tissue of his

victim, using it to wash all traces of crimson off his face, hands and blade before dropping it back. Then he reached to pick up the dead’s nominal invitation to the night’s festivities along his top hat, slipping back his dagger into his left pocket and leaving his hand there. Starting into a slow stroll, he placed with care the hat on his head, it had to cover most of the red, the same hated red that marked him and prevent him from reaching any hopes of anonymity. He suddenly stopped his walk, went back next to the corpse, snatched the finely sculptured cane then got back on his path, whistling and swirling his newly acquired cane around his fingers the whole way.

The Stonebridge mansion was really impressive, exactly as it was meant to, thought the imposter a few streets later upon arriving to his destination. The diverse decorations that screamed of opulence and of pompous fools (in his objective opinion) were put up to eleven for the event that hosted the house. Indeed, to welcome his nephew coming to the city the Great Lord Deputy Priyen Stonebridge (whatever divine power forbids you actually forget any of the majuscules) had thrown a party. Unless the nephew had decided to come to the city because of the party, he was not really sure. It didn’t matter anyway, pondered the imposter as he took his place in the file of nobles waiting to get in. He presented his card when his turn came, the servant took it and with barely a glance on it give it back with a welcoming pleasantry.

He advanced into the main hall while showing off his superb cane with every step, and admired the luminosity that bounced off the walls and colored glasses from the ornate chandeliers and shed lights on the heavily furnished tables and the skilled playing orchestra.

Waving by a waiter, he took a glass of wine that he drunk in one big gulp before entrusting the man with a message. It was request of a private audience with Lord Stonebridge in his study, this of course signed by his nephew. After waving off the servant, he made his way toward the study, climbing up the stairs and ignoring the looks he got because of his still topped head. As he already knew the way quite well he arrived with a good ten minutes to spare. He made the most of it by observing the books and paper on the desk and the bookcases (maybe also the drawers and thesecret cabinets), reversing back to whistling and spinning his cane.

A heavy rhythmic thumping alerted him of the arrival of his host, he thus sat himself on a cushioned armchair and crossed his legs, his left hand still in his pocket. With a bang, the doors opened revealing the honorable Head Deputy with a glass of wine in his hand already discussing business.

“Dresden, I see you have finally arrived. May I know which matter were so important you…” Eventually noticing the whistling and the whirling motion, he stopped and said

“You. What are you doing here?”

“Well, my dear Lord don’t you look pleased to see me !” The imposter rose and put his cane on the chair. “To answer your question I just wish to speak with you, but you made this difficult when you threw a party inviting all the city but me…”

“I had hoped you might understand that I did not want to exchange any words with you” the Great Lord said, going behind his desk and setting his glass on the wood. “How did you even enter this place?”

“Through the front door.” He handed the invitation. “You see, I am legit, after all I

came in with the express permission of your butler.”

Lord Stonebridge sucked in a breath when he read the card. He then settled into his chairandpinched the bridge of his nose. He closed his eyes and raised his face toward the celling, which made his wrinkles digging deeper into his skin and caused his long white hair to fall on his back. The imposter took advantage of the lull in the banter to reach for the full glass, drank a little sip before stroking the edges with his open left palm. Twirling it around with his right hand and slipping back his left one in its favored place, he sat on the edge of the desk as he decided to talk again without looking at the old man.

“You know, last week I’ve learnt a very interesting piece of news involving your person. Of course as you seemed very determined to close every doors on my face, I hadn’t have the pleasure yet of sharing it with you. But when I learned that you were throwing a ball and that your nephew infamous for his lack of friends was coming into town, I knew I couldn’t resist seizing this chance…”

“You opportunistic bastard!” Head Deputy spat “Lord Reynald Rivercross, you are a nuisance.”

“Easy on the name calling!” Rivercross sounded amused as he side glanced at him over his shoulder. “I just want a pleasant conversation between two acquaintances, with me talking to the “venerable” chief of the Great Assembly about what we have to do to better the country…”

“I already know what you will say. Every Great Lord knows what you want! And let me tell you something, you are a sick man! I won’t let you make of this city your little playground to satisfy your perverse desires!” With a sigh, Lord Stonebridge calmed down.

“What became of my nephew?” he asked.

“You might have his death on your conscience” To emphasize the point, Rivercross had slipped out his dagger and was twirling it around his fingers. He then said “Good thing you didn’t like him then! You won’t lose too much sleep on him!”

“What?!” the mustache of his greatness was vibrating from the offense. He started rummaging through his desk, probably looking for his glass, while he used one hand to rub his temple. He muttered “Why would you even think that?”

“Well, my dear, your nephew asks for an audience with you and you feel obliged to bring alcohol?” Rivercross turned around to face the man, brandishing the glass as a proof before settling it back on the desk with a clunk. He was really enjoying the headache he was causing to the old man. “This kind of reaction is usually telling of a frank hostility” he said.

Upon noticing the glass, Lord Stonebridge reached out, took a few long sips before settling back in his chair. Observing the glistening of the blade for a few moments, he then sighed and asked. “So, are you going to kill me now?”Stopping his motion, Lord Rivercross put back the dagger in its pocket along with his left hand. “Now, why would I do that? I mean I could kill you but, I can just blackmail you, this is much more efficient… After all do you remember this piece of you news I wanted

to talk about? How much damage would your credibility take if your peers learnt of your penchant for humiliation and being kept on a leash?” he said.

“Okay, Rivercross, what do you want?”

“You already know what I want, so stop asking and start writing.”

With a new sigh, the Great Lord took a paper from one of his drawer and started redacting the new decree that will be the law as soon as tomorrow. After a few minutes, he

signed the official proposition and gave it to his tormenter for examination. While Rivercross was reading he asked “Now you have what you want, Martial Law will come into vigor tomorrow and you will have free card to deal with any suspected trouble maker. I hope you are happy.”

“This was never about my own satisfaction Lord Stonebridge” he said, still reading.

“It was about what needs to be done. You folks from the Assembly spend your time ignoring the streets and congratulating one another for having put a puppet emperor on the throne and seize the supreme authority for yourselves. You’ll see what good your supposed power will do you when the revolt will bring forks into your guts.”

“And what you are proposing is so much better! What you will do with your gratuitous cruelty will provoke a revolution more surely than not doing anything! Everyone knows already about your contempt for anyone under your social status, and the hunts you organize with any poor lad that cross your path. But tell me one thing, why so much hate for the Scarlet Templars? They’re just religious men, they are harmless!” Stonebridge said.

“They are a plague clogging the city streets! Not only are they gaining more and more nobles’ favors, they are also training those useless paupers! Those backward peasants now believe they are allowed to think and reflect on their condition! I will not let a bunch of bloody monks take control of this country and reducing the true elite of this country to dust while offering the power to those ungrateful inferior beings! So you and your Assembly can keep your lavish parties and your other foolish delusions, but I will act and save this city from this virus and wipe out its roots. And anybody else standing in my path.” Rivercross thundered.

Calming down, he straightened up and smooth over the paper he had a little bit rustled by gripping it too hard. Looking into the eyes of the startled Great Lord, he inclined his hat and let his face ease into a careless grin. This seemed to prompt another drinking fit in his interlocutor as he finished his glass in three long sips. He eyed Rivercross’s left hand, still in its pocket, before looking back up at his face with an expectant face.

“Aye, I know, we are finished here, so I won’t take any more of your time. I pay you my respects your Greatness.” Rivercross said.

Putting back his hat on the top of his head, he restrained a chuckle at the audible relieved sigh coming from behind him and walked toward the exit in a deliberate slow pace.

Exactly five steps from the desk a choking noise was heard, provoking a smirk to appear on his face. Still not turning, he ignored the startled gurgle that was probably meant to be an exclamation and all those that followed probably as many tentative to call for aid. Picturing the surprise face the Great Lord Deputy Priyen Stonebridge must be wearing, Rivercross started to count in his head. Just when he reached ten, a thump resonated through the study. He waited three more seconds before putting a wide grin on his face and turning back.

“Well, it seems dear Lord Dresden might get an explanation about what happened to him after all!” he exclaimed.

Walking back toward the desk, he opened the “to send” drawer where he put back the signed decree. Opening another, he took a poach of gold coins on threw them on the desk, it landed in the corner. Closing the drawers, his eyes caught the empty glass set just next to the body’s right hand. He took it and peeked inside, looking at the little green dust that had settled on the bottom of the glass, hard to notice amidst the residual red that had stayed from the drops of wine still inside.

Twirling it one more time he put out his left hand, observing the green stains on the tip of his fingers. Stonebridge was so focused on his dagger he accepted a drink from him without any question. He really must have been nervous as it would have never happened in normal circumstances, Rivercross mused. With a swift move he sprayed the powder and the drops of wine on the desk, making the red disappear, before putting the glass back where he took it.

Reaching down into the breast pocket of his host, he closed his fingers around one cigar and a lighter. Sitting back on the edge of the desk, he put the cigar to his lips, lighted it and took a long drag of smoke, inhaling it. He looked through the window, observing the city streets below.

A dozen of minutes later, the door opened with a click, announcing the arrival of a new person.

“I see you have finished here. I have finished as well, tonight the whole city knows that the Head Deputy has declared a war on the Scarlet Faith.” The intruder said.

“Good, then all is set into motion.” Rivercross turned to face the new comer, exhaling smoke. With deep wrinkles, a superb mustache and a magnificent white mane, he could have been the Great Lord’s twin. Even his voice was similar.

“If I may my lord, why all of this?” The doppelganger asked.

“Now everybody knows Lord Stonebridge was against the Faith, and the fact that his nephew will be found dead on his way to the party will proves that an imposter killed the nephew to get to the uncle. Everybody will think it happened after the lord’s speech, making the Templars into perfect suspects. Moreover, our weak emperor won’t have the heart to deny the last order of good old Stonebridge. Plus, I got to occupy the deputy long enough for you to take his place. Now I have all the cards”

“But why the Scarlet Templars?”

“Because they just arrived and try already to take the same thing as me. I worked years on to get it, I won’t let some go-getters snatch it just under my nose. Plus, their worship of the color red shows an awful taste worthy of extermination.” Rivercross said

“So it truly has begun, hasn’t it?”

“Indeed, from now I tied the city’s fate to mine. I can no longer stop it as this is so much bigger than just the Templars. By the end of the year I’ll either be on the city’s throne or I would have gone down in flames, reducing everything to ash in the motion.”

A few seconds of silence passed. Lord Rivercross held out the half-finished cigar to his partner, as the latter refused, the noble went back to smoke with a shrug. After he finished exhaling, he spoke again.

“Your money is here” he motioned toward the poach. “Take it, and you know what to do next”

“I will leave the city first thing in the morning my lord.” The imposter said. His voice had taken a distinctly feminine quality.

“Indeed you will, or you are going to be a prime example of the public execution the new law allows me to perform.” Rivercross said.

Her partner nodded curtly, took the poach and, after having removed her wig and false mustache, left through the window. Rivercross watched her leave. Finishing his cigar, he

stomp its edge on his dead company’s temple, the closest potential ashtray, and after assuring himself that his stolen invitation was still on the desk and the paper in the drawer, he snatched back his cane that had stayed in the armchair the whole time and exited the room. With his slow stroll, he left the ball undetected, and walked in the darkened streets toward his home, a smile hung on his face.

He whistled and swirled his cane around his fingers the whole time.



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