The Show Must Go On! – Part 01
—Mechanical Turk 4—
A dove flew over.
I stretched my hands high into the sky and caught it. A white bird with a message that could save the life of the little Gray Wolf—my daughter.
Brian and I were perched by the church’s bell like birds in the darkness of night. It was evening outside, and the sinking sun shone brightly on the cemetery, but here it was dark, where we could stay undetected.
Only one Brian was with me tonight; the other had a magic show. He gave me a sharp glare.
They were leaving the cemetery. One after another they entered the carriage parked in the alley. For a while Brian watched Albert de Blois with a fierce expression, canines bared, then turned to me.
“We should head to Phantom as well,” he said.
“A familiar place.”
Brian brushed his flaming hair up his face. I looked up at him.
“I found you in the basement hall of the theater. Singing and dancing.”
“A tale from the past.”
“There are three kinds of pasts. Those that are easily forgotten. Those that are recorded in the mind as fond memories. And then one more.” He stretched in the manner of a big cat, which made him look even taller. “Those that remain vividly on the flesh forever, ones that make you feel like you’re still in that moment. In short, eternal.”
I looked away.
The memory of giving birth to her in that horrifying stone tower flashed in my mind.
An eternal moment that never went away, like a gaping wound.
I felt as if I were still in the stone tower, stretching my skinny hand to my little daughter as she was being taken away. I wonder if I am still trapped in that moment.
Brian started down the spire’s narrow spiral staircase. “What was on the paper?” he asked.
I snapped back to my senses. I untied the paper attached to the dove’s leg and opened it.
It was inside the brooch that was on the headless corpse.
The paper contained delicate writing. In French. The handwriting suggested that it was written by a woman.
I read it out aloud.
“My dear sorcerer,
God has sent down lightning to strike our mutual sin.
I have given birth to a demon child.
I will surely pay for it with my life in the near future.
I pray that this brooch will be buried with me.
And reach you in the worlds between.
Together in solitude.”
“What does it mean?”
“CC…” I shuddered. “This is probably Coco Rose’s letter.”
“You’re telling me that the body from Nicole Leroux’s grave had a letter from the queen tucked inside it? But why? And the letter suggests she knew that she would get killed.” Brian’s green eyes narrowed.
“Yes.” I nodded.
A crow cried ominously outside the church. I mimicked an owl’s hoot in response.
The crow flapped its wings. I shook my head.
“And this dear sorcerer. Don’t tell me…”
“Leviathan the Alchemist, if I had to guess,” I replied. “The queen probably gave birth to a child—not the king’s, but the alchemist’s—after he disappeared in the clock tower, driven out by the king and the Academy of Science.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“The people were told that the failed childbirth had left the queen distressed, and she holed herself up in the country house. But that wasn’t the case. A child was, in fact, born. A demon child. In other words…”
“In other words, what?”
“Don’t you get it?” I lowered my voice so God wouldn’t hear. “The alchemist was African. Therefore the child was of mixed blood, just like my daughter, who was born between a Gray Wolf and Sauville’s nobility. The long-awaited first child of the royal family, born by the Queen of Sauville, had lustrous dark skin.”
Brian stopped in his tracks. The stone spiral staircase was cold, and our breath was frosty.
His hair alone burned bright red.
“But there’s no such child anywhere. Not by the king’s side, or anywhere else.”
“At this point, we don’t know where the child disappeared to. A dreadful thing, to be sure. When Coco Rose saw the baby, she feared for her life, so she wrote a letter, or rather a will. And she slipped it into her brooch.”
We started down the stairs once more. We were almost on the ground.
“But while she was under house arrest, she lived for another fourteen years. Then in 1914, fourteen years after giving birth, she was murdered in the royal palace.”
“So what does this letter tell us?”
“One is the secret of Coco Rose’s childbirth. And the second is a clue to who killed her. Either way.” I exhaled softly. “This letter is my daughter’s lifeline. As long as we keep it safe, neither the royal family nor the Academy of Science can lay a hand on her. It will serve the same purpose as the red memento box we keep for our own safety.”
We made it to the surface. We opened the door and stepped out. The evening sun’s dazzling yet lonely rays fell on the surroundings.
“So Queen Coco’s will will keep your daughter alive.”
“Then you best hold on to it dearly, Cordelia.”
“Thank you, Brian.”
Brian’s face contorted faintly.
The crow kept circling ominously.
The exhumed body was being carried somewhere. The officials, wearing gloomy looks, gave instructions to the transporters.
And we turned our backs to them. We walked through the alley.
Brian ran his fingers through my hair, then pulled away.
I opened my lips.
And mimicked an owl’s cry.
Brian, too, howled like a beast.
An old man walking his dog was coming in our direction. When he noticed us, he gave a slight nod, but the dog was paralyzed with fear and refused to take a step, no matter how hard the owner pulled on the leash.
It gave a short, frightened yelp and cast its eyes down. The old man regarded us with suspicion.
We walked slowly past them.
A dead leaf blown by the wind glided before us, and Brian crushed it with his foot.
My hand held Coco Rose’s will tight.
Chapter 5: The show must go on!
A boy was running down the corridor, his jet-black hair flapping.
He had eyes as black as his hair. A boy from the Orient. He was small with a stern face. His pursed lips parted.
He called a girl’s name.
Old lamps hung on the walls, casting a dim light that seemed to come from the past. The further the boy went down the narrow corridor, the closer he seemed to draw closer to history’s secrets, down the hole of time.
“Victorique!” mumbled the boy again.
The lamps hissed and flickered ominously.
The boy’s figure and the sound of his footsteps receded into the distance.
Two men were leisurely making their way down another corridor.
The audience’s rumble from the sold-out seats could be heard through the wall. Gradually, the mingled din began to coalesce into a unified cheer.
“Coco! Coco! Coco!”
Fans from the capital of Saubreme—no, from all over Sauville—had gathered here, waiting for the moment when Coco Rose returned from the afterlife and appeared in flesh on the stage. An enormous crowd of Coco’s followers—fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends.
The blond man covered his ears with both hands and shook his head, trying to keep the noise away.
His companion, a man with the air of a bureaucrat, was grim-faced as he listened to the people’s shrieks.
“Why…” the blond man groaned. “Why do they love her so much?”
His companion gave no answer. The two walked down the corridor in silence.
“Coco! Coco! Coco!”
The frenzied cries of the audience swirled throughout the theater like a hurricane.
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