Sunday, September 27, 2009


"Have I done what?" Gilet de Sauvinage asked with irritation.

"Why," Alice said, her tone suggesting that he ought to have know exactly what she meant, "I meant exactly that. Have you sent a ransom request to my family?"

De Sauvinage blenched at her inquiry. "How can you ask such a question?" he asked, his voice losing all trace of Gallic sanguinity.

"I ask because I must know," Alice responded with more than a little forceful disapproval. As unaccustomed as she was to finding herself in a position of some authority, Alice nonetheless deciphered that there had been a kind of shift in the balance of power between the two of them. Invigorated by the story of the poor young woman's travails, Alice found herself determined not to give in to the same fate.

"Have you sent a ransom note to my family?" Alice reiterated. "Tell me now!"

Gilet de Sauvinage quailed. Visibly, this was apparent.

It was not, Alice was certain, in the nature of villains to quail before heroines. She was somewhat disappointed to find that this was the calibre of villain she had attracted. Somehow it seemed a poor reflection on her.

If I were a better heroine, I would have attracted a more accomplished villain, Alice thought sadly.

"I have had some delay," de Sauvinage began.

"Why?" Alice demanded.

"I do not have a normal household staff, for one thing," de Sauvinage blustered. "If you knew what kind of efforts were required to keep a situation like this running smoothly, you would be surprised to say the least, Miss – er, Miss."

Alice shrugged with a nigh on Gallic casualness. "As the kidnapped person, I have no responsibility for those details. However, as the kidnapped person, I am horrified to find that you have done nothing toward securing my eventual rescue and ransoming. It is too shocking, too shocking by half," Alice said with more than a touch of her mother's oft-exercised sense of high dudgeon.

"Do you know how long it takes to make porridge?" de Sauvinage asked with more than a touch of bitterness.

Alice raised an eyebrow in a gesture that would have made her sensible cousin Lizzie nod with approval. "It is not my concern to know what porridge requires. You must ransom me or let me go."

De Sauvinage looked more than a tad perturbed at her suggestion. "Let you go? When it took me so long to acquire you? I do not think so." He shook his head, but Alice was not yet daunted.

"Then ransom me," she reiterated. "My family will be grateful to have me returned to them, I am certain. I wish to be free."

"I'm not sure that can be arranged," de Sauvinage said with ominous intent.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"That's too horrible!" Alice exclaimed, leaping up in alarm. "Was it this very window?"

Gilet de Sauvinage shrugged in a not especially Gallic way. "I don't know which room it was, just that it was in this wing."

Alice blanched. "It could have been this very room. Oh, the poor unfortunate! Did her family demand justice?"

He shook his head. "They never knew what had happened to her. The terrible Comte Sangsue never even sent them a ransom note or any kind of threatening message."

"How awful!" Alice said, feeling an unaccustomed sense of faintness come over her. It had been some time since she had felt so weak. Perhaps she should eat more of her breakfast.

But there was also something niggling at the back of her mind. What could it be?

"Ever since," de Sauvinage continued, unaware of Alice's wandering thoughts, "many people have reported that they have seen wandering the corridors, a pale ghostly figure of a woman, searching, always searching."

"What is she searching for?" Alice asked as she ate some of the porridge.

"Perhaps her killer," he replied. "Or perhaps she just wants someone to blame!"

"Well, it's not my fault," Alice said with what had become her usual decided air. "She can't want to haunt me. I suppose this Comte is also dead."

De Sauvinage shrugged again. "I don't know. It's possible that he's still alive, but he is not here."

"Do you know where he is?" Alice set her spoon down as an idea occurred to her.

"I haven't the slightest idea," de Sauvinage said, sounding more than a trifle irritated with the line of questioning. "I suppose he returned to his estate, wherever that might be."

"I shall certainly tell the spectre if she returns," Alice said, returning once more to her porridge. "It is only fair that she know he is not here. She can seek her vengeance elsewhere." The latter was less than entirely distinct as Alice was still masticating a mouthful of porridge during the speech, a collision of activities that would have well and truly scandalised her mother and most of the household had they been there to experience it.

"Well, one never can tell with ghosts," de Sauvinage said. One might have caught a hint of irritation in his voice. Whether he was simply fed up with Alice's failure to be impressed with his tale or with her poor manners in speaking with her mouth full, it was difficult to ascertain.

However, he was startled when Alice suddenly dropped her spoon in horror. The utensil made an unpleasant wet smacking sound as it fell back into the porridge. She stared at de Sauvinage, her eyes round and her cheeks flushed.

"What is it, Mademoiselle Alice?" he asked, his voice choking up to a higher register and his French accent deserting him completely.

"Have you done it?!" she shouted in a most unbecoming way.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


"Murder!" Alice said with alarm. That was rather more than she had expected. "Murder?" she repeated, her voice decidedly less audible. "Here?"

De Sauvinage nodded. "It was more than forty years ago, when this villa was still occupied by the Duke."

"Which Duke?" Alice asked, forgetting her terror for a moment.

"The Duke of this villa," de Sauvinage said with a touch of irritability. "I don't know his name."

"It's a rather important fact," Alice said, her tone conveying a distinct shade of disapproval.

"Well, it is not one that I possess," de Sauvinage said with finality. "About forty years ago -- no, I cannot be more specific than that," he added, anticipating another interruption from his audience. "The Duke was away on business, of some unknown type," he rushed to say, regarding Alice with a severe look, or so it appeared from behind the disguise. "His younger brother was in charge of the estate and had some very questionable companions allowed as guests in his brother's absence."

"One of these men was the notorious Comte Sangsue, a reviled man of irregular hours and unpardonable tastes."

Alice shivered. It was quite too horrible to contemplate.

"The Comte had, unbeknownst to his host, had his henchmen spirit away a noble young lass and he received her in secret in this very house."

"No!" Alice interjected. The horror of it all! She thanked her lucky stars once again that having had to be kidnapped, she had at least been spirited away by men who knew their place. Her heart went out to the poor unfortunate even as her finely honed sense of morality shrank from the likely (and only vaguely understood) fate the poor young woman suffered.

"Indeed," Alice's own kidnapper continued. "Sequestered in a room of this villa--"

"On this floor," Alice filled in, her voice breathless with terror and excitement.

"On this floor," de Sauvinage agreed, though once again reminding her, "but probably not this room, he had her secreted away to use her for his filthy Gallic purposes."

"How terrible!"

"Indeed," de Sauvinage repeated. "When night fell, he crept away from the other revelers and made his way to the room where the frightened young woman awaited her unspeakable fate."

"Unspeakable," Alice repeated with dread fascination.

"The story was told that she did her best to resist him, shrieking in terror and fighting off his advances with all decent outcry."

"And did he…?" Alice could barely bring herself to ask.

Gilet de Sauvinage leaned toward her, his voice dropping to a whisper. "At the very last minute--"


"She evaded his advances--"


"By falling out the window and plunging to a horrible death!"

Sunday, September 06, 2009


"Shall we set the tray down, first?" Gilet de Sauvinage asked Alice. It was a bit awkward with the two of them holding on to either side which held them immobile in the doorway.

"Just as you say," Alice agreed, more intrigued by the thought of the mysterious story of the apparition than even with the idea of breakfast, although her stomach rumbled an appreciative reminder of the importance of that meal.

After some awkward fits and starts, Alice at last relinquished the tray with a sigh and retreated into the room so de Sauvinage could place the tray on the small table. The repast, once uncovered, proved to contain no kippers or even kedgeree, so Alice sighed and began to eat some of the toast.

"Now tell me of that apparition that haunts the hallways of this villa," Alice demanded, pouring herself a cup of tea with the beginnings of a cross look etching into the furrows of her brow. If she had seen this furrowing, doubtless Alice would have been worried that such furrowing would lead to later wrinkling, but she remained blissfully unaware of that physical development, instead turning a severe eye upon her capture as she chewed her breakfast. It was impossible to see if that were having the desired effect, cloaked as he was by his mysterious disguise.

However, his words seemed to suggest that her look had prompted him to mindfulness. "Yes, of course, miss. It is a strange and wonderous tale that may frighten you."

Alice shrugged. A most unladylike gesture, but she had so far fallen form gentility on this journey that she failed to even notice the common tone of her body's movement. Her mother would have been shocked indeed, so it is just as well that she was not present to see Alice's shrug.

"I don't wish to frighten you," de Sauvinage continued, now seeming more than a little reluctant to begin, which only increased Alice's irritation.

"I have been kidnapped and sailed with pirates," Alice said, more than a little crossness slipping out between her lips with not a few crumbs of toast. "I hardly thing I will faint away at the mere story of a haunting."

"As you wish, then, miss," de Sauvinage said, his words and manner somewhat stiff.

I believe I have offended him, Alice thought, and smiled quietly to herself. It was quite enjoyable to have the whip back in her hand, so to speak. "I do," Alice said, feeling rather smug and superior. "Tell on, please." She stuffed the last bit of toast into her mouth and chomped it with satisfaction.

"Many years ago, in this very place," de Sauvinage began.

Alice returned to the habit that annoyed her governess so, and immediately broke in for an explanation. "In this very place, meaning this very room?" she asked somewhat pedantically.

"Well, I don't know for certain," de Sauvinage said, nonplussed by her interjection. "I--I believe it was in this wing, though perhaps in a different room. I cannot be too certain."

"I think it would be very distasteful if it were this very room and I would have thought it odd of you to choose to sequester me here," Alice said enjoying the use of this very important word, which had welled up from her admittedly spotty memory. "Go on."

"It was, in a word," said de Sauvinage with a dramatic pause, "murder!"