Sunday, February 9, 2014

Serial Sunday: The Gypsy's Curse Post 2

Each Sunday I'm doing a serial thing, no not serial killer, but the protagonist in my story may be a killer! Each week I'll be posting a rough draft excerpt of one of my works in progress, and yes, they will be concurrent, so if you follow along, you'll get the story in the correct sequence. Feel free to comment or add suggestions from time to time. Happy Reading! 


Here is part of Chapter Two of The Gypsy's Curse. Chapter two is the hero, Stephan St. John's point of view. He's a rich landowner, although not aristocracy. His father was a rich merchant so he's still considered 'merchant class'.   Stephen has a little problem, as you'll see . . . is he a killer, or does he just indulge too heavily in drink and black out, and those grisly murders are a coincidence? 

Copyright Lily Silver 2014

            London, November 1816

            Stephan St. John flipped the collar of his coat up around his neck and exited his stately townhouse on Grosvenor Square. It was colder than a witch?s teat outside this time of year, and after dark, too, but he wanted to feel cold.

            He wanted to feel something. Anger, lust, hate, hunger. Even cold, yes, that would do.

            "Sir, if you'd just allow me to have the carriage brought around?" Geoffrey, his butler whined as he stepped out onto the front stoop behind Stephan.

            "I'm fine, don't bother." He ground out, annoyed by the butler's toadying. He clasped his walking stick in his fist and descended the stairs to the street. "Don't wait up for me."

            The butler acknowledged his command, stepped back into the house and closed the door.

            Stephan moved past the line of townhouses, past rows orange lit windows with glowing fires behind them, homes with families gathered together in cozy drawing rooms. He marched past feminine trills of laughter and male banter at the soiree four doors down from him, a gathering he'd been invited to, but didn't plan to appear at.

            A tall, sparse figure was headed toward him on the walkway, sporting a familiar limp and equally familiar grey beaver top hat. He cursed inwardly, hoping the dandy didn't recognize him in the shadows as they passed each other.

            "Stephan, is that you"  James Hadley, Lord Cavendish exclaimed, drawing to a dead halt before they passed each other. "I say, you're leaving Lady Carstair's already?"

            Stephan leaned heavily on the brass topped cane in front of him with both hands. "No, Hadley, I haven't been at Lady Carstair's soiree, nor do I plan to be. I bid you good evening." Hoping that would be sufficient, he straightened and started to move past his old acquaintance.

            "Stephan, wait." Hadley placed his hand on Stephan's arm. "Why not come with me? You need diversion. There's a new crop of Debs to be inspected, you know. They've come to town for a bit of shopping and socializing before winter sets in. Their Mamas are priming them for the season next spring, a dry run, you know. It's always amusing to see the new swans glide about, fluffing their feathers, hoping to catch the eye of a seasoned drake."

            "Not tonight, thank you." Or any night, he thought, but didn?t say aloud. "Perhaps we'll meet at White's soon." He started off again. Hadley had the good sense to let go of his arm this time and let him walk on.

            "Damn it, St. John, you need to stop this incessant moping."  Hadley's voice followed Stephan past the next set of stairs.

            Stephan stopped again, tossed his cane upward and caught it lightly in his fist. He kept his back to his companion. Few men would dare call him out so, and on a public street at that. Few men would be brave enough to confront him at all. James Hadley, Lord Cavendish, was an old friend, and thus, he was allowed a bit of latitude where others might find themselves sprawled on the street, their face bruising from a cruel left hook and challenged to meet Lord St. John at sunrise at the opposite end of a sword. Stephan remained still, biting back a sharp verbal riposte as his friend continued to take him to task for his self-imposed seclusion.

            "I know Byron's made it fashionable for men to brood." James went on. "It;s considered romantic according to the ladies, but Julia's been for dead two years. It's time to rejoin society while you still have people willing to have you, that is. Come with me, Stephan, please. You can practice your brooding on the ladies and perhaps break a heart or two into the bargain."

            "James." Gripping his brass wolf head cane, Stephan turned about to face his would be conscience. "I'm in no mood to suffer the inept wiles of a group of adolescent girls fresh from the schoolroom, nor do I wish to endure Lady Carstair's obnoxious attempts to set me up with one of this years darlings she's agreed to sponsor. Leave it alone, old man. You don't know what you're inviting in, if you did, you would be horrified, you would free yourself of any and all connection to me as quickly as possible and advise others to do the same."

            James Hadley laughed. His heels clicked on the cobblestones as he advanced, and placed a firm hand on Stephan?s shoulder from behind. "Such drama! You should take up writing poetry, or perhaps some ghoulish story, like Mrs. Shelly's. I hear she's become more popular at the bookseller than her poor husband, Percy. Where are you off to? I'll join you."

            "I'm going to walk the streets for a while, enjoy the fog." He returned with impatience.  Would this man never cease his carping and let him be?

            "Walk the streets at night to search for Julia's killer! I thought ..."   If James Hadley, Lord Cavendish, had an ounce of sense, Stephan prayed he was calling upon it now. "I thought you gave up on that old game. Its no good, the bloke who did it is long gone. Come, let's go have a drink at White's, please Stephan."

            Stephan ground his teeth, and remained silent. Damn the man, why wouldn't he just leave him to his wandering and cease this incessant carping!  "A drink then."  He muttered, giving in.

            With any luck, James would be drunk in an hour or two and then he could send the bloke to his rooms and be on his way. Stephan wasn?t looking for his wife?s killer any more. He didn't need to, he knew who it was who had slashed her throat and tore out her insides on that dreadful night two years past. It was the devil staring back at him in the mirror each morning.


           Stephan awakened to Brisbane's shuffling movements about his room. Brisbane was pulling his master's riding clothing out of the armoire and setting up his shaving tools. The man was a godsend. Brisbane stayed with Stephan through the grueling months after Julia's death. Brisbane stayed with him when he drank himself into a stupor for weeks afterward and cursed at everyone who dared come near him. Brisbane stayed with him when the constable and the sheriff kept questioning him and doubting his answers. Brisbane stayed close when Stephan doubted himself. Another servant, with less loyalty and less fortitude, would have abandoned his post and sought a more temperate situation with a less volatile master.

         "Good morning, sir." Brisbane offered, seeing that his charge was watching him from the luxurious pillows.

         "It is morning." Stephan replied dryly. He sat up and removed the covers.

          Damn, that brandy didn't make one ounce of difference. He thought that a couple of drinks with his friend James at White's might soothe the beast that haunted his dreams or at least give him a night without dreams. No such luck. His inner demons seemed fueled by the noxious brew, not sedated, as he'd hoped. Last night's dreams were frightful. He was in the woods again, standing over Julia's body, his hands covered with blood. Only they weren't hands, the bloodied forelimbs he held out in front of him were claws.

There were other images mixed with Julia's mangled corpse, jumbled pieces merging together that did not make sense.  A wolf, a vicious, deformed sort of animal that most closely resembled a wolf or a bear. A wretched sound of howling echoing in his ears and the taste of blood in his mouth. Darkness, night, the moon above, and the serene lake below the hill he stood on.  Voices in the darkness, shouting, and torches marching through the trees.

          And poor Julia, crumpled like a broken doll on the forest floor, her nightgown shredded and a bloody mass of gore where her lovely ivory throat had once been. She'd been with child, his child, or so he'd been led to believe. Stephan cursed himself for opening the old wounds. It was pointless to harbor bitterness toward a woman who had died a horrible death. She may have betrayed their marriage vows but she was not here to defend herself.

            Stephan emerged from the warm bed with reluctance, his primal desire to remain in the cozy nest for a little longer. That wouldn't do. He'd only court danger by thinking of the dreams or of Julia's death. It was best to get busy, move about, concern himself with estate matters instead of moping about in a self indulgent bout of melancholy.  He stood, stretched, relieved himself, rinsed the dragons out of his mouth and then sat in the chair before the mirror so that Brisbane could make him look civilized for his morning ride.

          The mist intrigued him. Stephan loved Hyde Park at this hour of the morning, before the crush of carriages as the Ton converged on the place in the hope of seeing and being seen. It was nearly deserted, save a couple of other early riders like himself. They, too, seemed content to remain anonymous during their morning exercise.  He allowed his stallion, Hades, to wander as he listened to the birds chirping greetings to one another in the trees nearby. The dew would soon become frost, in a week, perhaps less. As he inhaled the crisp autumn air and surveyed the misty landscape, a peculiar yearning came upon him, the desire to return to his estates.

         He stayed away from the abbey since Julia's death. He shut up the place, vowing never to return to his ancestral home and the bitter memories that festered there. His steward kept him informed of the business end of the estate and the cottagers who lived nearby kept watch over the mansion in his absence.  The people of Huntington Downs were not to blame for his bad choice in a wife. Nor was the house itself at fault for his failed marriage. Yes, perhaps it was time to return to Huntingdon Abbey and face the dour ghosts and monsters straight on instead of trying to run away from them.

          It didn't work. No matter where he went, whether it be Bath where he sought refuge, London or his sister's house in Devonshire. The memories dogged his steps and haunted his every waking moment. He spent enough time trying to evade the ghosts of his past.

          It was time to turn about and confront them.

Copyright, The Gypsy's Curse,  Lily Silver 2013



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