He scanned the streets desperately; his eyes flickering from one sight of despair to another. The poverty was so real; it was awful especially just outside of Paris, which is where the slums are. The stench was revolting. He had walked through these streets many times before, though this time something felt different. Usually this small collection of houses, which tried to disguise itself as some kind of settlement, was packed with people. Though there was a strange feeling he could feel deep in his bones.
Where usually bare footed children would play happily on the streets they were shouting to each other, older children were hurrying them back home to their Mothers, carrying the littlest ones. Women dressed in rags stood in doorways screaming for their little miracles to get back inside. Villagers were shutting their doors, locking their shutters.
But he did not know why.
He carried walking through the deserted streets which lead to the market square. He sighed in relief as men still carried on trading, calling to one another, each one claiming to have the highest quality and the best prices. His eyes still darted around nervously; the man he was looking for was nowhere to be seen.
It was here in the market they had arranged to meet, it was busy and no one ever paid them much attention. The letter he had received specifically told that they would meet here at this particular time of day. Yet he was still stood alone.
The gentleman continued walking further into the village common area just in case his friend had decided to buy some fruit of wine or anything. He knew it was a long shot, but he was running out of reasonable suggestions.
“Jean,” a voice cried out. The man paid it no attention, many men in the country were called Jean, and he was sure more men, like him, pretended to be called Jean. It was only when he felt something hit the back of his head he realised it was he who was being called. He spun around quickly to see one of the stall holders, a young lady called Marie was hysterically gesturing him to follow.
He did quickly, she ran down a narrow alley way, the path emerged out onto another area which was known for trading, though not the sort of thing one could buy on a usual market stall.
The man who answered to Jean looked around, there was a body slumped against the wall. Surely this was not what Marie had wanted to show him. Death was commonplace, the mortality rate was so high, and it was not rare to see bodies sprawled out on the very same roads the children played on.
Marie was kneeling by the body; he followed her, stepping closer with caution. The man on the floor had an air of familiarity about him. His heart beat faster, the blood that had once coursed through his veins at the thought of seeing his love again now ran cold.
“No,” he stuttered. “Please, Marie,” he managed to say.
“Oh Jean,” she said.
Marie knew, she knew everything about the two gentlemen, she had been the one to introduce them in the first place, she was well aware of whom the gentleman actually was, she also knew that his name was not Jean.
Both Marie and the man were overcome with fear and anger, a few seconds later the man rushed to his side. It was only then that he truly believed that his love was dead. They both knelt down staring at the body; the man’s eyes left the face of his lover and searched for the eyes of Marie.
“How did he die?”
“I do not know,” she replied. Her hands were resting on the dead man’s chest. She was hiding something, something she did not want Jean to see.
“I will find out, move,” he ordered.
“Jean, no,” she said trying to be firm with him.
“I said move, woman!” he shouted making Marie jump.
“Jean, please,” Marie whispered. She slowly rose to her feet, it was then he saw the blood coating her delicate hands. His eyes fell back to the body; there was a gunshot wound that had pierced his chest. Not only had his love been killed, but he had been murdered.
“Who did this?” he whispered, his anger suddenly turning him hysterically calm. “Who killed him?”
“I do not know,”
“I will find the man who did this,” he exclaimed. He stood up in fury; he pulled the sword from his waist and began waving it frantically. “I will kill them murderous pig that did this,”
He ran away from the body and began shouting to the men and women going about their business.
“What happened? Who killed this man?” he demanded. “I have money,” he exclaimed reaching into his pockets and retrieving a sack full of golden coins. He began throwing the money at people. “I will reward whoever finds the murderous piece of scum who killed this man,” he shouted. Instead there was a fight to pick up the coins the man was throwing. He shouted for help but no one came to his aide. He fell to his knees, his heart was broken.
Marie came and knelt beside him.
“Your Highness,” she whispered.