The evil hiss of the guillotine blade could easily be heard from where Arabella stood. Dressed as she was, she would hardly be noticed among the rest of the crowd. With anxious eyes she scanned the savage faces around her and shuddered at the maniacal gleam shining in many an eye. Above the curses and shouts that surrounded her could be heard the screamed pleas for mercy from Madame la Guillotine's next ill-fated victim.
One agitated thought stood out above the rest.
Where is he? Where is this mysterious man she had been instructed to meet?
Her true purpose for being here among the seething mass of "loyal citoyens" lay deep in the pocket of her worn, tattered cloak. The note, sealed with wax, must find its way to the intended recipient for it was a matter of life and death.
Suddenly, from behind, two grimy arms wrapped around her waist and the strong odor of unwashed body engulfed her. Immediately she turned and opened her mouth to demand her release only to be cut off by the stranger's loud guffaw and a sarcastically mumbled, "S'cuse me, mamzelle."
Before her stood an old man dressed in rags. Arabella noticed amid the grime that his left eyelid drooped and crooked yellow teeth protruded from his too-small mouth.
His eyes traveled up and down lingering momentarily on her face and then he loudly continued, "My, my but you are a pretty piece." This was followed by another loud snort.
With a gleam in his eye, the stranger angled his face toward hers as if he might kiss her. Arabella began to recoil in disgust but instantly arrested the movement when she heard the stranger whisper softly in her ear, "Do not be afraid. I, too, am a member of the Guild and have come for the note." Arabella was too stunned to react any further.
In a flash, the stranger's hand dipped in, and out, of her cloak pocket carrying the note nestled within. In little more than a blink of an eye, the stranger then melted back into the crowd and was gone.
Feeling somewhat dazed, Arabella realized she had, indeed, just encountered the man she was sent here to meet. For within the folds of the stranger's dirty white shirt, she had glimpsed the wilted petals of a purple flower. The very sign she had been told to look for.
With the merest of smiles, Arabella turned slowly and began to limp back the way she had come. It was time for her to rendevous with Lady Hastings and report her first successful mission as a member of the Violet Guild.
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