CHAPTER 9: RED MARIE
“Luke. I know lifelong habits are hard to break, but please don’t be stupid.”
“Get out of my house.”
“Don’t be stupid Luke.”
“Out. Of my house. Now.”
“Luke. Don’t be stupid. And put the knife down.”
“I warned you what would happen if you showed up in my kitchen the last time we met. I thought I made my feelings very clear.”
“You did. And I still have the scars. As I’m sure, do you. Put the knife down, Luke, or I‘ll show you how it’s used.”
“I‘ve nothing to learn from you.”
Marie listened intently. Her father’s voice was so cold and full of hatred that she hardly recognised it. The stranger’s had an almost animal growl to it. It was the voice of a man who could do terrible things without a second thought.
“Ah, but there’s truth in that. How many have you killed now, Luke? More than my tally I’d bet. How many necks have you stretched by now?”
“At least one less than I should have. And if they catch you around the village they’ll see to it I stretch yours.”
“Then best I move along, perhaps. For both of us.”
“What do you want?”
“I’ve none for you.”
“It’s not for me I ask it. Wouldn’t want your money, dripping in blood as it likely is. No, not for me, but for my children, hungry and shivering under the bridge to guard against the wind. Hoping that father will bring back a crust for them to gnaw upon.”
“I owe nothing. Not to you or your children.”
The coldness in her father’s voice when he said that made Marie shudder. That was not how she remembered him. Even the stranger seemed taken aback.
“Come now, Luke. That’s not you.”
“I’ll say this once. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am or what I can do. Get out.”
“Luke.” the stranger’s voice was softer now, almost plaintive “they’re starving.”
“Along with half the world.” Luke’s tone was pitiless “They’re nothing to do with me. I’ve got my own to look after.”
“Ah yes, your little girl…”
Marie started back from the door as there was a ferocious noise, a struggle, chairs being kicked over, hissing and cursing.
“Don’t you even think of it!” she heard her father roaring over the sound of the stranger’s frenzied struggling. From the sound she guessed that her father had him pinned to the table, perhaps holding the knife over his face “Don’t even talk about her! You try to get at me through her and you won’t have to wait for me to hang you, I’ll kill you right here where you stand!”
She heard the sound of boots scraping on the floor, someone of great weight being hauled roughly to their feet.
“Get out!” Luke said again, and she could hear the stranger being literally thrust at the door. There was silence.
Marie began to feel light-headed. The wood on her hands began to feel less solid, as if it was melting to mist. The sounds around her were more distant, as if they were coming through water. The Lethe water was wearing off, she was starting to wake up.
Not yet, she thought desperately, at least let me see him! But then she caught something.
The stranger was speaking, and she strained to hear the words before the room faded away totally.
“I didn’t come here looking…ight. I did not…to ro…r threate…ou, Luke.” She was only catching every second word.
“Strange day.” she thought she heard the stranger say “Strange day to greet another.”
And then she woke up.