What Prices Paid_Epilogue

by Jim Rapkins

The Black Swan

Calais, France

23 September 1909

The unnamed man moved quickly between the tables and chairs in the ramshackle bar, a well known hangout for the officers and crew of the French gany fleet. This job made very little sense, but the pay was good, and at the end of the day, a little more smuggling wouldn’t hurt anyone. Smoke hung in the air, assaulting his nostrils in a pleasant onslaught. It reminded him of his native Marseilles, though the people there were more friendly than these jumped-up sailors. That was true sailing, on the open ocean. He sat down at an unoccupied table and gestured to the serving girl for a cognac. The pay was very good.

Five or so minutes later, one of the officers moved past him, gesturing at the unoccupied chair opposite him. “Is this seat taken, monsieur?”

The unnamed man waved generously, and gestured for the other to sit down. “Non, monsieur, please sit down.”

The officer did as instructed, doffing his cap onto the table. “A friend of mine said I should talk with you, monsieur.” He tapped the side of his nose lightly. “About a little business transaction.”

The unnamed man nodded and then pulled an envelope full of francs out of his pocket and into his lap, making sure to keep it under the table. With his free hand, he gestured at the officer’s hat. “That is an interesting hat, monsieur, may I look at it?”

The other nodded his assent. The unnamed man pulled the hat towards him, clumsily knocking it off the table and into his lap. Deftly, he stuffed the envelope into the hat and handed it back. “Thank you, monsieur, it is always nice to meet a gentleman.” He reached into his other pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He slid it slowly across the table. The other man grabbed for it, then looked surprised when the unnamed man’s snakelike reflexes stopped his hand in the air. “On your next patrol, monsieur, please don’t be there. If it goes well, perhaps you will be seeing me again?”

The officer nodded, grabbed the paper and his hat, and quickly got up from the chair, rubbing his wrist. The unnamed man smiled and took another long sip of cognac.

Yes, very well paid indeed.

* * * *

Chatsworth House

Derbyshire, Great Britain

24 September 1909

“Sir, there is a phone call from your tailor in Paris. He says the adjustments are fine, and he will send the coat as soon as it is ready.”

Devon Cavendish smiled. “That’s excellent Geoffrey. Thank you.”

The End

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