Perfume

Dust was settling on his head. The scratching sound had changed into a booming sound and now a ringing sound in his ears. Leopold twisted his head around to assess the damage done. As his neck turned it sent spasms through his upper body. He could see right through the hole left in the wall. A huge space the size of 5 men standing side by side. Through it just another empty room.

“Who tipped them off?” He breathlessly asked himself. “That bell boy has some questions to answer. I don’t tip that well in order to be found!”

Gently he placed his palms on the ground and tried to lift himself. His shoulders quaked and he fell heap like on the floor. Through the ringing he could hear quick footsteps in the hallway. Judging by their percussiveness it was the hotels owner, Madam Prie, coming to see what had happened.

She burst suddenly into the room, half expecting to find her guest blown into a thousand pieces, half expecting to expose Leopold as teh culprit  She wasn’t expecting to find the strong, deliberate, calm man who had checked in yesterday morning lying bedraggled on the floor; blood seeping from a gash in his forehead.

Leopold hated others seeing him so vulnerable, least of all a woman as beautiful as Madam Prie, he was embarrassed. Yet he’d trained himself never to blush, he wasn’t going to show her any colour.

“Mr. Haman!? Are you all right?” Her soft, southern accent soothed the ringing in his ears.

“I’m afraid my dear that I’m quite how you see me to be. Struck down by the force of that blast and unable to right myself.” He tried once again to lift his medium-sized frame from the floor. He couldn’t.

Madam Prie stepped over to his side and lay her hand on his chest, “Take it easy sir, help is on its way.” He believed her. He allowed her perfume to send him silently into unconsciousness.

*Sigh*

Carriage in the dark woodsLeopold sat alone in the dark, stark carriage. His body shivered from the biting cold as the potholes and rocks strewn across the road sent judders through the entire vehicle. He glanced out of the open window.

“Why do they build roads through such foreboding woods?” He thought idly to himself. “The trees call, ‘danger’ to any and all who venture in. It’s almost as if those who build these roads are in cahoots with the highway men.”

The steady pace of the carriage abruptly changed. From comfortable canter to a jarring stop in the blink of an eye.

A crash.

Leopold craned his head through the window to ascertain what was happening. All he saw was the body of his driver slumped on the leaf strewn ground beside the bedraggled carriage. Slowly Leopold took his position back in the centre of the bench seat and sighed.

“I should have listened to the trees; now I’m being robbed.”

Leopold didn’t like being robbed because he didn’t like where it was destined to lead. He straightened out his over-jacket and waited for the inevitable intrusion into his carriage.

“Ya money or yer life!” Came the snarled threat accompanied by a slender blade protruding through the window.

“What an odd request. I hardly imagine that if I offer you my life that you’d leave my money with my corpse. Excuse me for saying but you don’t seem a very reputable chap.”

There was a short, confused silence before an identical threat was made, “I said ya money or yer life!”

“My dear sir, what makes you think I have sufficient funds to guarantee my own life or indeed the life of anyone else? I have no great riches in my life, least of all about my present person. The only thing of value I posses is my man servant who I am now quite sure is dead.” None of this was a bluff. Leopold’s nature was to be as direct and truthful as possible in such situations.

“Stop ya messin’ with me ya pompous windbag and fetch yer wallet out before I run you through like yer mate over there.”

Leopold sighed once more. His hand reaching gently for the door of his carriage, coming to rest a mere inch from the threatening blade. He gave a small push and the door swung open. The thief took a step backward. As Leopold alighted his carriage he grasped inside his under-jacket and produced a tired old brown wallet. Confused, the thief simply stood motionless, his jaws ajar.

Leopold decided to rain the contents of his wallet in the thief’s face; it was mainly coins.

What followed was a series of expertly delivered blows and strikes that left the thief collapsed, gasping for air and motioning for clemency on the heavily trodden floor. Leopold gathered himself and once again straightened out his over-jacket.

“As I informed you, my personal wealth at present amounts to little more than a few coppers. Not nearly the value of a life like mine.”
Taking the thief’s blade he ran it through his own wallet before skewering it through the thief’s hand and into the ground. “People with sufficient wealth normally pay people such as me, with sufficient skills, to protect them from people such as you.”

Leopold leapt up to the drivers seat of the carriage and continued his journey, leaving the thief with his poultry ransom and a scare he wouldn’t soon forget.

Boom

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow. That was an adage that Leopold knew all too well. On numerous occasions he’d been in taverns and bars and witnessed seemingly innocuous disagreements alchemy into all out mass brawls. But he was a cool head. Often surrounded by such chaos part of his skill was to not be enveloped by it. Leopold had long ago lost the ability to flinch.

Flaking paint textureThen he heard it. A small, insignificant scratching sound. Repeating in beats of three.

*Tink* *Tink* *Tink*

He turned his head to face the wall he thought the sound was coming from and he felt the corse fibres of his uncomfortable scarf pull at his three-day old stubble.

“What on earth is that?” He thought. “It’s too percussive to be a mouse gnawing at the skirting board; couldn’t be tap dripping either.”

When Leopold had rented the room he’d expressly asked that the two rooms either side remain unoccupied for the duration of his stay. Slowly he rose from the chair which furnished the otherwise bare space and silently made his way towards the wall.

*Tink* *Tink* *Tink*

“What ever is it!?”

Leopold pressed his ear against the flaking paintwork and listened. The noise stopped. All that remained was his breathing and the slamming of a door out on the landing.

“Flint!” Suddenly he realised what the sound had been; two flint stones crashing together in the hope of igniting a spark. Leopold instantly understood that they’d found him yet again. He also understood that as he stood there with cheek resting against the partition wall that a short powder fuse was burning its way towards a makeshift bomb. He surmised that he hadn’t the time to supposed so instead he readied himself. Sat down and braced for the blunt force that was about to strike him.

How things often escalate! A disagreement in a bar; or even a small scratching sound, ‘tink, tink, tink.’

*Boom*

– Image courtesy oDietmar Down Under –