A New Excerpt from ‘About-Face’, the second book in the ‘Disfigured’ Series!
I’ve been thinking for a long time about this – I was absolutely certain in my mind that Erik would not have left this issue unaddressed. I just wasn’t sure how it would work out. But now I know, so here is a little teaser from Book 2. One caveat: to appreciate this excerpt fully, it helps to have already read the first book in the series, ‘Disfigured’.
Excerpt from ‘About-Face’:
Something about the unfamiliar motion of the steamer at night as it plowed through unrelenting waves, the faint but ever-present vibration of the engines, and the scent of the sea propelled Erik into strange dreams almost every night of the voyage. Some were the old, evil nightmares, but others were just peculiar dreams.
This night he came awake in the dark of his berth with the image of a man’s terrified face staring wide-eyed into his. It took a moment of cogitation to remember who the face belonged to; once he had identified the man, he relaxed back on his pillow with his hands behind his head, and spent a few minutes gloating in satisfaction. It had been a deed well done, and the memory was a happy one, at least for Erik. The man was Sylvie’s first husband. He smiled into the dark, and allowed his memories to carry him back to that time.
It was not long after he and Sylvie had engaged in a heated argument over (what else?) his unhealthy relationship with Christine. But even though Erik was angry with Sylvie after the tense conversation in the cavern, when he was alone there he found himself dwelling on something she had told him that night. When they were sitting quietly in the boat, just talking. This experience, sitting quietly and talking of many things, was as alien to him as flying to the moon, but he had enjoyed it nevertheless. It seemed like something friends might do.
But when Sylvie talked about her marriage, and her former husband, he found himself growing more and more upset and angry – not at her for a change, but at that faceless man. Sylvie’s face really was like an open book to Erik, and he read there much more than her reluctant words revealed. This man, this officer, had wed Erik’s gentle little cook and then abused her unmercifully when she was in his power. Erik could imagine him, oh yes. He would be tall and slim, handsome in his glittering uniform, with a high white brow. Erik found he hated this unknown man almost as much as he hated…well, never mind that; what was the damned man’s name, anyway? He was determined to find out.
About a week after that argument, something occurred to thankfully thaw the ice between Erik and his tiresome cook. She happened to encounter Daroga in the alley, while he was making a delivery. Erik had just collected his dinner tray from Sylvie and sent her on her way, when he heard her utter a panicked scream just outside the window, a cry of real fear, and found himself flying to her rescue. It was not a normal activity for him, to be sure, but he found he could not help himself. After reassuring her there was nothing to fear, somehow or other the experience put them back on good terms again. Was it because he came to her aid?
A few days after that, he ever so casually asked her one evening: was Bessette her married name? Sylvie said no, it was not. Looking a little shamefaced (as if somehow the divorce from that wife-beating beast was something to be ashamed of, and her fault), she had taken her family name back after the divorce.
As he helped Sylvie back through the window and handed her out the empty tray, he oh so casually asked her, what was her husband’s name, then? Was it something really ugly, la verrue perhaps? He tried to make it sound like a little joke. Sylvie had stopped and stared at him, nonplussed, clearly not amused, but he did not look at her; he pretended not to care in the least about the answer.
Rather reluctantly, but unable to resist telling him, she answered in a low voice, “Saint-Ange. His name was Denis Saint-Ange.” And then she closed her mouth tightly and it was clear she would not utter another word about him. What a name, Erik thought. It surely fit the officer of his imagination. The saintly name, however, did not in the least suit his irritating harridan of a cook; he could not blame her for resuming her family name.
Back in the cavern, thoroughly enjoying the tender piece of fish wrapped in a pastry crust that she had lovingly prepared for him, Erik turned his thoughts to Sylvie’s husband. Was he still in Paris? He set himself to making plans, and then he set those plans in motion. And then he set himself into motion. It was quite satisfying.
Smiling to himself, Erik rolled over onto his side in the berth, pulled the blanket up over his shoulder and sought sleep again. It would be hours before dawn. Only two more nights and the Oceanic would at last reach New York Harbor. He was just about ready to swim the rest of the way.