She was smiling into the mirror, tying to convince herself the freckles didn’t matter and weren’t the reason she was fast becoming an old maid at age twenty. An explosion sounded in the distance. She moved to the window and looked out. The brighter stars were already making themselves known, but there was still a glimmer of color in the distance beyond the jagged rooftops of the large town her family had encouraged to be built up around their castle. She went back to her mirror and practiced smiling again, but when she couldn’t get the smile to reach her eyes for the third time, she gave up. She threw on a thick cloak and headed out. A chair and guard now stood in the round hall area outside her door.
She smiled at the reason. The memory of that stranger popping out of her wardrobe like a jester with a shirt on all wrong lingered in her mind often these days. How had he gotten off the roof and vanished? By the time she was at the bottom of the tower, there were a few chaperone guards waiting for her. She might smile at the fact that one guy would be drawing the short straw and sitting in a chair outside her door at all hours now, but now having her every excursion into town hounded was a bother. She sighed. She probably should’ve had them long ago. Who knows what dangers she’d barely missed out of ignorance over the years? Something about their tagging along and calling attention to her by their presence, however, always felt more like a lightning rod than actual protection.
She let her feet choose the turns. Random choices were about all she could do to loosen the familiarity these streets had for her. Lots of shops were lit up and bustling with activity. The curving streets wound around each other even when there wasn’t a canal to cause them to do so. The plan of them had been done deliberately by her late great uncle when he was a young man, to keep things flowing. The alley ways were even designed with slopes so that a strong rain could wash them clean. From the odd smells that weren’t normal to the castle or even good company, it seemed like the strong rains were overdue. Before she knew it, she found herself moving up a small street that had a bit of commotion and a plume of smoke wafting from a restaurant. She mingled with the crowd, hoping to over hear something.
Near the front of the restaurant, some guests were standing around with tooth picks, and others were in the windows, still seated at their tables eating dinner and carrying on as if nothing had happened. Around back, several waiters were standing around the black and red constable telling their version of things. One had his clothes half burned off his back. The constable kept referring to him to ask more questions and confirm things. She drew close enough to overhear.
“Philippe saw the sailor when he dropped a platter off.”
“But Frank didn’t just before that point, right?”
“Nope. I didn’t. Plenty of dishes, but no sailors. “
“So Fred wasn’t the first one to see him, but he was the first one who had enough time to stop and get a good look at him?”
The guy with the burnt clothing nodded. “I didn’t think anything of him. It looked like he was going to wash some dishes, he even had some smoke going.”
“But he didn’t have a fire, and wasn’t using any coal from the bucket.”
“Smoke, but no fire. I’ll have to check into this, but I don’t see how that’s possible. There sure was fire after the explosion, though.” The constable walked over to the missing door at the back of the restaurant. Part of the roof and wall were now creating a rather large round doorway instead.