The Earl's Daughter is a paranormal mystery and the sequel to The Viscount's Son. You can now add it to your reading list at Goodreads.
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The Earl's Daughter – Chapter Three
Excerpt from Michael D’Angelo’s case notes
Tuesday 18th November
Met with Detective Schleck today. She wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, not that I expected a comedian. I wish Inspector Roulier had been available. Perhaps he’d be more forthcoming. Schleck added no further information to what I have already gleaned from the summary of evidence. But I can’t help feeling she withheld something.
Tomorrow I will meet with two of Emma’s work colleagues – John, a fellow Englishman, and Anais, a French native who has worked in the States. In the blog Emma called them ‘Jack’ and ‘Amelie’. Hopefully they can reveal something more than what’s in the police notes.
NB – I keep thinking about vampires. Obvious, considering Emma’s blog. But, I’m sure I came across some pearl of wisdom about them years ago. Perhaps I should contact Patrick at the Athenaeum. He was one of the few who didn’t judge me, and his knowledge of demonology was good.
* * *
There were few tourists entering the Louvre, and Michael was grateful for that. It would have been more difficult for John to find him during peak season. The glass panes of the Louvre’s famous pyramid reflected the steel sky above. Michael squinted, wondering if it was possible to count them to confirm or deny the urban legend that it contained exactly 666 panels. A cool breeze tousled his hair and he rubbed his gloved hands together.
Michael turned and a bearded man with dark hair approached. “Oui.”
“John.” The man extended his hand and Michael shook it.
“Thank you for meeting me.”
John shrugged as he unbuttoned a shirt pocket, extracting a packet of cigarettes. “I’d like to help.” He lit a smoke and exhaled.
Michael tried not to cough.
“Emma’s a good girl. Innocent.” John shook his head. “If only she’d told me.” His accent revealed his heritage – English, from the north.
Michael adjusted his glasses. “Told you?”
John took another puff, nodding. “The whole translation business. The blog. I’da talked her outta it.”
“Perhaps that’s why she didn’t tell you.”
John finished his cigarette as he led Michael through the few ambling tourists, under the glass pyramid and down stairs, through halls and up stairs until they came to a room with two small windows and shelves, floor to ceiling, filled with books, boxes and crates. Along the window sat two desks both messy with files, old coffee cups and stationery, but one notably more chaotic than the other. John pulled up the desk chairs.
“Have a seat.”
“This is Emma’s office, too?”
John pointed to the slightly more ordered desk. “That’s hers. Still no replacement for her.” He ran a hand through his dark hair and leaned back on the chair. “My work’s doubled since all this.”
“Tell me about Emma’s work.”
“Emma and I are conservators; we work with old books mostly.”
“They have books in the Louvre?” Michael looked up; he was pretty sure the Louvre galleries sat above them somewhere.
“No. They shove us here so we can use the expensive lab.” He nodded to a door between the bulging shelves. “The Louvre has connections with other museums, galleries and universities throughout the world. So our efforts can end up anywhere.” He scratched his beard. “It’s not a bad place to work. Gets annoying in peak tourist season though.”
“Two English people working in this tiny office in the middle of Paris.”
John laughed. “We got on, Emma and me, once she put me in my place.” He winked.
“So you’re ‘Jack’ in the blog. She also talks of Philippe and Amelie.” Michael opened his tablet to the case notes.
“By Philippe she meant Pascal, our gaffer. He’s a hard taskmaster and misses little, but we both consider him a bit of a prat. Full of himself. Amelie is Anais. She works here and was good friends with Emma. They spent time together on weekends, shopping and all that girly crap. I’ll call her, just a tick.” John picked up the phone and dialled, speaking swiftly in French. It was almost like another voice, so different from his northern accent.
“She’ll be here in a min.”
Michael opened a new page of notes and typed the date ‘19th November’ and John’s name. “So according to Emma’s blog, you came across the diary first?”
“Ah, that bloody thing. It was found after a fire, just like she wrote in the blog.” “You’ve read the blog?”
“The whole of bloody France read it, mate! The media had a bloody field day with it. Juicy story like that.”
“Poor Em. Old world stuff really grabbed her. You read some weird shite in our job. People in history were fucked up. ‘Scuse the language.”
“Please, not on my account.”
John looked out the small window at two pigeons circling the concrete. “That diary … Pascal asked me to do a quick assessment. We were already bogged down by a shitload of other artefacts out of a dig up Normandy way. He wanted to know if it was worth our time. Emma was right. I was too quick in my assessment. All I did was scan the pages to read some crazy shite in it.” He ran a hand through his beard. “I’ve been in this business for longer than Em and I’ve seen a few fakes in my time. This one smacked of it. The whole thing was a bloody joke. I decided it wasn’t a priority and put it aside. But Em …” He shook his head. “She had her heart set on it. Her big bloody eyes were all over it. Ah! I shouldn’t have let her have it.”
The door opened and a young woman stepped into the office. Her blond hair had a streak of pink and was tied up in a loose bun atop her head. She wore red, thick-framed glasses with lipstick to match and her tight-fitting dress was an explosion of colour.
“Bonjour.” John stood and kissed her cheeks either side in the French fashion. “Anais, this is Michael D’Angelo.”
Anais shook his hand and smiled. Michael could see she wasn’t as young as he had originally thought; a woman in her thirties, perhaps. “Enchanté,” Michael replied, softly.
Anais giggled, pushed a pile of files off the corner of John’s desk, and parked her bottom. “So, you are an investigateur of the paranormal, non?” Her eyes gleamed. Her English held a faint American accent, no doubt a result of her time working in San Francisco. Michael had read that in the case notes.
He patted down the cowlick at the back of his hair. “Ah, well …”
“I’ve googled you, monsieur! And you were a priest. How exciting!” She clapped her hands together.
“Really? A priest? Shite, sorry about the swearing, Father.” John looked genuinely regretful.
Michael raised his hand and shook his head. “Please.”
“So you think he really is a vampire? This mysterious Nathaniel? That’s what the blog suggests.” She leaned forward, seeming to wait with bated breath for his reply.
Michael adjusted his glasses. “Well, I am only just beginning my investigation—”
“You do!” Her mascara-lined eyes burned through her lenses into his very mind, it seemed. “You do think he’s a vampire! I knew it.” She jumped up and clapped again.
“Well, I might ask you a few questions about him?” He wondered if she had some power to read people’s subconsciousness. Did he believe this idea of vampires after all? What was that thing he couldn’t remember? Could she tell him that, too? He cleared his throat. “About Nathaniel. I understand you were the only other person in Emma’s life who saw him.”
Anais’s shoulders slouched and she sat down on the corner of the desk again, her excitement suddenly gone.
“Oui, that is correct.” She took her glasses off and patted the corners of each eye.
“I am sorry.” Michael’s voice retained the softness of the confessional, a skill he was thankful for at times like this.
“It is all right.” Anais sniffed, putting her glasses back on. “I am happy to answer your questions, Père.”
“Please call me Michael. I am no longer a priest.”
Anais’s eyes seemed to turn a deal sadder. “Of course, Michael.”
Michael knew the question that lingered in the forefront of her mind and he wanted to divert the conversation away from that quickly. “Did you have the opportunity to talk with this Nathaniel?”
Anais shook her head. “I did not meet him. I only saw him the night Emma first came across him at the Gypsy Bar. He was very handsome, dark shiny hair.”
“All the handsome ones have dark hair.” John winked and Anais ruffled his crop of dark waves.
“Of course they do, John.” She smiled. “He had smouldering looks, and he was tall and strong-looking. The type of dark handsome stranger us girls fantasise about.”
Michael shifted on his seat and adjusted his glasses again.
“You’ll have to excuse her frankness, Michael,” John said. “French women are more free with their fantasies than their British sisters.”
“Ah, of course.” Michael cleared his throat again. “Did you hear him speak at all? Did you catch anything of his conversation with Emma that night?”
“No,” Anais replied. “I had found my own company by that stage.”
Michael nodded and added a note to his tablet.
“I only glanced their way now and then. I am sorry. I’m probably not very much help. I wish I could help more. I miss Em.”
“It’s all right,” Michael said, his voice soft again. “Perhaps there is something you observed that you have not considered as important. Some small detail that you noted that night that blended with everything else?”
Anais frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Perhaps if you closed your eyes?” “Close my eyes?”
Michael nodded. “Sometimes it helps to concentrate, to allow your mind to focus on the memory of him. You could describe him again – how he looks and maybe some small detail lodged in your memory will reveal itself.”
Anais looked at John, who winked. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure the priest doesn’t have his way with you.”
Anais gave him a light smack on his head. “Don’t be cheeky!”
Michael finished a note on his tablet and squirmed in his seat again. Flirts made him uncomfortable.
“Okay.” Anais nodded. “I will close my eyes if you think it will help.”
Michael stood and put the tablet on his chair. “Would you mind if I put my palm on your forehead?”
Anais smiled. “I don’t mind. But why?”
“It’s hard to explain. It can help people to focus sometimes.”
She shrugged. “Sure.” And she closed her eyes.
Michael reached out and put his hand on her forehead and the other rested on her shoulder. He closed his own eyes and took a deep breath. It was time to access his gift, that secret part of his mind that would allow him to see what others could not. “Now, go back to that memory, that night at the club. When you first saw him, what were you doing?” His voice grew stronger, deeper. It always morphed a little when he did this.
Anais took a deep breath, too. “I waited at the bar. I turned around to smile at Em. He stood a small distance behind her. Then he approached our table.”
“Catch that moment.” The images were blurry, but with effort he could make them clearer. Michael pressed his hand more firmly to her forehead and concentrated. “Tell me what you see.”
“He is tall. It is dark and gloomy, but I can see he is very handsome. His hair is groomed and slick. He’s wearing a black jacket, even though it is quite warm in the bar. He wears a black silk shirt underneath.”
An image of Nathaniel formed like a reflection in a pool of water. Michael shivered. “Where is he looking?”
Anais tried to turn her head but Michael gripped her forehead more firmly, his hand growing hotter still. “There’s a man, oh!” She gasped. “It’s the man who I met! Nathaniel was looking at him.”
“Where is the man?”
“He’s at the end of the bar. I can see his reflection in the mirror. He is ordering drinks.”
“Good. You’re doing very well, Anais. Now, play the memory again, slowly. What happens next?”
Anais’s forehead warmed, but Michael maintained his hold. Just a little longer, he thought.
“The bartender, she gives me a drink, and tells me it is from the man at the end of the bar. I look at him and he smiles at me. I smile back and lift the drink to him. He walks over to me and asks my name. I tell him it is Anais and he tells me my eyes are like emeralds.”
Michael frowned. The compliment bore similarity to those Nathaniel himself had paid Emma during their courtship, as documented in the blog. “Keep playing the memory, slowly. What else do you notice about him?”
Anais frowned under his hand. “He has light hair, blue eyes, very handsome. He’s young. Much younger than I thought at the time, but his words sound very old. Too old for such a boy. He smiles at me – a lot. I look back at Emma then.”
“What do you see?” Michael tightened his grip even further, his palm was burning now.
“Him, Nathaniel. He is with her, at our table. They are talking. I turn back and the man who bought me a drink, he is looking at them. Oh, my!” Anais took a sharp gasp and stood away, her eyes opened and her forehead was red as though she had been standing in the sun for too long. Her eyes wide with fear, mouth open.
“Anais? You all right?” John stood and reached for her. “Michael? What’s going on?”
Michael shook the heat from his hand and caught his own breath. Her memory had been strong and its visioning had taken a lot of energy; he would need to rest soon. “She will be all right. I’m sorry. Sometimes this process is physically tiring.”
Anais’ hands shook as they went to her cheeks, and she whispered, “Mon Dieu!
“What’s wrong? Michael? What’s happening here?” John looked at him with a frown.
“Anais.” Michael’s voice had reverted to the soft tone of the confessional. “Now breathe easily and tell us what you saw. What has made you so upset?”
She inhaled slowly and closed her eyes. Michael sensed her calm. She opened her eyes again. “The man, the one who bought me a drink?”
“Yes?” Michael encouraged.
“He had a small wound on his neck. Very faint, almost healed but I saw it clearly.”
Michael frowned. “Go on.”
“There were two small pricks. Just like she said in her blog. Two small red puncture wounds on the side of his neck.”
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