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A dagger. A jewel encrusted home for the soul of violence. It fell silently to the floor beneath my feet, until the deafening clatter of the blade hitting the cobblestone pierced my ears. The sound, even though I knew it was coming, made me jump.
I shrieked as I realized what I’d done. I fell to the ground and buried my hands in my hair. I yanked my black locks and sobbed violently. There were no tears, only the sound of my thrashing sobs and the dying breaths of the fallen man lying on the floor.
A small drop of ruby red drifted from my right index finger and onto my tattered black topcoat. I held my gaze on the spot, afraid that if I averted my gaze it would disappear. The spot began to disappear before my very eyes, and in that moment the drop became my soul being. I focused only on it, and I was only reminded of my senses when I heard footsteps. They were at the bottom of the cobblestone path at least.
I stood up, working mechanically, and bolted for the back door to the small apothecary. I paused.
“Help…me…please…help…me,” the dying man pleased desperately. He wheezed and sputtered, making blood spatter onto the walls and surrounding shelves.
“I can’t, I’m sorry,” I whispered regretfully. I was afraid to stay longer. The footfalls were getting closer and closer each moment I lingered, considering the possibilities. I was in grave danger.
I carried my shoes so I could quickly and quietly pad along the cobblestone without making noise. I got three blocks away before I slowed my pace to a walk. I knew I must get to the gazebo outside town before the sun was highest in the sky. I passed many people on my way to the stables whose faces held expressions of disgust and annoyance as I pushed my way through them.
I saddled my black stallion Levi and began on my way to the gazebo.
By mid morning, I had ridden to the gazebo on Levi. There was a poor, tired looking man in rags sitting on the farthest bench in front of me. I tied the stallion to the post outside the gazebo steps and trudged up the stone steps. I sat down beside the man in rags and laid my head back.
He greeted me, “Good morning miss.” He smiled a nearly toothless smile at me and folded his hands in his lap.
“Listen my good sir, I have sinned greatly and you shall want nothing to do with me. I am to be a condemned prisoner when the constable discovers my dark deed,” I told him solemnly as I bowed my head.
“Then tell me child, your story and when you’re done I shall pray with you. You’re demise shall not be painful if you repent and ask for forgiveness.”
I started to search back to the depths of my mind, my thoughts of the last few days slicing my brain, making it raw. I was numb and began to enter an almost hypnotic state, but the ragman shook me and I snapped back to reality.
The sun was beginning to go westward, and in only a few short hours it would sink to the depths behinds the hills. The moon would take over the night, washing the calm lake behind the gazebo in pale moonlight. Then the sun would rise again greeting the twittering birds with warm light, while the constable came for me with a smug look on his face as we rode back to the station.
I sighed heavily and began my story, “Three days ago when I walked into the blacksmith shop to pick up my brother’s hammer, I saw him. Pale, tall, and handsome with round chestnut eyes that accentuated his high cheekbones and straight brown hair that was almost down to his chin. He was gorgeous and his tenor voice infatuated me.
“There was only one word that could describe me when I snapped back into reality: fear. Not fear for me, but fear for this man. For I knew if I talked to him, he would surely die.
I took a few shallow breaths, and continued, “My father’s dying wish had been that my brother, Jasper kept me away from any man. Jasper would never contradict my father. He was the golden child, my father’s prize possession. To him I was his little rag doll maid. No strength, no brain, no guts, no glory. I was just little maid Raven, the stand by child, the shoe shiner, the seamstress, the baker; his own personal slave. Ever since my mother’s death three years ago I was treated like a slave, not a daughter. He wanted no one else to enjoy his personal maid services except him and Jasper, so I was kept away from other men.
Occasionally though, I saw a man and I talked with him walk with him, and Jasper would catch me. And sure enough three days later a body would turn up completely maimed with no traces of evidence on it. A few days later the village would all gather at the top of the hill for a funeral. All those poor men, condemned at the moment they caught my eye.
I’ve tried my best to stay away from the village’s most handsome men, but they keep finding me, and so the bodies pile up with no man to blame. The truth has hidden in the back of my isolated mind, knowledge that Jasper is a murderer, eating me alive from the inside out.”
A silent tear rolled down my cheek to my chin, and fell to the cobblestone making a small dark spot. “The man in the blacksmith shop walked to me and smiled sweetly as he said, ‘Hallo, my name’s Gabriel. What’s yours?’ My stomach churned but I was elated that he talked to me so I said, “Hallo, I’m Raven. It’s a pleasure to meet you Gabriel, but I really must be going.’ I curtsied for him and attempted to hurry away but he called out to me, “Raven, wait!’ I stopped dead in my tracks and wheeled around so fast I fell, but Gabriel caught me right before I hit the floor. ‘Please,’ he whispered, ‘Please, wherever you’re walking, let me walk with you.’ He turned my head and locked his emerald eyes on my baby blues and pulled me to my feet gently. In that moment I trusted this man with my life, he would never hurt me, and with my whole soul I wished he could really trust me.
I was becoming hungry and a bit parched too. I had absolutely no time for such things if I were to finish my story; I was only about half way through. I started again,” I wanted to bolt swiftly away from him, but for several reasons I could not. For one, he was faster than me for sure, he wasn’t holding a five-pound hammer (running with tools in my hands is not one of my talents), and his eyes were engaging me, preventing me from breaking away.
“I gave in, and I was not proud of myself. In fact at that moment, I despised myself. I gave in to Gabriel, but at what cost. Would he live another hour? Another day? Another week? How long would he still walk the earth?
“I walked down the alley with Gabriel swiftly and quietly, trying not to be noticed. I did not do so well. I was staring dreamily into Gabriel’s eyes when we rounded a sharp corner and I walked straight into Jasper. That was the second time Gabriel caught me in the nick of time today. Alas, I was torn, I wanted Gabriel to sweep me away so we could run, but if that happened Jasper would just torture him, before he killed him. I could not do that to this man I adored,” I shook my head, “No, I could never do that to Gabriel.
“Jasper, putting on the sweetest, dumbfounded smile he possibly could, stood up and said, ‘ Sorry miss, sir. Would you please come home with me? I’d like to make you some tea to apologize.’”
I scoffed, “of course Jasper would find us and invite his own sister and friend in like strangers. ‘No, we really must be-‘ Gabriel cut me off, ‘Of course! That’s very kind of you sir. What’s your name?’ Jasper clicked his tongue, ‘Jasper, Jasper McCormick, pleased to meet you…’ Gabriel cut in, ‘Gabriel Goldman, son of the baker, and this is Raven. We’d be glad to come.’
“There I was at the hand of Jasper, once again, and it was the unsuspecting Gabriel who put me there. I was in the line of beating, while his case was worse, death. Jasper would surely kill him tonight, and I the continuous offender of my father’s wish, would get off with a few abdominal bruise, a black eye, and a but or two. My life is the official case of life isn’t fair. I put all those men in danger; I get off mostly unscarred, and those poor, gorgeous men die.
“I tried to break away, but Gabriel, taking nothing of it, held me back tight enough that I couldn’t. We got in Jasper’s carriage and the clip-clop of the cobblestone and whatever he put in the tea, made me drift off to sleep.”
I sneezed, “I woke up and the sun had set behind the hills. I wondered where I was and I realized that Gabriel was surely gone. I. Raven Blackmoore had failed again. I let another man die because of my foolishness.”
I paused, and the ragman took advantage of this, “Excuse me, uh Raven, didn’t you say Jasper’s last name was McCormick and yours was Blackmoore?”
“Sorry, Jasper and my last name is Blackmoore. His fake name is Jasper McCormick so he’s not noticed.”
“Oh, that makes more sense. Sorry for interrupting.”
“I sobbed while I staggered to the big house and climbed the tall, winding staircase. When I reached my room, Gabriel was laying on the bed, tied up. He had a black eye, a cut above his left eye, and a ragged cloth tied around his right arm just about soaked with blood. He was unconscious and badly hurt, but still alive. I felt a stupid, little smile creep onto my lips, but it quickly disappeared as soon as Jasper walked into the room.
“A silent salty drop fell down my cheek. ‘Why?’ I asked Jasper. ‘Why what?’ He asked innocently, but when he spoke again every word was more full of infuriating rage than the last, ‘I left him alive,’ he paused, ‘ just so you could kill him yourself!’”
Now tears started to roll my cheeks, making little dots on the cobblestone beneath the bench I was sitting on. “Jasper wanted me of all people to kill Gabriel. Of course I would be more merciful than Jasper would, but how could he expect me to kill a man.
“I knew that I had to kill Gabriel just to show him mercy… but I had an idea. It was far fetched and cruel, but it spared Gabriel, although a life was still lost.”
I sighed, “This is the part I’m to be in trouble for. I found a man that looked very much like Gabriel in town the yesterday afternoon. I told him that I would like to meet him at the small apothecary tomorrow morning. That was very convenient for him, considering the fact that he was the owner of the small store.
“The look-alike’s name was Eli; knowing his name made me feel worse. I came home that night knowing the next day would be the worst of my life, tonight would be my last night a free woman, and tomorrow would be the last time I ever got to talk to Gabriel. If I could only get the constable to believe me over my brother; but alas, not good constable would ever believe a woman over a man.
“If I may, I will skip ahead to the next morning,” I told the ragman, pausing, “I told Gabriel my plan, he seemed upset, but I guess he wanted to live, so he went along.
“As soon as Jasper went out for his morning ride, I got him downstairs and to the stable. I gave him our second-fastest horse, Colbert.
“Gabriel rode out to the nearest village, while I rode my stallion, Levi to the apothecary to meet Eli.
“As I walked in from the stables to the apothecary, I caressed the handle of the small dagger I carried. I got to the door and Eli unlocked it for me. I told him I wished to look at some lye soap, maybe some with a lavender scent to it, so he led me back to the third isle of colorful shelves. That was when I unsheathed my knife and thrust if upon Eli’s chest. I dropped the jewel-encrusted dagger and fell to the floor and began to sob, as Eli died on the floor.
“That was when I ran back to the stables, untied Levi, and rode out here. Now I’m finished with my story, I would very much like to pray and then sleep. I would like one more night under the stars.”
The ragman prayed with me and then I slept. Soon enough, morning came and brought the constable with it. I was tried for the murder of Eli Kitchner, which I was guilty of, and several other murders, which I was not guilty of. I did not tell the jurors that I was not guilty of these crimes, they wouldn’t believe me anyways, and Father would not like it if I blamed Jasper.
I lived only three more days, and the hours trickled by slowly before I was brought into the town square, where the hangings took place. My last thought before the executioner pulled the lever was as followed: Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins, please forgive me. And please, please let Gabriel Goldman find a new home.