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Thread: Alexandria

  1. #1
    Registered User indydavid's Avatar
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    Alexandria

    A crescent moon hung above the Tidal Basin, the sweet scent of cherry blossoms wafting lazy on a cool night breeze. Bathed in floodlights, the Washington obelisk pierced the haze like a shimmering blade. A white rotunda glowed soft, empty except for Lincoln, the Emancipator alone in dark thought. The city of Washington was quiet on the outside, though the nocturnal side of the capital thrived behind doors tightly closed concealing the oiling of squeaky wheels and questionable deals.

    Megan Daugherty switched off the portable reading light, closed the dog-eared textbook and crammed both into her backpack. She’d been sitting on the same park bench for hours, studying for tomorrow’s exam at George Washington. To her, the business of law was just that: a business, but Megan felt that, because of so much injustice in the world, there would never be enough lawyers to go around. Her interest was intellectual property, with special attention to licensing and development, and she would be the best damned lawyer Hollywood had ever seen. Running multi-ringed fingers through shards of bright blue and orange spikes of hair, she stretched, yawned and thought of the twenty-three minute ride back to the apartment, and how good that lumpy, worn-out mattress would feel tonight. Slowly rising to her feet, she slung the backpack over the handlebars, hoisted herself up and over the frame, and the seat squeaked. Dangling from the rear was a small plate given as a token of appreciation by a best friend. It was nothing special, but Sally Prentiss wanted Megan to have something to remind her that world was better for their friendship. Blue and white letters announced, “Move, Grizzly,” and anyone who knew Megan Daugherty understood what it meant.

    Megan’s pre-law mentor was an absent minded professor whose methods seemed to dispel any myth of the acceptance of face values. To most of the others in the class, he was nothing more than a quack, a charlatan, a marauder with a titanic ego, but Megan knew better. He drove his students hard, let them reach the fallacies of their conclusions and misconceptions, but he was fair and impartial. His final exam to the class consisted of a single challenge, an expectation to define and explain what it was they expected of the tasks ahead, and how they would describe their places within an unknown and dynamic realm. Megan understood the exercise completely, and while the others stewed on responses and scribbled furiously with recommendations, referrals, transcripts, business plans and legal organizations, she spent less than a minute.

    The old man died quietly in his sleep three months ago, and left a legacy far beyond the teachings of any other. On the day they cleaned out his office, one item raised eyebrows high; a small, framed sheet of paper hanging on the wall behind his desk, the one on which Megan had penned her answer.

    “On this dusty and narrow path of life,” she wrote, “I expect to bite the balls off any grizzly that blocks the way and dares tell me I may not pass. Megan Daugherty.”

    In the corner of the sheet, beneath the professor’s crude sketch of a bear were the words, “Bravo, Miss Daugherty. You may now pass.” When he tried to hand the paper back to her, she tapped her temple.

    “I’ve got it here,” she had said smugly, then patted her breast and said, “And here. Keep it, Professor.”

    “Indeed,” the old man replied with a smile. “Indeed.”

    Still thinking about that moment, she spun the bike around, and shrieked at the dark figure standing right in front of her, the front wheel brushing his leg.

    “My God! I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

    “My sincere apologies, mon cher.” It was an old voice, heavy French, but tempered, sad, a weathered weariness impossible to miss. “I am fine. I did not mean to startle you. How about you? Are you injured?”

    Megan was reeling. This was Washington, and it wasn’t unusual to see people on the streets at such a late hour, the thought of muggers and thieves, bad guys in bad moods with bad intent was enough to make anyone wary.

    “No, no, I’m fine,” she fibbed, heart pounding like a sledgehammer against flesh and bone. “I am really sorry.”

    “It is all right,” he smiled. Nothing but a scuff on the shoe, I assure you.”

    A complete stranger, his soothing words had a calming effect. There was a splendid manner in the elderly Frenchman, that of an old-world gentleman, and there was a musical quality, a cadence in the way syllables flowed from his tongue. Megan had studied German, Latin of course, even dabbled in Swahili, but it was the romance, the harmony of French she most admired, and she would soon study the language herself.

    “Here,” she said, fumbling in her backpack. “Let me pay for that.”

    “No, it is all right. I insist. Go, young lady. The city of the night is a place of goblins and danger, and it is no place for a beautiful young woman who pedals her way through life.” The old man smiled in his curious way with phrases; an artist who painted with words.

    She closed the zipper of the bag. “Are you sure?”

    “Oui, quite,” he nodded politely. “Go now. Be safe. Goodnight.”

    “Goodnight, then,” she smiled.

    “Bonne nuit,” he waved with a tip of fedora. “Good night.”

    He watched as she pedaled away, blinking in and out of existence as she passed beneath each lamp post. The further she rode, the smaller she became, until finally she seemed to melt away into darkness. He kept looking even after the last light, hoping for one final glimpse, but she was gone, a specter of the night politic.

    After a long, slow walk, he finally reached the foot of the monument, tired, a tender bruise on his leg. Reaching the middle step, he turned to look out from the Jefferson Memorial at the lights across the Basin, and wondered how things could be so different. America was such a beautiful country, and yet its people seemed always to misjudge his people of France. Things could be different; they must be different if this was to succeed. Tyranny, anarchy, dictatorship, none had a place in civilized society, and no one understood that better than free people. But he understood better than anyone that tradition and honor run deep in the souls of compatriots. Sitting on the cold step, he looked at the monuments, each of them built in more than the honor of men, and recognized that tradition and heritage run deep, even here, so completely removed from his homeland. It was why he had traveled so far.

    The reverie was broken by a loud splash from the left, where three men stumbled and laughed beneath a cherry tree, carrying on intoxicated. Two pointed at the water, the third whirled around, falling backward. Thrashing wildly, a fourth, tossed in the water like a rag doll, struggled for footing.

    “Yeah, this is GREAT, real funny! Some bachelor party, you bastards,” The words slurred from his mouth. The two still on their feet laughed harder, while the third wretched and heaved at the base of a tree.

    Movement at his shoulder, and his heart raced. He braced, and without turning his head, remembered the line.

    “True stealth arrives on slippers of silk.” There was a long pause, then he heard what he hoped to hear, and it came sternly.

    “Blood flows heavy on an ocean of storms.”

    It was cryptic, but they understood. A password into an exclusive club, a child’s game for a deadly mission, it was a memorized greeting that they, and only they, were meant to have.

    “I am glad you have come,” he said, looking far away into the night. “I feared the worst. I was afraid that our expectations, our task, would prove too daunting.”

    Laying a tightly bound packet on the step, he clasped his hands across his lap and waited. The shadowy figure moved toward him and sat ten feet away, covered in a long coat, a hood pulled snugly around the face, dark slacks, black sneakers, large glasses covering the eyes; neither looked at the other.

    “You are ready, no?” asked the Frenchman.

    There was a nod.

    “You are a ghost, then, a specter?”

    “Call me what you will.”

    The response startled him, and he sighed. “The monies are ready. Shall we discuss the, how do you say, business terms here, or are you satisfied with the word of my people?”

    The covered head turned to look at him. “I will never question the honor of your people.”

    His head dropped lower with each nod, and he sighed again, resting chin in hand, massaging blood back into cheeks with boney fingers. “I thank you for that. My people thank you for what you would do for them.”

    The muffled, shuffling sound of running came from the left, and both heads turned to watch a lone jogger pass by. In another moment, the runner had passed out of sight.

    “Do you think Thomas Jefferson would have approved?”

    There was no response.

    “In light of recent events, I think he would. What was it your Kennedy said? Ah, yes. In the midst of gathered laureates, he observed the greatest collection of intelligent minds in one place since Jefferson had dined alone.”
    Finally, a muffled laugh.

    “You are human after all.” he observed. “I am Chardon. Jacques Chardon.”

    “Yes, Ambassador Chardon. I know.”

    “And you?”

    “I am a figment of your imagination; a shadow, and nothing more.”

    “Tell me, Shadow, why do you do this thing? So many Euros is a great deal of money, and yet you choose to give most of it to charitable organizations, while you yourself keep very little. Why are you willing place yourself in such jeopardy and do such a thing for a people you do not know, with so little regard for your own financial well being?”

    “There are those needier than I, Ambassador. I keep only that which I need. I do not do this for the money.”

    “Yes, but you could be wealthy beyond belief. Why?”

    “I have my reasons.” Shadow whispered. “Enough. Is there anything more you need of me?”

    Chardon shook his head; too much had been asked. He saw himself as an intruder into the soul of an enigma. He’d done well to prepare mentally and emotionally for the meeting by remembering the cause. Still, he wanted to know, to understand the mindset of one so removed from the events. No matter. What would happen would happen, and there was no way to alter preordained destiny. The meeting was at a close, and Chardon realized there was one other thing he wanted to ask.

    “Whoever you are, I must know. We have need of only the best, and surely that is you. But tell me. This is a dirty business in which we dabble. Tell me so I can say to them I heard it from your own lips. You are good?”

    “I am good. I am a marksman.”

    “Ah, Marksman, then tell me. What makes you so good? Surely anyone can find the target. With training and perseverance, anyone can pierce the apple from the trembling scalp. What makes you believe so much in yourself that you can do this thing?”

    “It is because I hide in plain sight. I come, I do, and I am gone before anyone knows I have been there. But I watch what they do, and how they react.”

    The old man nodded, “Of course.”

    “Chardon,” Shadow continued. “A bullet will do nicely, but I work in other methods as well. Just know that, when the job is done, it will be done, and the cabal will have no doubt that it is was me and me alone.”

    Chardon understood. They had searched the world for the right person, and when the selection was made, acceptance had rested with the knowledge that the choice was correct. This specter, this marksman was an unassuming figure with no suspicious traits, a fact in which there was no dispute over the first rule of assassination. Still, Chardon had to hear it for himself.

    “What will you do when they come for you?”

    “They will not find me, neither the legions of the wicked, nor the designers of the plan. Do you understand? They will try, but the killers need not kill the assassin. If they come close, I will do what I must to protect myself. I will kill them if I have to.”

    “They will not try.”

    “I wish I could believe you. Money, murder and the fear of implication wreak havoc on those who struggle for sleep. Now, if you please, I have one question for you.”

    Chardon knew it was coming.

    “You are dead,” the voice said. “I saw the reports, the newspapers, the broadcasts. You and the others, all murdered the night of je Fou’s coup d’etat. And yet, you are here.”

    There was no mistaking the misty plume of Chardon’s deep sigh. “Many of my friends are now dead, many I have known since a child; a child of life, a child of politics. Some were good, some not so good, but none so deserving such a fate at the hands of a coward. Yes, I survived. I took a bullet in the back, you know? It tore through me like the touch of the devil. I was running as fast as I could to escape the inevitable, my friends and I herded like lambs to the slaughter, and I knew it was coming, and so I ran. I was pulled from the madness by one who dragged me and threw me into a waiting car, and as we drove away, my angel, my guardian angel was killed, a bullet to the head. Our car was hit many times, many times. But we escaped. French resistance did not die at the iron hand of the Nazi regime, I assure you. We learned how to defend the freedom then, and we learned how to fight when the fight is good, and when best to leave it for another day. It was best to leave on that bad, bad night. But the fight is again at hand, and with your gloved fist we are ready to strike. I am alive tonight, but many parts of me are dead like of my dear friends, my countrymen who died even as I ran. It is, how do you say, a burden to dwell within me all the rest of my days.”

    “They will try to kill you again, you know. You and your fellow conspirators are in mortal danger because of this. They will come to kill you, and you must take due care, Ambassador.”

    The old Frenchman nodded slowly. “Mes amie, ours is a grand cause, but I am dead already.” Reaching down, he picked up the bound packet lying next to him and tossed it across, and the specter reached with gloved hand, rose briskly, and turned to look at the Jefferson Monument behind them.

    “I have sworn upon the altar of God...,” Chardon whispered.

    “Thomas Jefferson detested evil,” was the response. “It is time, Ambassador. Go home and tell your people change is at hand.”

    “I will do that. But how can I reach you?” he asked. “What do I call you?”

    The sound of heavy traffic on the George Washington highway filled the night air. Raising an arm in the direction of the road, a gloved finger extended toward a green and white highway sign, and the specter whispered so soft Chardon could barely hear.

    “You and I will never speak again. But if you wish, in moments with your grandchildren, you may give the name as they will come to know me. Call me Alexandria.”

    indydavid
    11/04/2009

  2. #2
    Registered User Granny5's Avatar
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