What is a blue devil?
* * 19 * *
Dantalion dove through the window, shattering the pane of glass. With a roll, he landed and kept running, gripping his wide-brimmed hat in his hand. “Au revoir!” he shouted as he leapt onto the back of a horse and rode off into the night.
Once in the relative safety of the forest, Dantalion dismounted and took the bridle out of the horse’s mouth.
“You know,” said the horse, “if you’re really going to try and keep up this whole French persona, you’re going to have to learn more of the language than ‘au revoir‘.”
“It’s worked for me so far,” said Dantalion. “Besides, it doesn’t really matter if they think I’m French. All that matters is that they know I’m not me.” The phone in his pocket began to ring. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” he said to his horse as he retrieved the phone, “I have some business to take care of.”
“Your grace,” said a desperate voice on the other end of the phone. “Something terrible has happened.”
“Yes, Julian,” said Dantalion in a suddenly much more formal accent. “What is it?”
“Your grace, I’m afraid . . . I’m afraid the duke has been murdered.”
“Surely you’re joking,” said Dantalion, trying hard not to let the grin on his face reveal itself in his voice. “I just spoke to my father this morning.”
“I’m so sorry, your grace. Perhaps you should cut your pilgrimage short and return home.”
“You’re absolutely right, Julian. I suppose the holy land will have to wait a while longer before being graced with my presence. I shall see you tomorrow.” He hung up the phone.
“Wow,” said the horse. “Even I almost would have believed that if I couldn’t see you.”
“Thank you,” said Dantalion with a bow. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get some rest before I go visit my dearly departed father.” With a final bow, he removed his wide-brimmed hat and matching blue cape and placed them carefully in the hollowed-out trunk of a dark oak tree alongside a long bloody saber.
The next day, Dantalion was met at the front door of his family’s estate by his faithful servant, Julian, a lanky sort of man with a handlebar mustache that completely contradicted his incredibly formal and elegant demeanor. “Your grace, it is so good to see you even under such . . . distressing circumstances. I trust your flight in was smooth?”
“Yes, Julian, thank you,” Dantalion said as he handed the servant his coat.
Julian followed Dantalion into the house, placing the coat on a stand as they passed. “There is an Inspector Randolph in the parlor awaiting your arrival.”
“Good,” said Dantalion. “I have a few questions for him.”
In the parlor, Dantalion’s presence was announced by a slight clearing of the throat of Julian which snapped the inspector to his feet. “Ah,” he said a bit too informally for Dantalion’s taste. “You must be the duke.” He extended his hand.
“Thanks to some fool offing my father, yes. I guess I must.”
The inspector retracted his hand nervously. “Yes, your grace. My sympathies to your family.”
“Naturally,” said Dantalion as he took a seat. “Now, what do we know of my father’s killer?”
“Well, your grace,” said Inspector Randolph, “it seems that your father was murdered by a rather notorious French assassin.”
“Yes. Julian here saw the man and described him as a short, slender man wearing a blue cloak and hat. He killed your father with a single thrust of his blade. No one knows how he got in the house or why he targeted your father. All we really do know is that he leapt from that window right over there.”
Dantalion noticed for the first time the boarded-up window in the direction the inspector was pointing.
“If he is so notorious, inspector,” said Dantalion coolly, “surely you must have a name that you can give me. Something that I can carve into the bedpost at night while I ponder my revenge on this blackguard.”
The inspector squirmed nervously. “Unfortunately, your grace, we have no real name. We merely have the name that the press has given him over the years.”
“Say it,” said Dantalion hungrily. “Say it.”
“The Blue Devil.”
Dantalion sat back in his seat and pressed his fingers together. “Yes,” he said. “I do believe I’ve heard of him before.” He repressed a smile. “Now tell me everything you know about him.”