xcerpt from Deleted Chapter set in Deyrolle’s taxidermy shop. Là Bas is a famous French novel about the medieval serial killer Gilles de Rais.
“I just bought Là Bas at one of the bouquinistes by the Seine,” Theodora told them. Averill had never loaned her his.
“A first edition?” Paul asked.
“I have no idea,” she smiled at him. Setting her glass on a nearby table, she took the book from her bag and handed it to him.
“Yes, black Moroccan leather.” He stroked the cover lovingly, looked inside and nodded. “Save it. Someday it will be worth a fortune.”
Theo shrugged. It was difficult to care if it would be worth a fortune someday. Her collecting impulses were all for love—of the object’s beauty, or the memory it evoked.
Paul thumbed through the novel quickly, then paused. “A toast for the Revenants from Gilles de Rais.” He lifted his glass, and quoted, “He sought the delicate delirium of art.”
“And she sought…” Casimir added, raising his glass to Theo. “Let us all share in that delirium.”
They all toasted her, and then each other again, sipped. They each briefly set aside their glasses to examine her prize. She watched as Là Bas went round all the poets before being handed back by a Hyphen.
Clearing his throat, Jules murmured, “Were Gilles de Rais’ crimes art?”
“Absolutely,” Paul said.
“Absolutely not,” Theo countered. They all looked at her indulgently, which pricked her pride. She had not even begun the book yet, but she refused the very idea of murder as art. No amount of gorgeous decoration or philosophic mumbo jumbo would convince her otherwise.
“Art is in the execution, as much as in the concept,” Casimir said, then his eyes widened with horror. “Forgive the pun.”
“Never.” Averill smiled.
Overlapping him, Paul declared, “Destruction can be the purest form of creation.”
“Good and evil are secret lovers,” Jules whispered, then blushed.
“Then are God and the Devil also?” Paul asked.
“Sacrilege,” Jules said, making it sound utterly salacious.
“Exactly,” said one disapproving Hyphen.
“Nonsense,” said another.
“Exquisitely evil idea,” said the third, in the same lewd tone as Jules.
Averill smiled. “Gilles de Rais was certainly enamored of both God and the Devil.”
“Deliriously.” Casimir laughed.
“To your chosen delirium, whatever it may be.” Smiling back, Theo lifted her glass in a toast. Champagne at noon was quite wicked enough.
The Hyphens finished their champagne and left. Her friends began to argue Huysmans’ views about Jeanne d’Arc, her influence on Gilles de Rais and on the history of France. Theo would find all that out when she read the book for herself. Her malaise with Deyrolle’s had bubbled away, and she set off on her own to investigate the nooks and crannies of the shop. There was no place else quite like this, and she would probably return with her sketchbook another day. The wild cats especially captured her attention. The lion had a magnificent mane. In one corner was a black panther side by side with a golden one. Wouldn’t Averill and Casimir love to pose with such beautiful and dangerous beasts!
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Genre – Historical Mystery
Rating – R