This acclaimed BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment remains faithful to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic novel. Set in St Petersburg in the second half of the 19th century, the psychological thriller tells of a desperate young murderer caught in a web of his own guilt. Rodya Raskolnikov (John Simm) is a poverty-stricken student living among the fetid alleyways and crumbling tenements of St Petersburg. Intense and highly intelligent, Raskolnikov believes he is among a class of men destined for greatness and as such is permitted to breach ‘normal’ moral values. He decides to test his courage and integrity by killing a pawnbroker, a mean old woman whom he is sure nobody will miss. The murder, however, only serves to draw Raskolnikov into a nightmare world in which he is dogged by guilt, paranoia and alienation. Faced with the wily investigator Porfiry, who sets up a complex series of traps, encounters and conversations, can Raskolnikov escape his own conscience or the seemingly inevitable punishment? Simm’s Raskolnikov is a “truly startling, genuinely mature performance” –The Guardian
Amazon Prime, now *** Filmed in St. Petersburg *** Never released in the USA *** All English speaking
Lucian’s carriage was a large chaise-and-four, drawn by four splendidly matching greys. It would cover the twenty-three miles in less than three hours. They were heading for Lucian’s estate, Whitehaven, near Romney in Kent.
Jéhan was fast asleep, snuggled up in a blanket against Lucian. Jake was sitting next to the coachman on the bench, while Manon and Richard occupied the bench opposite Lucian.
Night had fallen, and as the carriage rolled on through the quiet countryside, Manon felt her body go limp with fatigue. Her head lolled as her eyes grew heavy, and eventually, she could no longer stay awake. Richard carefully caught her and drew her close to him, so that her head rested against his shoulder. By then, Manon was already asleep.
With Manon safely settled against him, Richard could finally sit back and breathe. They had made it to England and to safety. The first part of his promise to his dying father had been fulfilled.
“She is truly exquisite, Rich.” Lucian’s mellow tenor voice snapped Richard back into reality. He lifted a mocking eyebrow and teased, “I am happy to see that your eyesight is still in good order, Luke!”
“So, tell me, are you her guardian as well as her uncle?” Richard nodded briefly. “Why do you want to know?”
“I want your permission to court her. She is lovely and sweet. I am at an age when I should settle and start a family. Manon is a de Briers – if not in name, then surely by blood. She is a suitable match and besides, we would become family, Rich.”
“Oh, and you know that a quarter of an hour after meeting her? Is that not a bit premature, Luke?”
“That is why I am asking you, if I am allowed to pay her a proper court, Rich.”
Mixed feelings formed in Richard’s mind about his friend’s proposal. Of course, Manon would have to be introduced in society, and, beautiful as she was, she would capture the attention of many young bucks in search of a wife. It was not that Richard was opposed to Blackthorne as a potential husband to Manon. She would reach her majority on the third of October, which was in a little over three months. On her twenty-first birthday, Manon would come into her own fortune, which amounted to twenty thousand pounds. In his will, Sir Robert de Briers had bestowed the part of his money, that would have come to Manon’s mother Lily on Manon herself. Once the inheritance became hers, Manon would be free to choose her own path, yet she would also be subject to any fortune hunter that crossed her path. Therefore, Richard would try to protect her, whatever the cost, and the best way to do that was to find a suitable husband for her. Luke Blackthorne was a prime candidate for his niece and Richard would love to have him in the family as his nephew by marriage, since they were long-time friends.
No, it was something entirely different that made Richard reluctant to give his permission for a courtship. The notion that another man – any other man than Richard himself – would have the exquisite pleasure of having Manon at his side for the rest of his life was abhorrent to him. He rejected the idea as soon as it presented itself, because and here, he dared not formulate his thoughts; it caused him unbearable pain. To be condemned to a life without Manon, to be forced to watch from afar while she made some lucky devil the happiest man in the world, proved unthinkable. However, it had to be just so. Manon had a right to seek and find her place in the world. So he pushed his rebellious thoughts aside and considered the matter in a rational manner.
“Look,” he said, his voice even, “Manon has a long way to go yet before she is fit to move about in British society. She is like an uncut diamond, Luke. She has been brought up in Paris, in a shop, and has no notion of what is required of a gentlewoman. Give me a couple of months … say half a year, to educate her. After that, I would be happy to welcome you as her suitor.”
“Fair enough,” Lucian grinned. “I admit that you are right in the matter of Manon’s necessary education, yet I refuse to stay away from her for six months. I can help with her education, Rich, and you know that. So prepare yourself for the notion that I will not be far away from Bearsham Manor in the next half-year.”
When the carriage rolled through the wrought-iron gates of Whitehaven, Richard gently shook Manon awake. “We have arrived, niece,” he whispered in her ear. She slowly came to her senses, but shied away when she saw where she had been.
“Uncle, forgive me. I did not know I was…”
“Think nothing of it,” Richard interrupted, before she said something that might embarrass them both. Nonetheless, when he caught Lucian’s gaze, Richard could not help noticing the strange expression on his friend’s face. Bugger, he thought. He would have to be much more careful in his dealings with Manon, lest the shrewd Lucian grasp the way matters were lying.
Since Lucian had sent word of their estimated time of arrival, the butler, the housekeeper and a lady’s maid stood to attention in the hall. Manon, still heavy-lidded from her nap, only vaguely noticed her surroundings. She was all too happy to have the maid, a pretty blonde by the name of Bessy, bring her to an upstairs bedchamber and help her into her nightclothes. The maid had produced a delicate, white, satin nightgown with a deep neckline, and a matching dressing gown. However, Manon was too tired to pay much attention to it.
“Do you require anything else, miss?” Bessy asked, dipping a neat curtsy. “Shall I bring you something to eat?”
“No, thank you, Bessy,” Manon replied. “I am quite exhausted and shall go to bed this instant.”
When she lay down onto the thick, soft mattress, she immediately sank into a deep sleep.
Manon woke with a start from a dream she could not quite recall but which left her in turmoil. Her heart was beating fast and irregularly, and she was perspiring all over her body. Jéhan! Where was he? With a muffled cry, Manon jumped out of bed and ran to the door of her bedchamber. She was standing on the landing, confused and forlorn, before she realised she had no inkling where to find her brother in this strange house. Dieu! Why had she not asked His Lordship where Jéhan’s room was?
She went back into her own room, lit a candle and donned the pretty dressing gown Bessy had laid out for her. The thick carpet covering the parquet muffled the sound of her footsteps. She descended the stairs and looked around the hall. It was not overly large but quite elegant with its soft grey hangings and wallpaper. A large bowl of fresh roses on the dark, polished abbey table spread a delicate perfume.
Uncertainly, Manon looked around to find the green baize door that led to the servants’ quarters. She discovered it on the right side and went through it. A large staircase led to the servants’ parlour and cellars. With surprise, Manon saw the dancing light of a candle in one of the downstairs rooms. She went down to find it. One of the maids was probably doing some overdue work she had not had time for during the day. The light came from the enormous kitchen and revealed the tall figure of her uncle, standing near the stove to heat a kettle.
Richard turned around when he heard the soft footsteps. “Manon! What is the matter? Are you unwell?”
Manon was still recovering from the enticing sight of her uncle in breeches and an open-necked shirt, and she gaped at him, tongue-tied and confused. She must have alarmed her uncle, because he crossed over to her in three long strides. His warm hands on her upper arms dragged her back to her senses. “No, Uncle, I am well. I was just concerned about Jéhan. What kind of a sister am I, that I should tumble into bed and not know to which chamber they have taken him? I am thoroughly ashamed!”
“No need for concern, Manon. I just checked on him. Jake and he are sharing a room, lest the boy should wake and be confused by his surroundings. Jake will watch over him, have no fear.”
Infinitely relieved, Manon thanked him, then asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I could not sleep,” Richard replied. “Travelling always brings me into a state of watchfulness until I am back in my own home again. I was about to make some tea. Would you like to join me?”
“Oh, yes, please! I am thirsty, and hungry as well, come to think of it.”
Only now did Richard realise he was still holding her by her arms. She did not seem to have noticed herself, but she did when he released her. A violent blush spread over her cheeks, her neck, and the enticing expanse of skin revealed by the low neckline of her white satin nightgown. The onset of a pair of small, round breasts peeked alluringly over the lace-trimmed rim.
Immediately, Richard’s body reacted, and he hastened to turn away. Busying himself with the tea, he cursed the treacherous embarrassment his body caused him. He wrenched his thoughts away from Manon’s slender figure, outlined through the sheer material of dressing her gown, and tried to recover his composure.
Manon, too, was affected by what she saw, in a way she had never experienced before. Broad, muscular shoulders filled the sheer linen of Richard’s shirt, and the v-shaped opening at his throat revealed tanned skin dusted with a fine covering of dark hair. That, however, was not what had shaken her the most. No, it was the realisation that her gaze had travelled lower, to Richard’s powerful thighs encased in the buff buckskin breeches, and on top of that, the large bulge behind the flap.
Manon had never lain with a man. No one had ever caught her attention for longer than a few days at the utmost. She knew what it felt like to be kissed, having received the pushy attention of impatient youths at the occasional summer dances on the quays of the Seine. She had never liked it much and she abhorred the feeling of an erection against her belly. It seemed so intrusive, so overwhelming.
Now, however, witnessing Richard’s arousal, caused just by him touching her, made her realise she was as aroused as he was. Low in her belly, a warm, liquid feeling was teasing her, and her breasts tingled where the peaks, hard and sensitive, brushed the satin of her gown. She was aware of a languidness spreading through her body, an exquisite feeling of excitement, of well-being. She wanted to touch Richard, to stroke and feel him, and she wanted to do so while they both were naked in a bed.
Her hands flew to her cheeks as she felt those thoughts spring into her mind. What kind of wanton woman was she? Richard was her uncle, Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu! Her brain was shouting at her to run to her room and lock the door behind her, but still her body was screaming for Richard’s touch with overwhelming force. She could not! She could not submit to these unseemly feelings, yet her most secret female parts were humming with excitement, a warm liquid pooling in her inner core. She found the sensation quite exquisite and wanted Richard to know what she was feeling. She could not!
But … would it be so impossible? They were a man and a woman, and they were alone.
When Manon said his name, it was in a low, sultry voice that made Richard’s senses react with violent arousal. God! It was unbearable! He felt her hands slide around his waist, which caused him to groan with frustration.
“Manon … Let go of me, please. If you …touch me in that way, I cannot …”
“Richard, look at me.” It was a command, he realised, and one that he was unable to resist.
Manon stood before him, solemn and proud like a queen. Her green eyes were glowing with unmitigated love – not lust, but love. She no longer touched him but folded her hands as if in prayer.
“I know we can never be together as man and wife, Richard. Fate has made us blood relatives, and a union between uncle and niece is forbidden. I am aware that I shall have to marry someday. Unmarried females have a fate worse than death in this English society. So I am prepared to welcome any suitor that might come my way. However, when I wed, I shall be a dutiful wife to my husband, even when I know for certain that I will not love him.”
She paused and drew breath, closed her eyes and shuddered.
“Of course you will love him, whoever he is,” Richard heard himself growl.
She looked at him, startled. Then her eyes filled with a sullen determination, and she said “No, I cannot ever love another man, since it is you that I love, from the bottom of my heart and the depth of my soul. The love I feel for you can never be born twice, Richard.”
“Lord, Manon! You do not know what you are saying! How can you love me as you would love a lover? It is wrong, it is unnatural, it is sin!”
“Love can never be a sin, my darling.”
Oh, how sweet that sounded from her lips! In despair, Richard closed his eyes to shut out the lovely, loving woman before him. But she continued speaking, relentlessly but oh, so sweetly.
“I want to know how it feels to be made love to by the man who loves me, my sweet, strong, handsome Richard. You do love me; I can sense it in every gesture you make, in every look you give me. I hear it in your voice when you speak to me. I see it in your beautiful eyes when you gaze at me. We love each other, my darling.”
It was true. He did love her, like he had never, ever loved before. He knew, for certain, he had never loved before in his life, now that he recognized the depth of his feelings for Manon. He was doomed.
“Dearest Richard, will you please teach me how exquisite lovemaking can be between two people who love each other? We will be together only once, only tonight. After that, I will not bother you ever again. I will set you free so that you can forget me, and so that I can find my future husband. You cannot, may not refuse me tonight, Richard.”
Filming on the next series of Line Of Duty has begun.
The sixth instalment of Jed Mercurio’s hit thriller is set a year and a half on from the events of series five, and will feature a brand new case for AC-12, focused on an enigmatic Detective Chief Inspector.
Joining Line Of Duty for the first time this series are Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl, Cursed), Perry Fitzpatrick (This Is England, I Am Nicola), Andi Osho (Kiri, Curfew) and Prasanna Puwanarajah (Doctor Foster, Patrick Melrose).
Line Of Duty is written and created by Jed Mercurio, and made for BBC One by World Productions. The new series will be directed by Daniel Nettheim (Broadchurch, Doctor Who), Gareth Bryn (Hinterland, Last Tango In Halifax), and Jennie Darnell (Bodyguard, Hetty Feather), and the producer is Ken Horn (The Moorside, Line of Duty series five). Executive producers are Jed Mercurio, Simon Heath for World Productions, and Tommy Bulfin for BBC One.
Gorgeous new poster and trailer for their enchanting
Big screen adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN with Julie Walters and Colin Firth, which arrives next spring (April 9th Australia and New Zealand and 10th in UK, 17th in USA, with Russian opening April 30th). Little Dixie Egerickx plays Lennox, a prickly and unloved 10 year old girl, born in India to wealthy British parents who is sent back to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven on his remote country estate deep in the Yorkshire moors. There, she begins to uncover many family secrets, particularly after meeting her sickly cousin Colin, who has been shut away in a wing of the house. Together, the two damaged, slightly misfit children heal each other through their discovery of a wondrous secret garden, lost in the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor.
Secret Garden is out this April 17th in US Theaters
The movie is based on the famous book by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Kip left the railway coach and hired a cabby to take him home. When he arrived, a curious sight of three other coaches parked by the stables met him. He was sure the carriages belonged to Marc, Lucas, and Matthew.
“What the bloody hell has happened?” He mumbled, paying the driver whom he knew. He speculated as he walked to his door. Jonathan’s had an accident. They didn’t know he went home to Norcaster. Surely, they were here to tell him about Lilith Caldwell. He remembered Mary’s swirling anger. Mary’s anger had now infused him. She followed him here, still full of wrath. Coming through the back door, his friends stood.
“What has happened? You three look pathetic. Has something happened to Jonathan?”
Nobody could speak.
“Speak someone! I know about Lilith being found. I wanted to follow up on her demise, so I hunted her family.”
“The Caldwell girl was found? We hadn’t heard that.”
“Then what the bloody hell is wrong? Someone say something!” Kip was in a bad mood, and he let the men see his annoyance, a scene rarely witnessed by anyone among his family or friends.
“Kip, I don’t know how to say this except to say it,” declared Marc.”
“Just say the words, whatever they are, before I go mad.” Kip’s voice rose in tenor as he shouted at Marc.
“Squeaks has been missing for a day and a half.”
“Sorry?” Kip barked with incredulity.”
“Squeaks has been missing from Stokes Castle since yesterday morning. We have been looking for her since we heard. Jonathan is out searching now. Please go to see Dorset and His Lordship as soon as possible. We know you’re fond of her. Tell us what to do.”
“Give me a moment.” Kip flopped down in his reading chair. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and holding his head. “Could you wait outside for me?”
“Of course, Kip.” The men noticed the portrait of Squeaks standing as a rear footman that was on Kip’s mantle and knew instantly that this was more than a fondness.
When the door slammed shut, Kip slid to the floor, allowing the tears to flow. “I will kill the bastard who has done this. Why Squeaks? Where could she be? Where do I start? I cannot live without her.” He felt a trembling inside of him that had been absent since he lost his sister. It was a sickening helplessness.
Mary, tell me what to do. Where do I begin?
He knew who had kidnapped her and violent anger roiled inside of him. Kip didn’t care if he lost his life, he would find her.
Kip dried his face and headed towards his stable. He had no time for the agony anymore. Action with leadership had been the mainstay of his learning. All rules, regulations, legal maneuvers, politeness, and nobility weren’t words he recognized anymore.
“If you chaps would canvass the other drivers for any news. Be back here by 7:00 p.m. and bring Kyle. Tell the others, they may soon be called upon for a rescue.”
“Aye, Guv,” said Lucas. The three took to their benches and rolled out of the yard.
Kip looked heavenward and shouted at God and shook his fist. “Why Squeaks, God? Why her? I have only just found her, and you let them take her. This is my fault, not hers.”
Kip went to his stable and loaded his two pistols. While harnessing his horse, a swift pain came to his stomach, causing him to bend at the midriff and vomit. It was pure fear for the woman he loved.
Mary was back. Thank God. He stopped and closed his eyes trying to catch what she wanted him to know. She no longer was angry, but saddened. He glimpsed his image of Squeaks riding footman. He didn’t know why but he went back for his sketch pad.
As Kip began his twenty-minute journey on horseback to the Stokes Castle, he thought about Mary appearing after the discovery of Lilith. “Is she trying to confirm to me that the men that had killed her, had Squeaks?” The intent seemed obvious, as he raced to see Clyde Dorset.
Kip thought that once Lilith was located, Mary would find peace. Nevertheless, with Squeaks being taken, it would explain her angry images yesterday. And he knew, because of him, she would be their next victim. He couldn’t bear to think past kidnapping. He needed his head, and dwelling on something unknown would hinder him, right now.
“The killers know who I am. They must! There would be no other reason for Squeaks to be captured.” Now he knew why he brought the sketch pad. He would visit with Lucy Blevins and draw a picture, from her memory, of the two men who were at the ball. Resolving that gave him hope, but a whole day and a half had passed.
Squeaks woke, not knowing where she was. It was a bare room with only a bed, small table, chair and no oil lamp. Her head ached and feeling her scalp, there was a large lump up there. The last she remembered was talking to her father about her picnic day and then going to bed. It was a day she would never forget. She became Kip’s lady. She remembered being so happy when she told her father who did not look very surprised. However, he was moved when hearing about Kip saving her life from that racing carriage and team. She wondered if that coach rode hard toward them for a purpose.
Squeaks walked to the window, which was boarded from the outside. She could peek through the slats that didn’t fit well. It seemed to be afternoon. There was an old poor tenant flat next door and another across the street from that. Seeing all she could, she went to the door to listen.
Two male voices and one female were heard, but not what was being said. It was only a moment later when she heard footsteps coming closer and then a knock on the door.
“Deary, can you hear me?” Came the elderly voice.
“Who are you and where am I?” Squeaks replied.
“I have brought you some stew. I want you to sit on the edge of the bed, while I unlock the door.”
Squeaks was starved, she complied. “I’m ready. She heard the lock click.
The door opened a fraction barely before swinging open. The old charwoman carried a tray to the small table. She quickly closed the door and then sat on the bed. Squeaks went to the small table and pulled up the chair.
“Who are you and why am I here? Do you know who I am?”
“Listen, deary. It makes no never mind to me who or why you’re here. I’m being paid to see that you are fed, and your chamber pot is emptied. It’s under the bed.” The woman checked it. “It’s still empty. Don’t you piss, Deary?”
“How long have I been here? I only just woke.”
“Well, I gots here after dark last night, and you was up here by then. I think those two men down there, are up to no good. ‘Tis you worth somethin’? They says I will be paid real good, enough for a fancy frock.”
Squeaks kept quiet and allowed the charwoman to wax on about this task she was hired to do. “They makes me stay in the kitchen. They been talkin’ about a ransom note all day. Your pa got money?”
“No. I am in service. I know my Lord would pay you a lot more if you let me out.”
“Awe … deary, I can’t do that. They might kill me.”
“They will probably kill us both. You’ve seen their faces. They won’t let anyone live who has seen their faces.”
“One sure is an ugly cuss. He only be havin’ but one glass eye. I gotta go. They be wantin’ their dinner.”
“I don’t know your name, but think about my Lordship paying you more coin, even a whole lot more if you can find a way to free me.”
“I’ll think about it, but I thinks I likes livin’ more. Stay where you are.” Sarah, watched Squeaks closely as she unlocked the door and slipped out. “My name is Sarah,” she locked the door.
Squeaks sat there eating her stew, wondering why she was taken. She wasn’t worth anything unless they wanted money from His Lordship. They were foolish to try that. She thought of Kip and could make no connection there. She began to worry about her father, and Lord Stokes. They would be most upset by now, yet; she was still unharmed except the bump on her head. Squeaks noticed she had a night shirt on. She finished her food and water and went back to the window. Although it was nailed shut, she took her fork prying out the two nails holding it closed. She was able to raise the window only a little which left her room to knock out one of the slats of wood. That seemed as far as she could go unless she smashed through it all with her chair. She closed the window and slipped the two nails back in the holes.
The slat of wood fell to the ground leaving more light coming into the room. She was thankful that dusk was near. She sat on her bed and looked at the window. “What else can I try? I can wave my arm outside. Someone might notice.”
Suddenly, she heard heavy boots coming toward her door.
As Kip came up the drive to Stokes Castle, he jumped off his horse and threw the reins to a stable boy headed towards him. Without asking or saying anything, he walked into the servant’s area and asked which room was Clyde’s. He was told that Clyde was with His Lordship.
“Where is that, again? Take me there immediately.”
The housekeeper led him through the labyrinth of staircases until she met Morgan.
“This gentleman …” she was interrupted.
“I know who he is. It’s all right. Follow me, Mr. Kipling.”
“How is the family? Has there been any word on Squeaks?” Kip was frantic.
“No word, sir. The entire household is quite worried. We all love her as I am sure you know.”
Morgan knocked on the door to the study. “Mr. Kipling, your Lordship.”
Kip passed into the room, and the sight looked worse than he imagined. A doctor was attending His Lordship, who apparently was having chest pains, and Clyde was distraught with worry.
“Kip, Thank God you are here.” Both men tried to speak at once. “Go ahead, Clyde. You tell him what we know.”
Kip was handed a glass of scotch to which he declined, but he did take a seat close to Clyde.
“Please, Clyde. Everything you know and what you think?”
“No one on the property has seen Squeaks since the night she returned from the picnic with you. Upon waking, we found her bed empty. The police think she was taken during the early hours of the morning. We are still trying to find out how that could have possibly happened. Our only conclusion is that this Castle has never been broken into for centuries. We are sure a window was unlocked, but the back door was wide open—perhaps to carry her out. No one at the stables heard anything. The police believe she was moved further down the lane to some other transportation. They also think she was unconscious at that time, as there is a spot of blood on her pillow.
Kip had taken to his feet long ago and was pacing the room. As he stopped and peered out a window, Clyde stopped talking. “Please proceed,” he said with his back to the room and water in his eyes.
“Our first thought was that the two of you may have run off to be together, but that was quickly dismissed. However, the police did find that you had left London the night of your picnic. I think you were under suspicion for a while since you both were gone so soon after having been together.”
Kip turned to see if they were expecting an explanation. They were.
“Kip, I am sorry. I had to break your confidence with me, but only to Clyde.”
“I see. In such matters, it is entirely understood. As for leaving London, we had a rider from our estate come to my father’s apartment, telling us of the discovery of Lilith Caldwell’s body. She was found where my sister was found. I left on the train that night to represent the family and settle the staff – my brother was visiting here. I returned only an hour ago. I am worried there is a connection from me to Squeaks. What is being done?”
“The police are in the dark. There was nothing similar to Squeaks being found missing and the abduction of Lilith Caldwell. I dare say they do not associate the two cases. Do you?”
“How do you come by that?” Asked His Lordship.”
“It comes from my dead sister. I will explain at another time. I have irons to cast into the fires. I will bring all the London coachmen to bear. We will find her. I only hope we are not too late.”
“Do I see two pistols in your belt.”
“Yes, you do. I have a rifle with my horse. If Squeaks has been hurt in any way, they will find a dead man. I will send a driver over every hour for any communication. I must go. Good evening.” Kip waited for no reply. He turned on his heel and left.
Kip headed for the Blevins Manor.
The heavy boots did not call out to her to stand away from the door, he opened it, giving Squeaks no decency had she needed it. He entered carrying an old lamp with a bailing wire handle, holding it high to see the dim room. “There you are. Cute little thing, as were the others.”
Squeaks couldn’t help but tremble. Although dressed as a gentleman, his speech, and unkempt look said differently. She gauged he was twice her weight. “I think you are mistaking me for someone else. I have no worth to anyone.” Squeaks began to plead her case.
“We knows exactly who you are Miss Dorset. You live with His Lordship, isn’t that right?”
“I am only a servant there. I am not a member of the family. I only have my father, and he works as staff. What do you mean, I’m like the others? What others?”
“I guess I can forgive you for not knowing the Caldwell women. You wouldn’t be traveling in the same circles.”
“I heard about Miss Lilith Caldwell if you are trying to scare me. I know there is Lord Caldwell at the House of Lords. I knew neither and have no association with them, and have no value. How can I benefit this scheme of yours?”
“You have a nice young body, like those two. Me brother and I fancy that. First, though, we have decided to get some money for you since you aren’t a noble.” The one-eyed man laughed. “You’re so small, I don’t know if you be worth much.” He laughed again.
“That makes no sense at all,” Squeaks said in her normal spirited attitude.
“Well, you have two Lords that are keen on you. At least one should be amiable to pay to get you back.”
“I don’t know what you mean by two Lords. You have me confused with some other.”
“It doesn’t matter which one.”
Squeaks saw the other brute-of-a-man come through the door with a long kitchen knife.
Squeaks felt the urine running down her leg as she began backing into a corner. She called for help but was quickly subdued.
“Miss, we ‘taint going to kill you yet. We just want some of that lovely hair of yours. They’re going to need proof that we have you.”
In her stuttering voice, “I should think being missed is proof enough for them.”
“We won’t take all of it this time. Brad, I’ll hold her. You cut.”
Squeaks was violently thrust to the one-eyed man, while the other began sawing off her hair with the dull knife, about halfway up. Squeaks started to cry. The seriousness of her situation was pressing in. Would she ever see Kip again? “Did you kill Miss Caldwell?”
He roared with a laugh. “We got them both. You seem to think we are here to have a conversation.”
“Why? That family killed our sister just as if they shot her. She was young and pretty, like all of you. My brother and I have waited a long time to even the score.”
“How am I involved in this?”
“You are the lady to Lord Trevor Caldwell. But Lord Stokes will pay more for ya.”
“I know no Lord Trevor Caldwell. You want some other woman.”
“Maybe this will stop you from insisting on that.” Hair cutting completed, the one-eyed man punched her in the face, breaking her nose.
Squeaks fell to the floor, staining her nightshirt red while she lay unconscious.
The charwoman came running in when she heard the noise. “You men are brutes. What that young lady ever do to you blokes?”
“Shut up, or you’ll get the same. Clean ‘er up.” The brothers left the room mumbling about getting on with their job.
“I figure we have one more day. We’ll get that ransom note to Stokes and see if he reacts. If he doesn’t send gold or jewels within a few hours, we’ll have our fun with that young thing upstairs. In the morning, you take care of that old woman. I think you can hang her in the back stable.
Unknown to the men, Sarah overheard the end of the conversation as she headed for a pan of water and a cloth to wash Squeaks. “I don’t have no clothes for her,” she said, hoping they didn’t give a thought that she heard anything.
“You can leave her clothes off. We’re gonna tear ‘em off anyway.” The brothers laughed and refilled their glasses.
“So … which one? Stokes or Caldwell?
“Stokes. Hit him while we can. We still have the other Caldwell brother’s lady to snatch and then we can leave this country. After finding that last Caldwell wench, they know the deaths are connected. That inspector may be putting things together. Throwing in the Stokes girl should muddy their thinking for a couple of days. Where’s the coach?”
“It’s around back like you wanted. I put it under the coach shed. Don’t worry, brother. It may be a bit old, but that was an expensive ride at one time. The inspector won’t be looking for a carriage like that down here.”
By the time Sarah had cleaned up Squeaks, she had a new opinion on the offer that was made to her. Squeaks regained consciousness. She and the charwoman had a brief chat about how could they live through the next day.
That evening, Sarah folded a piece of scrap paper, along with a pencil, and put them in her apron pocket. She took a food tray to Squeaks.
Here‘s another colour blind rewrite of legends and history: first teaser for historical fantasy movie THE GREEN KNIGHT In which Dev Patel plays Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), a gigantic emerald skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger. The movie, which is supposed to be based on one of the most famous of Arthurian
The movie will hit cinemas May 29th this spring
legends, will also star Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton, and is out May 29th! You can also check out the poster which is probably one of the ugliest ones we’ve seen in our spying career!
As Richard had foreseen, they reached Boulogne in three days, but it was night when they entered the small seaside town. As a precaution, they had not slept at inns the two previous nights, after they had spotted a company of soldiers camped near the village of Quend, fifteen miles north of Abbeville. Instead, they had made camp in the woods lining the road. It had been uncomfortable, but not overly so, because the June nights were balmy.
With Jake and Jéhan present, it also proved bearable to sleep close to Richard, Manon found. She took her little brother under her coverlet during the night, his warmth a veritable comfort when dawn set in and the temperature dropped. Nevertheless, she did not sleep soundly, but in short stages, and she lay awake for long periods, watching Richard when it was his turn to take watch. Jake and he changed every two hours.
She would look at his moonlit, aquiline profile as he sat near the banked fire. His face was strong, his jaw clean, even with the shadow of beard now blurring it. His wavy, black hair was tied with a bow at the nape of his neck, and Manon revelled in the sight of his proud, uncovered head. During the day, he always wore his beaver hat, which made much of his beautiful hair invisible. How she longed to weave her hands through the black silkiness of Richard’s hair. To caress his jaw, to feel the roughness of his beard, to run her fingers over his neck and shoulders. To press her lips against his mouth and part those finely chiselled lips with her tongue.
No – she was not allowed to perform all those wonderful gestures. He was forbidden to her in that way. That night at the inn in Abbeville, they had slept in the same bed, an experience that would probably never occur again in their lives. She had lain awake listening to Richard’s breathing, feeling every movement as his body dipped the mattress when he shifted position, his warmth when his body accidentally touched hers. His scent, clean and spicy, was so intensely male that when it reached her nostrils, it set her flesh on fire.
She would have to endure this suffering no longer once they crossed the Channel. In England, they would be staying at a friend of Richard’s, where his coach stood waiting to bring them to Bearsham Manor. Their adventure was nearing its end. Once they were in England, society would effectively separate the two of them.
Yet Manon was reluctant to let Richard drift apart from her before she had even experienced what love truly meant. Her uncle was forbidden, as was his touch. Manon, however, had seen too much despicable behaviour in her hometown. Paris was the centre of sexual excesses where people knew how to keep it all hidden, even from the almighty Roman-Catholic church. Yet living in the town centre with all the brothels nearby, where the aristocrats used to go before the Revolution, had given Manon a notion, although weak, of what transpired behind the walls. Depravity was riot in a city like Paris, and it had cost Thibaut Favier a lot of effort to keep it away from his children. More specifically from his daughter.
Manon loved Richard, and she was certain, beyond all doubt, that he loved her too. They were physically attracted to each other, and they found it difficult not to act upon it. She would be married someday to a man she would probably not love at all, and Manon longed for Richard’s touch now, even if it would be only once. She desperately wanted to be initiated in the ways of lovemaking by the man she loved, so that she would have no regrets about being touched for the rest of her life by an indifferent husband. She longed for memories she could cherish throughout a life she would spend without Richard. They would have to find a way, it was essential.
In Boulogne, they found an inn near the harbour. It boasted four private rooms and a large common room. Because of the country’s uproar, the inn stood empty, all attempts to travel to England having come to nought.
After a restful night, they breakfasted and went to find the boat Richard had hired to come to France. La Nymphe was a fisherman’s craft, and her owner, Paul Lafitte, made daily voyages deep into the Channel to earn his living. Richard had managed to secure his services when a storm had blown La Nymphe into Dover Port. He made a deal with Lafitte, who promised to wait for him in Boulogne Harbour for a month. After that, the deal would be over, and Lafitte would be free to go. Since only three weeks had passed since Richard had set foot in France, Lafitte was still waiting for him. He welcomed Richard wholeheartedly.
“Bring us to England, Paul,” Richard said. “I will make it worth your while. Thank you for being here as we agreed.”
The boat was small, every storage space destined for the cargo of fish Paul would catch when he went out on the North Sea. She was sturdy, and her skipper kept her in excellent order. There was only one cabin, however, where Paul had his bunk and galley. He graciously left it to Manon and Jéhan, should they need a rest, but the crossing would only take four hours in this weather. The sea was calm, and the sky was clear. They should reach Dover early in the afternoon.
As soon as they set foot on the boat, Jéhan began behaving strangely. He stayed close to his sister, clutching her skirts tightly as he used to do when he was a toddler.
“What is it, mon chou?” Manon asked gently, ruffling his dark curls.
“Manon, I am scared! What is this … thing? What is happening?”
His sister realised that Jéhan had never seen the sea. Paris and the surrounding countryside were all he knew, and the five-year-old must be confused indeed. She took her little brother downstairs to the galley while the three men prepared the boat for sailing. In the cosy confinement of the cabin, Manon sat Jéhan on the bunk next to her.
“Mon petit frère courageux,” she said, pulling him close, “I need you to be truly brave. We are leaving France to go to England. You knew that, did you not?”
Jéhan nodded. “Yes, but what is this large water? Are we not going to sink? You cannot tread on water, Manon! We will drown!”
“No, love, we will not. This is a boat, not quite like the ones you see on the Seine in Paris, but similar. You know the river boats on the Seine, do you not?”
“Yes, but I have never been on one! Will it sink, this boat?”
“No, it will not. Monsieur Lafitte, our skipper, will bring us safely over the North Sea to England. That is the name of this large expanse of water you see here, Jéhan. It is the North Sea, and it separates England from the European continent, where France lies. Uncle Richard says it will take four hours to reach Dover, which is the nearest port from Boulogne, where we are now.”
Jéhan stared at her with large, frightened eyes.
“We will leave France? But … but Papa is in France, in Paris! We cannot leave Papa behind, Manon! We must go back and bring him with us!”
With mounting apprehension, Manon understood that now was time to tell her brother about their father. She could postpone it no longer. Taking him onto her lap, Manon tenderly embraced the little boy.
“Listen, Jéhan, I must tell you about Papa. You need to be very brave, because it is not pleasant news. Papa is dead, my sweet darling. The rioters killed him and left his body in our kitchen. I found him on the very first night that we slept in our house after the rioters took everything. I buried Papa in our garden. I did not want you to see him, Jéhan.”
Her brother’s hazel eyes, Papa’s eyes, Manon realised, were round with shock, but he did not weep or wail. He just nodded and said, “We will never see Papa again, will we? He is gone forever.”
“Yes, mon chou. Papa has gone to join Maman in heaven. They are together now, but so are we.” By now, Manon’s eyes were burning with unshed tears but she swallowed them back, not wanting to upset her brother further. Jéhan was trembling in her arms, so she held him close and stroked his curls to soothe him.
“What will become of us, Manon?” His small, frightened voice wavered, tearing at the strings of her heart.
“We will go to England, to live with our uncle and his mother at their estate. I will always be with you, Jéhan. I will never leave you. Our uncle will house us, feed us, clothe us, but I will care for you for the rest of your life, Jéhan. Whatever happens, you and I will never be separated. We are Manon and Jéhan Favier.”
Jéhan was quieter now, Manon felt. He sighed and nestled closer to her.
“If you are with me, I am not afraid, Manon.”
“I am with you, Jéhan, and I always will be.”
When the siblings went back up onto the deck, they were surprised to see that the boat had reached the open sea. With the resilience of childhood, Jéhan ran to the railing and cried out, “Mon Dieu, Manon, come and look at this! There is water everywhere! Oh, look, a seagull! Sister Marie-Ange showed us a drawing in class!”
Manon joined him at the railing and cautioned him not to fall overboard. “Here, Jéhan. Take hold of my skirt and do not let go of it. Be careful, mon chou. If you fall overboard, you will drown.”
“Yes, I know that, silly!” Her brother humphed, then asked, “Can I go and see what le capitaine is doing? I will be careful, I promise.”
Paul Lafitte hailed him and Jéhan ran off without waiting for permission.
“Do not worry,” a deep voice rang beside her, “he will be safe with Lafitte. The man has a family of his own, somewhere near Boulogne. I have met his wife Isabelle and their two children.”
Manon looked up into Richard’s smiling eyes. A lump formed in her throat, and she said, “I have told him about Papa.”
Richard’s hand, warm and strong, covered hers on top of the railing. “That was necessary, Manon. You could not keep the truth from him forever.”
“I know,” she replied in a small voice, “but telling him was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.”
“You did well, Manon,” Richard said. “Look at him. He is already fully absorbed by what Lafitte is doing and enjoying it. Children are resilient. As long as we are there for Jéhan, he will do well.”
They reached Dover when dusk was settling in. The crossing had been smooth, but the travellers were tired, so it was with relief that Richard spotted his friend’s carriage waiting for them at the quayside.
Lucian Blackthorne, Viscount Rossiter, had been Richard’s friend since their days as Cambridge students. Lucian’s father was the Earl Clifford of Middleton in Kent, but the viscount had a small estate of his own near Romney, which was twenty-three miles south of Dover.
He now stepped and grasped Richard’s profited hand in a tight grip.
“Richard!” he said with unmitigated relief in his tenor voice. “Finally, you have come. I have been keeping men watching here for over a week, not knowing when you would arrive. I am so glad you made it back to England again.”
Manon, still weary from her sea voyage, came off the gangplank carrying her sleeping brother against her shoulder. She did not notice the tall, blond Adonis until he came striding in her direction, concern in his dark brown eyes.
“Mademoiselle,” he said in perfect French, “let me relieve you of your burden.”
He took Jéhan from her before Manon could react. “I am Lucian Blackthorne, Viscount Rossiter,” he presented himself. “Your uncle de Briers and I have been friends for nigh ten years. Welcome to England, mademoiselle Favier!”
Manon had been full of apprehension when the stranger took Jéhan from her, but now she curtsied and replied, “Thank you, my lord. I am most happy to make your acquaintance.”
“Rich, you old scoundrel! You did not tell me your niece spoke our language! May I congratulate you, mademoiselle, on your perfect English? And please, no titles. My name is Lucian, and I would like you to use it.”
Manon smiled and begged the viscount to do likewise. She liked this pleasant, open young man from the start. He was the opposite of her uncle, she thought. Wavy golden hair, warm brown eyes, and a thin moustache that graced his wide, sensual upper lip. He was as tall as her uncle was, but of slighter build, though he had the same musculature about the chest and shoulders. The difference between them, Manon realised, lay in their character. Where Richard was a quiet, grave and somewhat withdrawn man, Lucian was exuberant and outspoken. Richard had a decidedly distinctive tendency to brood, whereas Lucian seemed to have no care in the world. Perhaps he really did have none, Manon mused. When your father was an English peer, you had no significant qualms or concerns.
She followed the two men to the waiting carriage, watching them as they strode side by side. Two friends, and every inch each other’s opposite.
If you don’t know what to binge-watch this weekend, here is something mystical and darkly enchanting for you: over at Netflix you can currently
All episodes are on Netflix from last week
stream THE GHOST BRIDE, 19th century set fantasy series coming from Malaysia which, based on the novel The Ghost Bride written by Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo, stars Huang Pei-jia, Wu Kang-jen, Ludi Lin, and Kuang Tian.
The Ghost Bride
set in 1890’s Colonial Malacca, follows a Malaysian Chinese woman who accepts a marriage proposal from a wealthy family to be the “ghost bride” to their deceased son – an opportunity that would save her family from a lifetime
The first season has six hourlong episodes
of debt, but require her to spend the rest of her days haunted by a ghostly spouse. Desperate to escape the situation, she soon finds herself wrapped up in a murder mystery and embroiled in otherworldly affairs far bigger than she could have imagined!