The Quest. A Tale of Vengeance, Torment, and Love.

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To London.

I left very late that Sunday night, even as she slept the sleep of utter exhaustion after our love-making.

We had never stopped playing and making love since late that Saturday evening once we’d got back to Paris, nor had we bothered getting dressed again, other than to dash out, to eat.

I rose from our bed, taking all of our intimate smells—especially those most personal ones of her (you know exactly what I mean); haunting, enlivening smells... ones I needed to experience and remember, over and over again, and that I would not easily wash off me.

They went with me, on my body, and again, in my shirt which had served its usual purpose beneath us. I’d had a hell of a job recovering it from underneath her, striving not to awaken her before I’d hurriedly dressed, packed my one bag, and left, leaving that photocopy of my manuscript with her.

I very nearly decided not to go, remembering how we made love so well together. We would have... maybe fifty years together if I did not go, but I would also grow ever-more protective of her and desperate, as she aged, and then I would be left with this empty life; this endless torment once more.

No. I had to end this life of mine, now.

I left her a note telling her why I was leaving, and tried to explain that, as much as I loved her... I had to leave. I loved her too much to stay. I told her nothing of my plans. I did not need her following me and trying to stop me as I knew she would try to do. I would be too easily unmanned, if she was close to me, begging me to rethink this.

She had no future with me. I could not bear to watch another love, age, and then die as I stayed young and hearty. It broke my heart to write it.

I left, making as little noise as I could, and caught the early morning train from Paris to London; arriving at about 6 am. I could doze on the train as we flashed under the English Channel.

I’d already composed a letter to Lord Burgess, Rossignol’s father.

I would deliver it to his address in a fashionable part of London. At the same time, I would give him my original memoir, taking a risk in doing so (except... if I succeeded, I would soon be dead, so what did it matter if I gave it to him? His daughter had a copy, so it would not be lost), but I had to tempt him, however I could, to lend me his assistance. I said nothing of paying him. I knew that would be likely to insult him and turn him away.

I’d followed him in the newspapers long before I’d met his daughter.

He was one of those old scholars, adventurers, explorers; much like Livingstone, or Burton (the other Burton, not the actor), Carter, of Tutankhamen fame; Fraser (the Bolden Bough), or Fitzgerald (The Rubaiyat).

He took on madcap projects that others scoffed at, with his close-knit team of like-minded stalwarts (all misfits, like me).

I suppose the easy way to describe him would be to call him a reclusive, third level, Indiana Jones. He hated the spotlight, but his occasional discoveries brought him headlines and fame, which he hated as much as I did when I was caught up in it.

His house was easily found; one of those large, early Victorian houses which shrieked ‘wealth’, from every chimney pot (capped over now, after various changes following the infamous London smogs of the 50’s and 60’s which killed so many people, but not noticed or considered until the undertakers began to run out of coffins)... and window.

I’d left his jacket behind with his daughter, Rossignol, and had picked up one of my own from my hotel room, as well as a basic change of clothes. If I needed a reminder of why I had to do this, I had that stained shirt of mine in a plastic bag with me. Opening that, smelling that, from time to time, like some sex-crazed pervert... would remind me what was at stake. It was not perversion to me. It was love.

I was being given a chance, a second chance with this woman I loved enough to die for, and... die... I... must.

I rapped on his door; rang his bell, soon hearing footsteps echoing along a hallway from the back of the house.

I would say very little. I had that book of mine wrapped, with my letter, in a small tidy package... I’d removed the other, personal documents and drawings. I would leave it with him.

When his man answered the door, I passed it over to him and watched as he undid the string with me standing there (I hadn’t run, so it wasn’t a bomb), suspicious of what it contained. He saw the edge of a book... it was okay. He looked at me, waiting for me to explain.

“That book is for Lord Burgess. He will know what to do with it. There is a letter with it.” He’d seen that.

“Who shall I say it is from, sir?”

I smiled. “Tell him... tell him, it is from the author, and that that same man will meet with him in France... if he is interested. I... he... shall be at the address in the letter.”

The butler sniffed, wanting more, but by then I’d turned away and was headed down the street

I would say nothing more.

I know Lord Burgess had never seen that document before, but if he had as much scholarship as his daughter, and as much interest in the old French, and of the society at that time as she had, he would see enough to interest him.

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