I don't often share snippets from my work in progress but this won't reveal much of the plot so I'll give it a go. This is one of my favorite short scenes from Julien's Terror, due for release in July this year.
Here, I pit Parisian fortune teller, Marie Anne Lenormand, against Minister of Police Joseph Fouché. The order from Napoleon is based on fact - he was secretly planning to divorce Josephine in order to marry Marie Louise of Austria...
The door at 5 rue de Tournon swiveled open and Marie Anne Lenormand came face-to-face with the Minister of Police, Joseph Fouché.
“Plotting with the aristocrats can lend you in prison, mademoiselle.”
His sly smile chilled her bones. The man who had once voted for King Louis XVI’s execution won no favors with Marie Anne.
“My royalists are well behaved,” she quipped, still standing by the doorway. “I’ve done nothing wrong. Things have been a little chaotic here, for a few years. Having a glimpse into their future allows the Parisians to sleep at night. After all,” she added, alluding to him, “not many of us can change allegiance as frequently as their linen.”
Fouché’s thin lips were pursed and he shot her a murderous glare. Marie Anne saw that her remark had hit its target.
“I am warning you, that is all. Call it courtesy.”
“You could, yourself, predict the future but the doom and gloom would suit no clients, Fouché. What do you really want?”
“May I?” He gestured towards the door.
She let him in.
Fouché’s piercing small eyes missed nothing of his surroundings. He strolled on the thick carpet in the entrance hall and sat himself on a Louis XV seat. Then he crossed his leg and reclined, drawing out a pipe which he pressed to his lips.
Marie Anne Lenormand remained standing at the door.
“My clients are waiting, Fouché. Are you planning on arresting me?”
“Not this time.”
“Then what is it you want?”
He inhaled quietly, his sunken cheeks appearing all the more spectral under the dim candle light.
“It’s simple. I want you to start turning away Josephine de Bauharnais. Without revealing state secrets, I can tell you, that the emperor is entering a state of affairs that can only agitate her in the months to come. Josephine has, as I understand it, often had recourse to your generous services. When the moment arrives, and I believe it will be soon, she is likely to turn to you. Just as she has, countless times. For this reason, much as the emperor has tolerated your charlatan cabinet for years, his warning is now explicit. He wishes that there be absolutely no influence on your part. Mademoiselle Lenormand, may I make this very clear. Your affairs, meddling with the empress are now ended. Do you understand?”
“You wish me to turn away the empress on her next visit?”
“That is correct. And the visit after that. And the one after. It is over, mademoiselle.”
“You would prevent me from seeing Josephine de Beauharnais?”
“Something like that.”
“Then I say, Monsieur Fouché that you are as much a crook as I am.”
“If you say so.”
“And what if I refuse?”
“That, mademoiselle, would be very, very unwise. If you so much as meet Josephine de Beauharnais, either in this house, or elsewhere, or even – and don’t think me a fool – even in the Luxembourg gardens, I shall know of it. I have spies watching your every moves, mademoiselle. And if I find that you have lent your services once again to the empress, I shall have no recourse but to arrest you. Mark my words.”
“Arrest me? For seeing the empress who willingly engages my science? The nerve of it!”
“Your black arts, your charlatan tricks, whatever you want to call them. By all means, indulge another, but not the empress.”
“You cannot arrest me for obliging a willing client!”
Fouché put away his pipe and rose, indicating that the interview was finished. Marie Anne stood away from the door and pulled it open.
“I will be watching you, mademoiselle.”
And he let himself out without looking back.
Julien's Terror is psychological thriller/mystery set in post revolutionary France. Watch out for the early Kindle release in May...