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Jean-Marc Crevier was a simple man of simple needs. He didn't long for treasure, though a few francs in his pocket for women and wine was always appreciated. It was too bad the only alcohol to be had was a swill that should have been left in the horse and the women were too uppity in their God to have any thoughts of an evening of entertainment.
He was there to "advise" the colonists of ways to more easily integrate themselves into their new roles as French citizens. Officially, he wasn't there to tell the people of Watertown how to govern themselves.
However, like many other things, the reality was much different. In practice, the "advice" that Jean-Marc gave was as much of a command as if the king himself had issued a proclamation. The colonists could, in theory, ignore his advice and go contrary to it. But, even they knew they did so at their own risk. Any actions seen as contrary to the wishes of France would be severely punished. Jean-Marc had seen to it that the point had been delivered very graphically.
Despite what many thought, Jean-Marc hadn't enjoyed the execution of Edmund Lockwood. He wasn't a bloodthirsty man. He simply didn't shrink from a bloody path if he believed it was the best course forward. Edmund had made himself a target with his anti-French talk in a local tavern. It had been overheard by many, including Jean-Marc himself. He had noted that far too many of the heads listening to Edmund were nodding in agreement and knew that Edmund would become the center of any resistance here in this village. So, as little as he liked it, Jean-Marc set about to deliver a message to the town in the most graphic, violent way he could concoct, the wheel.
However, that was over now. He was to turn the position over to another and let his successor make the decisions here. In a way, he was oddly regretful to be handing the reins to somebody else. The Puritan folk here were recalcitrant and too often willing to preach Bible verses at him. Jean-Marc wasn't a religious man, but he did try to be respectful of others. The Puritans put his nerves on edge with their pontifications.
And yet, he had come to respect them as a people. They were stubborn, but they were also generous and honest to a fault. While the women wouldn't lay with him, more than one had nursed him through the illnesses and colds this damned place could inflict. They didn't like him, he knew that and understood it. But they had treated him with honesty, fairness, and compassion.
As he turned the corner onto Riverside, a movement caught his attention. A face was briefly illuminated from a candle through an open door. It wasn't much of a glimpse, but it was enough. One of Jean-Marc's talents was the ability to remember faces with uncanny accuracy. The face he had seen belonged to one Nicholas Knapp. And the home that Knapp had entered belonged to Robert Lockwood.
"Very interesting," he murmured to himself. If he had more time, Jean-Marc would have looked forward to investigating this oddity. He didn't have that time; he was overdue for a meeting with his replacement. Soon it would be that man's responsibility to follow these oddities.
Jean-Marc made one final turn and stopped at a house like any other on the street. It was the same river mud cob construction as the rest of the houses. It was larger than many and on one of the largest tracts of land in the village. It had previously belonged to one of the wealthiest Puritans. Now, it served as his replacement's home. Jean-Marc doubted it would remain for long. It would, most likely, be razed and something more French built in its stead.
He took a moment to tug his jacket straight. It did little good; the material was thoroughly disheveled. It needed a wash, but it was also the best that Jean-Marc had. He didn't bother with his hair, it was worse than the coat.
A short, balding man opened the door at his knock. "Oui?"
"I am here to see Monsieur Deshies." Jean-Marc replied.
"And who might you be?" The man, obviously Deshies' valet, looked down his pug nose as though Jean-Marc were a particularly abhorrent insect.
"Jean-Marc Crevier." He sketched a brief bow. One must keep things polite, after all. "I'm the . . ."
"Yes, yes." The valet interrupted impatiently. "I'm quite aware of who you are. Step inside while I see if my lord has time to speak to you."
The wait this time was considerably longer. Whether it was the valet or his lordship the comte, someone was trying to underline the comte's importance by making him wait. It was an old and petty move that many in the nobility thought was clever. Perhaps it was, to the civilized courtier. For Jean-Marc, it was idle time that he spent watching the fire dance in the fireplace.
"His lordship will see you now." The valet held the door open for Jean-Marc.
The comte himself was a slight man, short of stature and weak in build. From the buckled high-heeled pumps to the elaborately curled wig, Jean-Marc quickly gauged the man before him. The judgment was not favorable. The comte was the stereotypical court nonentity that somebody had shuffled off to New France, probably to get some peace from the comte's constant bleating.
Jean-Marc hid a grin. The Puritans were going to eat this little man alive. He just hoped that any damage to France's objectives in the New World would be minimal.
"Ah! Mr. Crevier! May I call you Jean-Marc?" He waved at a chair on the other side of the table turned desk. "Of course I may, It's your Christian name after all. You may call me comte, or simply my lord if you wish to be informal."
Great, Jean thought to himself. The man was not only insufferable but also insecure. He needed constant confirmation of his own stature. He didn't realize how buffoonish he looked. Jean-Marc's already low opinion of the comte slipped further down.
"Thank you, my lord. You requested my presence and I am your loyal servant."
The comte beamed. "Yes, of course you are, my dear Jean-Marc. I have a few items to discuss with you before I officially assume my duties here. But first, I'd like to hear, firsthand, the dynamics of Watertown society."
Jean-Marc began a concise and detailed account of the social and political state of Watertown. From memory, he listed the notable persons of the town and the relations between the factions here.
"And finally, my lord, on my way here, I saw an unexpected face that I believe should be followed."
"And whom would that be?" The comte was looking a bit dazed by the rush of information.
"Nicholas Knapp. I saw him enter the home of Robert Lockwood."
"The fellow you accused of being an informant a few years ago?"
"The same, my lord. I didn't accuse him," Jean-Marc clarified. "The village made that inference after he left so suddenly after the affair with Edmund Lockwood. I simply didn't deny the conclusions of the villagers."
The comte shuddered. "Ghastly business, that. The wheel, was it not?"
"Yes, my lord."
"And this Robert Lockwood was Edmund's brother?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Then we have nothing to worry about. This Robert Lockwood is obviously not going to have dealings with a man that he believes got his brother broken at the wheel." The comte waved dismissively. "I see no reason to concern ourselves with that. This Nicholas person, if it were really him, would find a cold welcome and probably leave town again."
Jean-Marc tried to keep the disbelief and irritation out of his voice. Irritation for the man's questioning of his word and disbelief that anyone could possibly be so dense as to not investigate something so odd.
"I would suggest you reconsider, my lord." By the look on the comte's face, he failed in keeping his voice neutral.