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The Element of Surprise Extract

The Element of Surprise Extract


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Published by Kelley Townley
Set in a Parisian brothel, this is a snippet of an origin story for one of the characters in my book 'The Element of Surprise'.
Set in a Parisian brothel, this is a snippet of an origin story for one of the characters in my book 'The Element of Surprise'.

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Published by: Kelley Townley on Jul 20, 2009
Copyright:Attribution No Derivatives


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© Kelley Townley



Paris, France. The fire was nearly out. Its dying embers glowed peacefully as the little girl gazed at them, feeling the onset of sleep. It wasn’t really cold enough for a fire but the girls who looked after her knew she felt comforted by it and so allowed her this little luxury. You could argue they spoiled her. There were so many girls here that there was always someone to give her attention. To dress her up in their make-up and high heels. To parade around in fake jewels together and laugh and sing. She had such fun here, but only during the day. At night everything was different. After sundown the girls became too busy to play with her and she was sent upstairs to bed. There was still singing and dancing downstairs but it was grown-up games and she was told she was too young to play. She lay curled up on a blanket in front of the dying fire cuddling Monsieur Chat. Gaston had given her Monsieur Chat. The black and white striped stuffed feline was her only possession. Gaston was a nice man and this was his house. He looked after her and all the girls too. They loved him very much, like sweet butterflies crooning over a beautiful flower, and so did she. If the girls were like her sisters then he was their father. She found it funny to think that Gaston hadn’t even know about her in the beginning. The girls had tried to keep her hidden but how do you keep a toddler from the boss in such an intimate house? It was impossible. They lasted two days before he had found her. She had a vague memory of the incident. Him throwing things and shouting and everyone crying but he had calmed down in the end and she had stayed. Apparently it was Gaston that had named her, Phoenix, like the bird who came out of the ashes. Lucille, one of the girls, and her favourite if the truth be known, would take great delight in retelling how she'd been found, years ago in the ruins of an orphanage two streets away. The entire building and all of its contents had been reduced to rubble after a great fire, yet in the aftermath, after the crowds and firemen had gone and while the

remains still smouldered Lucille had heard a baby cry. They had rummaged through the debris and found her, cold and naked, crying like nobody’s business. They should have given her up. They should have handed her to the authorities but something held them back. Lucille would tell her how 'in their line of work' they couldn’t afford to have children of their own but that didn’t mean they didn’t have that strong maternal instinct. So they had taken her back to the house and there she’d stayed. This was her home and she was happy here. A coarse laugh rose up through the thin floorboards and the little girl sighed. It would be another long night. Fridays and Saturdays were always the worst. Quite suddenly the door burst open and a man stumbled in, blinded in the brighter light. Startled Phoenix quickly darted under the bed. “This’ll do.” the man breathed, his voice thick with the stuff they drank downstairs. Phoenix could see Lucille silhouetted in the doorway. Her eyes searching the room. Did she know she was here? “Not this one,” Lucille said turning to leave. “Yes. This one,” the man replied picking her up and flinging her onto the bed. The old mattress curved under her weight and Phoenix winced as the man followed, the rough material nearly touching her cheek as it sagged heavily. She gasped, pushing herself into the threadbare carpet. Panic began to rise. She knew she wasn’t meant to be seen. She was to stay out of sight at all times. At night she was to stay in one of the rooms. They told her that ten times a day. But now there was trouble. Normally no-one disturbed her. She was put to bed and the door locked. Although she could hear activity all around no-one ever came in and she never left, like a good girl. But now there was trouble, the door had not been locked tonight. She let out a tiny whimper of despair. “What was that?” grumbled the man. “I didn’t hear anything,” replied Lucille’s voice. “Humph,” he said, then added. “What’s that?” Phoenix stared in horror as she witnessed a large male hand reach down and pluck the forgotten Monsieur Chat from the floor. “Oh! Erm, it’s nothing. We came into the wrong room, that’s all. Let’s just pick another one.” Lucille was already halfway to the door. “It’s a toy,” the man frowned. “You got kids here? I didn’t know you had kids here. How old?” “Forget it. Let’s just get another room,” Lucille insisted.

Like lightening, the man was suddenly off the bed. Phoenix could see his feet facing Lucille’s dainty shoes but her feet were no longer touching the ground. “Don’t you tell me what to do,” he bellowed. “I don't come here so some whiny little tart can boss me around.” Lucille squirmed and squeaked. Her little feet kicking out at the thin air. Phoenix suddenly found herself out from under the bed and staring up at the man. “You leave Lucille and Monsieur Chat alone,” she declared. The man’s face soften at the sight of her and he let Lucille crumple to the floor. Taking a step towards her he dangled the stripy cat that he still held in his bear-like hand. “Is this yours little girl?” he asked sweetly. “Yes,” Phoenix replied. “What will you do to get it back,” he smiled. Lucille coughed and spluttered from behind him. She was trying to crawl for the door. He spun around and caught her ankle. “Where do you think you’re going?” he said. “No one goes anywhere until I get what I paid for.” The look on Lucille’s face horrified Phoenix. She wanted more than anything for this man to disappear. “Leave us alone, you big pig!” Phoenix shouted at the top of her voice. The man struck her across the face so hard she when flying across the room. “That'll teach you to respect me!” he said. Phoenix had landed in the fire. She sat up clutching her hands. “Ah, have you burnt yourself?” the man sneered then frowned as she slowly opened her hands to reveal a dancing flame. He was momentarily stunned by the tiny flicker, then it jumped out of her hand and onto his shirt. He shrieked as the flames moved incredibly fast over his body, rearing backwards in his pain. Phoenix reached out and grabbed Monsieur Chat from his hand just as he toppled onto the bed setting the sheets on fire. Gaston and two girls suddenly burst through the door. “What’s the f...?” Gaston said wide-eyed. “Bad man,” Phoenix replied calmly as the dying man writhed on the bed, and years later Gaston could still remember the flames dancing in the little girl's eyes and it chilled him to his very core. ~ End ~

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