The Bachelor Betrayal – Free Deleted Scene of Marcus
– EXCLUSIVE ADDITIONAL SCENE –
Paris, November 1885
The brisk clip of footsteps on the cobblestoned footbridge echoed loudly in the otherwise silent night. Cloaked in shadows at the other end of the bridge, Marcus Black, the Earl of Westwood, stood watching as his informant swiftly crossed from the left bank of the river Seine to their meeting point.
The flickering gas lamps, which stood proud in their vigil along the crossing, barely cast enough light to penetrate the inky darkness of the moonless night.
His informant’s footsteps slowed as he came to the end of the overpass, his eyes darting around trying to seek Marcus out. Just as the man was about to walk straight past him, Marcus stepped into the small patch of light radiating from the gas lamp to his right. “I hope this is worth my time, Jacques. Your last lead came to naught.”
Jacques jolted to a nervous stop. “You came alone, I hope.” His French accent thick, his eyes searching beyond Marcus into the darkness.
“Of course,” Marcus replied. “Now, what information do you have to share?”
Jacques pulled out a piece of parchment from a pocket of his tattered grey jacket; the older man’s attempt to dress incognito, Marcus supposed, as the normally flamboyant gentlemen’s club owner would never ordinarily wear such a plain garment in public. Not that there was much chance of anyone coming across them in this derelict section of Paris, and at such a late hour too. The very reason Marcus had picked the location.
“I happened to intercept this telegram, which I knew would interest you greatly,” Jacques said, passing over the paper, his hands trembling.
Odd that a man with Jacques’ years of experience, particularly in dealing with black-market goods, including information, would be so scared. He was normally the epitome of a suave and confident Frenchman, but tonight there was fear, deep in his eyes.
Marcus took the paper and scanned its contents. A sense of frustration filled him as he read the words. His quarry was heading back to England after having been hired to assassinate a large list of important targets. God damn it! The fiend had gotten away again and would be actively targeting more Englishmen. “When was this sent?”
Jacques looked over his shoulder at the deserted bridge he’d just crossed, before returning his attention back to Marcus. “Only this afternoon, my lord. As soon as I read the words The Chameleon, I knew you would wish to be informed immediately. You are hunting him, aren’t you?”
Marcus tucked up the note and slipped it into his jacket pocket. He would have to begin departure preparations for London immediately. “Yes, and when I catch him, I intend to see him caged for life.” He retrieved an envelope from his jacket, then handed it to Jacques “For your troubles, my friend.”
Jacques shook his head and held up his palms, refusing to take the proffered item. “The Chameleon took my son from me. Anything I can do to assist in your endeavor, I will do so gladly. Though I would prefer the creature be buried six feet under rather than caged.”
“Justice will be done in one form or another, of that you can be certain.” Marcus shook Jacques’ hand, unsurprised by the news that the Chameleon had killed the man’s son. For too long, the Chameleon had taken away many loved ones. And for too long, Marcus had been chasing the assassin, and getting close, but never close enough. No longer. It would end in England. He would do all in his power to ensure that. “You have my thanks for the information.”
A sudden sense of unease gripped Marcus. His whole body tensed as danger prickled along his awareness. He spun around and glimpsed a shadow move on the opposite side of the bridge.
Instinctively, he dove forward into Jacques, his body propelling both of them out of the small shaft of light into the shadows and down onto the cobblestones beneath. The roar of a pistol cracked loudly around them as several bullets were fired toward where they’d been standing.
Nimbly, Marcus rolled off Jacques and grabbed ahold of the man’s jacket, dragging him behind the nearest stone pillar. Hearing footsteps pound across the bridge walkway, Marcus pivoted around and pulled out his own revolver. “Stay put,” he told Jacques, before crouching down to the side of the pillar and peering around it to the footbridge.
“Oh, I shall,” Jacque’s shaken voice mumbled back.
Confident that the Frenchman would do as instructed, Marcus focused his attention on the three men fast approaching, all of whom were dressed in black and carrying what appeared to be double-action revolvers.
“Kill them both,” the middle one yelled aloud, his voice muffled by the mask he wore, yet his distinct British accent still clear, even if unrecognizable. The man’s two other companions nodded and forged ahead toward where Marcus and Jacques were hidden.
Marcus aimed his revolver at the one on the left and pressed the trigger. The bullet pierced the man’s shooting shoulder, propelling him backward as his weapon clattered to the cobblestones with a heavy thud. The other two assailants ducked for cover behind the gas lamps, before returning fire in earnest.
Bullets slammed into the stone of the pillar, sending plumes of dust into the air. Marcus spun backwards, pressing himself against the protection of the stone, the smell of gunshot powder filling his nostrils.
The shooting stopped. He’d counted seven bullets discharged and depending on how many had been used in the initial shooting, they couldn’t have many left, whereas Marcus had four remaining. He could work with those odds.
Sliding down and onto his stomach, he shimmied to the ground until he could see around the column. Being this low also helped minimize the normally large target his six-foot-four-inch frame made.
In the middle of the bridge, lying on his back and moaning aloud was the man Marcus had shot. The other two were obviously taking cover in the deep shadows, their position hidden.
Behind him, he could hear Jacques muttering several Hail Mary’s under his breath. Didn’t look like the old man had much confidence in Marcus’s abilities, and for some reason the thought brought a half smile to his lips. Well, Marcus had always taken a somewhat perverse pleasure in beating the odds, no matter the circumstances. Much to his family’s consternation.
Assessing his rather limited options, he grabbed a rock beside him, then lobbed it across to the opposite side of the bridge, where it clattered against the railing.
Immediately, one of the men shot in that direction, the brief flash from the discharge of his bullet, enough to allow Marcus to pinpoint the man’s position. Marcus pulled the trigger and heard a grunt just before the sound of a body slamming down onto the walkway reverberated through the night. The bullet had hit its mark.
The third man fired toward Marcus, both of their positions now revealed. Marcus flung himself to the side as a bullet skimmed past his head. Footsteps pounded across the bridge. Marcus glanced up to see the Englishman running back the way he’d come.
Leaping to his feet, Marcus began chasing after him. He saw the Englishman point his revolver out to his side, aiming and firing at the first fallen man, before vaulting up onto the balustrade and leaping into the water below.
Running up to the side of the bridge, Marcus glanced down, searching the black swirling water for any sign of him. Nothing. God damn it! Not again.
Tucking his revolver into his pants, Marcus quickly checked on the other two assailants. Both were dead. One from his hand, but the other from the man’s own comrade. Clearly, the Englishman hadn’t wanted him to be questioned.
“Are they dead?” Jacques asked, his bald head peeking out from behind the now ruined pillar.
“Unfortunately, yes.” Marcus said, bending down and searching the first man’s pockets and then the next one’s. Nothing. Marcus felt like swearing. He’d at least been hoping to find something to indicate who they were or where they’d come from. Anything really.
But if the men had been contracted by the Chameleon, as Marcus suspected, he doubted they’d have anything on them that would lead to the assassin. After all, the Chameleon wasn’t stupid. As evidenced by the fact that no one in the intelligence community, including Marcus himself, could ferret out exactly who the assassin was; and Marcus had spent the better part of three years trying to do so.
“Qu’el domage,” the Frenchman tittered as he came to stand beside where Marcus was crouched. “But, better them than us, I suppose. I imagine this has something to do with the Chameleon, no?” he asked, using a handkerchief to mop away the sweat beading across his brow.
“It’s likely. Do you know these men?” he asked as he stood.
“No,” Jacques replied. “But I have contacts with La Police and I should be able to find out. Speaking of which, we had best be on our way before they arrive.”
Jacques was right, of course. And though Marcus loathed not cleaning up his own mess, if the French police so much as suspected he’d been involved, they would detain him in the country for weeks, if not months. Which was time he did not have, not if he didn’t want the Chameleon to slip through his fingers once again. He had to get back to London immediately. “Very well, my friend. My thanks again for the information.”
“And my thanks to you for saving my life.” Jacques bowed cordially and then took Marcus’s hand in his own and shook it. “Promise me you will catch this Chameleon. He must pay for his sins. He must pay for taking my son’s life.”
Marcus nodded. “I promise.” And damn it, he would get the bastard. He would seek justice not only for Jacques’s son, but for all of the Chameleon’s victims, including Marcus’s own wife Elizabeth and his younger brother Nathaniel.
The image of walking into Elizabeth’s bedchamber and seeing her lifeless body, tangled amongst the blood-soaked sheets of her bed, surfaced to his awareness. The pale, almost translucent porcelain of her skin, a stark contrast to the deep crimson pooling around her. It was an image he couldn’t forget. And no matter how unfaithful she’d been, no one deserved to die like that.
Taking in a deep breath, Marcus released Jacques’ hand and then with a nod, he stepped backwards into the shadows. He turned and strode down the footbridge, the sound of his footfalls silent on the stones beneath.
He had too much to do to dwell on memories of the past. Even if it was those memories influencing his every action in the present.
The time had finally come to avenge Elizabeth and find the double agent responsible for framing his brother as a traitor selling secrets to the Russians. Because no matter what evidence the War Office had supposedly found, Nathaniel had been no traitor to the Crown. A fact Marcus was damn well going to prove.
And the Chameleon was his key to doing so.