Learn more...

E-mail:

Follow instructions for submissions using the links above. E-mail submissions to publisher@route11publications.us

"Broken Crowns"

by Tamara Shoemaker


The author interviews her villain:
I thumped the knocker against the heavy wood door.  A snake's head curved through the ornate carvings, it's mouth gaping, fangs prominent.  I shuddered.

“Enter.”  Her silky smooth voice matched the satiny finish of the snake's wood scales.  I pushed the heavy door open and stepped into the room.  The door slowly slid shut behind me.

She sat in a high-backed, uncomfortable-looking chair.  A huge desk hid most of her petite frame from my view.  Her green eyes bored into me.  I dropped my notebook.  She smirked.

Struggling to regain my composure, I fumbled for the notebook on the floor, then approached her desk.

“Sit.”  She motioned to a small seat, an ottoman, really.  I sat and felt my insignificance grow.  I shifted uncomfortably and suddenly noticed the glass aquarium behind her.  Inside, three or four huge rattlesnakes lay coiled one atop the other.  A blue luminescence cast a gloomy glow over the snakes' bodies.

“You will not be long.”  It was not a question.  She glanced pointedly at the grandfather clock in the corner.  “I have a Parliament meeting to attend.”

“Um...” I mumbled.  My discomfort grew.  “I was wondering if you could tell me a little about your – your interest in the occult?  Why that particular field?”

Her finely penciled eyebrows arched.  “Ah.  I assume you're not asking out of interest for yourself?”

My cheeks grew hot.  I dropped my eyes.  “Um.  No ma'am.”

“No, your grace,” she snapped.  “I will forgive your American ignorance this once.”  She leaned forward on her desk and crossed her arms.  Her whole being loomed over my spirit.  “It is about power.  Influence.  Prestige.”  She paused.  “A name.”  She pushed herself out of her chair and paced to the window.  The heavy drapes spread wide to allow a panorama of London's bustling streets.  “Of course my birth and heritage have given me a place in Parliament.  But... it's an ordinary power.  Commonplace.  Pedestrian.”

I raised my eyebrows.  I couldn't manage to pull it off as effectively as the killer glances she had spared me thus far.  “The House of Lords is commonplace?”

“It is nothing.”  Her voice lashed across my ears.   “The real power is beyond the realm of the physical.  Beyond the everyday.  It is there for the taking.  For the possessing.”  I could almost see the slaver form at her perfectly painted lips.  Her desire threatened to swallow me whole.  Her trembling fingers curled around the back of the chair, her knuckles white.

Time to back-peddle.  I didn't like the gleam in her eyes.  “I guess I understand your vendetta against him, but... why her?  Why did you want to hurt her?”

“Hmm.”  She threw a mysterious smile my way and reseated herself.  One long index finger traced light circles on the glass snake aquarium.  “You're young.  I'm guessing you're inexperienced with the games and schemes and power plays of mankind.”  She paused and moved her gaze back to the window.  “Why did I want to hurt Jill?  Because she was a threat to my power.  She was an impediment in my path.  She was a weed in my perfectly manicured garden.  What do you do with weeds?”

It took me a moment to realize she actually wanted me to answer.  I licked my dry lips.
 “Well, you pluck them.”

She laughed, a low sultry sound that sent chills up my spine.  “Exactly.”

I hadn't written the question in my notebook, but it crawled its way out of my throat.  “Did you love him?  At one time?”

Suddenly, blindingly, a flash of vulnerability crossed her face.  She slammed her expression shut as firmly as a tomb.  “Love?”  She snorted.  “Love is for weak fools who dabble with paltry feelings and illusory dreams.  I have no time for weak-minded foolishness.”

The room fell silent except for the slow tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the corner.  Suddenly, the questions written in my notebook felt meaningless.  Futile.  I glanced at the Duchess again.  She stared hard at me, then turned her eyes pointedly to the clock.

I took a deep breath.  “I have to go.  I appreciate your time.”  I slid my pencil inside the spiral and rose from my chair, tucking my notebook under my arm. 

No polite rejoinders, no assurances that my presence had been appreciated.  She turned to her aquarium and lovingly stroked the top edge of it. 

I stopped at the door and turned back.  “Why the snakes?” I asked.

“Yes.  My darlings,” she purred.  “Why does one keep tokens of affection, relics of past accomplishments, pictures of memorable occasions?  Because,” she turned to face me, “they are a part of you.  They represent your very being.  Your past.  Your present.  And most often, your future.  Do you fear the snakes?  The venom in their fangs?”

I managed a tiny nod.

“Fear is Power.”  Each word slammed against my eardrums.  “And Power is the ultimate conquest.  The final end.”

I swallowed hard and grasped the door handle.  It pulled slowly open and I put Power to the back of me.  I walked down the hall towards Freedom and Commonality.