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The Red Court

by

Richard P. Alvarez

Richard Alvarez bio


Sounds of the combat could not be heard, but the occasional roll of applause reached Jack in the dressing room downstairs. The black-tie formalities of the Paris Opera house he noted, were a far cry from the televised side show antics of The White Court. Of course, these people paid top dollar for the privilege of witnessing a Red Court Session.

"Nice Fleché, too bad he missed," Adam remarked. Jack's Second watched the sabre duel on a closed circuit monitor over their heads as Jack re-laced his boots for the third time.

"Heinrich saw it coming," Brady argued. As Seconds, Brady and Adam were expected to converse. Their official purpose - to try and effect a reconciliation or settlement between the plaintiffs, immediately before combat took place. In reality, they were a sort of buffer between the clients and their champions. This allowed Jack to prepare himself mentally and physically before the match. Each champion chose his own Second.

"You want a different pair?" Adam offered Jack a selection of boots from the locker.

"No, I just can't seem to get these laced right."

Clarence sat silently at the other end of the room - perched on the counter cross legged, meditating like some well-oiled black Buddha. He and Jack had met twice before, always with Jack the victor. In fact, those two losses made up half of Clarence's total defeats in his 38 match career in the Red Court. This session marked Jack's 20th Red Court Case. With only two defeats, he began to seriously consider the Black Gauntlet, though Adam tried to discourage him.

"Yoritomo is tired... he'll never last," Brady and Adam stood together, watching the monitor. On screen, a close-up from the hand held camera showed Yoritomo's face bathed in sweat. His eyes betrayed a hounded look.

"Ten minutes... tops," Adam agreed and glanced toward his principal.

Jack froze in mid stretch. He hooked his right leg up on the counter, his forehead against his knee. Adam assumed he was visualizing the bout.

He was wrong.

Jack's mind reeled in turmoil, a tumbling mass of images. Even as he struggled for focus, he staggered under the effect she had on him.

"Six years, at least," he thought. "There is no way it could have been her. She would never come to a match. It must be someone else." Each time he convinced himself that the brief glimpse of her face in the lobby was a mistake, he saw her features more clearly than before. He replayed it in his mind, superimposing Becky's face on the woman in red. Each mental image chipped away at a subconscious dam, holding back a flood of memories. First there was a trickle; her laughing smile, dinner at Toni's, or her body dancing to Debussy on stage. Every image tore away at the barrier until a deluge of impressions came pouring forth. The touch of her hands, the curve of her back, the taste of her skin...

"Jack, you okay?"

Adam's hand on his shoulder startled him more than the voice.

"Yeah, I was... off on vacation."

"You're needed here," Adam frowned.

"I'm okay, really. Good to go." Jack's attention was drawn by the shifting shadow in the corner. Clarence came to life, slipping off the counter to stand beneath the monitor with Brady.

"Well, that says it doesn't it?" Clarence spoke softly.

On screen, the camera showed a close-up of a man in the audience. Late fifties, thin grey hair, glasses. Beneath his image, flashed - "Eric McCutchen / CEO Chemcorp Intl." He seemed unaware the camera was on him, and it cut back to the combatants. Their blades were lowered, as they paused out of distance, each taking the other's measure.

"You think McCutchen is looking for an arbitrator?" Adam's voice was doubtful.

"Gotta be, why else is he here? You heard the rumors. St. Anthony's school got the arbitration clause, now he's looking for a blade," Clarence answered.

"Lot of 'Rich and Famous' out there, they're not all looking for representation."

"Maybe not, but I'll bet good money he's back here at the end of the night," Brady smiled at Clarence, "looking for a champion."

"There are a dozen qualified Black Gauntlets, why come here?" Jack countered.

"Maybe they've turned him down? " Adam offered.

"Hard to turn down the kind of money he would offer," Brady aimed his remark at Clarence.

"Yeah, well, it'd take more than money to get me into the Black Court," Jack exchanged looks with Adam.

"Sweet!!" Clarence shouted. Jack and Adam looked up at the monitor, as it showed a replay in slow motion.

A long exchange of bladework, with Heinrich advancing and Yoritomo back-peddling. The German's arm was extended, raining a flurry of cuts at Yoritomo with his wrist and forearm. Yoritomo was parrying frantically, and had just about re-established distance when he slipped on the sweat spattered floor, falling backward.

He extended his left leg in the fall, hoping to parry with his boot, or catch Heinrich in the face. Instead he planted it full in the solar plexus, lifting the man clear of the floor.

Heinrich continued to cut, even as he rotated overhead. His blade caught Yoritomo in the left shoulder, biting deep. Only the point's contact with the floor kept the wound from being worse.

"Serious cut, he'll be in rehab for a year with that." Brady nodded and looked to Clarence.

"Ready?"

Clarence was in a final stretch, his arms against the wall, arching his back. He yawned once, and Jack yawned in return. He knew it was his body responding to the adrenaline flow.

"See you on the other side," his only comment to Jack that evening.

"Right." It was a common exchange between champions in the Red Court. A sort of spoken acknowledgement that emotions were to be kept under control. The object was first blood, not death or dismemberment.

Still, Jack remembered, shit happens.

Clarence and his second passed through the doors ahead of them. Adam stopped Jack.

"Are you okay? You seem, distant... unfocused."

"No, I'm alright, I'm ready."

"Because if you're not one hundred percent on this, say the word, when we get to the final affront upstairs, I'll put in for a delay."

"No, that's not necessary. I was thinking about... someone I once knew. A girl I used to love with in college,"

"Love with?"

Jack let out an easy laugh. "Lived with. Ancient history. No sweat." Adam looked uncertain. "Really."

"Okay, I'll trust you on this." Adam turned to head upstairs. On the third step ahead of Jack, his right heel came swinging back in a side kick at Jack's head.

Jack avoided the kick, and caught Adam's ankle in his hand.

"Slipped on the stairs?"

"Just checking," Adam smiled. Jack held Adam's ankle for a moment, and a mischievous grin crossed his face.

"Jack..."

"Just checking."

Backstage, an area had been set aside as an arbitration chamber. Jack and Adam entered amid a bustle of activity. A small group of reporters and cameramen clustered about Heinrich and his client from Eurotel, taking pictures and asking for statements. A few followed the gurney with Yoritomo out the back doors to a waiting ambulance.

"Madame Reneé Villacourt versus Edward de Rossa, shall commence in ten minutes." Jack heard the announcement, and saw the house lights come up from beneath the front curtain. A subdued murmur leaked through the curtain as the audience moved about in their seats.

"Jack, how are we doing?" Edward de Rossa was a small man, most would use the term effeminate. He had short curly black hair and a badly trimmed Vandyke. He wore an expensive tuxedo of his own design, and was understandably nervous. He constantly wiped his hands with a small handkerchief.

"Good, Edward, we are good to go. Are you committed to this?" Jack kept his tone calm and even. Edward looked at Adam, and mopped the sweat on his brow.

"Yes, I think so."

"You have to be certain Mr. de Rossa. If Jack loses, you lose everything. You understand that?"

"Yes, yes, I understand. I just want this to be over. I am a creative man. I cannot work under these conditions. Letters from lawyers, phone calls, bills. Constant distractions. She lied, and she knows it. Those design are my own. She hasn't had an original concept since she stole the Renaissance bodice from Luré twenty years ago. This is the only way out, win or lose. I believe in justice."

Jack looked away and Adam spoke quietly.

"You must understand Edward. This is not about justice. The arbitration system, the legal system, is just a collection of rules for settling arguments. Someone always feels the outcome is unjust.."

"Jack, I believe in you. I believe in justice. You will win."

"I'll do my best."

"My cause is just, you will win, I know it."

"Gentlemen?" They were interrupted by the Director of Arbitration from the International Board. "I believe we're ready."

The group huddled around a small table with keyboards and screens recessed in the top. De Rossa, Adam and Jack on one side, Madame Reneé, Clarence, and Brady on the other.

"The formal paperwork has been signed off on, as per the agreement and the rules governing this board. This is a last attempt to avoid confrontation. For the record," he reached down and touched a key, setting the video and audio discs recording in the computers. "This match is to determine the outcome of a series of suits and counter suits between the parties Edward de Rossa and Madame Reneé. The initial charge of libel and slander filed by Mr. De Rossa led to a counter suit of plagiarism, theft of intellectual property..." The voice droned on, and the screen rolled the record in front of Jack's eyes.

Unlike the small claims of the televised White Court games, the Red Court was mostly concerned with legal contracts that had an arbitration clause in them. Though torts like Libel and Slander often found their way into the system if the clients were rich enough. The Black Court, of course, dealt with more serious cases still. And there was no appeal. Jack lifted his gaze from the screen to study the people around him. Out front, a chamber orchestra, played a piece by Debussy, "Apres Midi de Faune".

"Mustn't think about her," he told himself. Though he could remember making love all night after she first danced that piece in New York. He barely passed his exams in tort law the next day.

He broke off the thoughts to scan the room. The seconds were checking the screens, Madame Reneé and de Rossa exchanged dagger stares, and Clarence focused his eyes on a spot about ten feet above Jack's head.

Where are my thoughts? He looked toward the wings, and saw Heinrich, talking with a suit. When the pair stepped back through the wings, he could see by a shaft of light that it was the CEO of Chemcorp International, Eric McCutchen, shaking hands with the champion.

This action had not gone unnoticed by Clarence, and he and Jack exchanged looks. Clarence shrugged.

"..resulting in this match," the Director's legal litany wound down. "Will the parties please rise."

The table stood as one. "Madame Reneé, Mr. De Rossa, you understand the charges as recorded, and agree to submit these charges to binding Arbitration as represented by this combat

today?"

"Yes. "

"You will abide by the outcome as decided by the Director appointed by the International Board of Arbitration?" "Yes."

"The settlement has been agreed to in advance, and listed as Article 3 Appendix C of the agreement. You understand the outcome is legal and binding, and there is no legal basis for further appeal?"

"Yes."

"Jack Reyzor, do you accept the challenge and agree to represent the client, for valuable consideration or pro bono, of your own free will?"

"I understand the charges and accept the challenge on behalf of Edward de Rossa."

"Clarence Hill, do you understand the charges and accept the claim on behalf of the client, Madame Reneé?"

"I understand and accept."

"Gentlemen Seconds, have you attempted a reconciliation between the parties and suggested further legal course?"

"Can we get on with this!" Madame Reneé shouted. The director looked annoyed. Adam and Brady nodded at each other.

"We have."

"Very well. Jack, Clarence, your I.D. scans please."

Since there were no pockets in the tight white spandex knickers the fighters wore, their seconds produced the ID cards and Clarence and Jack slipped them into the computer terminals. Each took a moment to verify and a soft whir and beep could be heard.

The director nodded at the screen, and ran his own ID through a scanner. He keyed it in and then shut the terminal down.

"We may proceed to weapons selection at this time."

The group pushed back from the table and walked to a large heavy mobile unit with an armed guard standing next to it. The director ran his card through a scan again, then keyed in a sequence. The heavy doors unlocked and he swung them open to reveal a selection of edged weapons.

"Jesus..." de Rossa whispered. Even Madame Reneé paled visibly.

Everything from tiny stilettos to rapiers to bowie knives. The choice had been finalized between Adam and Brady a week before of course. Still, there was a chance for change even at this point.

Along the lower shelf, hung a half dozen sabers. Made by Wilkinson, they followed the old 1908 pattern except for one thing.

They had no point.

Not that the weapons were dull. Their edges were razor sharp, ground to a surgical finish. The first few moments of a match were always the most crucial. With an edge like a scalpel, a skillful combatant could inflict the lightest cut on a forearm that would draw blood and end the match. As the bout wore on, and the blades rapidly dulled, harder and more vicious attacks would be needed to slice the skin. The critical moments were in the first two or three exchanges.

The points were flat to prevent thrusting, a heart thrust would kill a man before medical help could be applied.

The fighters stood stripped to the waist, their only concession to body armor was the small patch of kevlar sewn into their knickers behind the knees.

"Clarence, you have first choice," the director instructed. Clarence stepped forward and selected the first saber on the left hand side of the rack.

"Jack..."

Jack took the one on the right, out of some aesthetic desire to maintain the symmetry of the arrangement. He knew that Adam and Brady had checked the weapons for balance and edge. They were all identical. The big-laser warmed his hand when he broke the sterile field to select it. The shark skin grip felt rough in his palm as he hefted the weapon, and went through a rapid change of guards. He nodded silent assent to Adam.

"This weapon suits us," Adam said.

"We are satisfied," Brady spoke for Clarence.

"Very well, Gentlemen, and Madame, you may take your place on the strip."

The group separated and retired to the wings. The orchestra was finishing a selection by Grieg.

"How long do you think this will take?" de Rossa asked nervously. Adam stepped between the designer and Jack. He placed a hand on the small man's shoulder and guided him towards his assigned chair at the edge of the strip.

"Hard to say Mr. de Rossa. Could be over in a matter of seconds."

"Hope not..." the remark came from a passing cameraman, and Adam shot him a look. The technician reacted like a whipped dog, retreating , and dragging a cable like a tail behind him.

Jack practiced a deep breathing exercise, clearing his mind. He nodded politely to the surgeon, whom he had met before, but whose name escaped him at the moment.

"I am here....I am now..." he chanted and closed his eyes.

"Et maintenant, Madames et Monsieurs, l'assout finale de la soirete..." The Director, dressed in black tie and tails, would conduct the bout in French. Some in the audience wore translators, but even those who were not French understood the universal language of the strip from watching so many bouts.

The applause was enthusiastic as Jack was announced. He stepped forward into the lights.

Bright, yet diffuse, without blinding the fencers, the light seemed to come from everywhere at once. He could not see beyond the orchestra pit, covered with a protective net, but he knew the audience was out there. He seldom heard or noticed them in the heat of a bout.

Clarence stepped out at the other side; the pair were separated by a distance of eighty feet. They walked slowly forward on the command from the Director and waited on either side of the center line.

The wooden floor had been freshly cleaned and dried. In the Black Court, Jack knew, the floor was made of a textured rubber, to ensure better traction when covered in blood. He and Clarence were free to use the entire stage back to the wings. Crossing beyond the strip meant forfeiture of the match. It was up to the director and the cameraman to stay out of their way.

"Gentlemen..." the Director's soft voice was amplified over the house system. Jack raised the guard to his chin and offered a salute to the Director, the audience, his client, and finally Clarence.

"En guarde..." they settled into guard, separated by four meters.

"Allez."

A heartbeat passed and they both stepped forward. In the last two meetings, Clarence had come out hard and fast, pressing for quick blood. He seemed more cautious to Jack. Jack made a small advance, closing the distance, and dropped his point in invitation.

He didn't think Clarence would take it. In fact he was counting on Clarence relaxing a bit at the obvious invitation. Jack planned to launch a quick cut to the fore arm, on Clarence's hesitation.

Instead, Clarence exploded. A feint cut to Jack's outside fore arm, with a follow through to his head on a jump forward.

Jack reacted to the feint, and had to rock back to get the head parry in time. He threw a riposte at Clarence's chest as he hopped backwards to regain his balance and guard. They paused out of distance.

The ring of steel drifted back to them from the far wall of the house. Someone coughed.

They closed again.

Jack made a hard cut to Clarence's left flank, hoping he would pick it up in quarte, and make his riposte to Jack's fore arm. The intention was to pick up Clarence's arm on the disengage. It had worked before.

Not this time.

Clarence picked up the parry in four, but instead of a direct riposte to Jack's arm, he pressed in, holding contact and closing the distance, binding down for a cut at Jack's leg.

Jack yielded the parry, rolling his wrist into second to protect his right leg, and then jumped back again without riposting. Clarence flicked his edge toward Jack in response.

Jack was losing ground. This was going to be a physical match, fought at close quarters.

At six foot three, Jack had the reach on Clarence. Clarence was built like the middleweight he used to be, solid and hard. He had no intention of letting Jack keep the fight at far distance. And Jack didn't want to give Clarence a chance to close and use a left hook. Anything was legal of course, and a bloody nose was as good as a cut for a win.

It was mostly a game of distance now. They traded simple attacks with no ripostes, in an effort to feel each other out. The floor was covered in sweat, showing the progress back and forth. Their boots squeaked in response to sudden bursts of activity. Jack never heard the occasional applause, though he knew by reviewing past tapes that it was there.

Everything in him was focused. He willed his body forward and back. His arm reacted to thoughts unbidden, and his subconscious logged decisions for future reference. His eyes never strayed from Clarence, though he could not say that he noticed the man's features.

They closed again just out of distance, center strip. Jack knew that Clarence wanted to force a close, so he went along with the strategy, fencing with second intention.

Jack advanced with a feint to the head, and Clarence responded with a simultaneous advance, and a stop cut to Jack's flank. It was perfectly timed to break Jack's rhythm, and almost succeeded in opening his rib cage. Instead, Jack broke tempo, parried the blade and closed in tight.

For a half beat their eyes locked over the corp-a-corps. Clarence threw a vicious rabbit punch into Jack's kidney, and broke the contact to aim a cut at Jack's head.

Jack responded by diving past Clarence, in a forward roll, to recover on guard, but out of breath. They had changed sides now, and Jack kept his point out to maintain distance, and regain his composure.

Clarence stepped forward, point in line, and engaged the dull tips of the blades.

He was toying with Jack. No one fenced with engagement for first blood. Jack's eyes focused on Clarence's face, and for the first time that he could remember in a bout, he saw his opponent smile.

At that moment, there was a blur of motion and light in a box just above Clarence's left shoulder. A woman in a red dress stood up, speaking in a harsh whisper, clearly displeased with her escort. Jack recognized the woman in red from the lobby. They were sitting in the boxes that overhung the strip at either end, the best seats in the house. She turned to leave the box and passed from shadow into the light momentarily.

It was Becky, he was sure now.

Jack's subconscious took over in the midst of Clarence's charge. Too late to parry, he dropped back in passe de sotto, his rear leg extending, his left hand reaching down to the ground for support. He aimed his counter attack at Clarence's thigh, hoping his opponent's blade would pass overhead in his running advance.

A light burst in Jack's eyes and he heard a gong go off inside his head when Clarence's blade contacted his skull.

He also felt the pressure in his wrist as his own blade found Clarence's thigh. He could feel, but could not see, the edge cut through fabric and muscle as he flexed his wrist to maintain a grip and recovered forward, once again changing sides on the strip.

"HALT!" The director called out. Jack collected himself and stood stock still, looking to see Clarence's leg. He caught a glimpse of red pouring down the well muscled thigh before his own vision was obscured by blood from his hairline.

Jack reached up to wipe the warm sticky fluid from his eyes and pressed his palm to the open wound. A salty taste spread across his lips.

The air was thick with tension as the entire hall leaned forward to catch the director's decision. A cameraman moved in for a close-up.

De Rossa and Madame Renee leapt to their feet, listening.

Jack looked to Adam for a sign, but saw only uncertainty there.

Finally the Director gave a casual shrug, and spoke.

"Simultaneous, we shall continue, en guard, gentlemen..."

"REVIEW! I DEMAND A REVIEW!" Madame Reneé jumped out onto the strip. Brady lunged out to restrain her.

"Let it go, I can take him now.." Jack could hear Clarence whisper. He also knew he was probably right. Clarence didn't seem to be favoring the leg. Jack turned to look for de Rossa. Adam escorted the man onto the strip. "Jack, what do you think?... Jack?"

Jack was dealing as best he could with the constant flow of blood from his scalp. He tried to get his long hair to mat and clot it, but the pain started to surge over him in waves. He had to put it away.

"Monsieur de Rossa," the Director was speaking. "Do you wish a review as well?"

De Rossa searched Jack's face for guidance. "Jack, talk to me... did you get it?"

Jack felt a wave of nausea pass over him, and he put it in the place where he kept the pain. He was disoriented, and glanced momentarily at the empty Opera box before answering.

"I don't know... I think..." Finally he shook his head 'no', and Adam nodded wisely.

De Rossa repeated the gesture for the benefit of the director.

The Director addressed Madame Reneé now.

"You realize madame, that if the review reveals my judgement to be correct, you will forfeit the match."

Clarence grabbed her arm, "Let it go... he's BLIND!"

She hesitated, looking down at her champion's leg. The blood was pouring out now. Shock had not yet taken over. Driven by the adrenaline and blood pressure, the scarlet oil pooled at her champion's feet.

"Roll the tape!" she announced in a melodramatic tone for all to hear. The decision was met with a smattering of applause as all eyes turned to the monitor overhead.

Jack kept blinking and wiping back the blood to follow the action. On screen, the cameraman's angle and the overhead cameras were all seen at once, along with the official time in little boxes at the corners of the images. There was a freeze frame at the moment of contact as seen from the different perspectives.

"As I said, simultaneous. Monsieur De Rossa, you are judged victorious..." the Director's voice was drowned out by the applause from the audience, and Jack stumbled blindly into Adam's arms. The physician rushed forward with a sterile pad, and de Rossa tried to hug Jack at the same time.

Across the stage, Clarence threw down his weapon in disgust, and stormed off, ignoring the Doctor. Madame Reneé stood silent, still staring up at the screen.


"I would say Monsieur Reyzor, that at the worst, you will have to change the way you part your hair. If you like, I can recommend a salon in the third arrondissement..."

Jack waved off the surgeon who had finished stitching the wound. They were backstage in the sterile room, where minor surgery could be performed. Adam sat quietly in the corner while the doctor played tailor.

"You haven't said much," Jack probed. Adam remained silent as the doctor repacked the medikit and left the room. He stood and offered Jack a robe.

"What happened Jack? You fall asleep out there?"

"I was distracted, I thought I saw, ... something."

"Jack, that kind of mistake will cost you your life in the Black Court. You're good, probably the best I've seen..."

"Better than you?"

Adam snorted, "Cheap shot, don't change the subject. I left the Black Court after I felt I had done what I needed to do. I'm talking about you. You have the physical skills but it takes more than that. It takes a focus, a kind of dedication... call it obsession, that you don't have. You're not ready."

Jack's head filled with images of Becky, the last time he had seen her. She had used much the same words, in a different way. She accused him of being obsessed with the law, and not ready for the commitment she required. She forced him to make a choice. Jack found it disturbing that, after all these years, he still wasn't sure he had made the right one.

"Don't worry, I'm not in any hurry to get myself killed."

"Hell Jack, you're missing the point. Are you ready to kill?"

Jack tied the sash at his waist, and busied himself unlacing his boots. "Taylor..."

"The damn surgeon killed Taylor, Jack. He bled to death on the strip before they could reach him. I'm talking about intentionally taking a man's life. Someone you may not have a personal grudge against, someone you may know.."

Jack looked up into Adam's eyes.

There was a knock at the door.

"Entre"' Jack called out.

"There is... a woman to see you Monsieur Reyzor, " the attendant peeked in.

"Show her in," Jack's heart raced at the thought of seeing her. Could this be a second chance? Would he walk away if she asked him again?

The door opened, and an attractive woman in her late forties stepped in. She was dressed in something that looked like a grey business suit, with velvet trim. The cut flattered her superb figure. She wore a long, translucent grey scarf, that only partially covered her stylish salt and pepper hair.

Jack was momentarily confused by the rush of emotions. First, there was a feeling of relief that it was not Becky, followed by a profound regret at losing her again. The sadness was replaced by a strange sort of electricity that struck him when the woman stepped close inside his personal space to speak. Becky used to do that.

"Mr. Reyzor, I hope I am not intruding, if this is a bad time..."

Jack looked to Adam, who raised an eyebrow in response. "Well, Madame...," "Sister Donald Marie, please..." she offered her hand. "...of the School Sisters of Notre Dame." Jack shook her right hand and tightened the sash at his waist with his left. Adam made himself busy with some equipment.

"Well, Sister, what are you... how can I..." he stuttered, at a loss. He found her nearness disquieting, though she appeared at ease.

"I will get right to the point Mr. Reyzor. The sisters need your help. You have heard of St. Anthony's school for boys?"

"Only what I have seen in the news," he backed up to sit on the examining table. There had been a lot of coverage about the scandal. The school, built on land formerly held by Chemcorp International, had an unprecedented rate of cancer deaths. The corporation denied any liability, and the lawsuits had been going on for years, essentially bankrupting the school.

"Contrary to what you may have heard, the church does not own the school, Mr. Reyzor. Our work is charity work, and the vast resources of the Vatican are not at the school's disposal."

Enchanted by her voice, Jack noticed the way her presence filled the room with a warm calm. He found himself wondering why this beautiful woman had chosen a lifestyle of sacrifice and denial.

"The church's official opinion of the Black Court is well known," here she smiled in a mischievous way that Jack found almost sexy. "In fact, I doubt they would be pleased if they knew I was here. I am counting on the discretion of you gentlemen...?"

Her eyes sparkled again, and Jack shocked himself by comparing them to Becky' s. He wondered if the Sister liked to dance.

"Sister, what are you doing here?"

"God works in mysterious ways Mr. Reyzor. I believe some of us are called to be instruments of his will." She focused those eyes on Jack, as if she had read his thoughts.

"Oh really now, come on Sister, this isn't some sort of crusade..." Adam slammed a locker shut.

She smiled, "We need a champion Mr. Reyzor"

"Jack..." Adam interrupted and Jack held up his hand to silence him.

There was an energy passing between them that bordered on excitement. She was good, Jack had to admit, damn good. She was getting to him. There was a truth to her words, like the truth of a well tempered blade.

"Do you know the Hotel Georges V ?" he asked.

"Of course."

"Meet me for lunch tomorrow, about one?"

A smile broke over her face. "Mr. Reyzor, I have prayed for this answer."

"You don't have my answer," he cautioned.

"I will tomorrow," there was a gleam in her eyes that made Jack wonder what she had looked like twenty years ago. She smiled at Adam and left the room quietly. He thought he detected a faint smell of perfume. "Jack, this is not the time or the case," Adam pleaded.

"You know of course, that in the early days of trial by combat, they believed that God would not allow the guilty to win..." It was all becoming clear now. Why he had chosen this life instead of Becky.

"Jack, listen to me. You just had a shot of Demerol. You know better than that, that's why the legal system evolved into court trials, and arbitration,"

"...Or the innocent to suffer," he was feeling a kind of euphoria that had nothing to do with the pain killers.

"Jack, you're not listening, will you listen to me?"

"If not me... who? If not now... when?" All his life Jack had wanted a moment of clarity like this. Something to give value to his decision, to help him understand his choices of pain, and loneliness, to help him let go of the past.

Adam knew from the look on his friend's face, there was no turning back. "I think you lost more than blood tonight."

"Maybe, " he found himself smiling. "But I won the decision."

The thoughts of Becky began to fade, and in the receding floodwaters he felt a calm that came with letting go of her, and accepting his destiny.

THE END


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Saddle, Lance and Stirrup: The Irish/Roman Connection
The Naked Truth | If I Had a Hammer
The Sabre's Edge | Swordfight at the OK Corral
How to Defend a Monopoly | A Propos d'un Accident
The Dubious Quick Kill part 1 | The Dubious Quick Kill part 2
Review and Commentary | Duels with the Sword | Starting with Foil
Liancour's Tercentenary | The Manuel d'escrime of 1877 | The Military Masters Fencing Program
Analysis of the Patton Fencing Manual | The Red Court Fencing's Royal Connection
| The Practical Saviolo part 1 | Saddle, Lance and Stirrup
Demystification of the Spanish School 1 | Demystification of the Spanish School 2
Demystification of the Spanish School 3
| A Brief Look at Joseph Swetnam
| Ithacan Retains Title | Third Time's a Charm
Cross-Training Not Cross-Purposes | Riposte Direct | Use of the Word "Sparring"
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This file was last modified Sunday, Mar 26 2006, 17:16:25 EST