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          The crisp autumnal wind washed over the town of Mistel like a thin and sickly gray veil. People crowded around the Town Square with anticipation as the smell of bloodlust rose in the air. “Hang the thief!” one gray-faced spectator hollered. “May justice be served!” another bellowed, echoing the other. In a moment the crowd had sprung to life with the full effects of mob psychology in play. A rigid and pale man with a scraggly black beard strewn with silver stood on the raised oak platform. The already pale man’s face blanched of all color when the vicious yells pierced the sky with their wicked edged blade. The man with deep sunken eyes just barely visibly from underneath his jet-black hood fitted a rough rope noose around the pale man’s neck. The face of the man with sunken eyes could not be seen, but much could be said about his eyes. His brown eyes glittered with what seemed to be satisfaction or pride, perhaps in a job well-done or perhaps in something far more sinister. Neither the man’s calm demeanor nor his insistence on wearing a black hood changed the fact that he obviously took great joy in playing the role of the Grim Reaper.

          The pale man’s eyes flitted around the bloodthirsty mob desperately as his demise drew nigh. And as if he had been baptized once again, a shadow of hope glinted in his eye as another cast themselves onto the cobblestone road. A carriage of gold and a woman of obvious riches to go with it appeared to be the pale man’s propitiation. Her hair was pulled out of her stern face, and her scarlet and gold silk dress dared to twine between her legs troubling her descent. Still she remained poised and proud as a peacock of the most dazzling breed. Though her eyes—like the man with sunken eyes—seemed to give her away. Glistening amber eyes brimmed with sorrow adorned her regal face. Melancholy that rivaled even that of a weeping willow poured out from essence of her being. A great treachery it was for those eyes to weep. Then with a single commanding, attention-grabbing, and forceful flick of her wrist the pale man found himself cascading to what awaited him below. There would be no hanging...yet.

          Lady Bradshaw readied herself before opening the doors to the grand estate of the coldest man in the dreary town of Mistel. She pushed open the polished oak doors and stepped inside to a room akin to perhaps a den. Lord Phillis of Mistel at first was startled to find his old playmate stepping into his quarters, but quickly sobered up. “What gives me the honor of seeing the ever wondrous and kind Lady Bradshaw of Floorbanks outside of the sandbox,” Lord Phillis mocked. “I have come to tell you that the execution of Fredrick Dubois has been voided. I have come to pay his trespasses,” the Lady replies haughtily though mindful to not forget herself.

          “And how would you do that if the man was found guilty of embezzling money from me,” Lord Phillis stated airily. “I have looked into the case and have found no certain proof showing that this man is your perpetrator. Even if so, you have riches beyond your uses is a crude and shameful public hanging really so befitting,” Lady Bradshaw countered. “It is not simply about the money, but about how the rest of my staff may take it into consideration to steal from me as well. So, as you can see, I cannot simply let the man go with merely a slap on the wrist. Besides a thief, even a pitiful one, is still a thief, so it would behoove all if he was dealt with quickly and efficiently. I just happened to be gracious enough to get my hands dirty for the greater good, indirectly speaking of course,” Lord Phillis stated curtly. “Even if such claims were true the evidence you have compiled shows the man, theoretically because you have desired to acquire no finite evidence, stole to provide for the day to day needs of his family because you failed to pay him enough to even fill his own belly,” Lady Bradshaw huffed with conviction forgetting the demeanor of a lady, “you should know this firsthand.” “First, you come into my home unannounced. Next, you chastise me for not paying my staff high enough wages, and finally you drudge up unsavory and unwanted memories of my less than affluent past. I’m scandalized really,” Lord Phillis chuckled. “You really are a piece of work, Sylvia,” he sighed.

          “All of your obstacles today are the same as yesterday’s troubles, simply with a fresh perspective. Why is this man any different from another thief to be hanged on the morrow, hmm?” Lord Phillis asked inquisitively. “Because this man is innocent!” Lady Bradshaw exclaimed raising her voice in passion. “You, the ever trusting, have as much evidence as you claim I do,” Lord Phillis supplied coolly. “Would it not be negligent and malevolent to hang a man for a crime you are unsure he committed rather than to free him out of your graciousness and desire to uphold the truth,” Lady Bradshaw pushed. “That man deserves none of this, his screams should never pierce the sky in anguish of his children seeing his demise, unable to soothe them from beyond his grave with at least the knowledge that their father died an honorable man,” Lady Bradshaw explains more calmly.

          “Oh, is that your reason! You too sit on a throne of influence and hearing a commoner scream against due justice makes you grow uncomfortable. Thus, you are here to save your own conscience though cleverly disguised as an act of charity towards the less fortunate,” Lord Phillis replied settling Sylvia with a bone-chilling smirk. “Screams rob comfort, for no one ever perceives who will be next,” the proud man grinned. Lady Bradshaw is so clearly affronted by his accusations, but Lord Phillis pushes on taking her silence as a confession. “Who shall decide when a person has endured amply agony? Shall it be the oppressor, the victim, or God himself. The on-looker who can no longer stomach the deafening pleas of the victim; in a repulsive act to silence their cries, the on-looker cries out alongside the victim. Who shall decide when a person has endured ample agony? The on-looker, indubitably. A poem written by me, it fits your argument quite well wouldn’t you agree?” Lord Phillis finished with pure unadulterated glee.

          “How dare you joke and make banter when a man’s life hangs in the balance. Even if what you claim to know about my intentions are correct, then I would still be grateful that I would not be even slightly comparable to you. You who sits by and does nothing, who orders a man to his death without rhyme or reason, you who is perfectly content with murder,” Lady Bradshaw sneers, “For Heaven’s sake, have a beating heart, William!” Lady Bradshaw reined in her fury to a once again a calm tide that could batter any rock to sand, “And if your heart has already grown hard and lifeless, then I strongly advise that vermin should not speak things into this world, for they may poison it with their diseased ideals. Your cruel widow-making words and actions—rather your inactions—should never be spoken of in louder than a hushed cowardly whisper, lest they come to fruition, God forbid!” Lord Phillis turned on his heel proceeding to prepare himself a bourbon. While replying to her statements he kept his hands busy, “You have misunderstood. I do not consider myself neither cold nor cruel, only able to complete my job.” Lady Bradshaw mulls his feeble response in her head for a moment considering his previous arguments, “To cry out with those in pain is simple human empathy which far surpasses any qualms you have with my interference with your work and even that of my own selfish desire to live without knowledge of the less fortunate as you have accused me of. Are you to say perfectly balanced accounts is above being humane? As for myself, I shall cry out with the oppressed, I shall cry out with all my might, and I shall never be silenced so long as I have even a remanence of a voice to be heard.”

          In a swift movement lord Phillis had indeed silenced the passionate woman with a suffocating hand, “Then it would do you well to have your larynx cut out.” Lady Bradshaw had been under the beguiling impression that the hard-hearted man would never reveal his true colors, but here she was standing face to face with the devil himself.

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