Chapter Twenty Eight
In Which Something Terrible Happens To Lucia And Thomas
Lucia burst through the apothecary's front door so fast that the shop bell's ring sounded more like a high-pitched thud. Breathless, she fell against the inside of the door and leaned against it with all her might.
Looking briefly in Lucia's direction, the apothecary nodded, and then just soon returned to what he was doing. He climbed up on the stool once more and began to rummage around in the upper shelves. Scarcely looking, he extended one long arm out to where he had left his hat. He grasped it between two fingers, brought it up to his head, and dropped it on top. It fell lopsided, or at least more lopsided than it looked before, and threatened to slide off his glossy brown hair.
A moment passed. Lucia sunk to the floor and caught her breath. From somewhere up on the highest shelves, glass bottles tinkled as they knocked against one another. The apothecary hopped down from the stool, bottle in hand.
"You didn't forget anything here, did you, Miss?"
Lucia shook her head.
"Have you got a back door?" She asked him.
He adjusted his fallen bread hat and gave her a puzzled look.
"Don't you like the front door?"
It was then that the mob of townspeople swarmed into the wooden sanctuary. Lucia scrambled to get to her feet, but it was too late. Dirty hands grabbed her by her arms and legs. She twisted to escape their grip, but that only made her cloak fall over her head. She fell sideways, landing heavily on the most unwelcome lump that was the bottle of sedation solution.
"Stop that!" Shouted Thomas.
"Mind your own business," replied one of the townspeople. The crowd hoisted Lucia and carried her out the door. She squirmed in their grip, suspended in the air like a pig on a spit. Through a storm of dirty hands and dusty cloth, Lucia saw Thomas fighting his way through. He pushed each man out of the way and attempted to subdue those who held Lucia directly.
"What are you doing, man?" Edward shouted at him. "We've caught the king's murderer."
"That's right," said another member of the crowd. "And we're about to bring her to justice."
Thomas wedged himself in front of them, stopping them from carrying her further towards the main square. He looked at each man in the crowd as though each were a large insect turning up unexpectedly in a bowl of sugar.
"What proof have you that this young maiden is even capable of murder?"
The townspeople muttered amongst themselves.
"Because…" one of them began. "Because, she did it."
The townspeople muttered amongst themselves once more, seeming to come to an agreement. Thomas shook his head and tried again.
"Was she even present at the time of the murder?" He asked them, rather pointedly. "Was she in the mansion? Was she even in this town? I must say, I've never seen her before in my life!"
"Right," said Edward. "There's no one from this town who would want to kill the king. So, one can be sure, she must have done it."
The others muttered in agreement.
"And," added the greasy man on Edward's left, "she is a witch."
"That's right," said Edward.
"She said so herself," said someone else in the crowd.
Lucia twisted in their grip to steady herself enough that she could raise her head.
"If I may?"
"Stay quiet, witch!" Shouted Edward.
That was the very moment in which Thomas pulled back the thumbs of each man who held Lucia captive. When he loosened their grips on her ankles, her feet hit the dusty ground. She looked up at Thomas gratefully. He nodded curtly toward her, acknowledging her gesture but saying nothing to her in response.
"Now, now," he told the crowd of townspeople, "there are no such things as witches."
"Yes, there are," said a man toward the back of the crowd. "A witch put a curse on me. Made me teeth fall out." He pulled back his pulpy lips to reveal a mouth full of decaying gums. The bloody strips of flesh were dotted with the occasional chipped and yellowed tooth. Thomas leaned in for a closer look and immediately raised an eyebrow.
"When you are quite finished with participating in a frenzied mob, come see me."
Thomas strode along through the crowd as though he were walking through nothing more intimidating than a busy marketplace. Ever so casually, he took Lucia by the hand and led her away from Edward and the other man who had grabbed her around the wrists. Wisely, Lucia mirrored his pace. The two ambled along, waltzing to inaudible music. Once they had gotten a few paces away, they both turned their bodies, angling their positions such that Thomas stood in front of Lucia as a shield.
It was then that Edward turned to the man with the bad teeth at the back of the crowd. He tipped his head towards the large ring of keys the man wore on his belt, and then gestured back the other way toward Lucia and Thomas. The man with the bad teeth sighed heavily as his shoulders sunk.
"Oh, come, now, Edward," he said. "I wanted to see that witch get all burned. When did we become so tolerant of witchcraft?"
"We haven't," Edward said indignantly. "Let's just put them away until we've figured out what to do with them."
"I know what to do with them," said the man who had previously been standing on Edward's left side. "We should burn them both!"
"Yeah, burn them both," the man repeated. "The girl for practicing witchcraft, and Thomas for trying to help her get away."
"There is no such thing as witchcraft," Thomas said again, a little louder. But his words went unheard as the townspeople swarmed him and Lucia with renewed vigor. Fight as they might, they were swept up the small road and along the main road. The man with the bad teeth unthreaded the ring of keys from his belt. He held it by the base of a long, bronze key, and led the mob into a stone building.
Inside it was cold and lit only by what sunlight could enter through the few, tall, slim windows. The frenzy of being shoved along made it difficult for Lucia to take notice of much else. The next thing she knew, she and Thomas had been thrown onto into a small square area flanked by stone walls on three sides. Landing heavily on the unforgiving floor prevented Lucia from noticing what was happening behind her – namely, that the fourth side of the cell was soon covered as well, when the heavy iron gate swung shut.