Prologue: From the Days of Old
Rain or harsh projectiles, no one could truly tell the difference. The vicar's monotonous drawling made time seemingly stand still as the remaining de Crochet family and a few onlookers attempted to stay awake. The old madame had at last moved on, and from the faces gathered, it was difficult to determine if this was a funeral or joyous event.
As the coffin was eventually lowered into the grave, Jacques, the lady's eldest, and his younger sister, Adele, battled expressions of relief, hiding them under false tears. Madame de Crochet had the reputation of a woman to avoid at all costs, thus there were no friends or family. They were the closest, by blood not choice, and only the bribe of higher pay brought the servants to make the crowd larger.
"May she rest in peace in the Lord's heaven above, amen."
The crowd dispersed soon after, returning to the manor hoping to receive their pay soon enough as Jacques followed, Adele close behind. The tall, dark haired son of the deceased had a plotting look haunting his eyes, Adele recognized. The one thing he had inherited from their mother was her cunning nature that could be used for any and every purpose.
"You are thinking again, I see," the small woman murmured.
"Just continuing to do so," he replied, "Been thinking ever since the old hag passed on yesterday."
As they approached the door, he stood on the highest step and surveyed the land. "At last, this is all mine...thought she would never go. Everything now belongs to me...every bit of her property."
"Except her jewels and dresses; you would look rather foolish in them," Adele interrupted mockingly, but at her brother's scowl, she hushed her words.
"Everything...except those...and something else we lost a few years ago."
"What do you mean?"
"A servant...one that truly belonged to you."
Much as she tried, Adele shrugged, not coming to a conclusion. "You leave me clueless, mon frère."
"Why does that not surprise me?" Jacques growled tauntingly. "It was not Mother's place to dismiss the girl when she was your servant." A look of longing drifted into his eyes, needy and possessive. "She did not have the right to get rid of her."
"Oh...you mean...?" Adele giggled in a teasing manner. "Your one and only? To hell with me, you want her back for yourself."
Jacques snarled, dragging her inside and cornering her aggressively. "That is going to be the story when we go after her, comprends? If you ruin this in any way...I do not care if you are my sister or not...neither judge nor jury will be able to spare you."
Adele nodded in cowardice. "But...you do not even know where she is..."
"We will find out soon enough; she could not have gone far. Hardly knew enough of anything to become more than what she was. We simply find out where she is, if she is even still alive, and bring her back. Anyone who stands in the way..."
Adele shivered, cringing as Jacques need not finish his thought. "But...what if she does not wish to come back home?"
"She is a servant, raised among our own; it does not matter what she wants. She was taught to remember that her very breath belongs to her rightful owners. As she was your maid, and you did not dismiss her, she is still your property. Now to bed with you; we begin tomorrow." Watching her leave, Jacques turned his attentions to the window and weather beyond. "Very soon, Babette...we shall be together again..."