Jean-Pierre is walking up the stairs now, taking a look around each floor that he passes. He has reached the fourth floor, the final floor, and there is only one door left. Almost half an hour has passed since he began searching through the house, and it has all led up to this. He expects nothing, but he has a feeling that this last room is the one he's been waiting to see: Alain de Daumier's atelier. Every artist must have an atelier and Jean-Pierre, being an admirer of Alain's work, is both curious and excited to see this one. He expects lovely paintings, brilliant colors, wide windows, the clean scent of oils and paints. He expects beauty. Not this. Never, never this.


Mathilde de Daumier is hanging from the beams of her father's atelier with a red silk tie. Her face is calm. Her cheeks are a pale, milk white. Where the silk cuts into her neck, her skin is pink as a rosebud, and because her face is so delicate, she seems to wear the cut like a necklace. From it, blood gathers in beads and streams down to dye the collar and shoulders of her simple white gown. It isn't able to reach the violet sash tied around her waist.

Near her swaying body, lying upon the floor with his arms relaxed but his legs akimbo, there is a man, her father, also dead. Mathilde doesn't look half so ghastly as Alain does in death. His hair is half gray, half white. His eyes are still open, bright and blue and hooded with thin lashes. And there is a knife buried in his chest, just above his heart, that leaves streams of red ribboning down his shirtfront. A slight curve at the corners of his lips almost makes it look like he is smiling- a ghastly thing to imagine!- and there are sticky, splattered paint stains on his hands and wrists.

It is a terrible sight, but Jean-Pierre cannot take his eyes off it. He stands there, wavering, for several moments before stumbling back into the hallway and racing down the stairs, despite his old age.

Reaching the front door, he takes a breath, but then he continues on without stopping. He runs all the way back to his little cottage and by the time he reaches it he's limping and leaning over and his tongue hangs out of his mouth, like an old beaten dog. He finds the bottle of whiskey hidden in his cupboard and takes a long, slow swig of it to calm his nerves. Then, rising, he takes another breath and begins walking down the lane toward the town's center, seeking the little messenger boy Thierry. He will send him to Amiens, for a policeman or an investigator. He doesn't quite know who would be best. No one's ever been murdered in Saint-Étienne before, he believes. Despite what the others may say.

(A/N) Well, I did say this would be different from my other stories, didn't I? lol. Very different. But don't worry, there will still be lots of romance too.

I've written about 5 different versions of this prologue and none of them seem quite right, so even though I'm not terribly content with this one yet, I thought I might as well post it and fix it up later. I really just wanted to get something up today because tomorrow I have to go back to school and I know I won't have as much time for writing after that. And even though I'm rather nervous about this story, I'm really excited for it too! Hopefully I'll be able to get up the real first chapter pretty soon!

Thanks for reading and please remember to review and tell me what you think! (Because I know there are a lot of people out there who don't review at all until the very end of a story. I'm talking to you, silent readers! You know, it only takes a minute or two to write out a little something and we authors really, really appreciate it. So not just for my stories, but for any stories you read on fictionpress- review and tell the author what you think!)

Happy New Year!

-S. Renee