Floats the Dark Shadow
The Paris Trilogy
by Yves Fey
October 31st – November 4th, 2022
Publication Date: Second Edition, September 2022
Series: The Paris Trilogy
Publisher: Tygerbright Press
Genre: Historical Mystery
Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.
When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves.
Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.
Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.
Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.
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Café Conversation – Chat about Oscar Wilde
Today, Paul had summoned them to the Café des Capucines to talk about the next issue of Le Revenant. But their chief critic had yet to arrive. Besides Averill and herself, there were Casimir, Jules, and the Revenant they’d dubbed the student Hyphen. The others were all sipping their first absinthe. Averill was already on his second. Theo indulged in a blanc-cassis, the crème de cassis tinting the bubbling champagne a fuchsia that was a satisfying clash with the milky chartreuse of the absinthe.
“C’est l’heure verte,” Averill lifted his glass in a toast.
The green hour. Creating absinthe was an act of alchemy, a ritual performed each afternoon. The interior of the café was perfumed with its scent, licorice sweet with a sharp herbal undercurrent. At first, Theo had loved the bittersweet perfume and found the elixir a quintessential part of the magic of Paris. It had become a darker sorcery since Averill could not or would not stop his indulgence. Did he now love absinthe even more than he loved his art?
“To Oscar Wilde,” Casimir added his own toast. He had told Theo that the extravagant café was Wilde’s favorite. The decadent oasis of plush garnet velvet and glowing stained glass ceilings was just across the street from where he had lived while writing Salomé.
“Salomé,” Theo murmured, conjuring the memory. Not long after they attended Verlaine’s funeral, Casimir had invited them to see the play, which Wilde had written in French. An actress he was courting had a small part in the avant-garde production. It was Theo’s second outing into Averill’s Paris and her discovery of its living, beating, poetic heart. She had been dazzled as the penniless theatre company performed its own alchemy with only the magic of words and shifting light. A full moon hung above the stage, its pure pale color corrupted as the play unfolded its tale of obsession, seduction, and death. Pearl slowly clouded and turned to tarnished silver. Silver was slowly stained scarlet. By the end of the play, crimson light drenched the set and actors like flowing blood. Theo had been transfixed by the beauty and exquisite terror of the night.
“Wilde is still in prison, isn’t he?” The student peered from beneath the fringe of brown hair that all but covered his eyes.
“He’ll be released at the end of this month,” Casimir answered. “When he comes to France, I have vowed to visit him.”
“You believe he will return here?” Jules asked.
“Where else would he go?” Casimir asked in turn. “In London he’d be snubbed, in America he’d be shot. Wouldn’t he, Theo?”
“Snubbed and shot,” Theo admitted, though she might have secretly pointed him to the right bar. That last rough-and-tumble year working at The Louvre bar in Mill Valley, she had learned many things that nice society girls weren’t supposed to know. What mysteries remained, Averill had been willing to illuminate. From the beginning, he’d treated her as an equal. There were no forbidden topics. He’d told her it was common for schoolboys to experiment with each other. Most came to prefer women, some never did, and some desired both. He’d been amused to hear that some of the girls at finishing school were far more intrigued by each other than the muscular riding instructor she’d thought so alluring.
“What is Wilde like?” the student Hyphen asked.
“Oscar revels in his fame,” Casimir said. “He has to be the center of attention. He loves to delight and he loves to shock—if not to the extreme his trial brought about.”
“The judge called it the crime of the century,” Averill sneered. “You have to wonder what he thought of Jack the Ripper.”
Averill had said little, Theo realized. Neither for pleasure nor from compulsion.
“The judge probably thought the Ripper performed a public service,” Casimir replied. “Wilde’s trial was a circus. He thought he could whip them with his wit, but they sledgehammered him with their morals. Two years at hard labor.”
“Two years does not seem so terrible,” Theo said.
“It was supposed to be a death sentence,” Averill replied, animated now. “Most prisoners die of exhaustion. Their health gives out. Or their sanity. He must be amazingly strong to have survived.”
“What happened to Wilde’s lover?” Theo asked, earning a shocked glance from Jules.
“Nothing happened to Lord Queensbury’s son.” Casimir’s voice dripped disdain. “Such creatures usually escape. Bosie is a rancid piglet. Vanity without talent. Utterly self-centered.”
“Did you ever see Salomé?” Theo asked the student, trying to draw him out again.
“No, I joined the Revenants after it had closed.”
“The words dripped color and glittered like jewels. It was like watching a painting by Gustav Moreau come to life.” Theo hoped the mention of Averill’s favorite painter might stir a response from him. He only swirled his absinthe, watching the color glow in the afternoon light.
“Truly magnificent—but it was almost a catastrophe,” Casimir added. “The only theatre they could afford was condemned, all but falling apart around them. There was a fire backstage the night of the first performance. The actors were beating out the blaze on costumes.”
Theo shut her eyes against the image of flaming clothes. No one had died during Salomé, except on stage.
“Topping that, they broke the wax head of John the Baptist they had borrowed from the Museé Grévin,” Averill added.
“So much for any profits—despite being sold out.” Casimir opened his fingers as if coins were falling through them.
The student Hyphen sighed regretfully. “I wish I had been there.”
Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA.
Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve. She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.
She lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.
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