They found him on the docks, looking out onto the river. He was lost in thought and didn’t hear them coming up behind him. The day was cold, dark and full of tumultuous clouds, an ironic end to their hunt and a perfect accent to his mood. The clouds parted briefly and the morning sun glinted off both his silver crown and their drawn guns. The St-Lawrence River breathed rhythmically.
“Your Majesty,” one of the three darkly-clad men called, startling him and causing him to turn. “I think it’s best you just come with us now.” He brought his weapon into full view, stepping out onto the damp, chipping cement. “We don’t want any more trouble than is necessary.” A sudden gust of wind tore at his black silk tie. He smoothed it down without thinking, keeping his steady gaze on the man in front of him.
The object of their attention stared back at them in surprise. He was unarmed save the ornamental dagger sheathed beneath his murky blue cloak. His astonishment quickly twisted into resigned regret as he finished silently taking stock of his situation: his opponents were all armed, their weapons all in hand. His back was to the river swollen with the past winter’s melting snow, too cold to swim. There would be no more running for him. Still he remained unmoving.
The dark man who had spoken earlier took another careful step forward, never removing his wary eyes from the king. “No more running. Come with us now.” To the others he spat out, “Cuff him.” His gaze never wavered as the two others moved quickly forward. They were dissimilar in every way, discounting their matching attire. Where one was tall and dark, possessing exquisite control of his body and movements, the other was, while not exactly short, stockier, with less finesse. They approached the king together, the tall one smirking, the thick one scowling.
“Highness,” the latter sneered, removing the dagger while his partner cuffed unrelenting hands. “It’s the end of the road for you. Let’s end the fairy tale nicely, eh?”
“Williams,” the man giving orders sighed, annoyed.
“Sorry Crick. I just…”
“Save it and get on with it. Henri, get the car, will you?” he demanded, turning his attention to the other man. Henri, who never spoke unless he felt it would make him look or feel better, did as he was told without a fuss. His body language, however, implied that if Crick wanted to play ringleader, he would let him, but it was grating on his nerves. Throughout this exchange the king remained silent, observing. “Well, haven’t you anything to say to all this? Aren’t you going to try to get away from us again?”
Still the king was silent, his startling green eyes hooded, belying his neutral stance. His situation frightened him, but he knew it would be better for him not to let it show.
Williams prodded the king forward with the end of his gun, forcing him towards
Crick and the car Henri was bringing from around an old run down brick building off to the right. “Come on, come on,” he growled, even when the man in front of him moved ahead easily. “And what’s with the silent treatment, eh? Speak up.”
Scowling, Crick reprimanded Williams. “And what good will it do him, I wonder? He’ll talk…eventually,” he said, contradicting his own earlier questioning of the king’s silence.
The king stopped moving, and then he did speak. “Where’s my son?” His quiet voice was filled with understated authority.
“Someplace safe,” Crick assured him, hating that sound of authority in the king’s voice. He wanted to kill it. He wanted to see the king grovel; to lose all self-respect until there was nothing left but an empty shell. “You can see him later if you come quietly.”
“You and I both know that’s not true.”
“Look, just get in the car, Majesty,” he sighed as Henri pulled up beside them and opened the back door.
“Where is my son?” the king insisted.
“Get in the car, or I swear to God, I’ll shoot you right now,” Crick seethed, uncocking his gun and pointing it at the king’s chest. He was red in the face, all traces of his previous cool demeanor gone.
“Crick,” Henri cautioned softly. There was ice in that warning. He turned to the king. “Your Majesty, your son is in a foster home. No harm will come to him. He's young; when he grows up, he won't remember you or your family. And if he does, he'll attribute it to the overactive imagination he had as a child. Knights and castles…" he laughed raucously. "No normal child grows up that way. If worse comes to worst, we'll get a fancy shrink to tell him he's created false memories for himself to block out the pain that you brought him in his early childhood. But I honestly don't think it'll come to that. Like I said, he's young. Anyway, it's not him we want, it's you. Now get in the car.” Abruptly, he pushed him into the back seat of the vehicle. “How old is your son, Majesty? Three years old? Don’t worry; my daughter doesn’t remember anything from that age, and she's nine. Your son will be fine. They won't come after him.” He slammed the door. To the king’s dismay, there were no handles on the inside. Henri had cuffed his hands in the front, presumably not wanting to run the risk of him attempting escape while he pulled his arms back and not completely trusting Williams to do his job properly. The king had been hoping to somehow use this to his advantage, but there was no way out of the car. Outside, Crick and Henri began a heated discussion. Williams got into the passenger seat and watched the king in the rear-view mirror.
The king paid Williams no notice, instead turning his attention outside the vehicle. Crick was angry, exploding at the pavement. “I hate that pompous ass!” he shrieked. “Chase him all over the city and he doesn’t even give me the satisfaction of resisting!” Henri said something incomprehensible through the glass. “I don’t care about professionalism! I’ll tell you what you can do with professionalism…” Once again, Henri said something the king couldn’t hear. The king turned inward, digesting what Henri had told him. He didn’t doubt it as the truth. If the boy had been older…the king felt ill at the thought of what they might have done to him. Certainly no worse than what they were planning for him, whatever that was--undoubtedly something unpleasant. But he didn’t want the boy to forget him, or his mother. He thought of his wife, and his resolve nearly broke. What would she do when she realized her family wasn’t going to return in the promised fortnight? He’d been gone nine days already, fleeing those awful men and others like them, first with his son Alexander, then alone after they’d been captured and he’d escaped the second time.
He’d looked for the boy, of course. What father wouldn’t? But he’d been no where to be found in the small suburban two-story house in which they’d been held prisoner, and the guards had been getting restless. He’d taken his chances and left, the mysterious men always two steps behind him.
It had been difficult, after that.
Now he had not only his strange surroundings and those chasing him to deal with, but he was alone. Somehow, before, it had been easier: the exaggerated laughter, the creative stories he’d come up with to try to explain what was going on to Alexander so he wouldn’t be frightened… he’d had hope for the both of them then. But alone… what was his queen going to do when they didn’t return? And Alexander… he couldn’t forget them, could he? Could he forget his parents, his entire life? Alexander was intelligent, and he was nearly four years of age, but would that be enough? The king sighed bitterly. He would not let it happen. Somehow, for his son, he would escape. Again.
Crick opened the door to the driver’s seat and got in, muttering under his breath.
“Let’s go already,” he hissed at Henri before slamming the door shut. “Time’s not slowing down,” he complained to Williams, “and yet that guy thinks it’s time for a pep talk. Time to ensure that we remain clear headed about all this. To get our priorities straight, damnit. What kind of an operation is this, anyway?” Henri opened the back door opposite the king and got in, prompting Crick to tense up in unexpressed irritation. “Are we ready, Henri?" he asked sarcastically. "That freak ain’t going anywhere.”
“No where at all.”
“Right. Let’s drive.” He started the engine and sped away.
The king moved deeper into himself and tried to come up with an escape plan. For the moment, nothing was showing itself, but eventually Crick or Williams would slip. Henri already had in cuffing his hands in front of him. Eventually, an opportunity would arise. For the moment, he had to wait, and he had to plan. This world was still largely unfamiliar to him, but as king he had made many journeys to strange and foreign lands, and he adapted well to other peoples’ customs. He would make due. But how was he to find his son? He needed an ally.
From the front seat Crick cursed under his breath. Williams turned to him in confusion. “What is it?”
“Why were you speeding?” This from Henri, self-righteously, as if to say, “I would never have gotten us into a mess like this.”
“Henri, is this really the time for it?”
Williams looked back at Henri, then over at Crick nervously. “Well, aren’t you going to pull over?”
“Uh, yeah, so they can ask us why we have a guy handcuffed in the backseat? I don’t think so, sorry.”
“So just uncuff him first.”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
“I hate to say it,” Henri spoke. “But Williams is right. We don’t have a choice. If you hadn’t insisted on speeding…”
“Oh shut up. I’m not pulling over.”
“Fine. But you better know this city better than I think you do, and you better have a good excuse ready for when they catch up. This isn’t a movie you know, where you can outrun the cops. They aren’t as stupid as you.”
“As I think, you mean?”
“No. As you. Now pull over.”
“Fine,” Crick growled, swerving violently up to the curb. Henri reached over to undo the king’s handcuffs, giving him a thrill of hope. Perhaps his opportunity for escape had come sooner than expected. The car’s occupants sat in collective silence as the swirling lights of the police car pulled up and settled behind them.
“Wait!" Crick rasped out to the backseat. "Don't undo 'em. Just cover him with this." He quickly removed his suit jacket and tossed it at Henri. Sighing, he glanced over at the advancing police officer and muttered, "Let me handle this. Henri, make sure our Royal Highness remains quiet.”
The police officer, a stout yellow-haired woman with a tired look on her face that belied the fact that she’d dealt with too many difficult morons that week to count, tapped lazily on Crick’s window. He undid it with a smarmy grin, leaning his elbow outside the vehicle.
“What can I do for you, ma’am?”
“Speed limit’s sixty. You were going eighty. Lemme see your license and registration, please.”
“I’m sorry,” Crick said, handing over the appropriate paperwork. To his credit, he sounded very genuine. “I’m American. I for got it was in kilometers. I was driving in miles.”
“Nice try,” the police officer smirked. “Except, of course, for the fact that the numbers don’t match up, never mind the fact that you have a Quebec license.”
“Heh. Can’t get much past you,” Crick winked. “Truth is I’m a recent immigrant. From America. And you know how America’s education system is. I was always bad at math. You know how it is, Officer…Duguay,” he said, reading her nametag.
She didn’t reply, looking into the back seat instead. “Woah! What’s going on here? What’s with the getup?”
The king looked at her pleadingly, feeling a gun being pushed into his side under the jacket Crick had supplied. Henri’s expression was blank, looking straight ahead.
“My cousin,” Crick explained sadly. “He’s a little nuts. He’s having one of his episodes right now,” he whispered conspiratorially. “We’re taking him to the nut house.”
Officer Duguay appeared doubtful, studying the king carefully, but in the end just scribbled her signature on the ticket she’d been filling out and presented it to Crick. “Three hundred.”
“Three hundred!” Crick gasped. “Are you crazy? I’m not paying that!”
“So contest it. Good day gentlemen… Your Highness.” With a slight wave of the hand, she was gone. Later, when back at the station, she would wonder why she had added that last salutation. She hadn’t meant to be mocking; in fact, she hadn’t realized she was saying it until it was out of her mouth. There was just something about the guy. She’d put away fairy stories and children’s books a long time ago, but something had 'clicked' within her when she’d seen him.