The window of the Apothecary's shop commanded a wide view of a typical London lane. Typical, that is, until a fine woman in blue silk walked into view. It was not the lady that turned Stephen's head- it was the unmistakable man who followed her not five steps behind, just close enough to be indiscreet. Stephen eyed them through the glass until he nearly upset a large jar housing an asp in spirits. He bade the apothecary to hurry with that pint there and was about to dart out when the woman, having crossed the lane, reached the door. Stephen ducked behind the shop counter and into the back supply cupboard just as she set the little bell ringing, the apothecary raising his eyebrows as he squeezed by but resisting comment. The apothecary joined Stephen to grind the woman's order of goatweed tonic just as the bell went a-ringing again and a heavier step trod the shop floor.
"My dear Joseph, will you not sup with me this evening? You are always so taken up- barely a bit left of you." The woman's voice was low and pouty, and she swayed as she spoke. Sir Joseph laughed softly and whispered a reply, which made her giggle in a very seductive way. She shifted and turned her back towards Stephen, the light from the window on her face as Blaine stood slightly hunched with his back to the lane.
The apothecary smirked at Stephen, inclining his head towards the scene, but Stephen was not interested in seeing his cheif in this position. His pint was still on the counter, along with other provisions, and they had his only way out so he would have to wait. Though he was invisible to the amorous pair he could see them- the back of the woman's neck, the tilt of her head, and Sir Joseph's flushed cheek now and then- but he could also see the passersby on the street, and he focused his attention on them. He was in quite a study when one strolling fellow in particular caught his eye, a Frenchman who was currently under suspicion of being an agent. The Frenchman came closer to the window and, catching a glimpse of the back of Sir Joseph as he engaged his companion, quickly looked away with an expression that at first Stephen could not read. Was the man simply shy about coming upon such a scene, or was he shadowing Blaine as an agent? To his dismay what registered with Stephen was the slight glance that had been exchanged between the Frenchman and this woman-- a small adjustment in her posture, a slight break in her sentence, subtle but screaming its message to every fibre of Stephen's body. He would hate to have to tell him- Sir Joseph was really taken by her, and even considering marriage, forsooth.
The apothocary returned with the package and Sir Joseph paid him, then after the lady had taken her leave he asked for one more item whispered in confidence. The apothocary darted into the cupboard and filled a bottle with a dose that quite surprised Stephen- he had never prescribed THAT before. He would have many things to discuss with Sir Joseph this evening.
© 2004 Jennifer Klein