Short Story Challenge, end Feb 2013 – 500 words to be written, while in the Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Co.

He’s in fancy dress, clean shaven, long hair, kneeling on a stockinged leg in a clumpy shoe, muttering away  to the bottom shelf.  We are  within elbow distance of each other in the History section. He catches my eye, which I quickly shift to the book he’s holding.

”Wolf Hall. That should keep you going……”

I feel obliged to say something.

He stands upright,  and the face, especially the jaw, is compelling.

“Historian?”

His eyes are experienced, wary.

“Party?”

I laugh nervously, gesturing at his magnificent clothes. He’s stepped out of a Holbein painting, the cap, the low cut neck on the tunic, the  full skirt.

“Pah!”  he says, flinging an arm up, his baggy shirtsleeve revealing tightly bound buttons at the wrist – authentic,  then.

“Shakespeare ruined my life.”

“Are you looking for anything in particular…?”

“Redemption, the path back from vilification, and wrongsaying. The man assassinated my character.”

A nutter, naturally, so I set my face in neutral and back off a few steps.

“Plantagenet, Richard,”  he says offering me his hand, stepping closer.

“As in 1485, Bosworth Field…….?” I begin sarcastically.

“Indeed, I am he.  Death is not the last of it, reputation and truth are all.”

There’s heat coming off him now, he’s urgent, wound up.

“What I seek is recognition of the truth of my life,  not the penned poison of someone mortally afraid of the Tudors, who deposed our dynasty.”

“But the historical facts…….”

“Now you will ask who killed the Princes in the Tower! Who believes I would slay the sons of my beloved brother Edward?”

His voice has dropped very low but there is ice in it.

Wondering if I am recollecting properly I say,

“ There’s  too much evidence against it, apparently. The Princes’ mother Elizabeth remained on good terms with you after the murders and their bodies were never produced, nor given a state burial by Henry Tudor. In six hundred years, things become clearer.  Come over here.”

He follows as I find my targets.

“The Daughter of Time …”

I hand it to him, then see Paul Murray Kendall’s “Richard III”.

“Take this, too. Do you know there are scholars called Ricardians who fight your side, who consider you a man of honour, a good king? ”

He looks emotional and something within him shifts.

“Best of all, this one – The Sunne in Splendour –  a master work, as you may have really lived it.”

“My thanks, Madam,” he says simply.

“Can I ask about Leicester…”

I’m pushing my luck a bit here.

“About my bones being discovered within the glorious confines of what is called a car park?”

He raises one eyebrow.

“There’s much discussion about where they should be moved to…….do you mind what happens to them?”

His kind eyes look directly at me.

“I am a man of York by heart and head, wherever lay the bones.”

He bows solemnly and walks away.

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