The Last Valentine In Amiens
Andrew R Crow

H e heard the knock before it came. He smiled; the eyes may be dead, but the ears!

His already stiff leg shrieked as he stood. Bullets and women are bitches...He sipped the last of his whiskey and shuffled toward the sound.

Madame Verne almost didn't recognize him, as he stood, seeming to focus above her shoulders. But that was impossible. My poor Jules...

"Welcome, Stranger," he gasped, standing aside to let his visitor in.

"Excuse me, Monsieur..." she said, faltering, "...I've just read your latest book and I thought if you were home and not too busy..."

"Ah...The Invasion of the Sea...some silly whim, I'm afraid, nothing to stand up to those some-odd Thousand Leagues Under the Sea!"

She smiled as he asked her to sit. "Your wife is not here...?"

He voice was cold and sad. "No, I left her some time leg, the was too much for her, and me, I must say. And I'm dying, better for me to be alone. I've always been too much that way."

She gasped at his last words. "I'd heard you were ill, but not dying..."

He cut her off. "But you came to talk of my books..."

"No Monsieur, I must admit, I came to see you, and talk one last time. She understands, you know. And she loves you."

He felt a wet hand touch his face, a rustle of skirt, and she was gone, leaving him wondering in the doorway.

First published: February 2001