The Guillotine, released in August 2007 Book 8 in the Theo and Ramona series
Text on the back cover of The Guillotine:
It is the year 1793, the French people are revolting and execute their King using a guillotine. Destiny brings the guillotine into the lives of Theo and Ramona and the consequences are terrifying.
"Just let me feel it", Ramona whispered, touching the handle of the Guillotine. Theo called out. He took a hold of Ramona which made her twitch and release the handle.
The sharp blade of the guillotine fell with a swishing, ominous sound. With a thud the head fell into the basket. Ramona fell to the ground.
An independent historical adventure featuring Theo and Ramona.
What the reviewers had to say about The Guillotine:
"Extremely well written! This is an author who has a lot to tell the readers of today." Lars-Olof Wiksten, Radio Blekinge.
"The more you read, the deeper you get entangled in the story, and finally I can't go on reading for fear the book might end!" Kristina Fridensköld, Ph.D.
"Kim has created an adventure story, excellent and correct in its description of history." Annelie Nilsson.
"A very vivid description of the Revolution... the historical facts are woven into the story very naturally. The book is a must for the lover of historical novels - thrilling and exciting!" BTJ, publishers reader Agneta Blomgren.
"The book ends in a real cliffhanger and you can't wait to read the next book in the series." BTJ, publishers reader Anna Wilner.
"The book was FANTASTIC and I could not tear myself away from it. This must be the best of Kim's books." Christoffer van Woensel.
Excerpt from The Guillotine:
I won't let her do it! I won't let her do it! Theo thought and lengthens his steps to get there in time to stop Ramona.
Ramona had just reached the frame were the pane of glass shortly would be fasten to avoid people to touch the guillotine. When the pane of glass was in place… Well, then it wasn't a chance in the world that someone would let her touch this historical object. She didn't were any white gloves, but she thought that one single touch could harm the guillotine. It was of solid wood and steel. Ramona leaped over the frame, towards the guillotine.
Before the fire alarm had sounded the men had just attached the sharp blade of the guillotine, high up at the wooden frame, but they hadn't been able to fasten a safety catch. It was their intention to fasten the blade with a steel wire so that no one could release the handle that set free the sharp blade by mistake. Some one could be hurt very badly. Some one could be injured very, very badly; Ramona thought and reached her hand towards the handle. She was so fascinated about the guillotine that she totally had forgotten about the ghastly nightmare. The one she previous had taken as a warning that something terrible was going to happen.
"I shall just touch", Ramona whispered and grabbed the handle on the guillotine.
At the same moment Theo stood beside her and screamed terrified when he saw what she had done. Ramona didn't understand why Theo screamed. In the next moment she felt how Theo tears her hand, which made her wrench and by mistake release the handle. Horrified they all three looked at the guillotine when the blade fell with a swishing fateful sound.
But it was only Theo and Ramona who screamed of horror when the blade of the guillotine reached its target. Robert was no longer with them. No sound of sirens was heard. Instead a roar from an excited crowed came towards them. With a thud the head fell into the basket and the blood splashed. Ramona fell to the ground...
Theo violently shook Ramona, who was screaming. She tossed and turned in her bed, ending up with her sheet wrapped around her like a straight-jacket. When Theo finaly managed to shake Ramona out of her dram she opened her eyes. Terrified she looke at Theo and when she recognized him she smiled in relief.
"Oh, Theo, it was a bad dream all of it. Only a night-mare.”
Or a warning, she thought. A warning of something horrible that might happen soon. But what bad things could happen to us in Stockholm? Nothing!
She sighed with relief.
But Ramona should not have been so quick in believing that everything was all right, for fate had something really gruesome in store for her. Something that would make her wish she had never left her room today.
Theo helped her to get out of the entangled sheet, scolding her.
“How can you oversleep today, of all days? It is very important that we arrive on time. You don’t get the opportunity to take part in the assembling of a guillotine everyday. If we miss this chance I will really be very disappointed in you. Hurry up! I will go now to the room I share with Robert and tell him that you are ready. And you’d better be ready too, for we must leave in five minutes.
Theo turned and hurried out of Ramona’s hotel room.
Ramona was in a hurry. She speeded into the bathroom, splashed some water into her face, put deodorant under her arms, and ran back to the bedroom where she got rid of her nightgown and jumped into a skirt and a blouse. She could not resist turning around in front of the mirror, admiring her reflection. The skirt was lovely. It was long, bell skirt that swirled around her when she moved. Its colour was auburn and with it she wore a white blouse with long, puffed sleeves.
A shawl of the same auburn colour as the skirt was hanging over a chair and in spite of the warm autumn day she grabbed it as she was running out of the room. This was not the kind of clothes that Ramona usually would wear. She preferred jeans and a t-shirt. But today they were going to visit the StockholmCityMuseum and participate in the assembling of a guillotine. This was something very unusual since there was only one single guillotine in Sweden. Normally it was packed in boxes in the storerooms of the NordicMuseum, but today it had been sent to the StockholmCityMuseum in order to be assembled and shown in an exhibition about Death.
Ramona wanted to look nice. She wanted to be dressed in clothes of the century. And a guillotine would mean the 1800th century and this was as close as she could get clothes-wise.
A knock at the door awoke Ramona from her dreaming in front of the mirror and she ran to open the door and rushed out.
“I am ready!” she said and ran straight into the arms of Theo and Robert.
“Oh, you look very nice!” her cousin Robert said, feeling a sting in his heart just looking at Ramona. He had been secretly in love with her for many years. He knew that she had always considered him to be young, childish and obtrusive. But maybe not any more. For after their adventure with the old Swedish guerrilla “Snapphanarna” Robert hoped that he had earned her respect. The thought made his lips smile at her.
Robert and Theo had also put on fancy clothes. They wore large white shirts with long sleeves and dark woollen pants that had already started to itch. Their intention was not to carry anything, only look at and maybe, maybe get a chance to touch the bits and pieces a little… When no one was looking.
“I am hungry!” Ramona said, rushing pas the breakfast room, where all the guests of the hotel were stuffing themselves from the rich breakfast buffet.
“Oh, forget it!” her best friend Theo said, receiving a look that could kill wrapped up in a warm smile. For nothing could ever make the two friends angry with one another. They had experienced far too many terrifying things together and that had made them inseparable and friends for life.
When they arrived at the museum the lorry with the guillotine was pulling up outside. They realized at once that it was the guillotine, for the men carrying the boxes seemed to be both thrilled and appalled by it. The men looked devout when they walked down the lorry ramp. Quickly Theo, Ramona and Robert went through the museum door. When one of the men tried to stop them a woman approached. It was Ramona and Robert’s Aunt Marianne, who explained that they were specially invited guests who were to participate in the assembling of the guillotine. What a strike of luck that they had an aunt who was the head of the museum. It meant that they had the possibility to partake in many exciting events.
“Oh, you look nice!” aunt Marianne exclaimed when she looked at them.
“We wanted to look nice on such an important day!” Robert said, almost wanting to turn to show his clothes.
Seeing Ramona take a leap of joy, however, he kept still and admired her instead.
“It is a very special occasion today so I understand why you are dressed up. And that is why I specially enjoy having you here. Just try not to get in the way of the workers. When the guillotine is unpacked and in its proper place I thought we my have something to eat." Aunt Marianne said.
Wonderful! Ramona thought her tummy noisy with hunger.
They saw how respectfully the men treated the boxes and cases, and how silent they all were...
Ramona, Theo and Robert sat down on the big stone staircase, in order not to be in the way.
After a while they had to move further up the staircase and sit down on a stone bench in the landing for the men came carrying a large plaited basket, the size of a man, putting it down on the landing. The men whispered to themselves, wondering about the use of the basket, but they soon realized that it was to contain the body after being separated from the head.
This made Ramona uneasy and she shivered. Sitting beside the basket gave her an ominous feeling.
The white walls and the stone staircase were a perfect surrounding for the mysterious boxes being carried in, and the atmosphere was heavy with expectation. It was as if all had a feeling that something was about to happen.
Theo could not shake of the uneasy feeling when one of the flat boxes was opened and he saw the shiny big, sharp blade of the guillotine. He had a premonition of bad luck, just being present here, by the guillotine.
Theo quickly looked around him, feeling the presence of something strange. But he only saw the high whitewashed walls, the broad staircase and Robert and Ramona looking at the blade of the guillotine as if they were bewitched, and the men on their way downstairs to pick up a new box. What could happen to them here?
A shudder shook Theo when he remembered a similar feeling. Bad things had really happened then. Horrible things. He definitely didn’t want anything similar to happen again. Therefore he decided to keep a safe distance between himself and the blade of the guillotine, since he was certain that the sharp edge was the origin of his uneasiness.
What Theo did not know was that he was about to learn much more about the blade of the guillotine, more than he had ever wanted…
The men returned, carrying the pieces of the wooden frame from which the blade of the guillotine was to hang. The pieces were incredibly high and Theo could not imagine how the men would be able to raise them to build the frame. A space beside the door had been prepared for the guillotine. The ground plate was put in its place. All the cases and boxes were now in the museum. The large wooden doors were closed and everyone worked diligently to put the guillotine together. All the men wore white cotton gloves in order to protect the artefacts.
Theo could not keep his eyes from the bevelled guillotine blade and the copper container where the head landed having been chopped off. Looking at it he shivered and imagined how the blood was gushing out from the body when the head was gone. What a terrible way to die! The guillotine had probably never been as clean and neat as it was now. It would most likely have been smeared with blood. How dreadful to lie down on the plank, have your body tied to it, put your head in the hole – not able to move – and to lie on your belly in the blood of the ones previously executed, waiting for the blade to fall blending your blood with the others.
Suddenly Theo felt sick and had to turn away, feeling strongly that this had once happened to him.
Ramona scurried around trying to be everywhere at the same time. She bounced up and down the stairs to get a good view of the guillotine from the first floor. There was a small gap in the wall from which she could see the floor below. But in the next moment she wanted to be down by the guillotine in order to be as close to history as possible. Hence she was constantly on the move, curiously looking at everything that was going on, in spite of her aunt telling her to keep out of the way. But Aunt Marianne was not there, she had gone to her office and the men did not seem to mind her presence. She decided that it was an approval of her running around, taking photos, memorizing and sucking in all the information. She eagerly listened to all that the men told her. They told her about Johan Alfred Andersson Ander, the first and only Swede who was decapitated with this particular guillotine. The story fascinated Ramona and she eagerly listened to all the details.
Robert was standing still by one of the walls watching the guillotine grow. He was impressed by its impressive size. He heard the story about Johan Alfred Andersson Ander and felt the disgust when thinking about how the man’s blood had gushed over everything in front of him. He could not understand how Ramona could be so excited and curious about this dreadful guillotine. He watched two men fasten the blade of the guillotine at the top. The blade looked heavy. The strain made the arms of the men tremble as they screwed the blade to the frame. Now they were done. The guillotine was completed. Robert turned to Theo who was standing beside him, his face grey and sweat dripping from his forehead.
“How are you?” Robert whispered and gripped Theo’s arm.
“I don’t feel good, I feel sick, I… I have a premonition of something terrible that is about to happen. I can’t breathe”, Theo said his voice choking.
Then the fire alarm went off.
First they were paralysed with fear when the shrill signal sounded through the room. The signal hooted in their ears, threatening to burst them.
Suddenly there was a commotion when people came rushing down from the floors above, wanting to get out as fast as possible. They jumped over boxes and cases, stumbled over the packing material lying on the floor. Someone fell down. People started to scream in panic, feared of not getting out in time, feared of falling and getting trampled down. The man who had fallen quickly got back on his feet and joined the others, fleeing out of the museum. The big wooden doors were flung wide open and people started to come out.
In this chaos Theo, Ramona and Robert stood still, not knowing what to do. The boys pressed themselves against the wall trying to catch Ramona's eyes. She stood in the other end of the hall, stretching her neck to get a glimpse of them. None of them wanted to move until they were sure that they all could get out safely. No one wanted to be the first to abandon the other. So they stood still.
Theo still felt as if he were being choked. The feeling was scary. A panic attack, he thought and told himself to calm down and try to breathe. He wouldn't admit for a second that the feeling had something to do with the guillotine. To unleash that feeling was unthinkable; if he did he really would panic.
Robert saw his aunt run by. When Marianne passed she told him to hurry out. But she didn't stop to see if he was following her. The pressure from the people behind her was too strong to allow her to stop.
In the far distance they could catch the sound of the siren from the fire brigade. It wouldn't take long before they had arrived.
The museum with its contents was of great value and the building was close to other houses that might catch fire if it was allowed to get out of hand.
The number of people coming out was diminished. The last person was an elderly man who came stumbling hastily down the staircase. When he saw the three youths standing with their backs pressed against the wall he was surprised.
"You have to get out fast, the building is on fire! Haven't you heard the fire alarm?" he said and stopped in front of Ramona, glancing at Theo and Robert.
"Yes, but such a lot of people have been passing by, that I didn’t dare to move", Ramona said truthfully.
"But now you can move, now it's just me and your friends?" the man said inquiringly, as if he wasn't certain that Robert and Theo were her friends.
"Yes, they are my friends", Ramona answered. "We are getting out now, I just have to…" she said, a sudden thought crossing her mind.
"No!" the man said resolutely. "You have to get out now, you might die!"
Without waiting for any reaction from Ramona the man started to walk towards the entrance, looking worried as he glanced behind him.
Then Theo, Ramona and Robert saw the smoke come creeping down the magnificent stone staircase.
"Ramona!" Theo shouted and hurried to his friend. "We have to get out!" He grabbed her arm.
"Wait! Please wait!" Ramona whispered.
"Theo! Ramona! Robert shouted trying to escape the firm grip of the man who wanted to drag him out into safety.
The man’s grip loosened and Robert hurried towards his friends.
"Well, the firemen will take care of them", the man mumbled and hurried out as fast as his rickety legs could go.
Astonished Robert looked at Ramona and Theo.
"What are you doing?" he whispered with trembling voice. "Come! We’ve got to get out!"
The fear in his voice justified. The smoke had grown thicker and was now billowing down from the floor above them.
"Sure! Come!" Ramona said. "I just got such a great idea! Now when everyone else is out. Then we can… We can… We…"
Ramona's eyes were wide open by excitement and she whispered: "We can touch the guillotine. Feel it, without anyone stopping us. I’ve got to touch it, I just have to!" Ramona said.
Suddenly she felt a great hurry and ran towards the guillotine, hearing the sound of squeaking brakes. It was the fire engine that had stopped outside, still with the sirens on.
"So that's why!" Theo shouted to make himself heard above the noise, and he looked both angry and scared at the same time. "I thought…"
Well, he had not known what to think when he saw Ramona standing still instead of rushing out when the fire alarm started. He hadn't had a clue about what was in her mind, he just did has he always did, obeyed her, and stood silently beside her.
Now Ramona was going to touch the guillotine.
No! She must not do that, she must never do that! All this time he had felt a premonition of something bad that was about to happen.
When the fire alarm had started he had thought it was the fire he had felt when he was choking. But now, now he understood that it was about the guillotine and Ramona… It had been the guillotine and Ramona all the time. He had to stop her!
Theo rushed after Ramona, not thinking he might fall and hurt himself on all the boxes and cases, lying all over the stone floor.
"Wait for me!" Robert yelled.
He was just one step behind Theo, eager to be as close as possible to Ramona, even though he had no intention of touching that awful guillotine! He didn't care if Ramona touched it. He hadn't felt Theo’s premonition. Robert had only been together with them once before, when Theo’s premonitions had proved to be true.
I won't let her do it! I won't let her do it! Theo thought and stretched his steps to get to Ramona in time to stop her.
Ramona had reached the frame were a pane of glass soon would be fastened in order to keep people’s fingers away from the guillotine. When the pane of glass was in place… Well, then there wasn't a chance in the world that someone would let her touch this historical object. She didn't wear any white gloves, but she did not think that one single touch would harm the guillotine. It was of solid wood and steel. Ramona leaped over the frame, towards the guillotine.
Before the fire alarm had sounded the men had just attached the sharp blade of the guillotine, high up on the wooden frame, but they hadn't had the time to secure it properly. It was their intention to fasten the blade with a steel wire so that no one would be able to release the handle and set free the sharp blade by mistake. Someone could be hurt very badly. Someone could be very, very seriously injured; Ramona thought and stretched her hand towards the handle. She was so fascinated by the guillotine completely forgetting about her ghastly nightmare. The one she had taken as a warning of something terrible that was about to happen.
"I will just feel it", Ramona whispered and grabbed the handle of the guillotine.
Theo had reached at this moment and he gave a terrified scream seeing what she was about to do. Ramona didn't understand why Theo screamed. In the next moment she felt Theo grabbing her hand, which made her twitch and release the handle by mistake. The all looked at the guillotine in horror as the blade fell with a swishing fatal sound.
But it was only Theo and Ramona who screamed in horror when the blade of the guillotine reached its target. Robert was no longer with them. No sound of sirens was heard. Instead a roar from an excited crowd met them.
With a thud the head fell into the basket and the blood gushed out of the neck. Ramona fell to the ground.
Theo was struck with horror. He looked at the chopped-off head lying in the basket in front of him, its eyes staring at him. They looked terrified and the face contorted in pain. The blood gushed out of the neck, still attached to the wooden frame. Suddenly Theo felt as if he couldn't get any air, as if someone was squeezing his chest and throat. He tried to fill his lungs, but was unable to breathe. His eyes filled with tears and he gasped for air. This just couldn't be true! His apprehension and premonition that something awful was about to happen had come true. They had once again travelled in time. And what a terrible time they had come to. Theo felt dizzy and stumbled when he looked down at his bloodstained shirt. Then he fell to the ground, unconscious.
It was a raw, foggy morning. All the shops in Paris were closed so as many as possible would be free to watch the execution.
The young noblewoman, Louise, stood firm and cheered enthusiastically among the other spectators when the head fell. For a second she thought she is mistaken, when suddenly two strangers emerged in front of her. Now they both had fainted on the ground. Had they been there all the time, or had they really emerged out of thin air.
Louise drew the hood further down her head to remain unnoticed. She was surrounded by revolutionaries and being a noblewoman she was among enemies. Louise thoughtfully observed the two young people on the ground. She tried to recall what had happen the last couple of minutes. She knew that armed soldiers had been lined up along the road where the king’s coach had been driven through the town. The closed carriage with King Ludwig XVI had been escorted by soldiers loyal to the new revolution government. It had been a sad sight, the crowd had given way for the carriage, but only to spit on it and abuse the passenger, Ludwig XVI. The king had been so brave when he had stepped out of the wagon, mocking self confidence. He had looked the king he once had been, not a man on his way to meet his death.
She could consider herself fortunate being able to get so close to the guillotine to get a last glimpse of the king. Everyone else was pushing one another behind the soldiers who surrounded the guillotine. What a difference a little flirt can do. Louise made a desperate effort to smile at the soldier she had had to charm in order to be able to stand here, close to the execution.
Louise wrung her hands underneath her rough shawl and tried to hold back her tears. She couldn't show her grief, for everyone else was rejoicing the death of the king. To grieve Ludwig XVI was equal to an act of treachery. Louise bit her lips and thought about the moment before the arrival of the king’s carriage.
The crowd had been simmering of restrained anger. The guillotine standing on its two meter high platform, giving everyone opportunity to see the execution even though they were standing far away. When it was getting closer to , the clatter from the hooves of the horses was heard, pulling the carriage along the main street Rue Saint-Honoré towards the place of execution. The murmuring of voices had increased as the carriage came closer. The crowd standing around the guillotine was armed with lances and pikes, Louise couldn't understand why. Perhaps they were afraid that the king once again should try to escape, as he had done once before when he and his family had tried to escape to Varennes. This attempted escape had been brutally stopped.
Oh, how foolhardy of the king to not see the danger in which the whole family hade been. The escape had taken too long, since the king had stopped to enjoy the landscape and good meals. And see now how he was punished. But he wasn't all to blame; the queen Marie-Antoinette was also responsible for their delay. She had got lost in the palace on her way to the waiting carriage and had arrived long after they were supposed to depart. This was the reason why the soldiers, waiting for the royal family had gone, since they hadn't arrived in time. The king hade been recognized and imprisoned. He was brought back to Paris together with his family. Oh, why hadn't they succeeded in escaping that time? Then the king might still have been alive. But there was no point in trying to figure out who was to blame, everything was too late anyway. The King was gone, for ever! Louise remembered the last minutes of the King’s life.
She once again pictured to herself how the King descended from the carriage, looking strong and collected as he walked towards the stairs leading to the platform. Louise couldn't help smiling when remembered how the king had whisked away the hand of the executioner's assistant when he tried to take of the king’s coat. Ludwig XVI had unbuttoned his coat himself and with contempt he had thrown the cap that he had been given the day before, bearing the sign of the revolution, on the ground.
Tears appeared in Louise's eyes when she thought about how calmly and dignified the King had unbuttoned the collar of his shirt. When she remembered how the King had refused to have his hands pinioned, she felt genuinely relieved. There had still been some spark inside him. He wasn't a beaten man, even if he soon would face his destiny. Why couldn't they have allowed his hands to remain untied? Why had the priest persuaded him to be pinioned? The king’s hair had fallen for the scissors. Then the priest had to help the king climb up the steep stairs. Had courage failed the king, or were his pinioned hands disturbing him? She would never know.
Louise remembered exactly the king’s last words before they had been drowned in the sound of the rolling drums: "I die innocent. I forgive them who are guilty of my death. I pray to God that the blood now being spilled never will fall on France and that we, unhappy people…" After that the words had disappeared in the roar of the drums. Louise wished that she had heard the king’s parting words.
She suppressed a sob that almost escaped her, as she continued to remember.
When the executioner hade seized the king’s arm and pushed his body against the wagging board, she had wanted to rush forward to set the king free, her king, who she for so many years had served. But she had collected herself. She couldn’t have done anything. She had to be strong, for the Queen and for the royal children.
Just as the wagging board was tipped forward and the King gazed towards the Palace of the Tuilleries where he and the Queen and their children had been imprisoned, Louise had felt as if her throat had been smothered with despair. She remembered the king’s anxiety-ridden scream when the blade fell. Something had gone wrong; the head hadn’t fallen into the basket. It was horrible to see how the blade was pulled up and then once again fall down. This time the executioner managed to sever the Kings head from his body. At this very moment the two strangers, who now lay in front of her, had shown up. How and why?
Louise was brought back to reality when a young boy rushed forward, leaned over the basket and lifted the King’s severed head covered in blood by the hair and showed it. Utter disgust shook her. She made a strong effort to keep her self-control and not scream of sorrow and anger.
First there were silences, as if everyone felt guilty. The next moment someone shouted tentatively: "Long lives the republic!" After that it was not long before exalted shouts rose from the crowd. People cheered and the soldiers who were called the Marseillaises sang their song.
The crowd started to act crazy. They pushed to come forward in order to take something from the King as a memento. The soldiers stepped aside, without trying to stop the people trying to get close to the executed King.
Louise hurried to shelter the two people lying on the ground in front of her.
"Help me!" she appealed to a soldier who stood close by, while nodding her head to the two people on the ground.
The soldier shook his head, but nevertheless he came to her help. Louise thought it was her beauty that made the young man helps her. She had seen his quick glance at her face, having denied her assistance. With a vigorous grip around the waists of the strangers, the strong man lifted them up and carried them to safety underneath the guillotine. It was in the nick of time, for the crowd pushed forward and nothing could stop them on their way to the King’s massacred body.
In horror Louise pressed herself against the rough board on the platform and saw how people dipped their hands into the King’s blood, sticking their fingers into their mouths and greedily lick the blood. Some dipped their handkerchiefs or other pieces of clothing in the blood.
Someone picked up the cap, thrown with contempt by the king. The cap was torn into pieces which were handed out as souvenirs to the ones standing close by.
Louise was afraid that someone might recognize her as loyal to the king and not as a revolutionist. Then she would probably be torn to pieces, just like the King’s clothes.
Quickly she kneeled and crawled towards the two fainted persons. Who were they? She observed them closely and as both of them opened their eyes simultaneously and looked at her, Louise realised that she would probably be the one to care for these two stray beings. But what was she to do with them?
Theo's velvety brown eyes looked around in surprise. First they stared at the bloody boards. The blood was dripping down on him; the mere sight of it was enough to fill him with nausea.
In spite of this terrible place his body didn't seem to have the strength to flee from the blood, he lay still and let his eyes sweep around.
The next thing he saw was a young woman who stared intensely at him.
She had a rough shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her dark, wavy hair had found its way out of her hood, which she had pulled down as much as possible over her face. Theo had a feeling that the woman tried to hide her true identity. He looked down at her thick woollen skirt. It was made of fine quality, even if the hem was covered in mud and the skirt was generally filthy.
He felt numb and dizzy, was he dreaming? At first he couldn’t remember what had happened, but when he turned his head and saw Ramona, slowly rising the upper part of her body with the help of her elbows, Theo realised what had happened and how awful all of it was.
"Oh, no!" he mumbled to himself and closed his eyes. He wanted to shut out the picture of the chopped-off head, but when he tried to block out reality, the picture just grew stronger. So he opened his eyes again and looked at the woman.
Fear grew inside Ramona when she saw Theo's bloody shirt and felt the blood drip down on her from the board above. What had she done? This horrible situation and the fact that they were there was all her fault. She could only imagine that, that the time they had arrived in, was France during the bloody revolution when the people was decapitated without being guilty of anything else other than being rich, belonging to the nobility or because someone had something against them.
Her heart pounded hard and Ramona’s breath was heavy. She was terrified. Although they had just arrived in this horrible century, Ramona couldn’t remember when she had ever been this frightened. Still, nothing bad had happened to them, but they could easily say or do something wrong and then one of them, or perhaps both, would end up in the guillotine. This meant they would get their head chopped off and never be able to return to their own time. Suddenly Ramona realised that Robert wasn't with them. Where was he? Had he come to another part of the town? Why had they been separated?
The uproar around them was deafening. People screamed, sang and behaved like maniacs. Ramona once again looked up at the board above her and realized they where underneath the guillotine. The blood dripping down on them came from someone who had just been decapitated. Yucky! From the cheering of the spectators she understood that they enjoyed the decapitations. How would they both, Theo and herself, be able to get out of here without being harmed? Oh, why couldn't she keep her fingers to herself instead of wanting to try everything? This wasn't the first time they had ended up in trouble, just because she wanted to see, feel and test. They had been lucky all the times before and escaped unscathed. But there were many times when they had been close to disaster, not getting out of their time travels alive. Was this their last time travel? Would one of them die this time? Ramona had the feeling they had tempted destiny for the last time. She was quite certain they wouldn't survive this journey.
Ramona turned towards Theo and looked into his wonderful brown eyes. She was searching for comfort and strength, but when she saw that Theo's eyes were filled with horror, and without a glimpse of hope, Ramona’s fear grew and her body started to shiver all over.
The woman, who squatted beside them, leaned closer to them and said in a low voice:
"Who are you and where do you come from?"
Theo's eyes cleared and Ramona suddenly saw how strength and determination grew in them. In one moment he had transformed from a terrified young boy to a brave young man. The change was exceptional and Ramona suddenly felt quite safe. Everything would turn out well, they were together. Theo would always manage to get them out of tricky situations. And he will do that again, she was sure of it. She would put her trust in him, and then everything would turn out well. Ramona smiled towards him, but he didn't see it, he's eyes being fixed upon the young woman.
"Who are you?" Theo asked.
He didn't know if this young woman was a friend or a foe. They had better not tell her too much, not until they knew more about her. Louise had the same thought. For a long time now she had been living under disgusting circumstances and every day she had been afraid that her turn to be decapitated had come. Therefore she didn't dare to answer Theo's question truthfully, only give her name, which would hardly reveal anything.
"Louise", she answered and smiled, trying to make the young man feel safe. For all she knew he could be a spy, sent out by Robespierre, to look for new victims for the feared guillotine.
"Theo is my name and this is my friend Ramona", Theo said and nodded towards Ramona.
He sat up. There was plenty of space between them and the bloody board. Theo didn’t really know what to say and what to do. But he was certain of one thing: he had to bring Ramona to a safe place. She was the most important person to him and his only priority. But where would he find a safe place?
It was obvious that they had made another travel in time. But where were they? How much could they trust this young woman, Louise?
Theo didn’t know it, but Louise had the same thought. Did she dare to take care of these two, as her first thought had been? They looked so lost, as if they didn't belong here.
"Where do you come from?" she asked.
"America!" Ramona burst out.
Without thinking, just as usual.
Theo gave her a quick glance. What was this about?
"America…" Louise said thoughtfully.
If it was true that they came from America, then they would certainly be loyal to the King. Perhaps they were sent here with a message for the royal family.
A tiny flicker of hope grew inside Louise. Perhaps they hade come to rescue the queen and the children and bring them to security!
Such things could not be talked about among strangers; therefore she didn’t dare to ask them. Even if they weren't very close to the people around them, she didn't know who might be standing above them, or if someone was listening from nearby.
She cast a quick glance at the legs pressing against the platform. The owners of those legs might have ears as big as saucers, now trying to catch everything they said.
Should she wait here among these people, or should she try to sneak away in cover of the crowd?
Ramona didn't understand why she had said America instead of Sweden. But when she saw the young woman look relieved by the answer, she was glad to have spoken without thinking first. Perhaps Louise was able to help them - or was it their task to help Louise? They usually travelled in time to save someone's life, and so far they had succeeded most of the times.
Suddenly Ramona wasn't scared anymore. She felt excitement and expectation starting to fill her. This was another thrilling adventure in a new, exciting historical world. This could be great, great fun, Ramona thought, oblivious of here previous bad premonitions.
Theo saw how Ramona suddenly changed, straightening her body, and he saw her face lighten up, from relief and something else that he couldn't quite figure out. She almost looked as if she was holding a gift in her hands, as if she eagerly wanted to open it. Did she really think that this was thrilling?
Suddenly Theo was filled with laughter, despite the terror around them. Only Ramona could change so quickly and cast off her fear and look upon a terrible situation with curiosity and joy. He gave a broad smile, his eyes glittering of warmth.
Theo’s smile helped Louise to decide what to do. This young man looked so warm and kind; he surely couldn't do her any harm. He was probably sent to her by the American president in order to help Ludwig XVI. Even if that was too late they might be able to smuggle out the Queen and the children, and maybe, maybe also Louise herself.
She had now made her decision. She would bring those two with her to safety.
The crowd started to move. It was time to leave.
"Follow me!" Louise urged.
Without waiting for an answer she crawled out from their hiding-place and joined the spectators.
Theo and Ramona were suddenly in a hurry to crawl after her. Louise hastened forward and they were afraid of losing sight of her. They kept their eyes on her grey shawl which was bobbing up and down among the others and hurried after, just a few steps behind her.
"Keep close to me!" Theo urged.
He was afraid that the exhilarated horses, tramping back and forward, would harm them. But most of all he was worried about the hooting, wild crowd around them. What if they thought that he and Ramona belonged to the enemy? He reached out his hand to get a safe grip of Ramona, so they wouldn't get separated. But then a rider suddenly crossed between them and Theo lost sight of Ramona. Theo quickly stepped back to avoid getting underneath the horse. He bumped into some people who shouted at him, irritated. He didn't listen. He was focused on finding Ramona as soon as the horse had passed and he kept staring at the point where he had last seen her.
When the horse had passed by, the crowd had engulfed Ramona and Louise like a sea in uproar. Rapidly he walked in the direction where he last had seen them, believing he would soon catch up with them.
Theo didn't know that when his road and Ramona's crossed next time, one of them would no longer be alive.
Pierre looked thoughtfully at the man he was following. He had taken up the pursuit of him and his company on an impulse. Now the young man had lost sight of his company, but that wasn't so important to Pierre. He was completely focused on the young man. He had picked up some of the words they had spoken to each other, not enough to understand all of it, but enough to raise his suspicions. It was the young man he was curious about, first of all.
Pierre was a true revolutionary. He wore long trousers, a white wide shirt ornamented with the three-coloured blue-white-red cockade of the revolution. Furthermore his head was crowned with the revolutionaries red cap. In his belt was a knife. He was 18 years old, but felt old enough for the task that had been bestowed upon him. He kept meticulous count of how many he had sent to the guillotine: thirty-six persons. He was sure that the man in front of him would become the thirty-seventh. Pierre smiled. He loved the revolution, because he had become to play a prominent part in the community as a result of it. He knew that he was popular because he performed so well, besides, he was a close friend to Robespierre.
Pierre hade sent his whole family to their death: mum, dad and his two older brothers. It was late a rainy evening he had heard how they had spoken well of the royal family. They had said that the life had been calmer when the King had the power and they had called the leader of the revolutionary government, Robespierre, a madman. Pierre couldn't allow such words to be said. Already the next day he had told the revolutionary government and – swish - the heads of his whole family had fallen. Now he was the head of the family, even if it was only him left. He now owned everything that previously had belonged to his parents. No wonder he celebrated the revolution, he even loved it!
Theo followed the stream of people leaving the place of execution. He followed his instincts and was certain that this was the way Ramona had walked. Surely they would bump into each other any second now. He carefully studied everyone around him. The women had long, wide skirts falling all the way to the ground, shawls over their shoulders and hoods on their heads. Some of them were holding knitting in their hands, other held weapons. They looked excited and happy, as if they had joined a party and not an execution. Theo didn't understand anything.
Theo didn't know so much about history of the French revolution. He was born in the little town Pompeii in Italy, year 64 before Christ. Now it was 1793. The French population had risen in rebellion against the royal power. They demanded food, they demanded lower taxes, and they demanded to be treated fairly. The royal family had been imprisoned for a long time now. The King had just been executed when Theo and Ramona arrived in Paris, in the middle of the revolution. Theo did not know anything about this. He had been saved from the fall of Pompeii by Ramona during her first time travel. Since then he had been living together with Ramona and her family. Ramona and Theo had experienced many exciting - but also horrifying – travels in time. Ramona was very interested in history and knew a lot. Theo… well, he took one day as it came and he was busy learning all about the modern things that had developed during the hundreds of years he had missed by quickly travelling from his own time through nearly 2000 years to Ramona’s century.
Therefore, Theo had no notion of the dangerous time he had travelled to. He had just seen the decapitation of a man, but for all he knew the man could be a criminal convicted for murder, just as the Swedish man who had been executed by the guillotine. There was nothing in the atmosphere that told Theo that there were spies all over the place, that someone observed every step he took, every movement he made, and tried to catch every word he said. All to prove that Theo was a spy, someone who could be condemned to decapitation by the guillotine. Therefore Theo's concentration was merely focused on finding Ramona and on catching a glimpse of her further ahead in the crowd. He didn't concentrate on what was going on behind him and didn't se the man who were following his steps. Not even when the crowd started to get thinner did Theo notice the pursuer, the only thing he realized was that Ramona wasn't among the people in front of him. Somewhere on the way from the place of execution she had disappeared into a crossing street.
Theo stopped, irresolute. Where should he go now? He looked ahead, no Ramona. He looked at both sides; there were no crossing streets into which Ramona could have turned. Theo made a quick turn and collided with a young man.
"I'm sorry!" Theo said and took hold of the man so he wouldn’t fall.
"Well, the fault was all mines!" the man said and gave a friendly smile.
"No, it was I who…"
The man interrupted him.
"Let's say we are equally responsible, and then we won’t have to argue about it."
Theo thought that the young man he had stumbled into was friendly. Perhaps this was destiny’s way of helping him. Could he be so lucky that this young man knew the young woman that he and Ramona had met earlier? You never know about destiny. It could play many tricks. Theo smiled and felt reassurance building up his mind. Everything was going to be all right, just as so many times before.
"My name is Theo", he said and stretched out his hand to the young man.
"Pierre", the young man said and took Theo's hand in a firm grip.