Julia was too preoccupied with fears of unleashing a violent drunk with base predilections that she couldn't think of a single thing to say. While he gnawed on a bone noisily, Julia glanced at him furtively, expecting him to adjust his waistband and reveal his true intentions or reach for a dagger and commence his famed blinding activities.
He finished his first helping of boiled beef, drained his claret and set the glass down roughly, fixing a steady gaze on Julia, who surreptitiously reached for her dagger.
He caught the deft movement of her right arm. "You can stop right there, ma'am."
Julia froze, heart hammering in her chest.
He leaned back in his chair and tucked his hands in his waistband.
This is it, she thought, placing her hands on the table, ready to spring. She swallowed hard and glanced at Millie, willing her to run.
"Ma'am," The Blinder said, sucking on a tooth. "I don't take from a woman what she won't give freely. And as for the child—"
Julia stiffened defensively. "She's not a child, she's—"
"Well she looks like one," he said, pushing his plate away. "You can rest easy, ma'am. They don't interest me neither."
She relaxed considerably, forcing a cordial smile, hoping her eyes were safe too. "So you're an ethical criminal?"
The Blinder laughed. It was an honest laugh, but still communicated an intimidating ruthlessness. "I s'pose you could say that."
Julia nodded to Millie, who cleared off the dinner plates and wheeled around the brandy cart. Julia picked up a full decanter and poured a generous measure into a cut-glass tumbler. "Brandy? Mr. Bli—" She clamped her mouth shut and glanced up at him, praying he hadn't noticed her slip.
He met her gaze, lacing his fingers casually behind his head, considering the glass placed in front of him. "I guess my reputation precedes me. My name's John Drake. Though I am known as The Blinder, as you seem to know."
"And," she said, finding the mystery too alluring to pass without comment. "May I ask how you earned such a name?"
Drake sipped some brandy and exhaled. "There's too much politicking in the justice system, ma'am. Too many fellers lookin' out for their own interests. Well, I haven't the time for that. I like to bring a body his due, regardless of what the law states. My kind of justice is swift and fair. An eye for an eye, as the Good Book says. And I aim to blind every man who deserves it."
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