‭A crowd was gathered around the Duke's courtyard.  They were facing the stage, where Peter Michael stood.  They weren't smiling or laughing.  There were no boys carrying around hats full of money.  Peter was not speaking.  His hands were tied behind his back as he stood on stage.  A noose hung next to him.
‭    "Peter Michael," read the executioner, "is hereby charged with theft of the Royal Crown of England.  Evidence has been given that during a magic show, Mr. Michael switched the Crown with a fake.  He is to be given no trial."
‭    "Mr. Michael is also hereby charged with plots against the monarchy.  Rumors have been spread that Mr. Michael has been spying on the monarchy and passing this information to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France."
‭    "His sentence for these two actions is death."
‭    The crowd shifted restlessly.  The King retreated from his seat on the Duke's balcony.  The Duke was not present.
‭    The executioner slipped a black veil over Peter's head, then shoved his head through the noose.  Peter began to jerk around oddly, and members of the crown began to whisper about it.  The executioner looked up at the balcony for confirmation, and the King's advisor waved his hand.  The King was still absent.
‭    The executioner put his hand on the lever, attached to the mechanism which would drop the planks beneath the masked body's feet.  The crowd whispered, and a few women burst into tears.  The executioner took a deep breath and pulled the lever.
‭    An odd gasp came from beneath the black veil of the hanging body when tension was reached on the rope.  The gasp sounded high-pitched and muffled.  The executioner, recognizing the sound, ran to the hanging body and began to struggle with the veil over its head.  The man beneath was gagged with a cloth, and his eyes were wide with sudden and painful death.
‭    The body was not of Peter Michael.  The body was of King John of England.
‭    "Dirt!" yelled the old merchant from the crowd.  "Where's your crown now?"

The End

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