Evelyn Chartres Author
The Van Helsing Paradox

In Flanders Field The Poppies Blow – Part IV

This particular creature was making no attempts to conceal its escape. Given the clothes and his submissive nature, such behaviour was to be expected. Clara suspected that city dwellers knew little on tracking animals or how to avoid being tracked; these were not survival skills people needed in the land of steel, brick and mortar.

The path was random and confused. At first they were travelling towards the front and suddenly veered away from it. If this creature was disorientated, that would complicate matters.

After about an hour she saw a dark silhouette against the ridge. The gentleman’s dress and hat were a dead giveaway. Was he waiting for the female’s return? No matter, Clara looked at her watch and saw there was another twenty minutes to go before the crepuscular sky.

Clara knew that he would instinctively seek out shelter and was capable of burrowing into the ground to avoid exposure. A survival instinct which permitted them avoid their biggest natural threat.

She had her own share of risks if she remained on the hunt past sunrise. For one, she might be spotted by an observation balloon or a passing aircraft. They might report her presence then have her arrested, which would lead to an execution by firing squad for cowardice.

It was only about a hundred yards or so to her objective. Without cover that would be difficult, since he would bolt if anyone in uniform approached. This meant she needed to distract him and she was not looking forward to the rest of her plan.

Concealed by a small crater Clara removed her tunic, shirt, padding and wrapping. Already her skin was turning to gooseflesh, but she relied on her training to ignore the cold; at this point it was mind over matter.

Beneath all of those clothes she wore a slip, simple, and not too showy. With her trousers out of the way, Clara pulled down the fabric, grabbed a knife and cut the slip so he would get an eyeful.

Almost ready she hurriedly removed the pins from her hair to let it down in the hopes that it would make her appear more feminine. With any luck she would not rely on the holy water applied to her lips nor would he notice the bayonet held behind her back.

Ready, she headed up the ridge wearing the boots and little else. Clara even elongated her steps to make that sway in her hips more pronounced. This had to be a first, trying to seduce an enemy in a warzone.

The man turned to find Clara moving up the ridge, even in the moonlight she saw the fear melt away. The look of confusion set in, followed by a shit-eating-grin. Luckily for her, men seemed programmed (for the most part) to enjoy the sight of a woman, especially one in a state of undress.

“You’re not Gladys,” he said.

“So the female had a name, a modern one too,” Clara thought.

Now there were a few ways to answer the question. Either she ignored his question or reply no which might arouse suspicion. Although she could always act confused to see how gullible this man was; her instincts told her the latter would prove most effective.

“Gladys,” Clara asked.

The man’s smirk grew into a full-scale smile, so he was clearly not thinking with his head. What were the chances of a half-dressed girl showing up in the middle of No-Man’s-Land? Then again, most of them were like Jack and considered themselves to be direct descendants of Casanova.

“I could not resist,” Clara said in a distant tone.

“Of course not,” he said. “Come hither my sweet,” he added while adopting a smouldering look.

If Clara were not so cold she might have felt the effects of his charm. Hence the reason she applied a bit holy water to her lips. Instead, she fought the urge to roll her eyes while she continued on with her approach. This pose had the benefits of pushing her chest out front and centre. Given her hard nipples, she knew that she was giving him a show.

When she got within a few feet, she noticed him back away subconsciously. He must have been newly turned to be so affected by her presence. Faith was a potent weapon, but she needed him to overcome his aversion. In a few minutes the sky would begin to lighten and he would run for cover.

“I want you,” Clara said while pulling down on her slip to expose her bare breasts.

The appearance of willing flesh was all the motivation he needed. This time when she took a step and he did not move, enabling her to get within inches of him.

Clara ran a finger along the buttons of his jacket until they reached his trousers and said, “I need you.”

He leaned in, his lips gliding over her chest towards hers. Soon their lips would be locked in an embrace or so he hoped. In truth the burn from the holy water would send him into a tailspin, but Clara had a different plan in mind. Just before their lips made contact she drove the bayonet into his chest and pierced the heart.

She pulled away just before his body dropped to the ground. She covered up her breasts since there was no sense of exposing them to the elements now. Without a second’s hesitation she then pulled his smoking jacket away and wrapped it around her. It might have been too big, but at least it would help her stay warm.

The look on his face was priceless. Clara adopted that same smirk he wore when he first set eyes on her. Of course, he did not appear to be receptive to her brand of humour.

“What a shame,” Clara thought.

“How,” he asked.

“You let your ego lower your guard,” Clara said.

“Why,” he asked with a strained voice.

“You’re a perversion,” Clara replied. “An abomination that needs to be culled,” she added.

Clara broke eye contact with the man. She searched the area and began to gather any stray pieces of wood she found. Most had already been scorched, but that mattered little. Every time she recovered an armful she piled them over his paralysed body.

“What are you doing,” he asked.

Clara did not bother to reply, instead she fought her urge to shiver. Unfortunately, she could not afford to lose this opportunity to extract information.

As the sky turned from a deep blue to purples and pinks the man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. He panicked as his survival instincts kicked in, he knew that his time was drawing to an end.

“Let me go,” he exclaimed.

Clara snickered before she dropped more wood onto the body. By this point in time he was partially covered in kindling. Unfortunately that meant more material was needed.

“She said no one would get hurt,” the man said.

Clara paused for a moment and said, “Who?”

“Gladys brought me here to meet that man,” he said. His voice was shaking when he added, “A simple transaction to get them to open some door.”

“Really,” Clara asked.

She dropped more wood by the body while the sky began to assume some yellow hues. She was cold and looked forward to what would come next.

Despite her joints being stiff from the cold, Clara knelt down by the man and grabbed the bayonets hilt. She nudged the blade deeper into the wound and watched while he screamed in agony. It was time to up the ante.

“So why were we there,” Clara asked.

The man sighed in relief once she stopped, but he knew that was only a temporary affair.

“Gladys never told me,” he answered.

That answer was not hard to believe, but Clara had nothing to lose. She grabbed the hilt of the blade and shifted it further motivate him.

“Are you sure,” Clara asked.

“Yes. Please don’t,” he pleaded.

“No mention of a name,” Clara asked while she wiggled the blade. “No mention of a contact,” She added.

The man seemed torn between enduring more pain and the thought of what Gladys would do when she got a hold of him. Meanwhile Clara saw how the sun was moments away from peering over the horizon.

Clara kissed him on the cheek. At first he seemed confused until the skin began to smoke and bubble. In that moment he learned just how dangerous Clara was.

“Drusilla,” he exclaimed in hopes that she would end his pain.

The pain was about to end, just as the sun’s rays reached the top of the ridge, the man’s skin began to blister and blacken. Clara backed away to a safe distance, watching as smoke rose from the body.

Just as he burst into flames the whoosh overcame his screams. Clara’s eyes began to water as the life giving heat made her feel warm for the first time tonight. God she needed that!

Clara now had a name to go on. In a couple of minutes she would run down to fetch her uniform. She would then head back to the church to find Edith.

That plan could wait, for now she would warm up by this bonfire. So far this was turning out to be a pretty great morning.

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

In Flanders Field The Poppies Blow – Part III

The snow had stopped just as suddenly as it began. The higher atmospheric ceiling created the illusion that the shelling had moved off, but the timings remained the same.

Just as the last snowflake fell to the ground there was a bright flash of light that came out from the heavens. A column of light formed ahead of the couple and a new entity made an appearance.

Clara was temporarily blinded, but a breathtakingly beautiful man soon came into focus, a real sheik who wore a stylish tailor-made suit. Clara immediately suspected that they were dealing with a Georgian, no one’s appearance was that flawless.

“You’re late,” the female vampire said.

“Perhaps you were early,” the sheik said.

Clara observed how the female bared her fangs for a moment before backing down. Whoever this man was, he had enough sway to force her to play nice for now. It was odd to see someone like her so easily declawed.

The sheik smiled and said, “Is the delivery here?”

The female scanned the area and focused on the girl’s position. Both had been concealing their breathing, but it was already too late. Clara slowly and cautiously pulled out her pistol, there was no way she would go down without a fight.

“Seems our mole has drawn them here,” the female said.

“The deal was for one,” the sheik said.

Meanwhile the female’s partner seemed strangely nervous. This was starting to look like a setup and most in the group were just beginning to realise it.

“They sent in whoever they felt was necessary to complete the mission,” the female said nonchalantly. “I held my end of the bargain now you give me what I want,” she hissed.

“You’ve only held up part of the bargain,” the sheik said.

The sheik pulled something that looked like a spyglass from out of his coat pocket and instantly stretched out into a full-sized staff. Clara had heard of such things before and was now certain they were dealing with a Georgian.

When this sheik raised his staff into the air Clara took aim and fired seven rounds at him. Time appeared to slow down, the bullets came out with a puff of smoke then streaked through the night sky towards their target.

Once the first projectile reached her target, the sheik disappeared in a blast of shimmering light. In its place there was an ashen grey creature with long thin fingers and an oversized head. Its eyes were the most chilling element, large, black, and mirror like. There was no hint of emotion visible in those eyes, simply the dark reflection of one’s own image.

Clara instinctively pressed down on the ejector to release the clip. She then reached into her pocket to load a fresh magazine. Once the spent clip hit the ground, so did the Georgian’s body. The female’s partner looked over the scene in shock, but Clara assumed that would soon change.

“So where is she,” Edith asked.

“You,” the female shrieked.

Out from her peripheral vision, Clara picked up the sight of Edith being hurled through the air. She guessed what would come next, without looking she raised her pistol to the side of her right ear, pointed it at a forty-five degree angle and fired three rounds.

The blast left her temporarily deafened but did little to attenuate the shriek of pain that thing made. It seemed that two of the three rounds had reached their target, much to Clara’s good fortune.

Clara turned around while keeping her pistol trained on the woman and saw that distinctive blood pouring onto the snow. The thick red liquid did not melt the snow or steam in the cold, instead it coagulated and grew thicker. The blood was coalescing into a coherent mass in an attempt to return to its host.

Without a second thought Clara unloaded a full clip into that things head until the carrier remained fully to the rear. She stood there for a moment to observe but saw no movement, for now that was the best she could do.

Clara ran towards Edith and found her unconscious but no worse for the wear. She looked about and thought it best to move Edith somewhere safe. It would only get colder and she needed to make sure that some random patrol would not come across her while unconscious.

She lifted Edith onto her shoulders, then moved deeper into the church until she came across a small room. The door was still serviceable, and could be bolted from the inside, while permitting Clara to sneak out through the broken floorboards above.

Clara placed Edith down lightly and felt a chill run down her spine. Edith would probably get a lot colder if nothing were done to help her stay warm. Since lighting a fire was out of the question, Clara helped herself to one of Edith’s clips and left behind her greatcoat.

Even now the chill made her shiver, so that meant she had to keep moving to stay warm. Still it would be a challenge, especially if she had to use stealth.

She ventured out towards the scene of the altercation. The body of the Georgian was gone, in fact there was no indication that it had been here at all. Hopefully those bastards had learned a lesson about playing both sides.

At least the female’s body was still there. Clara then spotted a set of footsteps that led deeper into No-Man’s-Land. Given an active threat lurking about, Clara knew her primary objective; so without hesitation she began her pursuit.

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

In Flanders Field The Poppies Blow – Part II

As expected the terrain was treacherous. For the first mile or so the ground was nothing but mud. Stepping through mud created suction which forced them to thread carefully or lose a boot. With every step they brought more and more of the battlefield with them; so much so that they had to use something to scrape off a few layers and bring some spring back to their steps.

Later on they reached a series of trenches which concealed their advance. The trenches were quickly beginning to deteriorate without constant care. Still it gave them ample cover, and they only had to keep an eye out for booby traps.

As they left the network of trenches, it began to snow. The type of snowfall that would have lit up a school child’s eyes; both Edith and Clara shivered as they ventured on towards their objective.

The snow would make it more difficult to conceal their tracks. Despite the risk they pushed on, and used a crater for cover while they surveilled the area. From the safety of a crater, the girls spotted the shattered spires of the church in the distance. From here the symbols of faith and sanctuary looked more like a jagged set of fangs.

The last five hundred yards or so were spent either on their knees or crawling across the terrain. It was eerily quiet, there was no gunfire, mortar or artillery fire to be heard. The wind was calm, so the snow fell lazily over the ground and transformed this burnt out landscape into a winter wonderland. It bothered Clara how all of that death and destruction could be so easily concealed.

Once they reached the outskirts of what had been the church courtyard, they found a piece of the property wall that was still standing. It would give them plenty of cover while they waited to find out why they had been summoned here.

A half an hour later Clara felt Edith press against her arm. To the east Clara saw two distinct shadows brake through the falling snow and in time turn into the defined silhouettes of a well-dressed couple.

The girls were confused, these were not the manicured gardens of Versailles. In the background an artillery barrage started anew and Clara guessed that Christmas was over and along with it one’s love for their fellow man. In the back of her mind she kept count on how long it took between the flashes of light and the bang to see how far the fighting was.

As the couple reached the church spire, they paused to scan the area. By this time the girls were covered in snow and thus well concealed behind the stone wall. They seemed unaware of the girls’ presence and the female grew increasingly impatient.

Edith passed the binoculars so Clara carefully pressed the cool brass against her eyelids. From this distance they seemed to be a normal genteel couple out for a stroll, which was clearly out of place for the setting.

For one there was no fog on their breath. Anyone out in this weather should have shown signs of breathing. One quick look at the woman’s uncovered face revealed a great deal more than a lack of breathing.

Clara would never forget that face, the woman of great beauty who rivalled that of angels. The sight of that creature brought back all those memories from that night. Had it been more than a decade already?

She reached for her pistol, and released the clasp. Edith caught the movement from the corner of her eye and motioned Clara to stop.

“What,” Edith asked noiselessly by moving her lips.

Clara handed back the binoculars and replied, “It’s her.”

At first the words did not elicit a response, but after a moment Edith’s eyes widened. She too had come to the same conclusion and knew why Clara had reached for her sidearm.

Two of them and one powerful enough to kill indiscriminately on consecrated ground. Even armed as they were, the girls were poorly equipped to deal with a threat of that magnitude.

“I doubt a sustained artillery barrage would work,” Clara thought.

The two observed from a distance and Clara kept tabs on what lay behind them. The last thing they needed was to end up surrounded.

After another twenty minutes of waiting the couple appeared to be at their wits end. The female scowled and lashed out at her male companion. The latter knew well-enough to cower, so clearly he was subordinate to the female.

Clara contemplated a course of action, one that would permit them to see another day. She also envisioned a scenario where that female ended up with a sunburn. Alas, Clara could not find a way to consolidate these disparate plans.

“Just ducky,” Clara thought.

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Salt the Earth – Part III

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

“I’ve been told that you made quite an impression when you burst in with Edith on your shoulder,” the Reverend Mother said.

“Oh,” Clara said, sounding distant.

Truth be told, Clara had not been looking to make a grand entrance nor a scene. She was also unable to think of an effective way to deflect that statement without appearing to be insubordinate or appearing to be a braggart.

“Sometimes it’s a no win scenario,” Clara thought.

“They had been domesticated,” the Reverend Mother said when she decided to get to the point.

“What do you mean Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“Same as a dog I suppose,” the Reverend Mother said. “Taught them how to hunt and hide within a heavily populated area,” she added.

“Was that why their place was so clean,” Clara asked. “Except fo—,” she added but faltered.

It was difficult to remember what she had witnessed. The gore, the stench and the flies were all elements drawn together from a poorly written horror story. Even if the minutiae of the scenes was impossible to recollect, the images still haunted her.

Surely Jack’s room had been just as gory. A dismembered head with gouged out eyes should have evoked a similar response. Still there was something about this particular scene that made her mind run through what she witnessed over and over.

“Precisely,” Augustine said. “They had a fully stocked kitchen and one of the little ones was found in the icebox dead,” she added.

Clara noted that even the Reverend Mother seemed troubled by this development. She had always assumed that the head of her order was impervious to such news. Surely bad news came often enough to blunt her emotions.

The sight of the Reverend Mother showing a sliver of emotion was enough to endear Clara. The matriarch of the Tower being human gave her hope that she would not turn into some mindless killing machine. Somehow that notion warmed her heart.

“Was the young one a ginger Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“No child,” Augustine said. “Why do you ask,” she said.

Clara had not reported the apparition since ghosts and spirits went against all they were taught. To talk about such things might lead them to question her sanity. For now it was best to keep such knowledge close to her heart.

“What about the cigarette holder and hair Reverend Mother,” Clara asked.

“Your instincts had been correct that the item had been used recently child,” Augustine started with. “They also found a series of broken vases, frames and knick-knacks swept into a closet,” she added.

So the altercation had been far ranging, which meant that Edith must have put up one hell of a fight. Clara expected nothing less, but it was reassuring to have her suspicions confirmed.

That also meant they must have been waiting for her to die. Clara shuddered to think about such a death; left there to succumb to the infection. All to add flavour to the meat so that these creatures could feast on her friend.

A nearby door opened, and soon after a nun peeked out. Clara tried to read the emotions from the nun’s deep blue eyes but drew a blank.

“Reverend Mother,” the sister said. “The child is awake,” she added.

“Oh good Sister,” Augustine said while looking at Clara. “Shall we go in,” she asked.

“Of course Reverend Mother,” Clara said with a twinkle in her eyes.

Salt the Earth – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Carrots led the way while Clara followed, until the girl provided her with a proper name the nickname would have to do . The young girl was certainly a straight shooter, even the hustle and bustle of a major city did not sway her.

When Clara had been that young, she could never have resisted the temptation to explore. Even now that desire was just below the surface of her conscious mind, begging to be freed.

While the word incident had been used, the severity had been misreported. An incident would not require her to report back. Was it a death? It was not every day that someone from her order died.

Well not daily although a few times a year was accurate. Hunters were not normally recalled for a death, frequent use of the Terminus risked exposure. So what was important enough to have her recalled?

Clara kept these thoughts concealed along with the emotions that inevitably followed. It took a great deal of willpower to keep cool when one’s head was swirling, but Clara would not let an acolyte see anything more than cold professionalism. That much was expected from older students.

“Almost there Miss Grey,” Carrots said.

Clara nodded, she knew where the gate was currently located.

“Love your dress,” Carrots said just before walking into a restaurant.

Clara waited until the kitchen staff were out of earshot before replying, “Thank you.”

“Must take a while to put on,” Carrots said.

Clara momentarily looked down at the row of a hundred or so buttons that led from her collar to the very bottom. It did take time, but so did many aspects of being a lady.

“The price of fashion,” Clara said.

“I wouldn’t know,” Carrots replied.

“You will,” Clara countered, certain that in time Carrots would grow up to be a beautiful woman.

“We don’t all make it past our first day of freedom,” Carrots said bluntly.

That statement really caught Clara off guard. In that moment she realised that this exchange had been an elaborate distraction.

“Why,” Clara wondered.

They came to a door at the end of the kitchen’s storage area. On the other side there would be a small courtyard leading to three other buildings. The abandoned one on her left led directly to the Terminus.

Clara eyed Carrots and realised how the girl was deathly pale, even for a fair skinned redhead. Clara remembered a lecture that covered many of these details. It had been memorable because these details had been used as proof to deny the existence of these events.

“How did you find me,” Clara asked.

At first Carrots was quiet as though she were not expecting any questions.
“She wanted me to find you,” Carrots said.

“Who,” Clara asked.

While waiting for an answer Clara pulled a few pins from her hair that were used to anchor her hat. Her derringer dropped out from under and landed into her waiting hands; it was light and entirely familiar to the touch.

Instead of replacing her hat Clara kept it in hand. Meanwhile Carrots’ corporeal presence lost cohesion; so much so that Clara saw right through her.

“Rest now young one,” Clara said and for a moment Carrots appeared to smile.

Clara moved her attention to the door, hovering over the door she listened intently. For now it was silent as a tomb, which did little to reassure her.

At the moment she had the advantage of daylight to cover her advance. Vampires would not attempt an attack in broad daylight, even when under the cover of shade. The risk was simply too great.

Her instincts told her something was wrong. After all, that spirit were not roused from the grave for idle chatter.

“Well no sense in delaying the inevitable,” Clara thought.

With one swift kick the door flew open. The light of day strained her eyes, but she made out a lanky figure standing at the edge of the building’s shadow.

At first she hesitated until Clara caught that orange glow in its eyes. Without a second though she threw her hat at the figure, brought her derringer to bear and squeezed both triggers.

Even loaded with half-power charges, the weapon roared and obstructed her vision in smoke. Clara did not wait for the smoke to clear, instead she reached for her crucifix and charged.

Clara took three steps before the creature fell to its knees and collapsed. Only then did she see that a portion of its skull was missing. Clara watched as black ichor pooled on the ground.

“Ghoul,” Clara said.

Without a moment’s notice one of the adjoining doors blew open. A new figure was barreling down on her, the squeal it made would have filled her with dread if her training had not taught her to ignore such stimuli.

“Another,” Clara asked.

Clara stood her ground even as the seven-foot tall creature barreling towards her. Clara averted its gaze waiting and once it was nearly within arms reach she kneeled. Her positioning tripped the creature and sent it soaring overtop. A moment later Clara heard its body impact against the wall.

Once she dropped her arm, Clara noticed how it was stained with black ichor. Her blade had caught a piece of that thing during their brief interaction.

“That’s never going to come out of the fabric,” Clara said.

She approached the second attacker and without hesitation cut a deep gash through its throat. A spurt of ichor splattered against the wall, but the tide soon subsided once the creature’s lungs filled with fluid.

Clara was confused, Ghouls followed death. It was unheard of for their kind to seek out the living for their meal or for that matter hunt in packs.

“She wanted me to find you,” Carrots said.

Clara’s thoughts were disrupted when the cooks appeared at the doorway. One nearly dropped his butcher knife when the Ghoul’s stench reached them.

Clara expected to talk her way out of this situation, but they all seemed clueless. The human mind often chose to cast aside things that were deemed an impossibility. That’s the reason why Ghouls were able to survive without being discovered.

“Is everything alright mademoiselle,” a moustached man asked.

Clara concealed her crucifix and blackened sleeve. Her smile was warm and genuine, even while she looked over the courtyard to find an excuse.

“Mais oui,” Clara said. “I tripped on a crate and ran into the wall,” she added.

At first they seemed sceptical and the smell certainly kept them from getting closer. Fortunately that smell also provided her with an excuse.

“Must have been an old crate filled with rotten eggs,” Clara said. “Oh dear, looks like I broke a nail,” she whined.

“Pierre,” a man in the back row exclaimed just before he slapped the armed cook. “You idiot,” he added.

The cooks’ civility devolved until they retreated from sight. Fortunately men tended to keep their quarrels concealed from the fairer sex. Although there would surely be a black eye or two after the dust had settled. At least she had the opportunity to deal with this mess.

“I was called here,” Clara thought.

To give her a moment to think, Clara picked up her derringer and hat. The smell was really overpowering and her eyes nearly teared up. Still there was something amiss, so on a hunch Clara held her breath and closed her eyes.
“Nothing,” Clara thought. “Wait,” she said.

Clara heard a swarm of flies nearby, but there was nothing in sight to attract them. The ghouls bodies were too fresh to attract a swarm. That meant there was carrion nearby.

She walked from door to door until she neared the one nearly torn from its hinges. The sound through that door was more pronounced, but as a precaution she reloaded her derringer using full-powder charges.

The first thing she noticed was just how clean the Ghoul’s home was. These things tended to live in crypts or in caves, so this was highly out of the norm for their kind.

“Other than a few stray claw marks this place looks ready to live in,” Clara thought.

Clara came across a pearl encrusted cigarette holder with lipstick smudges at the base. Someone had left this behind recently and could not have been the ghouls. Difficult to say the least since they did not have a set of lips.

Immediately besides the cigarette holder there was a stray blond hair. Clara thought about it at length, but thought better of it, after all blondes were not exactly uncommon.

Clara followed the sound of the swarm and moved deeper into the building until she found a locked door. There were claw marks around the lock, which meant that whatever was inside had been locked in.

“Why would a Ghoul lock something in? Or why were they locked out,” Clara asked.

With the help of hair pins Clara unlocked the door with a skill that would make a locksmith envious. With her derringer in hand, she cracked open the door.

Signs of a brutal attack were immediately apparent, blood spatter covered the walls and there were blood streaks that led both deep inside and out of the room. Clara saw that this was a library, on a different day she might have been excited to make this discovery.

Instead she followed the blood until she found a shoe, followed by another and a bare leg with a deep gangrenous gouge. Clara gasped, even through a thick cloud of flies she could make out the pale and delirious Edith.

“My angel has come to save the day,” Edith murmured.