Evelyn Chartres Author
The Van Helsing Paradox

The Prelude to Action – Part III and IV

It took the better part of the morning to find out where she ended up. Unfortunately, the gate’s destruction made it impossible to return to the Terminus to get some answers.

Clara used a shawl she had lifted from a passer-by to conceal the scorch marks, then wandered about until she came across the main entrance. The fact that every sign and the bulk of the graves were marked in French convinced her that she was nowhere near Mexico.

She eventually found her way out into town. People, for the most part, nodded politely and seemed oblivious to the mesquite odour that followed her. Clara kept on a smile and listened intently to their non-Parisian accents.

Without, much effort Clara made her way to the river bank. On the opposing side, she saw a small port city that could have been pulled straight out of central Europe. The city even featured a fortified wall and a French château overlooking the old city below.

To her right, she saw a large steel bridge that linked the two communities. Clara had not been here before but she knew enough from the landmarks and language to make an educated guess.

That helped her come up with her next course of action; first, Clara had to find a place to stay. A problem that was easily solved by finding her way to that French château. Fortunately, it was a railway hotel and a luxurious one at that.

After a base of operation was established, she would need to make contact with the Tower. How hard could that be?

* * * *

Clara walked into her opulent hotel room. The plush carpet, decorative bedding and fine crafted furniture adorned the room. In the space of a week, she had gotten a few odds and ends to keep her going.

Her wardrobe was a different matter. The clothes she wore on arrival had long been relegated to the trash heap. Clara had amassed a wardrobe that would permit her to blend into a crowd or stand out like the paragon of fashion she was.

A bell hop brought in a wireless that Clara had purchased earlier this morning. This disruptive technology was making the world feel smaller. Isolated communities now had a peek of the world beyond, exposed to music and cultures they never knew existed.

Wireless radio was a boon to her group. As they became ubiquitous, their order used the technology to stay informed and even coordinate missions.

To communicate, the Tower ran a number station, where an older student would read a series of numbers, repeated every five minutes. All she needed was ink, paper and her wireless.

She turned on the contraption and began to tune it. While most radios were not designed to pick up this frequency, certain models such as this one could be tweaked, all thanks to the Georgians. She tuned it exactly as taught using jewellery tools. At first, she heard nothing more than white noise, but slowly the distorted voice of a young woman cut through the interference.

“Thirty,” the unfamiliar voice said calmly then trailed off.

“Aww, nertz,” Clara said.

Clara looked at the clock and determined that it was running late. Unfortunately, that meant she needed to wait until the numbers were repeated.

After a pause, the voice began to recite the code, “Ten, Five, Eight, Fifty-One, and Thirty.”

The code always used biblical references. In this case, the first three letters identified the book, so J, E and H were used to identify Jeremiah. The latter two numbers referred to the chapter and verse.

Clara looked it up in her room’s copy of the Gideon’s Bible. She already had an idea of what it would say, but it paid to be prudent to confirm what she knew.

“The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, they stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming like women; their dwelling places are set on fire, the bars of her gates are broken,” Clara read.

Bible verses were, of course, cryptic and this one required a fair amount of context to interpret. Based on her last jaunt through a gate, Clara determined that the Terminus had been attacked and disabled. Clara was effectively on her own, just like anyone else away from the Tower during the attack.

The Tower did have alternate entrances, kept secret from everyone but the most senior members. No doubt, they would use those to evacuate or to establish a new base of operations.

“How long would that take,” Clara wondered.

“That’s not good,” Clara muttered while pacing the room. “So who is responsible?”

Clara could not help but think that Drusilla was responsible for this particular attack. That meant that those two hunters had paid the ultimate price so they could gain access to the Terminus.

Trading the lives of your enemy to weaken them globally. Even Clara would take that deal if the situation were reversed, especially if it crippled their ability to wage war.

The creature would have made sure to vacate the scene of the crime. Staying in proximity to the gate might lead to retaliation, so that meant getting as far away from the scene of the crime as possible. Drusilla must have used one of their gates to escape the scene.

At least Clara had a starting point: Find the gate and narrow down potential avenues of escape. That would focus her search and perhaps find a trail to follow.

“Not a great plan, sure, but it’s better than nothing,” Clara said.

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!

Just Got Back Home?

Just got back home? If so, grab a taste of home and read a good book! The Van Helsing Paradox is a dark fantasy book about the life and times of a femme fatal hunter. Remember that a gal has to look out for herself after all.

A gal has to look out for herself after all!

Get it now!

Clara is Doing Well on Goodreads!

I’ve been monitoring Goodreads since my book release, and so far the Van Helsing Paradox has done well. At the moment, there are 10 ratings with an average over 4 stars. In addition, there is one great review waiting to be found! Except as follows:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. From Clara’s modest beginnings as a child of a coal miner to her formation as a deadly huntress, the story kept my attention. If anything, I longed for more…

While I was hoping for more reviews by now, I can’t complain. The book has not received any ratings under 3 stars and the average keeps getting better. So readers are not finding it difficult to understand, or are turned off by the fonts.

Small steps!

The Van Helsing Paradox is Hot!

Wow! According to Amazon.com, the Van Helsing Paradox is currently ranked 1209th for free books in the Kindle store. It’s also listed at number 25 for Paranormal and number 41 for Urban Fantasy! While I don’t expect that to last, still it’s nice to see.

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,209 Free in Kindle Store

    • #25 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal
    • #41 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Urban

The Van Helsing Paradox, a historical Dark Fantasy, is available in both print or as a free eBook.

The Prelude to Action – Part I

Clara had not been recalled in years, so the request from the Reverend Mother herself surprised her. Mind you, the fact she was to have a private audience with the Reverend Mother really threw her for a loop.

While Clara walked up the staircase all of her memories came back in a rush. The mischief she had caused as a girl put a smile on her face, one which was sure to make the staff cringe.

There were very few from the staff that Clara recognised. The Great War had severely depleted their numbers. Clara could not recognise any of the students, but that was to be expected. A lot had changed since her time here.

Fortunately, the Tower and its architecture were immutable. Clara guessed that the Tower being tied to a specific point in time prevented change.

An older student saw Clara approach and opened the doors leading to the Reverend Mother’s chambers. Clara beamed a smile at this awestruck girl in hopes that it would ease her excitement. Alas, it only made things worse and left her worried that the child was about to suffer a case of the vapours.

Had Clara become a legend over the years? In her mind, there was nothing worse than living up to the ideals of being famous. Then again, it might have been innocuous, nothing more than Clara being fashionably dressed, which reminded the student of some starlette of the silver screen. Appearance did much to set the stage, especially when she was fresh out of the hen coop.

“Reverend Mother,” Clara said with a slight flourish and bow. “It is an honour to be in your presence once again.”

“Oh stop it,” the Reverend Mother said with a chuckle. “You could barely remember to use marks of respect as a student.”

“True,” Clara said with a smile.

The matron motioned her to take a seat by an oversized fireplace. While a fire crackled happily within, it lacked sufficient size to warm up the room.

The Tower’s secrets never ceased to amaze Clara. With a wave of the Reverend Mother’s hand, stone blocks slid away to reveal windows and a view of that washed out landscape. Windows? That explained how the Reverend Mother could catch the scent of students exploring the city.

Clara sat down as directed, crossing her silky smooth gams, and pulled out a compact with a mirror. She used the opportunity to powder her nose and fix up her lipstick. It was all for show; Clara sensed that the Reverend Mother needed more time to prepare.

“Thank you for coming in so quickly,” Augustine said.

“Anytime,” Clara replied.

“How have you been,” Augustine countered.

“As best as one can expect I suppose,” Clara said. “I am certainly enjoying these new fashions. So liberating!”

Clara enjoyed the freedom to live her life as she saw fit. She had her own clothes; possessions and lived out of a flat in the city that she used as a base of operations. Independence turned out to be a powerful motivator for her.

“Anyone of interest in your life,” the Reverend Mother asked.

Now that surprised Clara, but she kept it hidden beneath the veneer of cultivated sophistication. She supposed that if her mother were still alive, that particular question would come up nauseatingly often.

“No,” Clara said flatly.

There were flings. After all, men did have their uses. For one, they could scratch that itch better than she could by hand. They were also handy for the occasional free meal or when she needed to get into exclusive venues.

However, Clara did not feel any desire to keep a man around. They would insist on muzzling her freedom and limiting her activities. Such restrictions would invariably drive her away. So why go through all that drama?

“A shame,” the Reverend Mother said. “Now onto business.”

Clara put her things away and listened intently. She had no desire to show disrespect or miss a telltale detail.

“We lost two hunters recently,” the Reverend Mother said.

Clara was not surprised. Hunters disappeared all the time; some were killed, turned, deserted or simply vanished. To be brought here for missing hunters meant there was something else at play.

“They were members of Las Brigadas Femeninas de Santa Juana de Arco,” Augustine said. When Clara’s eyes widened, the Reverend Mother added, “I see that the name still has meaning for you. It should, since it was founded by members from your group.”

“Do we know why they went missing,” Clara asked.

“We dispatched them to Mexico to determine if there were any outside influences on the government’s anti-clerical activities,” Augustine said. “There were legitimate fears that they were trying to destabilise the Church within the region.”

Clara had heard news of what was going on in Mexico. Truth was that it mattered little on the world stage. World powers were busy rebuilding or waging war over some distant colony.

“Their taint is all over the conflict. There are rows upon rows of hanged Cristeros lining up major roadways,” Augustine said.

“Rather brutal response to a religious uprising,” Clara said. “So how does this tie into the disappearance of two hunters?”

“As a precaution, our gates to that region were disconnected,” the Reverend Mother replied.

Clara followed the trail of breadcrumbs laid out by the Reverend Mother. During conflicts, gates were shut down to prevent any unauthorised access to the Terminus.

The hunters’ disappearance meant that the deal she interrupted over a decade ago might be back in play. The difference being that this time the payment had been met in full and that worried Clara. The last thing they needed was Drusilla gaining access to the Tower.

“When do I leave,” Clara asked.

Reverend Mother Augustine smiled and, for the first time, Clara noticed that her ageless beauty was beginning to erode. There were a few more wrinkles present and the crow’s feet were asserting themselves. No one could hide from Father Time, unless you made a deal with the devil, that is.

“You leave immediately for our closest gate in the United States. From there, you will make your way south,” the Reverend Mother said.

Clara got up and said, “Right away, Reverend Mother.”

With a smirk, she headed towards the door. Soon, she would be headed off on her next mission and needed to keep her wits about her. She was bound to encounter opposition en route; that was inevitable.

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!