Upon leaving the restaurant, Elizabeth noticed that the sun had set. She cursed these short days, since fall would give way to another dreaded winter, and she shivered when a cold stiff breeze ran across her back. Nonetheless, she soldiered on towards the nearest subway station.
She was frustrated, and who could blame her? Why did no one care? Or even show concern? Was it because she was a social worker? Or had she been a better friend than the rest? It was not like Victoria bothered to send her a message, call, or even mail a postcard to explain her absence. Why even bother when the authorities were unconcerned—
“Lizzy!” Elizabeth heard from behind.
When she turned, Elizabeth was faced with the most coincidental of apparitions. This girl had not changed a bit; she was the very same firecracker she dated back in college.
“Firecracker!” Elizabeth exclaimed before falling into a deep hug.
That girl felt the same—heck she even smelled just like she remembered her. Their reunion brought a whole slew of good memories to the forefront of her mind.
“So where’s your father?” Elizabeth asked, remembering the rather serious man she came across while fooling around at this girl’s place.
Evelyn beamed her trademark smile and said, “Oh, he’s right behind you…”
Evelyn may have been smiling, but Elizabeth could read between the lines. A sense of dread creeped up from the tips of her toes to the back of her neck, every hair on her body stand out.
She felt cold and numb, unable to think nor act, even while a tiny voice in her head begged for her to do something… anything! In that moment, Elizabeth was very much like a lamb looking up with big slotted eyes to its executioners.
“What the f—” Elizabeth said.
The movement had been so fast that Elizabeth’s eyes nearly missed the change. Evelyn turned to look down at the intersection that ran perpendicular to this road and, just as quickly, shifted her gaze back to Elizabeth. This time, the smile was completely gone. Instead, her mouth hung down limply and her eyes were wide. The shock written on Evelyn’s face was enough for her to risk taking a look, but there was no time.
Just as she began to move, the sound of a speeding vehicle passed from her left ear and transitioned to her right. While the sound of the engine was intense, it was a gust of wind that followed which sent her into a tailspin.
Elizabeth’s knees gave out on instinct, just like her arms reached out to protect her face. But before she was able to react, she heard things that would never fade from memory.
It was hard to describe at first since the entire affair had taken no more than a fraction of a second. Yet her mind clearly registered the sound of metal grinding against brick. That soon changed once the individual materials reached their breaking point.
Elizabeth picked up the sound of bolts shearing, as well as metal twisting and buckling from the strain. She heard plastic crack, bricks explode, and glass shatter into a thousand pieces, the latter producing a dizzying stereophonic effect. None of this helped to calm her down.
Elizabeth was not sure if this was real or imagined, especially when she heard something akin to bones being ground into dust. That was the sound that would haunt her in life, an irony, since that was the moment her life had been spared. The crash was finished before Elizabeth reached the ground. Her body shook from the shock and it would take days for her mind to come to terms with what happened.
“You!” Evelyn shrieked.
Elizabeth cracked open her eyes and her vision was left blurred from squeezing them shut so tight. Still, she made out that Evelyn was no longer facing her. Confusion ruled over all of her senses because her mind had yet to catch up with what was going on.
There was a woman to Elizabeth’s left dressed in black leather and holding onto a car door. It was obvious the effects of the door’s weight had no bearing on how she handled herself, something Elizabeth, despite her confusion, found odd.
She had dark hair, neatly trimmed into a bob, which imbued a boyish look. Between the sharp features of her face, that impish smile, and the shapely body that glistened in black leather, Elizabeth involuntarily let out a soft gasp.
“Did I miss anything?” Clara quipped.
Before Elizabeth could say a word, an object streaked before her eyes, heading towards this new arrival. She had seen this type of effect before, but until now, only in photography, specifically long exposure shots captured in low light. Clara’s response was just as fast and the door resounded like a gong before Elizabeth made out the return volley. That sound was soon followed by the sound of someone getting a serious case of road rash.
Done with her makeshift shield, Clara left the cratered car door in the middle of the intersection. She then removed her coat to unfurl her wings, their movement only perceptible in the shadows.
To get under her opponent’s skin, Clara asked out loud, “Is this your idea of foreplay, Evelyn?”
Evelyn lifted herself up from the pavement, her head facing the new arrival. Meanwhile, Elizabeth remained where she was—in awe.
Evelyn giggled, the musical tones in her voice somehow managing to entice the onlooker, even after a case of attempted murder.
“What’s wrong with me?” Elizabeth whispered.
Despite the intoxicating effect she had on Elizabeth, the new arrival remained unmoved.
Once Evelyn regained her footing, she brushed off any filth from her clothes and said, “You look great for someone of your advanced years. So what’s your secret?”
Evelyn’s face may have been adorned with a smile, but it was strained to the point of making her lips turn white. Elizabeth cringed. This was the first time she had ever seen that girl lose her composure. Until now, she had always been the perfect fusion of happy-go-lucky and spunky.
“Death becomes me,” Clara replied.
“Oh? Not likely with that pulse,” Evelyn said.
“Like you have a leg to stand on,” Clara countered. “I never knew your kind could fake a pulse… at least, until I met you.”
Evelyn cocked a brow before she fell into an elaborate and theatrical bow. Even with visible tears in her dress, she exuded an elegance that was hard to achieve.
“We all have our quirks,” Evelyn said. “My quirks allow me to hide amongst the sheep.”
The firecracker began a slow and deliberate walk towards Clara. The purposefully elongated gait of her walk forced her hips to sway alluringly, just like a pendulum.
Clara did not seem to be bothered, nor was she threatened. While Elizabeth could see two pistols bulging from her waist, the woman made no attempt to draw either weapon.
“There is one big difference between us now,” Clara said to change the subject.
“Oh?” Evelyn asked.
Clara nodded before saying, “I shuffled off my mortal coil to get where I am, while yours was forfeit to cling onto this life.”
“Like that thing ever did me any good,” Evelyn said with disdain dripping from every word.
While Evelyn continued her advance, Elizabeth spotted a gouge on the back of her left calf. While her alluring sway did much to distract, it also contributed greatly to aggravating the wound. Was Evelyn even alive? There should have been blood gushing from that. Still, it must have taken a great deal of willpower to ignore the pain of tearing flesh from muscle. Evelyn carried on as though it was nothing, but Clara knew better since the face could only hide so much.
“Is this because her beau helped to cushion my truck’s stop?” Clara wondered.
Clara watched as the dark haired vixen approached. When they first met, nearly a century ago, she could barely resist Evelyn’s charms. Now she saw the truth behind that thin layer of flesh, the one that so easily disarmed her victims.
“Sooner or later you’d see me as the monster I really am,” Evelyn once told her, and that line had been dead on.
Clara never noticed before how the remnant of her soul clung to the stunning beauty’s flesh. She could see how damage had accumulated through centuries of wrongdoing, some acts so heinous they were considered war crimes.
“Here be monsters,” Clara muttered.
From Evelyn’s point of view, there was only opportunity. She had no reason to believe that her ulterior motives were revealed or oblivious. Some powerful creatures had tried, and failed, to read her.
“I’ve been thinking,” Evelyn said.
By that point, Evelyn was a few steps away from Clara and hung back her hand for a moment. This sleight of hand allowed her to conceal her nails transforming into a series of elongated obsidian claws. Elizabeth could see the transformation in all its detail, but could not vocalise a warning.
“That’s a first,” Clara countered.
Clara was ready though. Evelyn pounced the moment the words were spoken. Although her movements were accelerated, to Clara, it appeared as a normal attack.
She could have dodged the attack and prolonged this conflict needlessly. Unfortunately, the woman she saved was no longer the only bystander. A crowd had formed around the wreck and mobile phones were pointed in their direction.
“Gabriel is so not going to like this,” Clara said, but at this speed the words sounded like a cricket’s chirp.
Clara had the choice to absorb the blow or attack with intent of disabling her foe. There were risks and rewards to either choice, but both failed to account for a debut incurred long ago.
Instead, she grabbed Evelyn’s hand by the wrist and absorbed her opponent’s momentum. For a moment, the women were locked in place. Anyone new to the scene would assume this had all been a part of a choreographed dance performance.
Evelyn tried to counter, but Clara’s grip was strong making her the lesser in this situation. For nearly four centuries, she had hunted with impunity, overpowering her prey at will, and the change in balance left her noticeably unsettled.
For Elizabeth, this initial interaction between the two had been completely missed. In one moment, Evelyn had been preparing for an attack and in a blink of an eye, Clara was holding Evelyn by the wrist. She saw how Evelyn struggled to gain the upper hand, but that soon became the least of her worries.
Around the contact point, Evelyn’s arms began to smoke. A strong noxious smell of charred flesh wafted through the area, and despite centuries of self-control, Evelyn was unable to contain the pain.
“Arrêtez! Je vous en supplie!” Evelyn exclaimed while trying to pull away.
Clara released her grip the moment the other conceded. There was no need to worsen the damage, not unless she was forced to. Evelyn had failed to grasp what her opponent was. As a hunter, her faith could have led to an aversion, or even mild injury, for newly turned vampires. As an angel? Her faith was a thousand times stronger and came with effects to match.
“Et pourquoi, ma belle?” Evelyn asked, having reverted to her native tongue as her mind struggled to come to terms with the pain.
The hunter had been a witness to such behaviour before. People had a tendency to revert to their mother tongue during moments of great passion or pain. Clara knew that Evelyn was, for the first time in centuries, vulnerable, and that could sour the situation. So that meant the next few moments were crucial to de-escalate matters.
To confuse anyone listening in on their conversation, Clara replied in Latin, “You would have preferred death?”
Clara assumed that the imp knew the language. While it was no more than a guess, it quickly turned out to be correct.
“No one from your order has ever shown us mercy,” Evelyn replied in a rusty Latin.
“None of your kind has ever shown us any leniency,” Clara said. “Until I crossed your path.”
Perhaps it was Clara’s smile that convinced the other there were no ulterior motives. It could have been a long buried memory that resurfaced, one related to a chat they shared long ago. No matter, in that moment, Evelyn realised that Clara was holding herself accountable to a promise made long ago.
Clara reached into her pants pocket and pulled out the absconded phone. Without a second thought, she tossed it over to Evelyn.
“Here,” Clara said. “Program in what I need to contact you later.”
Evelyn compiled and tossed the phone back. Elizabeth sensed a change, that Evelyn’s attitude had shifted, and found it eerie. For the life of her, she had no clue what was going on.
“It appears as though I owe you one?” Evelyn confirmed.
Without a word, Evelyn was gone, leaving behind a momentary blur in the background that the eye barely registered. Elizabeth shrieked when the truck moved a foot but, when she turned to investigate, there was no sign of her firecracker, nor signs of the man who posed as Evelyn’s father.
“Are you okay?” Clara said to Elizabeth as she picked up her discarded coat.
“Define okay,” Elizabeth said.
With sirens calling out in the distance, Clara approached the other and chuckled. When someone was exposed to the truth at this age, the shock was sometimes too great for their minds to handle.
Clara reached out with her hand and said, “Come on, let’s go find someplace quiet.”
Elizabeth hesitated. Normally, she considered herself to be strong and assertive. One had to be when dealing with her type of cases, not to mention the requirement for professionalism, even if her heart was breaking. Still, this was a different matter entirely. No training in the world could have prepared her for this type of event. Nonetheless, this woman did save her life. So, despite the uncertainty, she took hold of the outreached hand.
Clara grabbed the hand firmly and sent Elizabeth crashing into her chest. With a firm grip, she wrapped her leather coat around the traumatised woman and held on tight.
“Sometimes it’s best not to let someone in on the plan,” Clara said in a whisper.
Just as Elizabeth’s mind began to register those words, she heard something that could only be described as a bird of prey taking flight. That had been enough to distract her from thinking about the fact they were airborne, flying over the buildings and away from prying eyes. All of that, would have been a bit much to take in at first.
On the road’s surface, Clara’s wing were outlined perfectly. That detail would only be noticed on video since bystanders were too busy looking up at the sky.
“Gabriel is going to be pissed,” 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!