“Horsefeathers,” Clara said under her breath.
All the signs were there, so how had she missed them? There were no doubts the concierge was one of them, making it a foregone conclusion that there were others on staff as well. The latter was obvious considering how the lobby boys seemed afraid she would set them aflame.
So this must be a haven for their kind. Hunters like her probably ended end up on the menu once their suspicions were aroused. No wonder Drusilla decided to make a stop here.
“Fine place to end up,” Clara said while trying to work out a solution. “Served up like a thanksgiving turkey at a five-star hotel,” she added, none too amused.
Clara stopped once she heard the familiar clicking sound, one that might prove to be her salvation. When she looked in that direction, Clara saw familiar brass and glass contraptions busily spewing out stock market updates.
“Could it be?” Clara wondered in hopes that she might be right.
On her way to the hotel, she noticed they had sentinels posted atop the perimeter walls. Clara had initially dismissed their presence as some misplaced adherence to historical anachronisms. But given the revelation that this was not a normal hotel, Clara figured they might be automatons used to protect the grounds. If that were true, then Georgians must be involved.
On a hope and a prayer, Clara casually made her way through the crowd towards the ticker tapes. That was the easy part, since men naturally ceded their place once women came into the picture. To think people said chivalry was dead!
She found that these devices were anchored to the marble top, not that anyone would dream of stealing one, at least not here. These marvels of technology were connected to a teletype line and received stock updates from their particular markets. Fortunately for her, one of the machines was beginning to show signs of ink fade.
She gave a quick glance to the immediate area and noticed sliding panels below the marble tops. Clara knelt down, found some ink, and proceeded to place it by the faltering machine. First, she removed the glass, then the inkwell’s cover. Next, she applied liberal amounts of fresh ink while simultaneously pressing down on a button just to the side.
To anyone who observed (not likely since the men were probably fixated on her ass), Clara appeared to be doing nothing more than routine maintenance. But a hidden function had been triggered within the device which forced it to read from an alternate channel. To Clara’s satisfaction, the machine generated a series of glyphs.
Once the symbols began to repeat, she ripped the ticker tape then replaced the ink and cover. Without a second glance, she walked away from the crowd intent on finding a potential escape.
* * * *
When Clara neared a ladies room, she feigned a quick pace to appear as though nature was calling. She then darted inside, hurried into a stall, and sat down prior to looking at the three-foot length of ticker tape. Three feet of stock updates could make or break fortunes, but tonight it might save her life.
Right before the glyphs, she saw a four, one and four printed. Clara assumed it to be the point of origin for the portal. A reference to anything, but in this case, was probably a room number. A shame there were only three floors that she knew of. So that meant there was a fourth floor hidden from the public.
“Not much of an escape plan,” Clara muttered.
She looked over the glyphs to see if any were familiar and found two that were. The first was not an option, recognising it as the symbol for the goddess Selene. Clara doubted she would enjoy that particular destination and wondered why it was an option at all. Could this have been a rare example of Georgian humour?
The second symbol was more of a concern. Familiar only because she found it and variations of it under the ziggurat. Trying to find refuge at their equivalent of the Holy See? Clara had no hope of finding allies there.
“Just ducky,” Clara said while considering what to do next.
The proof of her knowledge on the portal could be flushed away, but misdirection seemed to be the best course of action. Clara pulled out her lipstick and circled one of the other destinations. Even if she had no clue where it ended up, they might assume otherwise. That meant the staff would dedicate resources to defend the portal which would weaken their security elsewhere.
When she returned her lipstick to the purse, Clara dropped the ticker tape. For now, it appeared as though she was being careless, understandable given the situation.
Before leaving, Clara looked into the mirror, breathed in deeply, and forced herself to tear up. Time to let loose her tears and fool anyone who caught sight of her. Now they would think she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
“Let them underestimate me,” Clara said.
She then recited a prayer while walking through the East wing, it was the hunter’s equivalent of the Last Rights. May as well make this trip worthwhile because Clara doubted she would leave through the front doors intact.
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!