Evelyn Chartres Author
Clara – Page 4

Dinner with the Devil – Part I

[Please note that sexually explicit elements of the scene were scrubbed]

“Two women were found dead last week,” Clara said.

Clara hopped lightly from one foot to the other so her toes would stay warm. Snow covered the ground, while more fell lazily from the sky in the form of large snowflakes. This could have been a romantic winter’s eve if she were not busy working.

A couple passed by on the opposite side of the street. While the gentleman paid her little heed, the well-dressed flapper at his side leered at her. Even from that distance the tattoo on Clara’s leg was visible and around here that was a symbol for women who were from the wrong side of the tracks.

Clara had been working this particular corner for the past three weeks. In that time there had been eight deaths involving prostitutes. All of them had been killed without a single witness coming forward. In itself that was odd since the deaths all occurred in heavily trafficked areas.

The city had done their best to keep things under wrap, namely by clamping down on the prostitutes. The local intelligencia also kept it out of the news, even that nagging tidbit about the women being drained of blood. Worse still, their fates did not lend any sympathy from the constabulary; around here an impure lifestyle meant they deserved a death to match.

Every victim had certain commonalities, all were ladies of the night, dark haired and young. Lastly every one of them had a tattoo on their leg although the latter might have been a red herring.

“Fortunately I can have it removed when I’m done,” Clara thought.

In the distance, she saw a set of glowing headlights coming down the street. Cars were getting to be more common now, especially in big cities. The snow today would make driving treacherous, these vehicles were tricky to control since there was no traction.

Fortunately this was a newer model, long hood with side mounted spare tyres, a hard top and running boards. There was a single occupant inside who sported leather gloves and a white scarf. Funny how some people were unable to break from tradition.

The car slowed as it approached, Clara saw how he was sizing her up. This was not the first time that she had been approached in this matter, so she opened up her coat to let him have a peek. While the cold air rushed in she shivered, an effect that somehow got his attention.

“The spider is checking its web for flies,” Clara thought.

The man obviously had money, how else could he own an imported car of this sophistication? That may have been a disarming trait for some, but Clara suspected the killer was wealthy. For the most part they were all affluent and drawn to power.

The man pulled up to the curb and rolled down his window. This was the part Clara dreaded, feeling like a piece of meat. She wore a simple dress that left little to the imagination and did much to draw the eyes to her ample bust, but he showed no interest. Instead, he focused on her eyes and then lingered on her tattooed leg.

“Hiya handsome,” Clara said mimicking the accent of the local street urchins.

“How much,” the man asked.

“Starts at two bits for a dry bob honey,” Clara said.

The man never batted an eye at the price, since he could easily afford the going rates at an exclusive brothel. While Clara was attractive, she was hardly unique in that aspect, so her prices had to be competitive to not arouse suspicion.

The man smiled before he said, “I’ll pull up over there.”

“Whatever ya say honey,” Clara said and winked.

While this gentleman drove off fifty feet, Clara made her way towards the alley and noticed how his car had no frost in the windows. Despite that clue, all she could think about was how cold her feet were, and how divine it was to start walking again.

From her purse she pulled out a lipstick applicator and applied a fresh coat. A moment later, she dabbed a bit of holy water on her lips, a trick that worked well in the past, but prayed it would not be needed.

Once she got to the alley, Clara saw the gentleman standing by a series of refuse bins. Inside she heard the band playing, which meant no one would notice errant moans, grunts or gunshots.

Clara played her part and placed the purse she carried within arm’s reach. She then sat on a bin and hiked up her dress to reveal that she had no knickers. For a moment his eyes glanced at her inviting muff before he licked his lips.

For all the pomp and circumstance this man had shown while driving that car, he displayed none of that now. The buttons to his trousers were undone in a flash which caused them to drop effortlessly around his patent leather shoes.

Clara would have helped him, but he was too fast for her. Before she knew it, his hands were on her thighs forcing her legs apart while his member hovered just an inch away.

“Take it easy handsome, we got all the time—,” Clara said.

Clearly this man was not in a mood to listen… …All the while her hand slid ever closer to her purse, and the derringer concealed within.

“This is a powerful one,” Clara thought.

He had to be, being oblivious to her aura of faith required nothing less. It also explained why he was still enjoying the ride…

…Clara opened her eyes just enough to watch him clench his jaw. The act should have been pure rapture…

Clara grabbed a hold of her derringer and drew it out… …she squeezed on the first trigger of her weapon.

The muted shot still echoed through the alley, but the music inside drowned out the noise. The man fell face first into the snow and gave her a view of that gaping hole through the back of his skull.

She sighed in relief that her precaution of applying holy water in all the right places had been an unmitigated success. With her weapon trained Clara got back on her feet and closed up her coat. She was chilled to the bone and looked forward to a warm bath at a reputable hotel. With this threat neutralised, she had no need to stay at the local dive.

“At least he has a car,” Clara said.

The hunter then fired another well-aimed shot at the base of his spine, which ensured he would stay down until morning. Now all she had to do was get him into the boot of his car.

“All work and no play,” 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!

Raiders and Tombs – Parts VIII, IIX and IX

Clara and Jonesy ran without pause, even when their lungs felt as though they were on fire they ran on. When they passed by the tomb, Jonesy tripped on the slippery surface and without missing a beat was dragged back onto his feet by Clara.

When they finally reached the light of day, they both dropped to their knees. After the experience they had, it was great to feel the warmth of the sun’s glow, a sure-fire sign they were safe.

“Well that explains the lack of traps,” Clara said.

“No kidding,” Jonesy said.

The locals were quick to notice that someone was missing. If the tables had been turned, Clara would have pressed them for information, but they already knew. There must have been local legends on what lurked below.

“Professor Jones,” Clara said. “I thought they had been instructed to set up camp,” she added.

Jonesy looked around and came to the same conclusion. His face was still flushed from the exertion and would need time to recover his mental faculties.

There was still a solid hour of daylight left. That meant they had time to get away from here and never return. Jonesy was certainly thinking the same thing, so he passed on new instructions.

While the locals quickly collected stray items before getting atop their mounts, Clara fetched a pack from hers. She casually walked towards the entrance, gave it another donation of blood and walked on through.

The locals looked at each other in awe. It was one thing to face the horrors below and come back alive. It was something else altogether to walk back inside willingly.

Fortunately Clara emerged quickly and within a minute there was a dull thump. The ground shook, the camels were spooked, but Clara never flinched.

“What did you do,” Jonesy asked.

Clara mounted her camel with a self-satisfied look on her face. Nothing was going to find its way down there without a lot of effort.

“I blew the entrance to the tunnel,” Clara said calmly. “Some things are better left buried by the sands of time,” she added.

* * * *

Clara sat by a fire looking through the contents of Father Allen’s bag. While Professor Jones wrote up his final report, it was up to her to sort through Father Allen’s belongings.

She never took the time to look at his sketches. They were really quite good, an excellent combination of speed and accuracy. She found a series of sketches dedicated to the city and inside the ziggurat.

She even found a sketch of Professor Jones interacting with the locals. Clara wondered if the professor had known he was being sketched.

She was certainly unaware that she had once inspired him. Clara had been reading a book on that particular evening, even now she found it bizarre to witness another’s perception of her. She was both flattered and worried, given her vocation she should have known what he was up to.

The sketches drawn underground revealed a great deal. Clara had taken pictures as directed, but she had not noticed a series of symbols found throughout the complex. For Clara they had been lost in the noise, like picking out minutia on a complex tapestry.

There were at least fifteen different instances of the half-crescent moon; over and above the one found at the entrance. Some symbols had been in plain sight, while others were concealed.

When Jonesy came by Clara said, “Did you notice these instances of the crescent?”

Professor Jones looked at every sketch. It was clear from the look on his face that he had missed these as well.

“Makes sense,” Jonesy said. “That step pyramid was built in his name,” he added.

“It’s a fitting symbol for those who fear the sun,” she added.

“What do you mean,” Jonesy asked.

“Well,” Clara said while trying to find her words. “Being exposed to the light of God will set them aflame,” she added.

Professor Jones looked at her sceptically. Only the clergy were expected to make that type of connection. Most professors saw these creatures from a pragmatic point of view, concepts based on faith rarely occurred to them.

“Go on,” Jonesy said.

“It would be sensible for them to worship a God that stood in opposition to the sun,” Clara said.

“Worship,” Jonesy asked.

His eyes were glassy as though years of indoctrination had been shattered. Clara was sure to hear about this back at the Tower, first she lost a priest and then breaks a professor on the same day. At least that would mean no more babysitting for her.

* * * *

Clara overlooked the top of a ridge and saw the sand swept and desolate land. Up ahead there was a crew busy pulling up a large globe from the back of a truck. The item was covered in spikes that would normally trigger a detonation, however those elements had been disabled as a precaution.

Besides the truck the river was being swallowed up whole. This was one of two access points for the river that ran under the ziggurat. The men continued pulling on with ropes until the sea mine splashed into the water.

In all, there were five other trucks similarly equipped. Clara had managed to convince the Reverend Mother to support this plan. A lot of strings had to be pulled to make this happen, but Clara knew this was the only way.

As the sea mine floated downstream, she looked at her watch and set the timer for twenty minutes. While the default triggers had been disabled, a timer had been wired into the detonator. Clara estimated it would take eighteen minutes to float down and make contact with those doors.

Clara sat down on the ridge with a sketchbook in hand. She began to sketch out the rough details of the landscape and would make touch-ups later. She found the process relaxing and thanked Father Allen for introducing her to it.

After the timer ran out Clara felt the ground shudder. The hunter began to smile once the water level dropped significantly. That meant the obstructions had been destroyed by the mine and the rest of her plan could continue.

A second mine was dropped with a forty-two minute timer. As it floated away, Clara continued on with her sketch. She fought for a few moments to capture the wind-swept ridges, but there was no need to rush.

The second mine detonated out in the open. As expected it overshot the complex by a hundred feet or so.

The third mine detonated after thirty-nine minutes causing the water levels to rise. Clara had detonated this one to damn the river’s exit, exactly as planned.

Before water levels rose over the river banks, the remaining mines were dropped into the water with a thirty minute timer. Clara kept busy by continuing her sketch.

This time the ground shook violently and prompted Clara to collect her things. By that point the trucks had already been evacuated to higher ground. Clara watched as the river flowed over its banks and began to form a lake.

It was impossible to imagine just how much damage had been done by the mines. However, Clara was certain that the water level would make any future pilgrimages impossible. For now, the threat was contained.

The water level would rise until a new path to the river was found. In time the tunnel would be filled with silt and harden like mortar and seal the complex shut.

“Rest in peace,” Clara said as she walked away from this dustbin, never to return.

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!


Raiders and Tombs – Parts VI and VII

They walked along the slippery path for about two hundred feet before they came across an opening. This entry had been carved into the rock and as judged by the tool marks, the excavation had been done recently.

When Clara wandered on through, she saw the many layers that made up this formidable fortress. Beyond the natural rock and sediment there was pitch, brick, and an inch of rotted iron plating followed by more pitch and brick. This section had been built to keep something out. Or was it to keep something in?

Once they entered the chamber, they saw how the walls had once been covered in ornate symbols. Alas, water had rushed in after the excavation, rendering the writings illegible.

The room was in shambles. Broken pottery littered the ground and boxes that had been lined with gold were shattered. In the centre there was a large gold coffin that reminded Clara of a sarcophagus. The lid had been broken into three pieces and was empty.

When she looked above, Clara noticed two large slabs of rock that had been used to seal in whatever was inside. Whoever had been interred here was never meant to come out.

“Where do you think we are, Clara,” Father Allen asked.

His use of her given name surprised Clara. She thought over the convoluted route they had taken and despite the uncertainty, she knew where this was going.

“Roughly underneath the step pyramid, Father,” Clara said.

“I would wager that this room is precisely under the centre of the pyramid,” Father Allen said. “This chamber had been used to hide a vampire of unimaginable power.”

Clara vaguely remembered Professor Stephens giving lectures on such structures. Some of their kind were so powerful that they could control others even while in a state of deep sleep. They could run entire empires from the safety of these tombs. These were the eternal puppet masters who pulled society’s strings and never got their hands dirty. Peons rarely realised that they were being controlled, save for a trusted few.

“I recommend we be quick about it then,” Clara said and proceeded to take some snapshots.

* * * *

Everyone left the chamber feeling soiled. There was something to be said about being in the same room that housed evil for so long. Clara found it hard describe, but it reminded her of an abandoned sanatorium. A place where souls were still lurking about, tortured and eternally detached from reality.

Despite leaving the crypt, wherever they were approaching sent a shiver down Clara’s spine. Was this a real world example of jumping out of the frying pan and landing in the fire?

In response Clara asked, “Can anyone feel that?”

Father Allen turned to ask, “Feel what, child?”

“You mean that feeling of walking on a mass grave,” Jonesy asked.

“Yeah,” Clara said.

Father Allen shrugged and carried on. The man had spent the majority of his life in the Tower. He never had to rely on his instincts to survive nor did he know what to do when a shiver ran down his spine.

“Any idea what we are going to encounter,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said. “Not sure I want to.”

Clara could relate. The same emotions were swirling around in her mind. Hunters were trained to keep their emotions in check, but she found it hard to ignore that sense of dread growing within.

Within a couple of minutes, they came across a new chamber. This one had a large staircase carved into the rock itself. The path beyond the chamber was flooded; it seemed that the river’s alternate path met up just beyond the chamber. Clara was impressed. It was impossible to reach this particular point from any other route.

Despite their growing sense of unease, the group scaled the steps. Clara kept an eye out for any trouble but saw no obvious threats. Atop, there was a cobblestone floor with an ornate altar that dominated the chamber. Immediately after the altar, she noticed a large pit or well.

Father Allen and Professor Jones lit the torches while Clara ventured closer to the well. It was built in a perfect circle and had no visible bottom. Nonetheless, the glow from her lantern was enough to make a startling discovery. The walls were stained with blood.

“Deep,” Jonesy said.

“Really,” Clara remarked sarcastically. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Father Allen chuckled nervously, a sign that he too was beginning to feel that something was dreadfully wrong here.

“The altar is stained with blood,” Father Allen said grimly.

Clara tied a rope to the end of her lantern and lowered it down the shaft. The red stained rocks glowed like hellfire as it descended. No matter how far it travelled, the bottom would not show.

“So either it’s infinitely deep or—,” Jonesy said.

The lantern’s light went out without explanation. In response, Clara tried to bring it up so she could light it, but something was fighting her every pull.

“Must have gone—,” Clara said.

Just like that, the light appeared, just as bright as before. The men looked at her, then down the pit, just in time to witness the light being enveloped another time.

“Here,” Clara said as she handed the rope to Jonesy. “And make it fast,” she added with a hint of urgency.

While Professor Jones pulled up the lantern, they noticed that the darkness was trying to overtake the lantern. Whatever was down there was interested in the flame.

Clara dropped her pack to the ground, then rummaged through until she found a potato shaped Bakelite contraption fitted with a metal spoon and pin. She had no interest in talking things over with whatever was down there.

Clara pulled the pin and watched the spoon fly off as it was dropped. The grenade began its descent, just as the lantern was recovered.

“Get back,” Clara exclaimed.

The floor shook, but the expected flash of light did not materialise. Instead, she heard a shrill shriek. Clara was done with her experiment; she backed away with her pistol drawn.

“Gentleman,” Clara said.

Her voice roused them out of their stupor and they followed her lead. Just then, a series of shadowy tendrils emerged from the well, probing the area in search of something. Clara had no desire to find out what.

“Holy water, Father,” Clara asked.

“Left it behind in favour of the whiskey,” Father Allen replied.

“That will be worth a laugh if we ever ma—,” Jonesy said.

Clara raised her hand to silence the group while the tendrils continued to probe. So far there was no sign that it could hear, but she had no desire to taunt fate.

Slowly, they backed away while keeping an eye on the creature and for a moment, it appeared as if they were free and clear. Alas, the end of tendrils changed into spearheads and shot out in every direction.

The attack may have been blind, but nonetheless proved to be effective. Clara saw that Father Allen had been struck in the shoulder by a tendril.

The tip blunted immediately after penetration, making it impossible to extract. Clearly, he was in shock, since she could see there was no one home in Father Allen’s eyes.

She fired several rounds into the tendrils with no effect. Without warning, Father Allen was whisked away into the well, leaving only his bag behind.

“Run,” Clara exclaimed sharply while grabbing the extra pack.

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Part III and IV

Clara held a lantern in one hand and her pistol in the other. She stepped forward, crossed the threshold and stopped once she had a clear view of a chamber along with a set of stairs leading down.

Clara took a few steps forward before Father Allen came through the threshold. At first there was a gasp followed by a grunt when Professor Jones ran into the Father.

“It looks like there is a missing segment,” Jonesy managed to say.

Right by the entrance there was a section carved out to accommodate a large slab. Had the slab been in place, their expedition would have ended there.

“Early cuneiform,” Jonesy added.

“I agree,” Father Allen said. “It would take weeks to analyse even a small segment of this tunnel,” he added.

“Clara can you take some pictures,” Jonesy asked.

While she snapped a few shots Clara said, “What god or gods were worshipped at this site?”

“Nanna who was also known as Sin,” Father Allen replied.

“Represented by a crescent moon,” Clara asked.

“Yes. Why do you ask,” Jonesy asked.

Clara moved closer to the stairwell where a large relief of a crescent moon was prominently displayed. Given their aversion to sunlight it seemed perfectly reasonable for them to worship a nocturnal god.

“Oh no reason,” she said. “Shall we head down,” Clara asked.

The men nodded in unison so Clara took point. There was no sense in putting the brains of this outfit at risk.

* * * *

The place was cold, humid, and had the faint odour of mould hanging on her every breath; in the distance Clara heard running water. Given the construction, she assumed this place had originally served as a well. There were pitch covered torches found at regular intervals, which were lit as they progressed. At first the walls were reinforced with brick, followed by stone slabs and eventually gave way to natural rock.

Father Allen and Professor Jones were busy discussing how this discovery would change their understanding of the world. Clara had expected some form of resistance, unless this was meant to be an escape route. After all, that slab by the door would have taken ten men to move out of the way, or one motivated vampire.

After five minutes of descent they came across a large chamber. This place was so large that the light was swallowed up before it reached the opposing side. The walls were smooth, carved by years of erosion. Had it not been for the cobbled floor, Clara would have assumed they were exploring a natural cave system.

“Wait here,” Clara said and after ten minutes the large chamber was dimly lit by torchlight.

There was another tunnel opposing them, blocked by rock and rubble. She guessed that the other entrance once led directly to the gate. The direction seemed about right, but Clara had to admit that spiralling down like they had, made it difficult to be certain.

There was a natural beauty to the place, but everyone could feel the chill touch of the grave. Clara knew that no one else had been here in a very long time.

“So what now,” Clara asked.

Jonesy and Father Allen both shrugged. For now, this appeared to be a dead end which effectively ended this expedition.

“Why have Georgian construct to protect an empty room,” Clara asked.

“They might have cleared the contents when they abandoned the site,” Jonesy said.

“There are no drag or scuff marks to indicate that anything has been moved,” Father Allen said.

Father Allen moved towards the centre to sketch. Once he was within ten feet of the centre, they heard a loud click that echoed throughout the room. Everyone paused and held their breath.

“What did you do,” Jonesy and Clara asked.

“Nothing,” Father Allen said. “Just stepped on this area of the floor,” he added.

Clara moved towards the centre but kept her eyes peeled. From this vantage point she saw a well defined circular seam in the floor.

Once she stood opposing Father Allen, Clara pressed down hard with one foot. That was enough for the platform to give way and sent Father Allen on his ass.

While Clara kept a straight face, Professor Jones began to laugh maniacally. Hopefully that would not sour their team cohesion; the last thing she needed was to mollycoddle these two.

“Our first trap,” Jonesy said. “How did you know,” he asked.

“I assumed most people would be travelling through the centre directly to the exit behind us,” Clara said.

“So I forced the platform back onto its seat,” Father Allen asked.

“Precisely,” Clara said. “Now would you please wedge something under the platform Father,” she asked.

Clara waited patiently as Father Allen ripped his pack apart. Item after item came out of that bag, but nothing seemed suitable. Eventually he thought of using his walking stick, which he used to keep the platform from falling into place.

The sound of water was more pronounced now, on Clara’s side the supporting rock had been carved away so the slab would give way. This trap had been clearly designed to catch people travelling in a certain direction.

Clara hammered a climbing piton into the floor. She then used a length of rope to grapple and force the platform at its apex.

With the platform out of the way, the walking stick fell through the opening and made a racket below. Clara illuminated the area using her lantern and saw a slew of rusty spikes. The area was littered with bones, skulls and dried blood. Even after all these years, the stone was still stained red.

Clara grabbed the remaining rope and draped it over the edge. Using the light of her lantern Clara had no trouble manoeuvring around the obstacles. She then lit the torches and within minutes Clara was able to shed some light on the macabre scene.

“I’m going to explore,” Clara said.

Without waiting for an answer she ventured through an archway. Visible were two entrances, one that led up presumably towards the chamber above, while the other led down to the source of that running water sound.

Clara pulled out her sidearm and moved closer to the stairs going up. She called out in that direction and eventually heard the men come down.

“Another Georgian illusion then,” Clara said.

“Precisely,” Jonesy said. “It even provided some resistance to prevent accidental discovery,” he added.

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!

Raiders and Tombs – Part II

The group spent the next two days scouring the temple complex. Clara kept a close eyes on the tribesmen, it appeared they did not like lingering here and the last thing she needed was for them to get any ideas.

On both sides of the pyramid there were channels which led all the way to the top of the structure. Clara noticed how these shafts had been heavily reinforced.

“What were these for,” Clara asked.

“Not sure,” Jonesy said.

“Used to bring up stores,” Father Allen asked.

“Garbage shoot,” Jonesy guessed.

“Drainage,” Father Allen mused.

“Good cover,” Clara said. “No one can see what is going on from either side,” she added.

Clara walked into the channel and disappeared from sight. Only those who faced her directly were able to see what she was up to, which proved her point.

She pulled out her canteen and took a quick sip. The water was refreshing and cool as it ran down her throat. Alas she had something else in mind for what remained.

“Oops,” Clara said after she dropped the canteen.

The water was initially absorbed by the ground but soon began to pool. It seemed that the theory that these were drains had been wrong, at least for this side.

Without a word, she picked up the canteen and handed it over to one of the locals to refill. Meanwhile she pictured the ziggurat in her mind and realised that this particular channel received the least amount of daylight.

“No obvious markings or pressure points to trigger a mechanism,” Jonesy said.

“No,” Clara said. “Just the way they would want it,” she guessed.

Before Father Allen could speak, Clara cut into the palm of her hand with her crucifix. She then smeared an area just inside the nook with blood.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen, but the blood was slowly absorbed by a portion of the bricks. The break in the streak clearly outlined the concealed doorway.

Jonesy barked out orders and within moments three lanterns were brought forward. Since they were about to descend, the locals had also been instructed to make camp.

Clara had never seen so many people go pale with dread. With a good six hours of daylight left, Clara made a note to ensure they were back before then. She had an odd feeling their camp would not be ready as instructed.

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!