Evelyn Chartres Author
Hunter – Page 3

The Prelude to Action – Parts V and VI

For Clara, getting into Mexico was not a concern. The Cristeros War required substantial government resources to contain. That meant border guards did not bat an eye at a pretty foreigner crossing the border alone.

All Clara had to do was hide any religious affiliation. The government had grown suspicious of anyone connected with the Church. For now, it was best to avoid being a target for arbitrary arrest.

Clara had a good idea about which gate had been used. It must have been near the city from which those missing hunters were based out of.

The most interesting aspect of this journey had been the transition in flora. When she crossed into Mexico, the area had been dry and arid; but it gradually transitioned into a greener and more welcoming land as she progressed westward.

By the time Clara had reached the Pacific, she had crossed a lush jungle. This was a tropical paradise, and she imagined that it would become a major tourist destination once the dust settled.

The two hunters had been operating out of this city when they disappeared. Since this was an important port-o-call, the gate had strategic value.

Clara sensed that the Tower’s reason for choosing a gate location applied just as well to their enemy. So it was reasonable to assume that they had a gate nearby as well. With some luck, she might be able to determine the available destination, although by itself that would be daunting.

Once Clara arrived at the train station, she took a cab to a nearby hotel. The surroundings were quiet ritzy leaving nothing to desire. Clara was even surprised to find a few telegrams waiting for her.

Clara tipped the concierge and quickly read through the messages. Every telegram received conveyed the same general information; all of the gates except for those in use during the incident were intact but inoperable. That meant the point of attack must have been destroyed as well.

When her luggage had been delivered, Clara pulled out the wireless. As expected, the number station provided the same sequence of numbers, but the message was being narrated by a male student. That meant the station was manned, so the Tower itself must still be intact.

Clara changed into a fashionable dress and made sure to bring her derringer along with a vial of holy water. It was time to explore the city and fashionable attire would distract the government troops while she sought out the Terminus gate. That would be her starting point. She only hoped it would not be a trap.

* * * *

By the time Clara neared the gate, the sun hung high in the sky. While it precluded stealth, it made it impossible for Drusilla or her ilk to be out and about.

The heat and humidity were making it difficult for her to keep dry and composed. She was starting to understand the allure of siestas. Even from this distance, she saw the devastation that surrounded the area. Clara had seen this level of destruction before, but only in a warzone.

“Very little left,” Clara said as she ventured deeper into the ruins of what had been a church.

The remnants of the structure were charred and retained that distinctive odour of cordite. An incredible amount of munitions had been used to secure this place. That might explain the ball of flame that followed her through the gate.

There were tracks from heavy wheeled vehicles visible throughout the area. This had all of the hallmarks of a government sanctioned assault. So that meant that she was probably in the middle of a…

“Don’t move,” someone ordered in Spanish.

When she turned around with her derringer in hand, Clara noticed that she was surrounded. There were about thirty or so armed women visible, which meant there were more hidden.

“Ambush,” Clara asked.

“Correct señora,” the leader of the group replied.

“Lovely,” 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!

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!

The Prelude to Action – Part II

Clara walked through the Terminus’ sections until she found the door leading to her destination. While the gates were designed to travel one way, the doors themselves shifted and moved. Otherwise, given time, an individual could map out the Terminus in its entirety.

Now, she stood before the door and opened it. Clara never liked to dwell on what was about to happen, so she just stepped through.

This time, things were different. Normally, the transition was effortless, and the traveller simply found herself in a new location. This time, the transition was anything but instant and felt like she was being pulled in every direction. Clara opened her eyes and saw a whitewashed world, similar to the one found outside of the Tower.

Unlike the faded memory that was Pompeii, the world before her was changing at a fantastical rate. No one had ever mentioned being conscious during transitions.

“So why am I seeing this,” Clara wondered.

With that thought came a whoosh followed by a ball of fire that was gaining on her. Clara looked about, but found no way to push herself forward or manoeuvre. For better or for worse, she was stuck in transit until she reached her destination.

Moments before the ball of flame enveloped her, Clara felt cool grass beneath her bare feet. She instinctively rolled away and sensed a blast of heat pass over her.

Her eyes took a while to adjust, but she soon witnessed the carnage. The door itself had been blown from its hinges, rendering the gateway inoperative. Clara noted how debris was spread out all over the area and that the luscious green grass had been scorched… Just like the top of her outfit.

“I liked that top,” Clara said while brushing any dirt from her shoulders.

Clara quickly scanned over her surroundings to make sure there were no witnesses. Fortunately, no one had been visiting this graveyard. Odd, it should have been night. Clara had expected to be under the cover of the waxing moon.

Instead, the sun was a quarter of the way up in the deep blue sky. So unless she had been pulled out of time, Clara must have reached an alternate gate. Did that explain the feeling of being pulled in multiple directions?

“Horsefeathers,” Clara exclaimed. “So, where am I,” she asked.

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!

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!

Dinner with the Devil – Part II

Clara was perusing the newspaper while sitting at a booth. She noticed the article detailing the discovery of a burnt-out car near lover’s lane. It seemed that a young couple heading home from a petting party had spotted the wreck.

A coroner’s inquest was sure to follow, but Clara suspected they would find nothing. After all, their investigations into the deaths of those girls had turned up empty and their bodies left behind valuable clues, not ash.

A waiter passed by and placed a drink on her table before he said, “Compliments of the lady at the bar.”

Clara had been offered drinks before. It came with the territory. Doubly so when she was all dolled up, but until now only men had made such overtures.

Even from here, Clara saw the impeccably dressed flapper who could make jaws drop from a hundred paces. For a moment, she even felt a twinge of envy.

The lady’s green eyes simply enhanced the overall effect, enough to overshadow her expensive jewellery. Clara assumed that lady, in this case, was most likely the correct term to use with this one.

“Long haired brunette,” Clara said in a mumble.

They had crossed paths last night. She was the one who leered at her for having that tattoo. This had to be more than a coincidence.

Clara raised her glass in salute and the lady reciprocated. They both sipped on their drinks and kept their eyes locked on one another. Clara had an inkling that the lady enjoyed the attention.

A waiter dropped something at the corner of her table. When Clara turned to investigate, she felt a cool breeze. Some might assume it had been from an open door, but she knew better.

“Beautiful work you did last night, ma chère,” the lady said.

“What do you mean,” Clara responded nonchalantly.

Clara knew full well that she should be dead. That diversion alone would have given her ample opportunity to bury a blade in Clara’s chest and escape unnoticed.

When she turned to get a better look at her guest, she let out an involuntary gasp. It was hard to believe just how stunning the lady was up close.

“What’s wrong with me,” Clara wondered.

“I love this fashion trend,” the lady said. “My body type is finally starting to turn some heads.”

Clara had studied history extensively, but such anecdotes were usually left out of the books. It was unusual to hear such a statement from someone who lived through it. Although she kept wondering why she had not been relegated to a footnote in the history books by now.

“I’m Evelyn,” the lady said.

“Clara,” she replied. “We met last night.”

Evelyn giggled. Her voice had musical overtones that bordered on being hypnotic. Clara knew she was toning it down, likely to prevent anyone else from becoming entranced.

“Yes, we did, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “We were after the same man, you and I.”

“You hunt in packs,” Clara asked.

Evelyn giggled again before she said, “I was there to stop him.”

Clara had been sipping on her drink while the words sank in and coughed up its contents. Not exactly ladylike, that statement had thrown her for a loop.

“It hasn’t been my experience—,” Clara said before coughing again.

“You deal with the dredges, those we eventually put down, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “You think we need that kind of publicity?”

In a way, it was a relief to hear that the more dangerous elements of their kind were culled. However, that implied there were a great many more than they suspected, concealing their numbers by taking out the ones who got caught.

“I suppose not,” Clara said.

Just then, a series of plates were brought in by the waiter. While the man silently deposited the food, Evelyn winked at him.

“That waiter was with you last night,” Clara asked.

“Of course, ma chère,” Evelyn said. “He and I have travelled together for four centuries now.”

Evelyn broke a bun with her hands and dipped it into the bowl of soup. Clara eyed every movement, even when she brought food to those lipstick covered lips and took a bite. It was the first time she had witnessed their kind eating food.

As soup broth ran down Evelyn’s chin, she giggled. It was so disarming to watch her do these every day actions and for a moment Clara forgot who she was dealing with.

Clara looked at the various items placed before her and opted to grab a devilled egg with anchovies. She wanted something that required one hand to eat.

“So why are we having this pleasant chat,” Clara said.

“An excellent question, ma chère,” Evelyn said while she clapped her hands in excitement.

Evelyn really seemed to be an innocent and excitable young lady. There had to be a dark side to her. They all needed to feed after all. Besides, how could she have silenced that man without a predatory nature? No, Evelyn clearly had a dark side, and it was important to keep that in mind.

“I can honestly see how you might be confused,” Evelyn added just before she bit down on another piece of bread. “I’ve admitted to my advanced age, hinted that I was associated with your latest conquest, and I know you’re not a prostitute.”

“Sounds about right,” Clara said.

“You know, I was a courtesan before my partner found me. Though not nearly as famous or in demand as the Mata Hari,” Evelyn said. “I owe him a great deal for taking me in.”

“So you two are close,” Clara asked.

“Not physically,” Evelyn said dryly. “But yes, more so than many couples will ever be.”

“If I were a prost—,” Clara managed to say.

“It may have elicited some sympathy,” Evelyn said.

Clara nodded and grabbed another egg. Fortunately they were rather scrumptious, not a bad choice for a last meal.

“That’s not why you are here. After all, we normally strive to keep your order out of our business,” Evelyn said.

“You like my eyes,” Clara said facetiously.

Evelyn gave her a good long stare as though she were expecting to find her soul. It was the grin that followed that hinted how close to the mark Clara’s comment had been.

“The fun you and I could have,” Evelyn said. “The passion and ecstasy you’d experience. I could make you question your very existence.”

Every word she said became more hypnotic. Clara had trouble staying focused. She sensed that those words were not only meant to entice but also marked Evelyn’s own loss of control.

“Oh,” Clara murmured while blood flushed through her cheeks.

“You are a very beautiful woman, Clara,” Evelyn said. “It would be fun while it lasted, but eventually you’d realise that I was really the monster you originally envisioned.”

“The hunt would be half the fun,” Clara said with a grin.

“True, ma chère,” Evelyn said and winked. She brought up her glass and said, “To the endless possibilities of life.”

“That can follow you into death,” Clara countered and finished her drink.

“Now, I must get going,” Evelyn said while getting up.

“So soon,” Clara said honestly.

“The opportunity for trouble is far too great,” Evelyn said. “You did us a favour by ridding the world of that filth, so I can in good conscience spare your life.”

“How kind,” Clara said.

Evelyn did not seem to be bothered by the reply. That did not stop Clara from cringing. She had run off her mouth at precisely the wrong moment.

“However, I am obliged to inform you that you have two days to leave this city. Others in your order would do well to leave us be… For now,” Evelyn said.

Clara nodded, the seriousness in Evelyn’s tone made it clear that she meant business.

Evelyn then did something that completely took Clara by surprise. She leaned over and kissed Clara square on the lips. The passion of this act overwhelmed Clara, so much so that she felt her inhibitions melt away.

The lady then picked up a cloth napkin and wiped the combination of their lipstick from her lips. Clara was impressed, Evelyn was aware of her fail-safe.

“You owe me one,” Evelyn said.

She walked out with an elongated gait to show off that sensual sway of her hips. Clara loved to be with men, loved their bodies and how they felt inside of her. Despite all of these points, this imp had been able to negate that factor without breaking a sweat. Clara had learned an important lesson tonight, one that every hunter should learn early in their careers.

“I always repay my debts,” 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!