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!
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