Monday, November 30, 2015

Untitled: Chapter 8

Patrice was roused from her stupor by a soft knock at the door.

Since Camille’s sudden appearance and second untimely passing in the early morning hours, the house had been in a state of chaos. The police had responded to the disturbance, though not in time to see the two fleeing men, and had a great many questions for everyone. She could not help but feel bad for the house staff as, upon arriving for work, they were each pulled aside and interrogated; none of them had any clue what was going on.

When it was time for Patrice to be questioned, she finally revealed the truth of the previous day; how Camille had dragged Patrice with her to see the vampire, the subsequent attack and her headlong flight through the forest. She talked about the two strangers on the road risking their lives to save her from a vampire, and how they saved her a second time from her own cousin.

Marie and Juliet both sat aghast as she talked. Henri, however, was beyond furious. Several times he interrupted to decry her as a liar and an evil influence on his impressionable daughter. Eventually, he was escorted from the room where his statement could be taken separately.

Finally, the questions stopped. The beheaded remains of both Camille and Gaspard the coachman were unceremoniously bundled up and taken for examination and Patrice was left to face her uncle’s wrath.

The three women sat in the study, Patrice, Marie, and Juliet, waiting for Henri to come. Marie sat scrutinizing her niece with an icy stare. She was not overly fond of Juliet or her daughter, but whatever she might have wanted to say, she kept to herself. If any accusations were to be leveled, they would be coming from Henri. Fortunately, she did not have to wait long. The doors to the study opened and Henri stepped inside, his eyes locked on Patrice.

  “I welcomed two killers into my home at your say,” his voice was unnaturally calm, given his flushed complexion, “and now my daughter is dead because of you.”
“Uncle, I …” Henri silenced her with a hard slap to her cheek. The blow staggered her, but Patrice managed to keep her feet.
“No more lies!” he shouted, “Where were they headed? Surely they told you something of their journey? ”
“I-I do not know.” Another slap, this one sending the young woman to her knees.
“Do you long for the streets? Do you detest the home, the food, and the clothes I have given you so much that you continue to lie? Even after taking Camille from me?”

Patrice felt her face grow hot, beyond where she had been struck. She was on the verge of tears, she knew, but refused to give her uncle the satisfaction of making her cry. Instead, she heard a soft whimper from her mother. Juliet sat huddled in her chair, crying and shaking her head. “Just tell him, Patrice, tell him what you know.”

“Munich,” her voice was nearly a whisper as she struggled to keep the tremor from it, “They are going to Munich. That is all they told me.”

Henri said nothing, but seemed to consider her response. After an agonizing moment, he nodded to himself, satisfied that he had gotten the truth from her. In fact, Patrice could have sworn that she could see a tiny gleam of triumph in his beady eyes. He straightened himself and said to her, “You will remain locked in your room until I say otherwise. Cross me at both you and your mother’s peril.” With that, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the study. Patrice could hear him calling for the butler, saying, “I have several telegrams for you to deliver.”

Once she had been escorted to her room, the excitement, exhaustion, and the strong storm of emotions that she had experienced over the past twenty-four hours finally caught up with Patrice. Alone in her room - her prison - she wept bitterly and uncontrollably until falling into a deep and dreamless sleep.


The first knock woke her up. A second knock at the door, only the slightest bit louder, helped bring her muddled thoughts back into focus. “Yes?” she mumbled, wincing at the pain in her cheek. She dreaded the bruise she knew she would find when she eventually looked in a mirror. Fortunately, it did not seem to be very swollen.

A key turned in the lock and the door squeaked open just enough for Juliet to squeeze in with a tray of food and a damp rag. Patrice could tell she had been crying. When her mother saw the bruise on her face, several large tears traced their way down her already damp cheeks. Marie moved to her bed, setting the tray beside Patrice, and offered her the cool damp rag. Patrice placed on the sorest part of her face, just below her left eye.

“What time is it?” she asked her mother.
“Almost sundown,” said Juliet, “You have been sleeping for some time, and neither Henri nor Marie felt inclined to raise you for dinner.” A moment of silence passed, during which Patrice could almost feel her mother looking at her black eye. “I am so sorry,” she whispered.
“Mother, why do we stay here?” Patrice said, “I would rather we take our chances on the street than live under his tyranny another day.”
Juliet shook her head, “You do not know what you are talking about, Patrice. We have no income since your father died, no home, no means of feeding ourselves.” This was a oft-held conversation between the two of them, but to Patrice, something about it felt different this time. She felt different.
“He hit me, mother,” Patrice hissed, “Twice, in front of you. And you sat by and watched it happen.”
More tears from Juliet now. “He saw his daughter’s mangled body. Marie saw that man throw her head in the fire - they are devastated. I would be, too, if it were you who had perished.”
“You are … justifying his actions?” Patrice could not believe her ears.
“No, not justifying,” Juliet sighed, “I do not … Henri is just very upset. It will pass. He and Marie will mourn and their pain will subside.” Patrice shook her head in stunned silence as her mother continued, “Even now, he has been talking with his friends and partners. His mood seems much improved since they have arrived.”

Patrice was suddenly aware of the din drifting into her room. The boots of men, she could only guess how many, echoed up from downstairs. There was an undercurrent of menace to the noise; it was not pleasant, like a celebration, but certainly louder and more busy than a wake or any sort of memorial gathering. There was a sense of organization to it that unnerved her; Henri’s yelling might have been preferable to what was now taking place below them.

“What is happening down there?” she asked.
“Henri has been sending and receiving messages since you came upstairs.” Juliet said, “Eventually, a number of men arrived at the house. Some of them I recognize, others I do not. He has been telling them about last night.”
“Are they armed?”
Patrice saw her mother pale visibly at the question, “I …”
“Mother, do they have weapons?” Patrice looked hard at her mother.
Juliet seemed to shrink under her stare. “Some of them. Yes.”
“He means to hunt them.” This elicited a small nod from Juliet. Patrice’s anger towards her mother cooled somewhat as she contemplated this newest turn of events, though she made a mental note to finish their conversation later. She began to graze idly over the food on the tray, an action that apparently relieved her mother to some degree. “Does he know where they are?”
Juliet shook her head, “Telegrams were sent with descriptions of the men down every major road leading east, but has yet to get a response,” she leaned in towards Patrice, “He hopes to catch them before they cross the border. If he is successful, I think it will go a long way towards calming him.”
“They are innocent, mother! Wendell and Mr. Baine have done no wrong.” Patrice could feel her ire returning; perhaps they would finish this conversation sooner rather than later. Juliet sighed irritably in reply, one of the few signs of anger she ever expressed.
“Patrice, you must admit that your behavior - the stories you keep telling - has made quite a mess of everything. No one knows what is true and what is not.” She stood up, “How can you blame Henri - who has continually provided for us, despite not wanting to - for desiring justice? Who is he to blame?” Downstairs, a bell rang, announcing yet another visitor at the door.
“It is not justice he seeks, mother, but revenge,” Patrice stood to face her. “And the person to blame is Camille, though I suppose you could just as easily hold Henri and Marie responsible for raising such a spoiled, little-”
“That is enough!” Juliet cut her daughter off, an act that surprised both of them. Had the two women been listening, they might have noticed a change in the tone of the noise being made by the group of men below. “This is not the life I wanted, for any of us - certainly not a life without your father. I am sorry that he died. I am sorry that we could not afford to live on our own. I am sorry that you and Henri do not get along. But this is our life now and I have no means of making things better for either of us. You, on the other hand, seemed determined to make things more difficult for everyone.” Footsteps marked the ascent of someone on the staircase down the hall.
“Exactly how have I made things more difficult? By having opinions? By standing up for myself?” Patrice knew she was beginning to venture outside the bounds of rationality, but her pain and anger urged her forward, “Maybe by simply being born? Is that when I started to make things difficult for you mother?” Patrice was shaking, her vision blurred by tears. Her mother was in much the same condition. Juliet had just taken a breath to reply when a sound at the door interrupted them. Standing there with a malicious gleam in his eye, was Henri.
“The killers were spotted on the road to Troyes.” He aimed an ugly sneer at Patrice, “Prepare yourself for the road, niece. You are going with us.”
“Why on earth would you want me underfoot?”
“I will not risk you sending word ahead to warn them or sneaking around doing God-knows-what while I am out. I am going to keep you right where I can see you. Now get packed, we leave at first-light tomorrow morning. Oh, and if you are thinking of running, several men in my employ have been tasked with keeping watch over the house tonight.”

Patrice turned to her mother with an imploring look. Juliet straightened herself, wiped the tears from her eyes and walked out of the room.

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