Gather around the hearth, Hunters, and warm your hands on the fire, while we tell you a tale about Timothy Stone…
This is part 3 of 4. Check back tomorrow to find out what happens in part 4!
“Nora, I watched you die." And yet here she was.
She moved her hand to her collar as I spoke, and for the first time I noticed the strange hue of the skin there, as though she'd tried to hide a grievous wound beneath powders and cloth.
“Your powers of observation are indeed incredible, Mr. Stone."
“Nora, come now. Is this necessary? Nora? Nora, please," I repeated her name like a bleating lamb, wanting her to think me helpless. Willing her to believe that she had already won.
She was a shrewd woman, but she would see what she wanted to see: an arrogant man, bleating and braying and bested by her own cunning. She had a reputation as one of New York's best Hunters – had even gone as far as to start her own organization – and I had been struck, at the time, by how easy it had been to kill her. It was true that I was arrogant; I thought it evidence of my own skill, and thought no more about it. I would not underestimate her again. But she would underestimate me, and live to regret it. My eyes returned to the skin at her throat, and I filled my voice with notes of concern. “Nora, are you ill?"
“My health," she said, gesturing to Mr. Trevors once again, “is no business of yours. Not anymore. Now, let's see what you and Father have been up to."
Trevors emptied my coat pockets at her signal, and placed my ledger into her gloved hands. Deus Irae. My own reckoning of souls.
She flipped through the pages and smiled. “These are quite impressive. Though I'm not sure they are impressive enough to convince me to forgive you for killing my Father." She closed the ledger, tested its weight, and then swung it into my face with a crack. Blood streamed from my nose and down my chin, and I licked my lips.
Three hundred and seventy-six souls are listed in my ledger. Every last soul and sale is accounted for. I keep very precise accounts. Every detail is correct. Except for one. Nora had been number 273. Soon I would adjust the number to 377.
“I had nothing to do with your Father's death Nora," I said as I groped in my pocket for a handkerchief to staunch the blood flow. “He was my best friend." My use of the words “nothing" and “best" might have been stretching the truth.
It took me an hour to convince her. So many dead men have given me their names and their stories; it comes naturally to slip into their adventures as if they are my own. The tale was harrowing. If I could remember the details, and if they were true, I would surely repeat them. As I spoke, I realized how similar applying for a job and pleading for your life can be.
“Very well," she said eventually. “I will connect you with buyers in New York, and take a share, and you can continue your work unimpeded. I have little interest in getting involved in this mess right now, but I could use the funds. I'll pay you fairly. More fairly than you paid any of the others, I should guess."
She handed my ledger back to Trevors. “Now, take me to see Elwood Finch."
I exited Trevors shop quickly, and with some great relief, but without an apology for the damage to my nose or the blood splattered on my cloak. Outside, the streets bustled with activity and noise. Boughs of pine and holly had been strung from windows and lampposts, and the butcher had several fine turkeys and hams on display. I crossed the street to the grocers, placing orders at several stores as I moved among cheerful Christmas shoppers. Nora Evans would be joining Finch and I – or so she thought – for Christmas dinner.
I had killed her once. I would find out how she survived and then I would kill her again.
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