Gather around the hearth, Hunters, and warm your hands on the fire, while we tell you a tale about Timothy Stone…
This is part 4 of 4. If you missed parts 1-3, check out our last three Timothy Stone posts.
Elwood Finch was a man who believed that victory could be bought. Elwood Finch was a man of immense power, influence, and stature among Hunters. Elwood Finch was not coming to dinner. Nora née Evans, however, would be arriving any minute.
The table was laid in fine embroidered linen, and adorned with a handsome arrangement of ivy and holly, berries the bright, brilliant red of freshly spilled blood. I had hired on help for the occasion – two who'd exchanged domestic positions for the bayou's bloody fortunes.
Upon Nora's arrival, we moved through the usual pleasantries, and she quickly accepted my apologies on Finch's behalf – something urgent had come up at the asylum and he would join us after dinner for a glass of sherry if he could get away, I told her. She accepted the change of plans without comment.
We began the meal with oysters en brochette, the shellfish freshly plucked from Black Bay that morning and the bacon providing a dark, smoky compliment to their delicate flavor. We spoke of New York, and how Nora's Hunters were handling the threat there. It was modest compared to the situation in Louisiana – but how long would it remain under control?
The plates were cleared, and the next course served: plump, browned sausages; breaded mutton chops; and a haunch of venison alongside roast cauliflower and potatoes smothered in rich butter. Our conversation grew lively, the mood festive. It was then that I produced a small box, wrapped in fine red paper.
“For you Nora. My condolences, and my apology." I placed the box on the table beside her hand. She paused, regarding it with curiosity, and allowing – if only briefly – a cordial smile to cross her lips. Inside, she found an elegant gold chain on which hung a small gold falcon. Beautiful, and delicate – but deadly.
Her face flushed, and for once, it was she who did not know what to say.
We sat in companionable silence while the plates were cleared for dessert. The time had come. I must know.
“Nora, how did you survive?"
She looked at me. “I supposed I didn't."
I raised my eyebrows, but said nothing, waiting, certain she would eventually feel compelled to fill the silence.
“I've been affected. By the corruption. I'm infected. It wasn't long before you showed up with a mind to sell my name to the highest bidder. My group was not privy to some very important information. We were given instructions about the inoculation ritual, but they were incorrect. They were intended to leave us vulnerable, and destroy us.
“I began to notice a change after the incident at the railway. But then the transition just stopped. I have remained myself, mostly. We suspect that I possess some level of natural immunity, though it may not last. The...my neck..." her hand moved again to the hem of her collar. “I still bear the wound from your bullet. It does not bleed, but it remains open and festering. That's why I need Finch. I do not believe he intended to destroy my Hunters, but I believe that he knows who did."
This time my silence was not calculated. She had been affected by the corruption. I had just shared my Christmas dinner with a grunt. There was no doubt in my mind now of what I must do.
From my pocket I took a small knife, running it gently over the skin of her hand until it drew blood. I then did the same, pressing our hands together where knife had parted flesh, binding her to my bloodline, if informally, and perhaps, helping to ensure she did not slip further into that degradation. It is rare, but it has happened before.
Dessert was served, but there was nothing more to say. At last, she moved to leave.
“I think we will not see Mr. Finch this evening, so I will impose no more upon your kindness and take my leave. Thank you for dinner and the gifts." She looked down at the cut on her hand, now wrapped in a white kerchief. “I pray it is enough." She called the serving girl to bring her jacket and began to wrap a fetching scarf of blue and white, pattern befitting the season and in the Scandinavian style, around her neck.
I looked at her thoughtfully. “Nora, I am embarrassed to admit it, but there is one more present. I can never make up for the loss of your Father, but perhaps it will provide some light on these dark winter nights." I pointed to a large box wrapped in green and gold paper, perched atop the sideboard.
She looked at me, questioning, but the wary edge she'd had in Trevors' shop had left her eyes.
“You were my Father's friend," she said, quietly, “and we are bonded now as well. Fine, Timothy, I will accept your gift."
I walked to the mantel and poured the amontillado, filling two glasses with that exquisite, fragrant liquid, murky and golden. I raised my glass. “To Gregor Evans."
She repeated my words, as she crossed the room to the box and began to tear open the green and gold paper, revealing a tab that would open the lid. She pulled, opening the box, and releasing a cacophony of razor wire as sharp and piercing as the cry that escaped her lips.
Concertina wire is such a beautiful thing, and I consider the concertina bomb its ideal form. I regarded the bouquet of blades, chaotic and efficient, metal shining in the flickering, festive candlelight. The wire had pinned one foot to the ground, nearly severing it from the body, while raising the other in mock dance. So many blades buried in a constellation of wounds across her body where it had torn through her pristine white dress.
She struggled at first, but the movement only drove the wire deeper, and so she fell still and silent, eyes wide and skittering about the room, her laboured breath marking a ragged and uneven percussion.
“Do you like it? I thought it matched the necklace." I emptied my glass in one sip and placed it on the table, freeing my hand to reach for the end of her scarf. The fabric ripped as I pulled it from the tangle of wire. “Daniel," I called, louder now, all pretence of kindness gone from my voice. “Bring my Vetterli."
Daniel – who had served our dinner – appeared again, back in his usual garb now, and handed me a Vetterli engraved with a rose.
“I didn't kill your Father, Nora. But I am going to kill you." I raised the Vetterli, and this time, it was a headshot no creature could survive. I used her scarf to clean her blood from the barrel, wrapping the gun in what remained before turning back to Daniel.
“Call Lynch," I said. “Her package is ready for pick up."
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