Well, much like Val's Blog, I completed another short story within The Paladin universe and I wanted to share it with you all. This one's bigger than the last, though, so let me know if you need a break from it.
I'll try to weigh in with a few thoughts and comments along with each post, but expect it to be mostly the next short story. Now, with that out of the way, allow me to present Wolves and Wild Roses.
The fire crackled and spat embers against the wire screen, casting light across the parlor. Seated in a red, plush chair, a woman stared pensively at the newspaper in front of her. She wore a black gown, cut at her shoulders and her blonde hair was tied into a long braid. As she scanned the periodical, she paid close attention to each article, looking for hints beyond the headlines.
"Warehouse fire... no. President Taft... doubtful. Meat packing death?"
Here the woman paused, folding the paper back to focus on the article. Her attention was only parted from the article by the clinking sound of a tea cup. She looked up to see her servant, a steaming cup and saucer in hand.
"Tea, Mrs. Trevor?"
"Hmm? Oh, thank you, Grant."
She laid the paper aside for the moment and took the tea, blowing on it before taking a long sip. She nodded her approval to her servant.
"Burning the midnight oil again, Madam?" Grant asked.
"Possibly. I've found nothing of substance in the Tribune. Do we have the Herald?"
"I shall see if one has been delivered, Madam, but..."
"Yes?" she asked.
"Perhaps a lull in activity might be cause to refocus one's attention," the butler replied.
"What do you mean, Grant?"
"Young Richter. He won't say it, but he misses you. Perhaps this time could be better spent in his company?"
"Richter is a strong lad. He'll be fine."
"Yes, Madam, but he is reaching the same age when you-"
"That is all, Grant." As if to seal the issue, she took another long drink from her cup before setting it down on the table next to her. She raised the paper back up. She didn't need to look up to know he was still there. "That means you're excused."
Before he could depart, a loud buzzing rang through the parlor, the woman looking up with a sour face. "Who in the devil would come calling this late. Grant?"
She turned her attention back to the paper as the servant left the room. Her eyes scanned back and forth before finding the story on the meat packing death. It sounded very familiar. She read through the details, trying to remember. Yes, she thought, the werewolf incident. It was around three years earlier when she tracked down a werewolf that had terrorized a town in Massachusetts, killing several workers at a meat packing factory. Both that case and this one involved the initial deaths turning up inside the factories themselves. Hopefully, she thought, they'll actually clean the equipment this time.
"Agent Reginald Walters to see you, Madam."
At the sound of her servant, she stood, setting the newspaper aside. She straightened her gown and approached a waiting man. He was young, in his early twenties, with a tweed jacket and brown vest underneath. He tipped his bowler hat to her and she returned the greeting with the slightest of curtsies.
"You must be Mrs. Sonia Trevor?" the young man asked.
"Indeed. And from your title I can assume you're from the Bureau of Investigation?" she replied.
"Ah... close, ma'am. I come bearing a message from Mr. Roosevelt. He requests the pleasure of your company tomorrow at noon," he said, fishing an envelope from inside his coat. She took it, inspecting it for a moment before handing it off to Grant.
"I'm honored, but I don't think I'll be able to make it to Africa by tomorrow at noon," Sonia replied, brow furrowed.
"Oh! No, Mr. Roosevelt isn't actually in Africa, Ma'am. Well... not yet. But, er... we would ask that you keep that information to yourself."
Sonia's lips quirked to one side, studying the awkward movements of the young man. She turned to her servant who had already opened the envelope.
"Rinaldo's, Madam. Shall I have an appropriate gown laid out?"
"I shall find one befitting the occasion myself," she replied, turning back to her chair.
"Oh..." the agent chimed in. "Well... Very good. I'll let him know. We'll have a car sent for you." Sonia dismissed the young man with a hand wave and returned to her newspaper. He stood silent for several moments before stepping back from the room. "I... suppose I shall see myself out."
As the young man left the manor, Grant returned to his mistress' side, collecting the empty tea cup. "You never asked why Mr. Roosevelt wanted to see you."
"Please, Grant, that child knows nothing. There was no reason to waste both our time. If a man like Theodore Roosevelt wants to see me, it's for one reason only: he means for me to kill something."
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.