As anticipated, Charlotte’s attempt to speak with Vivian and to sway her was of no consequence yet. She had counted on this. It was more of an attempt to get the seed of murder in the home planted in the hope that it would find purchase in someone who desperately needed to get the deed done. If she had learned anything over the years, Charlotte at least understood that these matters were best slowly simmered. Allow them to take shape and grow into more intentional malice and from there, the plot would simply take a life of its own. She, herself, had needed no real prompt for this. Her mother had instructed her as best she could before her untimely death and Charlotte was far too motivated by the need to escape to worry about her conscience. There were others, she was told, who had far more pressing reservations in the matter. She had never considered that Vivian should be such a person, given her own personality and interests. The idea that this woman had a conscience was laughable but apparently she had something of a reservation for committing murder. Curious. As it was, she knew better than to push her nemesis into action prematurely. That would dirty up an otherwise promising murder plan before it had time to get going and she wasn’t about to spoil the fun, even if it was someone else’s to be had. She already knew that in order for it to work, it would take time. It would have to seem more like it was Vivian’s idea. She would enjoy that more, her being petty and all, as she was apt to be.

This was, of course, a risk but Charlotte had some faith in the shrew. Failing reaching out to her basic predatory nature, Charlotte had also gone after the things she valued to get her response. She had wounded Vivian’s pride enough to make it count and it was a hope that instead of simply becoming bitter, it would motivate her into action. It should have gotten to her anyway. Charlotte knew that it would burn that selfish wretch deep inside to know that she was thought of as being pathetic. It helped tremendously that she was as jealous as she was and that those were thoughts that Charlotte was being utterly sincere about. It was pathetic and her nemesis was the very definition of idle and feeble. She only hoped that this would be right kind of motivation for the right kind of action. If not, there was a good chance that she would become even more insufferable. Though such a thing was difficult to imagine, it was already taxing enough that she took out her frustrations and anxieties on the staff as often as she could. If this attempt to stir her moved in the wrong direction, Charlotte may be finding more of them trying to take refuge with her and that would, very unfortunately, force her into the space upstairs. That was only what she could imagine. There was also the chance that Vivian would try to strike out at Charlotte as well. It was a laughable image that it brought up in her head but not one that she would be willing to entertain and should the woman try to raise a hand to her, she would be forced to clean up all of the messes that currently were dwelling in this awful house. It was far too much work for her and she would much prefer that her nemesis simply get the hint about how to make everyone happy.

Thinking of Master Kent’s impending death inevitably brought up something else that had lingered in her mind since her little meeting. Charlotte had to admit that she was rather intrigued at the prospect of what Vivian had said. Curious that the fortune of the family required only a Mrs. Kent to stay afloat. Charlotte had long wondered about Reginald Kent and his truly terrible business ventures. While she, herself, had no interest in such things beyond how lucrative a husband she could pull out of it, even she knew how often he wasted money. His lavish tastes were well known throughout both London and Paris and she had no doubt that it was no secret in even this terrible little township how often he lost what little wealth he had at his disposal. It was a wonder how much money he actually had left to his name, assuming there was any at all. Kent’s name had not been dry when she had reached the age when her father was attempting to be rid of her but even then, there were vicious rumors of the family being in the decline. Of course, no one wanted to be the one to say anything concrete as it might have opened up exactly how much worse off the speaker was than they appeared. Oh, it had been tedious back in the day, existing with all those aristocratic families. Kent’s was particularly abhorrent but it was clear even in those early days that there was less money than was being presented. There were estates back then, though. If they were simply waiting for someone to die, perhaps that might have explained a few things but it couldn’t explain it all. There were new questions to explore to get to the bottom of how this wretched household was running and most of them now centred on the Lady of the house.

Charlotte couldn’t deny that she was dying to know more about the mystery of this role that Vivian was insisting on playing. She had been telling the truth to her nemesis when she said that there wasn’t a woman in society that would think anything of that name and to most people, it was worthless, especially here where society was hardly the force it once was. That didn’t mean it played no role in their lives and that made it all the more curious to her why Vivian would want to hold on so hard to something of so little value. The title of Lady Kent was one that might have a secret supply of money hidden somewhere but it wasn’t at all worth the stain on any woman’s reputation to be associated with such a name. Charlotte herself would sooner go by her own rotten maiden name than allow that filthy title to fall on her head. That said, however, it did raise some questions about what kind of woman would still allow herself to be crowned the queen of filth and why. Surely Vivian was just as greedy as she was but Charlotte had not thought her so desperate that she would go for the table scraps that even the lowest rungs of high society would not hesitate to pass upon. If it was just a case of greed getting the better of her senses, the next question Charlotte had to answer was where the fortune was coming from if not from Kent. It wasn’t from Vivian’s family, that was certain. If there was any name that was so desperate to appear in the good graces of wealth while having none, the only contender to Kent’s wretched name was Vivian’s birth family. Charlotte had been traveling through society for some time and had never heard that they had sudden emerged as having a hidden pocket of riches at their disposal so she was certain that there was nothing there.

So with no money from Kent and nothing from Vivian, where might this fortune be coming from? By Kent’s desperation to kill off his wife, Charlotte knew that he was in dire need of that wealth and soon. Considering his schemes were folding, it was a wonder that he didn’t just strangle her. To that end, if Vivian knew how to access the money that was attached to Lady Kent’s name, why had she not just done the big deed and fled already? Even then, she had no need to flee if the fortune rested in the title that she already carried. With no concern of authorities and a store of wealth waiting for her, why was Master Reginald Kent still alive? While it was tempting to assume her nemesis was just thick, it was clear that she was not and simply biding her time.

Her thoughts were interrupted when the door of her abysmal room opened slowly. Charlotte smiled as she heard the tell tale footsteps of her lovely little protege.

“Beg your pardon, Miss,” Juliette said, shyly. Charlotte turned to see once again she had brought a tray of food for her.

“Darling, you spoil me so,” she beamed at the girl. “I assume the brute Master of the house is elsewhere?”

“He is away for business for the day,” Juliette admitted.

“I had noticed the house had returned to its normal levels of discomfort,” Charlotte laughed easily. “Now, since this is the case, I must insist that you join me. We’ve much to discuss.”

“I am only permitted to stay for a short while,” Juliette said, eyeing the food. Charlotte laughed, breaking some bread for her.

“Your time is valuable, dear girl,” she said, as Juliette slowly ate. “I shall have to teach you the proper ways to make other people respect this.”

“Oh no, I cannot be too long,” Juliette protested, looking at the door. “The Lady, she becomes quite cross when she’s kept waiting for too long. I must have my chores finished before she wakes this afternoon.”

“The Lady of this house is a coward, darling,” Charlotte said, her smile becoming more wicked. She sensed the answer to at least one of her questions was near. “She uses your precious fear to hide her own incompetence. She knows well that the Master of the house wishes to put her in the ground and has not done a single thing about it. What power might a terrified wretch like Lady Kent hold?”

“I wish to tell you but if I am exposed, it will be my death,” Juliette answered, her lips turning white. Her wide, terrified eyes fixed on Charlotte pleadingly.

“My poor darling,” Charlotte cooed at her. “Hear me well. Where there is a tyrant, there will always be something available to you to bring about their ruin. I have made a life of this quest to find keys to their treasures. Help me, Juliette, and these miserable people will be a part of both our pasts.”

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