Victor arrived in the foyer to see his driver seated, casually waiting for him. The man was an imp and the look on his face told him that he was ready for the danger of this situation. Had it been anyone else, Victor might have hesitated to put his life in such reckless hands but he knew this man was nothing if not prompt in his methods and he was connected well enough to make sure that this would have a prayer of succeeding. His driver stood upon his arrival but Victor shook his head and motioned for him to relax.
“Come now, such formality is no concern to me, my good sir,” he said. His driver laughed jovially. “It’s the least I can do for agreeing to this foolish endeavor. My biggest regret is that we must ride with the swine responsible.”
“Best to have him close,” the driver shrugged, settling back in his seat. “A weasel can do more damage in the field than in captivity.”
“This is a wise observation,” Victor sighed. “Perhaps one I might have taken into account sooner but alas, here we are. I will be forced to be civil from the moment that door opens, my good man. This will be a difficult show to perform.”
“I shall endeavor to keep my contempt at bay, sir,” the driver nodded. Victor laughed.
“Only if you must but should you come up with a barb worthy of saying, please don’t hold back on my account,” Victor replied, making his way to the door.
He walked with as much confidence as he could with his cane, preparing to make the best of this horrid situation. Upon opening the front door, he saw that his associate was walking up, his hat in his hands and the look of defeat on his face. Victor wondered what had happened to him that someone he utterly loathed could muster pity in him. Still, this was not the time for pity. Not for him and not for the men they were about to face down. They would have none and Victor already knew they should offer them nothing in that way so it was time to dash this where it stood. Mr. Gray stood before him, barely able to meet his eye.
“Humbling circumstances to have come to this house,” he said, his voice sounded broken.
“Place your hat upon your head before you enter, Mr. Greyson,” Victor sighed, using his real name. The man looked at him, startled. “If you are to enter, that means that you are willing to see this plan through. We cannot walk into that den ready to be defeated already or we are dead men. If you are ready to walk upright, then place your hat upon your head and become the Mr. Gray that I know and hate.”
The statement seemed to shock his associate back into form. He straightened his back and though he clearly still lacked confidence, he placed his hat on his head and finally met Victor’s eye.
“I have seen to it that Kent has the letter,” he said, sounding more like himself. “I don’t see what good it will do us now.”
“Perhaps more good than you know,” Victor said. “Come in and let us get set up. The fiend has lost more playing cards than he is aware of and if this plays out, we can come back and drink to our incredible luck. If not, then perhaps you’ll get the honor of planning my funeral as you’ve always hoped to do.”
“You’ve such a way of making the most of every situation, Mr. White,” Mr. Gray grumbled as he walked in the door.
“Victor,” he said, sharply as he turned to face his associate. Mr. Gray was shocked into standing still as Victor looked him in the eye. “When we enter that house that we may well die in, I will be only known by that name. My driver is aware that I am using an alias but does not know what it is. This house knows nothing of that name and will never be burdened by it. I have given much to ensure this to be the case and I will not have anything come to ruin it. If I am to meet my end today, the secrets that we have fostered will be buried with me. This house only knows the name Victor Fevrier and that is the memory I intend to keep here.”
Mr. Gray nodded stiffly but did not motion to move with him as he turned. Victor looked at him and saw only his associate shaking his head.
“You’ve become a different man,” he sighed. Mr. Gray turned and looked out the windows to the front drive. “There is something deeply changed in you. Something I dread to even say but seeing as this may well be the last time, we might as well be honest about such things. Perhaps I should have been when we began this foolish run but how could I then? When I met you, you were little more than a spoiled child but your ability to generate wealth was something I had never seen before. I hated you from the first but I know talent when I see it, even if it meant putting up with your self pity and your dour personality. You were a boy still in love with your suffering that you shared with no one but left the pall of its shadow on everything around you. It was insufferable but the profits were too good to pass up. Too good to ignore for a man who had been plotting his revenge on that wicked family for nearly a decade.”
“Are we out of secrets then, Mr. Gray?” Victor said coldly but Gray just laughed mirthlessly in response. “Has this been worth the risk to everyone involved?”
“There was a time that I would have said yes to that,” Mr. Gray sighed, still looking out at the light of dawn sparkling on the remains of the snow. “I hated you so that it didn’t matter what happened to either of us. I had not intended to take you into the lion’s den but it had been of little regard to me at one time. I had not intended or planned for your sister to become involved at all. I assume that such is understood already but it stands to be said. Almost ten years, I had been waiting to play my hand. Waiting to find the time when the snake would be lazy enough to let me get my way. I knew it would have to happen again eventually. I hadn’t cared a bit about anything else and the money just kept rolling and making the world go my way. Damn you, Victor. How dare you become a man before me now when all is just so very wrong. There was a time when I cared nothing for your life and during some of our interactions, I could have killed you myself. How could you grow into an adult worthy of my respect now, of all times? Damn you.”
“Well then lucky for you, Mr. Gray, I don’t intend on dying today,” Victor said, standing behind him now. Mr. Gray turned to face him and saw the steel in his expression. “If there were ever a time for you to be forthcoming with me, it would be now. I have committed to this plan of yours now almost to its conclusion. I risk my life for it and it extends to those in this house whom I protect. What in the devil are we doing and why?”
“She is why,” Gray said, turning his back to Victor again. His eyes were hard as he looked out the window. “She was a beautiful bride, you know. All dreams and wonder and plans for the family that she wanted nothing more than to raise under a good roof. A change from the poverty we grew up in. A poverty that this city breeds in people such as myself. It starts in the pocket and grows into the spirit. It was supposed to be her way out. Her dream to be a woman who might escape the clutches of being just another beggar or a street cleaner or a scullery maid or a damned whore. His name was nothing to us here in Courtland County. Just another rich man who had interest in local girls. He chose her and she practically begged him to employ me to manage his accounts. It was to be the happily ever after she so dreamed of. One where we both might life in comfort, finally.”
“Your sister,” Victor said, gently. Gray closed his eyes.
“The light of a family that could find no light at all,” he said, darkly. “Father was gone long before she was able to say her first words and mother was worked to death as a house maid. I was barely trained as an accountant and she was barely at the threshold of being a woman when he came here. I hated him the first time I laid eyes on him but she thought for certain that she loved him. To be fair, he might have been a prince and I still would have hated him. He seemed to make her so happy. I understand now what he had done. The lies he told her to defile my only family and leave her in the ground. I should have killed him when I had the chance but I couldn’t rob her of that moment to be happy. How could I deny her? How could I tell her no to a fairytale that she had waited for her whole life?”
“There is no comfort to offer in a story such as this,” Victor sighed. Gray closed his eyes to the world outside. “I assume you know that she was not the first. He has a price on his head in England and France. I should imagine that there are a few more places where he is unwelcome as well.”
“I have discovered such things well after,” Gray said, his vitriol showing but not at Victor. His glare was centred on the world outside. “I could have found the means to see him hanged in London and even moreso in a variety of cities in France. He was busier there, it seems. He could have been dead already and the world could have been wiped of his stain.”
“But you need to feel his blood on your own hands, do you?” Victor asked, turning away.
“And if he succeeds in destroying his current wife in pursuit of your sister, you might well feel the same way, Victor,” Gray said, sharply. Victor watched him, unmoved. “I have waited too long to allow someone else in that line to find their way to him and get their hands on him first. I want this one for myself. For her.”
“And if that is the case, we best get going, my enemy,” Victor replied, gesturing him inside. Gray looked at him with a sudden fury and Victor sighed and gestured again. “Listen, Greyson, I understand the horror of what he’s done. I’ve witnessed it and there are some in my own household who hide from the fiend. I am aware of the cruelty that he has inflicted on your family but understand this in turn: you do not compete with those in Paris or London. If you wish to see your hands stained, you had best hurry because my sister is not like your own. My sister is a viper and she does not fear death or pain. We have wasted too much time already and I know he well enough to know that she grows restless there. If time allows for it, she will rob you of your vengeance herself, even if it means her own death.”