Charlotte hurried out of the alley and into the late afternoon daylight, not wishing to be anywhere near the clothes when they were found. That wasn’t to say that she left them as they were, of course. Her clumsy half sibling had all but announced her presence, leaving those pitifully unfashionable garments lying on the ground like used up rags. While it pained her to know that ultimately, she was helping the wretched little fool by pushing the clothing pile behind the garbage bin and even getting a little bit of soiled refuse on it to make it look as though it might simply be some trash that was missed, it was for the greater good. After all, it wasn’t as though she was really assisting her hated target. Caroline would be caught eventually from her own stupidity but if this little act of treachery helped to keep the authorities a few steps behind while Charlotte got her way, then it was really a greater reflection of how much more they needed to train these poor souls who insisted on acting as though they represented the law here. Still, there was only so much that her actions would do to buy her time and it still required that Charlotte take her precious find and make good of it. That ridiculous little trick would only hold off the police for so long and even then, for as much as they might indeed be fools, they also had the power to take away her key to the inheritance that she’d been fighting for all this time. How irritating it would be to lose it to something so stupid as her half sister’s incompetence when it came to murder.

It was so taxing to know that she’d found something that would bring her that much closer to the wretch and not be able to gloat. Victor couldn’t know or he would have the authorities on the simpleton before she could trample the information about the money out of her. Why, it was a strain to keep her smile polite at this point. Otherwise, she might look suspicious herself. As though anyone in this pathetic town had any reason to smile as widely as she did. They were all bound to know such things and as such, her mirth had to be a little more reserved. Pity. It was so very satisfying to know that Caroline would soon be in her clutches. That the money that she so rightfully deserved would soon be hers and she could at long last be shed of this disgustingly boring little town and all its equally dull inhabitants. Charlotte was only hoping that her half sibling had not inherited her father’s way with money or this might soon be an issue.

Not allowing herself to think of this, Charlotte focused on making her way to the car in a round about method to ensure that her follower had indeed gone. With no sign of the gentleman that had been driving Victor’s car in sight, she smiled brightly and let herself get into her own vehicle. Checking her reflection to make sure that she still looked as ravishing as always before she made her way towards one of the finer establishments in this town that could still be called respectable. Well, almost respectable, that is. It wasn’t the squalid nightmare that man had been murdered in, of course. It wasn’t as high end as the hotel that Caroline had been hiding in previously either but then, sadly, her destination for this evening couldn’t be. Not for what she needed today. Charlotte knew the type that ventured there. Old money. The dying breath of men and women who lived in the laurels of when they ruled the world and refused to believe that that world had moved on without them. They cared little about these young gangsters who might try to approach their territory. Of course, they did have little to fear in that regard. Beyond the reach of the law and each of them with a grand supply of wine in the basement. None that might worry that the authorities would be knocking on their door at any time soon. She also knew the type of talk there. The kind of gossip that might be circling. There would be plenty about the state of Lady Kent and even what her husband might be doing in the meantime while she recovered from her frightful accident. If it was an accident at all. Oh it was so tempting to find out more about her brother’s former bride to be but it would not be fruitful for her current pursuits. Caroline was her priority and while the larger upscale hotel was very helpful for finding a wayward aristocrat who might be losing her mind, it was less so for a budding murderess who looked the part of a mad woman who’d now found skid row.

No, for that crowd, there was more of a need to sink in and listen to the complaints that always came with those who had it too good in life. It was accepted as part of the norm to simply be present and therefore sympathetic to the woes of the wealthy and dying. It was dull but ever so useful sometimes. Thankfully, this evening would prove a little more lively. Where she was going, there wouldn’t be any complaints about the dire state of the world but rather the greedy reach of those who looked to make that world a little bit bigger. For this mission, Charlotte knew that a little extra primping was needed. She knew that for the daylight, she could already turn heads and she wasn’t that much older than Victor so she wasn’t past her prime yet. Well, not that anyone here knew how old she really was and they weren’t about to find out either. She pinned her hair so that it stayed perfectly in place. She touched up her eyeliner, making sure that it better reflected the largeness of her eyes. The red of her lips was a venomous scarlet, sure to attract attention even in dimmer settings. And, of course, the powder had left her with a lovely pale glow but there was more rouge needed for the cheeks. Enough to bring out the flirt in her that had snared so many before. She wasn’t interested in the life of a screen siren but getting the attention of one was probably for the better. If nothing else, it would get her a drink and that was the start she needed.

Charlotte was slow to arrive at the place that she’d spotted during an earlier visit to town. A modest hotel that had fewer floors and a large and far less elegant dining room off the lobby. It didn’t spell trouble immediately from the look of its exterior. After all, to anyone who wasn’t in need of a good drink, it might look just like any other new modern building. It wasn’t until she did some snooping and listening in that Charlotte knew that it was a place to go to impress a certain variety of man and that place was in the dining room. According to all she’d heard, it was really the only serviceable part of the building for the rooms were small and barely had any of the comforts that one such as herself would care to have. The large open room off the lobby, however, was filled with chatter at all times of the day and in the evening, there was always entertainment. It was a restaurant, really. Not a fancy one but it was quite a score above the rubbish that passed for a gin joint at the edge of town where that man had been murdered. From the architecture of this building alone, one might assume that it might offer high end dining options, though Charlotte knew better. It was a grand building but not really the opulent spectacle that might attract the clientele that was needed to run it as a classy establishment and certainly no properly trained French chef might venture to waste his talent in such an embarrassment of a place. A perfect haven for the nouveau rich.

Such a kind they were here with their American ways. Just discovering how wild they could live and shuffling off the stale rules of the etiquette the past had set before them. These were the ones who wanted everything and then some and had no shame about it. Charlotte found them completely unsuitable for her needs and it was a shame. They were so utterly exciting to see up close. Greedy little things, they thought they owned the world because of the dollars in their pockets. Of course, that was any rich man but there was a kind of exploitable air about old money that made it so much more satisfying when Charlotte extinguished yet another one. So in love with their own names, they truly thought it might live beyond them. That even in death, they might still get to flicker into the world of the living because of who they were. These new ones who had taken a piece of the world for themselves were never so gauche as to believe that kind of rot. These ones had no names to speak of and as soon as it was established, someone would want it gone. They knew they would die and that their money would not save them but they also knew to grab the world by storm because of it. She appreciated the vivacity of it. The spirit that had long gone dead in the old world. It was thrilling in a way but it was their wanton desires that were too like her own. No, that would never do for her needs. She needed men who were too dead inside to know how to access passion. It was why her brother would never fall victim to a vixen such as herself. Why she needed that damn inheritance and he did not.

With this thought running through her mind, Charlotte allowed herself to make the final adjustments to her hair, making sure that it was perfect. She traced the line of her lips again, making sure that red was the color of sin. The image of her was going to burn on the minds of one of these fools tonight and with any luck, he would give her the information that she needed. Surely, someone might be able to take the place of that fallen peddler that her half sibling had killed. Someone must be supplying a stiff drink to the crazy disgraced woman responsible. Someone in this forsaken room would know who it was. Someone would tell her if she could make him think that he had a shot at a glamour goddess. Getting out of the vehicle and putting her shoulders back, she felt the eyes on her immediately. Putting her dark glasses on, she smiled widely as though she didn’t notice the gawkers nearby. Walking with the strut of one who has nothing to fear, she left a trail of gossip in her wake. She breezed into the establishment as though she’d been expected all this time and took a seat alone at a table, waiting for someone to offer her something. Crossing her long legs, she played idly with the pearls that hung around her neck, her stolen gift from Vivian Kent. She smiled when she wondered if the poor wretched woman noticed them missing yet.

“Woman like you ought not to be sitting alone here,” a voice came to break her thoughts. She smiled when she looked up to see a young man with his hat in his hand. “Wolves around here, miss. They can get pretty nasty.”

“Perhaps you’ll have to educate me, sir,” Charlotte replied, her smile widening.

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