The first gasp of true autumn was upon them now and Charlotte felt like its vicious winds were singing just for her bruised and angry soul. She watched the sour yellows and the burnished gold creeping into the leaves, dotting them here and there. The scent coming from the trees as they started to turn was just the beginning of their death. It was a comforting idea for her to think about. A kind of salve to help her deal with the bitter tremors of rage that shook within her when she thought of what Victor had shown her. Not that she allowed it to be seen, of course. Oh she wouldn’t be so gauche as to leave without being presentable. A lady of her standing and reputation, regardless of which reputation she was upholding this time, could not be so banal as to let her attitude spoil her perfectly pinned hair and her flawless lipstick. That was just absurd and spoiled all manner of opportunities. She was a woman who made an impression and if it was the last thing she did, she was going to make sure that impression was her perfect heel mark into the chest of that lying thief whom she called a half sister. It burnt her inside to know that she had managed to fool her. To trick her so wickedly. If it had been anyone but her foolish gnat of a sibling, she might have been impressed. Why, if it had been Vivian Kent, she might have been ready to applaud the wretch for her ingenuity. Instead, the treachery had been committed by one with no sense to maintain it. It was a sin that she could not forgive and it had to be stopped before it could give her a bad name.
As she quietly made the drive down the forest road, steep and uninviting as it was, she thought of how furious she was when she saw those crumpled sheets. Oh how the sight of those papers made her feel like a viper robbed of its prey. She could tell by the marks on them that even her brother had felt a flare of temper at just the sight of them. The poisonous pen had filled him with a sense of rage that would have been delicious to witness, especially if her own was anything to judge by. Victor showed her the stolen letter that she’d so carelessly tossed aside when she’d gone to settle her wicked nerves. He had shown her the other letters too, their crude hand to mimic that of Nanny’s and even father’s. The traces were there and he could tell her where Roche’s own signature was wrong. He’d shown her the evidence as plain as day on the page and she masked it as best as she could but it was humiliating to think that she could have been so foolish. Roche was dead. She’d killed him in a furious rage. A fact, thankfully, that her brother was still unaware of as yet.
Curiously, however, he did know of such things. It was true that their family had known Maurice Roche for a long time prior to his breaking off from them when Victor was still too young to assume most of the household affairs. His familiarity with his writing came as no surprise but the fact that he alluded to how his handwriting looked different from more recent letters was a bit of a surprise. Charlotte hadn’t realized that Maurice had still been involved when Victor began to take hold of some of his household responsibilities at sixteen. Apparently he’d also been privy to the aftermath of when they discovered that they’d been cheated by him. As such, he’d been well versed with his treason and what kind of damage the liar could do. He was also more acquainted with his writing style and letter formats than the liar who wrote that trite was so while the tone was rather alarmingly accurate, the form was far from it. Victor would know such things but Charlotte eased her poor, injured ego with the simple truths that her dear brother hadn’t had to contend with. Roche hadn’t promised Victor grandeur in return for his body. Now, if only he hadn’t held her dignity for ransom and made demands of her that he shouldn’t have, perhaps she might have stayed naive a little longer. It was a time in her life that was regrettable to say the least but thankfully, only Charlotte was privy to that now.
What was interesting, however, was that Victor knew that Roche was dead. More interesting still was that he knew that vile Maurice was murdered and that the remains had been brutalized to the point where the man had been barely distinguishable. It was not necessarily common knowledge that Maurice Roche was killed but there were means to find such things out. Connections that the Fevrier name came in handy for there. Not surprising, really, though why Victor might be looking to find Roche was a matter of intrigue but there were viable enough excuses there too. What might not have been readily accessible to most was the mess that Charlotte had left him in. Now that, for her purposes, was truly a mystery. Where might he have found such details? Their wretched last name might have some perks but it hardly qualified him to be privy to the gory details of what she’d done. There were secrets hidden there and a part of her wished nothing more than to dig into them. Find out what her brother might be hiding and what manner of gold might be turned from such information. Of course, considering her own bloodied hands in the matter, this was unwise at best but there was always her own incurable curiosity. Charlotte worried little about her brother making the connection in any way but there was still a need for at least some discretion for now. Perhaps he hated her but he’d never truly seen her at her worst and the more left to his limited imagination the better. He might know of her devilish deeds but he never actually saw them and that was good enough. Let him wonder about her abilities but he should never be able to guess what horrors she’d done. What she’d been driven to do.
Ironic that one so utterly clueless as her half sibling should inspire such memories. Why, Charlotte had seldomly thought of that night in many years now. How cathartic it had been to see the rage and smug expression on that dullard’s face change to shock and sudden terror as she attacked him. Once he knew that she meant to kill him and he would not escape, he’d struggled so pathetically that it had prompted her into a kind of rage that she had never felt before. She’d been insulted by the brute at the mere thought that he wouldn’t struggle before this. She’d come to see him beg and when he didn’t, she made him pay. Time stopped for that moment and she could only recall the beautiful sound of the instrument in her hand tapping in time with the clock hands as the seconds ticked away. She’d done to the disgusting lecher what her rage compelled her to and for that damnable money, she would easily do the same to Caroline. She’d happily deliver even a fraction of her rage out on that wretch once she saw her face. The real issue now was trying to find her.
Charlotte had been keeping an eye out as of late to see what she could see about town but found, surprisingly, that her wretched sibling was missing. Perhaps she had finally decided to give in to despair but that was so unlike Caroline. Charlotte would not allow the wretch to die without giving her the key to it. She had expended at least as much effort as it might have taken to find a new husband by now and Victor’s charity would run out before long. Besides, if there was anyone who truly deserved it, it was her. Why, her Mama had born her into a family with that despicable last name. It was a gift with a cost, unfortunately. Whomever their real father was, she and Victor could not possibly have profited off him as much as off the Fevrier name. Victor’s own success had been a testimony to that. He’d been able to make a whole new life for himself and wasn’t even the slightest bit marred by their family’s financial standing with their father’s creditors. In fact, the reality that the estate still stood was enough proof that the name still held ground within the old circles. This modern world was not kind to those circles right now and while they loved few things more than their money, the sun was quickly setting upon their glory days. There were few among them who were willing to make enemies when allies were swiftly becoming fewer and more fragile as the years moved on. It was a dying world but one that her beloved mother had seen to it that she could move within. There were others who might manage to claw their way in and means by which that was possible. Of course, it had also allowed her the luxury of her temperament without sending her straight to the gallows. The others in their family had been born of that imbecile but she and Victor were given the chance for more. He had made his money. She should have the only thing that pathetic excuse for a man could offer. He was no father. He should be good for something.