Victor had waited long into the afternoon, his temper surprisingly quelled. He didn’t know where Charlotte had managed to flee to but he knew this town, even if he was not that interested in partaking in its frivolities. She had limited options and if she was as paranoid as the child had made her seem, he could only imagine that she would seek asylum soon enough. Charlotte had few options for truly destroying the peace as she might in somewhere larger. That wasn’t to say that she wouldn’t have a witch hunt on her tail the second she got here but at least he knew that it would be something that his money could usually sway. Perhaps this was the true source of his calm. He was relegated to a near fatally boring part of the world where there was next to nothing for her to play with and make a terrible mess of. At least he hoped that she hadn’t developed a talent for finding more trouble than was available on the surface. He didn’t know how he would feel once he saw her but he knew that for the time being, he was perfectly at ease though he was fully aware that nothing about this situation was peaceful. Perhaps it was simply a sign of his submission to the madness that had entered his life. The world around him, the one that he had struggled to attain and then lock away from all prying eyes, had been broken open. He knew that now. He knew that he’d allowed himself to sabotage his own efforts when he’d accepted Caroline’s hand of friendship. Had he been led to this by a nostalgic yearning to simply put aside his troubles and his responsibilities? Had the words of her letters been enough to wake within him a sense of compassion he thought long dead? A sense of sentimentality that he swore he would never feel? The damage was done now and the time to allow it to continue had passed as well. Lamenting further would only create new horror. New depths to sink and they would threaten to pull him all the way back to the pond in France where her soiled memory remained.

When the day began to become too dim for him, he retreated into the drawing room and shut himself away from everyone. The heavy drapes had been drawn since yesterday after Charlotte had retired and it made the whole room feel incredibly dark and foreboding. Like he was preparing to mourn something. Perhaps he did but this did not feel like his normal bouts with his cursed memories. Since he could not find the source of his discomfort, he could not readily see the reason to mourn. Opening the drapes, he looked out on the dreary day and felt like the gloom was seeping into his soul. He normally looked upon the town below, their people in there somewhere scurrying about like they had somewhere to be. Victor often wondered what it was to be the type of man who might scurry like that. It was different than he had been used to back in Europe. One either worked his hands to the bone or he spoke in private with friends of influence about matters of finance. Victor had once worked his hands incredibly hard when he left home but soon found the fortune to be made in the influence of his name. The people here had no influence for the most part and they worked but it was a world away from the people that he had known. People who would lounge around and order their children or wife to see to their every comfort while giving nothing of himself. That was not a man. Not the man that Victor would allow himself to become. It was the bloated impression of manhood that saw himself as in league with the old world. The one that could still call on favors from kings if only he had the right connections. Such a man had no regard for the ways of the real world. The one that lived and breathed beyond the borders of their prison household in France. Victor had changed himself if only so that he might escape and though he did not see himself as a man of the world, he at least saw it for what it was. At least, he thought he did. He turned his attention to the horizon and tried to think back to the potential he once saw there.

The sky had become darker early because of the rain. The clouds that crowded out the blue that stretched to the horizon seemed entirely too heavy for their stations. Settling closer to the ground, the fog had come to the edge of the world where the ground met the sky and now there was nothing but a murky blur of the still green fields and the overpowering grey that seemed to seep into everything. It brought to his attention that the colors would soon be changing on the leaves. Already he could see the edges of the ones on his own land beginning to turn. He could feel the change in the air around him. The cold of the wind and the icy touch of the rain. Yes, this season of change had settled upon them all and it was a wonder now, what new changes it would bring. Victor let his eyes settle on the fog and allowed his vision to play tricks on him. If something were to emerge from such thick fog that blanketed the outer edge of town, what might it be? Certainly far enough away that he could watch it in safety for now but what manner of thing might come creeping into their lives here? Courtland county was something of a dead end for all who entered. There was nothing of interest for most people. Even the world’s most vicious bootleggers might find safety here for all that they would never find a community so isolated or disinterested in their activities but they would find it frightfully dull. The few that Victor had met had told him as much and some of his own contacts had wondered very vocally why he would choose to settle somewhere so remote. So very removed from everything. It was this very need to hide where the dead might settle and slumber. It had been perfect for such a wish but here he saw something of this foreboding mist coming forth. What horrors might it bring in the light of day? What manner of storms could he expect? Who would bother coming to such a dull, sleeping town as this to disrupt his loneliness?

Caroline had. She had come here with this wretched quest that she’d laid at his feet no sooner than she’d set a slipper on the foyer tiles. She had brought with her a cloying love that he’d forgotten about. A kind of wishful thinking that had plagued him when he was in the old estate and it was her dreams that had always been so vile to him. She had such a way with words though. She could speak to him as though she knew him even though when upon reflection when he was alone, he’d always know that she had read him wrong. She knew very little about him, even when he lived at home with their parents. She had come to know him even less now, her pleading suddenly incredibly irritating rather than simply distasteful. When she’d first arrived, he’d simply passed it off as nostalgic longing. Yes, a kind of wish to have something kind to hold on to from the chaos that was the past. Maybe his own wishful thinking that might prove he was not alone in the world. Unfortunately there was no evidence of anything to suggest such a thing. With every passing day of her visit, he’d found her more clinging and desperate for his attention. More unpleasantly saccharine than he’d remembered but somewhere under his grief, the memories were there. Waiting to be discovered. Just like the phantoms in the fog that was slowly crawling over the landscape.

Suddenly, Victor felt as though he’d been stung. The realization that he’d come upon was so startling to him that he was pained at its discovery. Pained at his own stupidity. His breath caught when he thought of the way he’d felt when he’d first seen the storm on the horizon. When Caroline had first come and he felt that wicked sensation rising within him. He’d been a fool to ignore it. A fool who had been blinded by grief and the want to rid himself of his loneliness. His mind could not reverse course now. He knew it to be true. He would look at the evidence soon enough but he knew what he would find. He felt sickened with a kind of shame that was only a mask for the rage that was building within him. Tempted as he was to give into his feelings with the kind of reckless anger that he felt barely below the surface, he braced himself instead. This development left no time to feel his resentment and pulsing rage. This did not only affect him and now there was a fire of emotion that was threatening to spread. He knew that he must find Charlotte.

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