The world seemed to be erased before that very moment and Charlotte found herself behind the wheel of a car somewhere that felt like it was far away from the house. She felt the stains of makeup trails left on her cheeks and knew that she’d shamed herself with such insipid emotion that she dared not think of. The car was parked somewhere that she did not recognize and she was not hurt so it was only proper to make sure that she did not look like half the mess that she felt she had become. Oh this was just perfect. She pulled the rear view mirror over to see the dreadfulness of her eye makeup smeared and caked under her eyes where it ought not to be. Utterly disgraceful! She would be humiliated if there were an audience. She did not remember leaving the house but she was only beyond grateful that she always had the means within her car to fix these unfortunate moments. Still, this was a grade beyond what she might normally call unfortunate.

Charlotte rolled down her window and moved with almost a mechanical clumsiness that was not like herself at all. She was disturbed that this incident had managed to shake her so badly but thankfully she knew that she could still recover. She pulled open the glove compartment and found her pressed powder. Immediately she felt better with the small compact in her hand, knowing that all this mess might yet be made right again. Patting her face gently with a light dusting, already the trails were becoming less prominent. Her breath settled and face being restored back to its former perfection, she was now able to think properly about the task at hand.

She knew somewhere in the back of her mind that Caroline was to blame for this but as she quietly dabbed at her face with the precious powder, she needed to focus. It was that damned letter. Charlotte had seen the writing and she knew who it was, that slithering fool. That gutless lecher from their past. Charlotte hadn’t been prepared for that revelation at all and found herself at the mercy of damnable emotions after that moment. In her moment of weakness, she remembered now with agonizing embarrassment, she’d dropped the stupid thing and left it to rot in the grass. By now Victor would know of this for certain. Caroline, that wretch, had been meaning to send the cursed thing to him. It was addressed to him. Surely, she must know where it came from. Perhaps the fool was in league with the brute himself but somehow, Charlotte could not believe such a thing. Since when did Roche ever have the patience for one so clumsy and stupid as their sister? Half sister, she corrected herself as she dabbed extra powder on her nose.

Still, this must be wrong somehow. Charlotte well remembered her last encounter with that man. The last time he would lay a finger on her, the villainous liar. He had promised her all manner of things back when she was younger. Too foolish to know what kind of snake she was contending with. He was one of the first to teach her the depth of man’s deceitful behavior. Ah Maurice was such a character. So benign when he wanted to be but a viper’s temper when he thought he was owed something. Of course, he was also the first to awaken within her that potential for problem solving that might have otherwise left her feeling trapped and helpless in the first joke of a marriage. Perhaps he was useful for something after all. It had been quite the mess to clean up after, she remembered. On most occasions, Charlotte was loathe to convince herself to perform the more tedious tasks associated with what she might call cleaning out her life. So messy and it had ruined more than its share of good gloves until she learned that the chemist was easily the best remedy for anything that needed cleaning out. Maurice Roche, on the other hand, was well worth getting her hands dirty. His temper had proven entirely too taxing for her and his greed had exceeded even her own. It had been one of the few times that she could say that it was satisfying to have to do her little chores. She still thought of those dark stains on those formerly white dinner gloves. It had been something of a favor really. The world was owed something for his treachery and she was simply doing what needed to be done. The fact that it was so gratifying was simply a perk.

He had to be dead. Charlotte had made certain of it before she’d left France. He’d come back there begging, the filthy pig, then tried to change the story after she’d heard it. She snapped her compact closed bitterly at the memory of how he’d tricked her. How he’d promised such things. How he’s failed at that and instead simply took from her. That he’d created what would be his undoing was reward unto itself. At least until now. How did that damnable Caroline find him? How did she find that letter? It could not have been new and yet it spoke of Victor in his new home. Surely she could not have been mistaken. Could not have left him to rot only to find out that the deed was not finished. And what of the flowery words that he spoke of her? Oh she could just hear him speaking now. Scarred and mangled as he was, Roche would not spare her should he catch her. Thankfully the damage must have left him as an invalid because she could not imagine that he might have been able to recover from her handiwork with the ax, clumsy as it might have been. Running was at least still an option but she did not run. No, that was not the way. Not how her mother would have done it either. She would meet her foe head on and soon enough. She would finish the job if it was needing to be finished.

First, however, there was still the matter of little Miss Caroline and her involvement with the man, should it really be him. If Roche or anyone close to him was involved, that inheritance was likely already squandered and Charlotte could not afford that right now. Still, the letter had intimate knowledge of their family. Of her and Victor both. Had he survived, could he be milking their gullible sibling for information? Of course, Caroline, for the moment anyway, wasn’t aware that Charlotte knew where she was. This left her at an advantage right now but this would also have people in England and France talking if Maurice Roche were still alive. And if he was, there was the issue of how to keep him from the inheritance. There was the additional boon that the sole heir was living far away from the people who might do him the most harm. Coupled with her brother’s tendencies to keep to himself and his own small army of associates, he was not as vulnerable as he would be elsewhere. The inheritance would still go to him as per the will should their joke of a father turn up dead after all. She assumed not, however. She hadn’t left him in that bad a state yet and frankly, she wasn’t ready for his suffering to end. Still, this letter seemed to have been written by someone who could know that might not happen. The writer might be bluffing, of course, but there was the irritating wonder if she should change that. It was information that Charlotte was holding on to and she was annoyed to find that someone might have stumbled on her little secret. More chores to be done, she lamented, pulling out the lipstick from the case in the glove compartment.

Now that she’d pulled herself together, it was time to find out where her slaughtering lamb had run off to. It was time to find out what little Miss Caroline was hiding and where she was hiding it. Surely, she was too easy on her last time. Yes, it had been childish in a way, satisfying though it might have also been. Tripping her up and making her fall like they were still just the scamps they’d been when they were growing up. Still her wretched little plaything that might be tormented to shaking rage. Oh how nanny would howl at her and still she would babble ceaselessly in useless furious curses. The juvenile pleasures, however, were spent and it was time to find out what manner of adult offenses the little flea might have figured out how to do. It was clear that she knew how to steal money and she had also dabbled, poorly, in the realm of disguises. Perhaps that last encounter they had when Caroline had lost her precious letter had inspired something in her pathetic half sibling. Perhaps this chase was to become interesting yet.

With the inheritance looming in her mind like a phantom whispering sweet things in her ear, she started up the car and began to drive. The smile came back to her perfectly drawn violently red lips. It gave her teeth the look of that of a grinning wolf as she drove along the road she was on, the wind seeming to be her guide.

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