The storm raged over New Orleans, rain pelting relentlessly down upon Kaitlyn as she ran. Every now and then she chanced a look back over her shoulder to check that she was still being followed, finding inevitably that she was.
A flash of lightening turned the world around her to a vibrant monochrome and she clearly saw the outline of the figure, striding purposefully towards her as it gained. The nonchalance of the movement was the most menacing part, as though it had all the time in the world to carry out its intent.
Temporary relief came suddenly as a swell of lively jazz music from a nearby bar announced the exit of a group of people. They stumbled drunkenly out through the stained glass doors and directly into the path of the pursuing figure. Kaitlyn shot a glance back to see them shoving their way through the small crowd, momentarily disorientated. This was her chance. Spying a gap in the buildings ahead, she turned sharply and ran down the side road, thunder and lightening once again splitting the sky above her and sending blind spots racing across her vision.
The gates of the Lafayette Cemetery loomed large above her, their normally imposing gates a welcome site. Safety was near, she could make it.
Gripping the railings, she chanced one last look around to make sure the coast was clear. Spying nobody she climbed, her grip uncertain on the slippery bars. She heaved herself up and over the dip in the middle of the gate and was about to clamber down the inside when another boom of thunder rang out, startling her and causing her to lose her grip. Kaitlyn cried out as she landed hard on her ankle and felt her leg buckle underneath her.
There was no time to waste. Forcing herself to her feet with a hiss of pain, Kaitlyn limped forward, winding through the familiar tombstones and mausoleums, the lightening illuminating her way through the necropolis.
Relief flooded her as she spied the black granite roof of her family’s mausoleum, the name Darkwood chiselled in gold gilt scrollwork above the doorway. The relief turned to ice, however, as she rounded the last corner and saw the figure standing between her and the crypt gate. She choked down a cry of dismay as she cast about her desperately for a hiding place, but it was too late. The figure moved forward and she bolted, trying to turn back the way she came. Her movement was too fast and her ankle betrayed her, sending Kaitlyn crashing to the ground.
Ignoring the taste of blood and dirt in her mouth, she dug her hands into the sodden ground and pulled, clawing desperately to get away as the figure strode towards her, footsteps loud and deliberate even over the sound of the rain. The click of a gun being cocked behind her made her still and she closed her eyes, waiting for the shot.
Suddenly, rapid footsteps approached from somewhere within the curtain of rain and there was the sound of two bodies thudding together. A single, solitary shot rang out, disguised by the thunder, and Kaitlyn flinched before realising it had missed her. She seized her chance and, changing direction began crawling again, dragging herself this time towards the tomb, away from the sounds of a scuffle nearby. Chancing a glance up, she saw the newcomer deliver a blow to the head of her pursuer, knocking them out cold. They left them lying motionless on the floor as they approached Kaitlyn, hauling her to her feet with surprising strength and wrapping an arm around her waist to support her.
“I’ve got you,” a muffled but kindly voice said, masked by a hood and scarf against the cold, driving rain. “Let’s get inside.” Together they half walked-half limped towards the gate of the Darkwood crypt. Kaitlyn steadied herself against the wall as her rescuer opened the wrought iron outer gate before pulling open the inner door that led to the main chamber. The old metal hinges protested loudly as they opened and Kaitlyn, once more supported by her companion, entered.
Kaitlyn was lowered slowly to a stone bench next to a central sarcophagus as her companion pulled out a lighter and set it to some of the many candles within. As light slowly began to fill the chamber, they crouched down next to Katelyn and gently examined her injured ankle.
“It’s not broken, but you have badly sprained it.” Kaitlyn was too busy looking outside at the prone body lying in the mud and the rain, her companion followed her gaze. “He’s alive, he is just unconscious. I will deal with him after.”
Kaitlyn sighed and turned back to the person before her. Reaching out, she pulled down the scarf so that she could see them.
“So there’s no choice then?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.
“I would that there were.” They turned away from her, eyes brimming with tears they were determined not to shed.
“Kara,” Kaitlyn whispered, soft as a lover, causing the other woman to stiffen at the use of her name. “Kara, look at me.” She straightened up and took a step back from Kaitlyn, resolutely not meeting her gaze. Reaching into the inside pocket of her jacket, Kara pulled out two silver knives. She handed one to Kaitlyn, who took it with a resigned sigh.
“By combat?” Kara nodded.
“It is the best way. It is an honourable death, and it does not mean the end.” Kaitlyn looked down at the blade, its cruelly sharp edge glinting in the candlelight.
“Anybody else and I would have half a chance,” Kaitlyn said as Kara helped her to her feet, giving a dry and humourless chuckle. “Make sure my daughter is looked after, would you?” Kaitlyn felt her throat constrict as an image of her little girl swam in her mind. “Josh too, he won’t understand.”
“You have my word, Josh and Adelaide will want for nothing, and he shall never find them.”
“Thank you.” Kaitlyn inhaled deeply as she steeled herself, trying to grip the knife as best as her now-sweating palm would allow. Kara, meanwhile, flicked the knife back and forth in her left hand almost nonchalantly. “Let’s get this over with, then.”
Kara didn’t move, so Kaitlyn attacked first, lunging forward unsteadily. Kara dodged with ease, not even bothering to raise her blade to parry. Kaitlyn tried again with the same result, catching herself from falling against the central sarcophagus.
“Please don’t toy with me,” Kaitlyn snapped, her voice shaking. She struck again and this time Kara caught her arm, twisting it so that she dropped the blade before pulling Kaitlyn in, her back flush to Kara’s chest.
“Do it,” Kaitlyn begged. “Do it.” Kara reached up with the hand holding the blade and caressed Kaitlyn’s cheek. Leaning forward, she kissed the crook of her neck gently.
“Forgive me,” Kara breathed, her voice thick with emotion. Kaitlyn reached back and wound her fingers into Kara’s hair.
“I do.” She braced as Kara’s hand moved, drawing the blade across her throat. There was pain for but a moment, then a strange peace seemed to descend. She felt her knees give as Kara caught her weight, easing her slowly to the ground and cupping her head to comfort her.
Lightening flashed as a single, solitary tear fell from Kara’s left eye, catching the droplet in a thousand different colours.
“How beautiful,” Kaitlyn said as all but the rainbow of watery light began to fade around her.
“Sleep well, brave one,” Kara breathed, her voice wracked with pain as Kaitlyn’s eyes closed for the last time.