Merciful Vices

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Chapter 15

Kane’s men gathered themselves bloodied and out of breath, the gunfire ceased. Kane listened intently for bells or horses but it seemed his generous donation to the New Orleans police had done its job. He wiped down his guns watching his men, lost in thought when someone calling his name stirred him.

He spun around to see Tara holding Charlotte at gunpoint. Tears streaked Charlotte’s face.

“You think one maid’s life is worth this empire?” He said, impassive.

Tara scoffed, “You two must take me for a fool.”

“Tara, Please. What are you talking about?” Charlotte whimpered.

“I saw the coat, Char. Your lover’s coat. He was wearing it yesterday.”

Kane’s face remained a mask and Charlotte was grateful Tara couldn’t see her own shocked expression.

“I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt, you know? Look at him. He is quite stunning. Who am I to fault you, finding yourself in his bed.” The barrel of the gun dug into Charlotte’s ribs.

“I thought that maybe you were completely ignorant of the history between our families.” Tara’s voice dripped venom as Charlotte had never heard before, she kept her eyes trained on Kane, trying not to cry. The only sign of his own distress was a taut muscle in his neck.

“But here we are. Standing in the blood of my father and my men.” Tara spoke into Charlotte’s ear, “There is not a doubt in my mind that you did this.” She jammed the gun into Charlotte’s side and she screeched in pain.

Kane stepped forward and his men took aim.

“I know you are going to kill me, but I will put a hole in her first.”

Kane signaled for his men to lower their weapons, “Tara. No one is going to shoot you. We can talk this through.”

Tara laughed at that, “Talk?” She gestured around her with the gun, “You don’t think it is just a bit too late for that?”

Kane raised his hands slightly, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Charlotte closed her eyes and braced for a shot that never came. Instead, she felt Tara go limp and collapse behind her. When she looked back Heather stood, bloodied knife in hand, over Tara.

She felt herself sway and Heather’s arms were around her, lowering her gently to the ground. Tara was coughing, blood littering her chin. Charlotte pulled herself to her knees and cradled Tara’s head in her lap.

“You stupid girl.” Charlotte sobbed, “I was going to help you. Kane wasn’t going to hurt you. I would’ve given you my house, you could have had the life you wanted.”

Tara was fading before their eyes, Charlotte tried desperately to stem the bleeding but she knew it was in vain.

Tara put her hand in Charlotte’s, “One more secret?” She whispered and Charlotte nodded leaning in to hear it, “There was no girl in town.”

“What do you mean, Darlin’?”

“There was no girl in town. It was you, but I knew your heart was stretched thin.” Her eyes went from Heather to Kane, who had appeared at Charlotte’s side.

“Oh, Darlin’. I had no idea.”

“She’s gone, Sweetheart.” Heather touched Charlotte’s shoulder. Kane gently laid Tara down and helped Charlotte to her feet.

“Clean this place up.” He called to his men.

“She has to be buried properly,” Charlotte whispered.

Kane nodded, “I will make sure of it. Can you stand?” He left to find his Capos and make arrangements.

Charlotte sat on the stairs by the kitchen door. Heather watched her for a few seconds before sitting beside her.

“I’m sorry. I know you cared about her. I couldn’t let her hurt you.”

“I know. It’s not your fault. She just-” Charlotte’s voice hitched, “She wasn’t made for this.”

Heather pulled Charlotte into her arms. The sobs shook them both, but as suddenly as they came they were gone. Charlotte wiped her face and straightened herself.

“I’m sorry.”

Heather’s smile was sad and soft, “It’s quite alright.”

Kane appeared around the corner, his normal composure lost in exhaustion. His shirt was stained crimson and his tie hung limp.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“You’re not.” Heather stood. “I need to go find Seras. I’ll stick around. Come find me.” She nodded at Charlotte.

“I’m not a man for apologies, Char, but I am sorry. I know you cared for her. I would never do anything to hurt you, intentionally, but the cost of this life has always been blood.”

“I know what I signed up for.”

“That doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting.”

“It’s not the first time. I’ve been losing people I love my whole life.”

He sighed and sat beside her, “This is different.”

“Why? Because it’s my fault?”

“That’s not what I meant, Char.”

She dragged her hands down her face, “I know. I’m sorry. I just meant this was always the plan. I knew that.”

Kane took the infamous grey coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. She was shaking despite herself.

“What do we do now?” Surely this isn’t over. You always said this wouldn’t work.”

“No, but for now they will get the message loud and clear. Hopefully, they will stay away from America, for a while. It will give me time to establish my name over here. If they don’t stay away we will deal with it, Capo.”

“Your men won’t like that.” Charlotte scoffed.

“Probably not. But, I make the rules around here.”

Charlotte laughed half-heartedly, “Can I go inside? I need a minute.”

“Of course, pack your bag. I could take you back to your home, or to your uncle’s place?”

“Actually I’d like to go with you.”

“Uh-” he stammered, “Of course. I would like that.”

Charlotte disappeared inside.

“So it’s you.”

Kane turned to find himself face to face with Heather. Well almost. She stood several inches taller than him.

“Me. What?”

“She said she is seeing someone.”

“I’m not sure if now is the time, Miss Shepherd. But I will say I am very glad that you were here today.”

“I would do anything for her, it seems, even now after everything.”

“As would I.”

“Boss.”

Kane turned to his men, “What?”

“We’re all done here. I think we should clear out.”

“Okay. I will fetch Miss Locke. Get the horses ready. Take the horses from the stable too.”

The men left and Kane turned back to Heather.

“I’d be honored to talk business with you at a later stage, Miss Shepherd. I assume you know where to find me.” He tipped his hat and left to find Charlotte.

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