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A Dangerous Con: ‘Temptress’ in Training

  Nicholas was pleased with Beryl’s success and assured her that the next challenge would be more worthy of her obvious talent.  He continued to be charming and flirted during their encounters as she moved into his bordello within the next few days.  

   Wright, Hyde, and Russell repeated visits over the course of the week. Hyde was surprisingly her most stable customer.  He behaved like an angry drunk most of the time, but Mr. Wright and Russell had fallen into opiate fueled depressions.  

  Russell’s injuries and desire to protect Domino from incarceration at the militia or asylum led him to mix his necessary painkillers with alcohol. He functioned but his depression was slowing his recovery and dulling his wits.  He refused to stop drinking, but enjoyed chatting with her and others.  The way he lit up when anyone stopped to talk made it obvious that he was lonely in this new city.

  Wright and her talked during his visits as well, usually about his problems at the asylum, hospital, and with Domino.  The female pirate wanted Wright dead at her feet and his curse was the only thing that kept him alive.  There had also been rogue clockworks attacking the asylum periodically which fell on John as the head of security.  The wolf turned to his old friends, opium and morphine, to deal with the constant stress and attacks from her and other hunters.  Beryl was a convenient provider given her proximity.

   At first she provided the opiates to both in public where the girls and the street toughs could see her do it.  As she suspected it turned out several girls used such methods to keep men coming back for more.  By the time she discovered how the narcotics were affecting them it was too late.  She hoped that they would come to their senses on their own.  For now, in public, her role was that of a temptress luring marks towards earthly delights.  

  It was her encounters with Bookworm that she secretly treasured.  The woman often passed by the Essex Garden on her way to the asylum or militia headquarters.  She would start at Beryl’s newest attire and then stare at her coldly.  That was when the fun would begin.

  She still remembered their first encounter.  Both of their expressions soured and Beryl greeted her roughly with a backhanded ‘Captain.’  The heroine’s eyebrow rose at her rough tone. Diamond and Crystal were surprised as well, though they knew Nicholas detested the woman. ‘Are you here to make more base accusations?  I haven’t done anything wrong.’

  ‘Not today, I think.  But my eye is on you.’  Book replied as she looked about noticing the girls and the street toughs.  ‘I heard there was a break in at the hospital.  Happen to know anything about that?’

 ‘I know there was a break in.  Isn’t investigating your job or are you accusing me?’

 Book took on an exasperated stance, ‘No, but you could have seen something while walking the streets.’  Book pointedly looked at the other girls.  They turned away refusing to say anything.

 ‘We didn’t see anything.  Now can’t you allow a seamstress to work in peace?  Don’t you have bigger problems to deal with?’

  ‘I do.  But a change of pace is always nice, even if only for a little.’  Bookworm said, trying to impart the impression she considered Beryl a minor irritant.  Unfortunately for Book, Beryl had grown accustomed to gossiping with the other girls.

  ‘Oh?  Are you interested in my services Captain?’  The feline moved closer allowing her sour disposition to transform to a flirtatious edge as she tried not to laugh.  ‘I suppose it makes sense now, how you could never leave me alone.  Maybe you’ve had bottled up intentions all this time?’

  ‘Hardly.’  Book replied coldly, which only fueled Beryl’s silent mirth.

  ‘Perhaps we can discuss this another time, when we’re alone.’ Beryl teased coyly as she turned and winked at the heroine.  ‘It can’t be easy dealing with escaped criminals, wounded nurses, and that asylum.  Remember that you can always spend your time with more…pleasurable company.’

  Bookworm shook her head, surprised at how the script had suddenly changed between them.  She wagged her finger at the feline. ‘Keep your nose clean.  I am watching you.’  She walked away sternly but not ending the conversation.  The cat enjoyed tease flirting at her friend while the captain attempted to keep up her angry facade.

  When Beryl finally got her own room in the bordello at the start of drinking month, and discovered the reasoning behind it, she knew that things would change fairly quickly. Nicholas would bring strangers to her room soon, perhaps even tonight, and he had his next challenge waiting in a letter at the end table next to the bed.  

Dear Miss Beryl,
I have to confess I am
really pleased with the result of your first challenge and indeed your work thus far. I could feel you had such potential the first time we met. Rest assured that I shall give you your cut at the end of next week, after you have completed this next task. You will be put into competition with Diamond, who I must say loves a challenge.  The two of you will be fighting over a person I shall personally select and will be competing for his attention.  The winner is the one who he chooses to follow. Diamond is quite fierce when she competes and though she is not my first girl she is in the top group.
Good luck!  
Nicholas.

  Beryl dropped the letter onto the table and sat on the bed.  She reached under her skirt and removed the morphine and other drugs.  At the rate her existing ‘customers’ requested them she would be needing a brief stop at Qismah’s before too long.  That was less worrisome than competition against Diamond for a man that Nicholas would personally select.  He had gotten imaginative this time.  

  If she wanted to get his trust and perhaps an invitation into the house next door she would need to win this competition too.  She had scoped out the house that was likely his office and noted barred windows and heavy curtains hiding what lay within.  It could be Nicholas’s office or the home of some elderly gentleman and she did not want to ask too many suspicious questions.  Her brash friends would offer to break in, but that was the fastest way to put the murderer on guard.  Instead, she implied the office was located in her own building.

  She considered the situation calmly as she laid down on the red and black comforter and examined the room.  Like the rest of the house there was suggestive art covering the red wallpapered walls. There was a empty wardrobe to fill, and some interesting ‘toys’ which Nicholas had provided.  Nothing that was giving her any ideas.  She needed help but which friend could she turn to this time? 

  What would Lynn do?  The feline wondered to herself, and the answer seemed almost obvious now.  She didn’t have to turn to a friend.  She had to turn to the person who could get her what she needed.  Grinning inwardly she left the room to collect her clothes, and to pay a visit to Phaedra Bryne.

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