Flash Fiction Friday -- The Assignment

I decided to get a little creative and get out of my comfort zone and experiment. Here’s a little steampunk short for you. Meet Lila Miller. Corsets, bustles, and stakes, oh my! Enjoy!

The Assignment
© Suzanne Lazear 2008

The night was damp and cool as the thick fog rolled, covering the gas lamp lit streets like a blanket. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. Fog made my work easier, since tonight my prey was human. A troublemaker. A threat.

It was an easy assignment.

Too easy for the likes of me, Lila Miller, close-contact Hunter for the Supernatural Defense League. Vampires were my specialty.

Things did indeed go bump in the night. Us actually. We didn’t defend against those who were Supernatural. Rather the SDL protected our own kind, going to great lengths to keep our secrets.

Like killing humans who made trouble for us.

Or killing one of our own. Even if they were our partner, best friend, and lover.

Perhaps that’s why they’d been sending me on easy assignments. Usually ones that didn’t involve anything other than fact-finding and information gathering. It certainly wasn’t because I was a woman. Obadiah, my boss, knew better.

Once, back when Victor was still alive, Obie asked me how I managed to hunt Vampires in a corset and bustle.

Narrowing my eyes, I twirled my hand-carved stake as I met his gaze, then slid it back in its hiding place right between my breasts. “Very carefully, Obie. Very carefully.”

He never asked again.

Perched on top of a brick building, I only had my thoughts for company. There wasn’t even a gargoyle to talk to.

The cobblestone streets were empty and I heard no echoes of the clop of hooves, the rattle of carriages, or the soft chatter of pedestrians going home after an evening of carousing. Most respectable people were indoors on such an inhospitable evening. Those who were not respectable certainly wouldn’t be in this neighborhood.

But one Christopher Oswald certainly was out and about tonight. Which was why I was waiting in the shadows for his return.

This human had been leaking information about us. Far too accurate information was appearing in the pulps. Granted, the public was not the wiser. Yet. But we couldn’t be too careful.

I was to discover where he was getting this information from, and then deal with him. Next, I would deal with the source.

My skirts rustled as I shifted my weight. Why was I so fidgety this night? I’d had assignments like this many times in my tenure with the SDL. Target arrives at destination. Intercept target. Extract needed information. Kill target. Dispose of body. Report back to Obie, information in hand.

But Victor was always with me.

Victor.

Closing my eyes, I could imagine him beside me. His presence was always comforting. He was the brains, I was the brawn. I was the fire, he was the brimstone. Together we were the top close-contact hunting team in the entire SDL. Other districts called on us for our help. No one could stop us.

Until that night in Paris….

Suddenly a chill overtook me despite the fact that not only was I wearing the many layers fashion dictated for a lady of my station, but that I didn’t get cold.

Victor was my mentor. Protector.

And so much more.

I fumbled for my handkerchief; grateful Obie had yet to assign me a new partner. Lila Miller did not cry. Especially over someone the entire SDL deemed a traitor.

The sound of hooves against cobblestones woke me from my ruminations. My hand went to my bodice, where my stake hid nestled between my breasts. The wonderful thing about corsets was that they gave me enough cleavage to hide things in.

One hardly needed a stake for a mere human, but it was quite the convincing instrument. Not to mention my boots and skirts hid other instruments of convincement and defense.

Hopefully Christopher Oswald would be in that carriage. My belly rumbled with hunger and my back was starting to ache. You’re going soft Lila.

Perhaps I should listen to Obie and take a holiday. Lila Miller does not take holidays…

Now the fine carriage came into view as it gingerly crept through the dense fog and turned onto the street I was overlooking. It stopped in front of the building I perched on. A fine gentleman got out. Mr. Oswald, I presume.

For some reason he reminded me of Victor.

Lately, everyone reminded me of Victor.

The carriage left and I waited until he approached the door. Alone. The street empty.

In a billow of skirts and petticoats I leapt off the roof, landing quietly on the cobblestones directly behind him. The gas laps flickered sending a myriad of shadows across the stones. I was sure in this impenetrable fog he could not see me, even though I was quite close to him.

But he knew I was there.

“Mr. Oswald, I have a few questions for you.”

The fine gentleman had yet to turn around.

“I have been expecting you, Lila Miller.”

His voice was rich and thick, like treacle. It matched his fine tailored suit and dapper silver walking stick.

It also sent shivers down my spine.

“Who are you?” My voice did not quiver.

He did not answer. Instead, he withdrew a ring of keys from his coat pocket and went to unlock the door.

“Do not proceed, Mr. Oswald. I have a few questions for you first.”

I could not let him in the house. It would complicate things and I had no partner to help me.

He did not listen.

“Mr. Oswald, please turn around.”

Alas, he did not.

You have been duly warned.

In a flurry of taffeta I flew at him, tackling him to the cold, hard ground. Retrieving the stake from the warmth of my bosom, I held it to his throat. It could kill a human. Easily.

Then I got a good look at his face.

The stake fell from my gloved hand.

“Victor?”

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