According To Plan
By the tender age of seventeen, Susanna Weisman had already been engaged. It was the result of her father's very strenuous business transactions on her behalf.
Her lover's name had been Thomas Vandom, now he hadn't been her first love interest, and by all means he wouldn't be her last, but at that time, fully possessed by the naïveté of a love-struck teenager, she had willingly and happily professed her eternal affection towards him.
Of course, the fact that he was the sole heir to a very lucrative fabric fortune had helped to aid the complicated journey of love along as well.
By the second week of marriage she had sworn she would never even entertain any thoughts of another, so great was the love for her husband…of course that was before he took ill with Scarlet Fever.
Fearing for her life itself, Susanna Vandom took an unexpected holiday in which she planned to visit her fourth cousins who resided two hundred miles away. It was a wonderful trip, she had attended three balls and thirteen tea parties, however sometime between the second ball and after the twelfth party, the message arrived that her husband had passed away.
There are not words to describe the woe one feels at the loss of a spouse (especially one who was the sole heir to a very lucrative fabric fortune), in fact as many of those attending either the thirteenth tea party or the third ball could have told you, Susanna had sworn, despite being a mere eighteen years old, that she would remain a widow for the rest of her days.
She had declared herself quite overcome with grief, and she even threatened the romantic notion of suicide at dinner time to her father. Who had then worked feverishly to arrange another suitor, to ease the pain of these difficult times…this occasion it was a man known solely as Mr. Hale.
Mr. Hale had been twenty two years Susanna's senior, and had suffered from a recurrent case of gout. Truly, the fact that he seemed to have no Christian name did nothing to deter Susanna's growing affection towards this man (who owned more property in Britain that the Queen herself), and so, adorned in a silk gown of the purest whites Susanna had married Mr. Hale, a mere two months after the death of Thomas.
By the time of their hurried marriage she was well aware of her pregnancy, however when the baby girl had been born, she had managed to convince Mr. Hale that despite the child's hearty size (ten pounds and three ounces) that she was obviously premature.
They named the first Wilhelmina, after Mr. Hale's great aunt who, unlike him, had a first name. Although it is pleasurable to note that it was heavily suggested that Mr. Hale's father, a noted drunkard and pouf had named his son Carol since his mother, the original Carol had died giving birth to him.
Whatever the origin of his first name—Susanna was pregnant again in three months. Another girl was born within a year of the first and christened Cornelia and a beauty.
Although by now the stirrings of disaster had already begun. Wilhelmina, to everyone's shock had developed red hair…almost identical red hair mind you, to the recently deceased Thomas Vandom.
Now, Mr. Hale had never been a very intelligent man, in fact most of his days had been dedicated to discovering new pubs and women, and of course medication for his gout (now in its advanced stages). But upon hiring someone to research the Hale family history, he found that red hair had never been held by the Hale's, save for the mysterious thrice removed fifth cousin on his mother's side.
Mr. Hale was outraged. And he immediately made plans to divorce his wife and leave his new daughter(s). He went through with his threats leaving a suspiciously calm Susanna to note that she was quite grateful that he had taken the revolting scent of rotten cabbages (prescribed for the gout) with him.
The scandal of Mrs. Vandom-Hale had now become a very interesting talking point in the many tea houses and taverns. She was so overcome with the shame of these proceedings that she had arranged for a voyage to America, where she planned to make a fresh start (although still in the company of her first husband's vast fortune).
She had managed to keep her vow of celibacy for at least another two years, after that, she had spent a great deal of time convincing the very charming Mr. Joseph Lair that the two children in her company were her younger siblings.
He hadn't believed her, for the rumors of her indiscretions had arrived in Virginia long before she had. But she was a very beautiful lady, and his family was in dept, so he had wedded her.
Ignorant to Joseph's ulterior motives, Susanna had thought him a very noble man to marry her despite the public's disdain at the nuptials. It was only after the birth of their first child (her third), that the twenty one year old had discovered the truth.
He was using her!
She was heartbroken—but full of vengeance. She had made the expedition to the old Mexican obeah woman. And had paid, in full, for a curse to make Joseph's eyes fall out and then for him to be trampled by a horse or some such massive beast.
Instead, Joseph was attacked by bees and died of stings two days later, but since she hadn't paid for bees, Susanna felt no guilt at his demise.
She avoided men like the black plague now. Instead focusing on hiring nannies to mind her three daughters, yes daughters, for she could no longer convince anyone of any other form of relation.
Some years later when Wilhelmina and Cornelia were both seventeen and Irma a fresh fifteen; she found, love, or something close to it…again.
This time the suitor was a Count Phobos, who had originated from somewhere in Greece. He was gorgeous, with his long, flowing, fair colored hair and piercing blue gaze. He was a difficult puzzle, and even though he was closer in age to Wilhelmina than to her, she attacked the man, and soon had him in her possession as a fourth husband.
Phobos was a mystery; that much was certain, he spoke little and was constantly away for lengthy periods of time, whenever he was at home, he was in the company of another gentleman, whose name was unknown.
At nights he was unbearable, he would yell hysterically in his sleep, and then wander about the house solemnly, like a ghost.
Susanna was either unaware, or didn't care. But, her children all suspected that it was the latter.
It is here, that our story begins.
The symphony of a scream reverberated throughout the hallways, disrupting the chastity of the perfect summer's night. The muffled sounds of running feet followed, as a handful of servants and sisters rushed towards the offending noisemaker.
The dancing glow of a candle moved with these messengers, it illuminated the winding hallway, the dead eyes of family members strapped for all eternity upon the white washed walls and finally the blanched face of a terrified mother.
"What's wrong?" night cap askew, her night dress rumpled, Susanna Vandom looked perfectly dissimilar from where she stood panting between her daughter's doorway.
The candlelight flickered, and then moved; now it coated the face of a younger girl—the culprit. "Oh mother!" Cornelia's face was the ideal picture of terror. Her large ice blue eyes appeared marvelously out of place on her face, especially when contrasted with her ruffled golden hair.
"What's going on?" a third voice traveled over the hushed whispers of the servants, as they undoubtedly spread their own varied events of what was transpiring.
"Mother," Cornelia gasped, reclaiming their attentions, "A man—I just saw a man at my doorway."
"Cornelia," the holder of the last voice moved her way through the crowd, "You were dreaming."
"Irma, I wasn't!" the older girl snapped; her hand clutched the front of her nightgown in a truly theatrical fashion. "I know what I saw—he was staring at me…Mother, I swear to you…"
"Now, now Cornelia," Susanna's voice faltered, a slow lingering coldness ran along her spine. "Don't swear…I'll have the men search the grounds." Her face bore a worried expression; her eyes however, remained frozen.
"What about Will?" Irma spoke from her mother's side. "She's outside in that house by herself…"
"There will be no need to search Susanna." Cornelia screeched at the sound, causing the entire party congregated at her door to startle.
Dozens of eyes turned towards the source of the rasp, not to be disappointed. The flame faltered, and then surrendered to advances of the cold night air.
The Count Phobos, barely visible in the passing moonlight stood, quite heedlessly at the center of the hall.
"Oh Phobos," Susanna gasped, "Well, it's only you—" Her features softened, although her amethyst eyes remained unbreakable.
"I was just returning home, from my—journey and I suppose I just mistook Cornelia's room for my own, my apologies for awaking everyone."
His stance was so casual, and his words so slick and convincing, that truly, no one there that night entertained the thought of not trusting him. So, with several groans, and a few hurried 'good nights' the staff made to disperse, their slippered feet slapping at the hardwood floors as they left.
Cornelia looked immensely relieved, and had joined her younger sister in the dark corridor. "Thank goodness—I have read in the papers about a madman who has been on a rampage in Jamestown."
"I assure you Cornelia," Phobos breathed, the motion caused a lock of silver blonde hair to dance across his forehead, and both sisters' hearts to flutter. "I am no madman."
Cornelia giggled, while Irma sighed…how this man had married their mother, they would never know.
Susanna's face tightened when she noticed her daughter's behavior. "All right now, that's enough excitement." she clasped her hands in front of her. "Off to bed."
"I still don't think that Will should be alone out there—" Irma hadn't moved, instead she mimicked a threatening pose aimed towards her mother.
"Do you want the measles…you want to have all your hair chopped off, well then go right ahead and sleep outside with Will!" Cornelia retaliated ruthlessly, for her hair was a magnificent treasure in her mind.
"She is not alone Irma," Susanna began "Jeffery is with her; now off to bed, you can send word to your sister in the morning."
Irma didn't pursue the topic; her own honey locks were also far too valuable to even think of contracting the dreaded measles.
She too slinked through the haunting darkness towards her own bedroom, after which Cornelia closed the door to her chamber.
Outside, embodied in total darkness, Susanna allowed her anger to become exposed. "What do you want with her?" she hissed, her voice was low, steady, but still menacing.
"Nothing of course—nothing." Phobos smirked, but then his jaw trembled and a hallow laugh exploded.
"I want you out—tonight, I want you gone." her voice was terribly close to breaking, but she held fast, willing herself to keep the façade secure.
"Now, now," the man whispered, drawing a delicate hand forward so that he could brush her delicate face. "Let us not become hasty here…"
"If you think that I don't know what you're doing—I can't live like this anymore…go now, go quietly, and I won't alert the authorities."
Phobos frowned, the taste of annoyance rose into the air. "It was never my assumption that you didn't know…I simply assumed that you cared far too much for you precious daughters and you life to utter a word of it to me…I see that I was wrong."
The same chill slid down her back once more, like the fingers of death she thought. The hair at the base of her neck stood on end, and her breath caught in her lungs. But she couldn't let the weakness show; she had to protect her family, her children.
"Go," she pressed. "You can't murder everyone in this house—leave now, or I swear that I'll scream."
"Hypocrite…" he smiled. "Although madam, it would benefit you not to underestimate me" he stepped closer to her, she turned her face away. "But I will obey my dear, despite the constant accompaniment of your luscious daughters—this place tires me, so I shall be off."
He moved away suddenly, and her breath left her lungs in a sudden, dry gasp. The last she ever saw of him was the darkness engulfing his lanky physique.
News of Count Phobos' sudden departure spread like a thriving fire. All of Heatherfield was engulfed by the flames of gossip.
Although, truthfully, none were too surprised, in fact there was a very heated bet in progress at the local pub on exactly how long the relationship would last. A Luke Crook took away the massive sum of two hundred dollars for the clever bet of five months.
Susanna made a great show all through it. The next day she appeared absolutely distraught, donning an exquisite black silk mourning dress when she arrived at the constable's office in town in order to report her husband's disappearance.
She had left soon after; her lovely cheeks tinged with the color of outrage when the constable had suggested that perhaps the Count had just been trying to escape her scandalous name.
And so she had returned home, silently cursing all men to oblivion; careful, of course to remain protected in her wall of mock indignation.
Her two (healthy) daughters were of course very supportive, although when she hadn't been looking they threw pining glances at Phobos' empty closets and vanities.
After a fortnight, Susanna had become utterly bored with feigning distress and the drab black dresses, so she began to plan, what in her mind were the joyous weddings of her daughters. (This being because she was now too old to be considered anything but matronly).
To her delight, the first suitor was found quite rapidly. The Baron Olsen's son, a magnificent lad, she had heard, who had just returned from studying Law in England, had a keen eye on marrying into the family.
Since choices were limited at best, due to the constant eruption of scandal of course, Susanna had been overjoyed.
Things were following her plans perfectly.
The attar of cigars mingled with a hint of whiskey swamped his scenes. From his uncomfortable post, lounged against the hard leather his dining chair, Caleb could only groan with his dissatisfaction of being forced to be here.
The place, despite being visited by some of Virginia's wealthier population, carried the unmistakable feelings of a second rate brothel. From the corner of his eye he could see a scantily clad doxy, her aged face embellished with rouges and powders, whispering to the others like her as she prepared to make her way to his secluded corner.
He shifted in his seat, preparing to leave this place…meeting or not. He was willing to bear the blunt of Taranee's anger if it meant that he would be free from this wench's company.
He was spared the decision when he was joined by his leader herself. She threw the nearing woman a ferocious glare, and thankfully, the other woman pursed her lips and turned away to the laughter of her friends.
"You're late." he muttered to his companion, who smirked widely beneath the darkness provided by the wide brim of her hat before pulling two unused chairs from the neighbor's table.
"I didn't realize that you would need my protection…" she specified with her head the woman, who seemed to have recovered from the initial rejection as she had now focused her attentions on a very reluctant looking youth.
Caleb felt his face warm, but decided to ignore this topic before Taranee could give it a chance to blossom. "Where's Dublin?" he stated.
"Outside." the darker girl rearranged her hat, a needed precaution so that the weary looking members of the pub wouldn't recognize her womanly…charms.
"He's coming." she added with a glance towards the door.
Edward Dublin was a large man, indeed when he entered the doorway his immense bulk took up most of the frame. He possessed lank blonde hair, which was constantly plastered onto his round face by sweat. He caught Taranee's glance almost immediately and moved towards them, forcing those in his path to nosily rearrange themselves.
The corner that Caleb had chosen mainly for its secluded nature now became the center of attention in the tavern, what with the appearance of a very dark, very feminine looking youth and the town's Constable. In fact, after noting Dublin's presence several men and women had scampered home.
Dublin wasted no time in mentioning the stares that they were all receiving; instead he dove right into the reason for his meeting.
"I trust that you both know of the murders." he stated.
Taranee nodded, but did not answer, Caleb followed her lead.
"Fifteen women dead, four missing, all in the last seven months…" he paused to expel a heavy gasp of breath. "Absolutely horrible…it's a small town you know, we all just want a safe home for our children…" he trailed off.
Caleb watched Taranee for her reaction…none came.
"What does this have to do with us?" she muttered after a long silence.
Dublin cleared his throat and replaced his handkerchief. "I need your help…your capture of that maniac in Boston is renown…and of course that bastard in South Carolina…"
"Of course…we aren't cheap." Taranee met Dublin's gaze, and for a moment he seemed shocked to see such cold indifference in the eyes of any woman. But it was ephemeral.
"Name your price…" he muttered, "I'll do whatever it takes."
The glossy light of a nearby lantern only highlighted the smile on Taranee's face. She extended a fragile looking hand to Dublin, which he readily accepted; "Then you have yourself an agreement Mr. Dublin"
Caleb shook his head at Taranee's nonchalance; it still chilled him although he had been witness to it for almost three years now.
"Any suspects?" she murmured, catching Caleb's gaze and wordlessly demanding the he pay attention.
"Actually…yes," Dublin swallowed, Taranee suspected for dramatic effect. "There is one…a gentleman by the name of Phobos—"
"Phobos?" Taranee scoffed. "Is that his alias?"
Dublin threw the woman a surprised glance; he wouldn't have suspected that someone could find any sort of humor in such a situation.
"No…" he recovered. "That's his actual name…he's from Greece or Europe…" his words died and he became lost in thought.
Caleb was fast becoming aggravated with this man…if he was the head of the law enforcement, then it was no real wonder that this Phobos character was still happily murdering to his heart's content.
"Well, what does he look like?" Caleb pressed; Dublin looked up, seemingly stunned to find another person in his presence.
"Actually…" Taranee recaptured Dublin's attentions. "What sort of murders are these…"
"Horrible," Dublin's face blanched. "These women are beaten…tortured…raped" he seemed on the verge of tears and Taranee, to avoid an upset repeated Caleb's question.
"Tall…blonde," his thick jaw wobbled curiously as he went on. "His hair…I remember was incredibly long…but his appearance does not matter." he concluded.
Caleb felt his patience desert him.
Dublin continued without being prodded. "We have already arranged a plan that we believe suitable…"
"Mr. Dublin, my men and I usually come up with our own devices—now if you could continue with the description." Taranee put in.
"I appreciate that Miss, but you need to understand just how much this means for those of us involved here…such a small town."
At the over exaggerated sound of worry that lay beneath his words, even Taranee remained silent.
"Phobos was married when he was here—I believe that the family knows much more than they are letting on, and that is where you would come in."
Caleb's ears pricked up at this new turn in conversation.
"I don't follow Mr. Dublin…" said Taranee.
"His wife…the Countess Susanna Vandom Ha—she's preparing to marry off her daughters…well the oldest one, I'd suspect."
"I still don't understand…"
"Well perhaps if you would allow me to finish," he allowed his suggestion to hang in the air, stagnant and harsh.
Taranee bowed her head.
"She's already found a suitor, the son of the English Baron Olsen…we have arranged with the Baron…a switch of sorts," he paused to gasp for a breath.
"You want me to give you one of my men…" she contorted her face into the shallowest of smiles. "Very clever Dublin."
"The woman completely refuses to talk to the authorities…she says we didn't give her any attention when he left her…" he shook his head. "Well, I believe that if we had someone there to infiltrate the house—gather whatever knowledge that they could…"
"Why can't one of your men do it?" Taranee challenged. She seemed rather insulted by the idea that one of her troop would be lowered to mere spying.
"The Countess already knows all of the men on our force—it is a very small town." he drawled.
"It's an arranged marriage then…" Taranee paused, thinking about that unfortunate girl whose life had been forced out of her hands.
"Well, Mr. Dublin…if that is what you want." she stood, glad to be away from the hardened torture of that leather backed chair. "I'll give you one of my men to do what you wish with…the rest of us will begin the search for this Phobos fellow, now—"
"Where is he?" Dublin interrupted.
"Where is who?" Taranee hissed through clenched teeth.
"The man you're providing…we need to have him tonight, the Countess expects him tomorrow."
Taranee's face fell in outrage. "And you tell me this now…when I have no time to prepare one of the younger boys—"
"What about him?" Dublin pointed at Caleb, who jumped the suddenness of his inclusion in this discussion.
"No!" Taranee challenged. "He can't go…he is my second in command!"
Several people turned to re-focus their attention towards the suspicious table that lay shrouded in darkness, and to the array of people crowded about it.
"Taranee, it's all right, I'll go…" Taranee was livid, and Caleb tried to quietly calm her.
"This is outrageous!" she continued, ignorant to Caleb's words.
"How long would it take…a few weeks—even you always say how much women love to talk."
The impact of her partner's words finally struck her. They stung. "You forget that I am a woman!"
Several gasps and murmurs followed this confession, but still Taranee went on. "I won't allow it—Mr. Dublin, I apologize, but I cannot accept your terms, the arrangement is off—good luck." she pushed her chair aside, and designated that Caleb follow her out.
Dublin's fat hand grabbed her arm; the grip he possessed was gentle for such a massive man.
"Please…it's that…my daughter has gone missing…she's been gone for two weeks now—if that bastard has her then…please, she's just fifteen."
The fury melted from Taranee's face. "Fifteen, you say…" it was only a whisper, but it was enough for both Dublin and Caleb to realize her decision.
He would go.
Author: Well, there it is. Do you like it? If you don't, that's tough since I've already got chapters 12 and 13 written down and am now in the process of writing chapter 20. And no I have no intentions of writing this in order.
Dedicated: To all the Will x Caleb shippers who have gradually converted me into their cult…err, club.
Disclaimer: I disclaim
Edit: Thanks for mentioning the comma mistakes—English was never my strongest subject. I think that it's fixed now.
WARNING: This is an AU piece of fiction. This means that there will be no guardians, no Heart etc. And characters will behave a bit—differently, for example, Taranee. I have taken the main characters and chucked them deep into my complicated mass of plots. Although I did try to keep the character's basic traits, although Taranee is just Taranee if she were a bit more BAD ASS.
The story is set in 1856. That'll be mentioned in the next chapter, and for those of you wondering, in the olden days it was a popular belief that cutting your hair, was a cure for measles.
The reason for my doing this is after a series of complaints where several people complained that all WillxCaleb fiction had the exact same plot. I was outraged, so I did this. You have to admit, I have one hell of an imagination to my credit.
Enjoy yourselves! And reviews always make my day. hint hint