Here is the latest installment of the Steampunk novella "The Alchemist Files." To catch up with the beginning of the story, click here.
The woman known as Marie Albion put a pot of tea on the stove, then removed her hat and hung it on the rack next to the belt of throwing knives and the black opera cape. Needless to say, her name was not Marie Albion. To most of Europe she was known as Madame Yvina, a talented psychic whose brief but influential reign over the carnivals and salons across the continent ended five years ago when she disappeared. In America, she was known for a few years by the pseudonym of Ginger Ginnie when she sailed with the crew of the pirate airship “Emelia’s Revenge.” And in South America they called her “Cuchillo Rojo,” or “Red Knife.” The Agency however, the world’s premium extermination service, called her by the code name of Bergamot, the delicious black tea that is fatal in large doses. To her roommate and fellow assassin, she was simply Sybil.
This roommate was Viviette Bellerose, called Evonne LaCroix and known by the Agency codename of Belladonna, who was indeed half Turkish and half French. The women had met in training at the agency five years previously and had been paired as a team at their graduation two years later. Since then, the duo had traveled across Europe and Asia, carrying out the hits assigned them by the Agency. Together, they were the best assassin in the world.
As Sybil knew, the office of Henton Clode had been monitoring herself and Viviette for the past three years, ever since they were suspected in the assassination of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. However, the office had no photos of the women and only worked on the scant suspicions of their whereabouts. There were a few sketches of Belladonna and Bergamot in existence, but they were not particularly accurate. Besides, there are plenty of red haired and dark haired women in the world, and Sybil and Viviette were not particularly distinctive. But Sybil hoped that Mr. Templar might recognize her from the sketches.
Viviette was missing. She had disappeared from her hotel room in Barcelona three weeks before, as Sybil had told Mr. Templar. She was there on a job to get rid of a visiting diplomat, but was taken before she could complete her mission. The rest of the story Sybil had told Mr. Templar was true. And she was worried. Viviette was as smart and strong as they come, but if she had been unable to overpower her kidnappers, Sybil held little hope. She hoped Mr. Templar would see through the ruse of their fake names and realize that the woman he had spoken to was the infamous Bergamot. Then he would naturally begin looking for Belladonna (capturing one assassin without the other would be fairly pointless) and with all of the Ministry’s resources at his back, he might have a better chance of finding Viviette then Sybil did. This would of course mean that they would have to leave the little apartment in Paris and make new false lives for themselves elsewhere, but if giving up their whereabouts to the Ministry could help Sybil find Viviette, then it was an acceptable sacrifice.
As the tea boiled, Sybil inspected (again) the lone clue she had found in Viviette’s hotel room. It was a hypodermic needle she had found kicked under the bed. It still held trace amounts of anesthetic, and she guessed that there had been enough to render Viviette unconscious within a minute, giving her little chance against her kidnappers. The syringe had the initials BLA stamped on it. She had searched the public records for all companies with these initials but had come up with only one promising match: Bonham & Laroche Alchemists, a medical supply company based out of Paris. She had done a little digging. B &L Alchemists was partially owned by the estate of the late Charles Bonham, former head of the Ministry. It was currently run by Achilles Laroche II, son of the company’s co-founder and a wealthy industrialist with fingers in the coffers of Europe’s wealthiest countries. (Sybil knew Monsieur Laroche. She had assassinated his cousin the year before.) The company was not particularly large, and tomorrow Sybil would go to the Paris office and inquire about their hypodermics. Then she would have to pack up her belongings and vacate the apartment before Mr. Templar realized who she was. And then, of course, she would go find Viviette.
Stay tuned for Part 4!
The Lonely Alchemist