Part 2: Madame Mercy
The brothel was disturbingly quiet this time of night, and she felt a hint of dread in the pit of her stomach. The man she'd seen out on the street was an assassin, and yet, so much more. She’d seen one of his kind once before, and it was enough to strike fear in her.
Before father had learned of her existence, she had been raised as one of the black ladies of the night, training under Madame Mercy.
While Claire had been sculpted under the Madame’s tutelage, she'd spent the last seven years under her father's wing. He was a kind man, and the time she spent learning the many skills and intricacies of his craft had softened her. Fighting, the arts and skills of combat had been, for the most part, in her past. While against any ordinary man she was confident, this was no ordinary man that pursued them now.
The flicker of a lamp caused the shadows to dance across the wall, and brought her out of her reverie. The brothel was well lit, being one of the finer houses of the district and outfitted with modern fixtures and piped in gas. She noted the doors, counting to the fifth one that was Madame Mercy's office. With a calculated tap at the door, she stood outside and waited. It had been a long while since she’d knocked on that door.
"Claire?" Called a voice from within. Claire smiled, the woman hadn’t forgotten her. Mother Mercy was how she'd known the woman most her life, and was a close to a mother as she'd ever known.
“Yes, Madame. I need your help.”
"Come on in, love." The aging Madame called back. Claire turned the knob and took the boy by the arm. Once inside, she shut the door firmly behind them.
"I'm so sorry, Madame, to disturb you at this late hour...”
The Madame, a tall, regal woman, laughed lightly. "Disturbing us this time of night?” She shook her head. “You haven’t been gone long enough to forget what it is we do here.”
Claire smiled. “Of course not, but father and his bloody lessons on how to act a proper lady.” She tapped her temple. “It’s a bit drilled in.”
“I should hope he’s proud. So, what is it that you need?"
"Actually, it’s father. He's been missing." She dug around in her pocket. "And he sent this." She held out the engraved box. “It is the culmination of his life’s work. He said I must get it to the new world where his associates will be waiting.”
"I had realized that your father had gone missing, we were also aware of the..." Mercy paused, choosing her words carefully. "I was also aware the Lieche,” she spat the last word, “had entered the city. I must say, I wasn't surprised to see you tonight. If you hadn’t come to me, I would have sent Leah to find you."
Claire smiled, holding back tears. Having lost her father for all these long months, the acknowledgement that she was still cared for, still mattered, struck a lonesome chord in her.
"I need to get out of the city," Claire explained once she'd composed herself. She didn't dare to meet the older woman's eye, knowing she might betray her over sentimental nature. "And this boy, Samuel, he was caught up in all of this against his will. I have promised to look after him. Can you get us passage on the next airship?"
Mercy's reply was delayed as she considered. "I will do as you ask, for your father, and for you, as a child I raised. Leah will assist you. Until the arrangements have been made, go and rest.”
"Thank you, Madame, I owe you."
The madame only shook her head sadly. "My dear, if you live through this, you we can talk about debts." With that somber note, she pulled the boy to the door.