DINNER WITH THE DEVIL

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1922

"Two women were found dead last week," Clara said.

Clara hopped lightly from one foot to the other so her toes would stay warm. Snow covered the ground, while more fell lazily from the sky in the form of large snowflakes. This could have been a romantic winter's eve if she were not busy working.

A couple passed by on the opposite side of the street. While the gentleman paid her little heed, the well-dressed flapper at his side leered at her. Even from that distance, the tattoo on Clara's leg was visible and around here that was a symbol for women who were from the wrong side of the tracks.

Clara had been working this particular corner for the past three weeks. In that time, there had been eight deaths involving prostitutes. All of them had been killed without a single witness coming forward. In itself, that was odd since the deaths all occurred in heavily trafficked areas.

The city had done its best to keep things under wrap, namely by clamping down on the prostitutes. The local intelligencia also kept it out of the news, even that nagging tidbit about the women being drained of blood. Worse still, their fates did not lend any sympathy from the constabulary; around here an impure lifestyle meant they deserved a death to match.

All the victims shared certain commonalities, they were all ladies of the night, dark haired, and young. Lastly, every one of them had a tattoo on her leg, although the latter might have been a red herring.

"Fortunately, I can have it removed when I'm done," Clara whispered.

In the distance, she saw a set of glowing headlights coming down the street. Cars were getting to be more common now, especially in big cities. The snow today would make driving treacherous. These vehicles were tricky to control since there was no traction.

Fortunately, this was a newer model: long hood with side mounted spare tyres, a hard top and running boards. There was a single occupant inside who sported leather gloves and a white scarf. Funny how some people were unable to break from tradition.

The car slowed as it approached, Clara saw how he was sizing her up. This was not the first time that she had been approached in this manner, so she opened up her coat to let him have a peek. While the cold air rushed in, she shivered, an effect that somehow got his attention.

"The spider is checking its web for flies," Clara muttered.

The man obviously had money. How else could he own an imported car of this sophistication? That may have been a disarming trait for some, but Clara suspected the killer was wealthy. For the most part, they were all affluent and drawn to power.

The man pulled up to the curb and rolled down his window. This was the part Clara dreaded, feeling like a piece of meat. She wore a simple dress that left little to the imagination and did much to draw the eyes to her ample bust, but he showed no interest. Instead, he focused on her eyes and then lingered on her tattooed leg.

"Hiya handsome," Clara said mimicking the accent of the local street urchins.

"How much?" the man asked.

"Starts at two bits for a dry bob, honey," Clara said.

The man never batted an eye at the price, since he could easily afford the going rates at an exclusive brothel. While Clara was attractive, she was hardly unique in that aspect, so her prices had to be competitive to not arouse suspicion.

The man smiled before he said, "I'll pull up over there."

"Whatever ya say, honey," Clara said and winked.

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