Here is a short story written in 2011 in which I created the main character for The Eyes of Vucub, and killed him. Hope that spoiler doesn’t interfere with the story!
The Short Tale of Charles B. Vondemond
By Austin Durose
‘My my, who is that handsome young man standing in the corner?’ Lady Fransworth asked one of her subjects. The dinner party was quite exciting; many new people to meet, new friends to make, new stories to tell, hear and be made. This moment in particular, to Lady Fransworth, seemed a perfect start to a promising romance.
‘Handsome young man, m’lady?’ Emily replied, trying to follow her mistress’ gaze with her own. She spotted a man, tall and thin on the other side of the room. His suit was plain yet hung over his slender body with an air of sophistication and power. The smoke of his thin cigarette weaved before him in a rich volume, and silently masked his face. All she could see were his hawk-like eyes, sharp and firmly planted on the Lady. He’s no young man, Emily thought, late fifties at the youngest, but in comparison to Fransworth here – she paused and glanced at her positively ancient mistress – he was new-born. ‘Mister Vondemond, I believe, m’lady. New to the area. It seems he moved here after making quite a fortune with a set ancient relics discovered in Africa. You should be right up his street, I wonder how much he could flog you off for.’ Emily didn’t say the last part out loud. At least she hoped she hadn’t – it had been quite a long night and on the odd occasion Fransworth was preoccupied, Emily had slipped down a glass of wine or two. Her Lady made no remark, but instead continued to look towards Vondemond, a disgusting twinkle in her elderly eye. Either Emily’s insult hadn’t been spoken aloud or the old bat was more deaf that she had thought.
Mister Vondemond put out his cigarette with a fine air of confidence, tweaked his finely curled moustache, and pursued that which the Lady had to offer.
He had his eyes on her all evening. Watching her, willing her to turn and catch his gaze. She wasn’t a particularly pleasant lady to behold, she was old, older than he for he was in his early fifties but could easily pass for a mid forty. She was balding yet tried to hide it with a ridiculously elaborate headpiece, her plump body filled out her dress generously. Under the dress he had spotted a prosthetic leg which she struggled with and so had customised by adding small wheels. She did not walk. She, in a sense, skated. She held a glass of wine in one hand and supported herself on a fancy walking stick with the other.
However it was not her looks that attracted him but something else. She was rich. She was powerful. She had something he desired. Something he had searched the world to find, something which had led him to her. And soon she will hand it over.
Her glance caught his own and held it for a while. One final adjustment to his masculine good looks and he picked up his glass of whisky and stepped forward.
‘Lady Fransworth, I believe’ He had kept her gaze as he walked over, she was obviously impressed but the young lady next to her watched with disgust. ‘My Lady, your elegance and abundance of…’ he paused ‘character travels well before you, allow me to introduce myself,’ He had got the initial reaction he had wanted, her Ladyship had swooned to his charm, the young lady had rolled her eyes and walked away. ‘My name is Vontemond. Charles B. Vontemond, and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.’ He took her hand, leaned in and kissed it softly. Once again he had achieved his desired effect.
Emily had gone to the grand dining room of this stately house, leaving the ancient relics to whisper sweet nothings in the ballroom amongst the rest of the guests. She was surprised to find the room fairly empty with exception to the odd couple dotted here and there. Alone she walked through the dimly lit room to the temporary bar which had been standing in the same corner for as long as she could remember.
She sat by the bar disgusted at Mister Vontemond’s advance on Fransworth. She was sickened by the thought that any man could take a shine to such an ageing dinosaur as she, and equally that any lady could allow herself to be wooed by such a creepy old man. His reputation had gone before him also. He was a treasure hunter, and not the brawn, rugged type – more the skinny snobbish type that would step on the shoulders of real men to receive glory and fame. She ordered a drink from the hired hand behind the bar and rested her head as she waited for it. She was lucky this bar was so empty, but by the apparent lack of skill adopted by the obviously non-professional, buck-toothed bar man, she was not surprised.
As she waited she though on her own state of affairs. She worked for Lady Fransworth as a zoo keeper would work for an elephant; caring, cleaning, feeding and the like. However she was just a part time hired hand herself and wondered if she was as bad at taking care of the old lady as the adolescent barman was at pouring a simple drink. It seemed clear that he cared about his job as much as she did hers. Its just a passing phase, she told herself, I just need to keep this job until I have enough money to escape to France.
A sound of clay rolling along the wooden floor grew louder as Lady Fransworth glided towards Emily. She turned and addressed her mistress with tired manner.
‘My dear! It seems I shan’t be needing your accompaniment tonight,’ she said with the giddiness of a school girl, ‘Charles will be seeing me home this evening! You may head home when you are finished enjoying yourself here.’ She passed over a coin or two as Mister Vondemond rushed over to rush her away. ‘Have a drink, enjoy your night!’ and with that she had left.
Emily turned back to the bar, surprised by her mistress’ generosity. She realised that she spent most social hours working for the Lady and attending her dinner parties for the elderly which left her no time to go and find a real man of her own.
It was at this moment that the adolescent bar man placed a white wine in front of her, spilling it a little. She looked up and saw him smile a smile of crooked teeth.
Goodness, she thought, am I really that desperate?
© Austin Durose 2011