So far in Clockwork Image:
Tressa has found herself with a large sum of money, far more money than she ever dreamed of having. She has decided to bequeath it all to Westwood Orphanage, the home for children which took her and her brother off the streets when they were young.
Her brother, Jasper, however is quite upset that Tressa would help a place they both have such horrible memories of. After arguing, he stormed off and, in the process, came across a vampire attacking a small boy. Tressa, Jasper, and Brox, a member of the Westwood's board of directors, chase off the vampire and saved the boy.
Tressa Wimple marched up the front steps of the dilapidated Westwood building.
It had been just over a week since their near fatal encounter with the vampire. Tressa, Jasper, and Brox had all spent most of that time at the hospital, watching over the young boy, seeing to it that he was never alone.
The saline solution the doctor injected into the boy had worked and the paleness was lessening by the day. He’d even woken a couple of times, long enough to drink some broth. It was clear now that the vampire had intended on draining the boy, not turning him. If she had injected him with the toxin that made one turn, they would have seen the signs well before now.
Tressa didn’t know anything about the boy, except that his name was Tom and he was Michael’s shadow. Tressa stopped just outside the door and ran her hand down the large, stone exterior. It was too bad that he would have to return there.
How many times after leaving Westwood for a life at sea had she sworn she would never return? How many times did she curse this place to the devil and promise, once she left, she’d never look back?
Yet, here she was.
Not only there to help the orphanage, but to save it.
Fixing the boiler was one thing, this was something far more. Tressa angled her head up, peering toward the sky and the highest point of the pious edifice.
“That’s perfect. Hold still.”
A brilliant light flooded Tressa’s vision, leaving her seeing spots after it flashed out.
Her scowl hardened as she swung toward her brother. “Jasper! I said enough already.” For one who’d been pointedly against her donating funds to the orphanage, Jasper was annoyingly chirpy this morning.
He grinned, unapologetic, and pulled the spent bulb from his camera. “That’s one of the best yet.” He stood up straight, camera back under his arm. “You looked both pensive and sentimental.” He rubbed his free hand down his clean-shaven chin, trying on his own version of ‘pensive and sentimental’.
“You look idiotic and foolish.” Tressa pushed further up the stairs and into the old building.
The hallways were dark and damp. Tressa hurried through them, eager to be done with her task and leave once more.
She zigzagged through the various hallways, up one flight of steps and then another, and finally found the room she sought.
The last time she’d set foot in this room was nearly two decades ago.
But some things a woman never forgets.
Tressa entered the long meeting room with her head held high. Jasper followed in just behind, snapping another blinding picture of the room’s occupants before waving his greeting.
Life among these walls had been cruel and grueling, but they had survived. Yes, Tressa hated this building more than any other place in the world; however, she hated the thought of children dying on the streets more.
A long table filled most of the room. The board always met here, and Tressa had wondered more than once if they felt more holy if they could discuss the children whose lives were in their hands and smile at them at the same time. Brox sat near the head of the table. The moment he saw her, his eyes lit up and, standing, he moved toward her.
“How is Tom this morning?” he asked, taking hold of her elbow and guiding her further into the room.
“Still improving slowly, but improving nonetheless.” Tressa both wanted to savor and ignore the heat from his touch. She hadn’t allowed herself to daydream about a man in years, and now that she could, Tressa often found herself thinking of Brox.
She loved the feel of standing so close to him, his hand on her elbow, but still wasn’t confident Brox saw her as anything more than a good-ol’-pal, similar to the way he saw Jasper. “He woke up long enough to say thank you to one of the nurses.”
Jasper came up behind her, fiddling with another one-time-use bulb for his camera. “The nurse nigh on cried, too. It seems everyone has grown inordinately fond of our Tom-boy.”
Tressa wanted to say, ‘speak for yourself’, but chose not to. Her brother had barely left Tom’s side since the doctors let them see him. Jasper read him books and brought him a wooden toy horse he’d carved himself. If anyone had grown inordinately fond in the past few days, it was Jasper.
“Mr. Broxholme?” A delicate voice called out from the doorway.
The three of them turned. A young woman, probably barely twenty by the looks of her, stood with perfect, blonde ringlets framing her plump cheeks and button nose. The woman was dressed in a stylish pink dress with white lace.
Catching sight of Brox, she smiled daintily and bustled over to them. Tressa suddenly felt quite bland in comparison. If this was the type of woman Brox spent time with, it was no wonder he’d inadvertently hinted that Tressa’s company felt more like male companionship.
Tressa brushed her hands down the skirt of her dress. She’d told Jasper that meeting before the committee required one to dress in their finest. Secretly though, she’d been thinking of Brox as she’d donned the light blue dress which, she always felt, showed off her dark skin in the best way.
“There you are, sir,” the young woman said in an annoyingly high pitch. “I have done all you asked; letters were addressed and sent this morning, your other suit has been delivered to the tailor, I purchased a broach for your mother’s birthday . . .”
As the perky woman spoke on, Jasper leaned closer to Tressa and whispered, “Christina Brown. She grew up here in Westwood, same as us, is Brox’s secretary, and,” his voice dropped even lower, “is the only woman in town I avidly avoid.”
Tressa eyed Miss Brown. “What does an orphanage tutor need with a secretary?”
“He only tutors here as a volunteer,” Jasper explained. “Brox is a very successful barrister.”
Miss Brown glanced at Jasper and batted her lashes, then quickly returned to speaking with Brox, the most innocent of expressions on her face, as though she hadn’t just made eyes at her employer’s friend.
Tressa grinned. “Don’t tell me she had a tendre for you?”
Jasper’s gaze jumped from Tressa to Miss Brown and back again, a small grimace playing across his lips.
Her brother had an unwanted admirer. Oh, this could be fun. Suddenly, staying a little longer on land didn’t seem like a bad idea. She’d certainly missed out on some priceless things while gone, things like mothering her grown brother, or teasing him mercilessly. Now felt like the perfect time to catch up.
“Will you all please be seated,” Mr. Clark said over the din.
Jasper showed Tressa to a couple of seats near the wall and they sat. Several others lined the wall beside them—individuals who cared for Westwood but weren’t official board members.
Those who were members, like Brox, took the high-backed seats lining each side of the long, rectangular table. Mr. Clark, who sat at the head, opened the meeting without preamble.
Jasper shifted his weight around and aimed his camera at Tressa.
“Not now,” she hissed.
“This is a big moment,” he whispered back.
Tressa placed her hand against the wide flash bar and pushed it back down.
Jasper pulled it back out from under her hand. “This is a momentous occasion. Now, face the board and give me your best solemn-moment expression.”
“I don’t believe in looking away from the camera,” she said, careful to keep her voice from interrupting those around them.
“Come on, Tressa. Images that look posed aren’t what audiences want anymore.”
“And you telling me to look away isn’t posed?”
“It doesn’t look posed. That’s the point.”
Now photographers were posing people to look un-posed? That was ridiculous. As if asking someone to pose wasn’t fake enough, now people were being asked to fake being non-fake.
“Why do you care what audiences want? Don’t tell me that these photographs are actually going to see the light of day.”
Jasper pulled back and shrugged, suddenly far more interested in cleaning the lens of his camera.
“For once, why not try and sell some of the images you’ve made?” she asked.
Jasper tended to jump from one creative project to the next so quickly, it made Tressa’s head spin. But photography was one thing he’d always had going on the side. Ever since he nicked his first daguerreotype camera from a rich man’s carriage as it lumbered through Hyde Park, Jasper always seemed to have one kind of camera or another in his hand.
“You know I’m not ready,” he mumbled, almost too indistinctly to understand.
“Hogwash.” Tressa’s words came out clipped. “I’ve seen your pictures. You’re plenty good.”
“Seawoman Wimple,” Mr. Clark called out.
Tressa only just kept herself from sitting up straighter and responding with a “Present, sir” as she had hundreds of times back when she was a child.
The weight of what she was about to do pressed down on her. She gave Jasper her best ‘we’ll talk about this later’ look, then took a deep breath and stood.
Right now, she needed to focus on why she was here. It wasn’t every day a person came into possession of a huge sum of money and chose to give it away to a group one only half-trusted. Still, she didn’t doubt this was the right thing to do.
Tressa approached the table, which felt much farther away now than it ever had before. Nonetheless, she was determined—somebody had to protect the young and homeless. Tressa couldn’t save them all on her own and Westwood was the only organization who was looking out for the little, lost children of the street.
Only Mr. Clark and Brox knew she’d come today to hand over her small fortune. Standing near Mr. Clark, she looked over the many faces of the board of directors. Everyone else at the table watched her in silence, their curiosity evident in their steady gazes.
“Westwood board,” Tressa began. “I have come—”
A scream, high and shrill, filled the room, followed by a clatter and the crash of porcelain against the floor. Tressa whirled around.
Miss Brown stood with hands covering her face. A large silver platter and the shattered remains of a tea set lay at her feet. What small incident could have possibly upset the young woman so? Granted, Tressa didn’t know Miss Brown at all; but she certainly looked like the kind of woman to fall to pieces at losing a hair pin.
Brox marched over and took his secretary gently by the elbow. “What’s wrong, Miss Brown?”
The young woman only sobbed and pointed, with a trembling hand, toward the silver platter. Tressa bent down and picked up the offending platter.
It seemed normal enough, if a bit elegant for an orphanage. She flipped it over.
Bright red letters dripped down the face of the platter.
Oh, holy gears above. She knew that shade of red. It was blood.
Westwood has killed.
Now it’s time for the orphanage to die.
Thanks for your Vote!
Option A) Readily agree that they are dealing with someone unstable and waiting is the best option?
Option B) Believe that waiting out of fear plays into the perpetrator's hands and feels they ought to continue on, regardless?
The survey is now closed. Below are the options which were available.