Clem Starr: Demon Fighter #5
Clem Starr at a Swiss finishing school? I scoffed. I scoffed a lot. Then I found out this finishing school isn't what it seems and I stopped scoffing.
I try to tell her that there's something wrong but she's had her head turned by being treated as a long-lost princess and, also, unlimited cake. Kisho is no help either. He's changed, and not in a good way.
It's bad enough that they're trying to turn Clem into some kind of weapon in their war against the world, but when they murder someone close to me, I have to fight. And I have to win.
Join Clem, Nic and Kisho in another fun adventure as Clem discovers the secrets of her past.
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“That damn Uber could’ve taken us to our destination instead of dropping us off at the bottom of the mountain,” Clem Starr panted.
Humans, they get out of breath so easily. She was all red-faced and sweaty, and we hadn’t even walked that far. It was hardly the bottom of the mountain.
We’d been dropped off in a village a far way up the mountain and had to walk to our destination from there.
“He did the best he could,” Kisho said. “There’s no road from here, just the path.”
Clem huffed. She obviously didn’t have the energy to complain any more. Maybe she should climb mountains more often. A silent Clem Starr is the best kind of Clem Starr.
She should be glad of the exercise after sitting on her butt on trains for the past few days. My butt, for one, was pleased, although I had to admit this high altitude even affected me a little. And the windy path up this mountain didn’t make for an easy walk, especially in the dark. If I had to strain to see more than a few steps ahead, she had to be almost blind. None of us had battery power to waste on phone torches, either.
“I can’t see a damn thing because this insanely bitter wind makes my eyes water so much. How does anyone live in this weather? It’s not normal. Every part of me is cold. I can’t even pee because it’s turned into ice cubes inside me.”
“Are you too hot or too cold?” I asked her.
She just huffed again.
“It’s not that much farther, and if you like, I’ll piggyback you,” Kisho said.
I expected Clem to get angry and go on one of her feminist rants, but she nodded. The altitude and the cold definitely made her a much less cranky person. That crankiness might come back if she didn’t have to walk, though.
“Don’t piggyback her, Kisho. Make her walk so she shuts up,” I said.
Clem huffed at me. Her breath came out in steaming clouds.
It wasn’t that I was unsympathetic. Even though I couldn’t feel the cold, the wind whistling around us was pretty damn strong. I just didn’t want to encourage her. Arguing with me warmed her up. It was like I was doing her a favor.
Kisho ignored me and squatted down so she could get on his back. She wrapped her arms around his neck way too tightly, and he grabbed her legs. Heaven help me, they’d be dry-humping their way up the mountain.
“I hate the damn cold,” she said.
Like I hadn’t worked that out for myself.
“It’s Switzerland. What do you expect?” I asked her. “You just need to dress appropriately.”
She had on a thick coat with a few layers underneath, but that thick coat looked like it had gotten damp on our walk up here.
“Yes, because you can just nip into the stores to buy some winter woollies when you’re on the run from an evil organization out for your blood. These boots are even for fashion, not snow boots. They hardly keep my feet warm. I have far better boots at home, but no, the stupid mayor packed these ones.”
Kisho whispered something over his shoulder. I didn’t hear it, but I could imagine. I had no idea why they thought I couldn’t even bear to hear his name. That relationship was firmly in my past now. I didn’t want to think about that spark in his eyes when he looked at me or the way he’d whispered my name. The way it had all felt so right.
I moved away from Clem and Kisho. I didn’t need to talk to them.
“And also,” she said, “I didn’t think we’d climbing the Matterhorn.”
Clem Starr knew as little about geography as she did about most other things. Obviously, I did need to talk to Clem Starr, or how else would she know she was wrong?
“It’s not the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn is nowhere near Geneva. It’s Monte Blanc.”
Kisho sighed. “It’s not Monte Blanc.”
“I think I know Monte Blanc when I see it,” I told him. “My friend wrote a poem about it. A very famous poem.”
“Is this your ‘I used to be friends with Percy Shelley’ story again?” he asked. He could wipe that exasperation from his voice.
“Yes, it is. I was friends with Percy Shelley. Good friends. And it’s a very interesting story.”
“I want to hear it,” Clem said. Sometimes she wasn’t so bad.
“Get him to tell you another time,” Kisho said. “It’s not very interesting, and I’m not even sure it’s true.”
“Oh, it’s true, my friend.”
It hurt that Kisho would ever doubt me. He never used to doubt me. He never used to talk back. I missed the old Kisho. And even though I didn’t want to be a complainer like Clem Starr, this mountain path was a hard climb.
“Look,” Kisho said. “I can see the school up ahead.”
Yep, lights and a blur of white building. That had to be it. I rubbed my hands together, more from glee than needing to warm up.
“This is going to be awesome. Clem Starr at finishing school. She’ll learn table manners and fashion sense and keeping her mouth shut.”
I wasn’t actually sure what you did at a Swiss finishing school, but it seemed that was the kind of thing you’d learn.
“I’m not here to be finished, you fool vampire. I’m here for information. I have no idea why Fleur wanted me to come here, but there are answers in that school.”
“Yes. Answers to your lack of deportment and elegance.”
I was pretty sure that if she hadn’t been on Kisho’s back, she would’ve punched me.
“What’s our plan when we get there?” Kisho asked.
Good question. We hadn’t really discussed that. We’d been focused on getting here without being discovered, rushing from country to country to cover our tracks. Just outside Berlin, officials had gotten on the train to check our passports. We’d had such non-event border crossings before that, so I’d forgotten that kind of thing happened. As the burly guards moved down the train, we scattered. I grabbed our bags, and Kisho grabbed Clem. We skedaddled out the train window and flattened ourselves against the roof of the train. I kept my head down but still ended up with a mouth full of bugs.
We’d done it rough, that’s for sure. And now we didn’t even have a plan.
“We ask for this woman on the business card and tell her that Fleur sent us,” Clem said. “Mrs. Bonham, it says.”
“And then?” I asked.
“And then I find out all about my history and get all my questions answered. I’m sure it’ll all fall into place.”
I stumbled, my footing slipping on the icy ground. Clem wasn’t the only one not prepared for this weather. My boots were designed for city streets, not mountain climbing.
“Hopefully, she’ll offer us hot chocolate with marshmallows,” I said.
“And cake,” Clem added.
“Definitely cake. You’d think cake would be an integral part of finishing school.”
My stomach rumbled. Our supply of blood bags had run out about two days ago. Kisho could feed on Clem, but I had standards. I wasn’t sure her blood would agree with my stomach.
Some of those plump Germans had looked mighty tasty, but feeding on random train passengers wouldn’t help hide our whereabouts, so I’d resisted. Cake might not meet my nutritional needs, but it would sure meet my comfort ones.
“Yeah, but I don’t want any of those tiny cucumber sandwiches,” Clem said. “She can keep those.”
The glow from the school lit up the path now. We were so close. The whiteness of the building gleamed even against the whiteness of snow around it. It had a chalet feel to it. A massive chalet with turrets. That place looked solid and warm.
The barking of a dog cut through the night.
“Puppy!” Kisho said.
Puppy be damned. That was not the bark of cute pet. It growled like a trained guard dog. A growl that rumbled deep.
The black sleekness of his body shot through the snow. He stopped growling. He didn’t make a sound. He was totally focused on the attack.
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