Part of the gildedstuck AU. Art and sketches can be found on gloomy-optimist's blog under “gildedstuck.”
Tags: Drugs, hypnotism, mind control, murder/murder mystery, animal slaughter and slaughterhouse mention, human trafficking mention, human sacrifice mention, violence, death
Part 3: Exposed
Jane spent the day in her room, wrapped in a blanket and pretending to be ill. A particular sort of exhaustion, existential in nature, had sunk into her body and wrapped itself around her bones, dragging through her nervous system. Her mind looped memories of blood, gunpowder, and violent death. It felt as though her pistol was still pressed against the palm of her hands, which sometimes went numb with the ghost memory of recoil. The melancholy that consumed her did not share the sharp edge of personal grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one, but invoked the emotional tenor of a powerful momento mori, a grave and morbid remembrance of the fragility of life and its proximity to all mortal beings, which was so easy for Jane to forget when wrapped in the comforts of New Town. In New Town, she had never had to kill anyone or to even fire her gun. She had been safe and mundane. Even the rush of solving cases and pursuing criminals had been, in essence, safe, mundane, and sterile for her throughout her career in New Town, and she had never wanted to be in a situation in which such drastic measures of self-defense were necessary. But this investigation—this case she had never meant to take up or pursue beyond gathering basic intel—was dragging her down into a new, hellish plane of experience that was changing her entire life, internal as well as external. Never before had she felt such a strong desire to give up detective work, despite all the effort she had made to earn the reputation she now had.
The afternoon passed, drawing a slice of waning sunlight across the rug of her bedroom. The ticking of the clock swirled into her thoughts and disappeared until she no longer recognized the sound. She took tea from her bed.
When the sunlight had reached the edge of her rug and turned golden with the coming sunset, Jane’s butler opened the door and stepped inside. “Lady Crocker,” he said, “several…guests…are requesting immediate audience with you, one of which was here before. Miss Terezi Pyrope.”
A number of conflicting emotions passed through Jane’s head so quickly they churned up a physical reaction in her chest, and she could not decide whether Terezi’s presence evoked more relief or dread. She glanced at the clock. It was six o’clock, late for visitors, and John would be gone for the night. She could not remember what social function was on his agenda or whether she had planned to attend herself. In any case, she had no intention of leaving her house, so she could offer at least some disjointed attention to Terezi and whomever she had decided to bring with her this time.
“See them in,” Jane said, turning to crawl from her bed. Her butler nodded and left the room. Jane stood and sighed, staring down at her bare feet. The prospect of dressing was a chore, as was the thought of entertaining guests, but she could not very well greet anyone in her parlor wearing her nightgown. She turned to her closet and picked out a simple dress that required no layers or any special undergarments, and she applied a small amount of make-up to seem less wan.
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