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by Tamara Shoemaker
The author interviews her villain:
I thumped the knocker against the heavy wood door. A
snake's head curved through the ornate carvings, it's mouth
gaping, fangs prominent. I shuddered.
“Enter.” Her silky smooth voice matched the satiny finish
of the snake's wood scales. I pushed the heavy door open
and stepped into the room. The door slowly slid shut
She sat in a high-backed, uncomfortable-looking chair. A
huge desk hid most of her petite frame from my view. Her
green eyes bored into me. I dropped my notebook. She
Struggling to regain my composure, I fumbled for the notebook on
the floor, then approached her desk.
“Sit.” She motioned to a small seat, an ottoman,
really. I sat and felt my insignificance grow. I
shifted uncomfortably and suddenly noticed the glass aquarium
behind her. Inside, three or four huge rattlesnakes lay
coiled one atop the other. A blue luminescence cast a
gloomy glow over the snakes' bodies.
“You will not be long.” It was not a question. She
glanced pointedly at the grandfather clock in the corner.
“I have a Parliament meeting to attend.”
“Um...” I mumbled. My discomfort grew. “I was
wondering if you could tell me a little about your – your
interest in the occult? Why that particular field?”
Her finely penciled eyebrows arched. “Ah. I assume
you're not asking out of interest for yourself?”
My cheeks grew hot. I dropped my eyes. “Um. No
“No, your grace,” she snapped. “I will forgive your
American ignorance this once.” She leaned forward on her
desk and crossed her arms. Her whole being loomed over my
spirit. “It is about power. Influence.
Prestige.” She paused. “A name.” She pushed
herself out of her chair and paced to the window. The
heavy drapes spread wide to allow a panorama of London's
bustling streets. “Of course my birth and heritage have
given me a place in Parliament. But... it's an ordinary
power. Commonplace. Pedestrian.”
I raised my eyebrows. I couldn't manage to pull it off as
effectively as the killer glances she had spared me thus
far. “The House of Lords is commonplace?”
“It is nothing.” Her voice lashed across my
ears. “The real power is beyond the realm of the
physical. Beyond the everyday. It is there for the
taking. For the possessing.” I could almost see the
slaver form at her perfectly painted lips. Her desire
threatened to swallow me whole. Her trembling fingers
curled around the back of the chair, her knuckles white.
Time to back-peddle. I didn't like the gleam in her
eyes. “I guess I understand your vendetta against him,
but... why her? Why did you want to hurt her?”
“Hmm.” She threw a mysterious smile my way and reseated
herself. One long index finger traced light circles on the
glass snake aquarium. “You're young. I'm guessing
you're inexperienced with the games and schemes and power plays
of mankind.” She paused and moved her gaze back to the
window. “Why did I want to hurt Jill? Because she
was a threat to my power. She was an impediment in my
path. She was a weed in my perfectly manicured
garden. What do you do with weeds?”
It took me a moment to realize she actually wanted me to
answer. I licked my dry lips.
“Well, you pluck them.”
She laughed, a low sultry sound that sent chills up my
I hadn't written the question in my notebook, but it crawled its
way out of my throat. “Did you love him? At one
Suddenly, blindingly, a flash of vulnerability crossed her
face. She slammed her expression shut as firmly as a
tomb. “Love?” She snorted. “Love is for weak
fools who dabble with paltry feelings and illusory dreams.
I have no time for weak-minded foolishness.”
The room fell silent except for the slow tick-tock of the
grandfather clock in the corner. Suddenly, the questions
written in my notebook felt meaningless. Futile. I
glanced at the Duchess again. She stared hard at me, then
turned her eyes pointedly to the clock.
I took a deep breath. “I have to go. I appreciate
your time.” I slid my pencil inside the spiral and rose
from my chair, tucking my notebook under my arm.
No polite rejoinders, no assurances that my presence had been
appreciated. She turned to her aquarium and lovingly
stroked the top edge of it.
I stopped at the door and turned back. “Why the snakes?” I
“Yes. My darlings,” she purred. “Why does one keep
tokens of affection, relics of past accomplishments, pictures of
memorable occasions? Because,” she turned to face me,
“they are a part of you. They represent your very
being. Your past. Your present. And most
often, your future. Do you fear the snakes? The
venom in their fangs?”
I managed a tiny nod.
“Fear is Power.” Each word slammed against my
eardrums. “And Power is the ultimate conquest. The
I swallowed hard and grasped the door handle. It pulled
slowly open and I put Power to the back of me. I walked
down the hall towards Freedom and Commonality.