The Mystery Woman (Ladies of Lantern Str - By Amanda Quick


The heel of one of her high-button boots skidded across the stream of blood that seeped out from under the door. Beatrice Lockwood nearly lost her balance. She caught her breath and managed to grab the doorknob in time to steady herself.

She did not need her psychical senses to know that what she would find on the other side of the door would haunt her forever. Nevertheless, the gathering storm of horror ignited her other vision. She looked down and saw the violent energy in the footprints on the floor. There were more darkly iridescent prints on the glass doorknob. The paranormal currents seethed with an unwholesome light that iced her blood.

She wanted to run, screaming, into the night, but she could not turn her back on the man who had befriended her and provided her with a lucrative and respectable career.

Shivering with dread, she opened the door of Dr. Roland Fleming’s office. The gas lamp inside had been turned down quite low but there was enough light to reveal the man who lay bleeding on the floor.

Roland had always prided himself on cutting a fashionable figure with his hand-tailored suits and elegantly knotted neckwear. His curly gray hair was trimmed in the latest style, the sideburns and mustache artfully designed. He had given himself the title of doctor but as he had explained to Beatrice, he was, in reality, a showman. His charismatic personality and imposing presence ensured that his lectures on the paranormal were always well attended.

But tonight his finely pleated white linen shirt and dark blue wool coat were drenched in blood. His gold-framed eyeglasses had fallen to the floor at his side. Beatrice rushed to him and opened his shirt with trembling hands, searching for the source of the blood.

It did not take long to find the deep wound in his chest. Blood gushed from it. The color told her it was a mortal injury. Nevertheless, she pressed her palms firmly over the torn flesh.

“Roland,” she whispered. “Dear God, what happened here?”

Roland moaned and opened gray eyes that were dull and unfocused with shock. But when he recognized her, something that might have been panic briefly overrode the tide of death that was sweeping down upon him. He clamped one bloody hand around her wrist.

“Beatrice.” His voice was hoarse with the effort it took for him to speak. There was a terrible rattle in his chest. “He came for you. I told him that you were not here. He didn’t believe me.”

“Who came for me?”

“I don’t know his name. Some madman who has fixated on you for some reason. He is still in the building, searching for something that will lead him to you. For God’s sake, run.”

“I cannot leave you,” she whispered.

“You must. It is too late for me. He wants you.”


“I don’t know, but whatever the reason, there is no doubt but that it will be terrible. Do not let me die with that on my conscience. I have enough to repent. Go. Now. I beg you.”

There was nothing she could do for him and they both knew it. Still, she hesitated.

“You know that I can take care of myself,” she said. She used one hand to hoist her skirts high enough to allow her to reach the stocking gun she wore in the holster strapped to her thigh. “You were the one who taught me how to use this, after all.”

“Bah, I fear it will be of little use against the man who did this to me. He moves with great speed and he is utterly ruthless. Run.”

She knew that he was right about her little stocking gun. When he had instructed her in its use, he had emphasized that such small weapons were not accurate over distance. They were designed for close quarters. Across the width of a card table or in the confines of a carriage they could be deadly. But beyond that, they were little more than toys.


He tightened his grip on her wrist. “You have been like a daughter to me, Beatrice. My dying wish is to try to save your life. Honor me by fulfilling it. Leave this place now. Use the bolt-hole. Take your pack and your lantern. When you are away from here you must never return. He will search for you. To survive after this night, you must remember everything I taught you about going on the stage. Rule Number One is the most important.”

“Become someone else. Yes, I understand.”

“Do not forget it,” Roland gasped. “It