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In Which Catrina and Susan Attend a Parade in Sarajevo, 1914

by on August 23, 2014

Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine found herself transported by the White Whale to London, 1913, where she sought employment as a lady’s maid. Unfortunately, the lady she had taken service with turned out to be someone Catrina knew very well indeed….

“Have we met?” asked Susan.

“Oh, we most certainly have,” said Catrina, her eyes flashing in sudden fury. “You-” And then she paused. Susan looked different from when Catrina had last seen her. Of course, that had been two years ago, by Catrina’s time period, and Catrina had moreover been temporarily transformed into a theremin. But still, Susan didn’t look quite as evil as she had. Her hair was more of a soft brown, as opposed to supervillain black. She was wearing a dress of pink and green, with an abundance of bows and ribbons too, and Catrina had never seen Susan wearing ribbons before. It suddenly occurred to her that she knew nothing whatever about Susan’s backstory. Surely she hadn’t always been crazy and evil. If that was the case, perhaps…

“Actually, no,” she said. “We haven’t. Sorry. I mistook you for someone else.”

“I see,” said Susan. “Well, then, I dislike putting you to work immediately, but I’m afraid I am going to need your help. I’ve been invited to an incredibly tedious ball this evening.”

“Don’t tell me you need help getting dressed for it,” Catrina said.

“Good heavens, no. I’ve told my father, Lord Blackacre, and Mr. Falken the butler that I do not require assistance putting on my own clothes. No, what I need you to do is this. I’ve got to attend the affair; it would cause a real scandal if I didn’t. Lady Hawkington would be deeply offended.” Susan rolled her eyes, as if to indicate exactly how little she really cared for Lady Hawkington’s sensibilities. “But, twenty minutes after the ball begins, what I need you to do is run in and alert me that some sort of crisis is happening. I don’t care what. Say my dog has run away. My house is on fire. Lady Blackacre has consumption. That way, I can extricate myself from the affair and no one will be the wiser.”

“Question,” Catrina ventured. “If you don’t want to go to the ball so much, why bother going at all?” Catrina herself didn’t mind the occasional dinner party or too, as long as there was plenty of blueberry cordial and rousing songs.

Susan shrugged, as she led Catrina out of the living room and began showing her around the house. “I wonder that myself. You may think this odd, but sometimes I feel as if I were destined for something greater. As if I was meant to be somewhere else. When you thought you had met me before, I thought maybe that was the beginning of…well, something anyway. Evidently not. The only interesting thing happening any time soon is that we’re taking a voyage to Europe next spring. The eastern parts, mostly, such as Greece, Constantinople, and so forth. We might also be going to Sarajevo; my father has a business correspondent there, and I thought I would like to see the city as well.”

Catrina wasn’t up to speed on modern history. Still, the idea of Susan being in Sarajevo in the spring of 1914 set off unaccountable alarm bells in the back of her mind. “Are you absolutely certain you’re going there?” she said, as they went upstairs so Susan could show her to the servant’s quarters.

“Oh, yes, it’s been planned for weeks….” Then Susan paused, and her eyes narrowed. She had caught the hesitant tone in Catrina’s voice. “Why? Is there some reason I shouldn’t go?”

Catrina had to think very rapidly. If Susan was still good now, Catrina had hoped she could stick around her until she found out whatever it was that had turned Susan to the dark side, and then stop it. She didn’t know how that might affect her time line, and the course of history, but she thought she had to try in any case. If Susan being in Sarajevo next spring was what turned her evil, then Catrina ought to keep her away from that city at all costs. But how could she do that without telling Susan the truth? How did one tell another person that they were destined to be the ruler over Character Hell and attempt to destroy reality?

“Well…” she faltered, “isn’t there some sort of political unrest over there?”

“Perhaps,” Susan said. “But there often is. I’d be well protected. I can defend myself, if necessary. Don’t tell anyone,” she stage-whispered, “but I had firing lessons from my father’s chauffeur a while back. He’s from Ireland, very obliging. So, unless there’s some sort of compelling reason why I shouldn’t go…”

Then, all at once, her eyes lit. “You do know something! There’s probably some great event happening there next spring, and you know what it is! This is about my destiny, isn’t it? That means I simply must be there! Don’t tell me what I have to do, of course. That might ruin things. But I’ll bet it’s something thrillingly heroic! Perhaps I save someone’s life? Stop a war? Prevent the world from being destroyed? It could be anything!”

Then Susan whirled upon Catrina, all aglow with excitement, and seized her by the hand. “And you must come with me, of course! It’ll be splendid! You can bear witness to history! The whole world will know my name!”

Catrina’s stomach clenched. She had not exactly meant for this to happen at all.

The next few months flew by. Catrina, as instructed, dutifully rescued Susan from multiple balls and boring dinner parties. She tried, several times, to convince Susan to stay home the next spring, but each time Susan put her off. “We’re going, and that’s that,” she said. Then she whisked off to her country estate for a game of cricket. Susan was positively killer with a cricket bat.

The spring of 1914 came at last. Catrina had accompanied Susan on the voyage to Eastern Europe. They toured Greece, and Catrina marveled at the ancient ruins. She felt more impressed even than Susan, since her own natural time period was the 12th century, and that meant she was eight hundred years closer to the ancient Greeks than Susan was. Then, as June approached, the family, with Catrina and a whole pack of other servants in tow, left Greece and decamped to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It was morning on the 28th. Sarajevo was bustling with people. Susan had gotten word that there was to be a parade of some royal personage through the city, and she was absolutely convinced that this was her chance. She and a reluctant Catrina had taken their places along the parade route. Then, disaster struck. Susan was most vexed. Apparently the Archduke, whom she felt she was destined to see, had gotten a bomb thrown at him, and all his plans had changed. “Blast!” Susan cried. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

Catrina felt very relieved. Had the Archduke come down her road, she felt sure Susan would have done something that would have led to her turning evil. Now, however, it looked like that wasn’t a possibility. Perhaps, merely by Susan’s befriending her, history had been averted. Feeling quite pleased with herself, Catrina decided to return the favor. “My lady,” she began,”

“Oh, please, not so formal,” Susan said, her voice still disappointed as the crowd of Serbians flowed around them. “I thought we were better friends than that.”

“Very well, Susan,” Catrina said, feeling the surrealness of the fact that she really had become friends, “perhaps we could commiserate about your destiny over lunch? There’s a lovely delicatessen just over there. I think a sandwich would be most appropriate.”

Susan sighed. “Oh, all right. If you insist. We’ll just eat our meal and then travel back to England. I suppose my destiny’s ruined anyway. It’s almost eleven o’clock now; what could possibly happen?”

Catrina, so chuffed at the turn things were taking, and the thought that she had averted a historical tragedy and kept Susan from going evil, completely missed the ominous significance in the question Susan had asked.

To be continued…

This has been another episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For my Amazon page where you can find adventures by Catrina and Susan and several other characters, go here. I’m also on Goodreads as well. And as always, thanks for reading.

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3 Comments
  1. That’s the literary counter-question to the theatrical line “I’ll be right baaaaaaaack”! It would be funny if Foreshadow was the name of someone’s trusty mallet that accidentally wanged her on the noggin right after the words were spoken 🙂

  2. “What could possibly happen?” Yeah, those are words that should never, ever- under any circumstances- be uttered (else the suffering of dire consequences!)

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