When last we left our heroes, Cassandra’s daughter Emmaline expressed an unusually verbose desire for Scotch and the thugs Batson and Quill took out Victor’s soul with a pair of ice tongs.
At the posh headquarters for the Society of Cryptozoological Research, Sir Charles Rutledge Brown was in his personal laboratory. The walls were lined with books, though most of them were shelved catawampus, if not simply stacked in piles on other flat surfaces. There was a method to the filing madness, though it had far more to do with theoretical than library sciences.
Sir Charles sat at a worktable covered with glass beakers and containment jars, many of them connected by rubber tubing with copper fixtures. In the largest of the glass enclosures was the golden amulet taken from the grey-fleeced Minotaur back beneath Crete. Several beakers, each containing a different colored liquid, were connected to it through a series of titrating valves. In Sir Charles’ stubby hands, a similar beaker, this one full of a murky green solution, was connected to a copper faucet mounted above a wide dish upon which rested a shard of black stone.
The door to the laboratory opened with nary a knock, and Kenneth Valence, the Earl of Marston barged in, his usual cockeyed smile leading the way.
“So, Sir Charles, how goes the…”
Lord Marston looked at the bizarre apparatus spread across the table, then to the strange headset of lenses that Sir Charles was wearing, making one of his eyes appear monstrously enlarged. “The… uh…”
He squinted, then turned his head sideways hoping it might help identify any of the things he was looking at. It didn’t. Lord Marston finally gave up. “Dear Lord, what is it that you’re doing?”
He realized too late that he had just asked Sir Charles to explain something.
“Minerological particulate wash,” Sir Charles said, as if those words meant something put together that way. “I’m ascertaining if my hypothesis that the stone amulet from the Minotaur and the sample I took from the Sjotroll obelisk are, in face, the same material. It’s the most unusual thing, actually. My first investigation showed a significant difference in metallurgical structure, but there were enough similarities in certain anomalous tests that I continued nonetheless. Now the two pieces are exhibiting almost identical structures no matter which experiments I try on them!”
Lord Marston had really tried to parse Sir Charles’ words. The best he could do was to respond, “So… they’re the same stone?”
“That’s where I was going with it, yes!” Sir Charles said, surprised and pleased that he had actually communicated the gist of his point to Lord Marston.
“Right, then. Good show.” Marston’s gaze, though, had moved from the rock experiment to the henge of book piles stacked around the room.
“What about the journals?” Lord Marston changed the subject. “We rather hit a dead end with the Labyrinth…” He paused for a moment, then chuckled at his own wit. “Oh, that was a good one. Dead end? Labyrinth? I’ll have to share that with the gents at the Drones Club tonight.”
It took a moment for his internal back-patting to give way to his original query. “Ah… anyhow… might you have gotten any further leads on Mister Benedict’s logs?”
Sir Charles flushed, a little embarrassed. “I… I meant to, Lord Marston, but I, ah, got a bit preoccupied with the stones.”
“Remember, Rutledge, those journals are the key to discovering the secrets the last Society took with them when they vanished. That is our most important work here.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Sir Charles nodded vehemently. “I do understand. It’s just… well, if you understood how strange a phenomenon this is…”
“What I understand is that we need to find our next lead. We can’t keep getting distracted by sidebars.”
“Oh!” Sir Charles said, ignoring the point entirely, “that reminds me… I did, uh, look up the records on our friend Captain LaRue…”
“Who?” Lord Marston asked.
“The ghost pirate who you promised to free from his eternal torment?”
“Right, right,” Lord Marston said as if he had already known the answer. “That Captain LaRue. So, have you figured out what sort of hoodoo we are going to need to wrap that little loose end up?”
Sir Charles was about to explain once more how interesting the rocks were and that they had precluded the pirate curse research as well, but he was saved by the sudden appearance through the doorway of Mrs. Cassandra Chatterton, a panicked look upon her beautiful face.
“Kenne–” she started, but seeing Sir Charles present as well, quickly changed her form of address to the much less personal, “–L-Lord Marston!”
Lord Marston knew that the best way to deal with the hysteria of women was to ignore it, so he smiled and calmly met Cassandra’s wide eyes with his usual mask of dissolute charm.
“Yes, Mrs. Chatterton?” he asked.
“I need to speak to you immediately!” she cried.
Sir Charles sat at his worktable, smiling vapidly at the two. Mrs. Chatterton winced and massaged the bridge of her nose before adding, “Alone, please.”
“Sir Charles, if you’ll excuse the rudeness?” Lord Marston said, putting one arm around the scientist and slowly rotating him back to face his mad apparatus.
“O-oh, of course,” Sir Charles said with only a trace of disappointment. “I’ve got to get back to my work anyhow.”
Lord Marston closed the laboratory door behind him before he turned to Mrs. Chatterton.
“Cassandra, what the deuce is so desperately important?” he asked, the mask slipping.
“I… this is very hard to say, Kenneth.”
Lord Marston sighed. “We’re not going through another crisis of morality again, are we?”
Cassandra frowned. “Don’t be such an ass. It’s…” She tried to find the right words. “Do you remember a year ago? When I spent the summer season in Devonshire?”
“Yes,” Lord Marston recalled. “Your ill health kept you from the dragon hunt. If you had been there, Fordham might still be…”
“I wasn’t sick, Kenneth,” she interrupted. “I was with child.”
It took all of Lord Marston’s practice to put the smile mask back up, and once he did, he could do nothing with it but stand there, grinning awkwardly.
“Her name is Emmaline,” Cassandra continued. “I gave birth to a daughter.”
“W-why are you telling me this?” Kenneth asked.
“There are two reasons, I suppose. The first… I just came from the family she lives with. She’s been taken. Replaced. A faerie changeling.”
Lord Marston finally found enough footing to frown at the news, but he couldn’t summon up anything appropriate to say. Instead he said, “You now, it says something about us that we can rattle that off so matter-of-factly.”
Cassandra turned on him, shouting. “If you’re going to make your asinine little jokes about everything then I don’t see why I don’t just leave you for good, Lord Marston!”
“I’m sorry… so sorry, dear…” Kenneth helped Cassandra into a chair and knelt at her side, holding her hand in his. Tears were running down her face.
“I want to get her back,” she said.
Kenneth frowned, looking serious for a rare moment. “I… I don’t think that’s possible, Cassandra. The one time my father’s Society faced down the Fair Folk, they lost a good man just trying to prevent an expanding fairy ring from encroaching Dublin. You’re talking about trying to go into the fairylands themselves… It’s too dangerous.”
Cassandra paused for a long moment before finally, quietly whispering two words.
“I… I couldn’t have heard you right,” he stammered.
“She’s your daughter, Kenneth. Emmaline.”
“But… but how…?”
Cassandra raised one eyebrow reminding him that he very well knew the “how” of it.
“I mean… you never said… why…?”
“I’m saying now,” she said. “I need your help getting my… our… daughter back.”
Kenneth stood and looked off into the distance for a long moment. Finally, when Cassandra thought he just might stand that way forever, he turned and held out one hand.
“Come with me,” he said.
To be continued…
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.