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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Shadow 13


They reached the inn and Marissa requested a small suite. With the keys in hand she led the way to the rooms and dumped her bag on the empty bed. She was exhausted, but they still needed to figure out what to do about Sean.
Marissa changed into her nightdress and offered the spare to Sarah.
“I haven’t bothered with things like this for so long, I hardly know how to wear them,” Sarah said wryly.
“Well there are several things you aren’t really missing, like that idiotic bustle and the obnoxious corsets,” Marissa replied with a smile.
Sarah pulled the nightgown over her head and for the first time Marissa was able to get an idea of what her mother was like. She was the same height as Marissa, but her figure was much thinner.
“This must be a little disconcerting,” Sarah said a few moments later.
“A little, but I was just thinking that you are much to thin,” Marissa replied.
“I move around a lot, so I don’t have the chance to add weight to my body, but I do eat rather well. There are several excellent restaurants in this area that serve some of the best meals I have had, though they didn’t know it.”
Marissa could hear the smile in the tone of Sarah’s voice.
“I wish I could see what you looked like,” Marissa said wistfully.
“I used to look much like you do now except you have your father’s eyes and his brown hair,” Sarah explained.
“What color are yours?”
“My eyes are blue and my hair is a reddish blonde. It’s very thin though, so I’m glad you got your father’s hair. I wish I could have seen Lord Edgington before he passed.” Her tone was regretful and Marissa decided it would be best to keep quiet on the subject.
“You may have the bed in here, I will take the spare,” Marissa said respectfully.
“Thank you, Marissa, you are a true gentlewoman,” Sarah said quietly.
Marissa hung the dresses she had brought in the wardrobe and then went into the spare room. Her thoughts were whirling in her head and she didn’t quite know what direction to go. She settled down on her bed and closed her eyes when she heard a grunt and a gasp from the other room.
She scrambled out of bed and rushed into the room brandishing the stoker from the fireplace in her room. In the dim firelight she could see the nightgown thrashing on the bed and gasps coming from that direction.
“Sarah, what is it?” Marissa asked dropping the poker and rushing to the bed.
“It hurts,” Sarah moaned.
Marissa lit the lamp hastily and brought it over to the bedside table and then took a towel from the basin and dipped it in the water. In the lamp light she could see grey streaks of skin appearing just above the collar of the nightgown and where Sarah’s hands were clutching the side of the bed.
“He must have given you the antidote,” Marissa murmured.
“Can you see me?” Sarah asked bringing her hands up to her face.
She groaned again as another wave of pain swept through her body. The grey streaks turned a pale skin tone and continued spreading. Marissa wiped Sarah’s now visible brow.
“How bad is it?” Marissa asked.
“Worse than the potion. I feel like my body is going to explode and I didn’t even get the full dose. I just hope it doesn’t kill me like it did Minister Cherington,” she mutters wryly.
Marissa closed her eyes praying it wouldn’t.
Sarah experienced several other waves of pain, but they began to subside after an hour. When the last wave disappeared Marissa could see all of Sarah’s face and her left hand where the dose had been administered.
Sarah looked like an older version of herself with a few more wrinkles and some liberal streaks of grey amongst the blonde tresses. The older woman held up her hands and let out a chuckle.
“I suppose this is better than nothing,” she humphed, staring at the one visible and one invisible hand.
“You didn’t get the whole dose,” Marissa reminded her.
“Yes and I will no longer be able to help you as the invisible watch. What are we going to do?” Sarah asked worriedly.
“I don’t know. Clearly the antidote worked, but we can’t trust that it won’t do more harm than good,” Marissa replied thoughtfully. “What did Minister Cherington look like when you found him?”
“His face was pale and contorted with pain. I’m guessing his heart couldn’t handle the pain of the full antidote. That was awful,” Sarah answered.
“The rats died too,” Marissa added, remembering the boxes John and Jarvis buried. “We will have to keep an eye on you and stay far away from Jarvis and John.”
“We need to know where Sean is?” Sarah replied.
“Everyone thinks I’m going to the country estate, when Jarvis finds out I left early he is certainly going to try and track me down.”
“He will be very angry to discover his well-laid plan was thwarted by your anxiousness to leave. I’m sure he would have way-laid the carriage on your way to the station,” Sarah said.
Marissa gasped, clapping her hand to her forehead. “The carriage! I should have remembered. I was focusing on my house staff and didn’t even think about anyone else.”
“What?” Sarah asked.
Marissa started pacing the room. “Jerry is in charge of the stables and I trust him completely. He wouldn’t have known if someone was trying to harm me and I go so many places it would be the best way to get to me. I’m an idiot,” she muttered.
“Marissa Clarence Edgington, explain yourself!” Sarah demanded, pulling Marissa to a stop.
“My carriage driver, Peter, is new. He’s only been with me for a year. Jerry hired him right after, Henry, the old driver, died. Henry had been ill for months and he was getting on in years. I put him on retirement after we almost crashed and a few days later he died. Jerry hired Peter. Said he came highly qualified and recommended. I trusted Jerry, so I didn’t ask who recommended him,” Marissa explained.
“You are incredibly accessible in that carriage. You go everywhere and all they would have to do is drive to some secluded place and knock you out,” Sarah said, with a shudder.
Marissa dropped her head in her hands. “What have they done with Sean?” Marissa cried. 
“I don’t know and we have no way of finding out,” Sarah replied. “I’m sorry I put you into this mess, Marissa. I thought for certain that your life would be carefree when Jonathan claimed you as his heir, but I ruined it all.”
Sarah placed her invisible hand on her face, but Marissa could still see the tears of anguish.
“Why did Lord Edgington never marry you?” Marissa asked suddenly.
Sarah’s expression changed. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “I became a maid in his mother’s home while he was at school. I was just sixteen and trying to help my family the best I could. When Jonathan finished school he returned home to start working with his father. We met briefly, but nothing happened. A short time later he was shipped off to the country estate to tend to matters there. I didn’t see him until five years later when I was sent to the estate to help clean it and get it ready for Lord and Lady Edgington’s arrival.”
Sarah’s face was a mixture of joy and pain.
“Upon our second meeting something changed. Perhaps it was his work with the simple folk in the country or maybe I had grown up enough for him to notice, but there was a spark between us that developed into deep feelings of love. I tried to keep my head, but Jonathan was very convincing in his arguments and actions.” She paused with a tiny smile and then her expression darkened. 
“One night I overheard him speaking with his mother on the matter. She was furious and appalled at his choice. She adamantly refused to accept such a match and threatened to cut him off completely if he pursued it. Jonathan left the house, finding solace in a bottle of scotch. I was summoned and immediately discharged.”
“That’s awful!” Marissa exclaimed. “You didn’t do anything wrong. He pursued you.”
“Lady Edgington didn’t care. Her son’s precious reputation was at stake,” Sarah answered wryly. “She did, however, give me passage back to London for the next morning. I got a room at the local inn and prepared to return home in shame. That was where Jonathan found me. He was drunk and determined to spite his mother. He was too powerful to resist.” She sighed. “It was a night I won’t forget and only regret because we weren’t properly married. I left for London in the morning before he awakened and never saw him again. When I found out I was expecting I sent a not to him, but I’m certain Lady Edgington received it first.”
“She probably destroyed it,” Marissa said spitefully.
“I don’t think she did,” Sarah disagreed. “I think that’s how Jonathan found you. I think he discovered the note after his mother’s death. She only lived for a few more years. I’m sure he looked for me, but I had already found a new position on the other side of London with folks from a different social circle.”
“Why did you give me up?” Marissa finally asked, wanting to understand and quell the deep feelings of abandonment she had always felt.
“I knew I couldn’t support a child and I didn’t want you to live in the poverty we would be certain to endure if I kept you. My family disowned me, so I was on my own. I chose the Pically Street Orphanage because I knew the Sisters would care for you and give you an education.”
Marissa wanted to argue, but she knew Sarah was right. Living in the slums of London would have stunted any opportunities. She never would have had the chance to learn to read or get the job in the factory. Nevertheless, she always wished she could have know her parents growing up and felt the love of a family. The feelings of abandonment would probably never go away.
“I’m sorry, Marissa. Maybe the choices I made were wrong, but I can’t change that now. When Jonathan found you I was so happy. All I could want for you came true when he declared you his heir. I’m certain Eleanor Edgington turned over in her grave.” Sarah’s voice held a measure of contempt.
“I just wish I could have known Lord Edgington before he died. He was only fifty-six when he became ill,” Marissa said, with a sigh.
“He never was the same after his father died. I’m sure he felt all alone in the world. That is the past, though. We must face the future.”
Marissa nodded. “Maybe I should go back to Dr. Bering’s house and see if I can follow him to Sean. He has to go there sometime or at least send a message to his men,” she suggested.
“I don’t see that we have an option,” Sarah actually agreed. “It just makes me nervous. If they catch any wind that either you or I are there, they might use drastic measures.”
“I don’t know what else to do,” Marissa said anxiously. “If I don’t go to the country house, sooner or later Jarvis is going to find out. He might realize who I am.”
“Or that I got to you first and warned you. We could alway try going there and just see if they were foolish enough to actually take Sean there,” Sarah said.
“Or I could call Scotland Yard and report him missing, but then I’d be expected to return to my house here. I trust my people, but people can be bought.”
“I don’t know what to do, Marissa. We should try to get some rest and maybe we will have a clearer mind in the morning,” Sarah said.
Marissa could hear the weariness in her voice. She remembered how exhausted she had felt after her dose of pain that changed her. Sarah must be feeling the same way.
“All right. We can rest and attack the problem in the morning,” she agreed.

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