Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dark Redemption chapter 49: Comparing Notes

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther.

Reporter Cassandra True has survived encounters with werewolves, vampires, ghosts and an insane witch, but the mystery that puzzles her most is Strephon MacKenzie, the reclusive invalid who unbeknownst to her is actually a semi-immortal half-fae. Cassandra has decided to do a little snooping and has enlisted her new co-worker Saul Taylor to help

Cassandra juggled her grocery bags as she attempted to fish her keys out of her purse. It took her longer than she had planned to stop at the store and get home after work. At least she made it before Saul showed up; he had promised to come over that evening.

Just as she put her key to the lock, the door of her flat swung open. "Hullo, Sandy!" Cecilie said in a bright, chipper voice.

"What are you doing up?" Cassandra grumbled. "I thought you called in sick this morning."
Cecilie shrugged. "Must have been a 12-hour bug. I feel fine now!" She was dressed for partying, with tight, embroidered jeans, her favorite black top and a bright red bandanna around her neck. She wore deep purple eye shadow and had apparently spent her sick day doing her nails with sparkley polish. "I'm just on my way out. Want to join me?"

Cassandra glared at her. "I have work to do."

"All work and no play..." Cecilie sang.

"...Means Cassandra pays your share of the rent again."

"Oh, that reminds me. I borrowed a couple quid from your dresser. Hope you don't mind. I'm famished." She breezed past Cassandra and flounced down the hall. "Oh," she added, "there was a phone call for you. I wrote it down. Ta!"

Cassandra lugged her bags into the flat and dumped them on the table. Sure enough, she saw the message: Cecilie had scrawled it on the refrigerator door.

"stFn cuMMing @ 7"

"That's really helpful!" Cassandra sulked. She dug a roll of paper towels out from under the sink and began scrubbing the refrigerator. She managed to remove about half of the cryptic scrawl when the security buzzer sounded.

"Hi. I hope you don't mind Indian food," Saul said as Cassandra let him into her flat.

Cassandra took the bags of takeout from his arms. "No, that's fine. I love curry." She cleared off the table and helped unparcel the cardboard cartons of Bangalore Burgers and Curry Chips.

"So," Cassandra said after a hastily scarfed meal, "What have you got for me?"

Saul solemnly opened his briefcase and pulled out a folder of papers. "I hope you appreciate this. I spent most the afternoon digging through the morgue for this. Okay, here's what we have. I traced the MacKenzie family back to 1852. The first Strephon MacKenzie was an orphan who was raised at St. Gwydion's Orphanage here in Redemption. He studied for the clergy for a few years, but switched to the law about the same time he married a local farmer's daughter named Phyllis Woodrow."


"Is that important?"

"Hm... maybe. Go on," Cassandra said.

"He became quite a successful barrister, quickly becoming a partner in his firm. Here's a picture of him." He handed Cassandra a photocopy of a newspaper clipping. The young man with side-whiskers in the photograph looked remarkably like the Strephon she knew.

"It says here that he sued Gilbert and Sullivan? Whatever for?"

"It doesn't say. The matter was settled out of court. Anyway, in time he became a QC, then a judge. That was when he built his mansion, MacKenzie house. It's still standing, it's one of the oldest buildings in the Little Kingston district."

"I know, I've been there. So what happened to him?"

"He retired from the bench at about the start of the First World War, but served in the government during the War in the Home Office. His wife did a lot of work locally for the Red Cross too. Then after the War he and his wife did a lot of travelling abroad, but after Phyllis died in 1931, Strephon became a virtual recluse."

"How did Phylis die?"

"Um... Heart attack. Why do you ask?"

Cassandra took a sip of diet cola. "Curious, that's all."

"All right, be mysterious then," Saul said with a half-serious scowl. "Strephon died four years later in 1935. His grandson, also named Strephon, arrived from Canada to take over the house."

"Wait a minute, his grandson? Old Man MacKenzie had a son then?"

Saul checked over his papers again. "Apparently. I couldn't find references to a child being born, but apparently he was raised abroad by relatives."

Cassandra frowned. "That doesn't make sense. I thought Strephon was an orphan."
Saul shrugged. "The only references I could find in the Star were vague about his background. He was partially crippled in his legs and pretty much stayed at home."

"Crippled? By polio?"

"How did you know?"

"Lucky guess."

"Anyway, apart from some charity work during the Blitz, the grandson stayed out of the public eye. In fact, the next reference I find is 1972 when a developer attempted to buy his house and much of the surrounding neighborhood to build a shopping mall. The deal fell through for unspecified reasons."

"Was that the current Strephon, or the grandson?"

Saul checked his clippings again. "I'm not sure. There were several MacKenzie's in the obituaries, but the only one that seemed related to this family was the old judge, the first Strephon."

Cassandra bit her lip in thought. "How can a family live for several generations in the same house without any record of births, deaths or marriages? I've checked the city records. I could find none. I even got a friend at Our Lady of Perpetual Mercy to check his hospital records. He has none! You're telling me that a man stricken with polio who's lived most of his life in a wheelchair has never seen a doctor?"

Saul gathered his papers together again and shut them in his briefcase. "I have a better question," he said. "Why are you so interested in this Strephon MacKenzie anyway?"

Cassandara's cheeks turned pink. "Um... interested? Well, it's just that... well, he's mysterious. He's always talking about himself and his family; he loves talking about all his aunts; but he never seems to actually say anything. And there are these little inconsistencies, like his late wife and his mystery illness. He's hiding something from me, I know it!"

Saul put his hand on hers and repeated. "Are you interested in him?"

For a moment, Cassandra almost said yes! Then sanity took over. "Of course not."

"Good!" Saul gave her hand a squeeze.

Just then a knock came at the door. "Who could that be? If Cecilie forgot her keys again..." Cassandra excused herself and went to open the door. She looked down and her jaw sagged.

Now Cecilie's message made sense: "stFn cuMMing @ 7" meant "Strephon coming at seven".

"Good evening," Strephon said uncertainly, noticing Saul in the room behind her. "Erm, am I interrupting something?"

NEXT:  I'm Sorry To Interrupt, He Lied

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