Every Friday I will be publishing a portion of my fan fiction sequel to The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box. This is by no means endorsed by either the author of the novels nor the creators of the films. This is just a requested sequel as I picture it. Enjoy.
He ducked into the box, closing and locking the door behind him. He had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach; call it intuition or guesswork, but he knew that the man who waited outside was the same one who had been in the cab following them.
The theater itself was still lit, with elegantly dressed guests still finding their seats. Sacha and Felix were leaning over the balcony edge to peer at the great hall and while they were distracted, Mariah peeked out the door. The gentleman was pacing in the opposite direction, but in minutes he would turn around again to come the other way. It was almost as if he was guarding the door, he surmised. At the same time, something about the man’s features was itching in the back of his mind.
“Mariah, what’s wrong?” Sacha turned. Her gaze was keen as she looked from him to the door.
There was not much that got past her sharp – and some might say stubborn – eyes.
“Nothing,” He lied. “There’s just – it’s…nothing.”
The look she gave him was nothing short of condemning. She knew as well as he did that he was lying. Still, Sacha may have been sharp-eyed, but she wasn’t persistent. With one last suspicious look, she turned around.
The play was just starting when Mariah finally took his seat. He could see the faint shadow of footsteps every so many minutes as the man must have passed by the door, but there was nothing to be done except enjoy the show that was starting. The amicable chatter of the aduience quieted instantly as a great fanfare rose from the orchestra. A smattering of polite applause spread as the curtain rose to reveal a group of performers all frozen in the perfect spot until their musical cues. The conductor waited only seconds long enough to pique the audience’s interest before launching into the first swelling piece of the score. It was a familiar one, given the fact that Mariah had been coming to the theater with his parents since he was old enough to speak. The familiar feeling of loss twinged in his chest, replaced by mirth as the show really began.
The Theater du Sortilege prided itself on the quality of the work produced, this particular comedy always being of great success. Today was no exception. The audience laughed at all the right moments and even Mariah cracked a smile at some of the jokes made. Felix was laughing rather joyously and Sacha was giggling to herself. It was such a good moment, that he almost wished he hadn’t heard the click of footsteps outside their doors.
They went back and forth in a steady pace that was purposeful. It was enough that Mariah almost became used to the rhythym, missing it only as the third act reached its halfway point. The footsteps had disappeared. In the darkness, he was able to slip easily from his seat and approach the doors. After unlocking the door, he cracked it open wide enough to peer out and see the heavily-coated individual who had stood watch before the show even began. The man paused to look up at a lantern that illuminated his darkly burnished face before pausing by the stairs, as if hearing a noise. He reached into his pocket, rocking on his heels for several seconds before withdrawing a pistol.
Mariah shut the door, cracking it open only when he was certain that the stranger was not coming back towards the door. The man stood at the head of the stairs for several minutes and it was as the young man studied the loner’s profile that the itch at the back of his brain returned. He recognized this man, that much he was certain of. This was no ordinary worker nor even wealthy socialite. This was someone so unnoticed that even Mariah could not place him.
As he puzzled over the stranger’s identity, the man started down the stairs. Mariah paused, caught between wanting to stay in the box to watch over the others and wanting to follow. If his parents were here, he knew they would urge him to stay.
Then again, his parents weren’t here and the man on the hunt for his parents would surely urge him to follow the menacing stranger who could possibly threaten what remained of his family.
With this thought in mind, he stepped out into the corridor, closing the locked door behind him. The hall was somewhat quiet, except for the muffled sounds of swelling music and guests laughing at what was no doubt a highly amusing joke. Here it was empty, the man having evidently already left to investigate whatever noise had drawn him away from their door. Mariah waited, but there was no sound that was not of the comedy.
At least, not until the gunshots.
His legs moved faster than his shocked brain did; he was at the landing of the staircase before he could even consider that he might possibly be running towards a murderer.
If his brain finally managed to think these thoughts of warning, his body did not listen, because his eyes had spotted what his frantic mind did not: a body. Mariah ran down the staircase, pausing only on the last step to look around for another who might emerge brandishing a gun. When he could not see anyone, he approached.
The man’s face was damp with sweat and flushed with panic, but he was not dead. Not yet, anyway. A bullet hole in what appeared to be the man’s shoulder and left rib was stained red and spreading faster through his shirt. Mariah raised his eyes to see that the injured man was staring at him, dark eyes glittering.
“Let me call a doctor,” he offered. He was not without heart, no matter the fact that the stranger had been tailing them.
“No!” The man barked.
Mariah froze as the stranger beckoned him forth, reaching into his coat pocket to hold up a metal object. It was only as he drew nearer that he recognized it as a badge, with the engraving of a sphinx. His stomach churned as he realized what the badge was for. His parents had some just like it, hidden in his father’s secret cabinets. So did Will Charity, though he wore his more proudly. It was a matter of pride that Will was a member of the Bureau of Antiquities.
This man was an agent.
He dropped to his knees, coming closer as the man raised his hand to beckon him.
“They’re coming, boy,” he said. “You have to keep it safe. Don’t”- he wheezed several times, removing his hand to grip his bloody shoulder -“don’t want to end up like your parents, eh?”
Mariah was already cold when he heard the gunshots; he was icy now. Both of their hands were cold, one white, one so black that it appeared to be turning blue the longer he crouched there.
“You go back,” the man urged, his words becoming slurred.
Mariah stood, but he didn’t intend to abandon him. He had to find a doctor or a policeman – someone who could help him. It was as he ran up the staircase that he heard the final strains of the music and knew that the play was over. In moments, the theater would be flooded and people would see the dying body of a man with the badge for an agency that wasn’t supposed to exist.
He reached an usher just as the doors opened and floods of theater-goers began to emerge, all eager to adjourn to the reception. If Felix and Sacha were amongst the crowd, he did not stop to look for them. He had to help the bureau agent.
“…He’s just right over here,” Mariah said, leading the formally dressed staff member closer.
A crowd had already gathered and several were even gasping to each other as a murmur swept through the crowd. He approached, pushing through the elegantly dressed throng with “excuse me”s and other polite apologies. He reached the fringe of the group within minutes only to be met by surprise.
The bureau agent had disappeared.
It took Mariah several minutes to push back through the crowd to a more private corner of the theater to explain to the usher that no, sir, he was not trying to make a joke. It didn’t seem he was very believable. The usher continued to tolerate his explanation for only a few minutes longer, before politely threatening to call the stage manager. He would have to anyway, Mariah observed asthe frustrated usher departed his own separate way to find cleaning supplies for what was obviously a mere “wine stain”. As if a wine stain belonged in a theater lobby anymore than bloodstains did. If it was any consolation, the crowd seemed to believe him; they were still gathered in a circle to point at the spots that trailed off to nowhere, though after a little while their attention waned and they instead turned towards the reception.
The sound of delicate music trilled as violinists and flute players stood in a corner, entertaining the guests with obnoxiously repetitive polkas of a delicate variety. Most everyone who stood with a head tilted appreciatively was older, meaning he would not find his brother nor Sacha here. He continued to circle the room, pausing only when he smelled the rich aroma of chocolate and spices.
His brother was by one of the long tables from which staff was removing plates of delicate treats and glasses with which one could toast the cast of such an exuberant production. From the looks of it, his younger brother was doing what no one else had the sense to do and was getting food from the source. So long as the waiters looked the other way, Felix could snatch up food and eat as much as he wanted, which was certainly more than the portions being served to other guests.
“Where’s Sacha?” Mariah asked as he reached him.
His brother had a difficult time swallowing around the treats in his mouth. It took him several minutes before he was able to finally speak.
“Over there, talking to some of the other guests. Why?”
“We have to leave,” Mariah said.
His brother’s expression changed from one of casual curiosity as he continued to feed small crackers, bon-bons, and olives into his mouth to one of concern. He too remembered the last time they’d had to urgently leave a place they felt safe.
“I’ll get our coats,” he nodded, stuffing one bonbon into his pocket for good measure.
Mariah smiled after his brother’s retreating figure. Say what you will of Felix, but there was no denying he was always ready to help.
Once he was sure Felix had gone and returned safely, Mariah pushed his way through the crowd towards the familiar sound of Sacha’s voice. The guests gave him rather disapproving looks as he shuffled past and some of the elder women openly stared at him. He nodded hastily to them and moved aside to see Sacha standing shunted to the side with two men. The handsome young banker by her side cut quite a figure, one inherited from his rather elderly father who accompanied the pair. Both men looked striking next to the slight girl and, much more importantly to Sacha he was sure, neither was gossipping about or ignoring her.
Mariah approached, nodding to the two in civility. Obviously neither recognized him by face. Good. Even if he disliked them, he was willing to be polite.
“Good evening,” he said with a thinly veiled smile. There was not a moment’s pause as he turned to Sacha. “Can I talk to you?”
Her cheeks flooded with color as her gaze switched to the pair who looked rather annoyed at this intrusion, then back to Mariah.
-“Harold Pearson, sir,” the young man interrupted, stepping forward.
Mariah took his hand with a forced smile. “Mariah Mundi. Sir.”
The young man’s handsome smile froze and when he stepped back, one could tell that even through the elegant mask he had on, he was shocked.
The elder man simply gazed at him with narrowed eyes. Mariah was sure that Mr. Harold Pearson, senior, would recognize him now. After all, how could the man who had refused to ever lend a hand to either the Mundis or their various charities forget such a family?
Felix appeared at that moment, his arms full of their thick coats, his own already pulled on. Seeing the two men, his eyes narrowed.
“Well,” Sacha said, breaking the icy silence with an uneasy smile. “It was a pleasure, gentlemen, but we must be going.”
It took a moment, but goodbyes were exchanged. Felix squeezed the men’s hands a little too tightly, Mariah noted with pride. Sometimes it was good to have a brother who was willing to do the things you were not. While Harold Pearson senior kept his gaze firmly fixed on the two boys, Sacha and Harold Pearson junior exchanged warm salutations. Then it was back through the staring crowd that sent Sacha’s chin dipping back down towards her chest and the two boys’ firm gazes set forwards.
By all accounts, it had been a puzzling evening and Mariah was glad to step out to the theater promenade. Where the fog had only been a nuisance in the earlier evening, now it positively choked the dark streets. There were no lights to be seen, unless it was a streetlamp looming overhead; the perfect weather for unsuspecting Englishman to be taken advantage of. Mariah had no wish to fall prey to any such dangers. Hailing a cab, he ushered a tight-lipped Sacha and a peaky Felix in.
As the carriage jostled back and forth, he watched Sacha’s face, which was turned towards the window. He could tell she ws biting her tongue, not willing to speak yet. He could reconcile himself to her anger, so long as his suspicions weren’t correct. The cab turned a corner, sending Felix sliding towards Sacha’s shoulder and Mariah towards the door. They were almost home now, he knew.
When the carriage finally did pull to a stop, Mariah hurried out, his coat flying behind him as he hit the pavement, only to draw to a stop when he saw the front door swinging open. His brother’s fair head poked out of the carriage window.
“Do you suppose…” He did not have to finish the question.
Mariah felt cold, despite the heavy coat layered over his shoulders.
“Stay inside,” he hissed to the remaining two.
He approached the walk, resting a hand on the iron fence to look peer into the windows. As far as he could tell, there were no lights on. If their intruders were still here, they were waiting in the dark. Mariah swallowed nervously, slowly pushing the door open. The creack echoed in an almost completely dark parlor. Grabbing one of the canes from the stand by the door, he stepped further in, his breath quickening.
He could hear the sounds of footsteps from the other side of the parlor door that led into the kitchen and it was here he paused, one gloved hand resting on the doorknob. Just as he was about to open the door, the knob twisted under his hand. He backed away, ducking to the side of the frame to wait for the intruder to slip through. The door did open, but only a familiar grayed head emerged, shaking visibly.
The elderly man turned with a frightened expression, one hand clutching at his chest until he saw who stood there.
“Mister Mundi? Are they gone?”
He stared at the aging butler. “Is who gone?”
The man explained in wheezing breaths about three men who appeared to be, as he put it, rather brutish in nature. They’d fought off a fourth man, who appeared to be a stranger to the company and the third man had departed slinging the unconscious party out to the street.
“Last I heard, sir, they were striding toward your father’s office”-
There was no more to be said. The sinking feeling in Mariah’s chest was merely confirmed when he approached the door to see that the door to his father’s office was flung open. He almost hesitated to shine a light on what might lay inside, but he had to. Stepping forward, he felt the crinkle of paper underfoot. A sinking feeling filled his chest as he reached forward and lit the lamp.
His father’s office was destroyed.