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.
Oxford, London, 1885
“MYSTERIOUS MURDER IN LEXINGTON!”
Mssr. Shipman was found this deceased this morning of a cracked skull. His cook, Mz. Llewyn reported it after alarming the neighbors with her screams. The police were summoned to the crime scene to find Mssr. Shipman dead of a head injury. He is said to have been dead for nine hours previous to being found by Mz. Llewyn.
After being soothed, she was brought to police headquarters for questioning.
Says she: “Mr. Shipman was not a man prone to accidents [and] would not have fallen in such a way. He was too young and stable to be damaged by such a fall.”
The autopsy revealed that Arthur Shipman had several blond hairs on the collar around his throat. His own hair is dark, raising the question of whether the incident can truly be attributed to a fatal accident or whether there was foul play. Reports of a break-in have been uncomfirmed, but eyewitnesses have attested to the sighting of several men entering the residence of Mssr. Shipman after normal visiting hours.
Whether the criminals in question will be caught remains to be seen.
“I bet they don’t catch them.”
“Don’t be so depressing.”
“I’m not! But I bet you a guinea they murder at least two more before they’re caught.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Sacha. It always happens in the detective stories. Bet you the inspector could get to it faster than any of them.”
Mariah and Sacha exchanged an exasperated look over the top of the piano.
There were times – unfortunately very often – when Mariah Mundi found himself wondering if the adventures he and his brother had found themselves in almost eight months ago had merely served to intensify his brother’s thirst for adventure. Such an adventure – his brother being kidnapped, parents possibly dying, his own near-death escapades – seemed to have an opposite impact on his brother than it should have.The newspapers did not help, as the only kinds of readers they seemed to cater to were those like Felix.
His little brother snatched up his blue book from the settee.
“Off to read about your brilliant detective then?” Mariah asked.
His little brother shot him that teasing smile that he was so good at. “Of course not! I’m off to feed Rishi.”
Both of the young adults in the room gave an exasperated sigh at the name of Felix’s pet monkey. Half demon and half dumb animal, Rishi was the worst of both worlds.
As Felix went off to cater to his loathsome pet and Sacha went back to her painstaking attempt to learn piano, Mariah picked up the newspaper. The print was clean above the rather violent and melodramatic illustration of a sobbing Mz. Llewyn standing over the body of her dead employer. Such headlines were sure to sell, he thought dryly. Even at Oxford, the English people had a taste for blood that could not be sated.
The story was indeed grim, going on to list several other murders committed within the last month. The ads were no better, as most of them relied on the public’s shock and horror surrounding the violent crimes to advertise self-protection devices. They ranged from more practical items like pistols and ivory-handled daggers to talismans and charms that would “ward away” any evil.
Complete nonsense, he thought scornfully.
Then again, had the Midas Box been nonsense? It had certainly proven to be more than just a silly story about turning things to gold. He shivered, remembering the golden vibration of the weapon the Midas Box really was and how close he had come to being a victim of it himself.
He looked up to see a maid holding out a long parcel. He accepted it with as gracious a smile as he could manage. She left the room as Felix entered it with the spider monkey on his shoulder.
“What is that?”
Rising from behind the piano, Sacha joined the two as they peered at the label slapped rather shoddily onto the brown packaging paper.
“Well, then what…?”
Felix snatched the package from his hand, unwrapping the long parcel before letting out a groan.
“It’s just another stupid artifact, like all the other ones Mum and Dad have.”
Had, Mariah thought, but he didn’t correct his brother. He knew Felix had not given up hope that their parents might be found once more; he, however, was far less certain.
His father certainly would have liked this staff though if he had been alive. His mum too, despite the fact that she was more keen on the adventuring and collecting artifacts part of the job. This staff would certainly have caught her attention despite her penchant for action.
It was a true masterpiece of an artifact, kept intact wth precision. The handle was carved ivory, as was the figure on the head, though this figure was set with gold. With its curved golden stripes and elegantly carved falcon’s head, it certainly looked like something that belonged in the Oxford museum. Yet Will had sent it here. Why?
“Mesopotamian?” Felix guessed, looking up at his older brother.
“Early Egyptian, I think,” Mariah corrected him. They were not the sons of Oxford professors for nothing. “I wonder why…”
He never finished his sentence because the staff was suddenly snatched from Felix’s hands. All three looked up to see Rishi the spider monkey bound across the room, grabbing hold of the coat rack and jumping from it to the lamp that hung from the ceiling.
While the two boys shouted at him to come down, the monkey began to screech loudly.
One of the maids darted into the room, saw the monkey, paled, and ran back out again.
Mariah had no doubt she was off to tell the rest of the staff about their incompetence, though that hardly seemed important compared to the task of actually getting the staff away from the monkey.
Greedy thing. Their parents should have left it in the jungle, where an animal like him belonged.
Chattering loudly, the monkey jumped from the large lamp in the center of the room to one of the gas lamps on the wall. Mariah was tall enough to grab him, but Rishi, seeing the look in the adolescent’s eye, darted away once more.
Sacha was the first one to actually do something. While Mariah and Felix attempted to grab on to the tiny animal, she was racing out of the room and up the stairs. Meanwhile Rishi was yelling loudly and not very happily from where he was now perched on the fireplace mantel, dancing away from the urgent reach of the boy’s fingers. If he would just lean down a little lower, Mariah could grab the staff, but his brother kept complaining about not hurting his monkey.
Sacha hurried back into the room with a butterfly net in hand, her face set. Felix took one look at both the net and her face before turning to Mariah.
“She’s got my net! Don’t let her use my net!”
“Do you want to get him or not?” Sacha said, just as Rishi jumped down from the mantel, raced across the piano keys, and jumped up onto a portrait frame that wobbled underneath his weight.
“You’re going to hurt him!” Felix yelled as she swung her net at the monkey, who wailed loudly.
Mariah could have sworn that the monkey was faking it, because he stuck his tongue out at the collective group before moving back to the lamp at the center of the room.
“Mariah, tell her to stop!” His brother yelled, yanking on the net.
“Felix, we have to catch him!”
The two, locked in combat, looked up at him, both with equally pleading looks.
“Well – I”- He felt suddenly uncomfortable, his skin prickling underneath his finely starched collar.
His brother looked betrayed watching Mariah fumble for words and Sacha merely exasperated.
He was saved by the sudden appearance of the housekeeper in the room. Rishi chattered over her as she spoke, leaping once more from the lamp, though this time he was aimed for a very different target.
“Rishi, heel!” A voice commanded.
From behind the housekeeper, out stepped the familiar figure of intrepid bureau member Will Charity. The monkey landed in Charity’s open arms where the staff was immediately plucked from the monkey’s thin arms.
“Will?” Mariah said in disbelief.
The tiny spider monkey bounced up in annoyance, crawling onto the gentleman’s shoulder so he could nibble on the curls that poked out from beneath a fashionable top hat.
“Looks like I got here just in time,” their guest chuckled, though the laughter didn’t quite reach his dark eyes.
While the elder two were distracted by Charity’s appearance, Felix snatched his net back.
Rishi was escorted back into his cage as soon as they had all exchanged greetings, giving the elder members of the household a reason to breath a sigh of relief. The less time that animal spent outside of a cage, the better. Once his brother had returned, the small group turned towards the dining parlor.
“Might I have a word?” Charity hissed in a low voice.
Mariah paused, looking around. The hall was hardly the place to have any sort of discussion.
“In here,” he said, turning towards his father’s study.
When his father had been alive, Mariah had taken studies with his father in this very room. The dark burnished office was overstuffed with artifacts and books on various subjects, all of which he’d been forced to categorize as part of his studies. The orderly system that his parents had taken so much joy in was disrupted almost a year ago when their home had been invaded – of course by then, they had thought their parents dead.
Mariah wasn’t sure what to think now, especially seeing the serious look on Charity’s face.
“Is this about our parents?” He asked, taking a seat behind the desk.
It felt like betrayal to sit where his father had sat almost every single day of his life, but it would likely be best if and when Charity delivered the truth. He would have to take it alone, for Felix’s sake.
“Mariah, your parents…” Charity took in a breath, leaning on his cane before turning to look around the office with something of a nostalgic smile.
“What about them? Are they safe?”
The adventurer looked back at him, impish eyes no longer dancing.
“The truth, Mariah, is that we simply don’t know.”
“But I thought you were looking for them. You assured me, sir, that”-
-“I’m sorry,” Will hurried to add. “Truly. But Gormenburg has been undermining us every step of the way and we only have a hint about where they might be.”
Mariah did not speak even as the bureau agent approached to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“I promise you, Mariah, I will keep searching, but you have to trust me. And I need to trust you.”
Charity looked twice around the room, as if there might be hidden spies. The door was locked and the window set into the wall looked out into the alley where the only people skulking about were coal boys and chimney sweeps too tired to care about what they might be saying. Still, it didn’t stop the secret agent from crossing the room twice to check that all doors were locked and the window was secure.
When he’d finally finished this process, still taking rather measured glances around the room, he turned to look at Mariah.
“You might recall that when we first met, I told you that we – rather, I – suspected a traitor amongst us,” he said.
The older boy nodded.
“It would appear that this traitor has become more generous with those that he informs. That scepter you received right now is highly sought after.
“I couldn’t risk it falling into enemy hands and I suspected that the traitor might yet not know of how closely you are connected to the Bureau.”
“So we’re to hold it for you?” Mariah asked. He was dubious. “Why is it whenever you show up I find myself involved with some magical artifact?”
Will smiled thinly. “It is getting a bit boring, isn’t it? Next time I’ll have to send you a monster. Those are always fun.”
A monster? Mariah thought dubiously, rising as Charity did.
What was he to tell his brother then? He queried. The explorer simply shrugged.
“Tell him all is well with your parents and we’re on the trail. If all goes according to plan, we should find them soon, safe and chipper as ever,” he continued.
Mariah paused. “You want me to lie to him?”
“Would you prefer you tell the truth?”
Yes, he thought, but he didn’t say so. In truth, it would hurt far more to finally tell Felix what he knew than to keep the secret to himself as he’d done for the past eight months.
Whether he liked having to keep the painful truth to himself or not was besides the point: Mariah could and would not dash his brother’s hopes.
Will smiled, taking his thoughtful silence as an agreement and clapped a hand on the boy’s back before opening the door so they could both continue on to the dining room.
Felix and Sacha were just being served the second course of their light luncheon as they stepped into the room. His brother looked eagerly at Will Charity as he took a seat, practically wriggling with more excitement than Mariah had seen in him for months.
“So what did you have to talk about? Are we going on another mission?”
“Not today, old chap, but I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that my missions have been going splendidly.” Will winked at Felix. “And I have good news about your parents.”
Mariah glanced down at the spotless china plate that lay before him. From the across the table, Sacha gave him a sharp glance.
“…We should find them soon,” Charity was just saying.
“Did you hear that?” Felix said, turning to give his older brother an I-told-you-so look.
“We’ll have Mama and Papa back any day now, you’ll see.”
Mariah smiled back, but he didn’t feel like it.
When the luncheon was finished, Felix escorted their guest to the door. Mariah and Sacha had said a polite goodbye and now sat in the parlor. From the settee, he watched the adventurer walk out onto the street, swinging his cane casually, but constantly glancing left and right. As he came to the corner, a black hansom pulled up. Mariah didn’t like the way Will stepped back nor did he like the looks of the man who stepped out of the carriage. The tall man towered over Charity and after a few moments of what looked like tense dialogue, the secret agent stepped inside the hansom.
We suspect a traitor…but they do not know of you.
He sincerely hoped Will was right.