Christopher Quartermaine

When established magician Warren Carlyle sets up his tent in Sherfield Square, Christopher Quartermaine's life changes forever. So when the man offers the chance for Christopher to travel out of his drab hometown, the boy does not hesitate to accept. Yet as the two make their way throughout the slums of the poorest cities and to the ballrooms of the finest mansions, Christopher starts to wonder if the gentleman’s motives are as untainted as they appear. Is the man Christopher idolizes and yearns to become truly who he says he is? Or are the magician's tranquil demeanor and flashy tricks just a hoax?

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1. Prologue

Prologue  

England

SPRING, 1874

*

Symon Rudhale peered at the flames that fluttered in the stale air and pondered the best method of escape.

“Ten months I have waited for this concoction, Mr. Rudhale.”

Symon tore his gaze from the candles on his desk and turned to the weathered man in front of him. He brandished a smile. “I am aware.”

“Ten months I have paid for your efforts.” The elder man’s voice reached a falsetto as his fury surmounted. “I am very tempted to call an Inspector, Mr. Rudhale.”

Symon’s smile strained. “That will be unnecessary.” He nabbed the glass of wine that sat on his desk, then reclined in the plush wingback. “Have yourself a drink. You must have very low spirits indeed.”

The ancient man’s face flushed  a shade of burgundy Symon hadn’t witnessed before. “How insulting! You’re just trying to intoxicate me so I can lower my defenses.” He lowered his voice, eyes widening behind his spectacles. “So you can use your magic on me.”

Symon’s mouth tugged up into at a corner a sly smile, eyes still focused on the maroon contents of his glass. “That’s what I’m doing, Mr. Woodsworth?” He asked with a grin.. “Manipulating you?”

Mr. Woodsworth slammed his hands on the desktop so harshly that the candles shook. “You are stalling, Mr. Rudhale. Where is my potion?”

Despite the outburst, Symon’s smirk did not falter. Taking a long sip of his wine, he kept his gaze steady on the seething man before him. .” Symon took in the raggedness of the man’s breath and watched his fingers clutch at the tabletop. “Anger is quite an unsightly emotion on you.”

The elder jerked up, a gnarled finger pointed at the young man in accusation. “Ah-hah!” he exclaimed, his eyes alighting as if he had just discovered a trove of secrets. “You haven’t started on it at all, have you? That’s it!”

For a few moments silence crept into the parlor. Symon interrupted it with a chuckle. “Mr. Woodsworth, don’t you have any faith in me?” He rose to his feet and set down the glass of wine with care. Symon crossed over to the left side of the room, which was covered in shelves, and searched the many vials and flasks for just one in particular. Upon finding it, he held up the bottle and gave it a tap, causing the plum-colored liquid to shudder.. “Laedra No. 3. Aged four months.” He handed the vial carefully to Mr. Woodsworth, who snatched it up like an overzealous child.

Mr. Woodsworth shifted uncomfortably, a mixture of wonder and contempt plastered on his face. “Are you sure this is it?” he inquired after a few moments. He gave the flask a quick shake, scrutinizing the fluid inside. “Looks rather...bland.”

Symon smirked. “That ‘bland’ potion is the cure to all of your problems, Mr. Woodsworth.”

Mr. Woodsworth’s face contorted into an expression of confusion. “Every last one?”

Symon nodded, smile spreading. “Well, everything except your anger.”  

Mr. Woodsworth’s wiry eyebrows framed the cruel look in his eyes. “My anger? Are you suggesting that I’m a sour old man?”

Symon offered nothing more than a small shrug. “Nothing of the sort.”

Mr. Woodworth scowled, his embedded wrinkles shifting. “Let’s give my bitterness a test then, hm?”

After a few moments of struggling, Mr. Woodworth popped the cork off the vial. He squinted at the bottle and huffed. “Still as bland as before.” He glanced to the other man, who had moved back to the desk chair, his eyes transfixed on the candle before him. “I’m surprised there’s no flourish, Mr. Rudhale. Is this a joke?” He paused at the lack of response from Symon. “Lousy magician,” he muttered under his breath. “Hopefully a dying breed.”

“What about that test, Mr. Woodsworth?” came Symon’s voice. He propped his chin atop tented fingers. “Do you not want to put my name to shame?” His humorous tone, as always, leaked through. “Is that potion you're holding truly as bland as it appears?”

Mr. Woodsworth blinked at the man, then cast a disgusted glance to the bottle. “Let’s hope your potion is worth the money I shelled out to you.” In a matter of moments, he had lifted the bottle to his lips and downed the contents. He was still for a few seconds, gauging the potion as it slid down his throat. He paused. Nothing happened. “I waited ten months for this lousy spell?” He cast the bottle to the floor, where it shattered on the carpet.

Symon didn’t flinch. He watched the man hurry to the door and throw it open. “Don’t be shocked when you see an Inspector at your doorstep, Mr. Rudhale. In fact, I will make certain that he will arrive tomorrow. Before the morning light even breaks across the sky—”

The man paused as his words became garbled. Alarm flashed across his face as his body sagged forward. He toppled to the floor, body sprawling out across the doorway. A clear line of blood, deep crimson, dripped from his mouth.

Symon hardly glanced up from his desk or the candle that imprinted his shadow against the wall. Mr. Woodsworth’s death was no surprise, for the potion was not an elixir.

It was poison.


 

 

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