THE DOUBLE LIFE OF INCORPORATE THINGS: Chapter 8
(Tue, 14 May 2013)
(For previous chapters see right side bar, if viewing via mobile, visit http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com and scroll for previous entries)
I'd done this before: dressing in men's clothing in order to investigate a scene.
Last time I'd ended up in a part opium den, part brothel in the Five Points, on the trail of a murderer, trying to protect innocent victims. It was certainly one of the braver things I'd done.
This time, simply donning men's clothes so as not to be questioned or accosted while I examined a mere tavern near Greenwich Village after dark seemed like far less dangerous quarry. Still,
upending my gender and pretending to be something I'm not has its anxieties.
I stared at myself in the mirror, dressed in one of Father's plain brown cast-off suits that I'd had secretly tailored down to fit me during my first foray into subterfuge, back in the days when
saving Lord Denbury's soul was a methodical process.
Looking at the youthful creature in the mirror, my auburn locks tucked and pinned up beneath a newsboy's cap, I felt far less certain about the exact
right course of action. Though my instincts were strong, I now had experienced more trials and errors by which to second guess myself.
The fact that I'd survived against all odds with the help of God, mentorship, love, and some benevolent spirits didn't make me feel much better about tempting fate once again. At what point would
God deem me foolish and stop watching out for me when I was obviously putting myself in situations where I might need divine intervention?
The danger of crying wolf seemed a distinct possibility here, and yet I didn't know any other way to confront the clues granted to me in my dreams but this. If I did nothing, I was a coward
without a gift. This was a way of taking my knowledge into action without dragging anyone else along with it, in case my dream world was entirely wrong. I didn't want to make anyone else liable
for my mind's unpredictable eye. Along with any sort of power, a great responsibility comes hand in hand. That was surely a certainty for the ages.
I stared at myself in the mirror in the same way I'd done when I'd first donned men's wardrobe for the sake of espionage; surprised at the young boy before me, I knew that I was me, and yet here I was certainly not as society would have me. It was a nice blending wardrobe, nothing too fine, nothing too shabby, brilliantly and
forgettable in the middle-class range.
I snuck out of the house by ten, blessed by early and heavy sleepers on Father and Bessie's count. I was far more the night owl. Watching men's gaits to try to embody their strides, I went out to
Lexington Avenue to hail a cab. My allowance for penny candies, ribbons, and newspapers had been increasingly co-opted for spy-craft. I corralled a downtown-bound hansom cab, and the small
compartment clopped and bounced down cobblestone blocks until the streets went at odd angles, and old New York streets took over, donning family names and early histories, banishing the numbered
grid to the uptown streets it had served since the beginning of the century.
The White Horse was as you'd expect of any tavern: loud, raucous, filled with liquor and men. I sidled up to the wooden bar and ordered a drink in a low voice, whatever I'd heard the man a few
steps ahead of me order. I knew nothing of liquor or beer; I'd sip the glass and not drink it as I scouted for my target, not wanting any substance to make me any less sharp. It didn't take
terribly long to find the man in question.
I nearly physically recoiled at the sight of him. Somehow my dreams had foretold enough about the man that even though the description hadn't been clear, my gut knew exactly who it was. The
predatory nature about him, his stance, his eyes, the way he seemed to sniff more than breathe, all of it had the air of animal more than human that spoke of a possessed body. His behavior wasn't
overtly so, otherwise no one would entertain his presence, but it was subtle enough for me to feel and see that something was a bit off. But obviously the man was targeting those with little to
lose, easy prey, who tended to overlook such things as eyes that shined a bit too oddly and movement that was a little too much like a puppet.
He was holding court, it seemed, looming over a table of bleary-eyed young fellows who were considering the man's words, one with skepticism, another with hope, one with desperation, and one who
seemed a bit too intoxicated to focus. I wondered if somehow I could distract them, break the spell this man seemed to be casting over them like a pall. But then directing the man's focus onto me
seemed like a bad idea, considering the dream. I knew I was staring at all of them a bit too intently, rudely, but hopefully from the shadows I kept to, no one would notice.
And then I felt arms slide around me from behind, and just as I jumped, about to cry out, I heard a familiar, delectable British accent purr my name. The whisper in my ear stilled me immediately.
"Shh... Natalie. I know it's you," came Jonathon's murmur and the action of his arms and the murmur of my name made me weak in the knees. "The trouble with disguises," he continued with a bemused
chuckle in my ear, "is that, when it comes to me...I can always see your light. You can't hide the vibrant color of your soul. Not from me."
I drank in his words. We'd had such awkwardness, such distance, I was afraid the kind of dreamlike words and intense passion our relationship had been built upon had been banished to the world of
his painted prison, I feared our poetry was lost in the '"real'" world. It would seem he still had fine words for me. Perhaps it took a bit of unexpected espionage for them to return. Thankfully
we had magic to bring us home. He could see the colors of my aura, the clue that had allowed his soul the agency to communicate with me even in his prison. And it would seem I was illuminated by
"I love it when you find me, Jonathon," I whispered back to him. "And I always want you to…"
He kissed my temple, breath hot against my ear as he murmured: "You ridiculous thing, you, what on earth are you doing here?" My body thrilled from head to toe. I relaxed in his hold and leaned
It was good that we were wholly in the shadows, considering how I was dressed. The bohemian freedom championed by such circles as Nathaniel Veil's Association had no precedent here, and so two
men embracing in this sort of intimate manner was simply not allowed in society at large.
Maybe someday it would be. For my part I didn't see anything wrong; love was love, a soul was a soul, I'd learned first hand that the spirit defines the person, not the body it was in. But
society, I knew well enough from the disability that still cast its occasional silent shadow over my life, didn't like things to be anything but '"normal'," expected, traditional, unquestioned.
But considering paranormal had become my normality, all things had to adjust accordingly. I could only consider my own spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being and say my own prayers,
knowing I'd gotten this far by a faith that was larger than the time and the constraints in which I lived. I couldn't count on society to know how to adapt alongside me.
"How did you know to come here, Jonathon?" I murmured, turning my face to graze my nose against his fine cheekbone, warmed also by the fact that he
wanted to touch and be close to me no matter the clothes I was in, a reassurance that reached across myriad boundaries.
"I asked you first," he countered.
"A dream. Foretold," I answered. "You?"
"I followed him." Jonathon indicated the man in question, who was ordering a round of drinks for his captive audience. "From one of Brinkman's addresses. He was coming around from the back of the
building. I saw a sparkle of the red and gold of the demons' light bounce about him, the color flashing out of the corner of my eye. No other addresses seemed to wield anything of particular
interest or note. I'd watched each for many hours. I didn't really think, I just came this way."
"Same, once I put the pieces of the dream together enough to evince the clues as leading to this location, I donned this disguise and made my move."
"Is this what you wore the last time you went someplace a lady shouldn't go on her own?"
I nodded. Jonathon held back a laugh. Whether I was or wasn't convincing, he didn't say, and I didn't get the chance to ask before the man we were watching pulled a few glass vials out from his
long, pale coat pocket and put them on the table, where the youthful audience stared at them with a mixture of hunger and apprehension.
Jonathon seized my tall glass of stout and a second glass of ale that had been abandoned upon a nearby ledge. Gesturing for me to stay put, he then suddenly he stepped out from the shadows. I
noticed he'd dressed down considerably, to mere shirtsleeves, suspenders, and trousers like a regular factory worker. A grubby cap with the brim pulled low concealed his fine black locks and a
bit of soot was smudged over a chiseled cheekbone. It's true that his more lordly appearance might have given him away, and in this case he didn't seem to wish to play the demon to this Stevens
fellow, just in case he was being sought as such. We both had come in covert costume, it would seem.
Jonathon stumbled artfully forward, careful not to tip the glasses, until he jostled toward the table. He ran right into Stevens, first spilling the dark stout onto the man's beige coat, then spilling the second glass over the glass vials, overturning them, sending a tiny
puff of red powder near Jonathon's face. He batted the particles away with a faux drunken movement. I wasn't sure how potent or volatile the substance was, and I hoped there was no effect from
his proximity to it.
Disrupting the whole scene rather brilliantly, causing far greater hubbub and commotion around him, Jonathon fumbled over an apology—in an impressive New York–styled accent—before stumbling on to
say he'd go get someone to help clean it all up. Stevens barked after him not to bother, the man's dark and troubled eyes flashing, his drawn face scowling as the youths at the table blinked and
Jonathon circled round the tavern, I lost sight of him in a cluster of bodies for a moment, and suddenly he returned to me in the shadows. Upon his return, he was sans cap and wearing a dark
black jacket, blending into the shadows with me.
"Where did you..." I gestured to the coat.
"Hung upon a coat tree in the back of the bar," he replied. "Brinkman wrote me a note with a few tips. Useful things, really." Before I could ask further about fresh communication from the spy,
Jonathon continued. "Watch for any changes or anything to do with those vials or the content. I'm going to speak to the management about someone coming and trying to make sales of products that
were not sold by the tavern itself, something that might keep Stevens watched, and hopefully reported to the authorities." He stalked off, and I
watched the unfolding reactions at the table.
The four youths seemed to have broken from a trance. They stared at Stevens and at the dripping mess before them alternately, their brows furrowing. Three of them stood to clean themselves off
and walked away as if they weren't exactly sure of themselves; one just turned from Stevens but remained sitting, using a kerchief to wipe down the surfaces directly around him, his shoulders
hunched, either tired, drunk, miserable, or all three. Stevens clenched his jaw and turned to pace in the dim light of the tavern lanterns, thinking no one was watching.
Just as the group dispersed and the moment was foiled, I noticed two young black-clad women in short black cloaks and hats with net veils peering in through the tavern window from the street
beyond, arm in arm. They waved at one of the young men within, and his visage brightened at the sight of them.
My heart pulled, as all of them reminded me of the characters in my dream. In my dream, there had been screaming as young men were turning into monsters, transformed by insidious means,
dehumanized to wretched experiments meant to keep the victims in fear. Here, there were only smiles. I wanted to cry out in triumph. We changed the fate of the night...
Inside, Stevens turned, his sallow face hard and haunted. I wondered what drove that man. Was it as misguided as it had been with Doctor Preston, reanimating out of love? What made Stevens want
to alter a person so? Or was he merely a possessed body, the actual original researcher having long ago been dispatched?
He stole a glass from a ledge where a few smart-looking fellows were hotly debating politics and downed the beverage. His fist clenched and his arm raised, seeming ready to throw the glass before
he then thought better of it as one of the staff approached him. I overheard the manager gruffly ask about whether he'd been trying to sell products in their establishment. Stevens was
immediately contrite and ordered more alcohol. I wished in that moment this '"doctor'" of questionable repute would have picked a fight so that a local police officer would have been called to
take him in. I thought about throwing something to seek escalation, but escaping a bar brawl wasn't in my particular expertise.
Confident the doctor wasn't going anywhere as he sat back at the table now wholly abandoned, defeated, a glass of liquor in each hand, I took my eyes off the man and searched for Jonathon.
Feeling so vindicated by Stevens's failure to incite another incident, I turned to Jonathon upon his return to the shadows surrounding us and nearly threw my arms around him. Instead, I merely
stood very closely, hoping to regain the scorching intimacy we'd had from the moments our souls had first met within the magic of a canvas...
"Let's not be strangers, Natalie," he said, reassuring my foremost concern as if he'd read my mind.
"Let's not," I replied eagerly. "I've been so worried, can feel you withdrawing—"
"I've a lot on my mind," he interrupted, his voice hard. "Dark things, Natalie. I don't want to burden you—"
"I want—need—to know everything. I want to bear the weight of that burden with you, just like when your spirit kept darkening that painting."
He sighed heavily. "Home is calling me, Natalie. I'm going to have to return to the estate at some point. I can't avoid it any longer."
"I'm coming with you," I declared.
He just gave me a pained look.
"I don't want us to be apart," I insisted. "I want us to be together and for everything to be perfect, never pressured, never looking over our shoulders, but just perfect."
He stared at me, and I could see the flicker of doubt in his eyes. "So you will accept me? If I were to ask...again?"
My heart jumped at this, but it still had to be for the right reason. "If you ask for no other reason than for your own desire. Not because anyone forced you to. I've never wanted to say yes to
anything more," I whispered, achingly. He nodded, biting back a smile, seeming in part placated, in part still nervous. "Besides," I added, "don't you think the forces at work would like to see
us split apart? We can't give them that opportunity."
"True," he agreed. "Tonight, I do think a crisis may have been averted."
We had intervened before further victims had been ensnared for Stevens's experimental purposes, sowing seeds of chaos. I felt a proud surge flood my body. We were clever, resourceful, and gifted.
We were more than the enemy would expect of us.
As we left, for we could not stay out into the night indefinitely, we had to step from the shadows and into the brighter gas-lit entryway. I cast one look back over my shoulder. The man, Stevens,
was staring at me. Right at me. Through me. His eyes flashed oddly, unnaturally.
And suddenly I didn't feel so clever anymore.
(End of Chapter 8 -- Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it,
FB, + it! The Magic Most Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1
and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie
Stewart and/or donate to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)
>> read more
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF INCORPORATE THINGS: Chapter 7
(Tue, 07 May 2013)
(For previous chapters, please see the links on the right column or click http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com and scroll down through
My curiosity about the letter overtook my propriety. Mrs. Northe knew me. Quite well. If that was lying out in plain sight, I was meant to see it. At least, that's how I justified sitting down to
“My dear niece Maggie,
It’s up to you whether the devils will have you or not… Karen tells me that you seem detached from the reality that you are in, in that you are not taking responsibility for your actions but are
blaming them on others. Me, for one. Natalie, another, Mr. Bentrop and that book still more...
Here is where I have failed you. I didn't know about that book until it was too late. But some part of you had to know it wasn't a good book, Maggie, didn't you? You've insisted on trying to get
information out of me. Why wouldn't you have brought that book to me? Mr. Bentrop turned you against me? Over the course of a couple of dinner parties? He is not a nice man, Maggie, nor are his
associates. They are trying to pave roadways for the type of terrible energy that nearly killed you, the kind you willingly brought into your own home, resurrected in an altar in your closet.
I beg you to see that I dissuaded you from the wrong types of paths; I encouraged you to sit with our simple, quiet séances. But they were not flashy enough for you. It was not exciting enough,
it seemed, to merely set a soul to rest. Power was more entrancing for you, and parlor tricks to charm a crowd. There are plenty of charlatan spiritualists out there who can train you in the ways
of the trick table to create knocks as if a spirit were corresponding. That isn't my brand, it isn't my way, and I'll not encourage mere theatrics. I've told you this countless times. But I want
you to see these convictions of mine in print, on paper, here in this vulnerable hour, I want you to understand the difference between the type of evil you courted and the type of peace and light
in which I strive to live. And, yes, of course, there is a harrowing gray area between.
I know that you are jealous of what Natalie and I shared. I am fond of Natalie, and I always will be. She was called by God to do something very specific. She had to be the one to rescue Lord
Denbury's soul. You must accept that as fact and move on from it.
And now you, dear Maggie, are called to turn your life around.
In doing so, I daresay you might be far more powerful than you could ever have imagined. For you stared down the Devil, after inviting him in and now you have the chance to repent and say
no. It is brave to recognize you made a mistake and to devote your life to a different path. There are two paths. Two walks in this life, and in the
life of a soul beyond its body. This is the point at which you must choose.
You must take Karen's words deeply to heart. She and Amelia were the two brightest spots of my youth, and when all of us were beset with dark energies, we pulled each other through into the
light. I have to believe Amelia is there as a guardian angel, willing you into that same better day; she was always powerful in spirit.
Please don't ever think you haven't been important to me. Your soul was crying out for attention, and I was fixated upon Natalie's particular dilemma. For that I apologize. But I did trust that
you were strong enough to not be overcome by darker whims. Prove that to me now in showing me you know the difference between the darkness you courted and the light that your family and friends
offer you. Don't worry about the retribution of your family, you leave that to me, I'll make them come around.
I hope you might be moved to write back. Natalie has asked after you; she wants you to be healthy and happy as much as I do. If she can forgive you, seeing as she almost died due to your lack of
understanding, you are further along your path toward a greater power. Embrace it.
I set down the letter and sat slowly upon the nearest settee, my heart very full. I prayed very hard for Maggie. For Mrs. Northe. For myself. I sat in silence until Mrs. Northe swept in, all
grace, graciousness and grandeur.
Dinner was quiet and lovely. Lavinia had dinner sent to her room as she was tasked with correspondences to all of her Association, trying to make sure no further lambs were lost in the dark wood
of chemical temptations offered by wolves. But my dream haunted me and I wondered if I should warn her. But what could she do? She was already trying to asses the damage done, and she was perhaps
psychologically still at a critical juncture. Jonathon was again out. With no explanation as to where. The thought that he may be avoiding me made my stomach twist in a terror as gripping as my
Home once the sun set, I returned immediately to my room. Diary in hand, I sat at my window, looking out at what I could of the city, the avenue beyond. It was all right that I was restless. So
was New York. The city had always, in its own way, understood me. Then I looked down and examined the words I had written.
Bits of conversation came back to me as I stared at the first two lines of my notes. The new White Horse Tavern. I'd heard my father's friends at the Metropolitan talking about its recent
opening. That would be the site of the next attack. And if I knew my dreams, the result would be within days of the dream. I had no time to lose; I had to investigate.
(End of Chapter 7 -- Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it, FB, + it! The Magic Most
Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and/or donate
to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)
>> read more