Dangerous Reflections Beginning 3

Chapter One

Martie Harris numbly followed the lawyer through the hospital corridor to the nearest waiting room. 

“First of all, I want to tell you how sorry I am.” Handel sat on a couch that had seen better days, and Martie joined him. “I’ve been Judith’s lawyer for thirty years, and before that my father served in that capacity.”

“Why are you here?” Martie fidgeted. “Did you hear about it on TV?” She had barely left the bedsides of her father and grandmother since their admission. They were her only family.

Bob Handel nodded. “I came to find you immediately."

"Did they say on the news what caused it?" Martie's mind raced. Had it been toxins in the environment? A CO2 leak? Insect bites?

The lawyer shook his head. "Your grandmother asked me to convey something to you when the time came.” He set his briefcase on the cushion between them, and opened it.

Martie hadn't slept for at least 24 hours. She had come home from her university job as a graduate assistant to find her family members unconscious in the living room. After failing to revive them, she called 911.

Unresponsive. The word spoken by the parametics haunted her.

Words she had been thinking clammered from her. “Gran isn’t going to die. And neither is Dad.”

"You must prepare yourself, Martie." Handel’s blue eyes pierced hers. "Judith is very old. Older, perhaps, than you know.”

“She’s in her 90s, I realize that.”

The lawyer sighed.  “She’s a hundred and eleven.”

Martie’s stomach dropped. “She couldn't be anywhere near that old. She's my Dad's mother, and he's only…"

He took her hands. “No, she's not. She’s your great-grandmother.”

Gran had always lived with them. Martie assumed she was her grandmother. But her dad had always called Gran by her name, Judith. That had never seemed odd until now.

From his briefcase, Handel pulled an envelope and a thin, oblong wooden box. He handed her the letter.

When she opened it, she saw Gran’s handwriting and her vision blurred with tears. She blinked them away to read,

“Dearest Martinique – I should never have kept the secret of who you are. Look into the mirror and know the truth. Save Doctor Uncle. He died because of me. You’re the only one who can save him. Save him and he will save us. Love, Judith Grayson Harris.”

She met the lawyer’s eyes. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

He handed her the box. “This comes with it.”

Martie recognized the carving on the top: the Eye of Horus. She opened the lid. “A magician’s wand?” She picked up a chain necklace, also in the box.

Handel closed his briefcase. “This has been in a safe deposit box for years. Judith said they belonged to her mother. She asked me to deliver it and the letter to you. That’s all I know.”

An hour later, the fire department called to give Martie the all-clear to return home. Whatever had caused her Dad and Gran to fall ill, it had not been caused by environmental factors.

For the first time in a day and a half, Martie left the hospital. She meant to get to the bottom of this. She drove home fast, and went straight to her grandmother’s bedroom.
Her great-grandmother, she reminded herself.

She dragged Gran’s cedar chest out of the closet. Martie hadn’t seen it for years, not since she had discovered it as a little girl. When her grandmother found her with it, she had slammed the lid down, and expressly forbade Martie to go near it again. For the only time in her life, Gran had scared her.

Martie shivered when she opened the chest this time. She picked up a yellow-haired wax doll dressed in a decomposing white gown lying upon stacks of papers and books. The name “Elizabeth” popped into her head. She didn’t know why, but she’d had these odd psychic insights all her life. Gran called them “hints,” because she’d had them, too. Martie placed the doll on the bed.

She looked through the books: A Latin reader, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” and the “Book of Common Prayer,” among them. She put these aside for later. They might contain inscriptions or notes hidden in the pages.

Martie suspected – no, she felt – there must be more. She ran her hand around the inside of the chest, and along the floor, and brushed over a narrow ridge along the bottom. She dug her fingertips underneath it, and a section of the chest’s floor came up.

“Very sneaky, Gran.”

Stashed in the hidden compartment was a postcard-sized pouch made of worn black leather and filled with papers.

“Now, Elizabeth, we’ll find out what’s what.” She propped the doll up on the night stand and settled on the bed. The doll stared at her blankly.

Martie leafed through the papers. There was a delayed birth certificate naming the Graysons as Judith’s legal guardians. There was newspaper clipping crammed into the corner. She pried it out. Dated Aug. 15, 1910, it was headlined, Murdered actress leaves orphaned daughter.

Martie's heart skipped. "Miss Fleur Paver, a tragedian of the London stage, was found brutally stabbed at Chelsea Embankment in the neighbourhood of Cheyne Walk. Known in refined social circles as Mrs. Violet Morley, the famed actress had joined some theatrical acquaintances in practicing magic with a secretive society called the Order of Thoth. The police are looking into the group's  possible connection to the murder. Today, services for the beloved actress took place in St. Paul’s Church…"

Martie stopped reading to allow it to sink in. Gran's mother was murdered?

She skimmed the rest of the article. "The city’s theatrical community escorted the remains to the graveyard… a cross inscribed ‘Omnia Mutantur’ in purple violets, and a large pillow bearing the inscription ‘Sister’ from the deceased actress's sister…pall bearers Dr. Albert Falwell, Professor Alastor Onckel, officiated by the Reverend William BerridgePreceded in death by her husband, Violet Morely is survived by a daughter, Judith; and a younger sister, Miss Rose Paver of Devonshire."

These were members of Martie's own family that she had never heard of.

And there it was: the tie-in to the wand. Violet Morley had belonged to the Order of Thoth, a magical society.