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Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 31--- "Truth", 812 words.....

Truth
“You see,” Cross shifted his position so that he was able to turn back and face me when he spoke. “Once Mr. Dison had disposed of Corbet Adams’s body the way Jonathan Adell dictated, there was this information that Mr. Dison had about what happened.” Cross kept his back to Miss Mary as he spoke.
“I’m sure that Jonathan Adell never expected a fellow greenery lover to turn into a blackmailer like he did.” While Cross spoke, I turned to watch Miss Mary. Though her face was as unchanged as before, there was a slight tremor coursing through her frame.
“What a price to pay for the services of such a man.” Cross drew a low hiss of breath through his clenched teeth.
“I was to marry him before the year was out.” Miss Mary’s voice fell into the conversation. Her words fell at her feet. “You’ve no idea how horrible it all felt. I couldn’t marry him. I didn’t love him. And, yet, I couldn’t allow my father’s name to be drug through the courts.”
“Even though he had arranged for the murder of th…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 30--- "Answers", 532 words.....

Answers
                My heart pounded so hard in my chest that I could feel the pulse of it in my throat. Miss Adell didn’t answer Cross’s questions. She just sat back in the overstuffed armchair, staring at him, no readable expression on her face.
                “Let me see if I have everything,” Cross relaxed his stiff shoulders, leaning into the arm of the sofa toward Miss Adell. “I think I understand how nearly everything transpired. I may need you to fill in a few of the details, Miss Adell.”
                Cross cleared his throat and then began. “You were engaged to Corbet Adams, whom you’ve stated wasn’t your father’s choice for an ideal mate, but, I don’t think your father’s disapproval bothered you much, at first. It was only after his constant badgering of the point did you finally relent a week before your proposed marriage, correct?”
                Miss Mary nodded, again, no change in her expression.
                “But, Corbet loved you and his persistence, your fa…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 29--- "Coincidence", 515 words.....

Coincidence
                At the word, murder, Miss Adell released a long breath. She closed her eyes and sat back against the chair. “You’ve guessed correctly, Mr. Cross. I was the one that placed the piece of the poisonous plant in the pocket of my darling, Corbet.” Miss Adell’s frame was suddenly weak and small. “I had never wanted anything to happen to him. Never.”
                “Please, Miss Adell,” Cross softened his voice once more. “Tell us everything that happened, and pray be exact in your details.”
                “I can tell you all I know, but, I’m not sure what you hope to make of it. I myself have no idea nor any inkling as to what all happened.” Miss Adell took two deep, slow breaths before continuing.
                “As you already know, I had broken my engagement with Corbet. And, as you’ve already surmised, I broke the engagement at the insistence of my father. Though he had no problems with Corbet as an individual—he was a wonderful gentleman, after all—he had eve…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 28--- "Intent", 536 words.....

Intent
                 The worn expression that Miss Mary carried with her spoke of her own sleepless night. Though, I am sure her sleepless evening had nothing to do with waiting for an answer to a note that was sent out.
Cross came to sit at the very edge of my sofa, as close as possible to our visitor. “Miss Adell,” he began, a softness in his voice that I had never heard before. “Thank you for coming at such short notice.” A sincere and apologetic smile did enough, in my opinion, to convince Miss Mary that he had no ill intentions where she was concerned.
“As you say, Mr. Cross, it was short notice. But, how could I truly stay away when I received your note.” She pulled a folded bit of paper from the inside of her left glove. “I had to know what it was you wished to share with me and what this—how did you phrase it—important information regarding your safety, life and freedom.” She pushed the note back into the lining of her glove. “Such ominous words must surely be meant to attra…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 27--- "Waiting", 520 words.....

Waiting
                Sleep was not a guest in our rooms that evening. We made no intentional offense that might have made him stay away. And, though we made every effort to invite him in, no amount of cajoling would persuade him to cross the threshold.
Cross paced the sitting room. His face tight and set, except for the handful of times a heavy step sent pain rushing through him. But, each pause in his steps and each wince only lasted a few seconds, before he continued pacing.
I waited for morning much the same way I had entered the evening, sprawled across the sitting room sofa. I did not yet trust the stability of my legs or the strength of my stomach. Whatever I had been exposed to might still be lurking, waiting to bring me crashing down the moment I set foot on solid ground. Though, even if I hadn’t been unconscious for most of the afternoon, I would probably have spent the night awake. Waiting for the daylight that evening was the best way of ensuring it did not come, such was …

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 26--- "Message", 534 words.....

Message
               My breath caught in my throat. What manner of devilry had been set loose from the Adell estate? If Cross was telling the truth, and I had no reason to doubt him, then what ever affected Manuel Dison had now also affected Miss Mary and myself. But, what was it?
I wracked my brain, trying to come up with some plausible explanation, but there was none. I mentally retraced my steps and actions. A small fragment began to make sense, at least I had an explanation for why the sun had affected me the way it did on my journey home. If my pupils had been even half as dilated as Miss Mary’s had, I would still have had the need to shield my face from the sunlight beating down.
Cross, whose face had been so distant through all my recounted story, struggled to his feet. Leaving me on the sofa, he made his way to my desk, scribbled something on a piece of paper and then left the sitting room without saying a word. In the moments that followed, I heard the front door of my rooms …

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 25--- "Concerns", 684 words.....

Concerns

            “Welcome back,” I knew the sound of Cross’s voice, but my vision was still fuzzy. I saw colors first, in a hazy blur. Then shapes formed from the blurs, which then made themselves into pieces I began to recognize. Slowly, the details of my sitting room sharpened.
I was lying across the sofa. The light in the room was dim and the curtains drawn against the darkness. It was then I realized that daylight had dissolved into night. The day had passed without my awareness.
“What happened?” I moved to sit upright, but was held back by Cross’s hand on my shoulder and a blinding headache that seared through the middle of my forehead.
“I was rather hoping you could tell me.” Cross knelt beside my sofa and given the current state of his own recovery, I’m sure he was in no way comfortable. A stern, searching look creased his brow.
I took several deep, slow breaths that I might calm the pain that threatened to tear my skull in half and that I might calm the rolling nausea that now…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 24--- "Descent", 511 words.....

Descent

            I fell.
The darkness that swallowed me was endless.
I fell, but I never hit bottom. I never found the end of the chasm. The deeper the chasm went, the longer I fell. The longer I fell, the slower my descent. I fell, I plummeted, moving deeper and deeper, yet slower and slower, til I all but stopped—held, suspended, trapped.
                Once all movement had stopped—while I still floated in the chasm, unaware of how far I had fallen, unaware of how far I was from the bottom— things changed. No sense of feeling, no sense of direction to orient myself, no sense at all.
                How long had I fallen? I could have fallen to the very center of the universe and I would have known no different. I reached with my hands in every direction around me. Or, more precisely, I willed my hands to search every direction around me, but my hands had different plans.
                There wasn’t enough will in my body to force my hands, or any part of myself for that matter, to…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 23--- "Blindness", 622 words.....

Blindness

                Leaving the Adell estate, I was torn between wanting to be as far away from the house as possible and not wanting to leave until I knew that Miss Mary was indeed okay. I knew that word of her second fiancé’s death would be a shock, but I somehow didn’t expect it to have so drastic an effect.
                I understood her reaction to Corbet Adams’s death, they had grown up together, but this new suitor seemed so out of place with her character that I had a hard time understanding the level of her reaction. But, as I had never been engaged once, let alone twice, and certainly never lost someone as close as a fiancée, I really had no way of knowing exactly how I would react.
                Though, as her father had made it very clear that my presence was no longer welcome. The only thing I could do was leave. As I passed through the gates of the Adell estate and out onto the main road once more, I was overwhelmed by the brightness of the sun. Had there really…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 22--- "News", 832 words.....

News
                I followed Miss Adell and her father into the sitting room. I was becoming quite accustomed to the sitting room, though, as I always came with the unpleasant task of needing to impart bad news, I never really felt comfortable there.
                “Please, sit down, Mister …” Mary’s father began, motioning me toward the familiar lounger.
                “Martin, sir. Dylan Martin.”
                “Martin… Helena, please bring our guest some tea.” The maid, who had been hovering near the sitting room’s doorway, jumped, suddenly, at the mention of her name.
                “Oh, please, don’t go to any trouble on my account.” I started to rise from the sofa, but was waved back down by Mary’s father.
                “Nonsense! You are our guest. Besides, it’s no trouble. We really have more tea than we can handle.” He laughed softly, then motioned to the window he was standing nearest. “I do so enjoy growing plants and my greenhouse, at the moment, is nearly overrun w…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 21--- "Greenhouse", 573 words.....

Greenhouse

          I stood at the gate of the Adell estate, struggling to find the words to tell Miss Mary of the death of her second fiancé and the danger that she might be in, though I knew not what this danger actually was.  And, I’m quite sure that Cross would never have told what he suspected the danger to be, even if I asked him.

           From the beginning, I disliked my role is the entire affair, but never as much as I did at that precise moment. Who was I to be bringing such terrible news to such a lovely woman?
I stared, hopelessly, through the bars of the gate, as if the answers to all my problems might suddenly spring from the verge. The garden appeared the same as before. I suppose I should have taken comfort in the consistency of the garden’s beauty. It was something to see, the exotic foliage, creeping and coursing through the front lawn of one of our city’s manor houses. There were only one or two plants that I vaguely recognized, and I’m sure I had their names wrong…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 20--- "Obscurity", 522 words.....

Obscurity

I felt a strong uneasiness in leaving Cross to deal with the police and the deceased suitor on his own. The body was lying in the entranceway of my rooms, after all. But, Cross assured me that he was quite comfortable dealing with the delicate situation on his own. “Besides, dear Martin, you’re most needed elsewhere,” he said, the familiar glint in his eye shining up at me. He leaned back against the couch in my sitting room, there was no pained expression on his face, but his face had no color.
After I left word with the police that they should make their way to my address, I headed to the Adell estate. Though I’m sure I should have quickened my pace, I could not make myself move any faster. My heart might have been pounding with the increased adrenaline of someone panicked enough to sprint, but, no matter how hard I wished to make my body move faster, it would not.
I had no earthly idea what I was going to say to Miss Adell. I had no earthly idea what I was looking for when …

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 19--- "Surmises", 537 words.....

Surmises

The horror of the suitor’s expression only ceased when Cross pulled the lids over Manuel’s vacant and lifeless eyes. Had I stared into the abyss of those swollen pupils for much longer, I would most probably have gone mad. In fact, even once the suitor’s eyes had been closed, I still found myself staring at his face, envisioning in my mind’s eye the fierce black pupils gaping up at me. It was the sound of Cross, struggling to his feet that finally broke the hold the dead body on the floor had over me.
Pain creased Cross’s brow once more. The effort to stand drained all color from his face, and where his piercing eyes had once been, a glassy, dull expression was set—his penetrating sharpness suddenly swallowed in agony.
I moved to help him stand, placing one hand behind his back and the other around the arm nearest to me. “I’m alright, I’m alright … I can manage.” He squeaked the words at me with as much gruffness as he could muster, though he made no attempt to push me away.
I…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 18--- "Eyes", 530 words.....

Eyes

Silence had never been more deafening, or its weight more suffocating.
          Once the treble of the suitor’s struggled breath and the thunderous beat of his heart had ceased, there was nothing to fill the empty air that hung in the entranceway.
          Cross, still propping himself up with the wall, shuffled toward me. I, for my part, didn’t move. I am most positive that I didn’t even breathe until the pain of my suffering lungs forced me to do so—though drawing the much needed air into my lungs only reminded me of the state of my cracked ribs.
          My mind was suddenly reeling with the events that had taken place. I replayed the last ten minutes in my head again and again, thinking, surely, there must be something that I missed. Something during our struggle, that I had been too distracted to notice, must explain what happened.
          As it was, I stood shaken and bruised with Cross, equally shaken, though far more bruised, beside me. While our attacker, that neither on…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 17--- "Attack", 535 words.....

Attack

I scarcely had a moment to register the murderous figure in the doorway before he was lunging toward me. His heavy frame fell against mine and as we toppled away from the door, I could hear a strained shuffling from the other room.
The suitor’s wild eyes were gaping wide with fury, his face covered in perspiration. His chest heaved and a guttural cry escaped from his lips as we collided.
My breath flew from my lungs as Manuel’s full weight fell on top of me. His own breath hissed in my ear and I caught the glint of his blade as it flashed in the sunlight. Gasping, as I was, for breath, I had no way of knowing if I had already been stabbed. The pain of meeting the floor, coupled with the cracking of my ribs as my breath was forced from my chest, prevented me from knowing, fully, the state of any other injuries.
Instinct forced my hand to reach for the knife.When I grabbed his wrist, it was then that I realized he was trembling more than I was. Though, there was great force behind t…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 16--- "Despair", 602 words.....

Despair

                I departed the Adell estate a defeated man. For all my desire to protect the innocent Miss Adell from the questionable character who sought her hand, I could do nothing to help her. Such was my dismay at my abysmal failure, that I scarce paid heed to my movements. In fact, I dare say, I was halfway to the University lawn before I realized I had even left the Adell estate.
As I moved through campus, I glimpsed the assortment of students as they wandered between studies, quite ignorant of the larger issues that plagued the city around them. Even the tragic event of a student’s death the previous term was far enough from them that it held no thought in their mind for very long. I laughed softly at the realization that if I’d never met Donaghey Cross, I too, might be one of these unconcerned, blissfully ignorant scholars whose only concerned thought was given to upcoming exams.
My own concerned thoughts should have been centered on my studies and the professional pa…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 15--- "Accusations", 553 words.....

Accusations

When Miss Adell finally came to, I had not the heart to continue. Our discussion of Corbet Adams had clearly distressed her. I would never have brought the subject to light if I could have avoided hurting her. But, my need to warn her of her fiancé‘s character far outweighed the sudden pangs of guilt that tore at me.
I guided her trembling frame to the couch, the same couch where I had been so carefully tended a few days prior. As she sat back, gathering her senses, I reached for the bottle of brandy on the sideboard. I watched the color drain from her face as I brought the glass to her lips. “Easy, now.”
A few sips and the penetrating quality of her eyes had returned. “I must apologize for my weakness.” Except for a slight tremor in her tone, the familiar melody of her voice returned. “I’m afraid that I’ve been a bit overwrought since the news of dear Corbet’s tragedy. So, you will understand that your mention of his name, of course, would have an effect on me.”
“Of course.…

Story A Day--- Cross and Martin, part 14--- "Shock", 509 words.....

Shock

             There could be no doubt that the allure of Miss Mary Adell was captured in her eyes. Her dark pupils had a way of swallowing any and everything they looked upon. At least, that was the feeling I had when those wild, dark pupils turned their attention to me. Were I the type to believe in the supernatural, I would have called her quality, otherworldly.
I am most sure that the power of her eyes had been present my last visit to her home, but as I was preoccupied with the state of my injury, I didn’t fully register it. Now, with no pain to distract me, the full, unnerving aspect of her eyes threatened to break my composure. Would that Cross were with me now, if only to distract me with his incessant droll about the Corbet Adams case, at least, then, I wouldn’t feel so helpless. “And, to what do I owe this unexpected visit, Mr. Martin?” The only thing strong enough to break the spell her eyes had placed me under was most assuredly the melody of her voice. Though her questi…