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A Game of Cruelty



Estimated reading time — 54 minutes

A changing world, a dangerous time, for anyone could see this transition. To call it Change is an insult to typical generations and eras. It was a time of revolution, power and new forms of conquest. The power of steam didn’t just change the world, it mutated it. New monsters prowled in form of moderne gentlemen. Predatory women and the new poor roamed streets. Nighttime was most often fierce – many could not afford shelter or security in this Victorian age. One family had kept wealth and grown stronger, but it was haunted. Cruel ghosts of the past crept back into the sphere of this clan. North of new isles of factors and cities were English lands of good country. Green fields still occurred here and there. But stark change had come.

It started with a game of dinner, supper time in London. A fine time to be alive, the year had turned 1813 months ago. In this period the proper lavish society of old changed more imperiously and thus Britain became more industrial. Alan Donoughew was a man of 19 but he was focused. His father Douglas sat next to the paramour who he was want to marry. She was a side partner and when Alan’s own mother died this foreign Irish lady became more known. Douglas was a good man but he also had a polygamous streak. The Clubb family attended the table with two minor parties: Mr. and Ms. Black, whose daughters were far more important to this story, and a wicked bank lord named Albin Kirkarm, Al for short.

The powerful Donoughew family had established itself years ago as a fishing and shipping clan. Now they were enduring times of economic shift with new opportunities changing the game. The greed of banks and new industries laid ruin to many old wealth orders. Even the royals feared social change, if not revolution. So the lordly Donoughews were admired, respected… and envied. Especially did the vile corporate Clubb family envy them, who had hated Douglas for his refusals and brutal honesty. He had righteous power and they loathed it. Roland Clubb, Clubb Senior, disdained his old partner and glared at him now.

Clubb Senior led his children and wife into nefarious dealings with big businesses and lately, Banks. Sir Donoughew knew it well but Roland Clubb was an old ally, despite his foul interests. Alan was naïve and less witty than his elite father. Douglas balanced the act of righteous man, wealthy business dealer, philanthropist and aging parter no longer one to suffer the cruelties of a degenerate ally, a man now so far beyond redemption.

During the party in the private cabinet room of the elder hotel, the members present at the table talked unceasingly. Alan was a young man and despite his good traits his IQ was not the glory his father’s was. That said, he wasn’t stupid. But he had limits and moreover in social adultness. At 19 he was a teenage idealist, striving more for personal power than family representation, a mistake that could prove costly. Estella and Ann Black tease Alan and his brother. Bryant, the fiery half brother looks at the girls eagerly. He’s especially fond of Estella. Alan grows annoyed, for another haunts his heart. Her name is Caroline Coleston. For now she’s his only interest. But lasses shall be lasses. Alan sees a Clubb son stare at him.

Randelson maliciously eyes Alan and makes a subtle rude gesture. It is enough to make Alan turn to his father hastily. Douglas changes the subject and asks his son if he has a new matter for discussion. Bryan becomes a bit angry at the slight disturbance. Alan dismisses his want to speak and allows Old Clubb to continue talking. Lyndon and Del sneer, Randelson shows special disgust. He hates Alan and views him with pity and rejecting eyes.

Alan speaks out of turn, unable to hold his resentment in. The blood of Senior Clubb were younger in this time. But they already had the vicious traits of their father. Even Hazel, the daughter of the Clubb family, had her father’s uncivil air. Alan says to Del and the older brother Bertie to behave. They’re mocking humor and glances ceased to be amusing. He turns to Roland and exclaims the wrongfulness of the sons’ behavior. Despite his right meaning, it is immature behavior, Douglas looks right at his son and Roland insults him… a vicious argument ensues. Alan is asked to leave the cabinet meeting room and wait in the far recreation chamber. His father is suddenly very stern. He agrees, briskly moves and sits in the other room chair. Loud voices can be heard within the cabinet. This isn’t a business meeting. Alan suspects it isn’t a old reunion either. A cold impulse of worry touches his neck.

The party of persons breaks up and each seems to go separate directions. Douglas, his high mistress Millicent Fadden Douglas, his high mistress Millicent Fadden and Bryant walk amongst a few others down the clean side street. This is the brighter side of the city, a place for the rich and richer entrepreneurs. Alan and his step sister walk together. Both of them speak in confidence, she worries less but he explains his own fears. Something is happening that could harm the peace within the Donoughew family. The more Alan speaks to Alisha May the more they both see a need to confront father. The two stay away from the patriarch and his other woman and the half son, Bryan… Alisha and his current mistress Caroline (who’s herself off on a country excursion) are the few people he trusts. Alan trusts few, even his own father isn’t fully accepted. Too many secrets. A dark plot is suspected. Alan colludes with his step sister.

Half and our passes. Alan and Alisha M remain browsers glancing into stores. Douglas allowed them all time to peruse the fine stores and markers. Most of these dens are French quality elite houses for commerce. Alisha spots Mr. Donoughew. Alan and her slowly pursue him but the Clubb father and one of his sons, and some servant man, they distract him. Alan and Alisha keep a good space away. Later Douglas is overheard talking with Roland and his sons in the nearby alley. Alan eavesdrops. There’s something wrong. Hushed tones become louder whispers… is Douglas in danger. Alisha suggests Alan ought to just walk on. They walk away. No need to interrupt. Later all members of the divers Donoughew clan returned home, to their place in the northwest. At least there they’d all have some time of solace.

The better place for this good family is their home, the old broad land and central stead of Old Grand Fir, a manor home. The dark green woods around and farms and towns beyond encircled a strong old house. It had a modernized land but with features and various relics showing its history. The mild toned house looked fair brown, greened and mossed with age, it had a fine look and withstood the times. It’s ruff and layers had browner tones and good tiling. It had been renovated a year ago, making Grand Fir the more desirable.

Here Alan and his adopted sister arrived. Douglas and Millicent were having tea and her Irish mood was far more fine today. They seem happy, but falsely so. She had a tear in her eye. Alan knew his father and other family members felt fear. He did to but was smart enough to think past it. Alan glances briefly at a photo. Douglas saw his true son see the image of the woman he loved. Long parted Abigail. She had died years back. It devastated the family.

The Old Fir manor sits in the midst of Norlanfield, a massive flat of woods, farms and fields. To the south, where flat hills and wooded paths become industrial, there is the central berg of Hanford. This shire is now a rich town but with many workers and migrants. Below this is a more laboring ville turned into a larger and monstrously factoried town. Morrie’s Hobble, officially known as Morton’s Crossing, is a labor center and its new streets smell of factory smoke and harsh chemicals. The Clubb family and their menacing servants often prowl in the Hob. It’s a place of dust and darkness. To the wooded north where Old England still clings timeless, a better family clings on to fortune. Douglas is not idle. He knows the changes below him and near. But he works still and sends letters, he deals and makes contracts, all the while oblivious. Bryan is out hunting. Alan is off for the season but does work in the study. All the while a mood of trouble hangs over. Millicent returns to her lonely moodless husband.

Alisha almost plays off in the garden. Sparrows and songbirds abuse time also. The sky is lit with small brown birds. Hard to believe summer has ended. She can’t accept it. The sky is too bright. A ruddy squirrel perches on a tree. The gloom beneath a fir tree hides a raven. The various English trees look pleasant. But already there’s a darkness in the air, around the trees and in the spaces around the homestead. A boy named Adam Porter delivers the mail to the address box. Poor boy, he maintains aspirations for a life in London. He smiles warmly at her. She’s far older than the lad. A look of intelligence exists in his eyes. He rushes off on the road.

Alan walks past his adopted sister. Something urgent compels his haste. A loud feminine voice occurs inside the kitchen, Alan knows who. Millicent talks to her son Bryan, the child of her and Douglas. He’s submissive and whines in a unhappy voice. She makes him a misery sometimes. Alan comes in and interrupts. His green eyes stare into the reddish brown orbs of his would-be stepmother. She tells him not to intrude. It’s too important. Bryan is a middle teenage lad and then he has no assertion with his mother. She rules over him and now over Douglas. Mr. Donoughew is in a business lobby with gents in his study. Alan says she has been a nuisance. She grows angrier and turns her overbearing attention to him.

After a lengthy argument, Alan fails to maintain trust with his father and Millicent. She tells him she shall wed his father. Her words cut him and she feels pride, and remorse. It shouldn’t have come to this. She says he best behave or it will be a serious matter within the family. Already Alan senses her rise in local magnitude. She has clout. Now she’s a dominating influence inside his own home and on his father. Alan relents and makes some form of submissive statement. She takes it well, then takes leave with her son for a chore.

He plans to move out but there is a disturbance. Douglas has left with friends but a crash comes from his private meeting chamber. Alan quickly rushes to the brown office room and sees a pronounced crack in the window. Someone or something must’ve caused this and on closer examination, it looks almost like a rock was thrown into the glass with malicious speed. Later that day, when Bryan and Douglas return, Alan informs them of this disturbing occurrence. They are worried. Perhaps some rover from The Hob came. No man in his right mind would do this. Douglas has his suspicions but tells nothing. A day later and the authorities come to inspect. The reports are inconclusive. Alan tells his father he already wishes to go. He packs slowly but makes it known: he plans to move out within the week.

A mysterious letter comes in. It’s addressed to Mr. Donoughew. The father of the house wishes to view it alone. Again his business friends are over, minus the Clubbs. He dismisses Ryan and Hal to read this letter. They leave and he opens it. It details a series of commands and orders with threat of legal action if the settlement conditions are not met. But the sender did not say who they were. He or she must be a true enemy, or else come conman. In the rising temper of a metallic new world, such menaces are common. Yet Douglas foolishly thinks nothing. The letter had an address and requested a confirmation reply. He did not go be this rogue anything. A foolish threat didn’t need a return. If they tried again, he’d call the police on that location. Douglas still owned some power and everybody knew his periodic wrath.

Things begin to change again, for the badder. It is a time when tension and external issues amount to some real emotional drama. Alan wants to leave and Bryan berates him with cold worlds, brief challenges and insults. Bryan isn’t angry but he hates this whole situation. Alan leaving for a new home now only adds to the stress. Bryan goes to his older mother for support but she’s in a restless bothered mood, her proud face is stark with dour worries. Alisha raises a commotion when she accidentally knocks down a bookshelf. Douglas and Alan rush and see her fine but the wooden giant ruined. Millicent has no taste for drama. She turns to her partner and argues on this whole event, another cause for her to unleash her inner worries. She becomes incorrigible with resentment which prompts her to argue more. Douglas breaks his calm talk and becomes upset and judgmental. Her mild annoyance and proud claims bother Douglas. She is like a second wife to him. For now he lets her go off on “holiday”.

In Finchal the Clubb family plots a new game of contention. Finchal Manor is the new style commercial hall of this brood of people. It’s a modern fortress but it’s shining new style looks and yellowish gleam don’t portray the truth. The Clubbs greedily discuss their schemes. They will make conflict and take the livelihood of the rivalrous Donoughews. Douglas is old and cannot defend his family from this conspiracy. The laugher within the new manor home remains trapped within its birch rafters. A black magpie perches on the spire of the west turret. A grim sinister mood flows. The brimming town of Hanford grows dark with fog.

Alan makes final plans for his relocation to London. But his plans are delayed. Father has guests over and pays his son to remain another month. Without a need for work and his true livelihood dependent on his father’s business whims, Alan remains and decides to postpone his leaving. He will decide to go eventually. For now he’s struck with a mild mood and contemplates life, his broken family, mother, and his family’s business associates. Meanwhile, Carolyn has grown older by a birthday and she takes a long time away. She sends Alan a letter. It reads only that she cannot easily see him, she must take a while to herself. Then she wants to visit. Her essay is tainted with regrets and it seems like a proper end. But she will come to the grand estate sooner. He doesn’t know the ways of women yet.

A girl named Viola Connell, a warm girl with swarmy wooden hair and darker brown eyes, comes into his life. She’s nobody of issue or import, at first. She is a friend of the family. Her father knew Mr. Donoughew well. Alan spends time with her but feels distracted. He cannot afford to nurse a new friendship. And there is another reason for caution. Carolyn Coleman is still his interest and she shows up to see Alan and some other girl in awkward talk. But she’s not jealous and faithful Carolyn smiles non-invasively. Alan parsons himself from the new female, looking up in worried disgust, rolls his eyes and then looks at his woman. Carolyn is keen on helping. She knows more about the Clubbs and acts supportively.

The Clubbs seems to be gone and away but Alan knows they’re still there, off in London or nearer in some lowly town. Waiting. Perhaps scheming. Their name keeps appearing. Alan relaxes leisurely in the small house library but overhears his father and a friend. Charles, one of the close associates of Donoughew Senior, talks over a drink. Alan can smell the fine brandy. Some special occasion it must be. Charley mentions a grim affair. The name “Clubb” comes up. Alan listens. Charles has defected. He mentions rumors and deals.

Norlanfield and its wide rural arcades, hills and unwalled rows of homes stretch south transitioning to farms. Then there was the town of Hanford. Business and new trade came and Hanford now held halls of commercial venture. Douglas did work here and dealt as a gentry among fools, laborers and rivals. The Clubbs spent some time here but avoided Mr. Donoughew. The bright days and mild nights turned. Now a coldness and a browned gloom tempted the town. People grew fewer, business diminished, the wandering women came less, but the devils came to do business. Roland has come and makes his focus well know to the corresponding circles. Douglas finds out and learns his enemy is after him, this time on a mission. The two men evade each other. The little Donoughew crèche becomes defensive.

Alan has a moody quiet breakfast with his father in a high dining bistro. The fog renders the day white. This paleness shines through a sky window and enlighten Douglas’ face, his fair suit and his feeble tired took. He’s fought for years but he lacks any fight and has no assertive drive left. Dark haired Alan sees his father for the longest and most final time, it is the last day he will spend hours with his sire. The older man is middle tall and modest, strong of frame and strong-jawed. His eyes are a faded mild brown. His hair: curly gray and wiry. He’s pale, rosy, wisened and stark with a stiff “thickened forehead” and a strong rounded yet sharp edges nose. His face is rimmed in good hair with a full beard and proud mustache. In this light his age shows. His weakness shows. A silent white chill mists over the restaurant.

The Clubbs come back into Mr. Donoughew’s life in grand bold fashion. Everything is so formal. John Greychapel the cruel dark lawyer and that Scottish banker Al Kirkarm were with the old brute. Old Clubb Senior and his posse ring the door. Both Alisha and Bryan are away. As is lady Millicent. Alan hides away in his own bedroom, sick for day with a bad cold. Yet his sensitivity to voices enables him to eavesdrop. His father talks with the wretched company. Subtle sharp words are exchanged. Clubb has his sons beside him and loudly asks them to confirm his words, lies, which he claims fervently to be legal truths. Both Bertie and Del support their dishonest father. Douglas is threatened with legal and bank acts. He could be dispossessed. In fear and coldness, he relents and signs a paper. His stoic assertions fail. In the blink of an eye, he is broken. A lode of money is transferred. Clubb becomes a bit richer.

Douglas loses the family property to “bank predation”. He admits to his son, his second son Bryant and Alisha May the gravity of losses. He had also been deprived of a great sum of wealth… Alisha, a mere 14, looks upon her surrogate father. All the lies and years have amounted to this. A rash of conspiracies, shady old friends back in the sphere, rivals returned and other such people who crawled out of the woodwork – all the vultures at play.

Clubb and his wife and young adult children retreat to spend their newly found fortune. What were success-ridden slanderers are now a clan of greedy zealots with 24,000 pounds and a wealth of bank notes. The horror, the cruel hand of man’s vanities. Douglas vows for revenge. He doesn’t tell his paramour wife or his children… he feels they, though adult, aren’t deserving enough to know. He goes to lawyers and peers. Of course he tells too much to many. One auburn-haired lawyer hears the talk of one Mr. Donoughew and that man’s contempt. Rumors of revenge and grift spread far. Back to the ears of the Clubbs.

The little clique of Donoughews move into a decent apartment home in south England, far away from open wooded Hanford, from the Norlanfield place. It is nothing short of a small nightmare. Immediately after losing the home to the Clubbs and their twisted maneuvers, Douglas had them all stay with an old friend, then they relocated. Alan went with it. Too old to tolerate situational rubbish but too young to be fully independent. Were he poor and suffering he’d be forced to find his own house or cubicle… or he’d face the cold streets. But Douglas is the real problem. He has become bitter. Alisha spends more time off and away, presumably with peers or on school grounds. Bryant and Millicent have distanced themselves. Even more does Alan peer with his half brother. The two teens are now allied, truly bonded.

The Clubb gang sends goons to confront Douglas and extort more from the brown-eyed old man. His past dealing only further thickened things. A few Welsh and Irish thugs. Some men sworn to uphold the bidding of a offensive liar. “Mr. Clubb sends his regards”… That trixy banker, Kirkarm, comes with a staunch English laborer. The two and the five others come around their target. After refusing that snake’s offer, Douglas experiences a leaded canehead to his floating rib… a painful hit for a tired old man. It does not hurt him too much. He rises with a paper on his chest. His heavy suit protected him from a bruise. Too bad also, a wound would have proven nefarious criminals did threaten him. He walks off in emotional pain.

Angered by the rising conflict, his loss of wealth and loss of Old Grand Fir, Douglas is half-mad and feels no more love. He has become icy, estranged, and hateful. Already Alan has gained a job in the modernizing city, a good office spot. Already the firstborn green-eyed man eyes a new availability. A small but classy apartment home, 1150 square feet on two stories, Alan views it as a viable place. He shall move in sooner than later. His father learns of this and is silently upset. Bryan has all but abandoned Mr. Donoughew. The boys ignore their father.

He publicly threatens to murder ‘Sir Clubb’ in Rickarte’s Fall. News of this threat reaches Roland Clubb and he calls for his sons. He then dispatches his dark henchmen, Walter Dart. Douglas had gone too far. Maddened and deprived, with losses and pains of emotion strickening any good spirits, he had become a darker man. Good old Douglas drinks oft, avoids crowds, keeps minimal company, disdains his sons and invites his hand of few friends on occasion. Charles, Bartlett and Mr. Andrews occupy his time. Too much bad company, too much drinking and misery. All the while a dark hand of evil comes closer to destroying him. Alan takes business into his hands. But he cannot keep the family together. Autumn drags on.

Unbeknownst to Alan and his siblings, Douglas had become deep in old crimes. The courts ruled him a felon for financial frauds and corruption. He went to private hearings and the Clubbs were there. He called them for support but they came not as allies but foes. They wanted his wealth, he gave them yet more money, then he realized they were abusing him. They manipulated things, and had taken much more. So much had been stolen legally that Mr. Donoughew felt ruined. He gave his children (now teens and quite self-made) a secret fund… of which Bryan got three shares. Mr. Clubb was furious. The old nail sent his sons to exact penalties. Yet Old Clubb had already sent someone. Mr. Dart leered in a gaslamp alleyway.

When he went to contact his lawyer friends in London, he had a run in with a dark man in shuddering green clothes, some industrial thing hired by the Clubbs. The ugly jaundiced man told him what was a-coming. This was inevitable. “Don’t suppose a foul old friendship counts for a penny…” An old curly man’s words fell into shadow. He was slain. Walter could’ve clubbed the poor codger but he knifed him; and then he shot the elder in the head.

Alan never heard the real report at the time. He found out his father died from the step-mother, that Irish woman who did love them. The event came so quickly. It was all about the news, nothing could’ve prepared distraught Alisha… oh, poor Alie. Millicent held her pride and high society wit, but after this she just left because her heart was broken. Lady Millicent Fadden had to go. But she ensured the youths were protected. What was left of the Donoughew family lived with an uncle, Morton, until they were all in their early twenties: 20, 22, 24 in respect to the individual. And now they returned to the apartment in London but Bryant moved and then Alan did the like. The bold main man (Alan) found a comfortable residence in form of an apartment. He named it Headmeer Home, for it was on Headmeer road, and makes it a private place for his purposes. The busy outer urban streets and buildings provide a sanctuary, it feels safe there. The claw of the rivals is never quite far away.

North England, 1830, present day.

Hanford, and the industrialized town souther called Morton’s Crossing (oft named Morrie’s Hobble by low men) have seen much growth. Yet the crafter’s community of old times workers is now met with heavy immigration. Mostly the new people are very poor, workers and migrants, “lead-heads” from cities including opportunistic black folk and failed lawyers. The Donoughew family has utterly gone from these parts. Alan longs to return. Years of industry fueled by Scottish steel and Welsh genius did not remain local. Now even the westernmore United States takes up hopes. The world wants a new revolution of hardness and metal product. Finer merchandise, greater abundance, new medicine and new forms of vice.

Adam Porter rides a bike, now years older he’s no more a lad than a mouse is a cat. Oh how those longhair tabbies from Cheshire do look at him. The black man rides on the wheel. Past he goes with the loadful of news articles and periodicals. Alan rises grim. He hears the clap of the daily mail… precisely the paper. Up, dresses, then he down he went. The apartment door rattles open. His fair olive hands take up the morning news. Bitter coffee. He drinks the African brew, smokes American weed and knows some high fashion… his blue and grey up-striped suit reflect British class and Egyptian cotton. Alan knows that deliverer. He respects him, in a sensible good way. Most class men above shop owners have less care.

The Clubbs have purchased a new home, the eldest son now rules it. Bertie Clubb hates Hanford and the cooler “Irish Side” where coast winds carry the Atlantic rains o’er inland. Fortunately, Finchal Place is in Northern London. This might be the newest property of the dark family but it was bought on crooked, ill-acquired money from a friend. Mr. Donoughew is bones in the earth. Even his older children have forgotten his greater days, when he was alive. Why do the Clubb children, the adult brood of wily bitter old Roland, still lurk near Norlanfield? Bertie and his vicious siblings have begun to turn on each other. The eldest male seeks the almost spiritual peace of the colder northwest. England has many places and some have a certain kind of forgotten rural attitude. Even bad sorts seek their place in those natural asylums. But this family was potent. Norbert wouldn’t turn on his siblings while Old Man Clubb still lived. Yet this new treachery, plotting and scheming, gave up something to do.

There is something dark about this place, the land and wooded towns here is too modernized, too cruel and greedy, even for the atrocious Clubbs’ way of life. Finchal Manor in the south of Norlanfield was also cheaply bought on new money. Bertie all but inherited this place. His sister and two brothers schemed elsewhere and the all of them preferred London, even has its milder skies turned to soot. The bitterness of industry already raided the foggy peace of the sky. Even up here it could be smelled. Bertie Clubb smoked a pipe and reclined.

It’s a different time now. Back in London the decades of change can be seen as massive progress. But addition is not always good. To any poor man it seems all the negatives were only compounded. The middle class and poor had to adapt quickly. This wasn’t some generational shift or new regime, it was a cruel hand of societal change worse than the hard reforms when Protestantism swept Europe. It was a form of building and politics reflected in any new chimney and every smoldering factory. This kind of industry had not been seen. Now it shrouded the cities and old cities were now giant monsters of human poverty.

Alan has bought his new abode and enjoys the apartment stead, it is not the grand woodland style manner in the fair north fields he loved. He’d never come to that lifestyle again. Even if he made a mint he’d remain here. Or he would move back northern-like and stay in the graces of the landowner class but never be as grand as his father’s wealth.

In London he’s done business and practically works as a knowledge man, doing work by pen and dealings and all manner of spiraled business schemes. His times have been good but few tight mates, few friends, shook him. He got a grip on what he could. All this while, revenged and some inner lust for justice compels his almost every act. These kinds of mornings Alan drank strong black tea or coffee, or indulged in harder drinks. He had his romance and the courtship of pleasant dealings and brief fraternities with social peers, but one woman aided him now. His half sister had grown more distant but this lady wasn’t her. The only femme still strong in his world was Viola D. The bright miss had such a sunny warm continence she beautified his days, whenever he saw her. They empowered one another.

Bryan comes swinging in with hot gray eyes and serious look, but he’s happy. Alan doesn’t want family over yet. The brothers exchange looks and the redder man bursts into good laughter. Bryant never looked so proud and joyful. He has a long fine relationship with a girl, that shined blonde lass. Alan has his eldest. Years alone, with business and with hard peers as mates forced him into womanizing. The true son of Douglas notes his own great romances are done. But life isn’t over. Another, more dingy idea compels him. Drinking, selling, working, seeking freedom and following fashion, bedding ladies, and fostering siblings, nothing matters more than closure. Even Bryan hasn’t seen the basement. It is a dark deep story with one room, in that space there’s a wee wall board and there is a grid of linked photos, articles, and facts. “You can’t belief anything” says Bryan… “You can know what you read in the Daily, and I’ve cut articles and details a lot.” Alan asserted the power of the news.

Irwin Corbeld and John E Bierce came down the stairway of the Corbeld estate. Truth be said, neither of them enjoyed this old lavish-style keep. Irwin planned a vacation but found a letter on the salon table, too close to the kitchen for his likes. John slowly and with some assertions said it was from an old friend. Humorous half-jolly Irwin barely considered the weight of this. He opened the letter. His big joyous face turned worried, and a bit pale.

In a part of London, you shan’t know where precisely, one man has built a life of business and trade. He worked many employs and employed workers and allies too. The lord of his fortress takes an afternoon for tea but he then thinks of worse vices. He looks up at the gin on the upper rack in the kitchen. Alan had forgotten nothing. His siblings, “mother in law” and other allies worked with him. Through them and other sources he learned The Dark Truth. His father had been murdered, second in sorrow only to his real mother’s demise. Old lady Abigail had been a mysterious woman but Alan loved her. The mother looked so wise even in her photograph, a crude type but it captured her. Alan had it on the kitchen counter.

He had many rooms in a surprisingly spacious abode. He walked into one, “the gun room”, where he had a second study, shelves of old family heirlooms and relics, an old pistol with a functional ability to fire, some swords, a good knife in a glass case and some other items. He sat down, poured a British scotch and red the paper. This was his second study and here he planned all things, all plots and aims for his years to come. The Clubbs assumed his little family had faded into poverty. Those surviving Donoughew children and the headmistress, that motherly figure, had kept old connections. In his study Alan thought of this. He knew his broken little cohort of bastard siblings were true blood, and together they’d set it right. He loaded his pistol with a blank. Rage took him, he aimed out and triggered off.

Viola Darrell came over in a smart, modest, concealing dress that made her seem extremely rich. The mid dark tone was even more empowering. Bryan made a comment to the gents at the kitchen gambling table. One of whom, Alan, said to Stephen and Mittleson, “don’t ye mind me brother – the girl now, she’s my wife”. Blue eyed Stephen went limp and aroused but shocked. Cool hazely Mittleson Blake Milner felt no surprise. Viola passively, with great intention and slow strong movements stepped into the room. She said softly and moved her hands, she told her partner the other men, and Bryan, had to go. She wanted alone time with Alan and this was His apartment. He had the gall to dismiss his own half brother, a real friend, and his less loyal house mates. They’d drink and wander and do all sorts of rousing. He just wished for a row with his wife… well, she would be soon enough. The other men left.

Impoverished, filled with cross thoughts, and vengeance-ridden – they were not the thought of a handsome steely man of normal high society. But Alan did feel them. His thoughts stirred inner moods and those flows spilled into fiery ideas and even an internal anger. He was rotten with grief, wracked with savage tiredness and guilt. He could have saved his father. He might have if he worked harder and spoke more of the good ways to achieve protection. Alan walks from his urbanite home on a stroll. He plans out a escape to the rural country. Maybe Country Hoo or Manchester, both in the North. May as well go to Liverpool or the Black for that area of travel. Might as well return to the old home village and its farms.

Country Hoo or “Country Hill” was an old English town and an older man’s community. In the English northwest it was a pleasant abate tired place, wooded and fielded in. It had hills and a broad wider hump that gives it the end it has. The Hoo also has one Haliston Home called Oak Wood Redoubt, which is akin to an old fortress fitted into a modern house, large but with imperious themes. Nobody knows the old Halistons but the heirs of thinner blood now live there. One Mr. Snitch, AKA Irwin Corbeld, invited a friend here. He wasn’t with the usual company, his mate John Bierce, but he was foolishly smug by himself.

There was a little issue. A pest problem occurred and Irwin wanted a friend to stop this disturbing fortune of the friendly Haliston folk. They wouldn’t mind their friend invite some city chap over for an inspection. Alan had a reputable trait as an investigator, and also as a home doctor. He’d done real estate work, home advisement and other consolations and this did well for his manhood connections. Even up here he was known. The Clubbs got wind some some Alan operating in the North, but they were yet dumb and didn’t figure this one was a survivor of an older crime. Old Clubb knew his good friend was dead, as he planned and did, and he cared nothing for the spawn. Alan and his half Irish half brother met with Irwin at the old house and went in. “The Haliston boys are gone and away”, said the heavyset jolly Corbeld, he led the two others into the house. Alan and Bryan chatted. The issue occurred. It didn’t take long to find a rodent. Both men had different reactions to it.

Bryan grew raving livid and cursed with a worried face, Alan was calm and raised a voice to calm his cross brother. Angered and annoyed by the black plaguers, he took a while to settle. The animals were numerous throughout the old yet furnished house, it was only modern on the exterior it seemed. They smoked the wee devils out. Then Bryan set traps. They worked. The whitish interior looked almost brown in the less lit gloom. One of the rodents looked like Bertie Clubb. Alan looked at it without pity. He killed it with a knife he had.

When Alan Donoughew returned to the city he felt his excursion was but annoyingly frank business. His desired vacation was just more work. When he got back home to his decked out nest, he felt as if he could finally enjoy his freedom. But the rats were not gone.

Rats in the sewers infested the old capital streets at night. Cats and wild dogs hunted them incessantly… human catchers hunted the mongrels and kitties. And all the sporadic chaos churned the dim hollows of the city all night. Alan dreamed of rats and gnawing teeth. He woke in the dark seeing something. A squirrel gnawed at the window, eating seeds settled on the lower frame. He lurched up, more bothered than scared. Nothing like this did scare him, his fears were more ephemeral fleeting thoughts. Even elite women scared him, and cruel rich men like Mr. Clubb. Alan yearned to put a gun shot in him, yet even this hate sickened Alan. He was once a man of peace, love, caring… his high ideals never felt so dark.

In the morning Viola Donnell came by, she corresponded several times. She had let him know of her coming arrival a day hence. When she pounded softly on the door, she didn’t need patience. Alan rushed down in a quiet haste. They met, he let her in and soon they embraced in a firm tender hold. She had much too talk about but she seemed antsy. Her let her have space and she walked around, inspecting the home. She didn’t like any first floor rooms.

When she headed upstairs to the more specious wreck room, he turned his mind to another woman. Mother. Abigail née Hart had been a good woman, a bit sad and a bit serious, but she was Alan’s true parent. She married Mr. Donoughew when she was 30 and he was a younger more ambitious man looking for a different marriage. She was such a mysterious fair blond woman but Douglas’ own parents were older and needed the dowry. Alan’s mother had come as a rich woman with a past she never told just anyone. Her story was s darker one but her own son knew less than he wanted of it. That bothered him. She was stoic, witty and a bit melancholic to the end. A sickness that might’ve haunted her for years ended her. Alan was 15 at the time, his adopted sister and half brother did not empathize as much. But somehow that didn’t divide the family. A name can unite people. Alan looked at his mother’s photo.

Bryan and his own woman came by, this was two days later. The predominantly black and white colors of the inside of his house didn’t always appeal to a Alan’s guests. Bryant complained how everything looked grays and browns but no real color, he stated reds would look better or fair tones or even some flaming golden notes. It didn’t matter. Alan asserted his choice was his and he had no distaste for his décor scheme, he like control over his apartment. Estella Black, now Estella Donoughew (despite Bryan often going as Bryan Fadden), was such a pretty woman. She was blonde with fashioned folded hair and eyes almost golden-red but mild, she had a light rosy complexion. It appealed to Bryan to stroke her ego and bespeak her wherever they went, whenever they’re together. Such gloating offended Alan, moderately.

Albin Kirkarm is at a ball house where affluent guests dance and dine and make merry, in formal reserved ways. The smoldering, reddish brown haired man looks for “the servant”. A worn frayed man with tanned skin and rough curling dark hair comes. Poor Kenny is interviewing to be a house servant. In reality he wants to work for the Clubbs or there filthy sadistic Banker like the next beating. Kenny worked hard but fell into poverty and lived in resentful dislike of his employers. Those who put him up were often hard unrewarding men and families, but he did not hate them all. Old man Donoughew had once gifted Kenny a kindness, as did Alan, which is why the pauper serves that family still. Al looks unkindly at the beggar, he says there’s really no reason to hire him. Another greedy proud man rejecting the poor peasant and his needs. But it’s not just arrogance. Al Kirkarm knows well this pauper has connections. He has been many places. He knows many names. He’d be a danger to the fragile club family, it’s business and their now delicate situation. Al spurns Kenny with a cruel few words and then politely and insultingly sends him off. The low man leaves in silence.

Kenny heads to the Duck and Hound, a poor sleepy place known for its dirty stews loaded with cheat doses of opium. It’s a walk through city blocks, allies and parks to the brutal side of town. On way he encounters a poorer soul. Mitch the beggar boy walks to him abruptly. The brown-eyed lad is reddish from the sun and famished. He knows Kenny as a wise good man but now Kenny cannot give more. He explains his own recent turns and losses, he’s sad when he claims he can help not. The poor boy feels even weaker. He runs off but a shadow has come. Mitch sees someone come as if to follow and pursue Kenny as he walks to the poorer side of town. The dangerous stalker is in fact Walter Dart. He’s come to track Kenny and perhaps confront him. The Clubbs suspect poor Kenny talked with their own enemies.

The leary man, his maddened eyes, his smile fierce, he almost grimaces a disturbed grin when he sees his prey trip up and slow. Kenny tripped over some wood in the road. The city transcends into a middle community and trees mix in with older buildings. Not the place for a lady. Fern Hamilton, in a stylish black dress, comes and walks closer to Kenny, perhaps concerned. She is told there’s no issue. The man brushes off and walks on. She stands, still troubled and smiles, self-confidently and unfurls a black stylish brolly. The sky is wet gray.

Behind her comes a sinister tone. Walter D asks if a man walked this way, poor, curly haired, swarthy… she looks at this monster. He almost makes her scream but she looks hard at him and in a selfish upset tone says she knows nothing of the sort. Walter makes no threats. She’s a pointless average woman but also a socialite. And unaffiliated. Harm to her would attract police attention. He says his thanks for nothing line. Then he rushes off in a steady stride. Rain just begins to fall. The entire city looks dank. Wetness makes it smell far worse.

Alan meets two people at the zoo, the three of them would ordinarily not be together unless others were there too. The odd excursion begins with Alisha May and one John E. Bierce at the animal house. Not the ordinary couple. Irwin is off galavanting and Alan knows well that John would never mistreat his sister. Alan meets the three. They already have trickers and get in with only small crowds. Yet they are no alone and without dark figures watching them. The Clubbs have descended to the zoo with a purpose. The bad, wrong and ugly walk separately as if unaffiliated. This lie of movement might fool Alisha and John but Alan noticed the eldest Clubb male, now a puffy proud man. Alan says nothing of it. He leads the two others and says they’d go to The Parlor for supper after the walk. Animals teamed in their enclosures. Alisha admired the birds in a colorful caged house. Alan told Bierce enemies were near about. He looked with his clever deep eyes and spotted one Bertie Clubb walking near.

Del and Lyndon came like a wolf and a blondish beaver but they stayed well apart. Alan said to Alisha and John those predators closed in like wolves on a prowl. It was true. The Donoughew siblings and their friend walked faster, away from the threat. Bertie seemed to whistle at the monkeys but he really implied to his siblings. He called them in for a slow pace pursuit. Alan had no weapon on him but Alisha knew his strength. She said she had a knife of her if those fools tried anything physical. Apes called in the cloudy distance. A fog rolled in over the zoo and the air thickened. Alan kept his fellows close and they mentioned the growing danger. An orangutan howled in its forested enclosure. Alan, John and Alisha plotted out a quickened plan. The Clubbs knew too much already. Then the three came to a stop.

None other than Rosie Clubb, the rusty haired old wife if Clubb Senior, stood there next to the antelope cage. With her was Letha, the daughter, and she went by Hazel. Truly the younger lady sported dirty hazel green eyes and her mother’s were duller greenish brown gray. Both women were merely a distraction. Mother said to Alan the Clubbs were back on top and they were now in the best of times. It wasn’t a lie yet she had political hardness in each word, despite smiling moderately. Letha half flirted with John Bierce until he distracted her with a false claim of some near issue. She looked and he turned back to the others.

Alan told the Clubb mother and daughter he and his peers would be off. She made some sharp menacing remark as if to threaten Alisha. That woman just mumbled something and went with Alan and his friend. The three ran headlong into Mr. Greychapel, the cold blooded gray-haired lawyer who served the Clubbs with a cold hand. He had dark grayed hair and paler hair ‘round the edges. Mr. Greychapel glared at them. He said they ought to leave and sometime soon they’d know conflict. His hard words were weak predictions. It was the Clubb family who’d suffer new pains. Alan told the knave nothing and saw only inhuman hatred and violence in the eyes of that fallen legal worker. Alan knew it was time to go. Alisha had affairs of her own and left. John said Irwin and him would help, more now than ever. Alan smoked a puff of his pipe as if to agree with everything. It was now time for the first blood.

Alan planned it all well. He’d received an invitation to a home in Hanford. Apparently, Fern Hamilton organized part of the gathering and it would be semi-exclusive. Alan planned in the map room of the basement his next act. He had two drawings, one of John Greychapel and one of Al Kirkarm, the Scottish financier. He decided in haste on Al Kirkarm, the Scottish financier. He decided on Albin and dug the knife into his image. Then the wind blew outside the apartment. Neighbors raised their voices. The plot was struck. Alan drank a hard scotch.

Alan and Bryan were both invited and they took a fast car (carriage) to the place. It was a grand ride but once there the brothers smiled and made best talk with everybody. It started out well. Of course Fern was there, some called her “Fearny”, what she hated to be called. She smiled on Bryan. Estella wasn’t with him so other girls, including the hostess, flirted vicariously and with dangerous lips. One interesting guest was one Ann Black, the sister of Bryan’s wife. She sat alone at a brown table as if waiting for the right company. Bryan liked his sister in law and her presence seemed suspicious but good. Both men sat with her for a smoke.

Dark Ann is a fair girl, buxom and beautiful but very dull in ways, her black hair webbed and thin. She has green eyes like Alan’s but they seem far sadder, perhaps she witnessed losses even he couldn’t fathom. Alan himself was on a mission and Bryan didn’t want to flirt with the sister of his wife. Something ill fell upon them all. The Scottish banker had emerged and a clang happened. He looked to see a maid knocked over a table of wines as she rushed past. Bryan called Alan and the men plotted the next step. They took the other stairs to the upper view, a wide path overlooking the entire party chamber. Time was good for a quick move. Bryan has a friend smuggle in a case and in it were knives, bottles of vitriol and poison. The toxic fluid was intended to cause stomach pain and weariness. Alan and his half-brother met with an unexpected guest, Kenny. They spoke for an instant before continuing the procedure. The poor worker left in a slow subtle way. Alan found the suitcase and took a knife. His brother slipped coughing poison into each drink, he doused half the cordials and gins. Men and a few gallant ladies begin partaking… Alan heard the coughs, covered his blade in black venom and saw his brother just in time. Both men had concealed blades and small bottles of vitriol. Strong vitriol. Albin rounded the corner as predicted and walked slowly.

A woman screamed. She suffered the effect worst and had intoxicatedly fallen into a class set, shattering it all and becoming cut with shards. Perfect as distractions go. When all three men were in the parlor back room, Bryan locked the door. The reddish haired man looked at his captor with stone-cold teal green eyes. Alan knifed his foe in the back with a broad, deep slash. When the strong man wheeled around he felt a stab into his upper lung. He fell. Alan menacingly explained why he was enacting his revenge scheme. He said it was justice and no other way could lead to this satisfaction. His hot green eyes looked like olives burning in fire. Good men are more angry than passionate when they have to kill another.

In a minute of pity Alan decided to not just kill Al but the wounded Mr. didn’t back down. He lunged with a hidden sleeve pistol, and a glass bottle full of acid smashed on his head. Bryan partly burned his hand but dried it with his pocket cloth. Both men turned the man over and slit his throat three times. Albin Kirkarm then had the full honor of being defaced by acidic vitriol and mutilated. The body need not be recognized now and no one should find it for a while. The men rejoined the sickened poisoned people, and pretended to be sickened too. When the chance came they left. The coach took them to the western part of town.

Days passed and the Donoughew family suffered no obvious consequences. The crime was technically an act of just causality. But they soon had another chance. Hazel had found out Al had gone missing. The Clubbs hired goons and private eyes. Yet the only suspected Alan and Bryan had something to do with it. The sickened guests were examined. Stories and rumors of an elaborate sabotage flooded the north. Sadly, the horrible body was found by a maiden who had lost her husband to another woman the week prior. The ruddy bloody corpse was unrecognizable. Medics had to prod it for hours. It was found to be Kirkarm.

Alan wanted more. He found a new opportunity. A second time to kill. Hazel Clubb was favored by the mother but she had fallen to hard times, she turned to foolish means. Some around town claimed she laundered money. Most rumors claimed she dealt with whores and cheap ventures. It seemed time enough to study her habits, her style, and track her down. Perhaps it didn’t have to be so cruel this time. Bryan insisted they end the poor girl. This was about avenging Douglas and perhaps stopping the avarice of another fell family.

Fallow Hall wasn’t an ideal meeting place. The old stately monstrosity was a governmental house abandoned by parliament when its purpose became accessory. The Clubbs used it and this dread decayed abandoned place was perfect for the eldest son, The now 40 plus years old Bertie Clubb; his eyes as cold gray and lifeless as stone. Yet today it was his sister Hazel who’d come. She was a mixed woman of mixed morals and a dark, seductive countenance. The woman seemed more manipulative and both wiser and more erudite than her crude sinful brothers, all different incarnations of bad rich men. She wanted more legitimate enterprise. John Greychapel stepped from the blue shadows of the parliamentary house’s ivy covered west end. Hazel told him her plans for self-protective legal measures. If her father directed them all into a new conflict, she didn’t want to be caught between his decrepit will and some new (or old) enemy. Greychapel said he had elitist values and knew how to use the law divisively. As an elitist he had a cold knowledge of paths to money. Yet he deceived her with his seemingly loyal advise. He reported only to her father and even had orders to betray “women of the family” if they became too deviant and unruly. Hazel was social and tutored but not truly educated and her wit bottomed out. All the people in her closest circle were villains, solely loyal to her father. She made a precious mistake.

Alan had many allies now including a London banker and more useful members of the poor folk. Yet he spent much of his days alone, without even Viola or his adopted sibling Alisha. Bryan too was distant even as a close help. Rickarte’s Fall was a logging field now a barren weedy plain of tree stumps with general smell of industry. Yet the trees in the center were immortal stumps and new plants refused to grow back. Apart from grasses and ugly thorn thistles this place was a ruined abandoned one. Alan came her alone often. He did to escape his social work, his business life and people in general. A desolate place where a wood forest had been logged to nonexistence. Natural energy still seemed ominously strong here.

He had come to this wood-removed clearing many times but this day he came and made a Blood Oath. A dark spirit seemed to grip him and even the recent act of murdering Al Kirkarm did not phase him. His green eyes reflected the wet ground and dampness of the beech and elm tree stumps. He drew a fresh dagger and cut his hand enough to make a hot curse. He made oath that if he did not Defeat the Clubbs and retake Old Grand Fir as his original home, he had failed at life and this failure shall bring doom to him and his siblings.

Morton’s Crossing was a place several Clubbs visited for several purposes. They were now very rich folk but this industrialized “station town” was not below them. They freely associated with modern bandits, worker lords and suspicious men in alleys. Both Bertie and Del went here for dark pleasures. There was a problem with the local bowdy houses. Such places of pleasure were being reformed and many houses were shut down. Bertie was here on another mission. A matter of grave confusion had come up. Letha came here too often and she wasted her money on arrant mysteries. Yes, she said she quested and did good with her funds. But she came here to work with prostitution, she gambled and she poured what she possessed into the failing whorehouses. In fact she lost enough to offend her brothers. Only their arrogant coldblooded father knew this. The oldest brother, Norbert, shadowed his sister here with henchmen, including Walter. His goons spied on Hazel. If she were found guilty of any low activity those men would hang her in the woods west. Bertie grew inwardly angry at her unheeded irresponsibility. She began ruining the Clubbs’ already delicate-standing image.

Alan and Bryan had come to the north and so happened to be dropped off by horse at Morrie’s Hobble. The half Irish brother talked incessantly. He was proud of Millicent as his mum, she was a fine well-meaning lady. In fact her dealings including open socializing gained her wealth and for not for her intervention, the sordid party of siblings would likely become impoverished. In Morton’s Crossing, the homes were all shab cottages and small worker bunkeries. This place was now so factory driven, overly developed. They’d both come for some issue of the spirit. Many people lived here and many dark dealings occurred. People like poor Kenny even came here when they could. The old white church was all but neglected.

Some who passed across this town found the religious chapel the only good point to what now looked like a village of factories. Both me found an unexpected person and felt she was here for a purpose. This might upset their plans. Hazel Clubb was standing in the clear in the least busy part of the village. She was on the edge of a horse road between the slums and the work areas. Bryan said to avoid her. Alan felt a need to talk. It wasn’t closure it was just a circumstantial step. If she proved villainous or troubling, Alan had a gun, he locked the flint, he said to his brother he’d do what’s necessary. Bryan and him talked so much before they already had plans for each and every member of that vile cohort. Including coal-brown-haired Letha, who was least of the monsters. With the Scottish banker dead, the Clubb family’s power was unhinged. It was time for hard talk or blood. Alan walked forward alone to the woman.

Letha saw him coming and went to walk away but he outpaced her. She had too much inner pride to run, she wanted to stand against him with the wit of word. He told her she was a person who was a member of the enemy of his house. She said she knew this and knew well the blood between the Clubbs and the Donoughew father, but she disclaimed a real issue between the Donoughew children… he said he was an adult now and grabbed her wrist. She pulled a knife and he stepped back. She hesitated, claiming she knew a secret that might destroy him. A spiritual white cloud drifted above. Birds chirped. The wind shifts. He told her he’d hurt her if she did not put away her blade and tell the truth. She denied him the honor but didn’t try to kill him. She tried to stab his arm! He ordered her to give up the ghost and admit all. She struggled against his grip. A smoky wind blew and smoky air blew over them.

She slipped onto the dirt road and fell and he aimed his gun at her. When she knifed his leg, near the thigh, he shot her in defense. The blast shot a round deep into her chest and cleaved her heart from the lung. She had less than a minute to live. Fearing death she yelled defiantly but then admitted that secret. His bother, Abigail, was not a Hart. Her real maid name was Clubb and she was Hazel’s aunt! Letha said all on her deathbed, laying in the dirt of the horse path and hearing the sounds of industrial labor she gave a vital piece of the puzzle.

Before the wounded girl died she admitted the lies and happenings that preceded the corruption. Abigail was the old sister of Roland Clubb Jr. who now was so unaffectionately termed Old Senior. Letha had a cruel evil grandfather and he abused his daughters and girls in his life. His own eldest and his first daughter conspired to stop him. He died at a wretched old age, perhaps 70, when two adult children killed him in Rickarte’s Fall… Abigail was a beautiful lady with pale eyes and dark brown hair. She married one Mr. Donoughew, the last heir of the main line of a once great household. Few members of the then larger Clubb line admired this man. Roland Clubb had children with his dastardly wild wife, once a rugged English beauty too. Mr. Donoughew and Clubb galavanted but the lesser man grew jealous. Abigail lost all of her old character, becoming saddened by the immoral world around her. She dyed her hair fairer and changed. She aged into a sadder woman. Then illness struck her. Before bleeding Hazel finished she said her aunt, Alan’s mother, died of a broken spirit.

Alan turned away and need the body’d be found in minutes. The men rushed off with quick reflex. They’d seen horses coming and workers rounding the corner. Time to leave the Hobble for good. With a Clubb dead and a darker worse story revealed, both Alan and Bryan reconsidered much. What if their own father was more than just an old associate. What if the Clubbs and Mr. and Ms. Donoughew were all equally wicked, criminal beasts. Bryan suggested as much. He hated his own mother being a side mistress of great “lord” Donoughew. As the men took the trolley to the city, they said to each other many things of suspect motive. Alan didn’t like the foolish jibe and conceded quiet wrath of his half brother. He much preferred Alisha, almost sexually. Viola would be waiting, perhaps she’d come too soon and spring prying annoying questions on Alan. The main actor in all this conflict had a lot to process.

Back at Headmeer Home. The year of 1830 dragged on for a while but the slow fall season and the brutalities of London make for a pained new time. The home apartment is as fine and grand as any high class house in pre revolution France. That country is now the wreck England wanted America to be. Alan drinks a dark ale. He has enough stash for 12 rum traders. His own trade of legal, business and witty work made him small wealth, but that’s a understatement. Too much changed recently. Acts and issues that may ruin so much.

Viola does come and this time she’s cordially uninvited. But Alan almost needs her now. She noticed his mood: sullen, hard-faced and with moist eyes filled with worries. He is a man seldom afraid and never outwardly cross. She sits with him at the table. They put on a tea but she helps herself to water. This new conservative style complex wasn’t his true home. He wanted his original northern manor back. He’d kill for it and in some ways those lives he took with Bryan’s aid already proved it. If she found out that lovely fiancé certainly will brake off the relation. She’d have none of this. Already she mistook his vengeance for some disturbed state, and she hated lunacy and drunkenness in men. But their romance did not crumble.

They go to a certain mock-French diner to dine on fine shellfish and stare at all-too-English deer paints on the walls. Some holy image of a white stag with the inscription “Darren Donoughew” as the maker captives Alan. That was the masterpiece of his grandfather, a good talented man by all accounts. Viola doesn’t smile too much. She seldom looks away from her devoted partner even for a glance. Soon they’ll be wed. For now she wants it more than he and the elaborate dark plot now contaminates his mind. He tells her everything in good detail but avoids direct names. He also retells the story of his own mother, her events and true life.

Viola recalled knowing some of this. She had as a girl been around the manor, though at the time she was younger, perhaps 8 years younger than teenage Alan. He had no idea she had been in his life for so long. As a girl in her teens and twenties she’d worked for the Clubbs and Lyndon in particular. Carolyn had ended romances with Alan five years ago, by 1828 he formerly met Viola, yet lady Coleston is still a good friend. Even now she sends Alan letters and Viola, over sweet coffee and aperitifs, informs Alan she knows as much. Yet she’s fine. Neither woman is any threat to the other. Alan has built a trust with her and Viola is far reaching, strong of mind, mature, slightly sad and deeply witty, a true educated woman.

There is something I’ve learned and I know it more lately. God dwells in the details, the power that be is in this truth…” Viola preached. Yet as the meal arrived she said her socializing gained much. The Clubb children, the remaining adult boys, are all having men’s time in their lavish new rich London abode. There they’ll be for another week. She claims to have know about his quest for revenge. Alan suddenly and silently stops her, he says it’s no vengeance or a path of anger, it is closure and justice. The crooked modern law system would never grant an audience. The Clubbs are crooked and sport many legal alliances… Viola reminds him, smiling with confidence, such alliances are corrupt and already two powerful members of the Clubb circle are gone. Three more left the business circle. She had spied on Alan’s enemies and Millicent for years as she grew closer to Alan and loyal to his life’s tidings.

A tragic event occurred when Estella was at the Clubb house, she talked to Old Clubb and said too much, far too much. Walter Dart overhead and his poor drunk little mind exploded in anger as he defended the honor of his master. Walter chastised her about her words, saying she was lying. She was a silly woman and her husband had told her too much. Estella Donoughew Estella Donoughew smiled as she continued offending them all with her story of how recent Clubb losses, including Hazel’s demise, came about. Old Roland almost threatened her with the law and Del wolfed at her with violent eyes. Walter overstepped his own limits and said he’d kill her for being such a devil woman. Clubb Senior silenced him. He glared with mean blue eyes. Then he cast Estella out. It would be it for her in many ways.

Many things were said in Finchal Place behind locked doors. She returned to her husband Bryan in tears and morning of death and dread, horrors he did not know. Why did she sob in sudden horrors? He knew she’d told the wrong people. What trust he had died then. But too late did Bryant tell his brother and Alan had been planning so well now this matter would only upset him and the final objectives. She decided to be rather hasty herself.

Estella went to see her sister but on way she came upon Walter Dart who harassed her carriage driver. She was more or less abducted. Dart walked her to a pub and outside told her she’d been invited to a major gathering, a ball, and all the wealthy socialites were to be there. She knew it was a trick. Against all her mind she went to this party. Yet it was a clever snare.

How could a giddy social girl resist a sunny ball near Haliston Hall in a fine bit of country? She took a fair white carriage there without Bryan. What did she think? That she’d be among powerful guests and be able to stand against the Clubb men with good support? She knew wrong and considered wrong also. The old guest manor had been made into a shabby ball for lower gentry and all manner of hooligans, lawyers and fools with money. It was mostly men, a few old women and some females who looked like whores. Such a sad pit of debauchery and human social vulgarity saddened her. Clubb was there, his handsome second son too. Walter hung by what looked like a small indoor tree with a noose hanging from it. She didn’t see him. When the shady ne’erdowell came to her she saw and fell afraid. He sneered, sunned and dirty… he said “she’d suffer ‘for the end”, he’d make sure of it. The ghastly man followed all orders precisely this occasion. Then he said no more. He quietly turned away and speedily ran to the back room. He went to the attic and in dim lighting began to cut the chandelier fixtures. This sabotage would surely prove lethal to all at the center of the room.

Bryan’s wife Estella née Black sits for a while before being hypnotically drawn to the center of the room. She sees the bright crystal fixture above her head. It dazzles her. She looks down at the massive one central table. The food tempts her but she takes not one hors d’oeuvre. She sees hard wine and cider and white gin, on the harder stuff she takes. She drinks herself dumb. As she began humiliating guests with rude advances and slobbering talk, the chandelier (now sabotaged by Walter Dart) fell loose. It fell down with massive weight and force, splintering her right arm and neck and crushing the head of lady Haliston before her (who stood as the last heir of her family’s fortune). With the bloody deaths of seven and injuries of five, all fled the bloodied house of festive pleasures. Now just a house of death.

Bryan found out and was furious. He went to his brother and said, “to damn with our plans and your making-bones revenges!” And he was dead serious in his hot new mood. So hot he seemed consumed with grievous wrath. Alan labored with his words to slow his brother’s hate and cool the flames of anger. Both men calmed. Then Alan looked at his brother’s cold mild gentle gray eyes with his own green noble irises. He proved himself the true leader, heir of the Donoughew main line and true retainer of the house fortune.

They stepped up the preexisting plot to burn down the cheap low rich London house of the foes. While the next four days went on, Clubbs Bertie, Del and Lyndon would be in their second home. Old man Clubb was away, old and tired from ages of scoundrelry, he was at a friend’s house. He’d soon retire anyway and then die of old adage. Yet he would not make it to that good end. His foolish crooked brood wouldn’t either.

Bertie looked so grayed and frazzled despite being young. Greychapel told all about the death of his fair “wise” sister. Norbert just looked at the coldblooded reptile and used expletive to demean his sister. He called her a whore and a useless bag. Clearly his pride reflected a lack of care for his loveless sister or brothers. The man felt like killing old Greychapel on the spot, excessive news is bad news even if it isn’t full unwelcome. Bertie almost smiled. Yet two more male guest came. They arrived and snuck in, uninvited…

Greychapel was an elitist and even now he lectured Clubb Junior on his money spending and choice of words. Upstairs wolfish Del remember what John Greychapel told him days past. He was the golden boy, the strong handsome intimidating second born. Yet when a man appeared behind him, he did not act. A razor went to his neck. Another man lit a match. Oil poured all over the wooden bathroom and more dripped down from above. Alan said in his most vengeance ridden voice, this time all of the Clubbs were to die. Their house needed to burn. It came to them on stolen money and on murder-acquired power. This time they’d lose money, this property will burn and all the greed with it. Alan’s hostage, Del Clubb, went loud with yelling hate before the folding razor slit his neck in two and he gagged to death. Then the match Bryan was holding dropped. The room went on fire. It burned up and high. Both men snuck out past dark rooms and halls with whoredoms inside. The folk drank, some laughed. Alan and Bryant snuck off and Alan would bar the doors and shoot the one window latch of that other accessible opening. No escape. For those inside the flames burned and ceiled off the drunken horde upstairs. Then the sober and social men and women below, along with Eldest Clubb and Lyndon, saw the red smoke grind down. The air become toxic, heavy. They struggled and suffocated. Alan closed his eyes wearily and poured his medium slender mouth as he put a light to a pipe and smoked. Bryan looked at the scene through binoculars.

The rough and second floor collapsed and the mass new style house massively imploded. Fire and debris crushed down on the 40 guests and the side wall fell out like a rockslide… only 14 escaped alive. 14 out of 100. And of them 5 were unharmed. The rest burned above or were crushed, then burned, below. Del had been slotted first and was cremated by intense fire. Greychapel almost escape, gaunt and sprightly old man, hot ash blinded him and blackened his face with burns and coal, then a falling turning rafter spanked his brain, knocking him dead. He certainly died when burning material crushed his skull and backbone… Lyndon fell to see the collapse of the roof and floor center unleash forces and fire on Norbert. Old junior was a strong man but his arm was burned and crushed, his jaw hung loosely and his eye, why it disappeared. Horrified and frustrated, Lyndon cried a scream and a defiant last word. Then the rest fell and fire licked him. The burning rage scoured all bodies.

The fire at Finchal Place would enter the immediate gossip news. It would not, however, reach the print for five days, when then the next week’s cycle came out. Mitch the bigger with his rust hair and browny eyes saw the firsthand look of the devastation. Few others including poorer adults saw it. Alan told his half-brother he had to be alone. He suggested that Bryan see his sister in law, Ann, who was already so distraught over the bad accident that killed her sister. Bryan admitted that was no freak occurrence… it was the Clubb’s doing. But they were burned dead men now. As Bryant went to get a ride to his in law’s house, Alan became harder in his singular bold drive to hunt down the evil family that destroyed his. In part this was to honor his long departed mother too. Old Man Clubb and his precious aged Rosie were last on the diary. They’d be the last blood. All this sacrifice for some idea greater. It’s the elimination of a vile legacy, of Douglas’ sins, and now of the evil Clubbs and their potential to outbreed Alan and his Brother. Bryan will wed again, and have six children with an other and third wife… Viola and Alan shall be wed, and make four babies, three boys and a girl between. Arther, Howard, Linny and Winston are not yet born.

The revenge is not yet oven and Alan makes his final sketches of justice. He plots it on the planning board of his gun room. His basement study is all but his storage room, or evidence chamber, he placed all clues and items that’d link him to his crimes down there. He’d allow only the best closest men to see such. Bryan and him saved money. They prepped to pay for relocation back to Manchester or more likely, to Hanford. The charming Northwest is where Alan wanted his home. Alan’s wants were often bigger than his emotional proud brother’s – Bryant took after his mum, all passion, no higher purpose. Alan planned to see his love in the next day’s morn. For now he danced on the graves and successes he made. In his dull study room he worked on the final form. This act would end all loose issues he had.

Meeting with Ann Black was not mere closure. Bryan saw the sullen black haired girl, a girlish slender female, and saw nothing of the sister in her, nor in her clothes or face at all!

Irwin Corbeld saw his close friend at Finchal Manor. Old Clubb looked miserable and he had drank liquor all last night. John Earnest Bierce came closer – the two men seemed about to kiss. But then the old man opened the door and told them to come in. Neither were here for talk. They’d come to listen. They needed to report back everything they heard. Alan wanted information and demanded more and more help from his friends. Though righteous, all Alan seemed was demanding, spoiled and overly fantastically heroic – or falsely moral. At least old Clubb was now ignorant with age, less wicked and tired of masculine rages. Rosie was so quaint and uninteresting her very presence dulled the two men to tears. The blue eyed man and the smarter deep brown eyed man relaxed in the living area. They listened to smiling cunning Rosie coyly dismiss her husband’s sexism and then ask for his newest cravings.

Irwin and Mr. Bierce asked questions. When Rosie caught on, they left slowly but with mentioned determination. They had to go and walk out they did. Bewildered, Clubb seemed to think it was something he said or maybe Irwin’s stupidity. He called them a slur after they were certainly gone. Alan received a letter John dropped off personally. It read we know all about the undying foolishness of Old Clubb. Yet his wife catches on and right wick. *I John E. B. adhere with facts and factually state the others friends and connections of Roland Clubb all are gone. One Walter Dart is however still alive and loyal. He’s likely on this path of his own brand of revenge…

One year ago, Walter Clubb murdered a woman in Rickarte’s Fall, back when a few edge trees were still being forested. He defiled her, menaced, and in the name of Roland Clubb, he stabbed her down. He grew up, perhaps 48 years ago, in Norlanfield as a poor son of a disenfranchised worker family. The mother left him and the male parent was less loving. He learned hunting and gritty work from his sire. He moved to He moved to Morton’s Crossing as a man and lived as a good worker until the Clubbs came around and industry swayed. As the small village town grew into a monstrous labor town, he worked in harder conditions and lost small privileges. The Clubbs half helped him half press-ganged him as made him their main agent, the hard working muscle who did more and more dirty tasks for them. Walter devolved into a vile alcoholic, he grew violent. As he developed as tighter bond with Roland, he showed complete loyalty. They Clubbs had him shake down rivals, threaten weak threats, do body guard work, babysit and even kill true foes and targets. Now he was just a washed up menace. He killed another woman at the Fall recently, one of the intruding whore friends of Letha who told too much and attracted the wrong people as a consequence. She died alone and broken in that stump land. His master protected him from any reprisals.

Bryan sees Ann Black, a still unmarried woman and still so dim and sullen. Her demeanor was that of an old widow yet she’d not ever married. She seemed say, so much so she wanted to meet in the Parlor. Bryan and her met in a café place but she wanted only alcohol and expensive cake. He had a plate of bread and cheese and the fishy stew looked tempting. In the sadness of the death that brought him and green-eyed Ann here, he wanted to eat his heart out and drink black beer til silly. Ann was never drunk, she held her gin and tonic well. Such a perfect English her, already in their thirties. Ann and Estella suffered from fertility issues and being so sterile made Ann depressive and darkly moods. Ann looked at the river, the watery docks, the street so stoned well, and the people in suits or attire walking slowly.

Alan knew of the plans his brother had. He hadn’t seen Alisha May in over a week and she seemed too trapped in her own ventures. Perhaps she’d seen too much and empowered this brooding vile scheme. Yet she did send him a letter. As Bryan spoke kindly with a grieving sister, Alan sought one more link in the system of revenge. To him he called it justice. Even Bryan knew this was violence and the cause was inferior to the harm. But he did seek out one foe who needed culling. That bad rotten man wasn’t difficult to find.

Alan homed in on him. He followed the poor man trails and rumors in places like The Duck and Hound. His quarry walked no where but The Fall. Rickarte’s woodland was so dim now. A heavy fog covered the millions of dead tree circles. They’d been cut down and weeds grew thicker. A dampness seemed indicative of coming rain. Mr. Dart in his decrepit brown suit akin to rags and clenching what seemed like a newer revolver gun walked slowly. Alan came out of the midst. He wore an armored black suit in intimidating cut. The smoldering poor minion was now masterless. Did he consider suicide? When he saw Alan both men drew pistols. Alan shot his flintlock and the blasted round missed. Walter fired his overpowered five shooter and blasted Alan on the shoulder. The wound bled but wasn’t really bad. Alan swiftly held up his empty gun as the foe shot once more. It shattered the flintlock. Walter was too drunk and cold to waste ammunition. He dropped his pistol and pulled out a cheap dull knife. Alan was unharmed and his could-have-been-shot head was only slightly bruised. A good shield, Mr. Dart admitted. Alan pulled out a vicious sharp switchblade. Walter lurched back.

Alan embraced his poor sinister enemy and the degenerate knifed Alan’s ear, again a shallow wound meant to inflict pain. “You want punishment I’ll give you punishment”. Alan screamed back retorts as Walter said all the things he’d do to Alan before killing and then going after the sister. “You destroyed my masters, my family, I’m going to rape and murder your entire people.” Walter was drunk, tired, desperate and now penniless. Alan grabbed him again in a rib crushing hug, then throw the solid but weak-livered man to the hard ground. Walter struck a tree stump back first and the hard structure broke a rib. Walter said to Alan not to throw him again. The stronger younger man knifed his enemy without mercy: the liver, the gut twice, and then the upper chest. When it was clear that sick poor fool wasn’t dead and his evil wicked voice still twitched, Alan pulled the second smaller pistol from the lower back holster and aimed it at the dying foe’s brain. A sound hollowed out the fog in the Fall.

The news reported many stories and comings today. The most severe mews was a terrible fire and the ruin of that house. Several members of the “newly rich” Clubb family had died in a terrible fire in a large London manor home. Reports aren’t always correct but this story had elite credible sources, not a single clause was wrong. Adam Porter read the news and took little joy in it. He knew rather learnedly that the Clubbs were wicked but many died in the fire, he didn’t mention Alan. But, Adam knew Alan and suspected him intuitively.

As the former news boy read the daily paper, he decided to turn a blind eye. This was a higher plan at work and it didn’t concern him. He had hard enough problems as it was. But if one Indian chap from Bengal could found a coffee house, so could Mr. Porter. His Nigerian ancestors would be crying sacrilege for this capitalizing on foreign Oppressor business but money is the new King, as they say. Poor Kenny lumbered by and smiled kindly as he went.

A day later. Birds and robins especially rang in the willows and winded woods. Bryant had stayed with Ann and slept in a bed next to her, platonically, to comfort her. It was mutual comfort. She was nothing like her dead sister but she smelled like her. A fact Bryan knew but resented all the more. As a white smoggy sky lit up, Bryan said he needed his own space. He left but not without many words and goodbyes. Alan was far away, to the far northern reach.

Alan planned to give his brother Finchal Manor, a place he once intended to destroy but now he had considered it for a gift. Bryan lost much personal stake in all of this. He needed due compensation but nothing would bring his Estella back. Norlanfield looked lovely with the red oaks reddening and laurel trees in passive gold. Most other trees such as the proud pines and firs looked green and dark as ever. Past the spruced lanes and wooded communities, Alan walked the longest jaunt of his life. He went fast on foot but not running. He saw the Old Fir once more. Those ratty villains sold it long ago to a good but self-serving family, the Houstons. They were all too eager to get rid of it. Alan sent letters and responses were good. He didn’t come here to chat. When he did come and meet them in person, they’d respond well. A big part of him didn’t want it back but reacquiring the manor was his destiny.

Alan went to Finchal Manor to deal with the last business. In his profession he learned all ways of cleaning house. He worked once with maids and then real estate, advise, life consultation and some law work when he sought lawyerly duties. These experiences made Alan a richer person, headstrong, socially powerful and adept in any situation. He walked up to the manor fortress or his grand enemy, betrayer of his father, and knocked on the door.

Rosie wanted to head down the stairs and open the grand door. But she didn’t. She stayed away and knew whoever it was, they were no friend. Her husband, more or less bedridden, had a young boyish hand go down and open the door. Alan persuaded young Dillman to led him in. Dilly did so assuming Alan was just a guest. When Rosie saw the face of who destroyed her children and alliances, she grew into a vicious constipated rage. He told her he was here on a purpose and she needed to rouse Old Clubb. She did, out of fear. Shocked, he came down on her worrisome behest. He walked slowly with a sick weak gait and a hard black cane. Looking down the housemaster saw a man shining, smiling in a brownish toned fair suit. “God be damned!” The man stumbled down the steps and into the entry room. Alan closed the door behind him. He drew the reloaded five round revolver. The old man called his one servant left and the son-like teenager ran down only to see the revenge kill.

The old monkey got his owed desert. (In retrospect, he looked like a cross between Charles Darwin and Martin Van Buren, though uglier and angrier.) He bled badly from the first wound to his chest. But he was a hard old bastard. He revealed his cane to have a blade but he stumbled, tripped and fell on it. He looked up and said curses on the Donoughews. Alan smiled a refreshed consummate smile. His face twisted and then fell into a dull pleased emotion. He killed Clubb with a second shot to the nose as he said about the deaths of all the others. Fallen was the house of Clubb and the vibration of a histrionic Rosie caused the family clan tapestry to fall from aloft. She ran down, tripped on the fallen coat of arms, slipped badly and landed fifteen steps down. She broke her neck. Alan would’ve killed her and made good sure of it. Yet she didn’t move. She lay there broken, aged, weary and terribly scared… her neck badly crushed by the fast stop on the wood. Alan whistled and the servant boy saw him out in dread. There was a final gunshot. Fair birds flew from the alder and willow trees.

Irwin and John practically dragged the Donoughew threesome into their manor. They had a small party with a fine few exclusive fellows. Mostly queer old men, a fierce Catholic and a Scotsman, four women who all seemed to gaggle about and stand together. The champagne and lolly tones of the interior looked fleshy, sleek, smooth, coppery and bowdy. Alan came first and then Alisha and his half brother. Bryan didn’t favor the place and in a conversation with one Joyce Wheeler he said “Aye, methinks I damn well hate the place”. As Bryan struggled to cover up his Irish, Alisha socialized with the women and argued politely with the quiet prideful leader of the four, Emily Trant, and Alan talked with Irwin in the corner. Of course Alan really wished a talk with John, the smarter of the two roommates.

Alisha met a new man, who she called Meilan, though it wasn’t his real name. She send Alan and Bryan many letters. Lady Millicent returned from Ireland and fine excursion. The matron knew her family fodder had gotten into trouble, she would reprimand them. Bryan spent time with Ann but would marry another woman, some Marlene who came through town. Alan spent time alone for once, he did on occasion have the time, he drank less, smoked less, flirted with strange women less, and made time for business and wealthy gains all the more. Viola and Carolyn both had a place in his world. Yet the latter was a fading friend. Even when she told how she supported him significantly of late, he said he lived for another. Carolyn knew she should fade from his little life. He did seem colder too. But Viola Connell and Alan Donoughew were a thing. No other object mattered to him anymore.

Purity of the day had special meaning. Alan spent each morning on a ritual of washing, cleaning and scrubbing. He prepared himself for a sacrifice of hard work, some manual disciplines and social warfare. Each day now he could make new friends or new enemies. His business took him out of London. He met Ian Mewley and already he distrusted the man. He could become a new face in a roster of enemies. Alan received mail later confirm some legalities. His line of work drifted closer to the greed and crookedness he sought to stop.

The day ended with cleaning away the grime of city business. Viola’d be there in the mid morning, tomorrow. It was a pained day of meetings and a cold night now. The autumn evolved into a latter time of a month’s end. Much had ended. Some was just to begin. All the fears of new consequences and victor’s guilt died with the light of dawn. A cold pale dawn. With a few responding letters and notes, Alan made a new plan. He sought to buy back Old Grand Fir. He’d do more than ever notes, Alan made a new plan. He sought to buy back Old Grand Fir. He’d do more than ever ensuring this. Bryan received money as if to hush him but this was Alan’s way of keeping faith with his conflicted half sibling. Alisha stopped by as he was leaving. He turned to her and said he had a wonderful plan. She saw joy return to his eyes. Yet in that passing moment she noticed fear. He ran down the street. Alisha knew in that cool, cool morning her elder brother, a fine member of her adopted family, was changed. She’d never see the strong will and good temper of the older man he was. His new self was a shell, but a fragile cloud lined with silver also. She remained there for an hour for some reason.

Alan bough back his ancestral manor home. Irwin Corbeld was co-signer, despite his close friend’s best wishes (who wished to sign the papers himself). Alan put faith in the dumber man for his sincerity and lack of typical bitter motives. Even John could be disparaging at times. Within a day, Alan moved in and allowed Alisha to come as often as considered. She did not want to stay. For her this place held nothing anymore. Yet she loved Norlanfield and came to stay for the convenience. A fine time it was. Time for celebration! Yet the story didn’t end here. It wouldn’t. Alan had changed and his victories and return to grand power damaged him. It all happened with risks, losses and pains. It’d take years of good works to recover. His vices also tempted him. New challenges and rivalries shall come and these men, and women, will be terrible. Viola too was a danger and she’d be his greatest temptation. Irwin and John influenced him. Too many did. His life entered a new season.

Whisky, a dreadfully American ill, also a Convention. Why, it shouldn’t be drunken in any proper British place. But the north place wasn’t all so proper and moderne. Industry spreads faster and more tenaciously. The bob boys keep rigging and hurting factories. But the hammer of progress cannot be slowed. Alan is in the north once more. He stands in the woods. A factor is off to his far fore, north. All this land changed and factories exist from London to Scotland. The winds of the Scottish North also seem sour, cruel, and different. Viola stands beside him. A look of sallow horror on her face. She turns to tell him, she says, her friend has died. Once again he feels a wave of emotion. Paranoia sets in. He turns to her. The wind blows.

CREDIT : Edward Jay Eskall

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