Ethan was relieved to see his father acting better after his outburst in Uncle Malcolm’s office. He still wondered whether or not he should mention the older gentleman with the walking stick in his driveway. After Theodore tracked Ethan down and invited him to play the piano, Ethan forgot all about the man.
Leaving was fortunately a quiet affair. Neither Aunt Beatrice nor his grandmother sniped at each other, for which Ethan was glad. “Father, shall we be working in the shed?” Ethan asked as he climbed into the steam powered carriage.
Marcus pouted and looked at the sky. “It might still rain. We don’t want you out in it, Ethan, now do we?”
“No, sir.” Ethan waved goodbye to Theodore and Uncle Malcolm. All the way home, which was only a few streets away, Ethan kept silent, though he wanted to ask his father why he had an episode in Uncle Malcolm’s study. The last portion of the trip was marred by the steam carriage literally losing steam. It limped back into the very carriage house it had burst from earlier.
Ethan spent the rest of the day with Sam, reading by the fire. Later he had some supper, since everyone had noticed that Ethan hadn’t eaten much at dinner earlier.
His father was nowhere inside the Ballard house the rest of the afternoon and evening. When it actually rained, Ethan knew he could not go outside to find Marcus. He was forbidden to ever go outside when it rained, especially now that he was weak from his extended recovery from diphtheria. It didn’t matter, as Ethan knew exactly where his father had retreated.
The shed in the backyard… Ethan joined Sophia in the kitchen and looked out the window. He saw the lights were on, and his father worked on their top secret prototype. Ethan wished he could have told his cousin about it. Theodore would have been so impressed. And perhaps that would have shut Aunt Beatrice up about Marcus never accomplishing anything! “Grandmother? Why does Father act the way he does?” he asked.
Sophia, who was pulverizing some herbs with a mortar and pestle, looked up from her work. “Your mother used to say that he was born that way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your father was born a mere half an hour after your uncle Malcolm. But, your grandfather Gerald had confided in Jane that your father’s birth was not the easiest.”
“Can a difficult birth really cause my father’s actions to be so wild sometimes?”
Sophia shrugged. “It is hard to say. But your uncle does not react to life as your father does. It leads me to believe that it may have been the birth after all.”
“Yes, but what is it that causes it? Does it have a name?” Ethan asked in frustration.
Sophia had no answers, but she did say, “Anyone who knew him when he was very young reports that he had been worse when he was a child. I think your grandfather Gerald was worried he wouldn’t be able to find a woman willing to marry your father.”
Ethan gulped. Problems were plentiful in the Stanwood family. He himself would most likely never marry. Aunt Beatrice had not expected Ethan to survive to his tenth birthday. She had been inaccurate in her estimate, but Ethan was certain that if he could not stay well long enough to attend Eton, he most likely would not survive long enough to marry anyone.
With that depressing thought in his head, Ethan nodded once to Sophia, and headed upstairs. It had been a harder day than he would have wished. He hoped tomorrow would be better, but seeing as how tomorrow would be Monday, Ethan wasn’t very hopeful on that front either.
* * * * *
Marcus could not sleep. He stood in the workshop shed in the blackness of Sophia’s backyard garden at night time. The only light in the entire place came from the neon-enhanced pseudo-battle axe hanging on the wall. Looking at it at that moment made Marcus think of men of the past, embattled warriors who had to do whatever they could to protect everything they cared about, including go off to fight a war in a faraway land.
He would do it, if he had to. He would kill Professor Colbourne, though he had never once taken a life before. He cursed his brother yet again for being a fool, bringing this dark force into their lives once again. Gideon Colbourne was a dangerous predator. As soon as he had the right opportunity, he would strike, snapping up whatever was most precious to Marcus.
Nobody could appreciate just what a hall of horrors the research laboratory from which Colbourne trained some of the smartest young people in Europe had become. Marcus sometimes still closed his eyes and saw the animals, the human corpses… Marcus knew Ethan wanted a pet dog desperately. But he could not know that Marcus saw probes coming from any dog’s head he sees even long after the cruel experiments had ceased. Marcus lied to Ethan about the allergies. In truth, he had no idea if Ethan were really allergic to dogs at all.
He wished he knew where Colbourne had spent the past seventeen years. He’d have to outwit Colbourne. Not an easy task. Perhaps Colbourne didn’t think Marcus would have remembered his middle name. Or maybe he believed that Marcus would give up. If Marcus knew what Colbourne’s strategy was, he’d be able to counter it more easily. As it was, he’d have to make up a plan as he went along, using only his past knowledge of how Colbourne operated as his guide.
Yes, Marcus knew Colbourne well. That was exactly why he was so afraid now.
Professor Colbourne would try to hurt his Ethan. Marcus would not, could not, let that happen. If Colbourne ever got a hold of Ethan, there was no telling how much horror he’d make Ethan endure before disposing of him once he had finished with him! Whatever he did, he could not let Colbourne anywhere near Ethan.
Marcus marched back into the house after locking the shed tightly. Along the way, he wished he’d been able to put that alarm in that he’d wanted to install. As it was, he’d have to be content with locking out potential enemies. In the darkness, Marcus climbed the stairs. Outside Ethan’s bedroom, Marcus lingered, watching his son sleep with little Sam at his side.
It was in that moment that Marcus realized that he’d have to die so that Ethan would be safe. Like a vengeful volcano god, Colbourne had erupted. Marcus’ only concern was that, if he threw himself into the fiery chasm, that Colbourne would be appeased. If not…
There was no room for the possibility that Colbourne would not be satisfied with that.
Marcus knew he had little time. Once Malcolm delivered the news that he’d been alerted to Colbourne’s involvement in making the “Superior Soldier,” the bastard would send that devious contraption after the Stanwood family. He only hoped he’d have enough time to help Ethan escape a terrible fate. If Colbourne knew about Ethan, which he very well may, since his Superior Soldier had seen a family photograph of them, then his former mentor would know exactly what Ethan was.
It has been said that the darkest hour comes before the dawn, but in this case, Marcus was certain, that the dawn would bring the darkest hour upon his family that they’ve ever had. Through eyes filling with tears, Marcus gazed upon Ethan’s final moments of peace. And then he walked away, knowing what he had to do next.
The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning has reached its conclusion. Next week, I'll be posting a sneak peek of Book 1 of the series, The Inventor’s Son:
A paranormal Steampunk series set in a Victorian London that could have been, The Inventor's Son is the story of young Ethan Stanwood, whose father is a brilliant, but reclusive, inventor and scientist. Sickly and isolated, Ethan’s entire world revolves around his father and his work. He believes that this is all life has to offer him, in spite of the latent magical talents he’d inherited from his long-dead mother that are beginning to surface...
Also keep an eye out for The World of The Inventor's Son, which will serve as a character guide and provide a much further-in-depth look at the Victorian London that could have been.
If you go to my blog/webpage: https://sbjamestheauthor.wordpress.com/about/ you can find out even more about the series!
I'd love to know what you think of my series! Thanks so much for reading, and I hope that you've enjoyed it!
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The Inventor's Son: The BeginningScience Fiction
It begins with a meeting... where a promising new technology for amputees and soldiers is demonstrated. But soon, the truth is discovered: the mastermind who created such miraculous prosthetic limbs is not interested in a business deal. He only want...