Friday, May 26, 2006

The Curse of Alexander Braker, Chapter 2

     There was time before the ball for Sam to get some research done. Back copies of the New York Imperial
Times would be his best source to start with.

     The first copy of the Times that he looked at was that day’s purchased from the boy just outside of Molly’s denire. The little short order place on the corner of his office building was one of Sam’s frequent haunts. Aside from his regular breakfast, Molly also served one of the best cups of coffee in the city.

     “Morning, Sam. What can I set you up with?”

     As always, Molly was right there with a cup of coffee and a menu. It never mattered that Sam was a creature of habit when it came to breakfast, Molly always had the menu. The point wasn’t that she might convince Sam to try something new, but instead, it served to cover the occasional copy of the Liberty Press she would pass along. Sam could tell that there was no new news from the underground press that day just from the feel of the backside of the menu.

     Sam had more on his mind than just breakfast this time. He took a couple of minutes of perusing the menu for appearance’s sake.

     “Two eggs, over easy and bacon, Molly.” The usual and nothing but. The food came over quickly and Sam tucked in with gusto. It wasn’t until after he finished eating that he got to the next part of the stop.

     “Molly, if I may take the liberty that was the best meal I’ve had in ages. My compliments to the man in back.”

     The diner matron smiled at the apparent compliment.

     “Why that’s so kind of you. I’ll make sure the word gets back. Have a nice day.”

     “You too, Molly.” Sam left a Mark on the counter with a healthy tip. He then left the diner, knowing that his need for a meeting with Liberty, the leader of the New York City Resistance, was on its way.

     The New York Public Library had undergone a major upheaval in the aftermath of the invasion. Much of the history and political philosophy works were put under lock and key. The Empire did everything it could to make it appear that the American Revolution and everything that happened afterward never happened. That included the newspaper archives. The only parts that were accessible were those that had been written under the Empire’s watchful eye.

     Sam worked two sections of the paper at the same time. Heading backward into the library’s archive, he found that the Albany-Wichita Railroad predated the Invasion. There was no mention that the ownership had changed when the Empire took over. Only those who had proven useful would have been allowed to keep possession of such a resource. That implicated Alexander Braker, in Sam’s mind, of having been a collaborator, if not an active traitor. Since then, the Barons Braker had kept a close working relationship with the Empire.

     The Board of Directors, beyond the family holdings, might have been an Empire in miniature. Among its members were members of the aristocracy, the Order of Illumination, and other Commerce Lords. Sam found names for most of them, including Lamar Steele, the representative of the Order of Illumination and the wizard who encouraged the whole idea of a party on the anniversary.

     In reference to the deaths whose anniversaries the gala was intended, the deaths of the two previous Barons Braker were covered as fully investigated accidents. The timing of Samuel’s death was noted, but only as an ironic point of interest.

     As an organ of the Empire since the invasion, the Times had to operate under the eye of the censors. Even so, Sam found stories of acts of sabotage and robberies of the Albany-Wichita Railroad. If some few stories had made it through, then there were probably twice as many that didn’t get reported. The stories that were printed were slanted into diatribes against the Resistance and sedition in general.

     The society pages had the stories regarding the Baronesses, both the mother Mildred and wife Amelia. The tones of the stories early on after the invasion regarding Mildred Braker were surprisingly frosty. Nothing out and out insulting, simply less than glowing descriptions or short shrift as if she were an afterthought. Over the course of many charity events and memberships in all the right organizations, she seemed to have redeemed herself of whatever stain her reputation had suffered.

     Amelia Braker (nee Emerson) appeared to have been embraced since her debut ten years previously. By the time of her marriage to Jonathon, whatever social stigma was on the family was entirely in the past.

     The search through the archive took Sam the best part of the day. He decided that an early dinner would be called for. So it was back to Molly’s for a bite. After the meal, Molly handed over the check. Sam pocketed it and paid with a good tip.

     Back in his office, Sam took a look at the back side of the check. McTaggart’s Pub, 10PM. Sam burned the check with a bare thought of magic.

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