Wow! A fanfiction about someone other then Marguerite and Roxton. I
didn't know I was capable of it. Once again my heartfelt thanks to
Colorado, who is always ready willing and able to make sense of my creative
grammar. A special thanks to every single person who has read and
critiqued my previous stories. It's your kind words that keep me plugging
away at this.
London – 1870
It was another typical winter's day in London. Gray sky, gray buildings,
and gray streets all seemed to run together in the January rain. The
Londoners' mood matched the somber day as they packed the narrow sidewalks,
hurriedly making their way to the promise of shelter from the cold and wet.
A passing carriage made a fountain out of a puddle, causing the pedestrians
in its wake to disperse like ants escaping water poured over an anthill.
The sudden throng of people caused George McNamara to momentarily lose his
grip on the hand of the 10-year-old boy walking at his side. In less time
than it took for the lad's mind to register that he was on a downward
journey toward the wet cobblestones, he found himself back in the firm grip
of his grandfather.
"Thanks, grandfather," he said, looking up with profound relief at this man
he adored: grandfather, best friend, and confidant. "Father would have
killed me if I'd come home with my pants wet and muddy."
George smiled down at his only grandchild. "He probably would have killed
both of us, and where would that get me? Better to leave our health intact
m'boy and not tempt fate." He tried to make light of the situation, tried
to get the smile to return. He noticed more and more that that smile he
loved so much would instantly disappear whenever the subject of the boy's
father came up.
What Lisbeth saw in Edward Challenger, God help me, I will never know.
No one had been more surprised than he and Emma when their only daughter
had announced her intentions to marry the brilliant Oxford professor who
had been courting her with all the romance of a piece of parsley. Lisbeth
had always favored the dashing sort—silly young men with more spirit than
sense who would woo her with baubles and love poetry. He was almost
relieved when she took an interest in Edward. Finally, a man with his feet
on the ground, who could pull Lisbeth's head out of the clouds. Edward had
made quite a name for himself as the youngest man ever to be made a full
professor in Oxford's chemistry department. As George got to know Edward
better, however, he began to notice Edward's passion was focused utterly
and completely on his beloved science. Nothing was left for his young wife,
and especially not for his only son.
Lisbeth had died of pneumonia five years before, followed closely by his
Emma. George and his grandson had turned to each other in grief, forging a
bond that Edward Challenger could never even hope to understand. He
accepted Lisbeth's death as nothing more than a scientific fact to be
logically assessed. Without her tempering influence, he began the mission
of molding his son in his own seemingly perfect image. It helped that the
boy was smart. He'd begun reading at the age of three, and Edward took full
advantage, especially once Lisbeth was no longer around to coddle the
child. Scientific books and journals quickly replaced nursery rhymes and
fairy tales. Dinner conversation, when Edward would deign to eat with the
boy, consisted of a rapid firing of questions regarding the day's assigned
reading. The only affection Edward ever showed his son was during these
times, when the child's born intelligence and natural curiosity shone
Affection, my ass, George thought with a quiet snort. That bastard
wouldn't understand affection if it walked up and kissed him on his damned
arrogant mouth. Pride is more like it, like Frankenstein gazing at his
Edward was trying to steal his grandson's childhood, and George wasn't
going to stand for it. The boy needed to be just that, a boy. Out of
nothing less then desperation, George had come up with the idea of these
Saturday afternoon outings.
"If you want to spend time with the boy, that's fine, but I will not have
him dawdling and wasting his day away with frivolous pursuits," Edward had
stated matter-of-factly. "I will give you a list of acceptable activities.
Take care to adhere to them or these respites will come to a swift end, old
It had taken every ounce of George's willpower not to pummel his son-in-law
right then and there. He may be almost 40 years younger then I, but I could
still take that insufferable bully.
George had started out by following Edward's explicit instructions. He took
his grandson to the museums and libraries Edward had deemed 'acceptable.'
What Edward didn't know, and hopefully would never know, was that just as
often they ended up in other, less satisfactory locales. George snuck the
boy to the park, to puppet shows, to the theater—anywhere that would help
the child's imagination run wild. George slowly watched his grandson
reawaken; becoming the laughing, smiling, carefree child he was before
Lisbeth's death. Understanding the necessity for duplicity, they would
carefully go over the day's 'activities,' creating a scenario that would be
both believable and acceptable to Edward. It was amazing how calmly and
precisely the boy could recite the events of the day, speaking about
library books or museum exhibits, as if that was what had really transpired
with Edward looking on in feigned interest.
I've created quite the little liar, George thought to himself with a laugh.
What truly amazed George above all else was despite the incessant prodding
of his obsessive father, the boy truly loved to learn. He had his father's
intelligence, curiosity, and thirst for answers. George respected that.
However, he was unwilling to allow the boy to lose the magic of childhood,
and as long as he was alive, he would strive to keep that balance in his
As they walked the final two blocks towards home, George once again looked
down at the face of his grandson and gently tousled the curly, red hair.
The boy had been beaming since leaving Charles Bertram's magic performance.
Never had George seen the boy so enthralled, his eyes fixed on the 17-year-
old magician. When Charles had used his magic wand to make a silk scarf
float around his head, George was certain the boy was going to jump out of
his skin, the two sides of his character at war with one another. The
scientist had desperately searched for logical explanations. The child
simply wanted to believe in magic.
When they finally reached the front door of Edward's home, George pulled a
long, thin box out of the deep pocket of his coat and presented it to his
grandson. "A present for you m'boy," George said with a twinkle in his eye
and a wry grin. "Be sure to hide it from your father or there'll be hell to
pay. Keep it in your coat pocket until you get to your room."
"Thanks grandfather," the boy said, breathless with anticipation. "Thanks
for everything. I had a really great day."
"And what did we do today?" George asked, his grin getting wider.
"Why, we studied an absolutely fascinating exhibit of Egyptian artifacts at
the museum, of course," he said with mocked sincerity.
"That's m'boy," George said as he tousled the boy's hair again. "Now get
inside before you father comes out looking for you, and I'll see you next
"I love you grandpa."
"I love you, too, and don't you ever forget it."
With that, George McNamara turned and walked back into the London rain. His
namesake, George Edward Challenger, gave him a last wave goodbye and
quietly entered the house, making sure his present was hidden deep within
his coat pocket.
Considering the weather, it was amazing the house felt even colder inside,
though George was certain it had nothing to do with the temperature. Ever
since his mother's death, the house had been a cold, lonely place. He and
his father were practically strangers to one another, their only bridge the
shared love of knowledge.
He was relieved to find his father out. Millie, the housekeeper and cook,
would undoubtedly be in the midst of preparing dinner. Hanging up his damp
coat on the coat rack by the door, he quickly took the box from the pocket
and shoved it under his sweater. He paused at the kitchen long enough to
assure Millie he was home safe and sound before retiring to his bedroom and
some much needed privacy. Anxious to examine his treasure, he sat down on
the edge of his narrow bed and inspected the gift given to him by his
grandfather. As he pulled the lid from the box, a small piece of paper fell
to the floor. Bending over to retrieve it, he noticed immediately that the
paper bore his grandfather's distinctive handwriting.
My dearest grandson,
I cannot begin to tell you how very proud I am to be your grandfather.
You are a wonderfully loving and intelligent young man who I'm certain is
destined to change the world. I respect your love of science, as it is part
of what makes you who you are. All I ask is that you remember that the
world is a very big place, full of magic and mystery. Never cease looking
at the world with the eyes of a child, m'boy. As long as you hold on to
that, the child will always remain in your heart, and I will be there right
along with it. I hope this gift reminds you that not all pleasure comes
from answering the questions. Sometimes it's simply better to ask and
With all my love,
Eyes wide with wonder and curiosity, George pulled the magic wand out of
the box. He smiled as he waved the wand around his head, mimicking the
movements of the magician he had seen earlier that day. He remembered a
long-forgotten story read to him by his mother about magicians and wizards.
Grabbing his robe from the hook in the closet, he wrapped it around his
neck imagining a cloak of purple satin. His face aglow with pleasure, he
whirled around the room waving his wand, imagining what it would be like to
make the bed float or have puppies miraculously appear out of thin air. So
caught up was he in his splendid fantasy that he never noticed the quiet
opening of his door and the dour, disapproving stare of the man silently
standing and watching him.
"What on earth are you doing?" came the harsh voice from the doorway.
George whirled around, guilt and fear etched on his young face, as he
instinctively tried to hide the wand behind his back. His father, however,
was not to be so easily fooled. "What do you have behind your back George?
Give it here this instant!"
With a sinking feeling in his heart, George walked to his father and placed
the wand in his outstretched hand.
"And what might this rubbish be?" Edward asked with a sneer. "A useless
trinket courtesy of your foolish grandfather, no doubt. I will not have
this nonsense in my house!"
With that Edward Challenger grabbed the slender piece of wood in two hands
and emphatically snapped it in two. George could have sworn he felt his
heart break in half at the same instant. With tears in his eyes he started
to reach down to pick up the broken pieces and was shocked to feel a
vicious sting across his cheek. It took several seconds for it to register
that his father had actually slapped him. He was so numb with shock that
his father's next words barely registered.
"You are forbidden to spend any more time with that old man," he said
acidly. "I will not have George McNamara corrupting the man you are
destined to be by filling your head with drivel."
"But father…" George said pleadingly as his father turned and strode out of
the small room. He slowly sunk to the floor, tears streaming down his face
and again alone in his grief. Three hours later, he didn't think he had any
more tears left inside to shed. Three days later, upon hearing the news
that his grandfather had died the night before of a sudden heart seizure,
George Edward Challenger discovered that you could never run out of tears.
To be continued………