Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Montgomery Destiny

Charles Wu was spot-checking the emails and recordings taped from hundreds of bugged high-end PDAs briefly exported from Hong Kong for the Hanukkah and Christmas gift season. So far he had gained no marketable intelligence from the scattershot attempt at random espionage--though, if he were a different sort of man, he certainly might have made some money through blackmail schemes or selling recordings to the tabloids. Still, when his schedule was light and neither weather nor local events tempted him out of his apartment, he would glance at the search results from the scans being run on these bugs to see if anything interesting had turned up. Lately, the search results had included some exchanges about the National Football League draft, the stranding of irate millionaires in European airports, and the SEC decision to charge Goldman Sachs with securities fraud--but nothing particularly revelatory or useful. Then he examined the recent search results on his own name, and was shocked to see an email pop up with the signature "Charles Wilkinson Montgomery". He leaned back in his chair and exhaled slowly at the sight of his father's name. He could have been in touch with his father at any time, but had chosen to take the man's college tuition payments and other financial gifts with no strings attached. But this was different: it was an email his father had written mentioning his name. He could see his name highlighted in yellow, and his father's name signed at the bottom, and his eyes refused to look at any of the words in-between. But he also could not will his eyes to look at anything else, and his stare went blank as he sank beneath the weight of reminiscences (not even memories) of his long absent father.

Several miles to the south, Charles Wilkinson Montgomery sat beside his comatose son in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital, unaware that his other son lived in Washington. He had long ago given up on trying to communicate to Charles, and had stopped sending money after it became apparent his son Charles had become quite rich. But now things were different: his younger son needed a bone marrow transplant, and Montgomery's marrow had proven medically inadequate for technical reasons he could barely comprehend. "Dearest Charles" he slowly typed in a draft email on his PDA, still unsure if he would ever send the email, but certain he could track down an email address for his eldest son if need be. "I have wanted to tell you this story for a very long time, but I promised your mother I would you spare you this tragedy. It was the last promise she asked of me, and I wanted to keep it. But surely she would not have meant for me to keep you unaware of your younger brother if your awareness might actually save his life?" He reread the opening sentences and fretted that they had a British detachment and stiffness that would ring hollow and mask the depth of agony stirring through his veins. "It is a terrible, terrible thing to bring this tragedy to you now, after depriving you the comforts of love and family you might at least have expected as partial compensation for bearing such tragedy, but time is of the essence now, and I must plead for your forbearance at this juncture, while allowing you a full and complete expanse of rage at a later time." He looked up to make sure no medical personnel were in sight and stole another swig from the scotch flask in his briefcase. "I always loved you, Charles, though you may never have believed that and may still not believe that. I have no right to ask for your help, but I will at least give you the whole story so you may make an informed decision." He stared at his younger son for a couple of minutes, then continued writing.

"You have a younger brother named Phillip. You were only two when he was born, and hence you have no conscious memory of him. Everything was different before he was born. I was a British naval attache, sailing frequently between Commonwealth nations in the Pacific for years before I met your mother. Never much for small talk or poker games, I kept to myself during much of the voyages. My only sentimental indulgence was that I took up bird-watching and actually became quite good at it. I later submitted several naturalist articles on migratory patterns in the Asian/Pacific region, and eventually became a well-known author, which you may or may not already know, though this point is merely tangential to the purpose of this narrative." He paused to take another swallow of scotch and reread his draft email, which was already too long and too verbose, he knew. "My impression at the time of our divorce was that your mother was probably not going to say much about me to you, but the truth is, I loved her very much, and we were ridiculously happy the first few years. I was able to reduce my travels and remain stationed in Hong Kong most of the time. I got on well with her family, and your birth brought us enormous joy. Unfortunately, tragically, your brother's birth seemed to represent a 180-degree spin on the wheel of fate. With no indications of problems during the pregnancy, we were shocked when Phillip was born with only one eye and severe spinal deformities--and those were only the visible problems, as we soon discovered. Your mother became hysterical, convinced that Phillip was not her son and had been switched with another baby in the hospital. Despite several attempts at medication and psychiatric care, she persisted in this hysterical delusion. It did not help matters that you were so astonishingly beautiful, intellectually gifted, instinctively athletic, and naturally gregarious. You were, in short, the perfect little boy, and in your mother's eyes, Phillip was a monster spawned by someone else. Desperate, I decided to take Phillip back to England to seek advanced medical care, and any and all surgeries which might make him healthier and less disabled. You were nearly three when I returned to Hong Kong with Phillip, who, though still severely disabled, now had a much better chance of a healthy and happy life."

Montgomery paused to grab a tissue from the table and and dab at his moist eyes. He rested his hand on Phillip's head for a moment, then continued writing. "Your mother refused to acknowledge Phillip as her son. I could not abandon him, so I chose to abandon your mother and you. She gave me little choice. It was she that chose to file for divorce when I told her I would not give Phillip up, and the rest you know: I returned to England but continued to provide financial support from afar. I was overjoyed when you chose to study at Oxford, and, with great disappointment, respected your decision not to see me while you were in England. I have followed your career from afar, to the extent I can, though there are some spots which remain vague to me. If you have followed my career from afar, you may know that I left government service to become an ornithologist. I am considered by some to be a drunk, though others call me merely eccentric. I have a house in Sussex overrun with nesting birds of all types, and though not the most hygienic environment to raise a sickly child, the home was always full of endless amusements for your brother. Though hindered in so many ways, Phillip was determined to make a career for himself, which I will gladly tell you all about if you decide to answer this communication. But to bring this missive to a necessarily prompt conclusion, I will tell you that he recently took a business trip to Washington, D.C., whereupon he fell ill and was diagnosed with a very serious cancer. They say his only chance is a bone marrow transplant, and their tests on my marrow were unsatisfactory. And so, my dear boy, after keeping my promise to your mother for decades, I now break it to tell you that you do, in fact, have a brother, and right now, you are probably his only hope." Montgomery tapped the Save icon, then put the PDA on the table. He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and went to the restroom to wash his hands. He looked in the mirror at his puffy eyes, wishing Charles could remember him when he was still a young and handsome Englishman in Hong Kong instead of a pathetic old academic from Sussex. Of course, he might not want to see me, even if he does agree to give bone marrow. He walked back to Phillip's bed, picked up his hand, and chatted with him for a quarter hour about the birds he had seen on his walk around the block. Then he read out loud some of the gift cards that had arrived.

He picked up the PDA to reread the email draft. He was dissatisfied with it, but he could not afford to delay it any further, and merely added a sentence at the end about how none of this should be construed as a criticism of Montgomery's ex-wife who, to this day, probably believes her second child was switched at birth. "You have a brother," Montgomery whispered to Phillip. "I'm going to see about arranging a visit with him. Wouldn't that be lovely?" He then set about the task of finding a current email address for his eldest son.

Over in the Potomac River, Ardua trembled at the spiritual drama unfolding at Phillip's bedside, knowing that Charles Wu's enormous potential for evil was hanging in the balance. She quickly dispatched a flock of starlings to spy on Wu, even as she continued to struggle with how she could get directly at Montgomery.

Back in Wu's apartment, Wu's hand was hovering over the Delete button, willing himself not to read whatever his father had written about him--to some mysterious person going by the email moniker chickadeefreak. Then a beep told him he had an incoming email on his other computer, and he turned to find that it was from his father. He jumped up quickly, wishing this wasn't happening. Several starlings landed noisily on his balcony, and he looked at them in surprise. Then he looked out to see that the morning's clouds had given way to blue skies. He locked down all his computers and went outside for a walk.


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