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Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog


Event Horizon: Chapter 12

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



As a means of first turning the public's attention toward and then its sentiment firmly against Charles Magnussen, Lady Ruffner's internationally-televised exclusive tell-all interview succeeded beyond anything Sherlock imagined, and certainly beyond anything he and John had hoped.

Bored and depressed by endless gloomy economic forecasts and grim stories of terrorism, war, and refugees, the public seized upon the story with the savage avidity of piranhas. Poll after poll registered the public's outrage and its hatred for the man who had so cruelly persecuted the beloved countess. The segment of the press not controlled by Magnussen, and it was substantial, gleefully ran hour upon hour of programming denouncing him and lionizing his victim, to say nothing of print editorials and news stories strongly hinting at unspecified improprieties, if not outright criminality, associated with Magnussen's various enterprises.

The day after the news broke, Magnussen's flagship publication ran a front-page story quoting anonymous 'former employees' of the Ruffner household to the effect that so far from putting her licentious past behind her, Lady Ruffner's at-home behaviour was if anything more debauched than ever; that she frequently hosted dozens of disreputable individuals at modern orgies; and that she was well on the way to corrupting the morals of not only her daughters but her husband and the entire household staff, as well.

The allegations were poorly received by consumers of news, and as Magnussen's opening gambit they proved to be a near-fatal self-inflicted wound. UKIP immediately proposed new limits on the ability of foreigners to own businesses in the UK. Anonymous crashed the CMNews servers, making publication impossible for three days straight, and stole and vowed to sell sensitive personnel data unless Magnussen resigned his chairmanship by the end of the month. Even without the hackers' contributions, worldwide circulation of the company's print editions dropped precipitously within twenty-four hours and showed no signs of recovering, while the demand for print and online subscription cancellations brought down the company phone and email systems. CMNews's stock price dropped thirty-two percent overnight. The following Tuesday six more prominent blackmail victims, encouraged secretly by Lady Smallwood, filed suit against Magnussen, CMNews, and his subsidiary companies, and while the lawsuits stood only a faint chance of success in court, they admirably served their true purpose of drawing still more attention to the predations of Charles Augustus Magnussen.

On the Wednesday following the countess's interview, Drudge broke the story that Magnussen's legal team was not only strongly urging him to settle the lawsuits out of hand-as being less ruinous than either defending against them or countersuing the plaintiffs-but was making preliminary motions to file for bankruptcy due to the calamitous decline in shareholder value. The next morning-a week after the countess's interview-the company's stock plunged another forty-two percent on the international exchanges and showed no signs of arresting its free-fall, while seven more blackmail victims joined the legal fray.

Later that same afternoon the prime minister stood framed in Number Ten's iconic doorway and issued a statement throwing moral support behind the victims, after which he announced that he, too, had been pressured by Magnussen, and produced the visitors' logs to prove it.

Throughout it all Lady Ruffner readily made herself available to both the paparazzi and more legitimate news outlets, and with the skill of long practice kept herself in the headlines and kept public indignation at a high pitch.

ooooo

"Look at this," John said one evening when he'd stopped by Baker Street after work. "Iffy's holding another press conference tomorrow afternoon. She's finally going to reveal the identity of her daughter."

From his supine position on the sofa Sherlock merely grunted in reply.

"Says her husband and other two daughters will be there, too. Want me to call the TV people and tell them Uncle Sherl's available?"

"What was that thing you said the other day?" Sherlock asked.

"When?"

"When I laughed at your bicycle helmet."

"'Bite me'?"

"Yes," Sherlock said blandly. "Do that."

John laughed. "She really is a natural at this," he said admiringly. "And people love it when the scullery maid turns out to have been the duke's daughter all along."

"People are idiots," Sherlock groused. "The girl was raised in a household with a net worth half again as high as the Ruffners'."

"Yeah, but not by a countess."

"My point exactly. Idiots."


– End Chapter 12 –

Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog



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