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Please use these notes for historical context for my book The Asylum Doctor's Daughter.
Spoiler alert: these notes will give away a ton of information and plot points from all three books of the Bedlam Series, particularly Escape.
Writing the final book to the Bedlam Series was unlike writing the first two. While Disorder loosely followed Cinderella plot lines, and Infirmity was its natural next step, Escape went in entirely different directions. This is partly due to the point-of-view of Sean, a character whose perspective I hadn’t addressed prior, and it is also due to history. Nearly all of Sean’s adventures were based on a historical timeline. I was amazed at how many events took place in 1867 regarding the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
The plans Sean overhears at a separate safe house regarding the first time we hear of using Brothers as a decoy in order to take back Dublin were discussed as shown in the story. As seen in Escape, and in history books, the Battle of Tallaght did not go as planned.
Stephen O’Donogue, the man who ended up in the Battle of Tallaght with his men, was truly dragged away and put in barracks after the battle. He did indeed have four children and was poor, but he dedicated his life to the freedom of his country anyway.
Thomas Ferrell, the man in Dani’s circle who was bayoneted during the battle, truly died this way. He was, as the book depicted, a confectioner and loyal Brother.
There was a spy caught in his actions against the Brothers, and this was Ray O’Mara. His true story differs from the one in Escape in that his work was in Belfast, not Dublin. He had infiltrated and gained the trust of Brothers who were bombing safes for money to send to circles around the country. His timeline is different, as well, in that his death happened after the Uprising. He’d been caught sending a telegram to Britain.
He was not caught by Dani Allen. Dani is a character I created, but her brother is real. William Philip Allen was one of the Manchester Martyrs, killed for their actions against the police in trying to free Deasy and Kelly from a police van. Deasy and Kelly had both fought in the Civil War in the United States, and both returned to America after their escape.
While helping them escape, William Allen shouted to Kelly, “Didn’t I say I’d die for you before I’d give you up?” Officer Brett, the man who’d been shot during the escape, died in the hospital the next day after a bullet had hit his head, removing an eye from its socket.
While William was in prison, he wrote letters to his aunt and uncle while waiting his hanging. The words in this story are the actual words he penned. I found his hand-written letters online.
Masons and joiners built the scaffold at New Bailey prison in Salford on Saturday, November 2, to hang sixty feet above the prison wall. Author Joseph O’Neill stated, “Allen, himself a joiner, caught a whiff of white pine on the air and moved to the window, filling his lungs, half expecting to find blond curls of timber shavings on the sill.”
Victor Hugo wrote a letter on the behalf of the Manchester Martyrs to Queen Victoria for reprieve of the men’s execution sentences. Buchanan, a poet, wrote verses in a London evening paper, pleading for mercy. The government, instead, satisfied the thirst for blood. There was panic among the public and a feeling in England that the government had been too easy on recent Irish insurrectionists.
During the trial chapter of William Allen and the other martyrs, I combined preliminary investigations, motions, and trials into one. The Manchester Martyrs’ final statements are direct quotes from their speeches. They were much longer, and if you care to read them, they can be found here: http://www.libraryireland.com/articles/ManchesterMartyrsIrishOratory/
“God save Ireland,” spoken by Michael Larkin at the hanging, inspired T.D. Sullivan to write a rebel song of the same name which became for more than fifty years Ireland’s unofficial national anthem.
The Manchester Martyr hangings brought out between 8,000 and 10,000 people. Many Irish did not attend due to priests encouraging them to go to Mass and pray for the souls of the accused. Calcraft, the executioner, did indeed hang upon Michael Larkin’s legs to finish off his death. Father Gadd forbade him to touch Michael O’Brien. Instead, the priest stood in front of O’Brien, holding a crucifix to his twitching fingers for forty-five minutes until he died. He presided over the burial of all three men on the prison grounds.
These were the last public hangings in Manchester.
In 1871, the prison was taken down to make way for the extension to Salford station, and the bodies of the martyrs were reburied at Strangeways Prison, where their graves are now marked solely by mysterious marks on the wall.
In 1877, an impressive memorial to the “Manchester Martyrs” was erected at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Moston, and the foundation stone was dedicated by James Stephens. Maud Gonne helped unveil it as well. In 1987, Manchester City Council put up a plaque at the arch where Deasy and Kelly were rescued. In 1990 riots, Strangeways was rebuilt. The remains of those who had been buried there were exhumed, cremated, and placed in canisters which were then numbered and re-buried in Blackley Cemetery in Manchester.
The day after the executions, ten-thousand people attended a commemoration. A week later, fifteen-thousand marched to the prison. Others marched in Limerick, Cork, Dublin, Birmingham, and London. 50,000 marched in Dublin on December 8, 1867. They wore black and green ribbons and rosettes in lieu of nationalists flags and emblems. They lined up behind horses carrying coffins in mock funeral processions. Large protest parades were held in New York and Philadelphia through the end of the year and into early 1868.
As the processions gathered momentum across England, Lord Lieutenant issued a proclamation banning all future ceremonies under the Party Processions and Party Emblems Act.
Now on to Clerkenwell: Anne Justice lived across the street from Clerkenwell Prison and would visit there with food to deliver to O’Sullivan Burke and Casey. During these meetings, they’d discuss escape plans. These were the start of the plans that would eventually lead to the explosion.
After the explosion, Anne, Timothy Desmond, and Nicholas English were arrested for being near the facility at the time of the explosion. These three would eventually be released, along with several others, leaving Michael Barrett the only one tried for the murder.
There are various descriptions and accounts on the Clerkenwell explosion. What is known is that the original attempt on December 12 did not work. The fuse did not light after a couple attempts. There weren’t many police on guard because they had thought the Brothers would try an escape through under ground, a type of mining escape. The white ball was thrown over the wall, and O’Sullivan saw it and went to a corner of the yard to wait for the explosion, but the guard kept the ball, and the blast never came.
The following day, the prison guards and Metropolitan Police knew an attempt would be made again and gave the prisoners their exercise time in the morning instead of the afternoon, keeping O’Sullivan Burke and Casey in their cells at the time of the explosion. This is why the yard is empty when Kat and Mr. Snead take their walk.
When the Brothers light the wick on the barrel on the second day, they use a firework. It is said they received it from a seven-year-old, who died in the blast. It is said twelve people died in the explosion and over one-hundred were injured and also that many women miscarried that day. The explosion blew off the front of many homes on Corporation Lane and knocked down a larger section of the wall than had been planned. The blast could be felt for miles.
It is true the explosion blew off an officer’s entire wardrobe, leaving him naked. I didn’t make that up (and feared my readers would find it quite unbelievable but kept it in anyway). The blast leveled sixty feet of the prison wall. It was called, “Britain’s first terrorist bombing.” They’d used 548 pounds of gunpowder, which would have killed anyone standing in the exercise yard.
The Clerkenwell explosion wiped out any sympathy the Irish cause may have received from the English. The English government quickly swore in fifty-thousand Special Constables to find runaway Brothers as depicted in this book. They also called upon sewer workers to help find those running from the law. The government set up the first Secret Service Department after Clerkenwell in hopes of being able to get information of future attacks by the Brotherhood. This department meant the disbandment of Abberline’s team.
Abberline, as noted in the story, hunted down members of the Brotherhood. He was assigned this plain-clothes duty after becoming Sergeant at N Division, Islington. He was placed here because he had made more arrests and solved more crimes than other PC at his station. His undercover assignment was to do whatever was necessary to find information and report anti-British activities. He was able to pick up a Cockney accent in London and became friends with some Irish pub goers in the city.
He never lived or worked in Dublin, which is where my story strays from Abberline’s history. Scotland Yard provided a horse-drawn cab for him in order to better help his disguise as a cab driver.. It is said he was unshaven for this role and also wore a cap, polka-dot scarf, and old jacket.
After O’Mara’s disappearance, Abberline and his team followed up on a lead and raided a house, but the men were not caught in the raid. They were able to detail others, though, and get information from them, which led to other raids. It frustrated Abberline that his team was disbanded after Clerkenwell, but he would soon have another chase to join. He would be the Sergeant in charge of the case against Jack the Ripper, for which he is better known.
Patrick Mullany was known for bearing false witness and taking bribes. He received a trip to Australia for his work in the Clerkenwell case and in identifying Michael Barrett. Mullany claimed that Michael told him he’d planned and executed the explosion with a man named Captain James Murphy. Murphy eventually fled to the United States, which is why Sean goes by Murphy in London and also leaves for America at the end of the book.
Barrett did indeed go by William Jackson and claimed to be in Scotland during the Clerkenwell explosion. Depending on which history rendition you read, you can find evidence for both his presence in Scotland at the time and also evidence for his absence. Some historians claim he had been contacted in Scotland for his expertise and help in a big assignment. Others state that he was a pawn in the continual struggle between England and Ireland. All claim that Patrick Mullany was the one who turned him in.
After Mullany’s identification, Barrett was arrested and tried under the Treason Felony Act of 1848. This meant that anyone involved in the planning or execution of the offense was as guilty as those actually carrying it out.
All accused arrested for the Clerkenwell explosion were released except for Barrett. Anne Justice’s departure from Old Bailey, having held Michael’s hand and kissed him on the forehead, are from an actual account of her defense counsel Montagu Williams.
His words to the court in this book are his actual words. He spoke for thirty minutes at his trial, throwing words of anger at the police, but it was all for naught. He died to the jeers of two thousand people, many singing, “Rule Britannia.”
He was the last public hanging in England.
He was buried beneath the corridor between Old Bailey and the prison until 1902 when his body was was dug up in the middle of the night and put in a mass grave among other bodies in the City of London Cemetery in Essex.
It is said Queen Victoria was upset that only one man was hanged for the attack on Clerkenwell. She stressed that in the future, instead of being brought to trial, Irish Republican suspects should be lynched on the spot. It was a reaction to what her people saw as a terrorist act. The lynches she desired never happened.
I never set out to go into so many historical events in Escape. But sometimes stories and characters themselves shape the direction of a plot. In the case of Escape, I desired to show a possible life a boy from Seven Dials might live had he made it out of the slums alive. I wanted to give him a positive future.
I never wanted Kat to die. That was never in my plan. I had a dream one night, however. In it, I saw the backs of two men, their silhouettes against a darkening sky, as they stood above a grave. Immediately, I recognized the men as Sean and James — and the headstone as Kat’s.
The following morning, I had forgotten about the dream, but I had a prevailing sense of sadness with me throughout the day. I finally pinpointed the root of the feeling when the dream returned to me during the day. It was in that moment that I knew I needed to end the Bedlam Series with the scene from my dream, with Sean and James, two men loving the same woman, two men grieving her.
And as much as it broke my heart, I knew it was right.
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Please use these notes for historical context for my book The Asylum Doctor's Daughter.
Spoiler alert: These notes will give away plot points from my book Infirmity.
Placing Kat in Seven Dials was a risk. This was one of the toughest places in mid-nineteenth century London, and most people didn’t choose to go there. As in Kat’s case, Seven Dials was where one with nothing tried to survive. It was a cruel and dangerous place, and everything I wrote to describe it is based on first-hand accounts: dead babies in lodging houses, boys from Italy forced to sing for money who would probably never see their parents again, the farming of poor children by their parents, the bludgeoning of Irish and English workers, and so on.
I gave only a glimpse of the harshness of The Dials in Victorian London. The details of its reality were far worse, particularly the treatment and lives of prostitutes. The cruelty and violence which accompanied the prostitution world of The Dials were at times horrifying to read, and I left many things out of this book. The treatment of women both in Victorian and modern times is certainly an area society in all parts of the world has failed in, and it is my hope that cruel and inhumane treatments will be eradicated soon.
The Bruce House and Old Clothes Exchange are based on real places. In my research, I learned of lodging houses set up like The Bruce House with separate male and female rooms and a conjugal room in between, as well as shared kitchen and living areas. The Old Clothes Exchange was just as depicted in Infirmity: a large room with stalls lining its perimeter and also filling the middle. Items were exchanged for money and most things were accepted, even shoes without matches.
The George Street baths were as depicted, even down to the front office selling penny soap. This would have been a place for someone in Kat’s economic situation to bathe when she could afford it.
Bethlem Royal Hospital is as depicted in this story as in historical accounts, both in its physical layout and practices. Dr. Hood was an extraordinary doctor who brought reform to a hospital that had been in the habit of dehumanizing and torturing its patients. He created a warmer and more humane environment. Bath sessions became a practice in the more reformed years of Bethlem, often submerging patients in hot, and sometimes tepid, water. It would not be uncommon for a patient like Kat to have received this.
Eliza Crapp is a well-known patient of Bethlem, particularly in regards to her role in Charles Darwin’s study on the commonality of facial expressions in a work called “Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals.” Photographer Henry Herring, the same one mentioned in this book, took Eliza’s picture, which was later requested by Darwin for his work.
Mr. Richard Dadd, another infamous Bethlem patient, was an artist whose mind told him his father was the devil and should be destroyed. He was a criminal asylum patient, held in a secure ward on the back grounds of Bethlem, after killing his father. He was granted permission to paint while incarcerated and produced magnificent pieces of art. He spent twenty years in Bethlem, then was transferred to Broadmore Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he lived out his final days. It was here he wrote a poem titled, “Elimination of a Picture & Its Subject - Called The Feller’s Master-Stroke.” This poem was written about his painting “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke.”
As mentioned in my notes in Disorder, suicide was prevalent in Bethlem and unfortunately is not uncommon among people today. If you feel thoughts toward hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your life matters.
Yardley Green Street Sanitorium in Birmingham was a smallpox epidemic outbreak hospital which opened in 1895. One of the reasons I chose to turn this sanitorium into a tuberculosis hospital was its location on the London and North Western Railway. It seemed plausible that James would choose to send Andrew somewhere fairly close and accessible. I based the sanitorium on Mundsley hospital, which was opened by Dr. F.W. Burton-Fanning and also on a tuberculosis hospital in Poland, opened by Dr. Hermann Brehmer.
Tuberculosis and cholera were feared and vicious diseases in Victorian London. Another long-standing disease threatening people, although usually not considered fatal, throughout the ages was typhoid fever. In fact, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, contracted the disease in 1861 and died of its complications twenty-two days later at the age of forty-two. It would not be unreasonable to suggest a character at this time would contract typhoid fever.
The Alhambra was a circus hall before becoming a music hall (and subsequently also a more scandalous venue). In the spring of 1860, it was still the circus, offering a pleasant and exciting final excursion for James, Kat, and Mr. Freeman. It gave them the chance to experience life outside of Bethlem safely before venturing out on their own into a world unfamiliar. The circus was fascinating to read about, and a part of me wishes to base an entire book there. We shall see. :)
Victorian Bethlem viewed its patients as people, one of the remarkable contributions of Dr. Hood. In fact, he eventually had a family and allowed his children to run free on Bethlem grounds, mingling with patients. Charles Dickens asked his friend Henry Morley to visit the hospital and record what he saw. Concerning the patients, he wrote, “The sufferers [patients] feel that surely they are not cut off from fellowship with man, not objects of a harsh distrust, when even little children come to play with them, and prattle confidently in their ears.”
There is something to be said of little children.
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Please use these notes to give historical context to my book The Asylum Doctor's Daughter.
Spoiler alert: Please be aware that plot points from my book Disorder are revealed in these author notes.
Bethlem Royal Hospital, first established during the reign of Henry III, has undergone massive transformations in its nearly eight hundred years. What began as a collection site for alms in a priory eventually turned into a home for the mad. Overseen by the city of London, it turned dark throughout the centuries, culminating in horrific acts upon humanity. These included starvation, nakedness, floor trap doors that plunged patients into water, spinning chairs suspended from the ceiling to induce vomiting, and torture before a paying audience. Most of the extreme horrors were, as mentioned, before Dr. Hood’s time.
Dr. William Charles Hood was assigned to Bethlem soon after the hospital ushered out what were referred to as its “mad doctors,” Bethlem’s previous overseers. Dr. Hood came from Colney Hatch, where the ideological view of patients with mental illness was progressive, and means of torture, restraint, and punishment had been eliminated. He longed to convert Bethlem this way, and many of his changes are mentioned in this book. He stands as an instrumental figure in transforming Bethlem Royal Hospital into the positive place it is today.
The hospital in 1859 was laid out as described, with separate wards for males and females and detached criminal wards on the grounds. It was here that Richard Dadd spent many years. He was a talented artist who had traveled the world, and upon his return, it was discovered his mental state had suffered in his time away. He was soon tortured by thoughts that his father was the devil and was later convicted of murdering him and attacking a stranger in a park. He was sentenced to Bethlem’s criminal ward. He was granted permission to paint while incarcerated and produced many beautiful pieces of art. It is said he painted from the bottom corner of his canvas up, creating masterpieces. A well-known portrait of Mr. Dadd working on a fairy painting while in Bethlem was taken in 1856 by Mr. Henry Hering, the photographer mentioned in this book.
I based all of Bethlem’s patients in this story on actual patient case notes from the hospital. A fabulous book, Presumed Curable, details the lives of numerous patients from the latter half of the nineteenth century, using the medical officers’ notes. The real Mr. Freeman and Miss Harley (names changed) entered Bethlem in ways the book describes, with Mr. Freeman promising to bring back pheasant from a shoot and Miss Harley screaming so loudly she disturbed the hospital (she, in actuality, was so loud that it spooked her horse outside).
Westminster Bridge was under construction during the time of this story, but I discovered conflicting information on exactly how it was being rebuilt. Thanks to Mike Paterson with London Historians, I was able to reconcile some of the conflicting views. It was vital I understood this, as the bridge and Big Ben played key roles in the story. (Big Ben actually did ring out for the first time in 1859.)
Mudie’s Select Library was as described in this book, a massive library with one million books that patrons could borrow one at a time for a guinea a year (two if the patron chose to have books delivered). The great hall of Mudie’s with its two stories of books on iron shelves wasn’t completed until 1860, so Kat would not have been traveling up and down its stairs and into the catacombs when Bedlam’s Daughter took place. It was such a great location to trap her in the catacombs, however, that as the author I stretched the dates a little. I hope you can forgive me. :)
Mudie’s was known to put out a best seller list of some sort, books his company prized as worthy of reading. Mr. Mudie censored books he deemed inappropriate and not in line with Victorian morals and only ordered books which complied to those standards, so he is said to have influenced the publishing business. It was difficult for some authors to get their work published, as a story wasn’t worth pursuing that wouldn’t be considered for circulation at Mudie’s.
The Great Exhibition and Crystal Palace were household terms and proud points of history for Londoners in the 1850s. All is as described in the chapters, including the exhibitions. It is said that one of Queen Victoria’s favorite displays was the stuffed animal exhibit, with its small animals depicting human scenes. It is also true that shows were put on at dusk at the Crystal Palace in the latter half of the century. During this time, zeppelins were used at the end of the show, and actors playing soldiers jumped from these to attack the armies on the ground. Since the book’s setting in 1859 did not grant me the ability to use a zeppelin, my soldiers jumped from the glass building instead.
1859 did grant me a Christmas ball at Bethlem. Finding a sketch and description of the ball in the Illustrated Times was what placed me in Victorian London for this story. The ball was reported as a time of peace. It was truly a snapshot of a moment when the lines between mad and sane were blurred, as is sometimes the case today.
One final note: as shown in this book and revealed to be true in Bethlem’s history, suicide and its attempts were not uncommon among the hospital’s patients. In my research, I read many stories of the varied ways patients tried to take their lives. The addition of suicide in this story was not for entertainment’s sake but in keeping with facts. Suicide is prevalent today, so if you find you have thoughts toward this, I beg you to let someone know. You can seek help through The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Please reach out to someone now. Your life matters.
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The following contains the terms and conditions for the 2022 Christmas giveaway contest being run by jacqueline davis books.
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Thanks to you, my incredible readers and supporters, The Unexpected Ranch Hand won eBookFairs' best in show award! You placed my book at #1 in the Christian Fiction book fair. Such an amazing honor! Thank you for all the ways you've supported me over the years. This recognition could not have happened without you. I'm so grateful for you!
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I'm so excited to announce that my newest Christmas book will be available soon! I had a blast writing this book, and it saddened me to see it end. If you love cozy holiday books that involve snowstorms, large family antics, sweet romance, and toboggan runs, this book is for you!
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I am finally fulfilling a promise I made nearly 3 years ago. Soon to be published is a book I was inspired to write while on a ranch in South Dakota in 2017. It has been a journey putting this book together, and I am thrilled to announce it will be available to you, my dear readers, soon! Check out the "books" section of my site to read all about The Unexpected Ranch Hand. :)
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As a way to show my gratitude to you, my readers, I am offering a look at the first three chapters of Escape, the final book in my Bedlam Series.
[Please note that these chapters are under copyright law (full details at the end of these chapters) and cannot be reproduced.]
ESCAPE by Jacqueline Davis
Dublin, Ireland, 1867
The heavy fog slithered and crept along the streets of Dublin, Ireland, on its way to the safe house door. In the darkness, it coiled around the corners, swirling upward until it reached the door’s latch. It peered in the keyhole, and seeing the group of young men gathered, dived into the dimly lit room, a smokey tail slipping along behind it.
Rolling over the rough wood of the floor, the smooth fog was barely noticed by those above it, men speaking in hushed tones. The fog found their worn boots, caked with mud and refuse from the streets, and wrapped around them. It took its time, slowly climbing the length of each man’s leg, enveloping those who seemed intent on their work.
One man in particular, dark-haired, whose scowl brought his eyebrows so close they nearly touched, slammed his fist on the table, snuffing out the invading fog, ending its journey.
“The time is nigh, gentlemen,” he was saying. “Now is not the time to slip up.” He pointed at a tattered map and tapped it twice. “Here. The guns must be delivered here before the Johnny Raws take their shift.”
He raised his eyes, pinning another man’s with them. “I’m puttin’ ya in charge,” he said and shoved a bag, awkward and heavy, into the arms of Sean McGuire, a fellow brother in the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
“Michael,” Sean said to the man who’d just entrusted him with something of such value, “I will be quick.”
Michael Barrett nodded, a look that told Sean that Michael would be safe without him by his side, as long as he hurried.
Sean sped out of the safe house and into the streets. He was at once proud and surprised to have been entrusted with this mission. He was also proud to have Michael as his circle’s centre. The centre was the leader of a circle, a group of men in the Brotherhood. This person needed to be quick in decisions, sharp as an arrow, and cunning as a thief. Michael fit the description, and Sean was happy for this.
He dashed around the corner of a pub, thankful for the fog’s cover against the city’s watchful eye of the police, the Johnny Raws. These men were assigned the late night beats, and they were ever-alert for Brotherhood activity. The fog was Sean’s protection.
Sean knew the value of protection. His role each day was to protect Michael. The centre was the target of all Brotherhood circles, the prize to be won by the police. Each centre needed protection, and Sean had been chosen by Michael to be his defender. It was an honor that Sean, at the young age of twenty-eight, held deeply in his heart.
It was also something by which he was paid. He spent his days watching Michael, his nights guarding him. There wasn’t time for any other work. Sean had put his dustman days behind him, leaving them in London for someone else.
A noise ahead froze Sean in his tracks. He steadied his breathing, making slimmer the white puffs from his mouth in the bitter air, and slipped into the shadows of a building, leaning his back against the cold brick of the shop. He waited. Footsteps neared, but through he fog, Sean saw nothing. He gripped the bag to his chest with one hand and reached for his gun with his other. His fingers wrapped around the wooden grip of his six-shot revolver as the echoing footsteps slowed.
Sean held his breath, the blood in his veins ready for action. He knew the Johnny Raws were on to him. Something deep within whispered it. For the briefest of moments, Sean considered what life without him would be, and a sliver of fear crept in for the future of the Brotherhood.
No, he reprimanded himself. He shook his head and steadied his gun. A soft meow made its way to Sean’s ear from near his feet, and he inched away from a nearby cat. He was desperate not to be noticed by the Johnny Raw. A small window expanded through the fog, allowing Sean to see the silhouette of the policeman whose back was to Sean.
Although Sean had been in more precarious situations in both London and Dublin, fighting for his life and protecting those he loved, he still got a rush through his body when the man slightly turned his head in Sean’s direction. On instinct, Sean kicked the cat in the policeman’s direction, momentarily distracting the man.
As quickly as his feet would take him, he ran in the direction of the next safe house. He heard a deep shout behind him, followed by another, as he rushed from the Johnny Raw. Sean knew better than anybody that habeas corpus had been suspended the year prior, replaced by a state of emergency in Ireland. This meant that the police could call for internment of any member of the Brotherhood without trial. Sean wasn’t about to be the next body hanging from a rope.
He swore he’d never allow that to happen to him or any of the centres he protected. When he’d been asked to protect Michael, Sean assumed he’d be the only centre he would ever protect. But recently Michael had been saying things that led Sean to believe Michael would be leaving soon. To where, Sean didn’t know. Sean only hoped he’d be able to go with him as his defender.
Michael was like a brother to him. More than like, actually, if it were possible to be closer than brothers. Sean would die for Michael, and he was pretty certain Michael would do the same for him. Needing to get back to protect him, Sean raced to the safe house door and gave the known knock. After a whispered question and answer in return, the door clicked open, and Sean slid inside.
He was safe for now.
✶ ✶ ✶
Michael was buying dried lavender again. From his watching spot, Sean flipped up the collar of his overcoat to fight off the cold wind, keeping an attentive eye on Michael’s transaction. Winter was a rough season for flower girls, who often struggled during the cold months’ attack on their trade, finding other work, but a few of the older ones remained.
Little girls and a few boys, most of whom seemed under the age of ten, ran around to whoever came near, selling what they could. A woman on her way to the market or a man hailing a cab could be accosted by the little sellers.
A small thing with a dark frock as her shield from the cold ran with bare feet to a carriage as it slowed on the street. She thrust a dirty hand at the window. “Please, gentleman, buy my flowers. Poor little girl! Please!” was her tinny cry as the carriage sped away, the horse hooves kicking up gravel and tossing it the girl’s way. She turned, an unreadable expression on her face. Sean couldn’t tell if it was dejection, pain, or acceptance. Or perhaps all three. She spotted him as he watched her.
“Please, kind sir. My flowers. Please! Poor little girl!” She was inches from him, her rosy cheeks bunched in a smile. Her blue eyes sparkled despite the conditions of the weather, or her life for that matter. She ran a hand, dirty fingernails encrusted with mud, over her tangled hair.
Before he could help himself, Sean pulled a small coin from his pocket and placed it in her palm. “Keep the flowers, sweet girl. Make more money off them,” he said, his heart returning to his childhood. After his father had been killed in London by English bricklayers who’d tried stealing his day’s wage, after young Sean had watched the London police strike down the Irish workers, bludgeoning them to death, he’d had to make it on his own. As a child, he’d been a mudlark, scavenging the Thames for anything to sell, then an errand runner for adults. He’d finally found work as a dustman, cleaning dust bins for the more wealthy. All of it had been back-breaking work, and none of it had guaranteed him any money or food.
The little girl rolled the coin in her fingers then ran off, trying desperately to make another quick sale.
Sean returned his gaze to the flower sellers, particularly the girl Michael seemed infatuated with. She was by far the oldest, and for that, Sean had to rein in his judgment. Often, the only girls her age selling flowers were selling more than flowers to men. Sean studied her, a girl he suspected to be about twenty years old. A skirt and bodice the color of moss was bunched around her frame, hiding her body’s shape. She was not the first owner of this ensemble; that was clear. She pulled a thinning shawl about her shoulders. Not that it could help in this weather, Sean thought and cast a quick look at the gray sky.
The flower seller stood among the other girls on the street, crowded against an iron gate, separating them from a church’s premises. Some of the women were standing, arms extended to passersby, who were few and far between. Occasionally when a little girl or boy would run up to them, they’d offer a quick reply and send the child away. Future flower sellers these children were, inheriting a lifetime of scraps from their mothers.
A couple of flower-selling women stood near the one Michael seemed to be wooing. Some squatted, arranging their baskets filled with wilting ivy and laurel. With swift hands, the women put the best looking ones out front, burying the dying plants. They spun oranges with their fingers, finding the smoothest and brightest skin to display. These ladies were eyeing Michael as he spoke to the girl they seemed to envy. Michael had given her more money and attention over time than Sean had found necessary or even appropriate.
The girl ran her fingers along the floral hoop she was holding, a ring of artificial flowers selling for a penny apiece. Michael looked at the artificial flowers and must have inquired about them, for she said, “It’s a symbol of true love that lasts forever, without end.” She gave a surprisingly seductive smile, and Sean swore Michael was under her spell.
While Sean vowed never to be distracted by a female again — after his experience in London with a woman he had loved and was forced to leave — he couldn’t help but notice the flower girl’s beauty. Her deep red hair was pulled off a cream face that was accentuated with the slightest pink in her cheeks and tip of her nose due to the cold. Her smile crinkled her green eyes, so bright Sean could see them from his watching spot. As she placed a lavender bunch in Michael’s palm, she grazed his hand. Michael leaned near and whispered something to her. Her response was a nod. He turned and walked Sean’s way.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say that flower girl enjoys your company,” Sean said, as they fell in step together.
Michael grunted and kept walking, seemingly trying to put distance between them.
Sean laughed. “Your silence tells me ya might enjoy her company as well.”
“It’s not what it seems,” Michael said, tossing the lavender at Sean.
Sean took a moment as the two men wound their way through the streets to inhale the lavender’s pleasant aroma. If any woman ever smelled this lovely, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off her.
“It’s obvious ya like spendin’ time with her, even if she is only a flower girl,” Sean commented.
Michael whirled on him. “Shut your mouth. This isn’t about class or money.”
Sean never knew how to shut his mouth. “You have to admit it looks suspicious to have a man dressed as you, a man who by all appearances has more money than he knows what to do with, talkin’ with a poor girl like that. It might look like you’re askin’ for more than just flowers from her.”
Michael held Sean’s gaze for several seconds, fire behind his eyes. “How dare ya disrespect her.”
Sean had found what he was looking for: evidence that Michael might be attracted to the flower girl. “My apologies. I won’t say another word,” Sean offered.
“That’s a lie, and ya know it,” Michael scoffed, but Sean gathered a hint of laughter in his voice.
They walked on for a few more streets, Sean’s hand near his gun, his eyes darting about. Keeping a low profile among the rest of the Dubliners was tricky for centres and their protectors. Most members of the Brotherhood held normal occupations, but centres had to make their sole focus the Uprising, the rebellion the Brotherhood had been planning for years, the act that would bring Ireland its freedom from England. And it was close.
✶ ✶ ✶
As a centre and his defender, they needed to blend in with the rest of Dublin, which was why they were headed to the Kildare Street Gentleman’s Club, the exclusive club for Dublin’s elite.
Michael Barrett was considered part of the elite. Sean didn’t know how Michael got his money. He felt safer not knowing. It was common knowledge among the Brotherhood that the Brotherhood’s High Command in Belfast provided guns and ammunition, the easiest way to finance being that they robbed banks at gunpoint. They had yet to be caught, always staying one step ahead of the Irish Constabulary and the British Army. They were cunning, and Sean admired that.
No one in the Brotherhood spoke of the bank robberies. They were just known. Sean wasn’t certain that Michael had gotten his money from the High Command in order to be a member of the Kildare Club. A lot had happened in London during their undercover stay there that Sean didn’t know about. He wouldn’t be surprised if Michael had come by his money through illegal or immoral deeds.
In Ireland, Michael Barrett called himself William Jackson. It covered his past and was what he needed to get in to the Kildare Club, the most prestigious of clubs around. He had received admission to membership of the club with the guise of old money and a good made-up name. Michael wasn’t above saying what was necessary to get what he needed.
And right now, Michael needed to get in with the rich boys.
The men would sit in the plush leather furniture of the card room, surrounded by elegance, drinking coffee and reading. During a game of billiards, they’d discuss politics, with some hinting at their opposition to British rule but none ever coming straight out and saying they hated the idea of a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Sometimes the men would go out to the courtyard to play Quoits, and after a glass or two of sherry, they’d be cursing and discussing women and money. When Michael, known as William, had first joined the club, the men had seemed wary of a man they’d never heard of before, of someone claiming to be the eldest son of landed gentry. After enough time spent together, however, and enough drink in them, the men hadn’t suspected a thing, and Sean trusted his centre’s judgment. Michael was crafty and artful, what a leader should be for the Brotherhood. He’d exit the Kildare Club, smelling of tobacco and alcohol and richer in knowledge.
For blending in wasn’t Michael’s only reason for attending the club. He was also secretly recruiting for the Brotherhood.
Sean blended in by staying with the help outside, for Sean’s guise in Dublin was as Michael’s valet. Today, Sean walked as far as the stairs leading to the entrance of the Kildare Club, then stayed behind with the rest of the help. Often, these men complained of the families they worked for or the weather they had to endure. Sometimes, they spoke of the women they were eyeing but knew they’d never have. Sean would occasionally join them in conversation. There was always crass joking and tall tales, such that Sean felt safe enough to tell them about a former love back in London, the daughter of a certain doctor. The other men had laughed when he’d told them of their time together, sarcastically agreeing that it was a love of the ages. Little did they know it had been, and there were days Sean’s heart ached with memories of her.
He leaned against a stone pillar, under carvings of monkeys playing billiards, and crossed his arms. He whistled a quiet tune, one that took him back to his days in London.
Sean walked the streets of The Dials in London of 1860, a beauty on his arm. Her name was Katherine Whittemore. They hadn’t much in common, she coming from money, he a dirty dustman. But they were both young and trying to survive. He was taking her to the pub, their pub, the place they’d shared many dances. He couldn’t wait to take her in his arms again, their bodies moving in rhythm to the music, her smile ever so close to his. Once there, the strings of the violins filled the air, the smell of ale mingling with that of other poor folk like them, all celebrating another day of life. Perhaps their last.
Every dance Sean had with Katherine could have been his last, and he treated it as such. He took in her every move, every look, and allowed himself to drown in it. When he spun her around the floor and she let out a laugh, he thought she never looked so beautiful and free. Her dark hair, loose and lovely, spun with her. When they slowed, she raised a hand to brush the locks from her face, and Sean followed suit, his hand resting on hers.
She stepped closer, her body only a breath away. He wrapped an arm around her waist, closing the distance between them, and she offered another one of her captivating smiles, one of pure delight. She placed her palm on his chest, and the heat of her body on his nearly did him in. She was the sun, and he never wanted to leave her radiance.
And time froze, as it did every time he was near her. Her deep ebony eyes drew him in, a force he couldn’t explain, something he didn’t want to understand. He simply knew he must never leave her side, never allow her to be out of his life. And he knew he’d never be the same.
“I know what you’re doing,” came a gravelly, accusatory voice. It shocked Sean out of his trance.
He pushed off the pillar, his hand instinctually going for his revolver.
“Now calm down, Mr. McGuire,” said the man as he neared him. He held out palms in a surrendering way.
Sean recognized him immediately, and his nose curled. The man was Patrick Mullany, notorious criminal of Ireland with a reputation of being on both sides of blackmail. He was quick to take a bribe, quick to give one. He looked with beady eyes, seemingly intent on finding another situation to manipulate, as he neared Sean.
“Mr. Mullany, what business have ya in these parts?” Sean asked. The man deserved to live in the streets among the refuse and vermin.
The side of Mullany’s mouth turned up. “I’ve been watching this place, its comings and goings.”
“Doesn’t surprise me.” Sean’s hand didn’t leave his gun, and even though Mullany noticed, he stepped closer. Sean stiffened and gripped tighter.
“I’ve been waiting to have this conversation with you. Waiting for the right time. For us to be alone to discuss this.”
Sean looked around. They were alone. He could easily hurt Mullany if he needed to and perhaps even be applauded for it by the Brotherhood. He considered this option. “You cheating bastard. I’m not going to allow ya to find some way to blackmail me. I’ve got nothin’ ya want. Leave now.”
Mullany laughed loudly. “Bastard? All right. Not the worst I’ve been called. You know what I call myself? Observant. And you know what I’ve been observing? Your friend William Jackson. Shows up out of nowhere, claiming to be an inheritor of thousands of pounds of family money. Dressing in those clothes and acting as if he belonged to the men in this building, as if he weren’t the child of some poor farmer in Fermanagh.”
Sean swallowed. “What care have ya with the men in the Kildare Club?”
“Not the men, Mr. McGuire. Just one. William Jackson. Or should I say Michael Barrett?”
Sean felt the blood drain from his face. His heart rate picked up. “I don’t know what ya are referin’ to. I know no one by that name.”
“Come now, McGuire.” Mullany was speaking to him as if he were a child. “You seriously believe I’ve made all my fortune on being daft? On believing what I’m told? I trust my eyes, what I see. My ears, what I hear. And right now, I’m seeing and hearing all I need from you to go to the police with my information. You know the price they’re paying for any information on centres.”
Sean’s mouth went dry. He knows Michael is a centre.
“What proof have ya of any of this?” Sean asked, able to find his voice again.
“As if the police are relying on proof these days!” Mullany laughed out. “They’ll arrest any of the Brotherhood on mere speculation. And I’ve got more than that on both of you.”
“I could easily kill ya right now, and then this information stays safe.” It would be his first kill, and he’d be happy to do it.
Both men turned at the sound of some men leaving the club. Mullany turned back with an all-knowing smile playing on his lips. “You have no idea if I’ve kept this a secret myself. If you kill me, you will spend the rest of your life wondering who else knows, wondering how many more men you will need to kill. Is the Uprising worth it?”
He knows of the Uprising. He knows too much. “What do ya want?” Sean asked.
“From you? More than what the police will pay for this information.” He named his price.
Sean’s heart seared. It was practically everything he made in a month. But it was either that or be found out. “All right.”
“Are ya mad?” Sean yelled, closing the gap between them with his gun.
“You’d be mad not to take me up on my deal. It’s either that, or off to the gallows you go. Have we a deal?”
Sean felt panic soar through his limbs. His mind went numb. Behind Mullany, he could see Michael in the distance, chatting with another man on the stairs of the club. They were laughing. Sean knew the Uprising was close. He knew of Michael’s passion for it. He knew the fate of the Brotherhood could be in his hands at this very moment. So he did what he had to.
“We have a deal.”
Birmingham, England, 1867
“Whoa, whoa, careful,” Katherine Whittemore Blair cautioned. “Mind the bureau.” She cringed when she saw how close her husband, Dr. James Blair, was to the piece.
James was walking backward, a large piece of furniture in his hands, trying as he might to maneuver his way through their home. On the other side of the furniture, bearing some of the weight and bulkiness, was Kat’s father and James’s best friend, Andrew Whittemore.
He peered over the top of the piece they were carrying and said, “Only a few more steps, James, and we’ll be there.”
Kat scurried in front of them, moving away odds and ends that might trip them up. She picked up a spinning top and wooden toy horse and tossed them to the side.
James grunted and shifted the furniture’s weight in his arms. “Kat, darling, how close?”
She placed her hands on his shoulders and guided him into the small bedroom, where the men dropped the load onto the floor.
A delighted squeal let out from the corner of the room. Kat turned to see her seven-year-old son Edward jumping for joy and clapping. She scooped him up and spun him around. “Are you happy?” she asked, laughing along with him.
“Yes!” he cried. “Your Papa is living here now!”
She placed him back on the floor and tousled his blond hair as he ran out of the room.
Kat replaced some of her dark, fallen hair back into pins and looked about the room. James was sliding the cast iron bed frame they’d just hauled in over to a corner, and Papa was rubbing his lower back. James straightened and glanced at Papa. “Getting too old for this?”
“Of course not,” Papa said.
“No. I’m talking about me. I’m getting too old for this,” James said, making Papa laugh aloud.
He patted the doctor on the back and said, “Better keep up with this old man. I have a few more items left in my room at the sanitorium to move in here.” The two men headed for the door.
On his way out, James wrapped an arm around Kat’s waist and kissed her ear. “Your father is keeping me busy.”
“I love seeing him in this state,” she said, as they watched Papa walk away.
“As do I.” He squeezed her side and followed his father-in-law out the front door.
Edward raced in front of the men, giggling and tripping over his excited feet. Kat was certain he was going to try to be one of the men and carry in furniture with them. Papa was moving into their home, small as it was, and Kat’s heart warmed at the thought. She and James and Edward lived in a small home on the grounds of Yardley Green Street Sanitorium where James was the resident physician. The house sat among weeping willows and plane trees, encasing them in their own private sanctuary. It was just big enough for the three of them, but they were determined to make room for Papa. He would take Edward’s room, and Edward would sleep on the floor of James and Kat’s bedchamber when he was not at boarding school. It was important for Papa to be with them, especially now that he was well.
Suffering from typhoid fever many years prior, there was a question of Papa regaining his health. When Kat married James and moved to Yardley Green, she spent her days visiting Papa as he lay in his bath chair in the sun, reading him books, allowing Edward to sit on his lap.
Kat believed it was Edward who truly healed her father. For the first time in years, news of her pregnancy, despite its timing, had made Papa seem hopeful. Instead of finding shame that his daughter had become pregnant before marriage, Papa had embraced the news as a reason to fight for his own life. He’d nearly given up his will to live after suffering the deaths of his wife and daughter Eleanor, but Edward had brought him strength. At that time, much was right with the world. If only Kat could fix one other issue, her life would be complete.
✶ ✶ ✶
Kat mindlessly drew the dish cloth in a slow circle around the wet bowl as she watched her son through their kitchen window. He played in the back garden, chasing squirrels and dodging the swing which hung from a tree’s branch. James had hung the swing when they’d first moved in. Kat recalled how when she’d been a patient at Bethlem Royal Hospital, she’d swung on the hospital’s swing, her hopes flying as high as her body.
Kat had been held as a patient at Bethlem, London’s notorious asylum for the mad, against her will. She’d arrived seeking refuge after escaping the slums of Seven Dials. The Dials were the harshest of places in London, where she’d learned of her own strength, fighting conditions intent on killing her. But they were bad enough that she’d sought escape at Bethlem, where James was serving as medical officer.
Instead of seeing her arrival to Bethlem as an escape, the doctors had thought her mad, and rightly so. She’d suffered hallucinations in the years following her mother’s death. Dr. William Charles Hood, Bethlem Resident Physician Superintendent, had used a new form of treatment to help her enough to be released as a patient. Leaving that hospital had been one of Kat’s greatest joys.
As if it were just days ago and not years, she could almost feel the wind rushing by her as she kicked out her feet and leaned back on the swing at Bethlem. She remembered with near accuracy how she’d spotted James while she was swinging. They hadn’t seen each other or spoken with each other for several months, and just seeing him had caused her to forget what she was doing. They’d locked eyes in that moment, and her heart had jumped in her chest.
There had been many times like that since, where the very image of James had sent Kat’s blood racing, her chest pounding. Seven years of marriage had cooled that feeling a bit for Kat. It wasn’t that she was no longer attracted to James. He was the love of her life and would be forever, and he had a way of speaking to her and calming her and touching her that rivaled no other man. Couples could settle into routines, however, and that’s what had happened to Kat and James. With that comes a level of comfort and predictability, and Kat was thankful for this. She’d had enough adventures and instability for several lifetimes.
She set the dish aside and grabbed another, her eyes not leaving Edward in his play. He relished life, took all he could from it, and her heart swelled with this knowledge. While James could be characterized as serious and hard-working, Edward was carefree and risk-taking. For the briefest of moments, Kat thought of Sean McGuire — something she didn’t often allow — a man from The Dials she had once loved. She thought of how he had lived life grazing the edge of the cliff. She wondered if he was still alive, and with a heavy heart she assumed not. She distracted herself again with Edward, his blond hair flying backward as he ran, and her smile resumed.
“Thank you for cooking tonight,” came James’s low voice. He slid his arms around her waist from behind and nuzzled her neck. His beard rubbed her chin. “It was delicious.”
Kat turned in his arms to look at him. “I’m glad you liked it.”
“Always,” he said and placed a soft kiss on her lips. He placed another on her neck while removing the dish from her hand. He pulled her toward him.
Perhaps things hadn’t cooled completely in the last seven years. She wrapped her arms around his middle and deeply looked into his eyes. She kissed him, then lay her head on his shoulder.
“I need to call Edward in for bed,” she said against him.
“Can’t you spare another moment? Or more?” he asked, and Kat recognized that tone. She pulled back and looked into hungry eyes. James signaled with his head to their bedchamber.
“Now? With Edward still running around?” Kat asked.
“He’ll be fine.”
She escaped his embrace and looked out the window, her eyes drawn. “James, he leaves in two days. I need this time with him.”
James’s mouth was a line. He looked away and let out a frustrated sigh.
“You can’t possibly be angry about this,” Kat said, starting to feel the distance between them.
“I’m not,” he said. “I just want to be with my wife. Is that so absurd a desire?”
Kat’s eyes drifted to Papa’s room, where he’d retired for the night. “Quiet. He’ll hear you.”
“I don’t care, Kat. We are married. And you’re pushing me away.”
“I’m not. It’s only until after Edward leaves for that school.”
“Why do you say it in that manner? Placing him in boarding school was a decision we made together.”
Kat scoffed. “Together. No, you told me that the boarding school you attended molded you into the man you are today, that not doing this for our son would be hindering him somehow.”
“And you agreed.”
“It’s never felt right, sending our child off to London. I have never thought of him being hindered by being in the presence of his parents every day.”
“On the grounds of a sanitorium. This is no place to raise a child, Kat.”
Tears welled up in Kat’s eyes. “I just want to be with my son.”
James’s shoulders softened, and he closed the gap between them. Taking her into his arms, he said, “I understand.”
Although she didn’t think James could possibly understand how a mother felt when her child was away from her, how it felt as if the very thought of him wrung out her insides, she found peace in his attempt at comfort.
“Go,” James said. “Be with him now.” He kissed the top of her head and left the room.
✶ ✶ ✶
Kat placed her copy of Children’s and Household Tales, the book her father had read her when she was a child, to the side upon hearing her son’s slow, steady breathing.
He often fell asleep while she read to him, and she relished in his warm body curled against hers. They sat on his makeshift bed on the floor of the bedchamber she shared with James. This would be Edward’s bed for the remainder of the weekend now that Papa had taken over his room. Kat didn’t mind. She loved the fact that Edward wanted to sleep in her room. In the night, she could peek over at him while he slept, could lie in her own bed surrounded by the beautiful music of her son’s breathing, could be awakened by him jumping into their bed in the early morning hours.
She pulled the bed clothes up to his chin and slid away from him. He stirred and mumbled something. She shushed him, stroking his hair back and kissing his forehead.
As she stood to leave, she heard a faint, “Mama?”
She sat back down. “Yes?”
“I like this. I miss you when I’m gone,” he said.
Kat wrapped an arm about him, and he laid his head on her chest. “I miss you terribly,” she managed, her voice thick. She tried blinking away tears. “That’s why we write each other so much.”
“I like your letters,” he said, placing his arm over her middle.
“We write all the time until we see each other. It’s a good plan.” Kat fought the urge to fix their situation. When Edward had turned seven, she and James had sent him to boarding school. Kat wished she could talk to James’s now-deceased mother to know if it had destroyed her the way it was killing Kat, letting a son go. “We have two more days together for this holiday. Let’s make them count,” she whispered.
Edward nodded against her, and Kat let the tears stream down her face as he fell asleep.
Not wanting to let go but needing to, Kat crept out of the room. Silently walking past what was now her father’s bedchamber, she wrapped her mantle around herself and made her way to the back garden where she met James at their special spot.
Every night, James and Kat made it a point to meet on the bench beneath the willow tree behind their house. It was how they stayed connected, discussing their daily lives, hopes, fears, dreams. They’d look at the stars, searching for Kat’s favorite constellation, Leo.
The ground crunched beneath her feet as she approached, and James turned. He extended a hand and held hers as she rounded the bench, snuggling into his side as always. He pulled a throw around them, drawing her nearer.
“He’s asleep,” Kat said, her eyes on the heavens. Leo gave her strength. She needed it after tucking in a precious boy, one that she’d soon be saying goodbye to again.
“Good,” came James’s reply. He tilted his head in her direction. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, intent on ending the subject. He knew keeping Edward at boarding school was devastating to her, yet he wouldn’t budge on the subject. “It’s for the best, and we want the best for him,” was always his reply. There was no use in arguing the matter or even speaking of it anymore. She’d continue her letters and cherish the moments she had with her son while he was home.
“I never thought a day would come when Papa would be whole again,” Kat said, changing the subject.
“He’s nearly there. I suspect we will occasionally see glimpses of the scars left on him by typhoid fever: memory loss or at the very least confusion. His body chose to heal completely. It’s his mind I’m watching right now.”
“James, you needn’t be Dr. Blair right now. Can’t you stop your mind from viewing all things as medical and simply be a man who is happy his wife’s father is well enough to move out of a hospital?”
James laughed. “I wish it were that easy. I feel I will forever view life through the eyes of a doctor.”
A bit of silence hung in the air, memories of their past arguments surfacing. They’d fought over Kat’s insistence that James was always trying to cure her. She had suffered through years of mental instability, hearing voices and seeing people who weren’t actually there. The last several years of their marriage had been wrought with treatments, some of which had proven their worth, some of which Kat despised. She felt much better mentally, but she suspected James was always waiting for her madness to return.
Sean decided not to tell Michael about the deal he had made with Mullany. His centre had enough to think about without adding a blackmailer to the list. Sean would have to make do with no money until after the Uprising when Ireland would be free of England, and his life could start anew.
He was thinking these things as he waited again for Michael to finish his transaction with the flower girl. The way she looked at Michael reminded Sean of the way Katherine had looked upon him at one time, as if he possessed something grand she desired.
Katherine had made Sean feel worthy of being desired. Sure, he had felt desired by women before, but it had been purely carnal, a desire to be bedded by him. And he had done the act with each one because his body had needed it. It wasn’t until Katherine, however, that he knew what love was, knew what it meant to put another’s needs and desires above his own. He hadn’t wanted to bed Katherine because he had wanted what they had to be special. But when they had reached a point in their relationship where they knew it was based on mutual love and respect for each other, they had allowed it. And it had been the best moment of his adult life.
He could see it in the flower girl’s eyes now. She looked at Michael with what was more than carnal desire or admiration. That a man of his class would choose not only to acknowledge her but engage in frequent conversations with her meant something. It was a look of love. At times the flower seller and Michael seemed to have serious conversations. At others, it appeared they truly enjoyed each other’s company.
Because the events of Sean’s life had forced him to become a strict observer of things, he noticed how Michael would surreptitiously lay gentle touches on the flower girl, and she in return. No one could see but Sean.
“I think ya are playin’ with fire,” Sean said when the two men had returned to the safe house they shared. Michael had entered by the front door, Sean by the scullery. In their part of Dublin, they were forced to continue their charade of elite man with a valet, especially to the watchful eyes of their neighbor, Mrs. Walsh. Given her children were grown and her husband busy, she spent her days watching their street and noting anything peculiar. So Michael, known to Mrs. Walsh as William Jackson, and Sean played their parts in front of her. Once behind closed doors, however, they were simply friends. They were also Brothers on the dawn of a revolution.
“What are ya talkin’ about?” Michael hung up his overcoat.
“You’re spendin’ too much time with that flower girl. If ya are tryin’ to blend in, that’s not the way to do it.”
“You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
“You’ve worked too hard to be William Jackson, man of reputation and money, to be spendin’ your days with someone like that.”
As he picked up a lantern, lighting it, Michael asked, “You think I’m only talkin’ to her because I might find her attractive? You know my sole purpose is what the Brotherhood is doin’, right?” His words were harsh. “Nothin’ I do is outside of the future of the Brotherhood.” The glow of the lantern illuminated his serious face. “I will live and die by this cause. You mark my words.”
He turned on his heels and walked up the staircase, his words lingering on the ground storey, surrounding Sean in swirling motions, their darkness settling upon him and burrowing into his soul.
✶ ✶ ✶
Sean was making another run to a different safe house. Michael had instructed him to go in the cover of night to deliver additional guns to another circle. This circle was one of the most tightly held secrets in Ireland, and Sean was proud to be trusted with the knowledge of their whereabouts. They contained some of the top leaders of the Brotherhood, the strategists of the Uprising.
When Sean arrived, he was led into a room off the corridor. A man like him, another defender of a center, took the bag from Sean’s arms and tossed it to a third man. The defender then made Sean spread out his arms. He searched his clothing and body and took Sean’s gun and the knife he carried in his boot and placed them on a table.
“Stay here while we check out what you’ve brought,” he ordered Sean. He took Sean’s weapons and left the room with the defender carrying the bag.
Sean looked around the empty room. It boasted only of a table and one chair. He heard distant voices in another room. Taking his chances, he peered into the hallway and saw dim light coming from down the hall. Ensuring no one was near, he crept through the darkness to the door from which light spilled. Several men were speaking, nearly at once.
“The plan should center around action in Dublin,” one of them was saying. His voice was full of passion. “We focus the Brotherhood on the military arsenals.”
“Mr. Stephens, really,” pleaded another man. His voice was deeper, older.
“Here me out,” Mr. Stephens stopped him. “My plan is better than the mad one John Devoy devised. He wanted to infiltrate the army, have our men pose as soldiers, then mutiny. My plan is not as dangerous.”
Sean stepped closer.
“Here’s what I propose,” Mr. Stephens began. “We incite our brothers to a storm and seizure of the arsenals: Pigeon House Fort, Magazine Fort, Portobello barracks. If we have power there, we have power everywhere. No one’ll be able to stop us.”
“It can’t happen,” the other man said.
“What do you mean, General Millen, that it can’t happen?” Mr. Stephens asked.
“The Brotherhood hasn’t the arms to complete the task.”
“I think it can work. We are getting weapons weekly from Belfast and money to buy more arms.”
“He haven’t time for that. Listen, here’s what needs to happen. I have a plan of my own.”
Sean took a quick glance down the hall.
“It’s a two-step plan. Stage one: draw out the British forces from Dublin. Stage two: insurrection of the city.”
“How do you propose we draw out the enemy? They’ve only increased in number in recent years, intent on putting a stop to us. They’d never leave the city.”
“They would if they thought the battle was happening elsewhere. Now listen in,” the General said, and Sean leaned his ear closer.
“First, we cut all rail and road communication. We create bands of fifteen to twenty men who will create small ambuscades in order to cut off the British soldiers. Then we mobilize.”
The sound of paper unfolding preceded what Sean heard next. “We have our bands move toward Tallaght, as a decoy. This will draw out the British forces. Once they meet us in Tallaght, the rest of the Brotherhood, those who have not mobilized, will move into Dublin and take back the city.”
There was silence but for the sound of Sean’s heart.
Mr. Stephens finally spoke. “This could work.”
✶ ✶ ✶
After retrieving back his gun and knife and being approved to leave, Sean raced back to the house he shared with Michael, anxious to tell of what he’d heard. He only hoped that Michael was in the right state of mind to listen. He’d become obsessed with that flower girl, and Sean feared it was getting in the way of their mission. Hadn’t Michael always warned him against letting a woman come in the way of the Brotherhood?
Sean sped through the scullery door and up the kitchen stairs. As he burst into the entryway, he skidded to a stop. A woman, dressed in the finest evening dress he’d seen, stood at the base of the stairway, her eyes to the first storey. Her deep red hair was pulled off her neck with tiny tendrils falling around her jawbone. She turned at his entrance, laying sparkling green eyes upon him.
Sean immediately knew who she was, and his stomach tightened.
Michael trotted down the stairs. “My apologies, my dear,” he began, then froze upon seeing Sean. He adjusted his cufflinks and smoothed out his dress coat. He looked between Sean and the young woman. “Sean, may I introduce you to Miss Allen?” Michael gestured to the lady, who held out her gloved hand to Sean, as Michael descended the rest of the stairs.
Sean wrapped his fingers around hers and placed a soft kiss on her hand, looking into her face. As she straightened from her curtsey, they locked eyes, and Sean could barely control the myriad of questions circling his brain.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he offered. “I didn’t realize you had plans tonight, Michael.”
“The theater, of course. We discussed this. Miss Allen, please excuse us.” Michael pulled him to the side and spoke in hushed tones. “You must go along with this. I wish I could have told ya sooner about these plans.”
“I’m all for the theater and posin’ like one of the Dubliners. But with this woman?”
“I needed a lady to be on my arm tonight, Sean.”
“The flower girl?”
“She doesn’t appear as a flower girl tonight,” Michael said with a look of admiration at Miss Allen. “Besides, who else would I bring? You know any women in the Brotherhood?”
“I suppose you bought that dress and purse?”
Michael quickly turned back to him. “What I do with my money is my business.”
“Why did she meet you here? If this is for show, why didn’t you pick her up as is proper?”
“Too many questions,” was all Michael offered.
“Mr. Jackson?” Miss Allen interrupted them, uttering the name Michael used in public.
“Please,” Michael said, soothingly, as he extended his hand to her. “Call me William.” He pulled out his pocket watch. “It is nearly time. Sean, are you changing? We must hurry.”
“It seems it slipped my mind that I was going along.” Sean glared at Michael, who simply smiled in return.
“I wouldn’t think otherwise than having you join us. Hurry, then, or we’ll be late to the Royal.”
✶ ✶ ✶
Although Michael hadn’t called for a cab, one was waiting for them near their home. The driver atop called to them in a thick accent, then hopped down from his seat. He opened the door for them, watching them behind glasses that rested on his beak-like nose. He gripped Miss Allen’s gloved hand and helped her into the coach, and as he did so, his polka dot scarf fell from his neck. He quickly picked it up and brushed it off, retying it around his neck as he climbed up to his seat.
With a jolt, the coach bounded off into the night toward the Theatre Royal, carrying within its belly Michael Barrett, posing as William Jackson, Sean McGuire, posing as one of Dublin’s elite, and Miss Allen, posing as a lady with money. They were a troupe of charlatans.
As they bounced along the roads leading to Hawkins Street, Sean watched Michael and Miss Allen carefully as he sat across from them in the carriage. They chatted politely, and she would laugh at his comments. Michael would smile and occasionally brush the back of his hand against her arm.
It would be easy for Sean to think that watching this affair would make the seat next to him feel empty and cold. Quite the opposite. He hadn’t time or desire for a woman’s company, not with a woman as pretty as the flower girl, and not with the Uprising so close. Once Ireland was freed, and he’d had his revenge for his father’s death, he’d settle down. Perhaps he’d find a home somewhere in the country, far from the chaos of city life, and establish a quiet life with a woman by his side.
He hadn’t known quiet in life ever. As a child in Dublin, he’d witnessed panic and survival as those with nothing starved to death at the stingy hand of the English during the Famine. When his family had fled Ireland and gone to London as a reprieve, despite hating the English, his father had found work, and his family had tried to establish a living there. His father’s martyrdom was what fueled the fire within Sean. It had been burning brightly since. He wasn’t going to let a woman put that out now.
They arrived at the Royal and stepped out into the bustle of other wealthy patrons intent on an entertaining evening at one of the most prestigious and serious venues of Dublin. Having been given the royal patent by King George IV, the Royal boasted of Ireland’s more distinguished performers of its time, and its guests reflected its tastes. Sean hoped his trio blended in.
Once inside, Sean followed Michael and Miss Allen up the stone steps, his watchful eye ever on the crowd. He wasn't concerned for Michael’s safety among the people; it was the sudden arrests that worried him. Knowing at any moment a Johnny Raw could, without warrant, arrest Michael was enough to keep Sean on constant guard. He couldn’t imagine losing his centre and hated the thought of gaining a new one.
Michael led Miss Allen up the grand staircase, one step ahead as was proper, which placed Sean in the back. He was near enough he could hear her gentle laugh, close enough to breathe in her pleasant aroma. No doubt from the lavender she sells, he thought.
Sean was hoping he, Michael, and Miss Allen didn’t stand out. He watched faces as they ascended the stairs, trying to pick out the trusted from the mistrusted: a mustached man with a glance their way, a lady adjusting her gloves, a head nod from an elderly gentleman as he adjusted his vest, the stare of a woman covered in jewels. Michael and Sean had spent years under the guise of different lives in London. They were used to the act, to pretending they were people they weren’t. Miss Allen, however, was just a flower girl in a pretty dress. Sean hoped she could continue the act of high society.
They took their seats near the top of the balcony. Michael had chosen the last row to ensure no one would be behind them. This gave Sean full view of any threats.
“To appear ordinary,” was Michael's whispered response when he’d placed Miss Allen between the men, making Sean grumble inside that he couldn’t give full protection to Michael a seat away.
Instead, he sat between a lovely smelling Miss Allen and a rather large gentleman who’d come into the theatre as the lights had dimmed and applause had started. He’d grunted an apology as he settled into his seat, forcing Sean to slide closer to Miss Allen.
“My apologies, Miss Allen,” Sean muttered, as his arm grazed hers.
She pulled her arm into herself and offered a small smile.
Michael handed Miss Allen a program. “Danielle,” he whispered, and Sean’s senses perked at Michael’s familiar use of her name. He couldn’t hear any more of what Michael said due to the opening lines of the play being spoken. He turned his face toward the stage to appear to watch the show.
Danielle flipped through her program, and Sean wondered if she knew how to read. He’d been given enough of an education that he could read most things. But a flower girl? She had little hope of reading.
“I hadn’t realized this takes place in London,” Danielle, her eyes scanning the program, whispered back to Michael, who nodded.
Sean eyed her, questions forming in his mind. Just who is this woman? Sean didn’t trust her for Michael’s sake. She could be a con artist just like him. A flower girl who can read? She was either really good at hiding her lack of education or —
“Oh, dear,” she said, interrupting Sean’s investigative work. “It seems I’ve dropped my program.”
Sean snapped back to attention and bent to retrieve the paper. His hand brushed the folds of Danielle’s cerulean and slate-colored dress. He paused. It had been a long time since he’d touched a woman’s dress, and he’d never touched a nice gown. Given his living situations in The Dials, the slums of London, he’d never felt anything so delicate or silky against him. He quickly brought up the program and placed it gently in Danielle’s hand. She smiled at him.
The lead character of the play offered a humorous line, eliciting a laugh from the audience. Danielle and Michael joined in. Sean was faithful to watch Michael and their surroundings. Often when he looked in Michael’s direction, he was smiling, either at the events on the stage or at Danielle. The look they shared reminded him of looks he’d seen on Katherine, the woman he had had to leave in The Dials on her own all those years ago. He and Michael had received word from their former centre that they were needed back in Dublin. It had been sudden. They’d needed to leave within moments of getting word, but Sean had stolen a last embrace with Kat before he’d left. He remembered it clearly.
“Sean, wake up.” Michael shook him out of his sleep. He jumped up in bed, one of the many beds in the men’s quarters of The Bruce House lodging house, and his hand immediately went for the gun at his belt.
“Shh, it’s time,” Michael said, pulling Sean’s shirt and dragging him out of bed. “The boat’s waitin’.”
Sean began throwing handfuls of clothing and personal effects in a bag, which were quickly shoved from his hand.
“We haven’t time for that. There’ll be all this and more waiting for us in Dublin. Hurry, now.” Michael headed for the door. Sean was right behind, then stopped.
“Katherine,” he whispered, and his heart seared with pain. Just the day before, she’d allowed him to fully show his love to her, when they’d come together as one. It had been unlike any other encounter he’d had with a woman, someone to be treasured, something of a lifetime. He groaned at the timing of it all. “Wait.”
Michael turned, confusion on his face. “There's no time to wait.”
“I have one thing I must do.”
Michael ran a hand down his face. His nostrils flared. “So help me if this about that girl. I’ll be waitin’ out back. If you’re not there in five minutes, I’m leavin’ without ya.” Turning, he said, “She better not make a sound, ya hear? Or we’ll all be dead.” He raced down the stairs.
Sean ran to the women’s sleeping quarters and rushed to Katherine’s bed. It was empty. He grabbed his hair, his heart pounding. He sped downstairs and stopped in the barren front room. Where was she? His heart squeezed. He could hear the seconds ticking by, deep within him, the gongs of his life with Katherine resonating within his soul, resounding their painful message. He ran to the kitchen, and there she was.
He longed to cry out, but he knew he had to be quick and silent. He rushed her from behind, covering her mouth with his hand, and unexpectedly startling her. Her body tensed in his, and he gripped her harder as she writhed, trying to calm her. She yanked away from him, and after being accused of being a monster due to a nightmare she’d just had, she relaxed against him, tears forming.
“I have somethin’ to tell ya. Somethin’ secret and urgent,” he said. He could see that the truth of his presence was hitting her that he was leaving. He could barely speak the next words. “It’s time, Katherine. Time for me to be leavin’ ya.”
They spoke more, but all Sean really recalled from their last moments together was how he didn’t know if he had the strength to physically leave her. And when she kissed him, that kiss spoke more to him than a thousand words. He pulled her hard into himself, wanting desperately never to let go.
“Sean!” came Michael’s voice from outside.
One last kiss. “I’ll always love ya, Katherine. Always.”
“Sean,” Michael said, this time in present day, and a finger nudged him. “We’ve got to go.”
Sean was back in the Theatre Royal, Michael standing and helping Miss Allen to her feet. The show was in the middle of the first act.
“What’s happening? Why are we leavin’?” Sean asked.
“Trust me,” Michael said. He spoke quietly to him that it was getting dangerous.
The three of them rushed from their seats, Sean looking around at the crowd, searching for a threat. Several disgruntled audience members turned in their direction, sour faces and whispers. A man standing near a curtained exit across the theater glared at them. Another man blocked a different exit. Sean’s heart rate picked up as they neared another exit. He herded Michael and Danielle out into the grand hallway and toward the stairs. An older man exited behind them, two others from another direction. Sean’s hand went to his gun.
“Not them,” Michael hissed. “And stop making a scene.”
They slowed a little and plastered on smiles, eager for the door to the street. Once outside, they breathed deeply, quickly glanced around, and spotted a cab.
“Let’s go,” Michael ordered and stepped toward it.
“Wait,” Sean warned and stilled them with an outstretched arm. The driver looks familiar. He beheld the same mustache, same polka dot scarf as the one who’d driven them to the theater. “Did you ask our driver to wait for us?”
“It’s the same man as before.” Something about him set off a warning signal within Sean. “Somethin’ isn’t right about this.”
The cab driver waved and shouted at them. “Gentlemen, my cab is available.”
“We are walkin’ tonight, sir.” Sean tipped his hat to him.
“Certainly a young lady would like a ride,” offered the cab driver.
“We’d like to walk. Such a fine night,” Sean said and discretely led Michael and Danielle in the opposite direction.
“Chance of rain, I can tell,” replied the cab driver. “Can feel it in my bones. Very trustworthy. Sure you don’t want a ride?”
“Quite sure. Thank you.” Sean hurried their group along the cobbled street, crossing in order to be on the opposite side.
The cab driver stared after them. Something was wrong. Sean didn’t know if it was a British spy on to them, something they’d been trained to spot, or if Mullany had put a man on him to make certain he didn’t take off with money promised. Either way, seeing that man left an unsettled feeling within Sean as they made their way back to the safe house. He was determined to find out just exactly who this man was.
Copyright © 2018 by Jacqueline Davis
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without prior permission of the author.
Cover designed by ALB Designs
Author photo by Elizabeth Hutson Photography
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Printed in the United States of America
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Looking for a way to help small businesses this Saturday during Shop Small? You could help out an independent author! :) I’m trying to get my first book Disorder on Goodreads Listopia page. This has lists of books by category, and books with the highest votes get displayed. I could use your vote!
Sometimes it only takes a few votes to get put in the Top 100. For example, in the category Best Historical Fiction of the 21st Century, the titles in #84-100 made it with fewer than 14 votes. If I get even 12 votes for Disorder on Listopia, it could make the Top 100 of Best Historical Fiction of the 21st Century, which would be amazing! This would expose thousands of readers to my book.
Here’s how you can help: if you have a Goodreads account, you can vote for Disorder by following the steps below. Simple enough! If you don’t have a Goodreads account, I encourage you sign up for free, not only to vote for Disorder, but also because the site is fun! It keeps track of the books you’ve read and your ratings of them, you can follow authors and other readers, it will recommend books to you, you can interact with other readers and writers, and it will let you know when your favorite authors have new books being released.
My goal for 2018 is to have at least one of my books make it to the Top 100 on one of Goodreads’ lists, and this is entirely possible with only 12 votes. Thanks in advance for helping me reach my dreams!
To vote for Disorder to make it to the Top 100 of Best Historical Fiction of the 21st Century: