Chapter Twenty-Seven

This is the last chapter of But World Enough and Time. Come back next week to celebrate the book’s launch. Or pre-order the book here.

science fiction, time travel, science fiction serial, time travel serialThrough half-closed lids, Robin watched the room she was in slowly grow lighter as the daylight outside slipped in through the cracks in the drapes. She would have rather been sleeping, but her mind was far too full, in spite of her exhaustion.

She was home. Sort of. At least, she was back in her own time, although she wasn’t sure she felt like she belonged there. Elizabeth had given birth to Dean’s little girl. Robin’s niece. She was an aunt. She wasn’t sure that made any more sense than time travel. About the only thing Robin knew was that she wanted to do more traveling.

She rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Robin looked at the little specks of light on the floor and guessed that it was later than early morning, but not midmorning yet. It was odd how she’d come to check the position of the sun rather a clock. Looking around the room again, she saw that there was a clock on the bedside table that appeared to be running. Eight a.m., or more precisely eight twelve a.m.

Fuzzy with sleep, she stumbled out of bed and went to the bathroom. That felt normal, at least. Still wearing her night t-shirt, she went downstairs and headed for the kitchen.

Yes, there was coffee. That felt reassuringly normal, too, even though she had lived over a year without a coffeemaker. But there was comfort in the former routine, and so she made coffee. Coffee in the eighteenth century was strong enough, but not always consistent. And for all she had made fun of pre-ground coffee from cans, the familiar consistent product smelled awfully good.

Mug in hand, she went into the living room. The timetron had somehow landed on the couch in all the rush and turmoil. Robin picked it up and turned it on and then off again a few seconds later. Within minutes, there was a knock on the door.

Robin was not terribly surprised to see Roger on the other side.

“Morning,” she mumbled. “Come on in.”

“Thanks,” said Roger as he followed her into the living room. There was an awkward pause as if Roger wanted to say more.

“Didn’t you say that machine is only accurate, like, days or something?” Robin flopped onto the couch and motioned for Roger to do the same.

He sat across from her on the nearest easy chair. “Plus, minus three days. I’ve actually been here for two. I saw you guys come in last night. I didn’t think Elizabeth was that far along.”

“She wasn’t.” Robin yawned. “Sorry. I just got up. I didn’t think you’d show up so fast when I turned on the machine.”

“It’s easy when you’ve got the time pinned. But she wasn’t that far along?”

Robin chuckled. “Yeah. We had a baby last night. A girl. She’s a little moose, actually. Full-term, as far as I can tell. But Elizabeth swears she counted only six months. We’ll take them to the hospital later. Elizabeth insisted on cutting the cord last night, so I figure there’s no rush.”

“You may not have to go at all,” said Roger. “I’ve got enough training to do an initial scan to make sure she and the baby are all right.”

Robin thought that one over. “Cool. I was trying to figure out how I’d help her get acclimated to this century before the baby came as it was. After last night, I think she could use a little breathing room before forcing an emergency room on her.”

“Good call.”

“I’ve just got to figure out how to get a birth certificate for the baby. I could call the county, I guess.” Robin sighed.

“That reminds me.” Roger shifted and pulled a packet out of his biker jacket. “Elizabeth’s papers. There’s a passport, copy of her birth certificate, a California ID card and a Social Security card.”

Robin opened up the envelope. “These look really good. How did you get them?”

“It’s very simple, actually. We do it all the time to establish a personna in a given time. And they are legitimate, so if Elizabeth loses her ID, or needs to change it, she can get new paperwork.”

“Wow.” Robin yawned and stared moodily at her mug. “Oh. Can I get you some coffee?”

“Sure. I’m guessing you haven’t had breakfast yet.”

“I’m not even sure there’s any food in the place. It doesn’t get used that often, so there’s not usually perishables in the fridge.” Robin lifted herself off the couch and stumbled into the kitchen. “How do you want your coffee?”

“Like I always do.”

Robin, turned, puzzled. “And how am I going to know that?”

He chuckled, guiltily. “That’s right. I’m sorry. I’ll drink it any way I can get it.”


He shrugged. “Side effect of spending too much time when you can’t get it at all.”

Robin handed him a mug. “Well, you’ve got it black. If you want sugar and creamer, they’re right here.” She pointed to the jars of powdered creamer and sugar next to the coffee maker.

She glared out into the living room, watching him take his first sip through the corner of her eye. He seemed pleasant enough. Light blond hair, hazel eyes that were slightly narrowed. He looked mostly Caucasian, but not entirely. His body was trim enough, not perfect, but no particularly bad rolls, either.

Then there was that calm. On the surface, he didn’t seem to give a damn about anything, but after a while, Robin realized he just didn’t worry. He reminded her of somebody who had lived a very, very long time. An old soul, she thought.

The stairs creaked. Robin looked across the half wall separating the kitchen from the open dining room to the stairway. Dean was slowly stumbling downstairs.

“Is Elizabeth awake?” Robin asked.

Dean looked at her through half-open eyes. “Yeah. Have we got any tea?”

“For you or for her?”

“Both,” Dean grumbled. “Oh. Hi, Roger.” He stopped at the entrance to the kitchen and yawned. “I thought I heard voices.”

“Is the baby awake?” Robin asked.

Dean nodded. “Elizabeth is feeding her. What about that tea?”

Robin began rummaging through the cupboards. There was tea. But Robin’s assumption that there wasn’t much else in the cabin to eat was correct. She volunteered to run get breakfast, and Roger volunteered to join her. The ride out to the nearby town’s small grocery was filled with meaningless chitchat that was, nonetheless, oddly comfortable, Robin thought. And as they waited at the checkstand to buy the Danish and other basic groceries, Roger’s hand slipped into Robin’s. Blushing, she pulled it back.

“Oh,” Roger said, suddenly nervous. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I’d done that.”

As soon as they got back, Roger asked to see Elizabeth and the baby, and Elizabeth agreed to let him up. Robin was astonished to see that even overnight, the baby had grown and matured.

“My lord, she looks like she’s a month old already,” Robin gasped.

“I know,” said Elizabeth, from the bed, where she was propped up by pillows. “Dean assured me, she was smaller last night.”

“I’m sure she was,” said Roger, who was holding up the baby’s hand and pressing it against a small hand-held screen. “Well, preliminary tests indicate she’s healthy. I’ll be able to get a better reading on any genetic pre-dispositions when I run the saliva test. The other good news is that her cells seem to have settled down, so she’ll grow more normally now.”

“Huh?” asked Dean.

“It’s a side effect of being in the drop,” Roger explained. “It excites cell growth. Elizabeth is the first person to go through while pregnant, but it doesn’t seem to have had any negative effects on your baby. It just made her grow faster, is all. Which probably explains why she came so early and yet was a full-term baby.” Roger looked over at Robin. “I wish I’d known about the baby before we got separated.”

“That. Well…” Robin sighed. “Roger, I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but I was going to tell you. Only we got a little side-tracked if you’ll remember.”

“Too true,” Roger said. “And Donald made sure I knew that at least one part of the experiment had worked. That Elizabeth was pregnant.”

“Are we going to be running from this Donald for the rest of our lives?” Elizabeth asked.

Roger shook his head. “No. I can’t say more, but, no, not the rest of your lives.” He smiled as he handed the baby back to Elizabeth. “So what is your baby’s name?”

Elizabeth smiled as she looked up at Dean. “Her name is Robin Mary. Robin for her aunt and Mary for my mother.”

Robin felt her face grow hot. “Oh.” Tears filled her eyes. “Wow. That’s…  That’s….”

She never finished.

Dean laughed. “Aw, come on, Robin. How could we not?”

Smiling, Roger picked up Elizabeth’s free hand and pressed it to his small screen.

“Looks like you’re doing well, also, Elizabeth,” he said, looking over the read-out. “Goodness. You didn’t even get any vaginal tearing pushing that little moose out. Uterus is receding nicely.”

Dean looked at the read-out. “Geez, how can you tell all that from just putting her hand there?”

“It’s neuro-radiopathy,” Roger explained. “It uses modulated x-rays to tap into the nerve impulses and spectrometry to read blood density and things like that to spot problems. It’s reading completely normal on tissue soundness and pain, which it wouldn’t have if there had been any tearing. And the position it notes for the uterus is right in line with where it should be this many hours after childbirth. How are you feeling, Elizabeth?”

“Tired,” she said.

“How about emotionally?” Roger sat down next to her.

“I am fine,” she answered, a little stiffly.

“Really?” Roger asked. “Not feeling overwhelmed or frightened by all the strange things in this world?”

“In this time,” Elizabeth corrected, then fell silent.

Dean gently pushed Roger up from the bed and took his place. “Honey, it’s okay to talk about how you feel. It’d be weird if you weren’t all scared and messed up by things here.”

Elizabeth sighed. “I am here now. I want to accept it and learn to like it.” She sniffed. “It’s not so bad. Being in magic carriages and strange lights and everything. It’s not bad at all now.”

“I’m sure you’re doing very well,” Roger said, reassuringly. “But at the same time, having a baby and having to adjust to this very different time, that’s a lot to handle, Elizabeth.”

Robin smiled. “Roger’s right, Elizabeth. This world is pretty strange compared to what you’ve been used to. If you get scared or something, no one is going to think you don’t want to be here.”

Elizabeth smiled weakly. “I do want to be here. It’s only that if I keep thinking about how much all these strange things frighten me, all I’ll be is frightened all the time. You accept them as normal, so I’m trying to look at them the same way.”

Roger nodded. “That’s very brave, Elizabeth, and not a bad way to look at things. But if it gets to be too much, you do need to talk about it.”

Robin Mary squawked suddenly.

“I’m tired, now,” said Elizabeth, “and my baby needs to be fed.”

“Well, then we’d better leave,” Roger said.

He followed Robin out of the room.

“Isn’t that great,” he said, sliding his hand onto Robin’s seat.

“Roger!” Robin slipped away and glared.

“Damn.” Roger’s sigh was genuine and a little tortured.

“What’s wrong?” Robin asked.

“I can’t stay.” Roger hurried down the stairs. “I thought I was going to be able to, but it’s clear I can’t. Where’s your timetron?”

Robin walked over to the sofa. “I suppose hiding it from you wouldn’t work.”

Roger paused. “No. And you don’t really want to do that.” He held his hand out.

“A lot you know about it.” Sourly, Robin put the machine in his hand.

“You don’t understand, Robin.” He reached his hand out to her then self-consciously pulled it back. He used his finger to trace something on the top of the machine. “Things were…  Will be going badly. In my natal time. I can’t tell you right now. You just need to trust me.” He stopped and looked at her, his eyes penetrating, yet warm. “I need you to promise me two things. One is that before you do anything else, you’ll see to it that Dean and Elizabeth are well settled in.”

“What the hell else am I going to do?” Robin grumbled. She glared at him. “I’m not going anywhere or anywhen.”

“Yes, you are.”

“What?” Robin gaped, too afraid to believe that it could be true.

“Robin, this is serious. Things are very bad when I’m sending you. I wouldn’t do it, except that it was the best plan I could think of. I can’t tell you more.” Roger handed her the timetron. “But when Dean and Elizabeth are settled, I need you to go to the coordinates I entered.”

“You mean I get to time travel again?”

“Of course.” Roger smiled. “Robin, I wasn’t going to stop you. I just needed to get you trained. You’re good, but there are things you didn’t know and you needed to learn them. I mean, need.”

“Roger. That’s…”

His face became serious again. “I just don’t want you rushing off from here. It doesn’t matter when you leave, you’ll be right where you need to be, whenever you leave here. So make sure Dean and Elizabeth are okay, first.”

“They’re not in any danger, are they?”

“They’ll be fine. I promise.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Roger grimaced. “I can’t tell you. Just trust me.”

Robin folded her arms. “And what makes you so sure you can trust me?”

“I can’t tell you.” Roger smiled again and started to reach out to her. “Yeah, I’ve got to go. This a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

Robin’s heart lurched. “Am I going to see you again?”

“I can’t…” He stopped and moved close to her. “What the hell. You’ll see me when you land. In fact, you’ll see me for a really long time. Many times.”

He put his hand on her cheek and kissed her long and deep and passionately. Robin almost felt her legs giving way.

“Now,” he sighed as he pulled away. “I’ve got to get the hell out of here before I cause any more trouble.”

He pulled out his own timetron, closed his eyes and vanished.

Robin stared at the empty space for several minutes.

“Robin?” called Dean from the landing. “We saw the lights go. Did Roger leave or something?”

“Yeah. He left.” Robin pulled herself together. “Everything okay up there?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Good.” Robin took a deep breath. “Great. I’ve got some laundry to finish and if Elizabeth’s up to it, we’ll make some plans.”

“Great. We’ve already talked some things over.”

Robin nodded. She looked at the time machine in her hands, then slowly laid it back down on the couch. She would be time traveling again, very soon. But first, she had Dean and Elizabeth to take care of. There would be time enough for that.

Chapter Twenty-Six

We’re coming close to the end of But World Enough and Time. In two weeks, we’ll launch the book version (which, by the way, already has a few tweaks from the version here – very minor, but still tweaks). If you’d like to pre-order it or get your friends to, check out this link from And now, back to our story.


science fiction serial, time travel serial, serial science fictionIt was hard to tell which was worse, the bone-crushing sensation of the machine or the roar of noise that greeted Robin, Dean, and Elizabeth as they landed.

“Where are we?” Dean hollered over the sound of a jet engine taking off.

“Los Angeles International,” Robin yelled back. They were in the parking lot. “Lots of places we could go from here, just in case Donald finds a way to follow us. There’s the shuttle to the airport. Let’s get on. I’ve got to get to an ATM.”

The driver stared at the three as they boarded the bus.

“It’s a joke,” Robin said, nervously. “We belong to this living history club, and we’ve got this friend that’s coming in, and, well, he’s supposed to freak when he sees us, figuring he got the wrong era, and…  It’ll be funny. Really.”

The driver chuckled. “Sounds like a good one.”

Elizabeth kept her head down during the short ride. At the terminal, Robin found an ATM readily enough, got the money she wanted, then got change.

“Why?” asked Dean.

“We’ll need it for the trains so we can get back to Pasadena,” Robin told him. “Elizabeth, you okay?”

“I am all right,” she sighed. “It’s noisy and things move so strangely. But I’ll get used to it.”

“Trains?” asked Dean. “What trains?”

“Wake up, Dean,” Robin snarled. “Los Angeles has public transportation now. We’ll take the bus to the Green Line to the Blue Line to the Red Line to the Gold Line. There’s a stop about half a mile from my house.”

They got more stares from people as they waited on the various platforms for the electric trains. Robin got a fix almost immediately on the date and time – late morning, one day before the date she’d programmed. It was almost mid-afternoon when they finally got to the porch of Robin’s house. Robin unlocked the door quickly and jammed everyone inside.

“We’re not safe yet,” she told them. “How are you doing, Elizabeth?”

She smiled softly. “You keep asking me. I said I am fine.”

“Okay. Good.” Robin looked at Elizabeth again. “Geez, Elizabeth, your stays are really straining.”

“I know. My dress feels very tight.”

“I should have something upstairs that you can throw on until I can get you those clothes we bought before we took you back to your time.” Robin looked around. “I’m going to shower first, then head over to my office. That’s where I sent our luggage. Dean, you’d better start combing that flour out of your hair. If you try washing it out, it’ll turn into big sticky globs.”

Robin found an old t-shirt and athletic shorts for Elizabeth and then set to work combing out flour and getting showered. The worst part was that she knew she shouldn’t linger. But she couldn’t resist the glory of hot water running down her back after so many months without any running water at all. She also paused while toweling off, enjoying the scent of a clean towel. After getting dressed in jeans and another shirt, she stuffed her hair under her hat, then headed out.

“Robin!” proclaimed the receptionist, a young man named Alex. “I thought you weren’t going to be back for another couple weeks, at least.”

“I’m not and I’m not here,” Robin said, genially. “Would you get on the P.A. and let everyone else know I’m not here? I am merely a figment of everyone’s imagination.”

“Hey, Robin,” said Steve Wasserman, her partner. “How was England?”

“Great, and I’m not here.”

“Can we pretend you are and will you look at this little glitch that—”

“No! I am not here.” She looked over at Alex. “Make that announcement. Now.”

“Seriously, Robin,” Steve continued as Alex started the announcement.

“No way, Steve.” Robin moved quickly toward her office. “I’m just here to pick up some stuff that I had sent here from my trip and I am out of here.”

“But when are you coming back?” Steve remained hot on her heels.

Robin paused. It was a better question than she’d anticipated. “Uh, in a couple weeks or so, according to plan. I got back early from Europe to deal with…  To deal with some family stuff. I’m just going to pick up my boxes and get out. Okay?”

In the end, Robin needed Steve to help with the boxes, so she looked at the glitch, had a much longer conversation than she wanted over how to fix it, and then left, feeling slightly unnerved by the whole experience.

Back at the house, Robin gave Elizabeth her clothes. When Elizabeth had changed, Robin could have sworn that Elizabeth’s tummy had grown even since she had left an hour before.

“So what do we do now?” asked Dean, after he had changed into his modern clothes.

“We hide,” said Robin. “I’ve just called Dad and he said we could use his cabin for a while.”

“Yeah, but won’t what’s-his-name be able to find us through Dad’s name?” Dean said.

“Not really. Dad bought it under some corporation deal with that company that owns the patents on his inventions. It’ll be pretty hard to trace it to him. We can use it for free, which means we won’t have to use credit cards, which are traceable. And it’s pretty secluded, which means we’ll be able to help Elizabeth adjust more slowly.”

“We can’t stay here?” Elizabeth asked, grimacing slightly.

Robin shook her head. “Too easy for Donald to trace. But the car trip shouldn’t take that long.”

“I will be all right,” Elizabeth said, resolutely, although her face betrayed her fear.

They left shortly afterward. Robin was less than thrilled that their first meal back in their own time had to be fast food, but Dean wasn’t complaining.

“Aw, come on, Robin, these are the best burgers on the planet,” he proclaimed as they ate in the car.

Robin didn’t answer. She knew she should concentrate on driving, but all she could think about was what to do after they got to the cabin. And how they would explain Elizabeth to their mother. And whether time travel would be forever denied her. And when would Roger come?

The drive was not the most pleasant or easy. Rush hour traffic was in full force and while Elizabeth was amazed by the huge number of cars also on the freeway with them, at least, she wasn’t frightened by high speeds simply because Robin couldn’t get going any faster than twenty-five miles per hour. By the time the traffic had eased, Elizabeth was a little more accustomed to moving quickly, even twenty-five miles an hour being exceedingly fast for her experience. She even managed to watch out the window as the suburbs of Southern California flew past.

It was closing in on dark when they finally arrived at the cabin in Big Bear. Dean got Elizabeth inside and warned her about the lights, as Robin brought in the luggage. The cabin was more of a large house decorated in rustic mountain style, with a huge vaulted ceiling in the living room and a second story with three bedrooms.

“Woh, this place is pretty cool,” said Dean, looking around.

“Haven’t you been here before?” Robin asked.

Elizabeth suddenly grabbed the back of a sofa and groaned.

“What’s the matter?” Dean yelped.

“Nothing,” she gasped. “I’ve got to go to bed though. It’s too soon, but I’ve gotten so big suddenly. Maybe the baby will be big enough.”

“You’re in labor.” Robin looked at her in shock.

“Yes.” Elizabeth nodded, as the contraction subsided.

Robin swallowed. “How long?”

“Since before we left your home.”

“In labor?” Dean squeaked. “Why didn’t you say anything?’

“Because I knew I had time and we couldn’t stay there, anyway,” said Elizabeth.

“Great,” Robin grumbled. “How fast are the pains coming?”

“Fast. Oh, no. Here it comes again.” Elizabeth doubled over.

Robin checked her watch. “Hell, that’s less than two minutes. We’ve got to get you to a hospital!”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Elizabeth snapped. “Except to bed.”

“We can’t deliver a baby here,” groaned Dean.

“It looks like we’re going to have to.” Robin looked around. “Oh, hell, how do you do this?”

“You don’t do anything,” laughed Elizabeth. She grimaced as another pain took over. “Except catch it. I’ve got all the work to do. We’ll need something to wrap the baby in, some water to clean it with, and a good sharp knife.”

“A knife? For what?” Dean’s panic grew.

“To cut the cord.”

“No. We won’t do that,” said Robin. “But you’re right about the other things. Let’s get you upstairs. The master bedroom has a bathroom there. We’ll have all the water we need. Dean, give me a hand.”

Dean helped Elizabeth into the room while Robin turned down the bed and laid out some towels to protect the sheets.

“Dean, you’d best fetch that water,” Elizabeth said through clenched teeth as she sat down on the bed.

“We’ve got water in there.” Robin pointed. “And he’s staying right here. I can’t do this alone.”

“But he’s a man!” Elizabeth protested.

“So do I stay or go?” Dean asked frantically.

“Do you want to see your kid born?” Robin demanded.

“Well, yeah, but I figured I’d get to go to class first.”

“Class?” Elizabeth looked at them bewildered. “You have to learn how to have a baby?”

“I know it sounds ridiculous,” Robin said. “But you learn how to relax with the contractions, breathing and all that. And he learns how to coach you. I’ve heard it works really well. Anyway, fathers are always in the delivery room with the mothers. Let’s get you undressed.”

Elizabeth gulped. “In front of Dean?”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Elizabeth, that’s how he got you this way!”

“Um, Robin, it wasn’t,” Dean said.

“Huh? Oh, never mind. Dean, go get some more towels. They should be in the bathroom closet.”

He left.

“All I need to remove are my drawers,” Elizabeth said.

She groaned, then pulled the underpants off. Dean reappeared, then grimaced with her as the next contraction took hold.

The pains came fast and hard. Elizabeth cried out again and again. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead.

“When the head comes,” she gasped when she could. “Check that the cord isn’t around the neck. Oh, no!”

“Keep talking, Elizabeth.” Robin coaxed, although she already knew what to do from her first aid classes. Anything to keep Elizabeth’s mind off the pain. “Tell me everything I have to do.”

“Turn the head. Turn it to… to… the shoulders are right.” Elizabeth broke down in sobs.

Dean squeezed her hand. “Hey, it’s alright, honey. You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.”

It was almost as hard on him as it was on Elizabeth. The pain was terrible, and he was helpless to relieve it. Yet, even so, as the labor progressed, he got calmer and focused on reassuring Elizabeth.

Elizabeth grunted, straining all of a sudden.

“Don’t push yet,” Robin ordered.


“Don’t push until you absolutely must. Whatever you do, try not to.”

“That’s right,” said Dean. “We’ve got to make sure you’re completely ready to have this kid.”

Elizabeth nodded and cried out as the contraction hit yet again. Dean mopped her brow with a damp washcloth, then gave her another to suck on. Robin went and washed her hands to the elbows.

Ten minutes later, Elizabeth strained again.

“Don’t push,” Robin ordered.

“I have to!” Elizabeth shrieked.

Robin helped her bend her legs, then swung a bright reading lamp around. She aimed it right where the baby would be coming. The contractions slowed down a little but remained just as hard.

“Okay,” Robin said. “Push with the next contraction and push for all you’re worth. Dean, you’d better start cheering her on. She’s bushed.”

“Help me sit,” Elizabeth ordered.

Dean pushed her up from behind as she strained even harder.

“Enough,” she gasped as the contraction died.

“That’s a good idea,” Robin said. “Try and rest where you can, Elizabeth.”

“I’ve no choice,” she murmured. Her breath caught. “Help up!”

Dean shoved her into place. “Come on, Elizabeth, push that baby out.”

Robin helped spread her legs. “Hot damn, Dean! I can see the head!”

“Yeah?” Holding Elizabeth up with one arm, Dean reached and looked. “I can see it, too. Won’t be much longer now.”

Elizabeth nodded and sank backward. As tears slipped from her eyes, Dean gently let her down. Seconds later, he helped her up again.

“It’s coming.” Robin encouraged. “Just a few more pushes, Elizabeth. Just a few more.”

Elizabeth sank back again. “Water.”

Dean handed her the washcloth. She sucked greedily, then yelped. Dean heaved her back up.

The head came fast. Robin watched, transfixed in wonder as it emerged. Dean peered anxiously over Elizabeth’s shoulder. Poor Elizabeth was almost too tired to know what was going on.

As the chin cleared, Robin checked to make sure the cord was not around the neck. It wasn’t.

“Okay, we’ve got a chin and there’s no cord,” she announced.

Elizabeth sobbed and nodded. Robin gently held the head, then jostled out the top shoulder, then the bottom. Elizabeth gave one more push, and the rest slipped out.

The tiny purple body was covered with blood and a light white mucus-like substance. Robin pinched the bottom, and the baby sprang to life with a loud, coughing wail.

“It’s a girl,” Robin muttered, then louder, “It’s a girl. We did it!” Her tears flowed. “You guys have a girl and she’s all right.”

Elizabeth sank back onto the pillows, half laughing and half sobbing.

“And I’m alive,” she whispered.

“Of course, you are.” Dean sniffed and wiped his eyes.

Robin wrapped the still crying infant in a towel and handed her to Dean.

“Dean, no.” Elizabeth gasped.

“It’s okay,” Dean said, grinning. “I know how to hold a baby. See?”

Elizabeth smiled and nodded. “She’s hungry.”

“Are you sure you’re up to feeding her?” Robin asked as she held Elizabeth’s legs and waited for the placenta.

“I don’t think she’ll go that far,” said Dean. “She’s still hooked up.”

“Get the knife and cut the cord,” Elizabeth said.

“Nope,” said Robin. “There’s a better way to handle it. Here comes the placenta.” She caught it in a towel. “Yuck. What a mess. We’ll wrap it up with the baby, then take you to the hospital and get the cord cut there.”

“But why?” Elizabeth asked.

“Because of germs, Elizabeth. We don’t want to take a chance on infecting the baby, or you, for that matter.” Robin laid the placenta on top of the baby and wrapped them both together in another towel.

“She’s so small.” Dean gazed at her in wonder.

“Let me nurse.” Elizabeth pulled herself up on the pillows and reached for the baby.

Dean handed her over. Robin watched for a minute, then began clean up operations. Dean laid his hand on the baby’s back and lovingly kissed Elizabeth.

“She’s beautiful,” he whispered.

Robin turned away. Something in her ached with loneliness. She tried telling herself that she wouldn’t have to deal with diapers and two o’clock feedings and other such nonsense. Even that proved to be small consolation. She quickly collected all the soiled linens and hurried out to the garage where the washer and dryer were.

While Robin was gone, Elizabeth prevailed upon Dean to get a knife.

“She does have a point about those germs, you know,” Dean said, bringing the knife in.

“But it’s not good to keep the cord on.”

“True.” Dean went into the bathroom and came back with a bottle of rubbing alcohol. “This’ll take care of Robin’s problem.”

He poured the alcohol over the knife, then handed it to Elizabeth. She made short professional work of the cord, then handed the bundle with the placenta to Dean.

“It should be burnt.”

“Hm.” Dean looked around. “Good thing there’s a fireplace in here, especially one with gas logs.”

Elizabeth looked at him, puzzled, then jumped as he turned on the gas and touched a match to it. The little bundle crackled merrily but sent a rather nasty scent into the room.

“What smells?” asked Robin, coming in. She saw the towel in the flames. “Terrific. I did know what I was doing, you know.”

“So does Elizabeth,” said Dean. “And she was worried. I thought it would be better if she could relax.”

Robin couldn’t argue. Exhausted, she pulled out a dresser drawer and lined it with the last two towels.

“This’ll do for a crib until we can get something better,” she said. “We’re going to have a hell of a time taking showers tomorrow, though. We’ve used every last towel in the place.”

She took the drawer over to the bed.

“Thank you,” said Elizabeth. “For everything.”

“No sweat,” said Robin. “You take it easy and rest up. I figure there’s no rush to get to the hospital now. We’ll go in the morning.”

“Okay,” said Dean. “Goodnight.”


Robin left the room elated and down, both at the same time.

Chapter Twenty Five

time travel, science fiction, science fiction serial, time travel serialThe window of time in which the power pull was to occur was ridiculously short, unless, of course, you were spending the night on a park bench waiting for it to happen.

Roger shifted once more, hoping that the tree across from the Culpepper home would continue to provide sufficient cover, especially now that dawn lightened the sky over the square. Fortunately, the constables had only come by once, and had been noisy enough on their approach to warn even the deafest of malefactors.

Shifting again, Roger kept his gaze steady on the one lit window among the townhouses on the row. He put his spyglass to his eye once more and saw Robin bending over something, then sit back.

In his week in Bath, he’d had little trouble finding out all that Robin, Dean and Elizabeth had been up to. All he’d had to do is pose as the greengrocer’s assistant, and the Culpepper’s cook told him everything in exquisite detail. It hadn’t taken him long, either, to pin Donald down. Fortunately, Donald had developed the habit of not noticing his inferiors, making it even easier for Roger to remain unseen. Donald’s landlord had told Roger, again in the guise of the greengrocer’s assistant, all about the burglary in Donald’s room and the missing sack. And it had been perfectly easy to slip into the house, and Robin’s room, where Roger had found the parts and Robin’s work.

The problem had been deciding whether or not he should intervene. After all, it was possible that it would be him and not Robin who would generate that power pull. Roger had decided to wait, but as the night continued to fade, he debated intervening again. He furtively checked a small dial he had under his sleeve. Nothing had registered yet.

Except that the dial began to glow just as Roger caught a flash of light from Robin’s window. That was it. He put the spyglass to his eye again and saw a look of horror on Robin’s face. Roger hurried over to the house. Given all that cook had had to say yesterday afternoon, Roger could understand Robin’s horror. Whatever had happened, she had every reason to believe all was lost. The poor thing had no way of knowing she’d just saved herself and the other two.

Silently, Roger slipped through the sleeping house. He stopped at the upstairs doorway, listening. Robin’s soft sobs were on the other side. He eased the door open, slid through and quietly shut the door.

The charred mess on the work table told the story. Roger chuckled softly. Still engulfed in tears, Robin didn’t seem to hear. Roger cleared his throat.

“Dean?” she sniffed as she turned around. She jumped. “Oh!” Wiping her eyes, she composed herself. “Oh. Roger.”

He smiled. “Hello.”

“How did you find us?”

Roger pointed. “Your experiment on the table there.”

“This?” Robin almost burst into tears again. “It just blew up on me.”

Roger looked at it more closely. “Well, all the chips are in the right place. Which one originally blew?”

“That one.” Robin pointed.

“That makes sense, then what..? Ah, here’s the answer. Tin solder, isn’t this?”

“Yeah. It’s not very pure, either. I had to use the lead powder the ladies use on their faces to mix with it.”

Roger shook his head. “It wasn’t the lead. Tin can’t conduct ion frequencies. It overloads, as you just saw.”

“Oh.” Robin sniffed. “I did my best.”

“A pretty impressive best, I assure you.” Roger gently put his hand on her back.

Robin snorted. “Not really. I ripped off the parts from Mr. Neddrick, I mean Farquhar.”

“Donald Long.” Roger’s voice didn’t quite sneer, but Robin could tell that Donald was not one of Roger’s favorite people. “That’s his real name.”

“I don’t know why he’s after us,” she said.

“When you say ‘why,’ are you asking what’s his external objective, or the psychological issues driving his behavior?” Roger settled himself on the end of Robin’s bed.

Sniffing, Robin chuckled. “He seems to want Elizabeth.”

“That would be the external objective. Although I’m sure now he’d like to take care of you and Dean, as well.”

“Ah. The ever-popular revenge theme.” Robin sighed. “But why was he so hot on Elizabeth?”

Roger shook his head. “It’s not so much Elizabeth as it is taking over the experiment she was involved in. I must confess it was originally his idea. And I not only gave him the credit for it, he got to make the presentation to our board. The Board simply decided that Donald might be less than humane in the execution, so they gave it to me instead.”


Roger smiled guiltily. “I know it sounds awful, but I promise you, the whole project was thoroughly vetted so that it would be completely respectful of Elizabeth’s identity and privacy and freedom of choice.” He paused. “As far as she could make a choice. When we chose her to remove and bring forward, I could only promise a certain adventure and myself as her husband. She wasn’t capable of understanding the rest.”

“Oh.” Robin thought. “Uh oh. You’re not still planning on marrying her, are you?”

“That.” Roger sighed. “I’ve been told that she’s Dean’s wife, so I strongly suspect that Dean has made a stronger claim.”

“You have no idea how strong.” Robin looked at her time machine and sighed.

“Robin, you didn’t fail just now,” Roger said. “Given your lack of knowledge, and the lack of materials, you’ve given yourself a fighting chance. One of my colleagues was convinced that you three were forever lost. And when we saw that power pull, she was certain that Donald or I had generated it. She refused to believe that you could have been the one.”

“I guess.” Sadly Robin picked at a chip. “So you’re going to take us home now?”

“Yes.” He smiled as her face fell even further. “And I’ll get a trip forward to my time authorized for you. I’ve first got to figure out how we’re going to bring you forward, though. Of course, we do still have that set up where I put Elizabeth.”

Robin grimaced. “You mean put me into suspended animation? Why?”

“It’s one of the side effects of time travel,” Roger said, clearly not willing to say what that effect was. “You just don’t bring people beyond their natal time. That’s why Elizabeth was on the suspend an. Going beyond your own time could have all sorts of dire effects.”

“Hm.” Robin thought. “It must have been because I was only there a couple minutes.”

Roger looked at her, puzzled. “What?”

Robin smiled weakly. “Well, when we found Elizabeth… Actually, Dean found her first, then went and got me. Anyway, I started checking out the consoles you had in the room, and I sent myself to your time. That’s how I figured out it was a time machine.”

“And you suffered no ill effects?” Roger examined her. “You didn’t feel tired or as if you were older or something like that?”

“None that I know of.” Robin shrugged. “I was only there a couple minutes.”

“The length of your stay wouldn’t do it.” Roger looked at her still more closely, trying to decide what to do next.

“I came right back, to within three minutes of when I left.”

For the first time, Roger looked angry. “You didn’t. Damn you. Oh, hell. You wouldn’t know better. Robin, don’t ever try that again. The timetron is only accurate to within plus-minus three days. That’s why you never go to any time within a week of your previous visit or departure. You don’t want to run into yourself.”

Robin snorted. “I almost did. The only thing I can’t figure is why I was able to land back in the castle at the exact time and day I set and haven’t been able to since.”

Roger thought. “The power source. That’s one of the reasons I chose that castle to hide Elizabeth. There’s a power source there for the time machines. As it turned out, I was able to get the machine to set me down at the exact time I set it for, as well.” He sighed. “As you can see, Robin, there’s still a lot we don’t know about time travel, which makes it all the more dangerous for you to be traveling on your own. You know even less.”

Robin sighed. “I suppose.”

“Well.” Roger thought something over, then decided it was better not to say anything just then. “Let’s get your stuff packed.” He paused. “I’m curious. Which do you like more? The time machine or the history?”

Robin stopped clearing her work table long enough to think. “You would have to ask that. I mean the technology is so amazingly cool, even though I don’t understand it entirely. But I also love the history, really seeing the world as it was. That’s why we’ve been here so long. Well, in the seventeenth century. We were trying to go back home when the machine blew. I should have figured out that Elizabeth wasn’t going fit in after the second village we went to tried to hang us.”

“What happened in the first?” Roger asked.

“Oh, we ran afoul of a very narrow-minded clergyman and got ourselves accused of witchcraft.”

“I see. And the second village?”

“That was the crooked steward. We ran a better inn than he did.” Robin smiled. “In a way, I wish we could have stayed. We’d made a lot of friends in the village. I really got a kick out of talking to the pastor. He went to Oxford. As a matter of fact, I think he knew an ancestor of mine. He said I was just like this Lady of Hawkesland.”

“Hawkesland?” Roger looked at her with amused amazement.

Robin, busy stuffing her sack, didn’t notice. “Something like that. He seemed really thrown because I was a man, or he thought I was. The lady’s husband was Lord James Haverfield, Earl of Hawkesland. Lady Eleanor was her name. That’s funny. I just thought. Eleanor is my middle name. What a bizarre coincidence.”

Roger swallowed. “More bizarre than you think. Maybe I’d better go wake Dean and Elizabeth.”

“Wait.” Robin put her hand on his arm. “Why are you letting go of Elizabeth so easily?”

“Because I never thought the experiment would work in the first place,” Roger said, although there was clearly more to be said.

“Is there some other reason why this experiment is important, Roger? I mean why would this Board thoroughly vet things, and want to make sure you’d be humane about it for something this, uh, Donald wanted to do on a whim. Especially since you didn’t think it would work.”

Roger sighed. “I can’t really tell you. Except…” He looked at her thoughtfully. “Well, I expect you’re going to know sooner or later. Our world is facing the extinction of humankind. For a lot of complicated reasons that we really haven’t got time to go into now, fertility rates are so low, it’s entirely possible that humans will die out in another three or four generations. If something isn’t done very, very soon, the gene pool will get too small to regenerate.”

“But what about fertility treatment? Even in my time, there’s a lot that can be done.”

Roger winced. “Most of those advances are now outlawed, and for very good reason.” He stopped as he heard movement below. “Another very long story. And it sounds like we’d better get a move on.”

Robin decided to wake Dean and Elizabeth, herself. The two were packed within minutes, largely because they didn’t want to bring much with them, and what they did want had been packed the night before in anticipation of being kicked out.

Robin decided that the least she could do is leave a note for Sir James, but when she went to deliver it, she found Sir James emerging from his wife’s rooms, wearing his dressing gown and nothing else. Sir James went beet red, but with embarrassment.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” Robin stammered. “I didn’t think you would be up so early.”

“Well, I…” He coughed politely, then smiled. “I’ve been thinking about what you said yesterday afternoon.”

“Oh, I apologize for that, sir.”

He waved her off. “Perhaps it was said in haste, but there was the bitterness of truth in those words. I like to think of myself as a rational man, which means I should be able to bear the truth, even when unpleasant. I owe you an apology, Mr. Parker. You and your brother and sister-in-law have always shown tremendous loyalty to me and to my family. I should never have doubted you. I am a changed man, Mr. Parker. What on earth is that?”

Banging sounds and the cries of the kitchen staff echoed up through the hall.

“Sir!” yelped the cook’s son from below stairs. “It’s Mr. Farquhar. He’s brought a gang of men. They’re wrecking the kitchen!”

“He’s angry about that contract,” Sir James said to Robin. Then he called downstairs. “Send Mr. Farquhar to me in the back salon.”

“But he’s after the Parkers!” the cook’s son bellowed back.

“He’ll find them there.” Sir James turned to Robin. “Get your brother and his wife out of here. I don’t know how long I can hold him.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Robin ran upstairs. Roger, who had heard the commotion, was just emerging from her room.

“It’s Farquhar,” she gasped. “I mean whatever you said his name was. He’s apparently after us and brought the cavalry with him to make sure he gets us.”

“Nothing like an enlightenment to ruin a favorite tactic,” said Roger.


“Charges of witchcraft.”

Robin shook her head. “Never mind that. Sir James said he’d try to hold him in the back salon.

“Excellent.” Roger went to the door. “I’ll see what I can do to calm him down.”

He left as Robin gathered her two sacks together and took a last look at the room. Then she hurried to Dean and Elizabeth’s room, knowing that they’d heard the commotion.

Only the cause of the commotion was already in Dean and Elizabeth’s room, assisted by two thugs, each of whom was bigger than Dean. Donald had one hand wrapped tightly around Elizabeth’s upper arm and the muzzle of a pistol pressed against her temple.

“Perfect,” Donald said. “I have everything I need.” He nodded at the thugs. “Marshall, Timkins, you will take care of the Messers Parker, just as I told you. As much as I’d like to be around for that part, I’m afraid I’ve more important business with this young lady.”

“Except that your experiment has already failed,” Robin said coldly. “You might be able to put Elizabeth on the suspend an, but what about her baby?”

“What?” Donald looked at Elizabeth more closely. “Your daughter. How? And how do you know about the suspend an?”

“Roger’s here,” Robin said. “In this house.”

“Damn, it’s a trap.” Donald waved at the thugs. “Go find this Roger. He’s the one I told you to keep a look out for. Find him now!”

The thugs were barely out of the door when Dean pounced on Donald. The two rolled on the floor with Dean’s hands locked on the wrist of the hand that still held the pistol. Robin pulled Elizabeth and the sacks from the room.

“Is this everything?” Robin whispered to Elizabeth.

“Yes. Dean said we won’t need much where we’re going.”

Robin glanced down the hallway. The thugs had hurried down the servants’ stairs, leaving the door to the stairwell wide open. Dean burst into the hallway, slamming the door shut just as the crack of pistol fire went off.

Robin and Elizabeth scurried after him down the front stairs. At the next to last landing, Robin paused.

“I’ve got to get Roger,” she said. “You two get to the cathedral as fast as you can. We’ll meet you at the communion table.”

“But” said Dean.

“It’ll be harder for them to catch us if we split up,” said Robin.

She waited just long enough to make sure Dean and Elizabeth were down the stairs, then Robin headed toward the back salon.

As she came up on the room, she could hear the scuffling going on within. Flattening herself against the hallway wall next to the door, Robin eased around the open doorway and peered into the salon.

Roger was locked in a wrestling match with either Marshall (or Timkins), with Sir James, now dressed, but looking somewhat disheveled, backed into the sideboard across from Robin, a pistol limply grasped in one hand. Timkins (or Marshall) lay in a corner unconscious. Donald was on the other side of the doorway from Robin, but far enough into the room that he couldn’t see her.

Donald still had his pistol, but instead of aiming at Roger, he raised it toward Sir James. Robin rolled the rest of the way into the room, grabbed an inkwell off a nearby table and hurled it at Donald. The inkwell caught him in the upper arm, and though Donald recoiled, he didn’t drop the pistol. He whirled around and finally saw Robin.

“That’s it, Farquhar,” Robin hissed. “Leave Sir James out of this. I’m the one you want and we all know it.”

“Yes, you are,” Donald said, smiling and raising the pistol.

Robin’s eyes were glued to the muzzle and it seemed like an eternity before the gun went off. The odd thing was that the shot went wild, shattering a China sconce behind her to the left. Slowly, she realized that Donald was on the ground, a gasping Sir James above him and looking quite pleased with himself.

“I’ve sent Samuel for the constable,” Sir James said over the crashing sound of a desk splintering under the weight of two grappling men.

Roger was on top, but Marshall (or Timkins) scrambled out from underneath and took off running. Donald slowly pulled himself to his knees but Sir James applied his foot to Donald’s backside and gently knocked him back down. Roger got up, panting.

“Well, Sir James,” Robin said. “You saved my life. I guess we’re even.”

“Yes, well a good clerk is worth a great deal,” Sir James said.

“I’m just afraid we can’t stay,” said Robin. “My friend, Roger, here, has brought me good news of my family’s fortunes and Dean and I must go and oversee everything. Thank you for everything, sir.”

“Wait!” Sir James mopped off his face. “You said that Mr. Farquhar here really wanted you?”

“Yeah,” said Robin. “That’s part of the news. He was, uh, my father’s business partner who had heard about the reversal of our bad fortune and wanted Dean and me out of the way. I had never liked him. In any case, that was why he wanted to marry Miss Deborah. To get at us. I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t prove it and he didn’t because, well, it’s obvious he couldn’t.”

“Hm,” said Sir James. “That explains why you didn’t support the match. All’s well that ends well, I say. Are you sure you must leave?”

“Yes, and quickly, sir. Um, my mother is all alone and needs protection.”

“I see. Well, God speed.”

“You, too, sir.”

Roger nodded. “It was good to meet you, sir. Perhaps we shall meet again under more pleasant circumstances.”


Donald lifted his head. “Robin Parker. Do you know who the father of Elizabeth’s baby is?”

Robin glared at him. “Of course I do.”

“Don’t be too sure,” Donald growled with a snigger.

“Oh, hush, you vile creature.” Sir James kicked Donald in the side for emphasis.

Robin nodded at Sir James then she and Roger hurried out.

“We’d better not count on Sir James being able to hang onto Donald that long,” Roger said as they got onto the street. He paused long enough to grin at her. “That was some pretty fast thinking.”

Robin shrugged. “I told Dean we’d meet them at the cathedral.”

“All right. Follow me.” Roger started down the next alley.

Robin stopped him. “Do you know where you’re going?”

“Yes. I’ve been here several times.”

“When, and how long ago?” Robin glared.

“About twenty years past, and twelve years back on my natal time continuum.” Roger grinned. “And I’ve been here for a week already.”

“Great. I’ve been living here for the past six months. We’ll go through the marketplace.” Robin headed down the street.

“You are stubborn, young lady,” said Roger, scrambling after her.

Robin didn’t bother to glare at him. “Don’t you ‘young lady’ me. You’re just a kid, yourself.”

“I’m a lot older than I look.”

“They all say that.” Robin looked behind her. “Damn. He’s coming, and he’s got reinforcements. Let’s go.”

Donald shouted as he and three more thugs came after them. Robin and Roger dashed into the market, already busy with the common man’s business. They dashed around stalls, hoping to lose Donald and company. The four men spread out and covered a lot of ground fast.

Robin and Roger wound up backed into a corner next to stacks of cages containing chickens.

“Don’t say it,” Robin grumbled as they ducked behind the cages.

“Say what?” asked Roger.

“I told you so.”

Roger shrugged. “We can still get out of this. But we should split up. You take my timetron.”

Robin pushed it back at him. “How will you get back?”

“We have ways.” Roger shoved the time machine into her hands. “It’s too complicated to go into now. That’s another reason you shouldn’t be time traveling. Promise me you won’t until I get to you.”

“All right. Only to get home. I promise. But how will you find us?”

Roger looked back into the marketplace. “You’ll want to hide. Find someplace you can stay for a couple weeks. And use money, if at all possible. Your debit and credit cards can be traced, although I don’t think Donald has been able to break into those records. Then, when you’re settled, turn the machine on for a couple minutes and turn it right off. Donald can’t trace this machine, but I can. Now, go!”

Roger reached up and pushed over the cages. Squawking hens went everywhere. Roger took off right away. Donald and the others chased after him. Robin waited a moment, then ran off in the other direction.

A minute later, she arrived at the cathedral, panting heavily. Dean and Elizabeth appeared from a side apse as she came clattering up the aisle.

“Come on,” Robin gasped. “Roger’s led them off after him, but they’ll be after us as soon as they discover I’m not with him.”

Robin led them outside and around the building’s side to a courtyard lined with shops. The Summer Gardens were across the square and down some stairs. On the other side of the gardens was the Avon River. Robin hurried Dean and Elizabeth there.

The gardens were deserted at that early hour. Pleasure boats for rowing on the river lay piled on the bank in anticipation of the winter. Dean and Robin turned one over and set it in the water. Carefully, they got Elizabeth on board and shoved off.

Just over an hour later, Robin decided that they had gone far enough downstream. She and Dean maneuvered the boat aground.

“Okay,” said Robin when they were all safely on the shore. “Let’s all get touching.”

“Uh, Robin,” Dean said. “Shouldn’t we be trying to get more modern?”

Robin smiled softly as she entered coordinates. “Actually, I think we’ll be safer if we stay period. We’re going back to L.A. People will probably think we’re on some sort of movie shoot, but if anyone asks, we can tell them we’re part of a living history group. Everyone touching?”

Certain that everyone was, Robin took a deep breath and focused on home.


Needs em dash [AB1]

Chapter Twenty Four

time travel, science fiction, science fiction serialMasked and gloved, Robin gently turned the knob on the door to Farquhar’s room. It was locked. What would otherwise be considered odd didn’t surprise Robin in the least. But it did make things more difficult.

Fumbling in the dark of the hallway, she found the broken key she’d brought along and slowly inserted it in the lock. She had practiced on all the doors at the Culpepper house. The key had worked there. Robin’s nerves were on edge, which made the extra twists necessary. The gloves weren’t necessary at all, except that Robin couldn’t remember when fingerprinting was discovered, and she wasn’t about to take any chances.

The door opened with a loud squeak. Robin’s heart stopped. She looked up and down the hallway. No one stirred. She slipped in and shut the door.

About fifty years before, it had been made mandatory that all houses in Bath be responsible for lighting the streets. The lamp kept by the inn shone its light through the open window.

As Robin searched, she wondered how much longer Deborah would keep Farquhar occupied. It was a little strange that he had come visiting on a Monday night, but Robin wasn’t complaining.

She hurried through the chest at the foot of the bed. It was empty but for a couple shirts and a pair of breeches. The wardrobe cabinet was empty, too. Robin softly tapped on the walls, and everywhere else she could think of, hoping for a secret panel. She didn’t find one.

Under the bed was a cloth sack. Robin grabbed it. There was something lightweight in the bottom, not the time machine. It was in pieces, whatever it was.

That’s when Robin heard the step in the hallway. She scrambled out of the window onto the ledge outside.

She made it out just in time. Farquhar burst the door open. She heard him angrily stomping about the room, searching.

Robin crept along the narrow ledge. She almost lost her grip when a dangling rope bumped her. Catching her breath and her composure, she recognized what it was. It was connected to a beam at the top and center of the house. Weighted at the bottom, and on pulleys, it was used to bring invalids and furniture too big for the narrow doorways into the house.

Robin tugged at it. It had plenty of tension on it. She took a deep breath. Three stories was a long drop to the hard cobbles below. But then she heard Farquhar rousing the house. She gripped the rope and floated down.

She hit the pavement just as the front door opened. Running hard, she dodged into the first alley she could find. Farquhar and his landlord pursued. As she turned the first corner she came across, she removed the mask and gloves. She stuffed them in the sack she still had and stuffed all that under her waistcoat. Two more quick turns, and she figured she might be safe enough for a quick rest and readjustment.

There was a garbage heap next to her. She dumped the gloves and mask there, under some rotting cabbage. The sack folded around its pieces into a small flat bundle about the size of her palm. This she stuffed down the front of her pants.

She heard Farquhar’s shout come from the street she’d just left. She ran again, around one corner, then another, straight into someone. He flailed about, further entangling Robin.

It took some effort, but as Robin began to disentangle herself, she realized she’d run into Morgan. He reeked of stale brandy and bad perfume.

“Who are you?” He squinted at Robin and veered.

“It’s me, Parker,” Robin hissed. An idea hit her. Morgan was too drunk to know the difference. She could say anything now and he’d swear it was true. “I’m taking you home again. I picked you up a while ago, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” Morgan belched.

“Come on.” Robin steered him out of the alley onto the main street.

They’d only gone a short distance when Farquhar dashed out from a side street. His landlord appeared a moment later.

“There you are!” Farquhar exclaimed, stopping Robin and Morgan. “You broke into my room!”

“Me?” Robin looked taken aback. “Why on earth would I do that?”

“You know why,” Farquhar snapped. “You were there, not five minutes ago.”

Robin smiled. “I beg your pardon, sir. Five minutes ago, I was wrestling Mr. Morgan, here, out of a bordello in the immediate neighborhood.”

“You’re lying!” Farquhar screamed.

“Sir,” the landlord pointed out. “The man we were chasing had on a mask and gloves.”

“You’ll find them back there somewhere.” Farquhar snapped.

“Even if you do,” Robin said. “It still doesn’t prove I was wearing them.”

“Search him!” Farquhar ordered the landlord. “He’s got my sack.”

The landlord nervously patted Robin’s waistcoat pockets.

“He’s not carrying anything, sir,” the landlord said.

Farquhar glared at her. “Very well, then. I’ll deal with you tomorrow.”

“Good evening, then.” Robin nodded, then pushed Morgan on home.

At the house, she dumped Morgan in his room, then went to her own and lit a candle. She removed the sack from her pants and opened it. The pieces were small circuit chips, just like the ones inside her machine. Her heart leaped with joy. If she couldn’t have the machine, these were the next best thing. She spent the rest of the night poring over the chips, trying to decide which ones she needed.

She was still very sleepy the next afternoon when Sir James called her into his salon.

“Mr. Parker,” he said severely. “Mr. Farquhar was just here and he made some very nasty accusations against you.”

Robin nodded. “I’m not surprised, sir. He made the same accusations last night.”


“I didn’t do it.” Robin shrugged. “I was bringing Mr. Morgan home.”

“He obviously can’t prove otherwise, but I’ve reason to believe he may have something in his accusation, though I didn’t say anything of the sort to him. I overheard one of the servants mention she’d seen you trying to unlock the front salon door with a broken key.”

“Oh.” Robin briefly debated denying it, but realized that if one had talked, the others would soon enough.

“Have you nothing else to say for yourself, Mr. Parker?”

“I’m sorry, sir. I must confess, I did break into Mr. Farquhar’s room. But I beg of you, please hear me out. I had a very good reason, sir.” Robin took a deep breath, trying to remember all the strands of the excuse she’d made up the night before. “Deborah lost some letters she had written. They were innocent jokes, but in the wrong hands, they could have been extremely damaging. Unfortunately, Mr. Farquhar acquired them. He was holding them over Deborah’s head, and threatening to make them public. Deborah begged me to retrieve them. She also insisted that you not know about them. She had me swear I wouldn’t tell you. She was afraid you’d be hurt, so I must ask you not to say anything to her. It would upset her terribly if she was aware that you knew. Anyway, that’s what I went to Mr. Farquhar’s room for. I’ve since burnt them. I felt it was my duty to this family to protect it.”

“I see.” Sir James nodded. “Well, I can’t find any fault with that, although I disagree with your conclusions about Mr. Farquhar’s intentions. You have to watch out for Deborah. She tends to exaggerate a great deal. But you did what you should have under the circumstances. Don’t worry. I won’t mention the matter to her, as long as you’re certain the letters have been destroyed.”

“I even stirred up the ashes, sir.” Robin sighed with relief. Sir James was even easier to spin than she’d thought.

“Very good then. We’ll let Mr. Farquhar think someone else burgled him. Now about those accounts from yesterday.”

“Yes, sir. They’re right here.” Robin fetched them quickly.

The following Thursday was not a good day for anyone in the Culpepper house. It began an hour before dawn. Robin got up early to work on the time machine. She heated the iron poker from her fireplace and melted the sheet of tin she’d acquired. Holding her breath to prevent breathing in the deadly substance, she mixed in lead powder, a common cosmetic of the day.

As she put the top on the powder can, she heard movement from Morgan’s room. Something was afoot. Morgan never stirred before nine in the morning, and only rarely that early. Robin heard his door open and close.

She was torn. She needed the machine fixed as soon as possible. But if Morgan got into any more trouble before she could, it might endanger her position.

She grabbed a cloak and scarf. Hurrying out the front door, she spotted Morgan leaving the circle. She ran as swiftly as she could without clattering too loudly on the cobblestones. Morgan glared at her as she caught up.

“What are you doing here, Parker?” he sulked.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Robin said.

Morgan sniffed and held up his head. “I’m walking. Can’t a man have any peace?”

“Tony, you and I both know you don’t go walking around at five-thirty in the morning.” Robin roughly grabbed his shoulder. “Where the hell are you going?”

“Down the river a bit.”


Morgan groaned and looked away. “I got challenged to a duel.”

It was Robin’s turn to groan. “And you’re going to fight it?”

“What else can I do?” Morgan whined.

Robin shook him. “Plenty. Good lord, Tony, dueling’s illegal and stupid besides.”

“I don’t have any choice,” Morgan said resolutely.

“Don’t give me that. You forget everything else. Why do you have to remember this?”

“I will not be thought a coward.” Morgan twisted in her grip.

“Tony, with your memory, nobody will think that.”

“I’m sorry, Robin, I must.”

“Terrific.” Robin rolled her eyes, then decked him.

Morgan came to as Robin pulled him up from the ground.

“Hullo!” called a young gentleman of around twenty.

Robin turned to him and his three companions.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

“Mr. William Southby,” said the gentleman. “I’ve a duel to fight with that young man you’ve bagged.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Southby,” Robin replied. “Mr. Morgan is not in any shape to duel.”

Neither was Southby. He was steady on his feet, but with a tendency to list to his right. Morgan lurched up.

“I’ll fight you now!” he bellowed, and drew his pistol.

“Tony, you idiot!” Robin grabbed for it.

Morgan caught her wrong and she fell in front of him. There were two gun shots, and Morgan fell on top of her.

“The constables!” someone cried.

Morgan groaned. Robin eased herself out from underneath him. Morgan groaned again as she rolled him onto his back and bent over him. Blood oozed out of a hole in his right upper arm.

“Damn! Now you’ve gone and done it!” Robin yanked his handkerchief out of his coat pocket.

“What’s going on here?” an imposing constable asked.

“We were attacked,” Robin answered. “My friend here was shot. Could you help me get him home?”

It wasn’t very hard to bring Morgan along. The constable left them at the servants’ entrance to the house. The cook, Mrs. Ferris, was just up, and helped Robin bring Morgan in and lay him out on a work table.

“The master isn’t going to like this,” Mrs. Ferris commented as Robin eased Morgan out of his coat, waistcoat and shirt.

“No kidding. Here, bring that candle closer.” Robin probed the wound. “I’ll be damned. I can see the ball. Get me a bowl of clean water and that small pair of tongs. Good, you’ve got a kettle already boiling. Dip the tongs in there first.”

“But why?”

“Just do it. Thanks. Now hold that candle close again, and hold this arm down.” Swallowing back the bile, Robin inserted the small tongs.

Morgan flinched and moaned. Robin dug the ball out.

“Well, that’s that,” she sighed straightening. “Do you have any clean cloths for bandages?”

“Yes, here.”

Robin tied them on, then took Morgan upstairs to his room. After making sure no one was about, she went to her room and got the rubbing alcohol. She dosed the wound, then returned to her own room and collapsed on the bed.

Later that morning, Dean answered his summons to Lady Culpepper’s room with the usual dread.

“Oh, Mr. Dean,” she complained. “It’s my back again. You must rub it. No one else can help.”

Dean took a deep breath, but didn’t move. “M’lady, with all due respect, this is really making me nervous. What if your husband comes in?”

She sniffed. “He won’t. He’s too busy with his accounts. Now, hurry up and rub my back before I complain to him.”

“Yes, M’lady.” Defeated, Dean went to work.

Dean was rubbing the back of her neck, when Sir James knocked and walked in.

“Well, Sarah, I’m here at your request—  Parker! What are you doing?”

Dean yelped and bounced away.

“He insisted, James!” wailed Lady Culpepper. “It’s all his doing.”

“My doing?” Dean sputtered.

“Parker, to your quarters until further notice,” Sir James snapped. “And you may as well start packing.”

Furious, Dean stomped out. Robin had just powdered her hair when Dean burst into the room. He explained angrily what had happened. Robin swore.

“I think she set me up, too,” Dean grumbled. “Sir James was talking like she’d asked him in there.”

Robin groaned. “Shit! How could I have missed it? Of course, she set you up, Dean. Good lord, last Sunday. Don’t you remember before dinner when she was flirting so outrageously with you?”

“That was hell,” Dean said.

“No. That was trying to get Sir James jealous.”

Dean grimaced. “Like, duh. Why the hell didn’t I see that coming?”

“At least now I know how to spin it,” Robin said. “I’m not blaming you, Dean. It’s not your fault.” A bell rang. “That’s Sir James. Listen. Whatever you do, stay put. You can’t afford to take off with Elizabeth in her current shape. And I might have the machine fixed, so we really have to be sure we stay together now. Okay?”


Robin ran downstairs to the salon. There she found two constables in the salon with Sir James.

“Mr. Parker, what is the meaning of this?” Sir James demanded.

Robin smiled as ingratiatingly as she could. “Of what, sir?”

“These two gentlemen say you were involved in a duel this morning, and that you’ve been passing bad notes.”

“I was trying to prevent the duel, sir.” Robin took a deep breath. “As for the bad notes… Well, begging your pardon, sir, I’m afraid Mr. Morgan has been using my name as cover for his misdeeds, which, no doubt, he will not remember. I do have a witness I can bring forward who will confirm that this has happened.”

Sir James snorted. “What about this duel?”

“Mr. Morgan again, I’m afraid.” Robin shrugged. “I caught him leaving this morning. I was bringing him back when his opponent showed up, and they both drew guns. Before I could stop them, they fired. Mr. Morgan received a flesh wound in his upper right arm. I removed the ball already. I checked him about half an hour ago. He’s a little feverish, but he should heal well, providing he doesn’t take sick from it. I don’t think he will. The wound looks clean enough.”

“Are you satisfied, gentlemen?” Sir James turned to the constables.

“We’ve only his word for it,” replied one.

“What would it profit me to place the blame on my master’s nephew?” Robin said. “If I were to accuse him wrongly, it might save me from you, but would have dire consequences from my master. Besides losing my position, he’d probably hand me right back to you. I would be in just as bad a shape.”

They couldn’t argue with that, and so left. Sir James glared at Robin.

“You were supposed to prevent trouble,” he said, finally.

“I did my best, sir. I truly regret that it wasn’t good enough. However, it could have been much worse if I hadn’t followed him.”

Sir James growled in defeat. He left the room to go sulk in his chambers. Robin went about her work.

Around three in the afternoon, Elizabeth left with Deborah for a walk. An hour later, Elizabeth returned with a letter for Sir James. She and Robin watched as Sir James’ face turned bright red with fury as he read the letter.

“Sir?” Robin asked. “What’s wrong?”

“What do you know about this?” He turned on her.

Robin looked back, puzzled. “About what?”

“She ran off and got married!” Sir James sputtered.

“She what?” Elizabeth gasped.

“Got married! To that little mouse with the title.” Sir James paced the room furiously.

“May I see the letter, sir?” Robin neatly detached it from his hand as he prowled past.

“How could she?” the older man fumed, then turned on Robin and Elizabeth as they read the letter. “And how could you let her?”

“Begging your pardon, sir, we didn’t let her do anything,” said Elizabeth. “She merely told me that she’d forgotten a shawl here at the house and asked me to fetch it back and at the same time deliver the letter to you personally. Otherwise, she would have sent the footman.”

“And you?”

Robin gulped. She doubted explaining that she’d been too busy trying to keep Morgan out of trouble would sooth the angry man.

“I had no way of knowing, sir,” she said. “I don’t see much of your daughter at all.”

Sir James sputtered again. “You knew nothing of this? Either of you?”

“No, sir,” said Robin.

“And who does she marry? Viscount Edward Acton.” Sir James snorted. “One of those young titled hellions. Damn and blast! And after I worked so hard to find a responsible young man for her.”

“Sir, if I may be so bold,” Robin said carefully. “I’ve come across this Lord Edward, and I understand he’s not like his peers that way. I also understand that the Duke of Cliveton, his father is a very virtuous man, and very powerful, in spite of his rather small duchy.”

“Small comfort that is in light of a willful daughter! Damn and blast! It’s all her mother’s fault. She spoiled the girl with all these notions of a rich and titled husband. Marrying well. Bah!” Sir James suddenly stopped in his tracks. “Oh, my god, how am I going to tell Sarah?” His eye fell on Elizabeth and Robin could see the painful memory of that morning flashing before him.

Robin decided to pretend that she knew nothing about it. “Sir, as you just said, Her Ladyship has been very much in favor of your daughter getting just such a husband. Perhaps if you emphasized that.”

“Enough of your effrontery, Mr. Parker. Do you think I’m as easily managed as the rest of my family?” Sir James’ again grew alarmingly red. “You and your brother have brought nothing but trouble to this house. And after I showed you nothing but the greatest of kindnesses!”

“We are indebted, Sir James,” Robin said through her teeth.

“And this is how you repay me?”

Robin lost it. “How I…? I’ve only busted my hump for you! And you had trouble brewing long before we got here. Who was keeping an eye on Mr. Morgan before I came along? Huh? I heard about those fines you had to pay for him back in London. And if you really wanted your daughter to be sensible, why the heck didn’t you teach her to do your books? Instead, you let her lay around all day with nothing but romantic poems and novels and then you wonder why she’s trying to live a fairy tale. And as for your wife, maybe if you’d spent some time paying attention to her, she wouldn’t have had to come on to my brother to get you jealous enough to notice her!”

“Wha-what? Jealous?” Sir James was beyond speech, but Robin noticed that he was sort of listening.

“Yes. She wanted you to pay attention to her. She doesn’t care about Dean. She cares about you. Didn’t she send for you this morning? You can’t believe she forgot she had when she told Dean to rub her back, can you?”

“But she said…”

Robin rolled her eyes. “Do you honestly believe that after the way she chased Dean all over the salon Sunday past? Come on. He was glued to Elizabeth and doing everything he could to keep away from her. Why on earth would she be that obvious if she didn’t want you to notice her?”

Sir James kept opening his mouth and making little sounds, but no words formed.

“Bah!” he finally snorted and drew himself up. “Leave me! We’ll come to terms tomorrow.”

Robin swallowed. She didn’t like the sound of that.

Elizabeth went to comfort Dean. Robin finished her work for the day, then retired to her room. She spent the night sleeping off and on, working on the machine. She had to make it work. There was no doubt in her mind that she, Dean and Elizabeth would be thrown out onto the streets the next day.

And while Elizabeth was little more than six months along, she hadn’t once seen a doctor. There were all sorts of things that could go wrong, and there weren’t any hospitals where they were. They had to get home for the baby’s safety as well as Elizabeth’s.

As the night wore on, Robin became more and more driven by her fears. The troubled dreams she had when she dozed didn’t help. Robin could only guess that she was doing the right thing. Not knowing was almost worse than her fear of failure.

As dawn touched the sky, she sat back and surveyed her work. There was the generator she had built in the early days out of a coffee grinder and speaker wires from Dean’s iPhone, just to be doing something. The player, itself, had been torn apart for other possible parts. These were scattered about, mixed in with the parts she’d taken from Farquhar’s room. On a china plate sat the lump of improvised solder, with the long iron poker cooling next to it. In the middle of the mess was the time machine, with the cover removed. Robin had just finished soldering what she hoped was the right chip to the circuit card.

Taking a deep breath, she pressed the switch on the side. The top glowed. Robin smiled. Then a thin stream of smoke appeared. Bright sparks flew, and white smoke billowed over the whole circuit card. Robin bounced back.

When the smoke cleared, she poked at the card. Every last circuit had burnt out.

Robin gazed at it, numb. Slowly, the depth of the disaster sank in. Drained of hope, she rested her arms on the table, buried her face in them, and cried.

Chapter Twenty Three

time travel, science fiction serial, time travel serial, fiction serialDonald paced casually in the Culpepper drawing room. A time traveler developed patience naturally. At least, that’s what the Board said was true. Donald had his doubts about that. Still, the girl was within his grasp. That satisfied him, even if the ensuing formalities would take a little time to get through.

The only thing that bothered him was that he had not had a glimpse of her since that first day he had arrived. Or the others. He knew they were part of the household. His research on that score had been thorough enough. But since the few dinners he’d had with Sir James had failed to turn up the three, Donald was forced to woo that fool girl in an effort to insinuate himself into the household.

Robin, Dean and the girl had to be around someplace. He’d seen the girl, and that power pull had come from the Culpepper house. The girl hadn’t generated it. As far as Donald knew, she and the other two had no way of knowing he was there, so he doubted they were hiding. But where were they, especially Robin, who was the most dangerous of the three?

Donald shuddered. That Robin seemed to be staying one step ahead of him didn’t make sense. Donald idly wondered whether he wanted to get the girl or get Robin.

Sir James walked in.

“Ah, Mr. Farquhar, good day.” The old man seemed in a pleasant enough mood.

Donald nodded. “Good day, Sir James.”

“You do not wish to visit my daughter today?”

“Perhaps later.” Donald put on his most ingratiating smile. “I would like to discuss an urgent matter with you first.”

“Regarding?” Sir James signaled a young footman. “Some tea? The girl just brought it up.”

“Yes, I saw. Thank you.” Still smiling, Donald cursed inwardly. “The matter does concern your daughter.”

“Indeed.” Sir James rubbed his hands together expectantly.

Donald nodded at the footman as he accepted the cup of tea. “I’ve become quite fond of her.”

“Indeed.” Sir James’ eyebrow lifted as he watched the footman stand expectantly looking at Donald.

“I realize this is rather sudden.” Donald moved away from the footman. “But I’ve been given to understand that you are looking for a husband for her.”

“I am,” said Sir James, as he watched the footman elegantly sidle up next to Donald. “I am indeed.”

Donald turned an exasperated glare at the footman and moved away. “I would imagine she has quite a full list of suitors, but I should hate to lose my chance with her simply for lack of speaking my intentions, eh, sir.”


There was an awkward pause as the footman again placed himself expectantly next to Donald. Donald was about to move again when he suddenly remembered the blasted vail. It took no small effort to hide his disdain as he dropped the piece of silver into the young man’s hand. The footman, for his part, made no effort to hide his disdain as he withdrew.

“Insolent beasts,” Sir James grumbled cheerfully. “Now to your business. You’d like to be considered as a suitor, eh? Well, young man, what are you prepared to offer my daughter?”

“Fifty pounds a year allowance, plus any clothes she needs, and upon my death, should she survive me, her dowry and all my possessions, providing they go to our children upon her death.”

Sir James nodded. “Very generous.”

“I’ll also raise her allowance as my means prove capable.”

“Indeed.” Sir James smiled approvingly. “I must admit you make a very impressive offer. You’ve got very good references, too.” He paced about, musing. “Still, she is my only daughter. I would like to insure her happiness, as well.”

Donald clicked his heels. “I will make her happiness my foremost priority.”

“Indeed.” Sir James stopped pacing. “Well, Mr. Farquhar, I think I can see my way to letting you press your suit. Let’s not say anything to Deborah or Her Ladyship just yet. Take some time and win my daughter’s heart first. We can draw up a preliminary contract Tuesday afternoon, if you will.”

“Very good, sir. Thank you.”

“Would you like to see Deborah now?”

“I would, thank you.”

Outside in the hall, Robin ran up the stairs. She knocked first on Dean and Elizabeth’s door, then burst in when admitted.

“Damn and blast!” She slammed the door shut.

“What’s the matter?” asked Dean. He had his breeches on and lounged on the bed. Elizabeth rested at the table.

“Neddrick, alias Farquhar.” Robin leaned on the door. “He just asked Sir James for Deborah’s hand, and Sir James all but handed it over.”

“Oh, no!” gasped Elizabeth.

“Oh, no is right,” grumbled Robin. “The only thing I can figure is that he’s marrying Deborah to get at you, Elizabeth. But why?”

Elizabeth thought. “Perhaps he hopes to get to us by joining the household. He strikes me as too proud to come in as a servant.”

“But how could he know we’re here?” asked Dean.

“I have no idea,” said Robin. “But he must. Why else would we be taking such a drastic measure to insinuate himself into the family?”

“We’ll have to quit,” grumbled Dean.

Robin glared at him. “And where are we going to find jobs? People don’t just change employers willy nilly here, you know.”

“Well, how much longer before you get the machine fixed?” Dean complained.

Robin sighed. “Dean, there’s a good chance I’ll never get that machine fixed. Half the materials it’s made from haven’t been discovered yet.”

“So boost Neddrick’s,” said Dean.

“It looks like I’ll have to,” Robin said.

Elizabeth shook her head. “I know you don’t like stealing, Robin, but it is the only way.”

“That’s for sure.” Robin began to pace. “You’re certainly in no shape to run for it. Not to mention it’s getting harder to cover up your condition.”

“I know.” Elizabeth pulled her India gown over her ample belly. “But if I must run, I must. Until then we must do what we can to save Deborah.”

“We do have to do that much,” Robin grumbled. “What are the odds of Lord Edward getting in there before the contract is drawn up?”

“So long even Anthony wouldn’t bet on them,” Dean snorted.

Robin winced. “We’ve really got to light a fire under that clown now, if we’re going to keep Elizabeth out of Neddrick’s hands and keep our jobs.”

“Well.” Dean got up. “That’s my job. I’ll leave the felonies to you, Robby.”

“You’re so generous, Dean.” Robin’s lip curled. “The hard part is going to be finding out where Neddrick’s sacked out. I’m tied up here all day with Sir James, and all night with chasing Tony around. Elizabeth, why don’t we make that your assignment.”

Elizabeth frowned. “I’ll do my best. Perhaps if Deborah wrote him some sort of letter. I could have George deliver it instead of Andrew.”

“Andrew?” Robin asked.

“Deborah’s footman,” Dean explained.

“Yes,” said Elizabeth. “If George delivers it, then I could find out where. I might be able to get Andrew to tell me, but George is far more likely to.”

“That’s all very well and good,” said Robin. “But why on earth would Deborah want to write a letter to Mr. Farquhar? She doesn’t like him.”

Dean grinned suddenly. “I bet I could do it. I could write the letter for Deborah. I can forge her handwriting easy. I’ll write him a hate letter. I mean, who’s gonna know?”

“Uh, Deborah?” Robin replied. “And that’s just for starters. Dean, it’s insane.”

“Not really,” Elizabeth said. “Although I think it would be better if Deborah did the writing. I expect she’ll be calling for me any minute now, wanting to know how to discourage Mr. Farquhar. All I have to do then is suggest writing him a note saying that she’d prefer it if he focused his attentions elsewhere. There’s nothing improper in that, and all I have to do is see to it that George makes the delivery.”

It seemed simple enough. But Elizabeth couldn’t get Deborah to cooperate. Apparently, Sir James had let his daughter know that he highly approved of Mr. Farquhar and that she was not to discourage him. Dean was a little more successful with Lord Edward. While the nervous suitor refused to speak with Sir James, he did agree to ask Lady Culpepper’s advice in the matter. What occurred during the interview that Monday, Dean never found out. He avoided Her Ladyship as much as he could without losing his job.

Lady Culpepper sent for him constantly, to the point that Sir James began to notice her unusual interest in his clerk. Tuesday morning found Sir James fuming about it to Robin.

“Don’t think I’m accusing you, Parker.” he grumbled. “But I wonder if your brother is aware of how indiscreet such things are.”

“He’s very aware of it, sir.” Robin replied. “He’s trying to avoid the situation, but, well, this is very awkward, sir.”

“I’ll be damned if it isn’t. I know what you’re trying to say.”

“I don’t mean to offend or accuse, sir,” said Robin, nervously. “It’s just the way things appear. I’m sure Her Ladyship’s intentions are perfectly innocent, as are my brother’s. He just doesn’t know how to handle it properly.”

Sir James sighed. “Your lies are very kind, Parker. I’ve heard the servants talking, and I’m not the blind old fool they think. Her Ladyship is behaving exactly as it appears. Well, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be a cuckold, even if I have to remove a perfectly good clerk from my household.”

Robin gulped. “Yes, sir.”

“I can see you don’t like the idea. I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it. I refuse to be made a fool of by a member of my own household, even if it’s innocently.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The greatest difficulty is that he has made himself quite indispensable.” Sir James began pacing. “I’ll have to find someone else to take his position before I let him go.” He stopped and looked at Robin. “Pray don’t say anything to your brother just yet. It will take some time to find a replacement and I shouldn’t like him to be uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, sir,” Robin replied as she pondered how she could sabotage Sir James’ employee search.

There was a knock on the door.

“Yes?” Sir James asked.

The door opened.

“Mr. Farquhar is here,” said the butler.

“Thank you, Barnes. Send him up.”

Robin waited until the door had shut. “I’d better get those other accounts done, sir. They’re in my room.”

“No. I’ll need you to take dictation.” Sir James popped open his snuff box and took a pinch.

“Why don’t I get Morgan?” Robin fought to keep her voice steady. “He’s much faster at it than I am.”

Sir James snuffled, then dabbed at his nose with a lacy handkerchief. “This is too important to take a chance on Anthony messing it up. And I don’t want to have to remember all the details when you come back to get the corrections when you re-do his work.”

“Yes, sir.” Robin swallowed and resolved to remain cool. She didn’t think Neddrick would take a chance on telling Sir James she was from another time, if only because she could make the same accusation.

When Farquhar came in and saw her, a brief smile flickered across his face.

“Good day, Mr. Farquhar,” said Sir James cheerfully.

Farquhar smiled again. “Good day, Sir James.”

“I’m glad to see you’re on time.” Sir James dabbed at his nose again. “This is my clerk, Parker. He’ll be taking down the contract as we dictate it.”

“He will?” Farquhar stressed the “he” with an insinuating glance at Robin.

“Parker is an excellent clerk,” protested Sir James. “His work is extremely accurate. I have every confidence in his abilities.”

Farquhar simpered smugly. “I beg your pardon, Sir James. I wasn’t questioning his abilities. Merely… Well, he does seem rather young. No beard to speak of.”

Robin glared back at Farquhar. “Sir James is aware of my unfortunate accident.”

“Ahem. Indeed,” said Sir James, growing a little red in the face. “Not something one wishes to discuss.”

Robin turned back to Sir James. “Excuse me, sir, what is the contract we are to draw up?”

“We are going to start a marriage contract between Mr. Farquhar and Deborah,” said Sir James proudly.

“Mr. Farquhar?” Robin feigned surprise. “I understood it was the other young man that Deborah favored.”

“That letter writer? Bah!” Sir James grandly whipped out his handkerchief. “If he hasn’t the nerve to show himself, then he shan’t have my daughter.”

Robin shot an icy glance at Farquhar. “Perhaps he’s waiting to be sure he’s won the mistress’s heart, rather than going ahead and marrying a woman who doesn’t like him very much.”

“What rot. I did and I’ve managed—” Sir James stopped suddenly. “I’ll take that into consideration, Parker. Eh. This isn’t the final contract, in any case. Fetch your quills and paper. We’ve work to do.”

“Yes, sir.”

That evening, Robin fumed in Dean and Elizabeth’s room.

“He promised the damned moon!” she groaned. “And I had to take it all down, knowing damned well he has no intention of keeping it. What’s worse, he’ll get off scot free. He’ll take off for another time, and never get caught.”

Elizabeth nodded. It was pointless to remind Robin of the increasing pressure. Robin was all too aware of it.

Two nights later, a Thursday, Robin lost Morgan again. He left quite a trail. Robin made all the usual inquiries, including ones at the brothel, and a couple others, and found that Morgan had stopped in at most of the places and left before she arrived.

She was closing in on him, when, as she left a tavern, two largish men met her at the door, and escorted her to a deserted road.

“We understand your name is Robin Parker,” said one, a pasty looking fellow with a large brown mole on his chin.

“Yes.” Robin answered.

“Last Monday night, you played a few rounds with our master, Mr. Beverton, and lost quite a bit of money.”

Robin frowned. “I don’t believe so. I don’t know any Mr. Beverton, and I spent Monday night attending my master in his home.”

“Mr. Parker, you signed your name to several notes, and promised Mr. Beverton should have the money Tuesday.” The man’s grip tightened on Robin’s arm. “It’s Thursday, and Mr. Beverton has received no money.”

“I don’t sign notes.” Glaring, Robin pulled herself up.

“You did Monday.”

“I was… Oh, damn! That Morgan!” Robin added a few other epithets. “I know what happened. A colleague of mine has signed my name to his notes. Take me to your Mr. Beverton. He’ll tell you I wasn’t the one who gambled with him Monday night.”

The man with the mole on his chin thought it over, then nodded at his companion. They escorted Robin to a coffee house frequented by gentlemen. Mr. Beverton sat at a table playing cards with Morgan. He looked up as he noticed his servants entering.

“Ah, Daniels, Simpson,” Beverton said as they came up. “I needn’t have sent you out after Mr. Parker. Here he is. Who is this young man?”

“The real Robin Parker,” Robin growled. She yanked Morgan up out of his chair. “Tony Morgan, you are dead meat. I oughta turn you in to your uncle!”

“No! Robin, please don’t!” Swaying only a little, Tony seemed much more sober than he probably was.

Robin rolled her eyes. “Are you paid up?”

“To me, he is.” Mr. Beverton smiled. “In fact, he’s even won a little.”

“Aren’t you one lucky SOB.” Robin scooped up the coins. “Well, if you can lose in my name, you can win for me also. Thanks for the money. Mr. Beverton, my pleasure.”

Robin shoved Morgan out of the coffee house. “All right, you brainless alky. How many other notes have you signed my name to?”

Morgan shrugged. “I don’t know. Not many. A few.”

“I’ll bet.”

“How much?” Morgan burped and giggled.

“Get out of here!” Robin tightened her grasp so Morgan cried out. Furious, she propelled him home.

The next day, she had another piece of dubious luck. Sir James wanted a message sent to Mr. Farquhar’s lodgings. Though Robin knew that message delivery was Samuel’s job, she decided to use her footman’s sour disposition as an excuse and delivered the note, herself.

Farquhar was out when she arrived. Robin debated for a moment, then decided it would be worth it to look around, at least. Given that Farquhar was expected back at any minute, she doubted she’d be able to steal the machine, but she’d be able to get the lay of the land, as it were, for a future visit.

“Which is Mr. Farquhar’s room?” she asked the footman at the door. “My master was most adamant that he get this letter. If I were to slide it under his door, that should be adequate assurance.”

The footman hesitated. Robin pulled out a couple silver shillings from her pouch and held them up. The footman sighed. Heavily. Robin dug in her pouch for a crown piece, plus the two shillings, all of which ended up with the footman. But Robin did get the information she wanted.

After sliding the envelope under the door indicated, she paused. Downstairs, she could hear the door opening and the footman greeting a resident. Farquhar’s voice answered, with a certain snideness, as if he was only being polite because it was expected of him.

While there probably was a servant’s stair, Robin decided it would not be politic to use it. That left only the main stair, and Robin did not want an encounter with Farquhar. So she slid up the main stair only so far as she could avoid being seen.

Fortunately, Farquhar went straight to the door the footman had said was his. His hand on the doorknob, he suddenly paused and listened. Robin pulled back into the stairwell and held her breath. Slowly, she edged around and saw him looking behind him as if he had reason to believe he was being followed. Somehow, he missed checking the stairwell, and entered his room.

Robin let her breath out and as quietly as she could, slid past his room and out of the building.

She didn’t go back that night. Friday was Morgan’s big night out, and Robin felt it would be wise to make sure she and the others still had jobs in case something went wrong.

Sunday the sky was a brilliant blue with huge white clouds scudding across. Dean and Elizabeth insisted that Robin join them for a walk in the nearby park.

“So what’s the big joke you wanted to tell us about yesterday?” Dean asked Robin as they strolled among the trees.

“Oh, that.” Robin snickered. “Sir James got a letter from his son in the Colonies.”

“What about it?” Dean shrugged, unimpressed.

Robin couldn’t contain her grin. “Think, Dean. What year is this?”


“What happened in 1776?” Gleefully, Robin poked him in the ribs.

“The American Revolution.” Dean twisted to avoid another poke. “That’s old news. Besides, like you said, if we look at it from everyone here’s point of view, it is ridiculous that they could win the war.”

“I know. But listen to the latest. Captain Culpepper made a copy of a certain document that went on display over in Philadelphia, where he’s stationed. It starts ‘When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…’“ Robin waited expectantly.

“That sounds familiar,” said Dean. Elizabeth shrugged.

“It damn well better.” Robin chortled. “Come on, Dean, you know what it is. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America.”

The light switch went on in Dean’s head. “That’s not the Declaration of Independence, is it?”

“Of course, it is, you lunkhead!”

Dean frowned. “But doesn’t that start ‘We the people…’?”

Robin groaned. “That’s the Constitution.”

“Oh, right. I remember now.”

“But why is this declaration so amusing?” asked Elizabeth.

“Because the hot headed rebels who drew it up are going to do the impossible and win the war,” Robin replied. “What the Declaration goes on to say is that the Colonies are no longer part of England. Of course, everyone here doesn’t know that yet.”

“It sounds like treason to me.” Elizabeth shook her head.

Robin shrugged. “For the moment, it is. But in another fifty years or so, Britain will be friends with the United States.”

“Hm.” The whole idea sounded incredible to Elizabeth.

“Hey, Elizabeth, that’s our home we’re talking about,” said Dean. “Where Robin and I come from, and where we’re all going to be living. This is just the beginning.”

“I know.” Elizabeth sighed. “You’ve told me.”

Robin smiled. The news would be hitting everywhere soon. As she listened to a couple older gentlemen converse, she realized it had reached some people already. The men were aghast at such a preposterous move. They deserved it, Robin thought with a surge of patriotism for her homeland.

That evening, however, any glee was quickly squelched. As usual on Sunday evenings, Sir James gathered his household for dinner, and as always, that Sunday, he insisted that his clerks be there, along with the young Mrs. Parker.

The group gathered in the salon before the meal, dressed in their best. Sir James was less than pleased about what was going on in the colonies, but was confident that his son and the rest of the King’s army would put down the rebels in no time. But his bluster seemed somewhat distracted and Robin soon realized why. Lady Culpepper was eyeing Dean with obvious hunger. Dean stayed as close to Elizabeth as possible without taking up the same space.

When dinner was announced, Lady Culpepper attempted to slide up next to Dean that he might escort her in to dinner, but Robin slipped in first and gently took her arm.

“My Lady,” Robin whispered softly, as they walked into the dining room. “I know you’re fond of my brother, but I don’t think you want your husband to find you out. If he does, then my brother will be gone.”

“Impertinent beast!” Her Ladyship hissed back, then stopped and laughed as she noticed the others staring. “A silly joke. But Mr. Parker, I do think you should be more discreet around a lady.”

“I will endeavor to do so,” Robin replied.

Dinner went more smoothly than usual, but Sir James’ eye wandered over to Dean far too often for either he or Robin to feel comfortable.


Chapter Twenty Two

Time travel, serial fiction, science fictionThe row of fine Georgian townhouses arced around Donald Long as he stood in the park at the center of the great circle. Leaning against a tree, he contemplated one house after another, not that it was easy to see where one house ended and the next began, they were so closely built together.

One of those houses was the one that the power pull had come from, or would come from in another couple weeks or so.

He debated going around to the back and the servants’ entrance. It seemed unlikely that the three would have achieved any kind of rank. Therefore, the servants’ entrances would be the most logical place to keep an eye on.

A young footman suddenly appeared from the nearby street, walking quickly before a well-dressed youngish woman wearing a modest wig. At first, Donald assumed she was somebody’s maiden aunt. But before he dismissed her, he realized that her face was familiar, indeed.

Surprised, he watched the footman, a young boy, really, barely a teenager, ring the bell on a house, then hold the door for the woman. Donald frowned, then smiled. So that’s where they were. The odd thing was that the girl didn’t look pregnant yet. It didn’t entirely make sense given the timing of the power pull, but who knew how long he’d have to get his hands on her and start the baby? Of course, it could have been Dean’s, as they’d said. But Donald knew there was more than one way to get a woman pregnant, and if his plan worked, Dean and Elizabeth would be none the wiser. The problem would be getting his hands on the girl long enough to do it and wipe her memory. Sullenly mulling things over, he noted the number of the house and left.

Elizabeth, unaware that she had been observed, hurried upstairs to her mistress’s salon.

“I’ve got the book you requested, miss.” Elizabeth handed it over.

“Oh, joy.” Deborah grabbed it.

“And it was the strangest thing, miss,” Elizabeth continued mysteriously even though she knew full well what was behind it all. “But a young gentleman bumped into me, and I dropped the book. He helped me pick it up, and asked me if I’d dropped this envelope. I said I didn’t think so, but then I saw that it was addressed to you, so I said I must have. But honestly, I don’t see how I could have.”

Deborah tore open the envelope. “It’s from him. Oh, Mrs. Parker, what did the young man look like?”

“I can’t say. I didn’t really look at him. I was too embarrassed. I’m sorry, miss. Besides, it’s quite possible that the letter was in the book when I got it. It was being held with your name on it.”

“Oh, wouldn’t you know it,” Deborah groaned. “This is the second letter I’ve had from this man. I told you about the one I got two nights ago, Saturday night. Pinned onto my cloak, it was. If only I knew who was sending them. He writes so nicely, and to be burning with secret passion. Oh, I’m completely enchanted, and I have no idea who he could be. Isn’t it too wonderful to have a secret admirer?”

Elizabeth smiled, then turned her back lest she give away too much. Two days later, she pressed Robin into letter carrying service.

“Deborah will begin to get suspicious if I keep bringing them,” Elizabeth explained. “She’s already wondering why I’ve never seen the man.”

“All right.” Robin took the letter and shrugged.

An hour later, she presented herself to Deborah.

“Excuse me, Miss Deborah, but I found this last night. It wouldn’t happen to be yours would it?”

Deborah snatched the letter and tore it open.

“Yes, thank you,” she replied suddenly dignified. “Where did you find it?”

“On Mr. Morgan, mistress. It was falling out of his pocket.”

“Oh, no, not Anthony.” Deborah looked ashen.

Robin smiled. “I doubt it was his. That’s not his hand, for one thing. I got the impression the letter had been put in his pocket by someone else.”

“Then I’ll have to question him.”

“I wouldn’t bother. I seriously doubt he’ll remember anything about it. He was somewhat inebriated last night.”

“Somewhat?” Deborah laughed. “Well, you’re very kind in your assessment, Mr. Parker. But you do have a point. Thank you much for rescuing this, and good day.”

“Good day.”

Robin left, chuckling to herself. Later that evening she chased after Morgan as he left the house.

“Wait!” she called, running to catch up.

“Parker!” Morgan groaned. “Why are you following me about all the time?”

Robin gasped as she came up. “I thought we were friends.”

“I suppose.”

“You also owe me a brandy for that wager you lost last night.”

Morgan looked surprised. “What wager?”

“You don’t remember?” Robin asked.

Morgan swallowed. “Uh, of course I do. I remember it perfectly. Are you sure you won?”

“Positive.” Robin clapped him on the back. “And there were plenty of witnesses, so you can’t back out of it.”

Morgan sighed. Robin sighed and walked with him. He was already half-crocked. A text book alcoholic, Robin thought. There hadn’t been any wager the night before, or any other time. Robin took advantage of Morgan’s shaky memory frequently. She paid him off just often enough to keep him from getting suspicious in his rare lucid moments.

It was impossible to keep him off the bottle. The best Robin could do was make sure he got home in one piece every night, and that he was sober enough to work the next day. Sir James was somewhat sympathetic once Robin had him search Morgan’s room, and he found all the hidden bottles there. For a drunk, Morgan could be slippery and quick. More than once he’d ditched Robin’s vigilance and sent her searching around the city for him.

He gave her the slip again that night, but didn’t go far. Robin found him in the next tavern on the road, drinking and playing dice with some other clerks near his age.

Sighing, she bought a tankard of ale and joined the group on the fringe of the game. Morgan sat across from her. Behind him, at a table away from the group, two gentlemen discussed something intently. One was very tall and slender. His mustache was a dark blonde, and his hair, though powdered, showed a few blondish strands here and there.

Robin thought he looked familiar. Trying not to stare, she tried to place him. He smiled with a nasty gleam.

Robin swallowed as her heart bounded into her throat. It was impossible, then again, it was all too likely. The man was Master Neddrick, which meant he wasn’t from the seventeenth century at all, but another time traveler like Roger.

Robin kept her cool. He hadn’t noticed her, or if he had, he hadn’t recognized her. Robin wondered why he was chasing them. They had messed up Roger’s experiment. Robin had a strong feeling Neddrick had nothing to do with that. But he obviously had some connection to Elizabeth. And if he had tracked them down, why hadn’t Roger?

It crossed Robin’s mind that if Neddrick was there, that meant he had a working time machine. It was some small hope, but not much. It would be too dangerous to reveal themselves, or to even find where he was staying, let alone steal the thing.

Neddrick abruptly got up and left. Robin debated going after him. Then Morgan got to his feet. She hesitated one moment too long. Neddrick was gone. She shrugged and got a good grip on Morgan’s swaying form. With a grim sigh, she decided Neddrick would find them before she found him.

She didn’t tell Dean or Elizabeth about her evening’s encounter. There didn’t seem any point in exciting them, and there was always the chance that Dean would do something rash before she could stop him. She remained preoccupied with it, however. The next night she kept her eyes open as she followed Morgan about.

Noting her distraction, Morgan slipped away earlier than usual, and disappeared more completely than ever. Robin was furious with herself for losing him as she had. Close to one in the morning she made some discreet inquiries.

A couple of footmen finally answered Robin’s request in the affirmative. They directed her to a bright house on a dark alley not far from the Assembly Rooms. Shaking her head, Robin knocked.

A scantily clad woman ushered her in. Several more lounged about in the salon she was shown into. Robin gulped as she realized in just what kind of place she was.

“Take your pick,” suggested an older, made-up woman in velvety tones. “It’s a shilling a turn.”

“Um, actually I came to inquire after one of your clients.”

A lovely young thing with a towering wig and white, white skin slid close up to Robin and stroked her cheek.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a turn with me?” she asked in a beguiling voice.

“N-n-no.” Robin stepped away. “I-I’m really not on the market. Honest. Um. I just came to get my friend. He’s a little loaded right now, and if I don’t get him home fast, my boss will skin me alive. His name’s Morgan, Anthony Morgan.”

The older woman nodded. “Tony. First floor, second door on your right.”

“Yeah.” Robin swallowed again. She certainly didn’t want to go barging in on someone… “Right. Um. Thanks. I’ll be right back.”

There was blessed silence behind the indicated door. Robin opened it and peeked inside. The light from the hall fell upon Morgan sprawled face down on the bed with nothing on. Robin went in. She tried to wake him and failed. Robin gathered his clothes together and got his breeches and shirt on him. At least his purse was still full. Grunting, Robin heaved him up and home.

The next day was Friday, and another ball night for Deborah. That evening, draped from her wig was a very special lace veil with tiny seed pearls worked into the pattern. A bouncing country jig sent it floating to the ground. Deborah, as usual, never noticed. But a timid young gentleman did. Unobserved, Lord Edward Acton picked it up and slid it next to his bosom.

The next day, the Culpepper house was in an uproar. Deborah was desolate over the loss of her veil. Sir James was not happy about it, either. It had come from Venice, and had cost a pretty penny. All the servants stayed out of the way as much as

possible to avoid Sir James’ ranting and Deborah’s sorrow.

Late that afternoon, one of the kitchen maids came back from the marketplace with a letter for Deborah. Deborah was ecstatic and rang for Elizabeth.

“He’s got it!” Deborah exclaimed as Elizabeth entered the room.

“I beg pardon, miss?”

“My secret lover. He has my veil. He’s keeping it next to his heart. Isn’t that beautiful?” Deborah whirled around in joy.

“Yes, miss. But what are you going to tell your father?”

“My father?” Deborah stopped whirling. “Oh. What can I tell him?”

Elizabeth thought. “That a friend has it, and you’ve let her borrow it?”

“Oh, Mrs. Parker, you’re a genius. He won’t like that much, but he’ll have to admit it’s safe. With any luck at all, he’ll have forgotten about it by tomorrow.”

“Yes, miss.”

Sir James had forgotten about the veil by that evening. He was more preoccupied with a letter he had just received. He had Robin write the reply, giving his permission to let Mr. Farquhar visit Miss Deborah Culpepper on the morrow, Sunday. Robin dispatched it with Samuel, who didn’t seem all that happy to be sent.

Robin had only a passing interest in Mr. Farquhar. She hadn’t met the man, but knew that Sir James had dined with him at least twice the previous week. Sunday afternoons she had off with Dean and Elizabeth. They had planned to spend that afternoon at the Summer Gardens, but rain changed their plans. Dean and Elizabeth went straight up to their room. Robin paused in one of the salons while Samuel fetched a snack for her.

On her way upstairs, Robin passed the sitting room where Deborah was having her interview with Mr. Farquhar. Just out of curiosity, Robin put her ear to the door and listened.

“Then you didn’t send the letters,” Deborah was saying.

“No. The only letter I sent was to your father, yesterday.” The voice sounded familiar. Robin opened the door a crack and peeked in.

Deborah looked away from her guest sadly. “Oh, how silly of me. I merely thought, after you were so kind to me at the ball the other evening. I beg your pardon for making such an assumption.”

“You may have it.” It was Neddrick. Robin shut the door. “What was that?”

“Oh, just one of the servants, I’m sure,” Deborah answered. “Ours are harmless, but you know how nosy they can be.”

“Yes, indeed.”

Robin hurried upstairs to Dean and Elizabeth’s room. They were asleep. Robin left a note instructing them to not go downstairs until the next day.

Not that the next day was any better. Neddrick/Farquhar dropped by again to conduct business with Sir James. Robin heard about the visit beforehand and manipulated an errand that kept her out of the house for the day. Dean and Elizabeth had been carted off earlier that day with Lady Culpepper and Deborah to visit with a friend in Cheltanham.

Robin spent the next three days dodging Farquhar. Dean spent his days dodging passes from Her Ladyship. Thursday, she caught him, more or less.

“Parker, you’ve done so well with my feet.” she told him after summoning him to her room. She was wearing her India cotton overgown, but it hung open revealing her stays and paniers underneath.

“Thank you, M’lady.”

She smiled archly. “My back has been very sore lately.”

Dean hesitated. “It has?”

“That wretched coach trip, you understand.” Lady Culpepper arranged her thin gown around her ample bosom. “Why they can’t make those blasted things more comfortable, I’ve no idea.”

“They do bounce a lot, M’lady.”

“Do you think you could apply those marvelous hands of yours to my back?”

Dean grimaced. “Couldn’t that get us into trouble?”

“How do you mean, Parker?” Her smile was almost menacing.

“Well, your husband might get the wrong idea,” Dean answered and almost immediately regretted it.

She chuckled. “That’s if he finds out. But he’s in Bath. We’re here.”

“Yes, M’lady.”

“You wouldn’t like it if I complained to him about your insubordination, now would you?”

“No, M’lady.”

“Then have at it.”

“Yes, M’lady.”

Dean had at it reluctantly. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered there were laws against sexual harassment on the job. But that was in the twenty-first century. He couldn’t wait to get back home.

The little group got back to Bath the next day to find Mr. Farquhar had very serious intentions for Deborah, and Sir James liked him. Lady Culpepper was aghast because the man wasn’t titled, and wasn’t that rich, either. Deborah was upset because she didn’t like him. She’d been relieved to find he wasn’t her secret admirer, and liked him even less after that. Dean and Elizabeth were scared, at first, when Robin told them who Mr. Farquhar was.

“I suppose he’s chasing us,” Elizabeth said. “But poor Deborah. I shouldn’t want her to be married to such an evil creature as Master Neddrick, I mean, Mr. Farquhar.”

“Assuming he stays married to her,” grumbled Dean. “He’ll probably knock her up then head off to some other ti—  Wait.” The thought slowly manifested itself in his brain. “If he’s here, then he had to have a way to get here. Robin, you think maybe this guy’s got one of those time machine thingies?”

“I think that’s a safe bet,” Robin said. “The trick will be getting it.”

“Well, hell.” Dean started pacing. “Find out where he’s staying and we’ll go get it. Hell, I’m happy to do a little breaking and entering.”

“No.” Robin turned on him. “Are you out of your mind, Dean? Think about it. We messed up Roger’s experiment. I know he didn’t seem mad at us about it, but Farquhar sure seems to be. Maybe there’s a reason, and do you really want to give the time travel people more ammo against us by stealing another machine?”

“Hello? He’s not going to loan it to us. How else are we going to get home?”

Robin gulped. “Well. I don’t know. Give me some time to think about it. In the meantime, we’ve got to make sure this Viscount Edward gets his bid in for Deborah’s hand. Dean, I want you to promise me you won’t go after Farquhar’s time machine.”

“Come on, Robin.”

“Dean, promise.”

Dean glared at her. “All right. I promise. I won’t go after his machine.”

“Good.” Robin sighed. “Why don’t you take charge of giving Lord Edward the royal shove in the right direction”

Dean snorted. “Oh, right. Just give me the easy job. This guy is a total weenie.”

“Good,” said Robin. “Then getting him to do what we want him to do should be no problem.”

“I can think of a few things to say to him,” Elizabeth said quietly.

“Even better,” said Robin. “I’ve got to go think. And it’s Friday. I get to go chase Tony all over town.”

That evening, Deborah stayed home and sulked. Lady Culpepper convinced Sir James that they desperately needed to be seen at the theatre, and he, grumbling, went along with her. With Robin chasing Anthony, and Elizabeth nearby to provide help with Deborah, Dean decided to fetch Lord Edward.

He found the young swain sighing in the vestibule of the Assembly Rooms.

“My good Mr. Parker!” he exclaimed. “You’re here. But where is your mistress? She’s not ill, I hope.”

Dean clapped the young man on the back. “She’s perfectly well, but pretty unhappy. She’s got another suitor, you know.”

Lord Edward sighed even more deeply. “I’ve heard. I suppose she’s accepted him.”

“She hates him.”

“Are you sure?” Lord Edward brightened.

“Cross my heart.”

“Oh, this is wonderful news.” Lord Edward sighed with joy this time.

Dean shook his head. “It’s not all that great. Sir James really likes the guy. You’ve got to do something and fast.”

“What?” Lord Edward looked panicked.

“Reveal yourself. Talk to her.”

“Me?” The viscount practically squeaked.

“Come on. She’s at home right now and her parents are gone. We’ll sneak you in.”

“But I…”

Dean got a good grip on the frightened young man’s arms and started him down the street.

“Look, I promise you, she’s head over heels in love with you and she doesn’t even know who you are,” Dean said.

“But if she finds out.” Lord Edward trembled visibly.

Dean squeezed his arm reassuringly. “She’ll love you. Trust me. Just talk like you write to her. She eats that stuff up.”


“Shut up. You sound like a motor boat.”

“A what?”

Dean grinned sheepishly. “Never mind.”

At the house, Dean took Lord Edward in through the servants’ entrance. Lord Edward was too nervous to notice. Dean sent his footman upstairs to have Elizabeth get Deborah into the back salon. Dean waited there with Lord Edward until Deborah appeared, pushed in by Elizabeth.

“But at least my wig!” Deborah pleaded as Elizabeth shut the door. Dean slid around the room as she turned and started.

“Oh! My Lord!” She dropped a curtsy. “I must beg pardon for my appearance.”

He swallowed. “You are more beautiful now than I have ever seen you.”

Outside, in the hall, Dean and Elizabeth muffled their laughter and continued listening.

“You are most generous, My Lord.”

“Oh, please. I am your humble servant, Edward. You don’t know how I have loved you.”

“But your letters…”

“They couldn’t come near to expressing my true feelings for you. They are but a shadow of what my heart holds for you. I have worshipped you. See, your veil which I found, it is my most sacred relic. I’ve kept it here next to my heart since I found it. It has saved my very life many times over when I thought I would die from not having you.”

Deborah sighed. “Yes, you are the one. You can’t imagine how I’ve longed

to see your face. I knew from the moment I read your first letter that we would be true lovers.”

Dean and Elizabeth could bear it no longer. They went upstairs and had a good long laugh.

“Oh, dear.” said Elizabeth, wiping her eyes. “I feel so unkind laughing like this. I’m afraid we must sound like them sometimes.”

“I’m not that bad.” Still chuckling, Dean wrapped her up in his arms. “I love you, Elizabeth, and I don’t mind saying so, but I’ll say it without the glop.”

“I’m glad you do.” She reached up and kissed him. “And I love you, too.”

Chapter Twenty One

science fiction, time travel, time travel fiction, science fiction serialBath, the great English watering-hole of the eighteenth century, was a congenial place, Anthony told the three the next morning as they took off in the coach again.

“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Anthony said, explaining through a yawn that the inconspicuous, the near-great and the great mingled together in cordial peace. Gossip and minor intrigue flowed as freely as the water in the reeking baths for which the city was named.

“What rot,” blustered Sir James.

A few hours later, he ordered the coach to stop on the outskirts of the city to get new clothes for Robin, Dean and Elizabeth. He then took them to this house and presented Robin and Dean to Lady Culpepper as his two new clerks.

An imposing woman with an over-powdered face and almost clownish rouging, Lady Culpepper frowned at first.

“Clerks, my darling?” she said to Sir James skeptically. “You have my dear nephew, Anthony. Isn’t he enough?”

Sir James hemmed and coughed for a moment. “Anthony is… eh, indispensable, my dearest. But my business is growing. Poor Anthony shouldn’t be made to bear the work of three men, especially when I have these two fine strapping brothers to help out. And, look, here’s Mr. Dean Parker’s young wife. She’ll be quite suitable as a companion for Deborah. You were saying just the other week how nice it would be to have one, a steadying influence on the girl.”

“Yes.” Lady Culpepper’s eyes took Elizabeth in critically, then her eyes flicked over Dean and her expression grew much more approving. “I suppose she might, then. Well, perhaps Mr. Dean could help me with the household accounts. You know how trying I find numbers.”

Sir James missed the nuance, but Robin held her breath and debated speaking up.

“That sounds quite satisfactory, indeed,” Sir James said, his voice filled with relief.

The three were each assigned rooms and servants, a footman for each, plus a lady’s maid for Elizabeth, a middle-aged widow named Mrs. Baskin. Fortunately, Mrs. Baskin immediately noticed a certain glow about Elizabeth and warned her not to let Lady Culpepper know.

“If you’ll pardon me for being so forward, Ma’am, Her Ladyship will not look kindly on it,” Mrs. Baskin said. “It would be indelicate, especially in front of her daughter.”

Mrs. Baskin also showed Elizabeth how to tie her stays to conceal her delicate condition.

It didn’t take long for the three to settle in. There was some minor trouble with the footmen until Mrs. Baskin kindly explained about vails – generous tips that were expected for the least service. Dean, for his part, found having his footman, a strapping youth named Timothy, to be quite useful. Robin’s footman, Samuel, a thin man in his late twenties, proved to be rather sullen, although Robin wasn’t sure if it was because she couldn’t quite get used to having him around and so didn’t make much use of him.

The work, itself, was basically accounting work, with some letter-writing thrown in. Both had a little trouble, at first, learning to read the script, and both were painfully slow at writing. That worried Robin, then she noticed that Anthony wasn’t much faster. She also began to notice that Anthony wasn’t always that sober.

Elizabeth, for her part, was a little at loose ends with hardly anything to do except read and chat with Deborah. Deborah turned out to be a pleasant young girl of seventeen. She was delighted with Elizabeth’s accurate memory. Deborah constantly lost things, and it seemed Elizabeth was the only one who could track down the items.

Sir James was prone to blustering a great deal but he was an otherwise harmless individual. He reminded Robin of a character she’d seen in a play from the period. As she saw more plays the longer they stayed, she decided that Sir James and others like him were the models for the stereotype of the bumbling, slightly pompous, father figure.

Dean was the only one who seemed to have a problem, though not with Sir James. Lady Culpepper grew to like him a lot, a little too much. Dean ignored her flirting with an easy grace that belied her determination. Seeing as though she supervised the household accounts, he couldn’t entirely avoid her, but he did his best.

It seemed that the weeks quickly slipped into months. Robin spent what free time she had working on the time machine, or more accurately, staring at it. She figured out that a circuit had blown. The carbon scoring on the circuit card inside made that obvious. But what that circuit did she had no idea. The parts on the card were laid out in a way that made no sense in terms of the physics that Robin knew. She hoped she could figure it out from the way the card was laid out. Granted, that was assuming the various parts were what she thought they were, and that they were made of materials she knew.

She remained cheerful, though only for Dean’s sake. He trusted that Robin would get the machine fixed. In the meantime, he was enjoying his work, and watching Elizabeth’s belly grow. Robin was glad he was adjusting so well, even if it was because he thought the situation was temporary.

Elizabeth was as content as could be. She and Dean were as good as married, she felt healthy, and Deborah was quite pleasant. She never did adapt to being so much at leisure, but found various errands and did a lot of running and fetching, which made Robin happy because the walking was such good exercise. Robin also had Elizabeth stretch her legs in a squatting position, and raise her arms to stretch out her back. Elizabeth thought it queer, but she was used to Robin’s requests that way.

They followed the family as they moved from house to house. Because Dean had charge of the household accounts, he usually stayed wherever Lady Culpepper was. Deborah, who had her parents pretty well managed, made a point of keeping with her mother so Dean and Elizabeth could be together. Robin stayed with Sir James, which often meant trips to London, while the others stayed in Devonshire or Bath.

By the middle of September, Her Ladyship’s gout had flared up, which meant the family would remain entrenched in Bath for a while. Actually, Her Ladyship had ulterior motives for the stay.

“Lord John Merryville has elected to stay through Christmas,” Elizabeth told Dean and Robin one bright morning. “And his friends will probably stay also.”

“Fat lot of good it’s going to do Her Ladyship,” Robin answered. She faced the mirror in Dean and Elizabeth’s room, and pinned down curls on the side of her head. “Sir James absolutely detests those dissolute types, titled or not.”

“I wonder how much that’ll matter if Deborah finds her true love among them,” chuckled Dean. He sat leaning back in a straight back chair with his feet propped up on a small table.

“Good question,” Robin said. “Sir James will only be pushed so far.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how it falls out.” Elizabeth giggled.

Robin picked up a small canister with holes in the lid and began shaking white flour over her hair. Within seconds, a white cloud surrounded her head. She sneezed several times.

“I’ll sure be glad when this damned hair powdering goes out of style,” she grumbled, sniffing.

She stepped out of the cloud and wiped her eyes. She had her own room, next to the one where Dean and Elizabeth were, on the top floor of the house, a privilege accorded them because of Robin’s and Dean’s status as clerks, which put them above the house servants. Anthony Morgan had his room on the same floor as the Culpeppers, but that was because he was family.

Robin spent most of her time with Dean and Elizabeth partly for the companionship and partly because they had a nice large mirror that made fixing her hair a lot easier.

There was a knocking at the door. “Mr. Dean, Her Ladyship requests your presence,” came Timothy’s voice.

“I’m on my way.” Dean swung his feet off the table and stood. “Oh, Robin, Her Ladyship saw Mr. Brumfield at the baths this morning. Sure as shooting that means a trip to the apothecary. You want Timothy to pick anything up for you?”

Robin thought. “No. I’ve got all the metals I can use right now.”

“Okay.” Dean turned to Elizabeth and kissed her. “I’ll see you later, sweetheart.” He put his hands on her tummy and waited. “Hey, Robin, feel this. It’s moving again.”

With amused indulgence, Robin walked over and placed her hand on Elizabeth’s stomach. She waited patiently for the small lump to shift itself.

“Yeah, I felt it.” She had many times before, and though she would never admit it to Dean, she was just as fascinated by the promise of new life as he was.

Elizabeth just laughed. Pregnancy was far too common an experience for her to find the same fascination in it that Dean and Robin had.

Dean hurried off. Elizabeth and Robin both departed minutes later, Elizabeth to eat a breakfast with Deborah, and Robin to start yet another day of business with Sir James.

Dean knocked quickly at the door to Lady Culpepper’s chambers.

“Who is it?” sang the aging soprano.

“Mr. Dean, M’lady.”

“Do come in.”

Dean took a deep breath and entered. Her Ladyship was on the prowl again.

“A trip to the apothecary’s?” he asked shutting the door.

“Yes, later. For the moment, I’ve another service for you to perform.” She was decked out in one of her India cotton gowns, with her mob cap on and the three small black patches on her painted face. The gown hid her stout figure. There was no hiding the wooden false teeth, however, or the thin wiry hair, white as her powdered wig, that poked out from underneath the cap.

“Yes, M’lady.” Dean dreaded what would come next.

“The good doctor suggested that maybe if I were to have my feet rubbed, it might give me some relief. My maid has proven to be an utter imbecile at it. I was wondering if perhaps you might try.”

Dean shrugged  “I suppose.”

As he bent, he reflected there were worse things she could have asked. Dean was fairly proud of his talent for massage, although he preferred much younger females as “patients.” Lady Culpepper’s feet were fairly soft from their daily soaking in the baths, and the fact that she did very little walking.

He told Robin about his adventure the next morning when she came in to fix her hair.

“Don’t let Sir James catch you at it,” she warned him. “That’s one step shy of adultery.”

“Hell, no.” Dean replied. “At least I hope he doesn’t. But it’s kind of hard for me to say no. She is the boss.”

“True.” Robin yawned.

“You stayed out very late last night.” Elizabeth observed.

Robin yawned again and nodded. “Anthony insisted on showing me a good time. The idiot. He got bombed out of his skull and lost damn near five guineas.”

“I’ve heard you’ve been doing your fair share of gambling.” Dean grinned.

“Why not?” Robin retorted with a snort. “It’s the only vice left me. I can’t stand smoking. I don’t like being drunk and hate hangovers even more. And sex is out.”

Dean sniggered. “You could always try making it with Tony the next time he gets smashed.”

Robin glared at him. “Not only is that disgusting, it’s utterly ridiculous.”

“Well, if you’re desperate.”

“Dean, what happens to guys when they get that drunk? Besides, I’m not that kind of woman.”

Dean rolled his eyes.

There was a knocking at the door.

“Mrs. Parker?” called the voice of George, Elizabeth’s 13-year-old footman.

Elizabeth bounced up, tied her apron over her tummy and grabbed a fan off of the table.

“Miss Deborah has just discovered her fan is missing,” she sighed. She kissed Dean and ran out.

“I’d better get downstairs, too,” Robin said.

She was hard at work, recopying accounts she had figured, when Sir James came into the study. Months of working at the eighteenth century script had made it easier, but Robin found she still had to go slowly to prevent her twentieth century handwriting from giving her away. Sir James looked over her shoulder.

“Ah, very good.” he said. “I’ve a letter here from my broker with figures you’ll want to add in.”

“I’ve already taken the liberty of doing so, sir. Mr. Morgan opened it yesterday afternoon when it arrived.”

“Very good.” Sir James looked around. “But speaking of that young rascal, where is he? I’ve a letter I need to dictate.”

“I really don’t know, sir,” Robin answered. “I’m afraid we were out rather late last night. He may still be asleep.”

Disgusted, Sir James walked to the door.

“Richards!” he called out into the hallway. “Richards, go and rouse Mr. Morgan immediately.” He paused for the reply. “If he’s awake, then why isn’t he down here? Oh, never mind. Just get him down here!” He turned back into the room, muttering angrily. “Damn relatives. If he weren’t Sarah’s nephew, I’d sack him. He’s nothing but a nuisance.”

Anthony Morgan proved to be more than a nuisance. He showed up half an hour later, stewed, and in no shape to take dictation. Sir James was furious. He sent his nephew upstairs with strict instructions to stay in his room until further notice.

“I should have left him in the country,” Sir James fumed after Morgan had gone. “Town life is no good for simple minds like his. No will power.”

“Shall I ring for my brother so that he can take your letter?” Robin asked.

“Yes, yes, yes.”

Robin went out into the hall and sent Samuel to find Dean.

“Parker!” Sir James barked as she returned.

“Yes, sir.”

“You were out with Anthony last night?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I assume he got drunk.”

“Quite, sir.”

“And you did nothing to stop him?”

Robin thought fast. “I did suggest he not drink so much. But my position is rather awkward, sir. I am only a clerk, and he is your relative.”

“Indeed, yes.” Sir James put his hands behind his back and began pacing. “But somebody’s got to keep an eye on him. I shudder to think what my wife’s family would do if he went astray while under my protection. Oh, they’re a miserable lot when aroused. I should never hear the end of it. And you can imagine what Her Ladyship would be like. Her poor innocent nephew. Ha! The boy does nothing but make trouble for himself and everyone else. Parker, he is now your responsibility. I want you to keep him out of trouble. I can’t be watching his every move.”

“Begging your pardon, sir, I’m not at all sure I can either,” Robin said, a little frantically. “Furthermore, he is bound to resent my taking a superior position to his. He’ll most likely complain to Her Ladyship, and if she confronts me, I shall probably be forced to confess that you requested it.”

Sir James growled. “Well, do your best, then. I’ll deal with Her Ladyship.” He did not relish the task.

Robin didn’t blame him. Lady Culpepper could be quite a formidable creature when her wrath was aroused, and she was not inclined to be reasonable even under the best circumstances. In any case, Robin found her precious evenings devoted to chasing Tony Morgan about Bath, instead of working at the time machine.

Dean’s evenings continued to be filled with whatever parties or balls caught Lady Culpepper’s fancy. The goal, of course was to get Deborah a rich, preferably titled husband, which meant Deborah was out most evenings, sometimes with her mother in tow. Sir James resolutely refused to go to any of the events and so Dean got the job of seeing the ladies to the door and accompanying their sedan chairs home.

Of late, however, with Lady Culpepper’s gout acting up more and more often, Her Ladyship was forced to forego the festivities, which made her mood all the more predatory.

As for Deborah, she faced plenty of competition in the husband chase. Available young women out numbered the available young men. Deborah had an advantage in that she was very pretty and a lively companion. She wasn’t as hungry as the others, either. She wanted to fall in love, and was prepared to wait as long as she needed to do so.

That Saturday night, Dean dropped the young girl at the Assembly Rooms for a ball, then went off to a nearby tavern for a brandy and to gamble a little. He quickly lost, so he returned to the ball to watch the dancing through the windows. He would have liked to have chatted with the footmen who carried Deborah’s sedan chair, but the hierarchy among the servants was even more strictly upheld than among the upper classes. So while Dean was an employee, he wasn’t a servant, which put him well above their station in life.

The footmen were off gambling with the other footmen, but Dean decided to hang around the sedan chair anyway on the off chance one of the footmen would come back and actually talk with him.

As he leaned, bored, against the sedan chair, a young gentleman approached.

“Is that your mistress’s chair?” the gentleman asked, timidly.

“It’s the family’s,” Dean answered. “But, yeah, we’ve got the young mistress tonight.”

“Indeed. Come with me.”

Dean shrugged and followed. The young man led him to the ballroom doors.

“Please, point out your mistress,” he asked Dean.

“Um…” Dean searched the crowd. “There she is, in the lavender dress, with the umbrellas in her hair.”

“Ah, yes, that’s her.” He sighed.

This young gentleman had obviously seen a few too many plays and was playing the young lover role to the hilt. Dean turned to go.

“Wait! What is her name?” The young man grabbed Dean’s arm.

“Deborah Culpepper.”

“She is so beautiful. I’m desperately in love with her, and I don’t dare speak a word to her.”

Dean tried not to laugh. “Why not?”

“Good lord, she’d never hear me.” The young man started pacing. “Who am I that she should?”

“I don’t know. Who are you?”

“My name is Viscount Edward Acton, heir apparent to the Duchy of Cliveton.” He offered a small nod of the head.

Dean shrugged. “Sounds pretty good to me.”

“You think?” He smiled hopefully, then frowned. “Oh, no. Mine is only a small duchy, and there are so many others here with larger holdings. Besides, it’s quite the fashion nowadays to eschew titles, at least among the young ladies. If only I were poor.”

Dean chuckled. “If you want a hint, that won’t make any difference with her. She wants to fall in love, it doesn’t matter with who.”

He bit his forefinger. “I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

“Have you considered writing her a letter?” Dean asked.

“But… No, she’d never accept me.”

Dean thought. “Listen. I’ve got an idea. It’ll bowl her over. I promise.”

“You do?” He looked hopeful again.

“Sure.” Dean grinned. “Write her a letter telling her how you feel, but don’t tell her who you are. Become her secret admirer. I guarantee you, she’ll go nuts trying to figure out who you are. Keep it up for several letters, and by the time you reveal yourself, she’ll be eating out of your hand.”

The viscount all but jumped up and down. “Are you sure it will work?”

“As sure as I can be.”

“A quill. I need a quill, and ink, and paper! Wait here. I’ll be right back. And here!”

Dean caught the little sack with a quiet chuckle. He knew he should feel insulted. He wasn’t a servant. Feeling the heft of the little sack, Dean looked inside, whistled softly and swore.

“Sure beats gambling,” he muttered.

Chapter Twenty

science fiction, time travel, science fiction serialRoger growled and paced as the older woman next to him glared sourly at the screen in front of them.

“I told you that wasn’t a switch on,” she said. “Look at that arc there and how it sputters.”

“I never said I disagreed with you, Cricklan,” Roger replied testily.

Since there had been no way of knowing who had operated the timetron when it had apparently failed, Roger had insisted on going to London in the hope that he or some other time traveler would be the one abandoned. But Master Robin had insisted on leaving, he’d been told, and there was no question now that she’d used the machine last, presumably with Dean and Elizabeth in tow.

“I should have searched the candlemaker’s more thoroughly,” he grumbled.

“Roger, you know the folly of second-guessing yourself,” Cricklan said, her eyes never leaving the screen.

He flopped down on a chair next to her. “You’re right. Any chance of making out where and when they landed?”

Cricklan shook her head. “Possibly, but it all depends on how the coordinates were entered. And that’s assuming your Robin Parker was headed for her natal time. But there’s not enough of a power pull here for them to have gotten very far at all.”

Cricklan circled a point on the tip of the arc and enlarged the image. She was a woman of predominantly African descent, with still-smooth skin framed by coarse gray hair that had gone to dreadlocks, which balanced out the ball her body had become.

“She was headed for home,” Roger continued. “She left all her money with Master Chandler. Even if she were headed for another time, she would have kept some of the gold angels, at least. Those could be melted down. She was headed someplace where she knew she had money already, and where else would that be but home?”

“And what about Elizabeth?” Cricklan asked.

Roger shrugged. “I don’t know. We didn’t get that far. I had to track down Donald before he turned in the whole Catholic community.” Roger glanced at Cricklan. “I’m sorry about that.”

Cricklan imposed a vertical grid on the image. “You needn’t worry about my feelings. I’ve done my grieving where Donald is concerned.”

Roger shook his head. He still wasn’t sure what had caused the estrangement between Donald and Cricklan, but Cricklan had never been one to dwell on past mistakes.

“I find it interesting, however, that after all the work you did on the bring forward experiment, you are more focused on this Ms. Parker than you are on Elizabeth,” Cricklan observed.

Roger began pacing again, this time, he hoped, with a careless air. “Not really. I mean, I’ve only spent a couple hours total with the woman.”

“You did a DNA analysis on her.”

Roger laughed. “I know. I’ve got a good feeling about her. Not that I don’t like Elizabeth, and I’m certainly committed to her, if it comes to that.” He sighed. “We’ve just got to find them, first.”

Cricklan nodded. “I may have. Look here.” She enlarged another image again. “It’s right on the path of the earlier log line and the marker is right.”

“And hardly any power pull at all. No wonder we missed it.” Roger did a quick calculation. “And, shit. This is the first stop on Donald’s timetron’s log line after he went to the U.S.”

Cricklan nodded. “I had a feeling he had hooked into this station, and now I’ve got the proof.”

“You’ll have to bring this to the Board.”

“It’s about time I did, don’t you think?” Cricklan put her hand on Roger’s arm. “Why don’t you stay focused on getting Ms. Parker back to where she belongs? I’ll deal with Donald. I am his mother and he does sometimes listen to me.”

“Yes, well, it would appear I’ve got a little research to do.”


Robin had forgotten about the crushing, sucked in feeling as the machine worked.  She gasped as they landed. Catching her breath, she looked around. Something was very wrong.

“This isn’t Irvine,” Dean said nervously.

It wasn’t. They were in a wooded area overlooking a highway very similar to the one they had left. Robin looked down. A small stream of black smoke dissipated into the breeze and a small black splotch on the side of the machine revealed the smoke’s origin.

“Something is very wrong here,” Robin said.

“Where are we?” asked Dean, getting a little frantic.

“I’d say pretty much where we were,” Robin answered. “Probably a different time, though.”

“The right one?” Dean looked hopeful.

“Not likely, judging from that highway.”

As if to confirm it, they heard a soft rumbling. As it got closer, a soft jangling sound could be heard as well.

“There,” said Elizabeth. She pointed.

A small black coach, drawn by two brown horses, approached from where London would be if Robin were right. The man driving it was wearing knee-high boots, close-fitting knee pants, a long black coat with a wide tan lapel that ran the length of the front and very wide tan cuffs.

“A tri-cornered hat!” Robin groaned.

“Isn’t that from the American Revolution?” Dean asked.

“More or less.” Robin sighed. “We’re in the eighteenth century, at any rate.”

“I don’t quite understand,” said Elizabeth.

“We’ve only gone ahead about a hundred years,” Robin answered. “How far ahead, I don’t know. We’d better do something about our clothes. If we rag them up, we should be okay, except for you, Elizabeth. Your dress is far too big and loose. Waists are supposed to be tiny now.”

“Oh, no,” Elizabeth sighed. She glanced at Dean.

Robin didn’t notice. She looked around. The sky was a bright blue, with huge white clouds floating across. The patches of snow they had left back in the seventeenth century were replaced by wild flowers. A wet loamy smell filled her nostrils.

“Spring,” she muttered. She removed her doublet and tore up her pants.

“What did you say?” Dean asked, as he did the same to his clothes.

“It’s spring.” Robin repeated. “When we left it was winter.”

“Say, that’s right.” Dean pondered it a moment, then considered a far weightier matter. “Robin, if this is the eighteenth century, and we were trying to go home, does this mean we’re stuck?”

Robin caught her breath. “I don’t know. I was thinking that Roger had tracked us down by tracing us through the machine, but it wasn’t turned on in London, so when he found us there, I figured he has some other way to trace us. If that’s the case, then…”

“Uh, Robin.” Dean’s face had a seriously pained look on it. “The machine was turned on in London. I turned it on the day after Twelfth Day.”

“And Roger showed up two days later,” said Robin. She turned on Dean. “What the hell were you doing?”

“I don’t know!” Dean backed away, not sure what to say, but sure that he did not want to tell Robin about Elizabeth being pregnant at that moment in time. “I wanted to go home. I just did.”

“Fat lot of good that’s going to do us now,” Robin sighed. She took a deep breath. “All right. Maybe there’s something I can fix. Let’s try to stay positive and in the meantime, let’s get ourselves situated. Here, Elizabeth, take your apron and tie it as tight as you can above your bodice. That should make it look like it has more of a waist. Are we ready? Good. Let’s head down that road. Maybe we’ll find an inn that needs some help.”

They spent most of the day walking alongside the highway instead of on it. The road was thick, oozing mud, with deep ruts and numerous rocks. Coaches were not infrequent either, and the first one they encountered nearly ran them over.

Close to two o’clock in the afternoon they approached the end of a section hemmed in by trees. On the other side of the thicket, they heard shouts. Robin led the way cautiously, stopping at the edge of the trees to see what was going on.

A coach that had passed them barely minutes before was stopped on the road by two men with scarves on their faces. One dismounted from his horse, while the other, still on his, held a pistol on the driver of the coach.

“Looks like a hold up,” whispered Dean.

“No kidding,” Robin whispered back.

“We’d better hide,” Elizabeth hissed.

“Maybe not.” Robin grinned. “I don’t like the idea of bounty hunting, but we’re broke, and I’ll bet there’s a reward for those two.”

“Have you lost it?” Dean looked at her, aghast.

“Not really. Think about it, Dean. We’re easily as big as they are, and they don’t know we’re here.”

“But they’ve got guns!”

“They’ve got two shots. If we catch them from behind, they’ll never know what hit them.”

Dean looked at the men. A slightly rotund gentleman emerged from the coach, and a younger man who looked like a clerk.

“I’ll take the one on the horse,” he said and took off running.

“That’s not quite what I had in mind,” Robin grumbled as she took off herself.

Dean vaulted onto the back of the horse. The animal staggered. Dean got his forearm around the robber’s throat and reached for the pistol with his free hand. The man twisted, and the two fell to the ground and rolled.

Robin slammed into the other robber and tackled him. His pistol went flying. They rolled for a moment, then the man got on top. He raised his fist. Robin dodged and threw him off. They scrambled to their feet. The man whipped out his sword. Robin danced backwards and drew hers. The man’s blade was at least an inch wide. Robin’s wasn’t. She pressed the attack anyway. It startled her opponent. He dropped back and barely deflected her charge. Robin came in again, slashing fiercely. She overshot the man, as she’d intended, and brought her hilt crashing down onto the back of his neck. The man looked dazed for a second, then fell forward. Robin pounced on him and twisted his arm behind his back.

Dean and his opponent rolled in the mud. Both of Dean’s hands locked on the wrist with the gun. Dean squeezed and tried to stay on top of the smaller man. One vicious turn, and the pistol dropped. Dean scrambled after it. He grabbed it and turned to face his opponent’s knife. The man froze. Dean cocked the flintlock.

He chuckled. “Go ahead. Make my day!”

“Dean!” Robin groaned. She strong-armed her man to his feet, and looked around for something with which to bind him. “Couldn’t you be a little more original?”

Dean slowly got to his feet. “Okay, nice and easy now, drop the knife.”

The man did. Elizabeth emerged from the trees.

“We’ll need some rope.” she observed. She turned to the rotund gentleman. “Have you any, sir?”

“Piggot!” he called to the coachman.

“Yes, sir?”

“Fetch the young woman some rope.”

“Yes, sir.” Piggot reached behind him, then scrambled down from his post.

Robin and Elizabeth bound the two felons and sat them down next to the coach.

“Let’s see what we have here,” said Robin, as she searched them. “What’s this? A bag of silver? And here’s another. Are these yours, sir?”

“N-no.” The gentleman shook his head. “I was just about to hand it over.”

“Then I’ll take custody of these.” Smiling, Robin tied the sacks to her belt. “I’m not adverse to adding a little silver to my collection. Speaking of, I assume there’s a price on these fellows’ heads. Do you know how far it is to the nearest town where we can collect it?”

“Well, uh, yes, I —  Anthony?” Still in shock, the gentleman looked at the clerk.

“I don’t know, uncle.” the young man replied. “I rarely travel this road.”

“Robin, why don’t we just tie them up in the trees?” Dean suggested. “We’ve got money now.”

Robin nodded. “It’ll be easier than a forced march. All right.” She turned to the gentleman. “Well, good day to you, sir. Hope you don’t get robbed again.”

“But…” the man sputtered. “You’re not going to rob us?”

“Rob you?” Robin looked at him, confused, then laughed. “Not us. We’re honest folk. I know we look pretty grubby right now.” An idea began to form. “Unfortunately, we met with similar fellows earlier today. We were lucky we escaped with our weapons and our skins.”

“Indeed, yes.” The gentleman mopped his brow with a huge lace trimmed handkerchief. “Well, I owe you a great deal of thanks. To whom do I have the pleasure..?”

“Robin Parker, sir.” Robin nodded her head. “And this is my brother, Dean.”

“And the young woman?”

“I am Master Dean’s wife,” Elizabeth answered.

Robin started, as did Dean.

“Ah. Very good.” The gentleman wiped his brow again. “I am Sir James Culpepper, and this is my nephew and clerk, Anthony Morgan. And, eh, what brings you people out here?”

“We’re looking for a situation,” Robin answered. “We used to be innkeepers in the city, but fell on hard times.”

“Hm.” Sir James ran an appraising eye over Dean. “I shouldn’t think you would, but by any chance do you have your letters?”

“Letters?” asked Dean.

Robin nudged his ankle. “Yes, sir. We can read quite well. Our pastor taught us.”

“Indeed.” Sir James smiled. “And can you write?”

“Sure,” said Dean before Robin could nudge him again.

“Uncle, if I may be so bold,” Morgan began. “My aunt, your wife, did request that you not…”

“You may not be so bold, Anthony. I will bring whomever I please into my household. I brought you into my household. Come, you three. We’ll talk and see what you can do.”

Robin glanced at Dean, who shrugged. Elizabeth nodded.

“Well, thank you, sir.” Robin smiled. “We’ll do our best for you.”

Dean sat with Piggot on the box, as there wasn’t enough room inside the coach. There, Sir James looked Robin over more closely.

“An innkeeper, eh?” he said.

“At my father’s inn, sir.”

Sir James nodded. “Debtor’s prison, I assume.”

Robin nodded. “He made some poor speculations, I’m afraid. He died soon after.”

“I dare say. Poor speculations. Must have been dealing in trade from the colonies. Bad mistake, with all the trouble there now. At least they’ve stopped dumping tea in the harbor. Not that I think firing on the King’s Army is any better a thing to do mind you.”

Robin coughed back a laugh. “I, uh, heard something about that. When did it happen?”

“Let’s see. This is April. Was just about a year ago, then.”

“1776.” Robin muttered.

“No. Seventy-five it happened. This is seventy-six.” Sir James punctuated the thought with a walking stick he’d left in the coach and picked up as soon as they were under way.

“Oh. Right.”

“It’s a damned nuisance, is what it is. That Mr. Pitt has been nothing but a bloody old fool, hasn’t handled it at all well. The King’s more a fool for listening to him. I’m just glad I never got involved in that mess. The Orient. That’s where I do my business. India. Most profitable. I’ve done very well for myself, as you can see. I’ve got a small estate in Devonshire, a house in Town, and…” He shifted. “A house in Bath. That’s where I’m headed, at the moment. My wife and daughter are there, taking the waters. My wife has the gout. I’ve also got a son who’s an officer in the army. It was no small thing to buy him that commission. As a matter of fact, he’s stationed in the colonies, Philadelphia.”

Robin tried not to grin. “How interesting.”

“Oh, you know of Philadelphia.”

“I’ve… heard of it.”

Sir James lifted an eyebrow. “You seem very knowledgeable. Can you add at all?”

“Quite well. Except for his speculations, I kept all of my father’s accounts.”

“Indeed.” Sir James raised both his eyebrows. “What about your brother?”

“He’s good at adding, too.” Robin nodded vigorously.


They stopped in a small village just as darkness fell, and Sir James insisted on paying for a meal and a room for the three. After they had eaten and were about to settle in for the night, Elizabeth left to fetch some water. As soon as they were alone, Robin looked at Dean.

“Dean, do you know why Elizabeth suddenly wants to appear as your wife?”

Dean swallowed. “Well, I can guess.”

“You two have been fooling around, haven’t you?”

“Yeah. So?” Dean answered defensively.

“Why, Dean?” Robin groaned. “We came here to leave her. Is it really fair to start a relationship like that?”

“Well, we’re not going to leave her anyway, so what’s the big deal?”

Robin paused. She knew Dean had a point, but was so angry about everything else that she needed a target.

“That’s not the point,” she snarled, finally. “Didn’t you even think about Elizabeth’s feelings?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I thought a lot about them. Face it, Robin, Elizabeth and I both knew we couldn’t stay.”

“But, Dean, she doesn’t belong in the twentieth century!”

“She sure as hell didn’t belong where we were, any more than we did.”

“Okay. But what if she gets pregnant?”

“That. Well, um…” Dean smiled weakly.

Robin closed her eyes and turned away. “She isn’t.”

“Well, Robin…”

She turned on him. “You idiot! Why didn’t you think of that beforehand? Good lord, Dean, you know about birth control. Why didn’t you protect yourself?”

“I did!” Dean’s face was seriously pained. “We just forgot once. I swear it was only the one time.”

“Well, that was one time too many, wasn’t it? What are you going to do with a baby? How are you going to support it?”

“Isn’t this Culpepper guy going to give us a job?”

“But what if we’d made it to the twentieth century?”

Dean shrugged. “I figured we’d get an abortion.”

“It’s so easy to say that, isn’t it? But what about Elizabeth? It’s her baby, too. I swear, Dean, you are so irresponsible, you make me sick sometimes!”

“Irresponsible, huh?” Dean’s voice dripped with anger. “Well, fuck you. I’ve had it, Robin. Little goody two-shoes Robin taking care of baby brother. I’m not a baby. You want responsibility? Fine. We’re gonna keep that baby, and I’m going to support it, and Elizabeth, even if we do get home. I don’t know how, but I will.”

They froze as Elizabeth entered the room.

“Oh, dear,” she whispered.

Dean glared at Robin then turned. “Elizabeth, you and I are getting married just the minute we get home, do you understand?”

“Married?” she gasped, rejoicing and terrified all at the same time.

“Yeah.” Dean kissed her roughly, then strode out of the room.

Robin turned away and sighed.

“You know,” said Elizabeth.

“How far along are you?” Robin asked softly.

“A month or so.”

Robin swore. “I guess the first thing to do is to make sure you’re taken care of.”

“I’m not ill. Well, a little in the mornings.”

“But you have to eat the right things, get the right kind of exercise. Damn. You can’t trust the doctors here.”

“A doctor?” Elizabeth had to smile. “I’m only pregnant.”

Robin snorted. “Right.”

“It’s not entirely his fault, you know.”

Robin nodded. “True. Are you happy with him?”

“Very. I don’t understand why, but love seems to be very important in these matters to you and Dean. I do love him, and he loves me. He’s said so many times.”

“That seems a surprise, though I don’t know that it should be.” Robin sighed. “That overgrown lunkhead. I don’t know why he has all the luck. You’d better get some rest.”

“So had you.”

Robin nodded. “I hope he gets back soon.”

“He will be.”

Tired and miserable, Robin went to bed. The situation was unbearably grim. She hadn’t let on to Dean and Elizabeth, but she doubted that they’d ever get home.

Chapter Nineteen

time travel, science fiction, serial fiction, serial science fictionThe bells of nearby Saint Paul’s Cathedral were the only clue Robin, Dean, and Elizabeth had that dawn was upon them. Robin decided that she would go ahead and take a chance on hinting to their captors that she was in better shape than they thought by putting on her boots. It was more than likely the jailer had never noticed they’d been removed the night before. By wearing them, Robin was ready for action.

She got up and walked around the cell, stretching out. Then she laid back down in the position she’d been in. Her temples felt sore and had an almost clothlike feel to her touch. She could tell the area around her eyes was very swollen, yet it didn’t hurt at all.

As Saint Paul’s tolled eight o’clock, they heard the jailer come.

“It’s more than they deserve, sir,” he said to his companion. “But I admire you for trying.”

Tall and cloaked in darkness as before, Roger nodded as the jailer opened the cell door. There was silence until the jailer left.

“Here, I’ve brought food.” Roger opened the cloak and brought out cheese, bread and some fruit.

“Oh, wonderful!” gasped Elizabeth, who had been working very hard to hide her nausea. She ate greedily.

Robin and Dean also made short work of the supplies.

“I brought your weapons, too.” Roger tossed the two swords, the belt knife and the pistol to Dean and Robin. “I searched Master Chandler’s house last night. I didn’t find anything else.” He looked at Robin. Her face remained blank. “Things aren’t quite that grim. Fortunately, the inquisitor has other commitments today, so he won’t be ready for you, Dean, until tomorrow sometime. I’ve been able to arrange for some help around dusk. I’ll expect you to be ready. Basically, I’ll get the jailer to open the cell again. We’ll disarm him, and go from there.”

“Why can’t we just do that now?” asked Robin.

“We wouldn’t get past the front door,” Roger said. “The help I’ve arranged will be creating a distraction, and will help cover us as we leave.”

“I say you oughta just get your little machine and zap us home,” grumbled Dean.

“Dean, you dope!” groaned Robin. “There are a lot of things we’ve got to consider before we do that.”

“Your sister’s right,” Roger said. “We’ll take care of those later. I’d better leave. Robin, you continue resting. It’s a little risky pushing you this soon.”

“Well, the alternatives aren’t exactly the greatest,” Robin replied. “I’ll be fine.”

Roger smiled warmly. “Yes, I believe you will.”

With that, he left.

About the middle of the afternoon, someone approached.

“It’s Neddrick,” Dean hissed to Robin, who was again laying down.

The tall blonde man stood and leered at the door to the cell.

“Well,” he sneered. “I can’t tell you how satisfying I find this. Of course, Mistress Elizabeth, you’re the one I really want. You know, if you just go ahead and give yourself over, I might find a way to get the three of you out of this mess.”

“But I don’t know what you want from me,” Elizabeth said.

“I do,” growled Dean. “You ugly, sick… You make me want to puke!”

“So be it.” Neddrick nodded at Robin’s prone form. “You’re next, you know, unless I prevent it. I can. I’m very good friends with the inquisitor. I’ll have her, either way. You may as well spare yourself the pain.”

Dean swallowed but did not answer.

“So be it.” Neddrick turned and left.

As the time passed, Dean got antsy.

“When’s dusk?” he asked out loud.

“Probably around five of the clock,” said Elizabeth.

Even as she spoke, they heard the church bells toll the hour, and the sound of someone coming. But it was three guards who accompanied the jailer. Roger was not to be seen.

“The inquisitor wants you now.” The jailer nodded at Dean, as he opened the door.

“What?” Dean demanded. “But he wasn’t supposed to want me until tomorrow!”

“Who told you that?” snapped one of the guards.

“Um.” Dean squirmed. “The guy that was here just this afternoon.”

“He changed his mind,” replied the guard.

The three men advanced. Dean hedged backward into the cell. Unsuspecting, they bore down on him. Backed up against the wall, Dean slowly sank to a squat. His hand slipped into the straw underneath him. He waited until the three men were almost on top of him.

“Now!” he yelled.

Straw flew as he whipped his sword out and charged. Robin sprang to her feet. She whirled around, pistol in hand, and fired at the jailer before he slammed the cell door shut. He fell backward grabbing his shoulder.

One of the guards swung around and cuffed Robin. She stumbled. The pistol fell and, still hot, skidded and sparked on the stone floor into the straw. Regaining her balance, Robin swung around, and landed an elbow into the side of the guard’s neck. He bent in agony.

Elizabeth tripped a second guard. She had the belt knife and went after him. He got a good grip on her hands and forced it from her. She sank her teeth into his wrist. Yelping, he let go. She punched him in the crotch. After struggling to her feet, she kicked him in the shin for good measure.

Dean still slashed at the third guard. The man barely had time to draw his own sword. He beat back the blows, backing up as Dean pressed harder. He made it through the cell door, then tripped over the downed jailer. Dean burst out and danced around the jailer’s prone form.

“Fire!” yelled the guard.

Dean ignored him and bore down on the guard. The guard picked up and ran off down the corridor. Only then did Dean turn. The straw in the cell crackled in a burst of bright flames.

“How the hell did that start?” Dean cried.

“The pistol,” Robin yelped. “Get going!”

She grabbed Elizabeth by the hand and pulled her out of the cell.

“Dean, wait!” Robin stooped as Dean paused. From the floor she grabbed two hats that had fallen off of the guards. “Here, put this on. Maybe we won’t look as much like prisoners this way.”

“Good idea.”

They ran after the fleeing guard. Three minutes later, five men appeared before them, carrying buckets of water.

“You there!” one of them called.

Robin grabbed Elizabeth’s arm. “We’re moving this prisoner before she gets away. She’s one of those papists that started that fire.”

“Pass then, and hurry back.”

Once past the men, Dean let out a deep chuckle.

“We’re not out of this yet, knucklehead,” Robin growled. “We’ve still gotta get out of this joint. Do you remember how you got in?”

“I believe so,” Elizabeth sighed. “But I do fear we missed the right corridor.”

“How far back is it?” Robin glanced behind her.

Elizabeth grimaced as a group of guards came running through the crossing corridor.

“Too far,” she said.

“Terrific,” groaned Robin. “There’s got to be another way out of here.”

People ran about everywhere. No one took any notice of the threesome. Robin found a stairway and led the group down it after Elizabeth assured her they had come up a staircase when they were brought in.

“Maybe if I can find where I was,” Robin muttered.

“There you are!” exclaimed a familiar voice.

They whirled around. Dean defensively stepped forward, his sword drawn and ready.

“It’s me,” said Roger. He stepped out of the shadows. “What are you doing out of your cell.”

“The inquisitor changed his mind and decided he wanted to see Dean early,” snapped Robin. “We decided we didn’t want to stick around. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Roger glanced back as another group of guards ran past. “I’ve been hoping you were behind this fire.”

“Well, it was an accident,” Robin conceded.

“A happy one.” Roger nodded. “Let’s take our leave. This way.”

Robin was forced to follow. On the street, men ran with buckets of water, while hordes of others came to sightsee. Roger pushed Dean and Elizabeth one way.

“You two go with them,” he directed, pointing into the crowd.

“Wait a minute,” began Dean.

Robin saw some familiar faces, men from Master Chandler’s congregation.

“Go ahead,” she hissed.

Dean and Elizabeth hurried away. Suddenly Robin felt lightheaded. She wavered. Roger had his arm around her in seconds.

“Make way!” he yelled. “This man is injured.”

They stumbled along until they were in an alley away from the action. Robin leaned against the wall of a house.

“I’ll be all right,” she gasped. “Just let me get my head down for a moment.”

She bent over. Roger checked her pulse at her wrist.

“Not good,” he said. “You shouldn’t be pushing it this hard.”

Robin winced. “Would you rather I was resting back in the cell?”

“I wasn’t discussing your options.” Roger’s voice was grim, but he couldn’t help smiling. “I’m merely concerned. It’s going to take most of the night to get to where we’re going, what with hiding and all. It won’t take that long to put out that fire, and they’ll start looking for you as soon as it is.”

“No kidding. Well, we’d better get hustling.” Robin straightened quickly.

Too quickly. The world went spinning and Robin sank. Roger caught her.

“Damn,” he muttered.

The rest house he planned on using was close by. He pulled Robin’s inert form over his shoulder and hurried on.

Dean and Elizabeth spent the better part of their evening underneath the hay of a market cart. They arrived at an inn on the other side of the Thames several hours later. Master Chandler was there and delighted to see them.

“Praise be to the Lord you’re safe!” he cried. “And where is Master Robin?”

“With that Roger clown,” Dean grumbled.

“Who?” asked Master Chandler.

“Reverend James took Master Robin with him,” said a man.

“Ah, yes.” Master Chandler nodded. “That was the plan. To be truthful, we didn’t expect any of you until dawn.”

“We found a cart,” said a young man. “Master Goodworth loaned it to us.”

“That was very kind of him,” Master Chandler said. “We must remember him in our prayers. As for you, Master Dean, Mistress Elizabeth, you must rest. We’ve beds for you. Come. You get some sleep and I’m sure Master Robin will be here quite soon.”

Dean was a little reluctant, but couldn’t think of anything else to do. Elizabeth asked if there was a bit of bread she could have. It was provided, and she fell asleep soon after eating it.

At sunrise someone woke Dean and Elizabeth.

“They’re coming!” said the young boy.

Dean was out of bed instantly. Elizabeth joined him in the best room. The early morning chill touched everything. Roger carried in what looked like a shrouded body.

“Where’s Robin?” Dean demanded.

“In here.” Roger indicated the shroud.

“What?” Dean lurched forward.

“Robin is completely alive,” Roger said. “He just passed out from the exertion. We couldn’t wake him, so we put him in here. It made it a lot easier to get him past the Roundheads looking for you three. Why don’t you help me get him upstairs and in bed?”

This was accomplished quickly. Robin stirred as they unwound the sheet. Roger shooed everyone out except Dean and Elizabeth. After getting rid of the sheet and Robin’s boots, Roger pulled his little flask from the depths of his cloak.

“Oh my…” Robin muttered. Her eyes slowly opened. “What happened?”

“I told you, you pushed it too hard.” Roger put the flask to her lips. “Drink this.”

“What is it?” Robin sniffed at skeptically.


Her lip curled. “And what the hell is that?”

“A restorative. Now drink it.”

Robin sipped suspiciously. Roger turned to Dean and Elizabeth.

“There,” he said. “You can see she’s all right. Now could you please leave and let her get some sleep?”

“You guys okay?” Robin asked.

“Fine,” said Dean.


Dean and Elizabeth departed. Roger turned back to Robin.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave also,” he said. “I’ve got a couple things to look into and you really need to be sleeping to get your strength back. I want you to sleep for at least another three hours, then take it easy. You should be mostly back to normal by noon. I’ll be back by suppertime. After then we’ll talk.”

Robin looked away sadly.

“What’s wrong?”

“I suppose I should be grateful to you,” she said bitterly. “You did save our lives and I am thankful for that.”


“For what?” Robin asked. “What are you going to do to us? After all, we only wrecked your experiment. At least that’s what I’m assuming Elizabeth was.”

Roger chuckled. “Well, yes, she is, and it wasn’t wrecked. We’ll discuss that later, and I am very much looking forward to the discussion. Fear not, Robin. You haven’t escaped the frying pan for the fire. I’ll see you tonight.” He left.

Feeling oddly reassured, Robin settled back and went to sleep. When she awoke, Master Chandler was sitting by the bed.

“Oh, good,” she sighed. “You’re safe.”

“I was similarly concerned about you.” Master Chandler smiled.

She yawned. “How long have I been sleeping?”

“About four hours.” Master Chandler looked out the window. “The church clock struck ten not long ago.”

“Great.” Robin eased herself up and pulled her legs over the side of the bed. “I can get up now.”

“I thought you might be worried, so I went ahead and brought these up.” Master Chandler pointed to the three sacks.

“You got them!” Robin pounced on them. “You didn’t go back for them, did you?”

“I did.”

Robin glared at him briefly. “They weren’t that important. But I’m sure glad I’ve got them.” Robin smiled. The bags meant she wouldn’t have to depend on Roger anymore. Even if he didn’t seem angry at them, she didn’t quite trust him. “Well, this means we’ll be taking off right away.”

Master Chandler looked crestfallen. “Where to?”

Robin didn’t notice as she looked through the bags. “I’m not sure. Maybe the colonies. Who knows? London hasn’t worked out too well.”

“I can’t blame you.” Master Chandler sighed. “Come, my son. Let me give you my blessing.”

Robin bowed her head as he whispered the Latin words over her. He laid both hands on top of her head. He swallowed as he brought the hands to her cheeks and lifted her face to look at him.

“You have been so dear to me, my son,” he said.

Robin suddenly blinked back tears. “I can’t tell you what you’ve meant to me.” She pulled away. “Listen, take care of yourself, will you? This martyrdom crap may be great for your soul, but it’s pretty hard on the rest of us. Okay?”

Master Chandler nodded sadly. “I suppose it would be. You be careful also.”

“I will. Good bye, Father.”

“Good bye, Robin.”

Robin pulled on her boots and collected the sacks. With one long sigh, she looked at Master Chandler. She opened one of the sacks and pawed through it, making sure there was nothing in it but coins.

“You may as well take this,” she said handing it to him. “We won’t be able to use it where we’re going.”

“Are you sure?”

She strode out of the room, without answering and called Dean and Elizabeth.

“Come on,” she told them. “We’re leaving now.”

“What about Roger?” Dean asked, scrambling after her.

“Tough potatoes.”

“So where are we going?” Dean asked once they were on the street.

“Someplace where no one can see us, first,” Robin replied.

“Does this mean we’re going home?” Dean asked.

Robin turned on him. “Why do you have to keep on with that?”

“Perhaps it would be best,” said Elizabeth.

“But…” Robin turned to her. “Dean is talking about our home.”

“I know.”

“The place with all the magic you don’t like.”

Elizabeth swallowed. “I know. But it seems like everywhere we go here, we get arrested. I know it’s that Master Neddrick behind it.”

“I was going to take you to another time,” Robin said.

“Then why don’t we just go to your time?” Elizabeth asked. “I believe I can learn to like it. I understand a little better now.”

“I suppose,” Robin grumbled.

“You don’t want to go back, do you, Robin?” said Dean.

“Of course, I do,” she replied. “Well, maybe not just yet. I don’t know. I’m afraid if we go home, I won’t get to come back. This machine seems to be run on batteries, and I don’t know how much power we’ve got left. I’m pretty sure we’ve got enough to get home, but beyond that…”

Dean shrugged. “I guess I understand how you feel. But I’ve had enough history to last me a lifetime. Please, Robin, can we? We’re running out of places to go.”

“Not by a long shot,” Robin said. “But all right. Let’s get out on the road a ways before we do. I don’t think it would be very nice to let anyone see us disappear into thin air.”

Dusk fell as they came to the edge of the city. They spent the night at an inn, just for old time’s sake. The next morning, they took their time leaving. Close to noon, Robin called a halt. They left the road. Dean grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, then placed his other hand on Robin’s shoulder. Robin entered the coordinates into the machine. With a reluctant sigh, she hit RETURN.

Chapter Eighteen

Dean made up his mind. He was not going to panic. Never mind that Elizabeth’s news made it very difficult to enjoy the afternoon and evening. He briefly debated telling Robin and getting her advice. Very briefly. Dean took one good look at her and completely lost his nerve. Nonetheless, he refused to panic.

The next morning, he thought the whole matter over carefully. The important thing was to get Elizabeth home before she got too much further along. If an abortion was even possible in the seventeenth century, it could quite easily kill her.

Dean crept upstairs. Robin had made merry a little too late the night before and was still sound asleep. Elizabeth had shown Dean how to work the loose board some weeks before. Dean retrieved the dowel and went to work.

He found the time machine easily enough. Just in case, he left the secret loft and scurried out of the house. By this time he was familiar with the labyrinth. He slipped down two or three streets to a small courtyard. It was deserted, which wasn’t surprising when one considered that it was just barely after dawn, and very cold.

Dean turned over the machine in his hands nervously. He remembered Robin saying something about it being so user friendly even he could use it. That was no help. He pressed the button on the side. The keypad glowed. Dean wondered what to do next.

It was hopeless. Dean had a bad feeling that screwing up would only get him into worse trouble. He turned it off and hurried home.

Robin was still asleep when he got there. Elizabeth and Master Chandler were busy in the kitchen. Furtively, Dean hurried up the stairs and re-hid the machine.

It seemed the only thing left to do was to tell Robin the truth. But when she arrived downstairs, she was so surly and grouchy, Dean lost his nerve again. There was still a little time. Dean decided he would just have to wait for a good opportunity.

The next day was the Sabbath. The day after that, Master Chandler returned from one of his errands without his cloak and with a very guilty look on his face.

“Master Robin, you’ll have to help me,” he whispered very quietly to her in the best room. “Elizabeth is sure to be very angry with me.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Robin chuckled. “You barely lasted three days.”

“I didn’t give it away. I loaned it,” Master Chandler said earnestly. “The poor young man was freezing. He said something very curious about not checking the date before homing in. In any case, he promised to bring it back as soon as he got himself one.”

Robin grimaced. “I’ve got a bad feeling that’s the last we’ll see of your cloak.”

“Oh, no! He was very sincere. A good bright honest face.”

“Famous last words.” Robin took a deep breath. “Well, I’ll explain to Elizabeth. You may want to lay low for a little while.”

She left Master Chandler in the best room and went back to the kitchen, struggling for the right words.

Elizabeth was not very understanding.

“Why that..!” She groaned, too furious for words.

“Now, Elizabeth. He really did believe he’d get it back. He may just yet.” Robin sighed.

“He’s not that stupid.” She whirled away out of the room.

Robin shook her head as she heard Elizabeth calling for Master Chandler in the best room. There was no answer. Master Chandler must have taken Robin’s advice and gone out again.

Robin started as she heard Elizabeth pounding up the stairs. Master Chandler was rarely in his room during the day. Furthermore, Robin would have heard him answer Elizabeth’s call if he had been. Robin bolted upstairs.

Elizabeth stood in the doorway of Master Chandler’s room, gazing inside in shock.

“Elizabeth,” Robin said softly.

“What are these things?” she whispered, pointing at the small shrine and its candles. She turned on Robin. “You knew, didn’t you? I thought at first it might be. But then I thought, no. Robin wouldn’t support that. How could you!”

“How could I not?” Robin said with quiet anger. “Damn it, he saved Dean’s life!”

Elizabeth was shaking. “He’s still a filthy papist!”

“Yes, he is. He’s a priest, too.”

Elizabeth whirled away. “How could you have allowed such a thing?”

Robin exploded. “And how can you say that after all we’ve been through? After all the times someone’s wanted to hang us for no good reason besides hating us!”

“He’s in league with the Devil!” Elizabeth ignored her and paced in the hallway.

“He sure as hell doesn’t act like it! It seems pretty strange to me that someone working for Satan is gonna go around giving the food out of his mouth to anyone who needs it. Or risking his life out on the streets night after night to care for the sick.”

“Have you ever been to their services?”

“Yes. Have you?”

Elizabeth remained silent but had to stop pacing.

“Good lord, Elizabeth,” Robin continued. “How can you hate them without even trying to understand what they’re all about? That’s why there are witch trials, and all sorts of nonsense like that. That’s why we keep getting accused of witchcraft. People are so busy hating what they don’t understand, they refuse to take a chance on maybe finding something very good. It’s no wonder a little scratch can kill you around here.”

“But all I’ve ever known was that it was evil.” Elizabeth sniffed, suddenly very unsure.

“Elizabeth,” Robin sighed. “You know people to the very core of their being. I ask you. Is Master Chandler evil?”

“This is so hard.” Elizabeth sank down onto the floor and cried. “I know he isn’t. But must I deny everything I was ever taught?”

“I’m not saying you have to become a Catholic. I’m just saying that it’s a stupid reason to hate somebody. That’s all it really boils down to. You disagree, so you hate each other and try to kill each other. It doesn’t strike me as being terribly Christian.”

“It isn’t,” Elizabeth agreed. “So why does it happen?”

“I don’t know. Some of it’s a lack of education. But that’s not all of it. One of the worst bigots I ever knew had college degrees coming out his ears.” Robin slumped down next to Elizabeth and put her arms around her. “They’re still fighting it in my time. There are laws against discrimination, and people still hate.”

Elizabeth sniffed. “Maybe Master Chandler has the right way of it. He risked his life to take us in, and I’m sure not all who receive his charity are papists. He treats everyone the same. Oh, Robin. How am I ever going to understand?”

“I don’t understand a lot of things myself. But I think we’re both a lot closer to understanding now than we ever were.”

Elizabeth nodded, and laid her head on Robin’s shoulder.

The situation continued to perplex Elizabeth. She knew that Robin was right, as she was about many other things. But how could practically everyone else around them be so wrong? Perhaps it was not for Elizabeth to figure out.

The next day, Donald Long found himself carefully watching the candlemaker’s house from across the street. In Bath, Robin had actually found him before he’d found her. Or would. And Elizabeth had clearly been pregnant there. The question was when did he get her that way? At least, if he wasn’t successful in London, there was always whatever the next stop on the timetron showed – where the Parkers and Elizabeth had come from.

As another tall, thin man approached, Donald stiffened. Roger. Donald wondered how Roger had figured out the Parkers were at the candlemaker’s. The timetron’s log only showed a turn-on in the neighborhood.

Roger York smiled as he looked at the sign. This was where the man called Master Chandler had said. Roger patted the cloak in his arm. The candlemaker would be very surprised to see it back. He had tried to seem trusting. But Roger doubted the man was ignorant of basic human nature.

He knocked and entered. A young man dipping candles looked up and smiled casually.

“May I help you?” the young man asked.

Roger smiled back as he looked at the young man a little more carefully. There was something a little bit odd about him. He was taller than most men, about five nine, and slightly built. But that wasn’t what made Roger pause.

“I understand this is Master Chandler’s home,” Roger said finally.

“Yes, it is,” replied the young man. “What can I do for you?”

“I’ve come to return this cloak. Master Chandler loaned it to me yesterday.”

The young man laughed as he came over. “I don’t believe it, but great. I’ll see that he gets it. Thank you for returning it.”

“Please tell him how grateful I am.” Roger handed over the cloak, surreptitiously gazing at the young man.


There was an awkward pause.

“Well, good day, sir.” Roger said, and headed out.

“Good day.”

Outside on the street, Roger paused. That little oddity was coming. A moment or so more thought and he would have it. It did almost in a flash. The young man had had no beard. He wasn’t merely clean-shaven. Roger was sure there wasn’t any beard to shave.

A hormone imbalance could easily explain it, and that sort of thing wasn’t unheard of. That would also explain why the young man’s voice, although tenor in range, had an immature feel to it. Of course another explanation might be that the young man wasn’t a young man, which would make sense given what the surveillance disk in the castle had shown. And if what Roger had found among Donald’s research was accurate, Roger had found Robin Parker and very probably her brother and Elizabeth and the missing timetron.

The sound of someone slipping on the icy cobbles destroyed Roger’s chain of thought. Just on the edge of his peripheral vision, he saw a familiar form as it righted itself just in time to give Roger a glimpse of his face before he took off running. Donald, damn him. Roger hurried after.

“Well?” Robin asked Elizabeth as they looked out the upstairs window to the street below.

“He’s running off.” she replied. “I saw something in the shadows. I get the feeling he did, too, and that’s what he’s chasing.”

“But he is…”

“Roger? Oh, yes. I recognized his voice. It’s a good thing I did. I almost started to come down.”

Robin frowned. “He was looking at me strangely. It can’t be that he recognizes me. He’s never seen me that I know of.”

“Perhaps it’s because you do look a little like a woman,” Elizabeth said gently.

“No one else seems to think so.” Robin was surprised by the bitterness in her voice, then stopped. “Wait. Maybe he did recognize me. There had to be some sort of surveillance in that castle room. Great. I wonder how much he knows about us.”

Elizabeth shrugged. Dean burst into the house.

“Elizabeth! Robin!” he bellowed.

They ran down the stairs. Dean was breathing heavily and his face was flushed with exertion.

“What is it?” Elizabeth cried.

“You guys aren’t gonna believe who I almost ran into!” Dean gasped.

“Who?” asked Robin.

“That Master Neddrick dude.”

“Are you sure?” Elizabeth squeaked.

“Oh, damn!” Robin snapped at the same time.

“I’m positive it was him.” Dean answered.

“Did he see you?” Robin demanded.

“I couldn’t help it, Robin.” groaned Dean. “I didn’t know he was there. But then I got this really weird feeling that someone was following me. I turned around and there he was. That’s what took me so long to get back. I hauled it out of there and ditched him.”

“We’ll have to flee again.” Elizabeth wrung her hands.

“I hope not,” Robin sighed.

“But, Robin,” Elizabeth protested. “Roger was just here, and now Master Neddrick.”

“Roger?” Dean squeaked. “Aw, crap, Robin. How the hell did he find us?”

“How the hell would I know?” Robin fidgeted as she wandered aimlessly around the best room. “All right. For the moment, we’ll have to assume we put Roger off. And just because Neddrick’s seen Dean doesn’t mean he’ll be able to find us. We’re innkeepers. People just don’t change trades like we have. Neddrick’s probably not looking for candlemakers. We’d better sit tight for a while. If we take off running now, while they’re both so close, they might spot us again. Not to mention the fact that it’s the middle of winter. That’s no time to be hitting the road.”

“We could go home,” Dean suggested.

“Not with Roger this close on our heels,” Robin said, then sighed. “Look, we don’t want to go rushing into anything. Give me a day or two to figure how to get home without leading Roger to us.”

Both Dean and Elizabeth reluctantly agreed.

But Robin didn’t even get until that evening. She was grateful that Master Chandler was off on some errand when the men arrived. Dean and Elizabeth were in the kitchen. Robin worked in the best room.

They burst in, ten strong, without warning.

“We’ve come for the papists!” their leader announced.

“There are none here!” Robin yelped indignantly.

The men swarmed all over the place. Robin couldn’t stop them.

“What the hell’s going on here?” Dean demanded, bursting into the room.

“Bind the two of them!” the leader commanded.

Elizabeth slunk up the stairs. Three men pounced on Dean. He thrashed about, but the men knew their business and quickly had him face down on the floor and tied. Robin decided against struggling.

“And where do you think you’re going?” A man caught Elizabeth on the stairs and roughly dragged her down. “You whoring wretch!” He cuffed her, then tied her.

A minute later, there were sounds of cheering upstairs.

“Look what we’ve found!” two other men called as they ran down the stairs carrying Master Chandler’s vessels and crucifixes.

“They’re mine!” Robin cried out. “The others have nothing to do with it. Please, let them alone.”

The leader spat in her face. Robin flinched. The other men whooped with glee as they spilled the hosts onto the floor, then ground them into paste with their heels. Robin could hold it no longer. Her tears spilled down her cheeks, thinking of how sacred the small pieces of bread were to Master Chandler. He valued them above gold, even.

At the gaol the men took Robin away. Dean and Elizabeth were pushed into a cell filled with rotten straw. As the jailer stalked off, Dean wrinkled his nose at the stench. There were sounds of soft squeaking and scratching.

“Oh, no,” Elizabeth sighed, terrified.

“Terrific. Rats,” grumbled Dean. “It would sure be nice to have a cat around.”

“Don’t say that!” Elizabeth hissed.

Dean shrugged. “At least it’s not witchcraft this time.”

Elizabeth shuddered. Dean came over to her and wrapped his arms around her.

“Hey, we’ll get out of this. We have all the times before,” he told her.

“But there was always Robin before.”

“She’s gonna be okay. I know she is. She’s probably escaped already.”

“Dean…” Elizabeth’s voice broke.

“No. We’ve gotta keep our spirits up. We’ll get out of this. We will. We’ve just gotta believe that.”

Dean’s confidence faded completely late that night when they brought Robin to the cell. She was unconscious. Her eyes were puffy and bruising. Blood had dried underneath her nose, and along the corner of her mouth. From her temples rose a sickening stench, and they were bright red with dark circles around the patches.

“What the hell did you do!” Dean flung himself at the bars of the door, and yelled, swearing, after the jailer. “Can’t you face me? What did you do?”

“Dean!” Crying, Elizabeth pulled him back from the door. “Here, help me lay her out.”

Dean choked. “She’s dead?”

“No. Help me make her more comfortable. Come, Dean. Here’s some straw that isn’t so old. It’ll make a good pillow.”

Dean complied meekly. A few minutes later, they heard the clanking return of the jailer. Dean stiffened, but resolved not to lose it again.

“It’s good of you to come, your reverence,” the jailer was saying. “But I don’t see as how it’s worth it. I’ve dealt with these papists before. They’re as stubborn as they come. Worse than most.”

“And all the more needful of Our Lord’s mercy, my good sir,” replied the man with him. He was wearing black, and his face was shadowed over by the wide brim of his hat. Elizabeth gasped. “Would you take a chance on losing these poor souls to the Devil just because you lack faith in God’s power?”

“I ‘spect not, your reverence. Well, here we are. Just yell loudly if you need me. I’ll be just at the end of the corridor.”

“Thank you muchly, my good man.”

The jailer unlocked the door, admitted the tall, thin newcomer, then locked the door behind him. The man waited, standing perfectly still, until the jailer was well out of earshot. Then he shifted into action, bending over Robin’s still form and reaching for her pulse behind her jaw.

“Weak, but holding on well.” He shook his head. “The beasts.”

“Who the hell are you?” Dean demanded. Something was wrong with the newcomer’s actions, but Dean was at a loss to say what.

The man turned and removed his hat.

“Roger,” sighed Elizabeth.

“Oh, hell!” Dean approached menacingly. “You get away from her!”

Roger shook his head. “She needs treatment, and you are far too young to be qualified or capable of giving it to her.”

“I got basic emergency care.” But Dean stopped.

“I am a certified sub-medical, which trumps you several times over.” Roger bent over Robin once again. This time he probed with his fingers, searching for broken bones. “I appreciate your distrust. However, there is not time for it. Will you help me remove her boots?”

“I’ll help you..!” Dean advanced again.

“Dean!” Elizabeth yelped, stopping him. “Please. I know he’s after us, but I don’t think he’ll hurt her. Please, Dean. We need his help.”

Dean looked at Elizabeth, then sighed. “All right.”

“Good.” Roger shifted around. “You hold her leg stable while I remove the boot. There we are. Now, the next one.” He nodded as Dean did as he was asked. “You’ve got quite the touch.”

“It’s in the family,” Dean stammered. “My mom’s a doctor. Back home.”

Roger smiled over at Elizabeth, a little sheepishly, then turned back to examining Robin.

“I suppose I should have stayed in the castle,” Elizabeth said softly. “I’m sorry, Roger.”

Roger shrugged. “It doesn’t matter now. Although you should refer to me as Reverend James for the time being.” He looked over at Dean. “I’ve been talking to your neighbors. Let’s see. If you’re Dean, then this is Robin?”

“Yeah. She’s my sister. Well, she’s supposed to be my brother.” Dean shuffled again. “Robin Parker. I’m Dean Parker.”

“Yes. I got that.” Roger nodded as he finished his examination. He removed a small flask from somewhere inside his cloak. “Well, the good news is that she doesn’t seem to have any broken bones or internal bleeding.”

“What’s that?” Dean asked, nodding at the flask.

“Phenyl-trichloroacenol. Something I seriously doubt you’ve heard of.”

“That’s not surprising,” Dean shrugged.

Roger smiled. “It’s a powerful restorative, excellent for quickly healing contusions and other minor cuts. If your sister is to do any time traveling tomorrow, she’ll have to be in much better shape. Open wounds are very dangerous in the drop. Those burns on her temples worry me a little.”

Dean nodded. “I wonder how those happened.”

“Probably made with a poker. Very common for this era. I suspect she probably fainted from the pain. I have a salve that will hopefully hold through the drop. But first this.” He dropped some of the liquid from the flask onto his forefinger. Opening Robin’s lips with his other hand, he slid the forefinger between her teeth. “There you go. Now, start swallowing.” He massaged her neck. “It’s also good for anesthetic purposes. Let’s get some more down.” He repeated the performance.

Robin stirred. Roger set the flask down and removed a tube from his cloak. He applied some of the contents to the burns.

“Oh, good.” He smiled. “She’s accepting it already. There’s a good chance it won’t even scar.”

He replaced the tube in his cloak, then fed her some more liquid from the flask. Robin stirred again, this time waking.

“They didn’t know. I promise you,” she whispered, her eyes still closed. “The candlemaker had no idea.”

“It’s all right,” Roger said. “I’m not an inquisitor. But do me a favor and drink some more of this.”

Robin sipped, then took another good swallow. Roger pushed for one more long drink. She took it. Her eyes fluttered open as he took her pulse.

“Who..? Oh. You’re the young man who returned the cloak.”

“Yes. Roger,” said Elizabeth softly.

“What!” Robin yelped weakly. She feebly struggled.

“Hold on! Hold on!” Roger pinned her. “You’re still too weak to try moving around. Rest now. Give the medicine a chance to work.”

She moaned softly. “Everything feels so funny, like my whole body’s gone to sleep.”

“That means it’s working.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked, laying back on the straw again.

Roger smiled. “I’m supposedly trying to convert you three to the true faith, and hopefully they’ll just keep you jailed instead of hanging you.”

“They’ll never believe it,” Robin groaned.

“Why shouldn’t they?”

“Hey, I’ll convert,” Dean volunteered.

“It doesn’t matter,” Elizabeth said. “We’re already converted. Roger is just going to tell them that he converted us because they think we’re Catholics.”

“Precisely.” Roger nodded.

“They’ll never believe it,” Robin sighed.

“Why not?” asked Roger.

“Because I confessed.” Robin sniffed. “It was the only way I could think of to save Master Chandler. They’d heard there was a priest in the neighborhood. I knew they’d go after him, so I told them I was the priest. Threw some Latin at them. Domino vobiscum and a few plant names. That convinced them. I just hope Master Chandler doesn’t get the same idea to try and save us.”

“He already did,” Roger said. “Fortunately, I convinced him that I had a better plan that would allow him to escape and serve others. I’ve got some other members of his parish holding him down now just in case.”

“Thank God,” Robin whispered.

“It looks like my plan isn’t going to work though.” Roger sighed. “They’ll hang you for sure now, and probably torture Dean to find out if he’s a priest also.”

“Your reverence?” the jailer called.

“I’m quite well, sir,” Roger called back. “I’ll call for you shortly.” He stood and thought for a long moment. “There are other options.”

“Why don’t you just zap us out of here right now?” Dean suggested.

“Because I do not carry the timetron with me. Once I’ve made it through the drop, I hide it, so I can move about freely without detection by the locals. We’ll have to make the break, as it were, tomorrow. I seriously doubt they’ll carry out the execution right away, not with a civil disturbance on, but there’s no point in chancing it. I’ll have to try and find out their plans for you. That shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll be back tomorrow morning, in any case. Robin, you will be feeling a lot better in a couple hours. You’ll still be fairly weak for another eighteen hours, at minimum. But I would recommend appearing more like they would expect.”

“Yeah,” Robin whispered.

“I think I’ve got a plan coming.” Roger smiled. “Yes. It’s there. I’ll be spending my night refining it. You three rest up, and whatever happens, keep your heads. It’s your only chance.”

Roger called for the jailer, and a few moments later was gone.