The Big Cover Reveal

Yes, it’s time once again for the latest major release. Death of the Zanjero is the start of a  murder mystery series featuring Maddie Franklin Wilcox in Los Angeles, 1870.

In Los Angeles in 1870, water was scarce and the most powerful man in town was the Zanjero, or water overseer. And he was often the most corrupt, as well. When Zanjero Bert Rivers turns up dead in the irrigation ditch, or zanja, leading to young widow Maddie Wilcox’s vineyards, Maddie has the odd feeling he was murdered.

Then the undertaker’s wife, Mrs. Sutton, confirms that Rivers was shot, and not just hit on the head. Maddie finds herself drawn into finding the killer, first to see justice done, and then to save the skin of the one person she knows did not do it – the town’s most infamous madam, Regina Medina.

Maddie quickly discovers that Mr. Rivers was not the kind, upstanding civic benefactor he presented himself as, but a most despicable man who preyed on the weak and vulnerable, and cheated everyone else. With nearly everyone having a reason to kill the zanjero, Maddie stumbles on more than a few secrets and ends up in a chase that will tax her intellect, her soul and her very belief in humanity before she’s done.

The cover was done by my wonderful friend and even more awesome artist, Ginko Lee (who I’m sure is seriously regretting suggesting doing a cover for me). But, dang, this one is gorgeous! And here it is.

The Next Fiction Serial Has Been Delayed

Sigh.

It’s a good thing I re-read the beginning of A Nose for a Niedeman before I posted Chapter One today. After fixing a plot hole later in the book, I found that I’d created an even bigger one in the first two chapters.

Yeah. Exactly.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get the story fixed. Should be by the end of April. In the meantime, here’s the cover:

Taking a Break

We’ll be back next week with a new fiction serial A Nose for a Niedeman. Thank you for your patience.

But World Enough and Time is Now An Ebook!

science fiction, time travelI’m pretty excited about this one. This novel means a lot to me because its genesis was hanging with the girlfriends and I got a lot of research done for me by my dear friend Stephanie Beverage. It’s also turned into quite a fun romp. You can go here to find links to your favorite ebook retailer.

Oh. Why isn’t it available in paperback? That’s the awkward part. You see, But World Enough and Time is the first book in a trilogy of novels. Part two, Time Enough, is being written now. And as I started Time Enough, I realized I needed to make a few tweaks to But World Enough and Time – nothing major – which was already being serialized on the blog. Since it’s a lot less costly to update an ebook as needed, I figure I’ll just wait until the trilogy is complete before releasing the books in paper. Unless sales for But World Enough and Time go viral.

And, speaking of, if you do buy the ebook, please do not forget to leave a review on GoodReads or Amazon or wherever. It really, really helps.

 

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.”

“Oh?”

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 Books2Read.com. 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.

“But—”

“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.”

“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.”

“Experiment?”

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.

“What?”

“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.”

“Indeed.”

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.”

“And..?”

“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.”

“Why?”

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?”

“Sure.”

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.

Old Shirts to New Dress: RePurposing Clothes

Repurposing clothes, sewing, waste-free living

Repurposing clothes with scraps and old shirts

I’ve been really getting into repurposing clothes of late. Never mind that I have piles and piles of fresh fabrics all waiting to be made into nifty new outfits. But the one problem with sewing is that it does create a fair amount of waste. I have tons of scraps that I’d like to do something with besides throwing them out.

Then there’s the problem of all the clothes that we wear out around here. You can’t give ragged shirts to Goodwill or others. They can’t sell them. And I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find out if they can send what rags they get to fabric recyclers.

But when I’ve messed up a project (a fairly frequent occurrence), what do I do with the fabric that should have been a shirt or a pair of pants?

The How I Did It of RePurposing Clothes

One option is to turn those fabric scraps and old shirts with ragged collars into a new garment. In this case, I experimented with a dress. I’d also gotten a quick lesson in draping a pattern, too, which gave me some confidence to give it a try.

repurposing clothes, waste-free living, sewing

Shirt pockets as dress pockets

I used for my base a shirt I’d made for my husband, or it would have been for my husband if I hadn’t made the neck way too big. I decided to leave the front and back intact for style reasons and to avoid having to sew in new buttons. The other fun thing I did was take an old shirt that already welt pockets and use that for my waist pockets. Because I’m  not going to make anything that doesn’t have pockets.

Doing it Again?

It took some math and I think next time I’m going to stitch any fabric I add to the sides of the shirt so that they cover the armhole first, then cut a new one. But here’s the finished version. It does look a bit busy, even for me, so I’ll probably wear it as a casual dress for at home. I did wear to a Repair Cafe event and that was fun. But I’ve already got one more project in the queue that will use a more traditional pattern, but more shirts. My husband does tend to wear them out. Oh, and here’s the finished product:

repurposing clothes, sewing, waste-free living

The finished dress

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.”

“Indeed.”

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?”

“1776.”

“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.