Suzanne Adair and The American Revolution From the Other Side

Suzanne Adair

Ever since I read Suzanne Adair’s first book in her Michael Stoddard series, Deadly Occupation, set during the American Revolution, I’ve been wondering why she made the insanely interesting choice to have her hero be a Redcoat. Yeah, that’s right. The good guys in her books are the folks we’re used to thinking of as the bad guys. So I put that and a couple other questions to her, and we’ve got the answers below.

1) So why did you make Michael Stoddard a Redcoat rather than a rebel?

The rebel point of view has been explored so often in film, novels, and non-fiction that I’m not sure what more I could contribute to it. But step into the “enemy’s” boots, and your perspective shifts. You see the history from an angle that doesn’t involve tired clichés, and you gain new insights. You also realize that this character who wears the enemy’s colors is faced with the same dilemmas that you’ve faced and is making the same decisions (sometimes errors) that you make. Finally, you get around to asking yourself, “How different are we, really?” Which is the question I’d hoped you’d ask, since you’re curious about a redcoat protagonist.

2) How “religious” do people get about the American Revolution? I mean, it is our American myth and there are those who get fussy when folks mess with it.

Some people get very fussy over those myths about the American Revolution. The irony is that by the time the Centennial celebration in 1876 rolled around, the majority of our Great American Myth had been hammered out in the form of anecdotal “stories” that weren’t grounded historically. Across the generations, many teachers and scholars have accepted these anecdotes as fact, and that’s why most Americans believe that Paul Revere completed his midnight ride, and that just about everybody in America during the Revolution was Protestant, and that all British soldiers were “recruited” from prison.

People who have believed the wrong version of history for most of their lives don’t easily change their minds. They’re also more inclined to believe cinematic balderdash like that scene in “The Patriot” where the British barricaded civilians in a church and set fire to the church. Such a thing never happened. Don’t you think the soldiers and civilians who hated the Crown would have reported it if it had? However Nazis—yeah, burning civilians in a church was quite their style.

The Relevant History feature on my blog, created in 2011, is a place in cyberspace where writers of historical fiction and non-fiction can trot those myths out and discuss the real history behind them, and inquisitive readers can learn. Come on over and discover history that’s relevant to events in the 21st century.

3) Part of the fun of writing historical fiction is that you know when the stock market is going to crash or what’s going to happen in the future. How fun (or not) is it to play with the reality that Stoddard’s cause is going to lose?

It’s a lot of fun! And since my series follows the actual history of the British occupation in Wilmington in 1781, the path for the series background is laid out for me.

However, after researching the American Revolution for almost two decades, I’m not sure that “lose” is the correct term here. When the last of the British sailed for home in 1783, Britain was still the most powerful country on the earth. If that weren’t so, in the conflict with France in the following generation, Napoleon would have emerged the victor.

You see, Britain was fighting on multiple fronts, making our American Revolution one part of a world war. It wasn’t a popular war across the pond. American Revolution, historical fiction, historical mystery, historical mysteries Civilians griped noisily in pubs and coffeehouses about how politicians were wasting their money. (Sound familiar?) Several historians have told me that Britain’s most seasoned soldiers weren’t even in America; we got something like the third string. That Atlantic-wide supply line was an absolute beast to maintain and protect. So a lot of civilians in Britain weren’t exactly heartbroken when the powers-that-be decided to cut the hemorrhage of resources into America and either bring soldiers home or send them elsewhere, where they could be more productive. (That strategy might sound familiar, too.)

I haven’t given redcoat Michael Stoddard any special abilities to predict the future. However, almost a decade in the British Army has definitely stomped out his idealism. Astute and practical, he looks for ways to get as much experience as possible while the King is picking up some of the tab. He’s kept his eyes and ears open, so he knows that his commander (Major Craig) has advised his commander (Lord Cornwallis) to stay in the Carolinas and not go to Virginia. When Michael hears how it goes down at Yorktown, of course, he’ll be disappointed, but he won’t be terribly surprised. And when it’s all over, he’s grateful to have taken part in a campaign in North Carolina that was, for many months, a success—instead of being on that bloody battlefield in Virginia.

Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in North Carolina. Killer Debt is the fourth in her series featuring Michael Stoddard. Here’s the fun part – it will be available for pre-order on March 1, through her Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. And because this is going (has gone) live two days before the campaign starts, please click through to her website to find out more. You can also find her on Facebook at Suzanne.Adair.Author or on Twitter @Suzanne_Adair.

You can also find links to buy the rest of the Michael Stoddard series from your preferred retailer on her site: www.suzanneadair.net/books/michael-stoddard-american-revolution-thrillers/.

 

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.

 

Chapter Twenty Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, joy.” Deborah grabbed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An hour later, she presented herself to Deborah.

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

Deborah snatched the letter and tore it open.

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

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

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

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

“Then I’ll have to question him.”

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

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

“Good day.”

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

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

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

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

“I suppose.”

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

Morgan looked surprised. “What wager?”

“You don’t remember?” Robin asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I beg pardon, miss?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, miss.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, indeed.”

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, M’lady.”

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

Dean hesitated. “It has?”

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

“They do bounce a lot, M’lady.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, M’lady.”

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

“No, M’lady.”

“Then have at it.”

“Yes, M’lady.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on, Robin.”

“Dean, promise.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She hates him.”

“Are you sure?” Lord Edward brightened.

“Cross my heart.”

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

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

“What?” Lord Edward looked panicked.

“Reveal yourself. Talk to her.”

“Me?” The viscount practically squeaked.

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

“But I…”

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

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

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

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

“But…”

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

“A what?”

Dean grinned sheepishly. “Never mind.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You are most generous, My Lord.”

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

“But your letters…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unusual Book Promotions with Jill Amadio

Let’s face it, we writers are always looking for interesting venues for book promotion. This week, my fellow Sister in Crime Jill Amadio writes about some of the different venues she’s pursued to promote her two mysteries Digging too Deep and Digging up the Dead.

Book promotion

Author Jill Amadio

After promoting my debut crime novel to the usual online, broadcast, and print mystery media where I hoped (okay, begged) for reviews and interviews I realized:  there are many other publicity outlets worth approaching that are outside-the-box and often neglected by many authors.

“Yes, indeed,” I wrote to a gentleman in Virginia. “I believe I am definitely qualified to join your organization. My family played an active part in the St. Ives community when we lived there”.

What was that all about? This conversation with the president of the Cornish-American Heritage Society came about after my book, “Digging Too Deep: A Tosca Trevant Mystery,” was published. I had endowed my amateur sleuth with a vocabulary of Cornish cusswords and a penchant for brewing tongue-curling medieval mead from the land of the piskies (Cornish elves). My initial reason for seeking out the Society was to get back in touch with my roots and because my main character is a Cornishwoman. But I had an ulterior motive.

The Society has a newsletter that reports on various goings-on in Cornwall, UK, and on ex-pats. One delicious news item that caught my eye was that the Duchy of Cornwall was contemplating opening up an embassy in London now that the Cornish are finally recognized as an official minority. Lower the drawbridge! Tosca can have fun with that in her next book in the series, I thought. Then, Lo and behold, I noted that the newsletter also ran book reviews. Well, icing on the cake. The review and a blurb of my book appeared in the next issue. I noted, too, that with the Society holding events all over the U.S they provide signing opportunities. Their next meeting was in San Diego, California where I was invited to talk. When I attended their international Gathering of the Cornish Bards in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I had a book table and sold out.

On my website, www.jillamadiomysteries.com, I added a page about St. Ives that includes a photo of its 1312 pub, The Sloop Inn, which is still selling pints. A topic for a future article for the brewing trade publications? I also sent a copy of the book to the St. Ives Archive which maintains an online site as well as a gift shop that sells books. (Shouldn’t I be hired by the Cornwall Council as a roving ambassador?)

Another Venue for Book Promotion

Another avenue for publicity came from a friend in New York, a leading classical music critic. He writes an internationally-syndicated column for ConcertoNet.com distributed in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and on the island of Karguella for all I know. He’d helped with research for the classical music details in my book and surprised me with a lengthy review. After it appeared in the Bangkok Post, Thailand I heard from a reporter I’d worked with years ago. She now owns a specialty museum that I’ll include in a future book. Again, grist for the mill, and an addition to her Facebook page.

Some authors combine their non-literary careers with the fiction they write and are able to pursue marketing on both fronts. Psychological suspense writer Sheila Lowe, a certified forensic handwriting examiner and president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, bases her protagonist in the Claudia Rose series on her daily job. Lowe’s expertise and testimony in court cases gains her entry and access to legal publications, legal blogs, and online sites where she can discuss real cases involving forensic graphology and at the same time promote her novels.

Author Diane Vallere spent over 20 years in the fashion industry and her passion for shoes, clues and clothes encouraged her to base the fashionista sleuth in her Material Witness crime series on her own life.

The list of custom blogs for just about every subject on the planet is growing by the week and looking for content. If you write about wine, gourmet cheese or other foods are you or your publicist sending review copies to bakers’ and grocery organizations for their blogs and newsletters? Have a knitting protagonist? Query crafts magazines. How about an ARC to women farmers’ associations if your setting is in rural America? The Internet is chock full of hobby newsletters that probably one of your characters enjoys although I doubt there is a milkmaids fellowship.

I used to write an automotive column and sent my book, which features a vintage Austin-Healey sports car, to my pals at car magazines, and got reviewed. Alumni and club publications, too, welcome notices of new books. Hit them up for a talk and write on their blog. Platforms such as these provide ideas for finding new and unusual opportunities to promote your book. Turn over that stone!

Yes, promoting books is time-consuming and often frustrating but it’s the road we’ve chosen to trek, and there are often wonderful, unusual, and unexpectedly rewarding results when we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

You can find out more about Jill and her books at  www.jillamadiomysteries.com.

Chapter Twenty One

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

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

“What rot,” blustered Sir James.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is it?” sang the aging soprano.

“Mr. Dean, M’lady.”

“Do come in.”

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

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

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

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

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

Dean shrugged  “I suppose.”

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

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

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

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

“True.” Robin yawned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, if you’re desperate.”

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

Dean rolled his eyes.

There was a knocking at the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disgusted, Sir James walked to the door.

“Richards!” he called out into the hallway. “Richards, go and rouse Mr. Morgan immediately.” He paused for the reply. “If he’s awake, then why isn’t he down here? Oh, never mind. Just get him down here!” He turned back into the room, muttering angrily. “Damn relatives. If he weren’t Sarah’s nephew, I’d sack him. He’s nothing but a nuisance.”

Anthony Morgan proved to be more than a nuisance. He showed up half an hour later, stewed, and in no shape to take dictation. Sir James was furious. He sent his nephew upstairs with strict instructions to stay in his room until further notice.

“I should have left him in the country,” Sir James fumed after Morgan had gone. “Town life is no good for simple minds like his. No will power.”

“Shall I ring for my brother so that he can take your letter?” Robin asked.

“Yes, yes, yes.”

Robin went out into the hall and sent Samuel to find Dean.

“Parker!” Sir James barked as she returned.

“Yes, sir.”

“You were out with Anthony last night?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I assume he got drunk.”

“Quite, sir.”

“And you did nothing to stop him?”

Robin thought fast. “I did suggest he not drink so much. But my position is rather awkward, sir. I am only a clerk, and he is your relative.”

“Indeed, yes.” Sir James put his hands behind his back and began pacing. “But somebody’s got to keep an eye on him. I shudder to think what my wife’s family would do if he went astray while under my protection. Oh, they’re a miserable lot when aroused. I should never hear the end of it. And you can imagine what Her Ladyship would be like. Her poor innocent nephew. Ha! The boy does nothing but make trouble for himself and everyone else. Parker, he is now your responsibility. I want you to keep him out of trouble. I can’t be watching his every move.”

“Begging your pardon, sir, I’m not at all sure I can either,” Robin said, a little frantically. “Furthermore, he is bound to resent my taking a superior position to his. He’ll most likely complain to Her Ladyship, and if she confronts me, I shall probably be forced to confess that you requested it.”

Sir James growled. “Well, do your best, then. I’ll deal with Her Ladyship.” He did not relish the task.

Robin didn’t blame him. Lady Culpepper could be quite a formidable creature when her wrath was aroused, and she was not inclined to be reasonable even under the best circumstances. In any case, Robin found her precious evenings devoted to chasing Tony Morgan about Bath, instead of working at the time machine.

Dean’s evenings continued to be filled with whatever parties or balls caught Lady Culpepper’s fancy. The goal, of course was to get Deborah a rich, preferably titled husband, which meant Deborah was out most evenings, sometimes with her mother in tow. Sir James resolutely refused to go to any of the events and so Dean got the job of seeing the ladies to the door and accompanying their sedan chairs home.

Of late, however, with Lady Culpepper’s gout acting up more and more often, Her Ladyship was forced to forego the festivities, which made her mood all the more predatory.

As for Deborah, she faced plenty of competition in the husband chase. Available young women out numbered the available young men. Deborah had an advantage in that she was very pretty and a lively companion. She wasn’t as hungry as the others, either. She wanted to fall in love, and was prepared to wait as long as she needed to do so.

That Saturday night, Dean dropped the young girl at the Assembly Rooms for a ball, then went off to a nearby tavern for a brandy and to gamble a little. He quickly lost, so he returned to the ball to watch the dancing through the windows. He would have liked to have chatted with the footmen who carried Deborah’s sedan chair, but the hierarchy among the servants was even more strictly upheld than among the upper classes. So while Dean was an employee, he wasn’t a servant, which put him well above their station in life.

The footmen were off gambling with the other footmen, but Dean decided to hang around the sedan chair anyway on the off chance one of the footmen would come back and actually talk with him.

As he leaned, bored, against the sedan chair, a young gentleman approached.

“Is that your mistress’s chair?” the gentleman asked, timidly.

“It’s the family’s,” Dean answered. “But, yeah, we’ve got the young mistress tonight.”

“Indeed. Come with me.”

Dean shrugged and followed. The young man led him to the ballroom doors.

“Please, point out your mistress,” he asked Dean.

“Um…” Dean searched the crowd. “There she is, in the lavender dress, with the umbrellas in her hair.”

“Ah, yes, that’s her.” He sighed.

This young gentleman had obviously seen a few too many plays and was playing the young lover role to the hilt. Dean turned to go.

“Wait! What is her name?” The young man grabbed Dean’s arm.

“Deborah Culpepper.”

“She is so beautiful. I’m desperately in love with her, and I don’t dare speak a word to her.”

Dean tried not to laugh. “Why not?”

“Good lord, she’d never hear me.” The young man started pacing. “Who am I that she should?”

“I don’t know. Who are you?”

“My name is Viscount Edward Acton, heir apparent to the Duchy of Cliveton.” He offered a small nod of the head.

Dean shrugged. “Sounds pretty good to me.”

“You think?” He smiled hopefully, then frowned. “Oh, no. Mine is only a small duchy, and there are so many others here with larger holdings. Besides, it’s quite the fashion nowadays to eschew titles, at least among the young ladies. If only I were poor.”

Dean chuckled. “If you want a hint, that won’t make any difference with her. She wants to fall in love, it doesn’t matter with who.”

He bit his forefinger. “I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

“Have you considered writing her a letter?” Dean asked.

“But… No, she’d never accept me.”

Dean thought. “Listen. I’ve got an idea. It’ll bowl her over. I promise.”

“You do?” He looked hopeful again.

“Sure.” Dean grinned. “Write her a letter telling her how you feel, but don’t tell her who you are. Become her secret admirer. I guarantee you, she’ll go nuts trying to figure out who you are. Keep it up for several letters, and by the time you reveal yourself, she’ll be eating out of your hand.”

The viscount all but jumped up and down. “Are you sure it will work?”

“As sure as I can be.”

“A quill. I need a quill, and ink, and paper! Wait here. I’ll be right back. And here!”

Dean caught the little sack with a quiet chuckle. He knew he should feel insulted. He wasn’t a servant. Feeling the heft of the little sack, Dean looked inside, whistled softly and swore.

“Sure beats gambling,” he muttered.

Chapter Twenty

science fiction, time travel, science fiction serialRoger growled and paced as the older woman next to him glared sourly at the screen in front of them.

“I told you that wasn’t a switch on,” she said. “Look at that arc there and how it sputters.”

“I never said I disagreed with you, Cricklan,” Roger replied testily.

Since there had been no way of knowing who had operated the timetron when it had apparently failed, Roger had insisted on going to London in the hope that he or some other time traveler would be the one abandoned. But Master Robin had insisted on leaving, he’d been told, and there was no question now that she’d used the machine last, presumably with Dean and Elizabeth in tow.

“I should have searched the candlemaker’s more thoroughly,” he grumbled.

“Roger, you know the folly of second-guessing yourself,” Cricklan said, her eyes never leaving the screen.

He flopped down on a chair next to her. “You’re right. Any chance of making out where and when they landed?”

Cricklan shook her head. “Possibly, but it all depends on how the coordinates were entered. And that’s assuming your Robin Parker was headed for her natal time. But there’s not enough of a power pull here for them to have gotten very far at all.”

Cricklan circled a point on the tip of the arc and enlarged the image. She was a woman of predominantly African descent, with still-smooth skin framed by coarse gray hair that had gone to dreadlocks, which balanced out the ball her body had become.

“She was headed for home,” Roger continued. “She left all her money with Master Chandler. Even if she were headed for another time, she would have kept some of the gold angels, at least. Those could be melted down. She was headed someplace where she knew she had money already, and where else would that be but home?”

“And what about Elizabeth?” Cricklan asked.

Roger shrugged. “I don’t know. We didn’t get that far. I had to track down Donald before he turned in the whole Catholic community.” Roger glanced at Cricklan. “I’m sorry about that.”

Cricklan imposed a vertical grid on the image. “You needn’t worry about my feelings. I’ve done my grieving where Donald is concerned.”

Roger shook his head. He still wasn’t sure what had caused the estrangement between Donald and Cricklan, but Cricklan had never been one to dwell on past mistakes.

“I find it interesting, however, that after all the work you did on the bring forward experiment, you are more focused on this Ms. Parker than you are on Elizabeth,” Cricklan observed.

Roger began pacing again, this time, he hoped, with a careless air. “Not really. I mean, I’ve only spent a couple hours total with the woman.”

“You did a DNA analysis on her.”

Roger laughed. “I know. I’ve got a good feeling about her. Not that I don’t like Elizabeth, and I’m certainly committed to her, if it comes to that.” He sighed. “We’ve just got to find them, first.”

Cricklan nodded. “I may have. Look here.” She enlarged another image again. “It’s right on the path of the earlier log line and the marker is right.”

“And hardly any power pull at all. No wonder we missed it.” Roger did a quick calculation. “And, shit. This is the first stop on Donald’s timetron’s log line after he went to the U.S.”

Cricklan nodded. “I had a feeling he had hooked into this station, and now I’ve got the proof.”

“You’ll have to bring this to the Board.”

“It’s about time I did, don’t you think?” Cricklan put her hand on Roger’s arm. “Why don’t you stay focused on getting Ms. Parker back to where she belongs? I’ll deal with Donald. I am his mother and he does sometimes listen to me.”

“Yes, well, it would appear I’ve got a little research to do.”

 

Robin had forgotten about the crushing, sucked in feeling as the machine worked.  She gasped as they landed. Catching her breath, she looked around. Something was very wrong.

“This isn’t Irvine,” Dean said nervously.

It wasn’t. They were in a wooded area overlooking a highway very similar to the one they had left. Robin looked down. A small stream of black smoke dissipated into the breeze and a small black splotch on the side of the machine revealed the smoke’s origin.

“Something is very wrong here,” Robin said.

“Where are we?” asked Dean, getting a little frantic.

“I’d say pretty much where we were,” Robin answered. “Probably a different time, though.”

“The right one?” Dean looked hopeful.

“Not likely, judging from that highway.”

As if to confirm it, they heard a soft rumbling. As it got closer, a soft jangling sound could be heard as well.

“There,” said Elizabeth. She pointed.

A small black coach, drawn by two brown horses, approached from where London would be if Robin were right. The man driving it was wearing knee-high boots, close-fitting knee pants, a long black coat with a wide tan lapel that ran the length of the front and very wide tan cuffs.

“A tri-cornered hat!” Robin groaned.

“Isn’t that from the American Revolution?” Dean asked.

“More or less.” Robin sighed. “We’re in the eighteenth century, at any rate.”

“I don’t quite understand,” said Elizabeth.

“We’ve only gone ahead about a hundred years,” Robin answered. “How far ahead, I don’t know. We’d better do something about our clothes. If we rag them up, we should be okay, except for you, Elizabeth. Your dress is far too big and loose. Waists are supposed to be tiny now.”

“Oh, no,” Elizabeth sighed. She glanced at Dean.

Robin didn’t notice. She looked around. The sky was a bright blue, with huge white clouds floating across. The patches of snow they had left back in the seventeenth century were replaced by wild flowers. A wet loamy smell filled her nostrils.

“Spring,” she muttered. She removed her doublet and tore up her pants.

“What did you say?” Dean asked, as he did the same to his clothes.

“It’s spring.” Robin repeated. “When we left it was winter.”

“Say, that’s right.” Dean pondered it a moment, then considered a far weightier matter. “Robin, if this is the eighteenth century, and we were trying to go home, does this mean we’re stuck?”

Robin caught her breath. “I don’t know. I was thinking that Roger had tracked us down by tracing us through the machine, but it wasn’t turned on in London, so when he found us there, I figured he has some other way to trace us. If that’s the case, then…”

“Uh, Robin.” Dean’s face had a seriously pained look on it. “The machine was turned on in London. I turned it on the day after Twelfth Day.”

“And Roger showed up two days later,” said Robin. She turned on Dean. “What the hell were you doing?”

“I don’t know!” Dean backed away, not sure what to say, but sure that he did not want to tell Robin about Elizabeth being pregnant at that moment in time. “I wanted to go home. I just did.”

“Fat lot of good that’s going to do us now,” Robin sighed. She took a deep breath. “All right. Maybe there’s something I can fix. Let’s try to stay positive and in the meantime, let’s get ourselves situated. Here, Elizabeth, take your apron and tie it as tight as you can above your bodice. That should make it look like it has more of a waist. Are we ready? Good. Let’s head down that road. Maybe we’ll find an inn that needs some help.”

They spent most of the day walking alongside the highway instead of on it. The road was thick, oozing mud, with deep ruts and numerous rocks. Coaches were not infrequent either, and the first one they encountered nearly ran them over.

Close to two o’clock in the afternoon they approached the end of a section hemmed in by trees. On the other side of the thicket, they heard shouts. Robin led the way cautiously, stopping at the edge of the trees to see what was going on.

A coach that had passed them barely minutes before was stopped on the road by two men with scarves on their faces. One dismounted from his horse, while the other, still on his, held a pistol on the driver of the coach.

“Looks like a hold up,” whispered Dean.

“No kidding,” Robin whispered back.

“We’d better hide,” Elizabeth hissed.

“Maybe not.” Robin grinned. “I don’t like the idea of bounty hunting, but we’re broke, and I’ll bet there’s a reward for those two.”

“Have you lost it?” Dean looked at her, aghast.

“Not really. Think about it, Dean. We’re easily as big as they are, and they don’t know we’re here.”

“But they’ve got guns!”

“They’ve got two shots. If we catch them from behind, they’ll never know what hit them.”

Dean looked at the men. A slightly rotund gentleman emerged from the coach, and a younger man who looked like a clerk.

“I’ll take the one on the horse,” he said and took off running.

“That’s not quite what I had in mind,” Robin grumbled as she took off herself.

Dean vaulted onto the back of the horse. The animal staggered. Dean got his forearm around the robber’s throat and reached for the pistol with his free hand. The man twisted, and the two fell to the ground and rolled.

Robin slammed into the other robber and tackled him. His pistol went flying. They rolled for a moment, then the man got on top. He raised his fist. Robin dodged and threw him off. They scrambled to their feet. The man whipped out his sword. Robin danced backwards and drew hers. The man’s blade was at least an inch wide. Robin’s wasn’t. She pressed the attack anyway. It startled her opponent. He dropped back and barely deflected her charge. Robin came in again, slashing fiercely. She overshot the man, as she’d intended, and brought her hilt crashing down onto the back of his neck. The man looked dazed for a second, then fell forward. Robin pounced on him and twisted his arm behind his back.

Dean and his opponent rolled in the mud. Both of Dean’s hands locked on the wrist with the gun. Dean squeezed and tried to stay on top of the smaller man. One vicious turn, and the pistol dropped. Dean scrambled after it. He grabbed it and turned to face his opponent’s knife. The man froze. Dean cocked the flintlock.

He chuckled. “Go ahead. Make my day!”

“Dean!” Robin groaned. She strong-armed her man to his feet, and looked around for something with which to bind him. “Couldn’t you be a little more original?”

Dean slowly got to his feet. “Okay, nice and easy now, drop the knife.”

The man did. Elizabeth emerged from the trees.

“We’ll need some rope.” she observed. She turned to the rotund gentleman. “Have you any, sir?”

“Piggot!” he called to the coachman.

“Yes, sir?”

“Fetch the young woman some rope.”

“Yes, sir.” Piggot reached behind him, then scrambled down from his post.

Robin and Elizabeth bound the two felons and sat them down next to the coach.

“Let’s see what we have here,” said Robin, as she searched them. “What’s this? A bag of silver? And here’s another. Are these yours, sir?”

“N-no.” The gentleman shook his head. “I was just about to hand it over.”

“Then I’ll take custody of these.” Smiling, Robin tied the sacks to her belt. “I’m not adverse to adding a little silver to my collection. Speaking of, I assume there’s a price on these fellows’ heads. Do you know how far it is to the nearest town where we can collect it?”

“Well, uh, yes, I —  Anthony?” Still in shock, the gentleman looked at the clerk.

“I don’t know, uncle.” the young man replied. “I rarely travel this road.”

“Robin, why don’t we just tie them up in the trees?” Dean suggested. “We’ve got money now.”

Robin nodded. “It’ll be easier than a forced march. All right.” She turned to the gentleman. “Well, good day to you, sir. Hope you don’t get robbed again.”

“But…” the man sputtered. “You’re not going to rob us?”

“Rob you?” Robin looked at him, confused, then laughed. “Not us. We’re honest folk. I know we look pretty grubby right now.” An idea began to form. “Unfortunately, we met with similar fellows earlier today. We were lucky we escaped with our weapons and our skins.”

“Indeed, yes.” The gentleman mopped his brow with a huge lace trimmed handkerchief. “Well, I owe you a great deal of thanks. To whom do I have the pleasure..?”

“Robin Parker, sir.” Robin nodded her head. “And this is my brother, Dean.”

“And the young woman?”

“I am Master Dean’s wife,” Elizabeth answered.

Robin started, as did Dean.

“Ah. Very good.” The gentleman wiped his brow again. “I am Sir James Culpepper, and this is my nephew and clerk, Anthony Morgan. And, eh, what brings you people out here?”

“We’re looking for a situation,” Robin answered. “We used to be innkeepers in the city, but fell on hard times.”

“Hm.” Sir James ran an appraising eye over Dean. “I shouldn’t think you would, but by any chance do you have your letters?”

“Letters?” asked Dean.

Robin nudged his ankle. “Yes, sir. We can read quite well. Our pastor taught us.”

“Indeed.” Sir James smiled. “And can you write?”

“Sure,” said Dean before Robin could nudge him again.

“Uncle, if I may be so bold,” Morgan began. “My aunt, your wife, did request that you not…”

“You may not be so bold, Anthony. I will bring whomever I please into my household. I brought you into my household. Come, you three. We’ll talk and see what you can do.”

Robin glanced at Dean, who shrugged. Elizabeth nodded.

“Well, thank you, sir.” Robin smiled. “We’ll do our best for you.”

Dean sat with Piggot on the box, as there wasn’t enough room inside the coach. There, Sir James looked Robin over more closely.

“An innkeeper, eh?” he said.

“At my father’s inn, sir.”

Sir James nodded. “Debtor’s prison, I assume.”

Robin nodded. “He made some poor speculations, I’m afraid. He died soon after.”

“I dare say. Poor speculations. Must have been dealing in trade from the colonies. Bad mistake, with all the trouble there now. At least they’ve stopped dumping tea in the harbor. Not that I think firing on the King’s Army is any better a thing to do mind you.”

Robin coughed back a laugh. “I, uh, heard something about that. When did it happen?”

“Let’s see. This is April. Was just about a year ago, then.”

“1776.” Robin muttered.

“No. Seventy-five it happened. This is seventy-six.” Sir James punctuated the thought with a walking stick he’d left in the coach and picked up as soon as they were under way.

“Oh. Right.”

“It’s a damned nuisance, is what it is. That Mr. Pitt has been nothing but a bloody old fool, hasn’t handled it at all well. The King’s more a fool for listening to him. I’m just glad I never got involved in that mess. The Orient. That’s where I do my business. India. Most profitable. I’ve done very well for myself, as you can see. I’ve got a small estate in Devonshire, a house in Town, and…” He shifted. “A house in Bath. That’s where I’m headed, at the moment. My wife and daughter are there, taking the waters. My wife has the gout. I’ve also got a son who’s an officer in the army. It was no small thing to buy him that commission. As a matter of fact, he’s stationed in the colonies, Philadelphia.”

Robin tried not to grin. “How interesting.”

“Oh, you know of Philadelphia.”

“I’ve… heard of it.”

Sir James lifted an eyebrow. “You seem very knowledgeable. Can you add at all?”

“Quite well. Except for his speculations, I kept all of my father’s accounts.”

“Indeed.” Sir James raised both his eyebrows. “What about your brother?”

“He’s good at adding, too.” Robin nodded vigorously.

“Indeed.”

They stopped in a small village just as darkness fell, and Sir James insisted on paying for a meal and a room for the three. After they had eaten and were about to settle in for the night, Elizabeth left to fetch some water. As soon as they were alone, Robin looked at Dean.

“Dean, do you know why Elizabeth suddenly wants to appear as your wife?”

Dean swallowed. “Well, I can guess.”

“You two have been fooling around, haven’t you?”

“Yeah. So?” Dean answered defensively.

“Why, Dean?” Robin groaned. “We came here to leave her. Is it really fair to start a relationship like that?”

“Well, we’re not going to leave her anyway, so what’s the big deal?”

Robin paused. She knew Dean had a point, but was so angry about everything else that she needed a target.

“That’s not the point,” she snarled, finally. “Didn’t you even think about Elizabeth’s feelings?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I thought a lot about them. Face it, Robin, Elizabeth and I both knew we couldn’t stay.”

“But, Dean, she doesn’t belong in the twentieth century!”

“She sure as hell didn’t belong where we were, any more than we did.”

“Okay. But what if she gets pregnant?”

“That. Well, um…” Dean smiled weakly.

Robin closed her eyes and turned away. “She isn’t.”

“Well, Robin…”

She turned on him. “You idiot! Why didn’t you think of that beforehand? Good lord, Dean, you know about birth control. Why didn’t you protect yourself?”

“I did!” Dean’s face was seriously pained. “We just forgot once. I swear it was only the one time.”

“Well, that was one time too many, wasn’t it? What are you going to do with a baby? How are you going to support it?”

“Isn’t this Culpepper guy going to give us a job?”

“But what if we’d made it to the twentieth century?”

Dean shrugged. “I figured we’d get an abortion.”

“It’s so easy to say that, isn’t it? But what about Elizabeth? It’s her baby, too. I swear, Dean, you are so irresponsible, you make me sick sometimes!”

“Irresponsible, huh?” Dean’s voice dripped with anger. “Well, fuck you. I’ve had it, Robin. Little goody two-shoes Robin taking care of baby brother. I’m not a baby. You want responsibility? Fine. We’re gonna keep that baby, and I’m going to support it, and Elizabeth, even if we do get home. I don’t know how, but I will.”

They froze as Elizabeth entered the room.

“Oh, dear,” she whispered.

Dean glared at Robin then turned. “Elizabeth, you and I are getting married just the minute we get home, do you understand?”

“Married?” she gasped, rejoicing and terrified all at the same time.

“Yeah.” Dean kissed her roughly, then strode out of the room.

Robin turned away and sighed.

“You know,” said Elizabeth.

“How far along are you?” Robin asked softly.

“A month or so.”

Robin swore. “I guess the first thing to do is to make sure you’re taken care of.”

“I’m not ill. Well, a little in the mornings.”

“But you have to eat the right things, get the right kind of exercise. Damn. You can’t trust the doctors here.”

“A doctor?” Elizabeth had to smile. “I’m only pregnant.”

Robin snorted. “Right.”

“It’s not entirely his fault, you know.”

Robin nodded. “True. Are you happy with him?”

“Very. I don’t understand why, but love seems to be very important in these matters to you and Dean. I do love him, and he loves me. He’s said so many times.”

“That seems a surprise, though I don’t know that it should be.” Robin sighed. “That overgrown lunkhead. I don’t know why he has all the luck. You’d better get some rest.”

“So had you.”

Robin nodded. “I hope he gets back soon.”

“He will be.”

Tired and miserable, Robin went to bed. The situation was unbearably grim. She hadn’t let on to Dean and Elizabeth, but she doubted that they’d ever get home.

Bonding Through Sewing

sewing, clothesmaking, sewing classes.

All the sewing stuff I’m working on

When Paul and Michelle each tried on their new pair of shorts, I was stoked and then some. You see, they’re my first sewing students.

I’m still not sure how my Repair Cafe team decided I could teach sewing, but they did. Paul wanted to learn and so did Michelle. Now, there aren’t pictures of them because I was so excited, the photos turned out all blurry. Argh.

But the best part of the sewing lessons is that the group, over the past year, has expanded and this is wonderful. For years, I was about the only person I knew who made her own clothes. Or wanted to sew with other people. A couple years ago, two other friends, Hilary and Elizabeth, thought it would be fun to get together to sew, and we managed about three days spread over a year or so. The problem was, we didn’t keep it up, nor did we set a regular time to meet.

Well, I made a point of doing that this time. Between my two students, I’ve got about five other ladies (I do wish we could get more guys interested), who regularly show up and we’re building some really good friendships. We’re meeting about once a month.

I’m sewing more, too, although not on meeting days. I’m too busy supervising. But on other weekends, I’m hitting the machine. That mess in the photo? I’ve started assembly-lining again – which is cutting out a boatload of projects and working on them all at the same time. More time may elapse between start to finish, but the time per item is remarkably reduced.

This is will never be a how-to blog. But I do like sharing what I’m currently working on. And right now, I’m working on teaching two people how to sew. Who knew?