“Of course, the Her Majesty is having her Golden Jubilee in
June. They say it’s to be one of the grandest celebrations that London has seen
in some time. There are preparations being made for a parade, a gala ball, and
fireworks, as I understand it.”
“Not if the socialists have anything to say about it,”
The conversation came to an abrupt standstill. From the look
that Isabella darted to her nephew, Jane sensed that she did not appreciate his
“What?” He looked back at his aunt. “Shouldn’t she have a
realistic view of what is happening in lovely London town?”
Isabella pointed her finger, prepared to respond when the
carriage came to an abrupt stop, taking with it any semblance of a breeze.
“Probably traffic. I’m sure it’s just a slight delay. We
should be moving soon,” Isabella said, working the fan diligently in front of
Jane poked her head out of the window, hopeful for a gulp of
air, but curious just the same as to the delay.
“Why don’t I tell you about our writing club while we wait?”
Jane drew in her head, less interested in hearing about the
club than what was preventing their progress in getting there. She dropped her
book and gloves on the seat beside her and gathered her skirts to exit the
carriage. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just step outside and see what the reason
for our delay is.” The truth of it was that the stifling heat inside the cab
was making her nauseated.
“Watch out, miss,” a gruff voice boomed out of nowhere as
she opened the door. Caught off guard, she missed the step entirely and escaped
total embarrassment of landing on her face thanks to a set of strong arms that
captured her waist. “You should learn to look, young woman, before you step
from a coach.”
Jane steadied her legs, preparing to face her rescuer.
“Excuse me, miss. I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
“But I…” She barely caught a glimpse of him as he turned and
headed at a quick gait up the street. From her view, she noted his hair, badly
in need of attention, was thick, coal black and hung in deep waves over his
collar. His dark brown coat flapped around his long legs in his determined
“Ah, I see you’ve met our illustrious Inspector Mansfield.”
Wesley hopped from the carriage. Together they watched him disappear around the
corner of a building a few yards ahead. Other curiosity seekers were trotting
toward the same direction.
“Come on.” Intrigued, she grabbed Wesley’s hand.
“Where to, Miss Jane?” He gave her a puzzled look, but kept
up with her stride.
“To wherever he is going. He is the inspector, correct?”
Jane lifted the hem of her skirt, empowered by the familiar
rush of a reporter’s adrenaline infusing her stamina. She looked over her
shoulder and spoke to Wesley, who lagged a few steps behind. “Then we certainly
don’t want to miss whatever he is so hell-bent to get to.” This is what she
lived for, the drama of everyday life. Perhaps it was the thrill of the
unknown—the chase, as it were. A trait derived no doubt by her adventuresome
parents. They never settled for long between their journeys, always, it seemed,
in a constant state of preparation for their next mission. They loved Jane, of
course, but as she grew older, she began to wonder if her conception had simply
been another grand venture. When they were around, they were larger than life
to her—filled with glorious stories and tales of their journeys. And when they
were gone and her life was divided between boarding school and Aunt Cornelia’s
house, their letters were all that Jane had to cling to in her adolescence.
They had promised that when she was of a proper age, they would take her with
them. But that promise—unfilled—followed them to their graves. Now it was up to
Jane to find her own adventures.
“Miss Jane, it could be dangerous,” Wesley called as they
waded into the crowd beginning to clog the street. He caught up to her, keeping
pace with her tenacity in pushing through the throng.
“Very possibly, but what great story isn’t just a bit
dangerous, I ask you?” She smiled at him with a quick glance as they neared the
top of the hill to follow where the inspector had disappeared.
A rigid wall of uniformed constables formed a barricade at
the end of the street, keeping gawkers from disrupting whatever scene lay
ahead. The crowd pressed close to the human barrier, trying to catch a glimpse
at what was going on.
“They’ve blocked the street.” Wesley craned his neck over
the huddled mass in front of them.
“Do you see any possible way of getting closer?” she asked,
searching for a way through the tightly packed humanity.
“Another body part.”
Jane whirled to see where the whispered comment had come
from, but too many people had crowded around her.
“The second in a few weeks’ time. I hear the inspector has
his hands bloody full. He’s got no way of knowing how to identify the bits.”
Jane was astounded by the whispered rumors. How was it that
such news had not yet made it across the Atlantic? Quiet murmurs followed with
a gasp or two, but no one spoke aloud. Jane struggled, backtracking until she
found Wesley. She grabbed his arm and leaned close. “Did you hear? They say
it’s a body part?” Horror-stricken, she stared at him. “What is going on in
London that you’ve not told me about?”
Wesley’s expression clouded and he looked around, leaning
close so he wouldn’t be overheard. “Be cautious of what you say, Jane. And
don’t jump to conclusions based on hearsay.”
Her gaze narrowed, and so too, her patience. “A good
reporter will verify the rumors, you can be assured, sir.” Still, she couldn’t say why it perplexed her
that the Hamptons had not even mentioned such macabre goings-on in their
correspondence. “Still, I heard it plain as day. Someone said it was a body
He tucked his thumbs in his pockets, his lip curling in a
brief smile. “People love to gossip, Jane. The longer you’re here, the more you
will see that London is a great melting pot of many types of people. They
arrive daily, bringing their beliefs, their way of life, with them. Frankly,
not all of them agree with how the queen dictates the government.”
“I don’t understand,” she whispered sternly. “Are you saying
that these murders are motivated by”—she waved one hand—“politics?”
“Sshh.” He frowned at her. “The streets have ears.”
Jane sighed and noticed over his shoulder an opening near
the barricade of solemn-faced Bobbies. She surged forward, determined to see
for herself what the city agencies were trying to hide. She heard Wesley
calling her name, but fought through the mob, making her way to the front.
Wesley’s voice carried over the heads of the crowd. She
pressed forward, confident he would catch up. She faced the determined
uniformed officers and pushed up on her toes to catch a glimpse beyond the
broad shoulders of London’s finest. A few yards away, she spotted the
dark-haired inspector. He was kneeling beside an object that he’d hastily
covered with his own coat. Her thoughts raced with how she could get close
enough to speak to him, but even as she considered her options, an ambulance
with the words St. John’s Hospital painted on the side arrived. The drivers,
holding white sheets up to shroud the object from public view, placed it in the
wagon, and carted it away. Within moments of its departure, the congested group
of gawkers began to dissipate as quickly as they’d assembled. Looking weary and
slightly frustrated from his battle with the crowd, Wesley arrived at Jane’s
“Were you able to see anything?” Wesley eyed the inspector
and the men circled around him as he spoke. He appeared to be giving out
“No, they’ve shielded something from the crowd.” Jane looked
at Wesley, knowing that whatever it was, seemed very small. Wrapped in the
hospital drape, it had taken only one man to carry it back to the ambulance.
“Has this happened before?
Do they have any leads?”
Wesley hesitated, and then gently took her arm. “We’ll
discuss this in private, Jane. Not here on the street.”
She walked beside him, his arm looped through hers. She
slowed as they passed by the inspector and the small group of men he spoke to,
hoping to overhear some of what was being said. She was so focused on listening
that she didn’t realize until too late the dark eyes of the inspector studying
her. Transfixed, she regarded him and his brooding expression. His firm jaw
looked as though untouched by his morning razor, clenched as his provocative
mouth turned down in a grim frown. His eyes, unwavering, held hers, following
her like a panther watching his prey. Despite the warm temperature, a shiver
skated across her shoulders. Jane forced herself to look away.