(First 10 pages)
Jacquelyn was returning from a walk down at the pier when she was heading back to the tavern where she works as a barmaid, two ghostly figures appeared in front of her. Startled, she stopped dead in her tracks. Never seeing anything like this before, she reached out to the glowing bluish-red face. The apparitions moved backward, not allowing any contact. And the two figures circled around her slowly.
Amazed with the unknown presence, Jacquelyn became curious to what this mystic presence could be and extended her hand out again. “What are you?” she asked without fear. “Are you angels?” A red glow flashed where the eye sockets once were. Frightened, Jacquelyn took off running towards the town. She did not look back.
When she was two blocks away from the tavern, she heard voices coming from inside the cemetery. Catching her breath, she walked slowly, not making any sound as she approached.
“Let’s hurry, and finish digging the grave. The rotting flesh is making me nauseous,” she heard Frank the gravedigger, recognizing his scratchy voice.
Jacquelyn scrambled backward, grabbed hold of the black Iron Gate that outlined the perimeter of the cemetery. Her gloved hands, slid down the length of the bar, resting her knees to the ground.
“What do you think happened, Dr. Morehead?” Jacquelyn heard Constable Montgomery ask, in his thick Scottish accent. She wrapped her dark blue cape around to the front of her chest, concealing her presence.
“I’m not sure...
-,” replied Dr. Morehead. He stood up straight after
examining the neck of the boy, allowing Frank the gravedigger to lower the body
into the open grave. Dr. Morehead remembered the same markings, that are on the
boy's neck from when he traveled to Egypt twenty years ago. The puncture
wounds, and torn neck appeared to be the same. but
Constable Montgomery handed a shovel to Dr. Morehead, taking one for himself. The three men shoveled dirt into the grave. “What’s wrong, doctor? You’ve clammed up.”
“Nothing is wrong. Nothing at all,” Dr. Morehead replied. The frown on his face worried the others. Dr. Morehead remained silent. He did not want to say too much, or cause alarm.
“Well, if you ask me,” Constable Montgomery started. “We just might have a murderer loose!” His voice deep and convincing.
Jacquelyn could not believe her ears. Had she heard correctly? That there might be a murderer in Port Townsmont. From a distance, she continued to watch the three men shovel dirt into the grave and listen to their conversation.
When a rat ran across the length of the gate where she sat, Jacquelyn covered her mouth so her fear would not give her being there away.
“A murderer?” responded Dr. Morehead, quickly. “I don’t know how you’re going to prove that, Constable. Not with all the merchant ships in port. You would need to question the crew, delaying their departure in the morning.”
The possibility of Port Townsmont having a murderer had Constable Montgomery thinking. He took into consideration what Dr. Morehead said. How was he going to prove that a murder took place without any suspects? And if he questioned all the crew from the merchant ships, the captains would be unhappy not leaving out of port on time.
Jacquelyn remained, hanging on to every word they said. She knew that she had been away from the tavern too long and needed to return. But, she wanted to finish listening to their conversation.
“What I think happened,” Frank said, unexpectedly. “The boy got into a fight with one of the crew members, and got his throat cut. Then they threw his body overboard.”
Dr. Morehead raised his brow, glancing over at Constable Montgomery. “That’s a possibility, Henry.” Dr. Morehead packed down the mound of dirt with the shovel. “You’d have more trouble conducting an investigation. And not allowing the ships to leave port might cause trouble.”
“I’ve been entertaining the idea. I wish I didn’t find the boy's body lying on shore.”
“Neither did we,” Frank added. “After being out here in the cold air, I’m ready for a brandy.”
“Same here. I could use a drink myself,” Dr. Morehead remarked, tossing the shovel down. “Let’s go, we’re done.”
Standing up slowly, Jacquelyn headed away from the cemetery onto the cobbled street until a pebble caught underneath her boot, causing her to fall down. “Ouch,” she cried, noticing a slight tear to the bottom of her dress.
“Who’s there?” Constable Montgomery called out. Lantern in hand, he moved quickly through the cemetery, kicking dirt up behind his enormous boots.
Shrieking from the sound of his rugged tone, Jacquelyn limped back towards the entrance of the cemetery.
“It’s me, Jacquelyn Cassiel,” she said loudly, limping closer to the entrance.
“Stay where you are!” He ordered, huffing and puffing every step of the way. Reaching the entrance, he caught his breath. Constable Montgomery pushed his eyebrows together. “What are you doing walking the streets at this hour?” His voice stern, and disgruntled.
Jacquelyn resented his approach. She understood it was a policeman’s job to ask a civilian the reason for walking the streets during the night. But, Constable Montgomery knew she used to work as a courtesan for Madame Aimée, and she was afraid he had other ideas.
“I stepped out for a breath of fresh air,” she admitted. “Why? Have I committed a crime?” A sharp twinge traveled down to her ankle. Jacquelyn slid her right hand down her leg, giving her ankle a quick rub.
Grunting like a grizzly bear, Constable Montgomery released his air. “You’re a little far away from the tavern to have stepped out for a breath of fresh air. Hmm,” he replied, indicating something more. Jacquelyn glanced over his shoulder, recognizing Dr. Morehead, and Frank the gravedigger approaching the entrance.
There were many times during the years she worked as a courtesan when both Frank and Constable Montgomery would be in the parlor wanting service. But, she would not have anything to do with either one of them. And, that included her boss, Alfred Struthers, who is the owner of the Black Rose Tavern. There were times that Alfred would come over to the house, drunk, and wanting to be with her when she sat alone on the
settee, waiting for a gentleman. She refused him
every time. Jacquelyn fancied older men, with a more slender shape. Dark eyes,
dark hair much like her own.
Dr. Morehead met her eyes, reached into his front pocket, and pulled out his watch. “It’s after eleven thirty.” Indicating his concern. “You shouldn’t be out walking the streets alone at this hour, Jacquelyn,” he said enthusiastically, scratching the lower part of his beard.
“I haven’t committed any crime, have I?” The three men looked off towards the pier. Starting to feel uncomfortable, Jacquelyn started twitching as if she had a tick. From their expressions, she could only imagine what they were thinking.
Constable Montgomery snorted. “Not that I can prove...”
“Well, if you’d excuse me, I need to return back to the tavern,” she said. Not being happy that they might be thinking she was prostituting, Jacquelyn turned up her nose, and strutted off in the direction of the tavern.
She was not too thrilled in returning to work. And, when she past the staircase that led upstairs to her loft, she stopped walking for a moment, almost darting up. Animosity overflowed her. She had been outside far too long. Her boss, Mr. Struthers will be drunk by now. And, being away far longer than the ten minutes allotted her, her pay would be docked one hour. But, Jacquelyn did not care. She was still trying to digest the conversation in the cemetery, and the apparitions that she saw.
After hanging her blue cape on the brass hook on the wall behind the bar counter, Jacquelyn took the broom that was waiting for her in the corner. She turned her head to one side when she heard a soft, pleasant humming.“You sound happy,” Jacquelyn said, facing Gabriella.
“I am,” Gabriella replied. Her smile, larger than the length of a centipede. “I have a date with a sailor in an hour.” Gabriella continued to hum as she spun around behind the bar.
“Why a sailor? You normally like older men as I do. The one’s with money.” Charley, who was standing two feet away, started whistling. Jacquelyn nudged the side of his arm. “Do you mind? We’re trying to talk,” she implied, pushing her way behind Gabriella.
“Damn, women. Always getting caught up in each other’s business,” Charley said, stepping to one side to wash the dirty glasses. Gabriella and Jacquelyn wrinkled up their faces. “Well, you better stop talking and get back to work. Mr. Structures
is heading this way.”
Jacquelyn breathed in deeply, griping the broom handle tight.
Blowing a large puff of smoke into the air, Mr. Struthers tapped the ashes down at Jacquelyn’s feet. “There's a table in the center of the room waiting to be served,” he said with a depth of tone that can sink deeper than a well.
“Yes, sir,” Jacquelyn replied quickly, and without hesitation handed the broom to Gabriella. Once at the table were four merchants were sitting, she glanced over towards the door. Sitting alone underneath a window, she saw an older gentleman.
Clearing his throat twice, the merchant said, “Excuse me, miss, but could we get three ales and one whiskey?” The merchant turned around to see the distraction. “Saw him earlier, down at the pier.”
Jacquelyn pulled her eyes off the stranger, finding it difficult to do so. “Certainly, I’ll bring them right over.”
A peculiar sensation came over Jacquelyn. She placed the drinks onto the table and began her way towards the gentleman that’s sitting near the door. Afraid to go any further when a smoke cloud covered her face, causing her to cough, she turned around and off towards a table that had empty Steins. “Bastard!” she angrily muttered under her breath.
Not understanding his reasons, and perhaps being disgruntled for never giving him the time of day when she was a courtesan. Jacquelyn has tried to understand Mr. Struthers’s attitude towards her. Unless she finds a way to leave Port Townsmont, or if Mr. Struthers’s drops dead from a heart attack, she had no idea how to solve the animosity with her employer.
In the brief silence, Jacquelyn heard low voices of men at the next table where she was cleaning up spilled ale. She bent her ear to listen. “Tomorrow we should go to the pier and see if we can find the ship the boy is from. It's only fair to notify the ship’s captain,” Jacquelyn heard Constable Montgomery say.
“It might be difficult to find exactly what ship the boy is from,” said the grave digger grumpily. “Ship crews come and go. Its cargo, and slaves, they keep an accurate log.”
“Frank is probably right, Constable. I was under the impression you weren't going to conduct an investigation.” Jacquelyn detected hesitation from Dr. Morehead’s voice.
“I’m not. I thought the captain should know what happened to one of his crew.”
Frank glanced over the crowded room, spotting merchants sitting at tables, drinking rum and whiskey. Meeting the constable’s heavy eyes, he said, “Out in the rough waters of the Atlantic, sailing back and forth from port to port.” Frank paused to clear his voice. “Do you really think any ship captain cares or even knows how many men are aboard their ship?”
Constable Montgomery shrugged his square shoulders back. “I guess not, Frank. I had forgotten before you arrived to Port Townsmont that you worked on a merchant ship.”
Gathering the empty steins, Jacquelyn turned around right when Madame Aimée approached the table next to her. “Good evening, Madame Aimée,” said Constable Montgomery. “It’s always a pleasure to see you.”
Madame Aimée raised her brow. “Gentlemen, what drags all of you together on a chilly night?” Madame Aimée asked, sounding suspicious. “All of you should be home where it is warm. All except for Henry, who should be out walking the streets.”
“Well, since you’re that concerned, how about sending me one of your women?” Frank said, indicating intentions. Madame Aimée ignored his remark, and turned instead to Dr. Morehead as he began a coughing spell.
When he caught his breath, the doctor replied, “Frankly, I believe we stayed in the cold air too long.” He continued coughing louder with every word.
“Charley,” Jacquelyn heard Madame Aimée yell over the crowded room. “Bring over four whiskeys. Charley reached for the whiskey bottle and four glasses. “That’ll clear your cough right up, Allan.”
“Just when I was going to order a round myself,” said Constable Montgomery. By the expression on his face, Madame Aimée knew very well that he wanted a drink without having to pay.
“Instead of rubbing elbows with these two, don't you think you’d be more useful if you were patrolling outside?” Jacquelyn heard the sternness in Madame Aimée’s voice.
“Clairee, don't be giving Henry a hard time. We’ve been out in the graveyard for...” Dr. Morehead started.
Charley walked to the table with the glasses of whiskey, sat all of them on the table. Madame Aimée reached into her purse, and pulled out a shiny coin. “Thank you, dear,” she said, handing Charley a penny. Charley gave a quick nod, returning to the bar counter. “As you were saying, Allan.”
Mr. Struthers strolled over to the table, right beside Madame Aimée. His stare glowered toward Jacquelyn. Turning to face him, Madame Aimée frowned. “Why the sullen look, Alfred?”
Mr. Struthers grumbled a little, took a long puff on his cigar, blowing smoke in Jacquelyn’s direction. “Don’t you think you’ve spent enough time gathering those steins?” His voice full of hatred. Jacquelyn turned around sharply and headed towards the bar counter.
Jacquelyn despised Alfred Struthers. He thought of himself as a ladies’ man, and she could not figure out why. His body was beefy. His neck buried below his shirt. She did not think he was very attractive either. His gray thinning hair swept to one side. And his dark beady eyes have always been cold as stone. She would giggle at times when he would be drunk, and strut like a tomcat through the tavern.
“What's going on here?” Mr. Struthers asked, his voice grouchy, and focusing his stare at Constable Montgomery. “Shouldn’t you be out patrolling the streets, Henry?” Madame Aimée coughed, waving the smoke from her face, and muttering profanity under her breath.
“Could’ve used your help two hours ago, big boy,” indicated Constable Montgomery.
“You're not exactly small around the waist yourself,” barked Mr. Struthers. “And what brings you in here tonight, Allan. Another interlude with Clairee?” he said, making a rude insinuation. Dr. Morehead did not say a word. In fact, all three of the men continued to sip their whiskey, as if Mr. Struthers had not spoken.
Dr. Morehead coughed a few more times before being interrupted by Madame Aimée. “You were saying, Allan, why the three of you were in the graveyard...”
Dr. Morehead met her eyes with a blank stare. “We buried a young boy tonight.”
Madame Aimée’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. “Oh, my, anyone we know?”
Dr. Morehead reached into his coat pocket, and took out a dark colored handkerchief. He wiped the sweat from his brow, and said, “No! He’s from one of the merchant ships. Constable Montgomery found his body washed up on shore.
If you're interested in reading more of chapter one, please contact me at www.facebook.com/authorT.M.Waltman.