Loving a man across two centuries is difficult enough but when a murder from the past reaches into the present it brings a whole new level of fear…
Cassie Lawrence is a perfectly normal young woman – self-employed, lives in the Home Counties, volunteers as a Special Constable, is bullied by her cat. She also happens to be having a love affair with an earl born in 1779. Then Cassie visits the country seat of Luc Franklin, Earl of Radcliffe in her own time – only to meet the present earl, find her own portrait plastered all over the gift shop souvenirs and be present when the Earl discovers the evidence of a murder.
This is no modern crime, this murder was committed in Luc’s time, but who was the victim? Can she get back to 1807 to warn Luc – and what will happen if she changes history?
Book 4 in the Time Into Time series.
A workman in white overalls, holding a pry bar, came through the door at the far end of the Gallery. ‘Excuse me, my lord, but there’s something I think you should see behind the panelling. I think it…’
We began to walk towards him. It was none of my business, but the Earl’s physical presence was so like Luc’s I found myself drawn along too.
‘It looks like blood,’ the man finished and I saw he was pale. ‘A lot of blood.’
The Earl stopped dead, then broke into a run, and I followed, skidding on dustsheets laid over the parquet floor of what I vaguely recalled was the Ladies’ Small Morning Parlour, one of those useless rooms that is never quite the right size for anything, as Luc’s mother had observed when she was showing me around Whitebeams.
I had never spent any time in the room, but it definitely had not been decorated as it was now. On the walls there was simple wooden panelling painted pale blue and picked out in white. As far as I could recall, the originals were plaster with a cream and gilt scheme and were hung with landscapes. That old surface was visible now behind a wide section of panelling that had been removed directly beneath below a nasty water stain on the ceiling.
‘Thought it was more water-marking at first, gone mouldy or something,’ the man said. His colleagues, two of them, nodded in silent agreement. ‘Then we saw it couldn’t be. I mean – look at it!’
About a metre and a half up from the floor there was a large dark brown stain, roughly circular in shape except in one segment where there was a wedge of clean wall showing. From it, splatters of the same colour radiated out on the right hand side.
‘It looks as though someone had their head smashed against the wall,’ the Earl said moving closer. He sounded calm, but I saw his throat move convulsively as he swallowed.
‘And they hit the corner of a picture frame.’ I stood beside him and pointed to the wedge-shape, then at the spray of brown spots. ‘That looks like classic blood splatter. Someone has tried to wash it off, but it must have been there for some time first, because they weren’t very successful.’
‘Lime plaster, of course,’ one of the workmen said. ‘Very absorbent that is.’ He looked sick. ‘They’d have had to hack off the marked area and re-plaster the whole wall to get a good finish. Must have been why they panelled it instead.’
‘When was the room panelled?’ I thought I had kept my voice steady, but something must have betrayed me, because the Earl turned.
‘The blood is obviously old, hardly a matter for the police,’ he said, misunderstanding my urgency. ‘Nothing to worry about now.’
‘Yes, but how old?’
‘Early nineteenth century, I reckon,’ the more senior of the workmen said. ‘That’s going by the wood used and the size of the panels and so on.’ Giving his professional opinion seemed to have steadied him a little. He took a tape measure from the pocket of his overalls and held it up against the wall nearest him. ‘Yeah. Victorian tends to be a bit bigger sections and fussier detailing too. No evidence of machining on these either – this is all hand work. Very nice.’
‘So who was killed?’ I asked. ‘I know head wounds bleed a lot, but look at it! You must have something in the records, surely?’
The Earl shrugged, but he was frowning. ‘We’re without an archivist at the moment. Our old one retired – to be frank he was in a world of his own most of the time – and we have appointed a new one with a more up to date approach, but she hasn’t started yet and I haven’t a clue how to lay my hands on the relevant documents at the moment. It hardly matters; it is not as though we had found a skeleton. After all, with something this old the police are not going to care.’
‘I care,’ I said faintly, staring at the marks. A child, picked up and thrown or a short woman. Or a man on his knees… I felt dizzy and strange and my bag, where I had clutched it against me as I ran, was uncomfortably hot.
‘Miss Lawrence!’ the Earl called as I fled back down the length of the Long Gallery. Somehow I got down the stairs without falling, ran for the front door and reached it as a slender woman in expensive floaty linen opened it from outside.
‘This is a private entrance,’ she said sharply. ‘The public exit is – ’
I was already past her, down the steps, sprinting across the gravel towards the stables. As I skidded through, heading for the carpark entrance, I saw a flash of pale green in the shop window: a canvas bag printed with my portrait. I didn’t stop.
I like to think that I am reasonably fit – work-outs in the police gym and dojo see to that – but I was gasping for breath and ready to throw up by the time I got the door of the Mini open and fell into the driver’s seat.
My cross-body bag was slung over my shoulder and I scrabbled in it one-handed as I slammed the door. The miniature was hot, too hot to hold now, and I dropped it, almost weeping with frustration and anxiety as it hit the passenger seat, bounced and fell into the rear foot-well.
Then the world went black and I was spinning and dropping, hurled around by a turbulent, rushing wind with the tears cold on my cheeks.