Love and Murder Across Two Centuries
Time Into Time – Book Two
Cassandra Lawrence, technical translator and part-time Special Constable, survived one adventure in 1807 when the chance purchase of a miniature portrait of the Earl of Radcliffe catapulted her back in time – and into Lucian’s arms.
Now she’s back again and this time Luc’s brother James is embroiled in the murder and suicide of two of his friends. The fact that they are all members of London’s hidden gay community only makes things more perilous – exposure could lead James to exile, the pillory or even the scaffold.
And then there’s the problem of having an affair across two centuries – but what’s a girl to do when she’s falling head over heart for a man?
‘…When are we now?’
‘The eleventh of May, same year. Just after breakfast. Are you all right?’ He kissed me, a somewhat distracted peck.
‘I am. What’s wrong here? James?’
‘We’ve just heard a friend of mine, George Coates, has hanged himself.’ He scrubbed his hand across his eyes and sat back, jaw clenched.
‘Not a very close friend?’ Not a lover, I meant.
He understood. ‘No. But I liked him, knew him well. I don’t know how Philip is going to cope. Doctor Philip Talbot. They were very good friends indeed.’
‘How did you hear?’
‘His landlady sent a message. You only just caught us,’ Lucian said. ‘She sounds exceedingly distressed and we want to get there before she thinks to get the Constable in.’
Of course, they had to search, make sure there was nothing that would incriminate anyone else, hide the dead man’s secret life before his family discovered it. ‘Give me five minutes to change and I’ll come too. You still have my clothes?’
Lucian stood up, reached for the bell pull, but before he got to it Garrick walked in. Lucian’s gentleman’s gentleman is – was – middle aged and stocky and imperturbable and the only other person in on the secret of who I was and when I’d come from.
‘Good morning, Miss Lawrence, I thought I heard your voice. Your garments are laid out in the spare bedchamber.’ I might just have popped out to the shops an hour ago to hear him.
‘Thank you, Garrick.’ I gave him a kiss on the cheek as I went past and he did colour up a little. I could never get him to call me Cassie, and I had no idea what his first name was – he would probably have fainted if I’d used it anyway – but we had bonded over joint cookery sessions before.
I scrambled out of my clothes and into my petticoats, stays (laced at the front) and gown. I kept my knickers, I don’t care if ladies of the time went commando, it’s draughty, although given the dire shortage of facilities for females to relieve themselves, it must have been handy. The narrow ankle boots were uncomfortably lacking in support and the laces were fiddly, but I remembered the knack of it, shook the contents of my bag into the reticule, jammed the bonnet on my hair (dark blonde and cropped into a style that was dashing but acceptable for 1807) and whisked out of the door. Garrick was waiting with a Talbot for me to put on and we were ready to go.
‘We’ll take a hackney, it will attract less attention,’ Lucian said as we went down the steps into the Albany courtyard at the pace considered acceptable for a lady. It amused me that Lucian did not baulk at taking me to see a suicide but treated me like spun glass in the street. One part of his brain had grasped that I was some kind of law officer when I came from but the protective English gentleman mode kicked in instinctively once I was in skirts.
In the space of a month I’d forgotten how everything smelt outside. The combination of coal smoke and horse dung and human waste and cooking and the sweat of crowded unwashed, un-deodorised, humanity was an assault on the senses. Men like Lucian and James who followed Brummell’s habits of bathing and grooming were in a minority.
The hackney carriage stank of the last passenger who had apparently dined on raw onions so I deployed my handkerchief as a fan. ‘Is it far?’
‘No, he had a small apartment in Conduit Street, easily walkable if we weren’t in a hurry.’
The carriage lurched across Piccadilly, up Old Bond Street and into New Bond Street.
‘Tell me about George Coates,’ I said to James. He’d got himself under control now, grim-faced but dry-eyed.
‘About my age, works – worked – as a clerk in the Home Office and just been promoted, I believe. Youngest son of a large family, Yorkshire minor gentry. He’s been close to Philip for almost a year, I’d say.’ His gaze went unfocused as he seemed to look back. ‘He’s seemed tense recently but I’d put that down to pressure at work. George was always a hard worker, conscientious – I cannot imagine what drove him to do this.’
‘If he did do it,’ I said, thinking aloud.
‘Are we sure it was suicide?’ I’d been to a fascinating lecture on hanging and how pathologists and detectives could tell whether it was self-inflicted or not. At least, it had been fascinating when the bodies in question had not belonged to friends of people I was fond of. ‘I know what to look for,’ I added.
‘You are not going in there,’ Lucian said. ‘A dead body – ’
‘We went to a morgue last time,’ I reminded him. ‘And those bodies weren’t fresh.’