The Tea Rose

Jennifer Donnelly

    
    For Douglas, My own blue- eyed boy.
    
Acknowledgements
    
    I am indebted to Martin Fido, author of The Crimes, Detection, and Death J of Jack the Ripper and Murder Guide to London, for a midnight tour of the lanes and alleys Jack knew and for sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge of 1880s East London and its people with me. Samuel H. G. Twining, LVO, OBE, Director of Twinings Tea, and Syd Mumford, a former Senior Buyer and Blender for the firm, graciously explained the mysteries and arcana of the tea trade to me and provided a hands-on lesson in tea tasting. Thanks, also, to the staff of the Museum of London's Museum in Docklands Project for allowing me access to their library and collections. Londoners Fred Sage, a former Thames Stevedore, and Con McCarthy, an Ocean Ships Tally Clerk, walked down many a dockland street with me, sharing memories of working life on the river. Hoisting a pint with them in the Town of Ramsgate was both a privilege and an honor.
    Sally Kim, my editor, is every writer's dream come true-a mentor, an advocate, a partner in crime. She has my sincere gratitude, as does the rest of the team at St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books.
    Without Simon Lipskar, agent and lionheart, The Tea Rode would never have been. He took a chance on me and my doorstop of a manuscript. He made us better and got us heard and I appreciate his efforts more than I will ever be able to say.
    Laurie Feldman, Diana Nottingham, Brian O'Meara, and Omar Wohabe were there for me from day one with advice, support, and champagne. No one could ask for truer friends. Thanks, guys. Heather, John, and Joasha Dundas read early drafts of the novel and gave me valuable criticism and confirmation, for which I am grateful.
    A very loving thank-you to Wilfriede, Matt, Megan, and Mary Donnelly, and Marta Eggerth Kiepura, my wonderful family, for believing in me, encouraging me, and always telling me stories.
    And to Douglas Dundas, for teaching me what faith means, the biggest thank-you of all.
    
    Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light
    - Theodore Roethke
Prologue
    
    Polly Nichols, a Whitechapel whore, was profoundly grateful to gin. ~Gin helped her. It cured her. It took away her hunger and chased the chill from her joints. It stilled the aching in her rotten teeth and numbed the slicing pains she got every time she took a piss. It made her feel better than any man ever had. It calmed her. It soothed her.
    Swaying drunkenly in the darkness of an alley, she raised a bottle to her lips and drained it. The alcohol burned like fire. She coughed, lost her grip on the bottle, and swore as it smashed.
    In the distance, the clock at Christ Church struck two, its resonant chime muffled in the thickening fog. Polly dipped her hand into her coat pocket and felt for the coins there. Two hours ago, she'd been sitting in the kitchen of a doss-house on Thrawl Street, penniless. The landlord's man had spotted her there, asked for his fourpence, and turned her out when she couldn't supply it. She'd cursed and screamed at him, telling him to save her bed, he'd get his doss money, telling him she'd earned it and drunk it three times over that day.
    "And I got it, too, you bastard," she muttered. "Didn't I say I would? Got yer poxy fourpence and a skinful to boot."
    She'd found her money and her gin in the trousers of a lone drunk wending his way down the Whitechapel Road. He'd needed a bit of coaxing. At forty-two, her face was no longer her fortune. She was missing two front teeth and her pug nose was thick and flattened across the bridge like a fighter's, but her large bosom was still firm and a glimpse of it had decided him. She'd insisted on a swig of his gin first, knowing a mouthful would numb her throat, get up her nose, and block the beer and onions stink of him. As she drank, she'd unbuttoned her camisole, and while he was busy 'groping her, she'd slipped the bottle into her own pocket. He was clumsy and slow and she was glad when he finally pulled away and staggered off.
    Christ, but there's nothing like gin, she thought now, smiling at the memory of her good fortune. To feel the weight of a bottle in your hands, press your lips against the glass, and feel the blue ruin flowing down your throat, hot and harsh. Nothing like it at all. And close to full that bottle had been. No mean thru'penny swig. Her smile faded as she found herself craving more. She'd been drinking all day and knew the misery that awaited her when the booze wore off. The retching, the shaking, and, worst of all, the things she saw-black, scuttling things that gibbered and leered from the cracks in the walls of the doss-house.
    Polly licked her right palm and smoothed her hair. Her hands went to her camisole; her fingers fumbled a knot into the dirty strings threaded through the top of it. She tugged her blouse together and buttoned it, then lurched out of the alley and down Bucks Row, singing to herself in a gravelly, gin-cracked voice:
    
    
“Oh bad luck can’t be prevented,
Fortune, she smiles or she frowns,
‘E’s best off that’s contented,
To mix, Sir, the ups and the downs…”
    
    At the corner of Bucks Row and Brady Street, she suddenly stopped. Her vision blurred. A buzzing noise, low and close like the wings of an insect, began in her head.
    "I've the 'orrors of drink upon me," she moaned. She held her hands up. They were trembling. She buttoned her coat up around her neck and began to walk faster, desperate for more gin. Her head lowered, she did not see the man standing a few feet ahead of her until she was nearly upon him. "Blimey!" she cried. "Where the 'ell did you come from?"
    The man looked at her. "Will you?" he asked.
    "No, guv'nor, I will not. I'm poorly just now. Good night."
    She started to move off, but he grabbed her arm. She turned on him, her free arm raised to strike him, when her eyes fell upon the shilling pinched between his thumb and forefinger.
    "Well, that changes things, don't it?" she said. His shilling plus the fourpence she already had would buy booze and a bed tonight, tomorrow, and the day after, too. As sick as she felt, she couldn't turn it down.
    Polly and her client walked back the way she'd come in silence, past tumble-down dwellings and tall brick warehouses. The man had a powerful stride and she found herself trotting to keep pace. Glancing at him, she saw he was expensively dressed. Probably had a nice watch on him. She'd certainly have a go at his pockets when the time was right. He stopped abruptly at the end of Bucks Row, by the entrance to a stable yard.
    "Not 'ere," she protested, wrinkling her nose. "By the metal works… a little ways down… " '
    "This'll do," he said, pushing her against two sheets of corrugated metal, secured by a chain and padlock, that served as the stable's gate.
    His face shone weirdly bright in the thickening darkness, its pallor broken by eyes that were cold and black. A wave of nausea gripped her as she looked into them. Oh, Jesus, she pleaded silently, don't let me be sick. Not here. Not now. Not this close to a whole shilling. She forced herself to breathe deeply, willing the nausea to subside. As she did, she inhaled his scent - Macassar oil, sweat, and something else… what was it? Tea. Bloody tea, of all things.
    "Let's get on with it then," she said. She lifted her skirts, fixing him with a look of weary expectation.
    The man's eyes were glittering darkly now, like shiny pools of black oil.
    "You filthy bitch," he said.
    "No dirty talk tonight, pet. I'm in a bit of an 'urry. Need some 'elp, do you?" She reached for him. He slapped her hand away.
    "Did you really think you could hide from me?"
    "Look' ere, are you going to -" Polly began. She never finished. Without warning, the man grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into the gate.
    "Leave off!" she cried, flailing at him. "Let me go!"
    He tightened his grip. "You left us," he said, his eyes bright with hatred. "Left us for the rats."
    "Please!" she rasped. "Please don't 'urt me. I don't know about any rats, I swear it… I… "
    Polly never saw the knife coming. She had no time to scream as it plunged into her belly, biting and twisting. A soft gasp escaped her as he pulled it out. She stared at the blade, uncomprehending, her eyes wide, her mouth a great, round O. Slowly, delicately, she touched her fingers to the wound. They came away crimson.
    She lifted her eyes to his, her voice rising in a wild, terrified keen, and looked into the face of madness. He raised his knife; it bit into her throat. Her knees buckled and all around her darkness descended, enveloping her, dragging her into a thick and strangling fog, a fog deeper than the river Thames and blacker than the London night that swirled down on her soul.
    
Part One
    
Chapter 1
    
    The scent of Indian tea leaves-black, crisp, and malty-was intoxicating. It floated out of Oliver's, a six-story wharf on the Thames's north bank, and wafted down the Old Stairs, a flight of stone steps that led from Wapping's winding, cobbled High Street to the river's edge. The tea's perfume overpowered the other smells of the docks -the sour stench of the mud bank, the salty tang of the river, and the warm, mingled scents of cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg drifting out of the spice wharves.
    Fiona Finnegan closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "Assam," she said to herself. "The smell's too strong for a Darjeeling, too rich for a Dooars."
    Mr. Minton, the foreman at Burton's, said she had a nose for tea. He liked to test her by holding a handful of leaves under her nose and making her name it. She always got it right.
    A nose for tea, maybe. The hands for it, surely, she thought, opening her eyes to inspect her work-roughened hands, their knuckles and nails black with tea dust. The dust got everywhere. In her hair. Her ears. Inside her collar. She rubbed at the grime with the hem of her skirt, sighing. This was the first chance she'd had to sit down since six-thirty that morning, when she'd left her mother's lamp lit kitchen for the dark streets of White chapel.
    She'd arrived at the tea factory at a quarter to seven. Mr. Minton had met her at the door and put her to work readying half-pound tins for the rest of the packers due in on the hour. The blenders, who worked on the upper floors of the factory, had mixed two tons of Earl Grey the day before and it had to be packed by noon. Fifty-five girls had had five hours to pack eight thousand tins. That worked out to an allotment of about two minutes' labor per tin. Only Mr. Minton thought two minutes was too much, so he'd stood behind each girl in turn-timing her, shaming her, bullying her. All to gain a few seconds on the output of a tea tin.
    Saturdays were only half-days, but they seemed endless. Mr. Minton drove her and the other girls terribly hard. It wasn't his fault, Fiona knew, he was only following orders from Burton himself. She suspected her employer hated having to give his workers half a day off, so he made them suffer for it. They got no breaks on Saturdays; she had to endure five long hours on her feet. If she was lucky, her legs went numb; if not, they ached with a slow, heavy pain that started in her ankles and climbed to her back. And worse than the standing was the grindingly dull nature of the work: glue a label on a tin, weigh out the tea, fill the tin, seal the tin, box the tin, then start all over again. The monotony was agony to a mind as bright as hers and there were days, like today, when she thought she'd go mad with it, when she doubted she'd ever escape it, and wondered if all her big plans, her sacrifices, would ever amount to anything.
    She pulled the hairpins from the heavy knot at the back of her head and shook her hair free. Then she loosened the laces on her boots, kicked them off, peeled her stockings off, and stretched her long legs out before her. They still ached from standing and the walk to the river hadn't helped any. In the back of her mind, she heard her mother scolding. "If you 'ad any sense, child, any sense at all, you'd come straight' ome and rest yourself instead of traipsing off down the river."
    Not come to the river? she thought, admiring the silvery Thames as it shimmered in the August sunshine. Who could resist it? Lively waves slapped impatiently at the bottom of the Old Stairs, spraying her. She watched them inching toward her and fancied that the river wanted to touch her toes, swirl up over her ankles, draw her into its beckoning waters, and carry her along with it. Oh, if only she could go.
    As she gazed out over the water, Fiona felt the weariness in her ebb - a weariness that left dark smudges under her brilliant blue eyes and a painful stiffness in her young body-and a sharp exhilaration take its place. The river restored her. People said that the City, the center of commerce and government to the west of Wapping, was London's heart. If that was true, then this river was her lifeblood. And Fiona's own heart quickened and leaped at its beauty.
    Everything exciting in the world was right here before her. Watching ships traverse the river, their holds laden with cargo from all the far-flung reaches of the Empire, filled her with wonder. This afternoon the Thames was choked with traffic. Punts and lighters-small, quick boats-were plying the waters, ferrying men to and from ships moored midstream. A hulking steamer, intent upon her berth, shouldered smaller craft out of the way. A battered trawler, back from chasing cod in the icy waters of the North Sea, steamed upriver to Billingsgate. Barges jostled for right-of-way, moving upriver and down, discharging cargo-a ton of nutmeg here, sacks of coffee there. Barrels of treacle. Wool, wine, and whiskey. Sheaves of tobacco. And chest upon chest of tea.
    And everywhere, standing on the jutting docks conferring with their captains, or moving between the casks and crates and towering pallets, were merchants _ brisk, imperious men who swooped down from the City to examine their goods the second their ships arrived. They came in carriages, carried walking sticks, and flipped open gold watches with hands so fine and white, Fiona could hardly believe they belonged to men. They wore top hats and frock coats and were attended by clerks who dogged their heels, carried their ledgers, and poked into everything, frowning and scribbling. They were alchemists, these men. They took raw goods and changed them into gold. And Fiona longed to be one of them.
    She didn't care that girls weren't supposed to involve themselves in business matters-especially girls from the docks, as her mother was always reminding her. Dock girls learned to cook, sew, and keep house so they could find husbands who'd look after them at least as well as their fathers had. "Foolishness," her mother called her ideas, advising her to spend more time improving her short crust and less time at the river. But her da didn't think her dreams were foolish. "Got to have a dream, Fee," he said. "The day you stop dreaming you might as well take yourself down to the undertaker's, for you're as good as dead."
    Lost in the river's spell, Fiona didn't hear a pair of feet approach the top of the Old Stairs. She wasn't aware that the young man standing there smiled as he watched her, not wanting to disturb her, just wanting to gaze at her for a moment before he made his presence known, wanting to savor the image of her-slender and straight-backed against the backdrop of mossy stones and black mud banks.
    "Coo-eee," he called softly.
    Fiona turned around. Her face lit up at the sight of him, softening for a few seconds the resoluteness, the determination that was always present in her expression-a determination so apparent that neighbor women remarked upon it, clucking and sighing and gravely saying that a strong face meant a strong will. And a strong will meant trouble. She'd never get a husband, they said. Lads didn't like that in a lass.
    But this lad didn't seem to mind it. No more than he minded the glossy black hair that curled around her face and tumbled down her back. Or the sapphire eyes that seemed to sparkle with blue fire.
    "You're early, Joe," she said, smiling.
    "Aye," he said, sitting down beside her. "Me and Dad finished up early at Spitalfields. The veg man's miserable with a cold, so 'e didn't 'aggle. I've got the next two hours to call me own. 'Ere," he added, handing her a flower. "Found that on me way over."
    "A rose!" she exclaimed. "Thank you!" Roses were dear. It wasn't often he could afford to give her one. She touched the crimson petals to her cheek, then tucked it behind her ear. "What's the weekly report, then? 'Ow much 'ave we got?" she asked.
    "Twelve pound, one shilling, sixpence."
    "Add this to it," she said, pulling a coin from her pocket, "then we'll 'ave twelve and two."
    “Can you spare it? Not skipping dinners again to save money, are you?”
    “No.”
    "I mean it, Fee, I'll be angry if you are-"
    "I said I'm not!" she bristled, changing the subject. "Before long we'll be at fifteen pounds, then twenty, and then twenty-five. It's really going to 'appen, isn't it?"
    "Of course it is. At the rate we're going, another year and we'll 'ave our twenty-five quid. Enough for three months' rent, plus start-up stock."
    "A whole year," Fiona echoed. "It sounds like forever."
    "It'll go quick, luv," Joe said, squeezing her hand. "It's only this part that's 'ard. Six months after we open our first shop, we'll 'ave so much money, we'll open another. And then another, until we 'ave a whole chain. Be making money 'and over fist, we will."
    "We'll be rich!" she said, brightening again.
    Joe laughed. "Not right away. But one day we will. promise you that, Fee."
    
    Fiona hugged her knees to her chest, grinning. A year wasn't so long, not really, she told herself. Especially when she thought of how long they'd been talking about their shop. For ages, ever since they were children. And two years ago, they'd begun saving, putting money away in an old cocoa tin that Joe kept under his bed. Everything had gone into that tin-wages, Christmas and birthday coins, errand money, even a few farthings found in the street. Bit by bit, the coins had mounted up, and now they had twelve and two-a fortune.
    Over the years, she and Joe had painted a picture of their shop in their imaginations, embellishing and refining it until the picture was so real she could close her eyes and smell the tea in its chest. She could feel the smooth oak counter under hand and hear the little brass doorbell tinkle as people came in. It would be a bright and gleaming place, not some tatty hole - in - the - wall. A real beauty, with the windows done up so nicely that people simply couldn't walk by. "It's all in the presentation, Fee," Joe always said. "That's what brings the punters in."
    The shop would be a success, she knew it would. As a costermonger's son, Joe knew everything there was to know about selling. He'd grown up on a barrow, spending the first year of his life propped up in a basket between the turnips and the potatoes. He could bellow "Buy my fine parsley-o!" before he could say his name. With his know-how and their combined hard work, they couldn't possibly fail.
    Our shop, ours alone, Fiona thought, gazing at Joe as he gazed at the river. Her eyes caressed his face, delighting in every detail-the strong line of his jaw, the sandy stubble covering his cheeks, the tiny scar above his eye. She knew its every plane and angle. There wasn't a time when Joe Bristow hadn't been part of her life and there never would be. She and Joe had grown up on the same shabby street, one house apart. From childhood they'd played together, roamed Whitechapel together, eased each other's hurts and heartaches.
    They'd shared pennies and treats as children, now they shared their dreams. Soon they would share a life. They would be married, she and Joe. Not right away. She was only seventeen and her father would say that was too young. But in another year she'd be eighteen, and Joe twenty, and they would have money saved and excellent prospects.
    Fiona stood up and jumped from the steps onto the stony flat below. Her body was humming with excitement. She trotted to the river's edge, scooped up a handful of stones, and skipped them across the water as hard and fast as she could. When she'd skipped them all, she turned to Joe, who was still sitting on the steps, watching her.
    "One day, we'll be as big as all this," she shouted, thrusting her arms out wide. "Bigger than Whites or Sainsburys. Bigger than 'arrods, too." She stood still for a few seconds, taking in the warehouses on either side of her, the wharves across the river. At a glance, she seemed so slight and fragile,. nothing but a slip of a girl standing at the river's edge, dragging her hem in the mud. But eyes that lingered upon her as Joe's did could see the force of her ambition in her every expression, her every gesture, from the thrust of her chin to her rough worker's hands, now clenched into fists as if someone had challenged her.
    "We'll be so big," she continued, "that every merchant on the river will be falling over 'imself to sell us 'is goods. We'll' ave ten shops in London… no, twenty… and more all over the country. In Leeds and Liverpool. In Brighton and Bristol and Birmingham and… " She stopped, suddenly aware of Joe's gaze, suddenly shy. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
    "Because you're such a queer lass."
    “I'm not!"
    "You are. You're the fiercest little lass I've ever seen. You've more bottle than most lads." Joe leaned back on his elbows and gave her an appraising look. "Maybe you're not a lass at all, maybe you're really a lad in disguise."
    Fiona grinned. "Maybe I am. Maybe you better come down 'ere and find out."
    Joe stood up and Fiona, full of mischief, turned and ran down the shore.
    A gravelly crunch behind her told her he'd jumped down and was pursuing her. She squealed with laughter as he grabbed her arm.
    "You certainly run like a lass." He pulled her close and made a big show of inspecting her face. "And I guess you're pretty enough to be a lass -"
    "You guess? "
    
    "Mmm-hmm, but I could still be wrong. I'd better make sure…”
    Fiona felt his fingers brush her cheek. Ever so gently, he tilted her chin up and kissed her lips, parting them with his tongue. She closed her eyes and gave herself over to the pleasure of his kiss. She knew she shouldn't be doing this, not until they were married. Father Deegan would give her a string of Hail Marys to say at confession, and if her da found out he'd skin her alive. But oh, how lovely his lips felt, and his tongue was like velvet, and how sweet his skin smelled, warm from the afternoon sun. Before she knew what she was doing, she was up on her tiptoes, arms around his neck, kissing him back. Nothing felt as good as this, her body pressed against his, his strong arms around her.
    Hoots and catcalls interrupted their embrace. A barge had come out of Wapping Entrance, gateway to the nearby London docks, and was sailing past. Its crew had caught an eyeful.
    Beet-faced, Fiona pulled Joe into a maze of pilings, where they stayed until the barge was past. A church bell sounded the hour. It was growing late; she knew she should be home helping her mother get the dinner. And Joe had to get to the market. After one last kiss, they walked back to the Old Stairs. She scrambled up the steps to put her stockings and boots back on, tripping over her skirts as she did.
    As she stood to go, she stole one final glimpse of the river. It would be a week before she could return - a week of rising in the darkness, trudging to Burton's and trudging back home, where chores of every description were always waiting. But it didn't matter, none of it mattered; one day she would leave it all behind. Out from the shore, white froths rose and curled on the water's surface. Waves danced. Was it her imagination, or did the river seem to leap with excitement for her, for them?
    And why wouldn't it? she wondered, smiling. She and Joe had each other. They had twelve pounds, two shillings, and a dream. Never mind Burton's or the dreary streets of Whitechapel. In a year, the world would be theirs. Anything was possible.
    
    "PADDY? Paddy, what time 'ave you got?" Kate Finnegan asked her husband.
    "Hmmph?" he replied, his head buried in the day's newspaper.
    "The time, Paddy," she said impatiently, one hand gripping the edge of a yellow mixing bowl, the other whisking together its contents.
    "Kate, luv, you've just asked me," he sighed, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a dented silver watch. "It's two o'clock exactly."
    Frowning, Kate banged the whisk on the side of the bowl, knocking globs of cream-colored batter from its wires, then tossed it in the sink. She picked up a fork and poked it into one of the three mutton chops sizzling on top of the stove. A rivulet of juice ran down the side of the chop, sputtering into steam as it hit the hot metal of the frying pan. She speared the chops, dropped them onto a plate, and put them into a warming hatch next to the oven, alongside a jug of onion gravy. Next she picked up a rope of sausages and cut the links into the pan. As they began to fry, she sat down at the table across from her husband.
    "Paddy," she said, lightly banging the palm of her hand on the table. "Paddy."
    He looked over the top of his paper into his wife's large green eyes. "Yes, Kate. What, Kate?"
    "You really should get after them. They can't just trundle in when they please, keeping you waiting for your dinner. And me standing 'ere, not knowing when to start the toad."
    "They'll be along any minute now. Start the dinner. If it's cold when they get here, they've only themselves to blame."
    "It's not just the dinner," she confessed. "I don't like them larking about with all this murder business going on."
    "Sure, you don't t'ink the Whitechapel Murderer is running about in broad daylight? And stalking a tough little bugger like Charlie? God help him if he is, it'll be the murderer screaming murder after two minutes with that lad. To say not'ing of Fiona. Remember what happened to that bully Sid Malone when he tried to take her into an alley? Busted him in the nose, she did. Broke it. And him twice the size of her."
    "Yes, but-"
    "Here, Kate, there's an article on Ben Tillet, the union lad, organizing the men down the tea warehouses. Listen to this… "
    Kate looked at her husband reproachfully. She could've told him the roof was on fire and received the same response. Whatever the paper said, she didn't want to hear it. Talk of unions worried her; talk of strikes terrified her. With a husband, four children, and a lodger to feed, she barely made it through the week as it was. If a strike was called, they'd starve. And if that wasn't enough to worry about, there was a murderer on the loose. Whitechapel had always been a tough neighborhood, a two-fisted mixture of Cockneys, Irish, Polish, Russians, Chinese, and a smattering of others. No one was rich, most were hardworking. Many were hard-drinking, too. There was plenty of crime, but it was mainly thieving. Thugs sometimes killed each other or a man died in a brawl, but nobody did this sort of thing, cutting up women.
    With Paddy still reading, she stood up, moved to the stove, and prodded the sausages, grizzling in a slick layer of juices and fat. She picked up the mixing bowl and poured the batter into the frying pan, blanketing them. The batter hissed as it hit the hot drippings, then spread to the edges of the pan, where it bubbled and puffed. She smiled. The batter was airy and would brown nicely. A cup of ale always did the trick. She shoved the skillet into the oven, then turned her attention to a pot of potatoes. As she mashed them, she heard the front door bang open and her daughter's steps, light and quick, in the hallway.
    " 'Ello, Mam. 'Ello, Da," Fiona said brightly, depositing her week's wages minus sixpence in an old tea tin on the mantel.
    " 'Ello, luv," Kate said, looking up from the potatoes to greet her. Paddy grunted a greeting from behind his paper.
    Fiona grabbed a pinafore from a hook near the back door. As she tied the strings behind her, she checked on her baby sister Eileen, asleep in a basket by the hearth, then bent down next to her four-year-old brother Seamus, who was sitting on a rug playing soldiers with some clothes-pegs, and gave him a kiss.
    "Now give me one back, Seamie."
    The little boy, all red hair and mischief, pressed his lips against her cheek and blew a loud, wet raspberry.
    "Oh, Seamie!" she cried, wiping her cheek. "That wasn't very nice! Who taught you that?"
    "Charlie!"
    "That figures. What needs doing, Mam?"
    "You can slice the bread. Then set the table, start the tea, and get your da 'is porter."
    Fiona set about her work. "What's the news, Da?"
    Paddy lowered his paper. "The union. Numbers are growing every day.
    Won't be long before the Wapping lads are in. Mark my words, we'll see a strike before the year's out. The unions will save the working class."
    "And 'ow will they do that? By giving us an extra penny an hour so we can starve slowly instead of getting it over with all at once?"
    "Don't start, Fiona… " Kate cautioned.
    "Fine attitude, that. It's that Joe Bristow puts them anti-union ideas in your head. Costers, they're all the same. Too independent. Don't care about the rest of their class."
    "I don't need Joe to put ideas in me 'ead, I've plenty of me own, thank you. And I'm not anti-union. It's just that I prefer to make me own way. Whoever waits for dock owners and factory owners to answer to a bunch of ragtag unionists is going to wait a good long time."
    Paddy shook his head. "You should be joining up, paying dues, putting some of your wages to work for the common good. Otherwise, you're behaving just like one of them."
    "Well, I'm not one of them, Da!" Fiona said hotly. "I get up and work every day but Sunday, just like you. I believe working people should 'ave better lives. Of course I do. I'm just not prepared to sit on my arse and wait for Ben Tillet to bring it all about."
    "Fiona, watch your tongue," Kate scolded, checking on the batter.
    "Do you really think, Da, that William Burton will allow 'is premises to go union?" she continued, unheeding. "You work for 'im; you know what 'e's like as well as I do. Tighter than bark to a tree. 'E wants to keep 'is profits, not share them."
    "What you don't see, lass, is you have to start somewhere," Paddy said heatedly, straightening in his chair. "You go to meetings, spread the word, get all of Burton's workers behind the union - the lads at the docks, the lasses at his factories-then he'll have no choice but to accept it. You have to make the small gains before you make the big ones. Like the match girls at Bryant and May's. Protesting against the terrible conditions and the fines for talking or going to the loo. They won after only a t'ree week stoppage. A bunch of wee lasses! There's power in numbers, Fiona, mark my words. Unions will save the dockers, the whole working class."
    "Never mind saving it," she said. "Just save me from it."
    Paddy brought his fist crashing down on the table, making his wife and daughter jump. "That's enough!" he thundered. "I won't have talk against me own class in me own house." Glowering, he took up his newspaper and snapped the creases out of it.
    Fiona was steaming, but knew better than to open her mouth. "When will you learn?" Kate asked her.
    She shrugged as if none of it mattered and started to lay the knives and forks, but Kate wasn't fooled. Fiona was angry, but she ought to know by now to keep her opinions to herself. Paddy always said he encouraged his children to think for themselves, but like all fathers, he actually preferred they think like him.
    Kate glanced between her husband and daughter. Lord God, are they alike, she thought. Same jet-black hair, same blue eyes, same stubborn chin. Both of them with their big ideas -that's the Irish in them. Dreamers, they are. Himself always dreaming after tomorrow, when the capitalists repent their evil ways and pigs fly. And that lass, scheming for that shop of hers. She has no idea how hard it will be to make a go of it. You can't tell her anything. But it's always been that way with her. Too big for her britches.
    Her eldest daughter worried Kate greatly. Fiona's single-mindedness, her sense of purpose, was so strong, so directed, it was frightening. A sudden stab of emotion, fierce and protective, pierced her heart. How many dock girls make a go of a shop? she wondered. What if she gets as far as opening it only to see it fail? It'll break her heart. And then she'll spend the rest of her life bitter over something she never should have wished for in the first place.
    Kate confided these worries to her husband on many occasions, but Paddy, proud of the fire in his eldest girl, always argued that spirit was a fine thing in a lass. Spirit a fine thing? She knew better. Spirit was what got lasses sacked from their jobs or got them black eyes from their husbands. What good was spirit when the whole world was just ready and waiting to knock it out of you? She sighed deeply-a long, noisy mother's sigh. The answer to those questions would have to wait. Dinner was ready.
    "Fiona, where's your brother?" she asked.
    "Down the gasworks after lumps of coke. Said 'e was going to sell them to Mrs. MacCallum for 'er fire. She won't pay for coal."
    "That lad's got more ways to make two bob than the Bank of England.
    “He'd skin a turd for a farthing," Paddy commented.
    "Enough! This is my kitchen, not a gutter!" Kate scolded. "Fiona, put the gravy on the table."
    There was the sound of trundling from the front of the house. The door opened and the trundling came inside. Charlie was home, with his wooden cart in tow.
    Little Seamie's head snapped up. "The Whitechapel Murderer!" he shouted gleefully.
    Kate frowned. She did not approve of this, her sons' ghoulish new game. "Yes, little boy," came a ghostly voice from the hallway. "It's the Whitechapel Murderer, guv' nor of the night, come to look for naughty children."
    The voice broke into evil laughter and Seamie, squealing with terror and delight, charged about on his stubby legs, looking for a place to hide.
    "Come 'ere, pet!" Fiona whispered, running to the rocker in front of the hearth. She sat down and spread her skirts out. Seamie crawled under, but forgot to pull in his feet. Charlie tramped into the kitchen, still cackling like a fiend. When he saw the little boots sticking out from under his sister's skirts, it was all he could do to keep from laughing and wreck the game.
    “ 'Ave you seen any naughty little boys, missus?" Charlie asked his mother.
    
    “Go on with you," Kate said, swatting him. "Don't scare your brother so." e byes it," Charlie whispered, shushing her. "Oh, Shaaymeeeee," he called, wheedling and coaxing, "come out, come out!" He opened the cupboard door. " 'E's not in 'ere." He looked under the sink. "Not in 'ere." He walked over to his sister. " 'Ave you seen any bad little boys?"
    "Only the one I'm looking at," Fiona replied, smoothing her skirts.
    "Is that so? Are these your feet sticking out' ere, then? Seems like awfully small feet for a big fat cow of a lass like yourself. Let me 'ave a closer look… aha!"
    Charlie grabbed Seamie's ankles and pulled him out. Seamie screeched and Charlie commenced tickling him to within an inch of his life.
    "Take it easy, Charlie," Kate cautioned. "Let 'im catch 'is breath." Charlie paused and Seamie kicked him in the leg to get him to start again.
    When he was truly breathless, Charlie stopped, giving him a fond pat on the head. Seamie, sprawled out on the floor panting, regarded his brother with utter adoration. Charlie was the center of his universe, his hero. He worshiped him, followed him around, even insisted on dressing like him, right down to the bit of fabric he made his mother tie around his neck in imitation of Charlie's kings man -a bright red neckerchief that all the flash lads wore. The two boys were almost identical, both taking after their mother with their red hair, green eyes, and freckles.
    Charlie hung up his jacket, then took a handful of coins from his pocket and dropped them into the tea tin. "A little bit more than usual, Mam. Got a few extra hours this week."
    "Thank you, luv, I'm glad of it. I've been trying to put something aside for a jacket for your da. Malphlin's 'ave got some nice second'and ones. I've mended 'is old one so many times it's nothing but thread and patches."
    He sat down at the table, picked up a thick slice of bread and began to wolf it. Paddy looked over his paper, saw him eating, and cuffed the top of his head. "Wait for your mother and sister. And take off your hat when you eat."
    "Fiona, get Seamie settled, will you?" Kate said. "Where's Roddy? Still asleep? Usually the smell of dinner gets 'im moving. Charlie, go shout 'im down."
    Charlie got up from the table and went to the staircase. "Uncle Rodddeee! Dinner's ready!" There was no response. He tramped upstairs.
    Fiona washed Seamie's hands and sat him at the table. She tied a napkin around his neck and gave him a piece of bread to keep him quiet. Then she went to the cupboard, took down six plates and carried them to the stove. Three plates got a chop each, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Kate pulled the skillet from the oven and divided its contents and the rest of the potatoes and gravy between the remaining three.
    "Toad in the 'ole!" Seamie crowed, regarding the crispy puff of batter, hungrily counting the nuggets of sausage peeping out from their doughy covering like so many timid toads.
    Neither Kate nor Fiona ever thought to question the chops on the men's plates and the batter on their own. Men were the breadwinners and needed meat to keep up their strength. Women and children got a taste of bacon or sausage on the weekends if the week's wages stretched that far. The fact that Kate worked over a copper and mangle hefting and wringing loads of wet laundry all day long or that Fiona stood on her feet packing tea for hours at a stretch was not considered and would have made no difference if it had been. Paddy's and Charlie's wages made up the lion's share of the household income; they paid the rent, bought clothes, and provided most of the food. Kate's and Fiona's earnings went for coal and household necessities like boot, black, kerosene, and matches. If Paddy or Charlie took ill and missed work, everyone would suffer. It was the same in every home on every street in East London-men got the meat and women got what they could.
    Kate heard Charlie's heavy steps on the stairs again.
    " 'E's not 'ere, Mam," he said, returning to the table. "Doesn't look like 'is bed's been slept in, either."
    "That's odd," Paddy said.
    "And 'ere's 'is dinner getting cold," Kate fretted. "Fiona, pass it back to me, I'll put it in the oven. Where is 'e? Wasn't 'e 'ere this morning, Paddy?"
    "No, but he usually doesn't come in till after I leave, so I wouldn't have seen him."
    "I 'ope 'e's all right. 'Ope nothing 'appened to 'im."
    "I t'ink we'd have heard by now if somet'ing had," Paddy said. "Maybe somebody on the next shift was sick and he had to take his place. You know Roddy, he'll turn up."
    Roddy O'Meara, the Finnegans' lodger, was not related to the family, but the children still called him Uncle. He'd grown up with Paddy and Paddy's younger brother, Michael, in Dublin, and had emigrated first to Liverpool and then to London with them, staying in Whitechapel with Paddy while Michael continued on to New York. He had known the Finnegan children all their lives-had dandled each one on his knee, rescued them from bullies and mean dogs, and told them ghost stories by the fire at night. He was more of an uncle to them than their real uncle, whom they'd never seen, and they adored him.
    Kate mashed the tea and sat down. Paddy said the blessing and the family began to eat. She regarded her brood and smiled. When they were eating, they were quiet. There might actually be two minutes of peace now, Charlie was tearing through his dinner. There was no filling him up. He wasn't a tall lad, but he was big for his sixteen years. Broad-shouldered and just as tough and scrappy as the bull terriers some of the neighborhood men kept.
    "Any more spuds, Mam?" he asked.
    "On the stove."
    He got up and shoveled more potatoes onto his plate. Just then the front door opened.
    "Roddy, that you?" Kate shouted. "Charlie, get your uncle 'is plate… " Her words trailed off as Roddy appeared in the doorway. Fiona, Paddy, even Seamie stopped eating and looked at him.
    "Jaysus!" Paddy exclaimed. "What the divil happened to you?"
    Roddy O'Meara didn't answer. His face was ashen. He held his policeman's helmet in one hand. His jacket hung open and there was a crimson smear across the front of it.
    "Roddy, lad… speak, would you?" Paddy said.
    "Another murder," Roddy finally said. "Bucks Row. A woman named Polly Nichols."
    "Jaysus, " Paddy said. Kate gasped. Fiona and Charlie were wide-eyed. "She was still warm. You can't imagine what he'd done. The blood-it was everywhere. Everywhere. A man found the body on his way to work just before dawn. I spotted him running down the street, yelling. Woke the whole place up. I went back with him and there she was. T'roat cut. Rest of her opened up like somet'ing in a slaughterhouse. Lost me dinner right there. Meantime, it's getting lighter and people are gathering. I sent the man down the station to get more help and by the time it arrived, I nearly had a riot on me hands." Roddy paused, passing a hand over his weary face. "Couldn't move the body till the detectives in charge of the case came. And the coroner. By the time they were done, we had a whole squad out front just to keep the people back. Furious, they were. Another woman dead. This boyo's dancing circles round us."
    "Papers t'ink so," Paddy said. "All righteous, they are. Going on about the squalor and depravity of the poor giving rise to a fiend. Them damn rags never paid any attention to East London before. Takes a lunatic on the loose to get the upper classes to take any notice of White chapel. And they're only talking about it now because they'd like to put a fence around it, keep your man inside so he can't take a walk west and trouble the quality."
    "No chance of that," Roddy said. "This lad sticks to his pattern. Always goes after the same kind of woman-drunk and broken-down. He sticks to Whitechapel, knows it like the back of his hand. Moves like a ghost, he does. A brutal murder happens and nobody's seen not'ing, heard not'ing." He was silent for a few seconds, then he said: "I'll never forget the sight of her."
    "Roddy, luv," Kate said gently, "eat something. You need some food inside you."
    "I don't t'ink I could. I've no appetite at all."
    "Cor, it's 'orrible," Fiona said, shuddering. "Bucks Row isn't so far away.
    Makes a body jumpy to think about it."
    Charlie snorted. "What are you worried about? 'E only goes after whores."
    "Give over, Charlie," Kate said testily. Blood and guts at the table. Now whores.
    "Christ, but I'm tired," Roddy said. "Feel like I could sleep for a week, but I have to appear at the inquest this evening."
    "Go up and rest," Paddy said.
    "Aye, I t'ink I will. Save me dinner, will you, Kate?"
    Kate said she would. Roddy stripped off his suspenders and undershirt, gave himself a quick wash, then went upstairs.
    "Poor Uncle Roddy," Fiona said. "What a shock that must've given 'im. Probably take 'im ages to get over it."
    "It would me. Can't stand blood. I'd have passed right out beside her," Paddy said.
    I hope they catch him, whoever he is, before he does someone else, Kate thought. She glanced down the hallway toward the door. He's out there right now. Maybe sleeping or eating or out at a pub like everyone else. Maybe he works at the docks. Maybe he lives two streets over. Maybe he walks past our house at night. Though she was warm from cooking, she suddenly shivered. "Someone just walked across your grave," her mother used to say when that happened.
    "I wonder if the murderer-" Charlie started to say.
    "For God's sake, no more!" she snapped. "Now finish the dinner I cooked for you."
    "Kate, what's the matter?" Paddy asked. "You look as white as a ghost." "Nothing. I just wish this… this monster would go away. I wish they'd catch'im."
    "Don't worry, luv. No murderer's going to come after you or anyone else in this family," Paddy soothed, taking his wife's hand. "Not as long as I'm around, he isn't."
    Kate forced a smile. We're safe, she told herself, all of us. In a sturdy house with strong locks. She knew they were strong, for she'd had Paddy test them. Her children slept soundly at night with their father upstairs, and Roddy, too. No fiend would be reaching in to harm any of them. But still, Fiona was right. It made a body jumpy to dwell on him. It chilled one to the bone.
    
    "PIPPINS! Lovely pips 'ere! Four a penny, none finer in London!"
    "Cockles, fresh cockles, all alive-o!"
    "Who'll buy me fine 'errings? Still jumping! Still breathing!"
    It was the same every Saturday evening; Fiona could always hear the market before she saw it. From two streets away, the cries of the costermonngers had already begun to reach her ears. Spilling from stalls and barrows, they echoed and bounced over rooftops, down alleyways, around corners, beckoning.
    "The best parsley right' ere, ladies! Buy my fine parsley-o!" "Orrrrrranges, two a penny] Who'll buy me fat oranges?"
    And over the music of the market a new, discordant note rose, one that quickened the steps of the evening shoppers and made them eager to be home by their fires, their doors bolted behind them. "Another 'orrible murrder!" cried a ragamuffin newsboy. "Only in the Clarion! Get'cher news 'ere! Drawings of the murder scene, blood everywhere! Buy the Clarion!"
    As they turned onto Brick Lane, Fiona's excitement grew. Here was the market, all lit up and stretched out before her. A laughing, bawling, wheedling creature. A big, roistering, ever-changing being that she could step into and become a part of. She tugged at her mother's arm.
    "Give over, Fiona. I'm walking as fast as I can," Kate said, eyeing her shopping list.
    Cockney voices, brash and bluff, continued their lusty bellowing. Strutting and crowing like prizefighting cocks, the costers dared market-goers to find fault and challenged other costers to better their prices-practicing the East London trick of fending off trouble by inviting it. "Old trout?" Fiona heard one coster shout at a customer who'd questioned his wares. "Them trouts is fresh as a daisy. You want to see an old trout? Look in a mirror!"
    Fiona saw the fishmonger with his trays of crinkled whelks, tiny bluetipped cockles, fat herrings, and buckets of oysters-a sample few shucked and glistening on the half shell. Next to it was a butcher's stall-its edges festooned with crimson and white crepe paper, its boards stacked with neat rows of plump chops, stubby sausages, and grisly dripping pigs' heads.
    A multitude of greengrocers-the more ambitious with barrows boasting carefully constructed pyramids of fruit: shiny pippin apples, fragrant pears, bright oranges and lemons, damsons and grapes. And, in front, baskets of nubby cauliflowers, broccoli heads, purple pickling cabbages, turnips, onions, and potatoes to boil or bake.
    Flickering light from gas lamps, naphtha flares, and even bits of candle stuck into turnips illuminated the scene. And the smells! Fiona stood still, closed her eyes and inhaled. A salty ocean smell-cockles soused with vinegar. A whiff of spice-apple fritters sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Fried sausages, jacket potatoes, warm ginger nuts. Her stomach growled.
    She opened her eyes. Her mother was making her way toward a butcher's stall. As she watched her move through the mass of people, it seemed to her that the entire East End was there-familiar faces and foreign ones. Solemn, pious Jews hurried from their worship; sailors bought jellied eels or hot pea soup; workingmen of all sorts, clean-shirted and clean-shaven, idled in pub doorways, some with squirming terriers tucked under their arms.
    And everywhere countless numbers of women of every age and description squeezed, prodded, bartered, and bought. Some were attended by their husbands, who held baskets and puffed on pipes. Others were beleaguered by children, yowling in their arms, pulling at their skirts, pestering for cakes, candies, or hot muffins. Cockney kids crying Mum and Irish kids crying Mam. For Italian and Polish and Russian kids it was Mama, but their pleas were all the same-a pretty sweet, a colored lolly, a shiny brandy snap. And the harried mothers without enough money for the week's meals buying an iced bun to be split among three, just so their children could have a taste of something nice.
    Fiona looked around for her mother and spotted her at the butcher's.
    "Roast beef tomorrow, is it, Mrs. Finnegan?" she heard the man ask as she joined her.
    "Not this week, Mr. Morrison. Me rich uncle 'asn't died yet. But I do need a cut of brisket. About three pounds or so. Five pence a pound's my limit."
    "Mmmmm… " The man pressed his lips together and frowned. "All me cuts is on the large side tonight… but I'll tell you what I could do, luv " He paused dramatically, leaning forward on spread-fingered hands. " I could do you a five-pounder for a very nice price."
    "I'm sure that's too dear for me."
    "Nonsense, duck," he said, his voice dropping conspiratorially. "Y'see, the bigger the piece, the less I 'as to charge per pound. It's 'olesale economicals. You pay more for the 'ole thing because it's bigger, but you pay less, really… "
    With her mother and the butcher busy dickering, Fiona searched the street for Joe. She spotted him five barrows down, hawking his goods. Although the night was no longer warm, his collar was open, his sleeves rolled up, the color high in his cheeks. For the last year or so, at Joe's insistence, Mr. Bristow had let him do more of the patter instead of keeping him behind the stall. And wisely so, for he was a natural. Every week he single handedly moved hundreds of pounds of produce - more than any clerk at a fancy West End shop moved in a month. And he did it without the benefit of a high-end shop name behind him, or pretty window displays, or billboards, ads, anything. He did it with nothing but his own raw talent.
    Fiona felt a thrill of excitement as she watched him work, coaxing customer after customer out of the crowd. Catching a lady's eye. Reeling her in. All the time joking and laughing-keeping the patter going, the interest high. Nobody played the game like Joe. He knew how to entertain and flirt with the brassy ones, and how to make his voice serious and sincere for the suspicious ones, feigning hurt and disbelief if a woman wrinkled her nose at his offerings, daring her to find a better bunch of carrots, a finer onion, anywhere in London. He had a showman's way of slicing open an orange and squeezing its juice in an arc across the cobblestones. Fiona saw that it caught the eyes of passing shoppers ten feet away. Then he'd snap open a sheet of newspaper, shovel "not two, not three, but four large and lovely oranges, all yours for tuppence!" into it, twist it closed, and hand it over with a flourish.
    Of course, his beautiful sky-blue eyes and his smile don't hurt business, either, Fiona thought. Nor did the mass of dark blond curls caught up in a ponytail and spilling out from under his cap. A warm flush came over her, coloring her cheeks. She knew she should keep her thoughts pure, as the nuns had warned, but that was getting harder to do. There was a triangle of skin showing in his open collar, underneath the red neckerchief he wore. She imagined touching him there, pressing her lips against him. His skin would be so warm and smell so good. She loved the way he smelled-of the fresh green things he handled all day. Of his horse. Of the East London air, tinged with coal smoke and the river.
    He had touched her inside her blouse once. In the dark, behind the Black Eagle Brewery. He'd kissed her lips, her throat, the hollow of her neck, before undoing her blouse, then her camisole and slipping his hand inside. She'd felt as if she would melt from the heat of his touch, from the heat of her own desire. She'd pulled away, not from any sense of shame or modesty, but from a fear of wanting more and not knowing where that desire would lead. She knew that there were things men and women did together, things that were not allowed before marriage.
    No one had ever told her about these things-what little knowledge she had, she'd picked up from the street. She'd heard neighborhood men talking about mating their dogs, heard the lads' rude jokes, and, together with her friends, had eavesdropped on the conversations of their sisters and mothers. Some of them spoke of being in bed with a man with the long-suffering air of a martyr, others giggled and laughed and said they couldn't get enough.
    Joe suddenly caught sight of her and flashed a smile. She blushed, certain he knew what she'd been thinking.
    "Come on, Fee," her mother called. "I've still got the veg to get… " Kate headed across the street to Bristows and Fiona followed.
    "'Ello, luv!" Fiona heard Joe's mother call to her mother. Rose Bristow and Kate Finnegan had grown up together on the same dreary close oft Tilley Street in Whitechapel, and now lived only doors down from each other on Montague Street. From stories her mam had told her, Fiona knew they'd been inseparable as girls, always giggling and whispering together. and even now, as married women, easily fell back into their old ways.
    "Thought the murderer might've got you," Rose said to Kate. She was a small, plump hen of a woman, with the same easy smile and merry blue eyes as her son. "Seems like 'e's decided to work overtime this week. 'Ello, Fiona!"
    " 'Ello, Mrs. Bristow," Fiona replied, her eyes on Joe.
    "Oh, Rose!" Kate said. "Don't even joke! It's 'orrible! I wish to God they'd catch 'im. I'm jumpy just coming to the market. Ah, well, we still 'ave to eat, don't we? I'll 'ave three pounds of spuds and two of peas. 'Ow dear are your apples, luv?"
    Joe handed the broccoli he'd been holding to his father. He came over to Fiona, took off his cap and wiped his brow on his sleeve. "Cor, but we're busy tonight, Fee. Can't move the stuff fast enough! We'll run out of apples before closing time. I told Dad we should buy more… "
    "… but 'e didn't listen," Fiona finished, giving his hand a sympathetic squeeze. This was a familiar complaint. Joe was always pushing his father to expand the business and Mr. Bristow was always resisting. She knew how much it upset Joe that his father never listened to him. "Twelve and two…" she said, using their secret code-the current amount of money in their cocoa tin-to cheer him up, "… just think of that."
    "I will," he said, smiling at her. "It'll be more after tonight, too. Bound to 'ave a little extra brass with this crowd. They 'ardly let you catch your breath." He glanced over at his father and younger brother Jimmy, swarmed by customers, "I'd better get back. I'll see you tomorrow after dinner. Will you be around?"
    "Oh, I don't know," Fiona said airily. "Depends on if my other suitors come calling."
    Joe rolled his eyes. "Oh, aye. Like the cat's meat man," he said, referring to the gnarled old man two stalls down who sold offal for pet food. "Or was it the rag-and-bone man?"
    "I'll take the rag-and-bone man any day over a good-for-nothing coster,' Fiona said, nudging the toe of Joe's boot with her own.
    "Oh, I'd take the coster!" a girlish voice chirped.
    Fiona turned her head and stifled a groan. It was Millie Peterson. Spoiled, arrogant, full-of-herself Millie. So blond, so buxom, so bright and pretty. Such a bloody little bitch. Millie's father Tommy was one of the biggest produce men in London, with wholesale concerns in both the East End and Covent Garden. A self-made man, he'd started out with only a barrow and his own ability, and with hard work and a bit of luck he'd made it to the top. As businessmen went, there was none shrewder. As busy as he was, he spent as much time as possible on the streets, getting his knowledge firsthand by watching his customers and their customers.
    Tommy had grown up in Whitechapel. As a newly married man, he lived on Chicksand Street, only a street away from Montague. As a child, Millie had played with Fiona and Joe and all the other children in the neighborhood. But as soon as he started to make some money, Peterson moved his family to a better locale-up-and-coming Pimlico. Shortly after moving, Tommy's wife became pregnant with her second child. She died in childbirth and the infant with her. Tommy was shattered. Millie was all he had left and she became the focus of his existence. He showered her with affection and gifts, trying to make up for the mother she'd lost. Whatever Millie wanted, Millie got. And ever since she'd been a little girl, Millie had wanted Joe. And although Joe did not return her feelings, Millie persisted, determined she would get what she wanted. She usually did.
    There was no love lost between Fiona Finnegan and Millie Peterson, and if she could've, Fiona would've told her where to go right then and there. But she was at the Bristows' pitch, and the Bristows bought much of their stock from Millie's father and getting good prices depended to a large degree on good relations. She knew she would have to behave herself and hold her tongue. At least she'd have to try.
    "Hello, Joe," Millie said, smiling sweetly at him. "Hello, Fiona," she said, nodding curtly. "Still on Montague Street, are you?"
    "No, Millie," Fiona answered, poker-faced. "We've taken up residence in the West End. A lovely little place. Buckingham Palace it's called. It's a long walk for me da to the docks every morning, but the neighbor'ood's ever so much nicer."
    Millie's smile soured. "Are you making fun of me?" "Whatever gave you -"
    "So then, Millie," Joe cut in, shooting a look at Fiona, "what brings you here?"
    "Just out for a stroll with my father. He wants to have a look around, see who's doing well, who isn't. You know him, always an eye on the main chance."
    Out for a stroll, my arse, Fiona thought acidly. Turned out like that?
    All Eyes were upon Millie, Joe's included. She was dazzling in a moss-green skirt and matching jacket, cut tight to show off her small waist and full bosom. No woman in Whitechapel owned an outfit like that, much less wore it to the market. Her golden curls were swept up under a matching cap. Pearl earrings complemented the ruff of lace at her throat and the ivory kid gloves encasing her dainty hands.
    Looking at her, Fiona felt a sharp stab of self-consciousness at the drabness of her own woolen skirt, her white cotton blouse, the gray knitted shawl around her shoulders. She squashed the feeling immediately; she would not allow the likes of Millie Peterson to make her feel inferior.
    "Is' e finding any new customers, then?" Joe asked, his eyes, and a dozen others, straying from Millie's face to her chest.
    "A few. But it's not only customers he's after. He likes to come to the market to spy out new talent. He's always looking for lads with promise. I'm sure he'd be taken with you," she said, laying her hand on his forearm.
    A jealous anger surged through Fiona. Sod good relations; Millie Peterson had just crossed the line. "You feeling ill, Millie?"
    "Ill?" Millie asked, eyeing her like so much rubbish. "No, I'm fine." "Really? You look like you might fall over, leaning on Joe like that. Joe, why don't you get Millie a crate to sit on?"
    "There's no need, thank you," Millie snapped. She removed her hand from Joe's arm.
    "If you say so. Wouldn't want you to faint away. Maybe your jacket's too tight."
    "Why, you little cow!" Millie cried, her cheeks turning red.
    "Better a cow than a bitch."
    "Ladies, that's no way to be' ave. Can't' ave a row in the market, now, can we?" Joe joked, trying to defuse the two girls, who were regarding each other like bristle-backed cats ready to strike.
    "No, we can't," Millie sniffed. "That's gutter behavior. For guttersnipes.' "Watch who you call a guttersnipe. You came out of the same gutter, Millie," Fiona said, her voice low and hard. "Maybe you've forgotten that, but nobody else 'as."
    Sensing defeat, Millie changed her tack. "I should go. It's plain I'm not wanted here."
    "Aw, Millie," Joe said awkwardly. "Fiona didn't mean it."
    "Yes, I did."
    "It's all right," Millie said mournfully, turning her huge hazel eyes on Joe. "I've got to find my father anyway. I'll see you about. Hopefully in better company. Ta-ra."
    "Ta-ra, Millie," Joe said. "Give me regards to your dad."
    "As soon as Millie was out of earshot, Joe turned to Fiona. "Did you 'ave to do that? Did you 'ave to insult Tommy Peterson's daughter?"
    "She' ad it coming. Thinks she can buy you with' er father's money. Like a sack of oranges."
    "That's ridiculous and you know it." Fiona kicked at the ground. "You ought to watch that temper of yours. Are you going to be'ave like that when we 'ave our shop? Putting your nonsense before good business?"
    Joe's words cut Fiona. He was right. She had behaved stupidly.
    “Joe! ‘Elp us out, will you?” Mr Bristow shouted.
    "Right away, Dad\" Joe shouted. "I’ve got to go, Fee. See if you can finish your marketing without causing any more trouble, all right? And don't be so jealous."
    "Who's jealous? I'm not jealous, it's… it's just that she's unbearable, that's all."
    "You're jealous and you've no reason to be," he said, returning to his pitch.
    "I'm not!" Fiona shouted, stamping her foot. She watched Joe take his place out in front of the barrow again. "Jealous," she huffed. "Why should I be jealous? She's only got pretty clothes and jewelry and big bubs and a pretty face and all the money in the world."
    Why in the world should Joe fancy her, when she had so much less to offer him than Millie did? Millie, with her big important father and his big important money, could get Joe a shop just like that. Ten shops. He'd probably call the whole thing off any day now-their plans, their shop, everything-to take up with Millie. Especially now that she had behaved so badly and made him angry. Well, let him. She wouldn't be dumped like a sack of rotten spuds. She'd beat him to it. She'd tell him she liked Jimmy Shea, the publican's son, better. Tears pricked behind her eyes. They were just about to spill over when her mother came up behind her.
    "Was that Millie Peterson I just saw?" Kate asked, glancing at her daughter's face.
    "Aye," Fiona said glumly.
    "Lord, but she puts 'er goods on show, doesn't she? Overbearing sort of lass."
    Fiona brightened a little. "You think so, Mam?"
    "Aye, I do. Come on, let's 'urry, I want to get 'ome… " Her mother's voice trailed off as she moved toward another stall, and Fiona heard Joe's voice rising above the general din as he resumed his patter. He sounded livelier than ever. She turned to look at him.
    He smiled at her and even though she was standing in the dark, Fiona felt as if the sun had just come out. "This smashing cabbage… " he was saying, "… usually I'd charge thruppence for a specimen of this quality, but tonight it's free! Free, that is, to the prettiest girl in the market. And there she is!" He lobbed the cabbage at her. She caught it. "Ah, ladies," he sighed, shaking his head. "What can I say? She stole me cabbage and me 'eart, but if she won't 'ave me, I'll take you instead, me darling," he said, winking at a customer who was at least seventy and nearly toothless.
    "I'll take you, too, laddie!" the old lady shouted back. "But keep your cabbage, I'd rather' ave yer cucumber!" The women at Bristows' screeched bawdy laughter and Joe's mother and father were once more wrapping produce as fast as they could.
    The prettiest girl in the market! Fiona was beaming. How silly she'd been, getting so jealous over Millie. Joe was hers and hers alone. She waved good-bye to him and ran off to catch up with her mother. She felt happy and sure of herself again. Her emotions had boiled up, then spent themselves like a sea fret and were now forgotten.
    Fiona's happiness would certainly have been dampened if she'd remained at the Bristows' pitch a few seconds longer. For just as she left to follow her mother, Millie reappeared, her father in tow. She tugged on his sleeve and pointed at Joe, as if she were pointing at something in a shop window, something she meant to have. But Tommy Peterson didn't need to have his attention directed to Joe. His sharp eyes had already fastened upon him, noting with approval how quickly he moved his stock. For the first time that evening, Tommy smiled. How right his daughter was; here was a lad with promise.
    
Chapter 2
    
    “Five bloody pence an hour for slaving our guts out, lads," Paddy Finnegan said, slamming his glass on the bar. "No overtime pay. And now the bastard holds back our plus money."
    "Bloody Burton's got no right," said Shane Patterson, a man who worked with Paddy. "Curran said if we got the boat unloaded by five o'clock tonight we'd get our plus. We was done by four. Then 'e says 'e ain't paying!"
    " 'E can't do that," Matt Williams, another workmate, said.
    "But he did," Paddy said, remembering the anger, the shouts and curse", when their foreman told them that their plus-a bonus paid for the quick unloading of cargo-was being withheld.
    The pub door opened. All eyes fastened on it. The Lion was a dangerous place to be tonight. Ben Tillet, the union organizer, was speaking, and every man in the place was jeopardizing his job by being here. The newcomer was Davey O'Neill, another docker from Oliver's. Paddy was surprised to see him. Davey had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with the union. A young man, he already had three small children. It was all he could do to feed them and he was terrified of losing his job.
    "Hey, Davey lad!" Paddy shouted, motioning him over.
    Davey, a slim man with sandy hair and anxious eyes, greeted them all. "A pint for me, Maggie, and one for me mate," Paddy called to the barmaid, jostling the man on his right and knocking his glass. He apologized for the spilled beer and offered to buy him a new pint, but the man shook his head. "No harm done," he said.
    The pints arrived, thick and foamy, and the barmaid took their price from a pile of coins on the bar. Davey protested, but Paddy waved him off. "What brings you here?" he asked. "T'ought you were steering clear."
    "I was till today. Till Curran robbed us." Davey said. "Thought I'd come and 'ear what Tillet 'as to say. I'm not saying I'm joining, but I'll 'ear 'im out. Don't know who to believe. Union says it'll get us sixpence an hour, but Burton says 'e'll give us the sack for joining. If I lose me job I'm done for. Lizzie, me youngest, she's taken ill again. Weak lungs. I can't afford the medicine. Me wife does what she can, putting poultices on 'er, but it's not enough, the poor wee thing cries… " Davey stopped talking; his jaw was working.
    "You don't 'ave to explain, lad. We're all in the same boat," Paddy said. "Aye," Matt said. "The one with the 'ole in it. You 'eard Curran at dinnertime."
    Paddy remembered the lecture their foreman had given them earlier. "Think of your families, lads. Look at the risks you're taking," he'd said.
    "It's them we are t'inking of," he'd shot back. "We'll never get anywhere if we don't take a stand. We know Burton's talking to banks, Curran. Looking for money to build up Burton Tea. You tell him we are Burton Tea, and if he wants to make improvements, he can start with our wages."
    "Lads, lads," Curran had said. "Burton 'll never have his arm twisted by the likes of you. Give up this union stuff. You'll never win."
    "I heard him, Davey," Paddy said now. "It's all talk. He's on a big push to expand the company. A mate down the tea auctions tells me he's t'inking of buying a whole bloody estate in India. Says he's talking about putting Burrton Tea on the stock exchange to pay for it all. Believe you me, if anyone's scared, it's him. Scared we'll go union and squeeze an extra penny out of him, so he t'reatens to sack us. But just t'ink for a minute… what if we all joined? All the lads at the wharf, all the lads in Wapping? He couldn't fire us then. How would he replace us? All the men would be union, y'see, and no union man would take the job. That's why we've got to join."
    "I don't know," Davey said. "Listening's one thing, joining's another." "All right, then," Paddy said, looking at each of his mates in turn. "This is what we'll do. We'll hear the man out. He's a docker. He knows what we're up against. If we don't like what he says, no harm done. If we do, then he's got himself four new members."
    They all agreed. Shane said he'd look for a table; Matt and Davey followed him. Paddy ordered another pint. As the barmaid refilled his glass, he looked at his pocket watch. Seven-thirty. The meeting was supposed to have started half an hour ago. Where was Tillet? He glanced around the pub, but didn't see anyone he thought might be the union leader. Then again, all he'd ever seen of him were drawings in newspapers, and you wouldn't recognize yourself from those.
    "I think you've convinced your mates to join," said the man on his right, the one he'd jostled earlier. Paddy turned to him. He was a younger man, slight and clean-shaven, with an earnest expression. He wore the rough clothes of a docker. "Are you in charge here?"
    Paddy laughed. "In charge? Sure, no one's in charge here. That's part of the problem. Supposed to be organized labor. Here in Wapping, it's disorganized labor."
    "You should be. I couldn't help but overhear. You're a good speaker. Persuasive. You must really believe in the union."
    "Aye, that I do. You from round here?"
    "From the south originally. Bristol."
    "Well, if you worked in Wapping, you'd know what the union means to us. It's our only chance for decent wages, for fair treatment. Look at that old man there," he said, pointing to a far corner. "Spent his whole life unloading boats and then a crate fell on him. Cracked his head. Made him barmy. Foreman tossed him out like so much rubbish. See that one by the fireplace? Wrecked his back at the Morocco wharf. Couldn't work. Five kids. Didn't get one bloody penny in compensation. Kids were so hungry the wife finally went into the workhouse with them… " Paddy fell silent for a seccond, overcome by emotion, his eyes bright with anger. "They work us hard. Ten- and twelve-hour days in all kinds of weather. They wouldn't work an animal like that, but they do it to men. And what've we got to show for it? Fuck all."
    "And the others? Do they feel like you do? Do they have the heart for the struggle?"
    Paddy bristled. "They have heart, mate, plenty of it. It's just they've been beaten down so long, it might take them a little while to find it again. If you could see these men, what they endure… " His voice trailed off. "They have heart, all right," he finished softly.
    "And do you -?"
    "Sure, but you ask an awful lot of questions," he cut in, suddenly suspicious. Dock owners paid good money for information on the union. "What's your name, then?"
    "Tillet. Benjamin Tillet," the man answered, extending his hand. "Yours?"
    Paddy's eyes widened. "Oh, Christ!" he spluttered. "Not the Ben Tillet?"
    "I suppose so."
    "You mean all this time I've been standing here preaching to the choir? Sorry, mate."
    Tillet laughed heartily. "Sorry? What for? The union's my favorite topic. I like listening to you. You've got a lot to say and you say it well. I still didn't get your name."
    "Finnegan. Paddy Finnegan."
    "Listen, Paddy," Tillet said. "I've got to get this meeting underway, but what you said earlier was right; we are disorganized down here. We need leaders on the local level. Men who can inspire their mates, keep their spirits up when the going gets tough. What do you say?"
    "Who? Me?"
    "Aye."
    "I… I don't know. I've never led anybody anywhere. Wouldn't know how."
    "Yes, you would. You do," Tillet said. He drained his glass and put it on the bar. "Earlier, when your mates were unsure, you asked them to think about it. Now I'm asking you. You'll do that much, won't you?"
    "Aye," Paddy said, dumbfounded.
    "Good. I'll see you afterward." He moved off through the crowd.
    Well, I'll be bowed, Paddy thought. He had to admit he was flattered and honoured that Tillet would ask him to lead the men. But being flattered was one thing, and actually taking over was another. Could he do it? Did he even want to?
    "Brother dockers… " It was Tillet. He warmed up by telling everyone about the withheld plus money at Oliver's, then moved on to the threatened wage cuts at the Cutler Street Tea Warehouse. With a full head of steam up, he chronicled the poverty and deprivation of the dock worker's life, then lambasted the ones responsible. All talking had stopped. Men held their pints or put them down. The quiet-spoken, earnest man had turned into a firebrand.
    As Tillet railed against the enemy, Paddy's mind worked its way back to his request. What would he do? He looked around at the faces of the men who worked the docks, faces like anvils, hardened by the constant hammering life had given them. Usually it was porter or stout that erased the cares from those faces. Pint after pint. Washing away the bellowing foreman, the sad-eyed wife, the underfed children, the constant, aching knowledge that no matter how hard you worked, you'd only ever be a docker and there'd never be enough-enough coal in the bin, enough meat on the table. But tonight something else had lit up these faces-hope. Tillet had made them see the possibility of winning.
    Paddy thought about his family. He had a chance to fight for them now on the front lines. For more money, but for something bigger, too. For change, for a voice. Dockers had never had that before. If he turned down Tiller’s request, how could he live with himself knowing he'd done less than his best for his children?
    A cheer burst from the men; they were applauding. Paddy looked at Tillet, thundering at his audience, on fire, and saw that fire reflected in the scores of faces watching him. There was no longer any doubt in his mind. When Tillet came for his answer, he knew what he would say.
    
    “Surrender now, Jack Duggan, for you see we’re t’ree to one,
    Surrender in the Queen’s high name for you’re a plundering son…”
    
    Fiona woke with a start to the sound of singing. It was coming from the back of the house. She opened her eyes. The room was dark. Charlie and Seamie were asleep; she could hear them breathing. It's the middle of the night, she thought, her mind thick with sleep. Why's Da singing in the bog?
    She sat up, groping blindly for the lamp and the box of Vestas as next to it. Her fingers were clumsy and it took a few scrapes along the edge of the box before the match flared. The lamp's flame cast only a feeble light over the small room that served as a parlor during the day and as sleeping quarters for herself, Charlie, and Seamie at night. She drew back the makeshift curtain-an old sheet draped over a piece of twine-that separated her from her brothers, and headed for the kitchen.
    "Jack drew two pistols from his belt and proudly waved them high… "
    She heard the jakes door bang back on its hinges, and then the grand finale.
    "I’ll fight but not surrender said the Wild Colonial Boy!”
    "Da!" she hissed, stepping out into the dark yard. "You'll wake the whole house with your noise. Come inside!"
    "Right away, mavourneen!" Paddy bellowed.
    "Da! Shush!" Fiona stepped back into the kitchen, put the lamp on the table, and filled the kettle with water. Then she stoked the small pile of coals glowing under the hearth grate.
    Paddy came into the kitchen, smiling sheepishly. "Seems the booze got the better of me, Fee."
    "I can see that. Come and sit down. I've put the kettle on. Would you like some toast as well? You should put something in your stomach."
    "Aye, that would be grand." Paddy sat down by the fireplace, stretched his legs out, and closed his eyes.
    Fiona took a loaf of bread from the cupboard, cut a thick slice and stuck it on a toasting fork. " 'Ere, Da," she said, nudging her dozing father. "Don't let it catch fire."
    The water boiled. She mashed the tea. Then she pulled a chair from the table to the hearth and father and daughter sat together in companionable silence, Fiona warming her feet on the iron fire surround, Paddy turning his toast over the coals.
    Fiona cast a sideways glance at her father and smiled. If her mam and Roddy hadn't been asleep, she wouldn't have shushed him. She loved to hear him sing. His voice was the sound of her earliest memories. It was he, not her mam, who'd sung her lullabies. He sang on his way home from work-you could hear him a street away -and from the pub. On evenings when he didn't go out, when he stayed in to mend their boots, or carve a toy for Seamie, he sang in the kitchen. How many nights had she fallen asleep, snuggled down in her covers, listening to his voice rising and falling? Too many to count.
    "Well, lass," Paddy said through a mouthful of toast. "Shall I tell you me news?"
    "What news?"
    "It's not any regular old dock rat you're taking tea with tonight."
    "Oh, no? Who am I taking tea with, then?"
    "The new leader of the Wapping Tea Operatives and General Laborers' Association."
    Fiona's eyes widened. "Da, you're joking!"
    "Sure, I am not."
    "When?"
    Paddy wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "This evening. Down the pub. I spent some time talking to Ben Tillet before the meeting. Bent his ear ok I did, but he must've liked what I had to say, because he asked me would I lead the local chapter."
    Fiona's eyes were shining. "That's grand," she said. "Me own da's a guv' nor! I'm ever so proud!" She started to giggle. "Wait till you tell Mam, she'll faint! Father Deegan says the unionists are a bunch of godless socialists. You've as good as got 'orns and a pointy tail now. She'll 'ave to do double time with 'er rosary."
    Paddy laughed. "Deegan would say that. William Burton just gave him a hundred quid to fix the church roof."
    "What do you' ave to do?"
    "Try to get as many men to join up as I can. Hold regular meetings and collect dues. And go to meetings with Tillet and the other leaders, too." He paused to take a sip of tea, then said, "Maybe, I can even get me own lass to Join a union."
    "Oh, Da," Fiona sighed. "Don't start that again. You know it's all I can do to save a bob or two for me shop. I've got nothing left for dues."
    "You could just go to meetings to start. Wouldn't have to give them anyt'ing…"
    "Da," she cut in, determined to nip his unionizing in the bud before it turned into another argument. "I'm not going to be a factory girl forever. Remember when we were little - me and Charlie? ' 'Ave to 'ave a dream,' you would tell us. 'Day you stop dreaming you might as well take yourself down to the undertaker's, for you're as good as dead.' Well, the union is your dream and it means a lot to you. But 'aving a shop is my dream and it means the world to me. So, your way for you and my way for me… all right?"
    Paddy gave his daughter a long look, then covered her hand with his own. "All right, stubborn lass. Is there any more tea in the pot?"
    "Aye," Fiona said, pouring her father another mugful, relieved the discussion would go no further. "Oh! We got a letter from Uncle Michael!" she said excitedly. "Auntie Molly's expecting a baby! 'E says the shop's doing well. Do you want to see it?"
    "I'll read it in the morning, Fee. Can't see straight enough to do it now." "New York sounds grand," Fiona said, thinking about her uncle in America and his wife and their tidy little shop. He'd sent a picture of them standing in front of it last year. M. FINNEGAN - GROCERIES, it said. The idea that her own uncle owned a shop inspired her. Maybe it ran in the blood. "Do you suppose I could write to 'im and ask 'im about shopkeeping?" she asked.
    "Sure you could. He'd be tickled. Probably write you a twenty-page letter back. Loves to go on, does Michael."
    "I'll save a few pennies for paper and a stamp…" Fiona said, yawning, her voice trailing off. A few minutes ago, the urgency of getting her father inside before he woke the whole street had made her feel wide awake. But now, sitting by the hearth, warmed inside and out, she felt tired again. If she didn't go back to bed soon, she'd be exhausted when her mother rose to go to Mass and woke the rest of the household for work.
    Her mam went to Mass nearly every morning of the week and Seamie and Eileen went with her. Her da never did. Not even on Sundays when she and Charlie went. He made no secret of his dislike for the Church. He hadn't even gone for their baptisms. Uncle Roddy had had to go. She wondered how her mother had got him to go for their wedding.
    "Da?" Fiona asked drowsily, twirling a strand of hair around her finger.
    "Mmm?" Paddy mumbled through a mouthful of toast.
    "Why is it you never go to church with us?"
    Paddy swallowed. He stared at the coals. " 'Tis a hard question, that. I was going to say that I've never liked the idea of being told what to do, or how to do it, by a bunch of old men in long dresses, but there's more to it than that. T'ings I've never told you, nor your brother."
    Fiona regarded her father, feeling surprised and a little apprehensive. "You know that me and your Uncle Michael lived in Dublin when we were lads. And that we were brought up by me mother's sister, me Auntie Evie, right?"
    She nodded. She knew that her father had lost his parents when he was small. His mother had died in childbirth and his father soon after. "Of what?" she'd once asked. "Grief," he'd replied. He never said much about his parents. She always assumed he'd been too young to remember them.
    "Well," he continued, "before me and Michael went to Dublin, we lived with our mam and da on a small farm in Skiberreen. On the coast of County Cork."
    Fiona listened, her eyes wide and curious. She'd known her mother's parents before they died, but knew nothing of her father's side.
    "Me parents married in '50," he said, taking a sip of tea, "one year after the last bad potato blight. Me da wanted to marry sooner but couldn't on account of the famine. It was so bad then… well, you've heard plenty of stories, Fiona, but a man could hardly find enough food to fill his own belly, never mind providing for a family. They both had a hard time of it, both lost family. Me da often said the t'ing that pulled him t'rough was the hope of marrying me mam."
    Paddy set his mug down and leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees. A faint, sad smile tugged at his mouth and crinkled the corners of his eyes. "He was wild about her, y'see. Adored her. They'd known each other since they were wee children. He was forever bringing her t'ings. Daft t'ings. Wild violets in the spring and the empty shells of blue robins' eggs. Smooth rocks from the seashore and tiny birds' nests. He had no money, me da. These t'ings cost not'ing to give, and yet to me mam, they was priceless. She saved everyt'ing he gave her.
    "They worked hard together, me mother and father. They both knew what hunger was and wanted to make damn sure it never troubled them again. I was their first. Then Michael came. I was four when he was born. When I was six, me mam was expecting again. She was poorly during much of it. I remember that even though I was only a lad."
    As Paddy spoke about his childhood, his face began to change. Memories of the past faded his bittersweet smile; his eyes became dark and troubled and the shallow lines that barely creased his cheeks and forehead suddenly appeared deeper.
    "When her time came, me da went after the midwife. He left me to look after me mother and brother. Me mam was taken badly while he was gone. Twisting and gripping the sides of the bed. And trying so hard not to cry out. I was trying to help her, running outside and wetting Da's handkerchiefs under the pump and pressing them to her forehead."
    "When the midwife finally arrived, she took one look at me mother and told Da to fetch the priest. He didn't want to leave her. Wouldn't budge an inch till the woman screamed at him, 'Go on, man! Go, for God's sake! She needs a priest!' "
    "He didn't have to go far and it wasn't long before he was back with Father McMahon. A tall, stiff stick of a man he was. Me and Michael were sitting at the kitchen table; the midwife had chased us out of the bedroom. Me father and the priest went in, but she chased me father out, too. He came into the kitchen and sat in front of the fire, never moved, just sat there starring into the flames."
    Just like you, Da, Fiona thought, her heart aching for her father, at the way he sat, his broad shoulders slumped, his huge, strong hands clasped in front of him.
    "I was sitting closest to the bedroom and I could hear them. The midwife, Mrs. Reilly was her name, and the priest. She was telling him that me mam was bleeding too much, that she was weak, that it would have to be one or the other."
    " 'Save the child,' the priest said."
    " 'But Father,' I heard her say, 'she's got two others need looking after and a husband, surely you don't-' "
    " 'You heard me, Mrs. Reilly,' " he said. " 'The baby is not baptized. You imperil its immortal soul, and your own, by waiting.' "
    "Well, Mrs. Reilly got the baby out of her. God knows how. He hardly made a sound, poor t'ing. A few minutes later, I smelled candles burning and heard the priest reciting in Latin. Me da heard it, too. He ran into the bedroom. I followed and saw him push the priest aside and take me mother in his arms and cradle her like a child, crooning and whispering to her as she slipped away…" Paddy's voice caught; he swallowed hard. "The baby was baptized Sean Joseph, after me da. The priest named him. An hour later, he was gone, too.
    "Me da stayed with me mother for a long time. It was twilight when he finally let her go. The priest had already gone to the neighbors', the McGuires, to get some supper and to ask Mrs. McGuire to look after us. Mrs. Reilly was laying out the baby. Me da put on his work coat and told me to look after me brother. There was this terrible quiet about him. Maybe if he'd raged and wept and broke the furniture, he could've got out some of the grief that was twisting in him. But he couldn't. I saw his eyes. They were dead. There was no light in them anymore, no hope."
    Paddy paused, then said, "He told Mrs. Reilly he was going to see to the animals. He never came back. When it got dark, she went into the barn after him. The animals had been fed and watered, but he wasn't there. She ran across the field and got Father McMahon and Mr. McGuire to go looking for him. They found him early the next morning. At the foot of a cliff where he and me mam used to walk before they were married. His back was broken and the sea was lapping at his head, all smashed open."
    Paddy, his eyes dull, picked up his mug and took another sip.
    That tea must be cold by now, Fiona thought. I should top it up for him. Get him some more toast. She did neither.
    "The priest sent to Dublin for me aunt and we went to stay with the McGuires until she came, two days later. The funeral for me mother and the baby was the same day she arrived. I remember it so clearly. I got t'rough the whole thing, the open coffin, the Mass, watching them lower me mother into the ground and me baby brother in a tiny wooden box next to her. I didn't shed a tear in the churchyard. I t'ought," he said, suddenly laughing, "I t'ought maybe they could see me, and I wanted to be brave and not cry so they'd be proud.
    "The next day, the priest held me father's funeral, if you could call it that.
    I watched them bury him in a patch of nettles by the cliff where he'd jumped. And then, oh, Christ, lass, the tears started to come and I was standing there weeping, wondering why he wasn't being put in the earth next to me mother where he belonged. With Sean Joseph. I didn't understand. Nobody told me that the priest wouldn't allow a suicide to be buried in the churchyard. All I could think of was me da out there all alone, with not'ing but the sound of the waves for company. So cold… so lonely… without me mam beside him… " Tears welled up in Paddy's anguished eyes and coursed down his cheeks. He lowered his head and wept.
    "Oh, Da… " Fiona cried, choking back her own tears. She knelt beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. "Don't cry, Da," she whispered, “Don't cry… "
    "That bloody priest had no right to do that, no right," he said hoarsely. "Their life together was holy, holier than anyt'ing in that miserable bastard's whole miserable church."
    Fiona's heart ached with sadness for that little boy, her father. She had never seen her da cry, not like this. His eyes had been watery during her mother's long, difficult labors with Eileen and Seamie. And during the two miscarriages she'd had before Seamie. Now she knew why. And why he never went out to the pub while her mam was lying in as other fathers did.
    Paddy raised his head. Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he said, "I'm sorry, Fee. Must be the beer making me daft."
    "That's all right, Da," Fiona said, relieved he was no longer weeping. She sat down again.
    "You see, Fiona, the reason I told you all this is that when I got older and t'ought about everything that had happened, I t'ought that me mother and father might still be alive if it wasn't for that priest. If he hadn't told the midwife to save the child instead of me mam, she might've lived and me Da wouldn't have done what he did. I still t'ink that. And that's the reason I don't go to church."
    Fiona nodded, taking in all that her father had said.
    "Of course, none of this sits well with your mam," Paddy said, regarding his eldest levelly. "And it might be a good idea for you to keep this conversation to yourself. The Church means a lot to her."
    "Oh, aye, Da." She certainly would keep it to herself'. Her mother was very devout, never missed Mass, and said her rosary morning and evening. She believed that priests were above reproach, that they carried the word of God and were special to Him. Fiona had never questioned this, no more than she would have questioned the sky or the sun or the existence of God Himself.
    "Da… " she began hesitantly. A frightening thought had gripped her. "Yes, Fee?"
    "Even though you don't like the priests or the Church, you believe in God, don't you?"
    Paddy considered his answer, then said, "Do you know what I believe, lass? I believe that t'ree pounds of meat makes a very good stew." He chuckled at her puzzled expression. "I also believe it's time for you to be in bed, mavourneen. You'll be falling asleep at work tomorrow. So go on now and I'll clear away these tea t'ings."
    Fiona didn't want to go to bed, she wanted to stay and make her father explain what he meant about three pounds of meat, but he was already picking up the teapot and looked too tired to do any more talking. She kissed him good night and returned to her bed.
    She soon fell asleep, but did not sleep well. She tossed and turned, disturbed over and over again by a dream in which she was running toward St. Patrick's, late for Mass. When she got to the church, she found the doors locked. She ran around the building, shouting up at windows, trying to get in. She came back to the doors and pounded her fists against them until her hands were ripped and bleeding. Suddenly the doors creaked open and there stood Father Deegan with a large iron pot. She reached into her skirt pocket, pulled out her rosary and gave it to him. He handed her the pot and withdrew, locking the doors behind him. The pot was heavy; it took all her strength to carry it down the church steps. At the bottom, she set it down and took off the lid. Billows of steam rushed up at her face, fragrant with the smell of cooked lamb, carrots, and potatoes. The pot was full of stew.
    
Chapter 3
    
    A thick, roiling fog swirled around the High Street gas lamps, muting their glow, as Davey O'Neill followed Thomas Curran into Oliver's Wharf. It was dangerous to be walking about the docks on a night like this; one wrong step and a man could fall into the river with no one to hear him, but he would take that risk. The foreman had a job for him, a little something on the side. Moving stolen goods, no doubt. It wasn't the sort of thing he wanted to be involved with, but he had no choice. Lizzie was ill and he needed the money. Curran closed the street-side door behind them and fumbled for a lantern.
    Its glow illuminated a path through the stacks of wooden tea chests to the waterside doors. Outside again, Davey saw that the fog completely blanketed the Thames, engulfing most of the dock. He wondered how anyone would even find Oliver's in this murk, never mind bring a boat alongside it and unload. He stood quietly for a few seconds, waiting for Curran to tell him what to do, but the foreman didn't say anything. He merely lit up a cigarette and leaned against the door. Looking at him, Davey realized that if for some reason he wanted to get back through that door, he wouldn't be able to-not with the man blocking it like that. The thought made him uneasy.
    "Isn't anyone else coming, Mr. Curran?" he asked.
    Curran shook his head.
    "Do you want me to get some 'ooks? A sling?"
    Davey smiled uncertainly. "What do you want me to do, then?"
    "Answer some questions, Mr. O'Neill," said a voice from behind him.
    Davey whipped around, but there was nobody there. The voice seemed to have come from the fog itself. He waited, listening for the sound of foot steps, but heard nothing, only the sound of the river swirling and lapping about the pilings.
    He turned back to Curran, fearful now. "Mr. Curran, sir… what 'appening… I… "
    "Davey, I'd like you to meet your employer," Curran said, inclining his head to Davey's right.
    Davey looked and saw a dark figure emerge from the fog-a man 0 average height, powerfully built. He had black hair combed back from hi; face, a hard brow, and black, predatory eyes. Davey guessed him to be in hi; forties. His clothes gave him the appearance of a gentleman - he wore i black cashmere greatcoat over a gray wool suit, and a heavy gold watch dangled from his vest-but there was nothing gentle-looking about the mar himself. His bearing and expression spoke of a contained brutality; a coiled latent violence.
    Davey took his cap off and held it in both hands, squeezing it to keep them from shaking. " 'Ow… 'ow do you do, Mr. Burton, sir?"
    "Do you listen to what Mr. Curran tells you, Mr. O'Neill?"
    Davey looked anxiously from Burton to Curran, then back again. ”I don't understand, sir… "
    Burton walked away from the two men toward the edge of the dock, k hands clasped behind his back. "Or do you do what Ben Tillet tells you?"
    Davey's stomach lurched. "Mr. B-Burton, sir," he stammered, his voice barely a whisper. "Please don't give me the sack. I only went to one meeting. I-I won't go to another. Not ever. Please, sir, I need me job."
    Burton turned back to him. Davey could read nothing from his face. It was absolutely expressionless. "What does Tillet tell you, Mr. O'Neill? To strike? And what does this union" -he spat the word-"of his want? To shut me down? To let my tea rot on the barges?"
    "No, sir… "
    Burton began to circle him slowly. "I think it does. I think Tillet wants to destroy me. To ruin my business. Am I right?"
    "No, sir," Davey said.
    "Then what does the union want?"
    Davey, sweating now, looked at Burton, then at the dock, then mumbled an answer.
    "I didn't hear you," Burton said, leaning in so close that Davey could smell his anger.
    "M-more money, sir, and shorter hours."
    In the years to come-the bitter, shriveled, soul-destroying years ahead of him-Davey would try to remember how the man had done what he had. How he'd gotten his knife out of his pocket so quickly and used it so expertly. But now all he felt was a searing heat on the side of his head, a wetness on his neck.
    And then he saw it… his ear… lying on the dock.
    Pain and shock dropped him to his knees. He clutched at the wound, blood coursing through his fingers and over his knuckles, and his hands told him what his mind refused to believe - that there was nothing, nothing at all, where his left ear used to be.
    Burton picked up the pale piece of flesh and tossed it off the dock. It made a small, soft splash. Certain he would never see his wife and children again, Davey began to sob. He stopped when he felt the thin, cold point of the knife under his remaining ear. He looked up at Burton in bald terror. "No… " he croaked. "Please… "
    "Am I to be told how to run my business by union scum?" He tried to shake his head no, but the knife stopped him. "Am I to take orders from extortionists and thugs?"
    "N-no… please don't cut me again… "
    "Let me tell you something, my young friend. I fought hard to make Burrton Tea what it is and I will smash anything, and anyone, who tries to interfere with me. Do you understand?"
    "Yes."
    "Who else was at the meeting? I want every name." Davey swallowed hard. He said nothing.
    Curran stepped in. "Tell 'im, lad!" he urged. "Don't be a fool. What do you care for them, Davey? They ain't 'ere to 'elp you."
    Davey closed his eyes. Not this. Please, not this. He wanted to talk, he wanted to save his life, but he couldn't shop his mates. If he did, Burton would do to them what he'd done to him. He clenched his teeth, waiting for the upward jerk of the knife, for the pain, but it didn't come. He opened his eyes. Burton had moved away. He no longer held the knife. When he saw Davey looking at him, he nodded to Curran. Davey shrank away from him, thinking he was signaling the man to finish him off, but Curran merely handed him an envelope.
    "Open it," Burton said.
    He did. There was a ten-pound note inside. "Should help with Elizabeth's doctor bills, no?" "'Ow… 'ow do you know…?"
    "I make it my business to know. I know you're married to a pretty girl named Sarah. You have a son, Tom, aged four. A daughter Mary, who's three. Elizabeth is just over a year. A fine family. A man should take care of a family like that. Make sure nothing happens to them."
    Davey stiffened. More than pain now, more than anger or fear, he felt hatred. It was in his heart and on his face. He knew Burton could see it and he didn't care. Burton had him. If he didn't give the man what he wanted, his family would pay the price. He would've sacrificed himself, but he wouldn't sacrifice them. And the man knew it. "Shane Patterson," he began, "… Matt Williams… Robbie Lawrence… John Poole "
    When he had finished reciting the names, Burton said, "Who's in charge?"
    Davey hesitated. "No one. No one's been appointed yet… they 'aven't… "
    "Who's in charge, Mr. O'Neill?"
    "Patrick Finnegan."
    "Very good. Continue to attend meetings and keep Mr. Curran informed.
    If you do, you'll see my appreciation in your wage packet. If you don't, or if you're foolish enough to tell anyone what went on here tonight, your wife will wish you hadn't. Good night, Mr. O'Neill. It's time you went home and saw to yourself. You've lost quite a bit of blood. If anyone asks about your ear, you were set upon by a thief. When he found you had nothing to give him, he cut you. You didn't see which way he went in the fog."
    Davey got to his feet, dazed. He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it to his head. As he staggered across the dock, he could still hear Burton talking.
    "The leader… Finnegan. Who is he?"
    "An uppity bastard. Always 'as something to say. Good worker, though. I'll give 'im that. One of me best."
    "I want an example made of him."
    " 'Ow's that, sir?"
    "I want him dealt with. I'll have Sheehan handle it. You'll be hearing from him."
    Paddy… my God… what have I done? Davey cried silently, sick with shame. He stumbled through the wharf and out into the fog-shrouded street. He felt dizzy and weak. He caught his toe on a cobble and tripped, but managed to right himself against a lamppost. His heart heaved in his chest. Ht put a bloodied hand over it and uttered a cry of anguish. He was a traitor now, a Judas. And under the shell of his skin, the bones of his rib cage, there was no longer a heart-just a rotten, twitching thing, black and broken and rank.
    
Chapter 4
    
    Fiona's hands shook as she poured the tea leaves she'd just weighed U into a tin. She knew she mustn't look up. If he saw her do it, she'd get the sack. Surely that was why he was here-to sack someone. Why else would William Burton pay a surprise visit? To give them all a raise? She heard his slow, measured footsteps as he passed by. She felt his eyes on her hands as she sealed the tin and stamped it. He reached the bottom of the table, turned, and started up the other side. Halfway up the row, he stopped. Her heart lurched. She didn't have to see him to know where he was behind Amy Caldwell. Walk on, she silently urged him. Leave her alone.
    Amy was fifteen years old and simple. Her fingers weren't nimble and sometimes she bumped her scale pan, spilling its contents, or glued a label on crookedly. All the girls compensated for her, each doing a bit more than her share to make up for Amy's slowness. It was their way to look out for one another.
    Fiona weighed more tea, praying for Amy to not make a mistake. Then she heard it-the unmistakable clang of a scale pan. Her eyes darted up; Amy had dumped tea all over the table. And instead of cleaning it up, she was standing there helplessly, her chin quivering.
    "Wipe it up, luv," Fiona whispered to her. "That's a good girl. Go on… " Amy nodded, then cleaned up the tea and Burton moved off to terrorize someone else. Fiona looked after him, fuming. Amy's accident was entirely his fault. She would've been fine if only he hadn't stood there so long, making her nervous, the poor thing.
    William Burton was one of the wealthiest, most successful tea merchants in England. He had come up from nothing and made himself a rival to the most esteemed names in the business-Twining, Brooke, Fortnum & Mason, Tetley. Fiona knew his story, everyone did. He'd been born and raised in Camden Town, the only child of an impoverished seamstress, now dead, whose husband, a sailor, had perished at sea. He'd left school to work in a tea shop at the age of eight, and by eighteen, through hard work and thrift, had been able to buy the shop and turn it into the foundation of what would become Burton Tea. He had never married and had no family.
    Fiona admired the determination and perseverance that had propelled him to his success, but she despised the man himself. She could not understand how someone who'd endured and escaped the sinkhole of poverty could have no compassion for those he'd left behind.
    Burton finished his tour, then called for Mr. Minton. Fiona heard them conferring. There was another man with them, too. She could hear his voice. She risked a glance and saw Burton pointing at various girls and Minton nodding as he did and the third man, brisk and portly, expensively dressed, looking at his watch. Then Minton, awkward and self-important, said: "Your attention, girls. Mr. Burton 'as informed me that various projects and expansions recently undertaken 'ave forced the need for drastic economic measures… "
    Fifty-five worried faces, Fiona's included, regarded the foreman. They didn't understand what his mumbo-jumbo meant, but they knew it couldn't be good.
    "… which means I 'ave to let some of you go," he said, causing a collective gasp to go up. "If your name is called, please go to my office to collect your wages. Violet Simms, Gemma Smith, Patsy Gordon, Amy Caldwell… " The list went on until fifteen names had been called. Minton, who. Fiona saw, at least had the decency to look shamefaced, paused, then said,
    "Fiona Finnegan… "
    God, no. What was she going to tell her mam? Her family needed her wages.
    "… will be fined sixpence for talking. If there's any more talking, any noise whatsoever, the offenders will all be fined. Back to work now."
    Fiona blinked at him, giddy with relief at not being sacked, furious a: being fined just because she'd tried to help Amy. Around her she heard choked sobs and soft shufflings as the fifteen girls gathered their things. She closed her eyes. Little dots of light, small and bright, surged behind her eyelids. Rage, pure and strong, welled up inside of her. She tried to push it down.
    Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes and picked up her tea scoop
    But she couldn't keep herself from looking at her workmates, white-faces and trembling, as they filed into Minton's office. She knew that Vi Simms was the sole support of herself and her sick mother. Gem had eight younger siblings and a father who drank his wages. And Amy… she was an orphan who lived in one tiny room with her sister. Where on earth would she find another job? How would she eat next week? It was the sight of her, standing bewildered in her shabby bonnet and threadbare shawl, that made Fiona snap. She slammed her tea scoop down. If Burton wanted to fine her for talking, she'd give him something to listen to.
    She marched to Minton's office, right past all the girls waiting for their wages. For a supposedly smart man, William Burton is damn shortsighted she thought. He'd watched them all pack-didn't he see how inefficient the whole process was? Obviously, he had no understanding of this part of his business. He thought he had to sack those girls to save money, but if he just put their labor to better use, he could make money. She'd tried to tell Mr. Minton this before, time and again, but he never listened. Maybe he would now.
    "Excuse me," she said, squeezing by the girl in the doorway.
    Mr. Minton was at his desk, doling out shillings and pence. "What is it?" he asked brusquely, not bothering to look up. Burton and his companion, absorbed in a ledger, raised their eyes.
    Fiona swallowed, shrinking under their scrutiny. Her anger had carried her in here, now fear nudged it aside. She realized she was probably going to get herself fired. "Begging your pardon, Mr. Minton," she began, struggling to keep her voice steady. "But sacking those girls is a false savings."
    She had Minton's attention now. He gaped at her for what seemed like an eternity before he found his voice. "I'm terribly sorry about this, Mr. Burton, sir… " he sputtered, standing up to see her out.
    "Just a moment," Burton said, closing the ledger. "I'd like to hear why one of my tea packers thinks she knows my business better than I do."
    "I know my part of it, sir. I do it every day," Fiona said, forcing herself to look first into Burton's cold, black eyes, then into the other man's, which were a startlingly beautiful shade of turquoise and completely at odds with his hard, rapacious face. "If you kept the girls and made a few changes in the work routine, you could get more tea packed faster. I know you could."
    She took a deep breath. "Well… every girl assembles 'er own packaging, right? If it's a box, she 'as to glue it together; if it's a tin, she 'as to put a label on it. Then she fills the package with tea, seals it, and stamps the price. The trouble is, we're always leaving our stations to get more supplies. It takes too much time. And sometimes tea gets into the glue brush. It's a waste of material. What you should do is take some of the girls - say twenty out of the fifty-five-and 'ave them assemble the packaging. Then 'ave another fifteen weigh the tea and fill the packages. Another ten could seal and stamp them, and the last ten could run the supplies to the tables as they're needed. Every girl would get more done, you see. It would speed up output and lower the cost of packing, I'm sure of it. Couldn't we at least try, sir?"
    Burton sat silently. He looked at her, then he looked off into the air, mulling her words.
    Fiona took this as a hopeful sign. He hadn't said no, and he hadn't sacked her, either. At least, not yet. She knew the girls had heard her. She felt their eyes on her back, felt the weight of their desperate hopes on her shoulders.
    It made sense, her idea, she knew it did. Oh, please, please let him think sc too, she prayed.
    "It's a good idea," he finally said, and Fiona felt her heart soar. "Mr. Minton," he continued, "when you're finished here, I want you to implement it with the remaining girls."
    "But Mr. Burton," she said, her voice faltering, "I-I thought you might let them stay… "
    "Why? You've just shown me how to get forty girls to do the work of, hundred. Why should I pay fifty-five?" He smiled at his companion. "Higher productivity at a lower cost. That should make the bank very happy, Randolph."
    The fat man chuckled. "Quite," he said, reaching for another ledger. Fiona felt as if she'd been slapped. She turned and walked out of Minton's office, humiliated. She was a fool. A bloody great fool. Instead of restoring her friends' jobs, she'd confirmed they weren't needed. She walked right up to William Burton and handed him a way to get more work done with fewer people. And when he was done here, he would probably go to his other factories in Bethnal Green and Limehouse, implement her ideas and sack girls there, too. Would she ever, ever learn to keep her temper under control, to keep her mouth shut?
    As she walked by the girls, her cheeks burning, ashamed of herself, she felt someone take her hand. Thin, fragile little fingers wrapped around he own. It was Amy. "Thank you, Fee," she whispered. "For trying, I mean You're so brave. I wish I was brave like you."
    "Oh, Amy, I'm daft, not brave," Fiona said tearfully.
    Amy kissed her cheek, and Violet did, too. Then Gem told her to get back to work, quick, before she found herself in line with the rest of them.
    
    THE EVENING SUNSHINE that warmed Joe's back seemed ill-suited to squalid lanes and narrow streets of Whitechapel where he and Fiona walked. Unkind rays slanted onto tumbledown houses and shops, exposing the crumbling rooftops, scarred brick walls, and stinking gutters better Ie concealed by mist and rain. He could hear his father's voice saying, "Nott ing like the sun to make this place look dreary. It's like rouge on an old whore, only makes things worse."
    He wished he could do better for her. He wished he could take her: someplace stylish like one of those pubs with red velvet wallpaper and etched glass. But he had very little money and all he could muster by way entertainment was a walk down Commercial Street to window-shop and maybe a penny's worth of chips or ginger nuts.
    He watched her as she looked in the window of a jeweler's, saw the hard set of her jaw, and knew she was still torturing herself over Burton, over those girls who'd been sacked. He'd called for her just after supper, and she'd told him about it as they walked.
    "You didn't really expect to win, did you?" he asked her now. She'd turned to him, disconsolate.
    "That's the thing, Joe, I did."
    Joe smiled and shook his head. "I 'ave myself a lass with brass balls, I do." Fiona laughed and he was glad of her laughter. She'd been crying over her workmates earlier, bitter tears of sorrow and rage. He couldn't stand to see her cry. It made him feel useless and desperate. He put his arm around her, pulled her close, and kissed the top of her head. "Twelve and six," he whispered to her, as they resumed their walk. "Sod William Burton."
    "Twelve and six?" she said, excited.
    "Aye. I added a bit. Business was good this week."
    " 'Ow are things with your father?" Joe shrugged. He didn't feel like getting into that, but she pressed him and he finally told her that they'd had a big row today.
    "Again? What was it over this time?"
    "Getting a second barrow. I want to and 'e doesn't."
    "Why not?"
    "Well, it's like this, Fee," he began, agitated. "We're doing all right with the one barrow, but we could be doing a lot better. The business is there. Last Saturday-you saw it-we couldn't even keep up with the punters. We actually ran out of stuff-ran out, Fee-with people wanting to buy! We could've turned over another crate of pippins, plus figs, potatoes, broccoli but you can't sell off an empty cart. For two months I've been telling Dad to get another barrow and divide the goods between them-fruit on one, veg on the other. But 'e won't 'ear of it."
    "Why not? It makes sense."
    " 'E says we're doing fine as is. We make a living and there's no need to do anything risky. 'Don't tamper with success,' 'e says. Christ, 'e's always dragging 'is feet! 'E just doesn't see the bigger picture. I don't want to just make a living, I want to see a profit and make the business grow."
    "Never mind your father, Joe," Fiona said. "Another year or so, and 'e won't be sitting on you anymore. We'll be out on our own, making the biggest success ever out of our shop. For now, you've just got to put up with it. There's nothing else you can do."
    "You're right about that," he said gloomily. But he wondered if he could put up with it. The tension was getting worse. He didn't want to tell Fiona she'd had enough upsets for one day-but he and his father had almost come to blows.
    He didn't tell her, either, that right after their row, after his dad had stalked off for a pint leaving Joe all on his tod, Tommy Peterson had appeared. He'd complimented the barrow, noted the brisk business Joe was doing, and invited him to come round to his Spitalfields office tomorrow. Joe was certain Tommy was going to suggest they get another barrow, and maybe even offer them better terms on larger orders to fill it. What would he tell the man? That his father wouldn't let him? He'd look a right git.
    Joe and Fiona walked on in silence as the evening turned cool. Summer was on the wane. It would be autumn soon, and the cold weather and rain:. skies would curtail their evening walks. Joe was wondering how on earth h, could get more money so they could open their shop and get married sooner when Fiona suddenly said, "Let's take a shortcut."
    "What?"
    She was grinning at him mischievously. "A shortcut. There." She pointed at a narrow alley that cut between a pub and a coal seller's office. "I'm sure. leads back to Montague Street." He raised an eyebrow.
    "What? I'm just trying to get 'ome faster," she said innocently, pulling him after her.
    As they entered the alley, something with tiny scrabbling feet shot out from between the beer barrels stacked inside. Fiona squealed and stamped he own feet.
    "It's just a cat," Joe said. "Of the… um… pygmy variety."
    Giggling, she pushed him against the wall and kissed him. It wasn't lib her to be so bold. Usually he kissed her first, but he found he didn't mind. a bit. In fact, he quite liked it. "Is that what this is about?" he asked. "Are you trying to 'ave your way with me?"
    "If you don't like it, you're free to go," she said, kissing him again. "Ye can leave anytime you want." Another kiss. "Just say the word."
    Joe considered her offer. "Maybe it's not so bad," he said, putting his arms around her. He kissed her back, long and deep. Her hands were on his chest, he could feel the warmth of them through his shirt. Gently, he moved his hand to her breast, expecting her to stop him, but she didn't. He could feel her heart beating. The feel of it under his palm, so strong and yet so vulnerable, completely in his keeping, overwhelmed him. She was his soulmate as much a part of him as the very flesh and bone that made him. She was with him, in him, in everything he did. She was everything he wanted from his life, the very measure of his dreams.
    Hungry for her body, he pulled her blouse and camisole free of her skirt and slipped his hand underneath. Her breast was soft and heavy in his hand like wine in a skin. He kneaded her flesh gently. A small breathless moan escaped her. The sound of it, low and urgent, made him painfully hard. He wanted her. Needed her. Here. Now. He wanted to lift her skirt and thrust into her, right against the wall. It was so hard to control his desire for her. The softness of her, the smell and taste of her drove him mad. But he wouldn't. He didn't want their first time to be like that - quick and hard in some filthy alley. But something had to happen, and fast, before the ache in "is balls turned into a crippling, blue agony.
    He took her hand and guided it. She touched him over his trousers, then inside. He showed her how to move her hand, and she did, rubbing him there, stroking him until his breath came hot and hard, and he groaned into her neck and his whole body shuddered in a sweet release. Then he leaned back against the wall, eyes closed, his chest heaving.
    "Joe," he heard her whisper anxiously. "Are you all right?"
    He chuckled. "Oh, aye, Fee. Never better."
    "You sure? I… I think you're bleeding."
    "Crikey! You pulled it off!"
    "Bloody 'ell!" she screeched.
    He couldn't help laughing. "Sshh, I'm just teasing you." He wiped at himself with his handkerchief, then tossed the crumpled cloth. "Can't take that ‘ome to me mum to wash."
    "You can't?"
    "Oh, Fiona, you don't know anything about it, do you?"
    "You don't know so much, either," she said crossly.
    "I know more than you do," he said, bending to kiss her neck. "I know how to make you feel as good as you just made me feel."
    "It felt good, then?"
    "Mmm-hmm." "What was it like?"
    He lifted her skirts, and fumbled with her drawers for a few seconds, before getting his hand inside. He caressed the insides of her thighs, amazed that skin could feel so silky, then his fingers found the soft, downy::eh between them. He felt her stiffen. She looked at him, her eyes wide and questioning. He heard her breath quicken, heard himself whispering to her in the darkness… heard the church bell, two streets over, strike the hour.
    "Oh, no… oh, blimey!" she cried, pulling away from him. "I forgot the time! It's nine o'clock! Me mam'll skin me. She'll think I've been murdered. Come on, Joe!"
    They fumbled themselves back together in the dark, buttoning blouses, tucking in shirts. 'Why was it always like this? he wondered. Why were they always snatching a kiss in an alley or down by the river in the mud?
    Fiona fretted, wondering aloud how she was going to explain being late. They ran all the way back to Montague Street. "There, Fee, got you back before you were even missed," he said, giving her a quick kiss on her step.
    "I 'ope so. At least me da's not 'ome. See you tomorrow." She turned to go, but before she did, she looked back at him one last time. He was still watching her, waiting to see that she was inside with the door closed before he went.
    "Twelve and six," she said.
    He smiled back. "Aye, luv. Twelve and six."
    
Chapter 5
    
    Kate Finnegan looked at the huge pile of laundry- in front of her and groaned. Bedsheets, tablecloths, serviettes, blouses, frothy nightgowns, camisoles, petticoats - she’d have to pack them with the skill of a stevedore to fit them all into her basket. And what a treat the long walk home would be with it all balanced on her shoulder.
    "Lillie, you tell your missus it's going to cost 'er double for a load this size," she shouted from Mrs. Branston's pantry.
    Lillie, Mrs. Branston's maid, a gangly, red-haired Irish girl, poked her head in. "Sure, I'll tell her, Mrs. Finnegan, but good luck getting it. You know what she's like. Tighter than a duck's arse. Will you have a cup of tea before you go?"
    "That sounds lovely, but I don't want to get you in any trouble."
    "Oh, no fear of that," Lillie said cheerfully. "The missus has gone up to Oxford Street shopping. She won't be home for ages."
    "Then put the kettle on, lass."
    When she finished packing, Kate took a seat at the kitchen table. Lillie mashed the tea and brought the pot to the table along with a plate of biscuits. They talked the pot dry - Kate about her children, and Lillie about her young man, Matt, who worked at the Commercial Docks.
    "Do you see 'im much?" Kate asked. "With you 'ere all day and 'im across the river?"
    "Oh, aye, Mrs. Finnegan. He's like me shadow these days, with them murders going on. Walks me here in the morning on his way to the dock and he's back again at night. And to tell you the truth, I'm awfully glad of it. I don't like being out after dark anymore."
    "I don't blame you. You'd think those women would be too scared to walk the streets, wouldn't you? But Paddy says 'e still sees them out at night."
    "They don't have much choice. If they get off the game, they go hungry." "Father Deegan was going on about the murders on Sunday," Kate said."The wages of sin is death, and all that. I wouldn't go against 'im, 'im being the priest, but I feel sorry for those women. I do. I see them sometimes, yelling and cursing, all drunk and broken-down. I don't think any of them chooses the life. I think they end up there because of drink or 'ard times."
    "You should hear Mrs. Branston going on about it," Lillie said angrily. "Handmaids of Satan she calls those poor murdered women. T'inks they deserved what they got because they were hoors. It's fine for her, all tucked up in a nice warm house, money coming out of her arse." Lillie paused to take a sip of tea and calm herself. "Ah, well, no use in getting worked up over the missus. As me gran used to say, 'Morality is for them who can afford it.' And anyway, Mrs. Finnegan, it's not the murders, it's what's going on down the docks that's really got me worried."
    "Don't I know it."
    "They're doing the right t'ing, I know they are, but if they strike, God knows when me and Matt will be able to get married," Lillie said anxiously. "Likely be another year."
    Kate patted her hand. "Won't be that long, luv, don't you fret. And even if it takes a little longer than you thought, your Matt's a good lad. 'E's worth the wait."
    Her reassurances to Lillie made Kate sound easier about the threat of a strike than she felt. Paddy believed a strike was a certainty, the only question was when. Just last week she'd sat down with pencil and paper and tried to figure how long they could last if he walked off the docks. A few days. A week at the most.
    He usually earned about twenty-six shillings a week for sixty-odd hours of cargo work. A bit more when the wharf was busy, less when it was not. In addition, he often picked up another three shillings by taking a shift as a night watchman or by taring tea-dumping the crates and raking the leaves into piles-for the graders, which brought the total to twenty-nine shillings or so. He kept two back for beer, tobacco, and newspapers, and one for the union, and handed the rest over to Kate, whose job it was to stretch them out farther than the Mile End Road.
    She supplemented her husband's wages by taking in washing, which netted her four shillings a week after paying for soap and starch, and by renting a room to Roddy and cooking his meals - for which he paid her five shilling a week. She also had Charlie's wages at about eleven shillings and Fiona's at seven, minus what they kept back-Charlie for beer and his kingsmen Fiona for her shop -that came to another fifteen, which gave her about two and ten, give or take a shilling.
    Weekly expenses included the eighteen-shilling rent. The house was very dear - many families only rented one floor for eight or ten shillings - but it was a warm, dry house, free of bugs, and Kate was convinced that crowding was only a false economy, for whatever you saved in rent, you'd lose again on doctors and missed work. Then there was coal-a shilling a week now, but that would go up to two in the winter, and lamp oil-another sixpence.
    That left about one and nine, all of which she could've spent on food an still not provided the kinds of meals she wanted to. She limited herself to twenty shillings for the weekly purchase of meat, fish, potatoes, fruit an veg, flour, bread, porridge, suet, milk, eggs, tea, sugar, butter, jam, and treacle to make three meals a day for six people-not counting the baby. There was the shilling for burial insurance, and another for the clothing fund a little tin in which she faithfully deposited a shilling a week against the day somebody's coat or boots wore out, and two more for the strike fund. She started that one two months ago and it got its coins every week now, even she had to scrimp on meals to find them. That left about four shillings to cover everything else: doctor's bills, boot black, rusks, throat lozenges, matches, needles and cotton, collars, soap, tonic, stamps, and hand soap. Often there were only a few pennies left by the time Saturday rolled around
    She and Paddy had struggled so hard together to reach their current standard of living. He was a preferred man at the docks now, a man with steady employment. He was no longer the casual he'd been when they were first married-tramping down to the waterfront at dawn every day for the call-on, where the foreman picked out the strongest for a day's work and paid them threepence an hour. Fiona and Charlie both worked now and their wages helped immensely. They were poor, but they were among the respectable working poor, and that made all the difference in the world. Kate didn't have to pawn things to eat. Her children were clean, their clothes were neat, their boots were always mended.
    The constant struggle to stay ahead of the bills wore her down at times but the alternative was unthinkable. Real poverty. The crushing, inescapable kind where your furniture was thrown out in the street when you couldn’t pay the rent and you caught lice from sleeping in dirty lodging houses. The kind where your kids were raggedy and your husband stayed away because he couldn't bear the sight of his thin, hungry children. Kate had seen these things happen to families on her street when a man lost his job or took families like hers, with no savings to speak of, just a few coins in a tin. Poverty was an abyss that was much easier to slide into than crawl out of and she wanted to keep as much distance between it and her family as possible. She was terrified the strike would take them right to the edge of it.
    "I know what we'll do, Mrs. Finnegan," Lillie said, giggling. "I read in the papers that there's a reward offered for the one who catches the Whitechapel Murderer. It's a lot of money - a hundred quid. We could catch him, you and me."
    Kate laughed, too. "Oh, aye, Lillie, what a pair we'd make! The two of us going down an alley at night, me with a broom and you with a milk bottle, one more terrified than the other."
    The two women talked for few more minutes, then Kate drained her cup, thanked her friend, and said she had to be off. Lillie opened the kitchen door for her. She would have to go around to a gate, then down a narrow alley that ran alongside the house into the street. She never failed to scrape her knuckles on the brick wall. She wished she could just walk through the house and use the front entry, but a neighbor might see and tell Mrs. Branston. This was a middle-class house on a good street and the help did not come and go through the front door.
    "Ta-ra, Mrs. Finnegan."
    "Ta-ra, Lillie. See that you lock the door," Kate called, her head hidden, her voice muffled by the large basket of linens on her shoulder.
    
Chapter 6
    
    Autumn is on its way, Fiona thought, pulling her shawl around her shoulders. The signs were unmistakable-falling leaves, shorter days, the coal man bellowing from his wagon. It was a gray September Sunday and the damp, creeping air had turned chilly. "THE SEASON OF DEATH," the headline screamed from the newspaper, "WHITECHAPEL MURDERER STILL AT LARGE."
    Sitting on her step reading her father's paper while Seamie played next to her, Fiona wondered how anyone could go off down an alley with a stranger while a murderer was on the loose. "The devil is a charming man," her mam said. He'd have to be, Fiona thought, to get any woman round here to take a walk with him in the dark, in the fog, all alone.
    On her street, and all throughout Whitechapel, people found it impossible to believe that anyone could commit such acts, then simply disappear. The police looked like buffoons. They were criticized by Parliament and by the press. It was taking a toll on Uncle Roddy, she knew. He hadn't gotten over finding the Nichols woman's body. He still had nightmares.
    The murderer was a monster. The press had also turned him into a symbol of all that was wrong with society - violence and lawlessness in the working classes, profligacy in the upper ones. To the rich, the killer was member of the vicious lower orders, a raging brute. The poor saw him as member of the quality, a gentleman who derived obscene pleasure hunting streetwalkers like prey. To Catholics, he was a Protestant; to Protestants Catholic. To the immigrants who lived in East London he was a crazy Englishman, liquored up and dangerous. To John Bull, he was a dirty, godless foreigner.
    Fiona had no image of the murderer. She didn't want to know what: looked like. She didn't care. All she wanted was for him to be caught so she could walk out at night with Joe without her mam thinking she was lying dead in an alley if she got in five minutes late.
    The noisy crash of building blocks next to her startled her. "Bugger!" Seamie yelled.
    "Charlie teach you that?" she asked. He nodded proudly.
    "Don't let our da 'ear you say it, lad."
    "Where is Charlie?" Seamie asked, turning his face up to hers.
    "Down the brewery."
    "I wish 'e was 'ome. 'E said 'e was going to bring me some licorice."
    " 'E'll be 'ome soon, luv." Fiona felt a twinge of guilt for fibbing. Charlie wasn't at the brewery. He was at the Swan, a riverside pub, giving some lad a thrashing; but she could hardly tell Seamie. He was too little to keep secrets and might blurt it to their mam. Charlie was fighting for money Fiona had heard it from Joe, who'd heard it from a friend who'd placed bets on him and won. It explained his sudden propensity for coming home with black eyes, which he always put down to "just lads scrapping."
    She wasn't supposed to know her brother was fighting, so she couldn’t ask him what he planned to do with his winnings, but she had an idea: Uncle Michael and America. She'd seen his eyes light up the other day when mam opened the letter and read aloud their uncle's description of his shop and New York. She'd seen him later, too, rereading the letter at the kitchen table. He didn't even look up when she passed by, just said, "I'm going, Fee.”
    "You can't. Mam'll cry," she replied. "And you don't 'ave the money ticket anyway."
    He'd ignored her. "I bet Uncle Michael could use a lad the way 'is business is going. And with Auntie Molly 'aving a baby and all. Why not 'is own nephew? I’m not staying ‘ere working for shite wages in the brewery me whole life.”
    “You can work for me and Joe in our shop,” she said.
    He’d rolled his eyes.
    “Don’t make faces! We’ll ‘ave our shop, you wait and see.”
    “I want to make my own way, I’m going to New York.”
    Fiona had forgotten all about that conversation until she learned he was fighting. The little bleeder was serious. America, she thought, where the streets were paved with gold. If he went there, he’d become a toff in no time. She would try to be happy for him when the day came, but she hated to think of her brother going so far away. She loved him dearly, even if he was a troublemaker, and people who went to America almost never came back. Memories and the odd letter would all they’d have of him when he was gone.
    She would miss him if he went, but she understood his wanting to go. Like herself, he couldn't accept a future of nothing but back-breaking labor. Why should that be her lot? And Charlie's? Because they were poor? It was no crime to be poor - the Lord himself had been poor and working-class, as her da always reminded her. Father Deegan also said poverty was no sin; but he expected you to be humble about it. If you were poor, it's what the Lord intended for you, and you should be accepting of His will. Keep your place and all that.
    She looked up and down Montague Street at the shabby, soot-blackened houses with their cramped rooms, thin walls, and drafty windows. She knew the lives of almost all their inhabitants. Number 5 - the McDonough’s - nine children, always hungry. Number 7 - the Smiths-he was a gambler, she was always at the pawnshop and the kids ran wild. Number 9 - the Phillipses -struggling, but respectable. Mrs. Phillips, who never smiled, was forever washing the stoop.
    Was this her place? She sure as hell hadn't asked for it. Let somebody else keep it. She would find a better one, she and Joe together.
    Joe. A smile came to her lips at the memory of what they'd done in the alley the other night. She felt warm and achy inside whenever she thought of it and she thought of it constantly. She'd gone to church intending to confess what she'd done to Father Deegan, but on the way decided it wasn't any of his damn business, for it wasn't a sin. He would say what they'd done was wrong, but she knew it wasn't. Not with Joe.
    What's gotten into me? she wondered. One minute she was convinced she shouldn't be doing anything like that, not even thinking about it. The next minute, she was imagining herself alone with Joe again-his kisses, his hands on her, touching her where he wasn't supposed to. Had they done everything you could do before the final thing? And what was that like? She had a vague notion of what went on. The man pushed a lot, she'd heard, but why? Because it didn't fit? And if it didn't fit, did that mean it hurt? She wished there was somebody who could tell her. Her friends didn't know any more than she did, and she'd rather die than ask Charlie.
    She felt Seamie lean into her. He was blinky-eyed and yawning. It was time for his nap. She gathered his blocks, then took him inside and put him to bed in the parlor. He was asleep before she even got his boots off. She crept quietly out of the room and pulled the door closed. Charlie was out. Uncle Roddy was at the pub. Eileen, upstairs in her parents' bedroom, was asleep. Even her mother and father had gone up for a nap, just as they did every Sunday - the sort of nap that she and Charlie knew better than to disturb.
    For the next hour at least, she was free. She could make herself a cup 0: tea and read. She could take a walk to Commercial Street and look in the shop windows, or she could visit with friends. She was standing in the hallway trying to make up her mind when she heard a knock on the door. She opened it.
    " 'Ello, missus," said the lad on the step. "Fancy any fruit and veg today Turnips? Onions? Some Brussels sprouts?"
    "Be quiet, you fool, you'll wake me brother and the rest of the 'ouse, too.
    Fiona said, delighted to see Joe. "You're off early today. Business bad this morning?"
    "Business? Um, no, not exactly, just, uh… finished up early, that's al.
    Finished up early and thought I might take a walk. To the river," he said smiling brightly.
    Too brightly, she thought. And he never finishes early. Or takes a walk to the river on a Sunday when he's dead on his feet after a whole weekend of selling. Something's up.
    "Come on, then," he said, tugging at her arm.
    His pace was brisk. He was silent, too. Fiona had no doubt that something was on his mind. Had he fallen out with his father again? She was anxious to know, but he wasn't one to speak until he was good and ready.
    The docks were quiet when they arrived at the Old Stairs. The river, toe The tide was out. Only a few barges and wherries plied the waters. Along the wharves, loophole doors were pulled shut; cranes were silent. The river, like the rest of London, was doing its best to observe the Lord's day.
    They settled themselves halfway down the stairs. Joe leaned forward elbows on his knees, silent. Fiona looked at the side of his face, then turned her gaze to the river, waiting for him to speak. She took a deep breath and smelled tea. Always tea. Crated in Oliver's or loose in small mountains on the floor. She imagined the brown dust sifting down through floorboards floating out of cracks in the loophole doors. She closed her eyes and inhaled again. Sweet and bright. A Darjeeling.
    `After a minute or so, Joe said, "I 'ear Charlie's getting 'imself quite a reputation down the Swan."
    She knew he hadn't come to the river to talk about Charlie. This was just his way of getting around to what was eating him. " 'E better 'ope our mam doesn't find out," she said. "She'll drag 'im out by 'is ear."
    "What's 'e do with 'is winnings?"
    "I think' e's saving up for a boat passage to America. 'E wants to work for me da's brother in New York-"
    "Fiona… " Joe interrupted, taking her hand.
    "Aye?"
    "I asked you to come walking with me because I wanted to tell you that I might… " He hesitated. "There's a chance that I… there's this job come up, y'see… " He stopped again, scraping the heel of his boot on the step below him. He looked at the lapping water, took a deep breath, then blew it out. "This is no good. You're not going to like what I 'ave to say no matter 'ow I put it, so 'ere it is: Tommy Peterson offered me a job and I took it."
    "You what?" she asked, stunned.
    "I took the job." He started speaking quickly. "The pay's good, Fee, much more than I make at the market with me father-"
    "You took a job with Tommy Peterson? Millie's da?"
    "Aye, but-"
    "So our shop's off?" she said angrily, pulling her hand away. "Is that what you're telling me?"
    "No, no, that's not what I'm telling you! Sod it, Fiona! I knew you'd make this ten times' arder than it 'as to be. Shut up and listen, will you?"
    She stared ahead at the river, refusing to look at him. Millie Peterson had a hand in this; she just knew it. Joe grabbed her chin and turned her face back to his. She slapped his hand away.
    "I'll be doing pretty much what I do right now - ‘awking goods," he explained. "Tommy saw me working at me dad's pitch and liked my style. Only I'll be selling to other costers, not the public… "
    Fiona stared at him stonily, saying nothing.
    "… so I'll be learning a lot about the 'ole saling business- 'ow to do business at the source. With the farmers in Jersey and Kent. With the French. I'll be able to see' ow the buying and selling works in the biggest market in London, and-"
    "Where? At Spitalfields?" Fiona cut in, referring to the nearby market. "Well, that's something else I 'ave to tell you. I won't be working at Peterrson's Spitalfields pitch. 'E wants me at Covent Garden."
    "So you'll be leaving Montague Street," she said dully.
    "I don't 'ave any choice, Fee. We start at four in the morning. I'd 'ave to leave Whitechapel at two to get there on time. And with 'arvest wagons coming in at all hours now, we'll be working way into the night. I'll 'ave to grab me sleep when I can."
    "Where?"
    "In a room Peterson's got in 'is market building. Over the offices."
    "Complete with bed, washstand, and daughter."
    "I'll be sharing it with 'is nephew, a lad my age. It won't cost me a penny.' Fiona said nothing. She returned her gaze to the river.
    "It could be a good thing, this job, Fee. Why are you carrying on so about it?"
    Why? Fiona asked herself, staring hard at a barge. Because my whole life you've never not been on Montague Street, because my heart thumps every time I see you, because your face, your smile, your voice all take away the dreariness of this place, because our dreams give me hope and make everything bearable. That's why.
    She swallowed hard, trying to hold back the tears that were just underneath her anger. "It's just a lot to take in, isn't it? It's so sudden. You just take a whole new job and move away. You won't be right down the street anymore or at the market. Who's going to sit 'ere with me after work on Saturdays and… and… " Her voice caught.
    "Fiona, look at me," Joe said, brushing a tear from her cheek. She turned her face to his, but would not meet his eyes. "I didn't take this job without thinking about it. Peterson offered it to me two days ago. I've been turning:, over in me mind ever since, trying to figure out the best thing to do. Not for me, for us. And this job's it. I can't stay 'ere, Fee. I'm fighting with me dad the time. And I can't set up on me own. I'd be the competition, taking food out of me own family's mouth. At Peterson's I'll make twice what I did with me father. I'll be able to put away money for our shop faster than ever. And I'll be learning things we can use when we go into business." He squeezed her hand tightly. "Don't you see 'ow this can 'elp us?"
    Fiona nodded; she did see. Despite her initial anger, she saw that he was right - it was a good step even if it was a hard one. Anything that helped thee get their shop sooner rather than later was good. But she still felt sad. The idea might make sense to her head, but her heart felt like it was breaking.
    "When do you go?"
    “Tomorrow."
    "Blimey, Joe."
    "Don't look so sad, misery," he said, desperate to cheer her up. "It won't be forever and I'll come' ome soon as I can. And I'll bring you something, all right?"
    "Just yourself. That's all I want. And promise not to fall for Millie. I'm sure she'll find some reason to show up at Covent Garden now and again, fawning and flirting," she said.
    "Don't be daft."
    She jumped off the stone steps and walked downriver toward the Orient Wharf. She bent down to scoop up a handful of stones to skip and resolved to stop carrying on. She'd been selfish, only thinking of her own feelings. She ought to get behind him; it wouldn't be easy for him. The Covent Garden job would be new and exciting, but also tough. From what she'd heard of Tommy Peterson, he'd be working every hour God sent.
    Joe joined her and began to skip stones, too. After he'd pitched his entire pile, he bent down for more. One stone, deeply embedded in the river mud, gave a loud wet sucking noise as it came up. In the split second before the muddy hollow it left was filled by a lap of water, he saw a glint of blue. He dropped the stone and probed the silty mud. His fingers found a small hard lump. After a few seconds, he freed it.
    "Look, Fee," he said, washing the object clean. Fiona bent over next to him. He held in his hand a smooth, oval stone, flat on the bottom and humped on the top. A long groove ran from its top to its middle, where it split into two grooves that curved out toward its sides. It was indigo blue and just over an inch long. As it dried, its surface took on a frosted look, evidence of long and constant abrasion from sand and water.
    "What a pretty blue," Fiona said.
    "Don't know what it's from. Maybe the bottom of on old medicine bottle," he said, frowning as he turned the stone between his thumb and forefinger. He took Fiona's hand, placed the stone on her palm and curled her fingers around it. "There. A jewel from the river for you. It's the best I can do right now, but someday I'll do better. I promise."
    Fiona opened her hand and regarded her treasure intently, enjoying its weight in her palm. She would carry it with her everywhere when Joe left. When she was feeling lonely, she could slip her hand into her pocket and it would be there, reminding her of him.
    "Fiona… "
    "Mmmm?" she said, engrossed by the stone.
    "I love you."
    She looked up at him in amazement. He had never said that before. Their feelings for each other had been something understood between them, but never spoken aloud. It wasn't the Cockney way to wear your heart on your sleeve, to speak of your deepest feelings. He loved her. She had always, known it and never doubted it, and yet to hear those words from his own lips…
    "I love you," he said again, fiercely this time. "So, take care of yourself right? Because I won't be around to. No shortcuts 'ome from Burton's. No alleyways. You stay on Cannon Street and get across the 'ighway quick. No coming to the river unless it's to meet your da. And you make sure you're inside by dark with that bastard on the loose."
    Suddenly, her sadness was unbearable. Tears stung behind her eye, again. He was only going across London, to the West End, and yet it might as well be China. She couldn't go there; she had no money for bus fare. She couldn't bear the thought of the days to come. Days without him in there dragging by one after another, so dreary and lifeless without a glimpse of him in the morning trundling the barrow off to the market, or in the evening out on the step.
    "Joe," she said quietly.
    "What?"
    She took his face in her hands and kissed him. "I love you, too."
    "Of course you do," he growled, flustered. "Good-looking lad like meself 'ow could you 'elp it?"
    Looking at him, Fiona was suddenly overcome by a wild and desperate fear of losing him. She felt as if he were being taken from her. She kissed him again, more passionately than she ever had, her hands clutching bunches c his shirt. She was overwhelmed by a blind and powerful need for him. She wanted to pull him to her and keep him there forever. To mark him as hers, claim him. These were dangerous feelings, she knew where they would lea: but she didn't care. He would go, he would have to. But she would make su; he took a part of her with him and that she kept a part of him here.
    It was only a short distance from where they were standing to the shadows and shelter of the Orient Wharf. She took his hand and pulled him im the pilings that supported the jutting dock. It was dark and silent underneath, the only sound was of the river gently lapping. There was no one to see them there, no sailors or bargemen to whistle and hoot.
    She pulled him to her again, kissed his lips, his neck, his throat. When he moved his hand from her waist to her breast, she covered it with her own, and pressed it tightly against herself. Her girlish fears had disappeared. She had always been eager for his lips, his touch, but also afraid. Now it seemed as if her body had a purpose of her own, fierce and urgent; the pounding, her heart, and the aching heat that had started in the pit of her belly and ne surged in every vein drowned out the warning voices in her head. She could not get him close enough; kissing him, touching him, feeling his hands upon her did not satisfy this new and powerful craving, it only made it stronger. She felt unbearably hot and breathless and thought she would die if she did not fill up this empty, aching void within herself.
    Her hands pushed his jacket off his shoulders. He shrugged out of it and tossed it onto the ground. Her fingers sought the buttons of his shirt, and one by one, quickly undid them. She slipped her hands inside, running her palms over his chest and back. She touched her lips to his bare skin and inhaled the smell of him. It was as if her senses wished to know every inch of him and imprint the smell and taste and feel of him on her memory. And still it wasn't enough.
    She unbuttoned her blouse, then undid her camisole, her fingers fumbling with the ribbons. The white cotton parted and slipped from her body to the ground, leaving her naked to the waist. She raised her eyes to his and saw the desire in them, but she couldn't possibly know how deep, how strong that desire was. Joe had seen her nearly every day of his life, knew all her moods, her expressions and gestures, but he had never seen her like this-her hair tumbling down her shoulders, jet-black against her ivory skin. Her bare breasts, round and ripe and pretty. And her eyes, as deep and darkly blue as the ocean.
    "God, lass, but you're beautiful," he whispered.
    Gently, with infinite tenderness, he cupped her breasts with his hands and kissed them, and the place between, and finally, he kissed the place over her heart. Then he bent down, gathered her clothes, and handed them back to her.
    "Why?" she asked, wounded. "Don't you want me?"
    He snorted laughter. "Don't I?" He took her hand roughly and pressed it between his legs. "Does this feel like I don't want you?"
    Fiona drew her hand back, blushing furiously.
    "I want you more than I've ever wanted anything in me whole life, Fiona.
    A second ago, I almost took you right there on the ground. And God only knows where I found the strength to stop."
    "Why did you? I didn't want you to stop."
    "Because what if we did, and something' appened? And then I'm in Covent Garden and you're' ere with a big belly and a father fit to kill us both."
    Fiona bit her lip. It was no use telling him she'd wanted him so badly, she'd been ready to take that chance.
    "I'd marry you in a second if that 'appened, Fee. You know I would, but 'ow could we take on a baby right now? We can't afford to. We've got to stick to our plan-the savings, and then the shop, and then we'll get married. And that way, when the babies come, we'll 'ave the money to give 'em what they need. Right?"
    "Right," she said quietly. She slipped her camisole back on, then her blouse. Then she gathered her hair back into a neat plait and tried to affect a calm, collected manner. Her mind agreed with what Joe said, but her body did not. It was hot, uncomfortable, and deeply unsatisfied. It still ached for what it wanted, regardless of reason.
    "Come on, then," he said, offering her his hand. He pulled her to him. and they stood that way for a long time before he led her out of the pilings. They walked back to the Old Stairs, climbed them, then paused briefly at the top, while he cast one last glance over the barges, the tea wharves, and the river. He wouldn't be seeing them again for a while.
    As they walked home, Joe, as always, could not resist teasing her. He kept looking at her and grinning. And when she finally turned to him and demanded to know what he was looking at, he laughed and shook his head. "I never knew," he said.
    "Never knew what?"
    "Never knew that my shy little violet, the lass who once was worried lest I go too far be'ind the brewery wall, is really as randy as a goat."
    "Oh, Joe!" she cried, reddening. "Don't you dare tease me!"
    "I think it's grand. I do. And you better be at least that randy the day I marry you or I won't' ave you. I'll take you back to your father's. Return you like a crate of bad apples."
    "Be quiet, will you? Somebody will' ear!"
    A couple, an older man and woman, passed them on the sidewalk. Joe affected a serious, businesslike voice for their benefit. "Oh, well, even if I couldn't close the deal today, at least I got a good look at the merchandise And fine goods they are, lass."
    He made her laugh so much all the way from Wapping to her home that she almost forgot he was leaving. But when they rounded the corner of Montague Street, it came back to her. He was going tomorrow. When she got back from Burton's, he wouldn't be here.
    As if sensing her feelings, he took her hand and said, "Remember what I told you. It's not forever. I'll be back to see you before you know it."
    She nodded.
    "Take care of yourself," he said, kissing her good-bye.
    "And you," she murmured, watching him as he walked down the street watching as he walked away from her.
    
    RODDY O'MEARA doubled over and groaned. With one great, wrenching heave, his stomach emptied itself of the beef-and-onion pie he'd eaten for supper. He leaned against the pitted brick wall in the yard behind 29 Hanbury Street and forced himself to breathe deeply, willing the nausea still gripping his gut to subside. As he passed a hand over his damp brow, he became aware that his helmet had fallen off.
    "Jaysus, I hope I haven't puked on that."
    He hawked a gob of spit, located his helmet, and after a quick inspection placed it back on his head, tightening the strap under his chin. Then he forced himself to walk back to the body. He wasn't about to allow his weak stomach to keep him from doing his job.
    "Better?" George Phillips, the police surgeon, asked him. Roddy nodded, picking up the bull's-eye lantern he'd left next to the body. "Good man," Dr. Phillips said, crouching by the corpse. "Shine that over here."
    He directed the beam to the woman's head. As the doctor began to scribble in his notebook, trading questions and comments with the officer in charge, Inspector Joseph Chandler, and various detectives, Roddy's eyes swept over the body. What had only hours ago been a living, breathing woman was now a gutted carcass. She lay before them on her back, her legs obscenely splayed, her abdomen yawning. Her killer had disemboweled her and deposited her glistening intestines beside her. He'd sliced into her thighs and hacked at the flesh between them. A gash lay across her throat like a garnet choker, the congealing blood glinting darkly in the lantern's light.
    "Good Christ," one of the detectives said. "Just wait until the papers get hold of this one, with her guts all over the place."
    "There's to be no press in here. None," Chandler barked, looking up from the body. "Davidson," he said to the detective. "Take a dozen men and position them in front of the building. No one's to come in here unless they're on police business."
    It was the worst murder yet. In spite of all the extra officers on patrol after Polly Nichols was found cut up in Bucks Row nine days ago, the murderer had hacked another streetwalker to death.
    Roddy had seen death before. Women beaten lifeless by their husbands.
    Children starved and neglected. Victims of fires and accidents. Nothing approached this. This was hatred-black and insane and staggering. Whoever had killed this woman, and the others, hated them with an incomprehensible fury.
    He now had another image of the killer's work to store in his brain. But this time, he wouldn't let it keep him up at night; this time he would channel the horror and anger into his casework. They'd catch the man; it was only a matter of time. And when they had him, he'd hang for what he'd done. Even now, as Dr. Phillips examined the body, scores of constables and detectives were fanning out through the area, searching for clues, knocking on doors, rousing residents to find out if they'd heard anything, seen anything.
    "Over here," Dr. Phillips said, moving from the woman's neck to her abdomen.
    Roddy followed, stepping over a puddle of blood. He shone the lantern into the cavity. His stomach twisted again, tightening itself to the size of a walnut. The sweet, coppery smell of her blood, the stench of human organs and their contents were overpowering.
    "Her throat was cut left to right. She's only been dead a half hour, no rigor yet," Phillips told the inspector, still scribbling as he talked. "Abdominal mutilation is worse than the last time. It appears as if -"
    Above their heads, a sticky window was forced open. Dr. Phillips looked up; Roddy and the others followed his gaze. Out of almost all the windows in the upper stories of the houses that bordered the tiny yard, heads protruded and fingers pointed.
    "Please go back inside!" the doctor shouted. "This is no sight for decent folk!"
    Some of the heads were withdrawn, most remained.
    "Did you hear the man? Go inside or I'll have you brought up on charges of obstructing police inquiries!" Chandler bellowed.
    "You can't do that, guv'nor!" came one indignant reply. "I paid the geezer what lives 'ere tuppence for a gander."
    "Good God," Phillips groaned. He turned back to the body, a scowl darkening his face. "Come on, let's finish and then we'll cover her. Give them less to gawk at, the bloody ghouls."
    He finished his examination and dismissed Roddy, who joined the other constables in front of the building. While the inspector and his detectives searched the area around the body for evidence, Roddy and his fellow officers faced down an ugly crowd.
    A woman wearing a man's greatcoat over her nightdress glared at him, a mixture of fear and anger in her eyes. "Constable!" she shouted, taking a few steps toward him. "It's 'im, ain't it? The Whitechapel Murderer. 'E's struck again, 'asn't 'e? Why don't you coppers get 'im?"
    In keeping with official policy, Roddy made no reply. He trained his gaze on the house across the street.
    "You're doing nothing!" the woman cried, her voice as shrill as a rook, "And it's because it's all poor women, ain't it? Nobody cares about us. Jus' wait till ‘e goes west and threatens the fine ladies there. Then you'll catch 'im!”
    “Aw missus," a man shouted, "them peelers couldn't catch clap in a whorehouse."
    The crowd threw more taunts and jeers, growing larger-and surlier - by the minute. Inspector Chandler pushed his way through the officers to check on the source of all the noise. He looked at the crowd, then turned to his men and told them that the ambulance should arrive momentarily. "As soon as the body's gone, the rabble will disperse," he said.
    "Ow many more will 'e get?" a woman screeched. " 'Ow many?" Giving the crowd a filthy look, Chandler turned to rejoin his detectives.
    Before he could leave, however, a new voice piped up.
    "Yes, Inspector, how many more?" Roddy saw Chandler grimace.
    "How many more, sir? The public have a right to know!"
    Roddy's eyes darted to the speaker. He knew that voice. Brisk, excited, almost cheerful in tone, it belonged to a wiry, rumpled figure hastily making his way toward Chandler.
    "I've nothing for you, Devlin," the inspector growled.
    "Was her throat cut?"
    “No comment."
    "Body slashed?"
    "I said no comment!" Chandler snapped. He shouted orders at his men to stand firm and rejoined Phillips.
    Undaunted, the reporter sized up the row of constables before him.
    “How about you men? Seems like our boy got another one, eh? And the poIice were nowhere in sight as usual. Heard she only just died. Might've lived if you lot had been faster. Too slow off the mark… "
    Devlin's fishing expedition paid off. One young constable, offended by his words, took the bait. "We wasn't too slow! She died right away from the wound to 'er throat. She -"
    Devlin pounced. "What time? Who found her?"
    A quick elbow in the ribs reminded the lad to close his mouth and left Devlin, pad in hand, to try his luck elsewhere.
    Roddy sighed. He felt edgy and restless. He didn't want to stand here.
    He wanted to be out, pounding on doors. He needed to move, to be active; that was the only thing that would erase the sights that plagued his memory - her torn body, her splayed legs, the little red flower pinned to her jacket. Would he be able to sleep when this night was over? He closed his eyes and found that the images persisted behind his shuttered eyelids, and that Devlin's voice, badgering, relentless, echoed in his head: "How many more will he get? How many more?"
    
Chapter 7
    
    Hot water straight from the tap. Drains that never backed up. It was bloody amazing. Bloody wonderful! Joe dipped his razor into a basin of warm soapy water and marveled again at the miracle of modern conveniences. A sink. A bathtub. A flush toilet. All indoors! Eyeing himself in the bathroom mirror, he puffed out his cheek and scraped away the blond stubble covering it.
    When Peterson told him he'd be living in a room over the company offices, he expected a dark, drafty rathole with a dank privy in the backyard. He couldn't have been more wrong. The room-the top floor of a three story brick building-had been used for storage, then as sleeping quarters for farmers in from the country. When his nephew Harry came up from Brighton to work for him, Peterson had had it renovated into serviceable bachelor's quarters. It was sparsely furnished, but bright and clean. The walls were painted a warm cream. There was a cast-iron stove' to warm the room and heat a dinner or water for tea. An old braided rug covered the floor in front of it and a pair of worn leather wing chairs-pulled from the attic of Peterson's house-flanked it. Each lad had a bed and a narrow wardrobe to call his own, plus a fruit crate for a night table and an oil lamp.
    Tommy's done right by me so far, Joe thought. The pay's good and the quarters are first-rate. But Peterson had given him something more than a room and wages, something he valued greatly. He listened to him. The man was mind-bogglingly busy-he oversaw an entire army of workers: buyers. sellers, porters, drivers-yet he took the time to hear his employees' ideas. from the lowliest porter to the head buyer. When Joe suggested that the pea-shellers might get more done if they had a boy to keep them stocked rather than getting up from their stools to get the pods themselves, a boy was hired. Output increased and the whole experiment earned him a "Good lad!" and a slap on the back. When he noticed that the chefs from the grand hotels and restaurants-a picky, impatient bunch-tended to move around from seller to seller, buying apples here and broccoli there, he asked if he could have tea available for them. Tommy agreed, and the chefs, grateful for a hot drink at four in the morning, lingered and brought.
    The money, the room - they both pleased him greatly, but the encouragement he got from Tommy-that made him happiest of all. His father had never been interested in his ideas; he'd resisted every one. Now Joe was seeing his good ideas confirmed, commended even.
    The first free moment he had, he wrote to Fiona and told her about his new life: "Hot baths whenever I want, a bed all to myself, and a warm room with buckets of coal" he wrote. "We'll have all this someday and more besides." He told her about the job, his roommate, the farmers from Devon and Cornwall, and the incredible commotion of Covent Garden. It took four pages to tell her these things and a fifth to tell her that in a fortnight, when he had a full weekend off-Tommy only gave one full weekend off a month - he was going to take her to see the shops on Regent and Bond Streets. And this was just the beginning. He was able to put more money aside, just as he'd said. They would have their shop sooner than they thought, and when they were rich they would have a nice house with a modern bathroom. He closed the letter by saying that he hoped she missed him, for he missed her.
    And he did. Terribly. He was lonely for his home and his family, but mainly for her. Every day he was bursting with new things to tell her. So many new people, so many new experiences. He wished he could talk to her at night, share it all with her and see what she made of it. He missed the sound of her voice and her excited eyes. He thought of her every night before he fell asleep, picturing her pretty face, her smile. Most of all, he thought about the way she had looked by the river, under the pilings, when she'd wanted to give herself to him. Part of him knew he'd done the right thing, but another part said he'd been a fool. What lad in his right mind would turn down a beautiful, half-naked girl? One thing was certain: the next time they were alone and she took off her blouse, he wouldn't be handing it back to her. He'd learned one or two things since he'd come to Covent Garden that had nothing to do with produce, thanks to his new roommate.
    Joe's thoughts of Fiona were interrupted by a gust of rain against the bathroom window. It was a foul day. He'd planned to go walking with Harry, who was snoozing in front of the stove, but they weren't going anywhere in this. It was a shame. Today-Sunday-was their only day off for the week and it would've been nice to stretch their legs, maybe get a pint. But staying in and reading the paper would be all right, too. After all, they were both exhausted. Peterson was a demanding employer and he worked them hard especially on Saturdays, when he wanted to clear out leftover stock. Joe's voice was always raw by the end of the day, his body weary and sore. Neither he nor Harry had gotten up until noon; they'd snored through the church bells, the newsboys, and the muffin man singing his wares beneath their window.
    Joe toweled his face dry. His stomach growled. He wondered if Harry wanted to brave the weather to go after some dinner. He was just about to ask him when he heard a loud banging on the downstairs door. He put on his shirt, hitched up his suspenders, and came out of the bathroom. Harry was sitting in his chair, blinking.
    "Who is it?" Joe asked him.
    "Haven't a clue," he said, yawning. "Go see, you're closest."
    Joe opened the door to the stairway and skipped down the steps.
    "Harry! Let me in, I'm half drowned!" a woman shouted. He yanked the door open and found himself face-to-face with a drenched Millie Peterson. "Joe, luv!" she exclaimed, handing him a wicker hamper. "Take this, will you? There's one more. Harris will help you get it." She bustled by him, all smiles, and ran upstairs. Joe and the driver got the second hamper out of the carriage. He thanked the man, then staggered upstairs with both baskets.
    "Silly Millie!" he heard Harry shout. "You've come to visit us!" "Indeed, I have. I wanted to surprise you, Harry. I brought a picnic I was hoping we could go to the park, but we'll have to have it indoors."
    Joe, panting, closed the door to the landing, put Millie's baskets down. then laughed as Harry swept her up in a big bear hug, lifting her clear off the floor.
    "Harry, put me down! You'll crush me!"
    Instead, he spun her around until she was screeching and begging him to stop. When he finally did put her down, they both staggered, completely dizzy, then burst into laughter at the sight of each other.
    "Ohhh, Harry Eaton, you're going to get it. Just as soon as my head stops spinning."
    "Why? You used to love it when I spun you around."
    "When I was five years old, you fool!"
    "It's good to see you, Mills," Harry said, looking at her with genuine affection. "It's ever so dull here, with just the two of us. You're a ray of sunshine in this dreary place."
    "Dull? Dreary? Thanks a lot, mate," Joe said.
    "Sorry, lad, you're a cracker of a roommate, but my cousin's much prettier."
    Millie did indeed brighten the room. She had taken off her wet cloak and was wearing a butterscotch plaid skirt and jacket, with ivory lace at the collar and cuffs. The color was rich and played up her hazel eyes and honey· blond hair beautifully. Little topaz drops dangled from her earlobes and E. matching bracelet, small and tasteful, circled her wrist. Her hair was pulled back into an ornate knot, secured by tortoiseshell combs. She was a picture there was no denying. Thinking Millie and Harry might like to have their dinner, Joe decided to make himself scarce. He walked to his wardrobe to get his jacket.
    "Where are you going?" Millie asked, looking up from her basket.
    "I thought I'd take a walk."
    "On a day like this? In the rain? You'll do no such thing. You'll catch your death. Stay and have dinner with us. I hoped… I thought you might be here and I brought tons of food just in case you were. You won't disappoint me after I came all this way, will you?" She turned to her cousin. "Harry, make him stay."
    "I'm afraid you'll have to, squire. Millie has made her wishes clear and there'll be no peace for either of us if you don't."
    Joe saw that to insist on leaving would be rude. Millie had begun to unpack all sorts of things and he was awfully hungry. "Well, if you're sure it's no bother… "
    "None at all," she said. "Here, take this cloth and spread it out in front of the stove. Harry, can you build the fire up a little?"
    With Millie directing them, Joe and Harry soon had the picnic set up.
    Harry shoveled coal into the stove and stoked the fire until it was blazing. He left the door open, the better to warm the room. Joe spread the white tablecloth on the rug and opened bottles of ginger beer. Millie placed all the goodies she unpacked on the cloth, bade her companions sit down, gave them napkins and cutlery, then served them their dinner.
    "Cor, Millie, you've enough 'ere to feed an army," Joe exclaimed.
    "An army named Harry," she said, cutting into a pork pie. "It's my Auntie Martha's - Harry's mum's - fault. She wrote and asked me to make sure that her darling lad was getting enough to eat. She gave me a list of his favorite things."
    "Well, she didn't mean for me to eat them all at once! Even I couldn't get through this spread," Harry said.
    In addition to a large pork pie, there were Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, plump meat pasties, roast chicken, cold lamb, kippers, brown bread, Stilton and cheddar, gingerbread, and lemon biscuits. Joe and Harry were hungry, and as soon as Millie had handed them their plates, they tucked into their dinners with relish.
    "This is grand, Millie, thank you," Joe said.
    "Aye," Harry mumbled through a mouthful of food. "A damn sight better than the slop from the cookshop."
    While Joe and Harry ate, Millie talked. She asked how their work was going and told funny stories about her and Harry's childhood that made them all laugh. Joe learned that Harry's mother was Millie's late mother's only sister, that Harry was only six months older than she was, and that the two cousins had been playmates since childhood, but had seen less and less of each other in recent years, as Harry's family had moved to Brighton.
    Joe looked from Millie to Harry - two blond heads, two laughing faces.
    There was a strong resemblance between them. Like Millie, Harry was fair but he was big and brawny. He liked sport, horses, and pretty girls. He didn't like the produce business and had told Joe as much, making him swear not to say anything to his uncle. Harry wanted to be an explorer. He wanted to go to India and Africa. He'd told Joe he would, too; in December, when he turned twenty.
    As soon as Joe cleaned his plate, Millie filled it again. He took a swig of his ginger beer, then leaned back against one of the wing chairs, determined to eat his second helping a bit more slowly than his first. A pleasant lassitude settled on him as the afternoon lengthened. The food, the blazing fire, and Millie's lively presence had taken the gloom off the day and dispelled hi, loneliness. He felt warm, well-fed, and contented. He'd never had a day lib this, with no work and no worries and nothing to do but sit in front of a fire with two friends. He felt as if he didn't have a care in the world, here with Harry and Millie.
    He looked at Millie, chattering on, and wondered if she had a care in the world, if she'd ever had one. Although she was looking at Harry, she was sitting so close to Joe, he could smell her perfume. Lilac. Her color was high; her blond hair shone in the firelight. He closed his eyes and thought of Fiona and how she would enjoy all the little luxuries-the ginger beer, the Stilton, the lemon biscuits. He wished she were here. He would write and tell her all about it. But, no, he thought, maybe not. The fact that he'd been with Millie all afternoon wouldn't go over well. Even if he said Millie had only come to visit her cousin, which, of course, was true, Fiona would be jealous. She couldn't see that Millie was just a nice, sweet girl. He would keep this to himself.
    Joe felt a soft pinch on his leg and heard Millie and Harry laughing. He realized that they were laughing at him.
    "I say, Bristow, are we keeping you up?" Harry asked.
    Joe opened his eyes, smiling. "Not at all," he said, stretching. "Just resting me eyes."
    "What time is it, Harry?" Millie asked.
    "Just gone five."
    "I'd better get going," she said, beginning to wrap up the leftovers. "I told Harris to fetch me at five. He's probably outside right now."
    Harry reached over and grabbed her hand. "No, I'm sorry but you can’t go. You'll have to stay here with us forever."
    "That would hardly be proper, now would it? Will you stop it, Harry.? Let me pack… " she giggled, trying to twist free of his grasp.
    "Only if you promise to come visit again. Soon. Promise, Mills."
    "All right, but only if Joe wants me to."
    
    "Of course I do, Millie," Joe said, coloring. "It's been nice 'avin' you 'ere." And it had. Millie's company had made the afternoon fly by.
    She smiled at him, then resumed her tidying. Harry and Joe helped. "I'm not taking this back with me," she said. "Just put it on the landing where it's cool and it'll keep."
    "Smashing! We'll be set for days," Harry said.
    "I'm leaving the other basket, too. It's got wool blankets in it. It's getting chilly and Dad never thinks about who's cold unless it's his apples and oranges."
    After they had packed up their picnic and folded up the cloth, Harry helped Millie put her cloak on, pulling the hood up and tying it under her chin.
    "Take care getting home," he cautioned. "We'll walk you down."
    Harry led the way down the stairs; Millie and Joe followed. Outside, the rain had stopped, but the evening was dark and drizzly. Gas lamps flickered, their flames reflected in the slick surface of the cobbles, and lanterns glowed on either side of Millie's carriage.
    "Evening, Harris," Harry said to the driver. "Evening, sir," Harris replied, tipping his hat.
    Harry opened the carriage door. "Bye, Silly Millie. I wish you didn't have to go."
    "I'll come again. On a better day. And we'll all go out for tea, or a walk in the park." She went up on tiptoes to give Harry a peck on the cheek, then turned to Joe and gave him a quick kiss, too. He smelled her perfume again as she pressed against him; felt her lips brush his cheek and her hand squeeze his arm. Then Harry bundled her into the carriage, rapped on the side, and she was gone.
    Harry and Joe looked after the carriage for a few minutes, until it was out of sight, then headed back upstairs. Their room seemed gray and hollow now.
    "She's quite a character, isn't she?"
    "Oh, aye," Joe said. "That she is. Place feels empty without 'er."
    "She's a bonny lass," Harry said, settling himself in front of the fire. "I'll tell you, whoever gets her has it made. A pretty face, a wealthy father, and a fine pair of tits to boot."
    "I 'adn't noticed," Joe said. He picked up the coal bucket and fed a few lumps to the stove.
    Harry smirked. "Of course you hadn't." He stretched his legs out before him, patted his stomach, and sighed contentedly. "A man could do a lot worse than Millie in the wife department. If she wasn't my cousin, I'd marry her myself."
    Suddenly Joe felt uncomfortable; Harry's tone had turned too serious
    "Maybe you ought to, old son. No other woman will 'ave you."
    Harry made a face. "Unfortunately, you're wrong. There's the dreaded Caroline Thornton."
    "Who?" Joe closed the oven door and sat down on the other side of it. "The girl my dear mother has picked out for me. In Brighton. Pop-eyed flat-chested, teeth like an old picket fence, but pots and pots of money. And head over heels in love with me."
    Joe laughed. "Sounds like an angel."
    Harry snorted. "A devil, rather. But she won't get her claws in me. No sir. I'm telling you, Joe, I'm joining the foreign service. Swear you won't tell my uncle-"
    "I already swore."
    "Swear again."
    "I swear," Joe said, rolling his eyes.
    "I'll be off before the end of the year. Far away from London and Brighton and Miss Caroline Thornton. And apples and oranges, too. I can’t take this business. I don't give a damn for it and I never will."
    "Maybe you should tell your uncle," Joe suggested. "Maybe' e' d understand."
    "Never. Uncle Tommy'll kill me when he finds out, but it'll be too late by then. I'll be on a steamer bound east." Harry was silent for a moment, gazing into the fire. "He wants me to be the son he never had… the son he lost. but I'm not."
    " 'E can't expect that of you, 'arry, you've got to live your life. 'E'll get over it. 'E'll just 'ave to find somebody else, won't 'e?"
    Harry nodded slowly, then turned to Joe and smiled. "Maybe he already has."
    
Chapter 8
    
    Nothing in London could compete with the sheer spectacle, the dizzing variety, the tumult and commotion of Harrods's food hall on a Saturday morning. It was a veritable cathedral of food, where fine ladies selected pretty cakes and biscuits, and imperious housekeepers piled package after package in the arms of the hapless grooms who trailed them, brisk, shopgirls wrapped purchases at lightning speed, and aproned lads raced up and down, replenishing shelves.
    To Fiona, the sight was nothing short of magical. As she walked up one aisle and down the next, she had to hold on to Joe's arm to keep from stumbling. She simply couldn't keep her eyes ahead of her. "Look!" she said, pointing to an artful mosaic of fish on a mountain of crushed ice. Beyond it, rabbits, pheasants, geese, ducks, and partridges hung from steel hooks. To the left was the meat counter -no necks and backs here. This was rich man's meat-tender fillets, tawny hams, chops as thick as a fist. They strolled past the spice counter, past bottles of the finest ports and Madeiras, into the produce section where Joe proudly pointed out the blushing Bramleys and golden Boscs from Peterson's of Covent Garden.
    Their last stop was the pastry hall, where Fiona was taken by a beautiful wedding cake. Cascades of red sugar roses, so well done they looked real, decorated its ivory fondant sides. A card at its base informed the curious that it was a replica of one done for the wedding of Lilian Price Hammersley of New York to George Charles Spencer-Churchill, the Eighth Duke of Marlborough. The sugar roses, it said, were modeled after a new specimen of rose from the United States-the American Beauty.
    "We'll 'ave one just like it," Joe said. "Only with Whitechapel Beauties on it."
    "Whitechapel Beauties? Never 'eard of them."
    "Also known as daisies."
    "Do 'Arrods deliver to Whitechapel?" Fiona asked, giggling.
    "Wouldn't that be a sight?" Joe said, laughing himself. "The 'Arrods van trying to get to Whitechapel? They probably don't even know it's in London."
    They were convulsed with laughter as they walked out of the store at the idea of the green Harrods van, with its straight-backed, white-gloved driver, bumping and bouncing over the pitted dockland streets, mobbed by urchins and stray dogs..
    "Where will we go next?" Fiona asked, her blue eyes sparkling.
    "Past Hyde Park to Bond Street and Regent Street, and then a surprise. Come on."
    Everything had been a surprise since early that morning when Joe arrived at Montague Street and knocked on her door. She'd flown to answer it, knowing it would be him, for he'd written a fortnight ago to tell her he wanted to take her on an outing.
    She'd asked her mam, who'd said, "Ask your da," who'd huffed a bit, but finally said she could go. Then she'd pleaded with Mr. Minton for a half-day off from work. He made her grovel, but finally agreed-with a dock in wages, of course.
    At first, she'd been so excited she could barely wait for the day to arrive But she soon realized she didn't have anything nice to wear and that she'd have to go in the better of her two skirts and a plain cotton blouse. Her mother noticed her sudden glumness and guessed what was wrong. An expert at making something out of nothing, she soon remedied the problem. She took Fiona into her bedroom and rummaged in a trunk until she found what she was after-a navy-and-cream-striped peplum jacket that she'd worn the day she was married. It was too small for her now-four children had broadened her bosom and waist-but it fit Fiona perfectly, showing off her slender figure. Fiona had also borrowed a little brass-and-enamel pansy brooch from her friend Bridget, and Uncle Roddy's lady friend, Grace, had lent her a pretty embroidered purse.
    Her father and her Uncle Roddy had provided the finishing touch - a navy velvet wide-brimmed hat and two red milliner's roses. She'd come in late from work on Friday evening and found them sitting on the table, in her place. Her da had his face behind a newspaper, as always, and her Uncle Roddy was pouring himself some porter. Charlie and Seamie were at the table. Kate was at the stove. Fiona looked, wide-eyed, from the hat to her mother.
    "From your da," her mam had said. "And your Uncle Roddy."
    She'd picked up the hat. It was secondhand and there was a little fray in the velvet on one side where some trimming had come off, but it was nothing the roses wouldn't hide. She knew her mam had picked them out and that her father and Roddy had paid for them. She tried to say thank you, but he throat was tight and her eyes were glistening.
    "Don't you like them, lass?" Roddy asked, concerned.
    "Oh, yes, Uncle Roddy!" she said, finding her voice. "I love them! Thank you ever so much. Thank you, Da!"
    Roddy smiled. "Picked them flowers out meself," he said. Paddy snorted.
    Fiona gave Roddy a hug, then got between her father and his newspaper and gave him one, too. "You shouldn't 'ave, Da. Thank you."
    "It's only a little somet'ing," he said gruffly. "You enjoy yourself tomorro'-' And tell Bristow he'd better take care of you or he'll be answering to me."
    Still holding the hat, Fiona ran her hand over its soft velvet brim. Just when she thought her tears would certainly spill over, Charlie produced; pair of navy kid gloves and they did.
    "Aw, don't be so daft," he said, embarrassed. "They ain't nothing gran' Bought 'em second'and. Just don't want you looking like a dosser."
    Later that night, Fiona bathed and Kate washed her hair for her. Then she ironed her skirt, blouse, and jacket while her mother stitched the roses to her hat. She thought she'd never sleep, but she did and was up early. She washed her face, combed her hair out and pinned it up with her mother's help. Then she dressed, tried her hat on, took it off, then tried it on again, her mother protesting all the while that she would ruin her hair if she didn't stop. Finally, she was ready.
    "Oh, just look at 'er, Paddy," Kate had said wistfully, pinning the borrowed brooch onto her lapel. "Our fIrst is all grown up. And just as bonny as a June rose."
    Charlie, sitting at the table wolfing his breakfast, made a gagging noise.
    Paddy, buttoning his shirt for work, looked at his girl and smiled. "Aye, she's a fine lass. Takes after her mam."
    Fiona stole a shy glance in the small mirror on top of the kitchen mantel and was pleased. Her mam had done a nice job with her hair and the jacket looked crisp and smart.
    She didn't have long to admire herself, for there was a knock on the door and then she was running down the hall to meet Joe. His eyes widened when he saw her and he couldn’t stop himself from kissing her. “You look smashing," he whispered. "Bonnier than I even remembered."
    Fiona was so happy to see him; it had only been two weeks since he'd left, but it felt like months. He looked different-his hair was longer, he'd lost weight. She couldn't wait to have him all to herself, but first, he'd have to chat with her parents. He came into the kitchen, had a cup of tea, and told them all about his new job.
    When her father started holding forth on the union, Fiona decided it was time to go. They headed off to Commercial Street, where they would pick up a city bus. But first, Joe made a detour. At the end of Montague Street, he pulled her into an alley and kissed her long and hard. "Blimey, but I missed you," he said, standing back for a few seconds to look at her face. Then, before she could tell him she'd missed him too, he pulled her close and kissed her again. Finally he took her hand and said, "Come on, stop mauling me. We've got a bus to catch."
    He told her more about Covent Garden as they walked to the bus stop, about the chefs from Claridges’ and the Cafe Royal and the St. James's gentlemen's clubs who wrinkled their noses at everything, about the market porters who carried their baskets stacked on their heads, and the loud and bawdy ladies who made their living shelling peas and walnuts. The bus came, drawn by a team of horses. Joe helped Fiona on and paid their fares, then they climbed to the top deck. It was a fair September day, not too chilly, and they'd be able to see all of London from there.
    Fiona, who'd never ridden on a bus, was beside herself. "Are you sure it's not too dear?" she whispered, worried. "Are you sure you can afford it?' Joe shushed her. The bus took them toward the City, London's center of commerce, and he pointed out the offices of various merchants. She clutched his hand tightly, excited by all the new things she was seeing. One building. taller and grander than the rest, caught her attention. "That's Burton's," he said. "Renovations cost the earth, I'm told. I don't think your father should count on 'is union squeezing an increase out of that bloke anytime soon."
    Now, as they walked down the Brompton Road away from Harrods. Fiona could not keep her eyes off Joe. He was talking about Peterson's again, but stopped suddenly when he realized she was looking at him, and smiling, and not hearing a word he was saying.
    "What?"
    "Nothing."
    "Tell me."
    "I just like looking at you, that's all. You've been away. And now 'ere you are-the same but different. All excited about new things and new people."
    "Well, stop it. You're embarrassing me. If I'm excited, I'm excited for us. For our shop. I'm learning so much, Fee, so much more than I would've it I'd stayed on with me dad, and I'm getting paid well, too. Remember our cocoa tin?"
    "Aye. I've money to give you for it." "Wait till you see 'ow much is in there."
    " 'Ow much?"
    "You'll see."
    "Tell me!"
    "Why not?"
    "Because I 'ave to 'ave something to tempt you to me room with, don't I?”he said, smiling slyly. "Some way of getting you to me lair."
    "So I can meet your mate? 'Arry?" Fiona asked, purposely misunderstanding him.
    " 'E's gone out for the day."
    "Really? What a coincidence."
    "Isn't it?"
    "Why would you want me in your room, then?" she asked, trying not to giggle.
    "Because it needs cleaning and I can't afford a charlady."
    "You bleeder!"
    Fiona and Joe paused at Hyde Park to watch the fine ladies and gentlemen on horseback. When they got to the end of Knightsbridge, they stole a quick look at Buckingham Palace - Fiona wanted to see where the Queen lived-then continued up Piccadilly toward Bond.
    There they looked in the windows of Garrard's, jewelers to the royal family; Mappin & Webb, silver- and goldsmiths; and Liberty's, where all the fashionable people shopped. They passed fabric stores with bolts of silk, damask, and velvet; shoe stores with boots of the softest kid. Fiona was amazed by the colors-red, pink, pale blue. She had only ever seen boots in black or brown. There were windows full of laces and trim, silk flowers for hats, pretty handkerchiefs, lace gloves, beaded purses. There were soap and scent shops, bookshops, flower shops filled with hothouse blooms, and shops that sold gorgeous cakes, biscuits, and candies in pretty boxes.
    Fiona wanted to buy something to take home for her family and agonized over what it would be. She only had a shilling. She wanted a lace handkerchief for her mam, but that wouldn't leave much to get something for her father and brothers and Uncle Roddy. And if she bought the fancy cigarettes she'd seen for her da, what would she do about her mother? With Joe's help, she decided on a pretty tin of cream toffees. Everyone could enjoy those except the baby, but she was too little to care so that was all right.
    Their eyes roved over everything, storing every scrap of knowledge for future use. At the high-class grocer's they noted how the apples were stacked, how each was wrapped in a square of blue tissue. They read ads on buildings and buses. They argued over what was a nicer way to wrap candy -in a white box with a pink satin ribbon or a navy box with a cream one.
    And just when Fiona thought she had seen everything beautiful in the entire city, that the day could hold no more surprises, they found themselves outside of Fortnum & Mason's. A uniformed doorman held the door open. Joe motioned for her to go in.
    "What? In 'ere?" she whispered, uncertain.
    "Aye, go on, will you?"
    "But Joe, it's awfully grand… " The doorman cleared his throat.
    "Go on, Fee, will you? You're blocking the door." With a nudge, he got her inside.
    "Blimey, but it's first-rate, isn't it?" she whispered, looking at the high arched ceilings, the glass cases, the intricately tiled floors. "What are we going to do 'ere?"
    "We're 'aving tea. It's a treat. My surprise. Come on."
    Joe led her from the front of Fortnum's, past all manner of expensive delicacies, toward the tearoom. The hostess seated them in two tufted chairs that faced each other across a low table, and Fiona was so taken by the beauty of the room, and the people in it, that she forgot to be nervous about the expense. The tearoom was a revelation to her. She had no idea things like this existed-this pretty, perfect world where people had nothing better to do than sip tea and nibble cakes. She looked around, her eyes shining, taking it all in, carefully stowing each image away to memory as if she were putting jewels in a safe: the room, done in pale pinks and greens with snowy linens and real roses on the tables; the handsome men and stylish women. The soft music from a piano, snatches of conversation, silky laughter. And best of all, Joe, right across the table from her. It was a beautiful dream, this day, and she wished she could stay in this lovely world and not go back to Whitechapel to be without him again. But she wouldn't think about that now, it would only ruin things. It wasn't Monday yet. She still had him for the rest of today and tomorrow as well, as he was coming back to Whitechapel to spend the night with his family.
    It was nearly half past four when they left Fortnum's, stuffed with finger sandwiches, scones, and cake. The dusk was coming down and the air had turned nippy. They walked for a little ways, then caught a bus. Fiona leaned her head on Joe's shoulder and closed her eyes. Before long, they arrived at Covent Garden; his flat was only two streets from the stop. It took him a few seconds of fumbling with the key to get the door open. Once inside, he lit the gas lamps and made a fire in the stove. While the room was warming, she inspected the flat.
    "This is all yours?" she asked, walking around.
    "Aye, mine and 'Arry's. We've each got our own bed. Couldn't get used to it at first. Too comfortable, too much room. No little brother to kick you all night."
    "And you've a loo? Right inside?"
    Joe laughed. "Aye. Go take a look. It's a wonder."
    When she returned, he had her sit down in front of the stove-its door was wide open and a fire was blazing brightly inside it. Her eyes roved over the mantel. There were masculine odds and ends on it: razors, a clasp knife, a whiskey flask engraved with "H. E.," and a pretty silk purse.
    "Is that your purse or 'Arry's?" she jokingly asked.
    "What?" Joe asked, following her gaze. "Oh. That's… urn… that's probably Millie's."
    "Millie! Millie Peterson?"
    "Aye," he said, giving the coals a shove with a poker. "What's Millie's purse doing 'ere?" she asked indignantly.
    "Well… she comes to visit 'Arry… "
    " 'Ow often?"
    "I don't know! Last Sunday. A few times during the week. And it looks like she came today, too."
    “I see.”
    "What do you see?" he asked, still prodding the coals.
    "She doesn't come to visit 'Arry, she comes to visit you."
    "Oh, Fiona," he groaned. "Don't start this again."
    Fiona was livid. Millie Peterson came here every weekend. She got to see.Joe during the week, too-the cunning little bitch! - while she herself hadn't seen him in a fortnight.
    "What do you do when she comes to visit?"
    "I don't know. Nothing, really."
    She raised an eyebrow.
    "Well, we talk, all of us, or take a stroll. Fiona, don't look at me like that. Millie's a nice, chattery girl. It gets boring being all on me own. And spending a few hours with Millie and 'Arry takes me mind off it. All right? 'Arry's a good bloke and Millie's 'is cousin. She comes to visit 'im. So will you please give over now and not wreck our nice day?"
    "Why didn't you tell me she's been 'anging about?" Fiona asked reproachfully.
    "Because I knew you'd raise 'ell over nothing, like you are now. I didn't take Millie out on the town, did I? And it's not Millie I'm sitting with now, is it?"
    "No," she admitted. She realized she was behaving foolishly again, that her jealousy was getting the better of her. Joe wasn't to blame because Milllie came to the flat, but he just didn't understand: Millie would sell her soul to get him. Well, she wouldn't argue the point. Not today; today was too special. But because she decided to behave didn't mean she would close her eyes to Millie's scheming ways. That purse was a calling card. She was pursuing Joe as eagerly as ever.
    They sat quietly for a few minutes, staring into the fire-Fiona in the chair, Joe on the floor beside her. She ran a conciliatory hand through his hair, playing with his curls. He leaned against her legs and closed his eyes. "Did you like your day out?" he asked her.
    "Like it? It was the best day I ever 'ad-just like a dream! I don't even think it's all sunk in. I can't wait to tell me mam about everything. It's London, the same city I live in, but it's a whole different world. 'Arrods, and all the shops, and tea at Fortnum's. I barely catch my breath from one thing and something else is 'appening. So many surprises!"
    "Well, there's another one," Joe said, getting to his feet.
    Fiona watched him as he crossed the room to his bed, flipped up the mattress, and produced an old cocoa tin. "Our tin!" she exclaimed, sitting up in her chair. "Let's see it! 'Ow much 'ave we got now? 'Ere, I've a shilling for it."
    Joe sat down by her feet again, smoothed her skirt over her knees, and dumped the contents of the can into her lap. He smiled as she excitedly counted their money. "Like a greedy squirrel with a pile of peanuts, you are… "
    "Shush, Joe! Twelve pounds, twelve shillings, fourpence… twelve and fifteen… twelve and eighteen… nineteen… " she counted. She looked up at him in amazement. "Thirteen pounds'?"
    "Go on, there's more… "
    "Thirteen and six… fourteen and ten… fifteen… blimey! We've got nearly fifteen quid 'ere!" she cried. "Where'd it all come from'? We only 'ad twelve and six when you left!"
    "Peterson pays me sixteen shillings a week, Fiona. Same as 'e pays 'is own nephew," Joe said. "And if I 'ave to make a delivery to an 'otel or a restaurant, I get a tip. My room is free. I spend a little on meals and the odd paper or a pint, and that's it. The rest goes in the tin."
    "Joe, this is so much more than we thought we'd 'ave by now… you saved up so much… maybe we can 'ave our shop sooner," she said breathlessly. "You said a year, but at this rate… " She was chattering so fast, so carried away by her visions of their shop, that she didn't see him pull a small piece of tissue out of his waistcoat pocket, and hardly felt it as he took her left hand and pushed a thin gold band over her ring finger.
    "Just one last little surprise," he said softly.
    She looked at the ring and gasped. "It's for me'?" she whispered. "It ain't for your mam."
    "Oh, Joe!" She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. "It's lovely! The loveliest thing I've ever 'ad. What's the stone'?"
    "Sapphire. Like your eyes. Remember the blue stone we found by the river'? I told you I'd do better and I 'ave. It's only second' and, mind, but just you wait, one day you'll 'ave a brand-new one from a fancy jeweler's with a stone as big as a shilling."
    "I couldn't like it any more than I like this one." It was an impossibly thin gold band, with a tiny sapphire, just a chip. But to Fiona, it was breathtaking.
    Joe said nothing as he took her hand and examined the ring, twisting it back and forth on her finger. After a minute or so, he cleared his throat. "You're right about our savings. They'll mount up faster now that I'm earning more money, and it looks like we'll be ready to open our shop sooner than we thought. So… " he said, looking up at her, "… I want us to be courting now -all official-like."
    Fiona grinned ear-to-ear. "Courting'? You mean, I'll 'ave to tell me da? For real'?"
    "Yes, for real," Joe said, smiling at her reaction. "If you’ll 'ave me, silly lass."
    "And I'll 'ave to tell all me other suitors that they 'aven't a chance anymore?
    "Oh, aye," he said, rolling his eyes. "I'm sure they'll all be 'eartbroken."
    "You had this planned all along, didn't you?" she asked, still unable to take her eyes off her ring. "You knew you were going to do this all day and I ‘adn t a clue.
    Joe nodded, pleased with himself.
    "Well, I 'aven't made up my mind yet," she teased, determined not to let him think he had the upper hand completely. "Why do you want to go courting with me?"
    "What do you mean, why?"
    "Just… why?"
    "Feel sorry for you. Plain girl like yourself, you'll never find anybody else."
    "That's not it, Joe."
    "No'?"
    "No. It's because… "
    "… your da paid me to."
    Fiona started to giggle. "It's because you love me, so say it."
    Joe snorted. "'Who told you that?"
    "You did, remember'? By the river'? You said it, I 'eard you -you love me."
    "I never said that."
    "You did. You love me, I know it. So tell me one more time and I might say yes… "
    Joe, who'd been sitting, got up on his knees, pulled her close, and kissed her.
    Fiona broke away. "Say it, Joe," she insisted.
    He kissed her again.
    "Say it… "
    He silenced her with another kiss, and another, until she gave up altogether and surrendered to his kisses. It felt wonderful to be with him like this, in a warm room all by themselves. She'd wanted to touch him, to hold him, all day. And now there was no one to see them-no parents, no one to interfere. Free of any constraints, she kissed him passionately, with her lips, her tongue. She ran her hands over him-his shoulders, his chest, claiming him again. She felt his hands on her breasts. They moved to her neck, where he undid the buttons of her jacket, one by one. As he pulled the jacket off her arms, she gave him a long look, then said, "If I take me camisole off, are you going to 'and it back to me'? Like you did at the river'?"
    "Not a chance."
    She untied the strings that kept the garment together and slipped it off, letting it hang about her waist. "Now you," she said, crossing her arms over her breasts.
    In a flash, Joe had his vest and shirt off. Looking at him, Fiona felt a familiar desire stir deep inside. Could you call a man beautiful? she wondered. Because that's what he was-more than handsome-beautiful. From the line of his jaw to the curve of his strong shoulders, to the rippling muscles of his belly.
    "What are you looking at?" he asked self-consciously.
    "You." She pressed her palm to his chest, fascinated to find that the bit of hair he had there was darker than that on his head. And under his arms, too. And lower, under his belly button. The sight of his naked skin thrilled her and she could feel the heat in the pit of her belly grow. She kissed the hollow beneath his throat, and then the shallow indentation in the middle of his chest. Then she pressed her ear against him and listened for the sound of his heart. When she kissed him there, she heard him groan softly, felt his fingers tighten on her waist.
    And then his lips were on hers again, hard and insistent. He kissed her mouth, her throat. He brushed tendrils of her long black hair aside and nuzzled her breasts. Eyes half-closed, she said a quick prayer that this time he wouldn't stop. Then she stifled a giggle. God was hardly the person to ask for assistance at a time like this. She knew what she wanted-Joe's touch, his kisses. She wanted him to make love to her. He raised his head, and she sighed at the loss of his lips.
    "Fee, I want you… I want to make love to you… "
    She nodded, drunk with pleasure, eager for his kisses again. "I know a way… nothing will' appen… "
    He scooped her out of the chair and carried her to his bed. She watched as he unbuckled his belt, his back to her, dropped his pants and then his drawers. And then he turned around and she felt a sudden knot of fear in her stomach. Good God, she thought. Look at the size of it!
    He began to undress her. He was quick and intent on his purpose and had her skirt, boots, and stockings off in no time. And all the while, she couldn't take her eyes off the object of her uneasy interest. She'd never seen one, never imagined it would be so large and… well, protruding. As he tugged at her knickers, she started to feel very much like a drunk when the gin wears off. The burning desire she'd felt just minutes ago had disappeared. Now she only felt nervous. They were going to make love, not just touch and kiss, and she had only the vaguest idea of what was done and not the first clue how to do it.
    When she was naked, Joe nudged her over on the bed, laid down beside her, and pulled her to him. She could feel it against her thigh. He was so quiet; there was an urgency about him and she wished he'd say something. Was he nervous at all? He didn't seem it. It had all felt so good a minute ago, maybe it would again if she could just relax.
    She felt his kisses on her neck, felt him stroke her back, her bottom, and then her thighs. His hand was between her legs, his fingers gently opening her… and then something else was there, pushing itself against her and her whole body tensed.
    "Fee, what's wrong?"
    She looked away, not answering.
    "What's the matter? Do you not want to? It's all right, we don't 'ave to… "
    "No, I… I want to think… it's just… "
    "What, luv?"
    "Well… that, Joe!" she blurted out, pointing between his legs. "It's huge! Where the 'ell's it going to go?"
    Joe looked down at himself, then burst out laughing. He rolled over onto his back and laughed harder, until there were tears in his eyes.
    "What's so bloody funny?" she asked, sitting up.
    When he could catch his breath, he answered her. "I don't know where it's going, Fee. I was 'oping you did."
    " 'Aven't a clue," she said, giggling herself now, relieved. When their laughter subsided, he took her in his arms and said again that she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to; they could stop right now and get dressed and it would be fine, but she said she did want to, and then he kissed her mouth and said, "Thank God," because he wanted her so badly, he didn't think it would ever go down on its own.
    After a few false starts, they got it right. Fiona felt a sharp pain, just for a second, but he kissed her, and told her it was all right and she relaxed, and then there was no more pain, and he was inside of her. It felt nice, having him so close, possessing him. She felt him move inside of her, heard him whisper her name, and was warmed again by her desire for him. But then, after what seemed to her like only seconds, it all ended. He groaned and pulled out of her. Then he rolled onto his back; his eyes were closed, his chest heaving. Something had happened for him-she felt it on her belly, all warm and wet. Was something supposed to happen for her? Was that it?
    "Was it all right?" she asked in a whisper.
    .Joe opened his eyes and turned his head toward her. He was smiling.”More than all right. I almost didn't make it out in time. I can' ardly see straight."
    Fiona smiled, pleased that he was pleased. She hoped that when he caught his breath, he might kiss her again. She felt so warm and restless, so uncomfortable. After a minute or so, he got out of bed, fumbled in his pants, and produced a handkerchief. He mopped up the puddle on her belly, folded the cloth over, then pressed it between her legs.
    "Only a bit," he said, examining the cloth. "Bit of what?"
    "Blood."
    "Blood? Jesus, Joe!"
    "It's nothing, Fee. It 'appens to lasses the first time," he said knowledgeably.
    "Oh, really? Since when are you such an expert?"
    "Lads' talk. The blokes 'ere are a bawdy lot." He winked at her and got back into bed. "I've learned a few things since I started working 'ere and not just about cabbages."
    He took her in his arms again, kissed her mouth, her ears, her neck, her rosebud nipples, and when he felt her breath coming hot and hard, he moved down lower.
    She sat up; her hands flew down to cover herself. "Joe! Don't," she whispered.
    Gently, he moved her hands away, kissing her palms. "Let me, Fee. It'll be nice."
    She protested, and tried to pull her hands free of his grip, but he held them firmly. He kissed her where she did not want him to, and then tasted her there. And slowly, her protests turned into soft moans as his tongue explored her, teased her, taught her what this part of herself was for. She sank back on the bed, helpless against the hot, liquid sensations rippling through her, the sweet shuddering tremors that seemed to come from her very core. And then it was she who was gripping his hands tightly, and calling his name, and twisting and thrusting herself against him, until the fire inside of her crested and broke, engulfing her in wave after molten wave of the sweetest pleasure she had ever known.
    Panting, her eyes still closed, Fiona felt Joe's mouth on her belly, her chest, her throat, as he made his way to her mouth. He propped himself up on one elbow, kissed her, and kissed her again, until she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
    "I love you, Fee," he said, his eyes filled with tenderness. "I always 'ave and I always will"
    "I love you, too, Joe," Fiona murmured. "Always… "
    She closed her eyes. So that's what it was all about; now she knew. No wonder everyone made such a fuss. She felt so good, so warm and sleepy and happy.
    She felt Joe smoothing back wisps of hair from her face. "Sleep for five minutes, luv. And then we 'ave to go. Told your father I'd 'ave you back by eight and it's getting on."
    "Mmm-hmm," she mumbled, nestling into his pillow. She heard him rummaging around, sorting out his clothes from hers, and felt him sit down on the bed to put his socks on. She heard him padding back and forth, clearing up. And then she heard him stop abruptly. He was still for a few seconds, then he bolted over to one of the street-side windows.
    "Christ!" he yelled, peering out the window down the street. "Fee, get up! Quick! It's 'Arry, me mate!"
    Fiona sat up groggily and blinked her eyes. She heard laughter from the street, a male voice and a female one. "I thought 'e was out for the day," she said.
    "Well, now 'e's in," Joe said, hustling her out of the bed. " 'Ere, take your things and go in the loo," he ordered, piling her clothes into her arms. "You can dress in there. 'E'll never know. It'll look like you're 'aving a piss."
    Fiona, stark-naked, stumbled off toward the bathroom. Just as she got to the door, she stopped. "Joe! Me camisole… it's not 'ere… "
    Joe tore up the bed he was frantically making, but there was no camisole. He flipped up the mattress; still no camisole. Then he ran over to the chair; it was on the floor. He balled it up and tossed it to Fiona just as they heard I he downstairs door open. She caught it and he dashed across the room once more to straighten out the bed. When Harry and Millie came in, the door to the loo was closed and Joe was seated in front of the fire reading the paper.
    "Old chap!" Harry exclaimed.
    "Hello, Joe," Millie trilled, smiling warmly.
    "Didn't expect to find you here," Harry continued. "Thought you were gadding about town with a lady friend… "
    "A what?" Millie cut in brusquely.
    "A lady friend," Harry said. Millie, staring at her cousin, said nothing. Harry, obviously thinking she hadn't heard, or didn't understand, added: "A senorita. A demoiselle. A girl"
    "I heard you," Millie said, looking daggers at her cousin. Her sweet smile and merry chatter were gone. "You told me a friend, Harry. You said Joe was out with a friend."
    There was an embarrassing silence. Harry shifted from foot to foot. Joe pretended to be absorbed in his newspaper.
    "Well" Harry shrugged. "He was."
    "But you told me -"
    "What does it matter, Mills?" Harry was smiling, but his tone and expression told her she was being difficult.
    At that, Millie collected herself. As quickly as they'd come, the angry tone and black looks were gone and the smile was back. "Well," she said brightly, rubbing her hands together. "The night's turned chilly. And I, for one, need a cup of tea. Anyone else?"
    "I will," Harry said. Joe declined, saying he'd drunk enough to sink a ship. "Have you?" Millie asked, bustling about proprietarily with the teapot.
    "Why? What were you doing that required so much tea-drinking?"
    Joe told Millie and Harry about his day, what he'd seen, where he'd been. Neither Millie, Joe, nor Harry heard the bathroom door open; none of them was aware of Fiona standing in the doorway. She'd finished dressing and was watching Millie flutter about Joe. As she did, her jaw tightened. Millie Peterson, she decided, was a poaching bitch who never knew when to quit. Well, she'd learn. No scenes, no brawls, nothing that would reflect badly on Joe. There were other ways. She undid the brooch from her lapel and dropped it into her skirt pocket.
    As Joe finished telling them about his adventures, Millie asked, "And what lucky girl had the honor of accompanying you?"
    "I did," said Fiona.
    Harry jumped to his feet. "I say!" he exclaimed. "Forgive my dreadful manners, I didn't know you were here. Joe didn't tell us, but then, we never gave him the chance, did we? Harry Eaton, pleased to meet you. Please take my chair. This is my cousin, Millie Peterson."
    "Pleased to meet you, 'Arry Eaton. I'm Fiona Finnegan and I already know Millie."
    "Do you? Isn't that wonderful?" Harry exclaimed. He turned to Millie and blanched. Her mouth was smiling, but her eyes… the fury in them was sharp enough to impale somebody.
    "Delightful," Millie said.
    "Do sit down. You must have a cup of tea with us."
    "Thank you, but I can't," Fiona demurred. "It's getting on and we - Joe and I-'ave to get back to Whitechapel. We're expected shortly."
    Fiona and Harry continued to make small talk as Joe gathered his jacket and cap. Millie stared at Fiona, saying nothing. When Joe was ready, they said their good-byes and headed for the door. As Joe opened it, Fiona turned and cried, "Oh, no! Me brooch! It's gone, I've lost it!"
    "Did you' ave it on when we got' ere?" he asked her.
    "I'm sure I did. It must've come off somewhere inside." "Where were you sitting?" Harry asked. "Maybe it's there."
    Millie didn't budge. "What kind was it?" she asked archly. "Ruby? Emerald?"
    "Brass," Fiona answered.
    "How appropriate."
    With Harry down on his hands and knees and Joe searching the loo, Fiona, aware that Millie was watching her, walked over to Joe's bed, flipped back the pillow and said, "Found it!"
    Walking back across the room, she pinned the brooch to her lapel, smiling. As she passed the stove, Millie, acid-eyed, said, "I wonder how it got there?
    Fiona winked at her. "I don't," she said.
    Harry, dusting himself off, and Joe, emerging from the loo, both missed the exchange.
    "Where was it?" Joe asked.
    "Oh, just over by… blimey! Is that the time?" she exclaimed, looking at the carriage clock. "We'd better 'urry, Joe. My da will kill us."
    When they were outside, Joe clapped Fiona on the back and said, "I'm real proud of you, Fee. You were polite to Millie and didn't row with 'er. Be’aved just like a lady."
    More like a dockside tart, Fiona thought. She smiled sweetly.
    "" hope you see how daft you've been. Millie knows what's what." She does now, Fiona thought.
    As they approached the main thoroughfare, they heard the noisy cloppping of horses. Joe grabbed her hand. "C'mon, there's the bus. We can still make Whitechapel by eight if we catch it and your father won't skin me,alive.”
    "No, but 'e'll skin me when 'e finds out I'm courting with a no-account coster."
    "No, 'e won't, 'e'll be proud of you, Fee. You made a good deal," he said, running faster, for the bus was slowing just yards from the stop.
    "I what?" she asked breathlessly.
    He grinned at her. "You made a good deal… traded one cherry for a lifetime of apples and oranges."
    Fiona turned bright red. They reached the back of the bus just as the driver snapped the reins. Joe hoisted her on, then jumped on himself. laughing and panting, they tramped down the aisle, garnering a disapproving stare from a prim matron, then settled themselves into a seat as the horses nosed their way east, toward the river and Whitechapel
    
    MILLIE PETERSON ran up the curving staircase from her front hall, trailed by her maid, Olive. She burst through the door of her bedroom, grabbed a crystal scent bottle from her dresser and hurled it against the wall. It shattered loudly, spraying lilac water everywhere.
    "Oh, miss," Olive cried, her plain face a picture of dismay.
    "Never mind that!" Millie snapped. "Help me get my boots off." She sat down on her bed. Olive knelt beside her with a buttonhook. "I knew it, Olive. The second I got to the flat, and saw how clean it was, I knew she was calling to see him. And I was right! Harry invited me to lunch-all the way ill Richmond. 'We'll take a train,' he said. 'I fancy a jaunt to the country.' The dirty little collaborator."
    "But that sounds like a nice invitation, miss," Olive said, pulling a boot off.
    "Well, it wasn't. He only wanted to get me out of the flat for the day so that Joe could be alone with his little trollop."
    "But if you were in Richmond, miss, 'ow do you know she was at the flat?"
    "Before we left, when Harry's back was turned, I put my purse on the mantel. After lunch I told him I'd lost it and acted upset. We went back to the restaurant and when it wasn't there, he said I must've left it on the train or in the flat. We checked at the station, and no one had turned it in, Of course, so he had to bring me back to the flat. And when we got there…" -Millie's eyes narrowed-"…she was there. They’d made love, Olive.”
    "They didn't!" Olive whispered, her eyes widening.
    "They did. I'm certain of it," Millie said. She sniffed, then made a face."God, that smells strong. Clean it up, will you? And open the window. I'll, going to choke soon."
    Olive gave her a look that said soon couldn't possibly be soon enough. Millie collapsed on her bed and groaned in frustration. After Joe and Fiona left, she'd sat in silence, staring at Joe's bed, imagining them in each other's arms. Now, in her own room, fury boiled up inside her. "I don't know why he prefers her, Olive," she said. "Honestly, I don't."
    "Maybe you 'aven't given 'im the right signs, miss."
    "I've given him every sign I can think of. He must be blind."
    "If you ask me," Olive said, picking up pieces of glass, "it's not the lad who's blind."
    Millie sat up. "What do you mean by that?"
    "Well… 'e works for your father, doesn't' e?"
    "So?"
    "It's not right, miss, is it? It's not proper to chase after your employer’s daughter. Try and see it from 'is angle. 'E probably thinks your father would be angry. Probably thinks 'e 'as someone better than 'imself picked out for you."
    Millie looked at Olive in amazement. She was right. It wasn't that Joe wasn't interested in her, of course it wasn't. It was that he thought he wasn’t, good enough for her! She was an heiress; she could have anyone, so why would she pick a penniless coster? It was all so clear now. Joe admired her father and looked up to him and it was out of respect for him that he'd never forced his attentions on her. How could she have been so stupid?
    "Olive, you clever girl! That's it exactly!" She plumped herself down at her vanity. She needed time with Joe and the right opportunity. Had he found her untouchable? Well, she would show him just how touchable she was. Oh, how she would! Men had powerful, uncontrollable urges. They simply couldn't help themselves. That's what her aunt told her when she'd started to bleed and they'd had their talk. "I've got to be bolder, Olive," she said, regarding herself in the mirror. "Show him I'm his for the asking." She bit her lip. "If only I could get him alone without Harry or Dad hovering."
    "What about Guy Fawkes night, miss?"
    Every autumn Millie's father held a huge Guy Fawkes party for his employees and customers. It was only about a month and a half away. As always, there would be an enormous bonfire, piles of food, and rivers of drink. Joe would come to the party; he'd have to. And in the dark. amid all the frolicking and fireworks, she would get him alone. She'd ask him if he wanted to see the house or some such thing. He'd have plenty of liquor in him by then and fewer inhibitions. Some men needed a push; she'd give him one.
    Guy Fawkes night was eagerly anticipated by all who worked for Tommy Peterson. It was the night he handed out bonuses. Most companies did it at Christmas, but he was too busy with holiday business to spare the time then. It was also the night he gave out promotions. Joe was in line for one even though he was only newly hired. Millie knew this from suppertime conversations with her father. He spoke constantly of Joe's talent and ambition. He noted how the Covent Garden business was already making gains as a result of his ability. Millie guessed he saw a lot of himself in Joe. She couldn't say the same for Harry; he'd been there for three months and still wasn't making much progress, poor dear. She knew his heart wasn't in it, and little by little, her father was discovering that, too. He'd had great hopes for Harry, but those hopes were now being transferred to Joe. Although she hadn't discussed it with her father, she knew that were Joe to come to him with a proposal of marriage one day, he would be delighted. Joe was fast becoming the son her father had always wanted.
    "Olive, has my dress for the party come yet?"
    "Yes, miss, it's in your closet. It's ever so pretty."
    Millie asked her to get it. She inspected it, frowning. It was a royal-blue taffeta with cap sleeves and a full skirt. It was pretty, but pretty wasn't good enough. She needed something stunning. She wouldn't go to her dressmaker, she'd go to Knightsbridge for something truly spectacular. It would cost, but with any luck. by the time the bill came her father would be too delighted with the news of her engagement to scold her.
    "Are you still cleaning up that perfume? Go downstairs and tell Harris I'll need the carriage first thing tomorrow. I'm going shopping."
    "Shopping? For what, miss?"
    "Well, for a new perfume bottle, for one thing," she said. "And a dress. A very special dress."
    "Another dress? What's the occasion, miss?"
    "With any luck, Olive, my engagement."
    
Chapter 9
    
    From where she stood, near the window in the parlor, Fiona could hear the rustle of dead leaves being swept along the street by a forceful wind. She drew the curtains against the encroaching night, shivering at the thought of the solitary figure who had made the darkness his own.
    The Whitechapel Murderer had a new name now. He'd written a letter to the police exulting in the carnage he'd wreaked. It had been published in all the papers. He'd saved blood from one of his victims to write with, he'd explained, but it had gone hard in the bottle, so he'd had to use red ink. He'd signed it, "Yours truly, Jack the Ripper."
    Bloody ghoul, Fiona thought. She wasn't allowed to sit on the step with her friends past dark anymore or go to the river by herself. Her evenings were spent inside now and she didn't like it one bit. Kneeling down by the settee, she reached underneath it and pulled out a cigar box. In it were a few sheets of paper and two envelopes she'd bought to write to Joe and her Uncle Michael. She returned to the kitchen. A fire was blazing in the hearth; her whole family was there except her father, who was working.
    Curran, the foreman at Oliver's, had asked him to fill in for the night watchman, who was sick with influenza. Fiona missed him being home in his usual spot by the fire, but she'd see him in the morning. She'd hear him come in. She liked the sound of him coming home, his approaching steps on the cobblestones, his whistling. It made her feel safe and secure.
    She got a pen and a bottle of ink from the cupboard and sat down at the table. Her mother was in her rocker darning. Charlie sat in his father's chair, reading a book he'd borrowed from Mr. Dolan, next door, on America. Normally he would've been out with the lads, but with both his father and Roddy gone, he'd stayed home to keep his mother company and make sure Jack didn't slide down the chimney and murder them all. Seamie was playing with his soldiers. Eileen was in her basket.
    Fiona thought for a minute about what she would write to Joe. There wasn't much to report. Not much had happened on Montague Street in the few days since she'd last seen him. The biggest news was their courtship. She remembered that night with a smile. Her mother had been all misty-eyed, delighted that Fiona would have such a good, hardworking lad for a husband, happy that she would have her heart's desire, her childhood sweetheart. No mother could wish for more, she'd said. If all her children made such good matches, she would count herself lucky.
    Her da, however, had been a different matter. When she'd come in bursting to show off her ring and tell her news, he'd sat in his chair looking gruff and saying nothing. After Joe left, he let it be known that seventeen was far too young for any lass of his to be getting married. And he hoped she had a long courtship in mind, because to his thinking, nineteen was the youngest a girl should marry. Her mother had put a finger to her lips, warning her not to start. Later, when he went out to the pub, she reassured Fiona that he'd come around, that he was not quite ready to lose his girl yet. "Give him a little time to get used to the idea, " she'd said. And for once, Fiona followed her mother's advice. She hadn't argued, knowing if she did, he'd suddenly decide thirty was the right age to marry. The next day he invited,Joe for a pint. She didn't know what transpired, but he was in a cheerful mood when he got back. The following day, he'd revised nineteen to eighteen.
    Was this the way you handled men? she wondered. Nod, agree, tell them what they wanted to hear, then go about your business just as you'd planned? It was how her mother handled her da. She put her pen to paper and started telling Joe all about her father's change of heart.
    "Who you writing to, Fee?" Charlie asked. "Joe and then Uncle Michael."
    "Let me write a page to Uncle Michael when you're done, would you?" "Mmm-hmm," she said, bent over her paper, writing carefully so the pen didn't blot.
    "Wish they lived' ere, your aunt and uncle," Kate sighed. "Especially now I hat they're expecting. 'E'll be your cousin. Or she. 'E's a lovely man, your father's brother. A bit of a devil, as I recall. Though maybe 'e's settled 'imself down by now-"
    Her words were cut off by a frantic battering on the door. "Blimey!" Charlie exclaimed, jumping to his feet. "Missus! Missus!" a man's voice shouted. "Open up!"
    "Stay put, Mam," Charlie said, moving off down the hallway. Within seconds, he was back in the kitchen with a policeman in tow.
    "Mrs. Finnegan?" the officer asked breathlessly. "I'm P. C. Collins… "
    "Aye?" Kate said,standing.
    "Can you come quickly, ma'am… it's your 'usband… "
    "My God! What is it?"
    " 'E's 'ad an accident down the docks. They've taken 'im to 'ospital. Can you come along right quick?"
    "What 'appened?" Fiona cried. Her pen clattered to the table, splashing ink on her letter. An ugly blot spread across the page.
    " 'E fell, miss. From a loop'ole… " the bobby said.
    She held his gaze, waiting for him to finish. Oliver's was a tall building, six stories high. It could've been the first story. Oh, please God, she prayed, let it be the first story.
    The bobby looked away. "From the fifth story."
    "Noooo… " Kate shrieked, covering her face with her hands. Fiona ran to her mother, catching her as she sank to the floor.
    The officer looked at Charlie. "Please, son… there isn't much time… "
    Charlie snapped into action. "Mam… Mam!" he barked. "Get your shawl on. Fee, get Eileen wrapped up. Come 'ere, Seamie… " As he put Seamie's boots on, Fiona knotted their mother's shawl around her shoulders. She picked up Eileen, tucked a blanket around her, snuffed the lamps, and banked the fire. Officer Collins led Kate outside. Charlie ran to the Bristows. Within minutes, Mr. Bristow was in his shed at the bottom of the street harnessing his horse.
    The noise and commotion brought several of the neighbors out. Anne Dolan came running over. "Fiona, what is it? What's 'appened?" she asked.
    "Me da's 'ad an accident. We've… we've got to get to 'ospital… "
    " 'Ere," Mrs. Dolan said, reaching into her skirt pocket, " 'ere's money for an 'ackney cab."
    "Thank you, Mrs. Dolan, but Mr. Bristow's bringing 'is cart round." They heard the sound of clopping hooves from the end of the street and then Peter Bristow was at their door. Rose Bristow had come outside and was trying to comfort Kate. "Climb up next to Peter, luv, 'urry," she said. "I'll come right after. Soon as I can get the kids seen to. It'll be all right. Your Paddy's a tough old bugger."
    P. C. Collins helped Kate up, then he piled onto the back of the cart with Fiona, Charlie, and the little ones.
    "Giddyap!" Mr. Bristow barked, snapping the reins sharply. The cart lurched forward. As they trotted along through the dark streets, Fiona, cradling a whimpering Eileen, looked at Charlie, who held a frightened Seamie in his lap. She didn't dare speak her thoughts aloud, for fear of further upsetting their mother, but her eyes told her brother that she was terrified. She heard Mr. Bristow urging his horse on, heard him talking to Kate, and then she heard traffic and saw more streetlights, and knew they were near the Whitechapel Road. Her thoughts raced. How could her father have fallen? He knew Oliver's like the back of his hand. Only fools or drunks fell. Maybe he landed on a pile of sacking or coils of rope, something to break his fall. Maybe it wasn't as bad as the constable said. She started to pray again, feverishly, to Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, any saint she could think of, to please, please help her da.
    The cart finally pulled up in front of the hospital. Charlie was out of it before it stopped. P. C. Collins swung Seamie down. Fiona jumped down with Eileen in her arms. Kate was up the steps immediately. Mr. Bristow shouted that he'd be in as soon as he secured the cart. Inside, one of the two sisters who staffed the front desk stopped them and asked Kate which patient she was here to see.
    "Paddy Finnegan. 'E's me 'usband. 'E 'ad an accident… " Her voice caught.
    "Finnegan… " the sister repeated, running a finger down her roster. She looked up at Kate. "The one from the docks?"
    "Aye," Charlie answered.
    "First floor. Top of those stairs and turn left. There's a man up there already. A constable. He said he was your lodger."
    Kate nodded and turned toward the stairs.
    "Just a minute," the second sister said officiously. "She can't go up there with all those children. It's a hospital ward… "
    "Sister Agatha!" came the sharp reprimand. "Never mind, Mrs.Finnegan. Go, dear. Hurry!"
    Kate ran to the stairs. Fiona followed, slowed down by the baby. She was closer to the sisters' station than they thought and she could hear them even as she neared the staircase. " at times we must bend the rules for reasons of compassion, Sister Agatha this is the last chance those children have to see their father… "
    "Oh, no… no!" Fiona sobbed, her voice echoing off the walls of the cavernous lobby. She handed Eileen to P. C. Collins, and then she was running, right behind her mother. They pushed the doors to the ward open together. A shattering sight greeted them.
    Paddy lay in a bed near the front of the long, open room that was the men's ward. His eyes were closed. He was mumbling, rolling his head from side to side. His breathing was shallow and labored and his face, drained of all color, was slick with sweat. As they drew near, a wave of pain gripped him. He writhed against it, pleading for it to stop. Fiona saw that his arms were scraped raw, and that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, where his right leg used to be.
    Sitting next to his bed, in his blue uniform, was Roddy. He turned when he heard them approach. His face was wet with tears. "Oh, Kate… " he said.
    Kate stumbled to the bed. "Paddy?" she whispered. "Paddy, can you ‘ear me?”
    He opened his eyes and looked at her, but didn't know her. Another wave of pain slammed into him and this time he screamed, arching his back against it.
    Unable to bear it, Fiona covered her ears. " 'Elp me da," she moaned.
    "Somebody please 'elp 'im." Eileen, terrified, was shrieking in the constable's arms. Seamie buried his head in Charlie's legs. Seconds later, two sisters and a doctor were at her father's bedside. While the sisters held him, the doctor injected a syringe of morphine into his arm. After what seemed like an eternity but was only seconds, his agony eased.
    "Mrs. Finnegan?" the doctor, a tall, gray-haired man, asked. "Aye… "
    "I'm afraid I must tell you… your husband doesn't have much longer.
    His legs were crushed in the fall. We were forced to amputate the right one immediately or he would have bled to death." He paused. "He has other injuries as well and he's haemorrhaging… bleeding inside. We're trying to keep him out of pain, but he can't take much more… I'm sorry."
    Kate covered her face with both hands and sobbed. Fiona went to her father's bedside and took his hand. She was dizzy with shock. Her mind could not understand this. Hadn't she just said good-bye to him on his way to work? Now he was in a hospital bed, his body broken. It can't be, she thought, staring at his hand, so big against hers. It's not possible…
    "Fee… "
    "Da! What is it?"
    He swallowed. "Water."
    She snatched a jug of water from another patient's night table. "Mam! Mam!" she shouted, pouring some into a glass. She supported her father's head with one hand and held the glass to his lips with the other.
    Kate was at his side in an instant. "Paddy?" she said, trying to smile through her tears. "Oh, God… Paddy… "
    "Kate… " he rasped, his chest heaving with the effort of talking. "Sit me up." The wild, glassy look in his eyes had receded; he knew his family.
    Slowly, gently, Kate and Fiona eased him forward, stopping when he cried out, and propped his pillow behind him. His breathing became frighteningly ragged; he closed his eyes for a few seconds until the hitching in his chest lessened. Marshalling his remaining resources, he drew his family around him.
    He motioned for Eileen. P. C. Collins gave her to Kate, who set her gently down on the bed. He held her close in his damaged arms, kissed her hand and her forehead, then gave her back to Kate. Seamie, relieved to hear his father's voice, went bounding toward him. Fiona grabbed his arm to slow him and told him in a faltering voice to be careful.
    "Why?" he asked reproachfully, backing away. "Because Da 'as a bad 'urt."
    "Where?"
    "On 'is leg, Seamie."
    Seamie looked at the lower half of his father's body. Sucking on his lower lip, he looked at Fiona, then said, "But Da's leg is gone."
    Fiona, in shock, awkward, but tender with her baby brother, said, "One leg's gone, Seamie, but the 'urt is on the other one."
    Seamie nodded. Then, soft as a mouse, he went to his father. He kissed his knee and patted it, his tiny fingers light and gentle. "All better, Da?" he asked.
    "Aye, Seamie," Paddy whispered, reaching for his son. He clutched the, boy, kissed his cheek, and let him go.
    He called for Charlie next and told him that he was the man of the house now and that he must take care of his mother and brother and sisters.
    "No, Da, you'll get better… "
    Paddy shushed him, then asked him to go to his waistcoat, hanging on a chair at the foot of his bed, and get his watch. Charlie did so. Paddy told him it had once been his grandfather's, now it was his. "You're a good lad, Charlie. Take care of them. Look after them."
    Charlie nodded and turned away from the bed. His shoulders were shaking.
    Paddy turned to Fiona, still at his bedside, and took her hand. She looked down at their two hands, her tears flowing.
    “Fee… "
    She looked up at her father's face. His blue eyes held hers. "Promise me, lass," he said, with violent emotion, "that you'll keep hold of your dream no matter what it takes. You can do it. Get your shop, you and Joe, and never mind about people who tell you you can't… promise me… "
    "I promise, Da," Fiona said, choking back her tears. "Good lass. I'll be watching you. I love you, Fiona." "I love you, too, Da."
    Paddy turned to Roddy; he took his hand. The two men looked at each other. No words passed between them; none were needed. Paddy released him and Roddy walked silently away. Paddy's breathing was labored again. He lay quiet, not speaking for a moment, just gazing at Kate. She was crying and could not lift her head to look at him.
    When he could speak again, he touched his fingers to her face. "Don't cry, luv, don't cry," he said softly. "Do you remember that day at the church, all those years ago? The day I first laid eyes on you? You were no more than a girl. So bonny. Running in the snow, late for Mass. And me, back from the tuckshop with a bacon sandwich. I stuffed it in me pocket, followed you in and stunk up the whole church with the smell of it. You were the most beautiful t'ing I'd ever seen."
    Kate smiled through her tears. "And ever since, you wished you'd never laid eyes on me. I kept you from roaming. From America. Kept you 'ere in London."
    "You stole my heart. And I've never once wanted it back. Only happiness I've known, I've known because of you. Loved you from that day at St. Pat's and I always will."
    Kate bowed her head and wept.
    The hitching started in Paddy's chest again. A drop of blood appeared in the corner of his mouth and trickled down his jaw. Fiona wiped it away with the edge of his bedsheet.
    "Kate," he said, his voice a whisper now. "Listen to me… there's two quid in the lining of me old suitcase. The lads at Oliver's will take a collection; you're not to be too proud to take it. You'll need it." Kate nodded, struggling with her tears. "Write to Michael and tell him… " he started to say, but his pain cut him off. He gasped and gripped her hand. "… tell him what's happened. He'll send money. And make sure I'm not buried with me wedding ring on. It's in the little dish on top of the mantel. Take it and pawn it."
    “No."
    “Do it, it’s just a ring…” he said fiercely.
    Kate said she would and he slumped back against the pillow. She dug in her pocket for her handkerchief and wiped her eyes, then she turned back to her husband. His chest was still, his face peaceful. He was gone.
    “Oh, Paddy, no!” She wailed, throwing herself upon his body. “Don’t leave us! Please, please, don’t leave us!”
    Fiona saw her father’s face, heard her mother’s cries, and felt the bottom drop out of her world.
    
Chapter 10
    
    “Fiona, luv… eat a little something," Rose Bristow pleaded. "A bit of stew, a sandwich?"
    Fiona, sitting at her kitchen table, smiled wanly. "I couldn't, Mrs. Bristow."
    "Child, you 'ave to eat. Your clothes are 'anging off you. Just a bite? Come on, lass. Joe'll be furious with me when 'e sees you, nothing but skin and bones."
    Fiona gave in and allowed Rose to fix her a bowl of beef stew, just to please her. She wasn't hungry and couldn't imagine ever being hungry again. Their kitchen was full of food. Neighbors had brought meat pies, sausage rolls, stews, cold meats, potatoes, boiled cabbage, and soda bread for her family, so that they would have enough for themselves and the mourners through the three days of the wake, the funeral, and the burial. Under Rose's watchful eye, she lifted a forkful of stew to her mouth, chewed it and swallowed it.
    "That's a good lass. You polish that of and I'll go see to your mother. 'E'll 'ere soon, Joe will. I sent the letter two days ago. Don't you worry, luv, ’e’ll be 'ere."
    Mrs. Bristow quit the kitchen for the parlor to tend to the mourners who had walked back with Fiona and her family from the churchyard. Fiona put her fork down and covered her face with her hands. Images of her father's burial replayed themselves in her mind. The long procession to the graveyard, his coffin going into the ground, her mother's legs buckling as the priest dropped a handful of dirt upon it, Her da had spent his last night under their roof and was gone now, buried in the cold earth.
    She didn't cry as these pictures swam before her eyes; she was too tired.She had cried in the hospital, cried until her eyes had swelled shut, and again at the wake. The wild tearing pain she had felt the night of his accident become a dull and heavy ache that suffused her entire being-body and soul and made her leaden and unaware of everything except that her da was gone and would never be coming back. There was no relief from this pain. She would be all right for a moment or two, occupied with Seamie or Eileen and then she'd remember, and her breath would catch. It felt like a deep wound splitting open and bleeding afresh. Everywhere she looked there were reminders of him - his chair at the hearth, his tobacco pouch, his grappling hook. How could his things be here when he was not? She went to the mantel and took the hook down, curling her fingers around the wooden handle, worn smooth by use.
    What would become of them? Her mam… for two days she'd barely known them. She'd refused to feed Eileen. Mrs. Farrell across the street, herself with a newborn, had nursed the baby. Kate had lain in her bed, weeping and calling for her husband, out of her mind with grief. On the eve of the second day, she'd come downstairs, her face white, her eyes dark hollows, her long auburn hair tangled and matted, and had taken her place by her husband's coffin. There she had joined in the unearthly shrieking and wailing that the Irish make for their dead, so that the dead will hear them and know their grief. It was a terrifying thing to witness, the sound of a human soul, bereft, howling its agony to the heavens.
    Afterward, she had allowed Rose to bathe her, apply warm compresses to her milk-swollen breasts, and comb her hair. Still dazed, she'd asked after her children and insisted that Eileen be brought to her. She talked to Roddy about the burial arrangements, then she returned to her bed and slept for the first time in days.
    Charlie was trying hard to be strong and carry his family through. He'd helped with the funeral and burial. He'd been a pallbearer. Fiona hadn't seen him weep, but she'd seen him sitting in the kitchen by himself: staring into the fire, holding their father's watch.
    Seamie had reacted like any four-year-old. There were times when he was frightened and confused, crying for his father, and times when he sat in front of the hearth and played with his toys, oblivious to everything. Fiona's heart ached for him and Eileen, for all the things they'd never know of their father-the tales he told of Ireland, the ghost stories on All Hallows' Eve, the walks to the river. So many things. Things she would try to tell them, things she couldn't begin to tell them.
    A soft hand on her shoulder interrupted her thoughts. "Fiona, could you put the kettle on?" Mrs. Bristow asked. "Ben Tillet's 'ere with 'is lads. They could use a cup of tea."
    "Aye," she said, returning the hook to the mantel.
    Rose disappeared again and Fiona prepared the tea, relieved to have a job to occupy her. As she carried the pot into the parlor, she saw that there were still many mourners in the house; their presence now and throughout the last three days was a tribute to her father, evidence of their esteem. She forced herself to talk to her neighbors and friends. Old ladies squeezed her arm, others whispered condolences and told her how much she looked like him. She looked up every now and then, searching for Joe. How she wished he were here. Mrs. Bristow had sent a letter to Covent Garden, telling him what had happened. She would've gone to get him, if she could've, but she had no money for bus fare and was too worried about Kate to leave her. Mr. Bristow couldn't go after him, either. He'd missed a day of work to help with the funeral arrangements. Any more days away from the market and another coster would claim his space. Fiona listened politely, trying to conceal her weariness, as Mrs. MacCallum told her about the kindnesses Paddy had shown her.
    As the old woman talked on, another conversation caught her ear. Two men, Mr. Dolan and Mr. Farrell, neighbors and dockers, were standing in a corner, also talking about her father.
    "Fifteen years on the docks and 'e never 'as so much as a slipup," Mr. Dolan said. "No fingers gone, no broken bones. And then 'e falls from a loop'ole. It just don't make sense, Alf."
    "I 'eard the coppers found grease on the platform," Alfred Farrell said.
    "They think it dripped from a winch and that's what caused 'im to slip."
    "Bollocks! You ever know anyone at the docks to fling grease about? It just ain't done. It's like a wedding ring-no one wears one 'cause it's dangerous. Get it caught and there goes your finger. Same goes for grease. Spill any and it's wiped right up, spot's covered with sand. Any man at Oliver's would know better than that."
    Fiona was struck by what they were saying. They're right, she thought; it doesn't make sense. She knew enough about her father's work to know a docker would never be sloppy with grease, no more than he would stack a crate of nutmeg on top of a chest of tea, lest the leaves pick up the flavor. She'd heard Roddy talking about the inquest, how the police had found the loophole door unbolted and a splodge of black grease on the floor near it. The foreman, Thomas Curran, said he figured one of his men hadn't secured the door properly. It was a windy night and her father must've heard it hanging against the side of the building. He would've gone up to latch it, and with it being dark and him having only a lantern, he wouldn't have seen the grease. Curran said he had told one of his men - Davey O'Neill-to grease the winches earlier in the day. Davey may have dripped some. It was a tragedy, Mr. Curran said. The lads would take up a collection and he was certain Mr. Burton himself would find something for the family in the way of compensation. Satisfied with this explanation, the coroner had returned a verdict of accidental death.
    Fiona had heard all this, but overwhelmed by the shock of her father's death, it had barely registered. Her da had fallen from a loophole. The particulars hadn't mattered; all that mattered was that he was dead. But now that her mind was a little clearer…
    "Excuse me, Mrs. MacCallum," she said brusquely. She left the woman rattling and returned to the kitchen. She had to be by herself for a minute to think.
    She sat down in her father's chair. It was clear as day: somebody had put grease on the floor so he would slip. Why hadn't anybody seen this? It almost hurt to think, her mind was so thick and fuzzy, but she would write down her thoughts, get them all straight. And then she would tell Uncle Roddy and he'd have the ones in charge do another inquest. It was obvious what had happened, it was plain as the nose on her face… it was… ridiculous.
    Why would anybody injure me da? she asked herself. Least of all one of his workmates. Was she mad? Yes, that was it. She was losing her mind. She was looking for a reason for her father's death, grasping at straws.
    She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, and rested her head in her hands. She still couldn't accept what had happened; part of her still expected her father to come through the front door, home from the docks. He'd sit down, read his paper, and this whole nightmare would be forgotten. When she was a child, he had been the center of her universe and she had assumed he would always be there -to take care of them, put food on the table, shield them from the world and its dangers. Now they had no father. Their mother had no husband. He was gone. Who would look after them? Where would they go from here?
    Now, as it had over and over again during the last three days, the pain of his death came crashing in upon her like an avalanche. She tried to hold it back, but the emotion was too great. Crying bitterly, she wasn't aware that Joe had come into the kitchen.
    "Fee?" he said softly, kneeling down beside her.
    She lifted her head. "Oh, Joe," she whispered. Her eyes were so full of pain that tears came to his eyes for her. He wrapped his arms around her and held her as she wept. He rocked her gently, stroking her hair, as her grief wrenched sobs out of her.
    When she could weep no more, he held her face between his hands, wiping the tears from her eyes with his thumbs. "My poor lass," he said.
    "Why, Joe? Why me da?" she asked, her eyes bright blue through her tears.
    "I don't know, Fiona. I wish I 'ad an answer for you."
    "God, I miss 'im," she whispered.
    "I know you do, luv. I miss 'im, too. 'E was quite a man, your da."
    They sat quietly together for a few minutes, Joe holding Fiona's hand.
    Fiona sniffling. No flowery words, no platitudes passed between them,.Joe would have done anything to ease her suffering, but he knew nothing. he might do, or say, could. Her grief would run its course, like a fever, and release her when it was spent. He would not shush her or tell her it was God's will and that her da was better off. That was rubbish and they both knew it. When something hurt as bad as this, you had to let it hurt. There were no shortcuts. He sat down heavily in Kate's rocker.
    Fiona looked at him and saw he was tired and unwashed. "Peterson working you 'ard?"
    "Aye. Got 'arvest wagons coming in. Unloading them round the clock.
    I would've been 'ere sooner otherwise. Got me mum's letter yesterday morning, but I couldn't get away. If I'd 'ave left, I'd 'ave got the sack. Tommy P. don't give a damn for anyone's funeral, less it's 'is own. 'Aven't slept since I read what 'appened. I'm sorry, Fee. I wish I could've come sooner."
    Fiona nodded; she understood. He was here now.
    "When do you 'ave to get back?"
    "Tonight. Not right now, later. I left 'Arry to finish up, but there's another load due in early tomorrow morning."
    She was disappointed. She'd hoped he'd be able to stay. God, how she wished he were still in his parents' house instead of all the way across London. She needed him so much now-to talk to her, to comfort her. She'd need him in the days ahead, too. But he wouldn't be here.
    As if reading her mind, he took out a shilling and pressed it into her hand… “Ere. For paper and stamps. You can write me. Every night. When you can’t stand it anymore, just write me a letter and it'll be like we're talking to each other, all right?"
    "All right."
    "I've got time for a walk," he said, standing up. "Let's get out of 'ere. All this whispering and moaning won't do you any good. Let's go to the river and watch the boats. We've still got an hour or so before it's dark."
    Fiona stood up and took her shawl off its hook by the back door. He was right it would be good to get out of the house. As she readied herself, she was possessed by the strangest feeling that her da would be at the waterside, present in all the things he loved-the rolling gray waves and the scudding clouds, the gulls wheeling and soaring, the eager prow of a ship nosing its way out to sea. He wasn't here in this house of pain, he was there, by the river-she was certain of it. And as Joe took her hand and led her out of the house, that certainly soothed her and gave her some small measure of peace.
    
Chapter 11
    
    Kate checked the number on the scrap of paper she held: 65 Steward Street. That was the number on the door. Why was no one answering? She knocked again.
    " 'Old on, will you?" a voice shouted from within. "I 'eard you the first time."
    The door was wrenched open and she was face-to-face with a fat, dishevelled woman who, judging from her appearance, had been asleep and was not pleased to have been roused.
    "Are you Mrs. Colman?"
    “I am."
    "I'mMrs. Finnegan. I'm 'ere about the room."
    "Come in, then," the woman said, ushering her into a halIway that was dark and stank of cabbage. "Room's upstairs. Top floor. Door's open. It's a nice room, Mrs. Flanagan," the woman said. Her teeth were black. She reeked of whiskey.
    "Finnegan."
    "Flanagan, Finnegan, it's all the same to me. Go on up."
    "Thank you, Mrs. Colman," Kate said, mounting the stairs. The banister wobbled under her hand as she climbed to the first landing. The stairs shuddered and creaked. She glimpsed a young woman through an open door, gnawing on a crust as she nursed her baby. In another, a man was stretched out on a cot, snoring.
    She continued up to the second landing. One of the three doors there was open.wide. She walked in. Something crunched under her feet. Probably a bit of plaster, she thought. The room was dark; shutters covered its only window. She pulled them open and screamed.
    The entire room was crawling with black beetles. They ran madly over the floor and ceiling, shying away from the light. They scuttled over the filthy wallpaper that was hanging down in strips. They darted into the fireplace and swarmed over a stained mattress. She was back downstairs in seconds, tugging at the front door.
    "Did you like the room, then?" Mrs. Colman shouted, waddling after her.
    "It's crawling!"
    "Oh, the bugs won't 'urt you. Tell you what, I'll let you 'ave it cheap. Includes use of the kitchen, too." She leaned in close to Kate. "And there's another advantage to taking that room. If you're ever 'ard up, you can make a few bob without leaving it." She gave her an oily smile, “Mr Daniels, second landing. Pays well, I'm told."
    Kate wrenched the door open and ran out. The beetles, the dirt, the stink of the place all made her nauseous. That filthy bitch, she fumed, making her filthy propositions. If Paddy'd heard her, he'd have knocked her teeth out.
    Paddy. At the thought of him, tears welled. She drew her out of her pocket and dabbed at her eyes. She could not afford to. ing now. She had to find a room, for she was nearly out of money and could no longer afford the rent on the Montague Street house.
    The loss of Paddy's wages alone would've been enough to cause hardship, but she had been hit immediately after his death with a hospital bill, the cost of a coffin and a hearse, a plot in the churchyard, and a marker for the grave. She had found the two pounds he'd told her about, and as he said, the men at Oliver's had passed the hat and presented her With three more, plus there was a pound from the union, and the burial insurance. Fiona and Charlie were giving her everything they earned and she had started laundering again, but it wasn't enough.
    She had hoped that Burton Tea might pay her ten or twenty pounds compensation for her husband's death. After nearly two weeks had passed and she'd heard nothing, she'd summoned her courage and walked to the company's offices. She'd waited for three hours before being seen by a junior clerk, who told her she'd have to come back the next day and speak with a senior clerk. When she returned, she was made to wait again. Another clerk then gave her documents to fill out. She wanted to take them home to have Roddy read them, but the clerk said she couldn't, so she handed them in and was told to come back in a month to check on her claim.
    "A month! Sir, I need the money now," she'd protested.
    The clerk, a severe-looking man with muttonchop whiskers, told her that by signing the papers she'd consented to follow Burton's procedures for awarding compensatory monies. If she did not follow these procedures, her claim would be forfeited. She'd had no choice but to wait.
    The time she'd spent at Burton's had exhausted her. It was all she could do these' days not to come apart at the seams. Every morning when she opened her eyes, the pain hit her again and she would weep. Then, dazed by grief, but driven by necessity, she would get up, feed her children, and start the laundering, keeping herself going as best she could. She wore no mourning clothes, no jet beads or brooches. There was no languishing in darkened parlors with mementos of the dearly departed. That was for her upper-class sisters. Women like herself, they might be mad with sorrow, but they got up and got going or their children went hungry.
    Whenever she thought about her children, she was plagued by fears for their future. How would she support them? She could sell some of their furniture when they moved-that might bring a few shillings. If she had to, she could pawn Paddy's wedding ring, but only if she had to. She could sell her mangle and copper. There wouldn't be room for those when they were all living in one room. Without them, she wouldn't be able to take in laundry, which would mean another loss of income, but maybe she could do piecework or launder for her customers at their houses. But then who would watch Seamie and Eileen?
    I can't cope with this, she thought, I can't. I've spent two days at Burton Tea and I've got nothing to show for it. I spent yesterday and today looking for a room and I haven't found a thing. They're either too dear, too small, or too horrible. Her tears came again. And this time they were tears of desperation and there was nothing she could do to stanch them.
    
    "COME ON, BRISTOW, come out with me and the lads. It'll be fun," Harry Eaton said, straightening his tie in the mirror.
    "No thanks, mate. I'm knackered," Joe said, eyes closed, stifling a yawn. "oh, bollocks! You're not tired. I know what the real reason is."
    Joe opened one eye. "What?"
    "It's that pretty little lass of yours. Fiona. She wouldn't like it. You tell her your cock's not a bar of soap. You won't use it up just because it gets wet now and again."
    Joe laughed. This was Harry's Saturday-night ritual. No matter how tired he was, he still found the time and energy to go wenching… and to rib him for not going.
    "Just think of it, squire," he cackled. "A pretty tart with big tits and a nice tight cunny, all yours for three bob. Blond or brunette, whatever you fancy. I know a ginger-haired girl who does all sorts of tricks. She can suck the paint off a lamppost… "
    "Control yourself, would you?"
    But Harry Eaton never worried about controlling himself. He was more than willing to pay for sex and there was no shortage of women in London to accommodate:him. There were two types of women in Harry's book-the ones who made you merry and the ones who made you marry - and he preferred the former.
    Joe had his reasons for not joining Harry-namely Fiona, but he also had no desire to come back from a Haymarket whorehouse with a nice dose of clap. He'd heard Harry groaning in the loo some mornings when his cock hurt him so much he could barely piss out of it. He said the treatment hurt - even more-his wallet as well as his member. It didn't stop him, though. He still went out with blokes from the market in pursuit of "a sheath for my sword," as he put it, and there was always a ribald joke to be endured as he departed. Little witticisms about how he would leave Joe to take matters into his own hands, or that he hoped he'd have a wonderful evening with the lovely Rosie Palm.
    "All right, I'm off."
    "I thought something smelled."
    "Very funny. Don't wait up. And, Joe… "
    "What, 'Arry?"
    "Have you had your eyes checked lately?" "No."
    "You ought to, lad. Too much of this… " - Harry, smirking, made an obscene gesture- "… leads to blindness."
    "Thanks. Now get out and give me some peace." Harry left, whistling as he trotted down the stairs.
    I pity the poor girl who gets him tonight, Joe thought, he'll be at her like a bull. He yawned again. He should go to bed, but he was too tired to get up. The stove door was open, the fire was toasting his feet nicely. He was feeling full and warm… and guilty.
    He and Harry had started work at four that morning. Harvest season was ending, but wagons were still coming in nonstop. Farmers were eager to sell off the last of their crops. He hadn't seen a proper day off in ages. He could've insisted on one, but it wouldn't be smart. Not now. Peterson was dropping hints about a promotion. Martin Wilson, the man who negotiated the final price they paid for produce, was leaving. Joe hadn't even thought about taking over from Martin; he assumed he was too new to expect advancement, but the signs were unmistakable. Peterson was taking every opportunity to compliment his work. And today, he'd had him do Martin's job because Martin had been needed inside. He'd seen both Tommy and Martin observing him. At quitting time, Tommy had gone over the tally sheet, pointed out two transactions where he'd overpaid, gleefully noted four where he'd underpaid, and pronounced his work "all in all, first-rate." He'd nearly burst with pride. Peterson's approval had become very important to him.
    He and Harry had closed down late, just after seven. Tommy had still been around when they finished, and Millie was with him. He'd invited both lads to join them for supper. Joe's heart had sunk. He'd planned to race to Whitechapel to see Fiona. He hadn't been back to see her for a fortnight and he was worried about her, but he couldn't refuse Peterson's invitation. Tommy told them to get cleaned up and meet them at Sardini's, an Italian place two streets over. Joe was panic-stricken; he'd never been to a restaurant in his life. He told Harry that maybe he shouldn't go, for he only had his work clothes to wear. Harry gave him a jacket he'd outgrown and lent him a shirt and tie. He wore the nicer of his two pairs of trousers.
    Sardini's was dark, lit only by candles stuck in wine bottles, so nobody noticed that his trousers didn't go with his jacket. Tommy ordered for everyone. Joe got through the soup and starter beautifully, but was stumped when the pasta arrived. Millie, Tommy, and Harry all laughed as they watched him fight with the noodles, then Millie showed him how to twirl them on a fork. She sprinkled Parmesan on his spaghetti and wiped tomato sauce off his chin. She was her chatty self, telling them how plans for her father's Guy Fawkes party were progressing. When they finished eating, they walked back to Covent Garden together, then Tommy and Millie departed.
    Joe had enjoyed himself immensely, but now he felt terrible. He should've been with Fiona in Whitechapel tonight. Fiona, who was pale and thin and grieving for her father. He was a first-class turd. She needed him and where was he? Living it up at Sardini's. He remembered walking her home from the river the night of her father's burial, remembered how she had clutched at him when he left. It broke his heart. He couldn't stand leaving her when she needed him so. But what could he do? For a day or two, he'd been tempted to quit his job so he could go back to Montague Street and be with her. But where would that get them? He'd be back with his father, scrimping to put pennies in their tin, when he was now putting in pounds. And Martin Wilson's job-if he got it-paid even more. Wasn't it more important that he stay the course? Fiona would do her grieving with or without him; his presence would be a comfort, but it wouldn't take away her pain.
    He rose from his chair, stoked the coals, and walked to the loo to wash up. He had to get some sleep. As he dried his face, he looked out of the bathroom window. The London sky was remarkably clear. Stars shone against the black night. He stared at one twinkling brightly. Did the same star shine down on her? he wondered. Was she maybe looking at it out of her window and thinking of him? He told the star he loved her, he told it to watch over her and keep her safe.
    He undressed and got into bed. Images of Fiona flooded his mind as he drifted off. One day soon he'd have the money they needed for their shop and he'd be done at Peterson's and then they'd be together always. They'd be married and this difficult time of separation and struggle would be behind them. One day. One day soon.
    
Chapter 12
    
    Fiona eyed the smoked herrings arranged in a rowan the fishmonger's barrow. She was at the Friday night market alone. Her mother had a terrible cough, one she couldn't seem to shake, and Fiona didn't want her out in the damp October air. She took no pleasure in the casters' songs, showed no interest in their pretty displays. She was too busy trying to figure out how to buy tea for four with only sixpence.
    " 'Ow much are your bloaters?" she asked the fishmonger.
    "The large ones are tuppence," he said. He pointed to some smaller ones.
    "These' ere are two for thruppence."
    "I'll 'ave two of those." She put the fish in her shopping bag, on top of the potatoes she'd bought at Bristows and the pears Mrs. Bristow had tucked in beside them.
    Fiona appreciated the pears, but Mrs. Bristow's kind gesture made her feel like a charity case. Still, she wasn't too proud to accept them. Seamie liked pears and she wanted him to have them. She'd chatted awhile with Mrs. Bristow about Joe and his much-hoped-for promotion. They both received letters every week, but neither one had seen him in nearly a month. Fiona missed him terribly. She wanted to write to him; it helped relieve her loneliness. But every time she saved a few pennies for paper and stamps, they were needed to buy socks for Seamie or throat lozenges for her mam or bread.
    Fiona was certain her mother's cough was due to the damp walls of their new room in Adams Court. It was next to the court's single water pump, which leaked night and day, making the cobbles slick and the walls of the houses near it wet and cold.
    Adams Court was a short, gloomy cul-de-sac accessed from Varden Street by a narrow brick passage. Its houses were squat two-up-two-downs that faced each other across seven feet of cobblestones. Theirs was the downstairs front room in number twelve. Her mother had taken her to see it before they moved in. She had heard about it from her friend Lillie. Lillie's fiancé had lived in it, but had given it up after their wedding to move into a bigger one across the river. There was no sink. No closet, either. They had to hang their clothing on nails. It measured about fourteen by sixteen feet. They'd had to sell most of their furniture. Fiona hated the room, but when her mother had asked her what she thought, her face hopeful and anxious all at once, she'd told her that once they got used to its size, it would do very nicely. Of course it would.
    Their old friends and neighbors had done their best to keep them on Montague Street, offering them spaces in houses that were already full. But their offers came from good-heartedness, not practicality, and her mother would not take advantage of them. Roddy had tried to help, too. Fiona wasn't supposed to know about it, but she did. He'd come in late from a shift one night, while they were still in the old place, and Kate had fixed him his tea. The door to the parlor was open and she'd heard them discussing her mother's trials with Burton Tea. And then, out of the blue, Roddy had asked her mam to marry him.
    "I know you don't love me, Kate," he'd said. "And I don't expect you to. Not after Paddy. I know how it was between the two of you. It's not about that. It's just that, well… I could take care of you and the children. I'd stay in me own room and you could stay in yours and we could all go on just as we always have. You don't have to go."
    And then Fiona had heard the sound of her mother crying and Roddy's anxious voice: “Oh, Jaysus, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry, I only wanted to help. Christ, I'm an eejit… "
    "No, Roddy, you're not an eejit," her mother said. "You're a good man, and any woman would be glad to 'ave you. I'm only crying because it touches me. There aren't many in this world who would put their own happiness second to another's. But you can't saddle yourself with another man's family. You should 'ave your own with Grace. You're sweet on 'er as can be and everyone knows it, so go on and marry that lass. We'll make out fine."
    But would they? Fiona wasn't so sure. These days, a voice gibbered at her constantly from deep inside, reminding her over and over again that they had so little money. Hers and Charlie's wages barely covered the rent, with a bit left over for food. Where was the rest to come from? What would they do when the baby needed new clothes or somebody's boots wore out? It was paralyzing, this voice. It screamed and shrieked and she never had the answers it demanded. She had prayed to God, asking Him for help. For strength to endure everything she'd lost and courage to face everything that lay ahead. But she'd received no reply. God, it seemed, wasn't listening.
    Whenever her spirits sank, she would reach into her pocket and feel for the blue stone Joe had given her. She would squeeze it tightly, picture his face and remind herself of their shop, their dreams, the life they would have together. One day. One day soon. The money in their tin continued to grow. Every time he wrote, the amount was higher. In his last letter he'd said if things kept going well, they'd be able to marry before much longer. She'd been so happy when she'd read that, but her happiness faded as she realized she couldn't get married anytime soon. Her family needed her wages. Her mam was still waiting for compensation from Burton Tea for her father's death. It could be as much as twenty pounds and would enable her to find a better place to live and establish surer footing for herself and the little ones. Fiona knew she couldn't think of leaving until that money came through.
    Walking past the butcher's stall, she wished she could buy a nice cut of beef for her mother to fix with potatoes and gravy, but their budget no longer stretched to pricey cuts, and even if it had, there was no way to cook them. The room had no stove, only a fireplace with a narrow grate that held one pot at a time. She missed the nourishing meals her mam used to make. Sometimes the only thing hot about what should've been a hot meal was a cup of tea.
    Tonight's supper would be meagre. She and Seamie would have boiled potatoes with bread and margarine. No butter-too dear. Charlie and her mam would get the same plus the bloaters-Charlie to keep up his strength for the brewery and Kate because she needed some building up. The cough she'd caught was draining her. She coughed so hard sometimes that her face turned red and she could barely catch her breath. Maybe Charlie would have a few extra pennies tomorrow. If he did, she'd get some cheap mutton pieces for a stew. They could be boiled in a pot with carrots and potatoes. That might be the thing to set her mam to rights.
    She finished her marketing with a loaf of bread and a quarter pound of margarine, then started for home. Creeping fingers of fog curled around the hot orange flames of the gas lamps, casting an eerie flickering light over the street. Like a living thing, the fog moved, dipping and swirling around the market stalls, squelching sound, obscuring vision.
    The fog made her shiver. Walking through it was like being wrapped in a cold, wet blanket. Her marketing was heavy, she was hungry, and her legs ached from standing all day. Ever since she had inadvertently told Mr. Burton how to get more labor from fewer girls, Mr. Minton-feeling shown up-had worked her extra hard, requiring her to wash the tea scoops at night, wipe the tables, and sweep the floor. She was weary and wanted to be home. On impulse, she decided to take a shortcut.
    Veering off the High Street, she walked through the roiling mist down Barrow Street, a derelict lane of ruined lodging houses, each with its door torn off; its windows vacant. There were no gas lamps, they'd all been broken. The street was dark and quiet, and twenty yards down it Fiona began to think that maybe taking a shortcut hadn't been such a great idea. She remembered how frightened she'd been the time that horrible Sid Malone had grabbed her. What if he'd seen her at the market and followed her? And then there was Jack. Three weeks ago, at the end of September, he'd murdered two more women, both on the same night-Elizabeth Stride in Berner Street and Catherine Eddowes in Mitre Square. It was all anyone talked about. Fiona hadn't paid much attention to the news-she'd been grieving for her father-but she thought about it now. Neither Berner Street nor Mitre Square was very far from Barrow Street. Jack hadn't been caught yet. He could be anywhere. There was no one to hear her if she screamed and… oh, stop it, she scolded herself. You're being silly. You'll be home in ten minutes instead of twenty this way.
    She made herself concentrate on other things. She thought about their new neighbors. There was Frances Sawyer on one side, who, Charlie said, was on the game. Then there was Mr. Hanson on the other. Mr. Hands-on, Fiona called him. He was awful, always leering and feeling his crotch, trying to look at her and every other woman through the cracks in the privy. At least the people who shared their house were decent. Mr. Jensen, a bricklayer who had the upstairs back room, kept to himself. Mrs. Cox, a widow upstairs front-shouted at her two boys a lot. Jim and Lucy Brady, who occupied the back downstairs room, were the nicest of all. Jim always found time to play with Seamie, and Lucy, who was expecting her first child, had a daily cup of tea with Kate and asked her questions about birthing and babies.
    It was hard to live cheek-by-jowl with so many strangers. They had to find a better place, but to do that, they needed more money. Not willing to simply sit and wait for the check from Burton Tea to arrive, Fiona had gone to see about weekend work in some of the local shops. She'd had no luck yet, but a few shopkeepers had taken her name. Her mother had started doing piecework, assembling silk poinsettias for Christmas trimming. Charlie helped out, too. Sometimes when she thought she only had enough money for bread and marge, he would come up with a few shillings-his fighting winnings-and then they had meat pies or fish and chips.
    Fiona was lost in her thoughts, and only halfway down Barrow Street, when she heard the footsteps behind her. It's nothing, she told herself hastily, just another lass on her way home from the market. But a little voice inside pointed out that the footsteps were too heavy to be a girl's. Well, she countered, they can't be too close, not by the sounds of them. But then again, the voice whispered, that could be the fog. It muffles noise, makes things sound farther away than they really are. Fiona clutched her marketing tightly and picked up her pace. The footsteps picked up theirs. Whoever was behind her was following her. She broke into a run.
    She couldn't see the end of the street through the fog, but she knew it wasn't far. Somebody will be there, she told herself, somebody will help me. She was pounding down the street now, but the person behind her was gaining. The footsteps grew louder and suddenly she knew she wouldn't make it. Terrified, she spun around. "Who's there?" she cried.
    "Sshh, don't be afraid," a man's voice answered. "I won't 'urt you. My name's O'Neill. Davey O'Neill. I 'ave to talk to you."
    "I-I don't know you. S-stay away from me," she stammered. She tried to run again, but he grabbed her. She dropped her marketing and tried to scream, but he clapped a hand over her mouth.
    "Don't!" he hissed. "I said I 'ave to talk to you."
    She looked into his eyes. They were desperate. He was crazy. He was.Jack; he had to be. And he was going to kill her right here. A terrified whimper escaped her. She squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to see his awful knife.
    “I’ll let go of you, but don't run away," he said. She nodded. He let go and she opened her eyes. "I'm sorry I frightened you," he said. "I wanted to talk to you at the market, but I was afraid. You never know who's watching."
    She nodded again, trying to stay calm. Trying to keep him calm. She hardly heard what he was saying; it made no sense. He was obviously a loony, but loonies could be dangerous. She must not upset him.
    The man looked at her frightened, uncomprehending face. "You. don't know me, do you? I'm Davey O'Neill. O'Neill… don't you remember?"
    Suddenly, she realized she did know him, or rather his name. O'Neill, from the inquest. He was the one who had spilled the grease her father had slipped in.
    "Y-yes, I do. But-"
    "They blamed me for Paddy's accident, but I didn't do it. I greased the winches, like Curran told me to, but I didn't drop nothing. I wiped all the gears down to be safe, just like I always do. When I was done, there wasn't any grease anywhere. I swear it!"
    "But if you didn't… then 'ow-"
    "I 'ad to tell somebody it wasn't my fault. There's some won't even talk to me. You're Paddy's lass, you're the right one to tell." He looked around himself. "I've got to go now."
    "Wait!" She clutched at his sleeve. "What are you saying? If you didn't drip the grease, then 'ow did it get there? I don't understand… "
    O'Neill pulled free. "I can't say no more. I 'ave to go."
    "No, wait! Please!"
    "I can't!" He looked like a hunted creature. He made as if to leave, then turned back and said, "You work down the tea factory, don't you?"
    “Aye… "
    "You stay away from the unions, you 'ear me?" His voice was low and harsh. "The Wapping branch is all in pieces now without your father, but TiIlet's trying to mend it. There's talk of organizing the tea girls, too. You stay away! Promise me… "
    "What 'ave unions got to do with anything?" "Promise me!"
    "All right, I promise! But at least tell me why!"
    Without another word, he disappeared into the fog. Fiona wanted to run after him, but she couldn't make her trembling legs move. What a flipping fright he'd given her! She must get hold of herself or her mam would see she was upset and ask her what happened and she didn't dare tell her. She was terribly confused. She didn't know what to make of O'Neill and the crazy things he'd said. He was out of his mind; he had to be. Following her down the street like that, coming out of the fog like a bloody ghost. He must be suffering from a guilty conscience.
    Or maybe he was telling the truth. And if he was, then how did her father slip? The question made her uneasy. She'd wondered about this before, after his burial, when Mr. FarreIl and Mr. Dolan said how strange it was that her father, who'd never had an accident at the docks, had fallen to his death. She'd dismissed their conversation-and her wild suspicions-as ridiculous, the product of a grief-stricken mind. Were they?
    Was Davey O'Neill saying that he himself hadn't dripped the grease-or that there was never any grease at all? It couldn't be the latter; the constables who investigated the accident found some. Uncle Roddy himself had gone over the report and said it was sound. What else had O'Neill said? "There's some won't even talk to me… " Fiona felt anger displacing her fear. It was clear now what was going on- there were dockers who were angry with O'Neill; they blamed him for her father's death. They were giving him the cold shoulder; he might even be having trouble finding work. And he wanted her to make it all better. He wanted her to tell people that it wasn't his fault. The selfish bastard. Her father was dead, her family was struggling, and all he cared about was getting back into his work mates’ good graces. Well, sod him. As if she had no other worries than Davey O'Neill's hard luck. The barmy git! Sneaking up on her and rattling on about unions. Telling her not to join one. As if she had the money to spend on dues!
    She passed a shaking hand over her forehead, brushing back wisps of hair. She knew she should get off Barrow Street. One run-in with a loony was plenty-was she going to stand around and wait for the next one? She was still angry and she wished she could tell somebody what had happened. Charlie would know what to make of O'Neill, but he'd be livid with her for taking a shortcut and she was in no mood for a tongue-lashing. She wouldn't tell anyone, she'd just forget the whole thing. She picked up her marketing. Nothing had rolled out of the bag, but the pears were probably bruised. She resumed her walk, feeling for the bloaters. Luckily, they weren't smashed. As she neared the end of the street, she was still cursing O'Neill, vowing to give him a good piece of her mind if she ever had the misfortune of seeing him again.
    
Chapter 13
    
    A troop of raggedy boys, mudlarks, poked about birdlike in the soft silty mud below the Old Stairs, turning up bits of copper, old bottles, and chunks of coal. Fiona watched them as they chased the ebbing tide, filling their pockets and scurrying off, eager to sell their treasures to the rag- and-bone man.
    She was sitting with Joe in their special place. She knew this part of the river like the back of her hand. Everything here was familiar to her-the frothing waves, Butler's Wharf across the water, the rich scent of tea. Everything was familiar, yet nothing was the same..
    She couldn't shake the feeling she had, ever since Joe had arrived on her doorstep that morning, right out of the blue, that he'd changed somehow. She couldn't put her finger on it; he just seemed different. He had a new jacket-a beautiful moss-green tweed that Harry had given, him. He was also wearing a crisp white shirt and new wool trousers that he d bought for a trip to Cornwall with Tommy Peterson. In them, he didn't look like a rough hand-tumble barrow boy anymore, but a confident young man on the rise.
    Fiona was wearing her navy skirt, a white blouse, and her gray shawl. It was a blustery autumn Sunday and she was glad of an excuse to wear the shawl; it covered up a clumsily mended tear in her sleeve. She was uncomfortably aware of her shabby clothes and of Joe's nice new ones. It made her feel self-conscious, something she'd never felt with him before.
    Joe seemed excited, pleased with his job, with Peterson, and with himself. As he should be, she thought, he hasn't even been there two months and already he's up for an advancement. He'd gone on and on about.Peterson's- Tommy-this and Tommy-that-talking a mile a minute. His face glowed as he spoke about the possibility of getting the buyer's job. He talked about the Cornwall trip, and how he'd stayed in a fancy hotel. He used all sorts of buying and selling terms that she didn't understand. She tried to feel happy for him, tried to share in his excitement, but it seemed all his and none of hers.
    "… and our tin now contains eighteen pounds and sixpence, I'm 'appy to report," he said, snapping her out of her thoughts.
    Fiona looked apologetic. "I 'aven't any money for it. Maybe next week…”
    "Don't worry. I'm putting in enough for the two of us."
    She frowned. That wasn't it at all; that he was putting in enough for them both. It was their dream, wasn't it? Their shop. She wanted to contribute, too. When they got it, she wanted it to be because of her efforts and sacrifices, as well as his. Didn't he understand that?
    He took her hand and rubbed it between his. "Cor, luv, your 'and is rough," he said, inspecting it. "We'll 'ave to get you some salve."
    "I 'ave some, thanks," she said curtly, pulling it away.
    She shoved both hands into her skirt pockets. It wasn't true, she didn't have any salve. But she didn't want any from him. She felt hurt, as if he had criticized her. Her hands had always been rough. Weren't everyone's? Everyone who worked, at least. Fine ladies had soft hands, not tea packers like herself. Millie's hands would be soft, she thought darkly.
    "Fee, what's wrong?" Joe asked, noticing her sullen expression.
    God, she was being miserable. He was only trying to be nice, only trying to take care of her. He'd surprised her family with a huge basket of fruit and vegetables. He made it seem like a gift, though he'd known it was a necessity. He brought candies for her mother and a painted wooden soldier for Seamie, whose face had lit up like a lamp at the sight of it. For her, he'd brought six red roses. He'd been so good to her, so why did she feel so upset, so defensive?
    "Nothing," she lied, forcing a smile, determined not to give in to her rotten thoughts and spoil the first afternoon they'd had together in ages..
    "I'm going on about me job too much. Probably boring you. I'm sorry, Fee." He put his arm around her, pulled her close, and kissed her.
    In his arms, her fears dissipated. She felt as if she and Joe were themselves again. Just the two of them… loving each other, possessing each other, with no thoughts of Peterson's. No worries about her mam and their cramped room and money.
    "I wish we 'ad more time together, Fee. I 'ate never seeing you."
    "Well, at least you're 'ere now," she said brightly. "And you'll be back for Guy Fawkes. That's not far away at all-only about a fortnight." She was so looking forward to the holiday, she became animated just talking about it. "We're all going back to Montague Street for the bonfire. I can't imagine not being there for Guy Fawkes." She squeezed his hand. "Will you be getting the whole day or just the night?"
    He looked away.
    “Joe?"
    “I won’t be able to come.”
    "Not come?" she cried, crushed. "But why? Don't tell me Peterson 'as you working on Guy Fawkes night!"
    "No, not exactly. Tommy's 'aving a big do and I 'ave to go."
    "Why? Can't you just say no thank you an come ‘ome.”
    "No, I can't. It's a big party for all the employees. It's the night Tommy 'ands out the bonuses and promotions. It's a slap in the face if I don't go, Fiona. Please don't be mad, there's nothing I can do about it."
    But she was mad, she couldn't help it. And sad and disappointed. Guy Fawkes was a big event on Montague Street; it always had been. All the children made their Guys; all the neighbors came out to watch the bonfire and set off firecrackers. Courting couples held hands in the light of the fire and she had hoped to do the same with Joe. It had been something to look forward to, a little promise of fun to hold on to, and now she had nothing again.
    "Will Millie be there?"
    "I would think so. It's at their 'ouse."
    She was silent for a few seconds, then said, "Are you sweet on 'er?"
    "What?"
    "Are you?"
    "No! Bloody 'ell, Fiona! Are you starting that again?"
    "Sorry, I got it wrong," she said acidly. "Tommy's the one you really love, not Millie, right? Must be. You spend all your time with 'im."
    Joe exploded. "Fiona, what do you want me to do?" he yelled. "Do you want me to quit?" He didn't give her a chance to answer. "I've thought about it, because I want to be back 'ere with you. But I 'aven't because I'm trying to do the right thing for us. I'm trying to get the promotion Tommy's dangling so I can earn more money. So we can get our shop. So I can take care of you."
    "I'm not asking you to take care of me," she shouted back. "I'm just asking you to be around once in a while… " She could feel her lip trembling. She wouldn't cry, sod it, she was too angry. "It 'asn't been easy after me da and all. If you were only 'ere sometimes… just to talk to."
    "Fee, you know I would be with you if I could. You know that. It won't always be like this. Just be patient a little longer. I feel terrible, but I can't do anything about it. I can't be in two places at once. Please don't make me feel guiltier than I already do.".
    Fiona had been about to reply, but his words stopped her. Guilty. She made him feel guilty. Her stomach lurched. She felt sick and ashamed. She closed her eyes and in her imagination she saw him with Harry and Millie. They were strolling and laughing, free and easy, talking about Tommy, making jokes, looking in the brightly lit shop windows they passed, stopping for tea. Why in the world would he want to come back here, to the dingy streets of Whitechapel, when he could be with them? Why would he want to be with her and listen to her worries and fears when he could listen to Millie’s laughter? She couldn't compete with the likes of Millie; she looked like a ragpicker in her worn clothes. Her old shawl, her rough hands-he was probably making a hundred unfavorable comparisons, she thought, cringing inside. She couldn't even give him sixpence for their cocoa tin. She understood now; he was leading an exciting new life, full of interesting people and new experiences. He was moving ahead, away from her, and didn't want to be burdened. She was an obligation. He hadn't said that, but he didn't need to. Well, she was too proud to be anybody's bloody burden. She blinked hard, several times, then stood up.
    "Where are you going?"
    “’Ome.”
    "You're still angry at me."
    "No, it's all right," she said quietly, not wanting to lose her temper and raise her voice again. Millie probably never yelled. "You're right, you should go to Peterson's. It's just… I've 'ad enough of the river and I want to go back."
    He got up to go with her.
    "I'll go meself, thanks."
    "Don't be daft. It's a long way. If you insist on going 'ome, I'll walk you."
    Fiona turned on him. "I said no! Leave me alone! Go back to bloody Covent Garden! I don't want to 'ear that my 'ands are rough or that I should be patient or that you'll be spending Guy Fawkes with Millie Peterson!"
    "I'm not spending it with Millie! I'm just going to a party! What is wrong with you? I can't please you no matter what I do!" Joe said, exasperated. "You say you want me around more, but now I'm 'ere and you want to go 'ome. Why are you so bloody touchy?"
    "No reason, Joe. None at all! I've lost me da, lost me 'ome, and now I'm losing me lad. Everything's just bloody grand!"
    "Fiona, I'm sorry about things, I am. But you're not losing me; I'm trying to make things better. What the' ell do you want from me?"
    "I want my Joe back," she said. Then she ran to the top of the stairs and disappeared from his sight. She ran across the High Street, past wharves and warehouses, toward Gravel Lane and Whitechapel. She didn't understand anything anymore. Nothing made sense. Joe said he was working hard for them, for their shop. That should comfort her, but it didn't.
    If he was truly working toward their shop, why was he so bent on getting that promotion? Hadn't he told her that they had eighteen pounds and sixpence? That was only about seven pounds shy of the twenty-five they needed. He didn't need the buyer's job, all he needed was a few more months wages. Then he could quit and they could open their shop. What was he doing? Why was he after that job?
    A half mile up Gravel Lane, she started to run faster. She was out of breath, and her legs were weak, but still she ran, trying to escape the voice in her head, the one with the answer to her questions: "Because he doesn't want the shop anymore. And he doesn't want you."
    
    I FRONT OF scores of hard, appraising eyes, Charlie Finnegan removed his shirt and tossed it over a chair. He pulled his elbows behind his back, loosening his shoulders, opening up his chest. The eyes roved over his rippling muscles. They noted the thick arms, the powerful hands. A murmur of approval moved through the crowd. Odds increased, bets changed, coins leaped from hand to hand.
    Impassive, Charlie's own eyes roved around the room. He liked what he saw. This was his first fight at the Taj-Mahal -an old music hall newly converted to a sporting hall. The owner, Denny Quinn, had gutted the building, ripping out the stage and the seats, but leaving the fancy gas chandeliers and sconces and the florid wallpaper. The end result was a large, well-lit space, perfect for dogfights, ratting matches, cockfights, and bare-knuckle brawls.
    He liked the crowd, too-mostly workingmen, but also some toffs. He spotted Thomas "Bowler" Sheehan in the crowd. Bowler, named for the black hat he always wore, was the most notorious criminal in East London. There wasn't a whorehouse, dicing parlor, gaming hall, or fencing ring that he didn't have a piece of. Wharfingers paid him to "protect" their property. Publicans paid him to keep their windows from going in. And those foolish enough deny him a piece of their pie usually turned up facedown in the Thames.
    Sheehan's presence was a testimony to the amount of money in the hall.
    He didn't squander his evenings on small-time fights. Charlie was pleased to know that interest in him was high. He knew that lads Quinn liked, boxers who became his regulars, got a piece of the nightly draw, in addition to prize money. He was fighting for nothing tonight. Quinn made the new lads do a tryout before he took them on. Charlie was determined to make an impression.
    A bell sounded. Amid cheers and catcalls, he and his opponent came together in the center of the room. They held out their hands for the referee, who turned them palm-up to make sure they weren't concealing anything, then sent them back to their corners-opposite sides of the circle formed by the spectators.
    Charlie sized up the lad. He knew him. His name was Sid Malone. He had worked with him at the brewery. Sid lived across the river in Lambeth. He wasn't a native Londoner. According to Billy Hewson, their foreman, he'd come up from the countryside after his mother died. He had no family. No friends, either. He was a bully, always picking fights, though Charlie neve,. had any trouble from him. At least not until the day, several months ago, that Sid had taken a fancy to Fiona. He'd asked her to a pub, and when she declined, he'd tried to drag her into an alley. She'd broken his nose with a single, well-placed punch that had everything to do with luck, not strength, but Malone had never lived it down. He wanted to recover his pride and knew no better way of doing it than by beating Fiona's brother to mush. Sid was about Charlie's age and height. He had red hair, too, but he wasn't built as solidly. Charlie knew his style and thought he could take him, but any fighter, Sid included, was better when he was angry.
    Some boxers had to work up their anger. They needed a reason -a score to settle, a few jeers from the crowd. All Charlie had to do was open the box where his rage lived. Always a good fighter, he'd gotten even better in the weeks since his father's death.
    Fighting cleansed him. Of his fury, his guilt, his hopelessness. When he fought, he forgot his anxious sister and his pale, tired mother. He forgot his sad-eyed little brother mutely reproaching him for never being around. He forgot New York and the life he'd hoped to build there. He lost himself completely in the circling, the faking, the crack of his knuckles against somebody's jaw, in the smoke and the sweat and the bright, brilliant pain.
    The referee took the center of the ring and raised his arm. The air crackled with tension. Charlie could feel it raising the hairs on his arms. The crowd surged in closer, voices urged him on. A bell sounded and the fight was on. Sid was like a marionette. Hurt pride and anger pulled his strings, jerking him toward Charlie, making him throw stiff: shaky punches. Charlie withdrew into the defensive, easily parrying Sid's thrusts. From this position, he could watch him, conserve his energy, and decide exactly when to nail the bastard.
    "C'mon, ya' coward," Sid hissed. "Fight me."
    The crowd didn't like it; they wanted more aggression… Men booed and shook their heads. Charlie didn't give a damn. He could've thrown a dozen giveaway punches, cutting a lip, swelling an eye, but he wanted to give them something memorable, so he held back, teasing the crowd, drawing the whole process out like a skilled lover who increases pleasure by delaying it.
    But then, out of nowhere, Sid landed a punch under Charlie's left eye.
    His knuckles drove in against the socket and split the skin. Charlie's head snapped back. Blood streamed from the cut; the crowd roared. Charlie shook his head, throwing off a red spray. He was glad the cut was under his eye so the blood wouldn't blind him. Sid was confident now, strutting. Charlie watched the position of his fists. There was more room between them. His cover was loosening.
    Sid got a few more jabs in, harmless hits that Charlie let him have, all the while watching him like a hawk. His left fist dropped lower every time he threw a right. He was winded, jabbing in a pattern to preserve his breath. Charlie kept his own fists close to his face. Now was not the time to give Sid another crack at his eye. He took a deep breath, steadying himself, still watching Sid's pattern. Right, right, right. The left fist lowered as he punched, then went up, then he took a rest. Another pattern. Right, left, right. Once more. Then all rights again. Lower and rest. He waited. Sid punched with his right again, his left fist dropped, and Charlie delivered a hurtling freight train of a punch directly to his temple.
    Sid dropped to the floor like a sack of rocks. He groaned once, his eyes fluttered closed, he was out. There were a few seconds of stunned silence as the referee counted to ten, then he ran to Charlie, hoisted his arm, and, declared him the winner. The crowd erupted into cheers, with many exclaiming they'd never seen the like. Men who only minutes ago had been jeering Charlie now praised his restraint and timing.
    Sid was carried off to a table, where his mates worked to revive him.
    Charlie spat out the blood that had leaked into his mouth. In no time, admiring punters brought him a chair, a pint of porter, clean towels, and water. He wiped his face. A stout man in a waistcoat and shirtsleeves, carrying a battered black bag, introduced himself as Dr. Wallace, Denny Quinn's barber surgeon, and attended to his eye. He cleaned it with soap and water, then patted it with whiskey, which made Charlie wince. When he got out a needle and thread, Charlie asked what the hell he was doing.
    "It's a deep one," Wallace said. "If we don't stitch it up now, it'll take forever to 'eal. Open right up on you the next time you fight."
    Charlie nodded, steeling himself as Wallace poked the needle through his skin.
    "Sit still, lad. We want to keep your face pretty for the ladies." He put in a few more stitches, five in all, then knotted the thread. "Nice wallop you gave that lad. Don't see many like that and I see a lot. Needlework's on the 'ouse. And there's a plate of chops coming your way, courtesy of Mr. Quinn." Wallace nodded toward Sid, splayed out on a table. "I'd better go see if I can wake up Sleeping Beauty. Keep that cut clean."
    Charlie thanked him, then downed his pint. As soon as the glass was empty, another appeared. And then a heaping plate of pork chops. He tore into them; he'd had nothing to eat but bread and marge for days. A man brought him his shirt, which he put on but didn't button; he was too hot. Men who'd won money came over to express their appreciation.
    "The odds changed twice during the match," one told him, gleefully tousling his hair. "But I stuck by you and won meself a pot! You've got the makings of a great, lad."
    The man was so happy, he gave Charlie two shillings of his winnings. He pocketed the money and smiled. The fight had gone just as he'd hoped-he'd made his impression. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. The mad excitement of the match had worn off and he was tired. He took a deep breath, inhaling the stifling air. Like every other establishment of its kind, the Taj-Mahal reeked of men and their activities - beer souring in the floorboards, sweat, smoke, greasy chops, and… perfume. Perfume? Charlie opened his eyes to see where it was coming from.
    A pretty strawberry-blonde stood before him. She was wearing a tightly laced pink corset, a Houncy white petticoat, and not much else. Her long curls were pulled up in a loose knot; a few corkscrewed free. She had warm brown eyes, freckled skin, and a sweet smile. Charlie could not take his eyes off her bare arms, the tops of her freckled breasts. He'd never seen so much woman.
    "Mr. Quinn said you might like some company," the girl said, smiling. "I'm Lucy."
    Charlie couldn't speak. God, was she pretty. He could see through her corset.
    "Do you want me to go away?" she asked, frowning. "Do you want someone else?"
    He found his voice. "No! No, not at all. Sit down, won't you? Excuse me manners, I'm a bit tired. Fight takes it out of you." But suddenly, Charlie found he was not tired in the least.
    "I didn't see the fight. Den doesn't want us downstairs till it's over. Says we distract everyone and mess up the betting. But I 'eard you was smashing!"
    So, Lucy was one of Denny's girls. He was tongue-tied; he didn't know what to say, but he had to say something. He desperately wanted to keep her here, where he could look at her and talk to her. Where all the other blokes could see him with her. So he started talking about the fight, and Sid Malone, and how his sister had broken Sid's nose. He made Lucy laugh and she didn't go away. Instead she leaned closer and he saw even more of her cleavage.
    Charlie felt a hand on his back and looked up. The hand belonged to a rangy man wearing a flash jacket. It was Quinn. He pushed his chair back to stand up, but Quinn told him to sit still.
    "That was good work, lad," he said. "Unexpected. Kept the betting 'igh. I like that. I want to take you on. Give that eye time to 'eal and then I'll set you, all right?"
    "Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Quinn."
    "My terms are generous," Quinn continued, his sharp eyes moving round the room as he spoke. "A set purse, plus a piece of the night's draw. Now listen, Charlie. You're good and others will want you, but I want you exclusively, and I'll make it worth your while." He pulled a wad of notes out of his pocket, peeled off a fiver, and gave it to Charlie. Charlie started to thank you, but he held up his hands. "If you're not too knackered, the services of our lovely Lucy are on the 'ouse. She'll get you a good 'ot bath, won't you, luv? And if you're nice to 'er, she'll do one or two other things, I imagine."
    Before a red-faced Charlie could say a word, Quinn was off, moving through the crowd. He'd spotted one of his girls alone. "Get a man and get upstairs," Charlie heard him yell. "What do you think this. is? A church social?"
    Lucy put an arm around Charlie, drawing him close. His heart was hammering. " 'E must really want you, Charlie. It's not often I see Denny Quinn willingly part with five quid."
    Charlie couldn't believe his luck. All he'd wanted was to get Quinn to lake him on. And now he had five pounds, two shillings, and the promise of more to come. And Lucy. He had Lucy. They would go upstairs and he’d take off her corset and look at her. He could kiss her. He could take off her petticoat and lie down next to her and… and more.
    He was nervous. For all his bragging with the lads on Montague Street about the fourpenny whores they'd had, he'd never done more than kiss his sister’s friend Bridget and grope her small breasts. He drained his pint. That made three. Four more and he might actually be ready for this.
    "Come on," Lucy whispered, taking him by the hand. She led him upstairs, to a narrow hallway with doors on either side of it. She paused by one door, drew him to her, and kissed him, trailing her hands through his hair and down his back to his bum, which she squeezed and kneaded like a batch of dough, pressing him into her.
    "Want your bath now or later?" she whispered, moving her hands to his front.
    "What bath?" he croaked, thinking of Denny Quinn and the five-pound note in his pocket, thinking of anything at all to take his mind off what she was doing to him with her hands. Because if he didn't, he wouldn't make it to her bed. To his relief she stopped to fish in her corset for her room key. giggling, she unlocked the door and pulled him inside. And in Lucy's plump feather bed, in her soft, freckled arms, Charlie Finnegan found an entirely new way to lose himself.
    
Chapter 14
    
    Over a breakfast of toast and tea, Fiona, her face beaming with happiness, reread her letter from Joe for the fifth time.
    
    Dear Fiona,
    Here’s two bob. Come to Covent Garden on Sunday morning. Take the number-four bus from Commercial Street where we took it that day I brought you here. Get off at Russell Street and I’ll be there waiting. I’ll only have half a day - I’ve got to leave for Jersey with Tommy at One, but if you got here by nine, we could have the morning. I’m sorry about the other day and Guy Fawkes. I know this is a hard time for you. I miss you and hope everything’s all right.
    Love Joe
    
    The letter arrived yesterday afternoon. It was really more of a package-a small box wrapped with brown paper and twine containing the letter and two shillings, each wrapped in tissue paper so they didn't rattle and tempt the postman.
    Fiona was over the moon. For six days, ever since their awful fight, she'd neither seen nor heard from him and she'd been imagining the worst. He didn't love her anymore. He didn't want their shop. He'd taken up with Millie. These thoughts had tortured her during the day and kept her awake at night, staring at the ceiling, lonely and miserable and heartsick. Maybe she'd driven him away for good. Why had she fought with him when they had so little time together? It was all her fault; all he'd done was talk about his job. She'd let her jealousy overwhelm her again. She was so anxious to make things right, but she couldn't travel to him. She couldn't even write, there was never enough money for paper. But now he'd written to her and she was hopeful and excited. She would see him. They would talk and everything would be all right. She needed him, needed the security of his love, so much.
    He was right; it was a hard time, the hardest of times. Terrible, in fact.
    Every day there seemed to be a new crisis to deal with: Seamie needed mittens, a sweater. Charlie needed a jacket. The cold weather had come and with it the need for more coal. The little factory that supplied her mother with piecework had gone out of business. She'd looked everywhere-pubs, shops, cookshops-for a second job, but no one was hiring.
    And, worst of all, Eileen had caught their mother's cough. The other night she'd taken a very bad turn, hacking until she could hardly catch her breath, bringing up bloody phlegm. They'd rushed her to a doctor. He wasn 't sure what it was, he said, they'd have to watch her closely to see if the medicine he'd prescribe would help or not. Fiona had taken hope at this, but her mam had been strangely quiet. When they got home, she'd sat down by the fire and wept. Fiona, frightened more by her mother's tears than the baby’s coughing, asked what was wrong.
    "It's my fault. Eileen caught my cough and it's turned into consumption," She said. "The doctor won't say it, but I know it."
    "No, it's not, Mam," Fiona said forcefully, as if her words themselves could squash the possibility of that dread disease. "The doctor said it could be just that 'er throat's raw or that she's got an infection. 'E said to watch what the medicine did and come back in a week. That's what 'e said and 'e knows more about it than you do."
    Her mam had wiped her eyes and nodded, but she hadn't looked convinced. She'd watched Eileen anxiously ever since, getting little sleep, growing increasingly distracted and depressed. She'd lost weight, too. They all had. There was so little money for food. They'd eaten a steady diet of bread and tea for days until Charlie came home the other night with a five-pound note and a cut under his eye. A moving job, he'd said. The doctor's bills and the cost of Eileen's medicine plus three weeks' back rent and a trip to the market had eaten up most of their windfall, but now, at last, something good had happened. Joe had written and she would see him in only a few hours. She could bear whatever hardships came her way, as long as she had his love and their dreams to hold on to.
    As she was wrapping her shawl around her shoulders, trying to remember how long the number-four bus took to get to Covent Garden, a boy's face appeared in the window.
    He knocked on the glass, "Is this the Finnegans'?" he shouted.
    "Aye. Who are you?"
    "Mr. Jackson from the Bull sent me. Said I was to tell Fiona Finnegan that' e wanted to see' er about the job. Said she was to come right away if she still wanted it."
    "What… this minute?"
    "That's what 'e said." The boy's eyes strayed to the loaf of bread on the table.
    Fiona cut a slice, spread some margarine on it, and handed it to him. He ate it greedily and left to find himself another penny errand.
    "Ta-ra, Mam," she said, bending over the bed to kiss her mother goodbye. She wasn't asleep, she was just lying on her side, eyes closed.
    “ Ta-ra, luv."
    Fiona sighed. Once her mother would have peppered her with questions about a new job-especially one in a pub-before ever letting her out the door. Now she was too tired to care. She hadn't even asked about Charlie's eye, or noticed that Seamie's vocabulary now included "bloody" and "bastard." We have to get out of here, Fiona thought. Life in Adams Court was harsh and defeating. It was changing them, doing them in.
    She closed the door behind her and set off for the Bull, her fingers crossed. If she hurried, maybe she could get to the pub, talk to Mr. Jackson, and still get to Covent Garden before nine. When she'd spoken to him a few days ago, he hadn't anything available. Someone must've left. His timing could've been better, she thought. Today of all days! But it couldn't be helped and Joe would understand if she was a bit late. If she got the job, she'd have a few extra shillings in her pocket and maybe she could get some meat for their tea during the week or get her mam a bottle of tonic. Maybe, just maybe, she'd get this job. Maybe two good things in a row would happen. She was overdue for a bit of luck.
    When she got to the pub, she rapped on the door, and within seconds a burly, ruddy-faced man with a big walrus moustache was ushering her in.
    "You're 'ere quick," Ralph Jackson said. "Only just sent that boy off after you."
    "Yes, sir," Fiona said, smiling, hoping to make a good impression. "I didn't want to keep you waiting." The truth was she didn't want to keep Joe waiting, but what Mr. Jackson didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
    "Good, I like that in me workers. So, you think you're up to the job, then?" he asked. "It's not easy work. And it's not pleasant. Takes lots of elbow grease to get a boozer clean."
    "Oh, aye, Mr. Jackson. I can manage it. I'll do a first-rate job for you."
    I'll wash the windows until they sparkle, I'll scrub the floor until it gleams, she thought. I'll wash the glasses and polish the bar, and kiss your big hairy arse, too. Just give me the bloody job!
    "It's three evenings a week, plus Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. The rate's two and an 'alfpence an hour, plus a meal and a pint of whatever you like when you're finished."
    "Yes, sir."
    Mr. Jackson chewed his lip, ran his eyes over her as if he were sizing up a plowhorse, then gave her the nod. "All right, then. Scrub brush and bucket are be'ind the door. Bar needs polishing, too, but you'll need to get the dirty glasses off it first."
    Fiona blinked. "You mean right now?"
    "Yes, of course right now. Something wrong with that? I said the hours included Sunday mornings and today's Sunday."
    She wouldn't get to see Joe. He was waiting for her. He'd sent her the fare. They were going to talk and he'd hold her and make things better. She pictured him standing at the bus stop, searching for her face as bus after bus stopped to discharge its passengers. Not finding her. Giving up and going home.
    "It's just… I was going… I didn't think the job would start right.'way… " Fiona said.
    "Look, lass, I just lost me charlady," Mr. Jackson said impatiently. "She was expecting and dropped the sprog early. I need me pub cleaned, Makes no difference to me who cleans it. If you don't want the job, I'll give it to the next one who does."
    "Oh, no, I do want the job," she said hastily, forcing herself to smile. "I'm grateful to you for remembering me and I'll get right to work."
    As soon as she was out of his sight, Fiona allowed her fake smile to drop. Bitter tears stung behind her eyes and slipped down her cheeks; she couldn't hold them in. She was so desperate to see Joe, to make it up with him. Now it all seemed hopeless again. Why did the job have to come through now? This very day? She had no way of telling him what had happened. He'd be standing there waiting for her and she wouldn't come.
    But there was no other choice. It had taken weeks to get the job. If she turned it down, it would be ages until something else came up and she didn't have ages. She needed Joe, but her family needed money. She would just have to write him and explain what happened. She could use the money he sent to do it. She'd tell him she was sorry about the other day, too. And that she loved him and wanted to see him just as soon as he could manage it. And hopefully, he'd understand.
    She filled up the wooden bucket with soap and water, grateful that she was alone in the pub, that Mr. Jackson had things to attend to in his office. She rolled up her sleeves, knotted her skirt and got down on her hands and knees. She dunked the brush into the water and began to scrub, her tears mingling with the soapy water on the dirty, beer-soaked floor.
    
Chapter 16
    
    “Glass of punch, sir?"
    "No. No, thank you," Joe said quickly. His head already felt as if it were floating on a string. "I'll 'ave a lemonade, please."
    "Very good, sir," the waiter said, turning crisply on his heel to fetch it. Joe was finished with the punch. He wasn't used to hard liquor and the two cups he'd had already had made him tipsy. He wanted to stay clearheaded. Tommy had been squiring him about all evening, introducing, him to one nob after another. He'd met the head buyers for Fortnum's and Harrods, various chefs and maitre d's from the bigger hotels, restaurateurs, and countless wives and sons and daughters and it had taken all his concentration to keep their names straight.
    The party was fun and boisterous, not at all the stuffy affair he'd expected. Spirits were high. All the guests truly seemed to be enjoying themselves. But how could they not? Everything was exceptional-the staggering amount of food, the drink, the music, the house all decorated with flowers, the yard aglow with torches and candles. It was a dazzling sight and he wished Fiona were there to share it with him. Fiona. His heart ached al the thought of her.
    Why had everything become so bloody difficult between them? He'd hooked himself a good job in hopes of getting them their shop sooner than they'd planned. So they could be together. And now they were coming apart.
    He'd sent her money to come to him at Covent Garden over a week ago and she hadn't-without any explanation at all. She could've at least written to him to say why. She must still be angry. Maybe she hated him and never wanted to see him again. Maybe she'd found someone else.
    The last time he'd seen her, the day they'd fought, she was so distracted he couldn't even talk to her. And then, like a clod, he'd told her that she made him feel guilty. He shouldn't have said that she was very proud and his words had cut her - but the truth was, he did feel guilty.
    Some of his guilt, he knew he deserved for hurting her feelings at the Old Stairs. But there was a deeper, larger guilt - one that he struggled against. It came from not being there for her after her father's death. From not being able to take care of her. He wanted to rescue her, but how? She couldn't leave her family, she'd told him as much. And he couldn't take them all on. If he did, they'd never get their shop.
    Was it selfish to not want these burdens? He wasn't prepared to shoulder a family man's worries yet, but he was doing just that. He worried every minute about Fiona: Was she walking home too late at night? Did she have enough to eat? Did her family have enough money'! He'd brought them food when he visited. And he'd slipped four shillings into their money tin when no one was looking. He knew it wasn't enough, but he didn't know what else to do.
    He was young; he was going somewhere. His boss liked him, respected him, even. He didn't want all these worries. He wanted, just for a bit, the young man's freedom to work at his job, to learn it and excel at it. To hear that he was smart and talented from someone like Tommy and to bask in the glow of that praise. Just for a bit. But he even felt guilty for wanting that.
    Christ, it was all too much. A big, overwhelming burden. One he couldn't solve no matter how many times he went over it in his mind.
    The waiter reappeared. Joe took his drink and walked from the living room out onto the balcony to get some air. The November night was crisp and clear. From his vantage point he could see the bonfire blazing in Tommy's enormous backyard. Girlish laughter attracted his attention. He knew that laughter; it was Millie's. Now there was a girl who had no burdens and never would. She was always laughing, always merry. His eyes searched the groups of people clustered around the bonfire and found her. She was hard to miss for she was wearing a spectacular dress. He didn't know the first thing about dresses, but he knew expensive when he saw it. It was a shimmering midnight-blue silk cut low and fitted to her every curve. But the most dazzling thing about it was the fireworks motif embroidered onto it. Thousands upon thousands of tiny iridescent glass beads had been stitched onto the skirt to form one large colorful burst with several smaller ones "round it. It looked just like real fireworks exploding in a night sky. The dress was the talk of the party and Millie was the center of attention in it.
    She was with her father and a lad who worked for him at his Spitalfields pitch. The lad had obviously said something entertaining; Millie and her father were laughing uproariously. Watching them, Joe felt a sudden stab of jealousy, of possessiveness. But over whom? Tommy? Millie? Tommy had his hand on the lad's back and Joe resented it. Is he as good as I am? he wondered. Better? Looking at Millie standing next to her father, he knew (hat whoever got her got the family business. Officially, the word was that Harry would take over the firm, but Joe knew better. Harry had purchased a ticket to India and would depart next month. If this lad won Millie's heart and married her, he would become Peterson's son. And what of it? Joe ask himself, watching as Peterson broke away from the group and headed for the house. Why did he suddenly care? He was only in this until he could strike out on his own. He turned away and helped himself to a smoked oyster on a toast point from a passing waiter's tray.
    "There you are, Bristow! I've been looking all over for you!"
    It was Tommy. He placed his hands on the balcony and smiled. "Smashing party, if I say so myself," he said, observing his guests. A waiter scurried up and asked what he could get him. "Scotch. A double. And the same for my young friend here."
    Oh-oh, Joe thought. He was already half pissed. He'd have to dump some out when Tommy wasn't looking or he'd be legless. The waiter was back in an instant, handing him a glass. He took a swallow and winced. It packed a kick.
    "I've got news," Peterson said, licking whiskey from his lips. "Just before I left the office tonight, I received an inquiry from Buck Palace. Can you believe it, Joe? I don't even dare hope," he said, flapping his hand as if it didn't matter, but he couldn't keep the gleam out of his eyes. "If they liked our goods, if we got the nod, it could lead to a Royal Warrant on the Peterson sign. Never in my wildest dreams did I see that. Wouldn't it be something?"
    "I'll say it would,",Joe replied, just as excited as his boss was about a crack at a warrant-the right to display the royal crest and proclaim to all the world that "the Queen shops here." He was already envisioning ways to convince the palace to buy. "We could send them samples of our best produce arranged in baskets on the good wagon, the one that just got painted. We could get Billy Nevins to drive it in uniform. 'E's a good-looking lad, clean and neat. Before they ask, I mean. Bring the goods to them so they don't 'ave to come to us."
    "Good idea… " Peterson said, signaling for the waiter. He'd finished his drink and was ready for another. He looked at Joe, who'd only gotten halfway through his. "You ready?"
    Joe knocked more of his whiskey back and said he was. "We should give them a ridiculous price, cut it way down… " he continued, as the waiter handed him a fresh drink. "… doesn't matter if we only break even. Or if we lose money. The new business we'd get from the warrant would more than make up for lost profits on the palace… " He saw Peterson frown and wondered if he'd gone too far. After all, it was Peterson's profits he was offering to cut. "That is, if you agree, sir."
    "Of course I agree," Tommy said. "I was just wondering why none of my senior men came up with these ideas. I guess it takes a young bloke to suggest that we lose money in order to make some. Let's go over your ideas again tomorrow morning. The reason I came over here in the first place was to give you this" - he reached into his jacket, produced an envelope and handed it to him -" and to be the first to congratulate my new head buyer."
    Joe was stunned. He'd hoped for the promotion, thought he might have a shot at it, but he'd never assumed the job was his. Now it was. He was Peterson's head buyer. A grin spread across his face. "Thank you, Mr. Peterson, sir. I… I don't know what to say."
    "You don't need to say anything, lad. You've earned it." He raised his glass. "Here's to your future with Peterson's. You're a bright young man. Always thinking on behalf of the business and I appreciate it."
    Joe clinked his glass against Tommy's, then took another swallow.
    Tommy, a little maudlin now, put an arm around him and launched into the story of how he began his business. Joe, smiling and nodding, appeared to be entranced by the tale, when really he was barely listening.
    He simply could not believe his good fortune. Once, he could not even convince his own father to rent another barrow and put fruit on one and vegetables on the other. Now he was head buyer for one of London's biggest fruit-and-veg men. He had the talent and the drive to make it in this world. He'd proved it. He was the guv'nor. Well, not the guv'nor, he thought, let's not get carried away… but a guv'nor, anyway. And he was still only nineteen. He'd have a raise in wages and had what was bound to be a nice bonus in his back pocket, too. He took another swallow of whiskey; it was going down a lot smoother now. He felt like a million quid. Everything was smashing. This party, the food, the whiskey. Just fucking smashing!
    "Oh, Dad, you're not boring poor Joe with those old stories, are you?" Millie had joined them. Peterson put his other arm around his daughter.
    "Certainly not," he said, swaying slightly. "Joe loves to hear about the business." He pronounced it "bishnesh." "Don't you, lad?"
    "I do indeed, sir," Joe said righteously. He pronounced it "shir."
    Millie looked from her father to Joe and giggled. He wondered if they looked drunk. He felt drunk.
    "Well, I don't," she said, tossing her head. "There's too much talk of business. Let's talk of bonfires. And Guys. Like the one your faithful employees are marching about the yard right now, Dad. The one that looks just like you."
    She was laughing again. Silly Millie,,Joe thought. Always laughing. Eyes sparkling. Big round bosoms about to burst out of her dress. A beautiful, giggling girl.
    "Well, we'll have to see about that," Tommy said, pretending to be offended. He put his whiskey down and straightened his tie. "We'll sort that bunch out. And you, young man…," he added, pointing at Joe, "… you are not to talk about fruit and vegetables anymore tonight. Millie's right. Young people ought to be enjoying themselves at a party, not talking shop." He waved his hands at them, shooing them off the balcony and back into the house. "Millie, show Joe around. Get him something to eat. Get him a drink."
    "Yes, Dad," she said. As soon as he'd disappeared down the balcony stairs into the yard, she turned to Joe and said, "I hope he doesn't trip and break his neck. He's pissed as a newt." She threaded her arm through his and led him from the living room. "Come on, I'll show you the house."
    Joe let himself be led. It was the easiest course of action. Tommy wasn't the only one who was pissed as a newt. He'd have to pull himself together. Hopefully, Millie hadn't noticed how bad he was. He didn't want her telling her father he'd gotten himself blind drunk.
    People looked at them and smiled as they walked from room to room.
    Joe smiled back; he enjoyed the attention. They must know I'm the new head buyer, he thought giddily. Women whispered and nodded approvingly. Harry waved from a corner. Everyone was so nice. This house was nice, Millie was nice. He stubbed his toe on the carpet and almost tripped, which set her giggling again. Why couldn't he make his feet work right? Another glass of Scotch appeared and she put it into his hand. He took a sip, just to be polite.
    Millie showed him the parlor, which she said she planned to do over a la Japonaise, whatever that meant. She showed him her father's study, with its immense mahogany desk, rich rugs, and heavy draperies, and she showed him the kitchen, which was vast and swarming with an army of cooks and waiters. And then she led him to the stairway. Half way up, he knew he was in trouble. His head had started to spin.
    Millie noticed his discomfort. To his relief, she wasn't angry. "Poor duck," she said. "Don't worry. We'll find you a place to rest until it wears off."
    They walked past door after door, but she wasn't showing him any more rooms, she was leading him down the hall to a room at the end. He felt very bad. He was swaying back and forth like a sailor who hadn't got his land legs. Millie opened the door to the last room and ushered him in. There was a bed, soft and inviting, and he sat down on it, expecting her to leave him to his devices. Instead, she sat down next to him and started to remove his jacket. He protested, telling her he'd be fine, he just needed to sit for a minute, but she shushed him, saying he'd be much more comfortable this way. She took his jacket from him, loosened his tie, then pushed him back on the bed, telling him to lie still and close his eyes, in that sweet, soft voice of hers.
    He did as he was told. Breathing deeply, he willed his brain to stop doing somersaults. Little by little, the spinning feeling eased. He still felt very drunk, almost as if he were outside of his body, but at least he wasn't so dizzy anymore. He was dimly aware of Millie moving about the room; he heard her skirts rustling. He opened his eyes. It was dark. She must've doused the lamp. He focused on a pile of pillows at his left. They were lacy and embroidered. They smelled of lilacs. Millie always smelled of lilacs. He closed his eyes again. This must be her bedroom, he thought uneasily. He shouldn't be here. But it was so easy to lie here and so hard to get up.
    "Millie?" "What is it?"
    "I better go back downstairs. Your father wouldn't like this."
    "How will he find out?" she asked, her voice closer now. "I won't tell him." She sat on the bed beside him. The smell of lilacs was stronger. Joe felt something brush his lips. His eyes flew open. It was Millie, she'd kissed him. She raised her head, smiling at him, and he realized she no longer had her dress on. She was wearing only a camisole and petticoat. As he stared at her, she began unbuttoning her top, exposing more and more of herself. He could not tear his eyes away from her. Her breasts were beautiful and lush, with small pink nipples that hardened in the cool air of the room. He let out I groan at the sudden, deep ache in his groin. She shrugged the camisole off her shoulders, took his hand and pressed it against herself. She leaned over him and kissed him again, flicking her tongue over his lips.
    Don't do this, he told himself. Don't. He pushed her away and struggled to stand on his wobbly legs. She smiled at him, eyes glittering like a cat who's released a mouse it means to kill just to watch it run one last time. "I'm yours, Joe," she whispered. "I want you. And I know you want me. I can see it. I've seen it in your eyes from the beginning. You can have me. You can have anything you want… "
    He had to leave. Now. This instant. But he Wanted her. He wanted to luck her so badly he could hardly breathe. It was easier to give in, wasn't it? II was a lot easier here on Easy Street. Everything else was hard. It was easy here, in Peterson's house, where maids and waiters brought you things to eat, and lots of whiskey. It was easy in Millie's big bed, with her sweet lips and her big, lovely tits. It was all right. He could have her. He could have anything. Isn't that what she'd said?
    Millie stood up, unbuttoned her petticoat and let it drop to the floor. She was now completely naked. In the darkness, he Could see the curve of her small waist, her thighs, the tuft of blond hair between them. She pressed herself against him and kissed him again, snaking her hand between his legs, unbuttoning his trousers. His hands sought her breasts. He had to have her. Now. He pushed her down on the bed, parted her legs, and entered her roughly. And then he was inside of her, plunging into the deep, soft velvet of her again and again. She was his. The buyer's job was his. Peterson's was his. Everything was his. He came hard and quick, biting her shoulder as he did.
    When it was over, he lay still, breathing heavily. The whiskey was playing tricks again.- Where was he? He wasn't quite sure. Oh yes, he was with Fiona, of course. In their big house. In their big bed. They had their shop, scores of shops, in fact. They were rich and everything was lovely. He felt calm, contented, his face buried in Fee's soft neck.
    But something was wrong. He felt so dizzy, so sick. There was that smell again-something cloying. Lilacs. He raised his head and looked through bleary eyes at the woman beneath him. This isn't Fiona, his mind screamed. My God, what have I done? He rolled oft' her and backed away from the bed. He knew he was going to be violently sick. Holding his pants up with one hand he unlocked the door with the other and ran from the room.
    On the bed, Millie massaged the bite mark on her shoulder. There was a wetness between her legs from what they'd done, she could feel it. Good thing she'd covered her bedspread with an old sheet earlier. She raised her knees, her feet flat on the bed, then tilted her hips up, just as she'd read in the book she'd got from her married friend, Sarah. She closed her eyes, savoring the taste of him on her tongue, and smiled.
      “Don'tyou want some, Fee? They're nice and salty," Charlie said, holding a paper cone of chips out to his sister. "Come on, 'ave one… "
    "No, thanks."
    Something was wrong. She hadn't told him so, but he could see it in her face. Something was making her sad. He'd hoped a Sunday afternoon walk to the river would lift her spirits, but the things that usually made her smile-a chantey carried on the wind, gulls pestering for chips-seemed to have no effect. If anything, she looked lower now than when they'd left Adams Court.
    He followed her gaze out over the whitecapped water. A pair of barges were crossing midstream. Two ships passing in the shite, he thought. For the life of him, he could not understand what she saw in this poxy river. He finished his chips, then looked to see where Seamie had got to. He was chasing seagulls by Oliver's. "Oi! You! Don't go too close to the water," he shouted. Seamie paid him no attention. He followed a bird into the waves, soaked his boots, and laughed. Charlie swore. He couldn't even make a four-year-old mind.
    It wasn't easy being the man of the family. He worked all day at the brewery, fought like a tiger at the Taj, and still didn't make enough money to pay all the bills. And though he needed every penny he could earn, work kept him out of the house too much. This afternoon, at dinner, was the first time he'd talked to his mother in days. He'd looked at her face, really looked at it, as she poured him a cup of tea, and he'd been shocked to see how pale she was. And then he'd looked at his sister, who seemed to be constantly fighting tears. His brother was sulky and whiny, having been cooped up for too long. Even the baby was ailing.
    How had his da done it? he wondered. How had he kept them all fed and clothed? How had he made them feel cared for and safe? And all on a docker's wages? He'd promised his father he'd look after them and he was trying his best, but no matter how hard he tried, he failed. If only he could put away a few pounds. Then he could move his family out of Adams Court, into a decent room, or maybe even a whole floor in a better house.
    The other day, Denny Quinn had offered him the chance to make a few extra bob. There was a man who owed him a considerable amount of money, he'd said. He wanted Charlie and Sid Malone to collect it for him. Charlie had turned him down. He had no desire to knock on some stranger's door in the middle of the night and beat him senseless over an unpaid gambling debt. But that was before his mother had grown so pale. Before the baby had taken ill. Now, he wondered if he'd been daft to say no.
    Fiona sighed, taking his thoughts away from Quinn. Looking at her, he decided to take another tack. Maybe if he could get her to talk about something - anything at all- he could eventually get her to tell him what was bothering her.
    " 'Ow's it going at the Bull?" he asked. " 'Ard work. is it?"
    "Aye."
    A long silence followed. He tried again. "Saw Uncle Roddy yesterday."
    "Did you?"
    "We talked about the murders. 'E said the latest one-the Kelly woman From Dorset Street-was the worst yet. 'E said what was left didn't even resemble a woman."
    "Really?"
    "Aye. And they're no closer to catching the bloke, either."
    “Uhmm."
    So much for that idea. Well, there was no help for it. He'd have to take the direct route. Get all blabbery and emotional, just like a lass. He dreaded it.
    "All right, Fiona… what's up?"
    She didn't look at him. "Nothing," she said.
    "Look. something is. You're not yourself. You'd tell da if 'e were 'ere, so you better tell me. I'm the man of the 'ouse, remember? 'E left me in charge.". Fiona laughed at that, which he did not appreciate. Then, even worse, she started to cry. Flustered, he gave her his handkerchief, then awkwardly put an arm around her, hoping that none of his mates was around to see him.
    "It's over between us… me and Joe," she sobbed.
    "Did 'e break it off?"
    "No, but 'e will. I'm sure of it."
    She told him all about Joe's letter. "It's been ages since 'e sent it," she said. "I want to see 'im, but every time I get two pennies together something 'appens or somebody's 'ungry and they're gone. I know 'e doesn't care for me anymore… 'e'd come see me if 'e did… " She pressed his handkerchief to her face as fresh tears overtook her.
    "Aw, Fiona, is that all it is?" he said, relieved. He was worried she might be up the pole. "Joe cares for you. 'E always 'as. Just go see 'im and make it up, will you? "
    "Charlie, I 'aven't got the money. Did you listen to anything I said?"
    "I'll give you the money. I've got a bit of a sideline going… a way of making some extra brass. I can't tell you what it is, but… "
    "Oh, I know all about it."
    He looked at her, surprised. "What do you know?"
    She touched the scar under his eye. "I know 'ow you got that."
    "I got it from the rim of a beer barrel I was lifting. It slipped and 'it me in the face."
    Fiona smirked. She pulled his collar open and peered at the Jove bite on his neck. "Beer barrel give you that, too?"
    He slapped her hand away, scowling. "All right, so I'm fighting. Just don't tell Mam. I've got a match next Saturday. If I win, you'll 'ave bus fare to Covent Garden."
    "Oh, Charlie… really'?"
    "Aye."
    She hugged him tightly. "Thank you… oh, thank you!"
    "That'll do, Fee," he said, extricating himself.
    She blew her nose in his handkerchief then handed it back to him. "Um… that's all right. You keep it," he said.
    "Where's Seamie'?" she asked, suddenly worried.
    He nodded at the riverbank. " 'AIfway to Lime'ouse, the little bugger.
    Let's go get 'im. And then we'll go 'ave a pint at the Black Dog."
    "With what for money?"
    He gave her a superior smile. "Unlike yourself, Fiona, a person as 'anddsome as I am needs no coin. The barmaid's sweet on me. She'll give us a couple of pints for free."
    "Is that who put those marks on your neck'? Is she a girl or a flipping vampire?"
    "No, that was another lady friend."
    "You better watch yourself, Charlie."
    He rolled his eyes. He did not need a lecture on this topic from his sister. "I mean it! All we need now is some lass showing up on the doorstep with an ugly red-'aired baby in 'er arms."
    He shook his head. "It'll never 'appen."
    "Because you're… " She blushed slightly at the words. "… you're being careful, right?"
    Charlie snorted. "Aye, careful not to tell 'er where I live!"
    
    "TURN," Ada Parker, Millie's dressmaker, commanded through a mouthful of pins.
    Millie did and Ada deftly hemmed the last few inches of the mauve satin skirt she was fitting. When she was done, she sat back on her heels to appraise her work and frowned.
    "What's wrong?" Millie asked.
    "I don't know. The skirt's loose around your waist. I can't understand it. Everything looked fine at the last fitting. I know I cut it properly. I know your measurements by heart."
    She unhooked the skirt and made Millie step out of it. Then she took a tape measure from her pocket and wound it around her waist. "There's the answer," she said, batting her on the rump. "You've lost weight! What's wrong'? Why aren't you eating?"
    "Nothing's wrong, Ada. My… my appetite's a little off, that's all."
    "You should see a doctor. You don't want to get too thin or you'll ruin your beautiful figure. And then how will you find a husband'?"
    Millie smiled. "I've already found one. I'm expecting a proposal of marriage any day."
    "That's wonderful! Congratulations, my darling," Ada said, hugging her. Then she shook a finger at her. "But you won't keep him if you lose more weight!"
    Millie skimmed her hands over her belly. "Oh, I think I will," she said. "In fact, Ada, let me see your taffetas before I leave. An ivory, maybe. Or possibly a cream. White doesn't suit me. Not at all."
    
Chapter 17
    
    Fiona mopped up the last bit of gravy,on her plate with a crust of bread and washed it down with a swig of weak beer.
    "Like that, did you?" Ralph Jackson asked her.
    "It was delicious. Mrs. Jackson makes a smashing steak pie."
    "Don't I know it!" he exclaimed, patting his impressive belly. 'Tm glad you liked it, lass. You could use a little building up."
    Fiona smiled. Any girl under two hundred pounds was in need of building up in Mr. Jackson's eyes. She washed her dishes, grabbed her shawl, and bade him ta-ra. It was chilly outside, but the supper had filled her up and she felt a warmth throughout her body that only came from a good hot meal. It was Saturday, just after six, and she started down the sidewalk toward her home with a spring in her step. Her spirits were improved, she was hopeful. If Charlie won tonight, and she had prayed so hard that he would, she'd be on her way to Covent Garden tomorrow afternoon, right after she finished at the pub, to see Joe. She hated that her fare would be earned from his cuts and bruises, but she was desperate. She would make it up to him somehow. As soon as she and Joe had their shop, she would start putting aside money for his passage to New York.
    She had only gone a few yards down the sidewalk when she heard someone call her name. She turned. It was Joe. He was standing about ten yards behind her. He looked at her, then looked away again. She called to him. Her heart filled with love and happiness at the sight of him. Joe, her Joe! He was here, oh, thank God, he was here! He didn't hate her; he'd come to see her. He still loved her. He did! She ran to him, beaming. But as she got closer, her steps slowed. Her smile faded. Something wasn't right. He looked thin and haggard. He was unshaven.
    "Joe?" He raised his eyes to hers. The look she saw in them terrified her.
    "What is it? What's 'appened?"
    "Come on, Fee. Come to the river," he said, in a voice so hopeless, so dead-sounding, she barely recognized it. He turned in the direction of the Thames and started to walk.
    She grabbed his arm. "What's going on? Why are you 'ere and not at work?"
    He wouldn't look at her or answer her questions. "Just come for a walk," he said and she had no choice but to follow.
    When they got to the Old Stairs, they sat in their usual place, halfway down. Joe took her hand and squeezed it so tightly, it hurt. He tried to speak, but no words came. He lowered his head and wept. Fiona was so frightened she could hardly find her own voice. She'd only seen him cry once, when his grandmother died. Was that it? Had someone died?
    "Luv, what is it?" she said, her voice trembling. She put her arms around him. "What's wrong? Is it your mam? Is your father all right?"
    He looked at her through his tears. "Fiona… I've done a terrible thing… "
    "What? What 'ave you done? 'Ow bad can it be? Whatever it is, I'll 'elp you. We'll fix it." She tried for a smile. "You didn't kill anyone, did you?"
    "I've made Millie Peterson pregnant and now I've got to marry 'er."
    Fiona would later remember that the seconds that followed his words were without sound. She heard nothing of his voice, nothing of the river traffic or the noise from the nearby pub. It was as if her ears had been seared by those words, permitted to hear no more. She sat upright, arms wrapped around her legs, rocking slightly. Hearing nothing. Nothing. Part of her knew Joe had just said something, something bad, but if she didn't think about it, she'd be all right. She knew he was still speaking, but she wouldn't listen, because if she did he would tell her about… he would say that he'd… Millie… that they'd…
    A low cry escaped her throat, an animal sound of deep, crushing pain.
    She doubled over as if she'd been punched in the stomach. She heard him now, crying her name, felt his arms around her, pulling her to him. He'd made love to Millie Peterson. What they had done because they loved each other, he had done with her. Seconds ago, her mind would not accept it, now it tortured her with images or them together-his lips on her, his hands on her. She pushed him away, staggered to the water's edge, and vomited.
    When her stomach stopped heaving, she dipped her hem in the water and wiped her face. She tried to straighten, to walk back to the stairs, but then her mind seized on the rest of what he'd said. Millie was pregnant. He was going to marry her. Be her husband. Go to bed with her, wake up with her. Spend the rest of his life with her. Like a glass vase dropped on a hard stone floor, her heart shattered into a million jagged pieces. She covered her face with her hands and sank to the ground.
    Joe jumped down from the steps, lifted her up, and held her. "I'm sorry, Fiona, I'm so sorry. Forgive me. Please, please forgive me… " he said brokenly. She struggled against him, kicking him, pummeling him. She broke away, stumbling backward. A murderous rage filled her. "You bastard!" she screamed. "All those times you told me I was jealous, told me I 'ad no reason to be! Looks like I 'ad a bloody good reason! 'Ow long 'as this been going on, Joe? 'Ow many times did you fuck 'er?"
    "Once. I was drunk."
    "Oh, just once? And you were drunk… well, that's all right then, isn't it? That excuses it completely… " Her voice cracked, she had to swallow before she could continue. "And did you kiss' er like you kissed me? On 'er lips? 'Er 'eart? Between 'er legs?"
    "Fiona, don't. Please. It was nothing like that."
    She walked up to him, her whole body twitching with fury. She wanted to slap his face, kick him in the balls, do something to him that would make him feel one tiny fraction of the pain, the humiliation, she felt. Instead she burst into tears. "Why did you do it? Why, Joe, why?" she wailed piteously, her beautiful blue eyes red and swollen.
    "I don't know, Fiona," he cried. "I go over and over it in my 'ead and I still don't know." He told her everything in a gush of words. About being at the party and missing her and worrying that she hated him. He told her about wanting his promotion so badly and feeling like a king when he got it. I\bout drinking too much and Millie showing him around and his head spinning and ending up in her room. And then realizing what he'd done and being so violently ill that he'd retched up blood. "I was so drunk… and it felt like everything I wanted was right there before me… all the attention, the money, the ease of everything, but it wasn't. Everything I want is right 'ere in front of me. I thought I'd lost you, Fiona. I waited and waited for you at the bus stop and you didn't come. I thought it was over, thought you 'ated me. Why didn't you come?"
    "I tried," she said dully. "I was on my way when Mr. Jackson, the publican, sent for me. I'd asked about a job there and 'e told me I could 'ave it, but I 'ad to start right away. I was going to write you, but we needed the money you sent to buy Eileen medicine. I'm sorry," she said. Fresh tears coursed down her face. "If only I'd come." Sobs racked her entire body. She could not speak. When she could finally get the words out, she asked, "Do you… do you love 'er?"
    "No! God, no!" he shouted. "I love you, Fiona. I made a mistake, a stupid fucking 'orrible mistake and I'd give anything to be able to go back and undo it. Anything! I love you, Fee. I want to be with you, I want things to be like they were before everything went wrong. I can't… I can't go through with this… I can't… oh, God… " He turned away from her and his words were lost in his weeping.
    But you will, Fiona thought. You have to. There's a baby coming. Your baby. She watched him as he cried like a child and into the maelstrom of emotion engulfing her - sorrow, rage, fear-came a new feeling, one of pity. She didn't want to feel it. She wanted to hate him, because if she could just hate him, she could walk away from him. But it was impossible. Instinctively, her hand went out and stroked his back. He felt it, turned to her, and pulled her to him. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her neck. She felt sick and quaking in her very soul. "Do you know what you've done?" she whispered. "Do you know what you've thrown away? Our dreams. Our lives, past and future. Everything we were, everything we 'oped for. The love we 'ad for each other… "
    "No, Fee," Joe said, taking her face in his hands. "Don't say that. Please don't say you don't love me anymore. I've no right, I know it, but please, please still love me."
    Fiona looked at the man she'd loved her entire life, the man she needed more than anything or anybody. "Aye, I love you, Joe," she said. "I love you and you're going to marry Millie Peterson."
    As the sun went down over London, darkening the sky and chilling the air, Joe and Fiona remained by the river's edge, holding each other as if they would never let go. Fiona knew it was for the last time. When they left the river, it would be over. She'd never know the feel of him, the smell of him again. She'd never sit at the Old Stairs with him again, hear his voice call her name, see his quick blue eyes crinkle with laughter. They'd never have their "hop, a home, children, a life. Her dreams were gone forever, stillborn. Out of the blue, her best friend was leaving; her hope, her love, her very life was leaving her.
    She couldn't bear it. It hurt too much. Without Joe in it, her life was no longer worth living. It was nothing to her. With sudden clarity, she knew what she would do. She would tell him to go, and when he had, she would walk into the Thames and let it swallow her. It would be quick. It was nearly December and the water was cold. She wanted an end to this blinding, tearing pain.
    "When is your… your wedding?" she asked, not believing that these words were coming from her mouth.
    "A week from today."
    So soon. My God, it's so soon, she thought. "I need something from you," she said.
    "Anything."
    "I need the money. My part of our savings."
    "You can 'aye it all. I'll bring it round."
    "Give it to me mam if I'm not… if I'm not there." She looked at him one last time, then trained her gaze on the river. "Go now. Please."
    "Don't send me away, Fiona. Let me 'old you while I can," he pleaded.
    "Go. Please, Joe. I'm begging you."
    And then he was standing, looking at her and sobbing. And then he was gone and she was alone. Suicide was a sin, a small voice told her, but she didn't care. She thought of her grandfather, her father's father, who'd jumped from a cliff when his wife died. People said time healed anything. Maybe those people had never loved anyone. Time wouldn't have healed her grandfather, she was sure. And it wouldn't heal her.
    She walked to the water's edge and took a last look at the river she loved, at the wharves and the barges and the stars coming out in the dark London sky. She was in the water up to her ankles before she heard the shouting from the top of the stairs.
    "There you are, you sorry little cow!"
    She spun around. It was Charlie. He was standing at the top of the steps and he was furious. "Where the fuck 'ave you been?" he shouted, walking down them. "I've been looking for you since seven o'clock and it's just gone nine. 'Ave you lost your bleeding mind? Mam's out of 'er 'ead with worry. We thought you was murdered. Thought the Ripper 'ad got you. I missed me fight at the Taj because of you. Quinn's going to kill me… " He stopped and looked at her pale face, saw her eyes swollen with crying, her hair all wild. "What 'appened to you?" His expression changed from anger to frantic concern. "It wasn't a bloke interfering with you, was it, Fee!" He took her by the shoulders. "Nobody touched you, did they? Did Sid Malone… "
    Fiona shook her head.
    "Well, what's going on, then?"
    "Oh, Charlie," she cried, collapsing into her brother's arms. "I've lost my Joe."
    
Chapter 18
    
    Joe stood at the altar, handsome in a dark gray suit. He faced the entrance to the church, awaiting his bride. Harry Eaton stood at his side.
    "All right, old man?" Harry whispered, eyeing his green complexion.
    He nodded, but he was far from all right. He felt numb, as if he were in a nightmare, the kind where he couldn't scream or run away. He was trapped, utterly and absolutely. His father hadn't raised him to shirk his responsibilities. He was an adult and he had to face them. He had made one fatally stupid mistake and now he would spend the rest of his life paying for it. The rest of his life for one fuck. What an obscenely high price. And Harry thought his whores were expensive. Hysterical laughter burbled up inside him, he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep it in.
    "Not going to pass out, are you?" Harry asked, concerned. He shook his head.
    "Don't worry. It's not a death sentence. You can always play around." Joe smiled ruefully. Harry assumed he shared his own fear of monogamy. Oh, Harry, he thought, if it were only that simple. He knew that with his new position at Peterson's and the money Tommy had settled on them, he could have plenty of women. It didn't matter. He couldn't have the one woman he wanted.
    His eyes took in the rows of faces before him. He saw his parents, his brother Jimmy, his sisters, Ellen and Cathy, all dressed in the new clothes he'd bought them. His father was tight-lipped; his mother was crying off and on, just as she had been doing ever since he'd broken the news to her. He saw people he knew from work, important customers of Tommy's, friends and relatives of Millie's. It was a small crowd by Tommy's standards, only about a hundred people. But it was a rushed affair and there hadn't been time to organize anything larger.
    Tommy had been angry when he first found out, but he calmed down when he learned that Joe intended to marry his daughter. Millie later said it was all bluster. He was thrilled to be getting Joe for a son-in-law, but wanted to play the outraged father for the sake of appearances.
    Her pregnancy became an open secret. Men elbowed each other, joking that that devil of a Bristow just couldn't wait. Women smiled among themselves, smugly talking about an early arrival. No one was overly scandalized, I hey were happy for the handsome couple, pleased that Tommy's daughter and his protégé were marrying. Soon there'd be a third-generation son with selling in his blood. It was a brilliant match, people said.
    Joe became aware of organ music. The guests stood up and looked toward the entrance. He followed their gaze. A flower girl carne out, followed by Millie's maid of honor, followed by Millie herself, escorted by her father. His eyes held no joy in them as he looked at her, only dread. He might have been watching his executioner walk toward him. She wore an ivory taffeta dress with leg-o'-mutton sleeves, a long train, and a full veil, and carried an enormous bouquet of white lilies. He thought she looked like a ghost, shrouded in white from head to toe. Like the ghost in that Christmas story by Charles Dickens, the ghost of Christmas Future, of all his days to come.
    He was barely aware of himself during the ceremony. He got through his vows, exchanged rings, kissed his new wife on her cheek, then led her down the aisle to receive their guests as Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bristow. He managed a hollow smile now and again. It was all unreal, he was still moving in a nightmare. Surely, he would wake up any minute now, sweating, twisted up in his sheets, so relieved it was over.
    But it wasn't. He rode with Millie in a carriage to their reception at Claridge’s. He suffered through dance after dance with her, drank toasts, ate his supper, kissed her perfunctorily, smiled at people he didn't know. He escaped once, for a few minutes, to have a drink with Harry on a balcony. Harry told him that he'd be leaving in a week's time. He tried to be happy for his friend, but he didn't want to see him go, he'd miss him. And he envied him.
    Finally it was time to leave. Amid bawdy jokes and raucous laughter, Joe and Millie were bundled off to the sumptuous suite Tommy had rented for t hem. They were to spend the night there before setting off for Paris the following morning for a two-month honeymoon. Millie wanted to go for three, but Tommy said he needed Joe back at work, and Joe had quickly agreed. He had no idea how he was going to get through two months With Millie two hours seemed unbearable.
    Once inside their suite, she disappeared to change. Joe shrugged off his jacket, loosened his tie and poured himself a glass of whiskey. He stepped through a set of French doors onto the balcony and looked out at the London skyline. Eastward. Where she was.
    Attired in a frothy negligee, Millie rejoined him. "Come to bed," she whispered, putting her arms around him.
    He stiffened. "I'm fine where I am.".
    "Is something wrong?" she asked, her eyes seeking his.
    "No. Nothing. I'm tired. It's been a long day."
    "I can wake you up," she said, pressing herself against him.
    Joe closed his eyes lest she see the loathing in them. "I need a bit of air. Millie. Why don't you go in and lie down? You must be tired. I'll be in shortly."
    "Promise?”
    "Yes."
    The first night in a lifetime of lies. God, how would he keep this up?
    What would he say when the getting-same-air excuse wore thin? That he couldn't bear the sight of her? That her voice, her smile, everything about her sickened him? That he didn't love her and never would? He looked into his whiskey glass, but it had no answers for him. He reminded himself that it was his fault she was pregnant. She would soon be the mother of his child; he mustn't be cruel to her. If only he could take it all back; if he could just go back to that night and walk out of her bedroom before anything happened.
    This should have been his wedding night with Fiona. His soul cried out for her. The wedding, the fact that Millie was now his wife, changed nothing. In his heart, Fiona still belonged to him and he belonged to her even though he would never again look at the face that he loved. Or see her eyes light up, hear her excited voice, touch her, love her. What would become of her? He knew the answer. In time she would get over him and find another man. And then he, whoever he was, would be the one to see her smile, to share her days, to reach for her in the dark. The thought made him feel physically ill.
    He had to get out of here, out of this room, away from Millie. The hotel had a bar. He would drink himself silly tonight and eve~ night of this god forsaken honeymoon. Soon she'd be too big to want him anyway. And after the baby came, he'd find some new excuse. He'd travel for Tommy, work twenty-four hours a day. He knew he could never bear to touch her again. He stepped inside the sitting room and closed the balcony doors. He rummaged around for his jacket, fixed his tie, and pocketed the room keys.
    ".Joe'?" he heard her call sleepily from the bedroom. Her only answer was the sound of the door slamming.
    
    EILEEN'S BREATHING sounded thick and wet. Kate listened intently, waiting for the sudden catch that signaled a fit of coughing, but it didn't come. Maybe the poor little thing will actually sleep through the night, she hoped. It was ten o'clock now; if Eileen remained peaceful for another half hour, she would turn in. Sitting in her rocker, she sipped from a cup of tea, keeping her on the baby. The last few months had not been kind to her. There were dark circles under her eyes and lines where there had been none. She had been racked with worry for weeks over the health of her baby daughter, and now Eileen was not the only child she worried about. She raised her eyes to the bed. Fiona had cried herself to sleep again. A week had passed since Charlie had brought her home from the river and she was no better. Her temperature remained high despite every attempt to bring it down. Her color was poor. She refused to eat. It was all Kate could do to get her to take some broth.
    The fever worried Kate, but what worried her more was Fiona's emotional state. She wasn't fighting her illness; she was making no effort at all. Her bright, cheerful girl was gone and a dead-eyed stranger had taken her place. It broke her heart to see it. She'd always fretted over her high spirits, her determination to open a shop. Now she longed to hear her daughter talk of a shop, or anything at all, with just a little of her old enthusiasm.
    Kate had nursed her children through many illnesses, but she'd never seen anything like Fiona's ailment. There was no reason for the fever; she had no cough, there was nothing wrong with her chest. She had no stomach pains, no vomiting. Her boots and stockings had been soaked when Charlie brought her home, but Kate didn't think her fever came from taking a chill. No doctor would agree with her, but she was certain it came from a broken heart.
    When she'd found out what had happened, she'd wanted to wring Joe Bristow's neck. Eventually, her anger had given way to sorrow. Mainly for her daughter, but also for Joe. Rose Bristow had come to see them. She'd brought nearly twenty pounds from her son. Money that would have financed Fiona's dream. Now it would go toward doctor bills, medicine, food, a new place to live. Fiona insisted they use it. Kate had argued with her, telling her to hang on to it, but she was adamant.
    Rose had dissolved into tears at the sight of Fiona. She didn't want her son to marry Millie, not when she knew how much he loved Fiona. "The stupid, stupid sod," she'd said bitterly. " 'E's ruined 'is life. You're luckier than ‘e is, Fiona. You're still free to find someone to love and in time you will. 'E never will."
    Kate leaned her head against the rocker's high back and closed her eyes. She would give anything to be able to take away her child's grief. She knew her daughter had adored Joe ever since they were little. Her whole life had been Joe and the dreams they shared. Maybe there was no getting over a loss like that. Maybe the wound healed, but the scar ached forever. She had not gotten over Paddy's death and did not expect to. How did you get over losing the one man you loved body and soul? You went on, moving numbly through a gray world. That was all you could do. '
    She heard the faint sound of singing coming through the wall. Frances must be home, she thought. The walls between the houses were so thin that she often heard her singing or clattering pots, or, worse, entertaining a paying gentleman. She was glad to know that Frances was in, however. Charlie was never around these days and Lucy Brady had gone to the lying-in hospital to have her baby. She liked knowing there was someone close by she could call on to sit with Seamie and Fiona in case she needed to fetch Eileen's doctor.
    She yawned. Lord, I'm tired, she thought, I'll get myself to bed now, Instead she drifted off. She stirred once, a few hours later, thinking she'd heard somebody scream, then dropped off again, convinced she'd dreamed it. A few minutes later, she snapped awake. The baby was wheezing; her face was red. Kate picked her up, trying to comfort her, trying not to panic. She decided to go for the doctor now before the wheeze turned into a gasp. Moving quickly, she laid Eileen back in her basket and grabbed her shawl.
    "What is it, Mam? What's wrong?" Fiona asked groggily.
    "It's Eileen. I'm going to the doctor's."
    "I'll fetch 'im 'ere," she said. She stood up, keeping one hand on the bed to steady herself.
    "Get back in bed. Right now. I'm going to get Frances to sit with you." Kate picked up the baby's basket and ran to Frances's. She banged on the door. There was no response. Frantic, she peered into the small, grimy window next to it, wiping a pane clean with her sleeve. In the glow of a small fire, she saw Frances on the bed and a man in his shirtsleeves bent over her. She had a client; he was just finishing his business from the look of things. 'Kate was too desperate to be embarrassed. She put the basket down and yelled for her friend, rapping on the window. Frances did not move, but the man straightened. He's heard me, thank God! she thought.
    Slowly, as if in a trance, the man moved toward the door and Kate's relief turned to horror as she saw he was holding a knife. Its blade was dark and slick. The same substance that was on it covered his hands and his shirtfront and ran in a rivulet down his cheek.
    "It's blood," she whispered. "Oh, my God, look at it all!"
    Shrieking, she stumbled away from the window, caught her boot heel in the hem of her skirt and fell to the ground. The door was wrenched open and the man was on her. She held her hands up, trying to save herself, but it was no use. In the instant before he slid his knife between her ribs, she glimpsed his mad, inhuman eyes and knew him. He was Jack.
    
Chapter 19
    
    Fiona stared at the stark wooden markers sticking out of the snow, dusted ground. On the left, her father's, already weathered by the elements. Next to his, her mother's and the baby's, just starting to darken. And next to theirs, a brand-new one, the wooden cross still pale and un-weathered. Her brother Charlie's.
    Roddy had come from work three days ago with the news. River police had pulled a body from the Thames -the corpse of a young man, about sixteen years old. He'd gone to the morgue to identify the body-a task he'd said was nearly impossible in light of the time it had spent in the river. The face was gone. What hair remained was red. A search of the corpse's clothing confirmed the identity. In one of the pockets was a battered silver watch with the inscription: "Sean Joseph Finnegan, Cork, 1850." Her grandfather's name. Her brother's watch. She'd known immediately what it meant when Roddy placed it in her hands.
    She closed her eyes now, despair descending, and wished herself in the ground with them. Day after day after day, the black, suffocating grief engulfed her and her longing for her family, and Joe-always Joe-was unbearable. Mornings, she would sit and stare into space and wonder how she would make it through the day. She had wanted to end her life the night.Joe told her he was going to marry Millie. And again, right after her mother's death, unable to face the loss of her mam and the horrible manner in which she died, she wished herself dead. There were moments now, even as she tried to pull herself together for Seamie's sake, that she still contemplated taking her life, for there was never any relief from her pain.
    To comfort herself, she tried to picture her mam's face as she wanted to remember her-smiling and laughing. But she couldn't. Those images were gone. All that came was the memory of her mother lying in the street, struggling to live as the blood poured from her side. Fiona had heard her cries and had come stumbling out of their room after her. She'd dropped to her knees beside her, pressed her hands over the wound and screamed for someone to help them. People had come, they'd done what they could, but Jack had pierced her mother's heart. The end had come quickly at least. Her mother had touched her face with trembling fingers, smearing blood across her cheek, and then her body had gone slack, and her eyes had turned dull and empty.
    Fiona didn't want to remember that night, but it kept playing in her head over and over and over again. She kept seeing her mother's body in the street, kept hearing the baby wailing and Seamie shrieking from a policeman's arms.
    And Charlie… she kept seeing him as he ran into Adams Court, shouting, and pushing people aside. She saw his face, uncomprehending, as he gazed upon their mother. She'd called to him and he turned to her, but his eyes went wild and he seemed not to know her. He had picked their mother's body up off the street and held her tightly, moaning and keening. He refused to let the officers take her away from him and fought them off until three of them finally overpowered him. When they released him, he tried to pull the body out of the coroner's wagon. "Stop it, Charlie!" Fiona had screamed at him "Stop it, please!" But he'd didn't stop. He dashed himself against the wagon as it drove off, and then he ran. Out of Adams Court and into the night. No one knew where he'd gone. Roddy had searched for him for days, then weeks. And then the body had been found. There was no money on it and the skull had been fractured. Roddy guessed that in his shock and grief: Charlie had wandered down a dangerous street and become the victim of thieves coshed, robbed, and pushed into the river. Fiona was thankful they'd missed his watch, thankful she had something with which to remember her brother.
    Up until the day Charlie's body was found, Fiona had clung tightly to the hope that he was still alive. She grieved for him deeply. She missed his cocky swagger, his grin, all his daft jokes. She missed his strength and wished to God she had him there to lean on. It was just she and Seamie now. Poor little Eileen had survived her mother by a mere five days before the infection in her chest killed her.
    Fiona doubted that she or Seamie would have survived at all if it hadn't been for their Uncle Roddy. He'd taken them in right after the murder. He'd lied to the parish authorities, telling them that he was a blood relative, their mother's cousin, and demanding they all be released into his care. Fiona had been in no condition to look after Seamie and Eileen and he feared that the authorities would put them all in the workhouse.
    He had given them a home, fed them, cared for them, tried his best to ease their sorrow. On days when Fiona found it difficult even to get out of bed, he would take her hand and tell her, "One foot in front of the other, lass, that's the only way." And that was how she existed, numbly plodding along, unable to tell from one minute to the next if she wanted to live or die.
    For most of her seventeen years, Fiona had embraced life. Despite all of its struggles, there had always been something to look forward to-evenings by the fire with her family, walks with Joe, the life they'd planned together. But now her love of life and the hope with which she greeted her future were gone. Now she lived in a drab netherworld, adrift in a limbo. Unable to walk away from life because of her little brother's dependence on her, but unable to engage in it because of the crushing losses that weighed so heavily upon her, she merely endured.
    She no longer found any purpose in her life, no longer carried any dreams in her heart. Her father's words, words that had kept her going through many a hard time, held no meaning for her now. "Got to have your dreams, lass. Day you lose them, you might as well take yourself down to the undertaker's, for you're as good as dead." She looked around herself now at all the graves, thought about her stillborn dreams, and knew she was as good as dead.
    A chill wind whipped through the cemetery, rattling the bare-branched trees. Fall had given way to winter. Christmas and New Year's had come and gone; she'd been oblivious to them. It was already the middle of January, 1889. The papers all had a new story now -Jack the Ripper was dead, they said. He'd committed suicide. A body had been pulled from the river at the end of December. His name was Montague Druitt, a young London barrister. Druitt had a family history of mental instability and those close to him said they'd seen signs of erratic behavior. He'd left a note saying it would be better for him to die. His landlady had told police he kept strange hours, that he was often absent at night, only coming home after dawn. The press speculated that Druitt, plagued by horror and remorse after the Adams Court murders, drowned himself. His death gave Fiona no joy. She only wished he'd taken his life before he killed her mother.
    The winter wind brought snowflakes with it. She stood up. The air was turning bitter. A thaw had enabled the undertakers to bury her brother. She thought about him, so full of mischief, now buried in the hard ground, and felt tears threaten again. She searched her mind for some small comfort, some reason why she had lost her family, Joe, everything she had, as she did it hundred times a day, every day. As always, she found none. She walked out of the graveyard and headed for Roddy's flat, a sad, pale figure against the bleak winter sky.
    
Chapter 20
    
    During the early months of 1889, Seamie Finnegan: shot up like a weed. His legs grew long and stalky and his body lost some of its puppy fat. He'd turned five in December and was fast leaving babyhood behind. He had the astonishing resilience of the very young and this, coupled with Fiona's loving presence, helped him cope with the loss of his mother, his beloved brother, and his baby sister. He was a bright, sensitive child, almost always cheerful, and he was devoted to his sister, very finely tuned to her moods. When he sensed she was slipping away from him into that dark, quiet place inside herself where she sometimes went, he would clown for her, until he got her to smile, or, if she was beyond smiling, he would climb into her lap and let her wrap her arms around him until she was better.
    And Fiona was every bit as devoted to him. He was all she had and she was fiercely protective of him, unwilling to let him out of her sight, only surrendering him to Roddy or Roddy's fiancée, Grace Emmett. His freckled face, his sweet, childish voice, were her only comforts.
    She looked at him now as she prepared his tea. He sat at the table, a fork, in his fist, eager for his meal. She put his food before him and he tucked into it hungrily. Bread, boiled potatoes, and a small kipper. It's not enough for a growing child, she thought; he should have milk and meat and green vegetables. But it was all Roddy could do. He was supporting the two of them and his wages were stretched thin. He'd bought Seamie a warm sweater just the other day to protect him against the cold March weather, and he'd even made her a birthday present of a new shawl last week, when she'd turned eighteen.
    Fiona felt grateful to him for all he'd done for them. She also felt guilty. She saw the way he and Grace looked at each other. She knew they would be married by now and living under the same roof if it weren't for her and Seamie. They'd been living with him since November. In recent weeks, she'd gained a bit of weight and lost the sunken, hollow-eyed look she'd had. She could manage the marketing, the cleaning, and the laundry now. It was time for her to go back to work and find a room for herself and Seamie. Roddy couldn't take care of them forever.
    But the very idea of finding her own place overwhelmed her. She had no money. What was left of the twenty pounds from Joe had gone to pay for caskets and funerals. The landlord had sold the contents of their flat-their few bits of furniture,' their dishes, her mother's clothing, even the navy gloves Charlie had brought for her, and kept the proceeds in lieu of the rent that was owed him. Roddy had managed to salvage one thing from the sale ~a cigar box with her parents' wedding rings, photos, and documents in it. She had no job, either. She'd seen a friend from Burton Tea on the street who told her that her place there had been filled. Ralph Jackson had found someone new, too. She could start hunting, but it might take weeks to find something, and even when she did, it would be another month before she would have enough money to rent a room.
    
    She had hoped for help from her Uncle Michael. Her mother had written him after her father's funeral, but received no reply. Maybe he hadn't gotten the letter. Mail often went astray from one end of London to the other, never mind from London to New York. She would write again.
    A shout from downstairs took her out of her worries. It was Mrs. Norman, the landlady. She went to the landing. Mrs. Norman was standing at t he bottom of the stairs, a letter in her hand. "For you, luv. Just came," she said, waving the envelope impatiently.
    Fiona went downstairs for the letter, thanked her, then disappointed her by returning to Roddy's flat to read it in privacy. The letter was from Burton Tea It was addressed to her mother. She could see from the crossed-out writing on the front that it had been sent to Montague Street, then Adams Court, and now here. She opened it. Meticulous copperplate regretfully informed Mrs. Patrick Finnegan that her application to the Burton Tea Company for compensatory monies had been denied. Because her husband's Death was due to the negligence of a fellow worker, David O'Neill, and not the Burton Tea Company per se, no award would be made. She was advised to contact a Mr. J. Dawson, Labor Clerk, with any further inquiries.
    Fiona folded the letter back into its envelope. She'd forgotten all about her mother's trip to Burton's. She tried to recall how much she'd asked for. Ten pounds? Twenty? That was nothing to a company the size of Burton Tea. That William Burton wouldn't even give a few quid to the family of a man who'd died on his premises seemed very unfair. Something flared briefly inside of her, but was doused just as quickly. Unfair or not, she told herself, there's nothing you can do about it. Resigned, she placed the letter in her cigar box and sat down to her tea.,.
    She watched her brother as he pushed his crust of bread around his plate, sweeping up the last bits of his fish. Me and Seamie, she thought, we wouldn't even be where we are right now if it wasn't for William Burton and his bloody warehouse. Me da would still be alive, we'd all be back on Montague Street. I wonder what he ate for his tea today? Roast beef maybe, a nice chop? I bet it wasn't a bleeding penny kipper.
    Like embers fanned by a breath, the smouldering indignation she'd felt sparked and struggled into a flame. Slowly, so slowly that she was barely aware of it happening, her resignation flared into anger. That money could've helped them so much when they'd moved to Adams Court, when they didn't have enough for good food or warm clothes. When she didn't even have the pennies needed to buy paper to write to Joe. And It could help Seamie and her now. It could provide the boost they needed to move out of Roddy's flat. To make a new start. The bastard, she fumed. She was furious for the first time in a long time and she relished it. It made a change from grief. It strengthened her and brought back a little of her old determination.
    "Finish your tea, Seamie," she said suddenly, getting up from the table He gave her a puzzled look.
    "Come on, finish up. You're going to see your Auntie Grace for a little while."
    Seamie obeyed his sister, stuffing the rest of his bread into his mouth. She bundled him up, put her own jacket on, and took him to Grace's. She told her she had an errand, that she'd be gone for an hour or two and asked if she'd mind watching Seamie. Grace, surprised at Fiona's sudden animation, said of course not. And then she was off; heading west toward the City. She wasn't entirely certain where she was going, but she would ask until she found Mincing Lane. It was late in the day, nearly five-thirty. Burton might be gone by the time she got there, but he might not.
    That money's ours, she thought, striding briskly through the dark, streets, her skirts swishing around her legs. Mine and Seamie's. If William Burton thinks my da's life isn't even worth ten pounds, he's got another thing coming.
    
    AFTER FORTY MINUTES' WALK and a few wrong turns, Fiona found 20 Mincing Lane, home of Burton Tea. The offices occupied a magnificent limestone building enclosed by an iron fence. Just inside was a small glassed-in office where the porter was enjoying a mug of hot tea and a pork pie.
    “We’re closed, miss," he said. "See the sign? Visitors' hours from nine to six.”
    "I 'ave to see Mr. Burton, sir," Fiona said, leveling her chin. "It's urgent."
    "Do you 'ave an appointment?"
    "No, I don't, but-"
    "What's your name?"
    "Fiona Finnegan."
    "What do you want to see the guv about?"
    "About a claim my mother made," she replied, pulling the envelope from her skirt pocket. "I 'ave a letter here saying that it's null and… and… void. 'Ere… see? But that's not fair, sir. Me da was killed at Mr. Burton's wharf. There's got to be a mistake."
    The porter sighed, as if he were used to this sort of thing. "You'll 'ave to see Mr. Dawson. Come by tomorrow and 'is secretary will give you an appointment."
    "But, sir, that won't do me any good. If I could just see Mr. Burton-"
    "Listen, dearie, the guv's own mother couldn't get in to see 'im. 'E's a very busy man. Now be a good lass and do like I told you. Come back tomorrow." He returned to his pork pie.
    Fiona opened her mouth to speak, then shut it again. Arguing with this man was a waste of time. He was not going to let her in. She walked down the steps. Outside the gate, she turned to cast one last reproachful glance at him and saw that he was getting up from his chair. He left his office and walked down the hallway.
    He's going to the loo, she thought. She stood at the gate biting her lip.
    She didn't want to see a clerk. She had to see Burton himself. She needed that money. On an impulse, she dashed back up the steps, sped past the porter's desk, and made for the stairway ahead of her. She ran upstairs to the first floor. The vestibule was dark. She pushed through the glass doors that led off it and found herself in an even darker hallway. Her footsteps echoed on the polished wood floor. Frosted glass doors lined both sides of the hallway. They all looked the same. She tried a doorknob; it was locked. This can't be where Burton works, she reasoned. It's not grand enough.
    She headed for the second floor. This looked more promising. On the left side of the hallway were four doors, solid wood with brass nameplates, all dosed. On the right was one massive double door. It was open. She tiptoed lip to it and peered inside. She saw a large room with an enormous desk in I he middle of it. Behind the desk, from floor to ceiling, were rows of wooden filing cabinets. Three of the files, instead of being pull-out drawers, opened on a hinge, like a door. Behind the fake file door was a wall safe. On the desk was a brass lamp with a green glass shade. The light it provided was scant, but enough to illuminate the banded piles of notes on top of the desk. Fiona's breath caught; she had never seen so much money. Surely Burton wouldn't refuse her ten pounds.
    To the right of the desk was another door. It was halfway open. Someone was in there; there was a light on. She took a hesitant step forward, wondering if she was out of her mind. She was trespassing. If he came out right now and saw her, he'd assume she was trying to steal his money and have her arrested. Glancing at the piles again, she almost lost her nerve.
    Just as she passed the desk, she heard voices coming from the inner office. Burton was not alone. Should she still knock on the door? She heard two men laughing, heard them resume their conversation, then heard one of I hem mention a name she recognized: Davey O'Neill. Curious, she took a step closer.
    "O'Neill? 'E's be'aving 'imself. Giving me names. Just like you told 'im to."
    "Good, Bowler; I'm glad to hear it. That lad's been invaluable. Here's another five pounds for him. What has he told you about Tillet?"
    Bowler. Bowler Sheehan. Fiona's blood ran cold. Her curiosity about Davey O'Neill was forgotten, along with her desire to plead for ten pounds. She had to get out of there. Now. Sheehan was a bad bloke. A very bad bloke. Whatever he was doing here, he wasn't collecting for charity. She'd made a huge. mistake sneaking into Burton's office and if she got caught she d pay for It. Dearly. She took a step back, then another. Quiet, be quiet, she told herself. Nice and slow. Don't rush. She kept her eyes on the inner office door. She could still hear them speaking.
    "Tillet's trying to cobble them together again, but 'e's only got a few. A ragtag bunch at best."
    "Yes, but knowing him, he won't give up until he has a full, functioning union again. If only we could get him the way we got that bastard Finnegan."
    Fiona froze.
    "Aye, that was a good job, wasn't it?" Sheehan said, chuckling. "Fucking' flawless! Snuck up there and put the grease down meself, I did. Un'ooked the door, banged it a few times, then 'id be'ind a tea chest and watched Mr. Union Organizer slip and fall five stories. And O'Neill got the blame!" He laughed loudly.
    Fiona bit her lip to keep from screaming. Images and snatches of conversation flew through her mind in a blinding rush. Her father's funeral. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Dolan saying how strange it was that Paddy had fallen when he was so careful. The fact that the accident happened soon after her da had taken on leadership of the local. Davey O'Neill following her down Barrow Street.
    Her breath came in short little gasps. She couldn't get her mind around it. Her da, murdered. Because Burton didn't want his workers to go union. Murdered by Bowler Sheehan, who was sitting only yards away from her, laughing about it. Disoriented, no longer aware of where she was in the room, she took a clumsy step backward. Her heel hit the desk with a loud thud. She lost her balance, stumbled, and righted herself. Her hand came down on a pile of notes.
    Inside the office, the talking stopped.
    "Fred? Is that you?" The door was jerked open and William Burton emerged. His eyes widened at the sight of Fiona. His gaze traveled to the top of his secretary's desk, where her hand was resting on his money. "What are you doing in here? Who let you in?"
    Fiona didn't answer; her fingers tightened around the notes. In an instant her fear vanished and a white-hot rage surged through her. She threw the stack of money at Burton; it sailed over his shoulder. He advanced on her and she heaved the desk lamp. It hit the floor in front of him and exploded in a shower of glass and oil. "You murdering bastard!" she shrieked. "You killed 'im! You killed my father!" She threw a letter tray; it hit him in the chest. She threw an inkwell, another stack of money.
    "Sheehan!" he bellowed. "Get out here!"
    At the sound of that name, she bolted. Her fear had come back full force. She ran out of the office, slamming the door after herself. Out the double doors, down the hallway, and down the staircase she flew, clutching an unthrown pile of notes in one hand, her skirts in the other. She was halfway down the first floor when she heard feet pounding after her.
    "Stop her, Fred!" Burton shouted down the staircase. "Stop the girl!.” She was at the top of the last staircase when the footsteps started to gain on her. It was Sheehan; she knew it without looking. She hurtled down the stairs at breakneck speed, running for her life. The porter's office came into view. If he'd heard Burton yelling, he'd be outside of it waiting to block her and she'd have just one chance to dodge him. She cleared the last of the steps, bracing herself for a confrontation, but he wasn't in his office. She shot through the entrance doors, down the steps and toward the gate, with Sheehan only yards behind her. It was then that she saw the porter. He was standing by the gate, fiddling with the lock. His back was toward her. Sheehan bellowed for him from behind her. He turned; he had an oil can in his hands. "What the devil… " he started to say. Fiona put on a final, desperate burst of speed, ran past him and through the gate before he knew what was happening. As she cleared it, she reached back for one of the bars and jerked it toward her. The gate locked shut. And that's what saved her.
    She took off down Mincing Lane. Behind her, she heard Sheehan screaming at the porter to get the bloody gate open. She risked a glance back. The man fumbled the key and dropped it. Enraged, Bowler kicked him, then kicked the gate. Next to them, William Burton watched her run. Their eyes locked for a split second, and looking into them, she knew that if the two men got hold of her now, he, not Sheehan, would be the one who would beat the life out of her.
    She ran into Tower Street. There she saw an eastbound bus pulling away from its stop, caught up with it and jumped on the back. She hunkered down in a seat, gasping for breath, and looked out the window. They could be right behind her; she was certain they saw her turn off Mincing Lane. They might've seen her get on the bus. What if they got into a cab and followed her? Fear shrieked at her. She was too visible. The bus trundled down Tower Hill. She jumped off when it stopped to pick up passengers.
    She scurried across to the north side of the street and ducked inside the entry of a public house. From there, she watched the traffic. It was sparse because of the hour-nearly seven-and she could see every vehicle. She watched a westbound bus go by, two growlers, a horse and cart, and three hansoms. And then, not three minutes after she'd got inside the pub, she saw,a private carriage, sleek and black, traveling east at a fast clip. She stepped back into the shadows as it passed, watching as one of its occupants shouted at the driver. It was Sheehan. The carriage picked up speed and veered off to East Smithfield Street and the Highway, following the route of the bus, she'd been on. She closed her eyes, leaned against the wall, and started to shake.
    "You all right, miss?"
    Her eyes snapped open. She looked into the face of a rheumy-eyed old gentleman on his way out of the pub.
    "If it's a drink you're after, and if you don't mind my saying so, you look like you could use one, the ladies' parlor's across the taproom, through that door."
    A drink. Yes, that was a good idea. She had never ordered herself a drink, in a pub in her entire life, but now seemed like a good time to start. She could sit down for a few minutes and try to still her trembling legs. She could figure out what to do next.
    She entered the pub, moved through the crowded, smoky taproom, an, I pushed open a door marked LADIES. She found herself alone in a dingy, gaslit room that had a few wooden tables, velvet-covered stools, mirrors. and flocked wallpaper. The publican bustled in behind her, took her order, and disappeared again. By the time she'd sat down and smoothed her hair back, he'd returned with her half-pint of beer. She reached into her pocket for the coins she knew she had and felt paper crinkling instead. What's this? she wondered, peering into her pocket. She saw the notes and her heart skipped a beat. Quickly, she fished out a half-shilling and handed it to the publican, who gave her change and left.
    She peered into her pocket again. How the hell did the notes get in there? She thought back to the scene in Burton's office. She'd been throwing things, everything she could find. She must've had the money in her hand when he called for Sheehan and stuffed it into her pocket as she ran. She pulled the bundle out. It was a stack of twenty-pound notes. She counted them. When she finished, she refolded the stack and put it back in her pocket. She had five hundred pounds of William Burton's money.
    She lifted her glass to her mouth, drained it in one go, and licked the foam from her lips. Then she caught sight of her reflection In a mirror, blinked at it, and said, "You're dead."
    
    "LORD, CHILD, where 'ave you been? I was worried sick," Grace said.
    Fiona had arrived at her door just after eight, flushed and out of breath. "I'm so sorry, Grace. I was at Burton Tea. I went to collect the compensation money from my father's death. They kept me waiting for ages! I ran all the way back 'ere; I didn't want to keep you up too late," she said, forcing herself to smile.
    "And somebody was there this late? They must work awfully long hours at Burton's."
    "Aye, they do. The man's a slave driver." She saw her brother sitting at the table looking at a book of nursery rhymes. "Come on, Seamie, luv," she said. "We've got to go." She buttoned his jacket, then turned to Grace to thank her. She knew she might never see her again. Her throat tightened. Grace and Roddy were the only people she had in the world, and after tonight they, too, would be out of her life. "Thank you, Grace," she said.
    She laughed. "Don't be silly. It's nothing. 'E's an angel."
    "I don't just mean tonight. I mean for everything you've done."
    "Oh, go on," she said, embarrassed now. "I 'aven't done a thing."
    "You 'ave and I'll never forget it," Fiona said, hugging her tightly.
    When she got to White Lion Street, where Roddy lived, she looked down it to make sure no one was loitering. Then she hurried into his building and went upstairs. She let herself into the flat, hustling Seamie ahead of her, locked the door, and wedged a chair against it. She began to pack. There wasn't much time. Sheehan was looking for her at this very moment. By now he and Burton had undoubtedly pieced everything together with the help of the porter, to whom she'd given her name. They knew who she was, why ·,he'd come, and what she'd overheard. It might take him a day or two to find her, but she wasn't taking any chances. They had to leave Whitechapel tonight.
    She had no idea where to go, but she'd decided that they'd get on a train. any train. It didn't matter where they went as long as it was far away from London. She hoped that when she wasn't seen for weeks, Burton would assume she'd gone to ground and forget about her.
    She had no valise, so she got an old flour sack from under the sink and put her and Seamie's clothing in it. What else should she take? She got her father's cigar box down from the mantel and dumped its contents on the table. Birth certificates, she would take those. A lock of red hair - Charlie’s baby hair-keep that. Her parents' wedding photograph… she looked at it, at the young woman in it, so pretty, so full of life, of hope. Thank God her mother would never know that the handsome man by her side had been murdered. At least she'd been spared that.
    Overcome by a fit of trembling, Fiona closed her eyes and leaned against the table. Though she was thinking and functioning, she was still in shock. She'd heard it with her own ears, yet she couldn't comprehend it. Her da… murdered. Because William Burton did not wish to pay his dock workers sixpence an hour instead of five. Rage boiled up inside her again. I won’t run away, she thought wildly. I'll stay here and go to the police. They’ll help me. They will. They’ll listen to me… and I’ll tell them what Burton has done and they’ll… laugh in my face. How outrageous it would look. Her accusing William Burton of murdering her father. The police would never trouble the likes of him based on her accusation, and even if they did, he'd never confess. He'd tell them that she'd broken into his office, destroyed his property, and stolen his money. He'd say he'd caught her red-handed and had witnesses. And then she would go to prison. Seamie would be alone; Roddy and Grace would have to raise him. It was hopeless! Burton had murdered her father and there was nothing she could do about it. And not only would there be no Justice for his death, if she didn't get out of London, she'd soon have an accident of her own. Searing tears of impotence rolled down her cheeks and splashed onto her parents' picture.
    "You all right, Fee?" Seamie asked.
    She hadn't realized he was watching her. "I'm fine, Seamie, luv, " she said wiping her eyes.
    "Are we going somewhere?" he asked, eyeing the sack.
    "Aye, we're taking a trip, you and me."
    His eyes widened. "A trip? Where?"
    She didn't know. "Where? Well, it's… urn… a surprise. We'll ride on a train and it'll be lots of fun."
    While Seamie entertained himself by making train noises, Fiona continued to sort through the contents of the cigar box. Her parents' wedding rings… she would take those. Her father's clasp knife… keep that. Rent receipts… those could go in the fire. At the very bottom of the box she found a pile of letters from her Uncle Michael.
    She held one up. The return address said: "M. Finnegan, I64 Eighth Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A." She was wrong. Dead wrong. Roddy and Grace weren't the only people she had. She had an uncle in New York. Michael Finnegan would take them in. He would look after them until they were on their feet and.she would repay him by working in his shop. "New York, she whispered, as If saying the place's name might make it real. It was so far away. All the way across the Atlantic Ocean. They'd be safe there.
    In an instant, she made her decision. They'd take a train to Southampton and a boat to America. Burton's money would buy their passage. Working quickly, she got another flour sack and cut a square out of it. She unbutttoned her blouse, untied her camisole, and with a needle and thread stitched three sides of the fabric to the inside of the garment to make a pocket. She took the notes out of her skirt and slid them into it, all but one. She planned to go to the Commercial Road, where she could hire a cab to the station, but she wanted to stop at the pawnbroker's first, to see if she could find a travelling bag. She couldn't go to New York with a flour sack.
    "We going yet, Fee?" Seamie asked, all wound up now. "In one minute. I just 'ave to write Uncle Roddy a note."
    "Why?"
    "To tell 'im about our trip," she said. To tell him good-bye, she thought.
    "Be a good lad and put your jacket on.".
    Fiona hunted for a sheet of paper and tried to figure out what to write. She wanted to tell Roddy the truth, but she didn't want him worrying, and most of all, she didn't want to put him in any danger. Sheehan would certainly come calling at his flat when he learned she had been living here. She doubted he was stupid enough to mess about with a police officer, but he might break in hoping to find something that would tell him where she was. She found a pencil and started to write.
    
    Dear Uncle Roddy,
    
    My money came from Burton Tea. It was more than I thought we would get and I am going to use it to take Seamie and myself a new life. Please don't worry about us, we'll be fine. I'm sorry to go so suddenly, but it's easier for me this way. There have been too many hard goodbyes of late and I want to go tonight, before I lose my nerve. Thank you for taking care of us. We would never have made it if it wasn’t for you. You've been like a father to us and we’ll miss you more than I can say. I will write when I can.
    
    Love,
    
    Fiona and Seamie
    
    There… no names, no addresses. She put the note on the table. She felt terrible about running away like this, but there was nothing she could do. Roddy wouldn't be able to save her when Sheehan found her. Casting one last glance around the flat, she gathered her brother and her sack, opened the door, locked it behind them and pushed the key under it.
    She was just about to start down the staircase when she heard the front door open. There were heavy footsteps in the entry and male voices. Three of them. She felt a tug on her skirt. "Fee… " Seamie started to say. She clapped a hand over his mouth and told him to be quiet. The voices were low; the words indistinct, but as one of the men moved closer to the stairs, she heard him quite clearly. "This is where the copper lives," he said. "She's bound to be 'ere, too."
    It was Sheehan.
    She dug frantically in her pocket for the key to Roddy's flat. She had to get inside; she had to hide Seamie. Where was the bloody key? She turned her pocket out, then she remembered that she'd pushed it under the door. Way under, so no one could get it. Panic-stricken, she knocked on the neighbor's door as softly as she could. "Mrs. Ferris?" she whispered. "Mrs. Ferrris… are you there? Please, Mrs. Ferris… " There was no answer. She tried the other door. "Mrs. Dean? Danny? Are you there?" No One answered. Either they weren't home, or they couldn't hear her.
    She listened at the banister again. Snatches of conversation drifted up. "… on the second floor… need to take care of it… not 'ere… too much noise… " Suddenly, there were feet on the stairs. They'd be on the first landing in seconds, and then it was only one short flight of stairs to the seccond. Her fear turned into terror. She picked Seamie up, grabbed the flour sack, and dashed upstairs to the third landing, hoping that their heavy steps covered the sound of her own. She heard them stop at Roddy's door, then she heard scrabbling.
    "Come on, 'urry it up," Sheehan said. "My granny can pick a lock faster." When she heard the door open and the men go inside, she started up the last flight of stairs. If she could get out onto the roof, they could walk across to the neighboring building and hide behind the chimneys until Sheehan left. She reached the landing; it was piled high with rubbish-crates, buckets, burlap bags. A moldy old mattress, full of holes, was propped against the wall. She tried the door; it was locked. "Come on, come on… " she pleaded, twisting and tugging at the knob, but it wouldn't budge. They were trapped. If Sheehan thought to look up here, they were done for.
    She rooted in the flour sack for her father's clasp knife and opened it with trembling fingers. She glanced at her brother, standing by the mattress wide-eyed and frightened. She held her finger to her lips and he did the same back to her, then she leaned over the banister to listen. She heard nothing; they must still be inside the flat. She leaned over farther, straining for some sound, some indication of what they were up to, when she suddenly heard Seamie utter a cry.
    Only inches from his leg, a huge brown rat was wriggling out of a hole in the mattress. It sniffed at him and bared its teeth. Fiona ran over and jabbed at the animal with her knife. It snapped at her. She kicked the mattress and it withdrew. She quickly stuffed a rag into the hole, then returned to the railing. They were just coming out of the flat.
    "Maybe O'Meara does know more than she put in the note, Bowler, but you'll' ave to work 'im over if you want to find out," she heard one of them say. " 'E's not going to volunteer the information, is 'e?"
    "I don't touch coppers," Sheehan replied. "They're like bloody bees. Swat at one and the whole damn 'ive comes after you."
    There was some mumbling-Fiona couldn't make it out- and then she heard Sheehan tell his men to check the roof.
    "Oh, God," she gasped, "oh, no." He'd see them. They had to hide. Quick! But where? There was only the mattress. She lunged across the landing, stuffed her flour sack into the space behind it, then reached for her brother. "Come on, Seamie," she whispered. But he wouldn't. He stood away from it, shaking his head. She could hear feet coming up the stairs. "It's all right, luv, it's all right… the rat's gone. Please, Seamie… Come on!" He turned fearfully toward the sound of the footsteps, then bolted toward her. She pushed him in, then wedged in next to him, her back against the wall, her knees straining into the mattress. She felt for him in the dark. "Sshhh… " she whispered. The stench of rats was suffocating. There's more than one, she thought, there must be dozens. Just then, the ticking bulged against her leg. She bit her lip to keep from screaming.
    "You see anyone?" she heard Sheehan shout.
    "No!" The man was on the landing now. She heard him try the knob.
    "Door's locked," he shouted. "There's nothing up 'ere but rubbish."
    "Look around, Reg. Make sure."
    The man, Reg, was kicking at things and swearing. He was coming closer. Terror bound Fiona's chest tightly; she could barely breathe. Greasy heads of sweat rolled down her skin. She tightened her grip on the knife, desperate to protect Seamie. Please, please, don't come any closer, she begged silently. Go away, just go away…
    Something brushed her foot. She dug her nails into her palm. Then she felt a fat, oily body slither over her ankle and her control broke. She plunged the knife into it. There was a horrible, high-pitched squealing. Again and again she stabbed the rat. Its cries alerted the others. The mattress came alive with warm, squirming bodies.
    There was shouting, then stamping. "Fuck! Get off! Fucking bastards Jesus!"
    "Reg what is it?" There were more feet on the stairs.
    "Bloody rats! A whole fucking nest of them!"
    Fiona heard the others laugh, heard Reg run down the steps. There was the sound of scuffling, then a loud thump, like someone getting knocked against a wall.
    "It's not fucking funny, Stan! One crawled up me trouser leg. Big as a bloody cat, it was!"
    "Shut up. Both of you. You see any signs of 'er up there?"
    "There's nobody up there. Go 'ave a gander yourself if you don't believe me."
    Bowler let out of a string of curses. "She can't 'ave gone far," he said.
    "Reg, you take the Whitechapel Road. Stan, take Commercial Street. I'll take Stepney. We'll meet at the Blind Beggar. The thieving bitch! When I find' er, I'm going to bash' er bloody skull in."
    Fiona heard them go. She waited until she heard the downstairs door slam, then scrambled out from behind the mattress, stamping her feet. Seamie was teary and trembling. She held him close and told him he was very, very brave.
    "Who were they, Fee?" he asked.
    "Very bad men."
    "Why did they come after us?"
    She couldn't tell him the truth. "They wanted to steal our money," she said.
    "Can we still go on our train ride?"
    "Of course we can. We'll go right now."
    "Will they come after us again?"
    "No. Never again. I won't let them." She picked up the flour sack, took her brother by the hand, and started down the steps.
    
    THE IDEA THAT William Burton was certifiably insane had crossed Bowler Sheehan's mind before. As the man paced back and forth in his study, crazed by anger, it crossed his mind again. He'd arrived at Burton's home half an hour ago to tell him that Fiona Finnegan had fled Whitechapel. He thought Burton would be relieved, but he wasn't. He was furious, enraged beyond reason. He screamed abuse at Sheehan for letting her slip through his fingers, screamed until the veins stood out in his neck and the spit flew from his lips and his icy black eyes blazed.
    He was no longer shouting now, but he was still pacing. "She's dangerous," he said. "I can't have this. I've just begun negotiations with Albion Bank to take Burton Tea public. They're leery as it is with all the talk of a dock strike. They're not going to care much for a murder accusation leveled against me, either. She can do me harm, Bowler. She knows what I did to her father."
    "It doesn't matter what she knows," Sheehan said, picking his nails with a knife blade. "She can't touch you. Even if she told the police, they'd never believe 'er, she 'as no proof. The last place she'd go right now is to the coppers. She s got a lot more to worry about than you do. She stole a large sum of money and there are witnesses to the fact."
    But Burton would have none of it. He kept going on and on about how she was a sneaking, meddling bitch and how this was going to destroy his public offering, and how he needed the money the shares would raise to finance his expansion.
    Sheehan closed his knife, thinking how blokes like Burton made the getting of money so fucking complicated with all their stocks and shares… It was much easier to just take it. He'd had just about enough for one night. It was late. He needed a good meal and a glass of whiskey. He did not need to sit here, listening to this barmy cunt rant.
    "What exactly would you like me to do? Knock on every bleeding door in London?"
    Burton stopped pacing. He turned his bottomless black eyes on him. And Bowler, a ruthless individual who could kill a man with his bare hands when warranted, was surprised to feel a chill go down his spine.
    "What I would like," he said, "is for you to find the girl as quickly as you can and then dispose of her, as I asked you to do earlier."
    "I told you. I've tried-"
    Burton brought his fist crashing down on his desk. "Try harder!" Sheehan stood and left. Outside, he spat disgustedly, then informed Reg and Stan that he would be going to Quinn's alone and they would be spending the night on White Lion Street watching Roddy O'Meara's flat. They started complaining immediately. They wanted a pint… they were hungry… they had a couple of girls waiting for them. Bowler told them to shut lip. First he had to listen to Burton, now to these two. If Burton didn’t pay so well, he would've cut him loose long ago. The fucker was far more trouble than he was worth.
    
Chapter 21
    
    The nightmare was always the same. The dark man was gaining on her. He'd chased her into an alley that ended in a brick wall. There was no escape. She threw herself at the wall, tried to scrabble up it. The footsteps grew louder, a hand closed on her shoulder, and-
    "Half an hour to Southampton, miss."
    Fiona jerked awake, wild-eyed. The conductor was shaking her. "Sorry to startle you, but we'll be pulling in shortly."
    "Th-thank you," she stammered. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. It was always so real, that awful dream, so bloody real. She looked over at Seamie. He was sleeping. He'd dozed off just after they'd boarded the train at seven that morning. As soon as the conductor had taken their tickets, she'd fallen asleep, too, worn out from her ordeal. They'd been on the move ever since they'd left Roddy's nearly ten hours ago. Their first stop had been the pawnbroker's, where she'd found a carpetbag. As she'd pulled a twenty-pound note from her pocket to pay for it, the blue stone Joe had given her had fallen out on the counter. The pawnbroker had looked it over and asked if it was for sale. Fiona wondered why she was keeping it Joe was gone; why hang on to a painful reminder of him?
    "'Ow much?" she said.
    "One pound, six shillings."
    She was astonished at the amount. She didn't answer, trying to decide whether to part with it. The pawnbroker mistook her indecision for unhappiness with the price.
    "All right, two pounds, plus the carpetbag thrown in, and that's me final offer."
    She blinked at the man. Two whole pounds for a stone, and the bag for free? He must be barmy. She quickly accepted his offer before he could change his mind.
    " 'Ave you got any more like this?" he asked, pocketing the stone.
    "No, but I 'ave this." She slid Joe's ring off her finger and handed it to him.
    "It's not worth much. Give you three shillings for it."
    "Done," she said, pleased to be two pounds, three shillings, and a carpetbag richer.
    She repacked their belongings and headed to the Commercial Road. She was very jumpy. Every step of the way she expected to hear Sheehan's voice, to feel a rough hand come down on her shoulder. She'd felt safer when they finally got into a cab. The driver took them to Waterloo Station, where they made their way to the ticket counter. To her dismay, they'd missed the last train by twenty minutes. She purchased two tickets for the morning train, then bought herself and Seamie hot tea and thick bacon sandwiches. They holed up in the ladies' waiting room for the night. Away from the windows. Just in case.
    Now, as she stretched in her seat, Fiona tried to anticipate what would come next. They had to find their way from the train station to wherever the passenger ships docked. A cab would be the best idea. It would cost money, but it would save them from getting lost. Seamie woke up a few minutes outside of Southampton and she had just enough time to get his boots and jacket on him before the train pulled into the station. The second they got off, he had to go to the bathroom.
    "You'll 'ave to 'old it for a second," she told him. "I don't know where the loo is."
    As they walked down the platform, she saw a billboard for Burton Tea She shuddered. She had no idea how far William Burton's reach extended. The sooner she got herself and Seamie on a boat, the better.
    She finally spotted the ladies' room and whisked her brother in. When he finished, she marched him to the sink, where she washed his hands and grubby face. Then she took care of her own needs, took another twenty pounds out of her camisole and put it in her pocket. Back in the station, they followed signs directing them to the cabs. They passed the platform and she instinctively cast a glance up it, just to make sure Sheehan wasn't standing at the other end. It was empty except for a man so burdened with baggage that he could barely walk. He was staggering under the weight of his suitcases, and he didn't see the stack of newspapers directly in his path.
    "Look out!" Fiona yelled to him.
    Too late. He caught his foot and stumbled. He landed with a bang, his cases flying everywhere. She ran to him. "Blimey!" she cried, hooking her hands under his arm and helping him up. "Are you all right? That was some fall."
    "I-I think so," he replied, getting to his feet. He inspected himself. "Nothing seems broken. Useless porters, never around when you want them." He smiled at her, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Nicholas Soames," he said, offering her his hand. "Most obliged."
    Fiona was about to take it when she noticed it was bleeding. "You're 'urt!" she said.
    "Oh, dear. I hate the sight of blood. Especially my own. Makes me feel… quite… lightheaded… "
    "Oh, no! Don't! I won't be able to pick you up if you faint!"
    She led him to a bench. He sat down and put his head between his knees.
    "Terribly sorry."
    "Sshhh. Just sit still till you feel better. I'll see to your bags."
    "Too good of you," he mumbled.
    Fiona turned back to the platform to survey the damage. A hatbox had rolled away. She sent Seamie after it. One suitcase had landed intact. The other two had sprung open, scattering clothes. A large portfolio lay open, revealing two paintings. They were bright and odd, almost childish. It would take a bit of doing to get everything back in the cases. She sighed impatiently; she didn't want to be fooling with somebody else's belongings. She wanted to be on her way to the boat. But she couldn't just leave the man. He needed help. She started gathering his things.
    "Are the paintings all right?" he asked, picking his head up. "They're not damaged, are they?"
    "They're fine," she said. "Nothing's damaged as far as I can tell."
    "Thank goodness. They're my stock. I'm going to sell them."
    "What?" she asked irritably, trying to wrestle all the clobber back into the suitcase.
    "I’m going to sell them in New York."
    "Oh, aye?" she said, closing the case. She had no clue what Mr. Nicholas Soames was on about. He's babbling, she thought. Must be dizzy. Nobody could sell those paintings; they looked as if Seamie had made them. As soon as she got the one suitcase closed, she scrambled over to the other and put his clothes neatly back inside of it. Seamie reappeared, dragging the hatbox behind him.
    "Thank you, my good man," Nicholas said, making room on the bench for him.
    Fiona carried one suitcase over, then the other. "Are you feeling any better?" she asked, anxious to be going.
    "Much, thank you. You've been too kind. Don't let me keep you, I'll be fine."
    "But 'ow will you carry all these bags?" she asked, concerned.
    "Oh, I imagine a porter will be along any minute. They're probably madly busy with people arriving for the New York ship."
    "You wouldn't know 'ow to get to the ship, would you?"
    "Not exactly, but I'm headed to the docks myself. To the White Star Terminal. Are you? Would you like to share a cab?"
    "Yes," she said eagerly, relieved not to have to find her way alone. "Right, then. Let's go, shall we?" he suggested. Fiona nodded and they set off down the platform together, Nicholas with only three suitcases this time. Fiona carried his portfolio and her carpetbag, and Seamie brought up the rear with a hatbox.
    
    IN THE HACKNEY, Fiona, Nicholas, and Seamie had the chance to make introductions properly, and Fiona was better able to study her strange new companion.
    Tall and angular, Nicholas Soames looked very boyish. She guessed he wasn't much older than she was-early twenties at the most. He had straight blond hair, cut long in front, which he was constantly sweeping off his brow. His features were finely sculpted, his nose perfectly straight. He had a handsome smile, but his eyes were his most remarkable feature. They were turquoise-blue and framed by long curling lashes that any woman would've envied, From the way he spoke, and from his elegant clothes and leather suitcases, she guessed he was a gentleman. He told them he was bound for New York and Fiona said she was, too.
    "Going first class, are you?" he asked. She shook her head no, thinking that Nicholas Soames was very polite. It was painfully obvious that they, with their poor clothes and worn carpetbag, were going steerage.
    "I am. Got stuck with a frightfully pricey room. By the time I booked, they had no more single cabins available and I had to take a double."
    Fiona was suddenly worried. What does "book" mean? she wondered. Did you have to make arrangements in advance to get on a ship? This was something she hadn't counted on. She thought getting on a ship would be like getting on the train. You bought your ticket and got on. What if it "'Isn't? "Do you 'ave to… book… to get on the ship?" she asked, afraid of the answer.
    "Oh, my, yes. It's a big, complicated business getting a boat from here to America. Lots of people to be situated. But you must've known that. Otherwise you wouldn't be getting on today's boat, would you?" Her anxious expression told him she had not known. "Urn… well, look," he said, perhaps the boat's not sold out. You never know. Maybe somebody had to cancel. Go to the ticket office as soon as we arrive and see if they've anything left. I'll watch Master Seamie while you inquire."
    "Would you?"
    "It's the least I can do."
    The cab ride didn't take long. Nicholas paid the driver, having inquired the price before they left the station, and Fiona gave him back half the fare. together they went inside the White Star Terminal to the ticket office. It was bedlam. Hundreds of people were milling about, carrying bags and dragging trunks, crates, and overstuffed suitcases.
    "First class!" a uniformed man shouted. "First class to board. This way, please."
    Nicholas ushered Fiona into the queue, then sat down to wait with Seamie.
    "Yes?" the agent barked.
    "Yes, please… two for New York."
    "I can't hear you, luv!"
    She cleared her throat. "Can I get two steerage tickets, please? For today's ship?"
    "Today's ship sold out two weeks ago. And next week's is fully booked, too. We're selling tickets for the one that leaves in a fortnight, the Republic."
    "A fortnight?" Her heart sank. They couldn't wait a fortnight. It would mean staying in a hotel in Southampton for two weeks. It would cost the earth. She wanted to leave now, today. She thought again of William Burton and the look in his eyes. Had they given up looking for her? What if Sheehan found out where she'd gone? Was Burton angry enough to have her tracked down? The thought terrified her.
    "Yes, a fortnight. Steerage, is it?"
    "I can't wait that long. Are you sure there's nothing left on today's ship?" "I said so, didn't I? If you don't want the next available passage, then step aside. You're holding up the queue."
    That was it, then. She and Seamie were not getting on the ship. They were stuck in Southampton. She didn't know the city; she had no idea where to find a reasonable, clean lodging house. She had a lot of money, but she also knew she had to be careful with it; it was the only thing that allowed them to escape. It would buy them tickets to New York and give them a start there and she had to make it last.
    She walked over to Nicholas to gather Seamie and their belongings. She was tired and confused. She had no idea where to go or what to do next. Maybe she could find a cheap tuckshop, get a cup of tea, and sit down for a minute. Then she could figure out her next step.
    "How did it go?" Nicholas asked hopefully.
    She shook her head. "They've nothing left. We'll go in a fortnight."
    "That's deuced bad luck. I'm very sorry to hear it. Will you be all right in Southampton? Have you a place to stay?"
    "We do," she said, not wanting to be any more trouble. "Thank you for watching Seamie, Mr. Soames. And good luck to you in New York."
    "And to you, Miss Finnegan."
    
    NICHOLAS SOAMES watched his new acquaintances walk away, unsettled by the look on the girl's face. It wasn't just disappointment or frustration, it was fear. She looked frantic. He should help her somehow. The little boy was tired. Maybe he could… no, it wouldn't work, it was a long trip and they were strangers. Who knew how they would behave?
    Oh, what the devil. He had a weakness for strays. Maybe he'd regret his action, maybe not. He'd knew he'd certainly feel miserable if he didn't help t hem. They looked as if they had nobody and it was hard to be all alone in the world. He knew that well enough.
    "Miss Finnegan!" he shouted. "Miss Finnegan!" She couldn't hear him; she was too far away. "Bugger these suitcases," he groaned, picking them up and stumbling after her. "Miss Finnegan!" he hollered again, closer this time.
    Fiona turned around. "Mr. Soames, what's wrong? Are you dizzy again?"
    "No, I'm fine," he said, putting his things down. "Look, please don't think me forward or indecent; I'm not trying to suggest anything untoward… " Fiona looked perplexed. "… hut as I told you, I have a double room on board the ship and I don't need all the space. If you went as my wife… if we posed as a family, they'd I‹'I us on together. You could share my room. It'll have two single beds and probably a cot stowed somewhere. I promise you you'll be perfectly safe in my company."
    Relief flooded her face. She didn't hesitate. "Oh, Mr. Soames, thank you! Thank you so much! We couldn't 'ave waited another two weeks. We'll be as quiet as mice, you won't even know we're there. We'll pay Our share. 'Ow much is it?"
    Nicholas watched as she reached into her camisole and pulled out a wad of twenty-pound notes. She seemed to be a very poor person. with a great deal of money. Oh my God, he thought, horrified, she's a thief!
    She extricated one note. "I want to pay more than 'alf, " she said, "because Seamie and I are two people." Her face was so full of gratitude and relief, so honest and open, that he felt ashamed of his momentary suspicions. She wasn't a thief. She was an East London girl. Rough, but decent. Maybe she'd saved up the money.
    "Put that away," he said. "We'll settle up later. Now listen, this is what we'll do… I'll go get our boarding passes. When they hand me only one, I'll say they made a mistake, that I made a family booking -that's why I booked a double room. They'll accept it; I'm sure they will." He frowned.
    "What is it?" Fiona asked anxiously.
    "We'll have to get round the lack of wedding rings somehow. If they think we're trying to save money by all going in one room, they might question us or look for signs that we're not really married. For now, just put 'your gloves on."
    "I 'aven't got any gloves," she said. "But I do 'ave these." She rooted in her carpetbag for a moment and produced two thin gold wedding bands. "They were me parents'."
    "Brilliant!" he exclaimed, slipping the larger one on. "We'll fool them for sure now. Just remember, you're Mrs. Soames and I'm Seamie's father." He went after the boarding passes. In a few minutes he was back, triumphant. "Got them," he said. 'Td better hold on to them. That's what the head of the Family would do, don't you think?"
    She nodded.
    "Isn't this jolly!" he exclaimed, grinning like a child who just pulled off a prank. "We really did fool them. I hear first class is excellent on this line. The rooms are supposed to be quite comfortable and the food very good."
    "Is it very dear, Mr. Soames, the dinners and such?" Fiona asked.
    "It's Nicholas. And no, it's not expensive, it's paid for in your ticket. Didn't you know?"
    "No, I didn't. All paid for? That's wonderful!" she said, smiling.
    "We'll have loads of fun," he continued, his spirits high. "There's music and dancing. You can play games and cards. There will be plenty of people to talk to. We'll see and be seen."
    Fiona's smile faded. "Mr. Soames… Nicholas… you've been very kind to us, but I don't think we can go after all. I'm afraid you won't want to,"',,or be seen with us."
    "What? Why ever not?"
    She gestured at her clothes. "First class is grand, isn't it? And we've got no nice clothes. This is it."
    "Really?" he asked, incredulous. He'd never met anyone who could honestly say that all she owned was the shirt on her back. He frowned, looked, them up and down. She was right. It would be a problem. They'd have to have new clothes. "You know, I'm sure we could get to a shop and back in time," he said.
    "Do you think so'?"
    "If we hurry. First class will take another hour to board, and then they'll give second class an hour, and then there's steerage. Let's give it a try."
    As they scrambled to check their bags, Nicholas said, "Is that jacket all you've got? How do you stay warm? You'll need a proper coat and so will Seamie, and good warm gloves and scarves. It's only March, you know. Till' air will be brisk on board." As they left the porters to struggle with their things, he began ticking items off on his fingers. "You should have two or three skirts and a few shirtwaists. A coat, a dress or two for evening, and a couple of hats, don't you agree'?"
    He looked at Fiona. She nodded. "Whatever you think," she said.
    Her expression-a trusting mixture of hope and uncertainty-touched him. He offered her his arm. "All right, then. Come along, Mrs. Soames. We haven't got all day!"
    
    FIONA STOOD on the Britannic's first-class aft deck, port side, gripping the railing tightly. The wind was bitterly cold, but she barely felt it as it snatched at her hair and tore at her skirts. She looked in disbelief at her hands, encased in leather gloves, at her new skirt, her boots.
    In the space of two hours, in a crowded department store, Nicholas had transformed her, in appearance at least, from a London dock rat to a proper young lady. She now owned a new wool coat, good leather boots, three woolen skirts, four shirtwaists, two dresses, two hats, and a leather belt. Not to mention new nightclothes, underwear, stockings, tortoiseshell hairpins, and a second big carpetbag to hold it all.
    He had made all the clothing decisions, pulling together outfits, deciding which coat, which hat. Fiona had acquiesced to everything; after all, he knew what one wore traveling, she didn't. When he finished, he picked out an outfit for her to wear to the ship and suggested she have her old things packed. She ducked back into the fitting room and put on her new coffee colored skirt with a beige-and-cream-striped shirtwaist, a soft brown leather belt, and new tobacco-colored boots. A navy coat that grazed the floor went over the outfit, which was topped off by a broad-brimmed hat. When she looked in the mirror, she saw a stranger staring back at her. A tall, slender woman, elegantly dressed. She had touched the glass, her fingers meeting the stranger's. Is this really me? she'd wondered.
    Two days ago she hadn't enough money to rent a one-room flat in Whitechapel. Now she was traveling to New York first class, sharing a room with a soft bed and its own modern loo, a room more luxurious than anything she'd imagined. They'd had tea and biscuits in the cabin an hour ago. Supper was at eight, with a concert to follow. Yesterday, she'd only been able to scrounge a kipper for Seamie's tea; tonight her little brother, sleeping in his cot now, would dress in a new flannel jacket and matching short pants, then dine on delicacies. It all felt absolutely unreal to her, like living in a dream.
    Everything had changed. Her old life was gone, literally swept away overnight, and she was on the threshold of a new one. She looked different; she felt different. As surely as Nicholas had transformed the outside, pain and loss and bitterness had worked on the inside, effecting changes that she herself sensed, but barely comprehended.
    Gone was the coltish girl who'd sat by the river, dreaming of her future with the boy she loved. In her place was a sober young woman, hardened by grief and disillusionment. A woman who no longer thought of courting and kisses and a little shop in Whitechapel. A woman who no longer carried dreams in her heart, only nightmares.
    As she stood on the deck, William Burton's words came back to her. "…If' only we could get Tillet the way we got that bastard Finnegan." And Bowler Sheehan's response, his obscene laughter. "… that was a good job, wasn't it… put the grease down myself… watched Mr. Union Organizer dip and fall five stories… "
    Fiona wanted to scream until she couldn't hear those voices anymore. But she knew that as long as she lived, she would never forget them. The truth was branded on her heart. Everything that had happened to her, to I hose she loved, had happened because of William Burton. There would be no justice, not now, not ever, for she would never be able to prove what he had done. But there would be revenge. In New York, somehow, she would make something of herself. Poor people could become rich in America. Weren't the streets paved with gold? She would see how people made money, and she would figure out how to make it, too.
    "It's not over, Burton," she whispered to the ocean, its waters black in the winter twilight. "It 'asn't even begun."
    On the horizon, England slipped out of sight. Her homeland. The ground in which her family was buried. The streets where she and Joe had walked. All gone. She could see nothing now but water. The ocean unnerved her; she couldn't see across it to the other side as she could see across the Thames. She felt unbearably alone and frightened of what was to come. She closed her eyes, wishing for something, someone to hang on to.
    "You look troubled, my child," said a voice at her elbow. Startled, she turned toward it. A kindly-looking man in a black cassock, a priest, was standing beside her. "At prayer, were you? That's good. It eases the soul. You can tell the Almighty your troubles and He will hear them. God will provide."
    Really? she thought, stifling a bitter laugh. He's done a terrible job of it so far.
    "Here, let us pray together now and ask His help in easing your burdens," the priest said, handing her a rosary.
    She shook her head. "No, thank you, Father."
    The priest regarded her, nonplussed. "But surely you believe in the power of the Almighty to help you in your time of need? Surely you believe… "
    Believe in what? she wondered. She had once believed with all her heart in the strength of love, the permanence of home and family; she'd believed that her dreams would come true and her prayers would be answered.
    Now she believed in one thing only-the money stitched up in her camisole. Those pounds had saved her life-not Joe, not God, not her poor dead parents, not a union, not mumbled prayers or rosaries or penny candles.
    Fiona thought of her father, of a conversation they'd had once in front of the fire. It seemed like years ago. His words had confused her at the time; she had mulled them over in the months after his death, never fully understanding them, but now their meaning was perfectly clear.
    "What I believe, Father," she said, handing him back his rosary, "is that three pounds of meat makes a very good stew."
    
Part Two
    
Chapter 22
    
New York, March 1889
    
    “Move it, would ya? Move yer god damned ass, goddammit!" the cabbie driver shouted. Ahead of him, a wagon laden with bricks was moving too slowly for his liking. He pulled up hard on his horse's reins, forcing the animal to swerve sharply. The cab's wheel caught the curb as it skirted the wagon, tossing Fiona and Seamie around on the seat like dice in a cup.
    They'd only gone two blocks from the terminal and already their glimpses of the city and its people had confirmed what they'd heard aboard the Britannia-that New York was beastly loud and beastly fast. All around them, people moved as quickly and heedlessly as the traffic. Men darted across intersections, dodging oncoming carriages. One, in a bowler hat, read a newspaper as he walked, turning the pages and a corner without missing a beat. Another ate a sandwich as he hung off a trolley. A woman wearing a straight skirt and cutaway jacket strode briskly toward her destination, shoulders thrown back, chin lifted, the plumes on her hat trembling with every step.
    As the hansom cab nosed its way up Tenth Avenue, Fiona and Seamie took in the vast freight yards and factories that lined it and the frenetic activity that attended them. Teams of horses drew huge rolls of paper to printers' shops or bales of cotton and wool to textile mills. Men lowered newly woven carpets, crates of twine, china cabinets, and pianos from factory loopholes to delivery wagons. They heard them shouting orders to one another in brash American voices. They saw laundries billowing steam into the crisp air, glimpsed red-faced women inside their open doors twisting water out of sheets. They smelled coffee roasting, biscuits baking, and less savory odours from soap factories and slaughterhouses.
    New York, Fiona sensed, was nothing like London. It was young, an upstart. A new city whose every street and building spoke of speed and modernity. She remembered how Nick had reacted when the boat docked, how he'd held up the entire first-class section when he stopped on the gangplank, enraptured by the very sight of the place.
    "New York!" he'd exclaimed. "Just look at it, Fee! The city of commerce, of industry. The city of the future. Look at all the buildings! The thrusting architecture, the soaring lines. They're artistic ideals realized. Temples of ambition. Paeans to power and progress!"
    She smiled to herself now. That was Nick all over. Nattering on about artistic ideals when all she - and a thousand others-wanted was to get off the bloody boat.
    Seamie, sitting on the edge of the seat, turned to her and said, "Will they like us, Fee? Auntie Molly and Uncle Michael?"
    "Of course they will, luv," she replied, wishing she felt as confident as sill' sounded. A little voice inside her reminded her that her aunt and uncle had no idea that she and Seamie were about to show up on their doorstep. What if they don't want you? the voice asked.
    She silenced it. Of course they would. Michael was their father's brother, They were his family and he would do right by them. Oh, he might be a bit surprised at first-who wouldn't be? But they would be welcomed and mad,' much of. She had dressed herself in a navy skirt and white shirtwaist and Seamie in the tweed jacket and short pants she'd bought in Southampton so they would be sure to make a good impression. She told herself how very lucky they were to have family to go to, unlike poor Nick. who had none.
    Nick, she had learned over the course of their journey, had had a falling out with his father; that's why he'd left London. His father owned a bank and expected him to run it one day, but Nick had other ideas. He was passionate about what he called the new art -the work of a group of painter~ who lived in Paris. He'd worked as an art dealer for a time in that city and now he was going to open a gallery of his own in New York. He would represent these new painters exclusively. Impressionists, he called them. He'd shown her the half dozen canvases he'd brought with him. At first, she'd thought them very odd. They looked nothing like the paintings she had seen in windows of shops and pubs-ones of children and dogs, or courting couples, or hunting scenes. But the more he told her about the ideas behind the paintings, and the painters themselves, the more she grew to like them.
    Nick kept one of the canvases - a small still life of white roses, apple~, bread, and wine-on the night table that separated their two beds, where could always see it. It was signed "H. Besson," and Fiona had found herself strangely drawn to it. It made her think of Joe. Of how much she still missed him, longed for him. She had wondered how this simple little painting could stir up such feelings. Nick said it was because the artist had painted it with his heart.
    Though they'd been apart for only half an hour at the most, Fiona missed, I Nick already. Horribly. Today was Thursday. They'd promised to meet till' following Thursday at his hotel. It was only a week away, but it seemed lib, forever. She missed his enthusiasm and his optimism, his irrepressible sense of adventure, his funny, impractical ways. She remembered their first supper together. As they were walking to the dining room, she'd been seized by panic. She had no idea how to act or what to say. How would she ever pass as his wife, as one of the quality?
    "It’s simple," he'd told her. "Always be rude to the help. Sneer at every new idea the world presents. And never stop talking about your dogs."
    She would have preferred a bit of useful advice -like which glass was for water and which for wine. That first dinner had been a disaster. She'd been confused by the profusion of cutlery, crystal, and china. By the time she'd figured out which was the soup spoon, Seamie was drinking his consommé right out of the bowl. He'd lowered it, made a face, and said, "This tea is “’orrible!" She'd made him put it down and use his spoon and tear pieces off his roll and butter each piece-as Nick did-instead of slathering the whole roll. She couldn't get him to do much else. He was balky and cranky and didn't understand why he suddenly had to call his sister Mother and a strange man Father. He didn't like the lobster salad and refused to eat his quail because it still had its head on.
    To make conversation, Nick had asked her about her family. While she'd been busy formulating a reply to that difficult question, Seamie answered it for her. "Our mam's dead," he'd said plainly. "She was stabbed by a man called Jack. Our da's dead, too. 'E fell at the docks. They cut 'is leg off. Charlie and Eileen are dead, too. Bad men chased us. They wanted our money. We ‘id be'ind a mattress. It 'ad rats in it. I was scared. I don't like rats."
    When Seamie finished, Nick's mouth was hanging open. After a few seconds of excruciating silence, he asked if it was true. She told him it was. looking at her plate, she explained what had happened to her family, leaving out William Burton's involvement. Seamie knew nothing about it. Nobody did and she wanted to keep it that way. It was a black. horrible thing-a thing for herself alone. When she'd finished, she'd raised her eyes to Nick's, expecting to see an expression of distaste on his fine, patrician face. Instead, she'd seen tears in his eyes.
    During the nearly three weeks they'd shared a room, meals, and a life, she'd grown incredibly close to this charming, impossible, good-hearted man. She still wasn't quite sure how it had happened. Perhaps it was because they were both so alone in the world. She had lost her family and I been forced to leave her home, and so-in his own way-had he. She never expected them to become good friends; she'd assumed their backgrounds were too different, the class divide too great, to permit it. But that was before the two of them, with Seamie nestled in his cot, had spent stormy nights huddled in their cabin, sipping tea as the ship pitched and rolled, telling each other their hopes and dreams. It was before Nick made both her and her brother practice the phrase "Hello, Harold, I hear Havana's hellishly hot," over and over until they stopped dropping their aitches. Before she'd brought him ginger tea and read to him from his volumes of Byron and the Brownings during the strange spells of fatigue he was prone to. Before he'd sat on the edge of her bed, soothing her, after she'd screamed herself awake from yet another nightmare.
    It was before she'd discovered the photograph. The one she was sure she wasn't meant to see.
    One morning, after Nick had left for his customary walk on deck, Fiona saw that he'd left his watch open on the night table. It was gold, beautifully worked, and undoubtedly valuable. Not wanting anything to happen to it, she'd picked it up to tuck it away. As she did, a small photograph fluttered out. She retrieved it and saw a handsome, dark-haired man smiling back at her. His face was full of love for the person who'd taken the picture. She'd known then that the photographer had been Nick and that this man was his lover.
    Who else would he be? People didn't keep pictures of friends in a watch case. It would certainly explain why Nick never talked of a sweetheart, even when she'd told him about Joe. Or why he'd never shown interest in her. Or any other woman on the ship. She'd been afraid of that when they first settled into their room. She'd been so eager to get on the ship, she'd never even considered that he might be motivated by something other than a kind heart. That first night, tucked under her covers, afraid to fall asleep with" strange man just feet away, she asked herself what she would do if he mad,. a move. She could hardly complain to the captain-they were supposed to be married. But he'd never given her one second's cause for concern. She had stared at the handsome man for a few more seconds, wondering what he was like, if he would ever come to America, wondering what on earth two men did together. She'd never met a man who liked other men. Then she'd chided herself for being nosy and put the watch away.
    The cab stopped short, jouncing Fiona into the hard wooden door, making her forget all about Nick and their journey. There was more cursing and yelling as the driver fought his way through the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Fourteenth Street, bouncing over ruts and bumps on his badly sprung wheels. Fiona could see that the factories had given way to neat, well-kept houses and shops. The cab picked up speed again, then stopped four blocks later in front of a squat, three-story brick house on the east side of the avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets.
    Fiona, her hands shaking with anticipation, scrambled out of the cal" then lifted Seamie and their things down. She paid the fare and the carriage lurched of£: its wheels spraying dust and gravel. Holding her carpetbags in one hand and Seamie in the other, she looked up at number 164.
    It was not what she expected.
    The sigh over the shop read: M. Finnegan - Groceries and listed the opening hours, but the shop was closed. The door was secured with a padlock; the large shop window was streaked with dust. Inside of it, dead bugs and mouse droppings littered a display of goods, their wrappers bleached and wrinkled by the sun.
    In the bottom right-hand corner of the window was a sign. It read:
    
    To be offered at Public Auction by First Manhattan Bank:
    164 Eighth Avenue: 25”-wide three storey building on a 100’ lot.
    Operated as a retail establishment and residence.
    Date of auction: Saturday, April 14th, 1889.
    For further details, please contact
    Mr. Joseph Brennan, Real Estate Agent
    21 Water Street, New York.
    
    FIONA BLINKED at the sign. She put her bags down, made blinders of her hands, and peered into the window. She could see a white apron balled up,," the counter, a large wall clock behind it-its hands indicating the wrong time, a brass cash register, gas lamps, and shelves still stocked with goods. What happened? she wondered anxiously. Where is everyone?
    "Come on, Fee. Let's go see Uncle Michael."
    "In a minute, Seamie."
    She took a step back and looked up at the second floor. There were no signs of life. She tried the door to the upper floors; it was locked. She told her brother to stay put, then went to knock on the door of number 166, but that too, was empty. From the dress forms inside, the bolts of cloth and spools of thread scattered about, she guessed it had been a dressmaker's. She tried number 162, after picking her way through a pile of empty paint bucket and old brushes stacked outside of it. Again there was no answer. She was biting her bottom lip, and starting to panic, when a teenage boy passed her on the sidewalk.
    "Excuse me… " she said. "Do you know Michael Finnegan? Do you know where he is?"
    The boy, hands in his pockets, said, "Whelan's Ale House, most likely."
    "Sorry?"
    "Whelan's. One block north." He started to move off.
    "Wait, please! Doesn't he live here anymore?"
    "He sleeps here, miss, but he lives at Whelan's." Smirking, he pantomimed a drunk upending a bottle. Fiona's confused expression told him she hadn’t understood. The boy rolled his eyes. "Do I gotta spell it out? He drinks. Spends his days at the boozer, then staggers back here. My dad does same, but only on Saturdays. Mr. Finnegan, he's there all the time."
    "That can't be," Fiona said. Her uncle was no drunkard. He was a hard working shopkeeper. She had his picture, his letters, to prove it. "Do you know why his shop's closed?"
    A piercing whistle came from the end of the block. "Coming!" the boy yelled. He turned back to Fiona, impatient to join his friends. "Didn't pay his bills. Went crazy when his wife died."
    "Died!" she repeated, stricken. "Molly Finnegan is dead?"
    "Yeah. Cholera. Last fall. It took a lot of people. I gotta go," he said, trotting off. "Whelan's Ale House. On Twentieth," he shouted over his shoulder.
    He left Fiona standing on the pavement, her hands pressed to her cheeks. trying to take in this latest disaster. This can't be happening, she told herself. It can't be. The boy must be mistaken. She had to find Michael. He would explain everything and then they'd have a laugh over the silly misunderstanding. "Come on, Seamie," she said, picking up their bags.
    "Where are we going now, Fee?" he whined. "I'm tired. I want something to drink."
    Fiona tried to sound cheerful and sure of herself so her brother wouldn’t hear the anxiety in her voice. "We're going to find Uncle Michael, Seamie. He's not at home right now. We have to see where he is. He'll be very happy to see us, I'm sure. Then we'll all have a nice drink and something to eat, all right?"
    "All right," he said, taking her hand.
    
    WHELAN'S ALE HOUSE did not look like the sort of place when respectable workingmen went for a well-earned jar. Dingy and run-down. it was the type of place gutter drunks crawled into after they'd scraped up four cents for a shot of gin or whiskey. Taking a deep breath, Fiona pushed the door open and stepped inside. It was quiet, at least. Three men were playing a game of billiards; two more sat slumped at the bar.
    "Ladies drink in the back," the bartender said, wiping a glass with a dirty rag.
    "I don't want a drink," she said to him. "I'm looking for my uncle, Michael Finnegan."
    "Hey, Michael!" he yelled. "Someone here to see you!"
    "Tell 'em to fuck off," a figure at the end of the bar said, not bothering to turn around.
    "Stay here," Fiona instructed Seamie, leaving him by the door. She'd seen belligerent drunks before and she wanted to be able to grab her brother and make a quick exit if things turned ugly. She approached the man who'd spoken, he was wearing a worn tweed jacket with holes at the elbows. His black hair was long and unkempt.
    "Excuse me, are you Michael Finnegan?"
    The man turned to her. She gasped. He was the spitting image of her father. Same chin, same cheekbones, same startlingly blue eyes. He was a few years younger than her da and not as broad-shouldered. He was clean shaven. His face was softer, not weathered from years at the docks, but still, she knew it as well as she knew her own.
    "I t'ought I told you-" he snarled, then, seeing he was addressing a woman, he apologized. "Sorry, lassie, t'ought you was one of them vultures,after me for money. Didn't mean to… " His words trailed off. He squinted,at her, staring into her eyes as intently as she was staring into his. "Do I know you?" he asked.
    "I'm your niece, Fiona."
    He was silent for a few seconds. "Me niece?" he finally said. "Paddy's lass?" Fiona nodded. She pointed to Seamie. "That's my brother, Seamus."
    "Me niece!" he repeated wonderingly, his face softening into a smile. "Let me look at you! Jaysus, if you don't look just like me brother! Just like him! Me niece!" He lumbered off his barstool and enveloped her in a bear hug, nearly suffocating her with whiskey fumes.
    "Can I get you something, miss?" the bartender asked as Michael released her.
    "No, thank you. I don't-" she started to say.
    "Tim!" M.ichael bellowed. "Get a drink for me niece, Finona!"
    “Fiona…”
    "Here, sit down," he insisted, giving her his stool and pulling up another one. She demurred. "No, sit," he said, pushing her down onto the stool. "Sit and tell me how you got here. Tim! A drink for me niece! A shot of your best whiskey! "
    "A soda water will do," she said quickly.
    "And somet'ing for the nipper," he said, beckoning Seamie to join them.
    "Come on, Seamus lad, come sit next to your Uncle Michael." He pulled up another stool and Seamie, wide-eyed and uncertain, climbed onto it. "Give the lad a whiskey, too, Tim." He went to sit down, missed the barstool, and landed on the floor. Fiona jumped up to help him.
    "What are you doing here? Have you come for a visit?" he asked, brushing himself off.
    "More than a visit," she said, settling him back on his stool. "We're in New York for good. We've emigrated."
    "Just youse? Where's Paddy? Isn't he with you? And Kate?"
    Fiona dreaded having to tell him. The man had lost his wife and from the look of things, wasn't handling it well. "Uncle Michael… " she began, pausing to hand Seamie one of the two soda waters the bartender had brought, "… my father is dead. He fell from a loophole down the docks." Michael said nothing, he just swallowed hard. "My mother's dead, too. murdered."
    "Murdered!" he cried. "When? How?"
    Fiona told him about Jack. She told him about Charlie and the baby and how she and Seamie had only survived it all because of the kindness of Roddy O'Meara.
    "I can't believe it. All of them gone," he said, dazed. "Me brother… so many years went by, but I always t'ought I'd see him again." He looked at Fiona with eyes full of 'pain. "Did… did he suffer?"
    She thought about her father's last moments. She remembered the way he had looked in the hospital bed, his body broken. She remembered over hearing Burton and Sheehan talking about his death, laughing about it. Michael didn't have to know his brother had been murdered over a penny-an-hour wage hike. She could at least spare him that. "It was a bad accident. He didn't live long," she said.
    He nodded, then ordered another shot. The bartender placed it in front of him. He tossed it back as if it were water.
    "Uncle Michael," Fiona said. "Seamie and I, we were just at your house. What happened? To Molly and the baby? To the shop?"
    "Another round, Timothy. Make it a double."
    Another one, on top of the one he'd just downed. He was already pissed. Fiona watched him wait agitatedly for the fresh glass, drumming his fingers on the bar. He was desperate for it. The boy she'd met was right; he was a drunkard. The glass arrived. She watched as he downed that in one swallow, too. His gaze was becoming detached and unfocused.
    "Aunt Molly… " she pressed.
    "She's dead. Cholera."
    "I'm sorry."
    "She was weak after the baby. Might've licked it if she'd been stronger."
    "The baby was born?"
    "Aye. Two weeks after the outbreak." "What happened? Did it… is it.,.?"
    "She lived."
    "Lived! Where is she?" Fiona asked, alarmed. "She's not in the flat, is she!" She couldn't bear to think of a little baby all alone in a dark, empty flat.
    "No, she's with Mary… a friend… " He heaved a sigh; talking was growing more difficult for him. "… friend of Molly's… took her after the funeral." He held up a finger for the bartender.
    Blimey, not another one, Fiona thought. He can hardly speak as it is. "Where does Mary live?" she asked. "Where's the baby?"
    "With me… at home… with Mary… "
    He was becoming incoherent. She had to get answers out of him quickly, before he couldn't talk at all. "Uncle Michael, the shop, it's to be auctioned, isn’t it? Can the auction be stopped? How much do you owe?"
    "I hate that fucking shop!" he shouted, banging his fist on the bar. Frightened, Seamie slid off his barstool and hid behind his sister. "I won't set foot in it! Fucking bank can have it! It was our shop, mine and Molly's. She made it pretty. Made it t'rive." He paused to slug down another mouthful of Whiskey from yet another glass the bartender had put in front of him. His eyes were bright with unshed tears. "My Molly!" he cried brokenly. "I wish He'd taken me when He took her. I can't go on without her… I can't… " He picked up his glass again. His hands shook.
    "The shop, Michael," Fiona persisted. "How much do you owe?"
    "T'ree hundred-odd dollars. That's the bank. Another hundred or so to me vendors… haven't got it… only got a few dollars to me name, see?" He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out two bills, scattering coins as he did. "Fucking t'ings… " he muttered, as pennies and nickels rolled and spun over the dirty plank floor.
    Fiona leaned her elbows on the bar and rested her head in her hands; it ached unbearably. This was not how it was supposed to happen. Not at all. She had imagined a warm welcome. Hugs from her aunt. Sandwiches and tea, and a fat, jolly baby to hold. She hadn't imagined this. After a minute, he stood up. She had to get out of Whelan's. Coming to New York had been a mistake. There was no family here to help her. She was on her own.
    Michael looked at her, terrified. "No," he pegged, clutching her hand.
    "You're not going, are you? Don't go!"
    "We're tired," she said, pulling her hand free. "Seamie's hungry. We need a place to stay."
    "My flat… you can stay there… please, I've got nobody," he said, maudlin now. The liquor was making him surly one minute, sloppy the next. 'It's a little messy, but I'll clean it."
    Fiona laughed mirthlessly. Clean a flat? He hadn't even managed to pick his coins up.
    He took her hand again. "Please?" he asked.
    Not wanting to, she looked into her uncle's eyes. The misery she saw there was so abject, so deep, that the No she'd planned to say died in her throat. The day was growing long. In another hour, dusk would be coming down. She had no idea where to look for another place to stay. "All right. We'll stay," she said. "For tonight, anyway."
    Michael fumbled in his pocket, produced a key, and gave it to her. "You go on. Sure, I'll come right after," he said. "I'll clean it up… " He belched. "… it'll be spotless. Tim, give us one more… "
    
    BACK AT 164 Eighth Avenue, Fiona unlocked the door, and herding Seamie before her, walked upstairs to the second floor. As they stepped inside their uncle's flat, the stench of sour milk and rotted food greeted them. It was dark in the foyer; they could barely see ahead of themselves. Telling, Seamie to stay put, Fiona walked down the narrow hallway, feeling her way along the wall until she came to the kitchen. A tattered lace curtain hung in the window. She pulled on the shade under it and it snapped up noisily, startling her. She heard the sounds of scurrying rodent feet and loudly stamped her own to roust any stragglers. Sunlight streamed into the kitchen. Its rays pierced the swirling dust raised by her movements and illuminated the biggest, most breathtaking mess she'd ever seen.
    Dirty dishes clogged the sink. They covered the table and littered the floor. Here and there, bugs dined on the crusty remnants of food left to them by the mice. Glasses contained slicks of old beer and rancid coffee. The floor was crunchy underfoot in places, sticky in others. The stink made her nauseous. She opened the window, desperate for fresh air.
    "Fee?" Seamie called from the hallway.
    "Stay there, Seamie," she told him, moving from the kitchen to the parlor.
    She opened windows there, too, throwing light on similar chaos. Empty whiskey bottles and dirty clothes were strewn about. Mail was heaped on the floor. Fiona picked up a sealed envelope. It was addressed to Michael Finnegan from First Merchants Bank and was marked URGENT. She picked up a folded piece of paper. It was from a butcher and demanded immediate payment of monies owed. An unopened envelope - heavily postmarked caught her eye. It was the letter her mother had sent after her father's death.
    It was quiet in the parlor. The only sound was the rhythmic ticking of the mantel clock. Fiona, reeling from the reception she'd received, didn't hear it. All she heard was the sound of a million problems shrieking at her. Her aunt was dead. Her uncle was a raving drunk. Her cousin was somewhere in this godforsaken city, but where? The shop was closed; the job she'd relied on did not exist. The building was going to be auctioned. Where would they go when it was? What would they do? How would she find a place to live? A job?
    She moved through the flat; everywhere she went, there was another mess. The bathroom was vile. Michael's bedroom, like the parlor, was littered with empty bottles. Tangled sheets hung off the bed onto the floor. On top of the pillows rested a framed photograph. Fiona picked it up. A pretty woman with merry eyes smiled back at her.
    "Feeeee!" Seamie wailed. "Come on! I'm scared!"
    "Coming, Seamie!" she shouted, running to him.
    “I don't like it here. I want to go home," he fretted.
    Fiona could see the worry in his face and the exhaustion. She couldn't let him see how upset she was; she had to be strong. "Ssshhh, pet. It'll be all right, you'll see. We'll get something to eat and I'll tidy up a bit and things will look a lot better."
    "Is that Auntie Molly?" he asked, pointing at the photograph she was still holding.
    "Yes,luv."
    "She's dead, isn't she, Fee? That's what Uncle Michael said."
    "Yes, I'm afraid she is," Fiona said. She wanted to change the subject. “Come on, Seamie, let's find a shop and get some bread and bacon for sandwiches. You'd like a bacon sandwich, wouldn't you?" She reached for his hand, but he whipped it away.
    "Dead! Dead! Dead!" he shouted angrily. "Just like Mam and Da and Charlie and Eileen! Everyone's dead! I hate dead! Father's dead, too, isn't he.Isn't he, Fee?"
    "No, Seamie," Fiona said gently, kneeling down in front of him. "Nick's not dead. He's in a hotel. You know that. We're going to see him in a week."
    "No, we aren't. He's dead," Seamie insisted, delivering a savage kick to one of their bags.
    "No, he isn't! Now you stop this!"
    "He is! And you'll die, too! And then I'll be all alone!"
    Seamie's eyes filled with tears. His face crumpled. The sight split Fiona's heart in two. He's just a tyke, she thought. He's lost all his family except me. Lost his home, his friends, everything. She pulled him to her. "Nick isn't dead, luv. And I'm not going to die, either. Not for a long, long time. I'm going to stick around and look after you and keep you safe, all right?"
    He snuffled into her shoulder. "Promise, Fee?"
    "I promise," she said. She released him and made an X on her chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die -"
    "No!" he howled.
    "Sorry! Just… just cross my heart. How's that?"
    He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, then said, "Granddad O'Rourke's dead and Nana O'Rourke, too. And Moggs the cat. And Bridget Byrne's puppy that wouldn't eat and Mrs. Flynn's baby and… "
    Fiona groaned. She took a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped his nose. She wanted her mother. Her mam would know what to say to Seamie' to soothe his fears. She'd always known what to say to her when she was frightened. Fiona didn't know how to be a mother. She didn't even know where to buy their dinner or where they would sleep in all this mess. Sill' didn't know what tomorrow would bring, where to look for a room, or what they would do for an income. Most of all, she didn't know what had possessed her to come to this bloody city. She wished now that she'd taken her chances and stayed in England. They could've gone to Leeds, Liverpool, or way up north to Scotland. West to Devon or Cornwall. They would have been better off in some grotty mill town, a mining town, some dung heap or a one-horse country town. As long as they were somewhere in England and anywhere but here.
    
Chapter 23
    
    Nicholas Soames flinched as the doctor placed a stethoscope against his bare chest. I say! Where do you keep that thing? The icebox?"
    The doctor, a stern, well-fed German, was not amused. "Breathe, please," he commanded. "In and out, in and out… "
    "Yes. Right. I do know how it's done. Been at it for twenty-two years."
    Nick grumbled. He took a deep breath and let it out. He didn't want to be here, in Dr. Werner Eckhardt's examination room, with its nasty smell of carbolic and its sinister metal devices for prying and poking, but he had no choice. The fatigue had taken a turn for the worse aboard the boat. Fiona had wanted to send for the ship's surgeon on more than one occasion, but he wouldn't let her. Couldn't let her, or he might have found himself turned back to London.
    He'd written to Eckhardt, whom he knew to be one of the best in his field, just after he'd arrived at his hotel yesterday to request an appointment. The doctor had written back telling him he'd had a cancellation and could fit him in today.
    As Nick continued to take deep breaths, Dr. Eckhardt moved the stethoscope from his chest to his back, listening intently. Then he straightened removed the instrument from his ears, and said, "It's in your heart. There are lesions. I can hear them. There's a hissing in the blood."
    Well, isn't that just like a German? Nick thought. No platitudes to soften the blow. No hand on the shoulder. Just a nice hard conk on the head. And then his glibness, which he used as a shield against the world and its ugliness failed him and he thought, Oh, God. It's in my heart. My heart.
    "Your illness is progressing, Mr. Soames," the doctor continued. "The disease is an opportunist. If you want to slow its progress, you must take better care of yourself. You need rest. A good diet. And no exertions of any kind."
    Nick nodded, dazed. First his heart. What next? His lungs? His brain? He could picture it, invading his skull like some barbarian army, eating away at his faculties bit by bit until he was reduced to picking dandelions and singing nursery rhymes. He wouldn't allow it. He'd hang himself first.
    As the doctor droned on, he found himself wishing that Fiona were here. She was so loving, so loyal, so good. She would take his hand and tell him it would be all right, just as she had on the ship. Or would she? he wondered anxiously. Even a heart as kind as hers had its limits. If she found out what was really wrong with him, he would surely lose her, his dearest Fee, his only friend. Just as he'd lost everyone else.
    "Are you listening to me, Mr. Soames?" Eckhardt asked, giving him a close look. "This is no joke. It is critical that you take plenty of sleep. Ten hours at night. And naps during the day."
    "Look, Dr. Eck, I'll take more rest," he said, "but I can't become an invalid. I've a gallery to open, you see, and I can't do it from a reclining position. What about a course of mercury?"
    Eckhardt waved a hand dismissively. "Useless. It blackens the teeth. Makes you drool."
    "Charming! What else have you got?"
    "A tonic of my own devising. Makes the system more robust, more resistant."
    "Let's try that, then," Nick said. As he started to dress, Eckhardt decanted a dark, viscous solution into a glass vial, stoppered it, and instructed him on the dosage. The doctor told him to return in a month's time, then excused himself to attend another patient. Nick looped his silk tie into a soft Windsor knot, inspecting his face in a wall mirror as he did. At least I still look healthy, he thought. Maybe a little pale, but that's all. Eckhardt's exaggerating. All doctors do. It's how they keep their patients. He put his jacket on and slipped the bottle into his pocket. On his way out he asked the receptionist to send the bill to his hotel.
    Outside, the sunny March morning was bracing. Nick cut a fashionable figure in his gray three-piece suit and rather forward choice of a brown tie, brogues, and greatcoat, instead of black. He walked down Park Avenue hoping for a hackney-with his hands jammed into his pockets. His gait was loping and oddly graceful. The brisk air brought color to his pale face, with its high cheekbones and stunning turquoise eyes. He attracted many admiring glances, though he was aware of none of them, lost as he was in his own thoughts.
    He finally secured a cab and instructed the driver to take him to Gramercy Park. On its way, the carriage passed an art gallery on Fortieth Street. With its white gilt-edged awning, its polished brass doors and its bronze urns flanking them, it looked extremely prosperous. As he stared at it, his expression became determined. He would have his gallery, and it, too, would be prosperous. He would not allow his illness to defeat him. He was made of tougher stuff and he would prove it. To Eckhardt. To himself. Most of all, to his father, who had called him an abomination and advised him to die quickly and spare the family any further disgrace. An image of the man came unbidden. Portly, brisk, unsmiling. Wealthy beyond belief. Powerful. Monstrous.
    He shuddered, willing the image away, but it persisted and he saw his father as he'd looked the night he'd learned of Nick's illness, fury twisting his face as he'd slammed him into a wall. He lay on the floor afterward, gasping for breath, watching the black toe caps of his father's oxfords as he paced the room. The shoes, from Lobb's, were polished to a harsh gleam. The trousers, from Poole's, were sharply creased. Appearance was everything to the man. Speak and dress like a gentleman and you were one, regardless of whether you beat your horses, your servants, or your son.
    Shaking the memory off, Nick reached for his watch. He was supposed to meet with an estate agent at eleven to view sites for his gallery. By mistake, he opened the back of the case. A small photograph, neatly trimmed, fluttered into his lap. He picked it up. His heart clenched as he regarded the young man smiling back at him. On the wall beside him were the words "Chat Noir." Nick remembered the place so well. He could almost taste the absinthe and smell the night air-a rich mix of cigarette smoke, perfume, garlic, and oil paint. He could see his friends-their faces, their shabby clothes and stained hands. He pressed his hand to his heart and felt it beating. Lesions? If the shattering loss he'd endured last autumn hadn't stopped it dead, what could it few spots do? He continued to stare at the photograph and suddenly he was no longer in New York, he was in Paris again. Henri was sitting across from him at the cafe wearing his favorite wine-red jacket. It wasn't March, it was May, the very night they met. He was there again, in Montmartre…
    
    …TWO HUNDRED FIFTY francs for that… that poster?" Paul Gauguin shouted in thick, wine-slurred French. "Why, it looks like something from a lampost, a billboard!"
    "Better a poster than a child's cartoon… like your Bretons!" Henri Toulouse-Lautrec shot back, eliciting shrieks of laughter from the rest of the company.
    Earlier that day, Nick had sold one of Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings, a colorful portrait of Louise Weber, a music hall performer known as La Goulue. His employer, the renowned art dealer Paul Durand Ruel, had been uncertain about representing Toulouse-Lautrec, but Nick pressed him and he’d agreed to let him show a few canvases. Nick had garnered only a small commission from the sale, but he'd earned something else - a victory for the new art.
    It was no mean feat, selling the new generation. Moving a Manet, Renoir, or Morisot-the ones who'd started it all-was hard enough. But Nick had faith. In 1874, when the vanguard first exhibited, they couldn't sell anything either. A critic, taking his cue from the name of Monet's canvas Impression Sunrise, had dismissed them all as impressionists, mere dabblers. Rebelling against what society deemed acceptable-historical and genre paintings they sought to present the real not the ideal. The seamstress bent over her work was as valid a subject to them as an emperor or a god. Their techniques were loose and unstudied, the better to evoke emotion. The public had reviled them, but Nick adored them. The realism with which they portrayed life spoke to his hunger for some small degree of honesty in his own existence.
    At Cambridge, he'd read economics because his father made him-he wanted him well-prepared to take over Albion, the family bank-but he'd spent his spare time studying art. The first time he'd seen work by the Impressionists, at the National Gallery, he'd been nineteen years old, working at Albion over the summer and hating every second of it. Afterward, he'd walked out of the museum, flagged down a cab, and instructed the man to drive around the city for an hour-anywhere he liked-so that he could weep in privacy. By the time he'd arrived home that evening, he knew he couldn't stay at Albion or return to Cambridge. He would defy his father and leave for Paris. He hated his life-the suffocating days; the family dinners at which his father drilled him with questions on finance, then berated him for not knowing the answers; the unbearable parties where his mother's friends pushed their daughters on him like whore mongers, for he, as his titled father's only son, was considered a catch. His whole life was a pretence. Who he was-what he was-was unacceptable. But in the canvases of Monet, Picasso, Degas, he'd glimpsed the world as it was, not as some would have it appear, and he embraced that vision.
    Nick downed another mouthful of wine as Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec continued to taunt each other. He was enjoying himself immensely. Spirits were high, the mood triumphant. La Goulue herself arrived amid hoots and applause. Nick looked around and saw Paul Signac and Georges Seurat arguing heatedly. Emile Bernard was teasing a handsome young man with long, dark brown hair, a painter Nick didn't know, because the waitress was in love with him. Some of his colleagues from the gallery had come. The Van Gogh brothers, too. Vincent, rumpled and cross, and solemn Theo, director of the Montmartre Goupil's - a rival gallery. It was a wonderful party, a wonderful night-and then disaster struck.
    Nick had been stuffing himself with steamed mussels, sopping up their garlicky broth with hunks of crusty bread. He'd just reached across Gauguin for the remains of a loaf when, out of nowhere, a large, putrid cabbage came sailing through the air and hit him in the head. He sat there in shock, speechless, blinking slime out of his eyes. A cry went up and members of the party were dispatched to apprehend the sniper. The man was collared and marched back to the scene of the crime. He turned out to be a postal clerk infuriated by Gauguin's paintings, and not only did the ratter refuse to apologize, he berated Nick for sticking his fat head in the way, causing him to miss his target,
    The stink was unbearable, Nick stood up, announcing he had to go home and change, when one of the party-the young man the waitress fancied offered to take him to his flat where he could wash and borrow a clean shirt.
    "My name is Henri.,, Henri Besson," he said. "My place is nearby, only a street away."
    "Let's go," Nick said.
    They ran all the way up the five flights of stairs to Henri's tiny room, with Nick pulling off his shirt on the way. Once inside, he bent over a small paint stained sink and poured a pitcher of water over his head. Henri gave him soap and a towel, and when he'd dressed, a glass of red wine. Nick had been in such a hurry to wash that he hadn't taken in Henri's room, but once he was clean, he did. And to his astonishment, everywhere he looked-hung on the walls, propped against the empty fireplace, leaning on the few bits of furniture-were some of the most vibrant, light-infused paintings he'd ever seen. A young girl at a dance, the spreading blush on her ivory cheeks subtle and perfect. A laundress, her skirts kilted up above her meaty knees. Bloodstained porters at Les HaIles. And then he saw one that floored him _ a portrait of two men at breakfast. One sat at a table with toast and a newspaper, the other sipped coffee at a window. They were dressed, not even looking at one another, but an attitude of familiarity marked them as lovers. It was at once innocent and incendiary. Nick swallowed. "Bloody hell, Henri… have you shown this?"
    Henri came over to see what he was looking at, then shook his head. “Our friends paint the truth, Nicholas, and they are hit by cabbages." He laughed. "Or rather, their representatives are." His smile faded as he touched his fingers to the canvas. "They reveal us to ourselves and people cannot bear it. Who would accept the truth of my life?"
    They hadn't rejoined the others. They'd finished one bottle of wine, then opened another, talking late into the night about their painter friends, the writers Zola, Rimbaud, and Wilde, the composers Mahler and Debussy, and themselves. And the next morning, as the first rays of the sun caressed Henri's sleeping form, Nick lay awake just watching him breathe, barely able to breathe himself because of the strange new fullness in his heart…
    A police officer rapped harshly on the cab, startling him out of his thoughts. "There's an overturned cart ahead," he yelled to the driver. "No one’s moving. Turn off on Fifth."
    Nick looked down at the photo still in his palm. The jacket Henri wore made him smile; he remembered buying it for him. He slid the photo back inside the watch case. Henri had thought he was too good to him, too generous. It wasn't so. The gifts Henri gave-love, laughter, courage-had mattered so much more. He was the one who'd convinced him to stand up to his father, to live his life as he chose. It had taken some doing, a few fights, including a rather loud scene in the Louvre. It was in English, at least Henri insisted on speaking it so he could improve-so most of the museum's patrons hadn't understood them, but still, it had been quite embarrassing.
    "Henri, please! Lower your voice -"
    "Say to me I am right! Admit it!"
    "I wish I could, but -"
    "But? But what? You don't need his money. You make excellent money in the gallery - “
    "Hardly excellent."
    "No, very excellent! It pays the rent, buys us food and wine, gives us a good life-"
    "Bloody hell, Henri, you're making a scene! People are staring -"
    "Let them! Quest-ce-que vous regardez eh? Melez-vous de vos affaires!" he barked at a pair of nosy matrons. He looked Nick in the eye. "Tell him to go to hell, Nicholas. Let him cut you off. You can make your own success. You are Durand Ruel's best salesman. Every gallery in Paris wants to fire you-"
    "Hire me-"
    "You can open your own gallery and make offices in London, Amsterdam, Rome-"
    "Henri, you don't understand, it's not that simple -"
    “Messieurs, sil vous plait… " the guard cautioned.
    A stony silence followed. Henri feigned interest in a Vermeer. Nick regarded him as he stood scowling, arms crossed, his dark hair cascading down his back. Such a beautiful man, he thought, so good-hearted and warm. Talented. Smart. Stubborn as hell. And I love him more than I have ever loved anyone. Beyond all reason.
    Henri cast a baleful glance in the guard's direction, then hissed at Nick "You want to go home. You miss the ugly London. The rain. The clouds. You cold English, you don't love me."
    "Englishman, Henri. And I do love you. Madly. But, I - “
    Henri cut him off. "Then you do not love yourself. If you go back, it will be your death, you know that, don't you? You don't owe him your happiness, Nicholas. You don't owe him your life."
    "I feel I do."
    "Mon Dieu… why?"
    "Duty, I suppose. I'm his only son. Our ancestors started Albion over two hundred years ago. Six generations have run it; I'm supposed to be till' seventh.
    "But you despise banks, Nicholas! You don't balance your accounts… you don't even go to deposit your commissions. I have to do it."
    "I know, I know… "
    "And you could leave Paris for a bank? Your life here? Your work? You could leave me?"
    "But that's the whole bloody problem, isn't it, Henri? I can't leave you." Nick had fallen in love with Henri the night he met him and Henri returned his feelings. He had made love before-furtive, closeted fumbling~ that left him feeling soiled and ashamed, but he'd never been in love. Now he was. The wonder of it! Suddenly, the most banal activity was imbued with magic. Buying a chicken was an indescribable delight because he would bring it to Henri, who would cook it with herbs and wine for their supper. Finding white roses in the market was his day's greatest achievement never mind that he'd sold six paintings - because they were Henri's favorite flower. And to go to Tasset & Lhote on a Saturday and select the best paints, the finest brushes-things Henri couldn't hope to afford-and quietly leave them by his easel gave him an unspeakable joy. Within a month, they had taken a flat together and what followed was a year of perfect happiness. Nick was promoted twice. Durand Ruel said he had never seen such sure instincts in one so young. And every night, there was Henri to come home to. To talk to and laugh with and rehash the day with.
    But there had been a black cloud on the horizon-his father. He'd been furious when Nick left for Paris. He'd left him alone at first, hoping that his interest in art was merely a phase. But now he wanted him home. He'd turned twenty-one, he'd written, and it was time to take up his responsibilities. His father wanted to expand the bank's influence, to open branches throughout England and Europe. The world of business was changing, he said. He wanted to take Albion public and he wanted his son by his side helping to engineer its growth.
    When Nick refused to return, he cut off his allowance. That hadn't worked, so now he was threatening to disinherit him. If this happened, he stood to lose a staggering legacy: millions of pounds in cash, trusts, and investments; a London town house; an Oxfordshire estate; holdings in Devon and Cornwall; a seat in the House of Lords. He'd written his father with a proposition: If he gave him a little more time, just the summer, he'd come to London in September to talk. The man had agreed. It was the beginning of July now he and Henri would leave Paris for Arles in two days' time, and over the coming weeks, he would try and figure out what to do.
    A chill wind blew in through the hackney's window. Still lost in his reverie, Nick didn't feel it. He and Henri had rented a beautiful old stone house in Arles. They went for hikes across the countryside, slept soundly at night, woke rested, and swore they'd never go back to noisy, dirty Paris. Henri painted during the day and Nick corresponded with artists and clients, or read. Sometimes they walked to town to take supper in a cafe, but mostly Henri cooked. The night he'd told him of his decision, Henri had made an onion tart. Nick hadn't been able to eat a bite…
    "I’m very worried about Vincent, Nicholas. He's not right," Henri said, pouring himself a glass of white wine. They were having supper in the garden.
    "None of you is," Nick replied.
    "Do not make jokes. This is serious." Henri went on to describe the trouble with Vincent Van Gogh, who was also in Arles for the summer, but Nick hardly heard him. All summer they'd talked about art, their friends, food, wine-everything but the one thing that weighed most heavily upon them. Tonight, however, they would have to talk about it. Nick had made his choice. That afternoon, while Henri was out painting, he'd walked to the post office and mailed a letter to his father informing him of his decision. Then he'd sat down on a bench nearby and waited until the post office closed and the postmaster came out with a sack of mail and took it to the railway station,and put it on the Paris-bound train, so he knew he couldn't get it back. When he got home, he'd found Henri pulling the tart out of the oven. He'd tried to tell him then, but Henri had thrust cutlery at him and told him to set the table.
    "I saw Vincent in town this afternoon," Henri continued. "He is so thin, I barely knew him. He had on an old jacket and threadbare trousers. I thought he was a vagrant. He invited me in to look at his work."
    "How is it?"
    "Astonishing. He has a still life with a coffeepot that you must see. And a portrait of a Zouave boy… the colors! So strong, so completely original"
    "In other words, it'll never sell."
    "Well… "he said, giving Nick a hopeful look, "… maybe in the hands of a good salesman, the best in Paris… "
    Nick swallowed a mouthful of wine and gave him a long look in return "Would you at least try?"
    "Yes." Nick put his wineglass down, but his hand was shaking so, he knocked it over.
    Henri jumped up to wipe up the spill. "Nicholas, you are clumsy… Look it's all in your plate." Nick had not touched his food, Henri noticed. “Why aren't you eating? Don't you like the tart?".
    He didn't answer. His chest felt compressed, as if all the breath had been squeezed out of him.
    "Nicholas, what is it?"
    "Henri, I… " He couldn't get the words out. "Oh, God… " he moaned. "Tell me what's wrong! Are you ill?"
    He looked at Henri, reached for his hand. "I… I wrote my father today… " He saw Henri's face go white and rushed to finish, "… I told him I would not… I would not be coming home."
    Henri knelt by Nick's chair and touched his cheek. Nick pulled him close and held him tightly, until he felt him sobbing. "Henri, why are you crying?" he asked. "I thought you'd be happy."
    "I am happy, you idiot. Happy for myself. I'm crying for you… for all that you've lost. Your home, your family… so much."
    "Sshhh, it's all right. You're my home now. And my family."
    They had shed more tears that night and they had laughed, too. Nick had known he would grieve over his decision for some time yet. But it was the right decision. They returned to Paris halfway through August. Nick dived back into his work, determined to provide his artist friends with the money and validation that a sale brought. Henri's work began to sell. Two canvases at Durand Rue, three at Goupil. When August turned into September and Nick had had no word from home, he decided his father had made good on his threat and that there would be no further contact. It pained him deeply, but he could bear it. He had found an abiding love with Henri and that was what he needed most. At the time he'd thought their happiness would last forever…
    
    THE CAB JERKED to a stop on the east side of Irving Place, wrenching Nick out of his memories for good. He climbed out, fumbled for his wallet, and paid the driver. Genteel, he thought, taking in the aspect of the neighborhood. Old money. He smiled, wondering how old could old money possibly be in New York? A generation? Two? Old or new, he didn't care, as long as New Yorkers bought his paintings.
    And they would. Durand Ruel had come to New York in '86 with three hundred Impressionist canvases and the response had been overwhelming. There were many wealthy people here with the requisite sophistication to appreciate the new art. And he would have plenty to sell to them. Before he’d left for America, he'd wired thousands of pounds to the gallery -almost all the money he had-along with a telegram telling his former colleagues what he wanted and instructing them to send the paintings to a bonded warehouse in New York. They would arrive within the week. And when they did, seeing each canvas would be like seeing the face of an old friend. Each contained a little piece of the artist's life, his soul. Something of his life was in those canvases, too. His and Henri's. If he succeeded with his venture, if he opened up markets for the new painters, provided them with income so they could keep working, then something good would come from all he'd suffered.
    Still smiling, he set off for the realtor's. Eckhardt can stuff all his gloom and doom, he thought. He had no plans for an imminent departure. Not today. Not tomorrow, either. He had important work to do and he intended to see it done.
    
Chapter 24
    
    Uncle Michael?" Fiona called from the doorway of her uncle's bedroom. "Uncle Michael, can you hear me? You have to wake up now.
    There was no response from the sleeping man. He was lying on his back in his bed, tangled in his sheets. He wore a grimy union suit and socks that were full of holes.
    "Maybe he's dead," Seamie ventured.
    "Don't start that again, Seamie. He's not dead. Dead men don't snore." She called her uncle's name again. When he still didn't answer, she gave him a shake. He snored on, oblivious. She slapped his cheeks lightly, then grabbed his arms and pulled him up. He flopped back down. Fed up, she gave him a shove, then marched off to the bathroom.
    Over the course of her first, sleepless night in New York, Fiona had come to realize that Michael must not lose his shop. His livelihood and, hers depended on it. Yesterday, after she had put Seamie down for a nap, she'd gone out to buy groceries. She'd had to walk seven blocks before she found a decent shop. The shopkeeper there was a chatty sort who asked her who she was, then said he knew her uncle, knew how hard he'd worked save up to buy the building. "He made a good living out of that shop. He could again if he'd just stop the boozing," he added.
    After she'd returned, she rolled up her sleeves, knotted her skirts, and got busy cleaning. She discovered that under all the rubbish was a roomy, well appointed flat. In addition to Michael's room there was a second bedroom that she'd slept in and a nursery that Seamie used. There was a real indoor bathroom with a flush toilet and a porcelain sink and tub. Plus a parlor, and a kitchen with a new oven, a double sink, and a big round oak table. As she dusted and swept, she saw many pretty touches. A green glass vase with the words "Souvenir from Coney Island" painted on it. A pair of pressed-glass candlesticks next to a trinket box embellished with seashells. Framed pictures of flowers. There was a tufted three-piece suite covered in plum velveteen in the parlor, and a wool rug in shades of moss and light green. None of these was first quality, but they'd been carefully chosen and spoke of a solid working-class prosperity.
    Obviously, her uncle had made a good living and he could do so again.
    She herself was not going to work in a tea factory or clean pubs for a pittance; she was going to work for him, just as she'd planned. She was going to learn the business and then she was going to open her own shop will. Burton's money. She'd only spent forty pounds so far of the five hundred she'd taken from him. She'd changed fifty on board the ship and they'd brought her two hundred fifty American dollars. Her remaining four hundred and ten pounds would bring her over two thousand more. It was a fortune, this money, but it was also her and Seamie's future and she had to preserve it. She knew from experience that factory wages barely covered the rent on a shabby room and meagre meals. If she wasn't careful, she'd end lip using the money to make ends meet, eventually whittling it away to nothing. And then she'd end up as poor as she was in Whitechapel. And she was determined she was not going to be poor ever again. She was going to be rich. She had promises to keep regarding William Burton and Bowler Sheehan, and though she had no idea yet what form her revenge would take, she knew she would need money-piles of it-to effect it. She was going to go lip in the world, not down, and that snoring wreck in the next room was going to help her.
    In the bathroom she took a glass she found resting on the sink and filled it with cold water. Then she returned to the bedroom and poured it on her uncle's head.
    He gasped, sputtered, and sat up. He blinked at her and said, "Who the divil are you? And why are you trying to drown me?"
    She stared at him, incredulous. "Don't you remember us? We're your niece and nephew. Fiona and Seamie. We talked to you in Whelan's yesterday You told us we could stay here."
    "I t' ought I dreamed that," he said, reaching down to pick his trousers up off the floor.
    "Well, t'ink again," she said angrily. "You didn't dream it. No more than you dreamed that the flat was clean or your bed was made or that there was, pork chop on a plate in the kitchen. Who do you think cooked it? Fairies?"
    "Divils, more like. It was burned to shite." He got out of bed and hunted for his shoes.
    "Why, thank you," Fiona said, her voice growing louder. "Thank you very much!"
    Michael pressed his palms to his ears, grimacing. "Me head hurts. Don't talk so much."
    Fiona was furious now. "I will talk, and you'll listen. You've got to stop drinking, Uncle Michael. I'm sorry Molly died, I know it must be hard for you, but you're going to lose your shop."
    "It's already lost," he said. "I owe hundreds of dollars. Money I haven't got" He opened the top drawer in his bureau as he spoke.
    "But I do."
    He laughed. "Not that kind of money," he said, rooting around in the drawer.
    "Yes, I do. I have a… a settlement. From my father's employer. For his accident. I'd loan you what you need. You could payoff the bank and all your creditors."
    "Ah!" Michael said, having found what he was looking for. He pulled out,a flask, opened it, and took a long pull.
    "No, stop that!" Fiona cried, dismayed. "Uncle Michael, please! Listen to me - “
    "No, you listen to me," he said, frightening her with the sudden ferocity of his anger. "I don't want your money. I don't want your help. What I do want is to be left alone." He took another swallow of whiskey, shrugged on a shirt, and left the bedroom.
    Fiona trailed after him and Seamie after her. "But don't you care about the shop?" she asked. "Don't you care about yourself? Your baby? Don't you care about us?"
    Michael snorted. "Care about you? Lass, I don't even bloody know you." Fiona recoiled as if she'd been slapped. You bastard, she thought. If it had been the other way around, if his children had come to her parents for help, her da wouldn't have treated them so poorly.
    "You're going to end up on the streets, you know," she said, her temper flaring like the fuse on a stick of dynamite. "A dosser with nowhere to go Sleeping in alleys. Eating out of rubbish bins. Just because you won't get hold of yourself. Do you think other people haven't suffered losses? Do you think you're the only one? I almost lost my mind when I lost my parents, but I pulled through. Seamie, too. Truth of it is, a five-year-old boy has more, ' more balls than you do!"
    That stopped him. "You don't give up, do you?" he said, reaching into his pocket. Fiona flinched as he chucked something at her. It landed will, It clunk at her feet. "There!" he shouted. "Take it! Take the fucking shop! It'll yours. Just leave me alone, ya banshee!"
    He left, slamming the door behind him. Fiona felt tears welling. She looked down at the floor so Seamie wouldn't see them. As she did, the object Michael had thrown caught her eye. It was silvery and shone brightly against the dark boards. It was a key. Michael's words echoed in her ears. Take it - its yours.. She bent down and touched it, then quickly pulled her hand away.
    What was she thinking? Was she mad? A person needed to know a lot to manage a shop - how to order the right amount of supplies, how to keep track of inventory and read a balance sheet. She didn't have that kind or knowledge, Joe did. But Joe isn't here, is he? a voice said. The voice deep inside her that always pointed out things she'd rather not have pointed out. He's in London, it continued, with Millie Peterson. And you're in New York with no job, living in a building that's going to be sold right out from under you if you don't stop moaning and whining and find a way to prevent it.
    She reached out her hand again and curled her fingers around the key.
    As she did, she heard footsteps on the stairs outside, then a tentative knocking. The door swung open on squeaky hinges. "Hello? Michael?" a voice called. "Are you there?"
    She snatched the key off the floor, put it in her pocket, and stood up. "Hello?" A woman poked her head in. "Michael? Oh!" she exclaimed, startled. "My goodness! You made me jump." She came inside, one red, sodden hand pressed to her chest. She was small and sturdily built, with thick chestnut hair pinned back in a bun, a sweet round face and large brown eyes. Her sleeves were rolled up, her forearms were flecked with soap suds. "I'm Mary Munro, Michael's tenant. I live upstairs," she said.
    "I'm Fiona Finnegan and this is my brother Seamie. We're Michael's niece and nephew. I'm sorry for startling you. I didn't mean to."
    Mary's eyes took in Fiona's tear-streaked face. "I heard shouting. That's why I came down," she said in a soft Scots burr. "Looks like quite a welcome he's given you."
    Fiona managed a weak smile. "Not quite the welcome we were expecting," she said.
    Mary shook her head. "Come upstairs. You look like you could use a cup of tea " She chattered away as she led them to the third floor. Fiona learned that she'd emigrated from Scotland ten years ago and had lived here for three years with her son and father-in-law. Her husband was dead. He had been killed in a train accident at the freight yards. At the door, they were greeted by a tall boy, about fourteen, whom Mary introduced as her son.
    "Get the nice cups and saucers out, Ian, and put the kettle on," she said, settling them at her kitchen table. "Let me get this lot rinsed and hung and then we'll all have a nice hot drink."
    Mary's kitchen smelled of good things-bread and cinnamon and bacon. The sink gleamed. The stove was freshly blacked. The linoleum floor was worn and cracked in places, but it shone with a new coat of wax. White tatted curtains hung in the windows. Humble but immaculate, it reminded Fiona of her mother's kitchen and being in it soothed her.
    "Would you like to take a peek at your cousin?" Mary asked, wringing out diapers.
    "The baby? Is she here?"
    "Aye, she's in the parlor. She's a bonny bairn, she is. I've had her ever,since the funeral."
    "Oh, I'm so relieved she's all right," Fiona said. "Michael told me she was with a friend, but he didn't tell me where. He didn't even tell me her name."
    Mary shook her head. "Doesn't know his own name anymore, that one. Eleanor's her name, after Molly's mother. We call her Nell. Go on, go see her. I won't be much longer."
    Fiona walked into the parlor and saw a pudgy fist waving around inside a laundry basket and heard a tiny voice burbling cheerfully. She peeked inside. The little girl was a vision. She had the black hair and blue eyes of her father and the plump, round-faced prettiness of her mother. When Fiona took her little hand and cooed to her, she was rewarded with a big gummy grin. She lifted the baby out of her basket and carried her into the kitchen, so glad that she was all right.
    "There we are!" Mary said, getting the last of Nell's diapers hung on the line outside her window. She smiled when she saw Fiona and Nell making goo-goo noises at each other. "A little princess, she is. Tell me, Fiona, would you be Patrick Finnegan's lass? From London?"
    "Yes, I would."
    "Thought so. The accent gave you away. Molly told me about Michael's brother. I think she had hopes of luring your brother… Charlie, is it?… to New York to work in the shop."
    "He would've loved that."
    "Would have? He's not here with you?"
    "No, he isn't. He died several months ago."
    "I'm so sorry!" Mary said, putting down the teapot she'd just picked up "How terrible for you and your parents to lose him so young."
    "Actually, we lost them before we lost Charlie," Fiona said. As Mary abandoned the teapot altogether and sat down, Fiona told her an abbreviated version of all that had happened to herself and Seamie over the past few months.
    "Lord, Fiona, after all that, then you travel to America and find your uncle in a state. What a shock you've had!"
    "Aye. I'm not sure I'm over it yet," she said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. "From what my parents told me, from the letters we had from him, thought he was a good man. I never thought he'd be so unkind."
    Mary shook her head. "Oh, but he isn't. You mustn't think so. At least… he wasn't. He was the kindest man. Always smiling, always ready to help. It's the drink that makes him this way. He never drank before Molly died Maybe a pint or two at his local, but he wasn't a drunkard. He was a good man, a good husband. Hardworking. He fixed up their flat and was going to fix up mine. And he wanted to expand the shop, too. He had so many plans, did Michael. If Molly could see him now, she'd be heartbroken. I don't know what to do. I've tried soft words and threats. I've taken Nell away from him. Nothing works. Soon he'll be out on the street. And then what? Molly was my best friend. I love Nell like my own. What will I tell her when she'" grown? That her own father abandoned her?" Her voice caught. "Oh dear, here I go… " She wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry. I can't stand what he's doing to himself. It's the grief. I know it is. He's never cried, Fiona. Not once. Kept it all bottled up. Drinks and shouts when what he needs to do is weep."
    Mary poured the tea. She sliced into a thick dark gingerbread and served generous pieces. Fiona sampled hers. It was very good and she complimented Mary on it. She sipped her tea. It was terrible. As bad as the tea she'd bought yesterday. "Delicate" was how the shopkeeper had described it. "Dishwater" would be more accurate. It was a third-rate congou, a black China tea as flat and lifeless as an old straw mattress. Stuart Bryce, a man she and Nick had befriended on the ship, a tea and coffee importer who was opening a New York office for his firm, had warned her about the tea in America. She made a mental note to find herself some Indian leaves, Like all Londoners, Fiona found life's trials easier to bear with a strong cup of tea in hand.
    Mary stirred sugar into her own cup, then said, "I don't know if you know this, but he's going to lose the shop. It's bad for him and it's bad for us, too. The new owners may not let us stay. I don't know where we'll go. Michael didn't charge us a lot. And I don't know where we'll find a place with a backyard for Alec and his plants. That's my father-in-law. He's a gardener. He doesn't get much work anymore, he's too old, but he still makes a few dollars here and there." Her bright eyes were worried.
    "That's what we were shouting about just now," Fiona said, still smarting at the memory of her row with Michael. "I'd hoped to work for him. I want to have a shop of my own one day. I hoped he could teach me what I need to know."
    "If only I had the money," Mary said, "I'd pay the bloody bank off myself. But he owes a fortune… hundreds of dollars… "
    "It wouldn't do any good," Fiona said, staring into her teacup. "I've I ready tried. I have a bit of money on me and I offered to pay back what he owes, but he refused." She swirled the liquid, then slowly said, "But he did give me his key. And he told me to take the shop."
    There was a beat of silence. Mary said, "He gave you the key?" Fiona looked up at her. Mary's eyes were no longer anxious. She was leaning forward, sitting on the edge of her chair, her expression intense and excited.
    "Well, sort of. He threw it at me."
    "My goodness, lass! You have the key and the money… you can open the shop again!"
    Ever since her uncle had stormed out, Fiona had been thinking the exact same thing. Now Mary had spoken her thoughts aloud. "Do you really think I could?" she asked softly.
    Mary leaned across the table and took Fiona's hands in hers. "Aye! You just said you wanted a shop, didn’t you? Take your uncle’s.
    "But I don't know the first thing about shopkeeping, Mary. What if I make a big cock-up of it?" She was eager at the prospect one second, terrified the next.
    "You wouldn't, Fiona. I just know you wouldn't! I can tell you're a capable lass. You'll learn what you don't know. Michael didn't know everything when he began. He had to learn, too."
    The whole idea was madness-pure and simple-and it was a huge risk to take with her money. But ever since she'd touched that key, she'd wanted to have a go. What if it worked? What if it just bloody well worked? She'd be able to save the shop, keep Mary and her family here, keep her uncle off the streets, and save herself from a factory job, too.
    "I - I guess I'd have to go to the bank and talk to someone in charge there," she said hesitantly. "I've never even set foot in one. I wouldn't know what to tell them. And even if I did, they might not listen to me."
    "I bet they would. They're bound to take a loss at an auction. They'll never make all their money back. I'm sure they'd rather the mortgage payments were continued. We'll do what we can, won't we, Ian?" Ian nodded vigorously "We'll help you clean it up. I'll keep an eye on Seamie and wash the curtain for you. We don't want to leave our flat, do we, Ian?" Ian shook his head They heard the door open and close. "Oh, that'll be Alec," Mary said. "He’ll help you, too. He could make flower boxes for the windows. Molly was going to have them. She wanted them done in time for the spring. Oh, say yes, Fiona, do it. Give it a go!"
    Fiona grinned. "All right, Mary, I will!"
    Mary jumped up and hugged her and told her over and over again that she wouldn't fail. She'd make a success out of the shop, she would. As she sat back down, a man who looked to be in his sixties came into the kitchen, His clothes were worn but clean, pressed, and neatly patched. He had grey hair underneath a tweed cap, a gray beard, and gentle gray-green eyes.
    "Got me fish meal, Mary," he announced gleefully in such a thick Scot accent, Fiona barely understood him. "It's first-rate."
    "Dad," Mary scolded, "don't be stinking up the place when we haw guests."
    Mary introduced Fiona and Seamie to her father-in-law and told him about their plans. He promised to make Fiona beautiful window boxes full of hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, and pansies. He said he was going outside to prepare his flower beds and asked his grandson to help him.
    "Coming, Granddad," Ian replied, popping his last bite of gingerbread into his mouth. He took the buckets from his grandfather, watched by a wistful Seamie.
    "Would you like to help, too, laddie?" Mary asked. 'Tm sure they could use another pair of hands." Seamie nodded eagerly. "Off with you, then."
    Fiona smiled as her brother, a bucket in his hands, followed Alec and Ian out of the flat. It would be good for him to be outside with companions and not dwelling on who died. She helped Mary clear the tea-things and they decided it would be best to start cleaning the shop right away.
    As Mary dug in her broom closet for soap and rags and scrub brushes, Fiona went to the window to check on her brother. The kitchen overlooked the backyard and she had a clear view of him; he was using a hoe to mix dirt and fertilizer in a wheelbarrow. He was awkward with the large tool. but Alec didn't seem to mind. She could hear the older man encouraging him, telling him if he gripped the handle a little farther down, it would be easier to manage.
    A gentle breeze blew in. Monday would be the first day of April, and spring-from the feel of the breeze-wasn't far away. She was glad. Warm weather would mean she wouldn't have to put a lot of money into heating the building. Her stomach fluttered as she thought about the shop, but she reminded herself that she'd survived losing her family, eluded murderers, she had gotten herself and her brother to safety. She could bloody well manage grocery shop.
    " Here we are," Mary said, taking the baby from her and handing her a mop, a metal bucket, and a cake of soap. "I'll just get Nell's basket and we'll go downstairs."
    Outside, as Fiona turned the key in the shop's lock, Mary said, "Just think, lass. You're only in New York a day and already you have a shop. Makes a body think all those sayings about America being the promised land and the streets being paved with gold might be true, doesn't it?"
    The lock tumbled. Fiona turned the knob and the door swung open. A stench strong enough to bend nails hit her. She gagged, then covered her nose with one of Mary's cleaning rags. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness inside the shop, she spotted the source of the stink - a meat cooler. Its contents appeared to be moving. Maggots, she realized. Thousands of them. limp and white and squirmy. She swallowed hard, trying to keep the gingerbread she'd just eaten down.
    "Makes me think a saying my father once heard from a Chinese sailor might be true," she said, overwhelmed by the mess before her.
    "What was it?" Mary asked, her eyes tearing, a handkerchief pressed to her nose.
    "Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it."
    
Chapter 25
    
    “Hush now, Nell, there's a good girl. Mary crooned to the squalling baby. It did no good. The child s shrieks were ear-splitting.
    "Fee? Can I have money for some doughnuts? Can I have a nickel?"
    "No, Seamie, you can't eat doughnuts for dinner."
    "It's lunch, Fee. Ian says it's called lunch here, not dinner. Supper is dinner. I want a nickel."
    "No."
    "Charlie always gave me a nickel."
    "Charlie never gave you a nickel. We didn't have nickels in London."
    "Well, a penny then. Can I have a penny? Can I have five pennies?" From the cellar came a tremendous crash, then shouting, "Aw, crikey, Ian! Look what you did! I'm covered in it now… "
    "You did it, Robbie! I told you to hold on to your end)"
    Fiona dropped the rag she'd been using to polish the cash register and ran to the door. "Ian! Robbie! Are you all right?" she yelled above Nell's din.
    Ian was halfway up the stairs holding a piece of a wooden crate in his hands. Below him stood Robbie, his friend, covered in brown mush, holding another piece.
    "We were trying to bring some bad apples up. The crate fell apart," he said. Fiona felt a tug at her skirt. "Fee, I want a nickel!"
    Mary shouted that Nell, wailing like a fire siren now, must be wet and that she was going to take her upstairs. Fiona told the boys to go upstairs, too, and wash. She reached in her skirt pocket with grimy hands and fished out two quarters. "Go and buy dinner… I mean Lunch… for everyone when you're finished, Ian," she said. "And take Seamie with you. Please."
    When they had left, and the shop was quiet, Fiona sat down on the stool behind the counter and leaned against the wall. She was sweaty and dirty, tired and sore. The optimism she'd felt at Mary's kitchen table on Friday had drained away, leaving her feeling certain she'd bitten off far more than she could chew. She, together with Mary, Ian, and Robbie, had been cleaning nonstop for days and there was still a mountain of work ahead of her. She'd thought Michael's flat had been a wreck; it was nothing compared to the shop.
    Vermin and neglect had wreaked havoc. When they'd made it past the ungodly smell of rotted meat, she and Mary had discovered rats nesting in a chest of tea. Others had chewed through pickle barrels, leaving them to leak all over the floor, and had gnawed through cigar boxes to get at the tobacco. Weevils were in the flour and oatmeal. Dead flies rimmed the honey and molasses jars. Fruits and vegetables had shriveled in their bins.
    It had taken them two days just to haul the rotten goods to the curb. The meat cooler had to go; it was ruined. Mary, Ian, and Robbie had worked like dray horses. She had wanted to pay them, but Mary refused to take any money. Nonetheless Fiona had managed to slip the boys a dollar each when she wasn't looking. Alec was pitching in, too. He was out back constructing window boxes. Seamie was also doing his share, dusting whatever he could reach. Only Michael was nowhere to be seen. He hadn't lifted a finger to help. Not even when she'd accosted him at Whelan's that morning to ask him about the cash register.
    "I can't open the till, Uncle Michael," she'd said tightly, angry at seeing him blind drunk yet again. "Is there a key for it?"
    "Aye."
    "Can I have it?"
    "No. It's not your cash register. It's not your shop," he declared loudly, so inebriated he had to hold on to the bar to keep from falling off his stool.
    "But you said to take it."
    "Changed me mind. Don’t want it opened"
    "You bloody man! Give me the sodding key!" she shouted, exasperated.
    "Give me a dollar first," he said.
    "What?"
    "Give me a dollar and I'll give you the key."
    "I can't believe this. You're going to sell me the key? Have you no shame?"
    "Shame I've plenty of, me darlin' girl. It's cash I'm low on."
    Fiona stood fuming. She didn't want any more money going from Michael's hand to Tim Whelan's till, but she needed the key. She pulled a bill out of her pocket and traded it for the key. "One dollar," she said. "That's all you're getting, so you'd better make it last."
    Casting black looks first at her uncle and then at Tim Whelan, she'd turned on her heel and headed for the door. Her hand on the knob, she looked back at Michael and said, "She's beautiful. you know." He stared at her uncomprehendingly. "Your daughter. Nell. She has blue eyes and black hair like you and the rest is all Molly."
    Pain sliced across his face at his wife's name. "Nell they call her?" he asked. He ordered another.
    "Stupid sod," she muttered now, resuming her polishing. She needed his help desperately. Cleaning, as hard as it was, she was perfectly capable of. But talking to banks and creditors called for skills she didn't have. Two of Michael's suppliers -the miller and the fishmonger - had already paid a call. They'd seen the shop open and had come in to demand their money. She had paid them, hoping to ingratiate herself, hoping they'd restore her uncle's credit, but they refused. How would she find new suppliers? And when she did find them, how would she know if they were overcharging her? She didn't even know what things cost yet. Or what Americans ate. How would she know what quantities to order? Did a shop of this size go through a forty-pound bag of porridge oats in a week? Or two bags? Or ten? How much milk should she buy for one day? How many chops and sausages? This wasn't going to work. She was too bloody green. She wouldn't get any farther than the bank. She'd gone there yesterday, Monday, and made an appointment to see the president at the end of the week. He'd see she didn't know anything about running a shop and toss her right out the door.
    Instinctively, she reached into her pocket for the blue stone Joe had given her, just as she'd always done when she was worried or scared, but it was gone. Of course it was, she'd pawned it. A feeling of bereftness swept over her. She longed for him, needed him so. If only he were here. He’d know exactly what to do. This wouldn't be so hard if they were in it together. When she got upset, he'd tease and kiss her until he made her laugh, just as he'd always done. It was so painful to think of him. It was like touching her fingers to a big, ugly bruise to see if it still hurt and wincing when she found out it always, always did. Why couldn't she just forget about him, as he forgotten about her on Guy Fawkes night?
    The clock on the wall struck noon. It'll be five o'clock in London, she thought. Teatime on a Tuesday. He'd be leaving his office for his home wherever that was. She wondered what his life was like now. Did he live in a fancy house? Did he wear fine clothes and go about in a carriage? Was he an important man at Peterson's now? Was he happy? It tore her up to think that every day Millie got to look into his eyes, see him smile, touch him. And she? She would never set eyes on him again. Maybe he was home having a hot meal, or maybe he was at a fancy restaurant somewhere, or…
    Wherever he is, he isn't standing arse-deep in a mess of a shop, covered in polish and pickle brine, the bastard, her inner voice said indignant.
    Fiona tried to take her cue from the voice. She tried to feel angry instead of sad; it was easier. She tried to tell herself that she didn't care where he was or what he was doing, because she hated him. But she didn't. She loved him. Still. Despite everything. And what she wanted most in the world was for him to come through the door, take her in his arms, and tell her it had a been a terrible mistake.
    Fat bloody chance, she thought. With effort, she pushed thoughts of Joe out of her mind. She had work to do and no time to stand around feeling sorry for herself. The walls needed painting. She had no idea where to go to buy paint, but she remembered seeing paint buckets by the curb of the neighboring building when she first arrived. Whoever lived there had had the place freshly painted. Maybe he or she would know where to go. As she stepped outside, a carriage pulled up. The door opened and a tall blond man jumped out, a picnic hamper in his hand.
    "Nicholas!" she cried happily. "What on earth are you doing here?"
    "I missed you! I know we were supposed to meet on Thursday, but I couldn't wait."
    Fiona was delighted to see him. His smile alone lifted her spirits. "You look wonderful," she said. And he did-as ever, handsome and stylish. But perhaps a little too pale.
    "And you look like a filthy little ragpicker!" he replied, rubbing at a streak of polish on her chin. "What on earth are you doing?" His eyes roved over her, taking in her rolled-up sleeves, her kilted-up skirts. He looked at the pile of rubbish on the curb, the empty shop, the auction sign still in the window, and frowned. "Hmmm, things not going according to plan, old trout?"
    "No, not quite," she said, smiling at his odd term of endearment. He called her the most horrible names. Old shoe. Old baggage. Old mole. Old stick.
    "What happened?"
    She sighed. "Well… my aunt's dead and my uncle's a drunkard who hasn't worked in months. The bank's foreclosed on his shop and plans to auction it. I've got an appointment with the bank president to see if he'll let me take over. I've already spent too much of my own money paying off creditors. And it might all be for nothing. The bank could easily turn me down."
    "How are things with you?"
    "Smashing!" he said brightly. "I can't find anywhere to live. And I can't find a place for my gallery. Everything's too small, too dingy, or too dear. And just an hour ago I received a telegram that all the paintings I bought my entire stock-were put on the wrong boat out of Le Havre and sent to Johannesburg. Bloody Africa! It'll be yonks before they get here. My hotel is noisy. The food is dreadful. And the tea is unspeakable. I can't understand anyone in this bloody city. They don't speak English. And they're beastly rude, too."
    Fiona grinned at him. "I hate New York," she said.
    "I do, too. Despise the blasted place," he replied, grinning back.
    "But when we got off the boat you said -"
    "Never mind what I said. I was delirious." He put an arm around her shoulders.
    "Oh, Nick," she sighed, leaning her head against him. "What a cock-up."
    "A thumping great one."
    She looked up at him. "What will we do?"
    "Guzzle champagne. Immediately. It's the only thing for it."
    Fiona took his things, put them inside the shop, and told him she had to go next door to see if she could find out where to buy paint. He said he'd go with her. As they stood at the door, they heard raised voices -a man's with a New York accent and a woman's with an Italian one. It sounded as if they were fighting. Fiona, her hand raised to knock, drew back, but she'd been seen and within seconds a cheerful young man wearing paisley suspenders and a matching tie was ushering them in.
    "Come in, come in! I'm Nate. Nate Feldman. And this is my wife, Maddalena." A striking dark-eyed woman with masses of thick black hair piled up on her head waved to them from behind a drafting table. She wore a paint-stained white blouse and a slate-gray skirt.
    Fiona introduced herself and Nick, then said, "I… I was hoping you could tell me where to buy some paint. House paint. I'm working on the shop next door my uncle's shop, and I noticed paint buckets outside a few days ago I hope we're not interrupting… "
    "Oh, you heard the yelling?" Nate said, laughing. "Don't worry, it's just the way we work. We yell and scream, then the knives and guns come out and whoever's left standing wins." He looked at Fiona's uncertain expression, then Nick's. "I'm joking, you two! It's a joke. You know… ha ha he.' Now, listen to this idea and tell me what you think… " With his hands, he shaped the outline of a large poster in the air. "There's a picture of a wagon and over it, the words: HUDSON'S SELTZER, and there's a driver, he's leaning out of his seat and talking to you, the customer. He's saying, 'For stomach trouble, try our bubbles, we deliver on the double!’ Look, here's the picture, show them, Maddie… see? What do you think? Do you think works?"
    "Yes. Yes, I do," Nick said. "The illustration is very engaging."
    "What about the words? Do you like - “
    "Nate, for goodness' sake! Invite them to sit!" Maddalena scolded. "Sorry! Please… have a seat," he said, gesturing to a settee covered with prints and posters. Fiona picked up a poster and moved it aside.
    "Excuse the mess," Nate said. "This is our office as well as our home. We just went into business for ourselves. Opened our own advertising agency It's chaos."
    "This is wonderful, Mr. Feldman," Fiona said, admiring the poster in her hands.
    "Nate, please."
    "Nate," she said. "What a beautiful picture!" The poster read: WHEATON'S ANIMAL CRACKERS-AN ADVENTURE IN EVERY BOX! The illustration showed children in a nursery who had just opened a Wheaton's box. The crackers had leaped out, changed into real zebras, tigers, and giraffe; and were cavorting around the room with the children on their backs. Fiona knew Seamie would be pestering for a box the second he saw it. "Wheaton’s must be selling animal crackers hand over fist with an ad like this," she said
    "Urn… well," Nate said sheepishly, "that one hasn't run yet."
    "None of these have," Maddie said, coming out from behind her table "We've only been open a week. We're too new to have clients yet."
    "All of these were done on spec," Nate explained. "We approached" bunch of companies and offered to do the first ad for free. If it pulls the customers in, they'll pay us for a second one."
    "Sounds like a hard way to start out," Nick said.
    "It is. But we'll get real accounts soon," Nate said optimistically. '"I have tons of contacts. Me from Pettingill. That's the firm where I worked. And Maddie from J. Walter Thompson. It's just a matter of proving ourselves first, isn't it, Mad?"
    Maddie nodded and smiled at her husband and Fiona saw a hopeful look, but one tinged with worry, pass between the two. Nate turned back to his guests. "I've really forgotten my manners today. Can I offer you a drink, some lunch?" he asked.
    "Oh! Nate, caro, I… I haven't been shopping yet today," Maddie said awkwardly. She turned to Fiona. Her cheeks were flaming. "We've been so busy, you see, that I forgot to go."
    Fiona realized that Maddie and Nate were broke. "Oh, that's all right. We can't stay anyway," she said hastily. "We… I… there's the shop and… "
    Nick, ever gracious, stepped in. "Look, I wouldn't hear of you serving us anything, not when I've just arrived on Fee's doorstep with a whopping great hamper of food and two bottles of the widow Clicquot's finest. "Won't you come share a bite with us instead? I insist. Really. I bought too much and I can't bear for it to be wasted. Not when there are all those starving children in… um" -he waved a hand- "oh, wherever the starving children are these days."
    Fiona urged them to say yes, and finally they did. Back in the shop, Nick opened his hamper and pulled out caviar, lobster salad, chicken in aspic, smoked salmon, bread, fruit, and pretty little cakes. The hamper contained china plates, silverware, and crystal glasses for four, but there was food enough for twice that number. They used the counter for a table and as they ate, they talked. Nate and Maddie wanted to know all about Nick and Fiona and what they planned to do in the city. Then Nate lectured Fiona on the new science of advertising, on its power, its importance, and the necessity of getting one's name embedded in the public's consciousness. He told her she must advertise when she got the shop open again. She told him she would be their first paying customer and Nick said he would be their second.
    As they were eating, the boys came back with a huge bag of doughnuts, which Fiona took away from them until they'd eaten some proper food. Ian raced upstairs for more plates. Seamie hugged Nick and told him how glad he was that he wasn't dead. "Don't ask," Fiona said at Nick's horrified expression. Seamie called him Father and Fiona had to explain to Nate and Maddie that it wasn't what it looked like. Mary came down, having fed Nell and put her down for a nap, and made Nick's acquaintance as he handed her a glass of champagne. Alec came in from the garden with a finished window box and marveled at how good the shop looked.
    "Thank you, Alec," Fiona said fretfully, fixing him a plate. "I hope I'm not just cleaning it for the next owner." Mary shushed her worries and Maddie, finished with her lunch, looked at the walls and said a creamy beige would look a lot nicer than the stark white that was on them now. She gave Fiona the address of a local paint shop and the name of the color she had in mind and Ian and Robbie volunteered to get it. She said the walls would have to be washed before the: could be painted. She took a bucket Fiona had filled with soapy water, rolled up her sleeves, and started in. Fiona, touched, told her she didn't have to do that, but she shrugged and said if she didn't, she'd have to go back to work with her husband, and frankly, she'd rather wash walls. Feigning offense Nate picked up a rag and began to polish the door handle. Nick, enthusiastically incompetent, grabbed the mop and started pushing it around, but only managed to make the floor dirtier.
    As they laughed at him, Fiona felt the burdens she carried on her slender shoulders lighten a bit, and for the first time since she had arrived in Nev. York she felt happy, truly happy. Maybe things hadn't worked out quite as planned, and maybe she didn't have an uncle to help her, but she had the wonderful Munros, especially Mary, who was so encouraging. And having her dearest Nick with her and her new friends-all of them following their own dreams - cheered and inspired her and made her take heart. If Maddie and Nate could risk everything on their business, if Nick could try and make a go of a gallery, then she could make a go of this shop.
    
Chapter 26
    
    “Good afternoon, Mr. Ellis, I'm Fiona Finnegan… " Too mealy-mouthed, Fiona thought. She paced nervously, her boo: heels echoing on the marble floor of the bank president's antechamber There was cold, shiny marble everywhere she looked-underfoot, on the ceiling, everywhere but on the walls; they were covered with murals of ok Dutch merchants. One group was unloading a ship. Another was setting up a shop. A third was buying Manhattan from the Indians for what looked like two bracelets and a necklace. She tried again. "I'm Fiona Finnegan. Good afternoon, Mr. Ellis… " Still not right. "Mr. Ellis, I presume. I'm Fiona. Finnegan. Good afternoon… "
    "Are you quite sure you wouldn't like to sit down, Miss Finnegan?" Mr. Ellis's secretary, a Miss A. S. Miles, according to her nameplate, asked. "He may be a minute."
    Fiona jumped at the sound of her voice. "No. No, thank you," she said. giving her a jittery smile. "I'll stand." Her hands were cold and her throat felt tight.
    She was wearing her best clothes-a chocolate skirt and a pinstriped shirtwaist-waiting for them to make her feel confident. That's what Nick said good clothing did. She wore her long navy coat over the outfit, with a rose-patterned silk scarf tucked into the collar. Her hair was twisted up in an approximation of a style Nick had invented for her one afternoon on the boat when he was bored. The twist wasn't perfect-she'd been too anxious to fuss - but it would do.
    Over the past week, she'd put nearly three hundred dollars of her own money into her uncle's shop. Some of it had gone for things like a new meat cooler, paint, and new shelves. Some had gone to payoff the rest of his creditors. She hoped that clearing his debts would impress First Merchants and show them she was serious and capable.
    She was staring out the window into the busy thoroughfare known as Wall Street when she heard Miss Miles say, "Miss Finnegan? Mr. Ellis will see you now."
    Her stomach writhed like an eel. She walked into Franklin Ellis's office, a room appointed with dark wood paneling, Hudson Valley landscapes, and massive mahogany furniture. He was standing at his credenza. His back was to her, but his black suit, macassared hair, and the way he held an index finger up while he finished reading a document, gave her the impression of a severe and humorless man.
    If only Michael were here, she thought, already intimidated. If only she didn't have to do this alone. She'd asked him to come with her last night begged him-but he'd refused, the tosser. Even if he didn't want to set foot in the shop, he could've come to the bank with her. What did she know about any of this? Nothing! All she was sure of-because she'd looked at his payment book-was that her uncle's building had cost $15,000. Four years ago, he'd put $3,000 down and taken out a thirty-year mortgage at six percent for the remainder. His payments were $72 a month. He'd stopped paying in November and now owed the bank $360, plus $25 in penalties. If Ellis asked about profits and percentages, if he wanted to know how much of her anticipated income the mortgage represented, or what her operating expenses were, she was sunk. I am going to make the biggest bloody hash of this, she told herself. He won't listen to me. He won't take me seriously. He won't…
    Franklin Ellis turned around. Fiona smiled, extended her hand, and said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Fiona. I'm Finnegan Ellis." Oh, bloody hell! she thought. "No, I-I mean-I'm-"
    "Have a seat, Miss Finnegan," Ellis said in clipped tones, gesturing to a chair in front of his desk. He ignored her outstretched hand. "I understand you're here to discuss one hundred sixty-four Eighth Avenue."
    "Yes, sir," she said, trying to recover. "I have enough cash to pay you the three hundred eighty-five dollars my uncle owes. And I'd like you to consider letting me take over the responsibility for running his shop."
    With effort, she calmed herself: focused her mind, and methodically began to make her case. Opening a small leather portfolio she'd borrowed from Maddie, she took out all the receipts from her uncle's vendors showing his balances paid and presented them for Ellis's inspection. Next she sketched out her plans for modest advertising: a half page in the local newspaper to run for three consecutive Sundays, because Sunday's edition was cheaper to advertise in than Saturday's. She showed him the ad-a fetching pen and ink sketch of the shop done by Maddie and Nate extolling its superior selection and service. The sketch would serve a double purpose; in addition to using it as an ad, she planned to have flyers made out of it with a coupon good for a free quarter pound of tea with any purchase of a dollar or more.
    As she talked about her plans for the shop, Fiona completely forgot her nerves. She didn't see Ellis's eyes flicker to his watch. She didn't see them travel over her bosom. She didn't know that he wasn't even listening to her; he was thinking about his dinner plans. She didn't correctly read the expression on his face. She saw interest where there was only mild amusement the sort one would feel while watching a performing dog bark out answers to sums.
    Believing she had his attention emboldened Fiona. She talked on about the improvements she'd made: the new paint, the window boxes, the pretty lace valance for the window. She told him all about her ideas to trump the competition by offering home-baked goods, better-quality produce, and fresh flowers. She had even planned for a delivery service, figuring that if she could save the neighborhood women a bit of time at no extra charge, they'd shop at Finnegan's exclusively.
    "So you see, Mr. Ellis," she concluded eagerly, her cheeks flushed, "I believe I can run my uncle's shop profitably and make the required payments in full every month."
    Ellis nodded. "How old did you say you were, Miss Finnegan?" "I didn't, but I'm eighteen."
    "And have you ever run a shop before?"
    "Well… I… not exactly… no, sir, I haven't."
    "I appreciate your efforts on behalf of your uncle, Miss Finnegan, but I'm afraid you're a bit too young and inexperienced to take on the responsibility of a business. I'm sure you'll understand that I have the bank's interests to consider and I feel that the safest course of action in light of the present circumstances is still an auction."
    “Begging your pardon, sir, but that doesn't make sense," she argued. You're going to lose money on the auction. I'm offering to make up the back payments and continue to meet the terms of the loan. That's a six-percent profit. Surely, you'd rather make money than lose it… "
    "Our interview is concluded, Miss Finnegan. Good day," Ellis said icily not pleased to have his business explained to him by an eighteen year old girl.
    "But, Mr. Ellis-"
    "Good day, Miss Finnegan."
    Fiona gathered her papers and put them back in her portfolio. With dignity befitting a queen instead of a crushed young woman, she rose and offered her hand again, waiting this time until Ellis took it. Then she left his office, hoping her tears wouldn't fall until she was outside of it.
    She was beaten. All her work of the last week was wasted. And the money she'd spent! Christ, she'd as good as thrown it away. How could she have been so stupid to think a bank would actually listen to her? She dreaded going home. She knew Mary would be waiting for her, hoping it had gone well. What would she tell her? She was counting on her. They all were. And after she broke the bad news, then she could begin what she'd dreaded the most-looking for a place to live, a job. Watching as the building was sold. Watching as her uncle became homeless, lost to the streets, a wild, muttering gutter drunk.
    She fastened the clasp on her portfolio. Her head was down and she was unaware of the elegantly dressed man sitting in the leather chair just outside Ellis's door, his ankle resting on his knee. Tall, fortyish, and remarkably good-looking, he eyed her with interest and appreciation. He stubbed out the cigar he was holding, rose, and walked over to her.
    "Ellis turned you down?"
    Fiona, still having difficulty holding her tears in, nodded quickly. "He's a bit of an old woman. Have a seat."
    "I beg your pardon? "
    "Sit. I overheard you. Your ideas are good. You're on target with the differentiation."
    "The what?"
    "Differentiation." He smiled. "Like the word? I coined it myself. It means setting yourself apart from the competition. Offering things they don't. I'll see what I can do." He disappeared into Ellis's office, slamming the door behind him. Fiona, stunned, continued to stand exactly where he'd left her until Miss Miles told her to sit down.
    "Who is that?" Fiona asked her. "William McClane," she said reverently.
    "Who?"
    "McClane? Of McClane Mining and McClane Lumber and McClane Subterranean. Only one of the richest men in New York," she replied, in a tone that suggested Fiona must be a bumpkin not to know such a thing. "He made his first fortune in silver," she said in a hushed, girlish voice. "Then he went into logging. Now he's working on plans for New York's first underground railway. Rumor has it he's going into electricity and telephones, too."
    Fiona had only the vaguest idea what a telephone was and no idea at all what electricity was, but she nodded, pretending she did.
    "He owns First Merchants, too. And" -she leaned in closer to Fiona"he's a widower. His wife died two years ago. Every society lady in town is after him."
    Mr. Ellis's door opened again, silencing their conversation. Mr. McClane came out.
    "You've got your shop," he briskly informed Fiona. "See Ellis about the details. And spend a little more on the advertising. Take a whole page if you can and run the ad on Saturdays, not Sundays, even if it costs more. That's when most of the men in your neighborhood get paid. You want your name fresh in people's minds when the money's there, not after it's gone."
    Before Fiona could get a word out, he had tipped his hat to her and Miss Miles and left, leaving her standing there in his wake, staring after him, whispering the words, "Thank you."
    
Chapter 27
    
    All of the large terraced limestone houses on Albemarle Street in the newly fashionable Pimlico were flawlessly maintained, their shutters and doors painted an identical glossy black, brass postboxes polished to a gleam, and flowers allotted suitable space in terra-cotta planters or ceramic urns. Each dwelling had a black gas lamp in front of it that now, at nine o'clock on a drizzly April evening, glowed brightly.
    The houses spoke of a solid, commendable sameness that, if somewhat uninspired, was at least above reproach, a quality much desired by their occupants-newly minted members of a middle class keen to prove itself every bit as refined and respectable as its established old money neighbors in Belgravia and Knightsbridge. There was nothing brash, nothing out of place, nothing unseemly. There was no litter on the street, there were no vagrants or stray dogs. It was as quiet as a graveyard, as stifling as a coffin, and Joe Bristow despised the very sight of it.
    He longed for the color and life of Montague Street. He missed coming home at night to the excited shrieks of his siblings, the taunting jokes of his mates, an impromptu football game played on the rough cobbles. Most of all, he missed walking up to number eight, to the black-haired girl who sat on her step playing with her brother or ignoring a pile of sewing. He missed calling her name, watching as she lifted her head, as her whole face broke into a smile. For him.
    His carriage, a black caleche pulled by a handsome roan, both wedding gifts from his father-in-law, pulled up to the portico at the front of the house. His steps did not quicken as he neared his door, nor did his heart warm with anticipation at seeing his wife. His only hope was that she would already be asleep and the servants, too, whose presence in his home and his life he could not get used to. The sight of his agitated housekeeper pacing at the top of the steps told him this was not to be.
    "Oh, Mr. Bristow! Thank God you're finally home, sir!" she cried.
    "What is it, Mrs. Parrish? What are you doing out 'ere? Where's Mathison?"
    "Gone to his pantry, sir, to look for a second key for your study."
    "Why would he -"
    Joe's words were cut off by the sound of glass shattering.
    "It's Mrs. Bristow, sir. She's locked herself in your study and she won't come out," Mrs. Parrish said breathlessly. "I thought she was in bed. I had just gone up to my own room when I heard a crash. I ran back down… I,… I don't know what happened… she just went mad! She was throwing your papers and smashing things. I couldn't stop her. I tried, but she pushed me out. Oh, please go up to her, sir! Hurry, before she does something to hurt the baby!"
    Joe bolted up to the second floor. Millie was poorly and had been ever since they'd gotten back from their honeymoon over two months ago. Her pregnancy was a difficult one. She'd started to bleed last month and had nearly lost the baby. Her doctor had ordered her to stay in bed.
    As he fumbled in his pocket for the key, he heard sobs coming from the other side of the door and a series of loud thumps, as if a pile of books had fallen over. He got the key in the door, opened it, and saw that his entire study had been ripped apart. Papers were all over the floor. A bookcase had gone over. The panes of his secretary were smashed. In the middle of the devastation stood Millie, her face streaked with tears, her blond hair loose, her belly protruding under her nightclothes. She held a sheaf of paper in her hand. He recognized them. They were reports from the private investigator he'd hired to find Fiona.
    "Go back to bed, Millie. You know you're not supposed to be up."
    "I couldn't sleep," she said tearfully, "so I got up and carne in here to "To if you were home. I found these. I saw them on your desk. You're looking for her, aren't you? She moved or… or left London or something and you’re trying to find her."
    Joe didn't answer her. She hadn't seen them on his desk because he’d locked them inside his secretary. He didn't think it wise to argue that point now, though. He knew very well what she was like when she was angry, "Come on, Millie, you know what the doctor~"
    "Answer me, damn you!" she shrieked, throwing the papers at him.
    "I'm not going to talk about this now," he said forcefully. "You're too upset. You've got to calm down or you'll 'urt the baby."
    "You're sleeping with her, aren't you? You must be, you don't sleep with me. Not once in five months! All this time you've been telling me work's the reason you're home late every night, but it's not, is it? It's that filthy little whore!" She flew at Joe and beat her fists against his chest. "You stop it!" she cried. "You stop seeing her! "
    Joe grabbed her by her wrists. "That's enough!" he shouted.
    She writhed and twisted, trying to break free of his grasp, cursing at him.
    Then, all of a sudden, she did stop. She winced, then stood perfectly still.
    "What is it?" he asked her.
    She looked at him with large, frightened eyes. Her hands went to her belly. A whimper rose from her throat and she doubled over. Joe put his arm around her. He tried to get her to straighten but she wouldn't. She cried out twice, digging her nails into his arm.
    "Shhh, it's all right," he said, trying to soothe her. "Just take a deep breath, there's a girl. It's going to be fine. It's just a cramp. The doctor said you might get them, remember? 'E said not to worry about them."
    But it wasn't just a cramp. As she took a few steps forward, still trying to straighten, he saw glistening ruby droplets soaking into the carpet beneath her feet.
    "Millie, listen to me," he said, trying to keep his voice calm. "I'm going to call the doctor. 'E'll come see you and everything will be fine. Let's get you back in bed now, all right?"
    She nodded and started to walk toward the door. Another pain gripped her, bending her double again. It was then that she saw the crimson stains on the toes of her white slippers. "Oh, no," she cried. "Oh, God… please, no… " Within seconds her cries had turned to shrieks. Joe picked her up and carried her out of the study. A frightened Mrs. Parrish was standing in the corridor, a candle in her hand. "Get Dr. Lyons!" he barked at her. " 'Urry!"
    
    JOE SAT on the wooden bench outside Millie's hospital room, his head in his hands. He'd listened to her cries - and her screams - throughout the small dark hours until they'd finally, mercifully, stopped just as the dawn was breaking.
    Dr. Lyons was with her now, and two nurses, and her father. She had not wanted him near her and he didn't blame her. This was all his fault. He should have come home early yesterday, brought her flowers, had dinner with her. That's what husbands were supposed to do. He never should have fought with her. And he never should have looked for Fiona.
    The morning after their wedding night - when he'd walked out of their hotel suite to drink himself silly - he'd woken to a vicious hangover, a sobbing wife, and the knowledge that he could not live this way. He did not love Millie and could not bring himself to sleep with her, but he could at least behave in a kind and considerate manner toward her. They'd left for France that afternoon and he'd endured his endless honeymoon - Millie's face, her voice, her mindless chatter, and her constant entreaties to make love - as best he could. He was polite and solicitous of her during the day, escorting her to shops, museums, cafes, the theatre - wherever she wanted to go. But at night he would retreat to the separate room he'd insisted upon at every hotel in every city they visited, for peace, relief, and the space to grieve for what he'd done and all that he'd lost.
    At first, she was merely wounded by his lack of attention. As time when on, she became incensed. His rejection hurt her vanity. She wanted him and she was not used to being denied. A week after they'd left London, they'd had the first of many horrible fights. At the Crillon in Paris, in the hallway outside their rooms. They were retiring for the night after dining at the Cafe de la Paix. Millie wanted him to come to her room. He refused. Again. She accused him of being cold to her. She stormed and wept and told him that this wasn't how married people were with each other. He bore her tirade silently, keeping the truth of his feelings to himself, not wanting to be cruel. She raged on, reminding him that he had not been cold with her on Guy Fawkes night and demanded to know why he had changed.
    "You didn't mind my kisses then," she'd said reproachfully. "And you couldn't wait to put your hands on me. You told me you wanted me that night, Joe. You told me you loved me."
    "I never told you I loved you, Millie," he'd quietly replied. "we both know that."
    By the time they'd returned home, relations between them had deteriorated into constant arguments. Joe left at dawn most mornings and came home after dark to avoid her, throwing himself into his work. Buckingham Palace had awarded Peterson's a Royal Warrant. The business grew, nearly double its volume. Tommy was ecstatic. He was as happy with Joe as Millie was furious with him. But Joe found only distraction in his work, not solace.
    His mother wrote him repeatedly after he returned home. She wanted him to come and see her, she needed to talk to him. There were things she had to tell him. But he would not go. He didn't want to visit his family; they'd only see how miserable he was. He couldn't bear the thought of going back to Montague Street, of seeing Fiona's house and the places where they used to walk. Places where they'd talked of their dreams, their future. Places where he'd taken her in his arms and kissed her. His mum came to the house a few times, and to his office, but he was always out.
    All he wanted was to see Fiona. Just see her. To look into her eyes again, To see himself there, no one else, and know she still loved him. To hear her say his name. But he knew he had no right and he'd promised her he would not, and for a long time he was able to honor that promise. Until one March evening when his need for her had overwhelmed him and he'd gone back to Whitechapel. His heart ached at the memory of it now. If only he'd known what happened, if only he'd known what she'd been through. He remembered it so clearly, the sickening shock of it…
    
    "JOE, LAD, ARE YOU still here? It's four clock!" Tommy Peterson said. "I thought I told you to go home early. Spend some time with your wife."
    "I just wanted to finish up these accounts… " he began.
    "They can wait. Go home and enjoy your evening. That's an order."
    Joe forced a smile, thanked Tommy, and said he would. As soon as his father-in-law left, he let the smile drop. Going home was the last thing he wanted to do. He'd come home late last night to find Millie sitting at the dining room table with platters of cold, congealed food in front of her. He was supposed to have joined her for dinner. He'd said he would and he'd forgotten. She'd picked up a platter of salmon and heaved it at his head. God only knew what tonight would bring.
    He gathered his papers and called for his carriage. As he was riding west, he envisioned the long evening in store for him. He slumped back in his seat, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes. He felt like a prisoner in his own life. He couldn't face Albemarle Street, that house, Millie. He groaned, wishing he could shout and yell until he was hoarse. Wishing he could kick the shit out of the carriage. Wishing he could run away and disappear into,streets of London. He opened his eyes, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned his collar. It was stuffy in the carriage, hard to breathe. He needed to get out. needed to get some air. He needed Fiona.
    Before he could talk himself out of it, he shouted at his driver to pull over. When the man stopped, he said, "I'm getting out 'ere. Take my things 'ome. Tell Mrs.Bristow I'll be late."
    "Very good, sir."
    He hailed a hackney, told the driver to take him to Whitechapel, and gave him the address of Burton's. If he was lucky, he'd make it there before quitting time and he could catch her coming out. She would be angry with him - he had to be prepared for that-but maybe, just maybe, she'd talk to him.
    He arrived at the factory just before six. He waited by the doors, pacing and fidgeting. Finally the whistle blew, the doors opened, and the tea girls came streaming out. He searched the faces, but hers wasn't among them. He waited until the last girl had gone and then he waited some more, in case she was sweeping up or gathering her things. But then the foreman came out and locked the doors behind him and there was no more point in waiting.
    He began to feel uneasy but decided there must be some explanation. He would try Jackson's. Maybe she'd left Burton's to work at the pub full-time. But she wasn't there. And neither the man behind the bar nor the girl cleaning tables had heard of her. The girl told him the Jacksons were out right now visiting Mrs. Jackson's poorly mum, but they'd be back in an hour or so - if he cared to wait. He did not.
    He was more than uneasy now. He knew Fiona had been sick on the day of his wedding. A fever, his mum had told him. What if she hadn't recovered? What if she was poorly and unable to work? Panicking, he broke into a run and headed for Adams Court. Mrs. Finnegan would have at him and Charlie would want to kick his arse. They might not let him see her. He didn't care. They'd tell him if she was all right. He had to know she was all right. She has the money, our savings, he told himself. It would've been enough to see her family through. Oh, please, please, let her be all right, he prayed. He shot through the brick passageway that led from Varden Street to Adams Court, down the narrow walkway, and was just about to knock on number twelve when the door opened and a startled young woman with a baby in her arms asked him what he wanted.
    "I need to see the Finnegans," he said, panting. "Fiona. Is she 'ome?" The woman looked at him as if he were mad. "The Finnegans?"
    "Aye. Can you get Fiona for me, missus?"
    "Who are you, lad?"
    "My name's Joe Bristow. I'm Fiona's… I'm a friend of 'ers."
    "I… I don't know 'ow to tell you this, but the Finnegans… they don’t live 'ere anymore."
    Joe's heart filled with dread. "Where did they go? Did something 'appen? Something 'appened, didn't it? Is Fiona all right?"
    "You'd better come inside."
    "No, tell me what 'appened!" he shouted, wild-eyed with fear.
    "It's better if you come in," the woman said. "Please." She grabbed his sleeve and led him down a short hallway to a room at the back of the house She bade him sit on the only chair in the room and she sat down on the bed, her baby on her lap. 'I’m Lucy Brady," she said. "I used to be Kate's neighbor, before-" She shook her head, upset. "I can't believe you didn't hear about it or read about it. It was in all the papers."
    " 'Ear about what? You've got to tell me, Mrs. Brady, please."
    Lucy swallowed. "There was a murder. It was the Ripper," she began. " 'E killed a woman at number ten, Frances Sawyer. It was very late at night, but the police think Kate saw 'im. She was on 'er way to the doctor's, the baby was ill. Jack… 'e… 'e killed 'er, too. Oh, Lord, I'm sorry to be the one telling you this."
    Joe's whole body began to shake. He felt a terror like he had never known. One that turned his blood, his bones, his very heart, to sand. "Did ‘e… did Fiona… "
    "She was the one that found 'er mother." Lucy closed her eyes. "The poor lass, I'll never forget that night as long as I live."
    "Where is she now?" he asked, weak with relief.
    "Last I 'eard, she went to live with a friend of the family. 'E's a police constable."
    "Roddy, Roddy O'Meara."
    "Aye, that sounds right. 'E was looking after 'er and 'er little brother."
    "What about Charlie? And the baby?"
    "Dead, both of them. The baby right after 'er mother. And the lad soon after. 'E came 'ome from a fight, saw 'is mother, and ran off. They found ‘is body in the river."
    Joe covered his face with his hands. "My God," he whispered. "What 'ave I done to 'er? I left 'er 'ere in this shit'ole. Left 'er to this… "
    "Are you all right, Mr. Bristow?" Lucy asked.
    Joe didn't hear her. He stood up, dazed, barely able to breathe. "I've got to find 'er… " he said. He took a step toward the door. His vision faded. II i" legs buckled and he collapsed.
    
    “YOU’VE A VISITOR, Mr. O'Meara. A lad. 'E's waiting for you upstairs."
    From where he was sitting, two steps above the landing to Roddy's flat, Joe heard Roddy and his landlady talking in the downstairs hallway. He heard Roddy's heavy tramp on the steps and then the man was on the landing,. He was wearing his constable's uniform and carrying groceries. He seemed to have aged since Joe'd last seen him. The loss of Paddy and the loss of the Finnegans must have grieved him deeply. Joe knew that they had been more than friends to him. They were his family. The only one he had. Feelings of sorrow, guilt, and remorse, his constant companions now, rose up inside him. He hadn't eaten or slept since he'd seen Lucy Brady yesterday. This was all his fault. All of it.
    " 'Ello, Roddy."
    "Evening," Roddy said. His expression told Joe he was not pleased to see him. "You look like shite, lad, I don't mind telling you," he said. "That wife of yours feed you?" He opened the door to his flat and ushered him in. He motioned for him to sit, but Joe remained standing.
    "Roddy, I… I need to see Fiona. Is she' ere?"
    "No," Roddy replied, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the back of a chair.
    "Do you know where she is?"
    "No."
    Joe didn't believe him. "Come on, Roddy."
    "I said I don't bloody know where she is!"
    "You don't know? You looked after 'er, took care of 'er."
    Roddy turned, skewering him with the anger in his eyes. "Aye, I did. And it's more than I can say for some!"
    Joe looked at the floor. "Look, Roddy… I know I'm a bastard. I don't need you to tell me. I just need to know she's all right. I just want to see 'er. Tell me where she is. Please."
    “Lad, I'm telling you the truth. I don't know where she is."
    Joe was about to argue further when he saw that the anger had left Roddy's face and a worried look had taken its place. Something was wrong.
    "What is it?" he asked. "What's going on?"
    "I wish I knew." Roddy sat down at his table and poured himself a glass of ale from a stoneware jug. "I have to say, lad, I'm very disappointed to see you. And not only because I don't care for you." He tipped the jug toward him, but Joe shook his head. "You waiting for a bus? Sit down." Joe did as he was told and Roddy continued. "Fiona was here. She and Seamie both."
    Joe nodded. "I saw Lucy Brady yesterday. She told me what 'appened." "She stayed with me after her mother was killed. It took a while till she was back on her feet, but after a few weeks she was managing again. She was talking about looking for work and a room of her own, and then I get home one night and there's a note on the table saying she's left. Right out of the blue. It said she got some money from Burton's-compensation money for Paddy's death-and that she wanted to leave quick-like, with no long good-byes. She didn't say where she was going."
    "That doesn't sound like' er. Why wouldn't she want you to know when' she'd gone?"
    "At first I reckoned it was because she'd taken off to be with you and didn't want me to find out, knowing full well I'd stop her. But you sitting here puts paid to that theory."
    "What do you think now?"
    Roddy took a swallow of his beer and set the glass down. "I don't know.
    None of it makes any bloody sense."
    "Roddy, she's all alone somewhere," Joe said anxiously. "We've got to find 'er."
    "I've tried! I've got all the men at my station looking. I managed to get a description of her and Seamie to practically every station in the city, but I've heard not'ing. Nobody's seen hide nor hair of them."
    "What about a private detective?"
    "I t'ought about that but I haven't got the money."
    "I do. Give me a name. I'll 'ire 'im tonight. She 'as to be in London. It's not like she would've taken a train somewhere, she wouldn't know where to go. She'd never even been on a bus before I took 'er to Covent Garden. She can't 'ave gone far."
    Roddy wrote down a name and address on a slip of paper and handed it to Joe, telling him to make sure he told the man that P. C. O'Meara sent him. He told him to come see him the minute he heard anything. He walked Joe to the door and though he didn't take his hand, he wished him luck. And for the briefest of seconds, Joe thought he saw something besides anger and worry in Roddy's brown eyes. He thought he saw an expression of sadness. For him.
    
    AT TEN O'CLOCK AT NIGHT, the outlying stalls of the Covent Garden market were eerily silent. The round willow baskets the porters used to carry produce were piled high; a few carts stood empty. Here and there, broken flowers and crushed fruit littered the streets and the air was pungent with the smell of rotted vegetables. It always amazed Joe, who was walking back to his office after a late dinner with a client, that a place as hellishly noisy as the market was in the morning could ever be so still, so deserted. As he crossed a narrow lane and walked through an open arcade into a large cobbled piazza, he could smell the scent of horses from a nearby stable. He heard one whinny and kick against its stall. A rat in its hay, he thought. Wynne, his father's horse, hated them.
    ".Joe. Joe Bristow," a voice suddenly called from the darkness. Joe stopped. He hadn't seen a soul when he entered the square. "Over 'ere."
    He turned around and saw a man leaning against one of the arcade's iron columns. The figure pushed itself off and walked out of the shadows. Joe recognized him. It was Stan Christie. A lad from Whitechapel. They'd been in the same class as youngsters until the day their teacher decided to discipline Stan with a cane, and Stan, at the tender age of twelve, had ripped it out of the man's hand and beaten him unconscious with it.
    " 'Ow's things?" Stan asked, sauntering toward him. "Smashing. You're a little far afield tonight, aren't you?" "Aye. I came all this way just to see you."
    "I'm touched, mate. I didn't know you cared."
    Stan walked with his arms clasped behind his back like a professor or a priest. Since he was neither, Joe was certain he was concealing something..A club. A knife. Explosives. One never knew with Stan.
    "Making some inquiries, I am. For the guv'nor," he said. His right hand came out from behind his back. He touched his finger to the side of his nose and gave Joe a knowing look.
    "Oh, aye? Which guv'nor would that be? The prime minister? The Prince of Wales?"
    "You want to watch your mouth, lad. Mr. Sheehan don't take no gyp." Sheehan. Bowler Sheehan. Jesus. He had no idea Stan worked for him. "What does Sheehan want with me?" he asked, keeping his voice even.
    " 'E wants to know where the Finnegan girl is. Everyone knows you were sweet on 'er before you put Peterson's daughter up the pole, so I was I thinking you might know."
    "What's Fiona to 'im?" Joe asked angrily, his apprehension gone. He didn't like Sheehan's interest in Fiona. Not one bit. Stan was closer now and. Joe wished to God he had his clasp knife on him. Or the pry bar he used on fruit crates. A razor. A bunch of keys he could thread through his fingers. Christ, he'd take a fucking corkscrew.
    "Mr. Sheehan asks the questions, Joe. 'E don't answer them."
    “Oh aye? Well, 'ere's 'is answer: Tell 'im 'e can go shit in 'is big black 'at. 'Ow's that?"
    Stan chuckled, then, a split second later, swung the cosh he'd been hiding, behind his back. Joe had been expecting it; he ducked the blow. The cosh, missed his head and clipped his shoulder. Swearing at the pain, he drove his head into Stan's face and was gratified to hear a sickening crack as his nose shattered. Stan shrieked. His hands flew up to his nose, leaving his body open. Joe landed a savage kidney punch. Stan dropped the cosh. Joe picked it up, slid it under his throat, and jerked it hard.
    "You move and I'll choke the life out of you, I swear I will… "
    "All right, all right… " he rasped, holding up his bloodied hands.
    "What does Sheehan want with Fiona?"
    Stan didn't answer. Joe pulled the cosh tighter. Stan's hands scrabbled for it; he dropped to his knees. He was choking. Joe eased the pressure. This was a mistake; Stan had been faking. He grabbed Joe's arms and flipped him over his head Joe landed hard, smacking his head against a cobble. The bright lights in his eyes blinded him for a few seconds; he tried to get up but faltered. Stan was standing over him now, threatening to cave his skull in if he didn't tell him where Fiona was. Joe, lying on his left side, still had that cosh in his hand. He knew he had about two seconds to make use of it or they'd find him here in the morning, his head crushed like a melon. With a yell, he sat up and slammed the club into Stan's kneecap, eliciting a blood· curdling scream. Stan had had enough. Promising Joe he'd kill him the next time he saw him, he staggered off.
    Joe got to his feet. He wanted to give chase, but his legs were too shaky.
    His head was throbbing. He touched it, wincing as his fingers found a goose egg. He had to get to Roddy and tell him what happened. This was bad news. If Stan was ready to beat the life out of him on the mere suspicion that he knew where Fiona was, what would he do to her when he found her'! How the hell had she gotten tangled up with Sheehan, of all people? And why? He'd have to get to Henry Benjamin, too, the private detective he'd hired, and tell him to speed up the search. He'd met with him two days ago. Benjamin said it was unlikely Fiona had gone far. He was confident he'd Ill' able to find her in a week or two. That was too long. Joe wanted her found tomorrow. Fiona was smart, she was tough; but Bowler Sheehan was a damn sight tougher.
    
    "THAT'S THE HARDEST THING, you know," Millie said. "Finding a good baby nurse. I've seen ten already and I wouldn't let any of them mind a cat, never mind a baby. You can't be too careful. I liked the last woman, but Mrs. Parrish saw her put biscuits in her pocket when I went out of the room. She didn't know she was watching. You can't have a sneaky nurse. God knows she'd do if my back was turned. Sally Ennis said she caught her nurse putting gin in her baby's milk. Can you imagine?"
    Joe lifted his head from the balance sheet he was reading. "No, I can't,” He said trying his best to sound interested.
    "I don't know what I'm going to do," she said anxiously, putting her needlework down. "The agency said they'd send more women over, but what if I don’t find someone in time? What if the baby comes and I haven't got a nurse?
    "Millie, you'll find someone. You've got plenty of time. Your aunt will come and stay and she'll 'elp, too. She'll find you a nurse if need be. Don't fret over it. What you need to do is finish that christening gown. The baby can’t be christened in ‘is nappies, can 'e?" Joe tried to sound positive. He knew what was really bothering her and he didn't want her dwelling on it.
    "You're right," she said. She smiled bravely and he was relieved to see it. Four days ago, after lifting a heavy vase down from a high shelf, she had suddenly started to bleed. Her doctor had been sent for. He managed to stanch. the bleeding and save the baby, but he said the risk of a miscarriage still existed. He d confined her to bed and instructed that she was to have no physical strain or emotional upsets whatsoever. Looking at her now, in the waning light of a Sunday afternoon, Joe saw how drawn she looked. There were dark circles under her eyes. She was far too pale. He felt sorry for her. It pained him to see her suffer.
    She had felt uncomfortable earlier and had sent Olive, her maid, to his study to ask him if he might sit with her and keep her company until she fell asleep. He had agreed, bringing the ledgers he was working on with him and pulling up a chair next to her bed. He was trying hard to be a better husband to her, to be a comfort.
    She chattered on about the christening gown and other clothing she was making for the baby. He tried his best to pay attention and take part in the conversation, but it was hard. He was so distracted. Last night he'd met with Benjamin again. The man had walked into the pub where Joe was waiting.
    “Recognise this?” He’d asked, dropping something into his hand. It was the blue stone from the river. The one he'd given Fiona.
    Benjamin said he'd gotten it at a pawnshop near Roddy's flat. Not only had the pawnbroker remembered a girl matching Fiona's description, he remembered that she'd traded the stone for cash and a traveling bag, and that she'd had a young boy with her. He said she'd also pawned a gold ring with a tiny sapphire, but he'd already sold that. Benjamin had to pay five quid to get the stone. The pawnbroker knew what he had - an ancient scarab, probably dropped from the ring of a conquering Roman noble as he brought his fleet up the Thames.
    Joe had paid Benjamin for the stone. He'd closed his fingers around it as the detective finished speaking, knowing for certain then that Fiona was no longer in London. That she was truly gone. But where? Benjamin also felt she had left the city. He would, too, he said, if Sheehan were after him.
    That was going to make it a lot harder to find her. She had no family, no friends outside of London, which meant there was no single, logical destination for her. She could be anywhere. Benjamin told him not to give up hope. He was sure someone besides the pawnbroker had seen her leaving, Whitechapel. He was going to talk to the hackney drivers who plied the Commercial Road to see if one of them remembered her and, if they were really lucky, where he'd taken her.
    Joe knew Benjamin was doing his best, but the waiting was killing him, The knowledge that the person he loved most was alone in the world, with no one to turn to, maybe in terrible trouble, occupied his every waking hour.
    He looked at Millie, propped up in a confection of lacy pillows and bolsters, working her needle in and out of the white silk of the christening gown, and was once again seized by the unreality of his life. None of this was supposed to be happening. He wasn't supposed to be here in this house, married to this woman. He was supposed to be in Whitechapel, married to Fiona. They would have just opened their first shop and they'd be working every minute of every day to make it a success. It would be hard, a constant struggle, but it would be everything he'd ever wanted. Just to sit across the table from her at night as they talked about the day. To sleep in the same bed with her, make love to her in the dark, slowly and sweetly. To hear someone' call her Mrs. Bristow. To dandle their baby on his knee and listen to hi" mother and hers argue about whose side of the family the child favored.
    "Joe, dear? Which do you like better? Annabelle or Lucy?"
    Millie's voice shattered his lovely daydream and brought him back to reality. "What, Millie? I'm sorry, I was thinking about work."
    "I asked which name you like better if the baby's a girl. If it's a boy, I'd like to call him Thomas, after my father. Thomas Bristow. I think it has a nice ring to it. I'm sure it's a boy. I just have this feeling. I-" Millie stopped talking and pressed her hands to her belly.
    Joe shot forward in his chair; the ledger slid off his lap. "Millie, what is it? Is something wrong? Should I get the doctor?' He asked, alarmed.
    She looked at him. "No… " she said slowly, a smile of wonder and joy breaking across her face. 'Tm fine. The baby kicked, Joe. I felt it. I felt it. She reached for his hand and pressed it against herself. He felt nothing. She was looking at him, but her gaze was inward. "There!" she whispered excitedly. "Did you feel it?" He hadn't. She pressed his hand in harder and suddenly he did feel it. An impossibly small elbow. Or a knee, or maybe a heel. A tiny, defiant flutter. The baby-his baby-was suddenly real.
    Strong, roiling emotions ripped through him-fatherly feelings, fierce "I protective, and feelings of utter desolation. He knew with an awful and ancient certainty that he would love this child. And he knew that he wished it had never come into being. His future-as this baby's father, as Millie's husband-rose up in front of him. Tears came to his eyes, tears of love and grief for this baby that was his, but not his and Fiona's, for this hopeless, empty life. He tried to blink them away. He heard Millie, her silk nightgown rustling, move toward him.
    "Ssshhh," she whispered, kissing him. "It's all right. You'll love the baby, Joe". You will. And the baby will love you. He does already. And maybe, when he comes, you'll love me. And then we'll be a family and everything will be all right."
    "MR. BRISTOW?"
    The sound of the doctor's voice pulled Joe out of the past and into the present. His head snapped up. " 'Ow is she?" he asked.
    "She's had a very hard time of it, but she'll be fine." He felt relief wash over him. "And the baby?"
    "I'm afraid the baby was stillborn. We couldn't stop the contractions. It was a mercy he went as he did."
    "It was a boy," Joe said dully.
    The doctor nodded. He put a hand on Joe's shoulder. "It was too early in the term for an infant to survive outside the womb. He would only have suffered. There will be others for her. In time."
    "Should I go in to 'er?" Joe asked. He started to get to his feet.
    Dr. Lyons kept a steady pressure on his shoulder, forcing him to seated. "No, no," he said quickly. "That's not a good idea. Not just yet. Mr. Peterson will be out momentarily. He'll advise you." The doctor went off in,search of some breakfast, saying he would be back to check on Millie in an hour or so.
    Joe slumped back on the bench, too empty to weep. The baby was stillborn. Like everything else in his life, all his dreams, his hopes. Like everything he'd always wanted to be-good, kind, upstanding. A loving husband and father. Ever since he had felt the little thing kick, he had hoped to hold and care for it and love it. Its tiny, questing movements had seemed like a promise that something good would come out of all the misery. But now the baby was dead. Because of him.
    The door to Millie's room opened and his father-in-law came out. Joe stood and faced him. "Does she want to see me?" he asked.
    Tommy stood motionless, his fists clenched at his side, his face frozen in an expression of cold fury. "The only reason I'm not going to kill you right here is because of Millie," he finally said. "She told me everything. How it’s been between you two. About the girl. Fiona. I don't know if she meant to. She was delirious from the pain and the chloroform. She told me about Guy Fawkes night… and her part in it. A hard thing to hear." He looked at the floor, his jaw working, then at Joe again. "I want you out of the house. Out of our lives. Take what's yours and go. There will be a divorce on grounds of adultery. Yours. If you contest it, I'll - “
    "I won't," Joe said. Divorce, he thought. He would have his freedom Should he feel glad of that? He didn't. He felt sorry and ashamed. No one got divorced. It was a drastic, ugly, scandalous thing and the fact that Tommy had demanded it only indicated how much he despised him. He, Tommy Peterson, the man whose approval had once meant the world to him. Joe picked up his jacket. He glanced at the door. "I'd like to tell 'er I'm sorry," he said.
    Tommy shook his head. "Leave her be."
    As Joe walked down the corridor, Tommy shouted at him. "Why? Why. you stupid sod? You had it made. You had it all-everything you could ever want."
    Joe turned and.gave him a sad, bitter smile. "Everything, Tommy, and nothing at all."
    
Chapter 28
    
    “And I want two lamb chops… those there, the big ones, yes… a pound of pearl onions, a bunch of parsley, and half a pound of sweet butter. You got the porridge oats, didn't you?"
    "Yes, Mrs. Owens," Fiona said, scrambling after her customer as she moved through the crowded shop. "Seamie, luv, bring up some more apples," she shouted at her brother. He dumped the lemons he was carrying into a bin and hurried back down the cellar stairs.
    She felt someone take her elbow. "I want some of your tea, luv. I have the coupon from your flyer… the one for a quarter pound? You won't run out, will you?" It was Julie Reynolds, who lived across the street.
    "Miss! Miss!" another voice called. "I want some of the Madeira cake before it's gone!"
    "Right away, ma'am," Fiona shouted back. She turned back to Mrs. Reynolds. "Not to worry, Mrs. Reynolds. I've two more chests in the basement. Just give me one minute."
    Fiona heard a sharp rapping. "Young man, can you get me some flour, please!" It was an elderly woman knocking the handle of her cane against the counter.
    "Right away, my lovely," Nick said, careening toward Fiona. He weighed a pound of apples as she dug in a basket for pearl onions. They traded quick harried smiles. "Lord, the place is crawling! I've a wad of coupons in my pocket from your flyer and reams more in the till. We're going to need another tea chest up from the basement soon. How many ads did you run?”
    "Just the one in the little neighborhood paper!"
    “All this business from one little ad? Nate's right. Advertising,does work!" He shot off to ring up the apples and Fiona blessed him for being here to help. She would've been lost without him. He was so charming and chatty. The ladies loved him and he loved playing shopkeeper. It was another game, a prank, and Nick, an overgrown child, delighted in it.
    She weighed and wrapped the lamb chops, the butter and the pearl onions, stacked them next to the bag of porridge oats, and tossed a bunch of Parsley on top of it all. "Have you tried our ginger biscuits?" she asked Mrs Owens, handing her one. "They're very nice. I can't keep Seamie out of the tin," she added, knowing from Mary that Mrs. Owens was a fond mother of her children, hoping to add a little more to her bill.
    "Homemade, are they?" the woman asked, savoring the bite she'd taken. ".Just this morning. Mary Munro did them. She made all the baked goods." "Oh, I know Mary! She's a wonderful baker. Give me half a dozen. They’ll keep the kiddies quiet. I need a quart of milk and two pounds of flour, too. And don't forget my tea, Fiona! Here's my coupon. It is good? I don’t want any rubbish."
    "It's an excellent tea, Mrs. Owens. It's T-G-F-O-P," she said, with a meaningful nod. "Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe." She'd seen Joe do that. Drop some rarefied term into the conversation. It implied a shared, superior understanding of the product, made a customer feel in the know.
    "I saw that on the chest. What does it mean?"
    "It's the tea's grade. It tells you you've got nice large leaves with lots of bud. It means it's all new growth, plucked from the top of the bush, not a lot of tough, old leaves from down the branches." She lowered her voice. "There's some who wouldn't know the difference," she said, glancing "round, "but those who do, insist on the better grade."
    Mrs. Owens nodded knowingly. "Give us our quarter pound, lass. Lord knows how long it's been since I had good tea - years!"
    Fiona smiled at Mrs. Owens's enthusiasm. She shared it. If there was one thing she could not abide, it was bad tea. Frustrated by the offerings of her uncle's supplier, she'd closed their account with him and trekked down to South Street, to Millard's, her friend Stuart's importing firm, and had him devise a custom blend of Indian tea. She told him what she wanted, and using Assam leaves from three estates, Stuart had concocted a blend that was full-bodied and brisk, with a bright, malty character. He was glad to do it. He was having difficulty moving his Indian tea. His American customers only wanted to buy what they knew, which was China tea. His Indian tea was better, but he hadn't been able to sway them. Fiona, however, would have nothing else. She immediately recognized its quality. She'd known that her customers would like it, too. Thanks to Mary, she'd met many of them before today. Young workingwomen, or wives of dockers and factory men almost all immigrants - small were partial to good tea. It was the one small luxury their workaday lives afforded them.
    Fiona weighed Mrs. Owens's tea and plunked the bag on the counter with the rest of her things. Then she wrapped her ginger biscuits, weighed out two pounds of flour, and ladled milk from a large two-handled dairy call into the quart-size jug Mrs. Owens had handed her, "Will that be all?" she asked, starting to total her purchases.
    The woman was casting a longing glance at the shop window. "Oh, those new potatoes look so good. Let me have two pounds and a bunch of asparagus, too. Mr. Owens is partial to it. I think that'll do for now. I'll barely be able to carry what I've got."
    "Would you like this delivered?"
    "Delivered? Finnegan's delivers now?"
    "Yes, ma'am. All day Saturday and afternoons during the week when my delivery boys get out of school."
    "How much?"
    "No charge for you, Mrs. Owens." There was no charge for anyone, but why mention it?
    "Well, yes, then!" the woman said, flattered and delighted. "And give me a bunch of those pretty daffodils, too. I'll take them with me since I don't have anything else to carry. And see that those boys mind my milk jug!"
    Mrs. Owens paid for her goods and left. Without missing a beat, Fiona turned to her next customer. "Now then, Mrs. Reynolds, thank you so much for waiting. What can I get for you?" And after Mrs. Reynolds was taken care of, there was still a steady stream of women to attend to. Fiona was being run off her feet and she was ecstatic. People were buying! They purchased milk and bread and flour -the staples - but they also bought the more expensive items: bunches of fresh-cut flowers, Mary's biscuits, and new spring vegetables right out of the window!
    Fiona had agonized over that window. She'd left it to the last minute, only completing it at six that morning. She'd never arranged a window before and hadn't known where to start, but she knew it had to be beautiful,and so eye-catching that it pulled people in off the street. Standing alone in the middle of the shop, she'd looked around at all the goods that had been delivered - oats, pickles, milk, flour-wondering how on earth to create a display from them. As she saw the sun's first rays brighten the street, she started to panic. Then she heard Joe's voice in her head, saying, "It's all in the presentation, Fee. That's what makes punters want to buy." Her eyes came to rest on a crate of asparagus - she hadn't planned to buy it, it was dear - but the veg man convinced her, saying that people craved fresh vegetables after the long winter and would pay extra for them. Her gaze moved to the new potatoes, so little and rosy in their tender jackets… the golden loaves of bread delivered by the baker's boy… the daffodils that Alec had procured… and the duck eggs, brown and speckled in their hay-lined crate… and then she had a brainstorm.
    Tearing upstairs, she took a white tablecloth from Molly's linen closet.
    She grabbed a green vase from the sitting room and a blue - and -white spattered enamel bowl from the kitchen and ran back downstairs. In the shop's cellar, she dug up an empty fruit crate, a big round biscuit tin, and a few baskets, climbed in the window and got to work. When she had finished, she went outside to view the result.
    What she had wrought was a perfect picture of spring. A burst of bright yellow daffodils in the green vase stood in the center of the window atop the biscuit tin, which she'd covered with the white linen cloth. Behind them, standing in a tall wicker basket, were long golden loaves of bread. Next to them, on top of the wooden crate, was another basket, piled high with new potatoes. Next to that, asparagus bundles tied with twine stood in the blue - and-white bowl. And in front, in a small hay nest she'd made, were six perfect duck eggs. Rustic and inviting, Fiona's display was utterly unlike any other shop window, stuffed as they were with tins of boot black, faded packets of soap, and tired-looking boxes of sweets. Her little tableau spoke of the warm, green days to come. Of tulips poking up through the moist earth and tiny buds on trees. It was heartening and cheerful and delighted passersby fed up with winter fruit and old potatoes.
    The window illustrated for Fiona the first and most important rule of retailing, one she had learned from Joe, from the markets and shop windows of Whitechapel, and one she understood instinctively: Create a desire for something and people will buy it.
    A woman staring at the window came in, followed by a breathless Ian. Fiona pointed at Mrs. Owens's order and gave him the address. He quickly packed the groceries in a crate and was off. Robbie came in as he was leaving and Fiona gave him Mrs. Reynolds's order to deliver. She thought, with irritation, how very helpful it would have been to have her uncle working alongside her as well, instead of pickling himself at Whelan's, She'd dragged him in yesterday, and made him fix the sticky till drawer and show her how to unroll the awning. It had cost her another dollar. And while he was in the shop, he'd criticized many of her purchases.
    Some of the vendors had sold her double what he would've ordered for the week, taking advantage of her inexperience. She heard about that until her ears burned. Then he cracked an egg on a plate, poked the flat yoke, and told her it was old. He stuck his hand into the flour barrel, sifted some between his fingers, and found weevils. He saw the three chests of tea from Millard's and told her she'd bought way too much and that it would go stale before she sold it all. He prodded a fish, examined its gills, and told her it was off. She angrily retorted that none of it would've happened if he'd been there to help her with the buying. Grumbling, he'd moved the chests of tell and coffee, along with rusks, oatmeal, and a few other necessities that women came in for often, closer to the counter, and the glass jars of cocoa, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks out of the sun; then he told her to get the matches off the meat cooler, lest they take the damp.
    For just a moment, he was the knowledgeable, competent shopkeeper she knew he could be, but just as she thought he might stay and help her, he left, saddened by the place. On his way out, he belittled her pretty touches the lace valance, the glass plates for Mary's pastries, the window boxes, and the hand-painted OPEN sign Maddie had made for her. This was a working class neighborhood, he'd said. People were interested in value for money, not frippery.
    He was wrong, Fiona knew he was. Working people loved beauty as much as wealthy people. Maybe more so, since they had so little of it in their lives. But his words had upset her and Nick, who had come over to help her get ready, had to restore her shaken confidence. He'd told her, her missteps were only beginner's mistakes and she had time to put them right. He told her what mattered most were talent and ability, and she had plenty of both. He'd taken her face in his hands and ordered her to march to the fishmonger and tell him to shove that old cod he'd sold her straight up his bum, fins and all. She had, and she'd gotten a beautiful, fresh fish to bring back with her. Then she'd made the miller replace the flour and the poultry man give her new eggs.
    As she wrapped the last of the ginger biscuits for a customer - all gone and it wasn't even ten o'clock yet! -Fiona realized that she'd done it: she'd reopened the shop. She had customers ~ dozens of them! So many that she was running out of things left and right. She would have to restock, and quickly "You can't sell off an empty cart," Joe used to say. She was so relieved it had all gone well, but more than that, she was happy. And proud. The tea, the pastries, the pretty window-they were all her ideas and they'd had worked. It was an amazing feeling, to succeed at something. It was a new feeling for her-part happiness, part pride-and she relished it. With a painful twinge of regret, she remembered sitting on the Old Stairs with Joe,as he tried to tell her about his successes at Peterson's and what they meant to him. She'd been too jealous, too threatened, to listen. If only she bad listened to him. If only she'd tried to understand him, instead of fighting with him. If only, if only.
    As she held the door open for a customer who wanted to take her purchases with her, Fiona saw a van pull up outside the shop. The driver came up to the door, asked her name, then handed her a box.
    "What is it?" she asked him.
    "With him, you never know," he said, already back in his van and snapping the reins.
    Fiona looked at the box. It was a shimmering blue rectangle, about twelve inches by fourteen, with a hinged lid inlaid with pieces of iridescent glass. She turned it over. The words "Tiffany Studios" were etched on the bottom. Puzzled, she opened it. She was surprised to find a newspaper inside-a copy of the New York World. The words "Turn to page 5" were written on the front page. She did, and saw that her ad, the one Nate and Maddie had done, the one she'd run in the Chelsea Crier; took up the entire page. She was stunned. How had this happened? She hadn't run this. She couldn't afford to. The World was a huge city paper, not some little neighborhood rag. Maybe that explained why the shop was so full of people.
    A small white card slid out from between the pages and fluttered to the ground. She picked it up. The writing was large and masculine. It said:
    
    My Dear Miss Finnegan,
    I hope this small gift contributes to your success
    Best wishes
    William R. McClane
    
    WILLIAM MCCLANE WONDERED if he was losing his mind. He was late for a supper at Delmonico's and he could not afford to be. It was a private slipper hosted by the mayor. Many of the city's leading financiers were attending. It would be the perfect forum to talk up his plans for a city-wide, subterranean railway, to generate interest and excitement among the very people whose support would be crucial to his success.
    And what was he doing? Sitting in his parked carriage on the god forsaken West Side across from a small grocery, waiting, hoping, for a glimpse of a young woman whose face he had not been able to put from his mind since he'd first seen her a week ago in the offices of his bank. A face that was full of contradictions-at once anxious and determined, open yet guarded, strong yet heartbreakingly vulnerable. A face that was the most compelling he had ever seen.
    On an impulse, on the way up Fifth to dinner, he'd told Martin, his driver, to turn left. He said he wanted to make a stop before Del's. Martin had raised an eyebrow at the location. "Are you sure of the address, sir"!" he'd asked. When Will assured him that he was, Martin shook his head as if to say he didn't understand him anymore. Will knew the feeling; he didn’t understand himself He didn't understand why he had risked his bank’s money on a girl with good ideas but no experience. Or why he'd made his secretary Jeanne go across town every day for four days running to search the newsstands until she found a copy of the Chelsea Crier with Fiona's ad in it so he could run it in the word.
    He didn't understand why he thought about a girl he didn't even know a hundred times a day. Or why -with a full life, with the demands of his business and the pleasures of friends and family-he should suddenly find him. self feeling unbearably lonely.
    Forty-five years old, William McClane had had a long time to live with himself to know his own mind. He understood his motivations, knew his goals. He was a shrewd and rational man, one who had used his formidable intelligence and brilliant business sense to parlay a modest family fortune into a staggering sum of money. He was a highly disciplined man who prided himself on his adherence to fact and logic, and on his inability to be swayed by emotion or flights of fancy.
    So what on earth was he doing here? Lurking like some masher?
    On the way over, he'd told himself he was merely attending to business.
    Looking out for his bank's assets. He was just making sure Miss Finnegan got off on the right foot. After all, a shop was a lot for a young woman to handle. But as the minutes ticked by, bringing the hour hand of his watch closer and closer to seven and still she did not emerge from the shop, the disconsolate feeling that suffused him forced him to admit that his visit had nothing to do with his assets and everything to do with the stricken look in her eyes after Ellis had turned her down, the touchingly brave way in which she'd held her head up and her tears back as he addressed her, and the relief in her face, real and palpable, when he'd told her she could have the shop.
    He had to know that she was all right. That things had gone well for her.
    And if they hadn't, he wanted to be the one to put them right. She had sparked feelings in him. Feelings of concern and protectiveness, and deeper, unfamiliar ones, too. Feelings he did not understand and could not name.
    Will checked his watch. It was exactly seven o'clock; he really should be leaving. Not only was he late for Del's; he was attracting attention. His brougham, custom-made in England, easily cost twice what any of the surrounding buildings did, and people were stopping to stare at it. And, to his horror, at him in his evening attire. At Del's or the opera house, no one would’ve glanced twice, but there, in this working-class neighborhood, he was making a spectacle of himself. And that was something a man of his background and breeding did not do.
    He was about to rap for Martin to drive off when the door to the shop opened and a young woman wearing a long white apron came out. His heart stopped at the sight of her. Fiona. She slipped the hooked end of the long pole she was carrying into a metal eye over the doorway and began to roll up the awning. And then, before he even knew what he was doing, he was out of his carriage and striding across the street. As he stepped onto the sidewalk, the shop door opened again and a young man came out. He took the pole from her, finished rolling up the awning, then suddenly picked her up and twirled her around, both of them whooping and laughing. When he put her down, she kissed his cheek.
    Will stopped in his tracks. The man was her husband, of course. For some reason, he hadn't pictured her married. She'd seemed so alone to him that day at the bank, as if she had no one to fight her battles, no one in her corner. Watching the two of them, he marveled at their excitement, their giddy emotion. They must've had a good day, made some money. That a few dollars could make anyone so happy amazed him. Anna, his late wife, had never embraced him like that, not even when he'd made his first million. He suddenly wished he were back in his carriage. He was an interloper barging in upon their happy scene. He felt awkward and, to his bewilderment, achingly disappointed. He turned to go, hoping he hadn't been noticed, but in that instant Fiona saw him. Her face, already glowing with happiness, became incandescent.
    "Mr. McClane! Look, Nick, it's Mr. McClane, the man I told you about! The one from the bank! Oh, Mr. McClane, you wouldn't believe the day we had! There were so many people! Rivers of them! Oceans! We're out of everything! We've nothing left to sell, nothing at all! And it's all because of you!"
    And then she flew across the few feet between them, flung her arms around his neck, and hugged him so hard she nearly choked him. He was so shocked, and so delighted, that he was absolutely lost for words. His hands came up to her back. He could feel the heat of her body through her blouse. Her hair tickled the side of his face and her cheek felt like satin against his own. She smelled like butter and tea and apples and a warm, sweetly sweaty woman.
    And then, as if remembering herself, she pulled away and took a flustered step backward and his whole body keenly felt the loss of her touch. "You’ve done so much for us! First saving the shop for me and then the ad!" she said "How did you get it into the World? Did I leave a copy with Mr. Ellis?" Sill didn't wait for an answer, but kept talking breathlessly, sparing him an explanation. "You don't know what this means for us… for my family." She was smiling still, but he saw a bright film of tears in her eyes. "We won't have to move and I won't have to find work and the Munros can stay and… oh no! Oh, look what I've done!" Will followed her horrified gaze to the front of his jacket and saw that it was covered in flour. "I'm so sorry! Let me get a cloth!" She disappeared into the shop, leaving him standing next to her companion.
    "Excitable old thing, isn't she?" he said, looking after her and laughing. He extended his hand. "I'm Nicholas Soames, a friend of Fiona's. I'm very pleased to meet you." '
    Only a friend? Will brightened and shook his hand. "The pleasure’s mine, sir."
    Fiona came out and fussed with his jacket, rubbing at the flour and generally making things worse, until he assured her it was fine and would surely come out with a good shake. Privately, he was glad that Charlie Delmonico kept spare jackets and trousers closeted away for his best customers in case of spills or splashes. As she gave up, stuffing the cloth into her pocket, Nick turned out the gas lamps, locked the shop's door, and handed her the key.
    "I'm going to go upstairs and see if Mary needs help with the supper, Fee. What should I do with this?" He held out the Tiffany box Will had sent her earlier in the day.
    "Let's have another look!" she said eagerly. Nick opened it. The box was stuffed with bills and coins. They looked at the money, then at each other, then burst into laughter like two children with a box of candy. Will couldn't recall ever having had so much fun making money. Maybe he ought to give up mining and lumber and subterranean railways and try shopkeeping.
    "Hide it somewhere,' Nick. Put it under my bed. That's next month’s mortgage payment. If Michael finds it, he'll drink every saloon in the city dry." She looked at Will. "My uncle has a bit of a problem with whiskey. I’m sure Mr. Ellis told you."
    Will nodded. Ellis had, using some very choice words. He was a bit taken aback by Fiona's directness. No one talked openly about such things in his circle. They went on all right-drinking and gambling and worse. But the rule was what you didn't talk about didn't exist.
    "Nice to have met you, Mr. McClane," Nick said, heading inside.
    "And you, Mr. Soames."
    "Can you join us for supper, Mr. McClane? Or is it dinner? I get mixed up, I'd love to have you. We all would. It's meant to be a bit of a celebration. At least it is now! This morning I was so worried, I thought no one would come. Do join us! Nick brought champagne."
    "It's Will, I insist. And I'd love to join you, but I'm due at a business supper shortly."
    Fiona nodded. She looked at the ground, then up at him again, her lovely smile gone. "Probably a nice quiet supper, I imagine. You'll have to forgive me. I don't usually rattle on so. I'm too wound up. I don't know how I'll ever get to sleep tonight."
    Will realized she thought he was declining her offer because she'd put him off with her boisterous behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. "Miss Finnegan, you didn't… please don't think… I like that you're excited about your shop. I'm the same way. Give me half a chance and I’ll talk ears off about my subway. Look, I still have a little while before I need to be uptown. I find a walk often helps greatly when I'm wound up. Shall we take a short stroll?"
    "I'd love to! Mary won't have the supper ready for a while, not with Nick, up there meddling. But I’m not keeping you, am I?”
    He flapped a hand at her. "Not at all. I have plenty of time," he said. He didn't. He was good and goddamned late. And he didn't care.
    She smiled again-a broad, generous smile that was genuine and unselfconscious and utterly disarming. He had put the smile there and the realization of it made him happy. She took off her apron and laid it on a step inside the doorway to her flat. "I'm ready," she said. "Let's go."
    "Hold on," he said, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket. He gently rubbed at her cheek with it. "Cinnamon. A long streak of it. Looks like you're leading a war party." She laughed. Her skin was as silken as a rose petal. He kept rubbing even though the cinnamon was gone, then stopped before she thought he was only trying to touch her. Which he was.
    They set off and she told him if she was to call him Will, then he must call her Fiona. He agreed, suppressing a smile at her appearance. Strands of hair had sprung loose from her twist and her clothes were grubby and rumpled. But her face was flushed with color and her magnificent cobalt eves were sparkling, Will thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
    As they headed east on Eighteenth Street, he asked her about the shop, what her customers had bought, and where she'd gotten her good ideas. Her answers were smart and insightful. And then she started asking him questions. Peppering him, really. On how wealthy New Yorkers had made their fortunes. What did they make? What did they sell?
    "Well, Carnegie made his fortune in steel," he began. "And Rockefeller in oil. Morgan in railroads and finance and… why do you want to know all this anyway, Fiona?"
    "Because I want to be rich. I want to be a millionaire, Will."
    "Do you?" he asked, smiling at yet another taboo broken. Another social rule blithely tossed over her shoulder and smashed like an old milk bottle. She obviously didn't know that women weren't supposed to talk about money. At least the women of his class. He had a feeling she wouldn't have given a damn if she did know.
    "Yes, I do. How do you go about it? How did you do it?"
    Smash went another milk bottle. Never inquire too closely about a friend’s finances, he'd been taught. But he found her directness refreshing and her appeals for advice flattering and he had no hesitation in answering her. "With a small family fortune to prime the pump, timber lands I'd inherited in Colorado, and the foresight to buy more land there with plenty of silver in it."
    Her brow wrinkled as she frowned. "I haven't got any of those thing~," she said. "But I was thinking-if the shop does well, I could take out another loan and open a second. Maybe ten or fifteen streets north of the current one… "
    "In Hell's Kitchen? I think not."
    "Well, south then," she ventured. "Or a few blocks east. Maybe in Union Square. I've been there, it's very busy. And then I could open another and before long I'd have my own chain… "
    Will gave her a long look. "Don't you think it might be wise to walk for bit before you run? You've been open one day. And a very good day it was, but you still need to learn a few things before you open a second shop."
    "Like what?"
    
    "Like the nature of your clientele. Open a shop like yours in Hell'" Kitchen and your window will go in in ten seconds flat. They'll rob you blind. It's a rough neighborhood. And yes, you're right- Union Square is very busy, but it caters to a well-heeled crowd looking for luxury goods, not groceries. Take some advice my father gave me when I was starting out, Fiona: Use what you know to grow. Right now, you don't know enough about the city's neighborhoods to make major investments in any of them. Don't get ahead of yourself. Start small."
    "How? With what?"
    Will thought for a few seconds. "You said that all your cakes and biscuits sold out, right?"
    Fiona nodded.
    "'You know sweet pastries sell, so now try savories. Meat pies… chicken pies those sorts of things. It's a risk-you may not sell them- but it's a calculated one. Odds are you will. Try a selection of good candy. If people are buying biscuits, chances are they'll buy chocolate. What else? The Asparagus sold out, right? I had the most delicious braised lettuces at Rector’s the other night. They were new, not full-grown. Maybe people who like fresh vegetables would buy those, too. Maybe not, but you should investigate every possibility. Anticipate every need. Be the first to give your customers what they want, even if they don't yet know they want it."
    A window opened above their heads. A woman leaned her thick forearms on the sill and in a heavy Irish brogue shouted, "Sean! Jimmy! Where the divil are yehs, yeh bollocks? Yer pork chops are gettin' cold. Get in here "Ow or I'll whale yeh both!"
    "Pork chops, Will," Fiona said wryly, gesturing up at the window. "That's what my customers want. I'm not going to get rich selling those."
    Will laughed. "Maybe not. At least, not right away. But you'll learn. You'll find out what sells and what doesn't and why. And you’ll build on that knowledge. You'll get smart, Fiona. And that's the first step to getting rich."
    “Is it?"
    "Yes. I never would've known to buy my silver mines if I hadn't been in Colorado already because of my lumber interests there. I wouldn't be trying to sell the city on my subway plan if I didn't have a thorough knowledge of underground engineering from my mines. Trust me on this. Use what you know to grow."
    They continued to walk and talk, heedless of time passing, and not once was there an awkward silence, a second when one of them couldn't think of anything to say. Will was utterly enchanted by Fiona; he'd never met anyone like her-a woman so passionate, so direct and honest, so completely without guile. She fascinated and intrigued him and he wanted to know more about her. He asked about her family, and when she told him what had happened to them he stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk on Eighteenth between Fifth and Broadway, unable to believe what she had endured. It explained everything about her, answered all his questions. Why she was here. Why she was struggling to make the shop successful, why she was determined to make herself wealthy. He admired her courage, her fortitude, but his heart ached for her, too. Without thinking, he took her hands in his and told her to come to him if she ever needed anything - help, advice, anything at all. He hadn't meant to do it; it was a forward gesture, but the impulse overtook him. She simply squeezed his hands back, thanked him, and said she would.
    When they reached Union Square, Fiona exclaimed at how far they'd walked and said she would have to get back. Supper was bound to be ready. Before they did, however, she spotted a flower seller-a thin, grubby girl of no more than twelve - hawking her wares. The girl had crimson roses. Fiona looked at them longingly, then suddenly said she would have some even though they were dear. As a treat for a good opening day. He tried to buy them for her, but she wouldn't allow it. He noticed that she gave the little girl more than the price of the flowers. She loved red roses, she told him, and gave him one for his buttonhole.
    When they finally arrived back at the shop, a little redheaded boy. Her brother, he learned-was hanging of out the window. He bellowed at her to hurry up. Everyone was starving, he said. Will kissed her hand, held it for longer than he should have, then finally told her good-bye. He looked back once as his carriage pulled away and saw her standing on the sidewalk holding her roses, looking after him. And never in his life was he sorrier at the imminent prospect of a bottle of Chateau Lafite and a seven-course meal.
    
Chapter 29
    
    Stan Christie and Reg Smith were only yards from Roddy O’Meara’s back. He couldn't see them, but he heard their footsteps, heard one slap a cosh against his palm.
    "Go ahead, Bowler, give the word," Roddy said, sitting himself down at Sheehan's table. "Just be bloody certain they can get to me before I get to you."
    Sheehan leaned back in his chair. He worked a bit of food from his teeth, with his tongue, then nodded curtly. Reg and Stan fell back to their places at the Taj Mahal's bar. Bowler pushed his plate, with most of a thick juicy steak still left on it, toward Roddy. " 'Ere. I was going to give it to my bitch, Vicky… " -he nodded at the ugly, fearsome terrier lying at his feet-' "… but on your wages, you probably need it more."
    "Didn't know you were married, Bowler," Roddy said, picking up the half-eaten steak and tossing it to the dog. "Your wife's quite a looker." The animal swallowed the chunk of meat whole, then let out a loud, rumbling fart. Roddy heard snickering from behind him.
    "Shut it!" Bowler barked. He glared at Roddy. "What do you want?" "Your man at the bar had a tussle with a lad by the name of Joe Bristow the other night."
    "You're joking, right? Don't tell me you're 'ere over two lads scrapping."
    "I'm here over a lass. Fiona Finnegan. Bristow says your gorilla wanted to know her whereabouts. I want to know why."
    "I don't know what you're talking about, Constable," Bowler said, in a highly aggrieved tone. "And what's more, I think you've quite a nerve barging in 'ere, ruining a man's dinner, accusing 'im of crimes 'e didn't commit…”
    Roddy sighed, then steeled himself to listen as Bowler ranted on, feigning ignorance innocence, outrage-the usual. When he finally ran out of steam, Roddy said, "If that's the way you want it, Bowler, fine. You know I've always believed in live and let live. A criminal like you wants to take money off another criminal like Denny Quinn, that's all right by me. As long as you're not bothering good working people, I couldn't give a tinker's piss. But I'm warning you, that'll change. Tell me what I want to know or I’ll make t'ings hard for you. You leave your house in the morning, I'll be there. You go to a pub, a whorehouse, a dog fight, cock fight, rat fight-I'll be right behind you, stuck to your arse like a shitty nappy. You even try to-
    "All right! All right!" Bowler said. "Christ, I'm sorry the Ripper murders ever stopped. I liked it better when Jack 'ad you lot running about with your skirts over your 'eads playing blindman's buff. Kept you out of me air.
    "What about Fiona?" Roddy demanded.
    Bowler took a swallow of beer, then said, "Your Miss Finnegan stole five ‘undred quid from an associate of mine. 'E wants it back. 'E doesn't want no trouble. 'E just wants me to find' er and get it back."
    "And who might this associate be, Bowler?"
    "That I can't tell you. Suffice it to say 'e's a toff and' e don't want 'is business known."
    Roddy nodded. "Fine," he said, standing up, "we'll do it the hard way.
    When you're tired of lying to me, you let me know."
    "Aw, for God's sake, O'Meara, I can't bloody win with you! You want I he truth, I tell you the truth. And then you don't believe me!"
    "Bowler, you wouldn't know the truth if it bent you over and fucked you up the arse. I've known that girl me whole life. Helped raise her, I did. And I know she's as likely to steal five hundred pounds as you are to be knighted for good works. I'll be seeing you.".
    Roddy left Bowler muttering about the fact that England was still a free country the last time he checked. No one could push him around. He had rights, by Christ.,,'
    When Roddy reached the door, he turned and said, “Wherever she is, Bowler, not'ing better happen to her. Something does, it's you I'm coming after."
    "That's bloody great! I don't know where the 'ell she is any more that you do! Anything else you want to 'old me responsible for? The Trafalgar Riots? The 'Undred Years' War?"
    Outside the Taj, Roddy took his cap off and ran a hand through his hair. He was frustrated and worried. Always worried. He was no wiser now as to Fiona's whereabouts than before his interview with Sheehan. He'd fix that bleeder, though, for telling him tales and wasting his time. He'd gone to see him on his own time today, but the next time he paid him a call, it would be on the force's time. He shivered, chilled by a cold wind blowing in off the river.
    He hoped Fiona was warm enough, wherever she was. Seamie, too. The nipper's mittens were worn out. He'd bought him a new pair the night they had left. He wondered if he'd ever get the chance to give them to him. He pulled his collar up around his neck, jammed his hands in his pockets, and started for home.
    
Chapter 30
    
    Fiona lowered her head and wept.
    
    She was standing at the entrance to the cemetery where her mother, father, brother, and sister lay. The gate was padlocked. She'd tried to get in, rattling the bars until their hinges squealed and her palms were raw, but to no avail. She wanted to sit with her family. She wanted to tell them her troubles and know they were listening even if they couldn't reply. She lifted the padlock and crashed it down against the lock's faceplate, over and over fighting back tears.
    A voice called her name, a voice with a soft Irish lilt. "Fiona, lass… " She dropped the padlock; it clattered against the gate. Her father was standing on the other side, only inches away. He had his jacket and cap on, and his grappling hook slung over his shoulder, just as if he were coming home from the docks. "Da!" she cried, unable to believe her eyes. "Oh Da… " She thrust her hand through the bars. He caught it in his own and held it to his cheek.
    "Da, where have you been? I missed you so." She was crying now.
    "You'll come out of there now, won't you? You'll come home and bring Mam and Charlie and the baby… "
    He shook his head. "I can't, luv. You know I can't."
    "But why? I need you, Da." She tugged on his hand. "Please… "
    "Take this, Fiona," he said, and she felt him put something into her hand"You have to use what you know."
    She looked down at what he'd given her. It was a tiny plant. No more than four inches high. A slender, fragile stalk with a few glossy green leaves on it. She raised her eyes to his, confused. "What is this?" she asked him.
    "What you know."
    "What I know? Da, that doesn't make any sense… I've never seen a plant like this… "
    He released her hand and took a step backward.
    "Where are you going? Da, wait!" She cradled the little plant to her chest with one hand, the other clutched at her father. "No, don't go. Please, don't I'" Come back… "
    "Care for it and it'll grow, lass. So big, you can't imagine." He waved at her, a bittersweet smile on his face, then walked away, fading into the gloom of the cemetery.
    "No!" she sobbed, "Come back! Please, please, come back!" She shook the gate with all her might, but it held fast. She crumpled against it and gave way to her grief.
    As she wept, she heard the sound of horses galloping. She looked up and saw a carriage approaching. It was sleek and black, polished to a glossy sheen. Flames flickered crazily in the lanterns on its sides. Two stallions, each the color of night, pulled it, Blue sparks flew from their hooves as they crashed over the cobbles. It looked as the devil's carriage might look if he decided to go for a midnight ride. What she saw next convinced her that it was.
    Frances Sawyer, or what was left of her, held the reins. Her face was gone; Jack had cut it away. Her skull gleamed whitely in the gaslight, the scraped bone slick with blood. Her tattered dress hung about her mutilated body in blood-soaked shreds. Fiona could see her ribs fold and creased accordion-like, and the flayed bones of her arms work as she brought the horses up sharply. She turned her head, the edges of her severed throat sliding wetly over each other, and stared from empty black eye sockets. “’E’s ‘ere.” she said, her voice thick and gurgling.
    Flattened against the gate, unable to move or scream, Fiona forced her eyes from the coach's driver to its occupant. The window was open, but she could only see his silhouette-top-hatted, hands crossed on his walking stick. Still… she knew who it was. Jack. The dark man. His fingers curled around the sill. The door was flung open and tea leaves poured forth in a torrent. He stepped out, touched the brim of his hat in a mock salute, and grinned, revealing pointed white teeth clotted with blood. It wasn't Jack. It was William Burton. And he was holding a knife.
    He lunged at her, his right arm raised. The blade made a loud, sucking thuk as it sank hilt-deep into her chest. She screamed at the pain. He pulled the knife out, licked the wet crimson dripping from it, and said, "An Assam. Has to be. Too strong for a Darjeeling. Too rich for a Dooars." He raised the knife again, but her paralysis had broken. She flailed at him madly.
    "Stop that, Fiona!" he cried, fending off her hands. "Jaysus!" 'I’ll kill you!" she shrieked, tearing at his face.
    "Ow! You little… that hurt!" He took her by the wrists and shook her."Wake up, you daft lass! It's me, Michael! Not the bloody bogeyman!"
    Fiona woke with a start. She opened her eyes. An angry, sleep-swollen face was staring back at her. Her uncle's. Not Burton's. She looked around, her heart still hammering. She was sitting in a chair in Michael's parlor. The shop's ledger and a copy of the London Times were at her feet. She was in New York, not London. She was safe, she was, she told herself. But she had to look down at her chest to make sure there was no knife sticking out of her before she believed it.
    "Uncle Michael… I'm sorry… I was dreaming… " she stammered. He released her. "What the hell's the matter with you?" he muttered "Screeching and carrying on… scared the bejaysus out of me. Thought someone was killing you."
    "So did I."
    "What are you doing out here anyway? Why aren't you in bed?"
    "I was going over the books. For the shop. I guess I fell asleep."
    He nodded. "Well… as long as you're all right now," he said gruffly.
    "I am," she said, but then a violent fit of trembling overtook her. He saw it and told her to stay put. Still grumbling, he padded off to the kitchen. Fiona heard water running. Blimey, what a nightmare, she thought. The worst one yet. She covered her face and moaned softly at the memory of' Jack. Of Burton. They had melded in the nightmare, become one and the same man, a hellish amalgamation of her greatest fears. A bogeyman, all right. The King of the Bogeymen.
    She leaned forward in her chair to collect her papers, determined to throw the dream off. As she reached for the Timed, lying open on the floor, her eyes came to rest on the article she'd been reading. "Lucrative Public Offering Engineered for Tea Merchant," the headline said, and under it, "Burton Tea Embraces Ambitious Plans for Expansion."
    That's what's done it, she realized. She'd bought a copy of the paper earlier in the day, as she often did, hoping for some news of the docker's union, and instead she'd seen the Burton article. Although she didn't completely understand what the stock market was, or how it worked, she remembered her father talking about the offering, citing it as one of the reasons Burton would never willingly consent to a raise for his workers. She knew that the offering represented a huge triumph for him, and indeed the article detailed how interest in the shares had surpassed his expectations. It went on to say that Burton planned to use the monies raised to modernize his London operation and purchase his own tea garden in India-moves that would allow him to land and package tea more efficiently. "It is my aim, over the next two years to both reduce the cost of my tea to the public and provide a handsome return on my shareholders' investments," he was quoted as saying. Although, as the reporter noted, he would now have to answer to shareholders, control of the company remained with him, as he had retained fifty one percent of the one and a half million shares issued.
    Knowing that William Burton prospered when her father, her entire family save for Seamie, lay in the cold ground, cut Fiona as deeply and painfully as the knife in her nightmare had. Before reading the article, she'd gone over the shop's ledger and had been pleased to find that its earnings were higher than she'd thought, high enough to allow her to begin to pay herself back the money she'd used to cover her uncle's debt. That knowledge had given her a wonderful sense of security. But now, in the aftermath of the nightmare, the shop's earnings seemed paltry. Laughable, even. They were nothing compared to Burton's wealth.
    As the Britannia had left the shores of England, she had vowed revenge on Burton. Fine words, she thought. And words were all they were. It was now the first week of May; she had been in New York for over a month and still had no idea how she would carry out that revenge. Or finance it. She knew she would need a lot of money to strike at someone as powerful as Burton. But as yet she had no idea of how to make that money. Will had told her she should build on what she knew. The trouble was, nothing she knew would make her rich. Oats and biscuits and apples were not silver or oil. She needed to find something, something that would make her fortune… But what?
    Michael came into the parlor carrying a cup of tea. "Here, drink this," he said. His gesture surprised Fiona. She wasn't used to displays of concern from him, but she accepted it gratefully. He sat with her for a few more minutes, yawning and rubbing his face. Looking at him, she was again amazed by his resemblance to her father. An image, blurry and fleeting, flashed into her mind-her father as he'd looked in her nightmare. He was trying to give her something, trying to tell her something, but she couldn't remember what. And then Michael said he was going to bed and that he hoped that the bogeyman had made his one and only appearance for the night, and as quickly as the image had come, it was gone again. He advised her to get some rest, too.
    "I don't think I could sleep if I tried, Uncle Michael," she said, standing. She knew if she did go to bed, she'd only lie awake reliving her nightmare. Work was the only antidote to her fears, the only thing in which she could lose herself. She reached for the apron she'd thrown over the back of the chair earlier and tied it around her waist.
    “It's midnight," Michael said. "Where the divil are you going?"
    “Downstairs. To get a jump on the day."
    "Wait till sunup at least. You shouldn't be down there alone."
    Fiona gave him a tired smile. Alone? With all those ghosts and memories? "I won't be, Uncle Michael," she said. "I've got the bogeyman for company. And all his friends, too."
    
    OFTEN, on nights when he couldn't sleep, Nicholas Soames liked to walk Manhattan's streets. There was a calm, peaceful feeling to be had after dark. A sense of the monster at rest. The city seemed to belong to him and him alone at such times. The sidewalks were empty. Shops were shuttered. Only the pubs and restaurants were lit up. He could actually stop and look at things, If he liked. There were few people about to jostle him, and no one to mutter if he paused to investigate an interesting building or peer inside a pretty courtyard.
    He had walked quite a distance tonight. All the way from his hotel on Fifth and Twenty-third, down past Washington Square to Bleecker Street, It was late, just after midnight and, finally tired, he decided he would find his way to Broadway and see if he could scare up a cab.
    He wa: about to cross Bleecker when he saw them. Two men. They were walking side by side. Not holding hands, not touching, but he knew all the same. From the way one inclined his head toward the other. From their easy laughter. He knew..
    He watched. as one of them opened the door to a saloon and they both, disappeared inside. He stood there as motionless as a lamppost. Two more entered the saloon. And then one on his own. And then a foursome. When he got up enough nerve to cross the street, he saw a small sign next to till' door. THE SLIDE, it said. A hand passed in front of him. Fingers curled around the door handle. "Coming in?" said the hand's owner, a man will, curly blond hair.
    "Me? No… I… no, thank you. No."
    "Suit yourself," he said.
    In the second before the door closed, he heard laughter, smelled cigarettes and wine. He bit his lip. He wanted to go in. He wanted to be with his own kind for an evening. To share a bottle of claret with a handsome man. To let the mask drop. Just for a bit.
    He grasped the handle, then let it go. It was too dangerous. He wasn't free to be what he was. Hadn't he learned that by now? With all the grief and pain he'd brought upon himself~ his family, Henri? He walked away from the door, retreated to the shadows of a large sheltering elm.
    Go back, he told himself. Turn around. Now. This was too risky. What if someone saw him? Someone he knew? He cast one last glance at The Slide and saw a man walking toward it. He was tall and beautiful with long dark hair that fell to his shoulders in thick waves. From a distance he looked like Henri. The man paused, squinted into the shadows at Nick, then shook his head and laughed. "Are you going to hide under that tree all night, Chicken Little?" he asked. He was still laughing as the door closed behind him.
    Nick stared at the door. He raked a hand through his hair. All he wanted '" the world right now was behind it. Companionship. Laughter. Warmth. Understanding. His longing was overwhelming. I'll only go for a short while, he told himself. Just an hour. I'll just have a drink or two. Maybe chat for a while. It's harmless, really. Just one drink and then I'll leave. Just this once.
    
Chapter 31
    
    “How about some more pie, Seamie luv?" Mary asked, getting up from the table.
    Seamie nodded eagerly and held his plate out. "The bottomless pit," Fiona observed.
    "Oh, rubbish. He's got a good healthy appetite. Like a growing lad should."
    "I'll have some more, too, Mum," Ian said, standing up to help his mother.
    "Me, too," Fiona said.
    "Fiona, that's your third piece!" Mary said, laughing. "Who's the bottomless pit?"
    Fiona, giggling sheepishly, handed her plate to Ian. Mary's cooking was delicious. Her pie crust was golden and flaky, the steak pieces tender in their rich gravy. Her mashed potatoes were fluffy and her peas cooked perfectly.
    Mary piled the plates high again. She'd made a lot of food and Fiona was glad of it. She was starving. It had been another busy Saturday and she'd been on her feet all day. They ate in Michael's kitchen instead of Mary's, as it was roomier and had a big table they could all fit around. When it came to cooking, Fiona had little ability and even less interest, but it was important to her that Seamie had good hot meals. She and Mary had made a deal weeks ago: she would supply the food for the evening meal and Mary would cook it. It was an arrangement that suited them both. Fiona enjoyed supper with the Munros. She'd come to think of them as her family. She and Seamie were a part of their lives, and they of hers, in a way that her uncle -who still spent most of his time at Whelan's-was not.
    "Everybody have what they need now?" Mary asked, setting plates on the table before she sat down again.
    "Yes, plenty," Fiona said.
    "I'll have them window boxes replanted for you by Wednesday, lassie," Alec said.
    "Will you really?" she asked, delighted. "All of them?"
    "Aye, the new plants are ready. I just have to take out the old ones in. I built up the soil a bit before I put them in. They'll be bonny."
    Fiona had never known anyone like Alec. He lived to garden. He needed to put his hands in the earth, to touch and cultivate green things as other people needed air. He loved his plants like children, fussing and laboring, over them always, worrying if the leaves on one of his beloved rosebushes showed a spot of rust or mildew. Seamie adored him. They spent hours out in the backyard-the elderly man in his cap and tweed jacket, the little boy in short pants and a sweater-clearing weeds, turning manure into the flower beds, staking the rose canes, coddling the peonies.
    Once, as she was bustling past the shop's rear door, which opened out onto the backyard, Fiona had glimpsed Seamie, his sweet freckled face luminous with wonder, observing a large iridescent butterfly that had perched on the back of his hand. The butterfly had suddenly flown off, leaving him to look longingly after it, stung by its defection. Fiona had wanted to run out and hug him and tell him to never mind, the butterfly would come back, but before she could, Alec went to him. He put a hand on Seamie's shoulder and watched the beautiful creature flyaway, explaining all the while how butterflies lived and migrated, how they helped pollinate flowers, how this one had taken pollen from their strong healthy lilac tree and would bring it to other lilacs to help them grow. Seamie had accepted his words without tears or anger, without asking if the butterfly would die. As they resumed their digging, Fiona had silently thanked Alec, a gardener who, it seemed, could cultivate all sorts of seedlings.
    As Seamie was telling Fiona the names of the plants that he and Alec had potted today, she heard the flat door open and close, followed by the sound of heavy shuffling footsteps in the hallway. It was Michael. Fiona felt a flash of anger, certain he was going to ask her for money. He didn't usually come home from Whelan's this early. He must be skint again.
    Mary flashed Fiona a look. "Do you think he'd join us?" she whispered.
    Fiona snorted. "Not unless you're serving whiskey as well as steak pie," she said. She had all but given up hope that her uncle would ever stop drinking.
    "How long has it been since he had a good meal? He should eat some proper food."
    "I know it, Mary. I try. I always leave him a plate of leftovers. Sometimes he eats them, sometimes he doesn't."
    "You should ask him to come in."
    "He won't listen to me. He never does. You try."
    "All right, I will. I'll ask him."
    "In this century or the next?" Alec grumbled.
    "Keep talking, normal-like," Mary said. "He won't come if he thinks were talking about him."
    "Which we are," Alec said.
    Fiona started talking again as if nothing unusual were going on. "I think those flowers will really freshen the windows," she babbled. The heavy footsteps came closer. Michael hurried by the kitchen and passed into the parlor. "Can you imagine how pretty they'll look with the lace curtains hanging above them? I hope you've got a lot of pink in the mix, Alec, and some nice sunny yellow ones and-"
    "Michael?" Mary called lightly. "Is that you?"
    After a few seconds of silence a gruff "Aye" was heard.
    "Are you hungry? I've made a steak-and-onion pie. There's plenty here." Fiona nodded her approval. Mary was doing well. She was coaxing a wary, wounded animal, one that was more likely to turn tail and run than lick the hand outstretched.
    Silence again. Then, "Steak and onion?" "Yes; come have a bit."
    Fiona's eyes widened in disbelief as she heard her uncle walk toward the kitchen. He appeared in the doorway, his cap in hand, and she struggled to keep her expression neutral. She felt both sorrow and anger when she looked at him. He was as skinny as a stray dog, at least thirty pounds thinner than in the picture Molly had sent them, yet his face looked as bloated as a drowned man's. His hair was long and scraggly. His clothes were dirty. He was unshaven and smelled like a pub.
    "Hello, Michael," Mary said, smiling. "Fancy a cup of tea with your pie?"
    "Aye," he said quietly. "I would."
    "Well, sit down. Here, between myself and Fiona. lan, shove over a bit."
    "That's all right," he said. "I'll eat in the other room."
    "Don't be silly. You can't balance a plate and a cup of tea on your knees. Sit down."
    Michael sat, not looking at any of them. Mary put a plate of food in front of him, along with a knife, fork, and napkin. Fiona poured him a cup tea. "Thank you," he said. He picked up his teacup with shaking hands and drank from it. "That's a good cup of tea," he added.
    "It's the new one I bought from Millard's," Fiona said. "It's from India." Michael nodded. He looked at Fiona, lifted his chin slightly, and said, "I drink tea with me supper, not whiskey. Regardless of what some might think."
    You've got a damn good pair of ears on you, Fiona thought. "Good for, you," she said. "Whiskey ruins the taste of food and Mary's pie is so delicious. I've never had better."
    "Oh, go on with you," Mary laughed, feigning modesty.
    "It's true, Mum," Ian said. "Are there any more potatoes?"
    "Here you are."
    "Pass me the gravy, too?"
    They were all playing a game. Acting nonchalant. Trying to pay Michael no mind. Ian put the gravy boat down and asked for the peas. Alec asked for another cup of tea. Seamie burped and Fiona told him to excuse himself'. It was as if they were all following some prearranged cue, acting as if nothing were out of the ordinary, as if they all-Michael included-had been eating dinner together every night for the past twenty years. There would be no recrimination, no pleading, no censure. Both Mary and Fiona had tried those and failed. Just acceptance. A good meal. Company and conversation. Head down, painfully self-conscious, Michael looked as if that was more than he could hope for.
    Hoping to draw him into the conversation, Fiona asked him a question, "I was thinking it would be a good idea to put window guards in, Uncle Michael. Do you know where to go for them? I think we should have them in both flats."
    "Window guards? What for?"
    "For Nell. She'll be walking before long and you can't be too careful." As if hearing her cue, Nell piped up from her basket tucked beneath the kitchen window. Michael stiffened and put his fork down.
    Oh, Lord, he's going to bolt, Fiona thought. She got up quickly, hoping to prevent it. "There's our girl!" she said brightly, picking up her cousin. "Must've just woken up. How she can sleep through the commotion around here, I do not know." She sat down again with the baby on her lap. "Can she have some potato?" she asked Mary.
    "Yes. And a little bread with gravy. Just make sure she doesn't get any onion. She's not fond of it."
    Alec asked if Mary had saved the potato peelings for his compost pile. Ian and Seamie made faces at each other. Fiona spooned potato into Nell. And Michael sat as still as death, his meal forgotten, his eyes rooted on his child. “Can I hold her?" he suddenly asked, his voice barely a whisper.
    Fiona passed the baby to him. He pushed his chair back and took his daughter. Fiona saw the emotion on his face and knew he was thinking of Molly, Don't run away, she pleaded silently. Stay with her.
    "Eleanor Grace," he said, his voice quavering. "What a pretty lass you are." Nell sat cradled in her father's gaunt arms, her enormous blueberry eyes intent upon his face. Her forehead puckered. "Bah, bah, dah!" she suddenly declared.
    Michael looked up, incredulous. "She said Da!" he exclaimed. "She said Da!' She knows me!"
    "Yes, she did. She does know you," Fiona said, knowing full well Nell said bah or dah to everything.
    "Dah! Dah!" the baby crowed, bouncing in his lap.
    Good girl, Nell, keep it up, Fiona silently urged her. She glanced at Mary, who was nearly beside herself. With a trembling hand, Michael touched his daughter's cheek. Nell latched on to his thumb and gummed it.
    "Looks so like her mother," he said. "So like Molly." And then he put his hand over his face and started to weep. Great tears rolled down his cheeks and dropped onto Nell's dress. Sobs wrenched themselves out of his chest. His grief came out of him fast and hard, like summer rains in a desert, flooding the defenses he'd erected to keep it back. His anger and bitterness crumbled; he had only his sorrow now and it overwhelmed him.
    "Lord God, what a lot of fuss over a bairn," Alec muttered.
    Mary shot her father-in-law a look. "That's right, Michael lad," she soothed, "you have a good cry. It's high time you did. There's no shame in crying over a woman like Molly. You just let it out. It'll do you a world of good."
    "I wish she was here, Mary," he said, his voice hitching. "I wish she could see Nell."
    Mary nodded. She took his hand and squeezed it. "She is, Michael. She can."
    
Chapter 32
    
    “You checked the back door?" Ed Akers asked as Joe shuttered and padlocked his pitch.
    “Aye."
    "And the peaches? They're up 'igh where the mice can't get at them?"
    "Aye. Cherries, too. I've seen to it all, Ed."
    "Good lad," Ed said, patting Joe on the back. " 'Ere, 'ere's something extra for you." Joe thanked him. "Don't mention it. Stall's doing better than ever since you started. Could sell sand on a beach, you. Well, I guess that’s it, then. Avoided the missus and 'er pack of demons all day, but I'll 'ave to go 'ome sometime, won't I?"
    Joe smiled. "There's no 'elp for it," he said. Ed was in his forties and had twelve children. He loved to complain about his wife and kids - Mrs Akers and all her pains, he called them. He loved to go on about the racket they made, the hell they raised, what a plague they were, how they took all his money, but every night when he went home, he always had a parcel tucked under his arm filled with cherries, strawberries, or broken biscuits he'd got cheap from the baker's stall. It was an act, his complaining, but Joe pretended to go along with it for form's sake.
    "Aye, no 'eIp at all," Ed repeated, nodding. Joe waited for him to go, but Ed was stalling. He rattled the padlock, looked up at the night sky, predicted a clear and mild June Sunday, then awkwardly said, "Listen, it's none of' my business, but why don't you take some of the brass I gave you and go down the pub? Enjoy yourself a bit? You shouldn't be alone so much, a young lad like yourself."
    "Maybe some other time. I'm knackered tonight," Joe said. "I'm going to feed Baxter, give 'im a good brushing, and turn in early."
    Ed sighed. "Suit yourself, then."
    "I will. Night, Ed. See you Monday."
    "Night, lad."
    Joe walked west. Three streets away was a row of stables that some of the stall owners used to house their horses and carts. One of these belonged to Ed, who allowed Joe to sleep in the hayloft. Ed liked that he was there to keep an eye on things and Joe liked that he didn't have to pay to sleep with, strangers in a verminous lodging house.
    Ever since he'd left his and Millie's home, six weeks ago, he'd been living rough, barely eating, doing odd jobs around Covent Garden as he could find them. One day, hungry and weak, he'd stumbled and fallen outside a pub. A friendly pair of hands had helped him up. To his surprise and his shame, it was Matt Byrne, a lad from Montague Street who worked in Covent Garden now. Matt recognized him and asked what had happened to him. Over the pub meal Matt insisted on buying for him,.Joe told him his marriage was over and he was on his own. He was having difficulty finding a proper job, he said, because Tommy Peterson had put the word out not to hire him. Bristling, Matt told him to go see his friend Ed Akers who was looking for help. Ed was his own man, he said. Peterson,doesn’t own everyone in Covent Garden. Not yet he didn't.
    It wasn't much, his new job-just selling and delivering produce to costers and small shops-and it was quite a comedown from his former position at Peterson's, but it was better than starving and he was grateful for it. He’d bought two blankets from a secondhand stall and made a bed for himself in the hayloft. He got his meals from tuckshops and bathed once a week at the public baths. It was a grim arrangement, but it suited him. It gave him the means to keep himself and it allowed him to be alone at night, and solitude was something he craved now.
    A group of loud, boisterous factory girls in their Saturday-night finery passed him. One smiled at him. He looked away. Behind them, a young couple strolled, holding hands. He hurried his pace. Joe hadn't been honest with Ed. He wasn't tired. He just couldn't stand to be around people anymore. It hurt him to see a happy courting couple, to hear the laughter of factory girls. He had been like them once-merry, optimistic, eager for whatever the day brought. Now, everyone he touched, he hurt. Everything he touched turned to shit.
    He ducked into a tuckshop and bought a sausage roll. The place was only a hole in the wall, but it did have two grotty tables and the girl behind the counter, a pretty brunette with a sweet smile, invited him to sit and eat for once instead of always rushing out. He tersely declined and left, eager to get to the stable where he knew there wouldn't be a soul but himself-only Baxter and an old black tomcat who liked to curl up next to him as he slept.
    There was no moon out, only stars, and it took him a minute to fumble his key into the lock. Once inside, he felt for the lantern he knew to be hanging to the left of the door and the box of matches next to it. " 'Ello, Baxter!" he called. "Who's a lovely boy, then?"
    Baxter, a chestnut gelding, whinnied from his stall. Joe hung the lantern from a peg on a wooden post and walked over to scratch the horse's ears. Baxter mumbled at Joe's jacket pocket with his soft, whiskered lips.
    "No sausage rolls for you, old son. They say it's pork, but I 'ave me doubts.
    Could be one of yours in there and that would make you a cannibal. That's a capital offense, Bax. You'd be 'anged for certain and then where would we be? 'Ere, 'ave these instead." He pulled two carrots out of his trouser pocket and fed them to the horse. Then he led the animal out of his stall and let him stand where he liked. There was no need to tie him; Baxter was a gentleman.
    As the horse stood blinking his large black eyes, Joe brushed him, using firm, rhythmic strokes, moving from his neck over his back to his haunches. When his coat was gleaming, he teased the knots out of his mane with his fingers. Baxter would've been fine without the carrots or the brushing, but Joe told himself the horse needed the pampering to stay good-tempered and tractable. In fact, it was he who needed this nightly routine. He needed to care for a living creature, to nurture something as a way of filling up till' empty aching void within himself, as a way of taking his mind off all the pain he'd caused.
    With Baxter out of his stall, Joe cleaned out the soiled hay, put fresh hay down, then poured oats into the trough. The horse, smelling his supper, trotted back into his pen without complaint. Joe bade him good night, then tool, his lantern and made his way upstairs to the hayloft and his own bed.
    The loft was nothing but a plank floor under a pitched roof: but it was well-built, with loophole doors at the front that shut tightly, and it kept both wind and water off him. He took his jacket off and laid it neatly on top of the hay bale that served as his bureau. Then he pulled a flask from his back pocket, unscrewed the cap, and poured it contents-rich, creamy milk-into a chipped bowl at the top of the stairs. The tom kept late hours-Joe had never seen him come in-but he was always there in the morning, nestled in the crook of his knees. Joe made sure he always had milk for him and the cat repaid his kindness by keeping the mice down.
    After he'd eaten, he stripped down to his underwear, fluffed the hay under his horse blanket, then bedded down to read his newspaper. When he finished, he snuffed the lantern and pulled his other blanket over him. He lay quietly, knowing it would be ages before he slept. Distant sounds of laughter and singing carried up from a nearby pub. He felt so alone, so utterly isolated. The knowledge that a short walk could bring him to a bright, jovial taproom full of weekend merrymakers only served to reinforce his loneliness. He could no longer laugh or smile. He was too haunted by what he'd done. Broken by remorse.
    Once, when he was little, perhaps ten or so, two of his mates had had to go in early from a game of football on a Saturday evening to go to confession. He asked what that meant and they told him they had to tell the priest their sins and say they're sorry for them, and then they could go to heaven. Joe had wanted to go with them. He wanted to go to heaven, too, but they said he couldn't. Only Catholics could and he was a Methodist. He'd run into his house, upset. His Granny Wilton, who had minded him and his siblings while his parents worked the Saturday-night market, asked what was wrong.
    "I'm going to 'ell for my sins because I can't tell God I'm sorry," he said.
    "Who told you that?" she'd asked.
    "Terry Fallon and Mickey Grogan."
    "Don't pay them no mind," she said. "It's nothing but a lot of mumbo jumbo. Them Papists can mumble 'ail Marys till the cows come 'ome. Won't make one bit of difference. We're not punished for our sins, lad. We're punished by them."
    She'd made him feel better, mainly because she'd hugged him and given him a biscuit. He'd been too little to understand her words then, but he knew what they meant now. Once, when he had Fiona and they had all their,dreams and hopes, he'd known heaven right here on earth. Now he only knew despair. His gran was right. God didn't have to punish him; he'd created his own hell. By himself and for himself.
    Miserable, he turned onto his back and tucked his hands behind his head. From where he lay, he could see the dark, starry sky through the loft's window. One star twinkled more brightly than the others. He remembered looking at this star… it seemed like a million years ago now… and telling it that he loved his girl, Fiona. Telling it they'd be together soon. He wondered where in the big wide world she was. The private detective he'd hired had not found her and was no longer looking now that he no longer had the money to pay him. Roddy had had no luck, either-though he had warned Sheehan to stay away from her. Joe prayed that wherever she was, she was safe and out of harm's way. He wondered if she ever thought about him, if "he ever missed him. He mocked himself for even harboring such hopes. After what he'd done to her? He was certain she hated him, as Millie hated him and Tommy hated him. As he hated himself.
    He closed his eyes, sick with loneliness and grief~ longing for the black abyss of unconsciousness. Finally, after he'd tossed and turned for the better part of an hour, he fell into a fitful. shallow sleep, one full of demons and frights that made him flail and cry out. Shortly after one such cry, there came a soft padding of feet on the steps and an avid lapping at the milk bowl. After the tom finished drinking, he circled Joe. He paused once, baring his teeth at something in the darkness, then settled himself into the hay. The cat's presence did not disturb Joe. Instead, it gentled him. His breathing evened out and deepened. He surrendered to sleep. And all night long, the tom stayed up. Blinking its yellow eyes in the darkness. Awake. Abiding. Keeping watch.
    
Chapter 33
    
    “Oh, you should see it, Fee! It's absolutely perfect! The window runs the whole length of the front wall. The place is filled with light. And it's huge. Did I tell you that? I can easily get thirty canvases on the walls and another ten on easels in the middle of the room. I'm going to have the floor refinished, and then I'll have the walls repainted and then… "
    Nick was striding around the shop as he talked, too excited to stand ~I ill He'd just rented a shop front in Gramercy Park, which he was going to turn into a gallery, and the flat above it, where he was going to live. It was a pretty four-story building with another tenant above him and the landlady and her two sons on the top floor. He'd given the woman a security deposit and the first month's rent, then dashed over to Eighth Avenue to tell Fiona.
    She'd been polishing the counter as he burst into the shop and she’d been alarmed at the sight of him-he was thinner than ever and as pale as milk-but he wouldn't stop talking long enough for her to ask him if he was all right.
    "… and the ceiling is so high, Fiona! Fifteen feet! Oh, it's going to be the most wonderful gallery in New York!" He leaned over the counter and kissed her smack on the lips.
    "Mind yourself!" she scolded, laughing. "You'll get wax all over your jacket."
    "You'll come see it, won't you, Fee?"
    "Of course I will. As soon as you like. Nick, are you feeling -"
    He cut her off. "Can you come tonight?" He held up his hands like a traffic cop. "No, not tonight, not yet! Not till it's all fixed up and the paintings are here and" -he paused to cough, covering his mouth-"I've got them all hung and everything's pretty and" -he coughed again, even harder. Then he reached for his handkerchief and turned away until the harsh, racking spasm stopped. When he turned back to her, his eyes watery, she was no longer smiling.
    "You didn't go to the doctor's like you promised, did you?" she asked.
    "I did."
    She crossed her arms. "Really? What did he say it was, then?"
    "He said… uh… that it was… um… some kind of… chesty thing."
    "A chesty thing? Oh, that sounds like something a doctor would say, you lying little -"
    "I did go, Fiona! I swear it! Dr. Werner Eckhardt. On Park Avenue. He even gave me medicine. I've been taking it and I feel much better, I do."
    Fiona's tone softened. "But you don't look well," she fretted, her brow knit with worry. "You're too pale and thin and you've got shadows under your eyes. Are you eating properly, Nick?" She ran her finger around the inside of his shirt collar. "You're swimming in your clothes. And now you've got a cough. I'm worried about you."
    Nick groaned. "Oh, don't be such a badger, old mole. I'm fine, really I am. I'll admit I'm a bit tired, but it's only the gallery. I've been working dreadfully hard trying to locate a good place. I've been seeing ten, twelve shopfronts a day at least. And now I've found it! Did I tell you how beautiful the neighborhood is? And that there's a wisteria vine in front that hangs above the window? Did I tell you about the window? How huge it is?"
    "Three times at least. You're trying to change the subject."
    "Am I?"
    "Promise me you'll eat properly, Nick. Not just champagne and those terrible fish eggs."
    "All right, I promise. Now tell me what's new with you, Fee. I've been blathering away and haven't even asked how you've been."
    There wasn't much to tell. She'd had a busy week at the shop. Michael hadn't returned to Whelan's and she and Mary were starting to think that maybe he wouldn't. He'd been pulling his weight in the shop and was talking about fixing up Mary's kitchen. She'd taken Seamie shopping for new clothes because he'd shot up again and Nell had started teething.
    "Mmm-hmm," Nick said impatiently when she'd finished. "What else?"
    "What do you mean, what else?"
    He smiled knowingly. "Has William McClane come calling again?"
    Fiona colored. "Of course not."
    "I still can't believe it. Only in New York for a few months and already you've hooked yourself a millionaire."
    "Will you stop? We took a stroll together, that's all. I'm sure I'll never see him again."
    "He's beastly wealthy, you know. I remember my father mentioning him. I think they dined together once or twice. I saw how he looked at you. I'm sure he fancies you."
    "Don't be ridiculous! I'm half his age and I'm not wealthy like he is or from the right circles."
    "Fiona, you're a beautiful, captivating young woman. What man wouldn't be after you? Admit it… you fancy him, don't you? You can tell me."
    Fiona gave him a sidelong glance. "A little, maybe," she allowed. "He's a wonderful man. He's charming and kind. Incredibly smart. He knows everything. And he's a gentleman, but… "
    "But what? How can there possibly be a 'but' at the end of all that?" Fiona shrugged. “Fee?"
    She frowned, rubbed her polishing rag over an imaginary dull spot. "Ahh, I think I know. It's that chap from London you told me about, isn't it? Joe." She polished harder. "Still?"
    She put the rag down. "Still," she admitted. "It's daft, I know. I try to forget him, but I can't." She raised her eyes to Nick's. "I once heard a docker, a man who'd lost his hand in an accident, tell my father that he still felt his hand. He said he felt the joints ache in the damp or the skin prickle in the heat. That's what it's like with Joe. He's gone, but he isn't. He's still inside me. I can see him. Hear him. I still talk to him in my head. When will the feelings stop, Nick?"
    "When you fall in love again."
    "But what if I don't?"
    "Of course you will. You're just not over him yet. My advice is to spend more time with McClane. An Astor or a Vanderbilt would make a nice companion, too. That's just what you need, Fee. A nice New York millionaire. That'll make you forget that barrow boy of yours. What did you and McClane talk about during your stroll anyway? You never told me."
    "The shop. And subterranean railways."
    Nick made a face. "How romantic."
    "He's trying to help me, Nick. I told him I wanted to become a millionaire. I told him I needed to find the thing that would make me rich."
    "And what did he say? Did he give you the secret behind all his millions?"
    "He said to be patient, to watch and learn and see what sold and figure out ways to build on my sales. And if I did that, something would come of it. Small things at first. And then bigger things, like offering prepared foods, or maybe even opening a second shop. He had a funny way of putting it; he said to use what I know to grow."
    "Did it work? Have you made your fortune yet?"
    Fiona frowned. "No. We're making more than we were, though. Mary’s savories are selling out every day and we're going to start offering prepared salads, too. We're actually going to have to get a new cooler to accommodate it all. But I'm not a millionaire yet. Not even close."
    "Not to worry, Fee," Nick said, patting her hand. "I'll tell you how to become a millionaire."
    "Marry one."
    She took a swipe at him, but he ducked. "I'm not marrying anyone. Ever!. Men are far too much trouble."
    "Not me."
    "Especially you."
    The shop door opened. Michael came in frowning. He was holding a piece of paper.
    "Speaking of trouble… " Fiona said under her breath. "Fiona, this invoice can't be right," he said.
    "Which invoice, and why not?"
    "The one from the tea supplier. Millard's. What did they bill you for the last time?"
    "There wasn't a last time. This is the first bill. What's wrong?"
    "It says we've had nineteen chests from them since you opened the shop again. "
    "That sounds right. I can check the delivery receipts to confirm it, but I'm sure Stuart wouldn't cheat us."
    "This is the Indian tea?" Michael asked, setting the invoice down on the counter.
    "Yes."
    He shook his head. 'I’ll be damned. I was lucky if I moved a chest of the old stuff."
    "A week?"
    "A month!"
    Fiona looked at the invoice, her eyes following her finger down the column. Nineteen chests had been sold to Finnegan's in a two-month period. She was down to her last two. That meant she'd been selling just over two chests a week, against her uncle's one chest a month. She got to the bottom of the invoice, mentally checking Millard's arithmetic, and found that the total corresponded to the number of chests sold, plus the two in the shop's basement.
    And then she saw it.
    Embossed at the bottom of the invoice was the name "R. T. Millard" over a drawing of three species of fauna identified as a coffee bush, a cacao tree… and a tea plant.
    As Fiona stared at the tea plant, a slender little stalk with bladelike leaves, the fine downy hairs on her neck began to prickle. She didn't hear her uncle anymore, though he was still talking. She recognized the plant. She'd seen one before. In a nightmare. Her father had given it to her, passed it to her through the bars of a cemetery gate. "What is it, Da?" she'd asked him. His answer echoed in her head now. "It's what you know."
    It had been right there in front of her all along. Bloody tea, of all things!
    "Use what you know," Will had said. Blimey, if there was one thing she knew, it was tea! She could tell a Keemun from a Sichuan, a Dooars from an Assam by the smell alone. She'd known that her Indian tea sold, but she hadn't known how well. That little plant, so delicate, so fragile was the very thing she'd been searching for. It would be her oil… and steel… and lumber. Her fortune!
    "Fiona, lass? Did you hear me?" Michael said, snapping his fingers in her face.
    She hadn't. A humming had started in her blood. It surged through her, taking hold of her, making her heart pound. She was on fire with the power, the possibilities, of her new idea-an exclusive blend, wholesale accounts, an expanded selection of teas in the grocery shop, maybe even a tearoom; a beautiful, enchanted place like the one in Fortnum & Mason's.
    "I said we've got to reorder. We're down to two chests. We'll be through them by next Wednesday at the rate we're going. I'm guessing we'll need at least eight more to get us t'rough the coming month," Michael said.
    “No."
    "No? Why not?"
    "Because we're going to order more than eight. We're going to buy in every chest of Indian tea Millard's has and swear them to secrecy on the blend! No one else must have it!"
    Michael looked from Fiona to Nick, as if he might know what his crazy niece was on about, but Nick just shrugged. "Why would we do that?" Michael asked. "It's mad! No shopkeeper orders more than he can sell."
    Fiona cut him off. "We're not just shopkeepers anymore."
    "No?" Michael said, raising an eyebrow. "What are we then?"
    "Tea merchants."
    
    "THE USUAL, Mr. McClane?"
    "Yes, Henry. Have Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Frick arrived yet?" "I haven't seen them, sir. Here you are."
    "Thank you, Henry."
    "My pleasure, sir."
    Will took a healthy swallow of his Scotch, then scanned the Union Club bar for signs of his guests. Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick, partners in the largest steel concern in the country, were dining with him tonight to discover his plans for the subterranean railway. They were interested in supplying him with steel and he was interested in wooing them as investors. Their support, and the support of other leading industrialists, was more crucial than ever now, for there was a new obstacle to his goal to build the city's first subway, one that threatened to derail all his careful planning and politicking.
    The door to the bar room opened. Will turned, hoping to see at least one of his guests, but instead saw a petite brunette in a blue plaid jacket and skirt. She clutched a pad and pencil in one hand, her purse in the other… Her sharp, quick eyes fastened on his; she made a beeline for him.
    "Hello, Will," she said.
    He smiled at her. "Always a pleasure, Nellie. What are you drinking?" "Scotch. Rocks. Make it quick, will you?" she said, glancing at the bartender. "I figure I've got five, maybe ten minutes before the gargoyle catches me."
    The bartender hesitated. "Mr. McClane… I can't, sir. The rules say-"
    "I know what the rules say. I say give Miss Bly a glass of Scotch with ice. Now." Will didn't raise his voice, he didn't have to.
    "Right away, sir."
    Will handed Nellie her drink. She knocked back half of it in one gulp, wiped her lips with the back of her hand, and went for the jugular. "I hear August Belmont's thrown his hat in the ring. My source at City Hall says he submitted his own plan for the subterranean railway."
    "Why don't you ask him yourself? He's sitting in the corner with John Rockefeller. Disparaging my plan, I'm sure."
    "Because he's a stiff and he never tells me anything. Come on, Will. I've got a nine-o'clock deadline."
    Will drained his glass and motioned for another. "It's true," he said. "He's had his own team of engineers. They mapped out a completely different route from mine and gave the plans to the mayor two days ago. They're telling him their plan is more economical."
    Nellie put her glass down and started writing. "Is it?"
    "On paper. In reality, their plan would cost the city more. A lot more." "Why?"
    "Belmont's route runs through ground that's swampy in some places, pure shale in others. In some locations, he's put down lines that go right through underground streams. His routes are more direct than mine -that's what he's selling the mayor on his economics-but because of the natural obstacles, the whole operation will cost more - in time, man-hours, and material."
    "What are you going to do?"
    "Tell the mayor to get his head out of his ass and go with my plan."
    "You know I can't use that. Much as I'd like to. Give me a real quote." Will pondered, then said, "I have every confidence that our esteemed mayor and his learned councilors will consider Manhattan's topography, geography, and transportation requirements when weighing the merits of each plan. And I am equally confident that when they do, they will not fail to see the egregious flaws, errors, miscalculations, and outright misrepresentions of the Belmont plan. Not only would such a scheme bankrupt the city, but the faulty engineering principles used to implement it would jeopardize the very integrity of Manhattan's streets and structures - not to mention the safety of its citizens… how's that?"
    "Perfect," she said, scribbling furiously. "Thanks, Will, you're a peach." She finished writing, closed her notebook, and took another swallow of whiskey, emptying her glass. Will got her another. She looked at him closely as he handed it to her.
    "You all right? You look a little peaky."
    "Me? I'm fine."
    He nodded, shrinking a bit under her gaze. He liked Nellie-very much, in fact-but he was always mindful of her profession. Giving a reporter business information was a good thing if you played it right, giving her personal information could be downright dangerous. He saw she was still looking at him, expecting an answer. He decided to admit to fatigue in hopes it would throw her off. "Maybe it's the work," he said. "I have been a bit tired these last few days."
    "I'm not buying that. You thrive on competition. Something's wrong. Are you ill?"
    Will sighed irritably. "Nothing's wrong! I'm fine, I just… "
    She raised her glass to her lips, then stopped midway. "It's a woman, isn't it?"
    "Anyone ever tell you you're too damn nosy, Nellie?"
    "Everyone. Who is she?"
    "Nobody! There is no woman! It's the subway. All right?"
    Nellie raised an eyebrow, but she let the topic drop. Will was relieved, though he was angry with himself for allowing his emotions to show so blatantly. Fiona was on his mind constantly now, and try as he might, he couldn't make sense of his feelings for her. He'd tried to tell William Whitney, one of his oldest friends, about her, but Whitney only asked him why he was making such a fuss. "Just buy the girl a bauble and take her to bed," he'd advised.
    He thought about telling his sister Lydia, but didn't think she' d react well; she was forever trying to interest him in a friend of hers, a widow from Saratoga. He'd finally decided on his younger brother Robert. They'd had drinks here a week ago, on the eve of yet another one of Robert's jaunts to Alaska, where he was prospecting for gold. Robert was thirty-six and had never married. He'd lost his fiancée, Elizabeth, to tuberculosis when they were both twenty-four. They had been deeply in love. Her death had broken his heart and he'd never gotten over it.
    "Why all the agony, Will?" Robert had asked. "Bed her and be done with it."
    "You sound just like Whitney. It's not like that," Will had said.
    "We're speaking of a potential wife? Forgive me. I thought you meant a mistress."
    "We're speaking of a woman. The most beautiful, smartest, funniest woman I've ever met," Will said.
    "Does she know your feelings?"
    "Maybe. I don't know. I haven't told her."
    "Why not? It's been what… two years since Anna passed? Your mourning's over. You're free to marry again if you like. What's stopping you?"
    "Complications, Robert. She's not… we don't share the same background."
    "Ah," Robert said, taking a long swallow of his drink.
    "She's a shopkeeper. I don't think my sons would accept her. Liddy, either. I don't know how her family would feel about me. And, of course, I'm a good deal older than she is."
    "That is a difficult situation, my boy," Robert said. He paused for a moment, then said, "Do you love her?"
    "I can't stop thinking about her. I've never met anyone I could talk to so easily… "
    "Will… do you love her?"
    He blinked, confused. "I don't know."
    "You don't know? Will, you've been in love before, haven't you? I mean, with Anna, of course… and your various… well, you hare, haven't you?"
    Will looked into his glass. "No. No, I haven't." He swallowed self consciously. "Is this what it's like? This feeling… this sense of longing? It's horrible!"
    Robert had laughed, amazed. "Yes, that's what it's like," he said, signaling to the waiter. "I'm going to get you another drink. Maybe the whole damn bottle. You look like you need it." He shook his head. "Didn't you ever wonder what you were missing?"
    "No. I didn't believe in it. I thought it was something lady novelists invented." He shrugged helplessly. "Don't misunderstand me, Robert, I did feel something for Anna. She was a wonderful mother, a helpmate, a gracious person. But it was nothing like this."
    "Christ, Will, that really does take the cake. In love for the first time." He laughed. "I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks."
    He grimaced. "Did you have to say old dog?"
    Robert flapped a hand at him. "Why don't you let her decide if she'd like to see you? If you're worth it, she'll put up with the hardships."
    " If I'm worth it?"
    "Yes. If. And if she's half the woman you say she is, she's more than up to the task. Her family will come around. Yours, too."He smiled. "I already have. Liddy will. And you can disinherit your children if they refuse to."
    A hand suddenly waved in front of his face. "Will? Will, are you listening to me?
    "Sorry, Nellie."
    "Gee whiz, you've got it bad," she said. "You can say, or not say, whatever you like, but someone's stolen your heart." She leaned in closely. "You do have one, don't you?"
    As Will was laughing, Cameron Eames, a young city judge and a friend of Will's eldest son, Will Junior, breezed through the door. "Evening, Mr. McClane," he said.
    "Hello, Cameron," Will said.
    "You have a guest, I see. I wasn't aware the club admitted ladies. Oh, it's you, Nellie."
    "Gee, that's a fresh one, Eames. Hey, you lock up any kids lately? I saw some boys playing stickball a few streets over. You know what they say stickball leads to stickups. You can't be too careful. Better call out the paddy wagons. Maybe the army while you're at it."
    There were chuckles from two gentlemen standing nearby. Will heard them, so did Cameron. His face darkened. "That was a hysterical piece of reporting. From a hysterical lady reporter led more by her heart than her wits," he said.
    "The kid was ten years old, Eames."
    "He was a criminal."
    "He was hungry."
    Eames, fuming, turned to Will and said, "If Will Junior arrives, would you let him know I'm in the dining room, Mr. McClane?"
    "Of course, Cameron."
    "Enjoy your meal, sir." He stalked off.
    "That wasn't smart, Nell. Now he's going to tell the maitre d' and get you thrown out."
    "I'm sure he will. Why should his club be any different from his courtroom? He throws me out of that all the time, the smug little shit," she said. "Sorry, I know he's Will Junior's friend."
    Will shrugged. “He’s still a smug little shit.” He felt a hand on his shoulder."Hello, Dad. Nellie," a voice said. Will turned and smiled at the solidly built wheat-blond man of twenty-five standing at his side. It was his eldest son. Will greeted him, always happy to see him, to see any of his children, he was struck by how much he favored his late mother. The older he got, the more he reminded him of Anna and her Dutch ancestors, with their fair colouring, their grounded, no-nonsense ways.
    “I’m meeting Cameron. Any sign of him?" Will Junior asked. Cameron and Will Junior had grown up together in Hyde Park on the Hudson and attended Princeton together, joining all the same clubs and the same fraternity. Married now, they both kept homes in the Hudson Valley where their young families were ensconced, and apartments in the city where they stayed during the work week.
    "He's in the dining room," Will replied.
    "Good," Will Junior said. He turned to Nellie. "Scorcher of an article."
    "I'll take that as a compliment."
    "You could ruin a man's career with stories like that."
    "Cameron can do that by himself. He doesn't need my help."
    Since last January, when he'd been appointed a justice of the city's criminal courts, Cameron Eames had been on a highly publicized campaign to clean up New York. Contrary to the unending praise heaped upon him by the majority of the city papers, Nellie, a reporter for the World, had written a piece about a young Polish boy from the Lower East Side whom Cameron had remanded to the Tombs, Manhattan's jail, after he'd been caught stealing a loaf of bread. Though the theft was the child's first offense, he was locked up with a group of seasoned criminals. The next morning, the guards found his body stuffed under a mattress at the back of the cell. He'd been assaulted-a polite word for raped-and choked to death. ~Will's stomach turned when he'd read the article. He'd wondered how Cameron could've been so stupid.
    "Cameron had a moral choice to make and he made it," Will Junior said, defending his friend.
    Nellie laughed. "Please, McClane. The more so-called criminals he locks up, the more press he gets. We both know that. It's not morality that's driving Cameron, it's ambition."
    "All right then, Nellie, Cam's ambitious. So am I and so are you. There's nothing wrong with that," Will Junior said hotly. "He wants to be the youngest justice ever named to the state supreme court. He'll do it, too, despite your attempts to slander him. His campaign's a success. He's put more criminals behind bars in a year than his predecessor did in the last three."
    Will gave his son a long look. "All small-timers from what I hear.
    Cameron needs to go after the root of the problem if he's going to make a difference, son-the gaming-hall owners, the madams, the gang bosses. And the police officers who take bribes from them."
    Will Junior snorted. "I said Cameron was ambitious, Dad, not crazy. The important thing is that he's locking up the lowlife. Making the streets safer for the rest of us."
    "A wise judge understands the difference between stealing for gain and stealing to eat."
    "You're too soft-hearted, Dad," Will Junior said irritably, ever impatient at subtleties, always one for the black-and-white view. "Stealing is stealing. The immigrant classes are overrunning the city. They have to be taught that their contempt for the law won't be tolerated here."
    "Easy to say when you've never been hungry," Nellie said.
    "How about the baker he stole from? What about him? Hasn't he got a family to feed?" Will Junior asked, his voice rising.
    "For God's sake! It was a loaf of bread, not the contents of the man's cash register… "
    Will gritted his teeth as Will Junior and Nellie continued their debate. He loved his son, but he found him-and many members of his generation ruthless in their pursuit of money and standing and harsh toward the less fortunate. He had reminded him on many occasions that both the McClanes and their mother's family-the Van der Leydens-had at one time been immigrants. As had members of all the city's wealthy families. But Will's lectures made no difference to his son. He was an American. And those getting off the boat at Castle Garden were not. Italian, Irish, Chinese, Polish nationality made no difference. They were lazy, stupid, and dirty. Their numbers spelled ruin for the country. The boy's intolerance was something he'd learned for himself, not from his parents. And it was the one thing Will did not like about him.
    As he regarded Will Junior, gesturing at Nellie now, he wondered what he would make of Fiona. He knew the answer: he'd be appalled at the idea of his father seeing a woman who worked for her living, one who was a member of the very immigrant class he despised.
    "No, Nellie! You're wrong!" he exclaimed, his voice too high for his father's liking. Will was just about to admonish him when they were interrupted by a loud, pushy "Hello, darlings!" Will stifled a groan. This would not help matters. The voice belonged to Peter Hylton, editor of "Peter's Patter," a feature in the World that was part of a new phenomenon in publishing known as the society pages. Designed to amuse readers with reports of the affairs and amusements of wealthy New Yorkers, "Peter's Patter" had become the newspaper's most popular feature, helping to push its already huge circulation through the roof. No one admitted to reading it. but everyone did. When the column praised a play, the theater's box office was swamped. If it panned a restaurant, it closed within a week.
    Will thought the column an appalling and irresponsible misuse of the press, little better than rank gossip-mongering. Hylton did not respect the codes of public decency. He thought nothing of mentioning that a certain coal baron had been seen at the opera in the company of a woman not his wife. Or that the recent sale of a Fifth Avenue mansion was due to the owner's losses at the racetrack. The papers had recently begun to print photographs, and Hylton often had his photographers lurking outside of restaurants and theaters with their infernal cameras and flashes. Will had been blinded by them on more than one occasion. He did not like the man, and Will Junior despised him. Three years ago, when Will Junior had made his first bid for a seat in Congress, Hylton had written about his fondness for chorus girls. He was unmarried at the time, but such behavior did not sit well with the public. He lost the election. He tried to sue Hylton, but had no case. Hylton had described him, but had never actually referred to him by name. When pressed by Will Junior's attorney, he denied he'd been talking about him. He said his subject was another young businessman from a prominent family. Will Junior had had to drop his complaint.
    "Hylton!" his son hissed now. "What the hell are you doing here?"
    "I'm about to dine, dear boy. I'm a member now. Didn't you know? Just got voted in."
    "Then I'm damn well resigning! I won't patronize a club that allows the likes of muckrakers like you and her" -he hooked a thumb in Nellie's direction - “in it."
    "I'm the muckraker," Nellie said primly. "Peter doesn't deserve the title." Will Junior ignored her. "You both think you can just go around sticking your noses into other people's business and splashing it all over the place, don't you? Anything goes, as long as you get fodder for your damned rag!"
    Peter, a short, fat man given to bright clothing and gold jewelry, recoiled, pulling his stubby-fingered hands to his chest like a chipmunk. "My word! Hopefully the dining room's a little more civilized," he said, moving off.
    `Nellie watched him disappear into the dining room-a room whose occupants together were worth more than the gross national product of many countries. Whose power and influence shaped political and financial policy at the national and international levels. The envy in her eyes was palpable. "How come Hylton can get into this club and I can't?" she asked Will.
    "Because he comes from a prominent family, believe it or not, and he's a man," he said.
    "That's debatable," Will Junior fumed. "He's as swishy as a silk dress." "He's got a wife and children. They live in New Jersey," Nellie said.
    "I don't blame them," Will Junior said. "Will you join us for dinner, Dad?" "I'm afraid I can't. I'm expecting guests. Carnegie and Frick."
    "I'll be eager to hear how it went. I'll stop by your office first thing tomorrow. Bye, Dad," he said. He turned to Nellie. "Miss Bly, " he said icily.
    As he departed, the maitre d', looking thunderous, advanced on them.
    "Miss Bly, I've told you a hundred times, ladies are not allowed in the Union Club," he said, taking her elbow.
    She jerked it out of his grip, finished her drink, and placed the glass on the bar. "Thanks for the Scotch, Will. Looks like your ghoul here's throwing me out of this mausoleum."
    "Miss Bly! I insist you depart the premises this instant! "
    "All right, chuckles, keep your hair on. I can see when I'm not wanted."
    "Hardly, Nell," Will said, smiling. He watched her leave, grousing at the hapless maitre d' every step of the way. When she was gone, he looked around at the interior of his club. Mausoleum! He'd never thought of the Union in quite that way before, but Nellie had a point. Two elderly men shuffled by in dinner jackets, shouting at one another because they were both hard of hearing. Am I going to be here when I'm seventy? he wondered. Creaking around, gumming my dinner, haunting the place like some ghostly old fart?
    He glanced at the other men around him-friends and colleagues-as they clustered by the bar or moved into the dining room. They spent their evenings here, not at their homes. Because there was no reason to. There was no love, no passion in their marriages, no warmth in their beds. He knew this; there had been none in his, either. They gave their hearts to their businesses, not their wives; that's why they were all so damned rich.
    If it was that sort of arrangement he wanted, Will knew he could easily have it. His sister and his late wife's friends had taken it upon themselves to match make. If he went along with their designs, he'd find himself married to the same sort of woman his wife had been-socially eminent, old money, well-bred -with the same dull, unsatisfying marriage he'd had. His new wife would be his social equal. A partner. At best, a friend. She'd endure his sexual demands uncomplainingly, as Anna had, but she'd never demonstrate an ounce of desire or pleasure, because it wasn't proper. Sex was coarse and vulgar and only for making children. If he wanted a romp with a woman who enjoyed lovemaking, he'd take up with a mistress, as he had done many times in the past. He and his wife would have separate lives, separate bedrooms.
    But, by God, if Fiona were his, he wouldn't stay in a separate bedroom.
    He'd make love to her every night, then fall asleep beside her, breathing in the sweet smell of her. He'd kiss her awake every morning and watch the life come back into those amazing eyes, watch her face crinkle into a broad, beautiful smile just for him. What would that be like? he wondered. To spend your life with a woman you were madly, passionately in love with? He'd never known. He was forty-five years old and he had never known what it was like to be in love. But he did now. Nothing, no one had ever touched his heart as she had.
    The door to the bar opened again and Will saw Carnegie and Frick walk through it, their long robber-baron faces somber enough to knock the romance out of Cupid. And suddenly he had no wish to discuss subways.
    "Robert, would you do it again?" he had asked his brother. A week ago. In this very room.
    "Do what?"
    "Ask Elizabeth to marry you. Even though… I mean, with all that happened."
    "Even though she died?" Robert said gently. "Even though the love I felt for her seems to have ruined me for any other woman? Yes, I would. Without hesitation." Then he'd leaned forward and covered Will's hand with his own, a rare gesture between them. "You've followed your head your entire life, Will. It's time to follow your heart. You deserve that. At least once in your life. Everybody does:"
    
Chapter 34
    
    Fiona, hands on her hips, stared at the mountain of wooden chests piling up on the sidewalk. A deliveryman handed her a piece of paper. She read it and signed it. Then she closed her eyes and inhaled. She could smell it, even through the lead-lined wood. Tea. Warm, rich, and beguiling. There was nothing like it.
    "You're mad, you know that?" Michael said, suddenly appearing from behind Millard's wagon. "That's fifty bloody chests of tea! Fifty! Where the devil are you going to put it all?"
    "In one sixty-six. Right next door. It's clean and dry in there. There's nothing to scent the tea, since it was only a fabric shop, not a stable or some other smelly thing. You know all this. I told you I spoke with Mr. Simmons and that he gave me a good deal on the rent," she added impatiently.
    "I thought it was just talk! I didn't think you were serious."
    "Could you help the men move it inside, do you think? Instead of standing here carrying on?" She glimpsed her brother scrambling up the chests. "Seamie! Come down before you fall!"
    "Aw, Fee!"
    "Fiona, that's five thousand pounds of tea sitting there," Michael said, following her as she went to yank her brother off the chests. "Five thousand pounds! You've spent a bleeding fortune! Who do you think you are? An Astor? A Vanderbilt? Well, you're not-"
    "Not yet," she corrected him. "Seamie! I said come down!"
    "Catch me, Uncle Michael!" Seamie yelled, launching himself straight at his uncle.
    "Who the hell… ooof!" he grunted, stumbling backward with an armful of five-year-old. "Jaysus, lad! Almost knocked me straight on me arse, you did!"
    "Might've shut you up for five minutes," Fiona said under her breath. To her brother she said, "Go inside and wash up for supper."
    Brushing dust from his shirt, Michael resumed his rant. "What I want to know is who is going to pay for all of this?"
    "We are. Millard's gave us ninety days instead of thirty. That's plenty of time."
    Michael shook his head. "Hardly! Why did you have to buy fifty crates all at once?"
    "I wanted to buyout Millard's entire stock of Indian tea. So no one else could get their hands on it. I told you that already, too. You don't listen to me."
    "Two months from now we'll still be sitting on this, owing Millard's hundreds of dollars -"
    Fiona cut him off. "No, we won't! Between the shop and my tearoom and the wholesale accounts -"
    "What tearoom?"
    "The one I'm going to have. I've already started hunting for a location."
    "And what wholesale accounts?"
    "Macy's. Crawford's. Child's Restaurants… "
    "They've ordered from you?"
    "Well, not yet." Michael rolled his eyes. "But they will!" she insisted. "I've got appointments with their buyers next week. I know they'll buy the tea as soon as they taste it. I just need a name for it. And some packaging I can show them. If you'd just help with the chests and let me go in to Nate and Maddie… "
    "Too many bloody big ideas," Michael groused, pulling a pair of work gloves from his pocket. "It's that William McClane who put them in your head. Next thing you'll go and buy us a whole bleeding tea plantation."
    Fiona ignored the comment. She wished he hadn't mentioned Will. She had enjoyed his company so much and the fact that he hadn't called on her again saddened her, though she scolded herself for even having expectations. She told herself it was daft to think someone of his stature would be interested in her; she wasn't even good enough for a Whitechapel costermonger. Losing Joe had done more than break her heart-it had shattered her confidence, making her feel unattractive and unworthy. Feelings that Will's apparent lack of interest only served to confirm.
    Michael, finally tired of haranguing her, grabbed a dolly from the delivery wagon and wheeled it over to the tea chests. Fiona returned to the shop where her friends were waiting. Nate was chewing on the end of a pencil, his brow furrowed, as he contemplated the drawing Maddie had spread out on top of the oak counter.
    Fiona took a look at it. "Oh, Maddie!" she cried, delighted. "It's beautiful!"
    "Do you like it?" Maddie asked, flushing with pleasure.
    "I love it!"
    "I'm so glad. I was uncertain about the background. I wanted to ask Nick his opinion. He has such a good eye. He's coming soon, no? For supper, you said?"
    "Yes, he is," she replied, turning around to look at the clock. She frowned when she saw it was already six-thirty. "He was supposed to be here by now. I wonder what's keeping him," she said. She was worried. He hadn't looked good the last time she saw him, but he'd said he felt fine. He'd told her not to fuss. She fretted too much, she knew she did. About Nick, Seamie, everyone. It drove them mad, but she couldn't help it. She'd lost too many people not to worry about coughs and colds and little brothers climbing too high.
    "Maybe it's the painters," Maddie said. "He said he was having them in this week. To do the walls. Remember? Maybe they're keeping him."
    "You're right. He did say that. He'll probably be along any minute."
    Relieved, Fiona turned her attention back to her friend's illustration.
    Maddie had created a captivating scene of an Indian procession. Bejeweled maharajas on white elephants led the parade, followed by sari-clad women bearing baskets of tea leaves and children cavorting with parrots and monkeys. The maharajas held a banner aloft. It was blank.
    "Will something go here?" Fiona asked, pointing to it.
    "The tea's name," Nate said. "We need to give it one. We need to create a brand."
    "A brand?"
    "Yes. We have to teach the public to ask for your tea the same way they ask for a root beer, say, by ordering a Hires, or for soap by asking for a bar of Ivory. We have to convince them that your tea is better than the stuff sitting in a crate at their grocer's."
    "How do we do that?"
    "By brainstorming, to start with. Here, take some paper, and here's a pencil. Here, Mad, here's one for you. Let's start by writing down everything good about your tea, all of its qualities, to see if there's something there that would make a good name or a catchy slogan."
    The three started scribbling, tossing words and descriptions at each other. "Brisk… malty… biscuity… " Fiona said.
    "Biscuity?" Nate echoed.
    "It means a good aroma from a properly fired leaf."
    "Too specialized. Keep going."
    "Urn soothing… invigorating… " Fiona said.
    "Well which one?" Nate asked.
    "Both."
    "How can it be both?" "I don't know, but it is."
    "Coppery strong… bold " Maddie said.
    "Refreshing restorative " Nate said.
    The three friends kept on this way for a while, calling out anything they thought might be good, until they'd filled up their sheets of paper with words, but they still didn't have anything they liked. Stumped, Nate sighed, tapping his pencil against the counter. His eyes roved over Maddie's paper, looking for something they'd missed, then he looked at Fiona's notes.
    "Hey!" he said. "What's this you've written, Fee?"
    "Nothing, just scribbles."
    "No, it's good. As a matter of fact, it's great! Look, Maddie."
    In the lower left corner, she had written the words "delicious" and "tasty." Then she'd scribbled out "tasty" and had written "tasty tea," then "tastea," then she'd played around substituting the "tea" for "ty" on a few other words, like "raritea" and "qualitea."
    "I think we've got something here," he said excitedly. "How about this… TasTea-a qualitea… with great affordabilitea… no, that's wrong, the last part. Urn… what else could we do? Propertea, subtletea, personnalitea, honestea, hostilitea… "
    "Hostilitea?" Fiona said. "Oh, that's appealing, Nate." "No… no, specialtea!" Maddie shouted.
    "That's it, cara!" Nate yelled, kissing his wife. "Let's see… TasTea… TasTea… a qualitea… "
    "… an honestea, a most refreshing specialtea!" Fiona shouted. "Yes! Yes! Perfect! Can you fit it all in the banner, Mad?"
    "Si, si I have room for it," Maddie said.
    "There, Fiona, you have your ad! You can put it in newspapers, on billboards and buses, and you can use the design for your packaging, too."
    "Thank you both! This is so exciting!" Fiona exclaimed, squeezing Nate's arm. "Imagine, my own brand of tea! Oh, blimey, I hope it sells! It has to, I have five thousand pounds of it sitting outside the door and an uncle who's ready to string me up."
    "Of course it will," Nate said. "With an agency like Brandolini Feldman behind it, it can't fail. And the thing is, Fiona," he added eagerly. "A brand's just the beginning, only the tip of the iceberg. There are more kinds of tea than this one blend, right?"
    "Yes. Dozens of different kinds."
    "Well, just imagine a score of teas all sold under the TasTea name. Imagine the little tearoom you want to open turning into a fashionable destination, then growing into a chain! Imagine tearooms throughout New York and Brooklyn and Boston and Philadelphia… "
    "… up and down the whole East Coast, throughout the whole country!" Fiona exclaimed.
    "And you'll have wholesale accounts with hotels," Nate said. "And department stores," Fiona crowed.
    "And railways and passenger ships," Maddie added.
    "And you two will be doing nothing but TasTea ads and campaigns and packaging and… "
    "It will be a huge success," Maddie said, beaming. "For all of us!" Laughing, Fiona took her friend's hands and started to waltz around the store with her, whirling giddily until they were both so dizzy that Nate had to steady them. The three of them were making so much noise that no one saw the boy step into the doorway, his cap in his hands. He was about ten years old. He stood for a while, watching them anxiously, hoping he'd be noticed, then finally came up behind Nate and tugged on his jacket.
    "Excuse me, sir," he said.
    "I'm sorry, son," Nate said. "I didn't see you there. What can I do for you? "
    "Is this where Fiona Finnegan lives?"
    "Yes, that's me," Fiona said, leaning on the counter, trying to catch her breath.
    "You have to come with me, miss. Quick. You have to," he said, starting for the door.
    "I'm Stevie Mackie. My ma said to get you. She says our lodger, Mr. Soames, is dying."
    
    FIONA TOOK THE STAIRS at 24 Sixteenth Street two at a time. All thoughts of tea and tearooms were gone from her mind. She had only one thought now, only one fear-that she was going to lose her best friend in all the world.
    In the cab they'd taken, Stevie told her that his mother had learned of Nick's illness just this afternoon. The rent was past due and she'd gone to see him about it. When no one answered the door, she'd let herself in. She'd found him in his bedroom. He was very sick.
    "With what, Stevie?" Fiona had asked, terrified of his answer.
    "I don't know. My ma didn't say. She wouldn't let me go into him. She's awful scared of the cholera. She found a notebook on his table though. Your address was in it and his doctor's. She sent me after you my brother after the doctor."
    I should never have listened to him, Fiona thought, racing up the steps. He wasn't well. I knew he wasn't. I should never have believed rubbishy explanations. She got to the door, Stevie on her heels, and knob. It didn't budge, the door was locked. "The key, Stevie," she said voice trembling. "Where's the key?"
    "Ma!" he shouted up the stairwell. "Ma, I've got Miss Finnegan. She needs the key."
    Fiona heard footsteps on the landing above her, and then a tall woman in her forties, plain and rawboned and wearing a faded calico dress came down the stairs toward her.
    "Have you got the key?" Fiona asked her urgently.
    "You're Miss Finnegan?"
    “Yes.”
    "Tm Mrs. Mackie… "
    "I need the key," Fiona said, her voice rising.
    "Yes, yes, of course," Mrs. Mackie said, flustered. She dug in one pocket then the other. "He was calling for you. I don't know how long he 's been like this. Some days, I think-"
    "The key!" Fiona shouted.
    "Here," she said, holding it out. Fiona snatched it, then jammed in the lock. "He's very bad, miss." Mrs. Mackie said, agitated. "I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. It's not a sight for a young lady and God only knows what it is he has."
    Fiona opened the door and ran inside, leaving Mrs. Mackie in the doorway. The flat was dark, the curtains were drawn, but she knew the way. She'd been there before. "Nick?" she shouted, running through the foyer down the hallway, past the kitchen, into a double parlor and out again another hallway past a bathroom to his bedroom. "Nick?" she called but there was still no answer. "Please, God, please let him be all right,” she whispered."Please."
    A powerful, wrenching stench hit her as she opened the door of room-the smell of sweat and sickness and something else, something low and black and fearfully familiar-the smell of despair. "Nick?" she whispered, rushing to him. "It's me, Fiona."
    He was lying in his bed, a large ebony four-poster, wearing only his trousers, which were wet with urine. He was still and looked as white and bloodless as the sweat-soaked sheets underneath him. The beautiful man she met in Southampton was gone; an emaciated wraith had taken his place.
    She pressed her palms against his cheeks, found that he was clammy but warm and sobbed with relief. She pushed a lock of damp hair off his forehead and kissed him. "Nick, it's me, Fiona," she said. "Can you hear me? Answer me, Nick, please answer me."
    His eyelids fluttered. He swallowed. "Fee," he croaked, "go away." His lips were cracked; his mouth was dry. She ran into the bathroom, found a glass and filled it with water. Back at his side, she held his head up and held the glass to his lips. He clutched at it, gulping the water greedily. He coughed, then vomited a good deal of it back up. Fiona turned him over on his side until he was done retching so he wouldn't choke, then helped him to drink more, a bit at a time. "Easy," she said. "There's plenty here. Go slowly that's it."
    Once he'd drained the glass, she laid his head gently down on his pillows. “Please go, Fiona," he whispered. "I don't want you here… can take of myself." He began to shiver. His hands scrabbled futilely at the at the sheets. Fiona grabbed the quilt he'd kicked down to the bottom of his bed and covered him with it.
    " I can see that. You've done a bang-up job of it so far," she said. His teeth started to chatter. She got in the bed next to him, put her arms around him and held him, trying to warm him. "I swear, Nick, as soon as you're better, I’m going to kill you for this."
    “Not going to get better."
    “Yes you are! Tell me what's wrong!"
    He shook his head. She was about to badger him when a loud, booming “Hallo” was heard from the hallway.
    “In here!" she shouted.
    A bald, bespectacled man with a silver beard entered the room. "Dr.,-,-er Eckhardt, ja?" he said. "Excuse me, please." He shooed Fiona away and began to examine Nick.
    Fiona watched anxiously from the bottom of the bed, her elbows cupped in her palms as the doctor questioned Nick, stared into his eyes, massaged his neck, and listened to his chest. "What's that for?" she asked, when he produced a syringe.
    “To steady the heartbeat," he replied. "How long has he been like this?"
    “I… I don't know. I saw him last Sunday. It's Saturday now… "
    The doctor uttered an expression of disgust. "I told him this would happen. I instructed rest and a proper diet." He produced a second syringe. "To undo the dehydration," he said. "I need a basin of hot water and some soap. Washcloths and towels, too. He will have bedsores from lying in the damp. They must be cleaned before they become septic."
    Fiona did as she was told. She collected everything the doctor require:' and then, over Nick's feeble protests, helped Eckhardt strip off his clothe" wash him, change his dirty bedding, and put him into clean pajamas. She prided herself on a strong stomach and did not flinch at the raw, angry sore" that mottled his thighs and backside, but the sight of his hipbones jutting through his flesh, his bony kneecaps, and the hollows between his ribs made her chin quiver. She'd seen that he'd lost weight. She'd known he was unwell on the ship. Something had been wrong all along. Why, oh why hadn't she pressed him?
    "There, that's better. We let him lie still for a few minutes, no? Give the drugs time to take effect. We talk outside. Come."
    As soon as they were out of Nick's earshot, Fiona grabbed the doctor·" arm. "Is he all right? He's not going to die, is he?"
    "Are you related to Mr. Soames?" Eckhardt asked.
    "Yes. I'm… I'm his cousin," she lied. "He's dying, isn't he?" she asked tearfully.
    The doctor shook his head. "No, but he is very ill. He will make it through this, but if he doesn't begin to take care of himself, he will deteriorate. Rapidly. I will tell you; as I have told him, that the spirochete is an opportunist. Good diet and plenty of rest are essential to forestalling it. As far as treatment goes -"
    "Please, Dr. Eckhardt," Fiona said, worried to death about Nicholas and confused by the man's long-winded explanation. "What's wrong with him? What does he have?"
    Eckhardt peered at her over the top of his spectacles with an expression of surprise. "Why, syphilis, of course. Forgive me, I thought you knew."
    
    "MISS FINNEGAN, you take him out of here right now!" Mrs. Mackie shrilled. "It's shameful! A disgrace! I won't have the likes of him under my roof!"
    Fiona sat on Nick's settee. "Mrs. Mackie," she said, trying to keep her voice steady, her anger under control, "I'm not sure he can be moved right now."
    "Either you move him or I'll move him. And all his goods, too. Right into the street!"
    Fiona took a deep breath, trying desperately to figure out a way to deal with her very sick friend, his flat, his things. She didn't want to move him, he was too ill, but it appeared she had no choice. Mrs. Mackie had been standing in the next room while she and Dr. Eckhardt were talking. She'd heard everything.
    Fiona watched the woman as she continued to rant. Fiona's terrible temper reared at the sight of her, kicking inside of her skull like a wild horse. This woman had come in here to get her rent money. She had seen Nick. Seen the condition he was in, and she had returned to her flat, leaving him to suffer- soaked in his own piss, shivering in his sweat. She hadn't even given him a glass of water. Now she was throwing him out. Fiona felt her hands ball into fists. She wanted nothing more at this very second than to knock Mrs Mackie on her righteous arse. But she couldn't; she needed her cooperation.
    Look, Mrs. Mackie," she finally said. "I'll take Mr. Soames with me right now, but please allow me to keep his things here for the next two days. We'll pay you an extra month's rent for the inconvenience."
    Mrs. Mackie pursed her lips, mulling her offer. "Plus I keep the security deposit," she finally said. "All of it."
    Fiona agreed, relieved. Nick's paintings, mistakenly routed to Johannesburg instead of New York, had finally arrived and were downstairs in crates. She couldn't let this shrew put them out on the street. She had no idea where she herself would put them, but she'd deal with that problem later. Right now she had to take care of Nick.
    When she walked back into his room, she found him propped up against pillows. His eyes were closed, but his breathing sounded better and his skin didn't have quite the same pallor. He still looked heartbreakingly frail though, and she wondered how on earth she was going to get him dressed and into a cab.
    He told you," he said weakly. He turned his face away. "I expect you'll be leaving now. I quite understand.”
    His words were like a match to the fuse of her anger-anger at Mrs. Mackie, at Dr. Eckhardt and the matter-of-fact way he'd told her about Nick’s illness, and anger at Nick for letting himself get so sick. The fuse caught and her fury exploded. "You stupid, stupid man!" she shouted. "Is that what you think? That I want to leave you just because you're ill? Is that why I pleaded with a God I don't even believe in to save your sorry arse? So I can walk out on you?"
    Nicholas said nothing.
    You answer me, Nick! Why did you lie to me?"
    “ I had to!"
    “Not to me!"
    “I… I thought I'd lose you, Fiona. For God's sake, it's Syphilis"
    “I don't care if it's the plague; don't you ever lie to me again! I knew something was wrong and you told me there wasn't! You could've died!"
    “Please don't be so mad at me," he said quietly.
    Fiona realized she was yelling at a very sick man. She walked around to the other side of the bed so she could see his face. "I'm not mad at you. But no more fibs, all right? We're in this together. You're coming home with me and you're going to get well."
    Nick shook his head. "I can't burden you like that."
    "It's not a burden," she said, sitting on the bed. "You can sleep in my room. Mary and I can take turns looking after you, and -"
    "Fiona, there's something I need to tell you. There are things you don't know about me. I didn't get this disease from… from a woman."
    She nodded and Nick pressed on, awkwardly trying to explain his sexual predilections, until she stopped him.
    "Nicholas… I know. I saw the photo. It fell out one day as I was putting your watch away. He looked so happy, the man in the picture. I thought you must've taken it and that he must be your lover."
    "He was," Nick said sadly.
    "Was? Where is he now?" she asked.
    Nick closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them again, they were bright with tears. "In Paris. In the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. He died last autumn."
    "Oh, Nick, I'm so sorry. How? What happened?"
    Over the course of the next hour, with pauses for water or a rest, Nick told Fiona all about Henri. He told her how they met and how much Henri had meant to him. So much, in fact, that he'd turned his back on his family to stay in Paris with him. He had been happy, he told her, and he hadn't regretted his choice, but one September evening his happiness was taken away.
    He and Henri were walking by the Seine, he explained. Henri hadn't felt well. He had chills and aches. Nick felt his head, then put a comforting arm around him. Normally, he didn't touch Henri in public-it was too dangerous-but he was so concerned, he'd done it without thinking. The gesture was seen by a group of louts walking behind them. They were set upon and thrown into the river. Henri went under, but Nick was able to pull him out. "He was conscious when I got him to the street," he said. "But by the time help arrived, he'd passed out."
    He himself had been roughed up; he'd suffered cuts and bruises, a black eye, nothing too serious. Henri, however, had a fractured skull. He never regained consciousness and died two days later.
    "I was devastated," Nick said. "I couldn't eat or sleep. I didn't show up for work for over a month and lost my job."
    The hospital notified Henri's parents-a proper bourgeois couple who lived outside Paris. They hadn't approved of their son's painting, or his companions, and refused to allow any of them to attend his funeral.
    "I grieved alone," Nick said. "I thought I would go mad with sorrow. I couldn't bear the sight of our flat, the streets we'd walked down, the cafes where we'd eaten."
    Then, two weeks later, he'd received a letter from his mother, begging him one last to time to reconsider, to come home. Her words caught him at a weak moment. Distraught, in need of the comfort of his family - even though he knew he could never tell them about Henri - he decided to go back. There was nothing left in Paris for him.
    When he arrived home his mother and sisters were happy to see him, but his father was hateful; he berated him constantly for ignoring his responsibilities. Nick tried his best to please the man. He took up his duties, worked hard, oversaw the opening of new bank branches, even undertook the grinding preparatory work on a string of public offerings that Albion was underwriting by poring over countless balance sheets, deeds, and payrolls; by visiting factories and dockyards, mines and mills - but nothing he did was good enough. He became severely depressed, started to drink, and even contemplated suicide. He went out every night just to avoid his father. Sorrowing, bitter, desperate for distraction from his pain, he allowed himself to fall in with a group of upper-class wastrels ~ spoiled, decadent young men, most of whom were of the same persuasion as he was. One drunken, out of control evening, they ended up at a male brothel in Cleveland Street and he slept with one of the rent boys. It was human contact, a way to lose himself. He'd regretted it the next morning, but he'd done it again, many times. He continued to drink and woke up many mornings unable to remember where he'd been the night before or how he'd gotten home.
    His health began to suffer. He felt weak, lethargic. His mother noticed and made him see the family physician, Dr. Hadley. He assumed the man would treat his case with discretion, but he was wrong. Dr. Hadley diagnosed syphilis and promptly reported it to his father, who beat him bloody. He threw him against a wall in his study, called him an abomination, and cursed God for giving him such a son. He told him to get out of his house. He gave him a choice: Go to America and die there quietly and he'd establish an investment fund for him, one that would provide a generous income. Or stay in London and die penniless in the streets.
    "I was lying on the floor, Fee, trying to catch my breath. My father was walking out of his study when he suddenly came back, leaned over me, and told me he knew what I was. He said he knew about Paris and Aries, and Henri, too. I felt my blood go cold. He told me what the house I lived in looked like and the names of the cafes I frequented. 'If you know all that, then you know about Henri's death, don't you?' I said to him. And as I said it, hatred flooded me. I'd always known he was a monster, but to think he'd known of my loss and said nothing! And then, Fiona, he smiled and said, 'Knew about it? Nicholas, I paid for it!' "
    Fiona was weeping as Nick finished his story. Her heart was breaking for him. That a father could do to a child what his father had done to Nick was inconceivable to her. To have his son's lover murdered. To throw his own flesh and blood into the streets like a dog.
    Nick wiped his eyes. The small reserve of strength he'd built up after Eckhardt's visit was ebbing away again. Fiona realized she had to get him home fast, before it was gone completely.
    As she was hunting for clean clothes to put on him, he said, "At least now it won't be long before I join Henri."
    "Don't you talk that way," she told him, her voice fierce. "Henri is just going to have to wait. You're in my hands now. And you're going to get better. I'm going to make you."
    
Chapter 35
    
    “Their numbers are growing," Davey O'Neill said. "Scores more are joining every week. They're not afraid. They're bloody angry and they're not going to back down. They'll strike before the year is out. My guess is autumn at the latest."
    O'Neill watched as William Burton's face darkened. He saw him slide his hand into his pocket, saw his fingers curl around something inside of it.
    "Careful now, guv. Cut the other one off and we'll 'ave to get someone else to do your earwigging," Bowler Sheehan said, snickering.
    Davey didn't flinch. He didn't budge. It was better not to. Burton reminded him of a savage animal-a wolf or a jackal-the sort of animal that watched and waited and never chased until you ran. Burton had cut him once, here on Oliver's Wharf, and Davey did not want to feel his knife again, though the physical pain, as bad as it was, had been short-lived. It was the other kind, the kind that came from inside, from the scabbed place where his soul used to be, that drove him mad. A pain that made him want to cut his own throat every time he sat in a union meeting, memorizing names and dates and plans. Or listened to one of his fellow dockers wonder aloud how it was that the owners and foremen always seemed to know the union's next meeting before they themselves did. He would have topped himself, too, if it wasn’t for his wife and children. They would be destitute without him. As it was, Burton’s money had given them the only security they'd ever known. He could afford doctor for Lizzie now and the right medicine. Seeing the color come back into her cheeks and watching her frail matchstick limbs fill out were the only things that brought him any joy.
    Sarah, his wife, had never questioned the story he'd told her about his ear or the sudden change in their fortunes. She just took the extra money he handed her every week without comment, grateful to have it. There was meat for everyone at teatime now. There were warm woolen underthings and new boots for the children. She'd asked for a new jacket and skirt for herself, too, but he'd said no. And she'd wanted to move the family to a better house a few streets over but he would not allow that, either. She'd protested and he'd told her she was to mind what he said and not question him for he had good reasons.
    But one day, fed up with his tightfistedness, she'd bought herself a new hat-a pretty straw boater with red cherries on it. She'd come home wearing it, pleased and proud of the only new thing she'd ever had. He'd ripped it off her head and thrown it into the fire. Then he'd slapped her so hard he knocked her down. He'd never hit her before. Never. She'd cowered and cried and he'd felt sick to his stomach, but he'd warned her that if she ever disobeyed him again, she'd get far worse.
    Dockers weren't stupid. If a man's wife suddenly flaunted a flashy hat, if his kids had new clothes, it was noticed and remarked upon. Though Tillet and the other leaders expressly forbade violence, Davey knew there were rank-and-file members who would rip him limb from limb if they ever found out he was spying.
    Sarah hadn't bought herself anything new after that. She didn't smile much anymore, either. She turned away from him when he came to bed, and her eyes, when she could bring herself to look at him, were cold. He'd overheard her once talking to her mother, telling her she thought the money had come from thieving. Oh, Sarah, he'd thought, if only it were that noble!
    Burton took his hand out of his pocket and cracked his knuckles. "What are the exact numbers? What have they got in their war chest?"
    "Impossible to say exactly," Davey replied, hoping he could bluff.
    "Try, Mr. O'Neill, try. Or my colleague here will walk into your flat and snap your daughter's neck as if she were nothing more than an unwanted kitten."
    Sickened yet again by his utter powerlessness, Davey talked. "The Tea Operatives and General Laborers' 'ave about eight hundred members," he said.
    "And the money?"
    "Nothing to speak of."
    Sheehan laughed at that and asked Burton what he was worrying about. But then Davey told them that the stevedores' union was nearly five thousand strong and had three thousand pounds in their coffers. And they had pledged their support. If the dockers walked off the river, the stevedores would be right behind them. So would the lightermen and watermen. Burton raised an eyebrow at that, but Sheehan flapped a hand at Davey's words.
    "The more the merrier, they'll all starve," he said. "Three thousand quid won't feed the whole riverside. Not for long. Even if they do call a strike they'll come crawling back in two, maybe three days. Soon as their beer money runs out."
    "I hope you're right, Mr. Sheehan," Burton said quietly. His calm, low tone unnerved Davey. "I can't afford a strike. Not now. My capital's spread far too thin."
    "It'll never 'appen," Sheehan said. "You're worrying over nothing guv'nor. Just like that Finnegan girl. I told you she'd disappear and she has. Probably dead by now."
    Burton reached into his breast pocket and handed Davey an envelope Their gaze locked for a few seconds as he took it from him, and Davey saw that Burton's eyes were as flat and impassive as a shark's. They were devoid of fury and that should've comforted him, but it did not. He would've preferred anger to what he saw in them now-a black, yawning emptiness. Bottomless and terrifying.
    "There are river rats below us. I can hear them scrabbling," Burton said.
    Davey didn't hear anything. "I… I beg your pardon, sir?"
    "Rats will eat anything if they're hungry. Even human flesh. Did you know that?"
    "N-no, sir. I didn't."
    "Go home, O'Neill," he said. "Go home and keep the rats away." Then he turned and walked to the edge of the dock.
    Confused, Davey looked at Sheehan, but Sheehan only shrugged. Davy left then. He went back through the dark warehouse, just as he always did walking at first, then suddenly he broke into a panicked run, stumbling once, righting himself, and running even faster until he reached the street door. As he grasped the handle, he looked back over his shoulder, expecting to see Burton right behind him, his knife raised, his awful dead eyes boring into him. He hurriedly let himself out and ran down the Wapping High Street, more afraid than he'd been the night Burton cut him, more afraid than he'd ever been in his life.
    
Chapter 36
    
    Keep them up for one more second, duck, whilst I get this on you. Just one more second… there!" Mary said, threading Nick's arms through the sleeves of a fresh pajama top. She tugged the opening over his head, buttoned the neck, then leaned him back against his pillows. "That was very good! You couldn't do that last week; I had to hold your arms up for you."
    "I'll be running the hundred-yard dash in a week," Nick said, smiling. “Just you wait."
    "I doubt that, but you are making progress. Your color's improved and you've more strength than you had. If only we could get some meat on those bones. All right, now for the bottom half." Mary slid his pants off, dipped her sponge in warm water, and washed him down.
    Nick had been mortified the first time she bathed him. No one had ever done that except his Nanny Allen and he'd been a child then. He'd protested, saying he could take a proper bath, in a tub, by himself, but Mary paid him no attention. She'd bustled him out of his clothes, kidding him until he got over his modesty. "I've seen one before, you know," she'd said. "Mr. Munro, God rest him, had some fine equipment on him. How do you think I got Ian?"
    Nick had laughed despite himself. "I'm sure mine will be a disappointment to you, Mary. I can't compete with a strapping Scotsman. They build their men big over there."
    -"Indeed they do, lad," she'd said, with such a note of lusty desire in her voice, she made him laugh even more.
    He looked at his night table as Mary dipped her sponge and wrung it out again. There was a vase of roses on it from Alec, a book of verse by Walt Whitman from Nate and Maddie, and a self-portrait that Seamie had made. They had all been so good to him. He was astonished by their kindness. He felt Mary's gentle hands kneading his calves, chafing his ankles. To keep the blood moving, she'd explained. His own mother had never touched him so.
    And Fiona… a lump rose in his throat at the thought of her. She'd saved him. He was only alive because of her, his lionheart. She'd begged and bullied him into pulling through. Her devotion amazed and humbled him. She'd given up her bed and had been sleeping on the floor next to him on a mattress. The first few nights, when he'd been afraid, she'd talked to him in the dark. When the pain got very bad, she'd reached up and taken hold hand. The strength in that hand… he knew it was a mad notion now, but then he'd felt as if her fierceness, her formidable will, flowed out of her into him, giving him courage.
    He was still not fully recovered, but because of Fiona and her family the Munros, he was better than he had a right to be, and had even been thinking that he might soon be up and about. Eckhardt, that angel of darkness, was supposed to visit him that afternoon and tell him when he could get out of bed.
    Mary finished his sponge bath, slid fresh bottoms on him, and pulled sheets up to his chest. He tried to thank her, but she shushed him. She left to dump the bathwater, then came back with the baby in her arms. She had to get the supper started," she said. "Could I leave Nell with you for a bit? Are you up to it?"
    Nick said he was. She tucked the baby into the crook of his arm, giving him a rusk for her, and bustled off to the kitchen, humming as she went the baby gummed her biscuit, Seamie came bounding into his room, crawled up on the bed, and demanded a story.
    "Where have you been? You're black as a sweep!" Nick said to him,
    "Trapping slugs. They're eating the flowers."
    "Did you dig a bunker to do it? Look at your ears!"
    "There you are!" Michael said, striding into the room. "Come on. It's time for a bath."
    "Noooo!" Seamie howled, carrying on as if his uncle had threatened him with the guillotine instead of the tub.
    "Mary said you're to have one. You're too dirty to sit at the table."
    "But, I don't want one!"
    "It's very simple, laddie-no bath, no supper."
    Seamie looked to Nick for a reprieve. He shook his head sorrowfully "I'm afraid there's no help for it, old man. She made me have one, too."
    Seamie capitulated. He followed his uncle out of Nick's room, his head hanging down, a condemned man. Nick was trying to stop Nell from mushing the soggy rusk into her dress when he heard a soft knock at the door.
    "Signora!" he exclaimed, delighted to see Maddie standing there. "Ciao mia bella!"
    "Ciao, bello. Do you have a moment? I want to show you the drawing for Fiona's tea boxes. It's almost complete, but I think the background needswork. See where it folds to make the lid? What do you think?"
    "Bring it closer, Maddie… here, why don't you pull up a chair?"
    She sat down near the bed and held the illustration up. "I see what you mean," Nick said. "Once the box is cut and folded, the bungalow's going to disappear. Get rid of it. You don't need it. The parade's busy enough. Just extend greenery over the top and… "
    As they were talking, a terrible caterwauling started in the bathroom.
    “I’m a rambler. I’m a gambler. I’m a long way from home.
    And if you don’t like me, then leave me alone.
    I’ll eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry.
    And if whiskey don’t kill me, I’ll live till I die…”
    
    “What is that?" Maddie asked, alarmed.
    “Seamie and Michael singing," Nick said, laughing. "Isn't it awful?"
    He was about to resume his critique of Maddie's work when they both heard the door to the flat bang open, then slam shut. 'Sharp, determined footsteps came down the hallway.
    “Michael!" Fiona bellowed, stalking by Nick's door with a large metal scoop in her hand.
    Nick and Maddie made uh-oh faces at each other. “What do you want? I'm busy!" he shouted back.
    “Did you leave a bag of cinnamon on top of the tea chest in the shop? The bloody thing stinks! Smell it! That's a good fifty pounds of tea ruined!”
    “Don't come in, Fee, I'm naked!" Seamie yelled. "You'll see my willie!"
    “Oh, Seamie, nobody's interested in your willie. And I don't want to hear singing that daft drinking song!"
    “Is it always this noisy here?" Maddie asked, giggling.
    “This is nothing," Nick said. "You should've been here two nights ago when Seamie bounced on the settee and went right through it. There were some fireworks then."
    Mary came into the room with a cup of beef broth. Maddie took the baby from Nick so he could drink it. "You're to get it all down you, Nick." Mary said. "Every drop. And I want you to try a little solid food later. A bit of mash and gravy."
    She left. A few seconds later a wet, naked Seamie went whizzing by the door, with Michael in hot pursuit. A few more minutes passed, then Fiona came in with a tea tray.
    “Hi, Maddie, how's the tea box coming? Hi, Nick, how are you feeling?" She asked them. Before either could answer, she said, "Taste this for me, would you. Tell me if you like it. Michael left a big bag of cinnamon sticks on top of the tea. I thought he'd wrecked it, but now I think he might just have invented a whole new product-scented teas! Just imagine-we could do the same using with vanilla beans. And cloves. And maybe some dried orange peel."
    "I think it's awfully good," Nick said.
    "It's wonderful!" Maddie chimed in, taking another sip.
    The doorbell rang. "Coming!" they heard Mary call. Fiona sat down on the end of Nick's bed. She took her boots off and tucked her feet up under her. As they sat discussing other ideas for other flavors, Nate poked his head in.
    "How's the patient?" he asked cheerfully.
    "Very well," Nick said.
    "I passed a newsstand on my way back from a client's office. Thought you might like a paper. Hi, Fee. Hi, Mad." He crossed the room, bent over, and kissed his wife. "What smells so good?"
    Fiona, all charged up by her latest idea, launched into a breathless explanation. Nate loved the idea and he and Maddie immediately started tossing out ideas for names. Seamie, wearing clean clothes, his wet hair combed back, ran in with a picture book and crawled into his sister's lap. The doorbell went again. Michael walked by, grumbling that his flat was turning into Grand Central Station.
    They were all chattering away, sipping cinnamon tea, when suddenly Dr. Eckhardt appeared in the doorway, his black bag in hand. He took a look around the room, then said, "If I recall correctly, I instructed rest and quiet."
    There were sheepish expressions all around.
    "Come on, Seamie, we have to go now," Fiona said, pushing him off her lap.
    "Why? I want a story!"
    "Later. The doctor has to examine Nick so he can make him better."
    "Is he going to kiss his boo-boo?"
    Fiona snorted laughter. So did Nate, Maddie, and Nick. A withering look from Eckhardt sent them scurrying. The doctor shut the door after them, then proceeded to examine his patient, spending a long time listening to his heart, feeling his abdomen, inspecting his fingers and toes. When he was finished, he told Nick he was doing better than he expected.
    "That's good news," Nick said happily. "What's done it? The medicine?" Eckhardt shrugged. "I doubt it. Laughter, comfort, good care… these are far more potent medicines than I can offer. But you must continue to take bed rest. You may walk around the apartment a few times a day, in fact I advise it, but no more than that. If you feel like eating some real food, do so. As for everything else" -he inclined his head toward the doorway-"the specialists in the other room seem to have it well in hand. Your family, I presume?"
    "No, they're my… " Nick paused. He thought of his father, who'd thrown him against a wall. He thought of his mother and sisters, who had not written to him in all the weeks he'd been here. He thought of Mary, touching him so tenderly. Of Seamie and Michael and Ian and Alec. And he thought of the person he loved most in all the world, Fiona. Then he smiled broadly and said, "Yes, Dr. Eck My family."
    
Chapter 37
    
    “Bloody hell, Mary! Where did they all come from?" Fiona asked, trying to take in the scores of red roses-in vases on end tables; in canning jars on the windowsill, the mantel, the secretary; in buckets on the floor.
    "I don't know! They came an hour ago. I tried to get your attention, but you and Michael were busy, so I had the deliveryman bring them up and I put them in water. There must be two hundred of them. Oh, I almost forgot! There's a card… "
    Fiona looked at the name on the front. "It's for… Michael?" she said in disbelief. "Who'd be sending him all these roses?" She was miffed and more than a little jealous. No one had ever sent her two hundred roses.
    "Hothouse flowers:" Alec sniffed dismissively, inspecting the blooms. Seamie was holding one long stem like a wand, tickling Nell's nose with the petals, making her giggle.
    "Fiona?" Michael yelled from the doorway. "In here," she shouted back "Do you have the shop key? I can't find… Jaysus! What's with all the flowers? Your horse win the derby?"
    "No. Is there something you want to tell us?"
    "Tell you?"
    "Here." She handed him the card. "They're for you."
    "What?" He snatched the card, saw his name on the envelope, and ripped it open. "That figures," he said derisively. "A typical eejit with far too much money. Has to send four thousand roses when a bunch of tulips would do."
    "Who sent them?" Fiona asked. "Who's an eejit?" Seamie asked.
    "Never mind, Seamie. Uncle Michael, who sent them?"
    "William McClane."
    Fiona arched an eyebrow. "Really? I had no idea it was like that between you two."
    "That's very funny, Fiona, but he didn't send them to me. They're for you… " Fiona's eyes widened. "… the card's for me. He wants to take you to Delmonico's on Saturday, but he wants my permission first. He says the flowers are a small token of his esteem. He says -"
    "Give me that!" she demanded, grabbing the card.
    "What's it say, lass? What's it say?" Mary asked excitedly, slipping her arm through Fiona's.
    Fiona read it aloud.
    
    "Dear Mt: Finnegan,
    With your consent, I would like to invite your niece to supper at Delmonico’s on Saturday evening. I would call for her at seven O'clock. Reservations would be for eigbt O’clock. I would have her home by midnight. Please ask your niece to accept the roses as a token of my esteem. I await your reply.
    
    “Repectfully,
    
    "William Robertson McClane. "
    
    She hugged the card to her chest.
    
    "Oh, Fiona, how exciting!" Mary squealed. "William McClane, no less!" He wanted to see her again. And she wanted to see him. And the notion that he'd been thinking about her, that he'd gone to a florist and picked out red roses-far too many of them-and sent them to her just because he knew she liked them made her indescribably happy. It felt so nice that somebody-that a man -wanted to please her.
    "Delmonico's is a fancy place, isn't it, Mary?" she said, her eyes shining. "What will I wear?"
    "We'll go shopping, Fiona. One afternoon when the shop is quiet and you can steal away, I'll leave Nell with Alec and we'll go to Sixth Avenue and find you a dress."
    Michael glowered at Mary, visibly unhappy with her enthusiasm.
    "What's so exciting about Will McClane, anyway?" he groused. "I've seen him. He's not so much. He's the wrong church, you know. Wrong party, too. He's a Republican," he said darkly, as if informing them all that Will was a mass murderer. "And besides, I haven't made up me mind yet."
    "Don't you even think of saying no," Fiona warned him.
    "How can I say yes? I can't play chaperon to someone ten years older than me."
    "Chaperon? I don't need a chaperon, Uncle Michael. I'm eighteen years old!"
    "And he's forty-odd and too damned rich! No niece of mine is gadding about the city at night on the arm of a-"
    “what's going on?" Nick asked groggily. He'd stumbled out from the bedroom and was knotting the belt on his silk dressing gown. "I heard I thought I was dreaming." He blinked at the sea of roses before him. Lord, look at all the flowers! Did somebody die?" he asked, alarmed. He put his hand over his heart and checked for a beat. "Good God! I hope it me!”
    
Chapter 38
    
    Bugger off, Baxter, you noisy sod," Joe muttered. He pulled his blanket over his head and burrowed down deeper into the hay. The rapping continued, forcing him out of sleep and into consciousness. He groaned He didn't want to be awake. Awake meant the return of all the demons sleep had banished. He tried not to hear the noise, tried to will himself back into sleep, but it persisted. "Baxter!" he shouted. "Pipe down!"
    The rapping stopped. Joe listened, hoping that was the end of it, but then it started up again, more furiously than before. He realized it wasn't the horse, Baxter stamped when he wanted something. This was knocking - loud and insistent.
    “Joe! Joe Bristow!"
    That ruled out Baxter for certain.
    “Joe! Are you in there? Open the door! Right now!"
    “Joe sat up. He knew that voice. Better than he knew his own. He got up quickly pulled on his clothing. He ran down the steps from the hayloft, buttoning his shirt as he went, unlocked the door and yanked it open.
    “Mum."
    “Oh, so you do remember me?" Rose Bristow said tightly. Her face was flushed from pounding on the door and her straw hat was askew. She carried a large, heavy-looking basket.
    "Ow'd you know I was 'ere?"
    “Meg Byrne's Matt told me 'e saw you," she said, her eyes bright with anger. "Said 'e 'elped you get a job. 'E also told me that you'd left 'ome. That Millie lost the baby. That you're getting divorced. Tiny things, I guess, but it would've been nice of you to let us know. Bloody 'ell, lad, I've been worried sick about you! Didn't know what 'ad 'appened to you. Still wouldn't if it hadn’t been for Matt. Ashamed I was, to 'ear it all from 'im. Not knowing what 'appened to me own son!"
    “I'm sorry, Mum. I didn't mean to make you worry."
    "Didn't mean to make me worry? What else would I be doing? Not 'earing from you, never seeing you, not even knowing where you’d gone… "
    Joe looked down at the floor. Now he could add his mother to the list of people he'd hurt and disappointed. It grew longer by the day.
    Rose kept up her tirade for a few more minutes, then her angry expression softened. "Oh, never mind," she said, hugging him tightly. "At least I’ve found you now. And not before time, from the looks of things." She released him. "What's ailing you? Why 'aven't you come round? You should be at 'ome with your own, not living in a stable like the mule you are. Are you going to invite me in or not?"
    "Aye, come in, Mum. It's not much. 'Old on, I'll get you something to sit on."
    Rose bustled inside and seated herself on a wobbly milking stool that Joe produced. He sat on the third step of the wooden stairs.
    "Where do you sleep?" she asked, looking around the stable.
    "In the 'ayloft."
    "What do you eat? You're thin as a rail. Your clothes are 'anging off you.”
    "There's a tuckshop nearby."
    "Oh, luv, this is 'orrible. What are you doing 'ere? What 'appened?"
    Joe told her everything. From his awful wedding night to his discovery of what had befallen Fiona to Millie's miscarriage.
    Rose sighed as he finished, her face weary, angry, and sorrowful all at once. "That is one glorious mess you've made of things, I must say."
    He nodded miserably.
    "Come 'ome," she said. "You should be with your family now."
    "I can't, Mum. After everything I've done, I just want to be alone. I can’t be with people. I 'urt everyone I touch. I've ruined Fiona's life. Millie's, too. I killed me own child." He covered his face with his hands, trying to hold back his tears. He felt so guilty for what he'd done-so corrosively guilty and so achingly sad.
    Rose stroked her son's head. "Listen to me, Joe. Look at me… " He lowered his hands. His eyes were filled with such pain, such suffering that his mother's eyes filled with tears as she looked into them. "I don't give a damn what 'appened to Millie," she said. "She's a selfish, scheming girl. Always was, always will be. She chased you, got you to bed, and got what she wanted. Not that you're innocent, mind you, not by a long shot, but there will be another 'usband for Millie, and children, too. She'll do all right and maybe she'll learn not to take what isn't 'ers. As for the baby, I think 'e's far better off going back to God. I do. There's nothing worse for a child than being born to parents who don't love each other. The poor little thing got the lie o' the land. 'E 'eard the rowing, felt the coldness, and decided to turn back and wait, that's all."
    Joe closed his eyes and wept. He'd been trying hard to hold back his tears didn't want to cry in front of his mother, but he couldn't help it, it came pouring out of him like blood from a deep wound. He knew Fiona hated him. Millie hated him. Tommy hated him, too. He hated himself. He wanted his mother to hate him, but she didn't, and her words, her love felt like redemption.
    Rose wiped his eyes, shushing him, soothing him with her touch, her voice just as she'd done when he was a child. "You're paying for your mistakes and you'll continue to. You lost the one you loved, lost a child. That’s an ‘igh price. Damned 'igh. But you've got to bear up. You can't let yourself sink. I won't 'ave it. You're made of tougher stuff than that. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone 'as to live with what they've done. You're no exception.”
    Joe nodded and blew his nose.
    “Look what I brought you," she said. She reached into her basket and took out a steak-and-kidney pie, a bowl of mashed potatoes, a jug of gravy plates and cutlery.
    Joe managed a smile. That was his mum all over, thinking whatever ailed him could be fixed with pie and mash. He loved her for it.
    “Go find us something to drink like a good lad. Didn't you say there was a tuckshop nearby?"
    “Aye, I did."
    He took two cracked mugs he kept on the window ledge and went off after some hot tea. When he got back, Rose had piled a plate high for him. He dug into it, ravenous for good food.
    “Like that do you?" she asked, smiling at him.
    He smiled back. "I do."
    
Chapter 39
    
    Fiona stepped out of William McClane's carriage and stared up at the imposingly grand facade of Delmonico's restaurant at Twenty-sixth and Fifth Avenue. A couple walked ahead of them, up the stairs, through the door, and into the darkly paneled foyer. The man was distinguished looking in a crisp dinner jacket, the woman elegant in a burgundy silk dress, a black aigrette in her hair.
    Those are Will's people in there, not mine, she thought. Impossibly wealthy people who know the right things to do, how to pronounce the names of French wines and which damn fork is the fish fork.
    Nick had taught her some of these things on the ship, but she'd promptly forgotten them. Why did anyone need so many forks anyway? she fretted. You could only get one in your mouth at a time. She felt her confidence crumbling, and for a second she wanted nothing more than to get back into the carriage. Then Will took her arm and Mary's and said, "You are both so stunning tonight, you're going to make me the envy of every man in the room he leaned in close and whispered, "And that's coming from me… the typical' eejit with far too much money."
    Fiona and Mary burst into laughter, and Will did too, and then led them up the steps after him and Fiona was laughing so hard when they reached the door, she forgot to be nervous.
    "Oh, Will, I'm so sorry. He's completely out of control. E’s the worst behaved child in all of New York," she said, once they were inside.
    "You're speaking of your uncle, I assume."
    "No!" She giggled. "Well… yes! Him, too. But I meant Seamie.”
    "I think it's the funniest thing I ever heard," Mary said. "Did you see Michael's face when Seamie said it? I thought he would choke."
    "No, I was busy wondering if it's illegal to sell children to the circus.”Fiona replied.
    Will's reception at Fiona's home had been an unmitigated disaster from the second he'd walked through the door. He'd shaken hands with Michael; then Mary; then Alec, whom he could barely understand because of his accent; then Nick, who'd been sitting on the settee in his crimson dressing gown, swathed in a paisley throw and propped up between pillows like a pasha; then Ian; and finally Seamie-who'd taken his hand, pumped it heartily, and said, "Are you the typical eejit with far too much money?"
    Michael, mortified, told him to apologize, but Seamie defiantly reminded him he'd said it first. Mary ushered everyone into the parlor, hoping to salvage things, and reminded Michael to serve drinks. Ian, who'd been allowed a glass of sherry, swallowed too much at once and almost choked. Alec got tipsy and told an off-color joke. Finally Nick, always her savior, introduced the topic of the subterranean railway into the conversation and everyone warmed to it. Michael, who'd worked as a navvy when he first arrived, was curious about the engineering aspects. Mary wanted assurances it, was safe. Ian wanted to know how fast the trains would go. Then Fiona looked at the clock, exclaimed that it was nearly eight already and said they'd better be going. Luckily, she'd been able to talk her uncle allowing Mary to chaperon her instead of himself.
    They were barely inside the restaurant before they were descended upon.
    One man took Will's coat and hat; another, Fiona's wrap. Patrons, coming and going, stopped to chat with Will. He seemed to know everyone. Within the space of a few minutes, Fiona and Mary had met the mayor, the diva Adelina Patti, Mark Twain, William Vanderbilt, the architect Stanford White, and the scandalous free-love advocate Victoria Woodhull. Delmonico's was a melting pot where social pedigree meant nothing. Whether 'our money was earned two hundred years ago or two days ago made no difference. Politician, actor, showgirl, blueblood -as long as you could pay for your dinner, you were welcome. Fiona had begun to wonder if all of New York was in the restaurant when Will suddenly said, "You ladies know how curtsy?"
    "Curtsy? Why? Is the Queen here?" Fiona asked jokingly. "No, but her son is."
    Seconds later, he made a curt bow, then warmly took the hand of a portly, balding man with pale, protruding eyes and a pointed gray beard. As Fiona waited for Will to introduce her, she suddenly realized she was staring at the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, and heir to England's throne. She and Mary exchanged panicked glances. Mary made a passable curtsy and Fiona quickly mustered an approximation. It was neither graceful nor elegant, but the prince didn't seem to notice. He took her hand and kissed it, and said he was sorry he'd already dined, he would've liked to invite them to his table. He drew closer to Fiona, said he detected London in her voice, and asked why such a lovely English rose had been transplanted. Fiona replied that she'd come to New York to make her fortune and was pursuing her own tea business.
    "Are you?" the prince asked. "How unusual! But young women get up to all sorts of things nowadays, don't they? I hope you can teach the Yanks o thing or two about tea. I find the offerings in this country simply appalling. "
    "Only because you haven't tried my tea, sir. I'll send you some tomorrow. along with a basket of currant scones and homemade raspberry jam and double cream and fruitcake that Mrs. Munro makes so you can have a proper afternoon tea and not the rubbish that passes for it here."
    Although Fiona did not know it, her words were terribly bold. Merchants did not press their wares upon the future monarch. But she had no idea that such royal protocols even existed, much less an awareness that she was violating them. She was only being friendly. And the prince, not one to stand on ceremony where a pretty face was involved, was charmed.
    "I would like that very much, Miss Finnegan," he replied. "I'm at the fifth Avenue Hotel"
    "It's as good as done."
    Then the prince took his leave, patting Will on the shoulder. "Keep an eye on that one, old boy," he advised. "You just might learn something."
    After the prince was gone, Will shook his head. "You're unbelievable," he said, laughing.
    "Am I? Why?"
    "I bet if I looked up 'merchant' in the dictionary, I would see your picture there."
    "No, I think it's under bold-as-brass," Mary said.
    Fiona jutted her chin. "The prince needed some decent tea. It was the least I could do."
    "I just hope you have a lot of it on hand," Will said. "If it gets out that the
    Prince of Wales drinks TasTea, you're going to be swamped with orders. And I do mean swamped."
    "Get out to where? And how? Only you and Mary heard me."
    "To the papers. At least two reporters-two that I know by sight, maybe more -were edging in to listen to your conversation. One of them was Peter Hylton-the city's biggest gossipmonger. I'm just advising you to be prepared, that's all."
    "Your table is ready, Mr. McClane, if you care to be seated," the maitre d' said.
    Will motioned for Fiona and Mary to precede him. Once inside the dining room, Fiona tried to keep her eyes trained on the maitre d's back to keep from gawking, but it was impossible. The room enveloped her the second she set foot in it, seducing her with its grandeur. It was opulently decorated with crystal chandeliers, hand-blocked crimson wallpaper, and voluminous silk curtains. Gaslight illuminated it, reflecting in the enormous gilt mirrors, glinting off a silver fork, a crystal wineglass, a circlet of diamonds adorning a pale neck. A warm thrum of conversation and laughter washed over her, punctuated by the sounds of cutlery against china, glasses clinking.
    She felt eyes upon her-men's admiring, women's appraising-and was certain that her hair wasn't correct, her dress wasn't up to snuff. Modest, ignorant of her beauty and of its effect upon others, she imagined their interest could only be critical. She felt she was no match for these people in their expensive clothing, just as she'd been no match for Millie Peterson in hers. She stole shy glances at the women around her, women in yards of richly coloured satins and taffetas that were ruched, pleated, beaded, embroidered, flounced, gathered, draped, wrapped, and tucked. Gems the size of coins dangled from dainty earlobes, and ropes of pearls cascaded down cream-cloud bosums molded by fine French batiste and buttressed by whalebone.
    Her own ensemble, at Nick's insistence, was simple and uncluttered. She wore a dress of ivory silk georgette with capped sleeves, an amethyst sash, and a cascade of purple lilacs embroidered on the skirt. The fluid material skimmed her body becomingly, making her look willowy and fey in contrast to many of the women in the room who looked positively upholstered.
    She wore no corset; she never had. Mary made her try one on in Macy's lingerie department, after she'd bought her dress, but it dug and itched and squeezed the life out of her and she left it right where she'd found it. A good cotton camisole and drawers had served her well so far and would continue to do so. And besides, she liked her bosom where bosoms belonged, not jammed up under her chin.
    Her only jewels were a pair of pearl eardrops borrowed from her late aunt's jewelry box. She wore no plumes or diamond sprays in her hair, just a duster of mauve roses that Alec had clipped from one of his bushes. As she walked through the room, her stride alternately bold and coltish, her bright, curious face as fresh and open as a pansy, every head turned. She made women suddenly feel that they were wearing too many jewels, that their hair was overdone, their dresses too fussy. Men whispered to one another, "Who if that with McClane?" She was like a flawless diamond, one whose beauty would only have been diminished by an overwrought setting.
    Fiona's interest in the room and its occupants was soon replaced by curiosity as to the maitre d's intentions. The man was nearly across the room, and seemed, as yet, to have no inclination to seat them. Puzzled, she turned to Will.
    "I asked for a private room," he explained. "This one's a fishbowl. I hope you don't mind." They continued to the end of the room and up a set of stairs, and then their escort stopped at a set of double doors, opened them and stepped back, to allow them to enter first. "After you," Will said, his hand on the small of her back.
    Fiona gasped as she stepped into the room. "Oh, Will!" she whispered, walking into the center of the room, turning around and around in it.
    "My lord!" Mary exclaimed, too stunned to move out of the doorway. Will shrugged, trying for nonchalance, but too obviously pleased with Fiona's reaction to pull it off. "You told me you liked roses," he said.
    The room had been converted into a lush, bloom-filled bower. Roses were everywhere - hanging in garlands, standing in vases. Peonies and hydrangeas hid the fireplace. Ferns stood tall in the corners. Even the floor was hidden, carpeted with lush green grass. A table, set up in the middle of the room, was covered in white linen and decorated with more roses. They were twined into the branches of two tall silver candelabra. Across the room, two sets of French doors were open, letting in the warm summer air and the moonlight. Fiona could barely believe what she was seeing, couldn’t imagine how anyone had done this. She was seized by a sense of unreality so strong, it was dizzying. She had stepped out of her world-where people worked with their hands and drank beer and ate sausages-into where they had gardens built in restaurants on a whim. For one night. It seemed like a dream, or the work of fairies, but it wasn't. It was Will.
    She turned away and bent her head over a cluster of moss roses, inhaling their scent, not wanting him to see her emotion. Joe had given her a rose. On the Old Stairs. A single red rose. She had given him her heart, her dreams, her life. They hadn't mattered to him. He'd crushed them all She had given Will nothing of importance-a conversation, laughter, a pleasant hour together. And he had done this. For her. Just because she liked roses.
    "Do you like it, Fiona?" he asked softly.
    She turned to him smiling, her face luminous in the candlelight. "Like it Will, it's wonderful! I… I don't even know what to say. I've never seen anything so beautiful."
    "If you'll excuse me," Mary said tactfully, "I'm going to find the lounge.” Will waited until she had left the room, then he handed Fiona a rose. He was standing very close to her, and before she knew what was happening had folded her into his arms and kissed her. And the feeling of his lips. Gentle yet insistent, erased all thoughts of Joe from her mind, took away all the sadness, all the longing. She had just begun to kiss him back, warming to the taste and feel of him, when a voice at the door said, "Some champagne before dinner, sir? Ah! Pardon me."
    Will released her. Embarrassed, she moved away from him, smoothing, her skirts for something to do. "A bottle of Heidsieck, please," he said.
    "Very good, sir."
    He left. Will was just about to pull her to him once more when they heard Mary's footsteps.
    "Good God! I feel like I'm sixteen years old again," he growled.
    After Mary returned, the waiter came with champagne and they sat down. As she had the evening they'd first walked together, Fiona found Will not at all intimidating, but incredibly easy to talk to. Mary was her sweet merry self, and all three got along very well. They talked nonstop all through dinner, starting with the sweet bluepoint oysters and progressing on to the terrapin soup, the poussins in a truffled cream sauce with duchesse potatoes and haricots verts, to the lobster Newburg and the baked Alaska, Delmonico's signature dessert.
    And during the long, leisurely meal an entirely new feeling, one she had never experienced, descended upon Fiona-a wonderful sense of being cared for, of being protected from the world and all its worries. She looked at Will now, as he was advising her on her tea shop, and thought how very handsome he was. He was the most graceful elegant man she'd ever seen. Her eyes swept over him, taking in his thick shock of brown hair, his broad smile and strong jaw. He even sat beautifully, tall and straight-shouldered. His collar was snow-white and crisp, his tie expertly knotted. His black dinner jacket hung perfectly from his frame. She thought of her father in his patched secondhand jacket. And Charlie's with the elbows gone, and Joe's, a tweed with flecks of blue in it that matched his eyes…
    Joe again, damn him. She'd made a pact with herself not to think of him anymore, and now here he was, intruding on this perfect evening like a boorish, uninvited guest. It was as if he were sitting at the table in a fourth chair, watching, listening, smirking. She could all but see him smile cheekily as he turned and asked her how Will's kiss tasted, if it felt as good as his.
    "It doesn't, does it?" he asked her.
    "It does. Even better," she silently shot back at him.
    He shook his head. "No, it's all this" -he gestured at the garden, the lavish dinner. "That's what feels good, not the kiss. Nobody kissed you like I did. Nobody ever will."
    "I think a tearoom's an excellent idea, Fiona," Will said, breaking in upon her thoughts. "With the tea resource already in place and Mary's baking talents, I'm sure it would be a success. Have you started thinking about a location?"
    "I have," she said. "I've looked around Union Square, but the rents are too dear, and Madison Square as well… "
    Will nodded as she spoke, listening, questioning, encouraging her. She noticed how warm his eyes were, how they crinkled at the corners when he smiled. She decided brown eyes were much nicer than blue ones. Will's mouth was nice, too. Thanks to the waiter, she'd barely had time to enjoy his kiss. But she might have another chance. The night was still young.
    I'll show you what feels good, Joe Bristow, she promised silently. Just you wait.
    
    "THE PARK is beautiful in the moonlight, isn't it? I've never been here this late," Fiona said.
    "Nowhere near as beautiful as you are," Will said, squeezing her hand. They were walking along Bethesda Terrace toward the lake, Will having suggested a stroll after their dinner. Mary had begged off, saying she was tired and would prefer to sit in the carriage. She had the driver for company if she got bored, she told them.
    "Thank you, Will, for everything," Fiona said. "For the garden, the dinner… for putting up with my overbearing uncle. I had the most wonderful time."
    "I' m glad, Fiona. I did, too. I'd like to see you again. Soon." "I'd like that, too." Will took a gold watch from his pocket and squinted at it in the darkness. "I think we should probably turn back now. It's nearly eleven thirty."
    "Not yet," Fiona said. She glanced behind herself, checking that there were no people nearby. She tugged on Will's hand, leading him off the path into the shelter of some maple trees. Then she pulled him close and kissed him. He pulled away and looked at her, surprised.
    "I thought I'd been too forward in the restaurant," he said. "I thought maybe you didn't want me to -"
    "Kiss me back, Will. I do want you to," she whispered. And she did. Desperately. She wanted his lips on her, his hands on her. She wanted the warmth and smell and feel of him to erase every kiss, every touch, every promise Joe Bristow had ever given her. She wanted to fill her senses with him, fill her memory with him, so that there was no room left for Joe inside her.
    Will took her in his arms, crushing her to him, and kissed her deeply.
    And then it was her turn to be surprised. This was a man, she realized, not a boy. She could feel the heat of his strong hands on her back, the warmth of his broad chest under her palms. He kissed her cheek, behind her ear, her throat. He cupped her breasts, kissed the tops of them. It felt good, so good that she closed her eyes and sighed. It'll be all right, she thought. I'll forget Joe. I will. And then he suddenly took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes, puzzled. He took a few steps away from her.
    "Either I take you home, now, Miss Finnegan, or I don't take you home at all. And then your uncle will come after me with a shotgun."
    Fiona giggled and blushed, understanding his meaning. She smoothed her hair, then cheekily offered him her elbow. He shook his head.
    "What's wrong?" she asked him.
    "I need a minute," he said awkwardly, adjusting his trousers.
    Fiona looked in the direction of his fly. Even in the darkness she could see that the fabric appeared to be elevated. She giggled harder.
    "Really, Fiona! I wish you wouldn't laugh," he said, feigning outrage. "This is a rather humiliating position for a forty-five-year-old man of some worth and standing to be in." He glanced down at himself, then whistled, full of admiration. "Lord! I haven't had a hard-on like this since I was a schoolboy."
    "Will!"
    "What? You did it!"
    Fiona, giddy with laughter now, kissed him again over his protests. He told her if she didn't stop it they wouldn't get home until morning. She felt happy, hopeful, and excited. She was going to fall in love with Will. She was certain of it. She couldn't quite remember what falling in love felt like; Joe had always just been in love with Joe, but it must feel like this.
    As she and Will walked back to the carriage, arm in arm, Fiona told herself that she had found someone new, just as Rose Bristow said she would. Someone kind and smart and funny and wonderful. Someone who built gardens for her, even though she wasn't rich and didn't have a father in the produce business. Someone who would make her forget Joe. He hovered at the edges of her consciousness now, like a ghost in the gloom of a forest, but she was positive she would soon forget him entirely. He would be gone from her life, her mind, her memory. Really gone. Forever.
    
Chapter 40
    
    Fiona looked at the address scribbled on the slip of paper she held in her hands, then looked at the number on the brick building in front of her. This was it: twenty-one Nassau Street. Hurst, Brady, and Gifford stockbrokers. During their dinner at Delmonico's, Will had insisted she go to his broker's for a lesson on the stock market.
    "Do you know the difference between the rich and the poor?" he'd asked her.
    "Yes. The rich have all the money," she'd replied.
    "No, my dear," he said. "The rich understand that money begets money. Take a portion of your profits, invest it wisely, and before you know it you'll have the money you need to open your tearoom."
    And today, three weeks after their dinner, she had a little more money to invest than when they'd first spoken of it, for Will's prediction had come true. The papers had gotten hold of her impromptu audience with the Prince of Wales. Peter Hylton wrote that the future king of England could take tea in the grandest salons the city had to offer, but he preferred the wares of a pretty little tea merchant from Chelsea. And so did the dashing William McClane.
    Will had bristled at the fact that his name had been bandied about in gossip columns, and in such a salacious manner, but Fiona had no time to be offended; she'd been promptly deluged with customers. Young, fashionable types came in carriages, thrilled to pieces with themselves for daring to go slumming on the West Side. Maids and housekeepers came for their mistresses. And inquiries came from restaurants, hotels, and stores. Panicked, Fiona had run to the printer to order more boxes and then to Stuart to tell him to get her more tea. She'd had to hire two full-time girls to ring up purchases and one more to pack TasTea boxes. Fiona often joined them, shaking her head at the fact that she'd come all this way only to find herself packing tea again.
    Will was supposed to have accompanied her this afternoon, but he'd gotten tied up in a meeting. He'd sent his carriage with a note explaining his absence and telling her to go without him. Fiona hadn't wanted to go today; she was too busy. But when he stopped by last night to say hello and had seen her stuffing bills she couldn't fit into the night box into a jar, he'd put his foot down. " broker's. Tomorrow. No arguments," he'd said.
    She walked up the steps, pushed the door open, and entered what looked like hell on a bad day. There was a great wooden desk at the front of the room. Its owner was standing on his chair, his back turned to her, yelling. Behind it, a wooden railing ran the breadth of the room, separating the reception area from the clerks' desks. Visored men in vests and shirtsleeves sat at the desks, wiping sweat from their faces and rapidly dipping their pens in ink pots, scribbling furiously. Brokers ran back and forth, shouting at the clerks. Their noise, plus the sound of telegraphs and ticker tape machines, was deafening. She heard language more appropriate to the waterfront than a place of business.
    One of the clerks, fed up, shouted, "But I just wrote that jackass's purchase at ten!"
    "And he wants to sell it before it drops to five! Hurry up!"
    "Barnes!" a man yelled from the back of the room. "Hobson's on the line. He wants your head for telling him to buy Sullivan. Says you've ruined him."
    "Oh, yeah? Did I know this was going to happen? Tell him to go to hell!" Fiona walked up to the wooden railing, thinking how it reminded her of a fence, and the men inside it of wild bulls snorting and charging, penned up for other people's safety. She approached the man standing on his chair. "Excuse me, sir," she ventured.
    He ignored her. He was listening to a flushed, breathless lad who was standing in a huddle of men. "I was just down the exchange," the boy said. "It's a mess! People are screaming and yelling. I saw three fights break out-" "What about the Sullivan brothers?" somebody asked.
    "One's in the hospital. Heart attack. The other one's dead. Shot himself." His news prompted loud expressions of anger and disgust.
    Fiona tried again. "Pardon me, is Mr. Hurst available?" She might as well have been invisible. The men paid her no mind. She was beginning to despair of ever getting anyone to listen to her when she felt a hand on her back. “Will!" she exclaimed, happy to see him. "I thought you couldn't make it."
    "I managed to break away. I haven't got long," he said. "My secretary's got meetings scheduled back-to-back for me today. I don't know if I'm coming or going." He winced at a shouted obscenity. "What the devil's going on here? Where's Hurst?"
    "I don't know. I've been trying to get someone's attention, but I haven't been successful."
    "Mr. Martin," Will barked at the man standing on the chair. The man turned around. "There is a lady present. I expect you to behave accordingly."
    "Sorry, Mr. McClane. Didn't see you there, miss." He turned, put his fingers in his mouth, and blew a piercing whistle.
    He had seen her. She hadn't had Will with her at the time, though. "Lady in the house, gents!" Martin yelled. The clerks and traders craned their necks, saw Fiona and Will, and immediately quieted down. Mr. Martin picked up his telephone and informed Mr. Hurst that William McClane was here to see him. Half a second later, a tubby man came flying down the stairs to the upper floors, his hand extended. He welcomed them, then shouted at the office boy to bring refreshments for Mr. McClane and his guest.
    Fiona was getting used to this now, to the way the waters parted before Will. In the three weeks he'd been calling on her, he'd taken her picnicking on the New Jersey palisades with Seamie, to Rector's for dinner, and to the opera. Her uncle had allowed her to go on the picnic without a chaperone feeling that Seamie was enough of a third wheel-but he'd insisted that Nick, who was up and about now, accompany her to the opera. He'd heard untoward things went on in the private boxes there. And he made Mary go to Rector's with them, for he'd been told it was nothing but a lobster palace, and fast. Wherever they went, people fell over themselves to please Will. Fiona had had to train herself to expect service when she was with him, and not to hand the waiter her plate, remove her own wrap, or pour the wine. She realized again, as she saw Peter Hurst scramble to attend to him, what an immensely powerful man he was.
    "Peter, what's all the commotion about?" he asked.
    "A takeover."
    "Whose company?"
    "A shipbuilder's in Brooklyn. Sullivan Brothers. Three of the major shareholders have been buying up stock, it appears. They consolidated today and ousted the family. Nobody saw it coming. It's a dreadful business."
    "They can do that?" Fiona asked, following the two men into Hurst's office. "Someone can just take away another person's company?"
    "I'm afraid so," Hurst replied. "It's a very ungentlemanly way of doing business, but it's perfectly legal-" He was interrupted by the sound of a phone ringing. He excused himself, answered it, then handed it to Will. "It's for you."
    "What is it, Jeanne? Right now?" He sighed. "All right, yes. Tell him I'll be there." He handed the phone back. "I'm sorry," he said to Fiona. "I've got to go. The mayor. The subway. The usual nonsense. I'm going to take a cab and leave you the carriage."
    "We'll take excellent care of her, Mr. McClane," Hurst said.
    "Good. I'll see you this evening, darling," Will said, standing up to leave.
    Fiona followed him into the hallway. "Will, you look tired. Are you all right?"
    "I'm fine, it's just that blasted man. I'm eager for the whole thing to be resolved." He smiled. "As long as it's resolved in my favor, of course."
    "You'll get the contract. I know you will."
    He kissed her cheek, said he wished he had her confidence, and left. Fiona returned to Hurst's office and listened as he explained the basics to her. Though none of it was hard to grasp, he talked slowly, as if he were conversing with an imbecile. Her mind wandered as he told her the difference between stocks, bonds, and commodities futures for the second time. She couldn't help thinking about the commotion downstairs, about the two men who'd lost their company and the shareholders who'd taken it from them. It gnawed at her. There was something in it, something she was missing.
    "One moment, Mr. Hurst," she said, interrupting him. "About the Sullivans… you said they never saw this coming. Didn't they realize what was happening?"
    "No. But then, I'm sure they weren't looking for it, either. It's a rare occurrence. "
    "But it does happen… " she said, more to herself than to Mr. Hurst. The pieces were clicking into place now. A clear picture emerged in her mind: investing was a financial tool, a way to make money. But it could also be a tool of aggression-a weapon. Buy enough pieces of a company and one day you'd own it.
    "Oh, yes," Hurst said. "Owners become incautious. Too trusting. Or too arrogant. They think they're invulnerable." He smiled sympathetically. "I see all this has you worried, Miss Finnegan. What a terrible introduction to the market. Please don't let it distress you. The majority of transactions we handle are very secure. Let's move on to better topics."
    But Fiona wasn't worried. Or distressed. Just the opposite. A new possibility was sparking in her mind, the very beginnings of a plan.
    Hurst droned on, telling her how her account would work, how to buy and sell, all about fees and commissions. He explained the newly devised Dow Jones Industrial Average in The Wall Street Journal. She let him rattle. Her mind was going a hundred miles an hour, alive with the possibilities of her plan-a plan that had eluded her for so long.
    "So, you see," he said ploddingly, finally wrapping up his lesson, "you can follow your stock's progress very easily just by looking in the newspaper. Let's say you'd bought five thousand shares of McClane Subterranean yesterday at fifteen dollars a share. We see here that it closed today at sixteen and a quarter." He picked up a pencil. "Now, that gives us… "
    "… one dollar and twenty-five cents per share multiplied by five thousand, which would give me a profit of six thousand two hundred and fifty dollars. Goodness, Mr. Hurst, Mr. McClane is absolutely right. This is a good way to make money!"
    Hurst blinked. "Yes, it is. Now, if there's anything else I can do for you… " "There is," she said, sitting forward in her chair. "I'd like to buy some shares of Burton Tea. An English company."
    Hurst frowned. "Are you certain that's wise, Miss Finnegan? A transaction so soon? Mr. McClane led me to believe you were quite new to the market."
    "I was. Thanks to your excellent instruction, Mr. Hurst, I no longer am. Now, about those Burton shares?"
    "One moment. I'll need to look up the price."
    Hurst disappeared into the hallway. Fiona picked up a stock certificate from his desk. It was for ten thousand shares of Carnegie Steel. It was only paper, yet it was a piece of a company. Soon, she would hold a piece of Burrton's company in her hands. Only a tiny piece, but she would make that piece bigger - even if it took her twenty years to do it. And when it was big enough, she would ruin him.
    "There we are, Miss Finnegan," he said. returning to his desk. He glanced at her, then paused. "Are you all right? You look flushed. Is it too warm? I can open another window."
    Fiona assured him she was fine. He told her that Burton Tea was currently trading at around twenty dollars a share. She asked for ten shares. It was a huge amount of money, and such a small beginning, but it was a beginning all the same. He pushed some papers across his desk toward her. Her hands shook with emotion as she filled them out. She could feel his eyes on her. Can he see it? she wondered. Can he see the rage inside? The sorrow? All the black, ugly things Burton put there? She finished with the papers, catching his gaze as she handed them back. She held it for a heartbeat, watching his eyes widen before he glanced away. He looked as if he'd seen something he would've preferred not to.
    Fiona thanked him for his help. Then she told him she would like to make a standing appointment with him every Friday to purchase additional shares of Burton Tea.
    "Every Friday? You must have tremendous faith in the stock. Do you know the chairman?"
    Fiona nodded. "All too well, Mr. Hurst. All too well."
    
Chapter 41
    
    “It's going to be a boy, I just know it," Isabelle, Will's daughter in law, said.
    "How do you know?" his daughter Emily asked, looking up from her needlepoint.
    "He's troublesome. Always kicking. Never stays still."
    "What will you name him?" Edmund, Will's youngest son, asked. "William Robertson McClane the Third," Will Junior, Isabelle's husband, said, putting a golf ball into an overturned vase.
    "That's original." Edmund snorted. He was sitting in a wing chair, one leg hanging over the side. He was home from Princeton for the summer and working in the city on the subway project with Will Junior. "I have a better name, Edmund!”
    "What?"
    "Edmund!"
    His brother threw a golf ball at him, missed and dented a side table. "Boys… " Will said absently, making them all laugh.
    "He thinks we're still five," James, the second eldest, said.
    "When you throw golf balls in the house I do," Will replied, looking out the French doors of the large sunny sitting room where they were gathered to the rolling hills of his estate, the horses in the distance, and the Hudson beyond. He'd go for a walk if only he didn't feel so indolent after his enormous dinner. Maybe in a minute, with one of his sons, or Richard, his son-in-law. The women would stay behind. Isabelle was in the last weeks of her confinement. As befitted a woman of her station, she no longer went out in public and saw only family and female friends.
    "Will looked at his family and felt a deep glow of paternal pride. Emily had written asking him to come home to Hyde Park for the weekend. They wanted to see him, she'd said, he'd been away too long. He suspected they thought he was lonely without their mother. He appreciated their thoughtfulness, but he would have preferred to be in the city with Fiona. He wanted to take her to Saratoga or Newport, someplace where they could spend a long, lazy July weekend together - even if it meant he had to invite Mary or Nick. along. But then Emily's letter had arrived, and Fiona, when she learned of it, told him to go see his family. She was so busy with the tea shop, she couldn't have gotten away for an entire weekend. And besides, she'd promised to take Seamie to Coney Island on Saturday evening. The Munros were going, Nick and Michael, too. If he changed his mind about Hyde Park and wanted to eat hot dogs, shoot the chutes, and see the bearded lady, he was welcome to join them, she'd said.
    Will had shuddered at the very notion. There were times when he was reminded of the great differences in their backgrounds, a difference that sometimes made him feel self-conscious when he was in her element, but never seemed to affect her when she was in his. She carried herself with grace always and charmed everyone she met.
    He had begun to introduce her into society, just dipping her toes in the water, and she'd done so well. Two nights ago, he'd taken her and Nick to a party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of the famed landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. She'd looked so beautiful. She'd worn a dress of teal green and a pair of earrings that looked like diamonds but were really paste and were borrowed from her friend, Maddie. The dress's lines were spare, almost Grecian. She had a way, he'd noticed, of wearing the simplest of things to the greatest effect.
    She'd told him Nick had gone with her to pick the dress out. He was a bit jealous of the lad, though he tried not to be. He had asked her once if he was competing with Nick and she had surprised him by bursting into laughter. If anything, she'd said, she was competing with Nick. Usually he could tell, but with Nick he'd had no idea, The lad was not effeminate. There was his interest in art, and his sartorial excesses -the Liberty of London vests, the white linen suits, the heliotrope cravats, but Will had ascribed those eccentricities to his nationality. He was English, after all, and that explained a lot. Fiona and Nick were very close, inseparable even, and he knew from the tenderness they showed each other that he wouldn't have had a chance with her if young Soames fancied women. To please her, he'd taken Nick up and was trying to further his career. At the. Bierstadt party, he'd introduced him to William Whitney, Anthony Drexel, and J. P. Morgan, art collectors all.
    And he'd introduced Fiona to Caroline Astor, the imperious queen of New York society. Most women would've been quaking. Not Fiona. She'd merely grinned, shook Caroline's hand, and said, "Smashing party, isn't it?"
    Caroline had been curt and icy to her, but could not resist inquiring where she'd bought her lovely dress. "Paris?" she asked. "London?"
    "No, Macy's," Fiona had replied.
    Caroline's eyes had widened, then she'd laughed warmly. Fiona had that effect on people. She was utterly unpretentious. She charmed frosty socialites and stuffy businessmen just by being her lovely, irreverent self. She'd even dazzled Morgan-the richest man in the country when Will introduced them-by meeting his imperious gaze, smiling, and shaking his hand just like a man. Later, Morgan had good-naturedly groused to Will that she was not intimidated by him in the least and should've had the good grace to show a bit of awe.
    Will was head over heels in love with her and he wanted nothing more than to tell her. He'd almost done so once, in the carriage on the way back from a supper, but he'd felt a tension in her as he broached the topic. He thought perhaps she doubted his sincerity. Maybe she feared, as he once had, that things would not work out between them and was afraid to get her heart broken. He had a feeling someone had done that before. She had a passionate nature - he felt it in the way she touched him, the way she kissed him, but there was a wariness, too. He would introduce her to his family soon. That would show he was serious. He would do it for his children's sake as well. Eventually he and Fiona would run into Will Junior or James at a restaurant, or someone would mention having seen him with her. Luckily none of them read "Peter's Patter." Hylton had taken quite a shine to Fiona. She was mentioned in his column nearly every week. He always described what she wore and noted that she was always on the arm of either the dashing young Englishman, Nick Soames, or Will, and that it was anyone's guess who would win her. Obviously, Nick's sexual orientation and his role as chaperon had escaped him, too.
    "Dad?" Will Junior said. "I asked you a question. Didn't you hear me?"
    "No, sorry. I was miles away." He saw Emily glance at him, then drop her eyes back to her needlework.
    "I asked if the engineering reports on the Brooklyn line had come in yet."
    "Not yet. I expect them tomorrow."
    Silence fell again. James took a turn with the putter. Edmund tossed a golf ball into the air. Emily pulled her needle through her canvas. Will's eyes lingered on his daughter's hands. They were so delicate and white. Nothing like Fiona's; her hands were always work-roughened. At Rector's the other night, he noticed a scratch across the back of one as she'd reached for her wineglass. The sight of it-such a tough little fighter's hand-had made his heart melt. Fiona's were not pretty hands, not like Emily's, but to him they were beautiful.
    James coughed. Will looked up and was distinctly aware of tension in the air. He saw Will Junior give Emily a nod, and then she stood suddenly and asked Isabelle to come with her for a walk. Just a short one around the grounds, she said. It would do her good. Isabelle raised herself with her husband's help and lumbered off after Emily. Will was left with his three sons and his son-in-law. Edmund had gotten hold of two more golf balls and was juggling them now, oblivious to the strained vibrations. Richard was skulking in the background. Will Junior and James were standing at the mantel, no longer playing with the putter. Something was going on. They'd asked him to come here today for a reason. He eyed Will Junior and James, making them squirm, then said, "Well, what is it?"
    "What's what?" Edmund said, catching the balls and regarding his father.
    "Dad… " Will Junior began, "… we wanted to talk with you."
    "You couldn't talk in New York?"
    "No, it's too personal," Will Junior said. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, clearly uncomfortable.
    "We've heard things," James continued. "People have seen you out with a young woman."
    "It's none of our business," Will Junior said, "but there's been quite a bit of talk. We just… we just think it's not right to squire a mistress about so openly."
    Will smiled at his sons' sense of propriety. "The woman you speak of is not my mistress. Her name is Fiona Finnegan. I'm courting her. In a very respectable fashion, I might add. I'm sorry, I should've realized you'd hear about it. I should have told you about her earlier."
    "Courting!" Will Junior echoed, a shocked expression on his face. "With an intent to marry?"
    Will shrugged, becoming irritated by this inquisition. "It's a bit soon for that, but since you ask, yes… it's a possibility."
    "Dad!" Edmund exclaimed, smiling warmly. "That's great! What's she like? Is she pretty?"
    Will laughed. "Very."
    Will Junior said nothing. He simply stared at his father in disbelief. "I've met her family," Will continued. "In due time, I'll introduce her to all of you."
    "Dad, we don't… you can't… this won't do," James said coldly.
    "I've heard she's not even twenty years old. And a Shopkeeper!" Will Junior said, spitting out the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. "Have you gone mad?"
    "I beg your pardon?" Will said, affronted by both the question and his son's tone.
    “She’s no one we know.” James said. “And the age difference alone - “
    "I’m forty-five, not eighty-five, thank you," he snapped.
    Will Junior paced the length of the room, then turned back to his father visibly upset. "Think of how this will look to subway investors. We can: afford a scandal now, we can't afford any ill will whatsoever. Not with Belmont in the game. Not with all we've got riding on this."
    "A scandal?" Will repeated, looking at his son as if he were crazy. "Don’t be ridiculous."
    "I’m not being ridiculous!" Will Junior said, his voice rising. "Can't you see - “
    "I know what your real objection is," Will said, cutting him off. "Why don't you come out with it? It's that she's working-class and Irish, isn't it?"
    "My objection is that this… this fling of yours will ruin all we've worked for."
    "Will, leave Dad alone," Edmund said, rushing to his father's defense, "He knows what he's doing. He's allowed to date a girl if he wants to."
    "To date? Edmund, shut up, will you?" Will Junior shouted. "You don't know what you're talking about. What do you think this is? A college social? This is business, the real world, not school. We can't allow ourselves to be compromised."
    "Son, that's enough," Will said sharply. He let a few seconds elapse, time enough for Will Junior to cool off, then, in a conciliatory tone, he said, "Wait until you meet her. You'll see what a wonderful person she is. You'll change your mind."
    "I have no intention of meeting her. Not now. Not ever," Will Junior said angrily. He stormed out of the room, James and Richard trailing in his wake.
    Edmund stayed behind. "Don't mind them, Dad," he said quietly,
    Will sighed heavily. He'd gotten to his feet in the middle of the argument.
    Now he sat back down. "Maybe it's too soon. Too close to your mother's death."
    "Oh, please, Dad. It's been two years since our mother died. His problem is that it's too close to his run for Congress. He's worried how your romance with a younger woman will sit with his conservative voters."
    "That's uncharitable of you, Edmund. Will Junior's ambitious, but he's not that harsh."
    Edmund shrugged. "If you say so. I think he's as harsh as sandpaper myself."
    "Maybe he really is worried about the subway deal. He's put his heart into it and he's done a very fine job. Maybe he really is nervous about the competition. If we could just nail that contract," Will said. "Then I could prove to him he's wrong. If I had the papers signed he couldn't object anymore. He'd have nothing to object to."
    "So what if he objects, Dad? Let him! What can he do? Cut off your allowance?"
    Will gave his son a weary smile. "No," he said, "but he can create the sort of scene he just did. You all matter too much to me for that. I don't want to see any of you angry or unhappy. I'm going to have to redouble my efforts on the subway. As soon as we get that contract, he'll come around, Edmund. I know he will."
    
Chapter 42
    
    To Joe, the sight of eight Montague Street was like a knife in his heart. He stood in front of it, wishing to God that the door would open and she would be there, smiling, her blue eyes shining, just as she had been the day he took her to the West End. Last year at this time he still lived on this street, still sat out on the step at night with his mates, still dreamed of a shop, a life with Fiona. Only a year ago. It seemed like a lifetime.
    He pulled himself away, walked to number four and knocked. His father answered it. "Well, well. The prodigal returns," he said.
    "Nice to see you, too, Dad."
    Peter Bristow looked at the bundle of pink carnations his son was holding and scowled. "Could 'ave at least sprung for roses. 'Ad 'er worried sick, you did. Didn't know where you was. Neighbors whispering. Lads talking down the market, saying Peterson kicked your sorry arse out. All the crying and carrying on I 'ad to listen to on your account… "
    "I’m sorry, Dad. I'm sorry. All right?"
    Peter shook his head. "I'll say you are. Come inside. I'm not in the 'abit of 'aving me Sunday dinner on the step."
    Joe rolled his eyes and followed his father in, glad he'd decided not to move back home. He was boisterously greeted by his brother Jimmy, who was sixteen; thirteen-year-old Ellen, who was taller and prettier than he remembered; and eight-year-old Cathy in pigtails and a pinafore. He kissed his mother, who was lifting a big leg of lamb out of the oven. He nearly scolded her when he saw it-he knew how dear lamb was-but she was proud of the joint, pleased it had turned out well, and so he said nothing. She saw the carnations in his hand, fussed over them, and had Ellen put them in a vase. Joe carried the lamb to the table while his sisters saw to the potatoes and Brussels sprouts. There was an awkward silence as they sat down to eat, then Cathy said, "Mum said Millie lost the baby, Joe. 'Ow did she lose it? Did it wander off? 'As she found it yet?"
    "Be quiet, Cathy!" Ellen scolded.
    Joe stopped cutting his lamb. "The baby's not lost, luv," he said quietly. “ 'E's in 'eaven."
    "But why? Why is 'e there?"
    "Oi! Eat your supper and mind your business, you," her father barked. "We'll 'ave no more talk of babies or Millie or any of it."
    "Stupid!" Ellen hissed, elbowing her.
    "Am not!" Cathy said sulkily. "I only said-"
    "Pass me the gravy, please, Cathy, there's a good girt" Rose said. "Tell us about your new job, then, Joe."
    Joe did, grateful to his mother for changing the subject. When he'd finished, his father said, "Seems to me you could do a bit better with all your experience."
    Rose shot her husband a look.
    "I tried. Tommy's blackballed me. I was lucky to get what I've got," Joe said. He chewed a piece of lamb and swallowed it. "It's not forever, though. I'm putting most of me money away." He hesitated for a second, then said, "I've got an idea for a new business."
    "What is it, luv?" Rose asked excitedly.
    "As soon as I've got enough saved up, I'm going to get me own barrow, fill it with the best produce, and take it door-to-door in one of the better neighbor'oods. Mayfair, maybe. If I make enough money, I'll buy an 'orse and cart so I can go farther afield. To Knightsbridge, say, and I'll 'ire another man to take the barrow on the Mayfair route. Then I'll keep adding carts and routes till I 'ave a good deal of the West End covered." He was animated now. A little of his old spirit was back. "This way, the cook or the 'ousekeeper gets the finest produce brought right to 'er on a daily basis. She can pick and choose and not 'ave to go shopping 'erself or take whatever old rubbish the corner shop delivers, see? I'm thinking of calling it 'Montague's- Where Quality and Convenience Meet.' After the street, like. What do you think?"
    "I think it's a grand idea," Rose said.
    "I'd work for you," Jimmy said. "I could 'elp you in the morning and get back in time to 'elp Dad in the afternoon."
    "I think it's the daftest idea I ever' eard," h is father said. " 'Ow are you going to get the cooks to buy from you? They already 'ave their favorite shops… "
    "Peter… " Rose said. He didn't hear her.
    "… and 'ow will you know what to put on the barrow? And 'ow much of it? You'll be running out of one thing while you 'ave too much of another. You'd do well to stay in the job you've got and be thankful for it."
    "You just told me I could do better!" Joe said, frustrated by his father's constant criticism, his refusal even to consider a new idea.
    "Just keep your 'ead down for now and don't make another cock-up of things," Peter said.
    Joe balled up his napkin. "I don't know why I came back 'ere," he said, standing up to go. 'I’m sorry, Mum. Thanks for the dinner."
    "Sit down!" Rose snapped. "You're not going anywhere. You're going to finish the food I cooked for you!"
    She turned to her husband angrily and Joe saw that his father, who had a good eighty pounds on his mother and stood a foot taller, flinched. "And you,. Peter, you'd do well to get be'ind your son for once, instead of telling 'im 'e's daft for coming up with a new idea. A good idea! If 'e'd gotten a little more encouragement round 'ere in the first place, 'e might never 'ave left for Covent Garden. And 'e wouldn't 'ave gotten tangled up with the likes of bloody Tommy Peterson and 'is bloody daughter!"
    The whole family was silent. Meekly, they all resumed eating. Ellen dished out more meat. Cathy ate her sprouts without a peep even though she hated them. Joe poured gravy on his potatoes. Peter stabbed at a piece of lamb, then grudgingly said he might know of a barrow for sale. Maybe he could put a deposit on it and Joe could pay the balance out of his weekly wages. Rose patted her husband's hand and gave her eldest a hopeful look.
    The rest of dinner proceeded uneventfully. When it was over, Peter sat in front of the hearth with his paper and pipe and dozed off. Jimmy went out to meet his friends, as did Ellen and Cathy after they'd helped their mother with the washing up. Rose asked Joe if he fancied a stroll before he headed back to Covent Garden. He said he did.
    As they walked down Montague Street, his eyes were drawn back to Fiona's house. His mother noticed. "There are two families in there now. One upstairs, one down. Lord, I miss them. Kate was like a 'sister to me," she said.
    Joe nodded. He missed them, too. So much that it hurt. He turned to his mother and asked, "Do you think she'd ever forgive me, Mum? Not that she'd ever love me again. I know that's too much to ask, but maybe she could just forgive me."
    Rose hesitated. "I don't know, luv. It's amazing what the 'eart can bear. People say it breaks, but it doesn't. It would be easier if it did. If it just stopped beating, stopped feeling." They turned the corner. "I suppose she might. It 'appens. I once forgave your father."
    "For what? Being a miserable old sod?"
    Rose shook her head and Joe noticed his mother suddenly looked faraway and sad.
    "For what, Mum?"
    "When you were only six and Jimmy three and Ellen just born, your dad left. 'E took up with a widow who worked at the Spitalfields market. She was no beauty, but 'er kids were grown and she 'ad a room all to 'erself."
    "Me own dad?" Joe said, floored.
    Rose nodded. "'E couldn't cope with marriage and fatherhood and another new baby. We 'ad no money whatsoever. We lived with me parents. 'E worked for 'is father. It was an awful time."
    "But you coped, Mum."
    "Of course I did, my children needed me. I could cope. 'E couldn't." Joe looked at her, still in a state of shock.
    Rose laughed at his expression. "Men are the weak ones, luv. Didn't you know? Oh, you make a lot of noise, but it's the women who are strong. Where it counts. In 'ere," she said, touching her fingers to her heart. Pain flickered across her face at the memories. "A brand-new baby. Colicky. Wouldn't feed. Never let me sleep. Jimmy and you only sprogs. Barely enough money for food. And then me 'usband ups and leaves me." She laughed bitterly. "And me dad asks me what I’d done to drive 'im out. Thank God I 'ad me mum. I wouldn't 'ave made it without 'er."
    "What 'appened? 'E came back? You let 'im?"
    "Aye. 'E was back within the month. Tail between 'is legs."
    "Why'd you take 'im back?"
    "I needed me 'usband. You kids needed your dad. And I loved the blighter. It took a while, but I forgave 'im. 'E was sorry and 'e tried so 'ard afterward. And even though what 'e'd done 'urt, I could understand it. The way you lot cried and carried on, I wanted to leave meself."
    "Blimey, me own dad," Joe said. "I never knew."
    "Maybe that explains your father, luv. Why 'e is like' e is. So careful and cautious. Afraid to put a foot wrong and mess things up again. Maybe that's why 'e's angry with you. You made the same mistake 'e did." Joe nodded. "What all this means is, I don't know if Fiona can forgive you. It's not for me to say. But I do know 'ow much she loved you, and 'ow much you loved her. And you shouldn't go through the rest of your life without at least trying to see if she will."
    "I want to, Mum. I would. If only I could find 'er."
    Rose frowned. "You weren't able to find out anything? Not even with that detective?"
    "Only that she'd pawned some things in a shop near Roddy's flat. That's it."
    "Fiona's a capable girl, I'm sure she's all right wherever she is. And I'm sure she 'ad 'er reasons for leaving the way she did, but still, it's very strange."
    Joe said it worried him too. He told his mother something he hadn't told her before because he hadn't wanted to alarm her-he told her about his run-in with Stan Christie.
    "Oh, Joe, I don't like the sound of that at all," she said anxiously. "What on earth does Bowler Sheehan want with Fiona?"
    "According to Roddy, Sheehan says she stole some money and 'e wants it back."
    "What? That makes no sense! Nothing about this does. Fiona wouldn't steal. And it's so unlike 'er not to tell Roddy where she went. Of all people! 'E was like a father to 'er. More family than 'er own uncle, who didn't even write to Kate or send money after Paddy died."
    Joe stopped walking. He took his mother by the shoulders. "'Er uncle… " he said slowly.
    "Aye. 'E lives in New York City. 'E's a shopkeeper, I think. I remember Kate telling me that Charlie wanted to go there and work for 'im."
    "Mum, that's it!" he shouted. "That's where she is, I'm sure of it! Where else would she 'ave gone? Especially with Seamie to look after. Do you know 'is name? 'Is address?"
    "I don't. It would be Finnegan, of course, but I don't know 'is first name. Roddy would, though. Maybe 'e knows the address, too."
    "Mum, I'm going to go," Joe said excitedly. "To New York. She's there, I just know it. As soon as I can get the money together. I'll need quite a bit, I would think. Enough to get over there and to pay for room and board while I look for' er. I've got to get my business going. I can make more working for meself than I can working for Ed."
    "Let's go back and ask your dad about the barrow 'e mentioned. I've got a bit of pin money put aside, I could' elp with the deposit," Rose said.
    Joe kissed her. "Thanks, Mum. Let's go to Roddy's first, though, before we go 'orne. See if'e knows the address. If 'e does, I could write 'er right away."
    "All right," Rose said. "Let's go." She started off in the wrong direction. "No, it's this way," Joe said, tugging on her arm. "Come on, Mum, 'urry!"
    
Chapter 43
    
    Fiona thumbed the pages of the leather-bound book she was holding. "What have you got there?" Will asked her.
    "The Collected Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson."
    He glanced over at it. "A first edition. Very rare. Printed in Venice," he said, wiping dust off a bottle of wine he was holding. "Do you like Tennyson?"
    "I might if I hadn't been forced to memorize him in school." she replied.
    She closed her eyes, hugged the book to her chest, and recited "Crossing the Bar" perfectly, opening her eyes again on the very last line.
    "Well done!" Will remarked, putting the bottle down to applaud. He'd taken off his jacket and tie and had draped them over a leather settee. He was wearing a crisp white shirt-its cuffs held together with monogrammed gold rectangles-a silk vest, and trousers of fine, light wool.
    Fiona flushed at his praise. She returned the book to its place at the bottom of an oak bookshelf that was at least twenty feet high. Dozens more lined the walls of Will's enormous library. Ladders positioned on rails allowed access to the upper shelves. The library was twice as big as Michael's entire flat, but it was only one room in a mansion that took up an entire city block-the corner of Fifth Avenue at Sixty-second Street. This was her first visit to Will's home. He'd taken her to dinner at Delmonico's, accompanied by Nick. As soon as they were done, they journeyed uptown and Nick headed downtown where, he said, he was going to meet a painter friend. They would all rendezvous back at Del's just before midnight, then continue on to Eighth Avenue and Michael would never be the wiser. They'd done this twice before and he hadn't caught on yet. It was the only way she could ever have any time alone with Will. The first time they'd gone walking in the Park, and the second time riding in the carriage. They'd been able to talk to each other without a third person always listening, and steal a few kisses, too.
    When they'd arrived at the house-just over an hour ago-he'd given her the grand tour. It had taken that long just to walk through it. It was impossibly huge and stupefying opulent. It had a receiving room, two drawing rooms, three parlors, a dining room, endless hallways, a sitting room, a games room, several studies, a gallery, a conservatory, huge kitchens, a ballroom that could hold three hundred, several rooms that appeared to serve no purpose whatsoever, and Will's enormous library, plus various bedrooms, bathrooms, and quarters for the servants. Fiona thought it more a palace than a house and nearly tripped several times trying to take in all the carved marble, the gilding, the painted panels, the tapestries, silk curtains, crystal chandeliers, the paintings and sculpture. Overwhelmed, she was glad when they finally reached the library, with its spare decor. Just the orderly shelves, two desks, and two leather bergeres and a settee grouped in front of the fireplace. It was a chilly night, even though it was summer, and the butler had built a fire for them. Its light, plus the glow from several candelabra, illuminated the room.
    "Will… " she said now, turning in a slow circle to take in the thousands of titles before her. "Just how many books do you have?"
    He thought for a few seconds as he struggled with an uncooperative corkscrew. "About a hundred thousand, give or take a few."
    "Blimey!" she whispered, walking the length of one wall, her boot heels clicking on the polished stone floor. She heard a cork pop.
    "Ah! There we go. Do you like Margaux, Fiona? This is a '69. Older than you are."
    Fiona shrugged. "I don't know. I've never had it. I never had wine at all until you took me to Delmonico's. Only champagne. It was all Nick would drink on the ship, so I drank it, too."
    Will blinked at her. "Really? What did you drink in London?"
    “Tea.”
    "I mean with your luncheon. And your dinner."
    Fiona tapped her chin. "Hmmm… with my luncheon. And my dinner. Let me think. Ah, yes, I remember now… tea. And then there was tea. Oh, and we also had tea. A rather run-of-the-mill Assam from the corner shop most days, but occasionally a divine" - she fluttered her lashes on the word "Darjeeling if a crate broke at the docks and my father and his mates could get to it before the foreman found out."
    Will gave her a look. "Making fun of me?"
    She grinned. "What do you think we drank on a docker's wages?"
    "What were they?"
    "Twenty-odd shillings. About five dollars."
    Will grimaced. "I guess you wouldn't be drinking wine on that, would you? But you are now. Here, come and try this."
    He had settled himself on the settee. Fiona joined him. She liked it here in his library. She felt safe sitting close to him. She always felt safe with him, wherever they went. Safe and cared for. Those were good feelings. Not as good as the breathless, desperate, longing feelings of being in love. Those feelings still eluded her no matter how much she wished they would come. But they would come. In time. She was certain of it. It was still too soon. She barely knew Will, after all. She hadn't been seeing him long enough to be in love yet. She was still falling in love. And that was a different thing entirely.
    He poured two glasses of wine. She reached for one but he drew it away. "Not so fast. A lesson first, before you drink one of the best wines the world has to offer."
    "Do I spit it out? They had a wine-appreciation lesson on the ship. watched them. They swirled it in their mouths then spat it in a bucket. guess they weren't too appreciative."
    "You spit this out, my girl, and I'll string you up."
    "Is it good, then?"
    "Very. Close your eyes."
    She did. "Now what do I do?"
    "Close your mouth. Just for a few seconds. Can you manage that?" Fiona giggled. "Inhale it first," Will said, holding the glass under her nose. "Take a nice deep breath." Fiona did as she was told. She could feel him near her, feel his warmth, the resonance of his voice. "What do you smell?"
    "Urn… grapes?"
    "What else?"
    She inhaled again. "Currants, I think. Yes, currants. And… and pepper? And a bit of something else… I know-vanilla!" She opened her eyes.
    "Very good. You've an excellent nose. I'm impressed."
    He handed her the glass. It was lead crystal, as heavy as a brick. She took a mouthful and swallowed it. It was like drinking velvet. She took another mouthful and felt its warmth spread through her body. She noticed that Will was sitting very close to her. She could see the flecks of copper in his warm brown eyes, a small freckle above his top lip, a lick of gray in his hair. He smelled of starched laundry and leather and clean skin. It was wonderful, his scent, much nicer than an old glass of wine. It brought blood to her cheeks and made them glow. She held his gaze for a few seconds, certain he was going to kiss her, wanting him to. And then he did.
    "You've got an excellent mouth, too," he said, taking the wineglass from her hand and placing it on the table. He kissed her neck, and behind her ear, making her shiver. He stroked her breast through the fabric of her dress firmly but gently, making her sigh. He was sure of himself. Confident in the way he touched her, and she was reminded again that he was no boy. He'd had a wife once, and if her uncle was to be believed, mistresses, too. He knew what he was doing, which was more than she could say. As she felt his hands on her back, undoing the buttons there, felt him sliding her camisole straps over her shoulders, she suddenly knew why he had brought her here tonight, why they had come to his home instead of walking in the park.
    "Will, don't… " she said breathlessly, not ready for this.
    But he didn't stop. As the candles flickered, casting a warm glow over the shelves of books, the wine, the leather settee, her skin, he kept on stroking her bare breasts, kissing her lips, moving his fingers in just the right way under her skirts. He was skilled. He knew just where to touch her and how. His hands and lips made her feel weak, made the place between her legs ache, made her feel as if she wanted to peel his clothes off and pull him down to her. Entranced by desire, she no longer wanted him to stop. She wanted to feel the heat of his skin against hers, to feel him inside of her.
    He kissed her again, then said, "Come to bed with me, Fiona. I want you… I want to make love to you."
    She froze. Only seconds ago, there had been fire in her veins, now there was ice. She broke their embrace. "No, Will," she said sharply. "I don't want to… I… I can't."
    Will sat back against the settee and closed his eyes. "What is it? What's wrong?" he asked.
    "I… I could get pregnant."
    He opened one eye and looked at her. "There are devices, you know. I would've taken precautions."
    "Well… it's not just that… I can't… I'm not… "
    "It's all right, Fiona," he said, taking her hand. "You're not ready. That's all I need to know. You don't have to explain. I understand. I was too pushy."
    "No, Will, you weren't," she started to say, "I… I want you, too, I do… I just… "
    "Shhh," he said, stopping her mouth with a kiss. He pulled her camisole together. "At least put those away, will you? There's only so much a man can stand."
    Fiona buttoned herself up. Her cheeks were burning, but not from modesty.
    
    She had lied. To Will. To herself. She let him believe her reticence was due to a fear of pregnancy when she knew the real reason, knew it and refused to admit it. His words, I want you!… I want to make Love to you - they were Joe's words, the very words he'd said to her that afternoon in Covent Garden when he'd made love to her in his narrow bed, when he told her he loved her and he always would. The second Will had uttered them, images of Joe had filled her mind. The way he'd looked when he'd dumped out their cocoa tin in her lap, when he'd given her the tiny sapphire ring, when he'd scooped her up in his arms. She remembered his touch, the way he'd opened her up to him, opened himself to her, until they'd become one - one body, one heart, one soul.
    These images tortured her. She wanted to be with Will, to think only of him, to be in love with him. She wanted to move on, to put Joe behind her. So very much. And she'd been trying, but it never worked. He always came back. She might hear a voice that sounded like his, or glimpse a pair of eyes nearly as blue as his, or see a lad walk with the same cocky swagger, and suddenly he was with her again-in her mind, her heart.
    "Fiona?" Will said gently. "Are those tears?"
    She quickly brushed her cheeks, embarrassed. She didn't know she'd been crying. He pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. "I've upset you, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so demanding. I'm a clod. Truly. Don't cry, darling. It breaks my heart." He held her close, whispering to her. "I'd never take advantage of you. Never. I'd rather die than hurt you. I just got carried away, that's all. My feelings for you are that strong." He released her, looked into her eyes, and said, "I'm bad at these things, Fiona. I can talk your ears off about business, as I'm sure you know by now, but I'm at a loss when it comes to matters of the heart. Always have been." He paused for a second, then said, "I've never told you this before… "
    Her hands clenched. No, Will, she thought. Not now. Please, please, not now.
    "… I've wanted to say it to you for a long time, but I've been, well… afraid to, I guess. In case you didn't return my feelings. I… I love you, Fiona."
    Why had he said it? Why now? Why not on some perfect night when they were walking arm in arm from a dinner and laughing and thoughts of Joe were a million miles away. They'd had such nights. They'd given her hope, made her believe that she could forget him.
    Will kissed her lips tenderly, lovingly. He looked into her eyes, waiting for her answer.
    She would tell him that this wasn't going to work. She would say she loved another man and always would. That she'd tried to get him out of her heart, but couldn't. That she'd grow old loving him. That she hated herself for loving him.
    Instead she said, "Oh, Will… I… I love you, too."
    
Chapter 44
    
    “I shouldn't have let you do this. It's too soon for all this walking," Fiona fretted.
    "Oh, don't fuss so! I'm fine," Nick huffed. "Everyone treats me like I'm some delicate, wilting flower. As if I'm going to fall over if a strong breeze comes up. I've been out already, you know. Parties and suppers and such. I'm not an invalid anymore!"
    "No, but you certainly are bad-tempered."
    "Sorry," he said, trying to look contrite. "But I'm fine, Fee. Really."
    "No fibs?"
    "No fibs. I feel good. I'm just discouraged by the rubbish we've been shown, that's all."
    About ten yards ahead of them, at the corner of Irving Place and Eighteenth Street, the real estate agent turned and said, "Everything all right, Mr. Soames? Not tiring, are you? I'm sure you'll like the next property. It's a gem."
    "I'm sure it is. As dogholes go," Nick muttered. He was desperate to find a new site for his gallery. It had been two months since his collapse and he was eager to return to work.
    "All this walking's made me awfully thirsty. I wish there was someplace to sit for a second and have something to drink," he said, threading his arm through Fiona's. "There should be a tearoom in the neighborhood. Have you looked here yet?"
    "No, but I should. I'm having no luck elsewhere. Though I can't imagine I'd be any more successful than you've been today. It seems there's nothing available. Everything's too small or too expensive."
    Nick nodded. "I don't think I'm ever going to find an arrangement like the one I had. It was so perfect. Will doesn't know of anything, does he?"
    "No, I asked him."
    "How is the dashing Mr. McClane?"
    "Very well. I… I'm in love with him, Nick."
    Nick stopped dead, taken aback by her declaration. "So soon? Are you sure?"
    "Positive," she said brightly.
    Too brightly. This is all very sudden, he thought.
    "Remember when you told me I'd fall in love again? That I'd forget all about Joe? Well, I have. I didn't believe you, but you were right. I really have."
    He gave her an uncertain smile. "That's wonderful," he started to say. “He's a very… "
    "He's a very wonderful man," she said forcefully. "He's smart and good and kind. And he loves me. He told me he did."
    Whom are you trying to convince, old trout? Me or yourself? Nick wondered. She was looking away from him and her face seemed so closed. Her forehead was furrowed into a frown. Her eyes looked hard and tense.
    "Have you met his family yet?" he asked.
    "No, I haven't. They're being rather difficult right now. Apparently Will's eldest son doesn't like the idea of his father seeing me. I guess I don't have the right pedigree."
    "Oh, really? And just who the hell does the little rotter think he is?" Nick said angrily. "He'd be damned lucky to have someone like you in his family. Bloody Americans and their bloody social pretensions! Two generations of lumber money and they think they're aristocrats."
    Fiona smiled at his gallantry. She looked like herself again. "And who are you, then, you toff?" she teased, taking his arm. "The Duke of Dour? The Crown Prince of Cranky?"
    "Something like that," he said, suddenly self-conscious. Her nonsense titles sounded oddly familiar to his ears. It had been a long time since anyone had called him by his rightful title. He doubted anyone ever would again. That was fine by him. His own particular pedigree had brought him nothing but grief. He'd shed it when he left England and wanted no further part of it.
    "Look, Prince Fusspot, there's that house again," Fiona said. "Hmmm?" he said, glad of a new subject.
    "The derelict house. Right there. We've passed it twice. How can someone just leave a house to rot?" She released his arm and walked up to it, squinting at it in the sunshine. Nick looked at it, trying to see what interested her so much. It was nothing but a tumbledown wreck, though it did have a pretty rosebush in the front, a crimson climber that hung over the doorway.
    "Mr. Soames?" the realtor called.
    "Come on, Fee," Nick said. "We're being summoned. Time to see yet another space that's too dark, too pokey, and too dreary."
    The realtor showed them four more properties, none of which suited him, then left them back on the corner of Irving and Eighteenth, with the promise to notify him if any more properties became available.
    "Shall we get a bit to eat, Fee?" Nick asked, weighing the merits of the Fifth Avenue Hotel versus one of the new Child's Restaurants with their spotless white-tiled floors and brisk, efficient waitresses. "Tea and scones? Or an ice cream soda? Or maybe one of those sundaes with whipped cream and nuts and… Fee?"
    He'd thought she was right beside him, but she wasn't. She was standing a few yards away-in front of the derelict house again. Her hands were resting atop the iron fence that separated the front yard from the sidewalk. She was staring up at the tall boarded-up windows dreamily.
    "What on earth are you looking at?" he asked, joining her. "It must've been stunning once, this house."
    "Not anymore. Come away before the cornice falls off and kills us both." But she wouldn't be budged. "Someone must've loved it once. That rose didn't get there by itself, and look at these… " She leaned over the fence and touched a tall blue spike of delphinium. "Someone just left it, Nick. Just walked away from it. How could a person do that?"
    Nick sighed impatiently. He wanted to leave. He was tired and hungry, but it was more than that. He was uneasy; he had the unpleasant feeling that they were being watched. He looked around, telling himself he was being silly. But he wasn't. There was a man sweeping the sidewalk two houses down and he was eyeing them unhappily.
    "Hey! What are you doing there? There's no loitering on this street," he shouted.
    "We're not loitering," Fiona said. She released the fence and took a few steps toward him. "We're admiring the building."
    "Speak for yourself," Nick grumbled.
    "Do you know why it's boarded up?" she asked the man.
    "Of course I do. I'm the caretaker, aren't I?"
    Fiona walked over to him and introduced herself. Nick had no choice but to follow. The caretaker told them his name - Fred Wilcox-and that he looked after the building for its owner, an elderly woman named Esperanza Nicholson.
    "Why has she abandoned it?"
    "What's it to you?" Wilcox asked.
    "It makes me sad seeing such a beautiful house falling to ruin."
    "It is sad," Wilcox said less gruffly, softened a bit by Fiona's honest admission. "Fifty-odd years ago, Miss Nicholson's father gave her the house as a wedding present. She was going to live in it with her husband when they got back from their honeymoon. She had the place all done up-furniture, carpets, wallpaper-everything. And all of it the very best quality, mind you, no rubbish. Then, a day before the wedding, her intended jilted her. It destroyed her. She lived with her father, became a recluse. The old man's gone, died years ago, but she still lives in his house. She had this one boarded up and left it to crumble. Won't live in it. Refuses to rent it or sell it."
    "It's as if she's punishing the house for what happened," Fiona said. "Mr. Wilcox, is there any way we could see the house? Can we go inside?"
    "No, I can't let you do that," Wilcox said, shaking his head. "You might get hurt in there."
    Nick despaired of ever getting a cup of tea. He was feeling put out because he hadn't found a site for his gallery. He wanted to leave Gramercy Park and the unproductive afternoon behind him. He knew better than to suggest they not go into the house, though. Once Fiona got a bee in her bonnet there was no stopping her. He dug in his pocket, pulled out a dollar, and handed it to Wilcox, hoping it would speed the process up. It did.
    "All right then, here's the key for the garden floor," the caretaker said, handing Fiona an ancient, blackened skeleton key. "If anything happens to you, if you break your fool necks in there, I don't know nothing about it. You got in through a loose board, right?"
    "Righto," Nick said. He turned and trotted off after Fiona, who was allready charging through the gate. He kicked his way through the wildflowers and weeds to the door, which she was struggling to open. "If we so much as glimpse a rat, I'm off," he said.
    "Here, help me turn this key. I can't budge it. I think the lock's rusty."
    Nick used all his strength. "It's stuck. 'Wait… there it goes."
    Fiona nudged him out of the way in her eagerness to get inside. She pushed the door open and rushed in. Crumbling bits of rotted wood and rusted metal fell on her head. Nick brushed the debris away, laughing at her as he did. Inside, the inner door had rotted off its hinges and was lying inside the foyer. They gingerly walked across it and into the house.
    "Oh, this is beautiful, Fiona! Really!" he said sarcastically, looking around. The ceiling was mostly gone. The lath was exposed where big chunks of plaster had fallen. The wallpaper was hanging down in strips. A chandelier lay on the floor, smashed to bits. Mildew had blackened the once white sheets covering the furniture. "Come on, let's go."
    But Fiona wasn't leaving. She advanced from the first room through a set of sticky pocket doors into the second. He followed, thinking she was mad, not understanding her obsession with this place. Halfway there, his foot went straight through a floorboard. He pulled it out, cursing.
    "Nick! Isn't this something?" she called from the other room.
    "Yes, if you're a termite," he said, stumbling through the doors. As he wiped splinters off his cuff, Fiona marveled at the ornate pier mirrors, their silver now peeling from the glass. He opened his mouth to complain that the dust was making him wheeze, when something in her expression made him close it again. He hadn't been able to comprehend her obsession with this moldering house, but watching her now, seeing the emotion in her face as she wiped cobwebs off a mantel, he suddenly did. She identified with the house. It was a creature that someone had abandoned. As someone had once abandoned her.
    She bent to examine the carvings on the mantel, then squealed with fright as a family of stray cats shot out of the grate. They scrambled past her toward the back of the house and squeezed out of an empty pane in a grime caked window. Laughing shakily, one hand pressed to her chest, she followed them. "I think there's a yard out there," she said. "Let's go see."
    The door was stuck. The lock worked, but its hinges were rusted. Working together, they managed to pull it back eighteen inches or so from the jamb. Fiona squeezed through first. Once she was out, he heard her gasp. "Oh, Nick! Hurry! Oh, look at them all!"
    He squeezed out, wondering what she could be exclaiming about. And then he saw them. Tea roses. Hundreds and hundreds of them. The entire backyard -and it was a large one -was full of them. They were sprawling over walls, pathways, a rusted iron settee, each other, basking and preening in the sunshine. He recognized them instantly. His father had favored them and had kept scores of bushes on his Oxfordshire estate. Aristocratic old girls, tea roses. He remembered the gardener telling him how their ancestors had been smuggled out of China a hundred years ago by Englishmen in love with the lush flowers and intoxicating tea scent. They could be tricky to grow, tough to get a repeat bloom out of, but these were blooming in the heat of summer!
    "Smell them, Nick, they smell like tea!" Fiona said. "Look at these… have you ever seen a pink like that? Look at that pale yellow one… " She was running from bush to bush, burying her face in the blooms like a demented bumblebee.
    Nick pulled a blossom to his nose, closed his eyes, and inhaled. For a seccond he was back in Oxford on a perfect summer day. He opened his eyes again in time to see Fiona rush up to him. She giddily tucked a rose behind his ear, threw her arms around his neck, and hugged him tightly.
    "My goodness, old shoe! I never knew roses had such an effect on you!"
    "They do!" she said, taking his hands in hers. "And beautiful, big old houses in Gramercy Park. And tea. Oh, Nick, this is it! Don't you see? This house will be your gallery… and my tearoom!"
    
Chapter 45
    
    “Couldn't I have just five minutes of her time?" Fiona pleaded. "I promise I won't overstay my welcome."
    "You already have. Miss Nicholson does not receive visitors."
    "But 1 only want to ask her about her property… the Gramercy Park house… "
    "Then 1 suggest you contact her attorney, Mr. Raymond Guilfoyle, forty eight Lexington Avenue." Miss Nicholson's butler moved to close the door. Fiona blocked it with her foot.
    "I've already done that. He told me she doesn't wish to rent the property." "Then you have your answer."
    "But-"
    "Kindly remove your foot, Miss Finnegan. Good day."
    As the door swung closed, Fiona heard a woman's voice, high and querulous, call, "Harris, who's there? What is it?"
    "A nuisance call, madam." The door closed. Fiona was left standing on Miss Nicholson's stoop. Well, that's the end of that, she thought, crestfallen. Both Wilcox and Guilfoyle had told her Miss Nicholson would not rent the house, but she'd foolishly thought that if she could see the woman in person, she could change her mind. She'd gotten her hopes up; now they were dashed.
    A breeze grabbed at her hat. She caught it, held it down, and repinned it.
    "Damn it all!" she cursed. She wanted that house. Desperately. Ever since she'd seen it-over a week ago-it was all she thought about. It looked a wreck, yes, but with a bit of work it could be gorgeous. Wilcox said the plumbing was fine. It had been put in new when Miss Nicholson's father bought the house and he regularly ran the water to keep the pipes and drains clear. The bricks needed repointing and the roof needed work. The walls, floors, and woodwork needed refurbishing, and the kitchen was antiquated, but structurally, the house was sound. Although Miss Nicholson didn't give a toss what happened to it, Wilcox admitted he couldn't bear to see it just fall to ruin, so he'd tried, in small ways, to keep it up over the years.
    She and Nick had talked about how to make it work. She would take the garden and parlor floors, and he the top two floors -the third floor for his gallery and the fourth for his flat. They would split the rent and apply to First Merchants for a loan to finance the repairs. They both would've preferred that their plan not hinge on borrowing money, but it couldn't be helped. They were both currently suffering from an acute cash shortage.
    Fiona had poured money into TasTea. In the last month alone, she'd hired two more girls to work in the shop, bought her own wagon and a team of horses for deliveries, and hired a man to drive it. She'd also spent a small fortune to develop and advertise her new scented teas. She and Stuart had experimented for weeks-testing and rejecting blend after blend-before they'd come up with a mixture that was strong enough to stand up to the flavors she'd devised, but not so strong it overpowered them.
    She'd also spent heavily on Burton Tea stock. The London dockers had finally walked out. After months of agitating for better wages and an eight hour day, the union had given the word to strike after a group of men had been denied their plus money. The men had united-preferred men, casuals. stevedores-and they'd shut down the river. All the waterfront businesses were suffering. The price of Burton stock had fallen to nearly half its original value and Fiona was using every dollar of her profits to buy as much as she possibly could. She had also wired five hundred dollars to the dockers union, anonymously. Michael had been furious when he found out how much she'd sent, but she didn't care. It was for her father and her mother and Charlie and Eileen and she would've sent a million if she'd had it.
    Nick, too, was pinched for money. He was expecting the first of what would be quarterly checks from his investment account in London, but it had not yet arrived. Nick said his father was undoubtedly holding onto it in the hopes that he'd die and save the bank the postage. Although he had left London with two thousand pounds, he had spent most of it already-on the customs tax assessed on his shipment of paintings, on renovations to the space he'd rented from Mrs. Mackie, and on scores of canvases from young painters he'd recently met in New York-Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, and Frank Benson among them. He was down to three hundred dollars.
    Nick, Fiona had discovered, was hopeless with money. It was August now. They'd been in New York for nearly five months and he still hadn't opened a bank account. When she moved him into her uncle's flat, she discovered he kept his cash in a pair of brown brogues - bills in the right, coins in the left. He told her he despised banks and refused to go near one. She told him she was opening an account for him at First Merchants. What was he going to do when he sold a painting? Take a client's bank draft, stuff it in his shoe, and hope it magically turned into cash?
    He handled money like a child who believes there will always be more. Making do was a foreign concept to him. A week after arriving at her uncle's he'd given Ian some cash and asked him to go get a few things for him. Ian, unable to decipher his handwriting, had come into the shop to ask Fiona to interpret. Upon reading the list, she'd marched into his room to take him in hand, telling him he only had so much money left, and perhaps he ought to tighten his belt a bit until more arrived from London. He'd sulked. He needed those things, he told her. He couldn't do without leather-bound books. He hated nasty, shabby books with cardboard covers. He also needed a new pair of silk pajamas. And a bottle of scent. And good paper. And a silver fountain pen from Tiffany's. Was that really so much to ask for? She wouldn't drink bad tea, would she?
    "A pot of tea costs a damn sight less than Mark Twain's complete works bound in red moroccan, Nicholas," she'd scolded.
    He did not understand that one could go a day without Beluga or French champagne and live to tell the tale. Chastened by his collapse, he agreed to follow Dr. Eckhardt's instructions to the letter-every one, that was, except the no-champagne edict. Weak, sick, he had nonetheless sat up in his bed and defiantly declared he was a man, not a barbarian, and if this was how he was expected to live, he would rather die. Eckhardt had finally given in, convinced the mental anguish he was inflicting upon his patient would do him more harm than a few glasses of sparkling wine.
    Readying herself for the walk back to Chelsea, Fiona tried to accept the situation. She and Nick would have to start looking at more properties, that was all there was to it. But her heart kept reminding her of the graceful lines of the cast-iron balconies, the soaring windows that let in so much light, the lovely gilded mirrors, and the roses… oh, the roses! She could just see the backyard full of women in white dresses and broad-brimmed hats taking tea. A tearoom in that house would be a success, she knew it would. It couldn't possibly fail.
    But it already has, she told herself. Sighing, she decided she'd better get going before the butler called the police on her-a task she was sure he would relish. When she was halfway down the steps, the door opened again. She turned. "I'm going/' she said. "No need to get shirty."
    "Miss Nicholson will see you," the butler said.
    "What?" she asked, confused. "Why?"
    "I am not in the habit of discussing my employer's business on the stoop," he replied frostily.
    "Sorry," she said, bounding back up the stairs.
    The butler closed the door behind them and ushered her into a dark foyer wallpapered in a morbid shade of burgundy. "Follow me," he instructed. He led her down a long hallway, hung with portraits of forbidding-looking men and women, through a set of massive wooden doors and into a parlor every bit as gloomy as the foyer. "Miss Finnegan to see you, madam," he said, then disappeared, closing the doors after him.
    The curtains were drawn. It was dark and it took Fiona's eyes, used to the bright sunshine, a few seconds to adjust. Then she saw her… sitting across the room on a straight-backed divan. One jeweled, blue-veined hand rested atop an ebony walking stick. The other stroked a spaniel that was lying in her lap. She wore a crisp black silk dress with a ruff of white lace at her throat. Fiona had been expecting a doddery old dear, but the pair of gray eyes now assessing her were piercing. And the expression on the lined face, crowned by a sweep of silver hair drawn back into a neat bun, was sharp.
    "Good afternoon, Miss Nicholson," Fiona began nervously. "I'm Fiona-" "I know who you are. You have an inquiry concerning my property?" she said, gesturing to a chair with her walking stick.
    "Yes, ma'am," Fiona said, sitting down. "I should like to rent the property. I want to open a tearoom on the bottom two floors-I own a tea business, you see-and my friend would like to rent the top floors. He's going to open an art gallery." Fiona explained her and Nick's plans to Miss Nicholson in detail.
    The woman frowned. "My building's in terrible condition. Can't you rent another?"
    "I've been looking, but I haven't found anything as wonderful as your place. It's a shame to let a lovely house like that just die, Miss Nicholson. It's a bit of a wreck. but it has good bones. And the roses… oh, you should see them! Hundreds and hundreds of blooms. In ivory and pink and yelllow. They would absolutely make the place. No one else in New York would have a tearoom with tea roses in the backyard. I just know people would come."
    The woman's face softened at the mention of the roses. "Had them sent from England," she said. "Fifty years ago. Planted them myself. My father's gardener wanted to do it, but I wouldn't let him."
    Fiona was just beginning to take heart, just beginning to think she was making progress, when Miss Nicholson's eyes narrowed. "How do you know about those roses?" she asked.
    Fiona looked at the floor. "I went inside," she said sheepishly.
    "You trespassed."
    "I did," she admitted. "There was a loose board and-"
    "Wilcox," Miss Nicholson said contemptuously. "He must be rich from that loose board by now. Not a week goes by that some fool doesn't offer to take the house off my hands. Usually for a pittance. How much money do you have behind you, Miss Finnegan?"
    "Not much, I'm afraid. Only about a thousand dollars. I've just plowed a fortune back into my business. I'm trying to make a go of a new kind of tea, a scented tea, and it's costing me. But it's doing well," she quickly added. "And profits from my original line are strong. I just know I could make a bundle with this tearoom, too, Miss Nicholson. I've already got the cook in place, all I would need is a wait staff. After the renovations are done, of course. I'm prepared to pay for them myself, but I was hoping the rent might reflect the building's current condition and… "
    As she talked on, Fiona noticed Miss Nicholson was listening intently. She hasn't thrown me out yet, she thought. Maybe I'm winning her over. Maybe she'll give me a chance. But before she had even finished speaking, Miss Nicholson abruptly cut her off, saying she had no interest in renting the building and bid her good day.
    Fiona was sorely disappointed, and angry, too. She felt the woman had toyed with her, had allowed her to build her hopes back up, only to dash them again. She stood stiffly, drew a calling card from her purse and placed it on a marble-topped table. "If you should change your mind, you can reach me at this address," she said, forcing herself to smile. "Thank you for your time." She had no idea if the woman had heard her. Her gaze was directed at a painting hanging over her fireplace.
    Fiona walked to the parlor doors, but before she reached them, Miss Nicholson suddenly said, "Why are you putting so much effort into a business, Miss Finnegan? Why don't you marry? A woman as beautiful as you are must have many admirers. Haven't you a sweetheart? Someone you love?"
    "I have."
    "Why don't you marry him?"
    Her gray eyes held Fiona's. It was as if she could see inside her.
    "I can't. He married someone else," she said quickly, mortified at admitting this to a stranger. A bitter old woman, at that. "I'm sorry to have intruded, Miss Nicholson. Good day."
    "Good day," the old woman said, a ruminative expression on her face. "What cheek!" Fiona fumed as she stalked off down the sidewalk. "Prying into my affairs. Asking me about Will and why haven't I married him. It's none of her bloody business."
    Then she stopped short, realizing with a sense of despair that it was not Will she had been thinking about when she answered Miss Nicholson's question. It was Joe.
    
Chapter 46
    
    The single window of Kevin Burdick's office was grimed with soot. The walls were covered in paint that might've been white once but was now yellow from age and tobacco smoke. It was a still, hot summer day and the air inside the room stank of grease and sweat.
    "I want you to offer her money, Mr. Burdick," William McClane Junior said: "Five thousand… ten… whatever it takes. Just get her to drop my father."
    Burdick, a private detective, shook his head. "Not a good move. What if she doesn't take the bait? What if she takes offense instead and runs right to your father? It won't take him long to figure out who's behind the offer."
    "You have a better idea?"
    "Indeed I do," he said. His wooden chair creaked loudly as he leaned back in it. "The best way to handle this would be for me to get something on this girl… this" -he consulted his notes-"Miss Finnegan. Something of an unsavory nature. Then you go to your father with the information under the pretext of concern. He breaks it off, grateful to you for telling him, and no one's the wiser as to the true nature of your involvement."
    Will Junior smiled. The man was right; his way was much safer than trying to buy the girl off.
    Burdick clasped his hands and put them behind his head, exposing saucer-sized sweat stains under his arms. "I'll need some time, of course. And half of my fee up front."
    "That won't be a problem," Will Junior said, reaching into his breast pocket. As he pulled out his wallet, he saw a fly crawl over the remains of Burdick's lunch-a rank corned-beef sandwich and a wilted pickle. He felt his stomach lurch.
    "How's the subway plan going?" Burdick asked.
    "The mayor still hasn't decided. Our plan is clearly the better of the two, but how often have you known the city fathers to make a smart choice? It's anyone's guess as to what will happen." He pushed the money across the desk. Burdick counted it, then stuffed it in his pocket.
    "You really think your father's relationship with this woman will hurt your chances?"
    Will Junior snorted. "Of course not. It's just what I tell him."
    "Then why wreck his romance? What do you care who he's fucking? Eventually he'll finish with her and move on. Am I right? From what you've told me, she's not his sort of people. It's not like he's going to marry her."
    "That's the problem, Mr. Burdick. He might. He seems to have lost his mind."
    Burdick nodded. "I follow you," he said. "You don't want any stepbrothers. Or sisters."
    "Exactly. She's young. She'll have babies. Probably quite a few. She's Irish, after all. She'll outlive my father. He'll leave all his money to her and her brats and I'll never see a penny of it. And that just won't do. Congressmen don't make the kind of money industrialists do."
    Will Junior already had an expensive existence to finance -the Hyde Park house, the apartment in the city, all the servants, his growing family, Isabelle's insatiable appetite for new clothes, his own appetite for pretty actresses. And it would only get worse.
    "I need my father's money to get to the White House, Mr. Burdick. I'm not going to stand by while some gold-digging bitch gets her hands on it," he said, standing up to leave.
    "She won't," Burdick assured him.
    "I hope you're right."
    Burdick belched. "Trust me."
    
    FIONA WAS SO EXCITED, she was practically dancing down the sidewalk. "Come on! Hurry up, would you?" she urged her uncle, tugging at his arm. "Nick, Alec, you get behind him and push and I'll pull. Maybe that will get him moving."
    "Leave off! I'm walking as fast as I can," Michael said, shaking himself free of his niece's grasp. "Acting like a lunatic, you are."
    "I'm going to call it The Tea Rose. After the roses. Just wait until you see them! Now, don't forget what I told you, Uncle Michael. You have to use a little imagination… "
    "Jaysus, I heard you the first five times! Calm down, Fiona!"
    But she couldn't calm down. Two days ago, Raymond Guilfoyle, Esperanza Nicholson's lawyer, had walked into the shop and changed her life. Fiona's heart had raced at the sight of him; she'd hoped he had come to tell her Miss Nicholson would rent her the shop after all. He had not. Instead, he informed her that his client wanted to sell her building. For two thousand dollars. A mere fraction of what it was worth.
    "I beg your pardon?" she'd said.
    "I was as surprised as you are, Miss Finnegan," Guilfoyle said. "And I don't mind telling you that I strenuously advised against this. The house is worth ten times the price, even in its current condition, but Miss Nicholson doesn't listen to me. Or anyone else. She is her own counsel." He'd left a contract for her to sign and advised her to have a lawyer of her own read it.
    Fiona had immediately gone to First Merchants to arrange for a loan, one large enough to cover the purchase price and renovations, only to be told by Franklin Ellis that he could not sanction it. "It's highly unusual to lend this amount to a young unmarried woman, Miss Finnegan," he said, adding that if her uncle was willing to act as guarantor and put up his shop as collateral, he would reconsider.
    Fiona had been ready to burst with anger. She had proved herself to this man. She had rescued her uncle's shop, made it more profitable than it had been, and opened her own tea shop. Why did he need anyone's signature on a loan but her own? For a second she'd been tempted to go to Will, but he was away on business, and besides, that's probably just what the man expected her to do-go crying to Will. His pride had been bruised when Will overruled him on her account. Now he had a chance to injure her pride. Well, she wouldn't let him. She could fight her own battles. Michael would guarantee the loan. All she had to do was show him the house.
    Finally they rounded the corner and the house came into view; thirty two Irving Place.
    "There it is!" Nick said gleefully. "The big one. Right across the street." Michael stared at it. "Bloody hell!" he finally said. "That is it?" His tone was one of horror, but Fiona, lovestruck at the very sight of the place, didn't notice.
    "Isn't it wonderful?" she said. "Let's go in. Be careful, Alec, there's a lot to trip over."
    "It looks like someone tossed a bomb in here," Michael grumbled as he entered the foyer. "I thought you'd done well to get a house in Gramercy Park for two thousand, but now I wonder if it's not Miss Nicholson who got the better end of the deal." He walked around, inspecting the rooms, an unhappy look on his face.
    Alec went into the backyard. He'd come to see the roses. Nick went upstairs to measure his rooms.
    "Just who were you planning to serve tea to here, lass?" Michael asked, brushing dust off a mantel. "The dead? They're about the only ones who'd appreciate the decor."
    Fiona glowered at him. "You have no sense of possibility," she said. "Just imagine the walls painted cream, soft chairs, and tables covered with china and silver."
    Michael still looked skeptical.
    "Come on," she said, taking his hand and leading him out into the garden, where Alec was examining the roses. "Now… just imagine coming into the yard in June with the roses in bloom and white lace tablecloths and pretty teapots and fancy cakes and lovely women in summer hats… "
    Michael looked at the roses. He also looked at the crumbling brick walls, the rusted iron sundial, the tangle of weeds clotting the path. "Who's going to clear all this out?" he asked.
    "Alec. With two or three lads."
    "And the renovations? You'll need more than two or three lads for that." "I know that," she said impatiently. "I've already got a carpenter in mind, as well as a plasterer and painter. They'll bring the men they need with them."
    "And I suppose you're going to come down here every day and oversee a dozen workmen? Maybe put on a pair of overalls while you're at it and pick up a hammer?"
    "I am going to come down here every day, but no, Uncle Michael, I'm not going to put on overalls. They don't suit me. I thought Frank Pryor, the carpenter, would make a good foreman," she said through gritted teeth. Why was her uncle always so difficult? Why was he never agreeable to her plans? Never behind her? Why was everything a bloody fight with him?
    "What about the money? The four thousand dollars you want to borrow will cover the price of the building plus your renovations, right? What about everything else? Like the silverware and the china you'll need. And tablecloths and trays and the waitresses' wages and God knows what else."
    "I can use some of my own money for that. Remember the shop? And TasTea?" she asked sarcastically. "They do produce income, you know. And Nick will help, too."
    "With what? His good looks? He's broke, lass! You told me so."
    "His money's due from his father's bank soon. He told me his fund's worth over one hundred thousand pounds and he expects at least two thousand pounds every quarter. It's just a matter of another week or two. He's going to pay me rent for the upper two floors and help with the cost of their renovation. As for the things I need, I don't have to buy them new. Nick says I can get china and silver at auction houses and secondhand shops cheap. He's going to take me."
    Michael scowled. "This is a waste of time and money," he said. "You've got one of the richest men in New York after you and all you can think of is peddling tea. What's wrong with you? McClane 'll marry you soon and this'll all be for naught. That's what you ought to be doing-figuring out how to get a ring on your finger. Not messing about in this shit heap!"
    Fiona's eyes sparked with anger. "For your information, Will hasn't asked me to marry him," she said hotly. "Nor has anyone else. I've got myself to look after and a brother to raise and nobody's paying my bills but me."
    Michael flapped his hand at her. "Why don't you fix up the house and rent out the floors? It would be a decent income without all the bother of a tearoom."
    "No!" Fiona thundered. "Have you listened to anything I've said, you bloody man? A tearoom will help build my tea business. I've already explained all this!"
    They were shouting now. Michael told her he wasn't risking any shop of his over such a foolish venture. Fiona said he wouldn't have his shop if it weren't for her. Telling her she couldn't hold that over his head forever, he stalked back into the house. She was on his heels, badgering. She wanted this building, needed it, felt she nearly had it in her hands, and now he was going to take it away from her. Alec, who'd heard the whole fracas, stood in the doorway behind them, puffing on his pipe. He motioned Michael over.
    "Alec, can't it wait?" he asked testily.
    "It cannot."
    Michael followed him into the backyard. Fiona hung back in the doorway, listening, waiting for her chance to go at her uncle again as soon as Alec finished with him.
    "What is it?" he asked, exasperated.
    The old gardener pulled the pipe from his teeth and gestured at the rosebushes. "Tea roses, them are," he said.
    Michael gave them a quick glance. "Aye, so they are."
    "As hale and hearty as a highland lass," Alec said, fingering a strong green cane. "Surprising, that is, for a tea rose. You're not likely to find them so vigorous this far north. Teas like the warmer climes. Yet look at these, coming up out of the weeds and cat shit and growing right up to the skies. Almost as if the wee buggers wanted to make something of themselves."
    Alec released the cane and looked at Michael. "Funny things, roses. Folks tend to think they're delicate, fragile. But some of them are right tough little bastards. Give them bad soil, bad conditions, they still grow. Insects, spot, drought-doesn't stop them. Prune them down and they'll come back at you twice as hard. Some roses are real fighters. Roses like that ought to be encouraged, I'd say."
    Alec shuffled off. Michael was left staring at the roses, half-cursing, half blessing the old Scotsman. After a minute or so, he turned back to the house. Fiona was still standing in the doorway, her face anxious and hopeful all at once. He looked at her, shook his head, and said, "Come on, then. Let's go to the bank."
    
Chapter 47
    
    “Peaches 'ere! Lovely English peaches. None of your French rubbish. ~Sweet Dorset peaches! Who'll buy? Who'll buy?"
    Joe's voice rang out clear and strong down Bruton Street in fashionable Mayfair. It was nearly noon. The sun was high and the temperature was inching above eighty, roasting for London. He was dripping with sweat. His shirt was stuck to his back. The blue kingsman around his neck was soaked. He'd set off from Covent Garden just before dawn and his muscles were aching now with the effort of pushing his barrow. He was tired and sore and happy.
    He had seven pounds in his pocket, two of which were pure profit. And he had two more hidden under a loose board in Baxter's stall. Though he had quit Ed Akers's job to start his own business, Ed still allowed him to sleep in his hayloft as long as he continued to feed and groom Baxter. Joe was glad of it; he didn't want to pay for a room. He didn't want to spend one penny he didn't have to. He was saving for a passage to New York. He figured he'd need about six pounds for the boat fare, and another six to live on while he was there and six more for two extra one-way tickets.
    Eighteen quid was a lot, but he'd have to pay for food and accommodations while he looked for Fiona and he didn't know how long it would take to find her. Maybe only a few days, but maybe weeks. And when he did find her, if by some miracle she didn't send him packing, if her poor bruised heart still had even just a tiny flicker of love left for him, maybe he could convince her to give him a second chance and to come home with him. If he could, he wanted to know he had enough money to pay her and Seamie's way back to London.
    "Coo-eee! Joe! Joe Bristow, over here!"
    Joe turned in the direction of the voice. It was Emma Hurley from number twenty, a kitchen maid, a girl of fourteen up from Devon to work in London and thinking the whole thing was one great adventure. She was standing by the gate to the servants' entrance, wearing a gray dress with a white pinafore, cuffs, and collar. Joe smiled at her as he wheeled his barrow over. He liked Emma. She was rosy-cheeked and full of the devil. He'd only met her two weeks ago, and already he knew all the goings on in number twenty. His lordship was dotty, her ladyship was fierce, the cook and the butler fought constantly, and the new valet was ever so handsome. Emma prattled to everyone about everything-himself included. She'd told her friends-maids and nannies in the neighboring homes-about him and they'd told their cooks and now he had a dozen new customers on Bruton Street alone, thanks to her.
    "The new girl's just ruined Cook's cauliflower gratin," she told him, giggling. "Burned it to a crisp! Cook boxed her ears. You never beard such a carry-on, Joe. Give us two heads, would you? And a bunch of parsley. Oh, and some peaches. Five pounds, please. Her ladyship just informed us that she would like fresh peach ice cream after supper this evening. Good of her to tell us now, wasn't it? Be a miracle if it freezes in time. Cook was furious about the cauliflower. Thought she'd have to send one of us down the shops. But I told her you'd be along any minute. Saved that poor girl's life, you did!"
    Joe assembled Emma's order. After she paid him, and he gave her her change, he placed a generous bag of strawberries in her hand. "Those are for you, Em. Don't tell Cook." He grinned at her. "1 was thinking you could share them with a certain valet."
    "I'm finished with him, Joe. Caught him snogging with the parlormaid. I'll share them with Sarah, the new girl. Cook's got her scrubbing the pantry floor for a penance. She'll be in need of a treat by this evening, if she lives to see it!"
    "Emma! Where are you, girl? Hurry up!" a voice shrilled from inside. "I'd better get going. You too, Joe. There's Elsie, from number twenty two, waving for you. See you tomorrow. Ta-ra! And thanks for the berries!"
    Joe shoved off. He made seven more stops on Bruton Street before turning off and heading for Berkeley Square. The piles of fruits and vegetables on his red barrow, with the words MONTAGUE'S-WHERE QUALITY AND CONVENIENCE MEET painted on the side, had diminished considerably. He was worried he might run out of stock before he finished the route. Sales had been good this morning. It was starting to take off, this plan of his. He'd been discouraged at first; his idea hadn't caught on right away. It had taken the cooks and their scullery maids a little while to understand that he wasn't a delivery boy from some shop, that he was bringing the goods-the very best goods, mind you, no tired old lettuces the shop owner wanted to get shut of -directly to them. Saving them the trip. Helping them out if they were short of something.
    Now he was expected at many places and often got impatient looks, foot tapping, or the sharp edge of some harried woman's tongue if he was late. His prices were slightly higher than the nearby shops - because he only bought first-rate stock - but none of his customers complained. They knew quality goods when they saw them.
    At the top of Berkeley Square, he stopped the barrow for a few seconds to wipe his brow. It was a balky heavy thing, about five feet long and three feet wide, with two wheels in front, two in back, and a pair of handles jutting from the end. A brake kept it from rolling away on a hill. It was tricky to maneuver, especially when it was piled high with goods. A pony and cart would be such an improvement. He could carry more goods and move faster, too. He'd get a rig eventually, but not until he got back from America. And when he had it, he'd hire his brother.Jimmy to push the barrow on a second route. He'd add carts and routes as he could afford to, and then, one day-a shop. The shop he'd always wanted. And maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to share it with the girl he'd always wanted.
    The barrow felt even heavier as he resumed his route, but he didn't mind.
    He felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. And that hope gave him strength. He felt as if he could push it all around Mayfair, all around London, for that matter, across the whole country, up to Scotland even, if that's what it took to win Fiona back.
    "Strawberries, sweet and red!" he cried. "Put 'em in a pudding, put 'em in a pie, see' em for yourselves, ladies, don't be shy!"
    He had four pounds to his name. In a few more weeks, if he was lucky and business continued to be good, he would have the eighteen he needed to get to New York. He would find Fiona there. He would talk to her and he would make her listen to him. He would make her understand how deeply sorry he was for all that he'd done. He would tell her how he wanted to spend the rest of his life making it up to her, if only she'd let him. He would tell her how much he loved her and somehow, some way, he would make her love him again. He had to. She was the one thing he wanted most in all the world, the only thing that mattered to him. He'd lost sight of that once and he'd lost her. Maybe he would have a chance to get her back-a chance he knew he didn't deserve, but one he'd reach for with both hands if only it would come his way.
    
Chapter 48
    
    “Martin!" Will shouted to his driver from the steps of City Hall. "My office! As fast as you can! There's a ten-dollar bill in it for you if you get me there before the hour!"
    He jumped in his carriage and dosed the door. JY1artin cracked the whip; he had ten minutes to go thirty blocks. As soon as he'd pulled away from the curb, Will pounded on the seat and let out a huge, exultant yell. It was his! He'd done it! He'd won the contract for New York City's first subterranean railway.
    After years of planning and months of trying to prove that his plan was better than August Belmont's, he finally swayed the mayor. He'd just concluded a meeting with the mayor and his aldermen to finalize everything. He had the document-signed and sealed-in his breast pocket. Ground could be broken in as little as a month's time. After all the time and effort he'd put into this project, all the money he'd spent, he finally had the go-ahead.
    He couldn't wait to tell his sons that the contract was theirs. They'd be ecstatic. Winning it meant the world to Will Junior. He'd worked so hard on it. Will imagined his expression, his shouts of delight when he told him the news. And right after he told them, he would tell Fiona. He hadn't seen her in days. Two weeks, actually. Tying up the subway contract had taken every minute of every day. And she'd been so busy with her new purchase-that building down on Irving Place-that she'd had no free time either. He'd see her tonight, though. And he'd take her out for supper no matter how much she protested, no matter how busy she said she was. They would celebrate tonight. Just the two of them. Hopefully Nick would be available to chaperon her. He was easier to get rid of than Mary. He couldn't wait to be with her, to sit across a table from her and gaze into those astonishing sapphire eyes, to take her in his arms later, even if she wouldn't let him take her into his bed.
    He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, remembering the night at his house when he wanted to make love to her. He thought of it constantly. He ached with desire at the mere memory of her soft lips, her bare skin, her beautiful body. Just picturing her as she'd looked then, half-naked, her hair coming down, made him feel weak. He had wanted her as he'd never wanted a woman in his entire life. And he'd come on too strong. He'd frightened her. What an oaf he was. Pawing her like a dog, asking her to sleep with him before he'd even told her how he felt about her, before he'd told her he loved her. She wasn't one of his mistresses, a worldly, sophisticated woman embarking on an affair. She was a girl of eighteen. Inexperienced and uncertain of herself. Uncertain, no doubt, of him as well.
    The thing that bothered him the most was that she had wanted him, too.
    He'd felt it in her kiss, in the way she'd clung to him. He had made her want him and then he'd ruined everything by demonstrating all the finesse, all the sensitivity, of a rutting bull.
    Christ! How many women had he slept with that he didn't love. Now he was in love with one-head over heels in love-and she'd never sleep with him. Not after the way he'd behaved. Not until he married her, most likely. And that wouldn't happen for a while because he still had to introduce her to his family. He still had to wait for Will Junior to come around to the idea of his courting a woman from a different class. The boy was overcautious, so worried about the possibility of a scandal, so worried about its effect on the subway contract… the subway contract. Will, leaning back in his seat, sat up straight.
    The subway contract was his now. He'd not only proved Belmont wrong, he'd proved his son wrong, too. Will Junior's objections to Fiona were entirely unfounded. Their relationship hadn't caused a scandal. It hadn't shied the mayor or potential investors. Surely once he handed his son the contract, he would see that. And he would stop his truculent behavior and consent to meet Fiona. It had taken him forty-five years to find someone he loved. Who knew how much time he had left on this earth? He'd satisfied his family's demands, won his sons the means for more income and greater prestige with the subway project; now it was time for him to have what he wanted.
    He rapped on the window that separated him from his driver.
    "Yes, sir? What is it?" Martin asked, after sliding the window open.
    "I need to make a stop first, before we go to my office," Will said. Martin scowled. "You'll still get your ten dollars, Martin, don't worry! Take me to Union Square!"
    "Where, sir?"
    "Union Square!"
    "To what address, sir?" "Tiffany's, Martin. And hurry!"
    
    "PETER HYLTON THINKS WE'RE A COUPLE, you know," Nick said to Fiona from atop a wooden ladder. He was trying different colors on a wall in the tearoom and he'd managed to get more paint on himself than on the plaster. "I read his column today. He wrote about us being business partners, your plans for a tearoom and mine for a gallery, and said we'd be partners in love before much longer. I hope Will's jealous. Do you think he might be? Then we could have a duel over you, Fee! Pistols at dawn. Wouldn't that be exciting?"
    "Peter Hylton is a horse's ass and so are you," Fiona said, lifting a sterling wine cooler out of a crate. She was sweaty and dirty. Her sleeves were rolled up and her skirts were knotted behind her. Her feet were sore and swollen from being on them all day and she'd taken off her boots and stockings hours ago. The cooler was heavy and ornate, covered with repousse flowers and animals, and sporting two Bacchus heads for handles. "What's this doing here?" she asked Nick, putting it on the floor. "I thought we decided not to buy it."
    "We decided to buy it."
    "We? Or you? This is supposed to be a tearoom, Nick. I have no use for this."
    "But just imagine it on the gilt sideboard we found. Polished and piled high with fresh strawberries in the summer. Or at Christmastime, brimming with sugar-frosted grapes and pomegranates. It'll be stunning, Fee. And besides, it's not American and 1850s, as the antique dealer said. It's English. George the Third and a steal at twice what we paid."
    Fiona sighed, put the wine cooler on the floor, and began digging in the bottom of the crate. The purchases they'd made in an East Side antique store had arrived earlier in the day. She was just unpacking them now. She pulled out a set of silver serving pieces that had been tucked underneath the cooler. Nick had insisted she buy them. They'd been poking around in the newly arrived contents of a Madison Avenue mansion whose owner had passed away. While Nick had piled up china and linen, she had gone through the silver. She'd found three partial sets of sterling and a full set of silverplate and decided she'd take the silverplate. It wasn't as nice as the sterling, but at least it all matched. "Don't be banal," Nick had scolded. "Matching silver is for maitre d's and the nouveau riche. Buy the sterling."
    Over the past two weeks, as builders worked on the house, Fiona and Nick had scoured antique and secondhand shops for the things they needed. They'd found gorgeous pieces of furniture-two ebony desks and matching chairs for Nick, and damask settees for his clients to rest themselves on. And for her a Louis Quinze-style gilt sideboard to hold cakes and pastries, ladies' chairs with needlepointed seats, Queen Anne tea tables, cast-iron furniture for the garden, Limoges china, Frette linens, and four pairs of almost new watered-silk curtains in a gorgeous shade of light green - all at a fraction of what she would've have paid for them new.
    The work at thirty-two Irving Place was proceeding apace, though not without the occasional unforeseen disaster-like a rusted waste pipe, a roof that leaked, and joists that termites had destroyed. The house was rapidly eating through the money she'd borrowed from First Merchants, which made her anxious. Managing workmen - making them do exactly what she wanted done, and making them do it over sometimes, too-made her short tempered. And running back and forth between Eighth Avenue and Irving Place exhausted her. But even so, she was incredibly happy. She fell asleep every night and woke up every morning excited, thinking about the tearoom, her Tea Rose, and how beautiful it would be. And when she arrived there each day, quickly walking through the rooms to see what had been accomplished since the previous day, her heart filled with pride and happiness. The Tea Rose was her baby. She had conceived of the idea, nurtured it, and soon she would watch it bloom. Unlike the grocery shop, it was hers, all hers.
    "What do you think about this color, Fee?" Nick called from his perch.
    Earlier that day, they'd gone to the paint man and Nick had made him mix up batch after batch of color for her rooms and his. "I want a soft white for my gallery. And a fresh spring green for the trim," he'd instructed the man. "Not too green and not too yellow. Light, but not so light it disappears. A celery color, really, but with some beige to tone it down. And for the tearoom I need a cream just tinged with pink. The color of a woman's blush. Don't make it too pink, and don't make it orangey, either. I'm thinking of a rose petal, not an apricot." Fiona thought the man would kill him.
    She looked at the colors on the wall and picked the lightest of them, a warm beige with just a hint of pink in it. "That's my favorite, too," he said. She looked at him and saw that he had circles under his eyes. It was nearly nine o'clock. They'd been going at it for over twelve hours.
    "Come down from there. Now. You're going to bed." "But I'm not finished," he protested.
    "In the morning. You're tired. I can see it in your face. I won't have you exhausting yourself, Nick. I mean it. You know what happened the last time."
    "But I feel fine - "
    "Nicholas Soames, you can't open a gallery if you're dead!" she said sharply.
    He gave up and climbed down the ladder. He covered his paint pots and put his brushes in a jar of turpentine. "What about you? You need rest, too," he said.
    "I won't be much longer. I want to do a bit more unpacking and then I'll go home."
    Nick kissed her good night, getting paint on her as he did, then went upstairs to his flat. Fiona stretched her tired limbs after he'd gone, trying to ease the stiffness. She was about to resume her unpacking when a movement from the garden caught her eye. It was the roses. She could see them swaying in the night breeze through the new windows she'd had installed. Unable to resist them, she went outside. They were her creatures, these flowers, and she was theirs. As she walked into the garden, she fancied they were bobbing their lush heads in greeting.
    The night sky was clear and filled with stars. The air was cool and the grass felt soft beneath her bare feet. The scent of a nearby rose drew her. She was nuzzling the pale yellow bloom, enjoying the feeling of its petals against her cheek, when she heard the footsteps crunching on the graveled path behind her. She didn't turn around. She knew who it was.
    "I told you to go to bed and I meant it. What are you doing back down here?"
    "That's not a very nice greeting, is it?"
    Fiona spun around. "Will!" she exclaimed. It had been days since she'd seen him.
    "Nick let me in. I rang the wrong doorbell. Look at you!" he exclaimed, laughing, looking for a clean place on her face to kiss her. "You're filthy! And I wanted to take you to dinner, too. To celebrate. But they'll never let you in Del's looking like that. I don't even think they'd let you in a Bowery dive. What on earth have you been doing?"
    "Working in here all day. It's dusty. And Nick just smeared paint on me. What are we celebrating?"
    Will grinned. "McClane Subterranean. We got the contract!"
    Fiona whooped for joy, genuinely happy for him. She knew how hard he'd worked for this and what it meant to him. "Oh, Will, congratulations! I'm so excited for you!" He picked her up, over her protests that she'd get him dirty, and spun her around. When he put her down, she took his hand and led him to an iron settee she'd bought. "Tell me all about it. I want to hear everything!"
    He described the last two weeks, all the work, all the meetings and arguing and cajoling. He told her about