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Bradshaw knew wrath was sure to follow, but he felt a certain guilty pleasure in seeing the beans disappear. It had been a long and abundant season, and his digestion could use a rest.
He squeezed his bicycle between his white picket fence and the wagon that was attached to the horse, tossing a disparaging glance at the advertisement blazoned on the square black-paneled side. Ralph's Redeeming Restorative, it said, in bold red letters against a bright yellow sun bursting over a distant horizon. In smaller fancy script beneath the sun was written, The Romany Remedy that Really Works!
Bradshaw grunted. Someone in the neighborhood was being rooked. Or worse, drugged. Alcohol and opium were the preferred "curative" ingredients of patent medicines, and both were tragically addictive. He glanced down the rutted lane and over the low-fenced backyards of his neighbors, but he saw no one and heard no voices. At noon on a Friday in early September, with cumulus clouds chasing about in a deep blue sky and tinges of orange on the garden leaves hinting at fall, his neighborhood felt deserted. Except for the horse.
He looked at his simple white two-story home and at the firmly shut back door that led to the kitchen. Surely the peddler was not visiting his housekeeper. Mrs. Prouty had more common sense than that. A peddler of patent medicine was more likely to receive the sharp bristles of Mrs. Prouty's broom than pennies from the coin purse she stashed safely in the garments encasing her ample bosom.
As if called forth by the thought, the back door flew open, and Mrs. Prouty emerged with her broom. "Blimey, Professor. Can't you see what that creature's doing!" With lungs like a pair of bellows, a broad open face and wide-set gray eyes that missed nothing and could go from stern to tender in a flash, Mrs. Prouty was a force to be reckoned with. Bradshaw knew better than to react.
He said blandly, "I've no experience with horses, Mrs. Prouty. I leave him to you."
"And what am I? A gypsy? Out!" She waved her broom and rattled the vines under the horse's nose until it blinked and with a shake of its head, backed away. She then reached the broom over the fence and gave the horse's rump a swift thump. It trotted a few steps down the lane before stopping to gaze forlornly at the beans.
"Been out there all morning, it has," said Mrs. Prouty as Bradshaw followed her into the kitchen. He hung his hat and overcoat on the peg by the door. The kitchen smelled divinely of yeasty bread, now set to rise near the blackened stove.
He said, "Someone's bound to claim it soon."
"I didn't see it myself 'til after you'd gone. I sent Justin to see what the wagon was doing out there."
"What did he learn?"
"Didn't say, though he was out there long enough. Found something else to distract him, I've no doubt. He went out the kitchen, and a quarter hour later he's thundering down the stairs from his room. I'll likely find a slug under his pillow."
Bradshaw could well imagine the boy, sent out to investigate a wagon, discovering something else to divert his attention, a glittering rock he thought contained gold, a new form of snail, an empty bird's egg, something he knew Mrs. Prouty wouldn't allow in the house at any rate.
"Someone will soon claim it," Bradshaw repeated, but Mrs. Prouty wasn't ready to let the subject drop.
"It was down the lane a piece when you went out this morning. Dolores said it was there before sunrise when she got up to light the stove." Dolores, Bradshaw recalled, was the Mineos' housekeeper.
"And Martha, across at the Woodworth's, said it was there in the wee hours when she got up to, well—"
"Professor! You're as bad as Justin."
"Was he home for lunch?" Bradshaw had hoped to be home early enough to see his son. He'd been detained by an impromptu meeting with Jacob Duttenhoefer, the University Engineer overseeing the construction of the new power house. It was Justin's first week of third grade, and Bradshaw hoped the boy was settling in.
"Not that you'd know it. He ran in here with that Paul from next door, ate without using his teeth, then raced off again, shouting something about frogs."
If Paul Dickerson was being referred to as "that Paul," Mrs. Prouty had witnessed or overheard some juvenile misdemeanor. Bradshaw was glad for her oversight, because it reined in Justin's more elaborate schemes. He didn't always want the details. A boy must have his adventures on his way to manhood.
Professor Bradshaw washed his hands at the gleaming white enameled sink, then took his place at the open end of the oak table—the rest of the table being spread with freshly boiled mason jars in preparation for an afternoon of canning—and opened his leather satchel to retrieve the outlines of his class curriculum. Instead, his fingertips stumbled on the contest flyer he'd found this morning when he'd organized his desk, and he read it again.
ATTENTION ALL ELECTRICAL INVENTORS! The Seattle Grand Theater is looking for ENTRANTS To their Musical Telephone CONTEST. Budapest, London, and Paris residents have for many years enjoyed the pleasure of the theater from the comfort of their homes. Why should Seattle not boast of our own modern entertainment device? Now, residents of OUR fair city shall have their own Musical Telephone Service. INVENTORS bring forth your best! Enter today! Testing of Instruments and Judging to take place Friday October 11, 1901. For more information, see Mr. Fisher. The Seattle Grand Theater on Second Avenue.
Mrs. Prouty slid a plate of steaming, mushy beans under his nose, then stuck her own nose down to better read the flyer.
"You didn't enter that, did you?"
"Hmm," Bradshaw grunted. The flyer had been distributed last spring. In the chaos of Professor Oglethorpe's death, Bradshaw's copy had been relegated to a bottom desk drawer and he'd only discovered it this morning. One month wasn't much time to create and perfect such a device, and with classes beginning the first of October, it was the worst time of year to undertake something so time-consuming.
Still, he did intend to enter. Better yet, he intended to win. As luck would have it, he'd recently filed a patent on an improvement to a microphone transmitter that would suit this project nicely with a bit more fine-tuning, but it was his habit to batten down enthusiasm, especially in front of Mrs. Prouty who felt he spent far too much time down in the basement. A few years ago, he had become obsessed with a project to the neglect of his small household and his own health, and she'd kept a keen eye on his tinkering ever since. The smell rising from his plate made quelling the excitement of a new project easier. His stomach gave a little clutch of protest.
"Any bread yet?"
"By suppertime," she said proudly. Bread was the only food Mrs. Prouty produced that was light and mouthwatering. It was the food that responded best to her heavy approach, the flour and yeast happily rewarding the aggressive kneading of her large, capable hands. If it weren't for Mrs. Prouty's bread, Professor Bradshaw and Justin would have starved years ago. This past summer, when Missouri had been living in the spare bedroom and sharing the cooking duties, the fare had improved dramatically, and Bradshaw had hoped Mrs. Prouty would retain some of Missouri's techniques. The mushy beans before him were a clear sign she was reverting to her old ways.
He suppressed a sigh and gazed out the window. The peddler's horse was once again dining on broad beans.
Well. It was obvious something had gone wrong. The horse had made off without its owner. Maybe the peddler had taken ill. Could that be it? Was some poor fellow slumped inside the wagon, praying for help, too weak to call out?
Bradshaw marched outside, ignoring Mrs. Prouty's trailing questions. At his approach, and the sight of Mrs. Prouty, the horse backed away from the beans. Bradshaw walked around the wagon, calling out loudly, "Hello! Are you there?" and rapping his knuckles on the side. There was no response.
The covers of the wagon's windows were clamped shut. He tried the door at the back and found it unlocked. He peered inside the dark interior. It smelled of camp living, of cooked food and unwashed clothes, and something sharp and sour he identified with sickness. He made out a bunk bed, a dresser, and a storage trunk, as well as various crates with pots and pans, food staples, and half a dozen boxes of Ralph's Restorative. All was in a state of general untidiness. There was no one, ill or otherwise, inside. He opened the door wider to let in more light.
A bit of shiny clean cloth on the lower bunk caught his eye. A doll, about twelve inches tall and dressed in pink satin so pale it was nearly white. An elegant little thing, it looked out of place, with its lace-trimmed jacket, fur muff, and ruffled hat that surrounded the pink-cheeked cherubic bisque face. He climbed into the wagon and picked up the doll gingerly. Its blue eyes opened and looked into his own.
He poked about the wagon enough to discover girl's clothing. A girl of Justin's age, maybe, or a bit younger, judging from the size.
"Well?" shouted Mrs. Prouty from the back porch.
Bradshaw, still holding the doll gingerly, stepped down and closed the door. "I'll phone the police."
"Yes, Mrs. Prouty, abandoned vehicles fall under their jurisdiction." He handed the satin doll to her, as if presenting her with a real baby. She took it carefully, cradling it, and for a moment was nonplussed. Bradshaw passed through the kitchen to the hall where the telephone resided on a high stand. He lifted the receiver from the hook and heard nothing but the ocean sounds of his inner ear. He jiggled the hook a few times, to no avail.
"Mrs. Prouty!" he shouted. He needn't have. Mrs. Prouty stood just behind him with the doll still cradled. "The phone seems to be out of order. Did the hello girl check in this morning?"
"Melody called at nine, same as usual. Asked if the phone were working, and I said it was."
Bradshaw rattled the hook again and this time heard a breathless young woman, not Melody, say, "All circuits busy, please try again later."
"Fancy that." Mrs. Prouty stood near enough to hear. "What could she mean?"
Bradshaw, not feeling like explaining the possible defects of the telephone system, merely grunted a reply as he replaced the earpiece on the hook. He returned to the kitchen, where he donned his derby hat and overcoat and patted himself down in a habitual check before departing: pocket watch, coins for the streetcar, pen knife, pencil with small notepad, handkerchief, and gloves.
Mrs. Prouty had followed him. She peered out the window. "The phone went out last week when we had that storm. There's no wind today. I'll bet it's those new houses going up. Someone's always knocking down the lines when they put up a new house." She absentmindedly rocked the doll in her arms as she pondered the possibilities.
Bradshaw smothered a grin. "I'll go down to the police station and see what can be done about the horse and wagon." Not giving her time to protest, he hurried toward the front of the house and out the door. He was nearly out of earshot when he heard her bellow, "You've forgotten your beans, Professor!"
As the car neared Third Avenue, the streets suddenly filled with pedestrians. Mostly men, hurrying, some of them running.
Bradshaw shot to his feet, signaled the driver he wished to stop, and jumped off while the wheels were still moving. He sniffed the air, searching for smoke, fire being his first fear. There was no sign of it. But the air crackled with something strange, some ominous fear he could see in the strained faces.
He joined the hurrying crowd and asked the person nearest him, a young man of about twenty, "What's happened?"
The young man shook his head. "I don't know, I'm going to see where everyone else is going."
As they turned the corner on Second Avenue, he understood they were flocking to the windows of the Post-Intelligencer Building. A sense of dread swam over him. He had to fight a compulsion to turn around and race up to Justin's school to protect him from whatever calamity had struck. Was it war? The thought was a vague, dark dread. War with whom, for goodness sake? There were troops fighting Boxers in China, and soldiers battling insurgents still in the Philippines. But those were ongoing and limited affairs, nothing to send a crowd racing toward the newspaper office.
And then he heard it, among the murmuring voices came distinctly the reason for the fearful crowd: The president. Shot. In Buffalo. McKinley. Shot dead.
Bradshaw stood immobile, a numbing chill prickling his skin head to toe.
Oh, God, no. It could not be! Oscar Daulton was in jail, here in Seattle. McKinley could not be dead. Bradshaw struggled to make sense of what he was hearing. His mind wouldn't work properly. He couldn't get his thoughts past his former student, Oscar Daulton. A young man horrified and altered by his experience in the Philippines, he'd turned to anarchism and plotted to assassinate the president. Last spring. In May. Months ago. Mrs. McKinley had been ill, cancelling the president's trip to Seattle. The president hadn't come, he'd not been hurt. How could he now be dead?
An unseen hand plucked Bradshaw's hat off his head and pressed it into his hands.
Around him, all the men had doffed their hats respectfully and clutched them to their breasts. The buzz continued to swirl, and he picked up fragments. At the Pan American Exhibition ... shaking hands ... Buffalo, that's near Niagara ... shot at close range ... Bradshaw was bumped and brushed by the crowd. The Secret Service was supposed to protect McKinley. They'd been warned. They knew there were more anarchists out there.
And then from the crowd came a wave of sound, an astonished sigh, moving from those nearest the newspaper office window, rippling out to the street, and a single voice rose above them. "He lives! Shot but not dead! McKinley is alive!"
Bradshaw edged his way out of the crowd. He stood for a moment outside the hum, feeling disconnected from his feet. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing. Clutching his hat, he walked aimlessly for a few minutes until he recalled why he'd come downtown. He then headed up Jefferson Street and within a half block met Detective James O'Brien coming down.
They faced each other silently. The very air was shaking with the buzz of incredulity. He remembered that he'd wanted to see O'Brien, but couldn't think why.
He opened his mouth to confess this, but O'Brien was looking past him, his eyes wide, and he'd taken a sharp, involuntary breath. A pang of fear shot through Bradshaw. He turned to see the crowd on the street below them now surging up the hill. Their voices carried above the trembling atmosphere. Bradshaw felt emanating from them a wave of anger so intense it pricked the hair on his arms and the back of his neck. From the mass of noise came a name, and the name grew into a murderous chant.
"Daulton, Daulton, Daulton!"
Bradshaw and O'Brien exchanged a look that needed no words. Their thoughts were unison: lynch mob.
As one, they turned and ran. Up hill. No easy feat, running up the steep grade of Jefferson. It was like running in a nightmare. After a single block, the effort of lifting an aching leg and pushing off the asphalt to propel himself up and forward seemed impossible, yet Bradshaw did it, muscles screaming.
At the crest of Fifth Avenue, they slowed and gulped air as they hobbled across the intersection.
Bradshaw gasped, "He's safe. In jail." He meant the crowd could not penetrate the County Courthouse down to the basement, through the locked and guarded iron doors, nor the hardened steel cells.
O'Brien shot him a grave look and barked simply, "Hearing."
A hearing would be taking place upstairs, in an open courtroom. There would be a judge, attorneys, a single armed guard. A half dozen unprepared men facing a murderous mob of over a hundred.
Excerpted from Fatal Induction by Bernadette Pajer Copyright © 2012 by Bernadette Pajer. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted December 9, 2012
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Posted November 23, 2012
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