Hattie is in her element, digging through dusty basements, attics, and abandoned buildings, not to be denied until she fishes out that elusive fact. But her delightful explorations are dampened when she witnesses a carriage crash into a carp pond beneath the shadow of the Washington Monument. Alarmingly, one of the passengers flees the scene, leaving the other to drown. The incident only heightens tensions brought on by the much publicized arrival of "Coxey's Army," thousands of unemployed men converging on the capital for the first ever organized "march" on Washington. When one of the marchers is found murdered in the ensuing chaos, Hattie begins to suspect a sinister conspiracy is at hand. As she expands her investigations into the motives of murder and closes in on the trail of a killer, she is surprised and distraught to learn that her research will lead her straight to the highest levels of government . . .
Praise for A Deceptive Homecoming
"A well-written historical mystery that brought the period to life."
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About the Author
As a librarian and information specialist, Anna Loan-Wilsey tracks down information every day that helps to solve mysteries. She earned her B.A. at Wells College and had several poems published in their literary magazine, The Chronicle. Readers can visit her website at www.annaloanwilsey.com.
Read an Excerpt
A March to Remember
By ANNA LOAN-WILSEY
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Anna Loan-Wilsey
All rights reserved.
On any other day I would have been honored, humbled, even excited to be here. So why did I have to come today? I wondered. Yet I knew why. Because Sir Arthur had suggested I go, and one always did as Sir Arthur suggested.
Determined to make the best of it, I willed my stomach to settle, brushed imaginary lint from my sleeve, and followed the senator's wife up the path. And yet, as I ascended the steps beneath the towering white columns and stared at the stained glass Tiffany fan light above the door, I still couldn't help but wish I were somewhere else. I glanced at the watch pinned to my dress. The watch pin, a small spray of bluebells, had been a gift. I sighed. It was barely eleven o'clock.
"After you, Miss Davish," Mrs. Smith, the matronly wife of the senator, said, smiling.
Upon first meeting the Smiths, I wondered how they could tolerate one another: Mrs. Smith was always smiling, and her husband could only be described as a curmudgeon. But after living as a guest in their home for several weeks, I'd learned they complemented each other: She smiled because he wouldn't, she was gracious because he wasn't, and she did or said what was necessary because he couldn't. In return, he gave her a beautiful home, a prominent place in Washington's society, and the freedom to do almost anything she wanted.
"Are you ready?" Mrs. Smith said, noticing my hesitation.
I nodded, adjusted my new hat, a pink straw with a bell-shaped crown and wide brim turned up in front and embellished with ostrich feathers, and stepped through the open front door of the White House.
"Oh, my!" I said out loud despite myself. I hadn't stepped farther than the vestibule and the opulence surrounding me rivaled even the grandest "cottages" I'd visited in Newport.
We crossed the multicolored mosaic floor tiles and stopped to join the other admirers of the famous floor-to-ceiling Tiffany stained-glass screens. Topaz, ruby, and amethyst jewels were set into the glass alongside four eagles and a shield with the initials U.S.
Even as Mrs. Smith moved on, I lingered a bit longer.
"Coming, Miss Davish?" Mrs. Smith said, her smile never leaving her face.
In the grand East Room, a banquet hall nearly eighty feet long with floor-to-ceiling windows, ornate glass chandeliers with prominent clusters of globe lights, and silver ceiling wallpaper, installed by Louis Tiffany to resemble Pompeiian mosaics, we joined the receiving line. I was much relieved when I saw most of the women in attendance were working women like me: maids, clerks, and shopgirls wearing their Sunday clothes, the best they owned. Mixed among them were a few politicians' wives wearing bored expressions and merchants' wives holding their heads high while staring around them with wide, awestruck eyes. The din in the immense room, which the thick Brussels carpet did little to diminish, was testimony to the excitement around me. Mrs. Cleveland's weekly Saturday receptions, in which she encouraged the attendance of working women who couldn't attend on the weekdays, were well known during President Cleveland's first term. But until Sir Arthur mentioned it, I hadn't realized she still hosted them.
Maybe this will be fun after all, I thought. It might even distract me until one o'clock. I glanced at my watch again. And then something the two ladies ahead of me said caught my ear.
"Washington, invaded? I don't believe it," the lady with a sailor hat adorned with loops of rose velvet said.
"It's true," said her companion, wearing a toque from several seasons ago. "Colonel Clay himself mentioned an imminent invasion when he addressed his battalions the other day. Supposedly he's dedicated forty-two thousand of his National Guard troops if the police can't handle the marchers when they approach on May Day."
"But I thought the marchers were peaceful?" the woman in the sailor hat said.
"An army of possibly tens of thousands of disgruntled, unemployed men who've marched for three months, wearing rags for clothes, and who haven't had a decent bath or meal in three months? What do you think?" Before they could say more, their turn had come to greet the First Lady.
They must mean Coxey's Army.
These men who, after walking all the way from Ohio, were camped outside of the city waiting until May Day to march to the Capitol to promote awareness of the dire straits much of the country suffered from. They had been a topic of discussion for months, as every day a new article in the newspaper described their progress, their triumphs, and their setbacks. Along with thousands of others across the country, I'd been avidly following their every step. I was thrilled to learn I'd be in Washington when the marchers arrived and was counting down the days. Only three days to go. But did the government really think they were a threat? Like the lady in the fashionable sailor hat, I couldn't believe it.
The two women I'd overheard, after shaking hands and speaking with Mrs. Cleveland, walked away giggling with excitement, all thoughts of violence and Coxey's Army gone from their heads.
So why am I still thinking about it? I wondered, absentmindedly taking a step forward. My wondering was interrupted when a melodic voice spoke to my companion. "So nice to see you again, Mrs. Smith. I pray all is well with you and Senator Smith?"
It was Frances Cleveland, the President's wife. Her black hair was adorned with rose quartz combs that matched her fashionable deep rose, pleated, dotted Swiss and satin dress. Two inches taller than me, she was a lovely, yet commanding, presence. Mrs. Cleveland had entered the White House an inexperienced bride of a president three decades older than she. Now, at twenty-eight, the same age as me, she reigned over the reception with warmth and regal grace.
"Very well, thank you," Mrs. Smith said. "May I present Miss Hattie Davish, secretary to Sir Arthur Windom-Greene, an American history scholar visiting us from Richmond?"
I had seen her image on advertisements, trade cards, and objects as diverse as sewing kits and cigar boxes. It hadn't prepared me for the bright intelligence in her dark blue eyes as she turned to me.
"I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Davish." Mrs. Cleveland held out her hand. I hesitated only a moment before shaking it. I was grateful to be wearing gloves; they easily hid the calluses on my fingertips.
"I'm honored to meet you, ma'am."
"The President and I met Sir Arthur last week. The President thoroughly enjoyed Sir Arthur's book on Appomattox."
I should've known Sir Arthur would've met the President. Was there no one he didn't know?
"You must have been quite a help, Miss Davish. Sir Arthur mentioned you," the First Lady said.
"He did?" I was astounded that Sir Arthur would mention me at all, let alone to the President of the United States. And then I was mortified that I'd said it out loud. "I mean, that was kind of you to remember." She smiled, taking my bad manners in stride, being as gracious as her reputation purported her to be.
"Enjoy yourself, ladies," she said before turning and greeting the shopgirl behind me. "Good morning. What is your name, my dear?"
"I must apologize, Mrs. Smith," I said, as soon as we couldn't be overheard by the First Lady. "I have no excuse for my ill manners."
"I have to admit, I didn't suspect you as the type to be bedazzled by celebrity and lose your head. But not to worry, Miss Davish." The senator's wife smiled kindly. "Mrs. Cleveland won't think another thing of it."
After what I'd done, I wasn't about to correct Mrs. Smith. Let her think I was overwhelmed by meeting Mrs. Cleveland when, in fact, it was Sir Arthur's comment that had staggered me. I couldn't wait to tell Walter. I glanced at my watch again.
"Shall we have tea?" Mrs. Smith said, indicating the buffet table laden with roll sandwiches, crumpets, pickled eggs, baked tomatoes, strawberries in cream, cookies, cakes, and ices.
"Yes, please." As I followed her across the room, I overheard snippets from conversations of all kinds.
"No, no, Mrs. Hawley. I've already tried speaking with my husband about it. He won't change his vote."
"Don't you adore Mrs. Cleveland's dress? She's always so fashionable. I wish I could wear such bright colors. Who do you think made it: Lottie Barton, Madame Stauffer, or House of Worth?"
"These tarts remind me. Did you hear that the Hortons' cook resigned on the eve of Lenora's coming-out party?"
"If you haven't been to the Corcoran Gallery yet, Orpha, you mustn't miss it."
"What do you think Ada and the Minsky girls would say if they saw us now? I bet they wouldn't believe it, us having tea and cake with Mrs. Cleveland in the White House!"
"Oh, you'll have to read it. It's called The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. I was up all last night. I couldn't put it down."
"Did you see that stained glass screen? That must be worth a fortune."
"Did you know that Mrs. Grady, the lady who runs my boardinghouse, spent a year at Wells College when Frankie was a student there?" I cringed, having read in the paper that Mrs. Cleveland didn't like the nickname Frankie.
"Oh, Mildred, dear. So good to see you. When is the Washington Wives Club meeting next?" This was directed at Mrs. Smith, who paused to join their conversation.
"May I introduce Miss Davish," Mrs. Smith said to a group of elderly ladies, who all acknowledged me with a nod before quickly forgetting I was there.
"Excuse me," I said, as we hadn't reached the refreshment table yet. Mrs. Smith smiled and dismissed me with a wave.
Once at the buffet table, I accepted a cup of black coffee and added to my plate a slice of rhubarb pie, a strawberry shortcake, and a slice of silver cake with icing. As I made my way back toward Mrs. Smith, I heard more comments about Coxey's approaching army of marching men that seemed discordant with the occasion.
"Supposedly federal agents have been secretly planted among them since Allegheny City."
"Really? I had no idea," was the reply.
Neither had I, I thought. I'd never heard anything before about the Secret Service agents among Coxey's men.
"At the very least, we're in for a riot. Why else would the Marines stationed in the Navy Yard go through close-quarter riot drills?"
A woman gasped.
"Surely there won't be bloodshed? American soldiers using bayonets on American citizens in Washington City? It's unthinkable."
"Why else would General Ordway arm his men with bayonets?"
I took a bite of my rhubarb pie and moved away from this disturbing conversation. With plate and cup still in hand, I navigated my way past a group of girls who, based on their hats and gloves, were most likely maids or shopgirls.
"And did you see the row of ruby beads on her skirt? I heard they were a gift from the Viceroy of India," one of the girls said.
I finally took a place near Mrs. Smith, who acknowledged me with a smile but continued on in her conversation. I took a sip of my coffee, admired the Boston fern nearby, a large, lush specimen of the plant, and finished the shortcake before looking at my watch again. I listened to the women chatter on about a recent visit to an orphanage the Washington Wives Club had sponsored as I nibbled on my silver cake for a few more minutes, my impatience growing. When they turned to discussing the prehistoric look of the alligators at the National Zoo's Carnivora House, I glanced at my watch again. Twelve o'clock. I couldn't stand to stay any longer.
"Excuse me, but I must go now, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for bringing me."
"Already?" Mrs. Smith said, barely turning to look at me.
"Yes, I'm afraid so." Which was an unabashed lie. I couldn't wait to leave.
"Very well. Glad you enjoyed yourself." She immediately returned to the conversation I'd interrupted and never noticed my departure.
As fast as decorum allowed, I shuffled through the crowd of women until I was in the Entrance Hall again. As I approached the door, two men crossed my path as they headed toward a back staircase.
"And the Treasury Department has deployed dozens of additional revolvers and carbines to its security men," one man read from a notebook as they walked.
"But why the Treasury Department?" the other asked.
"The march route is going right past there, isn't it? They're a rabble of desperate, unemployed men. Who's to say the Treasury isn't their real target? Who's to say that after the marchers fail to gain the Capitol steps that someone doesn't yell, 'Here is the United States Treasury filled with money, while our families are starving'?" The second man nodded, agreeing with this logic. "If nothing else, we should not regard the invasion of Coxey's Army as a joke."
As I watched the men turn the corner, their conversation too faint to hear, I paused in concern. It was one thing to have women idly gossip about bloodshed and violence; it was another to hear men who ran the government confirm some of the rumors were true.
Through the daily newspaper accounts, I had the impression that Coxey and his men were peaceful, Christian men; I wouldn't have concerned myself with a band of ruffians. But these comments gave me reason to pause. Were Coxey and his followers really intent on marching into the city, regardless of the cost? Were they willing to lay down their lives for their cause? Would the government kill unarmed Americans to prevent Coxey's message from being heard?
I hope not! Then I glanced at my watch again and banished all concerns of the marchers from my mind as I stepped back into the sunshine. I had a train to meet!CHAPTER 2
"I believe in bettering the condition of the workingman!" The shouting accosted me the moment I emerged from the White House. A clean-shaven young man in a dusty brown derby, standing in the carriageway beneath the columns, punched his fist into his open palm with each word to accentuate his point. Several women, still arriving for the reception, quickly shied away and gave him a wide berth. I stood my ground, sympathetic to his message, but not wanting to get any closer.
"That can't be done by talk," he yelled as two large policemen dashed past me. They confronted the fist-pounding young man, insisting he leave. He refused to budge.
"There's only one way to do it, only one way of waking up the 'soulless capitalists' who own Washington," the young man shouted, as the two policemen grabbed him by the arms and began dragging him away. "By blowing up the whole damned works, the Capitol, the White House, Congress, everything."
Could the city be in real danger after all? I wondered. Why would he be so careless as to reveal his plans to the White House police beforehand?
Putting my back to the anarchist, still spouting his plans for the destruction of the city, I hastened on my way, annoyed to have been delayed. His rhetoric isn't helping anyone, I thought. With my foot in midair above the top step, my progress was again hampered when a hand gripped my shoulder.
"Let go of me," I said, yanking my shoulder away.
"Miss Davish!" a man's sharp voice exclaimed as I nearly lost my footing on the stairs. He grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me back. My feet firmly on the ground, I pulled out of his grip and stared the man in the face.
"I didn't mean to startle you."
"You didn't." I sounded more peevish than I would've liked. Annoyed both at myself for overreacting and at him for presuming to grip my shoulder, I said sternly, "What do you want, Mr. Morris?"
"I ... I ..." he stammered. "I'm finished here and thought I'd walk back with you."
He being Senator Smith's confidential clerk and private secretary, I knew better than to ask what business took Claude Morris to the White House. I admit, though, I was curious. Since the day Sir Arthur and I came to Washington as guests of Senator Meriwether Lewis Smith, I'd been curious about what role Mr. Morris played in the senator's household. Similar to what I did for Sir Arthur, Mr. Morris performed the basic duties of stenographer and typist, saw to the senator's correspondence and schedule and any other general tasks the senator might require. But that's where my knowledge of what he did ended. I'd only been in Washington for a couple of weeks, but Claude Morris appeared to do far more for his employer than simply the duties of a private secretary. (Of course, the same could be said for me.) Mr. Morris appeared to be the senator's liaison between other members of Congress, his font of knowledge regarding all things political, his adviser, as well as, dare I say, his spy.
Excerpted from A March to Remember by ANNA LOAN-WILSEY. Copyright © 2016 Anna Loan-Wilsey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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