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The Missing Queen
By Maudine Brubaker
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Maudine Brubaker
All rights reserved.
In the year 1840, Queen Rebecca Rand of Belgium sailed to the United States to visit relatives. She was accompanied by her two-year-old daughter. Her husband had been killed nine months earlier in a ship collision at sea.
Queen Rebecca looked to be about thirty-four years old. Her hair was brown, and she had very dark brown eyes. She wasn't what one would consider beautiful, but her personality was such that everyone who met her immediately loved her.
When the queen got off the ship, she was greeted by an elderly couple, whom the press had said were her aunt and uncle. They immediately escorted her to their waiting carriage. Gus Ross had traveled on the same ship as the queen. When he left the ship, he walked down the dock to his wife's waiting carriage. He got into the carriage beside his wife and gave her a kiss in greeting. They had to wait for the queen's carriage to pass before they could pull out onto the road. Gus hadn't given much thought to having traveled across the ocean in the company of royalty. That sort of thing didn't seem to affect him like it did many other people. He told his wife that he had met the queen, and he said how impressed he had been with her wonderful personality.
They were approaching an intersection when Gus noticed another carriage coming at a very fast pace. Gus began slowing his horses down, trying to get them stopped. The queen's carriage was two ahead of Gus and his wife. She was just beginning to enter the intersection when there was a loud crash. The young man driving the oncoming carriage was highly intoxicated; he had been driving at a very high rate of speed and run into the queen's conveyance.
Gus immediately pulled his carriage over to the side of the road and ran over to the wreckage to see if he could help anyone. The queen and her aunt were both dead. Gus was able to get the queen's uncle out of the carriage; he was still alive. He also found the queen's baby girl still alive, although she was badly injured—one of her legs was completely severed from her little body.
Crowds began to gather around the wreckage. People were pushing and shoving, trying to get a better look at what had happened. The hearse arrived shortly, and the men put the queen and her aunt inside. The policemen broke up the crowds, trying to make room for the men who were going to move the shattered carriages out of the middle of the intersection.
The whole incident had stunned Gus Ross, and he was shaken for the rest of the day. He found it very difficult not to think about it. He realized now that the queen was dead, her little baby girl would inherit the throne. She was rightfully the new queen of Belgium.
Gus and his wife arrived home at 5:30 that afternoon. Gus's neighbor brought him a telegram that had arrived during his absence. Gus hesitated for a moment and then slowly opened it. It was from his boss stating that he was to report to his office the next morning at 7:00 a.m. When Gus entered the building the next morning, he noticed strange men standing near the door. He was just starting to open the door when he was interrupted.
"Are you Gus Ross?" one of the strangers asked.
"Yes," Gus replied, "but who are you, if I may ask?"
"I'm from the secret service," the man answered. "We would like to ask you some questions." "Okay," Gus said very slowly. "What's on your minds, fellas?"
"The queen's accident," he said. "We want you to tell us everything that happened, exactly the way you remember it."
Gus's hands shook a little as he thought about the terrible crash. He sat down slowly and began fumbling for a cigarette. He didn't say anything to the men for a moment as he lit the cigarette and collected his thoughts. Finally, he told them everything that he knew and everything that he had seen.
"Thank you, Mr. Ross," the secret service agent said. "We really appreciate your help. I would like to ask you not to talk to anyone else about this." Gus knew that because the queen was a very important person visiting his country, the publicity wouldn't do the United States any good. He agreed, for the time being anyway, to not talk to anyone else about it. He was to go on about his work.CHAPTER 2
Several years passed, and one day the company for which Gus worked, Jay's Imports and Exports, sent him to Belgium to see about some leather exports. After working all day, he came into a little town in Belgium called Tobe. He went into a cafe to get something to eat. While he was waiting for the waitress to bring his order, he picked up a small town paper and began to read the headlines. "Young Child of Queen Rebecca Rand Still Missing after Seventeen Years." Gus continued to read for a few moments before he realized that the child they were talking about in the article was the same baby that had been in that terrible accident so long ago in New York. At the bottom of the article, he noticed that there was a five-thousand-dollar reward. Gus sent a wire to his wife about the reward. His wife agreed with him that it shouldn't be that hard to find a young lady with one leg.
The next day, Gus took a ship back to New York. His wife picked him up at the dock, and they immediately began to drive around the city to see if there happened to be anyone on the streets with crutches and one leg. Gus hadn't given any serious thought as to where he might find a good lead to the whereabouts of the missing lady. Gus took leave of his job so that he could spend all of his time on his search. He started at the police headquarters, looking back seventeen years. He finally found the accident report with the names of the aunt and uncle. He also found the girl's mother's name, Rebecca Rand. At least he knew that the young lady had to be living somewhere with her uncle, and his last name was York. This gave Gus a good lead. Gus traveled over to the east side of town into a large but modest settlement. He wasn't quite sure which house he should start at or what people would think of him when they answered the door. He did not know what questions he was going to ask, but he was determined to get started. He opened the door of his carriage and stepped down. He then walked up to side door of a two-story house. This was exactly the type of house in which he would expect to find the aunt and uncle of a queen. The house was very old but was kept in very good repair. Gus hesitated for a moment, trying to decide just what to say if someone answered his knock. Just as he was about to knock, a gray-haired lady opened the door. "How do you do, madam?" Gus said, taking off his hat. "My name is Gus Ross. I would like to speak to you concerning a man and his niece. The man's last name is York."
"There's no one living in this neighborhood by that name," the lady said, smiling politely.
"How long have you been living in this neighborhood?" Gus asked?
"I've lived here in this same house twenty-seven years," she replied.
"Do you ever remember anyone living in this vicinity with a young girl who had only one leg?" Gus persisted.
"No, there's never been anyone like that around here," she replied.
Gus thanked her, tipped his hat, and went back to his carriage. He was trying not to get excited or discouraged; after all, this was only the first neighborhood he had tried. He decided to drive over to the south side of town, where there were larger homes. He was hopeful that he would find a lead there. He felt the homes on the south side were a little too fancy for a man of his caliber. He drove around for over an hour before he finally got up enough nerve to stop his carriage and get out. Gus was dressed in light blue slacks and a blue plaid shirt. He had taken off his tie; it seemed to make him a bit edgy. He wasn't a handsome man by any means, but he wasn't bad to look at, either. He certainly didn't want anyone in the neighborhood to think he was up to no good.
Gus walked up to the front door of a lovely brick home and knocked on the door. Then he caught himself staring at a beautiful face. "Well?" she asked, watching him carefully."
"Oh, I—I'm sorry," Gus stammered. "I'm, uh, I'm looking for a Mister York."
"Sorry, there's no one here by that name," she said and immediately closed the door.
Gus walked slowly back to his carriage, shaking his head in disgust. He had been so hopeful that he would find the missing pieces in this neighborhood. He was upset that he had made such a fool out of himself with the young girl; he could not imagine what had come over himself. Gus decided to quit for the day and drive home. As he was driving down Fifth Avenue, a small dog ran out in front of his horses. He pulled on the reins and brought the horses up short. A carriage that was traveling right behind him was keeping a safe distance between them; the driver bumped his wheels into Gus's carriage. Gus got out of his carriage about the same time that the other man came up to apologize.
"It's all right, there's no harm done," Gus said after introducing himself.
The man introduced himself as Tom York, and Gus's face turned white. "Mr. Ross, are you all right?" Dan York asked with a worried look on his face.
"Please, will you pull off the right-of-way? I'd like to talk with you for a moment," Gus said. He knew that this couldn't possibly be the man that he was looking for, but maybe he was related in some way. Gus told the story of the accident that had happened seventeen years ago, and how he had come across the name York.
Dan told Gus that he knew of a man named Dennis York who had raised a little girl who had lost one of her legs. This man had remarried when the little girl was five, and they had moved to Texas; Dan could not remember whether it was Houston or Dallas, but he was sure it was Texas because Dennis York had said that his new wife's family lived in Texas. Dan York and Dennis York were not related, but they had worked together at one time in an electrical business.
Dan told Gus he had no idea that the little girl was from royalty, but he said she was pretty as could be, with dark brown eyes and medium brown hair.
"Yes, Dan, that has to be the little girl I'm looking for," Gus said excitedly. "Her mother had beautiful brown eyes, and I just knew this little girl would, too."
Gus thanked Dan and told him why he was interested in finding her. Not only would he be five thousand dollars richer, but this young lady was the sole heir to her mother's throne, and there were several million dollars awaiting her in trust funds in Belgium.
The two men said good-bye to each other and returned to their carriages. Gus drove home smiling all the way. His wife met him at the door; she knew he had some good news.
"Helen, pack our bags!" Gus said with a broad smile on his face. "We're going on a little trip to Texas."CHAPTER 3
Helen was busy packing while Gus made some sandwiches and coffee. Their first stop would be Dallas, Texas. They would do some checking there, and if they didn't have any luck, then they would travel to Houston. Gus had already spent three weeks of his leave searching for the missing girl, but he felt confident that he was getting closer to solving the puzzle.
When Helen had finished packing the suitcases, Gus loaded them into the carriage, and they headed for the train station. Their train was leaving within the hour. Gus handed his carriage driver several dollars and thanked him for the trip.
They arrived in Dallas on February 4, 1857. It was pouring down rain with a mild easterly wind blowing. The temperature was sixty-five degrees. After they picked up their luggage, they managed to flag down a hackney coach. They checked into a hotel in what seemed to be the heart of Dallas. Helen and Gus decided they would relax for a few days after their long train ride.
Gus went down to the lobby to buy a newspaper. While he was paying for the paper, he bumped into a man that had been on the train with them from New York. His name was Rod Wills, and he was a rancher from Harris County, near Houston. Mr. Wills had been to New York on business and was stopping over in Dallas for a cattlemen's meeting, to be held the next day. Rod was about six feet tall with light brown hair, and hazel eyes. He was a very handsome fellow.
At the time, Gus didn't know what an important part Rod would have in his quest for the reward money. He did not tell Rod he was looking for a missing queen with a big reward on her head; he merely told him he was looking for a Mr. York and his niece.
Gus and Rod said good-bye to each other, and Gus returned to his room. He wanted to look through the classified advertisement section to see if any electrical companies might be advertising for help; he felt that it would give him a general idea as to where he might start looking for Mr. York. He found three companies advertising for help. He wrote down their addresses and decided to check them out the next day.
The night passed quickly, and the next morning Gus and Helen went down for breakfast. Rod Wills was sitting at a table having breakfast. Gus introduced Helen to Rod, and they sat down at the table with him. "It's nice to meet you, Helen," Rod said.
The waitress came to the table, and Gus and Helen both ordered toast and coffee. After the waitress left, Rod and Helen struck up a conversation.
"What brings you to Dallas, Mr. Wills?" Helen asked.
"Please, call me Rod," he said while smiling at Helen. "I have a cattleman's meeting to attend at ten this morning. I think I'm going to stay over a couple of days—there's going to be a big cattle sale near Denton, just north of Dallas."
"Are you married, Rod?" Helen asked.
"No, not yet, but I'm getting married in June," Rod answered.
"How nice. I'm sure she's a very lucky lady," Helen replied.
Rod finished his third cup of coffee and got up to leave. It was almost time for his cattlemen's meeting to begin. "I've enjoyed talking with you folks," he said.
"Maybe we'll see each other again before I leave," Gus replied.
Helen and Gus finished their coffee and paid. They decided to take a walk around town to stretch their legs. It continued to rain and was getting much colder.
The next day was dark and dreary, but the rain had stopped. Gus was getting edgy after staying around the hotel all the time with nothing to do. "I think I'll just call those electrical companies and ask for Mr. York," Gus said to Helen.
"All right, dear. Maybe you'll get lucky," Helen said.
Gus called all three companies and asked for Mr. York, but none of them had ever heard of him. They had all been very helpful and checked their back records.
Gus returned to the hotel and sat in the lobby. Whenever anyone would come into the lobby, he would ask them if they had ever known a Mr. York with a little girl that had lost one of her legs. Most of the people looked at Gus as if he was crazy, and none of them had ever heard of a Mr. York. Gus didn't let this discourage him. He was determined to earn that reward for the missing queen, and he was confident that sooner or later he would find a lead.
When Rod's meeting was over, he returned to the hotel. He saw Gus sitting in the lobby. "Hi, Gus, why don't you come have a cup of hot tea with me?" Rod offered.
"That sounds good, Rod, thanks," Gus replied.
They went into the restaurant, sat down at a table, and ordered their tea.
"Gus, why don't you and Helen stop over at my ranch for a visit when you get to Houston?"
"That would be nice, Rod. Let me check with Helen and see what she thinks," Gus said. "I don't know how long we're going to be here in Dallas, but I imagine it will be at least another week or so."
They finished their tea and shook hands, both hoping to see each other again soon at Rod's ranch.
The days passed rapidly, and Gus lost all track of time. He was making no progress in finding the missing queen. He and Helen had covered Dallas from one end to the other but had found no trace of Mr. York. Gus had become restless, and decided it was time to return to work. He wired his boss back in New York. His boss returned a wire informing him that he could possibly get on with their branch office in Houston. Gus was very happy at this prospect, and he immediately sent a wire to the Houston office. He learned that he could start to work in five days. This would work out well for them because they would be able to stop and visit with Rod at his ranch for a couple of days.
Excerpted from BECKY RAND by Maudine Brubaker. Copyright © 2013 Maudine Brubaker. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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