Where is Mrs. Smith’s granddaughter? Who is the mysterious Mrs. Smith?
Pinkerton agent Jonah Cahill is hired by the mysterious widow to find her lost granddaughter, rumored to be living in Galveston, Texas. Though Jonah prefers to travel alone, Mrs. Smith insists that she and her companion accompany him. Madeline Latour, investigative reporter, has been acting as Mrs. Smith’s assistant for several months, and Madeline will not allow anyone—even a Pinkerton agent—to ruin the story of a lifetime. The pair forges an uneasy truce as the investigation grows dangerous.
Is there a bigger story beyond a missing girl to be revealed?
More from My Heart Belongs in Series...
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My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmella's Quandary by Susan Page Davis (March 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze (May 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily's Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar (September 2017)
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New Orleans, Louisiana March 14, 1880
Of all the assignments Jonah had been given since he joined the agency almost ten years ago, this one had to be the strangest. Though his career thus far had included putting his life on the line to bring in murderers, thieves, and con men, here he sat sipping tea in the fancy New Orleans parlor of a woman old enough to be his grandmother.
Or at least pretending to while he studied the distinctly feminine rose-scented room. His gaze landed on the mantel where mismatched crystal vases were filled with the pink blossoms. Larger vases on the bookshelves opposite the fireplace vied for space among the leather-covered volumes.
Given the fact it was early March, Jonah wondered if she had a greenhouse to grow the flowers all year, but he didn't ask. In fact, there was much he wondered about this room, but with the goal of getting out of this place as quickly as possible, he remained silent.
The only space that did not show some evidence of the owner's penchant for pink roses was the window seat that looked out through lace curtains onto Prytania Street. As if to make up for that grievous transgression, the seat had been wrapped in the same rose-strewn fabric that covered the walls and the two chairs where he and Mrs. Smith now sat.
When Jonah returned his attention to his hostess, he found Mrs. Smith, a tiny woman who had obviously once been a great beauty, watching him carefully. Her dark eyes twinkled as she regarded him with what appeared to be equal parts assessment and amusement.
Though she'd only yet offered him a polite greeting and settled him into this parlor, Jonah couldn't help noticing this elderly woman had the smile and graceful movements of a much younger person. And her voice, when she spoke, held the slightest trace of an accent. Whether it was the familiar Acadian French of his grandfather's people that he recognized in her tone or something else entirely, he couldn't say.
"So, you think I've lost my mind, don't you?" she said as she lifted the teapot to pour more of the fragrant brew into his cup.
He did, and he'd told the captain as much. However, the woman sitting across from him had apparently paid dearly for the privilege of hiring a Pinkerton man to solve her case, and she had requested him specifically.
"Ma'am," he said in the reverential tone he'd learned from his mama back home in Texas, "I take every assignment seriously."
A smile rose and then she chuckled, lighting her wrinkled face as she set the teapot back in place. "Well done, Detective Cahill. You've answered my question without actually giving me your opinion of my sanity."
"Begging your pardon, Mrs. Smith," Jonah said, "but I don't believe you hired me to determine that."
"True, I most certainly did not." She sat back and gave him an appraising look. "Yes, I believe you'll do."
Unsure how to respond, Jonah merely nodded. Whether she liked him or not was of no difference to him.
He shifted positions and tried to pay attention as Mrs. Smith abruptly changed the subject and picked up her teacup then began to tell yet another story about tending her roses. Though he kept his gaze attentive and focused on his host, Jonah couldn't help but wish she would move on to the topic he had come to discuss.
"I do hope you don't mind me prattling on," his hostess finally said. "I shall miss my roses once we've all relocated to Galveston, and good listeners are hard to find these days. You, Detective Cahill, are a good listener. I applaud either your parents or your superiors at the agency for training you well."
"Thank you, ma'am," he said for lack of any other response.
Mrs. Smith leaned forward, still balancing her teacup. "Do you have any questions for me, Detective Cahill?"
He paused. "I confess I have only skimmed the information you provided, but from what I recall, you wish me to find a young relative of yours, one Trésor Smith who was born in 1855 and who you believe is now residing in Galveston, Texas."
"Trésor is my granddaughter. And I believe you will find her in Galveston, Texas, yes," she said. "Indianola was the city of her birth, but as you know, most of the city was lost to a storm some five years ago."
"So you believe she is in Galveston?"
"I know she will be," she told him.
Jonah shifted positions. "Again, without consulting the full file, I must prepare you for the fact that as an adult, she may not want to be found. Or worse ..."
"Yes, dear," she said gently. "I understand what you mean, and although I am quite confident you will succeed, I do lay this all at the feet of Jesus for His ultimate solution."
"Very well, then. I will give the file my full attention and be ready to begin the search when we meet again."
She leaned forward. "Am I correct in understanding you will not require lodging during our stay on the island?"
"You are correct."
She took a sip of tea and then regarded him with an innocent look. "Because you have family there?"
His brows lifted. "Yes," he said carefully. "I do."
"And you wonder how I knew this?" Mrs. Smith smiled as she set her teacup down.
"The thought did occur to me."
Even those he was closest to within the Pinkerton Agency had no idea of his connection to this city. Jonah's father had severed connection some twenty years ago for reasons unknown to anyone but himself and Grandfather Cahill. They remained estranged until the day Father died. Even now, he had no idea if his grandfather still lived.
"The answer is simple," she said. "I knew your grandfather."
Knew. Past tense. A smidgen of grief arose.
"You wonder of my use of the term knew."
"I did wonder, yes."
She waved her hand as if dismissing the statement. "Truly, I cannot tell you whether Monsieur Cahill still draws a breath or not. Our acquaintance goes back many years but does not extend to the present."
Mrs. Smith sat back and awaited his response. For a moment Jonah had none.
Finally he found the words. "I see."
Mrs. Smith seemed to have sensed his ambivalence in regard to the old man. "He was a difficult man, but God has His ways of dealing with difficult men. Go and see for yourself."
Jonah let the comment pass with nothing more than a brief nod.
"Detective Cahill, I know there was much trouble under that roof while your grandfather lived," she continued, obviously not waiting for his response. "And apparently your father has overcome that trouble by finding a good life in Galveston."
"Yes, I believe he had," Jonah said.
"Had? So he is now deceased?"
"He is," Jonah said. "Lost to the fever some two summers ago."
"My deepest condolences, Detective Cahill. I remember him as the most precocious child. Please know your father was a very good man."
Jonah managed a smile as he tried to imagine his father as a boy. "I know he tried to be. I was blessed to be his son."
"Well, that is all the Lord really asks of us poor flawed humans, isn't it? That we try our best. The trick is to continue trying even once we've failed. That is the reason you are here and the whole purpose of my search for my granddaughter. You see, I failed in keeping her close. I wish to remedy this."
"Yes, ma'am," he said. "I will do my best to find her."
Mrs. Smith stood and so he did the same, their meeting obviously at an end. "Well then, I do appreciate you humoring me by paying a visit to me here in New Orleans," she said as she moved toward the door. "I look forward to seeing you again in Galveston when your assignment begins three weeks hence."
"About that," he said as he decided to raise a concern he hadn't known how to voice until now. "You know, you do not have to feel obligated to go along with me. I can easily send updates to you here."
Iron-gray brows rose. "You believe I will hinder your investigation?"
"No, ma'am, not at all. It's just that I wonder about the wisdom of a sea voyage, albeit not a lengthy one, at your ..."
No. He wouldn't say it. To complete that thought aloud was to accuse a lady of being elderly, and although all evidence pointed to that fact, he'd been raised far too well to bring it up.
"Oh child," she said with a chuckle. "Your concern is touching. If only you knew what I know about sea voyages and ..."
Then she seemed to have her own trouble finishing her statement. Instead, Mrs. Smith shook her head and then placed her hand atop his sleeve.
"Look here. Don't you worry, Detective Cahill. I'll get there just fine, and I assure you I will not be traveling alone. I'll be bringing a few of my staff along with me as well as my assistant. She has proven invaluable in helping me to write down my memories, and I am certain she will make an excellent traveling companion."
"If you wouldn't mind, I wonder if I might take a look at your assistant's notes. There could be information contained in them that will help my search for your granddaughter."
"Of course," she said with a nod. "I will arrange it as soon as we are settled in Galveston. Now do take care on your journey. I know I am very much looking forward to mine. It will be wonderful to be back on the island."
"So you've been before, then. Perhaps anything your assistant has recorded in relation to your previous visits will be of help in this investigation."
"Oh child," she said gently, "you'll find nothing in those notes about such a thing. Some memories aren't to be shared."
He paused before responding. "While I understand, I do hope you'll keep in mind that I have been charged by you with uncovering secrets." At her raised brows, he continued. "I have found, Mrs. Smith, that people do not go missing without secrets being part of the equation."
Her surprised look turned to one of satisfaction. "Yes, of course. Rest assured, young man, I will neither hinder your investigation nor hide any information I believe might prove helpful."
Jonah exchanged parting words and then left with a wave to his hostess and no doubts that Mrs. Smith would arrive just as fit and fine as she said she would. As to whether she was hiding something he might later need to know, that was yet to be determined.
He stepped out onto the banquette that ran alongside Prytania Street and checked his pocket watch. It was early yet, still several hours away from his appointed time to leave the city. Fitting the watch back into his vest pocket, Jonah gave brief thought to his dilemma.
He frowned, recognizing that nudge. Rather than stand outside Mrs. Smith's home and argue unsuccessfully with the still, small voice that had never steered him wrong, Jonah sighed and headed toward Esplanade Avenue.
He found the address easily enough. The white two-story home with three columns running across the front and a balcony that spanned the upper floor was now bracketed between two smaller dwellings that had been built since Jonah's last visit.
Three windows marched evenly across the second floor, their tops curved and their dark green shutters open to allow the midday sun. Two more windows matched their upstairs twins along the columned porch with the third spot held by a painted wooden door of deepest black.
Upstairs, a white lace curtain moved, but was it the breeze that caused it to shift or someone studying him as intently as he studied the stately residence?
Jonah paused for a moment, one hand resting on the smooth metal of the iron gate. To his right and his left a black iron fence, topped at intervals with the fleur-de-lis design that also appeared in his family's coat of arms, stretched to the edges of the property. The entrance for carriages must have been moved to the back alley when the property on each side was sold off.
Or perhaps those who resided behind this fence had no need for carriages any longer. Again Jonah sighed. Again the still, small voice said go.
Just as he was about to reach for the lever that opened the gate, he caught sight of a young woman walking toward him while looking down at something in her hand. Her cloak was made of fine green velvet just a shade darker than shamrocks, and her dark hair had been tucked up beneath a fashionable hat of a similar color.
She appeared so engrossed in whatever she held that she did not notice Jonah or act as if she recognized him until she was almost upon him. Oh but he knew her.
Even now as she appeared deep in thought, the old feelings rose. It had been the better part of a year since he'd seen her, longer than that since he trusted her.
And yet a small part of him knew if he wasn't careful, he could fall in love with her all over again.
The gate swung open beneath his hand, but Jonah did not step inside. Rather, he stood his ground and prepared for the next skirmish in what had become quite a battle with the frustrating female.
The woman walking toward him, a local journalist for the New Orleans Picayune, had ruined more than one Pinkerton investigation with her relentless snooping. She had also very nearly cost him his job and his freedom last summer.
What he would never tell her was that she had also broken his heart.
Though it appeared from Madeline Latour's lack of attention to anything other than whatever was in her hand that their meeting here today was pure accident, Jonah was skeptical. With this one, he was always skeptical.
He stepped into her path. "Hello, Madeline."CHAPTER 2
Madeline jolted at the use of her first name, dropping her notebook in the process. Catching herself by grabbing the iron fence, she looked up into familiar eyes.
She sighed as she pushed away those old feelings that swirled around his memory. Of all the men to see today, it would have to be Detective Jonah Cahill of the Pinkerton Agency. What was he doing in New Orleans?
Gallant as always, the Pinkerton man reached for her notebook first. She couldn't help noticing his dark brows rising as he obviously spied the initials engraved on the notebook's leather cover: M.W. for Maggie Winston, the identity she had assumed in order to complete her investigation.
Each time Madeline took on a new identity in her role as an investigative journalist, she always added a few personal touches to give that persona the image of reality. The notebook had been the perfect accessory, so perfect that it had practically secured her the job that would give her access to an eyewitness that no one else had been able to interview.
"This can't be yours, can it?" he said with an infuriating quirk of his dark brow.
"Thank you," she said as his fingertips brushed her palm. "It's lovely, isn't it?"
"Quite," he said as his eyes raked the length of her. From any other man, the gesture might have seemed impudent, rude even, but this was a man with whom she had some history. Good history until she ruined it.
Had he chosen that life instead of this one, Detective Jonah Cahill might have made a daunting outlaw. He was of imposing height and build with eyes of silver gray and pitch-black hair that curled at his neck.
Jonah wore his ability to decipher people and stop them cold with a casual air. His face was perpetually fixed with an expression that seemed to assume he had already won the war before the battle began.
It had been almost a full year since she'd last seen the handsome Pinkerton. The last time they met, outside the courthouse after the McRee case concluded, she had made Jonah so mad he swore he'd have her arrested.
Worse, she'd broken his heart and she knew it. What he didn't know was he had also broken hers.
At this very moment, his expression told her he'd lock her in jail and throw away the key if given the chance. Not that she blamed him.
"Thank you, Jonah," she said as she carefully tucked the notebook into her pocket. "I would ask what brings you to New Orleans but I assume you'd tell me you couldn't answer the question."
His lip curled into what almost passed for a smile. "That was always your trouble, Madeline. You assumed."
Madeline forced herself not to allow Jonah to see that the truth of the hurtful comment had reached its mark. Instead, she nodded toward the house nearest them. "I was sorry to hear of your grandfather's death. Yellow fever, I believe it was?"
She could see by his expression that Jonah hadn't known. "Oh, I am so sorry. No one told you, did they?"
Any remnant of civility disappeared. "Goodbye, Madeline," Jonah said as he stormed inside the fence.
The gate slammed behind him, leaving her to decide whether to respond with a polite goodbye or just gather up the remains of her pride and walk away. Madeline chose the latter.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas"
Copyright © 2018 Kathleen Y'Barbo.
Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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